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P S A L M S.
INTRODUCTION. WE shall introduce this book with some excellent remarks from the Preface to Bishop Hernt's valuable Commentary.
“The Psalms (says this excellent writer) are an epitome of the Bible, adapted to the purposes of devotion. They treat occasionally of the creation 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 repentances and restorations, the sufferings and victories of David; the peaceful and happy reign of Solomon; the advent of Messiah, 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 gereral judgment; the condemnation of the wicked, and the final triumph of the righteous with the Lord their king. These are the subjects here presented to our weditations. We are instructed how to conceive of them aright, and to express the different affections, which, when so 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 for 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 lust, but is here restored, the tree of life * in the midst of the garden.'" (Preface, p. i.)
The same learned and pious prelate adds, “What is said in the Psalms occasionally of the Law and its ceremonies, sacrifices, ablutions, and purifications; of the tabernacle and temple, with the services therein performed; and of the Aaronical priesthood : all this Christians transfer to the new law [i. e. the Gospel ;] to the oblation of Christ; to justification by his blood, and sanctification by his Spirit ; to the true tabernacle, or teinple not made with hands; and to what was therein done for the salvation of the world, by Him who was, in one respect a sacrifice, in another a temple, and in a third an bigb-priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek. That such was the intention of these lezal figures is declared at large in the Epistle to the Hebrews : and they are of great assistance to us now in forming our ideas of the realities to which they correspond. Under the Jewish economy, says the excelient M. Pascal, • Truth appeared but in a
figure : in heaven it is open and without a veil : in the church militant it is so veiled ' as 10 be yet discerned by its correspondence to the figure. As the figure was first built
upon the truth, so the truth is now distinguishable by the figure. The variety of strong expressions used by David in the xixth and cxixth Psalms, to extol the enlivening, saving, healing, comforting efficacy of a law, which, in the letter of it, whether ceremonial or moral, without pardon and grace, could minister nothing but condennation, do sufficiently prove that David understood the spirit of it, which was the Gospel itself
. And if any who recited those Psalms had not the same idea, it was not the fault of the Law or of the Psalms, of Moses or of David, or of Him who inspired both; but it was their own, as it is that of the Jews at this hour, though their prophecies have now been fulfilled, and their types realized. “He that takes his estimate of the Jewish * religion from the grossness of the Jewish multitude, (as the last cited author observes,]
• cannot fail of making a very wrong judgment. It is to be sought for in the sacred writings of the prophets, who have given us sufficient assurance, that they understood ' the law not according to the letter. Our religion, io like manner, is true and divine in 'the Gospels, and in the preaching of the apostles, but it appears utterly disfigured in 'those who maim or corrupt it.'” (p. l.)-We subjoin another extract :
“ It is obvious, that every part of the Psalter, when explicated according to this scriptural and primitive method, is rendered universally profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;' and the propriety immediately appears of its having always been used in the devotional way, both by the Jewish and the Christiair churcb. With regard to the Jews, Bishop Chandler very pertinently remarks, ' that they must have understood David, their prince, to have been a figure of Messiah, . They would not otherwise bave made his Psalms part of their daily worship, nor would • David have delivered them to the church to be so employed, were it not to instruct and
support them in the knowledge and belief of this fundamental article. Was the Mes• siah not concerned in the Psalms, it were absurd to celebrate, twice a day, in their public
devotions, the events of one mau's life, who was deceased so long ago as to have po • relation now to the Jews and the circumstances of their affairs; or 10 transcribe whole
passages from them into their prayers for the coming of the Messiah. Upon the same principle, it is easily seen that the objections which may seem to lie against the use of Jewish services in Christian congregations cease at once. Thus 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 teniple ? They are
Are we to go up to Jerusalem, and to worship on Sion? 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 such nations, no such places in the world. What then do we mean, when taking such expressions into our mouths, we uiter them in our own persons as parts of our devotions, before God? Assuredly, we must mean a spiritual Jerusalem and Sion, a spiritual ark 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 for 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, than they were of old to the shadow of good things (then) to come.' And, therefore, ever since the commencement of the Christian era, the church lath chosen to celebrate the Gospel mysteries in the words of tbese ancient hyinns, rathertlian to compose for that purpose new ones of her own. For, let it not pass unobserved that, when, upon the first publication of the Gospel, the apostles had occasion to utter their transports of joy on their being counted worthy to suffer for the name of their dear Lord and Master, which was then opposed by Jew and Gentile, they brake furth into an application of the second Psalm to the transactions then before their eyes; (see Acts iv. 25.) The primitive Christians constantly followed this method in their devotions; and particularly, when delivered out of the hands of persecuting tyrants by the victories of Coostantine, they praised God for his goodness, and the glorious success and establishment of Christ's religion, no words were found so exquisitely adapted to the purpose as those of David, in the ninety-sixth, ninety-eighth, and other Psalıns* Sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth : ... be telling
of his salvation from day to day. Declare bis honour unto the heathen, his worship "unto all people,' &c. &c. In these and the like Psalms, we coutinue to praise God for all his spiritual mercies in Christ to this day." (Preface, p. xxiii.)
