Imagens das páginas
PDF

ižoyars, an expounder of the laws of God to the people; which was the office of the prophets: who had a great stroke also in the government, (as Melancthon observes), and by their counsels, when they were followed, made the kingdom flourishing. As Elisha for about 70 years governed the counsels of their kings in the greatest calamities, particularly in the siege of Samaria; after whose death the kingdom endured not much above an hundred years, agitated by perpetual seditions. Thus Isaiah, by his counsels to Hezekiah, a good part of the people were saved. From such examples, saith he, we may gather, that when prophecy ceased, the people were scattered, (so he translates the word para), because, for want of wholesome counsellors, there follow in empires, strifes of ambition, and seditions, which all tend to utter ruin; yet the second part of this sentence, saith he, admonishes us, that a remnant should be safe in their dispersions, viz. such as kept the divine doctrine. For want of which God takes away men's instructors, when they are not obedient to wholesome precepts. So the LXX. translate this verse, (minding the sense rather than the words), “there is no expounder of the law to a wicked lawless nation,” &c. God strips them even of their teachers; as some translate the word para, perish ; which hath various significations, most of which I have expressed in the paraphrase; because they all agree well enough to this place. [1] There is an exposition of the next words, ver, 19. which would be very natural, if the wise man spoke only of the commands of ministers to their servants; which they pretend sometime not to hear, that they may not do as they are bidden. But he speaks of their not amending the faults of which they have been already told ; which is not the quality of all servants, and therefore I have said a slave. Or else we must interpret it, as the LXX. do of eixir; exxngés, a stubborn obstinate servant, whose heart is hardened against all words that can be spoken to him, good or bad. [m] But I must make no more glosses, for fear of prolonging this preface too much beyond its just bounds. And therefore I shall conclude it with the Lord Bacon's observation uponver. 21. (where the LXX. have expressed but a little part of the sense), “that both princes and private masters should keep a mean in the dispensation of their grace and favour towards servants; which mean is threefold. First, that servants be promoted by steps, (or degrees), not by leaps. Secondly, that they be now and then accustomed to repulses. Thirdly, (which Machiavil well advises), that they have ever in their sight before them, something whereunto they may farther aspire. For unless these courses be taken in raising of servants, princes shall, instead of thankful acknowledgements, and dutiful observance, be repaid with nothing but disdain and contumacy. For from sudden promotion arises insolence; from constant attainment of their desire proceeds impatience of being denied; and there being nothing re

maining that they can farther wish, alacrity and industry will cease.” r

Ver.-1. IE that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy..] He that, having received frequent reproofs from good men, and perhaps corrections from God, will not yield in the least, but absolutely refuse to be guided by them, and submit unto them, is in danger to fall, and that on a sudden, into utter and irreparable ruin. See Arg. [a] Ver. 2. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice ; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.] When just and merciful governors make virtuous men grow numerous, (xxviii. 28.), a kingdom is happy ; but when an unjust man rules, the wicked get into places of trust, and make the people o groan under their oppressions. See Arg. b Ver. 3. Whoso loveth wisdom, rejoiceth his father; but be that keepeth company with barlots, spendeth his substance..] A young man, whose love of wisdom and virtue preserves his body as pure as his mind, and his estate as entire as both, gives the greatest joy to his father ; as on the contrary, nothing can be a greater grief to him, than to see his son so sottish as to maintain a company of harlots; whose covetousness being as unsatiable as their lust, devoureth all that he hath. See Arg. [c] Ver. 4. The king by judgement stablish, th the land; but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it..] A king that administers justice exactly to all his subjects, restores his kingdom to a good estate, though it had been before in great disorder; but he who, having no respect to equity and right, takes the most illegal courses to enrich himself, subverts it utterly, though it be never so well settled. See Arg. [c] Ver. 5. A man that flattereth his neighbour, spreadets, a net for his feet.] He that soothes up his neighbour, by commending all that he doth, though never so directly against his interest, is so far from being his friend, as he imagines, that he is a traitor to him, and leads him unawares into such dangers, that when he finds himself perplexed in them, he will treat that flatterer as his greatest enemy. See Arg. [d] Ver. 6. In the transgression of an evil man, there is a snare ; but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.] A naughty man hath an heavy heart at last, when he finds himself undone by those very arts, whereby he thought to have ruined others; but pious men are always chearful, nay, full of joy; both to think that they are in safe and secure ways, and to see the evildoer caught in his own wickedness. Ver. 7. The righteous considereth the cause of the poor ; but the wicked regardeth not to know it..] A righteous man, when he is in authority, not only readily receives, and patiently weighs, the complaints of the poorest person, but is at the pains to study his cause, that he may fully understand it, and do him right, though he thereby incur hatred to himself from the adverse party; but a wicked man will not attend unto it, or not use due care to be well instructed in it. See Arg. [e] Ver. 8. Scornful men bring a city into a snare ; but wise men turn away wrath.] There are no greater fools than scorners, who, by aughing at all things serious, whether sacred or civil, put a kingdom into a combustion, when it is disposed to be quiet, nay, turn

