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"no Scripture is of private interpretation;" that is to say, it is not to be interpreted privately, as if it only spoke of those things to which it first applies ; but being the words of the Holy Ghost, they speak to all Christians of all times.
Thus for instance, in the Lesson for this evening, when we read the account of David and the Philistine, a thoughtful person will see therein the account of Christ overcoming the enemy of our salvation, by humbling Himself into a very low estate. For when we see that all the cruelty and malice of our Lord's ene. mies only served to show the victory of His patience and meekness, then we see Him destroying the enemy with His own weapons; taking from him the armour wherein he trusted, and dividing the spoils. And not only of Christ does it speak, but also of every Christian ; for always in the Old Testament we read of Christ and also of ourselves. And doubtless this victory of David with the sling and the stone, describes to us that faith whereby the Christian overcometh the world. The account of this battle of David and Goliath sets before us, in a most lively picture, the many promises of our LORD made to the Christian respecting the power of faith ; as where he says, “ If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove : and nothing shall be impossible to you."
Now surely every one must see that, in like manner, all the Psalms wherein David speaks of his enemies, is intended by the Holy Spirit of Christ, and His Church, and our spiritual enemies. And not less so all other things which are in that holy book, speak as much of us and to us, as if they were written for none but ourselves.
Some of these things are explained to us in the New Testament; as for instance, in the eighth Psalm we read, “What is man that Thou art mindful of him; and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the Angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour : Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands.” Now we might reasonably suppose that this was spoken of mankind in Adam, of that time when God visited him, and
him dominion over the beasts of the field ; and doubtless it does. But then St. Paul assures us, that these words were spoken of
mankind, not in Adam, but in CHRIST, when He set our human nature at the Right hand of God, wben all power was given Him in Heaven and in earth, and “all things were put under His feet.” In the very same short Psalm the psalmist David says, “ Out of the mouth of very babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength ;” but our LORD says this was spoken of the children who sang praises to Him when He entered the temple : and doubtless of those children whom He took up in His arms, and said that of such is the kingdom of Heaven. It is spoken, no doubt, not of these only, but of all those meek persons who shall inherit the Kingdom, and of whom our LORD spake as of babes, saying: “I thank Thee, O FATHER, LORD of Heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”
But then it may be said, if the Psalms are to be understood throughout in this manner, then it will require knowledge and scholarship and learning to understand them. Certainly, for those who have leisure and opportunity of learning, there is no knowledge, no study so important and so valuable as a right knowledge of the Scriptures ; and this requires labour and attention. But then reading and study are not the chief things required for a knowledge of the Scriptures, but a holy life; so much so, that there are some who cannot even read, and yet understand the Scriptures far better than others who can read, and who think themselves great scholars.
The Psalms are the language of the Holy Spirit; and they only can understand the language of the SPIRIT who themselves have the Spirit of God; and we know full well, that the SPIRIT of God can only be obtained and preserved by a good life, by keeping the commandments. This, indeed, even the same person may observe something of, by changes in himself. While he is taken up by the world, the Psalms appear to him as dull and unprofitable ; but when he is brought to himself by any severe affliction, then he finds that there is no language that speaks so strongly to his heart. In the day of visitation many understand those things which appeared to them before but a dead letter. A sick bed will often explain the Psalms better than any school. And thus it is said in the Book of the Revelation, that they who are redeemed“ sing a new song before the throne;" which
no man could learn, but those which were redeemed from the earth : and this song is, it is said, “ the song of Moses and the song of the LAMB ;” not as if the song was in itself new, but the old song
which was from the beginning,—the song of Moses ; but, in a new sense, the song of the Lamb. It is that Book which no one could open but “ the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David ;" which no one could explain but Christ : Christ alone can unfold and explain the Psalms.
The highest and purest delight which man is capable of in this world, and that which approaches nearest to the employment of happy spirits, is that of singing the Psalms of David: that Book which was written by the Holy Spirit, which was the Prayerbook, so to speak, of our blessed Saviour, which contains things which Angels desire to look into, which has been the constant study and delight of the Saints of God through all ages. Very many, whole companies of people, in better times, have risen at midnight to repeat these blessed words of devotion and praise : some have retired from the world even unto the end of their lives, to give up themselves to this one employment-night and day-namely, to be engaged without ceasing in prayer and praise to God, in that manner which must be most acceptable to Him, by the use of His own Psalms.
