Page images
PDF
EPUB

TRANSLATIONS FROM ISAIAH, BY BISHOP LOW TH.

David and Isaiah were peculiarly the national poets of the Jewish people. When we think of the former, we remember him in connection with all that is tender and confiding in feeling,--all that is sweet and rural in imagery. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters. Isaiah too can hardly be surpassed for the sweetness that is often mingled with his dignity; he has descriptions of transporting beauty, and his is the portrait

, drawn with such moving truth and pathos, of the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yet the grandeur of his poetry is so generally prevalent over his other characteristics, that the name of the prophet is ever associated in the minds of those to whom his writings are in any degree familiar, with ideas of all that is eminently majestic and sublime. Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.

Other portions of the inspired poetry may exhibit at intervals, perhaps an equal degree of grandeur ;-and the book of Job especially has passages, which are not inferior in sublimity to the most elevated parts of the prophet; but in no book is this quality so constantly predominant, and so long sustained, and nowhere else is it carried onward in such variety of energetic movement, nor with such rapidity and intensity of thought, nor with such powerful climaxes, such “shutting up and intermingling of solemn scenes," such sudden bursts and transitions of elevated feeling. To Isaiah it was given, beyond all others, to unveil the secrets of Eternal determinations, and to foretell the coming glories of the Prince of Peace. In his hands the harp of prophecy is both glorious and terrible—terrible when it denounces destruction and wo to idolatrous empires, and glorious when it celebrates the character and kingdom of Messiah, and the happiness of his redeemed. It is sometimes, also, pathetic, in a degree which is nowhere else equalled. But whether it describes ruin or bliss, whether it threatens wo or promises glory, his strains are always distinguished for their dignity and power. His images are simple, but they are vast and vivid ; and he pours them

forth with an irresistible energy and rapidity of accumulation. He is, besides, rich in language, and uncommonly musical in the construction of his sentences; insomuch that it would be impossible, even for an English reader, to find anything more full of melody than some of his verses, as they are translated, almost word for word, in the English Bible. * If the Hebrew poetry at presest is possessed of any remains of iis native grace and harmony, we shall chiefly find them,” says Bishop Lowth,“ in the writings of Isaiah.

When he warns the people of impending danger, his images

are black and portentious in their aspect, and his sentences are like the gathering tempest. The noise of a niultitude in the mountains, like as of a great people : a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together : Jehovah of hosts musterełh the host of the battle.When he paints the desolation of the kingdoms abandoned by Jehovah, nothing could convey a more vivid idea of utter abandonment, and waste, and sterility. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day: the smoke thereof shall go up forever : from generation to generation it shall lie waste : none shall pass through it forever and ever.-It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation : neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there ; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there ; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures ; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there,

On the other hand, when he describes the future security and happiness of the church and people of God, and calls upon them for gratitude and joy to their heavenly protectar, what images of beauty and exultation does he lavish on the picture! Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities : thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation. There the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.

Then shall the lame man leap as an kart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing : for in the wil. derness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.-And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion, with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.Oh thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforled, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. - Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee : but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God, thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. For the Lord shall comfort Žion ; he will comfort all her waste places, and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the gurden of the Lord: joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. Such is the tenor of his images whenever he touches upon this delightful subject-a subject, indeed, the most glorious that could ever fill the excited imagination of the ancient Israelite, or that can ever engage the grateful contemplations of the Christian.

It is unnecessary to quote his expostulations with his own ungrateful nation and his denunciations of puniskment upon the wicked, which present an exhibition of beauty and energy, contrasted indeed, in its character, with the former, but equally poetical.—I have trodden the wine press alone ; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger

, and trample them in my fury: and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.

Again when he makes supplication for humbled and deserted Israel, it is in such tones of subdued and penitent remonstrance as are powerfully pathetic. Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon ? Art thou not he which hath dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep? Which hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over ?--Thy holy cities are a wlderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste. Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things O Lord ? Nothing can be inore affecting than the allusion to those events in the national history of the Israelites, engraven indelibly on the memory

of every individual, when God appeared in a manner so glorious

or the deliverance of his chosen people. The appeal which the prophet makes concerning the dejected, forlorn, and wasted condition of Zion is equally touching for its humble simplicity, and its sorrowful and imploring earnestness. The instances which have been given are but few among a multitude of great beauty and sublimity, in almost every chapter of Isaiah's writings. Obscure as many parts of his prophecies are, their poetical and religious spirit is never hidden; an intimate acquaintance with them will inevitably tend, like every other portion of the sacred volume, if its influence be not resisted, to elevate the intellect and purify the soul. If it does not exert this effect, it will only add to our responsibilities, without making us the better prepared to redeem them. In regard to mere matters of taste, how insignificant are all our researches in the sacred Scriptures, if we neglect the great object, for the accomplishment of which they were intended-à fitness for that future and eternal existence, to which we are so rapidly approaching ;-above all

