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may always be cheered by the hope of immortality, yet it is manifestly often accompanied by such maladies of the body, and such decay of the mental powers, as to render existence a protracted suffering. And this is sufficient to justify the description. Throughout the whole picture the royal philosopher must be understood as delineating, not that which universally happens, but that which is the frequent, perhaps, usual, effect of advancing years. Since a painful decrepitude is a common, though not invariable, consequence of old age, he mentions it hypothetically, and exhorts the sons of men to begin a course of piety in their early years, before that season of life arrives in which weakness, pain, and infirmity may naturally be expected.

The description must, likewise, be taken in connexion with the Preacher's argument, which is to exhort mankind to the early cultivation of religious habits. “ Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.” If the attainment of wisdom be neglected in early years, the various infirmities of age may arrive, and press so heavy upon decaying nature, as to prevent so necessary an acquisition. Little can be expected from applying to the cultivation of religion at a time when the outward frame is bowed down with disease, and the understanding is fast relapsing into imbecility and dotage; it is, therefore, the part of prudence to use every exertion to acquire wisdom before the period of life when such maladies are not uncommon, and are, consequently, always to be apprehended.

Moreover, according to the reasoning of a pious Jew, who believed the temporal sanctions ‘of the Law, religious habits and dispositions could alone secure the comforts of a green old age. Length of days and earthly happiness being the Mosaic promise to obedience, Solomon's argument may be understood to go to this extent, that, if Wisdom be despised and neglected in youth, the threat of the Law will take effect, and the old age of the scoffer will be a period of suffering and misery. To be religious, a Jew would argue, is the only way to escape the aches, and pains, and tortures with which age is often visited as the punishment of precedent folly; therefore,“ remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come," for come they will, if thou rejectest Wisdom, “when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.”

The devout Christian may be so far a believer in a temporal retribution, as to maintain that piety and virtue can alone secure the repose, and serenity, and enjoyment which are sometimes the favoured privilege of the aged. It is impossible to conceive, that the last scene of a life spent in vice, and sensuality, and alienation from God can be happy. But to the man of piety, who can look back to years of usefulness and honour, old age presents a peaceful retreat from the bustle and business of the world, where he floats upon the tide of life, pleased with the remembrance of the past, and exulting in the prospect of a haven of eternal blessedness. “To the intelligent and virtuous, old age presents a scene of tranquil enjoyments, of obedient appetite, of well-regulated affections, of maturity in knowledge, and of calm preparation for immortality. In this serene and dignified state, placed, as it were, on the confines of two worlds, the mind of a good man reviews what is past with the complacency of an approving conscience; and looks forward, with humble confidence in the mercy of God, and with devout aspirations, towards his eternal and ever-increasing favour."*

* These remarks may suffice for the vindication of Solomon's portrait of old age from the charge of being inconsistent with truth and reality. Let us, therefore, revert to the more immediate subject of this section.

* Dr. Percival, quoted by Dr. Paley, in his Natural Theology, chap. xxvi, where are some acute observations on old age.

That the book of Ecclesiastes affords examples of highly figurative language and poetical composition is unquestionable; but whether it was originally written in metrical numbers is a question not so easily determined. The Rabbinical writers are stated to be unanimous in regarding it as a prose composition; while the ancient Fathers of the Christian Church, on the contrary, numbered it among the metrical books.* Biblical scholars, of modern times, are not more unanimous, eminent names being ranged on each side. Desvoeux pronounces it a philosophical discourse, written in prose, though in a rhetorical style, and interspersed with verses. Bishop Lowth, Dr. Bernard Hodgson, van der Palm, Bauer, and Jebb accede to this opinion, which may derive some confirmation from the circumstance, that such a mode of composition seems anciently to have obtained among the Orientals. Some of the Hebrew canonical books contain an intermixture of prose and verse; and we have a similar example in the Makamet of Hariri, of which a portion has been published by Reiske and Schultens, and translated by

* See the authorities in Wolf, Biblioth. Heb. vol. ii. p. 92, and Carpzov, Introd. ad Lib. Bib. par. ii. cap. 1, $ 1. 1st Desvoeux, Diss. cap. iii. p. 79, and Philol. Observat. p. 341. Lowth, Prælect. 24. Hodgson, Transl. of Eccles. J. H. van der Palm, Diss. de Lib. Eccles. cap. 3. Schulz et Bauer, Prolegom. in Eccles. $ 5. Jebb, Sacred Literature, $ 5.

Chapellow.* Nevertheless, this notion is opposed both by the style and the circumscribed limits of the Ecclesiastes. Productions of greater extent, as the Prophecies of Jeremiah, for instance, which contain a variety of matters, some historical, and some prophetical, some of such a nature as almost to reject poetry, and others naturally inviting the highest decorations of imagination, may easily be conceived to be written partly in prose and partly in verse; but that this should be the case in a work of twelve short chapters, treating of one subject, which is never lost sight of by the author, and having the same turn of thought and the same character of diction from beginning to end, is an idea destitute of all probability. It is not meant by this to assert a perfect uniformity of style throughout; some diversity necessarily arises from the difference of the topics: a moral precept, and the refutation of a sophistical cavil, cannot be equally poetical with a description of human vanity, or of the maladies of age; there is, however, such a sameness of phraseology and idiom, such a

* At that period when the proud structure of the Roman empire was hastening to decay, and learning was in its wane, Boethius wrote, in mixed verse and prose, his pleasing work, The Consolation of Philosophy; but no instance occurs to me of a similar production in the early ages of Greece and Rome. But in the East such a mixture of prose and verse was extremely common.--See Carlyle's Specimens of Arabian Poetry, Preface.

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