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PROVERBS are the coined experience of a people. The maker of a proverb is not one who has seen deeply into the inward nature of things; he is not a poet, nor one who has a clear apprehension of great laws; he is not a philosopher : the maker of a proverb is one who has a keen observation of the actual phenomena of life, and has been able to put the result of his observation into a single sentence, so that it flashes light like a diamond. The Book of Proverbs is the experience of the Hebrew people coined into current aphorisms by men of native wit. These proverbs are not written by men of remarkable spiritual vision; nor by men notable for their clear vision of great laws, whether discovered by philosophical
[Copyright, 1901, by Lyman Abbott. Reprinted from “ The Life and Literature of the Ancient Hebrews,” by permission of the author and of Messrs. Houghton, Mif. Alin & Co.]
inquiry or divinely revealed; they are aphorisms which have been struck out of human experience by the attrition of life, have received concise interpretation in compact sentences, and have passed current among the people. Such a book can have no author; rather it has many authors, though it may have one editor. No man can with deliberate purpose sit down to write proverbs. One man once made the endeavor, but since Martin Farquhar Tupper's “ Proverbial Philosophy" no man has repeated the experiment. The book is called in our Bible, « The Proverbs of Solomon," not because he wrote them, nor because he gathered them together, but because he was one of the first men of the Hebrew nation to take this utilitarian, this prudential, this ethicalculture view of life and put it into proverbs. He was perhaps the very first; others, inspired by his thinking, produced other proverbs; these were from time to time gathered into various collections, and these various collections were finally brought together in the general collection now known as the Book of Proverbs.
There is therefore in this book no