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the more enormous. While it is habitual with legally righteous Pharisees and the servants of sin, who just understand the clever avoidance of appearances, to heap the rudest reproach on David for those transgressions, and acclaim the right of rising far above him, it is especially for practical ministers matter of indispensable necessity, to regard that event in its true nature. Now if on the one hand it be apparent, that David by no means rushed without all thought headlong to the commission of his double crime, but that sin also in his case gradually lured the weak into her net, and that on the other if anywhere in this case the depth of repentance seems to have equalled the greatness of the crime, we may well ask, Who dares to throw the first stone on the fallen one? See also Comment. to Ps. li.
We shall now endeavour to apprehend the peculiar features of the Davidic compositions, in relation to the psalms of other authors. One difference is strikingly apparent. A certain childlike warmth and simplicity seems peculiar to the psalms of David. If we are anxious to gain the impression of a heart peaceful and happy in God, we have only to read his psalms. The same expressions of that peculiar childlike familiarity with God and silent resignation, occur also in some of his sentiments in the historic books. As such we count his already named reply to the mockery of his wife Michal, the expression of his gratitude for Abigail's dehortation from vengeance against Nabal, the words of resignation on his being compelled to leave Jerusalem for fear of Absalom, etc. On the other hand his psalms portray the energy and courage of the youth who slew Goliath, and of the man who became the terror of surrounding nations, wielded the sceptre of the kingdom with a firm hand, and irrevocably punished oppression. We are now-a-days wont to conceive of a hero as endowed with a stoical mastery of his affections and chiefly of his grief. In the heroes of antiquity, however, weeping and tears were deemed no disgrace. History records the violent outbreak of David's grief as most overwhelming on receiving the news of Absalom's death.4 Regarding the Psalter as reflecting the inward history of the man, which accompanied outward acts, we may perceive how deeply all his experiences entered into his heart. The Psalms make us to look down into the abysses of grief and despair. It is truly elevating to observe how, while praying and singing, his soul mounts sometimes as it were on the steps of a ladder, from verse to verse, to joyous exultation, and the psalm which was begun in a tone of deepest complaint, ends with triumphant song. This is most distinctly and remarkably indicated in Psalm xxii. Sometimes the voice of exultation will burst through the anguish of the prayer, as in Ps. vi. 9; xxviii. 6: he perceives inward communications from God, which tear 5 him as it were at once from out of the deepest tribulation. Some psalms of grief and hesitancy, beginning with an “In the Lord do I put my trust,"6 shine like beacons. Taken as a whole, the psalms of David possess not the plenitude of poetic imagination, though that exists in some. Exceedingly beautiful and grand is the execution of the image at the beginning of Psalm xviii., which contrasts the days of his affliction with those of his prosperity. Psalms xxix. cx. and cxxxix. are sublime.
Since we find that poetry, music, and song were more frequently united in one person in remote antiquity than in later times, when those activities became more separate, there arises spontaneously the supposition, that the individuals whom David appointed as chief musicians and leaders of the Levites, as they combined music and song, were also versed in poetry. (The three
(1) Psalms xi. xvi. xxiii. xxvii. Ixi. cxxxi. and cxxxiii. (2) 2 Samuel xv. 25. 26. (3) Psalms xviii. Ix. ci. lii. lviii. (4) 2 Sam. xviii. 33. (5) Ps. xii. 6; xiv. 4; xxxii. &; xxvii. 8. (6) Ps. xi. 1; xxv, 2; xxvi. 2.
