« PreviousContinue »
Book of Psalms.
« THE Ancients, when they speak of the Psalms," says Hooker, use to fall into large discourses shewing how this part, above the rest, doth of purpose set forth and celebrate all the considerations and operations, which belong to God; it magnifieth the holy meditations and actions of divine men ; it is of things heavenly an universal declaration, working in them whose hearts God inspireth with the due consideration thereof, an habit or disposition of mind, whereby they are made fit vessels both for receipt, and for delivery of whatsuever spiritual perfection. What is there necessary for men to know, which the Psalms are not able to teach ? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction; a mighty augmen. tation of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered before ; a strong confirmation to the most perfect. Heroical magnanimity, exqusite justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the
works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that which is to come; all good necessarily to be either known, done, or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief or disease incident to the soul of man, any wound, or sickness named, for which there is not, in this treasure house, a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be found,” By Ambrose, the Psalms are called the Instrument of Virtue ; by Basil, the Essence of Theology; by Athanasius, the Epitome of Holy Scripture; and by others, the abstract, or summary of both Testaments. Bishop Horne has collected the sentiments and observations of a great variety of writers, which he has enriched with his own; and the following are extracted from ihe Preface to his Coiumentary on the Book of Psalms. “ The Psalms are an epitome of the Bible, adapted to the purposes of devotion. They treat occasionally, of the ertation and formation of the world ; the dispensations of providence, and the economy of grace; the transactions of the patriarchs; the exodus of the children of Israel ; their journey through the wilderness, and settlement in Canaan; their law, priesthood, and ritual ; the exploits of their great men. wrought through faith ; their sins and captivities; their repentanees and restorations ; the sufferings and victories of David, the peaceful and happy reign of Solomon ; the advent of Mexsiah, with its effects and consequences; his incarnation, birth, 'life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, kingdom, and priesthood ; the effusion of the spirit; the conversion of the nations; the rejection of the Jews; the establishment, increase, and perpetuity of the Christian Church; the end of the world ; the general judgment; the condemnation of the wicked, and the final triumph of the righteous with their Lord and King. These are the subjects here presented to our meditations. We are instructed how to conceive of them
aright, and to express the different affections, which, when 30 conceived of, they must excite in our minds. They are, for this purpose, adorned with the figures, and set off with all the graces of poetry, and poetry itself is designed yet farther to be recommended by the charms of music, thus consecrated to the service of God; that so delight may prepare the way improvement, and pleasure become the handmaid of wisdom; while every turbulent passion is calmed by sacred melody, and the evil Spirit is still dispossessed by the harp of the son of Jesse. This little volume, like the paradise of Eden, affords us in perfection, though in miniature, every thing that groweth elsewhere, every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; and above all, what was there lost, but is here restored, “ The tree of life in the midst of the Garden." That which we read as matter of speculation in the other Scriptures, is reduced to practice, wien we recite it in the Psalms ; in those, repentance and faith are described, but in these they are acted ; by a perusal of the former, we learn how others served Gol, but by using the latter, we serve him ourselves."
* In the language of this divine book therefore, the prayers aud praises of the Church have been offered up to the throne of grace, from age to age, and it appears to have been the inanual of the Son of God in the days of his flesh; who at the conclusion of his last supper is generally supposed, and that upon good grounds, to have suvg a hymn taken from it; who pronounced upon the cross the beginning of the twenty second Psalm ; “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” and expired with a part of the thirty-first in his mouth, “ Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Thus, He, who had not the Spirit by measure, in whom wcre hidden all the trea
sures of wisdom and knowledge, and who spake as never man spake, yet chose to conclude his life, to solace himself in his greatest agony, and at last to breathe out his soul in the Psalmist's form of words, rather than his own. No tongue of man or angel, as Dr. Hammond justly observes, can convey a higher idea of any book, and of their felicity who use it aright.
“ It may be said, are we concerned with the affairs of David and of Israel ? Have we any thing to do with the ark and the temple? Tbey are no more. Are we to go up to Jerusalem and worship on Zion? They are desolated and trodden under foot by the Turks. Are we to sacrifice young bullocks, according to the law. The law is abolished never to be observed again. Do we pray for victory over Moab, Edom, and Philistia ? or for deliverance from Babylon ? there are no suek nations, no such places in the world; what then do we mean, when taking such expressions into our mouths, we utter them in our own persons, as parts of our devotions before God? Assuredly we must mean a spiritual Jerusalem and Zion; a spiritual ar's and temple; a spiritual law; spiritual sacrifices; and spiritual victories over spiritual enemies; all described under the old names, which are still retained, though“ old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” By substituting Messiah for David, the gospel for the law, the church Christian fur that of Israel, and the enemies of the one for those of the other, the Psalms are made our own. Nay, they are with more fulness and propriety applied now to the substance, then they were of old to the “ shadow of good things then to come.”
“In this point (namely, the application of the Psalms to the mysteries of the gospel) I am very clear. The Jews only as a
nation, acknowledged the one Supreme God, under the name of Jehovah; they must be therefore his peculiar people. There is nothing capricious in this: they are correlates, and of necessity answer reciprocally to each other. Hence that singular intercourse between God and them. Hence among other instances of his favour, his communication of himself to them, by supernatural ways of Oracle, Inspiration, &c. When the acknowledgment of the one God branched itself, from this Jewish stock, over the face of the earth, and by that means he was become the God of all mankind, they must all for the same reason become his people. As God is ever the same, and his doings uniform, his conduct towards mankind must exactly he proportioned to his conduct towards the Jewish nation. Let us therefore place God in cummon over them both;
and there will be on one side, the Jewish nation ; and on the other; mankind : on one side, Canaan, and a national prosperity; on the other, heaven, and human happiness : on one side, redemption from Egyptian servitude, and national evils, on the other, a redemption of the whole human race from absolute evil: on one side, national crimes atoned by national ceremonies, sacrifices, priests ; on the other, sins expiated by the one universal sacrifice of Jesus Christ : on one side, national and temporary saviours, kings, prophets, &c, on the other, all this universal and eternal : on one side, the law, and every branch of it, adapted to a favourite nation ; on the other, the everlasting gospel, suited to all mankind.”
Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for general use ; delivered out as services for Israelites under the law, yet no less adapted to the circumstances of Christians under the Gospel; they present religion to us in the most engaging dress ; communicating truths which philosophy could