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ual perturbation. The strong men armed, reduced by long, continued watching and hunger, are hardly able to sustain their own weight, much less to defend the city. The grinders at the mill, now reduced in number, and in a state of fearful destitution, have ceased from their labors. From fear of the enemy, the doors and windows of the houses are all closed and darkened, while the countenances of those who dare to look out through lattices for a moment, gather blackness, from the terrors around them. The least noise, even the notes of the sparrow startles them with fearful trepidation. All within is silence, gloom and terror. The grinding which must be performed, is done with the greatest possible stillness, and the melody of the daughters of song is hushed entirely.
"In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened; And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low; and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird: and all the daughters of music shall be brought low:"
Our author now proceeds to a direct enumeration, verse 5, In this state, men of some of the prominent evils of old age. in their great weakness and depression drag their weary bodies along in continual fear of encountering difficulties. If a high eminence is before them, they dread the attempt to ascend it. Even in their ordinary walks, in the common highway, they are perpetually fearful of stumbling against obstacles. Their appetite for food also is gone. The most delicious fruit, such as that of the almond, is loathed, and the locust, too, here rendered grasshopper, regarded by orientalists, as the most delicious food, has become disgusting. All condiments, which once had power to excite the appetite are now wholly powerless. Desire itself has failed, because man is going to his long home, while the mourners are passing in procession through the streets.
"Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fear shall be in the way, and the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mour ners go about the streets."
The rendering of the phrase, "the almond shall flourish" thus, "the almond-tree is loathed," we have adopted from Prof. Stuart and is no doubt, as we think, the true rendering. The common rendering leaves the phrase without meaning or design.
The above highly wrought picture, is now completed, verses 6-7 by several very striking figures. In the language of another, "The parting of the silver chain or cord, by
which, at oriental feasts, the chandeliers were suspended from the ceiling, with the consequent destruction of the golden oilvessels; and the breaking of the wheel and bucket, by which water was drawn from their fountains or cisterns, represent the destruction of life, and the dissolution of the body, by a figure similar to that which modern writers use, when they say, "the lamp of life is extinguished.
"Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern: Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
As a specimen of poetic composition, embodying truths of solemn weight, the above passage is almost unsurpassed.
In verse 8 the author repeats the proposition with which he started, to wit, "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity," but with a very different design, as we suppose, from that with which he first uttered it. He first, in his apostacy, applied it to the entire condition of man, and to the arrangements of providence in respect to him. Now in his return to truth and God, he applies the same maxim to his own errors, to the vain imaginings to which in the days of his folly, he had surrendered his mind. Here we have, as we suppose, our author's formal renunciation and reprobation of the errors under consideration. The whole context requires this understanding of the passage in this place.
In verses 9, 10, we suppose our author to refer to his state and teachings before his apostacy, when he gave utterance to those beautiful and divine proverbs to which inspiration has set its seal, as truths eternal. These verses we think should be thus rendered. The original, as every Hebrew scholar is aware, will bear this construction as well as that given in the common translation. "And moreover, because the Preacher [prior to his melancholy apostacy] had been wise, he had [then] still taught the people knowledge, [the real truth:] yea he [then] gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher [then] sought to find out acceptable words, and that which was then written was upright, even words of truth." The object of the author, was as it should have been, to save those divine proverbs from the reprobations which he had himself heaped upon the errors to which, in his apostacy, he had given utterance.
Our author now, verse 11, gives us the characteristics of the sentiments uttered by the truly wise.
"The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd."
"They are In other words, the sentiment uttered by the truly wise have power to rouse up the energies of mind. as goads." At the same time, "like nails fastened up by masters of assemblies," for visitors and others to hang their garments upon, a thing greatly valued at that time. Such sayings exert not only a hallowed, but permanently good influall who receive them. Finally such sentiments are ence upon heaven descended, "coming down from the Father of lights," the great Shepherd of universal mind, "which are given forth from one shepherd." Such we think, is the true meaning of this verse of which we have found among commentators no satisfactory explanation.
