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are supposed to have been composed by Solomon, during the latter part of his life. The primitive meaning of Ecclesiastes is, a public speaker, or one who calls together an assembly. It is defined “the preacher,” in our scriptural version. Some parts of it evince rather a despairing mood of mind, on the part of the writer, inclining to skepticism concerning the future life; while other parts are more animated and hopeful.
I believe the “Songs OF SOLOMON” to be what their name imports--songs, and nothing more. I surmise it was some fancifully spiritualizing genius who first reckoned them as symbolic portrayals of the love of Christ and the Church. No common reader, certainly, would ever imagine that such was their character, were it not for the titles sometimes affixed to them, intimating something of this kind, and the whimsical commentaries written to expound them. Regarded as wild and deeply impassioned love-songs, they contain passages of exceeding great beauty, exhibiting some of the riches of & most exuberant fancy, and giving proof of an ardent, enthusiastic temperament. They are, some of them, as voluptuous as any thing in the gilded sensuality of Thomas Moore ; and are not sufficiently chaste to be read in this presence.
The character of THE LAMENTATIONS OF JEREMIAH, as they are called, cannot be better expressed than by their title. They are poetic wailings over the destruc
tion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. There is cast over them a pall of sable grandeur, and their pensive strains affect us not unlike the sound of a tolling bell, and the sight of a long-drawn funeral procession. They are generally regarded as the production of the prophet whose name they have received.
A few words, before we conclude, upon the Old Testament Apocrypha; which is included in several edi. tions of our English version of the Bible, but omitted in probably the larger number. It is, I believe, omitted from the editions circulated by the American Bible Society. The separate writings comprised within this collection, are fourteen in number, and bear the following names :-First and Seconds Books of Esdras; Tobit; Judith; the rest of the chapters of the Book of Esther, which are found neither in the Hebrew nor in the Chaldee; The Wisdom of Solomon; The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus; Baruch ; The Song of the Three Holy Children; The History of Susanna ; The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon; The Prayer of Manasses, king of Judah, when he was holden captive in Babylon; First and Second Books of Maccabees. Ecclesiasticus is supposed to have been written by Solomon. The book which immediately precedes it, bearing his name, is also attributed to him. Either of the two contains more wisdom ani solid instruction than is to be found in the Song of Solomon, so called. It is related that Dr. Jonathan
Mayhew, who was minister of the West Church, in Bogton, some time before the American Revolution, was once asked why the Council of Bishops voted the Song of Solomon into the Bible and the Wisdom of Solomon out; when he wittily replied, “Indeed, I cannot tell ; except that mankind have always preferred songs to wisdom.”
These books have been styled Apocryphal; but why they should be so regarded any more than several other works admitted into the Old Testament canon, I am un able to see: for, like the others, they contain, in the midst of their puerilities and fables, much that is excellent-much that we might improve to our advantage, did we study and ponder it faithfully. And besides, their origin is no more obscure than that of some of the regular Old Testament books. Who wrote some of them no mortal knows: and we may say the same of several other writings which are contained in the Scriptures received as sacred by Protestants in general. In the Septuagint and Vulgate translations of the Bible, they are included and reckoned as canonical; and they are so 'considered by the Roman Catholic Church.
Our cursory examination and partial analysis of the historical, poetic and proverbial books, from Joshua to the Songs of Solomon, are now concluded.
Of necessity, the ground has been rapidly passed over.
But for a wearisome protraction of this discourse, many subjects might have received a brief and passing comment, which have not been so much as hinted at. Among them may
be mentioned the story of Samson ;* which can be of no particular advantage to us, if we believe it never so strongly as an actual biography, unless we can derive some moral, or pointed illustration, from it. It has been employed very happily, somewhat in this way, by the English poet Cowper; and with his admirable lines, I close :
"He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
* Judges, chapters, IIV., XV. and xvi.