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of fair and joyous thoughts towards God and his love springing lustily into life. Again, where can you find more profound, plaintive, and wretched words of grief than in the Psalms of complaint? Once more, you look into the heart of saints as into death or hell. How gloomy and dark their mournful visions of God! So again, when the Psalms speak of fear and hope, they abound in words so significant, that no painter could thus portray, no Cicero nor orator thus describe them.”
Let us now hear Calvin. In the Preface of his Exposition of the Psalms, he mentions with holy earnestness the blessing he himself had derived from being engaged in that work, and the aid with which his own experience, both temporal and spiritual, furnished him in the Exposition of the Psalms of the Bible. But let him speak for himself. “If the reading of my Commentaries yield to the Church of God as much blessing as their preparation has conferred upon me, I shall never repent having undertaken the task.” “Should the labour bestowed on this work prove a blessing to my readers, may they know, that the experience of such struggles and difficulties (though unimportant in itself,) through which it has pleased the Lord to take me, has materially helped me, not only to apply in its place whatever useful knowledge I might possess, but to enter more thoroughly into the author's design and the purpose of the Psalms.” Calvin, who may be truly said to have, probably more than any other man, imbibed the spirit of the Psalms, says concerning their contents: “Not without good grounds am I wont to call this book an anatomy of all parts of the soul, since no one can experience emotions, whose portrait he could not bebold reflected in its mirror. Yes, the Holy Spirit has there depicted in the most vivid manner every species of pain, affliction, fear, doubt, hope, care, anxiety, and turbulent emotion, through which the hearts of men are chased. Other portions of the Scriptures contain commandments, whose transmission the Lord enjoined upon his servants; but in the Psalms, the Prophets communing with God and uncovering their inmost feelings, call and urge every reader to self-examination to such a degree, that of the numerous infirmities to which we are liable, and of the many failings which oppress us, not one remains concealed. How great and rare again for the human heart to be thus driven out of all its hiding-places, liberated from hypocrisy (that most fearful of vices, and exposed to the light. Lastly, if calling on God is the surest means of our salvation-if better and more reliable directions for it than those contained in the Book of Psalms are not to be obtained, then every one who reads this book has attained to an essential part of the Divine doctrine. Earnest prayer originates in our sense of need; afterwards in our faith in the Divine promises. The reader of the Psalms finds himself both aroused to feel his misery, and exhorted to seek for its remedy. The Psalter unfolds every encouragement
to prayer. It is not merely confided to promises, but men are introduced who, on the one hand invited by God, and on the other hindered by the flesh, take courage in prayer: if therefore we are beset by doubt and scruple, here we may leam to combat, till the disenthralled spirit rises anew to God. And more than this, we may learn prayerfully to struggle through hesitation, fear, and faint-heartedness, till comfort be attained. For, be it remembered, that though unbelief keep the door shut to our prayers, we must pot desist when our wavering hearts are being tossed to and fro, but persevere until faith mounts victoriously from her struggles. Again, the Psalms inspire us with the most desirable of all things, in not only teaching us to approach God in confidence, but to openly unbare before him all those failings which a false sense of shame otherwise forbids us to own. They furnish, moreover, the clearest directions how we may render to God that sacrifice of praise which he declares as most acceptable to him. You cannot read anywhere more glorious praises of God's peculiar grace towards his Church or of his works; you cannot find anywhere such an enumeration of man's deliverances or praises for the glorious proofs of his fatherly care for us, or a more perfect representation to praise him becomingly, or more fervent exhortations to the discharge of that holy duty. But however rich the book may prove in all these respects to fit us for a holy, pious and just life, its chief lesson is how we are to bear the cross, and to give the true evidence of our obedience, by parting with our affections, to submit ourselves to God, to suffer our lives to be entirely guided by his will, so that the bitterest trial, because he sends it, seems sweet to us.. Finally, not only is the goodness of God praised in general terms to secure our perfect resignation to him, and to expect his aid in every time of need, but the free forgiveness of our sins, which alone can effect our peace of conscience and reconciliation to God, are in particular so strongly recommended, that there is nothing wanting to the knowledge of eternal life.”