[graphic][graphic][graphic]

or to defend them from violence and wrong, takes the surest course to settle himself in the affections of his people, and continue his kingdom for many generations. Ver. 15. The rod and reproof give wisdom ; but a

things topsy-turvy, and endanger its utter ruin, unless - child lost to himself bringeth his mother to shame.] The

good and cautious men prevent it, who by their great piety turn away the divine vengeance, and by their prudence, and other virtues, divert the fury of men, which those scorners have raised. See Arg. [f] Ver. 9. If a wise man contendeth with a folio man, whether le rage or laugh, there is no rest.] Let a man be never so wise, it is to no purpose for him to dispute or to enter into any contest with an obstinate fool; for which way soever he deal with him, whether angrily or pleasantly, there will be no end of the controversy ; but the fool will still have the last word ; nay, it is well if he do not either restlessly rage, or laugh one to scorn. See Arg. Ver. Io. The blood-thirsty late the upright , but the just seek bit soul..] Men enormously wicked, who stick not to kill those that oppose their desires, above all others hate, and would destroy, an upright magi. strate, whose integrity makes him courageously endeavour to bring them to condign punishment; but such a person all virtuous men love the more heartily, and labour to defend and preserve from their violence; or to revenge his death, if he should perish by them. See Arg. [1] Ver. 11. A soo! uttereth all his mind; but a wire man keepeth it in till afterwards.] A fool is so inconsiderately transported by his passion, or conceit of himself, that when he comes to treat of any business, he can put no stop to his discourse ; but runs on till he hath poured out all that he thinks upon that subject; but a wise man represses the heat and forwardness of his spirit, that he may pause and take time to declare his mind, not altogether, but by parcels. See Arg. [h] Ver. 12. If a ruler hearken to lies, all bis servants are wicked..] A prince who hearkens to the false suggestions of those that tell him he may do what he pleases, or who easily believes, without any examination, all the stories and accusations that are brought him against others, fills his whole court with so many wicked men, that it is hard to find an honest minister or officer among them. See Arg. [1] Ver. 13. The poor and the deceitful man meet together; the Lord lighteneth both their eyes...] The world is made up of several sorts of men; of poor, for instance, who are fain to borrow ; and of rich, who lend them money, and perhaps, oppress them; but these would all agree well enough, when they meet together, if they would but consider that there is one Lord, who makes the sun to shine equally on all ; and who intends all should live happily, though in an unequal condition. See xxii. 2. Ver. 14. The king that faitlyully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever.] A king that administers justice equally to all his subjects, and cannot be moved by the power or interest of the greatest persons to deny it to the meanest, but faithfully and sincerely sets himself to help the poor to their right,