leaders, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, were, according to Chronicles, both chief musicians and chief singers.) The example of David must have exerted a great influence. It appears from Amos vi. 5, that the nobility used to frame secular songs on the model of David's compositions. How much more may the spiritual songs of David have served as models ! How exact an imitation of David is the Psalm in Hab. iii. Asaph, Heman, and perhaps Jeduthun, are mentioned as seers, while Ethan and Heman, who, according to Chronicles and the titles of Psalms lxxxviii. lxxxix. were Levitic singers, are accounted among the wisest of men. The titles ascribe twelve psalms to Asaph, eleven to the children of Korah. Some psalms, however, cannot have had Asaph, the cotemporary of David, for their author (e.g. Psalms lxxiv. lxxvii. lxxix. lxxx.), as they unmistakeably refer to the last times of the Jewish empire: the same is the case with the psalm of Ethan. It may be concluded, that the psalms of Asaph were by no means designated by his name without sufficient reasons for it, because, in some respects, they really bear strong marks of resemblance. It is not improbable that the name, “Asaph,” stands for the entire family of singers of Asaph's children, so that no particular regard was paid to the poetic productions of their separate authors. So the Korahite psalms are ascribed to that family as a whole. As the names of Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim are used to designate their entire races, why might not the same apply to the name of Asaph ? Most parties, at least, are now agreed that Jeduthun, in Psalms xxxix. and lxxvii. refers to the Jeduthun family of singers. The race of Asaph reaches down to the latest times : 2 Chron. xx. 14, Jehasiel, a Levite of the children of Asaph, is named as a prophet in the days of Jehoshaphat, who is probably to be regarded as the author of Psalm lxxxiii. Descendants of Asaph returned from the exile, according to Neh. vii. 47, not less than one hundred and forty-eight, according to Ezra ii. 41, one hundred and twenty-eight singers; and since, according to Nehemiah vii. 47, the number of male and female singers who returned was two hundred and forty-five, it is evident that the greater number were Asaphites: though Jeduthunite singers are mentioned as well.5 Excellent, as to form and contents, are the didactic poems of Asaph (Psalms 1. and lxxiii.). The other psalms of Asaph are distinguished by a certain vivacity and freshness. (On the psalm of Ethan, vide Psalm lxxxix. Com.) The Psalms of the children of Korah stand highest for poetic symmetry, elevation, vivacity, and warmth of sentiment.6 Some of these psalms were composed by Levites in the times of David, e.g. Psalms xlii. xliii. xlvii. lxxxiv.; others, however, refer to the days of Hezekiah and the invasion of Sennacherib.7 The Korabite songs, as well as the Asaphite, bear a certain peculiarity, which shows that the singers of certain families educated themselves after the model of their predecessors. Psalm lxxxviii. alone, besides the general designation, bears also the name of Heman.S
There are, besides, a song of Moses (Psalm xc.), which bears most thoroughly the expression of his austerity, and two songs of Solomon.' Psalm cxxxii. which was sung at the dedication of Solomon's Temple (Solomon's prayer contains, according to Chronicles, some passages of this Psalm), may perhaps have him for its author. 10
DOCTRINE AND ETHICS OF THE PSALMS.
1.—God and the Government of the World. Herder says, “There is no attribute, no perfection of God left unexpressed, in the simplest and most powerful manner, in the Psalms and the Prophets." In fact, we can hardly realize how much energy and freshness the christian belief in God would lose, were the lofty and eternal expressions of the Psalms on the being and attributes of God withdrawn from the christian church. How many of such forcible passages, stamped upon our memory since infancy's tender age, have entered into our emotions and thoughts, and often quite unconsciously originated those representations of God which we feel inclined to regard as the natural expression of every human heart. Here that God is praised, who, before the mountains, the earth, and the world had been created, is from everlasting to everlasting,—who surrounds his creatures, enquiring everywhere,—whose presence cannot be avoided, whether in heaven above, or the depth below,- from whom darkness cannot hide,—who reigns as the Lord omnipotent, from the beginning, in the heavens,—who thunders in his might, who telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names,—who is good unto all, has compassion on all his works, and giveth food to the young ravens which cry,—who delighteth not in the strength of the horse nor the legs of a man, but taketh pleasure in them that fear him and hope in his mercy,—who, like as a father pitieth his children, pitieth those that fear him, and dealeth not with us after our sins, nor rewardeth us according to our iniquities. Whatever truths and praises can be said of the wisdom, eternity, omnipotence, holiness, and mercy of God, are expressed in the Psalms, such as Psalms xc. xci. xcvii. xxxiii. ciii. civ. and cxxxix. Here is a piety which, on the one hand losing itself full of praise in the care of God, as in Psalm cxix., preserves on the other, a clear and opened eye for His glory in nature, before whose view the declaration in the book of the law and that in the book of nature entirely comingle, e.g. Psalm xix. Here we have the unceasing praise of God-in gloomy as well as in joyous days, for mercies temporal and spiritual—in every variety of tone and expression. The last Psalms (cxlvii. cxlviii. and cl.), the many-toned echo of the entire book, or like the end of a long chain call with their unceasing “Praise ye the Lord,” upon Israel and all mankind, the heights and the depths and the heavenly spirits, to offer the sacrifice of their praise to the Lord. Those who adhere to the erroneous opinion that the God of Israel was the God of the nation only in that sense, that the people believed, besides Him, in other though impotent heathen deities, may derive more correct views from the Psalms. “For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness."9 "O God of our salvation, who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea." “Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou bast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things : thou art God alone."4 Because, says the Psalmist, God has created the heathen, therefore they shall come and worship
and ople of the wore her
before him. He says (verse 8), “Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord;" and yet, in verse 10, “Thou art God alone." Is this not sufficient to indicate how passages are to be taken, in which it is certainly said, that God is greater than any other god ?1 What else does it mean, but that all who are regarded as gods are nothing when compared with Him ? This is distinctly asserted in Psalm xcvi. 5: “All the gods of the nations are idols (i.e. nonentities): but the Lord made the heavens.” With this corresponds the language of the prophets. So it is said in Jeremiah xxvii. 5: “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me." So in Deut. x. 14; iv. 39: “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God, the earth ( also), with all that therein is.” “Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath : ( there is none else."
