« PreviousContinue »
which the war, of which it was the termination, naturally produced. It would, however, be well, if the ministers of Austria and Prussia could be persuaded to discontinue their paper war, which, as it cannot remove the causes, certainly will not have the effect of allaying this natural irritation. We do not suppose that either Minister contemplates war, but it is plain that each suspects the other of hostile intentions. While this is the case, each country is looking out for allies when the possible collision shall take place, and their foreign policy is directed with a view to those alliances rather than to the common interest of both countries. Russia and France may gain by their divisions, but Germany must be the loser. The belief in the possibility of war is only less mischievous than war itself; as, while this state of uncertainty thus produced continues, the European States are almost compelled to keep up the immense standing armies which are crippling their resources and impoverishing their people.
The papers have been a good deal occupied during the month with accounts of the infidelity said to be prevailing throughout the Protestant States of Germany. It is said by some writers, who profess to be acquainted with the people, that there is an almost total separation between Christianity and the educated mind of Germany. We believe that, although there is sadly too near an approach to truth in this statement, it is a very exaggerated one. It is no doubt true that a state of almost universal coldness among both clergy and laity was followed by a very general unbelief. But there has been a by no means inconsiderable reaction. There has been a marked improvement both at the Universities and among the parochial clergy, and the increased piety of the clergy has not been without its fruits among the people.
While on this painful topic, we cannot help remarking on the great improvement in the tone of the principal speakers at the recent meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Science. Much of this, doubtless, was owing to the spirit which pervaded the opening address of the President, affording, as it did, a marked contrast to the opening address of last year. It is sometimes supposed that those who profess their belief in Revelation, shrink from the results of scientific inquiry. We, on the contrary, willingly adopt the words of the eloquent President,—“None need fear the effect of scientific inquiry carried on in an honest truth-loving humble spirit, which makes us no less ready frankly to avow our ignorance of what we cannot explain, than to accept conclusions based on sound evidence. The slow but sure path of induction is open to us. Let us frame hypotheses if we will; most useful are they, when kept in their proper place, as stimulating inquiry. Let us seek to confront them with observation and experiment, thereby confirming or upsetting them as the result may prove; but let us beware of placing them prematurely in the rank of ascertained truths, and building further conclusions on them as if they were.”
The Pope has summoned what he calls an (Ecumenical Council, to meet at Rome in the month of December. Dr. Manning professes not to know exactly what are the topics to be discussed, and what the dogmas to be decreed. As we cannot pretend to superior or even equal information, it seems idle to indulge in surmises which may prove utterly erroneous. We suspect that much which appears in the public papers at home and abroad, is merely put out by way of feeler, to ascertain, if possible, what amount of “blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits" may be foisted by the managers of the Council upon the subjects of the Church of Rome without provoking too violent a remonstrance and revulsion of feel. ing on the part of Romish devotees; and that the programme to be submitted is as yet by no means absolutely determined. Meanwhile, there is a good deal of excitement abroad upon the subject. The authorities of the Greek Church have made it clearly manifest that they still
“Æternum servant sub pectore vulnus”; and with contemptuous indifference, and shrewd appreciation of the arrogant pretensions of the See of Rome, have rejected an invitation to an assembly where Patriarch would not meet Pope as his perfect equal in rank and dignity. German Roman Catholics are already becoming, shall we say, “Protestants,” in anticipation of the further tax upon their credulity which is looming in the future. It seems to be the “consigne" of France, in spiritual things as well as temporal, to uphold the Papacy; but it must be a sore strain upon the intellect of the country. It might be supposed to be a matter with which, “penitus divisi toto orbe Britanni," we ought to have no concern. But it is not so. Some High-Churchmen are exceedingly anxious to furnish all these Romish Bishops with copies of the New Latin Prayer-Book, probably to show them that we are not as bad as we are supposed to be. Some of the “Guilds" talk of sending a Deputation to the Council; but there must be Ritualists who have become Romanists, who could explain to the Pope how far they may be accredited as representatives of the Church of England. Dr. Cumming, with the “ disputandi pruritus” which is characteristic of his nation, as we gather from the Times, offers to go and argue the questions at issue with the whole conclave of the Vatican. We have no doubt he would acquit himself well and loyally, if they would give him a hearing. A further proposition has been suggested by the venerable Dr. Merle D'Aubigné, that united prayer meetings of Christians of all denominations should be held in the week of the Council, for the progress of the work of the Reformation in countries now delivered up to Romish influence. A circular has been put out by the Hon. A. Kinnaird upon the subject, to which we would invite the attention of our readers. We have not space to insert it, or Dr. D'Aubigné's letter; but both are readily procurable, and have already appeared in our religious newspapers and other channels of information.