way to make a child wise and virtuous, is not only to instruct him in his duty, but to check him when he is in fault; and that not merely by reproof, but by the sharp discipline of the rod, when the other will do no good; for if he be left to his own will, or rather to wander after his own inclinations without such restraints, he will prove in all likelihood a disgrace to his mother, by whose indulgence he was spoiled; nay, fly perhaps in her face, and openly reproach her, X. ( .. Ver. 16. When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth ; but the righteous shal, see their full.] When the wicked grow numerous, by growing great, ver. 2, men take the greater licence to transgress, and wickedness increases, by having authority on its side; but let not the righteous thereby be discouraged, for the wickeder men are, the shorter is their reign ; and they that preserve their virtue, shall have the pleasure to behold their downfall. Ver. 17. Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest : yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul...] It may seem most for thy ease to let thy child alone, without giving correction or reproof; but let me advise thee to put thyself to'this trouble, to save thyself a greater, (viz. many anxious and restless thoughts, which his. ill-doing will raise in thee), or rather to give thyself the highest delight, when, by thy care of his education, he proves a great ornament unto thee. Ver. 18. Where there is no vision, the people periol i but be that keepeth the law, happy is be..] Where there are none to instruct the people, and expound the will of God unto them, they first grow idle and careless, and run into all licentiousness; till, growing refractory and ungovernable, they be abandoned by God to destruction; but when they are not only well taught, but also strictly observe the laws of God, they remain in a prosperous happy condition. See Arg. [k] Ver. 19. A servant will not be corrected by words ; for though he understand, he will not answer.] A slave, and he that is of a servile nature, is not to be amended by reason and persuasions; no, nor by reproofs or threats; for though he hear, and understand too, what you say, yet he will not obey, till he be forced unto it by blows. See Arg. [I] . Ver. 20. Seest thou a man that is basty in Air words? there is more bope of a fool than of him.] Observe it when you will, you shall commonly find that he who is forward to speak to a business before his betters, or before he understand it, or hath considered it, is so conceited of himself, that a man wholly ignorant may sooner be rightly informed, than he who is so well persuaded of his own sufficiency. Ver, 21. He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child, shall bave bim become his son at the dength.] It is so hard for a man of base condition to bear a sudden preferment handsomely, that it is dangerous to express too much kindness to a servant at the very first, by feeding him delicately, clothing him finely, or indulging him in too much ease, liberty, and familiarity; for this is the way to make him saucy, if not contumacious; nay, to domineer, and take upon him, as if he were a son, and perhaps endeavour to disinherit the heir of the family. See Arg. [m] Ver. 22. An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man abounderb in transgression.] A man prone to anger is very troublesome and unpeaceable, being apt to quarrel about trifles; and, as he offends very often, so, if he let it proceed to rage and fury, he falls into abundance of sins, both in word and deed, against God, and against his neighbour. Ver. 23. A man's pride shall bring him low ; but honour shall uphold the bumble in spirit..] Proud and coatumelious behaviour, instead of procuring men respect, throws them into the contempt and hatred of all, and at last into destruction ; but he whose meek and lowly mind makes him kind and obliging, shall be highly esteemed, and the esteem he hath shall be his support when others fall to ruin. Ver. 24. Whoso is partner with a thief, hateth his own soul; he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.] He that partakes with a thief, by harbouring him when he is pursued, or by receiving stolen goods, &c. hath the same guilt upon him with the thief himself; and as he hath, put his own life in danger to save the thief's, so this will engage him to run his soul into greater danger to save his life; for being adjured to discover what he knows, he will go near to forswear himself, for fear of being hanged. are many examples of it, in Amos, i. 3. 5. 9. &c. and here in this book of Proverbs, vi. 16. and below in this chapter, ver. 18. 21. &c. Indeed there is no example like this, where the sentence begins with two, and then says three, and then four; but that might be usual of which we have no exact example, and therefore I do not look upon this as a sufficient objection against this way of explaining this verse. Which the LXX. hath taken in the Roman edition; which runs thus; “The horseleech hath three beloved daughters, and these three are never satisfied ; and there is a fourth that saith not it sufficeth.” There are those who compare certain vices with these four insatiable things, and not ineptly; the desire of revenge, to the grave; libidinous desires, to the barren womb ; covetousness, (or rather drunkenness), to the thirsty earth; and ambition, to the devouring fire. And it is easy to shew, how fitly all these are resembled to the horse-leech ; it being the vulgar saying, "That harlots (for instance) are the horse-leeches of young men, sucking all their money from them, and exhausting their bodies too. And the servant in Plautus, when he was about to rob the chests of the two old men, says, Jam ego me vertam in hirudinem, &c. “Now I will turn myself into a horse-leech, and suck out their very blood.” But I forbear such things, because there are others more necessary to be added for the understanding the rest of the chapter. [h] And that which next follows, ver. 17. is a re. flection upon the first generation of wicked men, (mentioned ver, 11.), who sinned against the first commandment of the second table, (as we speak), and for their rebellion against their parents were adjudged to death by the law of Moses, Exod. xxi. 15. 17. Lev. xx. 9. Deut. xxi. 18. And to make them more detestable, their carcases perhaps were thrown into some loathsome place, called the valley of carcases, or dead bodies, (Jer. xxxi. 40.), and the valley of crows, (as Bochartus conjectures), or ravens ; whom the wise man here speaks of. And besides this, they who abused their parents, being of a villainous nature, were likely to turn rogues, and to commit robberies, murders, treasons, or such like horrid crimes; which would bring them to the gallows, (as we speak), or some such infamous death. The Jews indeed might not suffer the body of one that was hanged, after he had been put to death, to remain upon the gibbet, beyond the evening of that day wherein he was executed. But they were not forbidden to let him lie unburied in some polluted place, when he was taken down ; and in some cases, we find, they did let dead bodies hang a long time, as we read, 2 Sann. xxi. And therefore Paulus Fagius (upon Exod. xx. 1 2.) expounds these words of Agur after this manner - “Disobedient children shall come to an ignominious death, and end their days by an Ilalter, or other punishment, and so become crows' meat.” But there is no necessity of this explica