Contrasted with the gods of the heathen, which are less than their worshippers, which have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not,—the God of Israel appears as the living God, who governs the world, and that in righteousness; who maintaineth the right and cause of the innocent, and sitteth enthroned as the righteous Judge;' who throweth the ungodly into the ditch, and causeth their desire to perish ;5 who preserveth the soul of His saints, and delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked ;4 who heareth the cry of the righteous ;5 delivereth them out of all trouble, and maketh their eyes to see their desire upon their enemies ;6 who causeth the godly to prosper in whatsoever he doeth, 7 wealth and riches to be in his house, 8 that they shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied ;9 for “I have been young, and now I am old : yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”10 All these things are continually being repeated in the course of the world, though frequently the contrary really takes or seems to take place, so that expressions like those quoted, will both edify and startle pious readers. It is necessary for their right understanding first to inspect those passages, which show that the Psalmist, no less than we, had to realise the experience of innocence being crushed, and malice triumphant, of virtue struggling with poverty and wretchedness, and of wickedness revelling in abundance. “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay-tree."11 “The ways of the wicked prosper always: thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.”19 “The wicked destroy the foundations, what can the righteous do ?”13 Asaph says, that his steps had almost slipped at the sight of the undisturbed prosperity of the wicked, when it seemed as if he had cleansed his heart in vain and washed his hands in innocency to no purpose. 14 Had not David to empty the cup of sorrow for ten years and to bear privation and peril? But what is the meaning of the assurances that God is ruling the world, causing the prosperity of the righteous, and throwing the wicked into their own net ? They simply mean that “right is right after all” (this is Luther's rendering of Ps. xciv. 15), “ tandem bona causa triumphat.” They express the truths so deeply inscribed upon the hearts of all men, and confirmed by revelation, that the Divine government of the world is based on justice, that evil is ever condemned by its indestructible laws, and that its condemnation will sooner
or later be made manifest. For the further elucidation of the before quoted passages, we should add such as these: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and. He shall sustain thee.” “He will not leave for ever the righteous in trouble."1 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all."9 “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.”; “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness, from Him who is gracious, and full of compassion and righteous."4 But when is that light to rise ? Very often here on earth, after weeks, or years, and if not to the fathers yet to their children. “God overturns the measure of the ungodly, when it gets full.” “When wrong gets too insolent, it commits suicide.” “Man proposes, but God disposes.” “Lightly come, lightly go.” “Ill-gotten gains don't prosper.” “Took by fraud, comes to naught.” “Honest gain will ever remain.” “The world's the world after all; depend on it, and you're sure to fall.” “Avarice gathers itself poor, charity pays itself rich.” “Honesty is the best policy.” Could these proverbs have originated with the people, if there were no temporal revelations of a righteous government of the world? We hear the voice of experience when David says, that he had not seen the seed of the righteous begging for bread, but that he had beheld the sudden disappearance of the wicked, though he spread himself like a green bay-tree;6 and Asaph states : “Then understood I their end : surely Thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment; they are utterly consumed with terrors.” The truly pious and upright man is a faithful friend, a kind neighbour, a conscientious citizen, a careful parent, and diligent at his occupation : is it conceivable that his descendants should be reduced to penury and find no friends ? 8 The ungodly, on the other hand, who rears his fortune by wrong means, can hardly be said to attain to pure joy, while he has more dangerous enemies in his passions than amongst his numerous adversaries : how easily may he fall from his height! Cases which compel children to return their parents' ill-gotten gain are of frequent occurrence. The laws of the Divine government of the world, however, are analogous to those of summer and winter, sunshine and rain, health and disease, youth and old age, and many other things. Considered in the aggregate they may be referred to certain rules and arrangements, though they apply not always in particular instances. But as in our present state of probation, the full revelation of the justice of God is held in check by His longsuffering, that the field of the world might exhibit both wheat and tares, 9 so all the particular judgments of God refer for their consummation to the last judgment. Although the expectations of the Old Testament saints respecting the future were on the whole concealed in darkness, there are nevertheless distinct references to the last judgment to be found in the Prophets and the Psalms. See Ps. i. 5. 6; xxxvii. 37. 38; xvii. 14. 15; xlix. 15. 16; lxxiii. 23. 24; xcvi. 13; xcviii. 9, in the Commentary. The belief in the justice of the Divine government of the world expressed by the Psalmists, yields therefore on the one hand the character of hope with respect to the future, and shows on the other that it derived its nourishment from the daily experience of the present. To this let us add the following. Every attempt to determine the limits within which Divine justice is wont or able to reveal itself as a universal law, would be labour lost. The history of the Jewish nation in general, of the kingdom of Judah and Israel in particular, and the fate of the Jews down to the present time,