Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or set foot on the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers.
Psalm 23., 46., 145., etc. The fact is that spiritual instincts are often far in advance of technical definitions, and the heart finds out that which is of permanent value over and above its historic interest, far more quickly than the intellect defines the reason thereof. Ere we pursue the study of the Psalms one by one, it may be helpful to note the main classes into which they may be grouped, as such classification will enable us the better to set in order the relation which each one bears to "the whole counsel of God." In the last of the Homiletics on Deuteronomy by the present writer, there is a threefold result indicated of communion between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. When such fellowship is in the devotional sphere, it subserves the life of religion; when the Spirit of God impels to the going forth on a mission or the writing of a record, that is inspiration; when the Spirit of God discloses new truth or forecasts the future, that is revelation. These three divisions indicate three main groups under which the Psalms may be classified. For the most part, each one speaks for itself, and with sufficient clearness indicates to which of the three groups it belongs; and according to the group in which it is found will be the value and bearing of the psalm on the believer's experience, faith, and life.
I. MANY OF THE PSALMS ARE THE OUTCOME OF PRIVATE OR PUBLIC DEVOTION. It is in these that we get a priceless glimpse into the heartwork of Old Testament saints, and see how constant was their habit of pouring out their souls to God. Psalm 3., 4., 5., 7., 8., 10., 13., et alii, are illustrations of this. Whether the soul was elated by joy or oppressed with care, whether bowed down with fear or rejoicing over a great deliverance, whether the presence of God was enjoyed or whether his face was hidden, whether the spirit was soaring in rapture or sinking in dismay, - amid all changes, from the overhanging of the blackest thundercloud to the beaming of the brightest sunshine, all is told to God in song, or plea, or moan, or plaint, or wail, as if the ancient believers had such confidence in God that riley could tell him anything! . Many of these private prayers bear marks of limited knowledge and imperfect conception, and are by no means to be taken as models for us. But no saint ever did or could in prayer rise above the level of his own knowledge. Still, they knew that God heard and answered, not according to their thoughts, but according to his loving-kindness; hence they poured out their whole souls to God, whether in gladness or sadness. And so may we; and God will do exceeding abundantly for us above all that we ask or think.
II. ANOTHER GROUP OF PSALMS CONSISTS OF THOSE WHICH ARE THE PRODUCTS OF ANOTHER FORM OF DIVINE INSPIRATION. These are not necessarily addresses to God; they are, for the most part, an inspired and inspiriting rehearsal of the mighty acts of the Lord, and a call to the people of God to join in the song of praise. Psalm 33., 46., 48., 78., 81., 89., and many others, are illustrations of this. At the back of them all there is a revelation of God known, accepted, and enjoyed. And according to this great and glorious redemption are the people exhorted to join in songs of praise. There is, moreover, this distinction, for the most part, between the first group and the second - the first group reflects the passing moods of man; the second reflects the revealed character and ways of God. The first group is mostly for private use, as the moods of the soul may respond thereto; the. second group is also for sanctuary song, and indicates the permanent theme of the believer's faith and hope, even "the salvation of God." With regard to the first group we may say, "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." As to the second, the motto might be, "The Lord hath made known his salvation: therefore with our songs we will praise him." Under this head may also be set those calmly and sweetly meditative psalms, such as Psalm 23., 32., in which God's revelation of his works and ways gives its own hue to the musings of the saint. These are now the delight of believers, in public and in private worship, as the expression of an experience which is renewed in regenerate hearts age after age. None of them could possibly be accounted for by the psychology of the natural man; they accord only with the pneumatology of the spiritual man.
III. THE THIRD GROUP OF PSALMS CONSISTS OF THOSE IN WHICH THERE IS A DIRECT OR INDIRECT MESSIANIC REFERENCE AND FORECAST. Of these there are three kinds.
1. There are those directly and exclusively Messianic, such as Psalm 2., 45., 47., 72., 110. Of all these, the second psalm is, perhaps, throughout, as much as any of the psalms, clearly and distinctly applicable to the Coming One, and to him only. For the purpose of seeing and showing this, it may well be carefully studied. Every verse, every phrase, every word, tells; in fact, even the glorious fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is scarcely more clearly Messianic than the second psalm. Even Professor Cheyne is compelled to admit its Messianic reference, and he tells us that Ibn Ezra does so likewise. And that some of the psalms apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord himself assures us (Luke 24:44). And in an age like this, when destructive criticism is so popular, it is needful for the believing student to be the more accurate, clear, and firm.
2. Some psalms point to the era rather than to the Person of the Messiah. Such are the fiftieth and the eighty-seventh psalms. They are prophetic expositions of truths which pertain to the Messianic times, and receive their full elucidation from the developed expositions of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament; they cover the ground of the Messianic age.
3. Other psalms refer immediately to the writer himself, and have come to be regarded as Messianic because some of the words therein were quoted the Lord Jesus Christ and adopted as his own. Such a one is the twenty-second psalm, in which the writer bemoans his own sufferings and (according to the LXX.)his own transgressions. But it is not possible to apply every verse of this psalm to the Lord Jesus. He, however, being in all things made like unto his brethren, was "in all points tempted like as we are;" hence the very groans of his brethren fitted his own lips. He came to have fellowship with us in our sufferings that we might have fellowship with him in his! Thus there is established a marvellously close sympathy between Jesus and his saints, since his temptations, sorrows, and groans resembled theirs, To this discriminating and believing study of the first fifty psalms, the writer ventures to invite the Christian student and expositor. We must avoid the extreme of those who, with Home, would reheard most, if not all, the psalms as Messianic; and also the extreme of those who would regard none as such. Because our Lord said that all things must be fulfilled that were written in the Psalms concerning him, we may not infer that words which were written concerning him filled up all the Psalms; nor, with the unbeliever, may we regard the claim of prophecy as invalid through any repugnance to the supernatural. Intelligent discernment and loving faith are twin sisters; may they both be our attendants during our survey of these priceless productions of Hebrew pens! And may the Spirit of God be himself our Light and our Guide! - C.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.It is an infallible mark of true wisdom, to profit by instruction.
I. TAKE A MORE ACCURATE VIEW OF THE WISE MAN; AND INQUIRE WHO IT IS THAT MAY BE TAKEN FOR SUCH.
1. He who proposes to himself some end in what he does, and pursues that end in a rational and dexterous manner.
2. A truly wise man is the same as a good man.
3. He who to his resolution to make the attainment of moral goodness the great object of his existence adds a fixed and unalterable determination to pursue this according to Divine direction.
II. INSTRUCTION MAY BE GIVEN EVEN TO THE ADVANTAGE OF THE WISE.
1. No truly wise man will account it impossible to make accessions to his wisdom.
2. Every wise man, whatever be the nature of his wisdom, will wish it to be increased as much as possible.
3. Whenever instruction is given to him which is adapted to his character and circumstances he will account himself happy in having it, and will be the better for it.
III. WHEN INSTRUCTION IS GIVEN TO A WISE MAN, HE WILL YET BE WISER.
1. He will endeavour to find out the motive of the person giving it.
2. He will consider the nature and tendency of the instruction or advise given.
3. He will pray that God may give him to see what is most valuable, and that He may influence his heart to profit by what is good.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
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