• Presbyterian Reformed Church

The Church, or Israel of God

By William Binnie

The voice which rises to the throne of God in the Psalms is the voice of the Church rather than of the individual believer. Not that the individual is suffered to lose himself in the community of the faithful. We are never suffered to forget that we are each to hold personal and particular communion with God, even as we are each to give in an account at the final judgment. The Church is composed of individuals who have, every one, a distinct history; who have been brought to God one by one; and to whom it is of vital necessity that they be each sanctified, and guided, and guarded, and received into glory. When the Church assembles for the worship of God, if all its heart is to be poured out in song, the hymns that are used must deal much with the Personal aspects of religion; and this is done so abundantly in the Psalms, that we have found it possible to collect from them alone something like a complete view of the history of religion in the soul.

Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the Psalter is properly the book of Church Song. In this respect it differs remarkably from most collections of religious poetry. In them, the personal aspects of religion are the almost exclusive theme; whereas in it, although the personal aspects receive their due place, the social aspects are equally prominent. There is some thing remarkable in the equal balancing of these two elements. Let the 150 psalms be distributed into two columns — the one containing those in which the personal element predominates, the other those that are characteristically social — and it will be found that the two columns are, as nearly as may be, of equal length. An accurate distribution is, indeed, impossible. There is not a psalm that can be called private or personal, in such a sense as to preclude its use in public worship; and there are few, if any, that are social in such a sense as to preclude their use in private devotion. There are not a few which might equally well be set down in either class. In some instances, moreover, it is hard to distinguish between the voice of the individual and the voice of the community. The use of the singular pronoun does not determine the point; for, not seldom, the person who speaks in the singular is the collective Church, the Daughter of Sion. Besides, it is instructive to mark howprivate prayers — prayers which are meant to make the individual worshipper feel himself, as it were, alone with God — will occur, as by way of interjection, in the midst of public psalms; and how, conversely, private psalms will rise into intercession for the public cause. An example, in either kind, will illustrate this. The Hundred and sixth is one of the great Historical Psalms; it is a lyrical commemoration of “the mighty acts of the Lord” performed in behalf of his rebellious people, during the long centuries of their history, from the exodus till the captivity; yet, ere it is well begun, the Psalmist throws in the prayer:

4. Remember ME O Jehovah, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people

O visit ME with thy salvation:

5. That I may see the good of thy chosen;

That I may be glad in the gladness of thy nation,

That I may make my boast with thine inheritance.[3]

The other example is furnished by the Fifty-first Psalm,[4] “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Sion; build thou the walls of Jerusalem.” There is no ambiguity about this psalm; it is the most intensely personal that was ever penned. David has sinned. The Lord has convinced him of his sin; and he now cries for mercy, pleading with the importunity of a man who knows he is pleading for his life. If ever there was a time when a person might have been expected to be absorbed in the thought of his own salvation, and utterly oblivious of the general interests of religion and the church, surely it was the time when David passed through the crisis of which this psalm is the memorial. How instructive then to see that, even in this hour of his anguish, he is led to look beyond himself! First, the thought arises in his heart, “Oh, if God would but shew me mercy~ what a preacher of his grace I should be! I would declare his Name with tongue and pen; and in me there should be seen such a monument of mercy as might waken hope in the heart of Despair itself. Let God restore unto me the joy of his salvation; then will I teach transgressors his ways, and sinners shall be converted unto Him!” Then, as light begins to dawn upon him, solicitude for the welfare of God’s Israel, — the Church, which has been so deeply wounded by his sin, — stirs his soul again, and he utters the prayer that the Lord would, in his good pleasure, do good unto Sion and build the walls of Jerusalem.

