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INTRODUCTION Lord has taught us, while we hate the sin, to love the sinner, while we look for Judgment, to leave it wholly to God's Righteousness and Mercy, and to beware of thinking that the enemies of God's servants are necessarily enemies of God Himself. In these things, and such things as these, it is right to read the Psalms (as probably we mostly do half-unconsciously) in the light of the Word and the grace of Christ, scattering whatever is in them of darkness and imperfection, and transfiguring their brightness into a diviner beauty.
THEIR MESSIANIC WITNESS.-The other question is of less practical urgency, though hardly of less religious interest. How far are the Psalms lessianic ? How did they, consciously or uncon. sciously, foreshadow the true Christ?
Here also Christian tradition has pronounced a similar affirmative; and has pushed, even to the verge of fanciful exaggeration, its instinctive consciousness of this witness to Christ in the Psalter. That in some sense there is Messianic anticipation in the Psalter is absolutely certain, as by the undoubting belief of the Jews before Our Lord came, so by the express claim of Himself (see, for example, Matt. xxii. 42) and His Apostles (see Acts ii. 25– 85; xiii. 33–35). In fact, considering the universal tendency to Messianic expectation in the whole idea of the Ancient Covenant, and so in the whole both of Old Testament Revelation and of Jewish thought, it is inconceivable that in this utterance of what is deepest and most spiritual in that Covenant, such anticipation should be wanting.
But it may be well to examine more closely this Messianic application in a few characteristic instances. It will then appear that in some cases this anticipation is unconscious. The application of the Psalms, even on the highest authority, may be simply application. Thus, when the denunciation of the treachery of the
familiar friend” of Ps. xli. 9 is applied by Our Lord to the treason of Judas (John xiii. 18), and when the judgment invoked in Ps. Ixix. 23; cix. 8, is applied by St. Peter to his terrible doom, it is not necessarily implied that such application was known and intended by the Psalmist. So again, the complaint of Ps. lxix. 21,
They gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink," while it was signally fulfilled in the great Pas. sion of Calvary, was probably to the Psalmist only a figure of insulting and malignant cruelty. In such cases as these, although to us there must be association with the Christ after the event, there may well have been no conscious anticipation of Him.
But, putting these aside, the Messianic foreshadowings of the Psalms are, as a rule, typical rather than directly prophetic.
There are, indeed, Psalms which are of the character of prophecy, because in them the writer does not express any emotion or aspiration of his own, but contemplates as from without the revelation of the Kingdom of God. Such is Psalm ii. (quoted in
Acts xiii. 33; Heb. i. 5), foretelling the struggle against enemies, and the enthronement in Zion of a King, who is the Son of God. Such, again, is Ps. xlv. (quoted in Heb. i. 8), contemplating in exultation the marriage feast of the King, who is hailed with the Divine title. Such, above all, is Ps. cx., quoted by Our Lord Himself as well as His Apostles (Matt. xxii. 44; Acts ii. 34; Heb. i. 13; x. 12), as foreseeing the “Lord of David,” the “Priest after the order of Melchisedek," enthroned at the right hand of God, till His enemies be made His footstool. These are direct prophecies, and-whatever lesser fulfilments they may have had-it is impossible to doubt that they pointed on to the expected Messiah.
But these are exceptional. As a rule, the Psalm is simply the expression of a conscious communion with God, which implies two things-the revelation of Jehovah Himself to the soul of man (such as is promised in Jer. xxxi. 33), writing itself plainly both on mind and heart; and the exaltation of humanity, as made in the Divine Image, to an inspired realization of this Revelation of God. Now, it is not only clear, but it was familiarly known to the Jews, that both these elements of the communion with God were to be perfected in the Messiah ; for the Messiah was at once an “Emmanuel" (Is. vii. 14), a manifestation of “Jehovah our Righteousness (Jer, xxiii. 6); and on the other hand, a Son of Man, “seed of Abraham" and “Son of David,” on whom are accumulated (as in Is. ix. 6) attributes far above humanity, essentially Divine. So far, therefore, as any Psalmist realized the Communion with God in both its phases, so far he always was, and often knew himself to be, a type of the Messiah; so far he used language true in measure of himself, true without measure of “Him who was to come.” He prophesied (so to speak) from within.
Thus, to take the celebrated example of Ps. xvi. 8-11, it is obviously in its original conception the expression of a joyful and thankful sense of unity with God, first in the familiar blessings of this world, next in the unknown mystery of Hell (Hades) and the grave; yet it is no less obvious (as both St. Peter and St. Paul argue) that it must be fulfilled perfectly, not in David, who underwent the common lot of man, but in Him who broke the chains, because He had “the keys, of Hell and of death.” So also Ps. xl. 6–10 is in itself a declaration of the truth, so often urged by the Prophets, that sacrifice in itself is nothing, and the devotion of heart and life is everything; but yet, so far as it announces the passing away of the old sacrificial system, as merely typical of good things to come, it is clear (as is argued in Heb. x. 1-10) that it could be uttered only by the great Antitype Himself. Similarly in the great Messianic Psalm (Ps. cxviii.), while we have primarily a vivių dramatic picture of a triumphant King, coming with his train to worship in the Temple, yet the instinct of the people of Jerusalem on the day of Our Lord's triumphal entry rightly applied to the Messiah the cry “Hosanna" and the blessing to “Him who cometh in the Name of the Lord." Nor less strikingly, in that
INTRODUCTION memorable picture of the suffering for a time in this world of sin of the Messenger of God (Ps. xxii.), we recognise, indeed, the pathetic utterance of the soul of the persecuted Psalmist himself, and yet, even had not Our Lord on the Cross taken this utterance as His own, we could hardly have failed to read in the whole Psalm a marvellous foreshadowing, even in its details, of the great Passion on Calvary—corresponding from the side of inner consciousness to the celebrated picture from without of the Suffering Messiah in Is. liii. In these instances, as in many others, the general principle is clearly brought out. As Christian life is the conscious reproduction of the Life of Christ manifested on earth, so, far more vaguely but still truly, the godly life of the ancient servants of God was a foreshadowing of that which was to be revealed. It is in virtue of this fundamental principle that all Christian ages have followed the early Apostolic teaching, acknowledging in the Psalms a typical witness of Christ.
