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Psalms be but a Jewish book, it is not a Christian book; but the question on which all turns is, whether the Psalms are the mere devotions of an extinct religion
The very circumstance, then, that Christians use the Psalter, proves that they consider that it has a meaning over and above that Jewish meaning which lies on the surface of it. And when we consider how intimately it has been received into the Christian Church, how it is made the form of so great a portion of our devotions, how it enters into almost all our Services, equally with the Lord's Prayer-nay, it may be said, even more than the Lord's Prayer, because of its greater length and variety—it cannot be supposed that this Christian meaning contained in it is but occasional or faint; it must run through it; it must be strong, definite, and real; else why should Christians turn aside to use Jewish forms? They have ever acted as if no state of their minds but found its appropriate expression in the Psalms; no sentence in the Psalms but had its appropriate sense in their own mouths.
Now as to a great portion of this sacred Book, we all know full well, and shall be able to reply at once, that it relates to our Lord and Saviour. Whatever is said in the first instance of David and his labours, trials, and sufferings in the cause of God, whatever is said of Solomon and his glory, and much beside which is more or less of a directly prophetic, and not of a mere typical character, is fulfilled in Christ. Much as we revere the memory of holy David, such reverence would not account for our commemorating him in preference to all saints,
and him alone, in our daily devotions; but we know well, that in reading the 22nd, or the 69th, or the 109th Psalm, we are reading, not of David's trials, which are gone and over, but of the mediatory and expiatory work of Him who ever liveth, a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek; and in like manner, when we read the 2nd, or the 45th, or the 72nd, we read of the triumph and exaltation, not of the monarchs of Israel, but of the same Lord and Saviour.
And further, much that does not on the surface bear tokens of a relation to the same great truths, and which we cannot absolutely pronounce to relate to them, doubtless may be interpreted of them by the pious mind for itself as it reads ;– from its own intimate apprehension and continual contemplation of the details of the history of Christ. And in this way the book of Psalms may certainly be made to abound in edifying lessons, and to breathe of Christ. But, allowing this fully, still it is not a sufficient reason for using the devotions of the Jewish Church, that they admit of being turned to good account. Moreover, there are, after all, large portions of the Psalms which cannot be said to support such a sense at all, which do not carry it on and carry it out continuously, which give it forth but at intervals ; and which, in consequence, if they are to be considered Christian devotions, would seem to require some other interpretation, more natural, obvious and uniform.
Great part of the Psalms, for instance, is employed in lamenting, entreating, hoping, about certain subjects; what is the Christian meaning of all this? I mean,
what is a Christian to be thinking of when he uses the words?
Again, a Christian's devotion does and must consist, in great measure, in lamenting, entreating, hoping. What is the meaning then of making the Psalms the channel of his devotion, unless they do faithfully express that lamenting, intreating, and hoping, which a Chris. tian exercises ?
What, for instance, do we mean when we say, in the words of the text, “ Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of the poor; Thou preparest their heart, and Thine ear hearkeneth thereto; to help the fatherless and poor unto their right, that the man of the earth be no more exalted against them"?
Either the Psalms are ever applicable to the state of the Christian Church, or one does not see why they have always formed so necessary a part of her devotions. And, as I have hinted, many persons feel this, and not understanding what is the present meaning of the Psalms, advocate their disuse.
Now it is obvious what a remarkable evidence is afforded us of the substantial agreemnent and the unity existing between the Christian and Jewish Church, by the continuation in the Christian of the Jewish devotions. For what is religion but worship ? and whatever changes we make in the sense of its letter, these cannot be of a nature to reverse that letter; they can but enlarge the letter; they can but introduce a sense parallel to it; the substance of the ideas expressed by it must remain the same. This should be seriously thought of by those who disparage certain ordinances and customs
as Jewish; such as reverence for sacred places, observance of holy days, adoption of a minute ceremonial, and the like; for if there be one thing more than another Jewish in our received form of religion, it is the use of the Psalter. If we may safely use the very same prayers and praises used by God's former people, it does not appear why we may not adopt ceremonies, not the same, but like those, which were divinely given to them; if the Psalter admits of a Christian and spiritual sense, it does not appear why rites and ceremonies may not be practised spiritually also.
But our business at present is to inquire what that sense is, in which we Christians are to use the Psalms in our devotions.
Now, if we bear in mind what Scripture teaches us concerning the Christian Church, as the Kingdom of heaven upon earth, if we consider what the Church is in office, and in circumstance, we shall, I think, see that the Psalms are no foreign tongue, but do speak the very language which is natural to her; that if Isaiah has given her picture, David has supplied her voice; that the two inspireul writers harmonize with each other; -and again, with the four Evangelists, and our Lord's own account of the kingdom of the Saints, as recorded by them.
For what is this kingdom as I have already described it? a universal empire without earthly arms; temporal pretensions without temporal sanctions; a claim to rule without the power to enforce; a continual tendency to acquire with a continual exposure to be dispossessed; greatness of mind with weakness of body. What will
be the fortunes of such an empire in the world ? persecution; persecution is the token of the Church; persecution is the note of the Church, perhaps the most abiding note of all. The world is strong: men of the world have arms of the world; they have swords, they have armies, they have prisons, they have chains, they have wild passions. The Church has none of these, and yet it claims a right to rule, direct, rebuke, exhort, denounce, condemn. It claims the obedience of the powerful; it confronts the haughty; it places itself across the path of the wilful; it undertakes the defence of the poor; it accepts the gifts of the world, and becomes involved in their stewardship; and yet it is at the mercy of these said powerful, haughty, and wilful men, to ill-treat and to spoil. Is not this too great a temptation for sinful nature to resist? Can it be otherwise, but that a kingdom which claims so much, which professes so much, yet can resist so little, which irritates the world's pride, which inflames its cupidity, which interferes with its purposes, which terrifies its conscience, yet does nothing in its defence but threaten; which deals with unseen ill and unseen good, whose only arms are what an unbelieving world calls priestcraft—is it not certain that such a kingdom will be the prey and sport of the world?
Moreover, the mustard-seed, small and vile though it be, was destined to spread and thrive; to thrive in spite of all the world's power. Here is a distinct provocation. What so irritating, so mortifying to the proud, who are conscious that they are in high place in the world, and have great worldly power or influence, the world's arms,