This blending of the personal and social elements of religion is very instructive. It admonishes us that a similar blending ought to find place in our devotions. And this inference is remarkably corroborated by the circumstance, that the Lord’s Prayer exhibits the same careful conjunction and balancing of the two diverse elements. In three of the petitions of that divine form of prayer, we are taught to set forth our personal wants; in the other three we are admonished to look, not on our own things only, but every one also on the things of others, especially on the general interests of God’s glory in the earth; and the three public petitions are set down first. We are thus admonished, that in our more solemn and stated prayers we ought to seek first that God’s name may be hallowed, that His kingdom may come, and His will be done in the earth; petitions with respect to our personal concerns are to come after. It is not meant, of course, that this order is to be uniformly observed, or that God’s children may never resort to Him with petitions that wholly relate to their private and personal affairs. The rule is simply intended to indicate, in a general way, the kind of things that are to be craved of God, and the relative prominence they ought to receive in our more stated prayers. The coincidence in this matter between the Psalter and the Lord’s Prayer is, I think, profoundly significant.[5] True religion is always personal; but it is something more. It begins at home; but it does not end there. It embraces in its solicitude the whole interest of God’s glory and the good of men.

When we pass from the personal to the social aspects of religion, as these are delineated by the pencil of the Holy Spirit in the psalms, the society which first and chiefly calls for notice is the CHURCH OF GOD. The Psalter everywhere gives it a large and prominent place, expatiating on its past History, its contemporary Fortunes, and the bright Future which awaits it in the latter days. These are great and far-reaching subjects; and ought to possess a deep interest for every one who has been admitted into the Household of God.

A word or two must be said, in the first place, regarding the view which the Psalmists take of the Nature and Constitution of the Church. Not that we are to expect to gather from them very precise information on these much controverted topics. Detailed and exact definitions would be out of place in poetry, and especially in lyrical poetry. Nevertheless, I believe that even from the psalms some valuable suggestions may be gathered, particularly with respect to the more fundamental and vital points.

If one were asked to explain who they were that constituted the Church which is so affectionately celebrated by the psalmists, it would be a fair reply to say that it consisted of “the seed of Jacob,” — the children of Abraham in the line of Isaac and Israel. For wise reasons the Lord was pleased, under the Old Testament, to make a Nation the depository of his oracles and ordinances; the covenant society within which He chose to dispense the benefits of salvation. This is just to say, in other words, that under the Law the Church of God was Jewish, not Catholic. This, I repeat, is a true account of the matter, so far as it goes. However, it is important to observe that, even under the Old Testament, and while the Church was still in its national form, God’s people were carefully guarded against the Romish or Hierarchical notion of the Church — the wretched notion which, identifying the visible and invisible Church, and making a particular form of polity the one essential note of the true Church, would exclude from the ordinary ministration of God’s saving grace all who are outside the charmed circle of a particular community; and would teach those who chance to be within that circle, that they are certainly the people of God, the vessels of his mercy, and heirs of his kingdom. Considering that the Law of Moses set up many ordinances which were so strictly national that they could not be celebrated except by a people living under one external government, it is plain that the narrow theory of the hierarchists might very plausibly have been maintained under the Old Testament. In fact, the Pharisees and all the carnal-minded Jews held what was in substance that very theory; and the error was, in their circumstances, far more excusable than it is now, under the gospel, when all the local and national rites have been abrogated, and the ordinances of Christian worship are so framed that every one of them can be observed in a hundred distinct and independent communities.[6] It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that the theory is tacitly repudiated by the psalmists. One fact, of great interest in this connection, came under our notice in tracing the history of Psalmody under the later Kings, when the children of Israel were divided into two rival kingdoms. In psalms written long after the division of the kingdom, Ephraim and Manasseh are named with fraternal affection and commended to the grace of God.[7] It is plain that the faithful in Judah recognised their northern brethren as still embraced in the covenant society, and that they perceived the significance of the fact that the Lord had continued to raise up within the two tribes a succession of great and faithful prophets. With regard to that part of the hierarchical theory which makes membership in the visible Church identical, for all practical purposes, with membership in the Church invisible, it is tacitly refuted in places without number. The true citizen of Zion is not the man who can merely shew his descent from Jacob, but “the man that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully; he shall receive the blessing from the Lord. This is the generation of them that seek Him.”[8] What do texts like these teach but the protestant and apostolical doctrine, that there is an all-important distinction between the visible and invisible Church; that the true Church and the professing Church, although they are so closely connected that the eye of man cannot draw a line of separation between them, are by no means coincident: — that “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.[9]

