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Chapter XII.

Moreover, it is right that thou shouldest fear God while thou art yet young, before thou givest thyself over to evil things, and before the great and terrible day of God cometh, when the sun shall no longer shine, neither the moon, nor the rest of the stars, but when in that storm and commotion of all things, the powers above shall be moved, that is, the angels who guard the world; so that the mighty men shall fail, and the women shall cease their labours, and shall flee into the dark places of their dwellings, and shall have all the doors shut. And a woman shall be restrained from grinding by fear, and shall speak with the weakest voice, like the tiniest bird; and all the impure women shall sink into the earth; and cities and their blood-stained governments shall wait for the vengeance that comes from above, while the most bitter and bloody of all times hangs over them like a blossoming almond, and continuous punishments impend like a multitude of flying locusts, and the transgressors are cast out of the way like a black and despicable caper-plant. And the good man shall depart with rejoicing to his own everlasting habitation; but the vile shall fill all their places with wailing, and neither silver laid up in store, nor proved gold, shall be of use any more. For a mighty stroke114114    καθέξει πληγή. Œcolampadius renders it, magnus enim fons, evidently reading πηγή. shall fall upon all things, even to the pitcher that standeth by the well, and the wheel of the vessel which may chance to have been left in the hollow, when the course of time comes to its end115115    The text is, ἐν τῷ κοιλώματι παυσαμένης χρόνον τε περιδρομῆς, for which we may read, ἐν τῷ κοιλώματι, παυσαμενῆς χρόνων τε περιδρομῆς. Others apparently propose for παυσαμενῆς , δεξαμενῆς = at the hollow of the cistern. and the ablution-bearing period of a life that is like water has passed away.116116    The text is, καὶ τῆς δι᾽ υδατος ζωῆς παροδεύσαντος τοῦ λουτροφόρου αἰῶνος. Billius understands the age to be called λουτροφόρου, because, as long as we are in life, it is possible to obtain remission for any sin, or as referring to the rite of baptism. And for men who lie on earth there is but one salvation, that their souls acknowledge and wing their way to Him by whom they have been made. I say, then, again what I have said already, that man’s estate is altogether vain, and that nothing can exceed the utter vanity which attaches to the objects of man’s inventions. And superfluous is my labour in preaching discreetly, inasmuch as I am attempting to instruct a people here, so indisposed to receive either teaching or healing. And truly the noble man is needed for the understanding of the words of wisdom. Moreover, I, though already aged, and having passed a long life, laboured to find out those things which are well-pleasing to God, by means of the mysteries of the truth. And I know that the mind is no less quickened and stimulated by the precepts of the wise, than the body is wont to be when the goad is applied, or a nail is fastened in it.117117    ηλῳ ἐμπερονηθέντα. The Septuagint reads, λόγοι σοφῶν ὡς τὰ βούκεντρα καὶ ὡς ἧλοι πεφυτευμένοι, like nails planted, etc. Others read πεπυρωμένοι, igniti. The Vulg. has, quasi clavi in altum defixi. And some will render again those wise lessons which they have received from one good pastor and teacher, as if all with one mouth and in mutual concord set forth in larger detail the truths committed to them. But in many words there is no profit. Neither do I counsel thee, my friend, to write down vain things about what is fitting,118118    περὶ τὸ προσῆκον, for which some read, παρὰ τὸ προσῆκον, beyond or contrary to what is fitting. from which there in nothing to be gained but weary labour. But, in fine, I shall require to use some such conclusion as this: O men, behold, I charge you now expressly and shortly, that ye fear God, who is at once the Lord and the Overseer119119    ἐπόπτης. of all, and that ye keep also His commandments; and that ye believe that all shall be judged severally in the future, and that every man shall receive the just recompense for his deeds, whether they be good or whether they be evil.120120    [The incomparable beauty of our English version of this twelfth chapter of Koheleth is heightened not a little by comparison with this turgid metaphrase. It fails, in almost every instance, to extract the kernel of the successive στίχοι of this superlatively poetic and didactic threnode. It must have been a youthful work.]

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