Studies in Psalm Thirty Three
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STUDIES I PSALM THIRTY THREE BY WILLIAM S. PLUMER, D. D., LL. D.
I the Hebrew this Psalm has no title. The inscriptions given it by several of the ancient versions are without authority. "In eight of Kennicott's MSS. this Psalm is written as part of the preceding." Venema says: "I have joined these two Psalms together because the latter is not only subordinate to the former, but because. as Lyra testifies, some suppose that they are to be taken as one. Tliis is plain partly in the want of a title in Ps. xxxiii. and partly from the obvious connection of the last verse of Ps. xxxii. with the subject of this ode." Yet the last verse of Ps. xxxii. is to it a very fit termination ; and the first clause of v. 1 is as fit a heading to Ps. xxxiii. But few agree with Venema, and we shall not spend more time on the matter. We have already considered Psalms i. ii. and x. neither of wliic^h has a title. The Septuagint, Arabic, Ethiopic and Vulgate ascribe this Psalm to David. So also do the great mass of learned men. This may be correct. There is nothing in the style to forbid the supposition. The writer was but the penman of the Holy Ghost. Commentators have not agreed on the occasion on which the Psalm was written. It contains no marks pointing out any such. The Psalm was well suited to many periods of the ancient church. From vv. 7, 9, 10, 15, 16, 18, Dodd thinks it was probably composed by David to celebrate the deliverance of Israel at the Red sea, and God's conduct of his people through the wilderness. Perhaps more unite in supposing that it celebrates the wisdom, power and goodness of God in creation and providence than in any other one view. The names of the Most High in this song are Jehovah Lord and Elohim God, on which see on Ps. i. 2; iii. 2. Scott dates it B. C. 1034; Clarke gives no date. Amyrald: "The style is pleasing, flowing, measured, without any poetical digressions or figures, at least of such a kind as to occasion any difl[iculty." 1. Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous. The translations of this clause vary only in the strength of the word used for rejoice, as sing praises before the Lord, praise him, leap for joy, exult. Alexander : " The Hebrew verb, according to the etymologists, originally means to dance for joy, and is therefore a very strong expression for the liveliest exultation." The summons is to the righteous, the just. The reason for thus rejoicing is : For praise is comely for the upright. Pious exultation, publicly expressed, with gratitude for mercies, becomes good men. If the upright refuse to praise the Lord, who shall extol him? Comely, seemly, desirable, beautiful. Calvin : " The real meaning is that there is no exercise in which they can be better employed." Praise is often commanded ; to it amazing mercies summon all the saints ; it is a great privilege, refreshing the heart, reviving the spirit and exciting others to the same
blessed service. All the upright have countless reasons for praising God. 2. Praise the Lord ivith harp : sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. The first vei'b is the same noticed in Ps. xxxii. 5, and there and elsewhere rendered confess. When we acknowledge God's mercies, we oblige ourselves to the "\vork of thanksgiving. The second verb sing is often rendered sing jjraises. We met it in Ps. vii. 17 ; ix. 2 ; xviii. 49. It occurs often. The first name here given to a musical instrument is uniformly rendered harp; the second, when it designates a musical instrument, is always rendered psaltery, except in few cases Avhere it is viol; the third, when used on this subject is always rendered as here an instrument of ten strings. See Ps. xcii. 3 ; cxliv. 9. The and is not in the Hebrew, and some make the passage speak of but two instruments, the jysaltery being of ten strings as they suppose. So Venema, Hammond, Edwards, Jebb, Hengstenberg and Alexander. But others fitly agree with our version ; as Calvin, Ainsworth, Amesius. For jisaltery some read lute or lyre. But the names of musical instruments in the Bible are the torment of translators and scholiasts. We do not certainly know the shape, size, or
