Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

these cand of Gred shrine in psalm of Junited between pa

flict with idolaters among the heathen, and no more specifically apply to the battle of Tekoa than to that of Agincourt or of Waterloo. There appears more reason to believe that it was composed to memorize the more remarkable deliverances in Babylon, when Daniel and his companions, and the three children, were preserved in the lion's den, or in the fiery furnace; on which occasions, as the church triumphed over the rival priests and princes of a hostile faith, the house of Aaron and Levi might fitly celebrate these conspicuous displays of the Divine power over “ the idols of silver and of gold,” whose worshippers were made to tremble for their dishonoured shrines.

The writer of the cxixth psalm is almost as difficult to be ascertained, as the writer of the letters of Junius, or of the Eikon Basi. like, commentators being chiefly divided between David and Ezra. This is one of the alphabetical or acrostic psalms, every eight verses commencing with one letter of the Hebrew alphabet in succession, evidently for the assistance of memory. If the theory to which Mr. Townsend refers be correct, that this mode of arranging the verses did not prevail till near the Captivity, this would be sufficient to decide the question ; but the canon is doubtful. The third chapter of Lamentations affords a fine specimen of the same artificial arrangement, every three verses beginning with one letter; and the celebrated description of the good woman, in the last chapter of Proverbs, probably inserted by the men of Hezekiah, may be adduced to prove that the practice obtained at that late period of the Jewish monarchy ; but we neither know when it began, nor when it ceased. Apart from this theory, however, the Author may be justified, perhaps, in assigning it to Ezra, rather than to David, though he has scarcely referred to the internal evidence which the psalm presents. Reference is made in it to some great national defection from the prescriptions of the Jewish code, calling for some signal interposition to arrest the evil: “ It is time, O Lord, for thee to work, for they have made void thy law,”—of which there are many traces in Ezra's time, relative to the law of the sabbath, and to the mixed marriages, (see Ezra ix. x.) which affected that great Reformer very deeply, but nothing of the kind is expressed in David's writings. The writer refers to great persecution and contempt, of which he was the object for his attachment to the law, which was likely enough to occur to Ezra in Babylon, when .“ Princes sat and spake against him," but from which David was in little danger upon the throne of Israel. He was once indeed scoffed at by Shimei, but that was for breaking the law, not for keeping it! This psalm too, appears to be written by one who was by office a professed student in the law, which David was not, and Ezra was, he being styled in the Jewish phrase, “ a faithful scribe in the law of his God.” Such a production would come with peculiar force from the great Reformer, to engage the Jewish youth in Babylon to study their own law, or to induce the people, upon their return home, to fall in with the reformation which he was so anxious to promote. The first psalm, similar in character to this, is supposed to have been also written by Ezra, as a kind of preface or proemium to the book : and the last five psalms, by an author unknown, on occasion of the dedication of the second temple, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the return from the Babylonish captivity. But upon these points, we repeat, absolute certainty is unattainable, and it becomes comraentators to advance their conjectures with diffidence, as they can know little more than their readers.

Among the prophetical Psalms, the xlv. seems to claim a distinct and separate notice, from the extreme beauty of its construction, and from the illustration which it affords of the principles of interpretation to which we have before adverted. Beza thinks, that the psalm primarily refers to the marriage of Solomon with the heathen woman, but our own Translators consider it as a direct prophecy of Christ, they having entitled it, “ The Majesty and Grace of Christ's Kingdom.; the Duty of the Church,” &c. It is worthy of remark, that the Jews and some of the Rabbinical writers seem to be quite strangers to Beza's hypothesis ; they rarely mention the name of Solomon at all, and consider it as a prophecy directly addressed to Christ. The Targum says, * Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is pre-eminent among the sons of men : the spirit of prophecy is given into thy lips : therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.” It is evident, therefore, that they considered the glory of Christ and the happiness of his Church to be shadowed forth, according to the custom of the inspired writers, under images and symbols derived from the pomp and circumstance of Eastern courts; and notwithstanding the gratuitous abuse so frequently lavished upon Jewish writers by those who have never read a page of their works, we consider that devout and intelligent Jews, in a question where prejudice and controversy mingle not, must be quite as good judges of the spirit and genius of their own sacred books as any other persons can be. But unfortunately, we cannot always command their genuine and unsophisticated opinion, they having enough of the wisdom of the serpent, like other controvertists, to hold back interpretations which would make against themselves in arguing with Christians. Witness their gloss upon the iid psalm : * Our masters,' say they, have explained this of the King Messiah, but, according to the letter, and for furnishing an answer to the heretics, it is better to interpret it of David himself. .