Ver. 25. The star of man bringeth a snare ; but

whoso putteth his trust in the LORD, shall be safe.] As

all inordinate fear bereaves a man of counsel and

power to help himself; so he that stands in too great fear of what men can do unto him, will be ensnare d

in many sins, and perils also, to avoid their displeasure;

but he that confides in the Lord, hath his wits always about him, and being raised above such low considerations, preserves his integrity; and that, by God's good providence over him, will preserve him in safety. Ver. 26. Many seek the ruler's favour; but every man's judgement cometh from the IORD.J. There are multitudes of men, who are ambitious to be known to their prince, and obtain his favour for honour and preferment; but few remember that there is a greater Lord than he, the Sovereign of all the world, whose grace and favour should be principally sought; for he determines and orders what every man's portion shall be ; and will both judge of men's deserts better than any earthly king can do, and deal with them according as they behave themselves, in that condition wherein they are. Ver. 27. An unjust man is an abomination to the just; and be that is upright in the way, is an abomination to the wicked..] There is such a perfect antipathy between virtue and vice, that all truly good men extremely abominate him that doth mischief in the world, though he be never so gréat and powerful; as, on the contrary, the evil-doer hath every man that behaves himself uprightly, though never so useful, in utter abhorrence and detestation.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

sent, as most literal), and to look upon this chapter as a fragment of some wise sentences, delivered by one whose name was Agur, and his father's name Jakeh; unless we will conceive, that this son of Jakeh (whosoever he was) had gotten the name of collector; because, though he was a very wise man, yet he or. nothing himself, but only gathered out of other wise men's works, such instructions as he thought most profitable, and comprised in a few words a great deal of sense. [b] Which conjecture, if it be admitted, nothing can better explain his disclaiming the title of a wise man, (ver, 2.); which he would not assume to him

self, because he was only a collector from other authors, and did not pretend to have discovered or invented any thing himself. But take it how we will, some of his observations are here annexed to the proverbs of Solomon, after the manner of other writings of this nature. In which, (as Melancthon notes), the greater part of a book belonging to one author, some notable speeches of others have been inserted ; as some of the Sibylline verses, they say, were into the poem of j [c] And those words of Agur are called Massa, which we translate prophecy, either to denote the weightiness of the sentences, or that they were culled and selected out of some work of his, then remaining in , their records, as fit (in the judgement of the men of Hezekiah, who perhaps extracted them) to accompany the proverbs of Solomon. And they seem to me to be answers to several questions propounded to him, by his scholars, Ithiel, (who was the principal), and Ucal ; who came to him, as if he had been an oracle, to be resolved in some hard doubts ; asking him, in the first place, just as they did Apollo of old, (as Aben-Ezra conjectures), who was the wisest man 2 to which he replies, ver. 2. “He that is sensible of his own ignorance.” Much like this saying of Socrates, “This only I know, that I know nothing ;” and of Pythagoras, who also refused the name of wise ; which made much for the reputation of his wisdom. [d] Upon this subject Agur enlarges, ver. 3, 4, wishing his scholars, especially Ithiel, (who I suppose asked the question in the name of the rest), to be sensible how imperfect all human knowledge is, by considering how little or nothing we know of the works of God, which none can understand, (though they be perpetually before our eyes), but he alone that made them. And therefore advises him to make it his principal study, to understand what belonged to his own duty, (which is the best part of knowledge), ver. 5. and herein also to be content with what God hath revealed, and not pretend to be wiser than he hath made us, ver, 6. [e] After which he gives answers, as I take it, unto other questions which Ithiel propounded to him. And first, about prayer. For Agur, having repressed their busy humour of inquiry into all manner of things, had raised, we may suppose, some devotion in his scholars’ hearts, which made them desire to be directed in it. And he gives them most wise advice, ver, 7.8. to be very cautious what they prayed for ; just as in Plato, (Alcibiad. 2.), we find Socrates giving Alcibiades instructions about this, as a principal part of virtue; in the practice of which, he tells him, there had need to be the greatest care, lest we imprudently ask those things that are not good for us. But he could not give Alcibiades such directions about this matter, as Agur here gives Ithiel and the rest of his scholars, whom he informs, that the true knowledge of God is the chiefest good, and therefore to be desired in the first place, above all other goods; and then, (according to our Saviour's rule, in after