We must beware, indeed, of running into the anarchical extreme of treating matters of external Church Order as if they were of no account. There is a right and a wrong even in them. Under the Old Testament, for example, it was the will of God that His people should subsist in the form of a organised and visible Unity, resorting annually to the solemn feasts in the one sanctuary at Jerusalem. The tribes were commanded to go up to Jerusalem: “the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.”[10] The will of God in this matter could not be disobeyed without sin and loss. But, even under the Old Testament, the breach of organic unity did not necessarily separate either party from the covenant society. Nothing can be more certain than that Elijah and Elisha, although they had no external fellowship with the altar of the Lord in Zion, were not therefore strangers to the covenants of promise. They did not live and die beyond the pale of the true church. If, even under the Old Testament, subjection to a divinely appointed frame of Church order was neither essential to connection with the true Church of God, nor a thing which necessarily inferred that connection, much less are the two things to be identified under the more spiritual and universal economy. There is no one frame of Church order that includes all, or nearly all, God’s true people. And, on the other hand, valuable as connection with a well-ordered society may be, something more is necessary in order to prove a man to be a true member of the general assembly and Church of the first born whose names are written in heaven, the company of the true people of God who shall inherit the kingdom. Not Gentiles only, like Hobab or Rahab or Ruth, but born Israelites were taught to pray that they might have an inheritance in the true Israel — that the Lord would “remember them with the favour he beareth to his people, so that they might see the good of his elect, and be glad in the gladness of his nation;”[11] and there is not a member of any Church on earth this day but has, at least, equal need to offer often that admirable prayer.

The ends for which God has instituted his Church (besides the godly nurture of the children of his people — a subject which will come before us at a later stage) are mainly these two: the Edification of the faithful by joint attendance on religious ordinances, and the holding forth of a Testimony for God in the view of the world.

l. With regard to the former, it is to be observed that the psalms lay great stress on Social Worship. It would have been strange had they not done so; for the social principle is strong in our nature, and it might well have been expected that the Author of our nature would take care to turn the principle to account in promoting his people’s edification. It is an old and just remark that Christ taught us to say, not My Father but Our Father in order that we might be admonished to pray with and for one another. With like reason it is to be inferred from the social quality of the psalms, that we ought deeply to feel the relation which binds us to “the Congregation of the Lord,” and to take delight in being associated with his people in his worship. We are admonished that the ideas expressed in such phrases as these: — “the seed of Abraham,” “the Israel of God,” “the Congregation of the righteous,” “Mount Zion,” “the daughter of Jerusalem,” ought to receive a large place in our hearts. The more we imbibe the spirit of the psalms, the less shall we be inclined to fall into a cold, selfish, unbrotherly isolation. We shall more and more rejoice in the thought on which the apostle of the Gentiles so much delighted to expatiate, that God has, even in the earth, a numerous people, who have all been, by one Spirit, baptised into one body; and that if we are believers indeed, we are members of that body and united in the fellowship of life to all other believers. That Pauline doctrine is not expressly laid down in the psalms, but it underlies them. Hence the delight with which the faithful are seen resorting to the public worship of God. They “serve the LORD With gladness and come into his presence with singing.”[12] They sing with David:[13]

l. Behold how good and how pleasant it is

For brethren to dwell together in unity!

3. It is like the dew of Hermon,

That floweth down upon the mountains of Zion

For there hath Jehovah commanded the blessing,

Even life for evermore.