Some, probably influenced by their antipathy for the matter of the Psalms, find it difficult to get reconciled to their form, and feel disposed to call the poetic claim of the Psalms, which is by no means their highest claim, into question. Men of that stamp have never been wanting. To their shame, we adduce an evidence in favour of the Psalms which an eminent scholar of classical antiquity, Henry Stephanus, furnishes in the preface of his Commentary on the Psalms.* He states his having met at Rome with some who, from a one-sided attachment to classical lore, denied the poetic merit of the Psalms, and charged the poet Antonius Flaminius with the folly of attempting to reproduce in Roman verse the contents of the Psalter, which, said they, was nothing else than “committing seed to the arid sand." The learned Stephanus further states that, on adducing several illustrations, especially Psalm civ., he showed them that, "so far from questioning the poetry of the Psalms of David, there existed no production which could be conceived more poetical, harmonious, and heart-stirring, and mostly more ecstatic, than just the Psalms ;* that Flaminius, therefore, had not selected an unfruitful subject, but was simply incompetent for the performance of the task.”
* Liber Psalmorum Davidis cum Cathol. Exposit. Ecclesiastica. Paris, 1562.
A passage taken from A. H. Franke's Devotional Exposition of the Psalms, (Halle, 1731, 2 vols.) may form the transition from the Reformation to our times. He says, (vol. i., p. 90+) “Where that is found, such Psalms are rightly understood. The man who has not the Spirit of Christ, nor denies himself, nor daily takes up his cross and follows Christ, has no relish for the Psalms. They gladden not his heart, but appear to him like withered strawaltogether stale. But let him be brought into similar courses of affliction and suffering, and experience the sneers and mockery of the world for righteousness' and Christ's sake— let him find out the difficulty of the task to surmount every obstacle from within and from without, and yet serve the Lord God in spirit and in truthand he will learn that David's heart underwent other struggles besides those which sprung from his external relations. He will mark in his daily warfare the same enmity which God has appointed to take place between Christ and Belial, and between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan, and find that struggle expressed in the Psalms; as the very first, in fact, states it: 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. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.' He, then, who is resolved to deny himself, to part with the world, her pomp and riches, and the favour of man, to take the word of God for his sole guide, and carry a peaceful conscience to his dying bed, will experience the intensity of the struggle which is required, and learn rightly to understand the Psalms."
As belonging to modern times, the words of a celebrated politician, John Jacob Moser, (1785) equally renowned as a statesman, and experienced as a Christian, are worthy of special notice. He had been engaged in severe struggles for the rights of
* Prolatis deinde aliquot exemplis, addebam, tantum abesse ut Davidici Psalmi nihil cum poesi commune habere putarem, ut contra nihil illis esse πατικώτερον, nihil esse μουσικότερον, nihil esse γιγότερον, nihil denique plerisque in locis daupape Box úteper aut esse aut fingi posse existimarem. - Melanchthon, who has written a somewhat poor Commentary on the Psalms, quoted by A. H. Franko, says, “Hic liber elegantissimus est in toto mundo!"
