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show the more regular appearance of such revelations in certain cycles; moreover, the descent to sensible revelations belongs to the character of the ancient economy: now, does all this not entitle us to the assumption, that the Divine government of the world was wont even in the case of individuals more frequently than with us, to crown piety with blessings and requite injustice with curse ? Thus much is certain, that the Prophets did not confine the announcement of Divine judgments to nations, but proclaimed them to individuals, when sin was followed by immediate punishment. This explains the confidence with which the Psalmists insist upon the principle that the good can never fare ill.
of outsis, speaks of an under his feet other creathe
2.-Man and Sin. Our apprehension of the majesty and holiness of God should be accompanied by a sense of our own nothingness and sin. The Psalmist, alluding to the statement in Genesis, speaks of man as made a little lower than God (Luther), that God hath put all things under his feet, and glories in the fact that man, though externally more helpless than any other creature, does by virtue of his Godlike soul wield the government of nature. Yet how defective is that dominion at present !3 How small is the manifestation of that dignity, the capacity of which man certainly possesses; how circumscribed and humbling his present bodily existence; how much exposed to accident and how soon destroyed! Hence the same David says, “The Lord knoweth our frame: he remembereth that we are dust. As for man his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more."i “Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.”5 And in the eighth Psalm, which celebrates the dignity of man, he exclaims in contemplation of the infinity and greatness of God in His works, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him ?” Thus do the Psalms speak of the impotency and finiteness of man. This our perishable condition is by no means the necessary and absolute barrier of created existence, but the effect of internal discord originated by sin. It manifests "the wrath of God because of sin.” (Cf. Ps. xc. 7-9.) The authors of the Psalms are so alive to a sense of guilt, that the voice of their conscience is audible amid all the accidental trials and sorrows of life and the mischiefs perpetrated by enemies, and that they acknowledge the justice of the Divine chastisements. They feel themselves not entitled to the reception of Divine blessings without the confession of their unworthiness. The exultant spring song of praise in Psalm lxv. is preceded by a confession of sin.* They acknowledge that were God to enter into judgment with man, and to mark his iniquities, none could stand before him ;7 that unconscious sin, regarded as a condition which apparently contradicts the original of a pure and holy human kind, needs the Divine forgiveness; that sinfulness does not enter into our nature by imitation from without, but that it is in us from the first stages of our existence. Far from seeking a ground for justification in our native depravity, David made that confession to indicate the sincerity of his repentance and to show that he was alive to the full extent of his guilt. What
(1) E.g. Isaiah xxii, 15, etc.; Jer. xxviii.; 2 Sam. xxiv. 12. 13. (2) Ps. viii. (3) Vide ad. Ps. viii. 7. (4) Ps. ciii, 14–16. (5) Ps. lxii. 9. (6) Ad. Ps. xxxviii, 21; cxli. 5. (7) Ps. cxxx, 3; cxliii. 2; cf. 1 Kings viii. 46; Eccl. vii, 21; Job ix. 2; xiy. 4; xv. 1416. (8) Ps. li. 7. *** De Wette concludes that the people had experienced some national calamity, and that the Psalm was composed in exile.