“A SUBSCRIBER of 50 years” suggests a reduction in price of the Christian
Observer. The Proprietors have anxiously considered this question, but at pre
sent would not feel justified in making any change. We thank another Correspondent for calling our attention to the questionable
character of a late Advertisement. He may feel assured that no Advertisement of a doubtful character would be knowingly admitted on the covers of our periodicai.
THE BOOK OF PSALMS. It has been aptly observed by an old divine,t that “the Scripture is a spiritual paradise," and that “the book of Psalms is placed as the tree of life in the midst of this paradise.” “The Psalms,” he adds, "are enriched with variety, and suited
• The following are some of the most important modern works bearing upon this subject :
The Book of Psalms in Hebrew, metrically arranged, &c. By J. Rogers, M.A.
Oxford : J. H. Parker. n.d. Commentary on the Psalms. By E. W. Hengstenberg. Translated by Rev. P.
Fairbairn. 3 vols. Edinburgh: Thomas Clark. 1844–8. A Literal Translation of the Book of Psalms, &c. By the Rev. John Jebb,
A.M. 2 vols. Longmans, Brown, and Co. 1846. The Psalms in Hebrew, with a Critical, Exegetical, and Philological Commentary. By the Rev. George Phillips, B.D. 2 vols. London: J. W.
Parker. 1846. Die Psalmen. Erklärt von Justus Olshausen. Leipzig. 1858. Die Psalmen. Übersetzt und ausgelegt von Dr. Hermann Hupfeld. 2 vols.
Gotha. 1855–8. A Commentary on the Book of Psalms; Critical, Devotional, and Prophetical.
By William De Burgh, D.D. 2 vols. Dublin: Hodges, Smith, and Co. 1860. An Introduction to the Study and Use of the Psalms. By Joseph Francis
Thrupp, M.A. 2 vols. Cambridge: Macmillan and Co. 1860. Die Psalmen übersetzt und ausgelegt von Dr. Ferdinand Hitzig. 2 vols.
Leipzig und Heidelberg. 1863. The Psalms Translated and Explained. By Joseph Addison Alexander, D.D.
Edinburgh. 1864. Allgemeines über die Hebräische Dichtung und über das Psalmenbuch, von
Heinrich Ewald. Göttingen. 1866. Die Psalmen und die Klaglieder erklärt von Heinrich Ewald. Göttingen. 1866. David der König von Israel, von Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Krummacher.
Berlin. 1867. The Book of Psalms; a new Translation, with Introductions and Notes Ex,
planatory and Critical. By J. J. Stewart Perowne, B.D. 2 vols. Bell
and Daldy. 1864-8. Notes Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Book of Psalms. By Albert Barnes, 3 vols. Hamilton, Adams, and Co. 1868.
