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inclined to adopt M. Desvoeux's explanation of this passage, and think be has deafly (hewn that the rendering of the word in our common translation, the almond tree shall flourish, is evidently wrong, arid not agfeeable to tlie Hebrew text.
For it fhcnild be observed, that the literal translation of the words should be, the almond tree Jkali be despised, the verb being \X1, which signifies to despise. But this giving no proper fense,- as the despising of the almond tree can have nothing to do with the subject of the sacred writers, our translators, in conformity to the Septu'dgint, rmd other extant versions, hav« changed the middle letter Aleph into a Vau, and thus is produced an almond tree covered with blossoms. But surely the flourishing of an almond tree is not more to the purpose in this passage, than the contempt of it; and the forced metaphorical constructions put on this pretended image, betray the distress of the interpreters, rather than explain the fense of the author. To this purpose, Dr. Mead well observes in his Medica Sacra, that the flowers of the almond tree are not white. They are of a purplish colour, no way resembling that of grey hairs; and further, that a grey head is not so peculiarto old people, but that the hair of young persons often grows of that colour. He might have added, that Solomon does not give a Complete description of Old Age, but only of the infirmities which attend it, amongst which.it would be ridiculous to add such a thing as the colour of the hair. But this would not have agreed lo well with the doctor's own scheme, who by the flourishing of the almond tree, understands the Winter of Old Age, and the decay of the sensation of smelling, a prodigiously far-fetched interpretstion; to which nothing sure could drive the learned physician.ibut this unintelligibleness of the text, as it stands in the translation.
The learned commentator proceeds to observe, that the literal, or rather less figurative, interpretation of Junius and JDe Dieu, more deserves our attention. They consider this, and the following clause, as an indication of the Spring of the year, and upon that supposition, they Connect it tolerakh/ well with the reft of the description, thovgk the almond trie flourifli and the laatjl be bailed with fat; it does not invigorate his blood, rror make if rife, to stir up his desire. Bot there me many objections to this interpretation, as it admits the usual construction of the worA flourish instead of despise; andasthefiowerir:*of the almond tree, and the fattening of
the the grasshopper do not happen at the fame time of the year, the one being in Autumn, and the other in Spring.
The author then proposes his own conjecture, which seems to be the proper fense of the original, and very suitable to the scope and design of the sacred writer in this description. The word which is rendered in our translation almond tree, he would read with a fin instead ot a Jinn, viz. ur prop", which is done by only removing the point from the right, to the left of the letter. And as the Masoretic points are now almost entirely exploded, this alteration surely may easily be admitted, and is much less violent than that of changing an Aleph into a Vau, to establish the common reading. The word npar Saked being thus established, but rarely occurs, and in its passive fense, signifies to be embraced or close pressed. It» its derivative fense therefore, it may well denote a close union ; and this union can be determined only by circumstances. Now Solomon here describes the infirmities, which attend the last stage of life; and especially in this part of the picture, those alterations in men's habits and inclinations, which are the natural consequences of Old Age. In this period of life then, it may well be said that the season of embraces is over: they are no longer of any value. Accordingly, in the new version of this author, the passage is rendered, "the commerce of women shall be despised." This seems to be an easy interpretation of the words, and very agreeable to the original Hebrew. And it is observable, that in the interlinear version os S. Pagninus, in the margin the passage is rendered, reprobabitur coitus. And this corresponds with one of the symptoms of Old Age mentioned by Juvenal, Coitus jam longa oblivio.
I will now beg leave to lay before your readers a few extracts from some of the ablest expositors of this important part of holy scripture. And in this respect the AnalyticalParaphrase of M. Desvoeux seems very deserving of notice.
"As the style os this description (says he) is mostly figurative, it is not perhaps very easy to point out with certainty, the particular infirmities attending a decrepid state, which is therein made use qf. Yet the general moaning is very plain, which is sufficient to answer the main purpose: however, the description seems to consist of three parts. The first allegorically points out, under the image of an ill attended house, the most obvious infirmities of Old Age, that is to fay, those, that can scarcely escape the notice of any one that be'- holds holds an old man. The second sets forth, mostly in plain literal terms, those alterations for the worse, which age produces in a man's habits and inclinations. The last under the emblem of a well that becomes useless through the decay of the engines, and other things necessary to draw water out of it, and to conyey it to the proper places, represents the inward decay of our constitution, whereby we are at last brought to a state, wherein there is no work nor device to be done, nor any use for knowledge and wisdom. But lest any one mould suspect that Solomon involved the whole man in the ruin and destruction of the bodily machine, he doe* shortly assert a distinction of principles, and a difference of fate between body and foul. The one was made of earth, and returns into it. The other came from God, and returns to him."