his country, and had been on that account unlawfully imprisoned by his sovereign for a period of five years, during which the Bible and hymn book were his sole companions. The Psalıns made bim understand his position. In harmony with the voices of every century he says,* “ Those who have never experienced great and continuous distress of body and of mind, neither understand the Psalms nor know how to use them. Thus I found it for many years. I fancied that I understood the words, but they were to me a sealed book. For a long time I would not read them at all. Its cries out of the depths, its enormous complaints, though regarding them not as mere poetry, I considered exaggerated hypochondriac sentiments; and my feelings thoroughly revolted at David's desire to be revenged upon his enemies. Single verses, in particular cases, sometimes instructed, comforted, and exhorted me. The treasure of experience, lucid wisdom, profoundly intimate and extensive knowledge of the human heart, contained in them; what was meant by faithfulness to oneself-by strict and honest examination of the most secret questions of the soul-by confidence in God, his omnipotence, and love-by attachment to him in doubt and hesitancy—by looking up to his Father's heart with the deepest sense of personal unworthiness; what was meant by the anchorage of faith in raging storms-by the Aber doch,' of which Luther has so much to say—by the words, 'I nothing, but Thou Omnipresent, Eternal One, in, with, over us all;' what was meant by the consciousness of Thy gracious call; what was the state of mind described in the words
· Although my heart say No to me,
Thy word shall be more sure to me,'that a fainting soul should be refreshed, revived, and elevated by the smallest ray of hope—that she might rise from the dust, and still in the dust believe herself to be God's creature—that in the prospect of impending peril and sinking she might still cling to him; what it was, in articulo mortis, to say
“I live and die, Lord Christ, to thee,
In death and life belong to thee,' — that the omnipotent, quickening Spirit should govern to the end of the world the entire Church of believers—that there is but one God, one truth, one way, one faith, one experience, one . Spiritus Rector,' throughout all times and generations; how much these things contribute to establish and confirm the heart in the truthto inspire confident courage in every kind of trouble and consciousness of individual unworthiness-to gain spiritual strengthto judge correctly of the connection between good and evil in the world—to produce a firm and sure step in the path of life; how far they contribute to the enjoyment of our earthly existence of a calm, refreshing, and joyous prospect of our transition into the kingdom; with how much assurance we may link ourselves to the gigantic chain of the experience of thousands of years, and with tears of ecstatic joy glory even now in the hope of recounting them with David and all the saints, and of blending our voices with the harmony of praise and adoration throughout a blissful eternity; what lies involved in so many other feelings of ineffable delight to our hearts, though too spiritual to be expressed :all this gradually dawned upon me, and caused me to thank God for the Psalms when I found myself in great tribulation, anguish, and temptation, both from within and without. Oh, how precious and dear was then the possession of the Psalms; how much comfort, light, and strength have they imparted to my fainting soul. I often not only missed the way, but lost the very trace of it. I sat me down as if I had become petrified. One word from the Psalms was a sunbeam to me; like a lark, I settled on the pinions of that eagle; carried by her, I scaled the rock, and beheld from that eminence the world, with its cares and mine, stretched out beneath me; I acquired to think, infer, mourn, pray, wait, hope, and speak in the spirit of David—I thank thee, O Lord, that thou hast humbled me.' I acquired to know and understand the rights of God-his purposes of love and faithfulness to every man, but especially to inyself—his mighty wisdom towards us his creatures in our present state of probation, as well as the blessedness, benefit, and necessity of sufferings for our cleansing, purification, and perfection. I learned to esteem myself happy in being permitted to endure suffering. I attained to a better knowledge of the wisdom and love of God, the truth of his word and assurance, the unalterable faithfulness of his promises, the riches of his mercy and long-suffering; of my own dependence, insufficiency, nothingness, and inability without bim, of the wickedness and deceit of my heart, of the world, of men, and of the profound wisdom of God in the blending of evil with good. I became less in my own sight, more suffering and affectionate, more sparing and forgiving, more severe with myself, more lenient to others. I learned to trust God in all my ways, and to renounce the clainus of fame, honour, and comfort. It was nourishment to my soul to be enabled to say—Lord, let me possess but Thee. I asked for no more aid in temporal concerns than his wisdom might find good for the best of my soul. I learned to become more contented in my desires, more moderate in my enjoyments. I was enabled with tears to express my gratitude for mercies, which formerly I counted not as blessings, but as my right and due. If my soul would keep holyday, the Psalms became my temple and my altar. Next to the writings of the New Testament, they are now to me my dearest and most precious book--the golden mirror, the
* Doctor Leidemit. Frankfort, 1783.