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Surely Mr. Moulton will not deny that the Zend language is itself a kind of Sanskrit, standing quite as near to Sanskrit as English stands to Scotch (nearer in many particulars).
What did these people need to know Sanskrit for? That noble speech soon became an artificial language which the Zend could not have become owing to the inability of Iran to support a learned class. And as the Zend stands nearer the original Aryan than the Sanskrit, the latter might even be classed as a variety of the former, while among the later “Pahlavi doctors” we have a Sanskritist who translated several works beside the Yasna into the Sanskrit forms.
And as to comparing the meanings of Zend and Sanskrit terms, this would certainly be not less immature than to compare the meanings of words in the Vedic and in the Classical Sanskrit (see above). Such a suggestion, if it were seriously made, would mark the incipient stage in Zend studies which Mr. Moulton has, as I can see, long since passed. I fully expect that Mr. Moulton will, on reflection, entirely agree with me here.
And then as to the Gâthic dialect being a " dead language " long before the time of the Pahlavi doctors, what “doctors” are here meant ? Mr. Moulton certainly does not mean to suggest that any doctors who could read the later Zend could not read the Gâthic dialect. Really Mr. Moulton is here yielding to a temptation, and we are all liable to similar descents. The Gâthic dialect, as Mr. Moulton most undoubtedly well knows, while of the greatest interest as marking an earlier age for the Gâthas, differs from that of the later Avesta only in a few easily recognisable forms. For common reading the Zend and Gâthic differ hardly at all, and as to the meanings involved, they differ far less than the Vedic and Classical Sanskrit. Zoroastrian priests of the time of Cyrus must have been familiar with the main burden of the Gathas, together with that of their now lost portions.
And if Parsi priests mingled at all with Jews of a better mental class, it is hardly to be doubted that some of their ideas must have spread to them. Was there, then, any connection or association between Avestic priests and Jewish Rabbis? Some investigators ask us to prove a connection between the West Iranian Inscriptions (those of Persepolis Behistun, &c.) and the Old and New Avesta. But, as I understand it, no one on our side speaks at all about “proof,” which is one of the most slippery of commodities; what we want (because it is the only thing which we can respect) is "probability.” Professor Cheyne spoke of “possibility." And for "probability” we do not need to read the Inscriptions alone, we may turn at once to the Bible. Here, however, I must refer to an article of mine on this point now in the hands of the distinguished Editor of a very prominent monthly review. That article while accepted with gratifying interest may not be published “so soon as I would like," but it would be manifestly improper for me to anticipate it in any way. I trust that it may not be very much longer delayed; I cannot, however, expect that anything from my
NO. VI.-VOL. 1.—THE THINKER.
hand should be allowed to take precedence over contributions from more considerable persons. One word as to the Vedic influence (so valued) upon the Avesta.
It has been altogether, and as one body of suggestion, due to Roth. He has not published much on the Zend, but his private lectures have been widely circulated among scholars in Germany for a quarter of a century. Almost, if not quite, all that is striking and apparently new in all the fragmentary translations of the Gâthas in the German reviews to which Mr. Moulton refers, are wholly the reproductions of Roth, sometimes imitated with literal exactness. I possess copies of his lectures which contain the discoveries or suggestions on which the reputations of others have been made, and students will find them practically embodied as alternatives in my Gấtha Ahunavaiti and in my commentary. I reproduce them without naming their source, as that is not proper in this case with unpublished matter, but I do not present them as original with me. The writers who used Roth's circulated lectures as adopted material did not give Roth credit in the German periodicals referred to, because it is fully understood in Germany that they are
expounders of his views.” It is, to be sure, not quite in consonance with our English sense of honour to fill one's pages with the unpublished suggestions of another, while yet conveying (or endeavouring to convey) the impression that those suggestions are original; but this feeling does not seem to prevail so decidedly elsewhere. As to the other very interesting points raised by Mr. Moulton on comparative religion, I will gladly leave that part of the subject for the present to my friend Professor Cheyne, whose incisive suggestiveness has brought this whole subject into notice. Meantime, let me thank Mr. Moulton once more for his very able and important communication.
