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innocent person, who felt and sorrowed so much for us all, he will thereby furnish himself with the best argument for patience, and an inexhaustible source of comfort. Nor can it, indeed, well be imagined, that our blessed Lord, as a member of the Jewish church, and an attendant on the service of the synagogue, though conscious to himself of no sin, did not frequently join with his brethren according to the flesh," in the repetition of the Penitential as well as the other Psalms, on the days of humiliation and expiation, when the use of them might be prescribed. If from his circumsion to his crucifixion he "bare our sins in his own body;" why should it be thought strange, that he should confess them, on our behalf, with his own mouth?
The offence taken at the supposed uncharitable and vindicative spirit of the imprecations which occur in some of the Psalms, ceases immediately, if we change the imperative for the future, and read, not "LET THEM BE confounded," &c. but, "THEY SHALL BE confounded," &c. of which the Hebrew is equally capable. Such passages will then have no more difficulty in them, than the other frequent predictions of divine vengeance in the writings of the prophets, or denunciations of it in the gospels, intended to warn, to alarm, and to lead sinners to repentance, that they may fly from the wrath to come. This is Dr. Hammond's observation; who very properly remarks, at the same time, that in many places of this sort, as particularly in Psalm cix. (and the same may be said cf Psalm lxix.) it is reasonable to resolve, that Christ himself speaketh in the prophet; as being the person there principally concerned, and the completion most signal in many circumstances there mentioned; the succession, especially of Matthias, to the apostleship of Judas. It is true, that in the citation made by St. Peter from Psalm cix. in Acts i. 20. as also in that made by St. Paul from Psalm lxix. in Rom. xi. 9. the imperative form is preserved; “LET his habitation be void," &c. "LET their table be made a snare," &c. But it may be considered, that the apostles generally cited from the Greek of the LXX. version; and took it as they found it, making no alteration, when the passage, as it there stood, was sufficient to prove the main point which it was adduced to prove. If the imprecatory form be still contended for, all that can be meant by it, whether uttered by the prophet, by Messiah, or by ourselves, must be a solemn ratification of the just judgments of the Almighty against his impenitent enemies, like what we find ascribed to the blessed spirits in heaven, when such judgments were executed, Rev. xi. 17, 18. xvi. 5, 6, 7. See Merrick's Annotations on Psalm cix. and Witsii Miscellan. Sacr. Lib. I. Cap. xviii. Sect. 24. But by the future rendering of the verbs, every possible objection is precluded at once. This method has therefore been adopted in the ensuing commentary.
Of the Psalms which relate to Israel, some are employed in celebrating the mercies vouchsafed them, from their going forth out of Egypt to their complete settlement in Canaan. These were the constant standing subjects of praise and thanksgiving in the Israelitish church. But we are taught by the writers of the New Testament, to consider this part of their history as one continued figure, or allegory. We are told, that there is another spiritual Israel of God; other children of Abraham, and heirs of the promise; another circumcision, another Egypt, from the bondage of which they are redeemed; another wilderness, through which they journey; other dangers and difficulties, which there await them; other bread from heaven, for their support; and another rock to supply them with living water; other enemies to overcome; another land of Canaan, and another Jerusalem, which they are to obtain and possess for ever. In the same light are to be viewed the various provocations and punishments, captivities and restorations of old Israel afterwards, concerning which it is likewise true, that they "happened unto them for ensam
ples," types, or figures," and were written for our admonition." Care has therefore been taken, to open and apply, for that salutary purpose, the Psalms which treat of the above-mentioned particulars.
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; to the oblation of Christ; to justification by his blood, and sanctification by his Spirit; to the true tabernacle or temple, 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, a high priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek. That such was the intention of these legal 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 excellent Mr. Pascal, "truth appeared but in figure; in heaven it is open, and without a veil; in the church militant it is so veiled, as to 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 nineteenth, and the hundred and nineteenth 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 condemnation, 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, in 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."
Besides the figures supplied by the children of Israel, and by the law, there is another set of images often employed in the Psalms, to describe the blessings of redemption. These are borrowed from the natural world, the manner of its original production, and operations continually carried on in it. The visible works of God are formed to lead us, under the direction of his word, to a knowledge of those which are invisible; they give us ideas, by analogy, of a new creation rising gradually, like the old one, out of darkness and deformity, until at length it arrives at the perfection of glory
† 1 Cor. x. 11.
