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To arrange works of art in order of merit, and discuss which are to be considered greater and which less, is outside formal criticism. All the same it is an elementary instinct of appreciation to express a sense of the greatness of a particular work by claiming that it is greatest. If then a jury of persons well instructed in literature were impanelled to pronounce upon the question what is the greatest poem in the world's great literatures, while on such a question unanimity would be impossible, yet I believe a large majority would give their verdict in favour of that which is the subject of the present volume, the Book of Job.
It deals with the most universal of all topics, the Mystery of Suffering. Even the frivolous are driven by suffering to think about the meaning of life. For the theologian, next to the existence of a good God, the most fundamental question is the presence of pain and evil in a world he has ordered. The significance of these terms is no less fundamental in philosophy. The whole of sociology rests upon the same basis of human suffering. If the theory of pain and evil is outside physical science, yet to fight against these makes great part of its practical application. And of