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And thy right hand shall hold me ;-
But a still deeper view now opens upon the mind of the Psalmist :—
'My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret,
And curiously wrought, here below, in the earth;
When as yet there was none of them."
This astonishing view of the foreknowledge and presiding care of God, naturally leads to a recognition of his providential guidance and bountiful care during the whole subsequent course of an existence so wonderfully begun :
"How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God,
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand-
The transition which here takes place, from these soothing but reverential emotions, to expressions of deep abhorrence of the wicked and the careless, might, at first view, seem to be the introduction of topics little in unison with the preceding style of the composition. But, in fact, the transition, emotionally considered, is the most natural conceivable-and is, indeed, that which presses itself upon the notice of every mind, when occupied with such meditations, and when properly impressed by them. For what can appear so worthy of deep reprobation to a mind absorbed in wonder at the great works and ceaseless loving-kindness of God, as the thoughtless or rebellious tempers of men, who cast all thought of God and his providence away from them, and recklessly rush into courses unsuitable to their own high nature, and to the wishes of a Being who is "daily so loading them with his benefits!" It is under such feelings of reprobation, that the Psalmist thus proceeds:
"Do not I hate them, O God, that hate thee?
Am I not grieved with them that rise up against thee?
I hate them with a perfect hatred,
I count them mine enemies."
The Psalm is concluded with a beautiful and most appropriate prayer— in these words :
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
On the whole of this Psalm we may remark, that though it is perfectly simple in all its passages-so much so, that the most youthful minds may easily follow the entire train of thought-yet perhaps, of all compositions, human or divine, it is the one most suggestive of a never-ceasing flow of deep, healthful, and soul-ennobling meditations. It is a fountain, the pure streams flowing from which never can be exhaustedand which may, and ought to be resorted to by every one, as his daily
and hourly source of health, of purity, of refreshment, and of spiritual vigour.
In the finest passages of mere human composition, the thoughts, however beautiful, are commonly soon exhausted in their effect, and if frequently resorted to, not seldom become tiresome or even nauseous;-and even in many of the divine hymns in the sacred collection, as they were suggested by peculiar incidents or private situations, they are chiefly appropriate to the conditions of persons, whom the current of their lives has placed occasionally in similar positions ;-but thoughts of the ceaseless presence and encompassing brightness of God-of his wonderful providence in calling us, among the infinite myriads of his creatures, into existence at our particular time, with our peculiar faculties, with our appropriate circumstances and sphere of duties of the wonderful way in which, before we came into the light of life, he prepared us for the course we were afterwards to run-of the countless blessings he is daily and momentarily showering around us-and of the prophetic intimations incorporated with our nature, of the greater, though but indistinctly perceived, things that are to mark our future course in time and in eternity -these, truly, are thoughts which never can be exhausted—which ought to be the subjects of our constant study and deepest ponderingsand for the renewal, and guidance, and appropriate expression of which, we cannot find, within the whole compass of human or divine compositions, any terms so suitable as those which the Psalmist has simply but so effectively employed in the unrivalled Hymn which we have now made the subject of review.
Of the spirit of thought and of devout feeling-in perfect accordance with that of the Psalm now reviewed-by which the HUNDRED AND NINETEENTH is pervaded, we cannot be expected, on the present occasion, to discourse at large. It belongs to a class of Hymns, distinguished among the Hebrew writings by the epithet Alphabetical-consisting of as many parts as there are letters in the Hebrew alphabet-and each of the eight verses of which the separate parts consist, beginning with the same letter in the original.
In a composition so framed, there cannot be expected to occur the same flow of continuous thought—as in the lyrical, or admonitory, or supplicatory Odes, which make up the contents of the sacred collection. Yet it would be a great mistake to suppose, that the separate verses of the different sections have no affinity, or true bond of connection ;-any attentive reader will perceive that this is very far, indeed, from being the case. Neither are we to consider these individual verses, as merely condensed maxims of conduct, similar to those of the writings of Solomon, and some other productions of Hebrew wisdom. They have an entirely different, and, in one view, it may be said, a far higher, more spiritual, and more constantly applicable character-they have been properly characterized as "self-searching communings"-and the spirit which pervades, and sanctifies, and binds together the whole, is a spirit. of gentleness, of humility, and of pure affection for the word, the statutes, the commandments, and the testimonies of God.
These are the phrases which occur, with ceaseless variations of beautiful application, throughout the whole of this lengthened, but yet supremely beautiful and delightful composition-the tendency of the whole being to enforce and make efficacious the idea, that there is a divinely given law, by attention to which all the ways and on-goings of life, in the case of every individual, ought to be directed-that nothing in life is so unimportant as to be exempt from the operation of this law-that peace and all true blessedness are the portion of him who makes the observance of this law his rule, amidst all events prosperous or adverseimportant or seemingly of little estimation-that the smallest deviation from the path which it prescribes is hazardous, and never fails to be attended, more or less, with perplexity, and a loss of true enjoyment-and that, therefore, not only amidst the dark places and perplexing situations of life-but at all times, and even amidst the least apparently important events, that law should be taken "as a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path."
No view of life more important than this can be inculcated-none, in fact, indicates a purer perception or more just estimate of what constitutes true wisdom. This Psalm, accordingly, has always been a favourite companion of the daily thoughts of persons most advanced in the cultivation of the purest and happiest affections of their nature;-and the opening verses of the Psalm, which embody its whole spirit, are but a compendious expression of the blessedness which such persons have ever sought to appropriate and to enhance :
"Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
When I have respect unto all thy commandments.
