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denies hiny understooge (vol. 1, may form the Devotional
and ind by the world, his sole intensity
an unfruitful subject, but was simply incompetent for the performance of the task."
A passage taken from A. H. Franke's Devotional Exposition of the Psalms (Halle, 1731, 2 vols.), may form the transition from the Reformation to our times. He says (vol. i., p. 904), “Where that is found, such Psalms are rightly understood. The man who has not the Spirit of Christ, nor denies himself, nor daily takes up his cross and follows Christ, has no relish for the Psalms. They gladden not his heart, but appear to him like withered straw-altogether stale. But let him be brought into similar courses of affliction and suffering, and experience the sneers and mockery of the world for righteousness' and Christ's sake,-let him find out the difficulty of the task to surmount every obstacle from within and from without, and yet serve the Lord God in spirit and in truth,—and he will learn that David's heart underwent other struggles besides those which sprung from his external relations. He will mark in his daily warfare the same enmity which God has appointed to take place between Christ and Belial, and between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan, and find that struggle expressed in the Psalms : as the very first, in fact, states it: '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.' He, then, who is resolved to deny himself, to part with the world, her pomp and riches, and the favour of man, to take the Word of God for his sole guide, and carry a peaceful conscience to his dying bed, will experience the intensity of the struggle which is required, and learn rightly to understand the Psalms."
As belonging to modern times, the words of a celebrated politician, John Jacob Moser (1785), equally renowned as a statesman and experienced as a christian, are worthy of special notice. He had been engaged in severe struggles for the rights of his country, and had been on that account unlawfully imprisoned by his sovereign for a period of five years, during which the Bible and hymn book were his sole companions. The Psalms made him understand his position. In harmony with the voices of every century he says,* “Those who have never experienced great and continuous distress of body and of mind, neither understand the Psalms nor know how to use them. Thus I found it for many years. I fancied that I understood the words, but they were to me a sealed book. For a long time I would not read them at all. Its cries out of the depths, its enormous complaints, though regarding them not as mere poetry, I considered exaggerated hypochondriac sentiments; and my feelings thoroughly revolted at David's desire to be revenged upon his enemies. Single verses, in particular cases, sometimes instructed, comforted, and exhorted me. The treasure of experience, lucid wisdom, profoundly intimate and extensive knowledge of the human heart, contained in them; what was meant by faithfulness to oneself,-by strict and honest examination of the most secret questions of the soul,-by confidence in God, his omnipotence, and love,—by attachment to Him in doubt and hesitancy,—by looking up to his Father's heart with the deepest sense of personal unworthiness; what was meant by the anchorage of faith in raging storms,-by the ‘Aber doch,' of which Luther has so much to say, by the words, 'I nothing, but Thou Omnipresent, Eternal One, in, with, over us all;' what was meant by the consciousness of Thy gracious call; what was the state of mind described in the words,
nihil esse yonyótipov, nihil denique plerisqne in locis de Supape Biscáte, ov ant esse aut fingi posse existimarem.-Melanchthon, who has written a somewhat poor Commentary on the Psalms, quoted by A. H. Franke, says, “ Hic liber elegantissimus est in toto mundo!"
* Doctor Leidemit. Frankfort, 1783.
