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The PROVERBS OF SOLOMON, and the Book of EcCLESIASTES (or the Preacher), contain a most valuable and extensive collection of the wisest maxims for the instruction of mankind ; greatly excelling any others which have been preserved to us from ancient times. A great proportion of them were undoubtedly composed by that inspired monarch, who, as the Scriptures inform us, was the wiseșt of men, and distinguished by the peculiar favour of God.
The Song of Solomon, which follows the two books last-mentioned, is an hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Deity, composed on the occasion of his marriage with the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. In this song of praise Solomon compares his bride to the future Church of Christ, which it had been revealed to him should in aftertimes be established. The mind of that man must be wretchedly depraved who finds occasion for ridicule in reading this very ancient writing, or who endeavours to deride those prophetical expressions which have an immediate reference to our sacred religion. The language abounds indeed in images and allusions unusual in this country. In reading
this book we must therefore bear in mind, that the style of writing in all Eastern nations, and particularly in ancient times, was very different from ours, although to this day much of this peculiar manner is practised in those countries.
Having thus completed our short review of the historical writings of the Old Testament, we postpone for the present our examination of the books of prophecy contained in that holy volume.
Our readers must be prepared to meet with many obstacles still which want of learning does not permit them entirely to overcome; but an earnest endeavour to understand such things as are of easy
attainment will get the better of many difficulties which at first sight may appear incapable of explanation.
In the Sacred History a few things are observed to be misplaced, owing to the mistakes of those employed in translating them from the Hebrew tongue, or in copying them from the older writings. Some short sentences have likewise been introduced, which were probably written on the margin of the pages, and afterwards, by later transcribers, put into the body of the work. The names of soine few
places have been altered, which in the long course of time had lost their ancient title. In describing the condition of old cities and places, it is frequently said, “as it is at this day;"—which is another of those additions made by later copiers.
We find an account of the kings of Edom in the 36th chapter of Genesis, which could not possibly be written by Moses, but must have been put in by some person after his time, as the kingdom of Edom was not then founded ; which is an example of those trifling additions that I have just mentioned. It may appear remarkable, that Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and others, who were the authors of those books which bear their names, should speak of their own acts as though they were not performed by the person who tells them. But this was the manner of writing in ancient times, and is still practised in India, Persia, and other Eastern nations; and indeed, generally, where persons giving an historical account of their own transactions wish not to appear to boast of themselves.
These circumstances are mentioned, lest they might otherwise perplex our humble readers; and because they have been absurdly opposed to the truth of the Sacred History, by persons who either through ignorance or mischief have endeavoured to lessen the credit of Sacred History.
PROPHECY signifies the supernatural gift of the Almighty to enable men to foretell future events, of which we have so many proofs recorded. We read in the 2nd of Peter i. 21, that prophecy came not in old time by the will of man ; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Inspiration is also a supernatural assistance from God, giving men extraordinary wisdom, with powers of writing and speaking above their natural understanding
When God gave holy men the gift of divine wisdom, he gave them a fore-knowledge of certain events, generally of a disastrous, though sonietimes of a consoling nature, the fearless declaration of which, in the name of the Lord, was intended to strike them with awe, and bring them to repentance and obedience.