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They are mere plausibilities; and, however multiplied, would still be outbalanced by a single grain of historical testimony. So weak, indeed, and futile are they, that it might be sufficient to reply to them generally, that they are drawn from internal probabilities, or from the style and phraseology, and that no argument of this description can be admitted against positive evidence. The work is expressly ascribed to the philosophic son of David, in the first and twelfth verses of the first chapter; it has been admitted into the Jewish canon as his production, which would not have been the case, unless undeniable grounds had existed for ascribing it to him; and it has been handed down as his by a regular tradition, as appears from the consent of manuscripts and versions, and from the concurrent voice of antiquity. It would, therefore, be injudicious, it would be dangerous, it would be irreligious to desert this combined testimony for bold assertion and ingenious conjecture.
· To disregard or reject such a body of evidence would be attended with consequences the most detrimental to the interests of revealed religion. Were any book enrolled among the Holy Scriptures as sacred, while it was only a mere human production, and ascribed to an author by whom it was not written, how could this be reconcileable with the infallibility of the word of God,
with the existence of divine inspiration, with the spirit of prophecy, which continued among the Jews till the completion of their canon? Such a circumstance is so inconsistent with the idea of a divine communication, and with the design of selecting the Hebrews to be the depositories of the Oracles of God, that, were it indubitably proved, the whole superstructure of revelation would totter to its fall. The authority of the canon would be much diminished, were it to carry upon its very front a palpable mistake; the conviction of one error might reasonably excite a suspicion of the existence of many others; and that collection of writings which must be weeded and curtailed, before its universal canonicity can be allowed, would be entitled to little reverence or respect.
There is gone abroad, at the present day, and particularly in modern Germany, a spirit of rash, presumptuous literature, which tends, in its daring progress, to overthrow every thing holy and venerable. It presumes to penetrate the veil which separates the sanctuary of heaven from mortal vision, and subjects to its polluted touch the hallowed realities of our religion. Truths hitherto deemed sacred, opinions consecrated by time and universal reception, and doctrines revered as the essence of celestial revelation, are proudly trampled upon in the desolation of its march. Yet our
age has many redeeming virtues, which forbid us to look at the state of religion with a desponding eye. If the pride of unchastised literature has borne an extensive sway, orthodoxy has to boast of champions never excelled for intellectual ability and profundity of erudition. Their efforts have been noble, their success incalculable, so that we may anticipate the period when philosophy shall be no longer exalted into the throne of revealed religion, and when its meteorous rays shall be extinguished by the effulgence of Scripture truth. And, to hasten this happy event, let all who are called to minister the word, study the sacred writings with pious and reverent attention, devoutly praying for that illumination from above, without which, learning becomes inert, and all human efforts are ineffectual.
As ancient institutions are not only venerable for their antiquity, but are commonly suited to the character and circumstances of the people among whom they exist; so opinions which have been generally received, for a series of ages, are, for the most part, founded in eternal and immutable truth. It is but little consistent with wisdom to indulge a reforming spirit, in regard to ancient establishments, except the necessity be urgent and the improvement evident; it is equally remote from sound judgment to reject long
prevailing opinions without the most substantial reasons; and as, in the present instance, no valid arguments have been produced to the contrary, we may, without hesitation, concur in the almost universal belief that Solomon was the author of the Ecclesiastes.
CANONICAL AUTHORITY OF THE ECCLESIASTES.
It is related, that the Rabbins had once a design to degrade the book of Ecclesiastes, as well as the Proverbs and Canticles, into the number of apocryphal writings, on account of some contradictions and immoral sentiments which, they imagined, it contained; but, upon more mature consideration, they admitted it'as canonical Scripture.* Even some Christian divines and
Maimonides, More Nevoch. par. ii. cap. 28. Wolf, Biblioth. Heb. vol. ii. p. 122. . Carpzov, Introduct. ad Lib. Bibl. par. ii. cap. 5, $7. The word used by the Rabbins is 132, abscondere, ATTONPUTTEV, to place among the apocryphal books, to declare apocryphal ; but Bishop Marsh, in a note to Michaelis's Introduction to the N. T. cap. iii. $ 1, affirms, that ia does not mean“ apocryphal, as we understand the word, for the ancient Jews never doubted the divine authority of the Proverbs, Solomon's Song, or Ecclesiastes;" and that " it was applied to books divinely inspired, and included in the sacred canon.” The word 132, it is true, does sometimes denote those parts of the canonical Scriptures which were only forbidden to be read; (Castel, Lex. Hept. in voc. ;) but the reason given for the Jews wishing ruas to conceal or lay aside the Ecclesiastes, namely, that it
critics have doubted or denied its divine authority. Its canonicity, however, rests upon unimpeachable grounds. Solomon had twice witnessed the especial presence of God; (1 Kings iii. 5, ix. 1, xi. 11;) he was endowed by the Most High with inspired wisdom to govern the people over whom he reigned; (1 Kings iii. 5—14, iv. 29;) he was furnished with all outward means for the successful prosecution of his natural and moral inquiries ; (2 Chron. ix. 22 ;) he was educated from his tender years by his pious father and the prophet Nathan'; (Prov. iv. 3, 4; 2 Sam. xii. 25; 1 Kings i. 11;) and was likewise himself gifted with the prophetical spirit; (1 Kings iii. 5, et seq. vi. 11, 12, ix. 1, et. seq. xi. 9-11;) and can it be supposed, that the illumination of the Spirit forsook him in the composition of a work destined to be enrolled among the Oracles of God, and intended to afford religious instruction to every succeeding
That the divine authors of the New Testament have not given it their infallible sanction by direct appeals to it, as an inspired writing, must be acknowledged; and though, perhaps, no instance can be produced where they have indisputably alluded to it, there are, nevertheless, passages
contained contradictions and immoralities, seems to imply rejection from the canon. The observations in my Translation of Proverbs, Prel. Diss. p. xxviii, are applicable to this question.