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PSALMS. Some of these are very excellent--some of them are barbarous. They are ascribed to various authors, though it is believed that the larger number of them were written by king David. The Jewish rabbins say that Moses wrote nine of them—from xc. to xcix, inclusive. Indeed, the xcth, in our version, is preceded, by these words : “A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God.” Two of them are attributed to Solomon, eleven to the sons of Korah, and several to other persons. Only seventy-one are, with much confidence, pronounced to be David's. One of them* is often quoted as a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ and the glory of his spiritual reign; though it is entitled, in our version, "A Psalm for Solomon."
The collection, taken as a whole, contains much wisdom and spiritual beauty, much filial devotion toward God, and love for suffering mang-occasionally intermingled, however, with some of the most atrocious sentiments ever expressed, or fostered in the human soul : sentiments as widely at variance with the moral precepts of Christ, as the North is with the South, or the East with the West. No doubt David may have had great provocation for some of his sayings--perhaps others had as much, for their treatment of him. Let me exhibit a specimen of his overflowing gall towards his enemies.
“Let their table become & gnare before thein : and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. Pour out thine indignation on them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their habitation be desolate and let none dwell in their tents.”—“O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth a wood, and as a flame setteth the moun. tains on fire, so persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm...... Let them be confounded and troubled forever; yea, let them be put to shame and perish.”“Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee ?......I hate them with perfect hatred.”*
* Psalms, Lui.
In contrast with these imprecations, I will display & few of the rich passages of true poetry with which the Psalms abound. Some are stately and colossal in grandeur-while others are pervaded by a gentle, lovebreathing pathos, or a sweet and tender melancholy.
“He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
And he rode upon a cherub and did fly; yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.”_"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein : for he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” [Here is a visible trace of the old notion of Astronomy, you will observe the idea that the earth was built upon the floods.] "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made : and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of
*Ps. Ixix. 22–25. lxxxiii. 13—15, 17. cxxxix. 21, 22.
the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in store-houses......He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." In despondency, David exclaimed, “O that I had wings like a dove! for then would I flee away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." Again, when in trouble, he cries—“My heart is smitten and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread......I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top.(!) [What can surpass this, as an emblematic representation of loneliness?] Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me, are sworn against me. For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.” Of a traitor in friendship, the Psalmist says, “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.”_"From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God......For a thousand
in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night...... We spend our years as a tale that is told."-"Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad: let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein.” "Let the floods clap- their hands: let the hills be joyful together.”_“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the
Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heavens, they go down to the depths...... They reel to and fro, and stagger, like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end......He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” “He telleth the number of the stars : [What a thought!] he calleth them all by names......He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes."*
These are some of the poetic gems of the first water, which we shall do well if we treasure, while we cast away the unsightly petrifactions and rotten-stones, amid which they glitter.
Following the Psalms, we have a collection of sententious wisdom,-a series of maxims, entitled PROVERBS. They are commonly imputed to Solomon, though we have no means of knowing certainly whether he wrote them all or not. The thirtieth chapter commences with this language—“The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh ;'' and the thirty-first with this sentence—“The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him,”—which would seem to imply, that some other persons than Solomon wrote those parts of the book, at least. The first nine chapters appear to be a connected discourse, while the remainder consists mostly of short and very expressive sentences, many of them ing much truth and instruction, but some of them inculcating rather doubtful morality. It seems to have been thought proper, in the days when the Proverbs were written, for those who were sad and dejected to indulge in drunkenness, as a means of drowning sorrow; although intoxication was reprobated in the case of a public officer. "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes strong drink; lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more."*
* Chapters xviii, xxiv, xxxiii, lv, xc, xcvi, xcviii, cii, cvii, cxlvii.
It is to be lamented that the injunctions concerning “the rod of correction," which are contained in this book, have been made the pretexts for continuing, in public schools and in families, the barbarous practice of thumping and beating children to induce in their minds the spirit of obedience. It will be a happy day for the world, when all “children of a larger growth,” who assume the responsibilities of parents and instructors, shall fully govern themselves: for then may they reasonably cherish the hope of being able to govern others. But—did not SOLOMON, "the wise man," recommend the infliction of corporal chastisement? Ah! how many wives had he? And did he not encourage tippling, under certain circumstances ? But suppose he did : what then?
The writings classed under the title of ECCLESIASTES,
* Proverbs, xxxi, 4—7.