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and natural transition from the heroic to the devotional age of Hebrew Song
Loyalty, with the Hebrew, was allegiance to God as their invisible king. They gloried in Jehovah as their lawgiver, ruler, and national defence. He was also “ the Lord of Hosts;" “the Hero of Battles ;"? " the God of Nations.” He “whet his glittering sword,” and made it "drunk with the blood of the enemies of Israel." In every way the cause of the nation was the cause of God. Such being the popular conceptions of the Most High in the Mosaic age, we readily see how the heroic and martial songs which enlisted the hearts of the people in the celebration of Jehovah as their national king, should prepare them to celebrate his moral attributes, as their judge.
Patriotism is easily modulated into devotion, and in the case of the Hebrews, it was but passing on to realize in their national king, what the spiritual eye might ever have discerned through the terrible acts of his natural power, a spiritual deliverer and Lord. With this preparation for the change came the true devotional poet. Before the suffering Saul there stands a minstrel. He is
ruddy withal, of a beautiful countenance, and fair to look upon.” The youngest son of a shepherd, he has been called from his flocks to refresh Saul when the evil spirit was upon him, "for the lad was a cunning player upon the harp.” “And when the evil spirit of the Lord was upon Saul, the minstrel took a harp and played with his hand, so Saul was refreshed and made well." But not from Saul alone; from our hearts also has that minstrel dispelled an evil spirit. On how many wretched hearts have his peace notes fallen! How many have they borne from sorrow's depths to heaven's gates in rapt devotion! Their sound hath gone out through all the earth. No bosom so wretched, no heart so dead to spiritual joy, but it shall be refreshed and made well, if, like the afflicted Saul, it cry: “Let David stand before me.”
To David, called' " the sweet singer of Israel,” we owe a body of lyrics which for nearly three thousand years have proved the heart songs of the
of the people of God. Yet did David not come down to us from heaven; his are not angel songs.
David arose unto us from the fields of Palestine, and was made rich in soul with human sympathies by reason of peculiar afflictions. This blending of natural instrumentalities with inspiration is always a pleasing discovery to reflecting minds; and is secretly the charm of Bible poetry for all. David's history, therefore, has much to do with his poetry. Standing before Saul, he is already a skilful player upon the harp. His fame had reached the court while he was but a lad tending his father's sheep. Why, it may be asked, could none be found among the pupils of Samuel whose music inight refresh the king? Was David himself one of those prophets? Whether this be so or not, matters little in the question of his indebtedness to the great reformer. Such a body of prophets as appear to us under the administration of Samuel, using poetry and music for the end of national awakening, must have affected more or less directly, every poetical mind in the nation; and when walking abroad in the now quiet valleys of Judea, we find David, the lad so fair to look upon, singing his pastorals, we claim him at once as a sweet wild flower, for the flourishing crown of Samuel. We may allow to David's harp some power of itself upon the frantic monarch, but more, probably, is to be attributed to his songs; for neither the Egyptians, Hebrews, nor Greeks, possessed instruments of much compass, or made any account of music independent of singing or dancing. The same is true of the Orientals of the present day. Doubtless Saul found in David a sympathizing improvisatore ; and charmed with the lad of beautiful countenance, he was ever refreshed by his performances. Then, too, when David killed Goliah, the first impulse of Saul was that of unbounded admiration, and " he loved him so that he would let him go no more to his father's house." But so soon as David became Saul's rival before the army, then Saul hated him. From that hour the strains which aforetime had soothed, exasperated ; and twice did he seek to smite David to the wall with his javelin. Upon this our minstrel fled from the court of Saul, and the evil spirit ruled there unrestrained, until the monarch fell upon Gilboa. From the same period we may date the influence of David upon the poetry of his nation. To the persecutions of this tyrant we owe some of his most touching lyrics, composed as a solace in his exile, and afterwards used in divine worship. These songs are seventeen in all, and lie scattered through the whole Books of Psalms. But before opening that collection of devotional lyrics, for which some “preliminary observations” are required, let us turn to that beautiful elegy in which the fugitive minstrel so nobly renders good for evil to his persecutor.
The song of David on the death of Saul and Jonathan is regarded by Lowth, and by all tasteful scholars after him, as unrivalled among the elegies of any nation. Its passion and sudden changes are in perfect accordance with the workings of the heart in deep affliction. Sorrow knows nothing of logic. It is fitful and all-exacting, delighting in wild fancies (often the more unreasonable seemingly, the more true), and not until allowed the most unrestrained expression will it heed the consolation of sympathy. Thus, although the song commences in a subdued strain :
Beauty of Israel ! slain upon the high places ! and though the chorus advances with soothing response;
Chorus. Alas! how are the heroes fallen! yet instantly all is changed. The dreadful thought that his anguish is the joy of his foes rushes upon him, and he breaks forth:
Tell it not in Gath,
Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. He then vents the bitterness of his heart upon the unfeeling mountains as though they were the cause of his affliction :
Oh you, ye mountains of Gilboa, let no dew,
The shield of Saul, as of one not anointed with oil. In the remainder of the song we perceive a constant alternation between grief and admiration for the fallen ones ; and a like alternation between the prolonged elegiac stanza, and the concise outbursts of praise.
