The Book of Psalms by r c

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BY ROBERT COLLYER, LUKE xx. 42 : The Book of Psalms.
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  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.BY ROBERT COLLYER,LUKE xx. 42 : The Book of Psalms. THE Book of Psalms, and not the Psalms of David, is the most appropriate title. David isthe author of a good many of the pieces ; but heis only one of ten or perhaps twelve authors, whohave a share in the entire collection. The par-ticular process by which the book came to assumeits present form has passed out of all memory andhistory. It is probable, that long ago therewere at least five collections of Psalms, and thatthey were finally all brought together, and castinto one, very much as our collections of Hymnsfor the church service are made now. TheMasorah, school of criticism among the Jews,one object of which was to keep a jealous eye onthe outward letter of their Bible, to count thebooks, words, and even letters of which it is com-f256]THE BOOK OF PSALMS. 257posed, has preserved the division lines of thoseminor books of Psalms. The same thing hasbeen done in the Syriac Version, a very old trans-lation from the Hebrew. It is also probable, thatthe editor had the trouble such men have now.St. Athanasius has preserved the tradition, thatthe present selection of one hundred and fiftywas made out of three thousand Psalms, thatwere at that time getting themselves said andsung on the hills and in the valleys of old Jewry ;from which we may infer, that bad verse andpretended inspiration is by no means the result of modern degeneracy. Who this devoted man was,is not at all certain : some say Hezekiah ; some,Ezrah. Others say that it must have been an.unknown man of a later time, as some of the  Psalms bear marks of having been written as lateas the age of the Maccabees, or about one hundredand fifty years before Christ, and two hundredand fifty after the last of the Prophets. TheJews themselves assert that the 92d Psalm waswritten by Adam; the 89th, by Abraham; the110th by Melchizedek ; the 90th and ten follow-ing, by Moses. Seventy-one are given to David,(some manuscripts give him eighty-two) ; the258 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.72d and 127th, to Solomon; and the rest, towriters whose names you will not care to know.This classification, however, will not bearcriticism : the text itself, in some of the Psalms,makes it impossible. For instance, the Psalmattributed to Abraham makes frequent mentionof David. Other and better systems, in latertimes, keep these elder men out of the book entirely, and make Moses the oldest writer whosepoems are admitted. This is probably true, or asnear as we shall ever be to the truth on thismatter. Moses, David, Solomon, and sevenobscurer men, answer to our call, when we saywho are the authors of the Book of Psalms.Then to come to the inner structure of the book, we may perceive that this editor hasonly been moderately careful in the performanceof his task. There is, to be sure, a rough sortof harmony in which David has a section tohimself. Then David has a share of a sectionwith Asaph; then Asaph and others join at athird ; and the fourth and fifth are by authorswhose names are not known. But, by somestrange oversight, the Psalms 14th and 53d arealmost exactly alike : with the exception of a fewTHE BOOK OF PSALMS. 259words in one verse, they are the same Psalms.  The last five verses of Psalm 40th are preciselythe same as the five verses that compose Psalm70th. Psalm 18th is the same as the 22d chapterof the second book of Samuel ; while the 144thPsalm is made up out of a mosaic of verses,selected from the 8th, 18th, 39th, 102d, and someother Psalms, the 8th and llth verses of thisPsalm being also the same verse repeated, and thewhole composition standing without any percepti-ble harmony of verse to verse, or any relation of ideas each to the other.Then, again, a number of the Psalms are writ-ten as you would write an acrostic : each versebegins with a particular letter of the Hebrewalphabet, from the first to the last. The longPsalm 119th is one of those, except that, in thethe monkish division of the Bible, the alphabeticsection is subdivided into eight verses. The145th Psalm is another in which the acrosticform has been broken up by one verse being lost,that is, the one set to the fifteenth letter,but restored from some old manuscript since ourcommon version got to be canonized Finally,one or two other Psalms are the substantial re-260 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.petition of the one thing, that any two versionsof a poem from the French or German would be,when it was rendered into our own tongue. Thisis the outward frame-work of the book, as itstands, subjected to the honest eye-sight we giveto any other book, a selection of sacred poems,from a great mass, written during a range of years that would include the reign of Alfred theGreat and the presidency of Abraham Lincoln,containing marks of carelessness that would ruinthe reputation of any editor in our own time ;with no particular certainty about the authorship,or when the book was collected, or who did it, orwhen men pronounced it of such divine authority,or who authorized them to do so, and whethersome of the best among the two thousand eighthundred and fifty rejected Psalms ought not to  have been retained, at any rate in preference tothose that are twice printed.ow, then, here is a most interesting study :all nations have grown into poetry as soon as theybegan to grow into any thing above the common-est life of the moment. - But this book of poemshas taken its place easily and beautifully beforeand over the home-poems of the foremost nationsTHE BOOK OF PSALMS. 281on the globe. The Greek, by comparison, hasforgotten his Homer and Hesiod; the Roman,(hose first poetic utterances out of which Livyand those that followed him drew their materialfor the beginnings of the history of that marvellouscommonwealth. The sagas of Scandinavia, andthe sacred hymns of the Druids, have all goneinto night. The psalms are lost that soundedthrough the temple-services and palaces and cot-tages of Egypt and Assyria. Even where thesacred poem is left, the meaning is dead, or allbut dead, whether it be to the disciple of Buddhaor Mahomet ; while here is a book of poems,some of which are probably as old as the oldestof those that are dying or dead, as fresh and wel-come as ever. If I could have stood here thismorning, and, instead of my sermon, could havetold you that I had come into the possession of awonderful and curious literary treasure, thathad been sent to me, say from China, a book written from two to three thousand years ago,a book of poems by different authors, rangingthrough a period of a thousand years, in whichthere are to be found the most vivid pictures of life in that old time ; the writers, with the sim-262 THE BOOK OP PSALMS.plicity of children, letting you look into theirhearts, so that by looking, you learn their inner-most experiences of hope and fear, sorrow and
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