Although my heart say No to me,
Thy word shall be more sure to me,' that a fainting soul should be refreshed, revived, and elevated by the smallest ray of hope,—that she might rise from the dust, and still in the dust believe herself to be God's creature,—that in the prospect of impending peril and sinking she might still cling to Him; what it was, in articulo mortis, to say, —
I live and die, Lord Christ, to thee,
In death and life belong to thee,'that the omnipotent, quickening Spirit should govern to the end of the world the entire church of believers,—that there is but one God, one truth, one way, one faith, one experience, one 'Spiritus Rector,' throughout all times and generations; how much these things contribute to establish and confirm the heart in the truth,—to inspire confident courage in every kind of trouble and consciousness of individual unworthiness, -to gain spiritual strength,—to judge correctly of the connection between good and evil in the world,—to produce a firm and sure step in the path of life; how far they contribute to the enjoyment of our earthly existence, -of a calm, refreshing, and joyous prospect of our transition into the kingdom; with how much assurance we may link ourselves to the gigantic chain of the experience of thousands of years, and with tears of ecstatic joy glory even now in the hope of recounting them with David and all the saints, and of blending our voices with the harmony of praise and adoration throughout a blissful eternity; what lies involved in so many other feelings of ineffable delight to our hearts, though too spiritual to be expressed :-all this gradually dawned upon me, and caused me to thank God for the Psalms when I found myself in great tribulation, anguish, and temptation, both from within and from without. Oh, how precious and dear was then the possession of the Psalms; how much comfort, light, and strength have they imparted to my fainting soul. I often not only missed the way, but lost the very trace of it. I sat me down as if I had become petrified. One word from the Psalms was a sunbeam to me: like a lark, I settled on the pinions of that eagle; carried by her, I scaled the rock, and beheld from that eminence the world, with its cares and mine, stretched out beneath me; I acquired to think, infer, mourn, pray, wait, hope, and speak in the spirit of David,-'I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast humbled me. I acquired to know and understand the rights of God, His purposes of love and faithfulness to every man, but especially to myself,His mighty wisdom towards us His creatures in our present state of probation, as well as the blessedness, benefit, and necessity of sufferings for our cleansing, purification, and perfection. I learned to esteem myself happy in being permitted to endure suffering. I attained to a better knowledge of the wisdom and love of God, the truth of His word and assurance, the unalterable faithfulness of his promises, the riches of His mercy and longsuffering; of my own dependance, insufficiency, nothingness, and inability without Him, of the wickedness and deceit of my heart, of the world, of men, and of the profound wisdom of God in the blending of evil with good. I became less in my own sight, more suffering and affectionate, more sparing and forgiving, more severe with myself, more lenient to others. I learned to trust God in all my ways, and to renounce the claims of fame, honour, and comfort. It was nourishment for my soul to be enabled to say,— Lord, let me possess but Thee.' I asked for no more aid in temporal concerns than His wisdom might find good for the best of my soul. I learned to become
more contented in my desires, more moderate in my enjoyments. I was enabled with tears to express my gratitude for mercies, which formerly I counted not as blessings, but as my right and due. If my soul would keep holyday, the Psalms became my temple and my altar. Next to the writings of the New Testament, they are now to me my dearest and most precious book, -the golden mirror, the cyclopædia of the most blessed and fruitful knowledge and experience of my life: to thoroughly understand them will be the occupation of eternity, and our second life will form their commentary."
Though our days are not rich in testimonies of this kind, they are by no means wanting, -nay, they are not wanting on the part of those lofty minds, whom our nation counts among her classics. Prominent amongst these is Herder, of whose manifold statements, setting forth the value of the Psalms, we insert here but one expression, which recommends itself both by its freedom and truthfulness. “The use of the Psalms became the blessing of humanity, not only on account of their contents, but also on account of their form. Just as no lyric poet among the Greeks and the Romans furnished such a mass of doctrine, consolation, and instruction, so there is hardly anywhere to be found so rich a variety of tone in every species of song as here. For two thousand years have the Psalms frequently and differently been translated and imitated, and still there are many new formations of their much-embracing and rich manner possible. They are flowers, which change their appearance in every time and in every soil,—but always bloom in the beauty of youth. Just because the Psalter contains the simplest lyrical expressions of the most diversified feelings,it is the hymn-book for all times."*
Herder's observations in his “Spirit of Hebrew Poetry,” concerning the Psalms as a whole, and particular classes of them, contain many excellent hints for expositors. Andrew Cramer, who as a poet ranks among our classics, and as a preacher stands as a model for all times, has in a yet higher degree merited of the interpretation of the Psalms. The treatises which accompany his Translation of the Psalmst are so many testimonies of their religious and poetic value. To the testimony of Cramer, we string that of Stolberg, in his Treatise on the Psalms, contained in vol. iii. of his History of Religion. John Mueller, the historian, has many beautiful sayings on the spirit and influence of the Psalms. Writing to his brother, he says :“David yields me every day the most delightful hour. There is nothing Greek, nothing Roman, nothing in the West, nor in the land towards midnight, to equal David, whom the God of Israel chose to praise Him higher than the gods of the nations. The utterance of his mind sinks deep into the heart, and never in my life, never have I thus seen God.” “The Psalms," he says elsewhere, “teach one to prize a much tried life.”I Even Lichtenberg, though not exactly a man who would suffer his mind to be captivated by his feelings, expresses himself with earnestness and warmth concerning the moral and religious tendency of the Psalms. S Songs, which like the Psalms have thus stood the test of three thousand years, contain a germ for eternity.
