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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18Chapter 19Chapter 20Chapter 21Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33Chapter 34Chapter 35Chapter 36Chapter 37Chapter 38Chapter 39Chapter 40Chapter 41Chapter 42Chapter 43Chapter 44Chapter 45Chapter 46Chapter 47Chapter 48Chapter 49Chapter 50Chapter 51Chapter 52Chapter 53Chapter 54Chapter 55Chapter 56Chapter 57Chapter 58Chapter 59Chapter 60Chapter 61Chapter 62Chapter 63Chapter 64Chapter 65Chapter 66Chapter 67Chapter 68Chapter 69Chapter 70Chapter 71Chapter 72Chapter 73Chapter 74Chapter 75Chapter 76Chapter 77Chapter 78Chapter 79Chapter 80Chapter 81Chapter 82Chapter 83Chapter 84Chapter 85Chapter 86Chapter 87Chapter 88Chapter 89Chapter 90Chapter 91Chapter 92Chapter 93Chapter 94Chapter 95Chapter 96Chapter 97Chapter 98Chapter 99Chapter 100Chapter 101Chapter 102Chapter 103Chapter 104Chapter 105Chapter 106Chapter 107Chapter 108Chapter 109Chapter 110Chapter 111Chapter 112Chapter 113Chapter 114Chapter 115Chapter 116Chapter 117Chapter 118Chapter 119Chapter 120Chapter 121Chapter 122Chapter 123Chapter 124Chapter 125Chapter 126Chapter 127Chapter 128Chapter 129Chapter 130Chapter 131Chapter 132Chapter 133Chapter 134Chapter 135Chapter 136Chapter 137Chapter 138Chapter 139Chapter 140Chapter 141Chapter 142Chapter 143Chapter 144Chapter 145Chapter 146Chapter 147Chapter 148Chapter 149Chapter 150

- Psalms

by Joseph Sutcliffe


THE Psalms are an epitome of the Bible, adapted to the purposes of devotion. They treat occasionally of the creation and formation of the world, the dispensations of providence, and the economy of grace; the transactions of the patriarchs, the exodus of the children of Israel, their journey through the wilderness, and settlement in Canaan; their law, priesthood, and ritual; the exploits of their great men, wrought through faith; their sins and captivities, their repentances and restorations; the sufferings and victories of David, the peaceful and happy reign of Solomon, the advent of the Messiah, with its effects and consequences; his incarnation, birth, life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, kingdom, and priesthood; the effusion of the Spirit, the conversion of the nations, the rejection of the Jews, the establishment, increase and perpetuity of the christian church; the end of the world, the general judgment, the condemnation of the wicked, and the final triumph of the righteous with their Lord and king. These are the subjects here presented to our meditation.

We are instructed how to conceive of them aright, and to express the different affections, which when so conceived of, they must excite in our minds. They are for this purpose adorned with the figures, and set off with all the graces of poetry; and poetry itself is designed yet farther to be recommended by the charms of music, thus consecrated to the service of God; that so delight may prepare the way for improvement, and pleasure become the handmaid of wisdom, while every turbulent passion is calmed by sacred melody, and the evil spirit is still dispossessed by the harp of the son of Jesse.

This little volume, like the paradise of Eden, affords us in perfection, though in miniature, every thing that groweth elsewhere, “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food:” and above all, what was there lost, but is here restored, the tree of life in the midst of the garden. That which we read as matter of speculation in the other scriptures, is reduced to practice when we recite it in the Psalms. In those, repentance and faith are described, but in these they are acted; by a perusal of the former we learn how others served God, but by using the latter we serve him ourselves. “What is there necessary for man to know,” says the pious and judicious Hooker, “which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy and familiar 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, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of providence over this world, and the promised joys of that 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 to 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 the last supper is generally supposed, and that upon good grounds, to have sung a hymn taken from it; who pronounced on the cross, the beginning of the twenty second Psalm: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me:” and expired with a part of the thirty first Psalm in his mouth: “Into thy hands 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 a higher idea of any book, and of their felicity who use it aright.

Proportionable to the excellence of the Psalms, has 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 moderns display more learning and judgment. 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 groundwork 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; so 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 has 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 wellknown 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 forty seventh. 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.

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 researches, 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.

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 envelope 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 Saul and Doeg, or that by Absalom 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 by both together. Upon the whole it is hoped that the design of each psalm has been sufficiently discovered, to explain and apply it for the instruction and comfort of believers.