From the blood of the slain,
The sword of Saul returned not empty.
They were swifter than eagles.
They were stronger than lions.
And decked your apparel with ornaments of gold.
0, Jonathan thou art slain upon the high places !
Sweet wast thou to me,
Stronger than woman's love.
And the weapons of war perished ! It is suggested by Köster, in his essay on “ The tragic quality of the friendship of David and Jonathan," i that the lines
Saul and Jonathan, lovely and pleasant in their lives,
And in death not separated, may refer to their conduct towards each other, and be thus a vindication of the name of Jonathan from the charge of high treason, of which his father at one time suspected him. Saul was not lovely in his life; but it may have been, that
Saul and Jonathan were dear to each other in life; surely, no treason slumbered in that noble heart of Jonathan's.
The song was called the “Song of the Bow," probably from its laudatory notice of the bow of Jonathan. The fact that it was preserved in the Book of Jasher, confirms the supposition started by the former quotation from that work, that the book, like the i "Selections from the German, by Park & Edwards," p. 80. 2 1 Sam. 1:18,
Book of Jehovah's wars, was a compilation of songs available for the elevation and control of popular sentiment.
A consideration of the characteristics of the Book of the Psalms, which may be termed the Hebrew Anthology, and which embodies not only the most extensive, but in some respects the best effusions of the Hebrew muse, would carry us too far from our present limits, and must be considered at another time.
GROUNDS OF A CHRISTIAN'S CONFIDENCE IN THE GOODNESS
AND EQUITY OF THE DIVINE ADMINISTRATION,
By Rev. ROBERT W. LANDIS, Sidney, N. J.
“ If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do ?” is an expression, the import of which is not unfrequently realized by the true believer, while passing through the ever varying and often darkened scenes of his earthly pilgrimage. In the imperfection which attaches to this world in its fallen condition, it would be seeking "grapes of thorns, and figs of thistles,” to look for, from depraved man, an unfaltering continuance in the exercise of the highest degree of faith in God, and of love to him, and to all his commands and proceedings; for it is the design of the discipline through which the Christian passes during his abode on earth, to lead him to the possession of these graces; and until they are attained, the very necessity of his circumstances compels a perpetual alternation between his hopes and fears, his sorrows and his joys.
Now it is true, that all the promises of God are “yea and amen in Christ Jesus ;” and also that those, at least, which contain an assurance of heavenly favor and protection in the present life, and of salvation in the life to come, belong to each individual specifically, of Christ's family on earth, as really as they belong to the church generally; and hence it is also true that Christians should not hesitate to apply them to their condition, as they find them to be applicable. What God has promised, cannot be too strongly confided in, for he always meant to promise just what he has promised; and we cannot honor him more, than by reposing the most implicit reliance in his declarations. And further; it is likewise true, that it is not only the duty, but the privilege of every one thus to confide in these “great and precious promises, who truly sets before him all God's Word as the rule of his faith and life taking the precepts and approved examples as his guide, and applying the threatenings to drive him nearer to Christ. No selfdeceiver or hypocrite can make such a use of the Bible as this; and the soul that does thus employ it is entitled to the promises. It is his privilege through Christ, to apply any one of them to his own case, that will suit his circumstances, however sorrowful and afflictive those circumstances may be. He may, with perfect confidence, plead that promise at the throne of Grace, as he would present its own genuine bill to the bank that had issued it; and he need never fear that the demand will be unanswered. He may in the fullest manner believe that all things work together for good to them that love God;" and that consequently they shall so work together for his good: or, when in the midst of the greatest sorrow and affliction, he may with joyful hope call to mind that glorious promise, which, for thousands of years, has cheered successive generations of the children of God, amid all the darkness and distress of their journey through earth's wilderness to their inheritance in heaven :
1 Rom. 4:19-21.
“ Fear thou not, for I am with thee;
Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.'' All this is confessedly true; and yet the reflecting mind is, notwithstanding, often seriously perplexed, while scanning, or merely noticing the order of events which obtains in this world. This perplexity the pious Psalmist felt, and all experimental Christians (as well as all other reflecting minds) more or less realize. While this perplexity is felt in its full force, its causes, generally, are but vaguely hinted ; lest even the slightest intimation
of it should seem to infer a doubt as to the goodness or equity of the Divine Administration. In our present state of temptation and sin, our fears and apprehensions will be often excited ; and doubts will arise which strike at the very foundation of the believer's hopes. Witness the case of Asaph, Ps. 7:3, and of Halyburton and Payson ; and of that almost inspired man, John Bunyan.. It is more easy to say, that all such apprehensions and doubts should be at once silenced, than it is always to close up the mind against them. Still, a calm consideration of the whole subject, without transcending the proper limits of human investigation, will evince that, in the strange and awful phenomena which we witness in this state of being, there is nothing to justify either the cavils of a sceptical philosophy, professedly founded upon them, or to shake the ground of a Christian's confidence in the perfect goodness of His government, who administers the affairs of this fallen world.