408 STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. [psalm xxxiii. power of any of them ; though it is generally supposed that all those mentioned in this verse were stringed instruments. 3. Sing unto him a new song. This clause could hardly be rendered otherwise, if a decent respect should be paid to the Hebrew and the English. The verb sing and the noun song in both languages have the same origin. The only peculiarity in the i^Jause arises from the word new. What does it mean? Some think the prophet says nis themes are not sufficiently celebrated in any sacred ode of his time, and so he calls the just and the upright to unite in a song, with which they were not as yet familiar. Calvin regards new as equivalent to rare and choice. " It is no common song, therefore, which he exhorts them to sing, but a song corresponding to the magnificence of the subject." Hengstenberg : " A neio song is a song which springs up from the heai-t." Compare Ps. xxxiii. 3 ; xcvi. 1 ; xcviii. 1 ; Rev. v. 9. The glory of God is new every morning. ew mercies demand new praises. Play skilfully with a loud noise. Chaldee : Behave beautifully by singing in a joyful shout ; church of England: Sing praises lustily unto him with a good courage; Calvin: Sing loudly with joyfulness ; Venema : Play elegantly well with a loud noise ; Amesius : Play in the best style with a loud noise ; Edwards : Play skilfully, and sing with exalted voices ; Hengstenberg: Play skilfully with shouts of joy; Alexander: "The import of the clause is substantially the same as that of the first : Render a strong and striking testimony to the praise and honor of God."
4. For the ivord of the Lord is right. Calvin supposes the term word here signifies counsel or ordinance. Alexander : " The tcord here meant is the word of promise ;" Hengstenberg : " The Psalmist speaks of God's truth and faithfulness ;" Pool makes it comprehend " all God's counsels and commands ;" Gill, " the revealed word of God ;" Tholuck, " God's promises." If there was any conceivable sense, in which the word v»f the Lord was not right, holy, just, good, wise, true and pure, our hope would perish. He who will not execute his threatenings, cannot be relied on to fulfil his promises. We cannot trust God in any respect, unless we can trust him in all respects. It does not diminish the force of the passage to make it express a universal truth. As is God's word, so are his doings. And all his ivorks are done in truth, i. e., in sincerity, in faithfulness, with uniformity and stability. Jehovah's ways are not fickle, or changeable. We know what we are doing when we rely on him. In creation and providence are not found gins, and snares, and traps to catch the honest. Luther : " What the Lord has spoken, that he holds for certain. We cannot argue for a revelation, nor against the wiles of the devil, unless we believe God to be true." Even Balaam's Theology taught him, " God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent : hath he said, and shall he not do it ? or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good?" um. xxiii. 19. 5. He loveth righteousness and judgment. God is one in essence and excellence. His character is a perfect whole. The Chaldee and Syriac quite agree with the English, but the Septuagint, Ethiopic, Arabic and Vulgate read. He loveth mercy and judgment. The first of these nouns never means mercy, but always right, justice or righteousness. Our version is supported by the church of England, Calvin, Venema, Amesius, Ainsworth, Edwards, Jebb, Fry, Hengstenberg and Alexander. For judgment some re^A justice. The extent, to which Jehovah carries his love of righteousness and judgment, is that he has never done a wrong, and never taken sides with a wrong doer. Jehovah could not cease to love righteousness and judgment without ceasing to be. or is the divine character and conduct marked by mere uprightness and purity. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. The earth, the same word generally so rendered. Goodness, in vv. 18, 22; Ps. v. 7; vi. 4; xxxii. 10, mercy; in Ps. xvii. 7, loving-kindness. In creation all things show God's goodness, his benevolence, and
r-sALM XXXIII.] STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSAI.MS. 409 moral excellence. In providence his goodness, loving-kindness and mcrcij appear. In redemption they shine forth illustriously. Creation and providence are here specially referred to. There is not a little sprinkling of the divine goodness in the world. The
earth is full of it. G. By the word of the Lord %vere the heavens made; and all the host of them by tht breath of his mouth. Instead of breath, the Chaldee, Septuagint, Ethiopic;, Arabic, Syriac, Vulgate, Calvin, Doway and Ainsworth have sjnrit. The Word of God is a name expressly given to Christ, John i. 1. Many suppose that the doctrine of the divine jiersonality of the Son and Spirit of God is here taught. Scott: "Most of the ancient expositors, by the Word of the Lord, and the breath, or spirit of his mouth, understand the Son of God, the personal Word, and the Holy Spirit, as proceeding from the Father and the Son." It is as certain as inspiration can make it that the Son of God did create all things, John i. 3; Heb. i. 2. It is no less certain that the Holy Spirit is Creator, Gen. i. 2; Job xxvi. 13. So that those referred to by Scott teach no error, but that which is clearly supported by God's truth. The heavens is a name given to the universal frame of nature, the great part of which is above and around us. The host of heaven points to the sun, moon and stars, and to the angels. 