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his own enemy without being the enemy of others also, and of God.
On the contrary, there is no surer and better way of improving our own hearts than by labouring by prayer, by example, and by authority, to improve the conduct of others. If any one watches carefully to preserve innocence and purity in his children, it tends in some degree to restore to himself, if not the innocence of childhood, yet the love of it, and regret for having lost it: if he labours to instil into them the love of God, it is fanning the flame or kindling the dying embers of love in his own bosom. And for a humble penitent, who has lost his own childhood by vice or idleness, it may be a great consolation to watch over and preserve from evil the childhood of others: it may keep up wholesome feelings of repentance in his own bosom, to observe in others that innocence which he himself has lost.
And the fact is, that in helplessness, in ignorance, in littleness, we are far more children in our condition than we imagine; and therefore it is, that Scripture requires us to be as children, because our highest wisdom is to know ourselves.
As our LORD requires us, if we would enter into His Kingdom, to be as children: so we may observe that His beloved disciple ever loved to address those Christians who were the objects of his most tender solicitude and affection, under the name of little children, ever delighting to repeat the word, "little children!" Blessed, indeed, must have been those Christians, who were worthy of that name, surely they must have been free from all ambition, free from covetousness, free from envy. Blessed is that Christian whom the Psalmist describes, if it be not one greater than a Christian, even CHRIST Himself, "LORD, I am not highminded: I have no proud looks. I do not exercise myself in great matters, which are too high for me. But I refrain my soul and keep it low, like as a child that is weaned from his mother, yea, my soul is even as a weaned child.”
Like a child weaned from his mother, so is the soul which is weaned from our evil mother the world, who drinks no more "of the breast of her consolations;" but ever looks to and hangs upon that Father which is in Heaven, Who has adopted us for His own children in JESUS CHRIST.
THE PRAYER-BOOK OF CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS.
1 COR. xiv. 15.
"I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also."
SOME persons may be surprised that the Church should so much use the Psalms of David in Christian worship. Twice every day we are required by our Prayer-book to use the Psalms and we find that in other times, and in other countries, the Church made use of them much more even than this, as much as seven times every day. Now we pass through the whole book of Psalms in one month; in the old and foreign Prayer-books I speak of, we find they passed through the whole in one week.
But now some persons say, would it not be better to have Hymns written by a Christian in the present day, instead of using the devotions of a Jewish king, who lived before CHRIST? Is it not unreasonable, they say, for an enlightened Christian in the present day to be saying so much of the enemies of David, who have so long ceased to exist, of Edom, and Moab, and Philistia? or of Jewish tribes, as Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh; of victories and triumphs in battle, and of overcoming enemies by sword and spear, and treading them under our feet? Whereas, every Christian knows that all mankind are his brethren in CHRIST; that the only way to overcome them, which the Gospel allows, is by meekness and forgiveness; and that even to
harbour a thought of revenge, and of returning evil for evil, is highly displeasing to ALMIGHTY GOD.
Now, in answer to all this, or even if we had not one word to say in answer to it, yet a humble mind may rest assured that it is a wrong view of the case, because the Church of God, which, as St. Paul says, is the pillar and ground of the truth," has always, from the beginning, thought otherwise. And even if we had nothing more to say, we should remember that the holy David, who wrote most of the Psalms, is declared by Scripture to be 66 a man after God's own heart." Now this cannot be known, assuredly, of any Christian who may write books of devotion and hymns; but the fact is, that all those objections which have been stated against the use of the Psalms, are founded in great thoughtlessness, I would almost say, in unbelief. Men do not know, or, at least, do not consider, what they are speaking of when they thus speak of the Word of God; they forget that the Psalms were not the work of a man, are not the words and thoughts of a man, not even of the man after God's own heart, but the very words of the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD.