Hæc inter, veri et spirituales Judæi, hoc est, ante Christum Christi discipuli, altiora cogi. tabant, et rerum cælestium Sacramenta venerati, novam Jerusalem, novum Templum, novam arcam intuebantur. Bossuet Dissertat. in Psal. Cap. i.-Lex, juxta Spiritum accepta, ipsum erat Evangelium, sub veteribus figuris delitescens, et ceremoniarum velis obtectum, ab ipso quidem Mose (imprimis in Deuteronomio) aliquatenus et pro temporum ratione explicatum, a Prophetis verò succedentibus (ut visum est Divinæ Sapientiæ) dilucidius ostensum, demum a Christo et Apostolis plenissimê et luce ipso Sole clariori patefactum. Bulli Opera per Grabe, p. 614.-If the Jews, as our Saviour tells them, "thought they had eternal life in their scriptures," they must needs have understood them in a spiritual sense and I know not what other spiritual sense, that should lead them to the expectation of eternal life, they could put on their scriptures, but that prophetic or typical sense, which respected the Messiah. Jesus expressly asserts, at the same time, that their " scriptures testified of him." How generally they do so, he explained at large, in that remarkable conversation with two of his disciples after his resurrection; when "beginning at Moses and ALL the prophets, he expounded unto them in ALL the scriptures the things concerning himself." Hurd's Introd. to the Study of the Prophecies, Serm. ii.
and beauty; so that while we praise the Lord for all the wonders of his power, wisdom, and love, displayed in a system which is to wax old and perish, we may therein contemplate, as in a glass, those new heavens, and that new earth, of whose duration there shall be no end.* The sun, that fountain of life, and heart of the world, that bright leader of the armies of heaven, enthroned in glorious majesty; the moon shining with a lustre borrowed from his beams; the stars glittering by night in the clear firmament; the air giving breath to all things that live and move; the interchanges of light and darkness; the course of the year, and the sweet vicissitude of seasons; the rain and the dew descending from above, and the fruitfulness of the earth caused by them; the bow bent by the hands of the Most High, which compasseth the heaven about with a glorious circle; the awful voice of thunder, and the piercing power of lightning; the instincts of animals,† and the qualities of vegetables and minerals; the great and wide sea, with its unnumbered inhabitants; all these are ready to instruct us in the mysteries of faith, and the duties of morality.
They speak their Maker as they can,
The advantages of Messiah's reign are represented in some of the Psalms under images of this kind. We behold a renovation of all things, and the world, as it were, new created, breaks forth into singing. The earth is crowned with sudden verdure and fertility; the field is joyful, and all that is in it; the woods rejoice before the Lord; the floods clap their hands in concert, and ocean fills up the mighty chorus, to celebrate the advent of the great King.
Similar to these, are the representations of spiritual mercies by temporal deliverances from sickness, prison, danger of perishing in storms at sea, and from the sundry kinds of calamity and death to which the body of man is subject; as also by scenes of domestic felicity, and by the flourishing state of well-ordered communities, especially that of Israel in Canaan, which, while the benediction of Jehovah rested upon it, was a picture of heaven itself. The foregoing, and every other species of the sacred imagery, if there be any other not hitherto included, it hath been the author's main endeavour to illustrate. And a view of what is done in this way, will, it is humbly hoped, afford some reason to think there may not be that necessary connection, which a late noble writer has been pleased to suppose, between DEVOTION and DULNESS.
The Psalms which remain, are such as treat in plain terms, without figures or examples, of wisdom and folly, righteousness and sin; the happiness produced by one, and the misery caused by the other; of particular virtues
*Read nature: nature is a friend to truth;
"I believe a good natural philosopher might show, with great reason and probability, that there is scarce a beast, bird, reptile, or insect, that does not, in each particular climate, instruct and admonish mankind of some necessary truth, for their happiness either in body or mind." Dr. Cheyne's Philosophical Conjectures on the preference of Vegetable Food, p. 73. That which a celebrated writer has often observed concerning a poet, may perhaps be equally applicable to a divine-"To him nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is dreadful, should be familiar to his imagination: he should be conversant with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little. The plants of the garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, and meteors of the sky, should all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible variety; for every idea is useful for the enforcement or decoration of moral or religious truth; and he who knows most, will have most power of diversifying his scenes, and of gratifying his reader with remote allusions, and unexpected instruction By him, therefore, no kind of knowledge should be overlooked. He should range mountains and deserts for images and resemblances, and picture upon his mind every tree of the forest, and flower of the valley; the crags of the rock, and the mazes of the stream." RASSELAS, Chap. x. The reader may see this exemplified in some " Dis. quisitions on Select Subjects of Scripture," by my worthy friend, the Rev. Mr. Jones, whose labours make it evident, that true Philosophy will ever be the handmaid of true divinity.
and vices; of the vanity of human life; of the attributes of God; of that patience with which the faithful should learn to bear the sight of wickedness triumphant, in this world, looking forward to the day of final retribution; and subjects of the like nature. As Psalms of this kind call for little in the expository way, the general doctrines or precepts implied in them, or suggested by them, are drawn forth in short reflections, attempted after the manner of those made by father Quesnel, on each verse of the new Testament. The opportunity of doing this, where nothing else seemed to be required, and indeed of doing, upon every occasion, what did seem to be required in any way, was the reason for throwing the work into its present form, rather than that of a paraphrase, or any other. Some repetitions, in a performance of this sort, are unavoidable. But a commentary on the book of Psalms is not to be read all at once;* and it was thought better to give the exposition of each Psalm complete in itself, than to refer the reader elsewhere; which, therefore, is only done, when passages of a considerable length occur in two Psalms, without any material difference.