+ Thomas Watson. Vol. 68.—No. 382.
to every Christian's estate and condition. They are a spiritual panopir and store-house; if be find his heart dead, here he may fetch fire; if he be weak in grace, bere be may fetch armour; if he be ready to faint, here are cordials Iring by. There is no condition you can name but there is a Psalm suited to that condition." A stiil older writer, the pious and judicious Hooker, inquires in the same spirit-" What is there necessary for man to know which tte Psalms are not able to teach?" whilst a later divine (Bishop Horne', in bis Preface to a Com. mentary on this portion of Scripture, replete with the spirit of devotion, writes as follows:-“That which we read, as matter of speculation, in the other Scriptures, is reduced to practice, when we recite it in the Book of Psalms; in those, repentance and faith are described, but in these they are acted; by a perasal of the former, we learn how others served God, but, by using the latter, we serve Him ourselves.” “In the language of this divine bock," contigues the writer last quoted, "the prayers and praises of the Church have been offered up to the thrope of grace from age to age. And it appears to have been the manual of the Son of God, in the days of His flesh; who, at the conclusion of His last Supper, is generally supposed, and that opon good grounds, to have sung a hymn taken from it; who pronounced, on the cross, the beginning of the 22nd Psalm, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Je?' and expired with a part of the 31st Psalm in His mooth: 'Into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.'” “No tongue of man," as Dr. Hammond has well observed, “can convey a higher idea of any book, and of their felicity, who use it aright."
And in conformity with this view of the intrinsic value of the Book of Psalms has been the place which it has ever held ahke in the Jewish and in the Christian Church. Of all the books of the Old Testament, none has held so conspicuous a place as this in the congregational worship of the Church in all succeeding generations; no book is quoted so frequently in the New Tes. tament as the Book of Psalms; and there is none which, in the individual experience of belierers, has been, in so preeminent a degree, the lamp to their feet in life, and the anchor of their souls in death.
It is very far from our purpose to disparage, in any way, the importance of those critical researches which, in modern times more especially, have been directed to the discovery of the historical meaning of the Psalms, i.e.their immediate reference to the history of the Jewish nation generalls, or to the occurrences of the life of David in particular. On the contrary, we gratefully acknowledge the elocidation which has thus been giren to many obscure passages, and the additional interest imparted to the Psalms by means of a clearer insight into the date and circum. stances of their composition. We cannot, however, too strongly protest against any system of interpretation which restricts this precious and enduring heritage of the Church to the past conflicts, trials, or triumphs of the Jewish Church or nation, or of any of its individual members. Widely as the early writers of the Church often wandered in their expositions, through want of a competent knowledge of the language in which the Psalms were written, they, in common with the ancient Jewish Church, laid firm hold of a truth, which has been too much overlooked in more recent times,-that as regards the prophetic writings generally, and as regards the Psalter in a pre-eminent degree, it is the “ testimony of Jesus ” which is “The spirit of prophecy.”
We are fully conscious of the difficulty involved in the application of this principle to the interpretation of particular passages, and of the importance of bearing ever in mind the momentous distinction between the immediate reference-and even the ultimate scope-of the writer, and the higher and deeper meaning designed by the “Spirit of the Lord,” who spake by David, and “Whose word was in his tongue.” (2 Sam. xxii. 2.) Whilst, then, we may be unwilling to endorse the literal truth of Augustine's opinion, that hardly a word will be found in the Psalms which is not spoken in the name of Christ and the Church, either both jointly, or of one of the two singly; and if of the Church, then of each one amongst us, we do not hesitate to affirm our belief that the trials, the sufferings, and the triumphs described by the Psalmists have, in all cases, their several lessons of instruction, and, in very many cases, their direct personal application to the history of each individual member of Christ's Church; whilst, as regards many portions of the Psalter, its exclusive accomplishment must be sought in the personal history and experience of the Great Captain of our salvation. It is reasonable to regard, as an illustration of the prevailing system of Jewish interpretation, the application to our Lord by Satan (an application not challenged by Himself) of the promise given to the righteous man generally in the 91st Psalm, “He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways" ; whilst, as illustrations of the direct and primary application of the language of the Psalms to Christ, we may refer to the words quoted by St. Peter from the 16th and the 110th Psalms, with reference to the former of which (whatever may have been the current interpretation), the Apostle expressly declares that David, “ seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ;" and with reference to the latter, in words which seem to imply (as those of our Lord in St. Matt. xxii. 41-45, and St. Mark xii. 35—37, unquestionably do) the concurrent in