, for that glorious existence which the Bible unveils to our view, shedding, at the same time, a flood of radiance on the path, through which we may pass upwards to its enjoyment. Let us never forget the purpose, for which the Father of our spirits has given us the book of revelation. We stand before a great and glorious temple,-reared by an Architect of infinite power, wisdom, holiness, and inercy;

let us not be content with a distant admiration of its grandeur, nor with any external examination of the costliness of its materials, or the exquisite beauty of its workmanship. Let us enter into its courts, that our spirits may be awed and sanctified by the glory with which it is filled; that we may commune with God, who has made us capable of such an exalted employment here, and who only can prepare us to worship in his immediate presence hereafter.

PREDICTION OF THE REDEMPTION OF THE JEWS.

CHAPTER LI. VERSES 9-23, AND CHAPTER LII. TO VERSE 12. AWAKE, awake, clothe thyself with strength, O arm of Je

hovah ! Awake, as in the days of old, the ancient generations. Art thou not the same that smote Rahab, that wounded the

dragon ? Art thou not the same, that dried up the sea, the waters of the

great deep? That made the depths of the sea a path for the redeemed to

pass t::rough ; Thus shall the ransomed of Jehovah return, And come to Sion with loud acclamation: And everlusting gladness shall crown their heads; Joy and gladness shall they obtain, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. I, even I, am he that comforteth you: Who art thou, that thou shouldst fear wretched man, that dieth; And the son of inan, that shall become as the grass ? And shouldst forget Jehovah thy maker, Who stretched out the heavens, and founded the earth ; And shouldst every day be in continued fear, Because of the fury of the oppressor, As if he were just ready to destroy; And where now is the fury of the oppressor, He marcheth on with speed, who cometh to set free the capThat he may not die in the dungeon, And that his bread may not fail. For I am Jehovah thy God; He, who stilleth at once the sea, though the waves thereof

roar; Jehovah God of hosts is his name. I have put my words in thy mouth ; And with the shadow of my hand have I covered thee: To stretch out the heavens, and to lay the foundations of the

carth ; And to say unto Sion, Thou art my people.

tive;

Rouse thyself, rouse thyself up; arise, O Jerusalem; Who hast drunken from the hand of Jehovah the cup of his

fury:

The dregs of the cup of trembling, thou hast drunken, thou

hast wrung them out. There is not one to lead her, of all the sons which she hath

brought forth; Neither is there one to support her by the hand, of all the sons

which she hath educated, These two things have befallen thee; who shall bemoan thee? Desolation, and destruction; the famine, and the sword; who

shall comfort thee? Thy sons lie astounded; they are cast down; At the head of all the streets, like the oryx taken in the toils; Drenched to the full with the fury of Jehovah, with the rebuke

of thy God.

Wherefore hear now this, O thou afflicted daughter; And thou drunken, but not with wine. Thus saith thy Lord Jehovah; And thy God, who avengeth his people: Behold, I take from thy hand the cup of trembling; The dregs of the cup of my fury; Thou shalt drink of it again no more. But I will put it into the hand of them who oppress thos; Who say to thee, Bow down thy body, that we may go orer: And thou layedst down thy back, as the ground; And as the street, to them that pass along:

Awake, awake; be clothed with thy strength, O Sion: Clothe thyself with thy glorious garments, O Jerusalem, thou

holy city! For no more shall enter into thee the uncircumcised and the

polluted. Shake thyself from the dust, ascend thy lofty seat, 0 JerusaLoose thyself from the bands of thy neck, captive daughter

of Sion! For thus saith Jehovah : For nought were ye

sold; And not with money shall ye be ransomed. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: My people went down to Egypt, At the first, to sojourn there: And the Assyrian, at the last, hath oppressed them. And now, what have I more to do, saith Jehovah; Seeing that my people is taken away for nought; And they, that are lords over them, make their boast of it saith

Jehovah : And continually every day is my name exposed to contempt. Therefore shall my people know my name in that day: For I am He , Jehovah, that promised ; and lo! here I am!

lem :

How beautiful appear on the mountains

« PreviousContinue »