But these were all persons who had weaned themselves from the world, were quite dead to all desires respecting it, who lived a life of constant self-denial; and thus did they come to understand the Psalms, to find them sweet as honey unto their mouth, and sweeter than honey unto their throat. For they that do the will of God shall know of the doctrine : with them that keep His commandments the Holy Spirit will dwell; and they with whom He dwells will understand and love His words, and those employments which are those of the blessed Saints in Heaven.
But we, alas, live in a generation which despises the Psalms, and even the best among us know very little how to value them on account of our own lives, being in our daily conduct, and therefore in our hearts and affections, so far inferior to the very least of God's Saints of old.
If any one was as great a penitent as the holy David was, then he would feel the inexpressible beauty of the penitential Psalms : then he would think that no human composition could so fully
express all his sorrows, and the hopes of consolation which he found in those sorrows. He would never be weary of them. In them he would ever see the Prophet Nathan coming to him and saying, “thou art the man,” the more and more to renew bis repentance.
If any one had that faith in God and love of His Holy Name, which breathes throughout the Psalms, he would understand in them many things which now pass by him as if he understood them not. The Psalmist himself prays God to teach him the wonderful things of His law, implying that there were wonderful things contained in it beyond the letter, which God only could reveal. With fervent zeal and a holy fear he exclaims, O hide not Thy commandments from me!” and this he does, knowing, as the Psalmist himself declares, that “the secret of the Lord is among them that fear Him, and He will show them his Covenant." It is God alone who even in the Psalms can show us the secret of His Covenant, and he will show it only to them that fear Him.
If a man fear God, then he feels the great need of an Advocate, a Mediator and Saviour, to stand between him and the dreadful God. And then he will, even untaught and of himself, see how full almost every Psalm is of Jesus Christ. Feeling the great power and subtlety of his spiritual enemies, he will understand the meaning of that “sword and shield ” of the Spirit which St. Paul speaks of, and to which the Psalms so often allude: he will see more into the height, and depth, and breadth, and length of those expressions, in which the Psalms abound, as when the Psalmist
that God is his Rock and his shield, his buckler, and his strong salvation.
Surely, as in all things else, so of this Divine and Heavenly Hymn-book we must exclaim,—"how great is the goodness of God which He hath laid up for them that fear Him !” Into the hands of the most ignorant He has put this book, which contains greater wisdom than the wisest of the world, philosophers and sages of old, ever conceived_has given him a companion on his road to Heaven, to whom he may always turn; in joy or sorrow, he will find in the world but little sympathy or comfort, but as the Apostle says, if any one is sad let him
merry let him sing' Psalms;" there will he ever find his delight and his counsellor ; in every state of mind the Christian will find in the Psalms a Heavenly companion, and friend, and guide, and counsellor; he will find therein the consolations of the great Comforter, the mind of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God. He will find therein Jesus Christ throughout, as his Priest, as his King, as his Mediator and Intercessor; he will find Him therein as man bearing our sorrows and our sins, and complaining of their heavy burden, too heavy for Him to bear; he will find Him there made one with us, and exalting us in Himself to the Right hand of God; he will there ever find Jesus Christ, not only as man, but also as God, knowing all things, past, and present, and future. In the Psalms he will find His eye ever upon him, about his path and his bed, and will be taught to look up to Him, and raise his contemplations to the mind of the Psalmist himself, seeing God in all things, in all the affairs of life ever lifting his heart towards Him, making Him and His displeasure the only cause of his fears and sorrows, and making Him and His favour and the light of His countenance the only occasion of his joy and hopes.
any one is
Blessed and Divine Book ! and blessed are they who understand it and who love it; and blessed also are they who endea. vour to understand it and to love it, and pray God to open their eyes that they may do so more and more. Their strength is in Him, and their heart in His ways. As they go through the vale of misery, they will find it a well filled with living water; they will go from strength to strength, learning to understand it still better and better, until before the God of gods they shall appear,—not in that earthly Sion which was the delight of the holy David, but in that heavenly Sion, where they sing that new song, which no one but themselves can fully understand,
the Moses and of the LAMB”.
--a song like that psalm which Moses sang on the shore of the Red Sea; when they shall be for ever safe on the everlasting shore.