Sayfadaki görseller

" not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy “ and familjar introduction, a mighty augmentation “ of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered

before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect among others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite "justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, repent

ance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries " of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of

wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Provi" dence over this world, and the promised joys of " that world which is to come ; all good necessarily to be either known or done, or had, this one “ celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any

grief or disease incident unto the soul of man, any wound or sickness named, for which there is not, in this treasure-house, a present comfortable

remedy at all times ready to be found *." In the language of this divine book, therefore, the prayers and praises of the church have been offered up to the throne of grace from age to age. And it appears to have been the manual of the Son of God, in the days of his flesh ; who, at the conclusion of his last supper, is generally supposed, and that upon good grounds, to have sung an hymn taken from it t; who

* Hooker's Ecclesiast. Pol. b. v, sect. 37.

† St. Matthew informs us, chap. xxvi. 30. that he and his apostles " sung an hymn;" and the hymn usually sung by the

pronounced, on the cross, the beginning of the xxiid Psalm ; " My God, my God, why hast thou “ forsaken me?” and expired with a part of the xxxist Psalm in his mouth ; “ Into thy bands I commend my spirit.” Thus He, who had not the Spirit by measure, in whom were hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and who spake as never man spake, yet chose to conclude his life, to solace himself in his greatest agony, and at last to breathe out his soul, in the Psalmist's form of words rather than his own. No tongue of man or angel, as Dr. Hammond justly observes, can convey an higher idea of any book, and of their felicity who use it aright.

Proportionably to the excellency of the Psalms, hath been the number of their expositors. The ancients were chiefly taken up in making spiritual or evangelical applications of them ; in adapting their discourses on them to the general exigencies of the Christian church, or to the particular necessities of the age in which they wrote. The moderns have set themselves to investigate with diligence, and ascertain with accuracy, their literal scope and meaning. Piety and devotion characterize the writings of the ancients; the commentaries of the

Jews, upon that occasion, was, what they called the “great

Hallel,” consisting of the Psalms from the cxith to the cxviiith inclusive.


moderns display more learning and judgement. The ancients have taught us how to rear a goodly superstructure; but the moderns have laid the surest foundation. To bring them in some measure together, is the design of the following work; in which the author has not laboured to point out what seemed wrong in either, but to extract what he judged to be right from both ; to make the annotations of the latter a ground-work for improvements like those of the former; and thus to construct an edifice, solid as well as spacious. Materials, and good ones, he cannot be said to have wanted that if the building should give way, the cement must have been faulty, or the workman unskilful.

The right of the Psalter to a place in the sacred canon hath never been disputed ; and it is often cited by our Lord and his apostles in the New Testament, as the work of the Holy Spirit. Whether David therefore, or any other prophet, was employed as the instrument of communicating to the church such or such a particular Psalm, is a question which, if it cannot always be satisfactorily answered, needs not disquiet our minds.' When we discern, in an epistle, the well-known hand of a friend, we are not solicitous about the pen with which it was written.

The number of Psalms is the same in the original, and in the version of the LXX; only these


last have, by some mistake, thrown the ninth and tenth into one, as also the hundred and fourteenth and the hundred and fifteenth, and have divided the hundred and sixteenth into two, as also the hundred and fortyseventh. The Hebrews have distributed them into five books; but for what reason, or upon what authority, we know not. This is certain, that the apostles quote from the book of Psalms *," and that they quote the " second Psalm” of that book, in the order in which it now stands t. That division, which our own church hath made of them, into thirty portions, assigning one to each day of the month, it hath been thought expedient to set down in the margin; as persons may often choose to turn to the commentary on those Psalms, which occur in their daily course of reading

In the titles, prefixed to some of the Psalms, there is so much obscurity, and in the conjectures which have been made concerning them, both in a literal and spiritual way, so great a variety and uncertainty, that the author, finding himself, after all his searches, unable to offer any thing which he thought could content the learned, or edify the unlearned, at length determined to omit them; as the sight of them, unexplained, only distracts the eye and attention of the reader. The omission of the word selau must be apologized for in the same * Acts i. 20.

+ Acts xiii. 33.

manner. The information obtained from the historical titles will be found in the Argument placed at the head of each Psalm; though even that is not always to be relied on.

Where this information failed, the occasion and drift of a Psalm were to be collected from the internal evidence contained in itself, by a diligent perusal of it, with a view to the sacred history; the light of which, when held to the Psalms, often dissipates the darkness that must otherwise for ever envelop allusions to particular events and circumstances. Sometimes, indeed, the descriptions are couched in terms more general; and then, the want of such information is less perceived. If it appear, for instance, that David, at the time of composing any Psalm, was under persecution, or had been lately delivered from it, it may not be of any great consequence, if we cannot determine with precision, whether his persecution by Sauland Doeg, or that by Absolom and Ahithophel, be intended and referred to. The expressions either of his sorrow or his joy, his strains, whether plaintive or jubilant, may be nearly the same, in both cases, respectively. This observation may be extended to many other instances of calamities bewailed, or deliverances celebrated, in the Psalms, sometimes by the prince, sometimes by the community, and frequently

« ÖncekiDevam »