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MARTIN LUTHER'S INTRODUCTORY
BEFORE I commence my SUMMARIES, or SUBJECTCONTENTS of the Psalms, I would desire the reader to bear in mind that the Psalms contained in this Book of David are of five different kinds.
1. Some Psalms are Prophecies concerning Christ, the church, the different states of the church, and the various afflictions of the saints, &c. To this class belong all those Psalms which contain promises and threatenings,-promises concerning the deliverances and salvation of the godly; and threatenings concerning the destruction of the wicked.
2. There are some Psalms which teach us what we ought to do, and what we ought not to do, according to the law of God. To this kind belong all those Psalms which condemn human doctrines, and extol the majesty and authority of the word of God.
3. There are Psalms of consolation; which comfort and lift up the hearts of those who are distressed, tempted, and afflicted by Satan and the world: and which, on the other hand, rebuke and terrify tyrants. To this class belong all those Psalms which minister consolation to the godly, and threaten the oppressors with the judgments of God.
4. There are supplicatory Psalms, wherein the prophet and others in their afflictions call upon God in prayer and implore his help. To this class belong all those Psalms which complain of persecutions from the wicked.
5. There are also Psalms of thanksgiving; wherein thanks are rendered to God for all his mercies and benefits, and for his deliverance in various times of need. To this class belong all those Psalms which celebrate the praises of God and laud him for his works. These are the principal Psalms in the whole Book; and these peculiarly come under the denomination of Psalms: for the whole Book was expressly written to praise God and to worship him according to the First Commandment. Hence, in the Hebrew, the Book is called SEPHER IL CHILLIM: that is, the Book of Praises and Thanksgivings.
The reader, however, is to bear in mind also, that the Psalms are not to be understood in a superstitious manner. He is not to suppose that every Psalm must be divided into these five particulars in certain verses; for some Psalms contain two of these particulars, some three, and some all five of them for, very often, the same Psalm contains prophecy, doctrine, consolation, supplication and thanksgiving. But I have just made these remarks, that the reader may know that the Psalms contain these five particulars; for knowing that, is of great help, not only to the understanding of them, but to the perceiving of their order, to the bearing of them in memory, and to the perfect knowledge of them.
THE BOOK OF PSALMS.
The happiness of the godly.-The unhappiness of the ungodly.
BLESSED is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
THIS first is a Psalm of consolation; by which the hearts of the godly are encouraged and stirred up to magnify above all things the word of God, in which
the whole of true life and salvation stands; and to hear, read, weigh, and meditate on it with a willingness of mind. For this Psalm shows, that those only are truly blessed, prosperous in all things, and enjoy a firm, sure, and eternal consolation both in prosperity and adversity, who are enabled to learn and know, from his word, the will and the works of God.
Thus, as a tall palm-tree by the water-side continually grows upwards higher and higher against all the violence of storms, retains its strength against all the weights that man can put upon it, and, by a secret growth, becomes daily more and more flourishing, and brings forth its fruits in its season; so, saith this Psalm, do the saints increase and grow continually by the Spirit and word; so are they rendered more and more firm and constant, and invincible against every evil; so do they daily become more fortified against all the calamities of life.
This Psalm denies, on the other hand, that any knowledge of God or any true consolation can be derived from human doctrines, how fair a show soever they may make. The wicked, (saith it,) and hypocrites, are like the chaff that is scattered by the wind: that is, the wicked are utterly destroyed by afflictions, at least in death; they endure not in temptation, but by and by separate themselves from the assembly of the righteous, and at length come to nought.
God looks upon those alone who worship him by hearing, learning, and declaring his word; and these are they whom this Psalm pronounces "blessed." He disregards all the rest, who are hypocrites and pharaisaical worshippers; he despises all their good works and worshippings, and leaves them to perish in their blindness.
This Psalm flows from the Third Commandment, and has respect unto that which is there written : "Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day;" that is, that thou hear, read, meditate on, and ponder the word of God. And the sum of this Psalm is comprehended in the Lord's Prayer, in the second and third petitions, where we pray, that the kingdom of God may increase and be edified by his word, and at length be revealed in its perfection, and that his will may be done: and both of these petitions are answered, when the word of God, which abideth for ever, is purely taught and learnt, and seriously and diligently used and pondered.
The kingdom of Christ.-Kings are exhorted to accept it.
WHY do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his Anointed, saying,
Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for