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King Solomon's Portraiture
Ecclef. xii. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth,
while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh,
when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. While the fun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars
be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain. In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble,
and the Atrong mer mall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that
look out of the windows be darkened. And the doors shall be fout in the streets, when the found
of the grinding is low, and he fall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of mufick shall
be brought low. Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high,
and fears shall be in the way, and the almond-tree fall flourish and the grashopper shall be a burthen, and desire fall fail, because man goeth to his long.
home, and the mourners go about the freets. Or ever the filver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be
braken, or the pitcher be broken at the fourtain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
HE Oracles of God are given forth
that the men of God may be made I wise unto salvation, (2 Tim. iii. 15.) and all those that through faith have themselves exercised therein ; Thall, thro' grace, (the Spirit of God moving upon the waters,) obtain that most desired end; but this main happiness, is
not the only, that may be acquired by searching the scripture; for there are many natural things, the knowledge whereof may be better gained in one line of them, than in whole volumes of confused naturalifts: Wherefore he that in the true fear of God shall apply himself to them, may think not only to have eternal life, but by the way also to obtain the true knowledge of most things that appertain to this. Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all other things fall be added unto thee, Mat. vi. 33. Solomon fought after nothing but wisdom, but see what a gracious answer he received, I have given thee a wife and an understanding heart, I have also given that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour, and I will lengthen thy days, 1 Kings iii. 5–15. Thus it pleaseth God to deal with those who are fincere, not only to give them their hearts desire, but to superadd somewhat they were not aware of, that may be beneficial to them in their course of life. Looking after the duty of man, which is compleatly set down in ver. 13. of this chapter, I find before I come there, an anatomical enumeration of the lad symptoms of extreme old age, and such an one as I dare be bold to say, is not elsewhere to be found. When the wisdom of the omniscientGod, through his servant Salomon shall describe it, why should I search any further? Ænigmatical I confess it, and exceeding difficult ; wherefore I have the more diligently applied myself
to the interpretation of it. And so much the rather, because I find various senses put upon the words, and scarce any one hath, without interruption, carried the allegory clean through the whole fix verses, as I judge it ought to be. And because a mistake in the parts of man, may cause a mistake in the literal interpretation, I (whose study it hath been to be more versed in those than usual interpreters) do take the liberty to endeavour explication, wherein, if beside my own fatisfaction and content, I shall add any thing to others knowledge, I shall therein have a second reward.
I am not ignorant of all, nor do I despise any of those several interpretations both literal and myftical, that several learned and good men have been exercising themselves in. There are that expound all this allegory, or at least some part of it, to a state of wickedness, to a state of poverty, to a state of spiritual desertion, to a famine of bread, or of the Word of God, to the several dispersions and captivities of the Jews, to the destruction of both the temples, and of Jerusalem, to the obstinacy of the Jews, to the unprofitableness of the Gentiles under their ministry, to the apostasy of the latter times, to the end of the world, and to the day of judgment. I know God doth at sundry times, and in divers manners speak unto the world
by his servants, Heb. i. 1, And knowing this 1 .first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of
any private interpretation ; I know this from thence, that no private interpreter whatsoever: is to bind up others to the measure of his own. understanding. Now as I am against no other, so there is no other against me in this that I am about. All that can be said concerning it, is, that it is low, and mean, and ordinary, however (confest by all) it is true, genuine, and proper. And this may be said of it beyond all other whatsoever; that it is the basis and foundation of all the rest. And every one of them receive their clarity of truth, from the analogy they bear to this primary interpretation ; that is, that these fix verses are a true and proper description, of the natural, infirm, and decrepit age of mankind. That which the Latins call ætas capularis ; the age of him who is shortly to be taken unto death, or into the coffin, or upon the bier, or into the grave; plainly the age of him, who is by course of nature just at his last, and must ere long necessarily yield to inevitable diffolution. There is in that language also another word (which way soever we take its etymology) that will excellently fignify unto us the condition here delineated. And that is filicernium; for whether we take it, quafi filicea hernia laborans; he that. is troubled with hard ruptures, as very old men for the most part are, or fili herbâ ufurus, he that will soon call into use such an herb as was then accustomed to funcral.entertainments, or
filentibus brevi cernendus, he that will quickly be free among the dead; or lastly, filices cernens ; he that by his age and infirmity is continually put in mind of his tomb; or rather (that which seems to be most proper) he that is bowed down with age, so that he cannot but behold the ground whereon he now stands, and under which he must ere long be laid. And this answereth exactly to the Greek word, gépwv, ωαρα το εις γην οραν.
. I shall not take upon me precisely to limit the bounds of this decrepit state, forasmuch as they are various, in respect of the dispositions of mens bodies, of their course of lives, and also of the places and ages in which they live. The lives of the Patriarchs before the food were extended to almost a thousand v. 27. and yet we read not of those sad symptoms attending them, as attend us now at fourscore. About the time of the flood, God abbreviates the course of man's life, and seems precisely to set it at one hundred and twenty years, Gen. Ixiii. I know very well most men would have this text to be understood as a threatening only to the present inhabitants of the old world, that it should be so many years before the food swept them all away : But it seems to me (and not to me only *) rather to intend the cutting short of the life of man for the future. For it is clear by the context, that B 3
the * Jofepbus, lib. 1. c. 70