The result of such critical enquiries as were found necessary to be made, is given in as few words as possible; often only by inserting into a verse, or subjoining to it, that sense of a word or phrase, which seemed upon mature deliberation to be the best; as it was deemed improper to clog with prolix disquisitions of this kind, a work intended for general use. The reader will however reap the benefit of many such, which have been carefully consulted for him; and he will not, it is presumed, have reason to complain that any verse is passed over without a tolerably consistent interpretation, and some useful improvement. Where the literal sense was plain, it is noticed only so far as was necessary to make an application, or form a reflection. Where there appeared any obscurity or difficulty, recourse was had to the best critics; and that solution which seemed the most satisfactory, given in the concisest manner. Much labour has here been bestowed, where little appears. The plan of every psalm has been attentively studied, with the connection and dependance of its parts, which it is the design of the Argument to exhibit at one view, and of the Commentary to pursue and explain from beginning to end.

No person is more thoroughly sensible than the author is, of the respect and gratitude due from all lovers of the sacred writings, to those who have laboured in the field of literal criticism. Great and illustrious characters, whose names will be had by the church, in everlasting remembrance. All who desire to understand the scriptures must enter into their labours, and make the proper advantage of them, as he himself has endeavoured to do. But let us also bear in mind, that all is not done when this is done. A work of the utmost importance still remains, which it is the business of theology to undertake and execute; since with respect to the old testament, and the psalter more especially, a person may attain a critical and grammatical knowledge of them, and yet continue a Jew, with a veil upon his heart; an utter stranger to that sense of the holy books evidently intended, in such a variety of instances, to bear testimony to the Saviour of the world; that sense which is styled by divines the prophetic, evangelical, mystical, or spiritual sense; and as it is one great design of the following work to investigate that sense in many of the psalms, this is the proper place to lay before the reader those grounds and reasons, upon which such investigation has been made.

That the spiritual interpretation of scripture, like all other good things, is liable to abuse, and that it has actually been abused, both in ancient and modern days, cannot be denied. He who shall go about to apply in this way any passage, before he has attained its literal meaning, may say what in itself is pious and true, but foreign to the text from which he endeavours to deduce it. St. Jerome, it is well known, when grown older and wiser, lamented that in the fervour of a youthful fancy, he had spiritualized the prophecy of Obadiah before he understood it. And it must be allowed, that a due attention to the occasion and scope of the psalms, would have pared off many unseemly excrescences, which now deform the commentaries of St. Augustine, and other fathers, upon them. But these, and other concessions of the same kind being made, as they are made very freely, “men of sense will consider, that a principle is not therefore to be rejected, because it has been abused;” since human errors can never invalidate the truths of God.

It may not be amiss therefore to run through the Psalter, and point out some of the more remarkable passages which are cited from thence by our Lord and his apostles, and applied to matters evangelical.

No sooner have we opened the book, but the second psalm presents itself, to all appearance, as an inauguration hymn, composed by David, the anointed of Jehovah, when by him crowned with victory, and placed triumphant on the sacred hill of Sion. But let us turn to Acts 4:25, and there we find the apostles, with one voice, declaring the psalm to be descriptive of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, and of the opposition raised against his gospel, both by jew and gentile.

In the eighth psalm we imagine the writer to be setting forth the preëminence of man in general, above the rest of the creation; but by Hebrews 2:6, we are informed that the supremacy conferred on the second Adam, the man Christ Jesus, over all things in heaven and earth, is the subject there treated of. St. Peter stands up, and preaches the resurrection of Jesus, from the latter part of the sixteenth psalm; and lo, three thousand souls are converted by the sermon. Acts 2:25.

Of the eighteenth psalm we are told, in the course of the sacred history, 2 Samuel 22:0., that “David spake before the Lord the words of that song, in the day that the Lord delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul.” Yet in Romans 15:9, the fiftieth verse of that psalm is adduced as a proof, that “the gentiles should glorify God for his mercy in Jesus Christ, as it is written, For this cause will I confess to thee among the gentiles, and sing unto thy name.”

The sixty ninth psalm is five times referred to in the gospels, as being uttered by the prophet, in the person of Messiah. The imprecations, or rather predictions, at the latter end of it, are applied, Romans 11:9-10, to the Jews; and to Judas, Acts 1:20; where the hundred and ninth psalm is also cited, as prophetical of the sore judgments which should befal that arch traitor, and the wretched nation, of which he was an epitome.

St. Matthew, informing us, Matthew 13:34, that Jesus spake to the multitude in parables, gives it as one reason why he did so, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Psalms 78:2.

The ninety first psalm was by the tempter applied to the Messiah; nor did our Lord object to the application, but only to the false inference which his adversary suggested from it. Matthew 4:6-7.