The ordinances that were celebrated in the temple were, for the most part, of a kind little fitted in themselves to convey spiritual refreshment to the worshippers, — “week and beggarly element,”[14] soon to be removed, that they might give place to better means of grace. Nevertheless, inasmuch as they had been appointed by God, the faithful knew that so long as the divine appointment remained in force, the ministration of the Holy Spirit would accompany and fructify even those barren rites, and that the place where the congregation waited on them would thus become all that its name imported, — a true “Tabernacle of Meeting.” The Lord had promised that in every place where he recorded his name he would come to his people and bless them.[15] The ancient believers came expecting the fulfillment of the promise; and so far was their expectation from being disappointed that the psalms in which they expressed the holy satisfaction they experienced in attending on God’s worship remain to this hour the truest and most adequate expression of the feelings awakened in the souls of Christian worshippers, when their hearts are made to burn within them by the tokens of Christ’s presence in their assemblies.

l. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of hosts!

2. My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of Jehovah;

My heart and my flesh cry aloud to the living God.

4. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house!

They will be still praising thee.

10. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand:

I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God,

Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.[16]

2. The Church was instituted not only for the comfort of the faithful, but to maintain a Testimony for God in the view of the world, from age to age. We find, accordingly, that the piety unfolded in the psalms is largely imbued with what may be called in modern phrase, a Public Spirit. It is assumed that, wherever true religion has found entertainment in the heart, there will be a lively interest in the cause of God. There are people, called by the Christian name, who take no interest in the Churches of Christ. However deeply religion may be wounded in their sight, they feel no wound in their heart; and the prosperity of Zion sends them no thrill of joy. Certainly such persons are strangers to the mind of Christ; for he could say that “the zeal of God’s house had eaten him up;” and I am sure they can neither pray the Lord’s Prayer nor sing the Psalms. The spirit which utters itself in the songs of Zion is the very opposite of theirs. It is that which the exiles expressed[17] when they hung their harps on the willows of Babylon: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

This consuming zeal for the house of God is common to all the psalms. So many of them are either lamentations over the reverses of Zion or songs of thanksgiving because of her prosperity, and so distinctly do they thus reflect her contemporary fortunes, that the careful student of the national history finds little difficulty in affixing to many of them the date at which they were composed and first sung. One consequence is, that God has thus provided songs adapted to every variety of condition in which the Church can be placed. Another scarcely less important is, that the faithful are admonished to raise themselves out of that selfish isolation — that entire absorption in the concerns of their own personal well-being into which even good men are apt to fall. I believe that the lesson just named is one which very many God-fearing people have sadly failed to lay to heart. They can sing that half of the Psalter which expresses the various exercises of personal piety; but the other half, which summons them to remember Zion, calls forth little of warm sympathy from their hearts. Even in the interest of personal piety itself, this is to be lamented. Job’s captivity was turned when he prayed for his friends: and it has many a time been found that believers who before were troubled with weakness and perpetual fears, have been lifted up into a higher and brighter and serener region, when, looking no more on their own things only, they have become absorbed in labours and prayers in behalf of some grand Christian enterprise. The Lord will not fail to “remember his Davids and all their afflictions,” — their anxious labours for his house and kingdom. David’s own faith in this matter was strong; and in one of the songs of degrees he encourages God’s people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, by reminding them that “they shall prosper that love her.”[18]

While manifesting such a lively interest in the varying fortunes of Zion in their own time, the psalmists do not confine their view to one generation. They dwell much on the history of the Church in former times. They look back, as well as around; and live much in communion with the generations that have long passed away. I have not attempted to compute the relative space given to the historical element in the Psalter, but it must be very considerable. Several of the longest of the psalms are historical from beginning to end. The Sixty-eighth, although it is brightened with an ultimate reference to Christ and the gospel times, is, in the first instance, a glowing recital of the march out of Egypt and the conquest of Canaan. The Seventy- eighth, the Hundred and fifth, and the Hundred and sixth, all traverse the same field. In the Seventy eighth, Asaph taking up his Parable, teaches the people to read the dangers and the duties of their own time in the light of the history of the nation between the Exodus and the reign of Solomon. In the Hundred and fifth, one of the later psalmists taking the materials furnished by the same history, builds them up into a lofty Ode of thanksgiving, that so the Lord’s name may be hallowed in the continual commemoration of his mighty acts. The Hundred and sixth, which is also from the later period of Old Testament psalmody, partakes of a quite different character: it is a sorrowful confession of the sins by which the nation had brought dishonour on the name of the Lord and provoked him to anger in every period of its long history. These are the most prominent of the Historical Psalms. Others of less note will occur to the reader’s memory; and there are, besides, historical allusions in very many of the non- historical psalms.