After these excellent remarks, it is needless for us to enlarge upon the same topics; but there are a few other points on which it may be proper to remark; and first, as tú the application of the Psalms to the Messiah in the New Testament. Our humble opinion is, that when such application is used by way of argument, as in proof of his cru. cifixion or resurrection, it must be considered as the direct and proper meaning of the Psalm; but that when the application is only cursory or transient, it may be considered by way of accommodation, as we often quote poetical writers, both inspired and uniospired. The same remark may be applied to quotations from the Law and the prophets, which are sometimes cited in argument, and at others only by way of allusion, to deter mine which, the context in both testaments must be consulted.
The divine authority of the book of Psalms, bas, we believe, never been controverted by those who admit ihe inspiration of any part of the Old Testament: nor can it be with any appearance of rea on, since they are so often referred to by our Lord and his apustles as inspired : about half these have David's name pretised, and others may pro
INTRODUCTION. bably have been written by him, which have not his name. Twelve bear the name of Asaph, two that of Solomon, one that of Moses, and two others those of Hemau and . Ethan. David is described in the New Testament both as a patriarch and a propbet, (Acts ii. 29, 30,) and he was unquestionably an eminent type of the Messiah, as we shall have frequent occasion to observe as we proceed.
In the New Testament, the whole number of the Psalıns are considered as one book, (Luke xx. 42; Acts i. 20.) but the Jews divide it into five, as follows:-Book I. Psalm i. to xli.-11. Psalm xlii. to lxxii.-III. Psalm 1xxiii. to lxxxix.-IV. Psalm xc. to cvi. V.cvii
. to cl. Each of these books closes with Amen or Hallelujah: but the antiquity of this division is uncertain, as is also that of the titles of some of the Psalms, which we shall consider as they occur. All the Psalms are admitted to be poetical; and on the Hebrew poetry we have offered a few suggestions in our Intoduction to the book of Job. Seven of these are in a peculiar form, which we call Acrostic, pamely, Psalms xxv., IXXir., Ixxvii., cxi., cxii., cxix., cxlv., two of which are ascribed to David (Psalm xxxiv. and exlv.) and are the earliest specimens of that kind of composition in the Bible, and in the world. The only scriptural acrostics beside these, are part of the thirty-first ehapter of Proverbs and the book of Lamentations; and they were so written probably with a view to assist the memory, and to be learned by rote.
We have said, the Psalms are poetical; and, as Mr. Hartwell Horne remarks, they " present every possible variety of Hebrew poetry. They may all, indeed, be termied poems of the lyric kind ; that is, adapted to music: but with great variety in the style of compositioa. Thus some are simply odes. An ode (according to Bishop Horsley) is a dignified sort of song; a narrative of the facts, either of public history, or of priFate life, in a highly adorned and figured style.