times), having first sought the things that belong to religion, he directs them to beg of God moderate desires of all earthly things, believing that we are safer in a mediocrity, or middle estate, than either in fulness or in want. To which purpose Melancthon and others have gathered together many sayings out of other writers. But none have given such reasons for this choice of a middle-state, as this wise man, ver, 9. f] After which, he seems to answer a question, which Ithiel propounded about moral virtue; which having been largely treated of by Solomon, he only gives him one caution against hard-heartedness to slaves and servants, ver. Io. of which the Hebrew nation were generally very guilty, and

thereby unmeet for that favour which they begged of God in their prayers, which ought to have dis

oposed them to be favourable unto others.

[g] And then he gives the character of four sorts of

men, who are execrable unto God, and therefore ought to be avoided by all those that would be good, wer. 11.-14, which I must pass by without any farther account of them, but what I have given in the paraphrase ; because the 15th verse hath much difficulty in it, and therefore requires some time to be spent in opening it. Bochartus thinks to solve some of the difficulty, by giving a new signification of the word aluka. But all interpreters, in a manner, taking it for that thick worm in waterish places, which we call an horse-leech, I do not think fit to forsake our translation, nor to refer the beginning of the verse to that immediately foregoing, (as some do in this manner; “Detractors can no

more leave off evil-speaking, than the horse-leech

leave off sucking,” &c.), but rather to those words

immediately following in this same verse, which,

notwithstanding, I take to have some connection with all the four foregoing, as I have expressed it in the paraphrase. For it seems to me to be an answer to some such question as this, (which the disciples had propounded to their master Agur, after the manner of oenigmatical discourses or riddles), What is most unsatiable 2 which he chuses to give an account of in this place, the better to represent the nature of those wicked men he had spoken of before; especially of the two last, the proud, and the tyrannical or extortioner, whose desires are a gulf that can never be filled.

And at the first he seems to have thought bat of two

[blocks in formation]

tion. For we may conceive such a wicked person - to be drowned by the judgement of God upon him, and his body to lie floating on the water, or to be cast on shore, where the ravens (who frequent the waters) come and pick out his eyes, at which they are observed to fly sooner than any other part. He might perish also in other countries, where the infamous punishment of the gibbet was in use, or be slain in battle, and left there to be a prey to beasts and birds. Among which the raven is the rather mentioned, some think, because the young ones are so impious (as Vossius speaks, l. iii. de Idol. cap. 85.) as to fall upon the old ones, and kill them, when they are hungry, (which is affirmed by Elian and others), and therefore more fitly employed to pick out the eyes of undutiful children. But I look upon this as having more of fancy than solidity in it; for others, for the quite contrary reason, make the eagles here named, because they are a bird full of piety, as hath been observed out of Aben-Ezra by our learned Dr Castell, whose discourse in his speech, (in Schol. Theol. p. 31.), I shall here set down, for the explication of one word in this verse, wherein he differs from all other; which is nrips. This word the Hebrews interpret doctrina, and understand the verse thus ; “The eye that despiseth the doctrine or the lesson of his mother,” &c. But there is no known root in their language from whence to derive this signification of it; and therefore that Doctor, out of the neighbouring languages, translates it rather senium, old age; which is most agreeable to the sense of the place. For that which is despised by the eye is some corporal defect, (as crookedness, wrinkles, shaking of the head, &c. and such like things which attend old age), not any thing belonging to the mind. And besides, saith he, it better agrees with what follows of the eagle's young ones picking out such an eye; for they are observed to bear a regard to their ancients, and to have a kind of piety in them. [i]. In the next words, (ver. 18. 19. 20.), he resolves another riddle they put to him, which was this; What things are most obscure and unaccountable, though ordinary and common 2 Of which I have given the best explication I could in the paraphrase, but cannot farther explain here, without making this preface (which must necessarily be longer than ordinary, unless 1 should give no account of several things in the following verses which require explication) a great deal too much exceed the proto portion which belongs to it. [k] Next to these four inscrutable things, he subjoins four more, which are very grievous, or ra. ther intolerable, because of their great indignity, (ver. 21. 22. 23.) : the two first belong to men, and the disturbance of the commonwealth; the two last to women, and the disturbance of private families. And there are reasons peculiar to each ; ex. gr. a slave is intolerable when he gets the sceptre into his hand, (as they have done sometimes), partly because such persons, being ill-bred, generally have base principles, and are accustomed

[graphic][graphic][graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »