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of wisdom and knowledge, and who spake as never man spake, yet chose to conclude his life, to solace Himself in his greatest agony, and at last to breathe out his soul, in the Psalmist's form of words rather than his own. No tongue of man or angel, as Dr. Hammond justly observes, can convey an higher idea of any book, and of their felicity who use it aright.
Proportionable to the excellency of the Psalms, hath been the number of their expositors. The ancients were chiefly taken up in making spiritual or evangelical applications of them ; in adapting their discourses on them to the general exigencies of the Christian Church, or to the particular necessities of the age in which they wrote. The moderns have set themselves to investigate with diligence, and ascertain with accuracy, their literal scope and meaning. Piety and devotion characterize the writings of the ancients; the commentaries of the moderns display more learning and judgment. The ancients have taught us how to rear a goodly superstructure; but the moderns have laid the surest foundation. To bring them in some measure together, is the design of the following work; in which the author has not laboured to point out what seemed wrong in either, but to extract what he judged to be right from both; to make the annotations of the latter a ground-work for improvements like those of the former; and thus to construct an edifice, solid, as well as spacious. Materials, and good ones, he cannot be said to have wanted; so that if the building should give way, the cement must have been faulty, or the workman unskilful.
The right of the Psalter to a place in the sacred canon hath never been disputed ; and it is often cited by our Lord and his Apostles in the New Testament, as the work of the Holy Spirit. Whe ther David therefore, or any other prophet, was employed as the instrument of communicating to the Church such or such a particular Psalm, is a question which, if it cannot always be satisfactorily answered, needs not disquiet our minds. When we discern, in an epistle, the well known hand of a friend, we are not solicitous about the pen with which it was written.
The number of Psalms is the same in the original and in the version of the LXX; only these last have, by some mistake, thrown the ninth and tenth into one, as also the hundred and fourteenth and the hundred and fifteenth, and have divided the hundred and sixteenth into two, as also the hundred and forty-seventh. The Hebrews have distributed them into five books; but for what reason, or upon what authority, we know not. This is certain, that the Apostles quote from “the Book of Psalms "," and that they quote the “second Psalm" of that Book, in the order in which it now stands? That division, which our own Church hath made of them, into thirty portions, assigning one to each day of the month, it hath been thought expedient to set down in the margin ; as persons may often choose to turn to the commen1 Acts i. 20.
2 Acts xiii. 33.
tary on those Psalms, which occur in their daily course of reading
In the titles, prefixed to some of the Psalms, there is so much obscurity, and in the conjectures which have been made concerning them, both in a literal and spiritual way, so great a variety and uncertainty, that the author, finding himself, after all his searches, unable to offer any thing which he thought could content the learned, or edify the unlearned, at length determined to omit them; as the sight of them, unexplained, only distracts the eye and attention of the reader. The omission of the word SELAH must be apologized for in the same manner. The information obtained from the historical titles will be found in the Argument placed at the head of each Psalm ; though even that is not always to be relied on.
Where this information failed, the occasion and drift of a Psalm were to be collected from the internal evidence contained in itself, by a diligent perusal of it, with a view to the sacred history; the light of which, when held to the Psalms, often dissipates the darkness that must otherwise for ever envelop allusions to particular events and circumstances. Sometimes, indeed, the descriptions are couched in terms more general; and then, the want of such information is less perceived. If it appear, for instance, that David, at the time of composing any Psalm, was under persecution, or had been lately delivered from it, it may not be of any great consequence, if we cannot determine with precision, whether his persecution
by Saul and Doeg, or that by Absalom and Ahithophel, be intended and referred to. pressions either of his sorrow or his joy, his strains, whether plaintive or jubilant, may be nearly the same in both cases respectively. This observation may be extended to many other instances of calamities bewailed, or deliverances celebrated in the Psalms, sometimes by the prince, sometimes by the community, and frequently by both together. Upon the whole, it is hoped, that the design of each Psalm hath been sufficiently discovered, to explain and apply it, for the instruction and comfort of believers.
The result of such critical inquiries as were found necessary to be made, is given in as few words as possible ; often only by inserting into a verse, or subjoining to it, that sense of a word, or phrase, which seemed upon mature deliberation to be the best ; as it was deemed improper to clog with prolix disquisitions of this kind, a work intended for general use. The reader will, however, reap the benefit of many such, which have been carefully consulted for him. And he will not, it is presumed, have reason to complain, that any verse is passed over without a tolerable consistent interpretation, and some useful improvement.—Where the literal sense was plain, it is noticed only so far as was necessary to make an application, or form a reflection. Where there appeared any obscurity or difficulty, recourse was had to the best critics, and that solution which seemed the most satisfactory, given in the con
cisest manner. Much labour hath here been bestowed, where little appears. The plan of every Psalm hath been attentively studied, with the connexion and dependence of its parts, which it is the design of the Argument to exhibit at one view, and of the Commentary to pursue and explain from beginning to end '.
No person is more thoroughly sensible than he author is, of the respect and gratitude due from all lovers of the sacred writings, to those who have laboured in the field of literal criticism ; great and illustrious characters, whose names will be had by the Church in everlasting remembrance! All who desire to understand the Scriptures, must enter into their labours, and make the proper advantage of them, as he himself hath endeavoured to do. But let us also bear in mind, that all is not done, when this is done. A work of the utmost importance still remains, which it is the business of Theology' to undertake and execute; since, with respect to the Old Testament, and the Psalter more especially, a person may attain a critical and grammatical knowledge of them, and yet continue a Jew, with a veil upon his heart; an utter stranger to that sense of the holy books, evidently intended, in such a variety of instances,
Nos Lectoris pium hunc laborem adjuvandum suscepimus : dum constitutis argumentis scopum attentioni figimus: dum scrutamur literam, et ex sacrâ historiâ, quantum possumus, omnia repetimus ; dum annotamus quæ pietatem inflamment ; alia eo exemplo quærenda indicamus.— BOSSUET, Dissertat. in Psal.
2 Theologiæ insignis hic usus est, ut, ver rum sensu exposito, REM intelligas.- ELSNER, Præfat. ad Observat. Sacr.