an evidence of the depth of the perception of sin is furnished in expressions of pain and grief like those in Psalm xxxii. “My bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer."* While natural reason talks only of trespasses against the moral law or man, and on that account remains so cold at the commission of sin, every transgression is regarded in the Psalms as a trespass against the Divine Word and the living God, whose will originates the moral law. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. cxix. 11). Conscious of his greatest offence against man, he cries, “Against thee, thee only have I sinned,” rightly apprehending that the most objectionable element of sin is its encroachment upon the Divine law and the proof of man's wilful separation from and opposition to God. Where is to be found a more touching confession of a guilt-convicted conscience than in Psalm xxxii. 3. 4? “When I kept silence (intended to conceal), my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” The Psalmists occasionally speak of innocence and the purity of their hands, but the preceding observations clearly show that they refer not to absolute integrity before God, but rather to guiltlessness towards man. In Psalm xxxviii. the experience of affliction awakes a painful sense of guilt in David, and yet he gives expression to the consciousness of his innocence. He says (Ps. Ixix. 4), “They that hate me without a cause, are more than the hairs of mine head," and then adds, “O God, thou knowest my foolishness : and my sins are not hid from thee.” (Cf. in Ps. xxv. verses 7.11.18, with v. 19-21, and in Ps. xli. v. 5 with v. 13.) The assertion of his purity in Psalm xvii. 3. 4, is preceded by “Let my sentence come forth from thy presence : let thine eyes behold the things that are equal.” It is incontestibly clear from Psalm vii. 3–5, that David refers in v. 8, “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to mine integrity, that is in me," to righteousness and integrity in relation to specific accusations. And if such were not the case, might not a man, while assuring us of the sincerity of his piety, be at the same time conscious of daily failings and multiform guilt? Such sincerity shows itself when we delight in the commandments of God and strive to obey them; though the surmounting of obstacles constitutes the business of this life. Who would have expected a confession of sin (Ps. x). 12), after the description of a heart so completely resigned to the will of God, as that which precedes it? The same Asaph who declares God to be his sole consolation and portion, was not far from joining in the outrage of the wicked, “that there is no righteous God in heaven."? How frequently occur expressions like these : “I will keep thy statutes. I will not forget thy word,” in Psalm cxix.; but that prevents not David from praying, “Let thy merciful kindness be for my comfort.”: It is to be noticed, that however much the Psalmists refer to their integrity, they never demand, but supplicate aid and deliverance at the hands of the righteous God: that they hope in that name by which the Lord had named Himself (Exod. xxxiv. 6), “Merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” 4
(1) Ps. vii. 9; xviii. 21-26; xvii. 3; xxvi. 2–6; xli. 13. (2) Ps. lxxij. (3) Ps. cxix. 76. (4) Psalms xxxi. 4; xl, 12; lxix. 30; cxix. 77; xli. 4; xxv. Il; lii. 11; lxxix. 9; ciïi. 8; cxlv, 8.
* Contemplating passages of Scripture so solemn, we are against our inclination, reminded of the folly of interpreters. As, however, benefit may accrue from knowing with what impure hands interpreting theologians have touched this book, and to show our sympathy with the distress of the church in this respect, let us adduce an instance : A. W. Krahmer, a modern interpreter (The Psalms Translated and Interpreted, Leips. 1837, vol. i. p. 90), says that David could not have been the author of this psalm (Ps. xxxii.), “Because he was then not a fever patient, but well and in good health.”
a relation, while assur failings andandments of the business the descripties it?