O let me not wander from thy commandments;
Thy statutes have been my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.
I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night,
The law of thy mouth is better unto me
Than thousands of gold and silver.
All earthly things have an end,
But thy law is everlasting."
We have still some exquisite portions of the Sacred Hymns to pass in review-viz. those finely diversified pictures, which have been termed IDYLLIA the short Psalms also, termed the ASCENSION Hymns, which were sung by the Israelites, either in commemoration of the great deliverances of their national history—or during their ascent to Jerusalem, at their great national festivals, and last, those peculiarly sweet and solemn ASCRIPTIONS OF PRAISE with which the entire collection of Sacred Hymns is wound up.
But the consideration of a few specimens of each of these must be reserved for another occasion.
Meanwhile, we take the liberty of closing this article with the following powerful sentences from an author, whose genius and great powers of Occasional expression-if they had been under the guidance of a more delicate taste, and accompanied by a finer perception of the principles of effective arrangement-would have placed him among the most powerful expounders of the spirit of the Sacred Lyrics, that have yet endeavoured to illustrate and recommend the matchless beauties and surpassing grandeur of these truly divine compositions. We quote from Gilfillan's volume on "The Bards of the Bible"-and though, even in this quotation, there is something of the peculiar phraseology which distinguishes that author-yet the whole passage is instinct with spirit and with truth and we willingly substitute it in place of the more subdued phraseology, expressive of the same ideas, with which we intended to have accompanied this portion of our review.
After recounting with great energy and eloquence, some of the most remarkable qualities of the Sacred Songs, our author thus proceeds :"From all these qualities of the Psalms, arises their exquisite adaptation to the praising purposes, alike of private Christians, of families, and of public assemblies, in every age. We are far from denying that other aids to, and expressions of, devotion, may be legitimately used; but David, after all, has been the chief singer of the Church, and the fold in the wilderness is still its grand orchestra. Some, indeed, as of old, that are discontented and disgusted with life, may have repaired to it, but there, too, you trace the steps of the widow and fatherless. There, the stranger, in a strange land, has dried his tears; and there, those of the penitent have been loosened in gracious showers. There, the child has received an early foretaste of the sweetness of "the green pastures and still waters" of piety. There, the aged has been taught confidence against life or death, in "the sure mercies of David ;" and there, the darkness of the distressed spirit has been raised up, and away like a cloud on the viewless tongue of the morning wind. But mightier spirits, too, have derived strength from these Hebrew melodies. The soul of the Reformer has vibrated under them to its depths; and the lone hand of a Luther, holding his banner before the eyes of Europe, has trembled less that it was stretched out to the tune of David's heroic Psalms. On them the freed spirit of the Martyr has soared away;—and have not destruction and death heard their fame, when on the brown heaths of Scotland, the stern lay was lifted up by the persecuted, like a new drawn sword, and waved flashing before the eyes of the foeman.
"In Judah's land God is well known,
His name's in Israel great,
In Salem is his tabernacle,
In Zion is his seat.
There arrows of the bow he brake,
Wild, holy, tameless strains"-we should rather say-sweet, holy, divinely musical strains-"how have ye run down through ages, in which large poems, systems, and religions have perished-firing the souls of poets, kissing the lips of children, smoothing the pillows of the dying, storming the warrior to heroic rage, perfuming the chambers of solitary saints, and clasping into one the hearts and voices of thousands of assembled worshippers-tinging many a literature, and finding a home in many a land—and still ye scem as fresh, and young, and powerful as ever-yea, preparing for mightier triumphs than when first chaunted! -Britain, Germany, and America, now sing you; but you must yet awaken the dumb millions of China and Japan."
So true is it, that
"David's lyre was mightier than his throne."
NOTES OF A VISIT TO THE GREAT EXHIBITION. BY A COUNTRY MINISTER.
In resuming my account of the Sabbath which I spent in London, I must proceed from the Chapel in the Tower to the Temple Church, where, I was told, I might enjoy an afternoon Service. The practice is almost universal of hearing only a forenoon and evening Sermon. The evening Service was commenced by the Dissenters, and they were soon followed in self-defence by the Established Church. It is, I think, matter of regret, that the more healthful practice of our afternoon Service should be superseded by the evening one. There is need of a church in the house as well as in the public sanctuary; and there cannot be a more suitable time than the evening of the Lord's day. The exercises of family religion must be seriously interfered with, if the repose of the evening be systematically broken in upon. I do not by any
means hold that evening Services should never be resorted to. occasional evening Service is calculated to do much good. The break upon the ordinary routine, the sympathy of numbers, and the peculiar enlargement which a minister often feels on such occasions, form elements of impression which I have no doubt are often eminently blessed of God. I admit, too, that cases will sometimes occur, where peculiar social circumstances require a regular evening Service. Still I would hold it to be a matter deeply to be deplored, should the practice become general and systematic. Every devout heart must acknowledge that the blissful and softening influence of Christianity is seldom felt so powerfully as in the bosom of the family on a Sabbath evening. The excitement of public worship is no doubt conducive to the growth of piety, but the reaction (and our life is but a system of action and reaction,) of the quiet and repose of the family circle, is likewise needful for the development of the highest forms of devotion.