The ninety fifth psalm is explained at large in Hebrews 3:4., as relative to the state and trial of christians in the world, and to their attainment of the heavenly rest.

The hundred and tenth psalm is cited by Christ himself, Matthew 22:44, as treating of his exaltation, kingdom, and priesthood.

The hundred and seventeenth psalm, consisting only of two verses, is employed, Romans 15:11, to prove that the gentiles were one day to praise God for the mercies of redemption. The twenty second verse of the hundred and eighteenth psalm, “The stone which the builders refused,” is quoted six different times, as spoken of our Saviour.

And lastly, “the fruit of David’s body,” which God is said, in the hundred and thirty second psalm, to have promised that he would “place upon his throne,” is asserted to be Jesus Christ. Acts 2:30.

These citations, lying dispersed through the scriptures of the new testament, are often suffered by common readers to pass unnoticed. Many others content themselves with saying, that they are made in a sense of accommodation, as passages may be quoted from poems or histories merely human, for the illustration of truths, of which their authors never thought. “And this (as a learned critic observes) is no fault, but rather a beauty in writing. A passage applied justly, and in a new sense, is ever pleasing to an ingenious reader, who loves to be agreeably surprised, and to see a likeness and pertinency, where he expected none. He has that surprise, which the Latin poet so poetically gives to the tree:”

“Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma.”

Those who have been accustomed to consider the new-testament citations in this view of accommodation only, must perceive the necessity of such accommodation, at least, to adapt the use of the psalms as a part of divine service, to the times and circumstances of the gospel; and cannot therefore reasonably object, upon their own principles, to the applications made in the following sheets for that purpose. But not to enquire at present, whether passages are not sometimes cited in this manner, surely no one can attentively review the abovemade collection of new-testament citations from the book of psalms, as they have been placed together before him, without perceiving that the psalms are written upon a divine preconcerted prophetic plan, and contain much more than at first sight they appear to do. They are beautiful without, but all glorious within, like “apples of gold in pictures or network cases of silver.” Proverbs 25:11. The brightness of the casket attracts our attention, till through it, on a nearer approach, we discover its contents. And then indeed it may be said to have “no glory, by reason of the glory that so far excelleth.” Very delightful and profitable they are, in their literal and historical sense, which well repay all the pains taken to come at it. But that once obtained, a farther scene begins to open upon us, and all the blessings of the gospel present themselves to the eye of faith. So that the expositor is as a traveller ascending an eminence, neither unfruitful nor unpleasant; at the top of which when he is arrived, he beholds, like Moses from the summit of mount Nebo, a more lovely and extensive prospect lying beyond it, and stretching away to the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills. He sees vallies covered over with corn, blooming gardens, and verdant meadows, with flocks and herds feeding by rivers of water; till ravished with the sight he cries out, as Peter did at the view of his Master’s glory, “It is good to be here!”

It would be unreasonable to suppose, that no part of the psalms may by us be spiritually applied, but such as are already expressly applied for us by the inspired writers. Let any man consider attentively a new-testament citation; then let him as carefully read over, with a view to it, the psalm from which it is taken, and see if it will not serve him as a key, wherewith to unlock the treasures of eternal wisdom; if it will not “open his eyes,” and show him “wonderful things in God’s law.” When we are taught to consider one verse of a psalm as spoken by Messiah, and there is no change of person, what can we conclude, but that he is the speaker through the whole? In that case, the psalm becomes at once as much transfigured, as the blessed person supposed to be the subject of it was, on mount Tabor. And if Messiah be the speaker of one psalm, what should hinder but that another psalm, where the same kind of scene is evidently described, and the same expressions are used, may be expounded in the same manner.

It is very justly observed by Dr. Allix, that “although the sense of near fifty psalms be fixed and settled by divine authors, yet Christ and his apostles did not undertake to quote all the psalms they could quote, but only to give a key to their hearers, by which they might apply to the same subject, the psalms of the same composure and expression.” The citations in the new testament were made incidentally, and as occasion was given. But can we imagine that the church was not farther instructed in the manner of applying the psalms to her Redeemer, and to herself? Did she stop at the applications thus incidentally and occasionally made by the inspired writers? Did she stop, because they had directed her how to proceed? We know she did not. The primitive fathers, it is true, for want of critical learning, and particularly a competent knowledge of the original Hebrew, often wandered in their expositions; but they are unexceptionable witnesses to us of this matter of fact, that such a method of expounding the psalms, built upon the practice of the apostles in their writings and preachings, did universally prevail in the church from the beginning. They who have ever looked into St. Augustine, know that he pursues this plan invariably, treating of the psalms as proceeding from the mouth of Christ, or of the church, or of both considered as one mystical person. The same is true of Jerome, Ambrose, Arnobius, Cassiodore, Hilary, and Prosper. Chrysostom studies to make the psalter useful to believers under the gospel. Theodoret attends both to the literal and prophetical sense. But what is very observable, Tertullian, who flourished at the beginning of the third century, mentions it, as if it were then an allowed point in the church, that almost all the “psalms are spoken in the person of Christ, being addressed by the Son to the Father, that is, by Christ to God.” In this channel flows the stream of the earliest christian expositors. Nor did they depart, in this point, from the doctrine held in the church of the ancient Jews, who were always taught to regard Messiah as the capital object of the psalter. And though, when the time came, that the people would not receive Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah, it does not appear that they ever objected to the propriety of the citations made by our Lord and his apostles, or thought such passages applicable to David only, and his concerns. Nay, the most learned of their rabbies, who have written since the commencement of the christian æra, still agree with us in referring many of the psalms to Messiah and his kingdom; differing only about the person of the one, and the nature of the other.

