(Second Notice.*) THERE is no portion of the sacred volume which has been so extensively employed by good men, in their public and private devotions, in the sanctuary and in the closet, in their intercourse with God. and with each other, as the Psalms of David, and those of the other singers of the ancient Israel-compositions which display the highest graces of poetry in beautiful combination with a pure and hearedborn piety. They furnish models of the manner in which the Deity ought to be approached by his creatures, under almost every cir. cumstance in which it is possible for them to be placed—as penitent sinners and established saints-as suppliants for the divine favour, and grateful for its past and present manifestations—as recording the deliverances of "ancient days,” and testifying to the continued presence of the God of Zion. The Saviour was familiar with these strains, now touching and now triumphant, now sending forth the plaintive tones of mourning, and now stirring up the inmost depths of the soul with thrilling notes of joy. They were recurred to by him on various occasions during his eventful life, when with his dis. ciples on the mountain, in the desert place, or on the lake, he referred to the ancient records of the church, and “expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself.” At the institution of the Last Supper, he sung a hymn with his followersthe Hallel, consisting of six psalms. The expressions which came from his lips during the agony on the cross, were quotations from the psalms of the Jewish church-“ My God! why hast thou forsaken me!” “ Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit !” The harp that sweetly sounded in the dim primeval time ** within thy gates, 0 Jerusalem,” has thus been handed down to us consecrated by the sacred touch of the Son of God.

It is beautifully observed by Mr. Montgomery, that “by means of these models of devotion-this scale of intercourse between time and eternity-man goes out of himself in the spirit to meet God, and God, in compassion to the creature's infirmities, humbles himself to meet man. On this same ladder-like that in the patriarch's dream, planted on earth but resting on heaven-prayers and praises like ascending, and blessings and benefits like descending angels, have been rising in one form, and returning in the other, without intermission, since these songs of the sweet singer of Israel and his brethren, to the close of the captivity, were successively received by the Jewish church, and with yet more experience of their beneficent application, have been adopted by the church of Christ, gathered from among the Gentiles. And to the end of all things below, it may be predicted, that by devout believers, by penitent transgressors, by mourning and by rejoicing souls, these sacred melodies will be the language most familiar on earth, and oftenest heard in heaven, from this province of the dominions of the King of kings, of all the collocations of human words, and all the expressions of human sentiments, recorded or to be compiled from the creation to

* Vide First Notice, p. 107.

the day of judgment. Nay, of the only book that will outlast all the books in the world, the only book probably that will ever be translated into all the dialects of the earth, and (if it be not too awful to say so) translated also into those respectively, of the saints in light and of the lost for ever; whose memories, like the scroll of Ezekiel, written within and without, will be themselves ineffaceable transcripts of its contents; of that book, this precions portion, through eternity, will supply the burden of some of the sweetest songs of the redeemed, of which its strains have been the preludes; while not a few of its passages must be delightfully interwoven with the many-coloured web of their intricate reminiscences of all the way by which the Lord their God had led them through the wilderness of this world to the Canaan of the next." *

The twenty-third Psalm is one of the most beautiful and consoling of these sacred productions; it breathes the spirit of holy magnanimity, pious confidence, and adoring gratitude; and celebrates the guardian love which the great Pastor of the universe exercises in life and death, towards those who repose upon his power and trust in his mercy. “Green pastures” and “still waters" bring before us one of the loveliest scenes which the natural world presents to our view, illustrating the bountiful provision which is made by a benign Providence for the welfare of a wise and religious man. In fields of tender grass, he is represented as reposing, and not cast on stony places, or in a parched and desert soil : by streams of quietness he is led, opposed to those torrents which are common in an eastern clime, and which might either terrify the sheep by the rapidity of their current, or carry them away by their headlong violence. The psalm is peculiarly adapted to appear in a rhymical dress, and many of our sacred poets have arrayed it successfully in sweet and harmonious numbers. Watts's - My Shepherd will supply my need,” and Addison's “ The Lord my pasture shall prepare,” are well known compositions, and universal favourites." The elder bards have not, in this instance, been far behind the moderns. Sandys's paraphrase is as follows:

“ The Lord my Shepherd, me his sheep,
Will from consuming famine keep;
He fosters me in fragrant meads,
By softly-sliding waters leads
My soul, refresht with pleasant juice;
And lest they should his name traduce,
When oft I wander in the maze
Of tempting sin, informs my ways:
No terror can my courage quail,
Though shaded in death's gloomy vale;
By thy protection fortified,
Thy staff my stay, thy rod my guide ;
My table thou hast furnished,
Poured precious odours on my head;
My mazer flows with pleasant wine,
While all my foes with envy pine ;

* Introduction to Horne on the Psalms, p. 48.

