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the pure, the august, the supreme and righteous, yet merciful character of Jehovah, the peculiar and national God of the Jewish people-the Lord of Hosts-the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob-the one eternal self-existent and immutable object of adoration, whose "kingdom ruleth over all," "who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working," and "whose name and memorial, to all generations, is the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty." Along with this sublime idea of the nature and attributes of God, and a corresponding elevation and extent in the view taken by the Hebrew mind, of the vastness of Nature, and of the high and spiritual scenes of the Divine dominions, there was necessarily generated a constant feeling of self-abasement on the part of the worshipper, in the presence of a Being, whose power was so supreme, whose nature was so pure, whose knowledge was so perfect, and whose punishment of sin was so certain to be inflicted. Yet this self-abasement, and this consciousness of inherent sinfulness, were ever mitigated by the thought, so constantly suggested and so beautifully expressed in the sacred hymns, that mercy is mingled with even the most righteous and severe of the Divine dispensations-that "as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that love him,"—that "He will not retain his anger for ever," and that as the object of His government is to promote the moral improvement, and with it the true and lasting happiness of His creatures, the frown of His displeasure is removed, when men seek His favour with sincere and repentant mindsand that "the sacrifice" in which he chiefly delights, is that of a broken and contrite heart." Along with these exalted, and, at the same time, consolatory ideas of the Divine nature and government, there are also constantly intermingled in these sacred lyrics, most triumphant descriptions of some greater blessings than earth had yet known, but which were to be the certain inheritance of the future and more blissful ages of the human race-blessings which were to be the peculiar good of "the better days," and which were to be realized under the reign of a Prince, who was to be "the glory of Israel,”—and the fountain of boundless benefits to all the tribes and generations of men.
These are the peculiar and prevailing ideas of the poetry of the Hebrews-given with the aid of imagery peculiarly august, and solemn, and impressive-in hymns artistically conducted, and finely developedand so thoroughly successful, that as no succeeding age has rivalled the grandeur, and the elevation and impressiveness of these inspired odes, so there is not one among all the most distinguished poets of later days, who has not confessed the matchless majesty of the monarch minstrel's tones-and been willing to draw inspiration from the pure fountain which he so magnificently opened up.
Considering the subject generally and cursorily-which is all that can be allowed in a notice of this kind-we may thus summarily record the leading characteristics of the Hebrew poetry-so far at least as the psalms or sacred hymns are concerned.
The imagery employed in these magnificent compositions. is almost invariably taken from the leading aspects of the country which was the
birth-place of this poetry. The mountains, Lebanon, Carmel, Horeb,. Paran, and Sinai-the rivers, which occasionally swelled into torrents, and which contrasted with the quiet stream, which "made glad the city of God," the rocky fortresses, overtopped by battlements and towers, which served as places of refuge or of defence-the green tops of the hills glittering with the "dews of morning," or refreshed by the fertilizing showers of spring-the sun, "coming forth from his tent in the heavens, and pursuing his journey like a giant prepared to run a race,"-the horrors and barrenness of the desert, as contrasted with the security of cities, and with the splendid ceremonies of the national worship-the turtle dove-the thirsty stag-slippery paths, contrasted with sure footing-and other things, all appropriate to the country of Judea-but uniform in the use made of them by the sacred poets--all of them having a meaning well understood-and connected, at the same time, with a figurative or prophetic signification, which was naturally suggested by the symbolical or allegorical character of the ritual worship, and by the peculiar condition of the people, as a nation separated, by the events of their history, and by the purpose of their election, from all the other nations which then peopled the earth-these are the appropriate imagery of the sacred writers.
The subjects of their poems, are the leading and miraculous events of the past history of the Jewish nation-the impressive solemnities of their national worship--the attributes and government of the Supreme Ruler the certain punishment of evil-doers-the mercy that mingles with even the severest dispensations of Providence-the temporary triumph of the wicked, contrasted with the certainty of their final overthrow-the thousand doubts, and fears, and perplexities that visit the pious mind, while meditating on its own failures, on the apparent uncertainty of events, or on the actual distresses which befall equally the righteous and the perverse-wide-stretching views of the universal sovereignty of God-delicious pictures of the blessedness of creation, under the fostering and paternal providence of the Most High-or prophetic anticipations of the coming glories of the Jewish people, of the predestined reign of their anxiously-expected Prince, and of the blessedness of a final reign of righteousness and peace over the entire face of the habitable earth. We may add, most magnificent apostrophes to all nature, to join in celebrating the august dominion, the merciful care, and the ever-expanding plans of the universal Ruler.
