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musical recitation, cannot supply a sufficient reason that they should be indiscriminately adopted into Christian worship. But both the old and the new metrical versions of the English Church, the Scotch Psalms, and, to a great extent, the Psalms of Dr. Watts, recognise the Book of Psalms as 'a whole in the light of a formulary of public devotion. The error is corrected in practice. There are many of these Psalms which have perhaps never been sung. But their appearance in these collections implies the principle of their adoption and indiscriminate use,-a principle at variance, as it seems to us, with a right view of their true character and purpose.
The sacred poems comprised in what we denominate the Book of Psalms, (in the Masoretic copies and the Syriac Version, they are divided into five books*) are the productions of inspired men who lived at very different periods ; and they differ not less as compositions in their specific character. When first collected, no attention appears to have been paid to either their chronological order, the circumstance of authorship, or the subject matter and occasion of the
poem. If any principle of arrangement determined their order, it nas become impossible to detect it. But it may be suspected, that the original order has been disturbed in some places, in the process of transcription, possibly by being divided among several transcribers, while additions appear to have been made of distinct books, as others of these sacred compositions were collected. The first book, comprising Psalms ii. to xli., may be pronounced, with tolerable certainty, the entire composition of the royal Psalmist, to whom all the titles ascribe them, with the exception of the second (more properly the first) Psalm, which we know to be his from Acts iv. 24., the tenth, and the thirty-third. Psalm i. is supposed to have been prefixed by Ezra to the complete canonical collection. Even in this first book, however, we find nothing like chronological arrangement. The second Psalm, which contains one of the most distinct and sublime predictions of the kingdom of Messiah, appears
to have been written after David had fixed the seat of his government at Jerusalem : it could not be the first Psalm he had composed. The third Psalm is referred, by the title, to the period of Absalom's rebellion, while the eighteenth was composed on David's deliverance from Saul. The eighth, the
Some have argued that the Psalms must have formed but one book, because they are styled in the New Testament (Luke xx. 42,) “ the book of Psalms." But so are the prophetical writings terined, " the book of the Prophets.” (Acts vii. 42.)
twenty-third, and the twenty-seventh were probably written at a still earlier period of his life. Of the Psalms comprised in the second book (Psalms xlii. to lxxii. inclusive), the first eight are inscribed to (or for) the Sons of Korah, with the design, it is supposed, of their being performed by them.* These psalms were evidently written for music, but the Author is wholly uncertain. Psalm xlii-iii. has been ascribed to David, the allusions being understood of his banishment by the rebellion of his son, there are some expressions, however, which are scarcely reconcileable with this hypothesis. The xlivth must clearly be referred to a later date, as well as the xlviiith. The xlvth is supposed to have been composed on the occasion of Solomon's marriage, if not by that monarch himself. Psalm 1. is one of Asaph's. The remaining twenty-two psalms in this book all bear the name of David, with the exception of the lxvith, Ixviith, and lxxist, and the last of these is probably his. The third book, comprising Psalms lxxiii. to lxxxix. bear marks of a later era : one only is ascribed to David, eleven to Asaph, and four are inscribed for the sons of Korah, their author being doubtful. The fourth book (Psalms xc. to cvi.) begins with a psalm ascribed to Moses, but the 10th verse affords a presumption against the genuineness of the inscription. The Talmudical writers ascribe to their great lawgiver, Psalms xc. to xcix., although, in the last, mention is made of the prophet Samuel, who was not born till nearly three hundred years
after the death of Moses. The cist and ciiird bear the name of David, and the xcvth is known to be his : all the rest are anonymous. The fifth and last book comprises fortyfour psalms, of which fifteen are ascribed to the royal Psalmist, one 'to Solomon, and twenty-eight have no author's name. Some of these (e. g. the cxxvi. and cxxxvii.) were evidently written either during or subsequently to the captivity. This book was probably collected, therefore, at a later period. Fifteen of them are entitled Songs of Degrees, which Calmet explains as signifying. Songs of ascent, i. e. of Israel from the captivity of Babylon. Unfortunately, however, four of these, if the inscriptions are of any authority, were composed by David.