Shall any one be so bold as to say that they are not applicable to us, because they were written before CHRIST came into the world and died for our sins? Did not the HOLY SPIRIT know what would be going on among Christians now, quite as well as what was going on then in the Kingdom of Israel? Did He not think as much of us Christians as He did of the Jews? Were we not as much present before HIм with all our wants, and temptations, and difficulties, as the children of Israel were of old? Surely, far more so, as Christians are brought more near to CHRIST than the Jews were; as they are especially called the sons of the SPIRIT, and are said to "know the mind of the SPIRIT," and to have the will of God made known to them more than it was to the Jews; as their privileges in CHRIST are much greater, and they are brought into a more intimate union with God; therefore, we may be sure that the Psalms were written much more for the Christian than they were for the Jew; that the things they speak of concern us much more than they did the people of David; that they describe our condition, speak of our infirmities, our defeats, our victories, our consolations, much more than they did those of the Israelites. They of old had but
the shadow, the figure, and the type; but the body is of CHRIST. The true Israel, the true Mount Sion, the "true Tabernacle" is with us.
Shall any body think for a moment that the Psalms are not good enough for us? God forbid that such a thought should ever enter into the mind of a Christian. Are we better than the holy David, for whose sake GoD for so many generations spared His people? Shall we think thus, in these evil days, of that book which may be considered to have been the Prayer-book of CHRIST Himself? For it may be observed, that not only do the Psalms speak always of CHRIST, so that our Blessed SAVIOUR pointed out, it is said, to His disciples "what was written in the Psalms concerning HIM," and also frequently mentioned passages in the Psalms which, from time to time, were fulfilled in HIM; but also in His prayers to ALMIGHTY GOD we find that He uses the words of the Psalms. This He does more than once on the solemn prayer, My God, My God,
Cross, as in that awful and why hast thou forsaken ME?" From which it has been reasonably supposed that not only these words from the beginning of the Twenty-second Psalm, but that the whole of that Psalm, and other Psalms, were then, and at all times, silently in our LORD'S mind; that the words of the Psalms were oftentimes the words with which our Blessed LORD prayed to His FATHER. And on the night before the Crucifixion, when it is said, that after they had sung a hymn they went to the Mount of Olives, it always has been supposed that the hymn they sung consisted of certain Psalms.
If, therefore, we were left to judge for ourselves in such matters, and had not the Church of GOD to guide and direct us, it would be more reasonable to say that the Book of Psalms, being written by the Spirit and finger of GOD, and being, as it were, the Prayer-book of CHRIST Himself, was too holy and high a book for us of these evil days, rather than to set it aside as not good enough for us. But, in fact, any plea that would persuade us to set aside the Psalms, we may well suspect to be from the Author of Evil; and a very early and primitive Bishop, who lived near the time of the Apostles, and wrote of the coming of Antichrist, or the great enemy of GoD in the last time, mentions this as one sign and token of His approach, that “ Psalmody
shall cease." Other holy men of old used to suppose that the Psalms were written more especially for the great conflict with the powers of darkness in the last days-the days of Antichrist; that they are more particularly a description of those times, and of those encounters which the few who will be found faithful will have to undergo, and are intended for the support and comfort of those few. That they will then be made use of by good Christians in those days of distress and darkness; in like manner as they were used by our LORD Himself in the horror of His extreme agony on the Cross, in His last conflict with the powers of evil, and when darkness came over the world.
And thus as this holy book was hallowed by our blessed LORD's example, so we shall find that when the Church was in her best and purest days, then did she most of all use the Psalms, not only in her public services, but holy and good men, Martyrs and Saints of GOD, in their private devotions, were accustomed to use the Psalms. They considered themselves unworthy of them even in using them, and cherished them exceedingly, There is no subject which they seem so full of, which they speak of in such strong and glowing language; their hearts seem to overflow at the mention of them; and they seem at a loss for expressions to speak the value they attached to them, the delight they had in them, the consolation they derived from them, the treasures and stores of wisdom which they contained. They speak of them as of heavenly armour, of spiritual melodies, of treasures of knowledge, of flowers of Paradise, as the manna that came down from Heaven, as the language of the Spirit. They were continually writing upon them; showing thereby the fulness of their heart, from the abundance of which they spoke. They wrote commentaries upon them, translations of them, meditations from them, sermons from them. They were ever bewailing their ignorance of them; praying to God to give them the right understanding of them. The devout St. Augustin, an ancient Bishop, who appears from his writings to have been one of the most wonderful of men, speaks of his being accustomed to shed abundance of tears after his conversion, on hearing the Psalms of David in sacred worship.
The reason why some suppose the Psalms not to apply to Christians, is because they forget what the Apostle says, that