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One of the most satisfactory signs of a revival of faith, in its really Catholic form, is the increased prominence given here and there to the Psalter in the worship of the Church. Among the "principles of Divine Service " none is more sure than a recognition of this Davidic element in public praise. The Psalms are not only the perpetual song of the organized and mystical Body of Christ, but they are the most vital and practical of all the visible bonds which join together the Old Covenant and the New. Apart from this inestimable historical value they constitute perhaps, next to Christ and the Creeds, the strongest tie between the great Branches of the Divine Kingdom now worshipping on the earth.
It seems desirable, then, that along with the larger use and profounder enjoyment of this glorious part of God's written Word should go a clearer and fuller knowledge of its meaning. But that meaning can never be well understood except by a very careful study of its relations, in the whole and in detail, to the rest of the inspired writings, as well as the relations of one portion of it to another. Important as a strictly exegetical investigation of the Book must always be, an advantage of another and not inferior kind must follow from tracing out the lines of connection, sometimes very subtle and delicate, between the text_throughout and the histories and prophecies, Gospels and Epistles, of the two Testaments.
The object of the present manual,-the deliberate work of two students of Holy Scripture, -is to assist in making the Psalms what they were evidently designed to be, primarily to the Preachers and Pastors of the Sacred Ministry but hardly less to all faithful and believing people, men and women and the young in the Christian Family, an entirely intelligible guide to the Christian life both inward and outward, an aid in all the exercises and seasons of
devotion, an authoritative expounder and sanc tion to the Book of Common Prayer, and a source of singular illumination to the progress and teaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom among men.
For three thousand years the Psalms have been the form through which the loftiest and purest souls have poured out their sorrows and their praises to God; they have proved adequate to the expression of the most exalted joy and the profoundest grief that man or bodies of men could feel; and into whatever language rendered, even in the often unpoetical metrical translations of the last century, the Psalms of David have seemed exactly fitted to the religious needs of mankind.
The Psalter, however, is no longer the hymnbook of the people. Will it not be so again? There are those who believe that if we Christians of the XIXth century "have no sympathy with the tenderness or severity of the Psalms, their penitence and joy," it may for that very reason be doubted whether our modern religious "character is moulded after the type of saints, -whether all is well with us." It is to such that this book is offered as a very imperfect effort towards restoring the Psalms to their true place in the hearts and on the lips of Christian believers. It has seemed clear to those who have prepared this manual that there are at present two great obstacles to the proper use of the Psalter which might be removed by such a publication.
1. The ignorance that prevails as to the historical and local references in the Psalms, and as to the first or literal meaning of many passages.
2. The want of an accessible guide to the second and deeper meaning of the whole Psalter by which it becomes to us not merely the words of David, Moses, or Solomon, speaking by the Holy Ghost, but the very voice of JESUS Christ our Saviour. This has been the most important work of the editors;—namely, to bring out what is called the Messianic character of the Psalms; and this has been dwelt upon with the more emphasis because anything like a mystical interpretation is so alien to the popular mind. are many who profess to expel Christ from the Psalms, in the interest of the Psalms themselves. But the Psalter as a living thing, and the associa
tion of it with our Incarnate LORD, stand together." "Without an intense conviction in the hearts of GOD's children that Christ is in the Psalter, that it is in sympathy with His Passion and His Glory, its words would, after a brief season of deference to ancient custom, be almost unheard in our Churches and Cathedrals." "The Psalms, for the future, might no doubt remain, and be read, in a book, of which successive editions might be called for. But the fitting symbol for the frontispiece of that book, would be a broken lyre dropped from a dead man's hand." The Psalms. were not only arranged in their Five Books. expressly for the Temple Service; they were prepared by the Holy Spirit for the use of the SON of GOD in our flesh. And therefore being fitted for Him Who the perfect Man, they are fitted for humanity in its whole breadth and extent and in all the ages of its duration. The Psalter is the Book of Prayer and Praise of the Church of all ages, because it is the Prayer Book of our LORD and Master and Redeemer.
F. D. HUNTINGTON.
ALL SAINTS 1880.
I Witness of the Psalms to Christ, p. 78.
"What is there necessary for man to know which the Psalms are not able to teach? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction, a mighty augmentation of all virtue and knowledge in such as are entered before, a strong confirmation to the most perfect among others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come, all good necessarily to be either known or done or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth."