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And indeed, when I came to look upon the Psalter with a nearer observation, and an eye diligent to espy my advantages and remedies there deposited, I found very many prayers against the enemies of the king and church, and the miseries of war. I found so many admirable promises, -So rare variety of expressions of the mercies of God,so many consolatory hymns,- the commemoration of so many deliverances from dangers, and deaths, and enemies,—so many miracles of mercy and salvation,- that I began to be so confident as to believe there could come no affliction great enough to spend so great a stock of comfort, as was laid up in the treasure of the Psalter: the saying of St. Paul was here verified, “ If sin" and misery “ did abound, then did grace superabound :" and as we believe of the passion of Christ, it was so great as to be able to satisfy for a thousand worlds; so it is of the comforts of David's Psalms, they are more than sufficient to repair all the breaches of mankind. But for the particular occasion of creating confidences in us, that God will defend his church and his anointed, and all that trust in him, against all their enemies (which was our case, and contained in it all our needs for the present), I found so abundant supply, that of one hundred and fifty psalms, some whereof are historical, many eucharistical, many prophetical, and the rest prayers for several occasions; thirtyfour of them are expressly made against God's and our enemies, eleven expressly for the church, four for the king ; that is, a third part of the Psalms relate particularly to the present occasion, beside
many clauses of respersion in the other, which, if collected in one, would, of themselves, be great arguments of hope to prevail in so good a cause.
This, which experience taught me now, I was promised before by a frequent testimony of the doctors of the church, who give the Psalter such a character, as is due to the best and most useful book in the whole world : viz. the most profitable of books, the treasury of holy instructions; "consummationem totius paginæ Theologicæ,” “ the perfection of the whole Scripture;” so the ordinary gloss calls it:-"arma juvenum, parva Biblia, tribulatorum solatia,” “the young man's armoury, the little Bible, the comfort of the distressed;" so others : to be said by all men, upon all occasions, is the counsel of the most devout amongst them. But concerning the Psalter there are good words enough, and real observation of advantages in the several prefaces before the commentaries upon the Psalms, set forth by the fathers and writers of the first and middle ages. I leave the particular enumeration of them to the learned divines of our church, to whom it is more proper: the sum of them is this, which Tertullian alone hath expressed in his Apology against the Gentiles, “Omnes bibliothecas et omnia monumenta unius prophetæ scrinium vincit, in quo videtur thesaurus collocatus esse totius Judaici sacramenti, et inde etiam nostri :” “ This book alone of the prophet David hath in it some excellencies bevond all the monuments of learning in any library it hatsoever, and is the storehouse both of the Jewish and Christian religion.”
But that which pleases me most is the fancy of St. Hilary, expounding the Psalter to be meant the key of David,' spoken of by St. John in his Revelation: and properly enough: for if we consider, how many mysteries of religion are opened to us in the Psalter, how many things concerning Christ, what clear vaticinations concerning his birth, his priesthood, his kingdom, his death, the very circumstances of his passion, his resurrection, and all the degrees of his exaltation, more clearly and explicitly recorded in the Psalter than in all the old prophets besides, we may easily believe that Christ, with the key of David in his hand, is nothing else but Christ fully opened and manifested to us in the Psalms in the whole mystery of our redemption. “Omnes penè psalmi Christi personam sustinent,” saith Tertullian; “ Almost all the psalms represent the person of Christ.” Now this key of David opens not only the kingdom of grace, by revelation of the mysteries of our religion, but the kingdom of heaven too; it being such a collection of prayers, eucharist, acts of hope, of love, of patience, and all other Christian virtues, that as the everlasting kingdom is given to the heir of the house of David, so the honour of opening that kingdom is given to the first prince of that family; the Psalms of his father David are one of the best inlets into the kingdom of the Son. Something to this purpose is that saying of one of the old doctors, “ Vox psalmodiæ, si recto corde dirigatur, in tantum omnipotenti Deo aditum ad animum aperit, ut intentæ animæ vel prophetiæ mysteria vel compunctionis spiritum infundat ;"
“ The saying or singing of psalms opens a way so wide for God to enter into the heart, that a devout soul does usually, from such an employment, receive the grace of compunction and contrition, or of understanding prophecies.”
Upon such premises as these, or better, the church of God, in all ages, hath made David's Psalter the greatest part of her public and private devotions; sometimes dividing the Psalter into seven parts, that every week's devotion might spend it all. . Sometimes decreeing that it should be said day and night. Otherwhile enjoining the recitation of the whole Psalter before the celebration of the blessed sacrament; and, after some time, it was made ‘ the public office of the church.'
It was the general use of Christendom to say the Psalms antiphonatim,'.' by way of verse and an swer,' saith Suidas; and so ancient, that the Religious of St. Mark in Alexandria used it, saith Philo the Jew; and St. Ignatius, or else Flavianus, and Diodorus, brought it first into the church of Antioch.
And for the private devotions, that they chiefly consisted of the Psalms, we have great probability from the strict requiring it of the clergy, and particularly from them who came to be ordained, great readiness of saying the Psalter by heart. It was St. Jerome's counsel to Rusticus : and when St. Gregory was to ordain the bishop of Ancona, his inquiry concerning his canonical sufficiency was, if he could say David's Psalms without book; and for a disability of doing it, John the priest was rejected
from the bishopric of Ravenna. But this, I conceive, more relates to their private than to their public devotions : for I cannot think but that, in respect of the public liturgy, it was enough for bishops and priests to read the psalm; the requiring ability to remember them was to engage them to a frequent use of so admirable devotions in their private offices.
But the Psalms were not only of use to the church, as they lay in their own position and form, but the devout men of several ages drew them into collects, antiphonaries, responsories, and all other parts of their devotions. They made their prayers out of the Psalms; their confessions, their doxologies, their ejaculations, for the most part, were clauses or periods of the Psalter. St. Jerome made a collection of choice versicles, and put them together into their several classes, and that was much of his devotion; the collection is still extant under the name of “ St. Jerome's Psalter.” St. Athanasius made an index of the several occasions and matters of prayer and eucharist, and fitted psalms to each particular; that was his devotion; the Psalms entire as they lay, only he made titles of his own. I have seen, of later time, a short hymn of some eight verses, which are, indeed, choice sentences out of several psalms, set together to make a compendium of liturgy or breviary of our necessity and devotions, collected by St. Bernardine : it is a very good copy to be followed. But if we look into the old liturgies of the eastern and western churches, and, where we will, almost into the private devotions of the old