THE NINETIETH PSALM.
By Rev. PROFESSOR T. K. CHEYNE, D.D.
Yea, prosper thou our handiwork.—Ps. xc. 17. The Ninetieth Psalm is not unlike that poetic masterpiece of later times called the Book of Job, inasmuch as it expresses the thoughts of a devout representative of the Jewish Church on some recent peculiarly sad experiences of the people of Israel. We recognized the sublimity, alike in expression and in idea, of the first four verses, which embody some of the highest teaching of the Second Isaiah—Isaiah of Babylon, as we may call him—and sought
to understand the fall in poetic beauty and spiritual insight observable in the following verses, and even to derive a lesson from it for ourselves. We must not neglect to study the higher meaning of the Scriptures, but we must never forget that "all these things were written (however unconsciously written) for our admonition.” In the tenth verse the psalmist changes his tone. For the moment he forgets the sad state of his own people, and takes a wider outlook. He speaks in this verse, not of the many Israelites who must have died before his eyes of a broken heart or of the miseries incident to the time, but of those who in all countries go down to the grave in a full age, after having shared in the good things which are, as he states, the "pride" of ordinary men.
The days of our life are (but) threescore years and ten,
So quickly is it gone by, and we fly away (ver. 10). Let us observe in passing how totally inapplicable these words are to the times of Moses, the supposed author of the psalm. The reported age both of Moses and of Aaron, and also of Joshua, far exceeded the utmost limit allowed by the psalmist, while the rest of the people, according to the Divine sentence, were to die before their time in the wilderness. It is the normal age of man which the psalmist mentions—the normal age, according to the ideas of the later Israelites. He is the spokesman of humanity, whose frailty he contrasts with the Divine eternity. For, to do justice to the thought of ver. 10, we ought mentally to repeat before it a part of ver. 4– “For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday when it is passing," which is equivalent to a passage in another psalm, “As for thy years, they endure throughout all generations” (Ps. cii. 27, Prayer Book Version). Nor can there be a better comment on vers. 4 and 10 of our psalm taken together than that fine saying of the poet Wordsworth
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence. I will not, I must not say that the psalmist's description of the shortness of human life is all that one could wish, either in thought or in expression. There are sayings in the Bible which seem unsurpassable in their kind—in a word, classic. One of these is the opening of the fourteenth chapter of Job; another is the fourth verse of this very psalm. One cannot rank the tenth verse with these noble utterances. In expression, as a literal translation would show, it falls far below them, and it contains one clause which, to the modern Christian reader, is at best a painful exaggeration-I mean the clause, “and their pride (or their boasting) is (but) labour and sorrow." For surely it is not true that the dominant note of an ordinary Christian man's life is pride. Nor that the old men with whom we have come into contact, when surveying the results of their seventy or eighty years, find them to be but “ labour and sorrow.” The old man may indeed regretfully confess that he has not made the most of life, but he has a keen delight in
recalling the manifold interests, the pleasures and even the pains, the successful and even the unsuccessful endeavours of a long and active career ; and if this delight be mingled with pride, it is surely no unworthy pride. Nor is it only of himself that the old man thinks in his partial or complete retirement. Who takes such a kindly interest as he in the young beginner? who so much helps and influences his juniors as he does by his mature experience and mellowed character? and who supplies so much light and safety to friends in council, for, as Victor Hugo says-
In the young man's eye a flame may burn,
But in the old man's eye one seeth light. Doubtless we owe this in large measure to Christ's glorious victory over death, which liberates the old man from depressing anxiety, and converts his soon-expected Good-bye into a peaceful Good-night. Listen to Mary Carpenter, the model Christian philanthropist of our own day. “I was very happy to see you," she writes to a friend, growing old like herself, “ so bright and serene at the age which, in the olden time, before our blessed Lord came, was ‘labour and sorrow.' But even in the psalmist's time the idea that old age must be “labour and sorrow was below the standard of the highest knowledge, and marks an involuntary sinking to the level of heathenism. The Greeks and Romans, as we know, feared old age, and thought life hardly worth living when youth had fled. But some at least of the Israelites, with a deeper sense of the value of character, seem to have thought differently. At any rate, among the Proverbs, which represent, as we may suppose, the general feeling of thoughtful men, we find these sayings
The glory of young men is their strength,
And the beauty of old men is the hoary head. — Prov. xx. 29, R.V. And again
The hoary head is a crown of glory ;
It shall be found in the way of righteousness. —Prov. xvi. 31, R. V. It is only in the darkest period of Israel's history, at the close of the oppressive Persian rule, that we find a so-called wise man proclaiming this miserable sentence,“ Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Eccles. i. 2), and libelling the years of old age as "the evil days," and the years “when thou
" shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Eccles. xii. 1). We may and should thank God that the Bible gives so deterrent a picture of scepticism as that in the Book of Ecclesiastes; but certainly we cannot approve, however much we may pity, its melancholy author.