To the fame purpose speaks Dr. Mead, in the conclusion of his chapter on this subject.
"Notatu autem dignum est essutum illud, quo Rex sapientissimus concionem suam concludit: redit, inquit, fulvis in ter ram qualis fuerat, et Spiritus ad Deum redit qui ilium dedit. Quibus verbis, ut videtur, ignorantiæ illorum, qui anU mum simul cum corpore exere putarunt, occurrere et immortalitatem ejeus asierere voluil."
I would also recommend to your readers the pious sentiments of Dr. Smith, at the conclusion of his work; in which he vindicates himself and his profession, from the imputation of Atheism and Infidelity, and addresses his brethren of the faculty on this subject. "We are so far (says he) from slighting or contemning the Scripture, that we are great admirers of it, do endeavour to advance it above all other writings whatsoever, and that even in natural things, though never so accidentally or cursorily translated; and we had rather that all our other books, though very curious and greatly valuable, should be burnt, than that one line, nay one letter, or jot, or tittle of it, should in any wise pass away. And on the other hand, I hope I have persuaded and prevailed with all my own brethren, to be more wise for themselves, and more wary in respect of others, than some severe and jealous headed censurers have judged them to be: that we may none of us give the least occasion lor any one to speak evil of the things they understand not; but by taking heed to a sure rule, we may bring perpetual honour to our own faculty, and shame to the loose professors of a better. A slight and superficial ficial knowledge of natural things may indeed consist with Atheism, but a deep and profound search of them doth bring men back again to God, and necessarily bind them over to religion. Solomon's wisdom stayed not in the creatures, though, he perfectly knew so great a variety; but did from them only (as it were) take its rife and mount higher than the cedars, even unto Heaven itself, and there only could find its rest, from whence it had its first beginning, like the spirit of man, returning to God that gave it. Let no man think he hath sufficient knowledge in natural things, who hath not by them been directed to divine, or that he hath viewed the creatures enough, who hath not been led through them to the Creator. Knowledge natural and spiritual, are not so contrary one to another, but- that they may very well agree together, and cohabit in the same mansion. And there is none so complete a physician, as he who is frequently conversant in the word of God and able to evangelize; for that is the fountain which fends forth plentifully of both these waters, and is alone able to make a man perfeil, thoroughly furnished to every good work."
Permit me further to add the concluding words of Mr. Harmer, on this portion of Holy Scripture.
"Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the Winter of Old Age is come on; before its numerous complaints have taken place; before thou shalt be carried to thy long home, and thy body be turned to dust: for nothing but hope in God can support the soul when struggling with disease; can disarm the king of terrors in his approach, can enable thee to reflect on the solitude, the corruption, the dereliction of the grave, and its being demolished, and its place no more known. For even then, the Giver of Life, thy Creator, can bring thee back into view, and raising thee from the dead, make thee a partaker of immortality."
These reflections on the infirmities of age, and of this admirable portraiture of the fame, as here displayed by the royal preacher, and illustrated by these able commentators, must be very suitable to us all, when we are now about to close another year of the period of our lives. As they remind us of the transient and perishable nature of this our earthly tabernacle, so should they excite us to " work the work of him that sent us, while it is called to-day ; because
Vol. XIII. Churckm. Mag. for December 1807.
the night cometh, when no man can work." John ix. 4. Labuntur anni: nee pietas morum
Rugis et instanti fenectæ
Horace, Od. xiv. Lib. 2.
A Letter from Dr. TiLLOTSON when Dean of Canterbury, to a friend who lay dangerously ill. Transcribed from the original by Mr. Nelson.
I AM sorry to understand by Mr. jf—*s letter to my son, that your distemper grows upon you, and that you seem to decline so fast: I am very sensible how much easier it is to give advice against trouble, in the cafe of another, than to take it in our own. It hath pleased God to exercise me of late with a very sore trial, in the loss of my dear and only child; in which I do perfectly submit to his good pleasure, firmly believing that he always does what is best: and yet, tho' reason be satisfied, our passion is not so soon appeased; and when nature has received a wound, time must be allowed ion the healing of it. Since that, God hath thought fit to give me a nearer summons, and a closes warning of my mortality, in the danger of an apoplexy; which ytt, I thank God for it, hath occasioned no very melancholy reflections; bpt this perhaps is more owing to natural temper, than philosophy and wife considerations. Your cafe, I know, is very different, who are of a temper naturally melancholy, and under a distemper apt to encreafe it; for both which great allowances are to be made.
And yet, methinks, both reason and religion do offer to us considerations of that solidity and strength, as may very well support our spirits under all the frailties and infirmities of the flelh; such as these, that God is perfect love and goodness; that we are not only his creatures, but his children,