7. -He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap. For gathereth some read gathered. Perhaps this is better. The clause refers to the work of God stated in Gen. i. 9, 10, and continued in providence. Job xxxviii. 8-11; Jer. v. 22. Heap is the best rendering. See Ex. xiv. 22; xv. 8; Ps. Ixxviii. 13. The notable thing to which our attention is called is that at the creation and ever since the water, which is the very emblem of instability (Gen. xlix. 4), God has gathered into seas and large bodies and keeps it there with such uniformity, as to make safe an abode even on the sea-shore. All this is the more wonderful as the seas are on the outside of a ball moving with a rapidity more than tivo thousand times greater than the ordinary speed attained on our best railroads. ay, more, Jehovah puts away the waters in secret places : ITe layeth tup the depth in store-houses. Some read in the cellars of the abysses ; others, in treasures or treasuries. There are vast caverns in the earth filled with water, in Scripture called the fountains of the great deep. Gen. vii. 11. David tells us of \\\Q, paths of the sea; and a remarkable scientific book of modern times begins thus : " There are rivers in the sea." 8. Let all the earth fear the Lord. He, who built and upholds the world, is surely a being of awful majesty and infinite glory. His worship must be reverential. His favor must be ineffable bliss. His wrath must be inconceivably dreadful. Worms may trifle with worms. But God is to be greatly feared and had in reverence. All the earth was made by him. His supporting hand withdrawn, all nature would fall headlong. There is good reason for fearing him. Let all the inhabitants of the ivorld stand in awe of him. If the human mind can stand in awe at any time, or for any cause, it should be at thoughts of God, or in beholding the amazing displays of his adorable nature. World, parallel to earth in the first clause. 9. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. Sec on verse 6. It would be better to omit the word done. In sublimity of style this verse is nearly
parallel to the words of Moses, Gen. i. 3, noted by Longinus and other critics as furnishing a very striking specimen of the sublime in writing. 10. The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought. Some render the verb dissipates. Even as the sun scatters the mist, so when God sets himself against any plan, or counsel, of the wicked, there is presently nothing of it left. Calvin and Jebb have scatter eth; Edwards, hath baffled; Alexander, has anmdled. Heathen, also rendered nations, Gentiles. The ease, with which God annuls the counsels of men, is illustrated in the history of every age. The cackling of geese once defeated a wise plan for 52
410 STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. [psalm xxxiii. destr(»ymg an empire. The First Cause of all things, holds all second causes in his hand, and can subvert any plot in a moment, and by means and instruments esteemed the most contemptible. He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. Devices, inventiom, thoughts. People, in the plural number, peoples, parallel to heathen, in the preceding clause. He maketh of none effect, hreaheth, discourageth, disalloiveth the thoughts of the people. Under his rule nothing wicked can stand. The Septuagint, Ethiopic, Arabic and Vulgate add a clause to this verse, "and frustrates the counsels )f princes." But this is not in the Hebrew, Chaldee, or Syriac. It is doubtless mere paraphrase. 11. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Standeth, literally shall stand. Here counsel and thoughts precisely correspond to counsel and devices in v. 10. Many causes make human plans and purposes feeble and uncertain ; infinite perfections make God's plans and counsels immovable and infollible. Because he is God, and all his enemies worms, he shall establish all his thoughts. For ever, to eternity. 12. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Blessed, as in Ps. i. 1 ; xxxii. 1. Such a nation shall be protected, guided, defended, have peace, prosperity, success, stability. If God is with a people, their cause is safe. He repeats : And [blessed is] the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Both clauses refer to the Jewish people, who alone at that time were as a nation acquainted with the true God, and in covenant with him. But it was to the pious portion of the nation that the richest blessings came. The church is here clearly spoken of. The truth asserted is