Nor can the pessimistic statement even of the holy psalmist be fully endorsed. Blame him, indeed, we must not, we cannot. Like Job, he claims our pity; but how can we pity him till we understand his circumstances ? Briefly, then, his case is this : He holds in his mind two inconsistent ideas-one, an old idea, that calamity is a proof of God's displeasure ; and another, a comparatively new one, that God is eternal and unchangeable; and such is the bitterness of Israel's present calamity that, for the moment, he forgets that the new idea was specially revealed to the later Jewish
Church; nay more, he even allows his estimate of the human lot to be coloured by his despondent view of the fortunes of Israel. He speaks amiss, and yet not wholly amiss. For it is perfectly true that what St. John calls the “pride of life” (1 John ii. 16) is by its very nature transitory, and that whether or no there is any other human possession which endures, the longest human life is soon over, and is but a drop compared to God's eternity. Holding so much truth as our psalmist does, it is impossible that he should not at last escape from his morbid mood, and suck the hidden sweetness of the thought of God. But the time is not yet; he is still at a low spiritual level. All that he can say at present is,
Who knoweth the power of thine anger,
And thy wrath according to thy fear? (ver. 11.) That is, Who, in spite of providential reminders, is conscious of the Divine displeasure against sinners in the degree which the “fear of God” (i.e., religious reverence) requires ? Take this view by itself, and it may appear even to a Christian a wise and true saying. But in the context it must, I fear, be regarded as one of those half-truths which hinder the right development of the spiritual life. Is it really all that the psalmist can infer from the sad calamities of the time that, in spite of all that has been done for religion, the national sins are so many and great that an extraordinary chastisement has become necessary ? What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?” Shall we love God in prosperity, and fear Him in adversity? Have we not heard that “whom Jehovah loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth”? Yes; not only is this expressly taught by a great Hebrew moralist, but the same book which says, “ All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field,” opens with the command, “ Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Bitter indeed must have been the calamity which could so shake the faith of the psalmist. Let us, therefore, never be too sure of ourselves, but pray that God will not lead us into too strong a temptation !
The twelfth verse is difficult to understand if we insist on connecting it with the eleventh. But the truth is that the psalmist has no skill in linking thought to thought. Just as ver. 10 connects itself with ver. 4 rather than with the preceding description, so ver. 12 belongs to ver. 10. It has no special reference to the depressed fortunes of Israel, but is equally true of all men, whether prosperous or the reverse.
To number our days--that teach us,
That we may take home wisdom to our heart (ver. 12). That is, teach us to realize the shortness of life that we may gain true, practical wisdom.
The psalmist's idea is that, however dark the times may be, the demands of duty are as imperative as ever. Indeed, the only hope for a brightening of the national fortunes consists in each man's doing the duty that lies nearest
1 Prov. v. 12.