In the xlvth Psalm, which Mr. Townsend introduces in connection with Nathan's prediction of the perpetuity of David's throne, and which St. Paul applies as an immediate prophecy of

the animal from the neare widual wha upon wh chat the fier between

limes of a distinturned a performeans the practices the firsteniably in re

Messiah, every allusion shews the author's acquaintance with the customs and ceremonies of Asiatic Courts. The splendour of the royal robes, the sabre girt upon the thigh, the sharp arrows in the hand of the mighty, the princely state, the gorgeous apartments inlaid with ivory, barbaric pearl and gold,' the bright damsel-train, the perfumed and embroidered garments, and above all, that great luxury of the East, the fragrant and aromatic oil composed of the most costly balms, and redolent of “ myrrh and aloes and cassia,”—here called, from its exhilarating effect upon the animal spirits, "the oil of gladness," —all shew that the picture is drawn from the life, and that the scene is laid in foreign climes, in a country nearer to the sun than our own. We have read of a distinguished individual who went out to the East an infidel, and returned a Christian, and upon whom some of these ceremonies had been performed, who avowed that the first thing which shook his scepticism, was the perfect accordance between the descriptions of Scripture and the practices of those countries in the present time, which convinced him that the first assumption of the Bible, that of being an Eastern book, was undeniably true, and consequently predisposed him for the examination and reception of its higher evidences. In the Travels of Ibn Batuta, recently published by the Oriental Translation Committee, and translated by the Rev. Professor Lee, we have a splendid description of the court of Sultan Mahommed Uzbek, visited by Batuta in the fourteenth century, which is adduced by the learned Translator as 'a fine illustration of the regal pomp exhibited in

the xlvth Psalm, where we find the queen also enjoying the “honour due to her rank, very unlike the practice of the Ma'hommedans, among whom they are never allowed to appear in

public.' *

* I next set out,' says Batūta, " for the camp of the Sultan, and arrived at a station to which the Sultan with his retinue had just come before us. This Sultan, Mohammed Uzbek, is very powerful, enjoys extensive rule, and is a subduer of the infidels. He is one of the seven great kings of the world. It is a custom with Mohammed Uzbek to sit after prayer on the Friday, under an alcove, called “ the golden alcove,” which is very much ornamented : he has a throne in the middle of it, overlaid with silver plate, which is gilded and set with jewels. The Sultan sits upon the throne ; his four wives, some at his right hand, others at his left, sitting also upon the throne. Beneath the throne stand his two sons, one on his right hand, the other on his left; before him sits his daughter. Whenever one of these wives enters, he arises, and taking her by the hand, puts her into her place upon the throne. Thus they are exposed, without so much as a veil, to the sight of all. After this come in the great emīrs, for whom chairs are placed on the right hand and on the left. Before the king stand the princes, who are the sons of his uncles, brothers, and near

