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Few of the Books of Scripture are richer than the
Book of Psalms, that " Hymn-hook for all times," as
it has been called. " There/' says Luther, '^ you look
right down into the heart of saints, and behold all man-
ner of joys and joyous thoughts toward God and his
love springing lustily into life ! Again, you look into
the heart of saints as into death and hell ! How
gloomy and dark their mournful visions of God." An-
other has said, " The Psalms teach me to prize a
much tried life." And Tholuck (who gives these
quotations) remarks, " Songs which, like the Psalms,
have stood the test of three thousand years, contain a
germ for eternity."

The Psalms are for all ages alike — not more for
David than for us. Even as the cry, '' If is finished .'"
though first heard by the ear of John and the women
from Galilee, who stood at the cross, was not meant
for them more truly than for us ; so with the Psalms

The writers were prepared by God, through personal


and public circumstances, for breathing forth appro-
priately the mind of Him who used them. Irving,
in his preface to Hortie on the Psalms^ has spoken some
most valuable truths on this subject. He remarks
that the Psalms, like the prophetic writings, " arose hy
the suggestion of some condition of the Church, present
in the days of the prophets, as the particular case.
But passing beyond this in time, and passing beyond
it in aggravation of every circumstance, they give as
it were a consecutive glance of all the like cases and
kindred passages in the history of the Church, and
bring out the general law of God's providence and grace
in the present, and in all the future parallel cases."
The Psalmist, however, was not to be an automaton,
nor his readers mere lookers on or listeners to what
the automaton gives forth. '^ Therefore, God moulded
his man to his purpose, and cast him into the conditions
that suited his ends. And still he was a man, acted on
by course of nature, and manifest to the people as a
fellow-man, through whom, indeed, they heard soul-
stirring truths, uttered with ear-piercing words, but
suited to their case, and thrust in their way, and
spoken to their feelings, and pressed on their con-
sciences, and riveted there by the most mighty sanc-
tions of life and death, present and eternal." " And
asTHE Word which was in the beginnmg took not
voice, nor intelligence, but flesh, human flesh, and the
fulness of the Godhead was manifested bodily ; so
when that same Word came to the fathers by the pro-


phets, and discovered a part of his fulness, it was
through their flesh, or their humanity— that is, through
their present condition of spirit, and mind, and body,
and outward estate."

It was for this end that God led David the round of
all human conditions, that he might catch the spirit
proper to every one, and utter it according to the
truth. '' He allowed him not to curtail his being by
treading the round of one function ; but by a variety
of functions he cultivated his whole being, and filled
his soul with wisdom and feeling. He found him ob-
jects of every affection. He brought him up in the
sheep-pastures, that the groundwork of his character
might be laid through simple and universal forms of
feeling. He took him to the camp, that he might be
filled with nobleness of soul, and ideas of glory. He
placed him in the palace, that he might be filled with
ideas of majesty and sovereign might. He carried
him to the wilderness and placed him in solitudes,
thiit his soul might dwell alone in the sublime concep-
tion of God and his mighty works. And he kept him
there for long years, with only one step between him
and death, that he might be well schooled to trust and
depend upon the providence of God. And in none of
these various conditions and vocations of life did He
take from him His Holy Spirit. His trials were hut
the tuning of the instrument with loMcli the Spirit miglit
express the various melodies which He designed to utter
htj him for the consolation and edification. ofupirituAd men.


John the Baj)tist, having to be used for rough work,

was trained in the desert Every one hath

been disciplined hy the providence of God, as well as
furnished in the fountains of his being, for that particu-
lar work for which the Spirit of God designed him."