* Treatises and Letters on the Belles Lettres. Works, vol. xvi. p. 17.
+ Poetical Translation of the Psalms, with Treatises. Leipsic, 1759. It must not be confounded with the Lyrical Translation of the Psalms, by Joseph Anthony Cramer. Hildesheim, 1787. This work of a Catholic author has no value.
Jno. of Mueller's Works, vol. v. pp. 122. 244.
OF THE FORM, DIVISION, DESIGN, AND USE OF THE PSALTER
IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES.
The poetry of the Old Testament is of a twofold kind. It embraces Lyric songs, which originally streamed forth as the emotions of the heart for the personal gratification of the singer, and Didactic poems, which were composed with a view to others, and were on that account aided by reflection. The latter are either brief sentences, as the Proverbs of Solomon, or more extensive poems, as the Book of Job, which possesses however a lyrical character, because it describes the personal struggles of its author. The lyric songs of the Old Testament, with one exception, are all of a religious kind, and go by the term of “Psalms," i.e. songs sung with musical accompaniment. Such songs were offered to the Lord when he led Israel out of Egypt. The people sang the song of deliverance, and Miriam and the women, singing and playing the timbrel, repeated the first verse. Psalm xc. is a psalm of Moses. The song of Deborah is another ancient psalm. The prophets of Samuel's school used to sing, 4* but above all David united from his earliest youth the art of singing with that of playing the harp, and practised daily (1 Sam. xviii. 10). The instrument which he used was the harp or guitar; he played it with his hand (1 Sam. xvi. 23; xviii. 10). His beautiful funeral ditty on the death of Jonathan shows that he also used to tune his strings for other themes than the praise of God. The Psalter being a collection of religious songs, has only preserved the spiritual songs of David.
The form of the lyric poetry of the Old Testament deserves to be noticed. The definition of poetry as “bound speech” points to the fact that the poet imposes fetters and prescribes a measure, both to the expression of his sentiments and to the sentiments themselves. This renders the utterance of the most stirring emotions harmonious and beautiful. This fetter is in the poems of classical antiquity the syllabic measure or metre, while it appears in the songs of several Eastern nations (who are however not unacquainted with measure), as e.g. the Hindoos, Persians and Arabs as rhyme, and in those of the Icelanders and Spaniards as assonance. The parallelism of the verse-members binds the speech of Old Testament poetry. This form of poetry obtains also among the Chinese. We can easily conceive that the most impassioned speech did not only assume a metrical form, but involuntarily pass into it, since enthusiasm has an invariable tendency for rhythmical expression,-even in outward movements; hence we find the dance joined to worship and singing;t hence David danced before the ark of the covenant. I It strikes one as strange, that a poet should fetter himself with searching for like-sounding words in the moment of most vivid excitement. But is not the musical effect of like-sounding words clearly seen? as is the case with
(1) 2 Sam. i. 19. (2) Exodus xv. 20. 21. (3) Judges v. (4) 1 Sam. xix. 20. 21. (5) 2 Sam. i. 19—27.