of universal application. 13. The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. 14. From the place of his habitation he looketh up)on all the inhabitants of the earth. All the ancient versions, together with Calvin, Jebb, Fry and Alexander put all these verbs in the preterite. Ainsworth, Venema, Amesius, Edwards and Hengstenberg with the English use the present tense. In both verses this seems best to suit the scope of the argument. The theme of the Psalmist is God's universal and particular providence over human affairs. This providence the wicked often deny, Ps. x. 11. But here we are told God does see, look, behold all the sons of men, all the inhabitants of the earth. ot one is above his ken, beneath his notice, or beyond his grasp. He looks not as an idle spectator, but as a Judge and Governor, from the place of his habitation, or as Calvin, from the dwelling-place of his throne. Compare Pr. xv. 3 ; Ecc. xii. 14. 15. He fashioneth their hearts alike. In rendering this clause there is some diversity. Jebb closely adheres to the English. He fashioned alike their hearts. Amesius most closely follows the Hebrew and probably gives the sense : He is equally the former of their heart. God is the maker of all hearts and turns them as he will. God's providence embraces the free acts of rational creatures. He considereth all their works. The Syriac has considereth ; the other ancient versions, Calvin, Jebb and Fry, understandeth; Venema, distinctly tinderstandeth ; Edwards, observeth; Boothroyd, inspecteth; Hengstenberg, marketh. Ainsworth : He discreetly attendeth unto all their works. Jehovah knows, searches, weighs, considers all that men think, say or do. " othing in the circumstances of any of his creatures can remove them from the penetrating search of that eye which is as a flame of fire." 16. There is no king saved by the multitude of a host. In doctrine the passage is of the same import as that in Ps. xliv. 5-8. It has historic illustration in 1 Sam. xiv. 4-23 ; 1 Kings xx. 20, 21 ; 2 Chron. xiv. 9-17. Modern history is full of remarkable instances showing the same truth. The reason, why numbers count nothing as agamst Grod and his providence, is that all creatures, if left to themselves, are foolish and
PSALM XXXIII.] STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. 411 powerless. There is no proportion between all finite force and skill on the one hand, and infinite wisdom and energy on the other. Even when a cause is good and its friends are successful, they are so by the blessing of the Lord. It is added : A mighty man is not delivered by much strength. For mighty man many read giant. Strength
as in Ps. xxii. 15 ; xxxi. 10 ; also rendered force, might, porver. Even good men are not saved by inherent strength, independently of God. But human power arrayed against God's plans and authority is like stubble before the flame. The strongest man is no more than the weakest ; the mightiest army, if arrayed against Omnipotence, is no more than a squad. 17. A horse is a vain thing for safety; neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Syriac : Deceitful is the safety of a horse, nor by the abundance of his strength shall he rescue his rider. The English closely adheres to the Hebrew, except that for vain thing, the original has a lie. The truth here taught is repeated in Pr. xxi. 31. 18. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, u2)on them that hope in his mercy; i. e., God's eye is uj)on them for good. He looks to them; he has reject to them, Isa. Ixvi. 2; Gen. iv. 5, 6. Pie watches them day and night. Calvin: "A doubt might creep into the minds of the weak, whether God would extend this protection to every individual ; but when the psalmist introduces him as keeping watch and ward, as it were, over the safety of the faithful, there is no reason why any one of them should tremble, or hesitate with himself a moment longer, since it is certain that God is present Avith him to assist him, provided he remain quietly under his providence." The objects of this tender care are described as both fearing and hoping. Upon such the eye of God is constantly set : 19. To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. "In him we live and move and have our being." Compare Acts xiv. 17. It is only through the mercy of God that earth is not covered with perpetual sterility, and stripped of all its inhabitants. But such is the divine goodness that in the greatest exigencies God's people may safely trust in him. He will either keep them alive by miracle as he did some of old, or by ordinary means as he commonly does, or he will take them to himself, thus at once setting them free from all troubles. God's goodness in time of scarcity has been wonderfully illustrated many a time, especially in days of persecution. See the histories of those times and the lives of martyrs and confessors. The result of all this teaching and experience is most happy. 