The literal and historical sense is in the highest de-
gree profitable ; as Calvin, and Venema, and Matthew
Henry, and others, have shewn. But our principle is,
that having once found the literal sense, the exact mean-
ing of the terms, and the primary application of the
Psalm, we are then to ask what the Holy Spirit in-
tended to teach in all ages by this formula. Bishop
Home speaks of such study as being like a traveller's
ascent to an eminence, " neither unfruitful nor un-
pleasant," whence he gets an extensive prospect lying
beyond, and stretching away to the far distance.
Bishop Horsley quotes 2 Sam. xxiii. 3, '' The /Spirit of
Jehovah sp>ake hy me, and His word was in my tongue"
— and adds, " If Da^dd be allowed to have had any
knowledge of the true subject of his own compositions,
that subject was nothing in his own life, but something
put into his mind by the Holy Spirit of God." This is
so far true ; but at the same time let us hold (as stated
above) that what the Spirit put into David's mind, or the
mind of any other writer, was done not abruptly, but in
connection with the Avriter's position. Even as our
Lord's sayings for all ages were not uttered at random
in any circumstances, but were always connected natu-
rally with some present passing event or incident.


''Jesus answered and said/' is true of them all: he
Strang his pearls on the thread of passing occurrences
or conversations. And even so is it with the Psalms.
They take their rise in things local and temporary,
but they pass onward from the present into the ages
to come.

Now, in the early ages, men full of the thoughts of
Christ could never read the Psalms without being re-
minded of their Lord. They probably had no system
or fixed theory as to all the Psalms referring to Christ ;
but still, unthinkingly we might say, they found their
thoughts wandering to their Lord, as the one Person
in whom these breathings, these praises, these desires,
these hopes, these deep feelings, found their only true
and full realization. Hence Augustine (Psa. Iviii.) said
to his hearers, as he expounded to them this book,
that " the voice of Christ and his Church was well-
nigh the only voice to be heard in the Psalms" — " Vix
est ut in Psahnis inveniamus vocem yiisi Christi et JEc-
desiae ;" and on another occasion (Psa. xliii.), " Every-
where diffused throughout is that man whose Head is
above, and whose members are below. We ought to
recognise his voice in all the Psalms, either waking up
the psaltery or uttering the deep groan — rejoicing in
hope, or heaving sighs over present realities." Ter-
tuUian (quoted by Home) says, '^ Omnes pocne Psalnd
Christi personam sustinent."

We set out with laying down no other principle of
interpretation in regard to the speakers in these sacred

songs, than this one, — viz., we must consider this book
as " not of private interpretation,'' (2 Peter i. 20). Its ut-
terances did not originate with the authors themselves.
It is one of those writings which " holy men of God
spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ;" and
therefore it is decidedly erroneous to suppose, that be-
cause David, or any other, was the author, that there-
fore nothing is spoken of, or sung, but matters in which
they were mainly or primarily concerned. '^ Not unto
tJiemselves, hut unto us they did minister," is true here
also, (1 Pet. i. 12). We cannot err far, therefore, if
with Amjrrauld we keep ^' our left eye on David, while
we have our right eye full on Christ." In some in-
stances, the Head exclusively speaks, or is spoken of ;
and in a few others the Members alone ; but generally,
the strain is such in feeling and matter, that the Head
and Members together can use the harp and utter the
song. And so important are these holy songs, that
nearly fifty of them are referred to in the New Testa-
ment, and applied to Christ.

Hengstenberg has evidently felt, in spite of his dread
of admitting Messiah into the Psalms too often, that
one individual was very generally present to the writer's
mind. He is constrained to admit that reference is
made to some ideal perfect one, or some ideal right-
eous one, who is the standard.* Unwittingly he thus

* Another German writer, Raehr, treats the Cherubim somewhat in the same
manner. He says thut the cherub is " the image of the creature in its highest
form — an ideal creature." What is this ideal of perfection in the creature, but


grants the fact, that none can read those songs of Zion
without being led to think upon some one individual
as the ever-recurring theme. And as the Scriptures
do not speak in the style of philosophy, we may safely
say, that the reference in all these cases is not to any
abstract ideal person, but to the real living One, in
whom all perfections meet, and against whom all the
plots and malice of hell have ever been directed —
Messiah, the Righteous One.