* “Prophesying," i.e. a prophetically inspired recitation or song.
+ Ex. xv. 20. Psalm cxlix, 3; cl. 4. The opinion which refers the rhyme of romantic poetry to Arabic origin must be held as obsolete. Rhyme may be found in Latin ecclesiastical hymns as early as the fifth century: it exists also in the earliest Celtic songs, and flows successively through many verses as in Oriental poems. Vide Wolf, p. 279.
I 2 Sam. vi. 16. On the connection between music and dancing, vide Herder's Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, vol. ii. p. 266.
assonance and the parallelism of members, where the words frequently correspond in so exact a manner that they actually rhyme in the original. But this is not all. The origin of that poetic form may be accounted for on other grounds. Under the impulse of strong emotion thought ignores to express itself in simple proportions; it either separates into synonymous members of a qualifying tendency, or into antithesis: what, then, is more natural than that these members thus mutually related in thought, should by rhyme, assonance, or parallelism become equally so in form?1 In Hebrew poetry a thought most frequently resolves itself into symmetrical and synonymous members till it gets exhausted. Sometimes a second or third member adds some new and closely allied defining remark; or proposition and counterproposition (thesis and anti-thesis) are placed together symmetrically.
Thus we have in Psalm i. 1, three, and in verse 2, two propositions, exactly corresponding in sense, and used only for the exhaustion of the idea: in verse 3, we find there is first the leading thought which advances through the succeeding three propositions in such a manner, that the last expresses in a direct form the indirect statements of the former. In Psalm ii. the two members of the first five verses are respectively synonymous: in verse 12, the first two members are synonymous, the third continues the idea, while the last introduces the antithesis. Not unfrequently word corresponds to word in the two members of a verse,—this, however, does not necessarily belong to the law of parallelism. Such parallelisms occur also in the prophets, when their language gets impassioned, which otherwise is rather rhetorical than poetical. Compare in particular the Book of Lamentations with the Prophecies of Jeremiah. In Hab. iii. Isaiah xii. Jonah ii. may be seen some psalms of the Prophets. 2
The Psalter, which the Jews of the later period divided as early as two hundred years before Christ* into five books 3 corresponding to the five books of the Pentateuch, is exclusively designed for religious purposes, and contains, therefore, religious songs only. The edification of individuals, however, was less contemplated than that of the congregation, as is the case with our hymn books. Hence many Psalms bear the title, “To the chief musician,” by which was meant the Levitical musician, whose office it was to conduct the worship of the congregation. That arrangement explains, firstly, why David's secular funeral ditty on Jonathan, recorded in the historic books, finds no place in the Psalter, and why but two psalms of Solomon, who, according to 1 Kings iv. 32, composed one thousand and five songs, have been inserted. It would indeed appear, from verse 33 of the passage alluded to, that Solomon's Song possessed a less religious character; and when it is said, in verse 29, that he possessed “largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea-shore," we may interpret that he compassed the boundaries of knowledge as the ocean does the shores of the earth. Even Psalm cxxvii. though piously conceived, contemplates social prosperity. Secondly, it may be inferred from the design of the Psalms, that the personal songs of David were intentionally excluded from the collection of the Psalms; hence the absence of his last songWhen the collection and arrangement into five books of the separate psalms took place, we know not; that it was a gradual process is evident from the following details. The first book, excepting Psalms i. ii. x. xxxiii. which are without titles, contains songs of David only; the second book, chiefly the songs of his musicians, the songs of Korah and Asaph, with
(1) Gen. iv. 23. Psalm viii. 5; xxv. 4. (2) Is. xxxviii. Hezekiah's. (3) Psalms i. xli. xlii. lxxii. lxxiii. lxxxix. xc. cvi. cvii. and cl. (4) Psalms lxxii. and cxxvii. (5) 2 Sam. xxiii.
* This division is that of the LXX.