Thy mercy and beneficence
Shall ever join in my defence;
Who in thy house will sacrifice

Till aged time close up mine eyes." Richard Crashaw, who was nearly a contemporary of Sandys, and lived according to his eulogist

“ Above in the air
A very bird of Paradise-no care
Had he of earthly trash; what might suffice
To fit his soul for heavenly exercise

Sufficed him" has given us a version of the psalm, with a richness and felicity of diction peculiarly his own. It is too long to be quoted entire :

“ Happy me! O happy sheep!
Whom my God vouchsafes to keep,
Even my God, even he it is
That points me to these ways of bliss ;
On whose pastures cheerful spring
All the year doth sit and sing,
And, rejoicing, smiles to see
Their green backs wear his livery:
Pleasure sings my soul to rest,
Plenty wears me at her breast;
Whose sweet temper teaches me
Nor wanton, nor in want to be.
At my feet the blubbering mountain
Weeping, melts into a fountain,
Whose soft silver-sweating streams
Make high noon forget his beams.
When my wayward breath is flying,
He calls home my soul from dying,
Strokes and tames my rabid grief,
And does woo me into life.

Come now, all ye terrors, sally,
Muster forih into the valley,
Whose triumphant darkness hovers
With a sable wing, that covers
Brooding horror. Come, thou death,
Let the damps of thy dull breath
Overshadow even the shade,
And make darkness' self afraid;
There my feet, even there shall find
Way for a resolved mind.
Still my Shepherd, still my God,

Thou art with me”-
At an earlier period than either Crashaw or Sandys, Francis
Davison produced the following, which still remains in MS. among
the Harleian MSS.

“ God who the universe doth hold

In his fold,
Is my shepherd, kind and heedful,
Is my shepherd, and doth keep

Me his sheep
Still supplied with all things needful.

“ He feeds me in fields which been,*

Fresh and green,
Mottled with Spring's flowery painting,
Through which creep with murmuring crooks,

Crystal brooks,
To refresh my spirits' fainting.
“ When my soul from heaven's way

Went astray,
With earth's vanities seduced,
For his namesake, kindly He,

Wandering me
To his holy fold reduced.
“ Yea, though I stray through Death's vale,

Where his pale
Shades did on each side enfold me;
Dreadless, having Thee for guide

Should I bide,

For thy rod and staff uphold me." These are immense improvements upon Sternhold and Hopkins, and Archbishop Parker's attempt, half a century earlier.

“ To feede my neede: he will me leade

To pastures greene and fat :
He forthe brought me: in libertie,

To waters delicate.
“ My soule and hart: he did couvart,

To me he shewth the path,
Of right wisness : in holiness,

His name such virtue hath.
“ Yea though I go: through death his wo,

His vale and shadow wyde:
I feare no dart: with me thou art,

With rod and staffe to guide.
“ Thou shalt provyde: a table wyde,

For me against theyr spite :
With oyle my head : thou hast bespread,

My cup is fully dight."

Widely different from this pastoral hymn is the twenty-ninth Psalm; a noble ode, asserting the supremacy of Jehovah in the material world; and calling upon the mighty ones of the earth to bow before his altars, and to lay their crowns at the foot of his eternal throne. The imagery employed is suited to the theme, selected not from the pleasing and beautiful, but from the bold and sublime phenomena of nature. Sandys's version is perhaps the best that has appeared of a metrical kind.

“ You that are of princely birth,

Praise the Lord of heaven and earth;
Glory give, his power proclaim,
Magnify and praise his name.

* So in the MS. VOL. I. X. S.

+ Led back.

5 E

Worship; in the beauty bless,
Beauty of his holiness.
From a dark and showring cloud,
On the floods that roar aloud,
Hark! his voice with terror breaks!
God, our God in thunder speaks !
Powerful is his voice on high,
Full of power and majesty :
Lofty cedars overthrown,
Cedars of steep Lebanon,
Calf-like skipping on the ground.
Lebanon and Sirion bound,
Like a youthful unicorn;
Labouring clouds with lightning torn;
At his voice the desert shakes;
Kadesh thy vast desert quakes.
Trembling hinds then calve for fear;
Shady forests bare appear;
His renown by every tongue,
Through his holy temple sung.
He the raging floods restrains:
He a king for ever reigns.
God his people shall increase,

Arm with strength and bless with peace.” It will be seen that as Sandys's intention was to give a metrical paraphrase of the psalms, he by no means confines himself to their imagery, but adds to it from the store-house of his own imagination, yet always in such a way as admirably to illustrate and express the meaning of the sacred penman.

Psalm cxxIII.
" Thou mover of the rolling spheres,
I through the glasses of my tears,

To thee my eyes erect:
As servants mock their master's hands;
As maids their mistresses commands,

And liberty expect :
“ So we, depress'd by enemies,
And growing troubles, fix our eyes

On God who sits on high :
Till he in mercy shall descend,
To give our miseries an end,

And turn our tears to joy." Many scattered passages might be selected through the psalms, as having been versified with peculiar felicity. For instance, where David describes the conduct he pursued to his friends—“ As for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned unto mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily as one that mourneth for his mother.”—Psalm xxxv. 13, 14.

" I in their sickness did condole,

Unfeignedly in sackcloth mourn'd;
With fasting humbled my sad soul,

And often to my prayers return'd :

« ElőzőTovább »