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BOOK OF PSALMS,
According to the Authorized Version :
ARRANGED IN PARALLELISM.
PREFACE AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.
THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY;
AND 164, PICCADILLY: AND SOLD BY THE BOOKSELLERS.
The book of Psalms is entitled, in the Hebrew Bible, “The Book of Praises ;' because many of these beautiful compositions are songs of praise, intended to be used in Divine worship. They derive the name of 'Psalms' from the Greek translation, being so designated on account of their adaptation to instrumental music; to which many of the superscriptions refer.
They are commonly called “The Psalms of David,' because he was the largest and most eminent contributor to the collection. It is probable that he also brought together many of those which were extant in his time, and formed them into a book for use in public worship. This volume, and another compiled by Asaph, appear to be referred to in the time of Hezekiah (2 Chron. xxix. 30). But many of the Psalms were written after these dates, and fresh collections were added to those already made, down to the period when the Old Testament canon of Scripture was completed. They thus formed five books, each concluding with a doxology, and comprising respectively, (1) Psalms i.- xli., (2) xlii.- xxii., (3) lxxiii.- xxxix., (4) xc. -cvi., (5) cvii.-cl.; but they were collected into one volume, and are referred to as such in the New Testament (Luke xx. 42; Acts i. 20). All that has been ascertained respecting the authorship of these sacred poems will be found in the prefatory remarks on particular Psalms.
The contents of the Psalms are very various. Some of them are utterances of praise and adoration, celebrating the majesty, power, wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness of God. Others are songs of thanksgiving for Divine favours. Many are prayers for pardoning mercy or sanctifying grace, or for deliverance from danger or affliction; while in others intercession is made for the church and for the world. Others are didactic; describing the excellency of God's law, the characters of good and bad men, and the results of their respective courses, both in this world and the next. Not a few are records of religious experience; relating the trials and vicissitudes of the spiritual life, with its hopes and fears, its conflicts and victories ; sometimes penitential and mournful, at others triumphant and joyous, and often passing quickly from sorrowful prayer to grateful praise. Some of the Psalms are historical, preserving the remembrance of the most important events which befell the Jewish nation : and, as these events foreshadowed God's dealings with his church in subsequent ages, these historical Psalms have frequently a predictive bearing. And lastly, some are more directly and entirely prophetical, containing many illustrious predictions concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings which he bestows. These are among the earliest intimations of the exalted nature and dignity of the promised Messiah. The great promise which had been made to the patriarchs in earlier times (see Gen. xxii. 18, etc.) spoke rather of the magnitude of the benefit than of the personal and official glory of the Benefactor. But the Psalms make known the King set upon the holy hill of Zion — the promulgation of his law—his triumphs over the vain opposition of earthly potentates—his sceptre of righteousness—his everlasting priesthood—his exalted nature-his Divine Sonshiphis death, and early resurrection-and his ultimately universal reign. (See especially Psalms ii., xlv., lxxii., cx.) The lyrical form in which these revelations were delivered, and the place which they held in both public and private worship among the Jews through successive ages, were eminently adapted to keep them in the people's minds, and to make them useful in the maintenance of faith and piety.
The Psalms throw much light on the religious views and hopes of good men under the ancient dispensation. If we would know what insight they had into the signification of their ceremonial institutions, the way of acceptance with God, and the privileges of his people, we cannot ascertain it better than from the expressions which they used when pouring out their hearts to God in prayer and thanksgiving, and when meditating upon his works and ways. We see also from what evils and dangers they asked for deliverance, for what special benefits they gave thanks, what particular blessings they most earnestly sought, and what pleas they urged in support of their petitions. We see further how closely many of them walked with God; how they acknowledged him in all their ways, and delighted in his service. We meet with many indications of filial confidence and love and holy joy in God, great stedfastness of faith in the midst of trials, and many expressions of tender and holy feeling. And the contemplation of all these proofs of their eminently devotional spirit and habits may well stir us up to strive to excel their attainments in proportion to the superior light and privileges with which we are favoured..
The Psalms are adapted to every age and condition of the church; for whilst they contain many allusions to the circumstances of the former dispensation, in which they originated, they are yet so accordant with the spirit of the later and more glorious economy, that they are still loved, and used with the greatest profit, by the most established Christians. To us, to pious men of old, they are of unspeakable value as a guide and directory to communion with God; affording us Divinelyapproved examples of acceptable prayer and praise, and utterances of holy thought and feeling suitable to all the vicissitudes of the Christian life. They have gladdened the hearts, elevated the hopes, and strengthened the faith of unnumbered thousands of every land; and will continue to maintain their hold on the sanctified affections of believers till time shall be no more.
No book in the Old Testament is so frequently cited in the New as the Psalms; which are quoted or referred to by our Lord and his apostles more than fifty times. In the early ages of the Christian church they were held in such estimation that the whole book was frequently learned by heart. In the language of this Divine book, the prayers and praises of the people of God have been offered up to the throne of grace from age to age. Even He who had the Spirit ‘not by measure, in whom were hidden 'all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' and who 'spake as never man spake,' found here the fittest expression of his feelings in his greatest agony (Psa. xxii, 1; Matt. xxvii. 46), and at last breathed out his soul in the Psalmist's words (Psa. xxxi. 5; Luke xxiii. 46).
Most of the Psalms have titles prefixed to them, concerning the import of which expositors are by no means agreed. These