20. Our soul waiteth for the Lord. Waiting on God implies a quiet and submissive spirit, a conscientious discharge of known duty, heartiness and earnestness of soul in expecting deliverance at the right time and in the right way. Sometimes it points to the pious believing expectation of a commg Messiah, Isa. xxv. 9 ; Luke ii. 25. Again it refers to his coming to effect any needed deliverance, Isa. viii. 17; Lam. iii. 26. Impatience is an enemy to Avaiting, Ps. xl. 1. Living in sin shows that we have no proper regard to God. ot to expect is to despise or despair. Waiting is one of the exercises of that fear and hope, mentioned in v. 19. The next clause shows that waiting is not a hopeless duty. He is our help and our shield. Help, as in Ps.
XX. 2; in Ps. cxv. 9, 10, 11, as here, it is united with shield. On the shield and its use see Ps. iii. 3. 21. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Experience confirms everything taught in God's word ; and all the trust of the pious leads to joy, giving them irrefragable proof of the truth of the religious system which they have embraced. 22. Let thy mercy, Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee. Alexander: " The claim in reality amounts to a petition that as God had given the desire he
412 STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. [psalm xxxin. would fulfil it." Great faith brings great mercies ; great hope shall issue in great deliverances. Doctrinal and Practical Remarks. 1. Kejoicbuj in God must be a principal duty of pious men, v. 1; Ps. xxxii. 11; etc. Joy in the Lord is one of the bonds between the old and new dispensations, one of the bonds between the church militant and the church triumphant. 2. True joy in God has fit expression in devout praise, v. 1. "Is any merry, let him sing Psalms." Dickson: "There is no exercise more becoming the godly, than praising of God, whether we look to the object of the praise, which is God; or whether we look to their obligation above all people in the world ; for praise u comely to the upright. And there is no exercise whereunto we have more need to be stirred up, than to praise; such is our dulness, and such is the excellency and necessity of the Avork." 3. The praises offered to God should be of the most spirited kind, v. 2. "We should stir ourselves up to take hold on him. Henry: "Here is a good rule for this duty : ' Do it skilfully, and with a loud noise ; let it have the bent both of head and heart; let it be done intelligently, and with a clear head; affectionately, and with a warm heart.' " 4. The second and third verses of this Psalm bring directly before us the subject of instrumental music. A few things are here offered on the propriety of now employing such music in public worship, a. It is entirely certain that the primitive Christians did not use any instruments of music in their public worship. This is plain from the teachings of Justin Martyr,
Chrysostom and Theodoret. On Psalms cxliii. cxlix. Chrysostora, and on our Psalm V. 2, Theodoret give decisive testimony. It is collected in Bingham, Vol. II. pp. 494, 495. Chrysostom says " it was only permitted to the Jews as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off from idols ; but now instead of organs, we may use our own bodies to praise him withal." b. It is certain that organs were not introduced into Christian churches anywhere till at least as late as the middle of the thirteenth century. Thomas Aquinas says expressly, " Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal that she may not seem to Judaize." Both Protestants and Romanists admit this testimony to be decisive as to the fact that instruments were not used as late as the time of the great Schoolman, A. D. 1250, c. It is quite clear from Scripture that instruments of music were used before the days of Moses to express the joyful feelings of the heart. Job xxx. 31, d. Few will deny the lawfulness of using instruments of music in private to raise the joyous emotions of the soul, even in devotion. Such a view would generally be regarded as extreme. e. The introduction of instruments of music in aid of sacred song is not a provision of the law of Moses. This came in the days of David. It was no essential part of the ceremonial institute of the great prophet who wrote the pentateuch, f. In discussing and settling this question it will not aid in finding the truth to lose our tempers and employ harsh and extravagant language, as is too often done, g. Those who decline or refuse the use of instrumental music themselves, ought not to judge their brethren who think it profitable. " Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ?" h. Brethren who wish to have instrumental music, ought not to use their liberty maliciously. It is not right to make a schism in the body of Christ on such points.