This historical quality of the Psalter deserves more consideration than it has commonly received. It proceeds upon the great principle of the unity of the Church in its successive generations. The events of the past are celebrated, not as matters foreign to the men of the present generation, but as matters in which they are vitally interested. They are summoned to humble themselves in the retrospect of sins long past, and to say with Daniel, “O Lord to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.”[19] They are invited also to commemorate, with thanksgiving, the years of the right hand of the Most High, — the times when the Lord revived his people and prospered the work of their hands. By a curious coincidence it happens that each of the three longest of the Historical Psalms is introduced with certain prefatory stanzas: and these are worth looking into, not only for their own sakes, but as indications of the scope of the respective psalms. The following are the Prefaces to the Hundred and sixth and the Hundred and fifth, respectively:

Hallelujah

1.O give thanks unto Jehovah, for he is good:

For his loving kindness endureth for ever.

Who can utter the mighty acts of Jehovah?

Who can show forth all his praise?

Blessed are they that keep judgment,

[Even every one] that doeth righteousness at all times.

4. Remember me, O Jehovah, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people;

O visit me with thy salvation:

5. That I may see the good of thy chosen,

That I may be glad in the gladness of thy nation,

That I may make my boast with thine inheritance.

6. We have sinned with our fathers,

We have committed iniquity,

We have done wickedly.

1.O give thanks unto Jehovah, proclaim his name:[20]

Make known among, the peoples his doings.

2. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him:

Talk ye of all his wondrous works.

3. Glory ye in his holy name;

Let the heart of them rejoice that seek Jehovah.

4. Inquire ye after Jehovah and his strength;

Seek his face evermore.

5. Remember his wondrous works that he hath done;

His tokens and the judgments of his mouth;

6.O ye seed of Abraham his servant,

Ye children of Jacob, his chosen.

Running through these and many other passages there is a sentiment of national continuity, analogous to that of personal identity. I know I am the same person I was twenty years ago: and, believing as I do, that all the events of my life are governed by the provident wisdom of God, I feel it to be my duty carefully to keep in memory and often to meditate upon, the way he has led me and tended me from my youth. I know it would be both a dereliction of duty and a forfeiture of inestimable benefits, were I to forget the errors of my youth or the dispensations of God’s providence in ordering my lot. How often in times of perplexity or sorrow has the believer found the strongest comfort in calling to remembrance instances in which God heard his prayer and sent him help, in years gone by! Well, the Psalmists recognise a similar identity — a corporate identity — as pertaining to the Church, and linking together its successive generations. Accordingly, they represent the Church of any given time as having very much the same interest in its prior history which any individual has in his infancy or childhood: and, in their hands, the principle is wonderfully fruitful both of admonition and comfort. How admirably is it applied, for example, in the Seventy seventh Psalm! In a time of deep distress, a dark and cloudy day, the daughter of Zion is at the point of despair: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” How does her faith obtain the victory in this conflict? It is by reverting to her own history in better days, and calling to remembrance God’s doings of old. “I said, this is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” This, accordingly, is what she proceeds to do throughout the verses that follow. She meditates on the mighty acts of the Lord in the redemption of Israel from Egypt, till the clouds pass away and her confidence is restored.

The principle involved in all this is set forth in a remarkable way in the Preface to the Seventy-eighth Psalm —

1. Give ear, O my people, to my law:

Incline your ear to the words of my mouth.