There is in almost every one of all these Psalms
something that fitted them for the use of the past
generations of the Church, and something that fits
them admirably for the use of the Church now ; while
also there is diffused throughout a hint for the future.
There is, we might say, a past, a present, and a future
element.* Few of them can be said to have no pro-
phetic reference, no reference to generations or events
yet to arise, — a circumstance that gives them a claim
upon the careful study of every one who searches into
the prophetic records, in addition to the manifold
other claims which they possess.

just the Redeemed Church ? And why are men reluctant to leave the abstrac-
tions of philosophy for the realities of revelation ?

* Dr AUix does not hesitate to apply them very specially to the Church in
these latter days. Thus he says of the first Psalm, " It containeth both the de-
scription of the happiness which the faithful Christians who apply themselves to
their duty shall enjoy, as also those who with patience wait for the promises
made unto them when Jesus Christ will come to reign upon the whole earth ;
and the misery of those who are of Antichrist's side, and who laugh at his

The substance of these Notes (for they are no more
than notes) appeared originally in the '' Quarterly
Journal of Proi^liecy." They are meant to help those
who delight to search the Scriptures. There are also
gleanings from many fields here and there presented
to the reader ; for the Author has consulted writers on
the Psalms of all different shades of opinion, even
where he simply states the conclusion at which he has
arrived as to the true sense of the passage.




1 BLESSED is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.
Nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord ; — and in his law doth he medi-

tate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
That bringeth forth his fruit in his season ;

His leaf also shall not wither; — and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so : but are like the chaiF which the wind driveth


5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous : — but the way of the un-

godly shall perish.

The first sound of the harp of the sweet singer of Israel*
might well be thought strange in a world lying in wickedness.
It celebrates the present happiness of that man who has fellow-
ship with God, and no fellowship with the ungodly. Behold
the man ! his eye arrested, not by the things of earth, but
by what has been sent down from heaven — " the law of the
Lord/' He has found the " river of living water ;" he is like a

* David's name is prefixed to seventy-three Psalms ; but he is understood to
be the penman of thirtij others that bear no title.




tree — like some palm or pomegranate-tree,* — laden with fruit,
or like that tree of life in Rev. xxii. 2, that yieldeth its fruit
every month, and yieldeth fruit of all variety. " Every bud of
it grows into a grain," says the Targunf, on the words " all
that he doeth shall prosper," taking n?i^^ as it is used in Gen.
vii. 11, 12. " He is the very contrast to the barren fig-tree,
withered by the curse," says a modern interpreter.

Perhaps this comparison to the tree and the streams should
carry us back to Eden, and suggest the state of man holy and
happy there. Redeemed man rises up again to Eden-blessed-
ness. Is it the fact of its occurrence in this Psalm, or is it
simply the expressiveness of the similitude, that has led to its
repetition in Jer. xvii. 8 ?

But, besides, we are carried back to Joshua by the language
used regarding the man's prosperity. Joshua's career was one
of uninterrupted prosperity, except in one single case, when he
forgot to consult the Lord ; and the Lord's words to him were
these : —

" This book of the laiu shall not depart out of thy mouth,
But thou shalt meditate therein day and nighty

That thou niayest observe to do according to all that is written therein;
For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous,
And then thou shalt have good success." — (Josh. i. 8.)

Perhaps this reference to the days of Joshua made this
Psalm the more appropriate as an introduction to the whole
book. It connected these ancient daj^s with other generations.
It sang of the same Lord, acting toward all men on the same
principles. It sang of a race who had come to possess the
land of Canaan, who acted on the holy maxims that guided
Joshua when he took possession — a race of men guided by the
revealed will of Jehovah.
Propiietic The ungodly are not thus prosperous, — they are not as

" trees by the river side." They are as " chaff," ready to be
driven away in the day of wrath, and unable to resist the
slightest breath of Jehovah's displeasure (Dan. ii. 35 ; Matt.