PSALM XXXIII.] STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. 413 i. Those who insist on the sinfulness of employing these aids are in all fairness bound to produce at least one clear text, or adduce a fair and plain inference from some passage of Scripture, sustaining their views. j. If instruments are used in public worship, it ought to be only as aids to congregational singing. Where they discourage this, they are an intolerable offence. " Light
and silly voluntaries, long and unmeaning interludes between the stanzas, loud accompaniment, fancy stop, and see-saw st^;e/^-playing, and other things similar," should be wholly discountenanced. k. In very high latitudes the Moravians found the organ of great use in aiding the people in keeping their voices from sinking to a low key. 1. It Avill probably interest the reader to see the views of two eminent worthies on this subject. Calvin : " It is evident that the Psalmist here expresses the vehement and ardent affection which the faithful ought to have in praising God, when he enjoins musical instruments to be employed for this purpose. He would have nothing omitted by believers which tends to animate the minds and feelings of men in singing God's praises. The name of God, no doubt, can, properly speaking, be celebrated only by the articulate voice ; but it is not without reason that David adds to tliis those aids by which believers were wont to stimulate themselves the more to this exercise ; especially considering that he was speaking to God's ancient people. There is a distinction, however, to be observed here, that we may not indiscriminately consider as applicable to ourselves everything which was formerly enjoined upon the Jews. I have no doubt that playing upon cymbals, touching the harp and the viol, and all that kind of music which is so frequently mentioned in the Psalms, was a part of the education ; that is to say, the puerile instruction of the law : I speak of the stated service of the temple. For even now, if believers choose to cheer themselves with musical instruments, they should, I think, make it their object not to dissever their cheerfulness from the praises of God. But when they frequent their sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the Law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise ; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints only in a known tongue, 1 Cor. xiv. 16. The voice of man, although not understood by the generality, assuredly excels all inanimate instruments of music ; and yet we see what St. Paul aetermines concerning speaking in an unknown tongue. W.iat shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound ? Does any one object that music is very useful for awakening the minds of men and moving their hearts ? I own it ; but we should always take care that no corruption creep in, which might both defile the pure worship of God and involve men in sui)erstition. Moreover,
since the Holy Spirit expressly warns us of this danger by the mouth of Paul, to proceed beyond what we are there warranted by him, is not only, I must say, unadvised zeal, but Avicked and perverse obstinacy." It is probable the views of Calvin are as strong, and as strongly expressed as any person on that side of the question would desire. On the other side Eichard Baxter, in his Christian Directory, Works, vol. v., pp. 499-501, thus delivers himself: " Quest, cxxvii.. Is elmrch-music by organs or such instruments lawful f Answer. I know that in the persecuted and pooi-er times of the church, none such were used (when they had not temples, nor always a fixed meeting place.) And that the author of the Quest et Resj). in Justin Martyr speaketh against it. And I grant, 1. That as it is in the power of weak, diseased Christians, to make many things