bleth for fearriving, while by the Divine coitution
3.—The Piety and Morality of the Psalmists. Piety is the sense of the relation of our dependance on God. It may be servile, accompanied by a sense of fear and separation from God; or childlike, accompanied by love, reconciliation to, and unity with God. When the thought of Divine justice enters into a sinner's consciousness, his being afraid of God will be proportioned to his realising the estrangement of his heart from God. The Psalmist expresses that fear in almost appalling terms: “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee."1 But when God reveals himself to sinful man as gracious and forgiving, while his conscience in spite of his faults and infirmities testifies to his desire to obey the Divine commandments, love and the condition of peace with God will ensue. The institution of sacrifices for the atonement of sins of error and weakness had revealed God to his people as the forgiver of sins; and in the important passage in Ex. xxxiv. 6. 7, He proclaimed His name as “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” The revelation of the God of love avowing blessings to the pious down to the thousandth, and punishment to the ungodly' down to the third and the fourth generation, was well adapted to kindle reciprocal love in the hearts of the children of Israel. The Psalms show that the Old Testament saints stood to God in the relation of love to a much greater extent than we imagine. Who can remain untouched on hearing the words of David at the beginning of the Psalm of thanksgiving, which he sung towards the close of his life, and which may be regarded as the result of his experience of life? “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.”; “Thou art my Lord, all my goods I prefer not to Thee” (Psalm xvi. 2). “This I know, for God is for me.” No christian could describe in sweeter language the peace of reconciliation than we find it done in Psalms xvi. xxiii. ciii. lxxiii. xxvi. xxvii. lxxi. 14—24, etc. How happy must have been their communion with God who say, “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings, they are abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and thou makest them drink of the river of thy pleasures."4 “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts; he shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple."5 “Thy lovingkindness is better than life,—when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches."8 It is always the mark of a strong and healthy divine life, when the traces of God are recognised in surrounding nature. Do classical songs celebrate the traces of God in nature? The Psalms contain the sublimest and most fervent praises of the majesty of God which is everywhere revealed in nature (Cf. sec. iv. l.on God and the Government of the World). From the relation to God springs the relation to his law. All must bow to his law, either willingly or unwillingly. So the Jews of the Old Testament were mostly coerced to the keeping of the covenant of God;7 but there were many who loved the lawgiver as well as his law. The Psalms furnish most remarkable evidences of this kind: they begin with Psalm i.: the law is described as the delight of man: as sweeter than honey and the honeycomb: as the riches, the peculiar portion and possession of the pious: as the
(1) Psalms cxix. cxx. (2) Cf. Psalm ciii. 17. 18, notes. (3) Psalm xviii, 1. (4) Psalm Xxxvi. 8. 9. (5) Psalm lxv. 5. (6) Psalm lxiii. 4. 7. (7) Jer. xxxi. 32.
song in the house of his pilgrimage (Psalms xix. 8—11. cxix. 54. 56. 57. 103. 111). Is it possible to find an instance of more thorough absorption of the human will in the law of God than this? “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."1 We are therefore entitled to the assumption, that morality of the purest kind, as the effect of filial love to God, formed part of the obedience of the Old Testament saints. The depth of their convictions of sin on the one hand, and their fervent sense of intimacy and communion with God on the other, must also have led to the knowledge that virtue could only exist under and by such a combination. The Psalms declare that only in God's light can man see light, and that God fashioneth the hearts of men.3 The pious singers pray to be guided by the light and counsel of God: to be led through the paths of his commandments: and to be kept by the mercy of God, when their feet begin to slip.4 They beg for the Spirit of God as the source of their strength for every kind of good.5
We must, however, not apprehend the filial relationship of the Old Testament saints as uninterrupted and continuous: every grave transgression tended to banish it, and it could not be regained without severe struggles. David mourns at being since his fall deprived of “a constant spirit,” “the spirit of joy," and "the help of God” (Ps. li. 12, etc. in Luther's version). The intensity of internal discord under such circumstances, is proportioned to the distinct apprehension, that sacrifices have no atoning virtues in themselves, but possess only a typical meaning, that the real sacrifice is the offering of our will to God, and the reception of his law into our hearts.? Faith, however, always conquers despondency, and the Spirit stamps the assurance of the forgiveness of specific transgressions so powerfully even on the minds of individuals, that David afterward exclaims, full of confidence, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”8 Two questions arise in connection with this subject. How could forgiveness take place before the atonement of our Lord Jesus? and could the Old Testament saints be called regenerated ? Those who put the first, forget that successive events in time are eternally present before God: hence Paul's mighty declaration, that from before the creation of man, yea, from before the foundation of the world, God chose believers in Christ to holiness. The whole of God's relationship to man rests therefore on the presumption of an eternal objective atonement in Christ. Regarding the second question, it is well known that the Lutheran church sets forth regeneration as embodying repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The Old Testament saints could not have that faith, because Christ had not been preached to them: it might be said that they believed in the Messiah, but, everything else abstracted, they do not associate the forgiveness of their sins with the Messiah. Therefore regeneration applies only in so far to Old Testament saints that there were some in whom the consciousness of repentance and peace with God predominated: though that could not by any means be so confirmed and clear an inward condition as it is with believers in the Gospel of the incarnate Saviour.
