if it prohibit the plaiting of hair, it equally prohibits the putting on of apparel. But it never could be his design to forbid women to wear clothes, or to be decently and neatly dressed; therefore, the negative must have only a comparative sense, instructing us in the propriety and necessity of attending more to the dispositions of the mind, than to the adorning of the body. And as one inspired writer cannot, in reality, contradict another, the command of Paul must be explained in the same way, not as an absolute, but comparative prohibition: "In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with," or according to this view, rather than with "broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array." Where nature has been less liberal in its ornaments, the defect is supplied by art, and foreign is procured to be interwoven with the natural hair. The males, on the contrary, shave all the hair of their heads, excepting one lock; and those who wear their hair are stigmatized as effeminate. The apostle's remark on this subject, corresponds entirely with the custom of the east, as well as with the original design of the Creator: "Does not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given her for a covering." The men in the east, Chardin observes, are shaved; the women nourish their hair with great fondness, which they lengthen by tresses, and tufts of silk down to the heels. But this distinction, which the inspired apostle pronounces a dictate of nature, Mr. Harmer thinks was not uniformly observed, nor perhaps always regarded as of so much importance; for long hair j 1 Tim. ii, 9. * 1 Cor. xi, 14.


was esteemed a beauty in Absalom; the words of the record are: "And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year's end that he polled it; because the hair was heavy upon him, therefore he polled it), he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king's weight." That the distinction was not uniformly observed, cannot be denied; for the effeminate in all ages refused to submit to it. But it will not follow, that it rose into greater importance under the pen of the apostle; rather, it was in the eye of nature's God of sufficient importance from the beginning, to merit the attention of his rational creatures; but it had been long forgotten, particularly among the heathen, who indulged, before their conversion to the Christian faith, in every sinful pleasure, and in every effeminate and unmanly practice. The apostle, therefore, by the direction of the Spirit, interposed his authority to restore it to the rank it was intended to hold, among the decencies and proprieties of life; and to its practical utility in distinguishing between the sexes. Mr. Harmer is incorrect in supposing, that the inspired historian mentions the length and weight of Absalom's hair with commendation; he describes it, on the contrary, as the instrument of his pride and vanity; as an object of general admiration among the courtiers and people of fashion; and perhaps as one of the means by which he stole the hearts of the thoughtless and the gay, who, less favoured by nature, might be proud to purchase it for the purpose of interweaving it with their own. So proud was ⚫ that worthless person of his golden locks, that he wore them as long as he could endure their weight; and when he did poll them, at certain times, his vanity prompted him to have them weighed, that it might be seen how much they 1 Harmer's Observ. vol. iv, p. 326. m 2 Sam. xiv, 26.

excelled those of other men; and the more to expose his puerile extravagance, the weight is noted in the Scriptures of truth, as amounting to "two hundred shekels," which, estimating the shekel at 923 grains, Paris weight, is equal to a little more than two Paris pounds. These facts, the historian states in proof of Absalom's effeminacy, and to prepare his reader for adoring the retributive justice of God, in making these locks in which he gloried so much, and for which he was so greatly admired by the giddy multitude, the instrument of his destruction.

The assistance of art was often called in, to improve and enlarge the bounty of nature; and various medicaments were employed to render the hair thicker and stronger, to prevent it from falling off, and to improve its colour. For this purpose it was washed with nitre, and anointed with an unguent, consisting of a decoction of parsley-seed in wine, to which a large quantity of oil was added. This practice seems to have been quite common in Greece and Italy; and indeed, no custom was more ancient, nor more generally received. It is distinctly mentioned by Homer, in his hymn to Vesta :

Αίει των πλοκαμων απολείβεται υγρον ελαιον.

“The humid oil is constantly flowing from thy tresses." Among the Latin poets, Virgil sings of hair dropping with myrrh :


Vibratos calido ferro, myrrhaque madentes." En. lib. xii, 1. 100. And Horace adverts to the same custom in more than one


"Pressa tuis balanus capillis

Jamdudum apud me est."

Book iii, Ode 29.

"O Mæcenas, there has been a long while for you in my house, some rose-flowers, and expressed essence for your

hair." In another Ode, congratulating his friend on his being restored to him and his country, he reminds him that he had often broken the day with him in drinking,

having his hair shining with the Syrian unguents crowned with flowers:

"coronatus nitentes

Malobathro Syrio capillos."

Book ii, Ode 7.

These lines also furnish a proof of no inconsiderable force, that the ancient Romans received the custom of anointing their locks with unguents from the Syrians; and it is more than probable that the Jews learned it from the same people, if they did not receive it from their common ancestors, for the Jews are a branch of the great Syrian family. It is certain the chosen people were, at a very remote period, initiated in the art of cherishing and beautifying the hair with fragrant ointments. The head of Aaron was anoint ́ed with a precious oil, compounded after the art of the apothecary; and in proof that they had already adopted the practice, the congregation were prohibited, under pain of being cut off, to make any other like it, after the composition of it. The royal Psalmist alludes to the same custom in the twenty-third Psalm: "Thou anointest my head with oil;" and in his prophetic description of the Messias, "Thou lovest righteousness and hatest iniquity; therefore God thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows;" in consequence of which, “his locks are bushy and black as a raven.”o We may infer from the direction of Solomon, that the custom had

[ocr errors]

at least become general in his time: "Let thy garments be always white, and let thy head lack no ointment."

Yellow locks were held in high estimation among the eastern nations. The sentiments of the Greeks are thus

n Exod. xxx, 32, 33.

• Psa. xlv, 7.

P Song v, 11.

9 Eccl. ix, 8.

attested by Homer: "Pallas stood behind, and seized the son of Peleus by the yellow hair."

Στη δ' οπιθεν ξανθης δε κόμης ελε Πηλείωνα. Il. lib. i, 1. 197.* But this colour seems to have been connected with the idea of youthful beauty; for when he describes a person in the full maturity of age, without any symptoms of decay, or one invested with awful majesty, he adorns him with raven locks: When Jupiter gives his assent, he nods with his black eye-brows, at which the heavens and the earth tremble:

Η και κυανέησιν επ' οφρύσι νευσε Κρονίων.

This idea was probably borrowed from the orientals; for, in the Song of Solomon, the immortal vigour and glorious majesty of the true God, the redeemer of the church, are represented under the same figure: "His locks are bushy and black as a raven." His immaculate purity and eternal duration are described by a different figure, which the


* See also Odyssey, lib. xxiii, 1. 158.

* Ibid. lib. xvi, 1. 175. A¥ de μesdayXgoins yevero. "barba comæque

And thus Ovid:

Canitie posita nigrum rapuere colorem."

Met. lib. vii, v. 288.

* Song v, 11.-In one instance where the black colour could not be introduced into the symbol, green, which is often a convertible term for young and fresh, is employed; " And there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald." Rev. iv, 3. But why was this bow which enclosed the throne of the Redeemer of an emerald green; or why did this colour predominate? but to shew that it shall, unlike the thrones of earthly kings, endure for ever with undiminished splendour, immovable stability, and ever new delights; that, in the fullest sense of the terms, " of his kingdom and government there shall be no end." This idea receives no little countenance from the fact that the ancient Hindoos pourtrayed the chariot of the sun drawn by seven green horses, to represent, it may be presumed, the permanence, and, according to their views, the immutability of his rule. Maurice's Indian Antiq. vol. ii, p. 197.-The words of the spouse may refer to the same ideas of permanence and happiness; "Also our bed is green." Song i, 16. Green was probably the imperial colour at the court of Solomon, as it is in some courts of the east in present times.

« ElőzőTovább »