When learning arose as it were from the dead, in the sixteenth century, and the study of primitive theology by that means revived, the spiritual interpretation of the scriptures revived with it. It was adopted at that time by one admirably qualified to do it justice, and to recommend it again to the world by every charm of genius, and every ornament of language. I mean the accomplished Erasmus, who omits no opportunity of insisting on the usefulness and even the necessity of it, for the right understanding of the scriptures; for the attainment of that wisdom which they teach, and that holiness which they prescribe; seeming to think himself never better employed than when he is removing the earth and rubbish, with which those Philistines, the monks, had stopped up the wells of salvation, opened by the apostles and first fathers of the church, for the benefit of mankind. This great man was much importuned by his learned friends, as he informs us in an epistle to Cardinal Sadolet, to write a commentary on the psalms. Such a work, executed by him, had been one of the richest gifts ever cast into the christian treasury; as we may judge from the specimen which he has left us, in his discourses on eleven of them. Some of these were drawn up with a view to enlarge upon the transactions of the times; and in all of them he is more diffuse and luxuriant than, it is to be presumed, he would have been, in a general exposition. But they abound with a rich variety of sacred learning, communicated in a manner ever pleasing, and ever instructive. If at any time he takes us out of the road, it is to show us a fine country, and we are still in company with Erasmus. He considers a psalm, as it may relate to Christ, either suffering, or triumphant; as it may concern the church, whether consisting of Jews or Gentiles, whether in adversity or prosperity, through the several stages and periods of its existence; and as it may be applicable to the different stages and circumstances of individuals, during the trials and temptations which they meet with, in the course of their christian pilgrimage and warfare here below, till having overcome their last enemy, they shall sit down with their Lord in his kingdom; when the scheme of prophecy shall receive its final accomplishment, and “the mystery of God be finished.”

It is obvious that every part of the psalter, when explicated according to this scriptural and primitive method, is rendered universally “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;” and the propriety immediately appears of its having always been used in the devotional way, both by the jewish and the christian church. With regard to the Jews, bishop Chandler very pertinently remarks, that “they must have understood David their prince to have been a figure of the Messiah. They would not otherwise have made his psalms part of their daily worship, nor would David have delivered them to the church to be so employed, were it not to instruct and support them in the knowledge and belief of this fundamental article. If the Messiah had not been concerned in the psalms, it were absurd to celebrate twice a-day, in their public devotions, the events of one man’s life, who was deceased so long ago, as to have no relation now to the Jews, and the circumstances of their affairs; or to transcribe whole passages from them, into their prayers for the coming of the Messiah.”