* Stanley (Pal. and Sinai, p. 145) thinks the o?eanc?e»* referred to. It grows
common and abundant by river-sides in the East. But the oleander does not
bear fruit.


iii. 12, the " day of decision"). Hence they cannot " stand."
Even as in Rev. vi. 17, the cry of the affrighted world —
kings, captains, rich men, mighty men, bond, free — is, " The
great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to
stand ?" For the " Lord knoweth the way of the righteous."
Our Lord may have referred to this passage in his memorable
expression so often used (Matt. vii. 23 ; Matt. xxv. 1 2 ; Luke
xiii. 27), " / 7iever knew you — / know you not." O the
happiness, then, of the godly ! happy now, and still happier
in that day which now hastens on, when the Husbandman
shall separate " the chaff " from the wheat, and the kingdoms
of earth be broken -in pieces " like the chaff of the summer
threshing-floor," and " the wind shall carry them away." O
the folly of those who " sit in the seat of the scorners," and ask
in these last days (2 Pet. iii. 3), " Where is the promise of his
coming ?"

We have noticed that our Lord seems to quote one of the used by cinist,

^ the Head.

expressions of this Psalm ; and let us see how we may suppose
it all read by him in the days of his flesh. We know He read
it ; his delight was in the law of the Lord ; and often lias he
quoted the book of Psalms. As he read, it would be natural to
his human soul to appropriate the blessedness pronounced on
the godly ; for he knew and felt himself to be indeed The godly,
who " had not walked in the counsels of the ungodly, nor stood
in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful." He
felt himself able to say at all times, " Thy law is within my
heart ! " Was He not the true palm-tree ? Was He not the
true pomegranate-tree? Can we help thinking on Him as
alone realizing the description in this Psalm ? The members
of his mystical Body, in their measure, aim at this holy walk ;
but it is only in him that they see it perfectly exemplified.
" His leaf never luithered ;" " he did no sin, neither was guile
found in his mouth" (1 Peter, ii, 22) ; " he yielded his fruit in
its season," obeying his mother Mary, and being found about
his Father's business ; going up to the feast " when his hour
was come," and suffering, when the time appointed came ;
everything " in season." And " all he did prospered ;" he
finished the work given him to do (John xvii. 4), and because


of his completed work, " therefore God hath highly exalted
him," (Philip, ii. 8, 9).

We who are his members seek to realize all this in our
measure. We seek that ever3rthing in us should be to the
glory of God — heart, words, actions — all that may adorn the
gospel, as well as all that is directly holy. Having the im-
puted righteousness of this Saviour, we earnestly long to have
his holiness imparted too ; though conscious that He alone
comes up to the picture drawn here so beautifully. In either
view, we may inscribe as the title of this Psalm,

The blessed 'path of the Righteous One.


1 WHY do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing ?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh : — the Lord shall have them In


5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore


6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

7 I will declare the decree : — the Lord hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son ; this day have I begotten thee.

8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,
And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron ;

Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings : be insti-ucted, 3'e judges of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry,

And ye perish from the way, — when his wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

We have a quotation from this Psalm in Acts xiii. 33, where
recent criticism reads, "As it is written in the _/irsi Psalm."
It is not unlikely that it had at one time been considered as
a second part of Psalm i., instead of standing as a separate
hymn of praise. But, at all events, it is an appropriate


advance upon the preceding, inasmuch as it places before
us the Kighteous One in a new position. The view taken
of Messiah by the world and by Jehovah is the theme ; our
eye is fixed on the purpose of Jehovah, triumphantly ac-
complished in Messiah's glory, in spite of all opposition. Nor
let us forget the quotation of ver. 1, 2, in Acts iv. 23, which
countenances us in asserting that it speaks of the fierce
enmity of the world to the Righteous One from the period of
his First coming onward to his Second appearing. The nations,
or Gentiles (JI3''i^), have raged, and the tribes of Israel (D^b^^7j
have agreed in hostility to the Lord's Messiah, ever since the
day when Jew and Gentile met at Calvary to kill the Prince
of life ; and their rage is not evaporated, but shall be mani-
fested more fiercely still when the beast and the false prophet
lead on their hosts to Armageddon. It is quoted with refer-
ence to that day in Rev. ii. 27, xi. 18 ; and xix. 15, quotes
" the rod of iron," from ver. 9.