414 STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. [psalm xxxiii. unla>vful to their brethren lest we be hurtful to them, and to deprive us of much, not only of our liberties but our helps, so in abundance of congregations, church-music is made unlawful by accident, through their mistake. For it is unlawful (cseteris paribus) by an unnecessary thing to occasion divisions in the churches ; but Avhere one part judgeth church-music unlawful, for another part to use it, would occasion divisions in the churches, and drive away the other part. Therefore I would wish church-music to be nowhere set up, but where the congregation can accord in the use of it ; or at least where they will not divide thereupon. 2. And I think it unlaAvful to use such strains of music as are light, or as the congregation cannot easily be brought to understand ; much more on purpose to commit the whole work of singing to the choristers, and exclude the congregation. I am not willing to join in such a church where I shall be shut out of this noble work of praise. 3. But plain intelligible church-music, which occasioneth not divisions, but the church agreeth in, for my part I never doubted to be lawful. For, 1. God set it up long after Moses' ceremonial Law, by David, Solomon, etc. 2. It is not an instituted ceremony merely, but a natural help to the mind's alacrity : and it is a duty and not a sin to use the helps of nature and lawful art, though not (0 institute sacraments, etc., of our own. As it is lawful to use the comfortable helps jf spectacles in reading the Bible, so is it of music to exhilarate the soul towards God. 3. Jesus Christ joined with the Jews that used it, and never spake a word against it. 4. o Scripture forbiddeth it, therefore it is not unlawful.
5. othing can be against it, that I know of, but what is said against tunes and melody of voice. For whereas they say that it is a human invention ; so are our times (and metre, and versions.) Yea, it is not a human invention ; as the last psalm and many others show, which call us to praise the Lord with instruments of music. And whereas it is said to be a carnal kind of pleasure, they may say as much of a melodious, harmonious concert of voices, which is more excellent music than any instruments. And whereas some say that they find it do them harm, so others say of melodious singing : but as wise men say they find it do them good. And why should the experience of some prejudiced self-conceited person, or of a half-man that knoweth not what melody is, be set against the experience of all others, and deprive them of all such helps and mercies, as these people say they find no benefit by. And as some deride church-music by many scornful names, so others do by singing (as some congregations near me testify, who these many years have forsaken it, and will not endure it : but their pastor is fain to unite them, by the constant and total omission of singing psalms.) It is a great wrong that some do to ignorant Christians, by putting such whimsies and scruples into their heads, which as soon as they enter, turn that to a scorn, and snare, and trouble, which might be a real help and comfort to them, as it is to others." m. The author knows not how better to close remarks on this subject than by quoting with entire approbation a sentence or two from Morison : " ever let it be forgotten, that no sounds of the most exquisite harmony, whether proceeding from human voices, or from harp of sweetest sound, can be acceptable with Jehovah, if the music of a redeemed heart does not give tone and emphasis to the song of praise. It is infallibly certain that there can be no religion in mere sounds of any description, unless the worshipper sings with gi'ace in his heai-t, making melody unto the Lord." 5. We may rest assured that whatever affects the joyful solemnity of God's worship is not unimportant, v. 3. 6. A broad foundation for pious confidence is laid in the truth and excellence of
psAMi xxxiii.] STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. 4I5 God's word, v. 4. If one precept, promise, doctrine, threatening, or prediction of God could fixil, then indeed we would be undone. But that can never be.