(VI.) THE FORM OF THE Psalms.-It remains now only to notice briefly the peculiar poetical form of the Psalm, and the various methods of its musical recitation.
The poetry of the Psalm, like all other Hebrew poetry, is marked by a PARALLELISM of idea, generally expressed within the limits of each verse, sometimes extending to groups of verses.
Each verse is mostly of the nature of a distich, in which there is a close correspondence of the two members in three chief relations.
(a) Most frequently this relation is a relation of Identity-the latter half of the verse simply repeating the idea of the former in different words; as-
“ The Lord hath heard my petition,
The Lord will receive my prayer."
“ His travail shall come on his own head,
His wickedness shall fall on his own pate.” (0) Sometimes the relation is of Antithesis-the latter clause supplying an idea exactly opposite to that of the former
“ The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous;
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
“There is neither speech nor language:
But their vices are heard among them." (c) Sometimes the relation is of Inference--the latter clause containing a conclusion drawn from the former; as
“ The Lord is known to execute judgment;
The ungodly is trapped in the work of his own hands." Or
“ The Lord is my Shepherd :
Therefore can I lack nothing."
Occasionally, but more rarely, the verse assumes the character of a tristich, or three-line stanza-the latter member being (so to speak) enlarged; as
Thou shalt show me the path of life :
At Thy right hand is pleasure for evermore.”
My heart was glad;
My flesh shall rest in hope.”
“ The ungodly have drawn the sword,
They have bent their bow :
To slay such as are of right conversation." Besides, however, this parallelism in successive verses, we find cases in which the correspondence extends over groups of successive verses; as
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates,
And the King of glory shall come in.
And the King of Glory shall come in.
He is the King of Glory.” In this case, as in some others, the beginning and end of the connected group of verses is marked by the insertion of “ Selah,” indicating (as we have seen) the interposition of a musical symphony. By this (for example) we see that Ps. iii. is divided into three stanzas; the first two of two verses each, contrasting the sense of trouble expressed in vs. 1, 2, with the sense of God's protection in vs. 3, 4; the last of four verses applying both in mingled prayer and thanksgiving. So again Ps. Ixi. is similarly divided into two stanzas, each of four verses.
In other cases this division of idea is marked by the recurrence of a burden with or without the interposed “Selah.” Thus in Ps. xlvi., the last two sections (vs. 4—7, 8—11) end with the joyful exclamation
“ The Lord of Hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge."
INTRODUCTION Again, in Ps. xlii., xliii., which are virtually one Psalm, we have three such sections-each ended with the cry
Why art thou so heavy, O my soul ?
Put thy trust in God;
I will yet give Him thanks; Who is the help of my countenance and my God." The grandest instance is, however, Ps. cvii., in which the first four sections, containing distinct pictures of life's vicissitudes, are ended with a burden, of which the first member is always the
“O that men would praise God for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men !" while the second member varies at each successive repetition.
In a few Psalms the acrostic principle is preserved in successive clauses (as in Ps. cxi., cxii.) ; in successive verses (as in Ps. XXV., xxxiv.); or in successive groups of verses (as in Ps. xxxvii., cxix.). This is, however, exceptional; it has more artificiality of system than usual, and tends to break up the sense of the Psalm into separate ideas or maxims. It was probably adopted as a help to memory.
In these various ways, without being subjected to the rigid fetters of rhythm or rhyme, the language of the Psalms has impressed upon it that modulation and partial artificiality of form, which in all literatures seems to intensify, by confining within limits, the imaginative force of poetry. It is remarkable, and singularly conducive to the universal use of the Psalter, that since this kind of poetic form, unlike those of more modern poetry, attaches to idea more than word, it admits of free rendering in all the various languages into which the Psalms have been translated.
THE MUSICAL RECITATION OF THE PSALM8.-In some degree correspondent to this parallelism is the nature of the music, to which in the Christian Church the Psalms have been set. Of the methods of musical recitation of the Psalms, as they existed in the Jewish Church, although much speculation, more or less probable, has been employed, we cannot be said to know anything with certainty. In the Christian Church we not only know from very early times that, as their original intention demanded, they were sung and not said, and, where there was opportunity, musically accompanied; but we learn of three methods of singing them. Sometimes they were sung in full by the whole congrega tion; sometimes they were sung responsively, a Precentor singing alternate verses and Congregation or Choir taking up the others; sometimes, and most frequently of all, they were sung antiphonally by the two sides of the Choir or the Congregation. The last method is of immemorial antiquity in the East, and it is said to have been introduced into the West by St. Ambrose in the