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IT scarcely needs to be observed, that the Book of Psalms is of a very miscellaneous nature; but its characteristic appears to be that it is the Book of Spiritual Religion, describing the views and feelings of the true believer in very different circumstances. If we look upon religion as consisting of light, life, and action, the Psalms undoubtedly comprehend the whole of it; for the Christian may be instructed by them in his faith, and guided by them in his practice: but still the Spiritual Life is the prominent and pervading subject. We see it here in all its fluctuations and vicissitudes; in its strength and weakness, its elevations and depressions, its joys and sorrows, its hopes and fears, its afflictions and consolations, its conflicts and victories.
The Psalms, being thus viewed, must be accounted invaluable in many respects; and especially as furnishing a standard of spiritual religion; showing us its reality and what it is; and guiding and guarding us in a subject concerning which it is easy to make very serious mistakes. We may also look upon them as amply furnishing the soul with its proper aliment; for by the right use of them we shall strengthen and enliven the holy affections of piety within us. What, indeed, is piety, if it be not life? And what is life, if it do not harmonize with the delineations of it which are given to us in these inspired pages ?
Of the present volume but little need be said. It is designed for the use of the private Christian who desires to form himself, with regard to the divine life,
under the influence of the Holy Spirit, on the only true model and standard-the Word of God. To learning and elegance, to depth and acuteness, to novelty and ingenuity, it has not the slightest pretensions. It is hoped, however, that the mere distribution of the Psalms into their distinct but connected parts, will enable the reader to study them with greater ease and advantage than if less attention had been given to that point. As to the few plain reflections which are added to each Psalm, they may possibly be of some use to him in his meditation on the sacred text.
I readily own myself greatly indebted to commentators on the Bible; but yet I question the real use and benefit of prolix reflections. The commentator has succeeded in his proper work when he has elucidated a text; has given the true, at least the best interpretation of it; so that it shall be really understood: and I would have him to advance a few sound and pious remarks, to assist the mind of his reader in the exercise of devout and practical meditation. But if the mind be overloaded with the writer's reflections, so that its own independent action is suspended or superseded, and the divine teacher (the sacred text) is forgotten in the human, or nearly so, I do not think that the best method is adopted for promoting sound spiritual edification. We profit more in the reading of Scripture by making our own reflections than by merely reading the reflections of others. In its meditation on the sacred pages the soul should be free: the wings of the eagle ought not to be bampered too much by human bandages.
Repton, September 1848.
THE TABLE OF THE PSALMS.
I. Instructive. Characters of good and bad men ; the happiness
of the one, and the miseries of the other. The excellence of God's law.—The vanity of human life, &c. 1, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 19, 24, 34, 36, 37, 39, 49, 50, 52, 53, 58, 73, 75, 82, 90, 91, 92, 101, 112, 119, 121, 125, 127, 128, 131, 133.
2, 16, 22, 40, 45, 68, 72, 87, 110, 118.
III. Prayer, expressing confidence in God under affliction.
3, 27, 31, 54, 56, 57, 61, 62, 71, 86.
IV. Prayer in trouble and affliction.
4, 5, 28, 41, 55, 59, 64, 70, 109, 120, 140, 141, 142.
6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143.
VI. Prayer for divine help in consideration of Integrity.
7, 17, 26, 35.
VII. Psalms displaying the Divine Perfections.
8, 29, 33, 47, 93, 95, 96, 97, 99, 104, 111, 113, 114, 115, 134, 139, 147, 148, 150.
VIII. Prayer in great dejection under affliction.
13, 69, 77, 88.