7. The uniformity, stability and righteousness of providence in administering human aifairs, and especially in carrying out the principles of Holy Scripture in all things to which they apply are truly admirable, v. 4. All the events of providence " make up a harmony of well-ruled concords and discords." 8. In all earthly affairs change is the order of things. The winds, the tides, the seasons, the face of nature, and even friends change, but in all our calculations we may rely on the immutable holiness, justice and goodness of God, v. 5. The Judge of all the earth will do right. He never errs, never wrongs a creature, never is unkind. 9. Creation and providence, stars and seas, the heavens and the laws of matter all publish the claim of Jehovah to supreme and holy worship, w. 6, 7. If the Creator and Governor of the world is not to be adored, religious worship can never be regarded as proper. If it is not due to him Avho made and keeps us, who feeds and clothes us, it is due to none. 10. Sentiments of profound reverence for God should be felt by all men, if they even consulted nature alone, vv. 8, 9. " His omnipotence, manifested in framinoand settling the world at a word, should move men to fear him." 11. o weapon formed against Zion shall prosper, v. 10. If plans and plots, counsels and devices, the most cunning and the most cruel, could have injured the church of God, there had not been left even a small remnant. Long, long ago the enemy hoped to make a full end of the worship and service of God on earth ; but he has failed, and shall ever fail. 12. God's counsels and thoughts being all infinitely holy, just and good, could not be changed but for the worse, and all his perfections forbid any change whatever. All is right, when God plans it. All is sure to come to pass because he has planned it. The more they are tried, the firmer will God's word and counsels be found to be. He, whose hope of success rests on a failure of the divine purpose, will meet a dreadful overthrow. " God has promised nothing but what he has determined to perform." 13. Eighteousness exalteth a nation, v. 12. When people heartily enter on a course of piety, they initiate a process of mental and social impi'ovement, which must elevate them far above anything they ever before attained. 14. It is a rich mercy that God makes the first motion towards the salvation of men ! If any people are his inheritance, it is because he has chosen them, v. 12. The doctrine of the ew Testament is the same. " Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." 15. In all the vast extent of creation, nothing is hid from the observation of the Almighty, vv. 13, 14. If anything could escape his notice, or elude his grasp, that might be fatal to his plans and to the salvation of his people. Unless he controls all causes, that one, which he does not control, may do untold
mischief. 16. He, that made the hearts of all men, cannot but know them, and understand all their operations, v. 15. This proves that he is God, that he can fully save his people from their sins, and that the wicked shall not gain an advantage over God's people. 17. All the names and forms of strength and power belonging to creatures are nothing without God, vv. 16, 17. Four of these are here specified, a king, a host, a giant and a horse. Where the word of a king is, there is power, Ecc. viii. 4. But when God does not support it, or wars against it, it is as powerless as the chattering of a swallow. The mightiest monarch can do nothing except it be given him of God,
416 STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. [psalm xxxiv. John xix. 11. David often acknowledges that God made him all he was. either is an army a protection if God be against it. The very gi-eatness of a host has often been its ruin. God, who made the stars fight against Sisera, can easily defeat any military preparations. Without lifting a finger he can send an angel and in one nio-ht he shall destroy the greatest army that ever invaded a country. A giant has many a time done great things. But let not the mighty man glory in his might, Jer. ix. 23. Giants shall die like men. God has given to the horse strength, and clothed his neck with thunder. The glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley and rejoiceth in his strength. He goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted. He smelleth the battle afar off. Yet he is nothing without God. He may as soon carry his rider into danger as out of it. 18. o man ever acts with true wisdom till he fears God, and hopes in his mercy, V. 18. 19. A good man may be sure of natural life as long as it is best for him to have it, and when it is taken away, he may confidently expect a better life in a better Avorld, V. 19. Compare Isa. xxxiii. 16 ; xli. 17, 18 ; 1 Tim. iv. 8. 20. Is not waiting upon the Lord a duty too little insisted on in our day ? v. 20. The author does not remember that he ever heard more than one or two public discourses respecting this excellent exercise. 21. Thei'e is a beautiful proportion in the character of truly pious men. Where there is genuine trust, there is gracious fear, and where these are, there is also holy joy, vv. 18, 21. 22. The cry for mercy ever becomes us, till we get our crown, v. 22. It is never out of place. Even in closing a triumphant song it is proper.
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