The sentiments naturally inspired by such imagery and such topics, and which pervade and animate the whole of these poems, are deep reverence great self-abasement-watchful searching of the secret purposes and inclinations of the heart-cheering trust in the merciful providence of God-triumphant emotions excited by the august solemnities of Divine worship-and joyous anticipations of the certain triumph of goodness and wisdom and truth, over all the obstacles that now apparently obstruct the efficacy of their full establishment among men,
The peculiar species of rhythm or metrical versification, is that of the arrangement of the distinct parts of each poem, into parallels or corresponding
members of sentences-adapted to the nature of the music for which the poem was designed-and intended to furnish occasions for the alternate responses of the choirs of Priests, of Levites, or of the Congregation, who, in the public services of the sanctuary, gave efficacy to these divine effusions, by the united influence of their voices, their cymbals, their trumpets, and their harps.
And lastly, the plan on which each hymn is conducted, is that of a finely artistic style of lyrical composition, in which the prelude, the announcement of the subject, the gradual transition to kindred topics or trains of emotion, and finally, the concluding symphony, in beautiful and impressive consonance with the pervading topic and tone of the composition, are all attended to, with a uniformity and power of skill which is not generally understood-and which we should scarcely have expected in the productions of so early a period-but which, when perceived, adds immensely to the beauty of the whole composition-and is, indeed, so enchantingly beautiful as to render these lyrical effusions of the sacred writers superior in effect to any other compositions of a similar kind that have hitherto appeared among men.
The only poem of heathen times that can bear any comparison, in point of purity or elevation of sentiment and conception, with the Hebrew lyrics, is the hymn of Cleanthes to Jove ;-it is, indeed, a lovely piece of refined morality and of elevated philosophical thought-and well deserves all the praises, on these accounts, that have been occasionally lavished on it. In fact, it is almost identical, in its leading idea and sentiment, with that which pervades the nineteenth Psalm. But still it is more the production of a philosopher, or calmly meditative moralist, than of a poet-it is certainly not lyrical at all, either in its structure or in the nature of its transitions, and though it will always be read with delight by the philosophic students of ancient wisdom, it never can be considered by any judge of lyrical or sentimental poetry, as fit to be placed in a comparison with the corresponding hymn of " the Monarch Minstrel."
We have repeatedly adverted in the preceding notices to the tendency of the lyrical poets of the Hebrew nation to indulge in splendid anticipations of some universally diffused blessedness that was to characterise "the latter days."-This tendency originated naturally, and independent of specific announcements of "a Messiah," in the peculiar incidents of their past history as a people, and more especially in the allegorical and imperfectly evolved meaning of their religious worship.-In the Psalms this anticipation is indulged, not so much under the image of what is commonly called a golden age, as in splendid exhibitions of the future sovereignty of" the Prince" who was "to sit upon the throne of David,"and to diffuse "righteousness and peace," as well as the earthly supremacy of his people, "over all the nations."-In the writings more properly prophetic, however, the idea of a coming age of gold is more expressly unfolded, and with a beauty of imagery, or at least of incidental picturing, which is superior to anything that has been said by even the most illustrious of the uninspired writers.-Though the topic is not immediately connected with our present purpose, it is yet so characteristic of the pervading style of Hebrew sentiment and thought, that we will
ingly quote the following just observations of Bishop Lowth as illustrative of this topic :
"The idea of the renewal of the golden age," says this pleasing and tasteful author, "is much the same in the Oriental writers with that of the Greeks and Romans; the wild beasts grow tame-serpents and poisonous herbs become harmless-all is peace and harmony, plenty and happiness."
Occidet et serpens, et fallax herba veneni
-Nec magnos metuent armenta leones,
Nec intumescit alta viperis humus.-HORACE.
Εσται δε τουτ' άμαρ, ὁπηνικα νεβρον εν ευνα,
Καρχαρόδων σινεσθαι λυκος ουκ εθελήσει. THEOC.