2.I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from the ancient time:

3. Which we have heard and known,

And our fathers have told us.

4. We will not hide them from their children,

Telling to the after generation the praises of Jehovah,

And his strength, and the wonderful works that he hath done.

The announcement with which Asaph opens his song, calls for a word or two of explanation. He promises that he will set forth “a parable” and “dark sayings:” yet when we look into the psalm it seems to be just a poetical rehearsal of the marvelous story of the Exodus, the Forty Years’ sojourn in the wilderness, and the stormy period of the Judges. Where then, it may be asked, are the parable and the dark sayings that were promised. The truth is,~ that the facts of the history are viewed, not as mere events — things that fell out in those old times — but rather as divine dispensations, the judgments of the Most High, each of which, since it embodied a thought of God’s heart, was full of instruction for the generations following. This is the view which the apostle teaches us to take of the history of God’s ancient people; for the things which befell them, he writes, “happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”[21] Christ during his personal ministry instructed the Church with spoken parables, so during the long centuries of the Old Testament he instructed it with acted parables. It is impossible to estimate the profit, in the shape both of doctrine, and reproof, and correction, and instruction in righteousness, which serious persons have derived from the events of the history of which so large a portion of the Psalter is the lyrical memorial.

Rationalists will, of course, sneer at this account of the Historical Psalms. They see in them nothing but national songs. If there be any lyrical faculty in a nation, it naturally applies itself to the celebration of the national heroes and the most memorable passages of the national history: and what more reasonable than to attribute to this source the historical poems of the Bible. The explanation can be dressed so as to captivate the unwary. But it will not stand. Not to dwell upon the fact that all the psalmists are careful to testify, either explicitly or by clear implication, that, in their judgment the national history is a “Parable” that it is everywhere replete with religious significance, and that their design, in making it the burden of their song, is to spread abroad the lessons it was meant to teach — not to dwell, I say, on that fact, it is enough to remark that there is no glorifying, either of the nation itself or of its great men. This is quite fatal to the notion that these psalms are national songs and nothing more. That the lyrical genius of the Hebrew bards was quite capable of celebrating great men and chivalrous deeds, is sufficiently proved by David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan. Yet the Psalter does not contain one song of that order. There is not a single ode in praise of any national hero, Abraham or Joseph, Moses or Joshua or Samson. If David seems to be an exception, it is to be remembered that he occupies a singular place in the history, as the ancestor and type of Christ. When the Psalter extols him, it is not as a national hero, but as the Anointed of the God of Jacob; and the praise is intended for the royal office and the Divine Antitype. When David, in his individual person, comes before us, it is not as a hero at all, but in the totally different character of a sinner saved by grace. As for that glorifying of the nation, which is the habit of every other lyrical literature, there is no trace of it in the Scripture. On the contrary, the ordinary drift of the Historical Psalms is to inculcate on the people the remembrance of their sins, and to make them feel that in no respect were they intrinsically better than their neighbours. Let any one who doubts this read the Hundred and sixth Psalm. The key-note is that sorrowful confession with which, as we have seen it begins. “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly,” and that penitential tone is maintained to the close. The poets of the nations have never written in this humbling strain. The world does not contain another instance of a collection of national lyrics so totally devoid of everything that could inflame national vanity, so redolent of a sense of the unworthiness of the nation, and of the marvelous grace of the Most High.