Such is the method the author has taken, such the authorities upon which he has proceeded, and such the rules by which he has directed himself. If consistency and uniformity in the comment have been the result, they will afford, it is hoped, no contemptible argument on its behalf; since it is scarce possible to expound uniformly, on an erroneous plan, so great a variety of figurative language as is to be found in the book of Psalms.†
Let us stop, for a moment, to contemplate the true character of these sacred hymns.
Greatness confers no exemption from the cares and sorrows of life. Its share of them frequently bears a melancholy proportion to its exaltation. This the Israelitish monarch experienced. He sought in piety that peace which he could not find in empire, and alleviated the disquietudes of state with the exercises of devotion.
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 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 which poetry can never equal; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends all its charms to paint the glories of redemption. Calculated 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
* The most profitable way of reading it, perhaps, would be, by small portions, often reviewing the text and the comment, and comparing them carefully together; at times when the mind is most free, vacant, and calm; in the morning, more especially, to prepare and fortify it for the business of the day; and in the evening, to recompose, and set it in order, for the approaching season of rest.
The student in Theology, who is desirous for farther information upon a subject so curious, so entertaining, and so interesting, as that of the figurative language of Scripture, the prin ciples on which it is founded, and the best rule to be observed in the sober and rational interpretation of it, may find satisfaction by consulting the following authors→→→
Lowth's Preface to his Commentary on the Prophets.
Lowth Prælect. de Sacr. Poes. Heb. Prælect. iv.-xii.
Pascal's Thoughts, Sect. x.-xiv.
Hurd's Introd. to the study of the Prophecies. Serm. ii. iii. iv.
Vitringa Observat, Sacr. Lib. vi. Cap. xx. et Lib. vii.
-Præfat. ad Comment. in Jesajam.
Glassii Philologia Sacr. Lib. ii.
Witsii Miscellan. Sacra. Tom. I. Lib. iii, Cap. iii. Lib. ii. Dissert. i. ii. Econom. Food. Lib.
iv. Cap. vi.-X.
Waterland's General Preface to Scripture Vindicated.
fragrancy: but these unfading plants of paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, still 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 again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best.
And now could the author flatter himself, that any one would take half the pleasure in reading the following exposition, which he hath taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politics, and the noise of folly; vanity and vexation flew away for a season, care and disquietude came not near his dwelling. He arose, fresh as the morning to his task; the silence of the night invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it. Every Psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave him uneasiness | but the last; for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been spent on these meditations upon the Songs of Sion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass, and moved smoothly and swiftly along: for, when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone, but have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind, and the remembrance of them is sweet.
But, alas, these are the fond effusions of parental tenderness. Others will view the production with very different eyes, and the harsh voice of inexorable criticism will too soon awaken him from his pleasing dream. He is not insensible, that many learned and good men, whom he does not therefore value and respect the less, have conceived strong prejudices against the scheme of interpretation here pursued; and he knows how little the generality of modern Christians have been accustomed to speculations of this kind; which it may likewise, perhaps, be said, will give occasion to the scoffs of our adversaries, the Jews and the Deists. Yet, if in the preceding pages it hath been made to appear, that the application of the Psalms to evangelical subjects, times, and circumstances, stands upon firm ground; that it may be prosecuted upon a regular and consistent plan; and that it is not only expedient, but even necessary, to render the use of them in our devotions rational and profitable; will it be presumption in him to hope, that upon a calm and dispassionate review of the matter, prejudices may subside and be done away? If men, in these days, have not been accustomed to such contemplations, is it not high time they should become so? Can they begin too soon to study and make themselves masters of a science, which promises to its votaries so much entertainment as well as improvement; which recommends the scriptures to persons of true taste and genius, as books intended equally for our delight and instruction; which demonstrates the ways of celestial wisdom to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths to be peace indeed! From the most sober, deliberate, and attentive survey of the sentiment which prevailed, upon this point, in the first ages of the church, when the apostolical method of citing and expounding the Psalms was fresh upon the minds of their followers, the author cannot but be confident, that his commentary, if it had then made its appearance, would have been universally received and approved, as to the general design of it, by the whole Christian world. And however the Jews, in their present state of alienation and unbelief, may reject and set at nought such applications of their scriptures to our Messiah, and his chosen people, as they certainly will do; he is not less confident, that, whenever the happy and glorious day of their conversion shall come, and the veil shall be taken from their hearts, they will behold the Psalter in that light in which he has endeavoured to place it. As to the Deists, they, while they continue such, can have neither
"If this appear to be the case in so many of the Psalms (namely, that they are predictive of Messiah), how strongly does it justify the Lord's appeal to them, as treating of Him? And