"I have laid before the reader these common passages from the most elegant of the ancient poets, that he may see how greatly the prophet, on the same subject, has the advantage upon the comparison-how much the former fall short of the beauty, and elegance, and variety of imagery with which Isaiah has set forth the very same ideas.-The wolf and the leopard not only forbear to destroy the lamb and the kid, but even take their abode and "lie down together with them."-The calf, and the young lion, and the fatling, not only come together, but are led quietly in the same hand, and that by "a little child."-The heifer and the she-bear not only feed together, but even lodge their young ones, for whom they used to be most jealously fearful, in the same place.-All the serpent kind is so perfectly harmless that "the sucking infant" and the newly-weaned child "puts his hand on the cockatrice den," and "plays upon the hole of the asp."-The lion not only abstains from preying on the weaker animals, but becomes tame and domestic, and "feeds on straw like the ox." These are all beautiful circumstances, not one of which has been touched upon by the ancient poets.-The Arabian and Persian poets elegantly apply the same ideas, to show the effects of justice impartially administered and firmly supported by a great and good king:
Rerum dominus Mahmud, rex potens!
Ad cujus aquam potum venient simul agnus et lupus.-FERDUSI. Justitia, a qua mansuetus fit lupus fame astrictus,
Esuriens, licet hinnulum candidum videat.-IBN ONEIN.-Jones, P. A. Comm., p. 380.
The application is extremely ingenious and beautiful-but the exquisite imagery of Isaiah is not equalled."
Reverting, however, from this digression to our previous idea of the difference of effect-so far as elevation and purity of sentiment are concerned-between the poetical remains of heathen antiquity and the prevailing impression received from the Hebrew lyrics-we may now remark, in concluding this portion of our notice-that if the reader or student wishes to cultivate a delicate and pervading taste for the beauties of external nature-to enter with animation and delight into all the
varieties of human occupation or amusement-and, in short, to make his whole life on earth "one holiday" of enjoyment-he will find the genius of Grecian poetry an excellent assistant in this very desirable pursuitonly he must be careful to avoid the other part of their maxim of conduct, namely, that of" seeing evil or sin in nothing."
If, on the other hand, his object-his far higher and more becoming object be,―to cultivate the deeper and more purifying sentiments of his own nature to cherish a suitable reverence for the Supreme Being-to perceive the inherent feebleness and sinfulness of his own nature-to trust in divine mercy-and to be aiming incessantly after more complete conformity to the will and purposes of Providence-then let the compositions of the Hebrew bards be the subjects of his daily and habitual study. To such a mind they will be found "sweeter than honey, and the honey-comb"-by them will he be "warned" against all evil-" and in keeping" of their precepts he will find " a great reward.”
The most perfect style of sentiment and action, however, is that in which these two departments of mental effort are habitually blended and identified; and if, on the one hand, it is most desirable that persons of a happy and joyous temperament should learn to view life and its amusements and occupations, with a constant reference to their religious character-a character under which they are all capable of being contemplated and augmented in both their beauty and their power of conferring delight-it is also to be greatly wished, on the other hand, that men of deeper habits of feeling and contemplation should gain the capacity of associating their profounder sentiments with every thing that they see or enjoy of existence around them-that a cheerful and innocent enjoyment of life should be considered as one of the first duties which we are called to practise and that nothing should be regarded as displeasing to God which promotes "peace and good-will," and at the same time pure feeling, among all with whom, by our position in life, we are called to
The union of these two styles of thought as a prevailing and universal tendency is to be looked for only in some far distant period of the progressive history of our world-but in the meantime it is an union which each individual should endeavour to realise in his own person— and by means of which, as it is quite in his power, he will become at once a happier and a more accomplished subject of the divine kingdom.
Most thoughtful persons have probably felt a sentiment of wonder at the fact, that a people so sunk as the Jews have long been, should, at any period of their history, have been possessed of qualities of thought and of emotion which fitted them for the production of poems so surpassingly magnificent and elevated in their tone as the Hebrew Hymns are now universally allowed to be—and so justly entitled to be the incitements and the expression of devout feeling to all succeeding generations.-A suitable attention, however, to the peculiarities and national history of the Jews during the long past ages of their glory and accomplishment, will be sufficient to abate the wonder which this consideration may awaken -and fully to account for the matchless excellence which the Hebrews