Perhaps the expression used so frequently in the epistles. Referred to i
"fear and trembling," is taken from ver. 11. It is used in
exhortations to servants (Ephes. vi. 5) regarding duty ; in
Philip, ii. 13, to all believers engaged in striving for holiness ;
while in 1 Corinth, ii. 3, Paul describes his state of mind in
his ministry at Corinth by these terms. May there not be a
reference in all these, and similar passages, to our Psalm ? It
is as if it had been said, Remember our instructions for serv-
ing our King Messiah, in prospect of his glorious coming and
kingdom — " Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trem-

Even the Jews are pretty nearly agreed that no other than
Messiah is the theme of the sweet singer of Israel here.
" Anointed" is considered as decisive — it is Messiah, Christ
By some readers, however, the introduction of Christ by the
name of " Son," in ver. 7, and then in ver. 12, (where the rarer
term "Q occurs, probably because poetical and lofty, as in
Prov. xxxi. 2,) has been thought abrupt. But, abrupt as it
may seem, there is no doubt hanging over the application.
Messiah is " my Son," and so exclusively pre-eminent in this,
that Jehovah, pointing to him, calls on all men to honour

Referred to in
the Gospel.


the Sou even as they honour the Father — " Kiss the Son."
Had not our Lord this very passage in his eye when he spoke
these words (John v. 23) : " The Father hath committed all
judgment to the Son, that all men should honour the Son
even as they honour the Father ?" And it is thus we can
understand how the term "Father," as applied to Godhead,
broke upon the ear of Israel without exciting surprise, when
J ohn the Baptist (John i. 18), spoke of the ''only begotten
Son who is in the bosom of the Father." Son and Father
are co-relative terms, and would be so understood by John.

Whether, with Hengstenberg and most other interpreters,
we render ver. 12, "A little while and his wrath shall be
kindled," or retain the common version, there is, no doubt, a
reference to this verse in Rev. vi. 16, 17 : " The wrath of the
Lamb, . . . and who shall be able to stand ? " And if the for-
mer rendering be adopted, as we believe it ought, then there
is a tacit reference to this passage in the New Testament ex-
pression, Rev. xxii. 7, " I come quickly." It is as if he said,
Come quickly to that Saviour for eternal life ; for lo ! he com-
eth quickly to deal with all who obey not the Gospel. Opposi-
tion ends in ruin ; submission brings a blessedness, the fulness
of which shall be known only on the day of wrath.

But let us examine the contents of this rich and lofty
Psalm. The plan of it is simple, but very grand. Messiah,
on the morning when he broke the bands of death, is con-
templating our world lying in wickedness. He beholds a
sea of raging hatred and hostility dashing its angry waves on
the throne of God and his anointed One.* He hears their
scornful words, " Let us break their bands asunder," and
marvels at their infatuation. For, lo ! in the heavens above,
Jehovah sits in long-suffering calmness, till their stubborn and
long-lasting enmity compels him to arise against them. He
"troubles them" (ver. 5) as he did the Egyptians at the Red
Sea, and referring to their j^haughty w^ords, declares (ver. 6)
" They on their part so speak, and I {\^t^) in spite of them,
have set my king in Zion." They may try to make Rome, or

* Wc might notice a reference to I Sam. ii. 10, the original source of
" anoinler/," if not of " khio," also in connexion with " anointed,"


any other city, their metropolis, and may set up a head to
themselves, but Jehovah will set up his King, and make Zion
— the platform of Jerusalem — his metropolis, as certainly as he
set David on the throne and made Zion his capital. From that
city of the greater than David has gone and shall again go forth
the law. Yes, says Messiah, I will proclaim Jehovah's resolu-
tion or decree ; He has said to me, "Thou art my Son." At
his resurrection (Rom. i. 3) he was saluted as " Son," because
appearing then in his own proper array ; no more hid in humi-
liation. He had been Son from eternity, but having dived

Online LibraryAndrew A. (Andrew Alexander) BonarChrist and His Church in the Book of Psalms → online text (page 1 of 42)