OF THE BOOK OF
We have now before us one of the choicest and most excellent parts of all the Old Testament; nay, so much is there in it of CHRIST and his gospel, as well as of GOD and his law, that it has been called the abstract, or summary, of both Testaments. The History of Israel, which we were long upon, led us to camps and council-boards, and there entertained and instructed us in the knowledge of GOD. The book of Job brought us into the schools, and treated us with profitable disputations concerning GOD and his providence; but this book brings us into the sanctuary, draws us off from converse with men, with the politicians, philosophers, or disputers, of this world, and directs us into communion with GOD, by solacing and reposing our souls in him, lifting up, and letting out, our hearts toward him. Thus may we be in the mount with GOD; and we understand not ourselves, if we say not, It is good to be here.
Let us consider,
I. The title of this book. It is called, 1. The Psalms; under that title it is referred to, Luke xxiv. 44. The Hebrew calls it Tehillim, which properly signifies Psalms of praise; because many of them are such: but Psalms is a more general word, meaning all metrical compositions fitted to be sung, which may as well be historical, doctrinal, or supplicatory, as laudatory. Though express and to excite all the other affections, as well as this of joy. The priests had a mournful muse as well as joyful ones; and the divine institution of singing psalms is thus largely displayed; for we are directed, not only to praise GOD, but to teach and admonish ourselves and one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, Col. iii. 16. 2. It is called the Book of Psalms; so it is quoted by St. Peter, Acts i. 20. It is a collection of psalms, of all the psalms that were divinely inspired, which, though composed at several times and upon several occasions, are here put together without any reference to, or dependence upon, one another; thus they were preserved from being scattered and lost, and laid in so much greater readiness for the service of the church. See what a good Master we serve, and what pleasantness there is in wisdom's ways, when we are not only commanded to sing at our work, and have cause enough given us to do so, but have words also put in our mouths, and songs prepared to our hands.
II. The Author of this book. It is, no doubt, derived originally from the Blessed Spirit. They are spiritual songs, words which the Holy Ghost taught. The penman of most of them was David, the son of Jesse, who is therefore called the sweet Psalmist of Israel, 2 Sam. xxiii. 1. Some that have not his name in their titles, yet are expressly ascribed to him elsewhere; as Ps. ii. (Acts iv. 25.) and Ps. xcvi. cv. (1 Chron. xvi.) One psalm is expressly said to be the prayer of Moses; (Ps. xc.) and that some of the psalms were penned by Asaph, is intimated, 2 Chron. xxix. 30. where they are said to praise the Lord in the words of David, and Asaph, who is there called a seer or prophet. Some of the psalms seem to have been penned long after; as Ps. cxxxvii. at the time of the captivity in Babylon; but the far greater part of them were certainly penned by David himself, whose genius lay toward poetry and music, and who was raised up, qualified, and animated, for the establishing of the ordinance of singing psalms in the church of GOD, as Moses and Aaron were, in their day, for the settling of the ordinances of sacrifice; theirs is superseded, but his remains, and will to the end of time, when it shall be swallowed up in the songs of eternity. Herein David was a type of CHRIST, who descended from him, not from Moses, because he came to take away sacrifice, (the family of Moses was soon lost and extinct,) but to establish and perpetuate joy and praise; for of the family of David in CHRIST there shall be no end.
III. The scope of it. It is manifestly intended, 1. To assist the exercises of natural religion, and to kindle in the souls of men those devout affections which we owe to GOD as our Creator, Owner, Ruler, and Benefactor. The book of Job helps to prove our first principles of the divine perfections and providence; but this helps to improve them in prayers and praises, and professions of desire toward him, dependence on him, and an entire devotedness and resignation to him. Other parts of scripture show that GOD is infinitely above man, and his sovereign LORD; but this shows us that he may, notwithstanding, be conversed with by us sinful worms of the earth; and there are ways in which, if it be not our own fault, we may keep up communion with him in all the various conditions of human life. 2. To