One other remark before quitting this topic. The characteristic of the Bible Psalmody on which I have been commenting — the large space occupied by odes which invite the godly to feel and expatiate upon the intimate relation which unites them, in a fellowship of life, to the whole people of God on the earth, and to the Church of all preceding times, does it not impressively teach us, that the humblest believer is crowned with a dignity which casts the honours of the earth into the shade. He is a citizen of no mean city. God has enrolled him in the citizenship of the heavenly Jerusalem, in the general assembly and congregation of the first-born. On one occasion, when John Knox had expressed somewhat freely his judgment respecting certain affairs of state, the Queen scornfully asked, what he had to do with such matters: “ What are ye within this commonwealth?” “A subject born within the same, Madam,” was the Reformer’s intrepid reply.[22] Those noble words have sometimes been recalled to my mind by the bold and public-spirited way in which the psalmists offer petitions and remonstrances respecting the high affairs of the kingdom of God, and invite us to do the same. To a secular mind it seems a vain thing, when some believer, it may chance a person in a very humble station, not only manifests a zealous interest in great public questions vitally affecting church and commonwealth, but ventures to offer prayer respecting them, in the hope of thus contributing something towards the promotion of divine truth and public justice. I suppose that among those who have made conscience of labouring in prayer that God’s kingdom may come and his will be done in the earth, there are few who have not been troubled with misgivings and doubts respecting the likelihood of their being able to accomplish anything by their prayers. I can well imagine that when Daniel set apart a day for special supplication with respect to the captive church and its predicted return, even he might be momentarily shaken in mind by skeptical doubts insinuating themselves in the guise of humility. “What am I in this great kingdom of God, that I should attempt to make my voice heard in its high affairs? Would it not better consist with modesty were I, when I pray, to confine myself to my own personal concerns, my sins, my necessities, the mercies I have received, the hopes I cherish? Am I not overbold thus to deal with God for my people, confessing their sins and seeking their good. Is it not a fond conceit to imagine that my prayers shall avail anything in bringing about those great imperial revolutions which are to break the fetters of my people and restore them to the place of our fathers’ sepulchers. Misgivings like these will arise in the hearts of God’s people and weaken their faith when they pray for the coming of Christ’s kingdom — or might have done so, if God had not himself filled their mouths with songs which invite them to cherish a self-forgetting zeal for his glory, to realize their rights and responsibilities as the citizens of his Jerusalem, and to cherish the steadfast hope that, when the Lord shall build up Zion and appear in his glory, “he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.”[23]


 

[3] There is another example in Psalm 48:14.

[4] Verse 18.

[5] I do not know whether Luther had observed this interesting coincidence between the tenor of the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalter. Probably not. For, indeed, I do not remember to have seen it taken notice of anywhere. It is all the more interesting to remark how sensible he was of a certain deep and most pleasant harmony between these two divine manuals of Devotion. See his Preface to the Psalter of 1545.

[6] Amesius, Medulla Theologiae, chapter 38. sections 36,37.

[7] Psalm 80:1-3 .

[8] Psalm 15:2 ; 24:3-6.

[9] Romans 2:28,29 . Compare Koeing,Theologie der Psalmens, pp. 79-81. This Roman Catholic writer, — Professor of Theology in Freiburg — although he avoids the terms “visible and invisible church” clearly teaches the doctrine they express. He does full justice to the distinction made by the psalmists between the natural posterity of Jacob, and the true people of God who are to inherit his salvation. Quoting Romans 9:6, “They are not all Israel which are of Israel” he justly remarks that it is simply a restatement of “an Old Testament doctrine.”

[10] Psalm 122:4 .

[11] Psalm 106:4,5 .

[12] Psalm 100:2 .

[13] Psalm 133 .

[14] Galatians 4:9 .

[15] Exodus 20:24 .

[16] Psalm 134 .

[17] Psalm 137:5,6 .

[18] Psalm 122:6 .

[19] Daniel 9:8 .

[20] This, rather than “call upon his name,” is the correct rendering, both here and in Genesis 4:26 , 12:8, etc. Compare Exodus 33:19 , 34:5, where the correct rendering is given in the authorized Version. So Luther, prediget seinrn Namen; and Ainsworth, proclaim, i.e. preach his name.

[21] I Corinthians 10:11.

[22] Knox’s History of the Reformation, ii. 338 (Edin. 1848).

[23] Psalm 102:16-17 .

#Fall1993PRCMagazine

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All