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The Book of Psalms, in accordance with the appointed order of the Services of our Church, is read through every month, and is consequently more familiar to us than any other portion of Scripture.
Yet it must, I fear, be acknowledged by most of us, that we go on month after month reading these inspired songs of Zion in a listless, mechanical way, without distinguishing the character and subject of the several poems, and in contented ignorance of the meaning of many obscure passages.
To correct in some degree this careless and irreverent habit, and to enable the young and unlearned more especially to read the Psalms, "with the spirit and with the understanding also," is the design of this little Manual.
Disclaiming all intention of undertaking anything like a general Commentary, I have confined myself, more or less strictly, to the following two points; namely,
I. To prefix to each Psalm a short heading, showing its principal subject, or leading idea, so as to prepare the reader's mind for what follows. This heading is substituted for the first words of the Vulgate Translation, which surely are retained to very little purpose in those editions of the Prayer Book which are intended for the use of schools and the poor.
II. To explain the more difficult and obscure verses.
Unless the limited nature of my design be kept in view, the Notes will probably be considered scanty and meagre; but I venture to think that no little evil has arisen from the opposite system of overlaying texts, sufficiently intelligible to serious and thoughtful minds, with diffuse and unnecessary comment. The result too often is that the Word of God is lost in the amplification of the commentator; and the reader, indolently resigning himself to the guidance of some favourite author, is tempted to neglect altogether that patient and devout meditation upon Holy Scripture, which forms part of the essential nourishment of the Christian life. I have therefore thought it best to confine myself for the most part to short explanatory notes, feeling that in proportion as the difficulties which obscure the text are removed, the devotional study and use of the Psalms will be promoted.
If, however, it still be objected that the spiritual and prophetical application of the several Psalms has been too sparingly noticed, my answer is that this subject has been cotemporaneously taken up by the Author of " A Plain Commentary," which bids fair to supply whatever may be thought deficient in the well-known work of Bishop Home. That excellent prelate and writer has not only furnished us with a comprehensive summary of the various subjects which are treated of in the Psalter, but has afforded us a clue to the meaning of the poetical and figurative language in which large portions of it are clothed. But, notwithstanding all that has been written, the Christian student of the Psalms will discover at every perusal fresh lessons of divine wisdom and practical holiness; and not only precepts and counsels of inestimable value for the guidance of life, but many of the fundamental doctrines of revealed religion; as, for example, the Unity of the Godhead, Original Sin, the necessity of Repentance, the Forgiveness of Sins, and the guidance and support of God's Holy Spirit. He will thus be led to the inevitable conclusion that He who inspired the Apostles of Christianity, spake also by the mouth of the Psalmists and Prophets of the earlier dispensation.