Upon the same principle it is easily seen, that the objections which may seem to lie against the use of Jewish services in christian congregations, cease at once. Thus, it may be said, Are we concerned with the affairs of David and of Israel? Have we any thing to do with the ark and the temple? They are no more. Are we to go up to Jerusalem, and to worship on Sion? They are desolated and trodden under foot by the Turks. Are we to sacrifice young bullocks, according to the law? The law is abolished, never to be observed again. Do we pray for victory over Moab, Edom, and Philistia; or for deliverance from Babylon? There are no such nations, no such places in the world. What then do we mean, when, taking such expressions into our mouths, we utter them in our own persons, as parts of our devotions before God? Assuredly we must mean a spiritual Jerusalem and Sion, a spiritual ark and temple, a spiritual law, spiritual sacrifice, and spiritual victories over spiritual enemies; all described under the old names, which are still retained, though “old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” By substituting Messiah for David, the gospel for the law, the church christian for that of Israel, and the enemies of the one for those of the other, the psalms are made our own. Nay, they are with more fulness and propriety applied now to the substance, than they were of old to the shadow of good things then to come.” Therefore, ever since the commencement of the christian æra, the church has chosen to celebrate the gospel mysteries in the words of these ancient hymns, rather than to compose for that purpose new ones of her own. For let it not pass unobserved, that when, upon the first publication of the gospel, the apostles had occasion to utter their transports of joy, on being counted worthy to suffer for the name of their dear Lord and Master, which was then opposed by Jew and Gentile, they brake forth into an application of the second psalm to the transactions then before their eyes. See Acts 4:25. Primitive christians constantly followed this method in their devotions, and particularly when delivered out of the hands of persecuting tyrants by the victories of Constantine, they praised God for his goodness, and the glorious success and establishment of Christ’s religion, no words were found so exquisitely adapted to the purpose as those of David, in the ninety sixth, ninety eighth, and other psalms ”Sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, and praise his name; be telling of his salvation from day to day. Declare his honour unto the heathen, his worship unto all people.” In these, and the like psalms, we continue to praise God for all his spiritual mercies in Christ to this day.

Many sensible and well-disposed persons therefore, who, when they read or sing the psalms, desire to read and to sing “with the spirit and the understanding,” have long called for a commentary which might enable them to do so; which might not only explain the literal sense of these divine compositions, and show how they may be accommodated to our temporal affairs, as members of civil society; but might also unfold the mysteries of the kingdom of God, which are involved in them, and teach their application to us, as members of that spiritual and heavenly society, of which Christ Jesus is the head, and for whose use in every age they were intended by their omniscient author. A work of this kind, though often desired, has never yet been executed, upon any regular and consistent plan. The survey of a province in theology, hitherto almost unoccupied among the moderns, which promised a great deal of pleasing as well as profitable employment, gave birth to the attempt which has been made to cultivate it, in the ensuing commentary.

What is said in the psalms occasionally of the law and its ceremonies, sacrifices, ablutions, and purifications; of the tabernacle and temple, with the services therein performed; and of the Aaronical priesthood; all this christians transfer to the new law, to the oblation of Christ, to justification by his blood, and sanctification by his Spirit; to the true tabernacle, or temple, not made with hands; and to what was therein done for the salvation of the world by Him who was in one respect a sacrifice, in another a temple, and in a third, a highpriest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. That such was the intention of these legal figures, is declared at large in the epistle to the Hebrews; and they are of great assistance to us now, in forming our ideas of the realities to which they correspond. “Under the Jewish economy,” says the excellent Mr. Pascal, “truth appeared but in a figure; in heaven it is opened, and without a veil; in the church militant it is so veiled, as to be yet discerned by its correspondence to the figure. As the figure was first built upon the truth, so the truth is now distinguishable by the figure.” The variety of strong expressions used by David, in the nineteenth, and the hundred and nineteenth psalms, to extol the enlivening, saving, healing, comforting efficacy of a law which, in the letter of it, whether ceremonial or moral, without pardon and grace, could minister nothing but condemnation, do sufficiently prove that David understood the spirit of it, which was the gospel itself.

We may contemplate the psalms as in a glass, those new heavens, and that new earth, of whose duration there shall be no end. The sun, that fountain of life, and heart of the world; that bright leader of the armies of heaven, enthroned in glorious majesty; the moon shining with a lustre borrowed from his beams, the stars glittering by night in the clear firmament, the air giving breath to all things that live and move, the interchanges of light and darkness; the course of the year, and the sweet vicissitudes of seasons; the rain and the dew descending from above, and the fruitfulness of the earth caused by them; the bow bent by the hands of the Most High, which compasseth the heavens about with a glorious circle; the awful voice of thunder, and the piercing power of lightning; the instincts of animals, and the qualities of vegetables and minerals; the great and wide sea, with its unnumbered inhabitants; all these are ready to instruct us in the mysteries of faith, and the duties of morality.

David’s invaluable psalms convey those comforts to others, which they afforded to himself. Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for general use, delivered out as services for Israelites under the law, yet no less adapted to the circumstances of christians under the gospel, they present religion to us in the most engaging dress; communicating truths which philosophy could never investigate, in a style which poetry can never equal; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends all its charms to paint the glories of redemption. Calculated alike to profit and to please, they inform the understanding, elevate the affections, and entertain the imagination. Indited under the influence of Him to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit mankind in all situations, grateful as the manna, which descended from above, and conformed itself to every palate. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy; but these unfading plants of paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, still more and more beautiful; their bloom appears to be daily heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who has once tasted their excellencies, will desire to taste them yet again; and he who tastes them oftenest will relish them best.


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