Mr. Charles Taylor's suggestion is much more probable, that these songs of ascent were intended to be sung or recited by the tribes who went up to Jerusalem to worship, on their way, or at their resting-places. Understood in this light, the cxxist will possess a new beauty, if we sup
* The Chaldee, Ainsworth says, expounds the title thus : *To laud with good understanding by the hands of the Sons of Korah,"
pose that the hills towards which the pilgrims raised their eyes, were those which surround Jerusalem, and that the dangers of the journey thither are alluded to in the following verses. The cxxxiiird Psalm also, would be most suitable to the circumstances of these companies of fellow-travellers. Psalms cxiii. to cxviii. are said to have been those sung at the conclusion of the passover : they are probably of very high antiquity, and, like those popular psalms sung on the road to Jerusalem, would be faithfully preserved by tradition, which rendered it less necessary to collect them at an earlier period; whereas the more private and personal compositions of David, contained in the books first collected, and more especially the prophetical psalms, would require to be carefully preserved in writing. The cxth is so remarkable a one, that it is more difficult to account for its occurring in the last book. Altogether, the above arrangement refers eighty-one psalms to David, or more than one half; and of the anonymous ones, many may possibly be his composition.
For all practical purposes, the order of the Psalms as they stand in the sacred text, is as good as any other; but, in proceeding to examine their specific character as poetical compositions, it would seem to be at least allowable, to attempt a different sort of classification, with reference to their date, author, subject, and style. The compositions of David require to be distinguished into, 1. Those which either their evident scope or the clear authority of the New Testament enables us to pronounce to be prophetic of the Messiah, or at least allusive to the sufferings or glory of Christ;—2. Those which are simply didactic or ethical, such as the psalms entitled prayers, and, if it be David's, Psalm cxix.; and 3. Hymns evidently composed for public worship, and designed to be accompanied with instruments, or sung by the congregation. Of these three classes, the first, it seems to us, are excluded by their very nature from any other use than that to which the other prophecies are applicable; nor does there appear to be much propriety in attempting to accommodate them to the purpose of psalmody. What in our Bibles is the second Psalm, is an instance in point. Dr. Watts has tried to versify it in three different measures, changing the language of the prediction into that of history; but he does not seem to have succeeded even to his own satisfaction, and what he has given us, is certainly not the psalm, nor is it, after all, fit for psalmody. We will take as our first extract from the volume before us, Bishop Mant's Version of the same inspired composition.
« PSALM II.-PART I.
Behold, the earth's proud sovereigns bring
And 'gainst The LORD's Anointed King.
Shall all their vain emprize deride :
And crush them in their impious pride.
Thou art my heir, my first-born son.
Earth's utmost bounds thy empire own.
« PART III.
And holy joy The Lord obey :
And perish from the blissful way,
Are they who flee to Him for rest.' We think that our readers will agree with us, that although this version adheres more closely to the language of the royal Psalmist, yet, the dignity of the composition is wholly sacrificed. The Bible Version is much fitter to be said, and this assuredly is not proper to be sung.
The seventeenth Psalm, entitled “a Prayer of David," is a specimen of the second class of poems. Bishop Mant correctly describes it as an earnest appeal to the justice, wisdom, • and loving-kindness of Jehovah, from the malice of unjust • persecutors,-probably Saul and his followers.' One would have thought that, if such a poem was to be rendered into
metre at all, the gravest of our measures, that which is employed in epic, dramatic, or elegiac poetry, would alone be fit for the subject, -not one which turns this eamest appeal and prayer into a ditty like the following:
• The right, Jehovah, hear ;
Attend my cause to know;
From no feigned lips that flow.'
• Thou from thy hidden store
Their bellies, Lord, hast fill'd;
To their son's sons they yield.
In righteousness to see;
I satisfied shall be.' This is assuredly a worse travestie of the original than any which we recollect to have been inflicted upon us by the ever venerable Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins. The psalm in the original we consider as unfit for public worship, for which it does not appear to have ever been designed; but Dr. Watts's version or paraphrase of it is one of his finest compositions. Our eaders must be familiar with his noble and spirited rendering of the last two verses of the psalm, which the Bishop has so miserably disfigured :
• What sinners value, I resign:
And stand complete in righteousness.' Here, as a translator, he might have stopped ; and here a mere translator would have terminated the psalm; but, kindling at the idea, with the genuine spirit of a Christian Psalmist, he goes on to expatiate on this glorious change, in language of simple beauty, which has warmed the heart and employed the tongue of thousands of devout readers. Though quite unfit for congregational use, it is one of Dr. Watts's psalms which will always please and edify in the highest degree in private.
The nineteenth Psalm may be instanced as one of a mixed character, being partly a psalm of instruction, and yet, as addressed to the chief musician, it was evidently intended to be sung. Bishop Mant has done more justice to it, in his version, than in the former instances.