Others, again, are ethic, or didactic, delivering grave maxims of life, or the precepts of religion, in
solemn, but, for the most part, simple straios.' To this class we may refer the 119th, and the other alphabetical Psalms, which are so called because the initial letters of each line or stanza followed the order of the alphabet. Nearly one-seventh part of the Pealms are elegiac, or pathetic compositions on mournful subjects. Some are enigmatic, delivering the doctrines of religion in enigmata ; sentences contrived to strike the imagination forcibly, and yet easy to be understood; while a few may be referred to the class of idyls, or short pastoral poems. But the greater part [of the book], ac. cording to Bishop Horsley, is a sort of " dramatic ode, consisting of dialogues between certain persons sustaining certain characters."'*
These remarks naturally lead to some observations on the Hebrew Music, and on the manner of performing the Psalms in public worship. There cau be no doubt that the first music attempted by man, was that of the human voice,
“ More tunable than needed lute or harp
To add more sweetness.” It is also highly probable that the first exertions of that voice were (as the same great poet expresses it) “ unmeditated," and could only, therefore, be in the form of chant, unquestionably the only method adapted to uumeditated strains; which has been adopted in the public worship of almost all nations, and is still retained among both Jews and Greeks, and in the cathedral worship of both Roman Catholics and Protestants.
As to Musical Instruments, none seem to have been originally used in the tabernacle service, but the silver trumpets of the priests ;t though on festival occasions, and in public processions, we read of the timbrel and harp, as accompanying the sacred dances, and the devotions of the prophetic schools. I David, however, who was himself a practical musician, a poet, and a prophet, invented some instruments, $ and doubtless improved others. He also established regular choirs of Levites,|| who, in the Dialogue Psalms, replied to each other. (See Ps. xxiv.) The one choir, probably, being accompanied by stringed instruments, as the psaltery and harp; and the other by wind izstruments, as the organ, &c.
Of these instruments we shall take some further Dotice, as the names occur, and hope to throw some little light on points which have been miserably obscured by learned men, totally unacquainted with the science or history of music.
Solomon greatly enlarged the number of performers, and had the worship of the temple conducted in a more magnificent scale ;** yet the temple itself was so small as
* Herne's Introd. vol. ij. p.150. Horsley's Book of
+ Som. 1. 2, 8, 10.
& Amos vi, 5.
PSALMS. to admit a part only of the Levites at a time;* and on grand occasions, as the dedication of the temple, the chief parts of the performance must have been in the open air. After this time, every thing degenerated, and when the Jews went into captivity, they “hung their harps upon the willows." The fame of their former musical excellence must, however, have reached their enemies, for they “ required of them a song," to which they properly replied, “How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" +
In entering upon this important book, we acknowledge ourselves first and principally indebted to Bishop Horne, whose expositions we have generally compared with the previous labours of Mr. Ainsworth and Bishop Patrick. Nor shall we forget the evangelical paraphrase of Dr. Watts, whom we respect, both as an interpreter and a poet, and in whose first edition (now before us) are some useful hints, whicb, we regret to say, are omitted in all the modern editions. And we shall occasionally enrich our Exposition with a verse from him, as well as from Milton, and other poetical translators of the Psalıns. The beautiful Lectures of Bishop Lowth will be consulted on this book, as well as on Job; and in our Notes we shall not neglect the original criticisms of Dr. Kennicott and Bishop Horsley, though we confess we never follow without hesita. tion commentators on ihe sacred writers, who are so bold, as to treat an inspired writer with the same freedom as a heathen classic. We would use all diligence to ascertain the meaning of the sacred writers; but we would also treat theni with all reverence, carefully avoiding to attach to them any meaning, but that of the inspired authors. For this reason, we must be excused from following systematically, the scheme of interpretation adopted by Bishops Horne, Horsley, and other Hutchinsonian writers, though it will be seen we have seldom neglected to consult them.
We shall conclude this Introduction with another extract from the same learned and excellent writer with whose words we commenced. Speaking of David's Psalms, Bishop Horne adds, “ His invaluable Psalms convey those comforts to others which they afforded to himself. Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for general use; delivered out as services for the 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 never investigate, in a style wbich poetry can never equal; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends all its charms to paint the glories of redemption. Calcuiated alike to profit and to please, they inform the understanding, elevate the affections, and entertain the imagination. Indited under the influence of Him to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit mankind in all situations; grateful as the manna which descended from above, and conformed itself to every palate. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragravey; but these unfading plants of Paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, stili more and more beautiful; their bloom appears to be daily heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who hath once tasted their excellencies will desire to taste them yet again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best." (Pref. p. lix.)
* See I Kings vi. 2, and Noto.
Essay on Church Music," which has been long ortt + Ps. cxxxvii, 1-4. On the Music of the He. of print, but which, if his life is spared, may pro. brews, the Editor begs to refer to his " Historical bably be presented to the public in a new form.