· In the expressions, “ The princess of Tyre shall bring thee presents. Bearing thy precious treasures appear the daughters of kings,”--the allusion is to the ancient custom of female captives of the highest rank, gracing the triumph of the conqueror, with their treasures carried before them ; a scene from the distant apprehension of which the haughty spirit of Cleopatra recoiled, preferring death to such dishonour. By the queen consort in the psalm, seated at the king's right hand, Horsley understands the Jewish Church, and, by the captive daughters of royalty bringing in their tributary gifts, the converts gathered from among the Gentiles were symbolized ; a prophecy which accorded with the favourite anticipation among the Jews, that all nations should be subsidiary to their greatness, and participate in the splendour of their religious privileges. An illustration of an opposite custom, that of princes bestowing presents, occurs in the lxviii. Psalm :“ Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast received gifts for men, even for the rebellious also." This is usually referred to the donatives and largesses distributed by a popular monarch among the multitude on the day of his coronation or of his triumph, but peculiarly relates to the profuse liberality of Eastern princes to their favoured subjects, and sometimes, in their generous clemency, even to rebellious chiefs. De Sacy, in his Chrestomathie Arabe, gives various instances of this prodigality of benefits on the part of the family of the Barmekides, their liberality having passed into a proverb, and their presence in the valleys of Mecca being compared to the rising of a new sun over the horizon of that city. The kings of Persia and of India were no less celebrated for this popular quality. No one can be compared,' says Batūta, 'to the king of India. On one occasion, he placed one of his emirs in a pair of scales, putting gold in the opposite part till the gold preponderated: he then gave him the gold, and said, Give alms out of this for your own salvation.” At another time, the above-mentioned Sheikh entered the presence of the king, who rose, and having kissed his feet, poured upon his head

kinsmen. In front of these, and near the doors, stand the sons of the great emīrs, and behind these the general officers of the army. People then enter according to their rank; and saluting the king return, and take their seats at a distance. When however the evening prayer is over, the supreme consort, who is queen, returns; the rest follow, each with their attendant beautiful slaves. The women who are separated, are seated upon horses; before their carriages are cavalry, behind them beautiful Mamlūks. The wives of this king are highly honoured : each one has a mansion for herself, her followers and servants.Travels of Ibn Batūta, translated from the abridged Arabic manuscript copies, with notes, by the Rev. S. Lee. pp. 76, 77.

with his own hand, a vessel full of gold, and said: “ Both the gold and the vessel, which is gold, is thine.”. In the New Testament, the above prophecy of the Psalmist is declared to have been fulfilled, when Christ ascended up on high, and gave gifts unto men, and enriched his church with a confluence of spiritual blessings, giving some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, for the perfecting of the saints, and for the edifying of the body of Christ. We read also, probably in allusion to the same usages, of God's “unspeakable gift,” of the “unsearchable riches of Christ diffused among the Gentiles ;” and as princes bestowed provinces and kingdoms upon a successful general as a reward for distinguished service, we find our Lord declaring :66 To him that overcometh will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of my Father, and I will give him the morning star,”—the well known oriental hieroglyphic for sovereignty and dominion.

Upon the much-litigated question of the application of the Psalms to Christ, it is due to Mr. Townsend to state, that he has wisely avoided the fallacious views of the Hutchinsonian commentators, whose possible good intentions must not be admitted as any sort of apology for the certain mischief which their perversions have occasioned. Their system, if system it may be called, “which shape had none,” admits of the arbitrary and indiscriminate application of the whole book of Psalms to Christ, without any authority beyond their own vagrant fancies, and in perfect contempt of the best ascertained rules of enlightened criticism. We protest against this scheme as resting upon nothing better than gratuitous and unphilosophical assumptions; as wholly unsustained by any adequate evidence; as destructive of all just principles of interpretation, and as calculated to deprive us of the instruction and comfort of these divine hymns, considered as portraitures of character and specimens of devotion, in which light they are undoubtedly presented in the sacred page. Between those who would apply every thing in them to Christ, and those who would apply nothing at all to him, there is danger of the grossest perversion of these invaluable productions from the spiritual uses for which they were designed. This is the less to be tolerated, as no reason whatever can be suggested for departing, in reference to the psalms, from those recognized canons of criticism which have been so successfully applied to other parts of the inspired record. Before, therefore, we can permit any peculiar meaning, foreign from its literal and obvious signification, to be affixed to a psalm, we must demand direct evidence of the soundness of the proposed exposition, just as we should in reference to any passage in the classics; and this demand, we are confident, would put to flight a host of arbitrary and fabricated interpre

« AnteriorContinuar »