The author now goes on, verse 12, to state the influence of indulging in such vain speculations as he had done in the preceding part of the book. Of multiplying books from such thoughts there would be no end; while indulgence in such reflections only resulted in physical exhaustion and mental agony.
“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”
The great and exclusive end of man's existence, together with the solemn reason for entire devotion to that end, is stated in conclusion, verses 13, 14, in language so plain and deeply impressive as to need no elucidation.
For God shall bring every "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
Welcome weary wanderer from truth, purity and peace, back to the light of life, to the bosom of God. May the recorded results of thy wanderings and errors, be a timely warning to the living, never to depart from the fountain of living waters, but to forsake the foolish and live.
We had designed to append to this article some reflections, to us important to a full understanding of the book before us. But we have already advanced far enough to be admonished that it is time to give place for the thoughts of others on other subjects. In conclusion then, we would simply add, that no book in the Bible has been more generally misunderstood, and consequently misapplied than this. Take a single example:-A very celebrated orthodox clergyman took for his text to a thanksgiving discourse, Eccl. 2: 24:
"There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God."
Assuming the sentiment of the passage as an inspired truth, he went on to advise his people without any reserve or qualification, as none is found in the text, to give themselves up to the enjoyment, in eating, drinking, &c. of the fruit of their labors. For man, in his present state, he told them, there was nothing better than this. His people accordingly went home, "to eat their bread with joy, and drink their wine with a merry heart, in short to give themselves up to sensual indulgence "asking no questions for conscience sake." With his understanding of the book, what other instruction could the preacher have drawn from this text.
The common practice of urging men to become religious, by descanting upon the "vanity of sublunary things," has also arisen from a similar misunderstanding of this book. From such considerations, were they true, men never can, and never will become religious. Religion calls man away from the visible and temporary, not by disclaiming against these as hurtful and vain, but by disclosing things unseen and eternal as presenting an infinitely higher good.
How often too has the assertion, as we have before observed, "There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not," been cited as proof divine of the doctrine of the continued sinfulness of even all sanctified minds, when the passage in reality has no relation whatever to the subject, and if it had, the sentiment it contains is the recorded opinion of a fallible man, who, in his apostacy from rectitude, does not apprehend things as they are, but as they are not.
When rightly understood and explained, this book, on the other hand, will be found to contain an exhaustless source of most striking and impressive illustrations of the influence of worldliness, sensuality, and unbelief, upon the mind. The book itself was written out as a divine record of such illustrations. We hope that the time is not distant, when this will be the use made of it in the churches.
The Independence of the Ministry.
BY REV. A. UNDERWOOD,
Pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church, Newark, N. J.
THE Lord's charge to young Jeremiah upon his entering the prophetical office is applicable to every gospel minister. "Thou therefore gird up thy loins and arise and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them." He is bound to be as To suffer any considerafearless in delivering his message. tion to deter him from the faithful discharge of his duty is betraying a most sacred and solemn trust. No one can do it without exposing himself to the just displeasure of a holy God. He jeopardizes his own soul while he is the occasion "When God maketh inquisition of destroying many others. for blood, he remembereth them."
By independence of the ministry, I do not mean that it is independent of God. With some, independence and recklessness mean the same thing. One of the first and most important things for a gospel minister is to feel and acknowledge his entire dependence on God. From him he is to receive his instruction and do as Micaiah said he would: "As the Lord liveth, even what my God saith that will I speak." As an embassador, he is to act according to the instruction given by his government. If we should find any of our foreign ministers consulting their own interests instead of consulting the interests of the government at foreign courts, we should forthwith recall them. They would be thought unfaithful to their trust. What then must be said of the minister of heaven's King who consults his own interests and reputation in executing his commission. In every sense he is dependent upon God. He needs divine grace in delivering his instruction, and it is only as God blesses him that he can expect success. Hence independence of the ministry does not imply independence of God. It rather implies a sense of dependence on him; for who would be so much disposed to be bold and fearless in uttering the declarations of heaven, as he who feels his dependence on God. "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men but God which trieth our