The moral attitude towards their enemies has always formed an objection to the morality of the Psalmists. Instead of the mild voice of placability and compassion, we hear the tumult of revenge, and prayers for the condemnation of their enemies. Augustine already felt its offensiveness and endeavoured to palliate it by observing, that there was no reference to the wishes of the Psalmists, but to predictions of such of God's visitations,
(1) Psalm xl. 9. (2) Psalm xxxvi. 9. (3) Psalm xxxiii. 15. (4) Psalms xliii. 3; cxxxix. 24; v. 9; xxv. 5; xxvii. 11; cxix, 35; xciv. 18. (5) Psalms li. 13; cxliii. 10. (6) Psalm li. 18. 19. (7) Psalm xl. 7-9. (8) Psalm xxxii. 1. (9) Eph. i. 4.
which were doubtlessly suspended over confirmed sinners. In modern times the opinion seems to obtain, that love to enemies is enjoined as a duty in the New Testament only. The gratuitousness of that opinion is apparent from consulting correct translations of Lev. xix. 18; Ex. xxiii. 4. 5; Prov. xxiv. 17. 18. 29; xxv. 21. 22; Job xxxi. 29; Sirach xxviii. 1-11. To form a right estimate of the misgivings alluded to, we should consider the end contemplated by punishment. The common view is that with God and the pious punishment springs from love and contemplates the improvement of man. But what is to be done, if you have to deal with an incorrigible sinner? If this is denied as positively true, its possibility ought to be admitted, and should even that be objected to, provision ought to be made for the case which renders improvement within a fixed period of time inconceivable, because a better system of control is to be waited for. Nobody, methinks, would maintain that the consolidation of man's impenitence ought to cancel his liability to punishment, especially because, supposing him freed from positive punishment, the so-called natural punishment, viz. internal discord or spiritual death, is sure to visit him with an increased force according to the measure of his obstinacy. The end of improvement therefore cannot exhaust the purpose of punishment. Philosophy agrees with Christianity that the specific purpose of punishment is retribution ; i.e. the welfare of the individual is to be disturbed in the same measure as he has disturbed or infringed upon the law of God or the State. Hence it appears that to deny the punishment of a hardened sinner (not on personal ground but from a sense of the holiness of the Divine law), is as little to be regarded as evidencing moral imperfection, as it would be to desire that those who are susceptible for improvement, should by means of correctives be brought to their senses. The objection is met, if it can be shown that the imprecations and prayers for Divine punishment do not flow from the vindictive disposition (viz. personal irritability and passion) of the Psalmists, but from the motives just now alluded to. Those supplications would then correspond to the earnest desire of a good monarch or a just judge to discover the guilty that justice might be administered, and the expressions of David, the private individual, ought to be referred to those noble motives which developed the principles he uttered when a king. We are constrained to assume this in the case at least of David's Psalms, from having first perused the historic record of his deeds, which more than any words breathe a forgiving disposition, we pass on to the reading of his psalms. If his acts were untainted by vindictive passion, is it likely that it should only attach to his words ? But we find many expressions in unison with his deeds; e.g. “If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy): let the enemy persecute my soul and take it: yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth” (Ps. vii. 5. 6). Here again he refers to the same persecution (Ps. cxli. 5): “Let the righteous (God) smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let Him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil which shall not break my head, for yet my prayer shall be at their offences.” “They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul. But as for me when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth : I afflicted my soul with fasting, and my prayer returned into mine own bosom” (Ps. xxxv. 12. 13). So in Psalm xxxviii. 21, “They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries : because I follow the thing that good is.” “For my love, they are my adversaries; but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for