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mystery of Being, in which man lives and moves and has his being, shall have no power to stir a thought or a feeling within him,- in short, when he shall be no longer man, then, but not till then, will religious sentiment become a dead faculty in his nature. But so long as man remains a being capable of feeling the power of truth, goodness, beauty, and he is conscious of an inevitable mental attraction, in however vague way, to some deeper Reality which may be their eternal source and unity, in fine, so long as man stays man, the religious sentiment must stay as a vital part of him;) for it is the veritable life of ages pulsing in his consciousness, thrilling his organism with a sense of the majesty of its eternal purpose and law, and with a measure of its supreme calmness and joy.
THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM IN THE
THE ETERNAL OUR SHEPHERD.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."
THE Twenty-third Psalm as a whole is a specially fine antique expression of religion; and in this series of lectures we are to consider the question, What does this pious utterance mean for us to-day, in view of the most enlightened and scientific ideas of religion which the nineteenth century has been furnishing? The Psalm divides naturally by its six verses, each of them presenting a special phase of the relation between religious sentiment and religious thinking. Hence the general theme will divide easily into six discourses, each with its specific form of the question just stated.
But before I proceed to the particular verse, the opening one, which will occupy our attention to-day, let me make two or three brief prefatory statements applicable to the Psalm as a whole.
First, the question of the date and authorship of the Psalm is of little or no account, as concerns our present purpose. The application of the mod
ern method of scientific investigation to Biblical literature makes it one of the assured results of criticism that most of the Psalms attributed to David, and this among the number, must have had a later origin. And, for myself, I should prefer to believe that the picture of idyllic innocence and serene moral confidence which we have in the Twenty-third Psalm did not have for its author a man of so many villanies and crimes as are recorded against King David. But in these lectures we are to consider the Psalm for what it is in itself, without reference to its origin, except that we know that it belongs to the ancient Hebrew literature. Second, the Psalm presents, in an exceptionally pure and exalted form, an expression of the religious sentiment, an expression vivid with local and national coloring; yet its few sentences. - for it is among the briefest of the Psalms — are so free from antiquated dogmas that there is nothing in it which must needs offend modern rationalistic thought when it is remembered that the whole form of the utterance is poetical. It is poetry of the religious sentiment with which wer are here dealing, and not with theological prose,
with pictures and metaphors of the ideal realm of the imagination, not with logical syllogisms. Third, the common English version of the Psalm has become so fixed in the memories of people and so embedded with their strongest religious associations that I shall use it in preference to a more literal rendering, pointing out, however, when we
come to them, the places where an exacter meaning might be given by a different version. The revised version of the Old Testament only ventures a change in two words in this Psalm, and those so slight as to be hardly noticeable. Of other changes which a more exact conformity to the original might require, I will add that they would not, as in some other Biblical passages, detract from the spiritual beauty and significance of the sentiment, but, rather, enrich it.
And now I ask you to consider with me the first verse of this little Hebrew poem of religious confidence and hope, querying with ourselves thoughtfully what it can mean for us.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want"; so we read or repeat the words from our Bibles, and always, I think, with a tender reverence. But do we recall them merely for their tender sentiment, expressed by a picturesque poetic metaphor? Or do the words still stand for some very real truth to us, of which they have power to excite a vivid feeling? We are to remember that religious sentiment, like sentiment in general, has two quite distinct phases. A noble work of art, for instance,— a great poem, a great piece of music,- may affect us to the point of enthusiastic admiration and incidentally touch even deeper feelings simply through its high artistic power, irrespective of the ideas it was meant to convey; the ideas in such cases are merely a skeleton, which sentiment covers with its own forms of beauty and life. But, if the ideas
and the excellence of the art both are able to strike responsive chords in our mental organism, then we have a correspondingly larger satisfaction. And this unity in an enlarged result is especially important in religious usage. Without it we may have the piety of an aesthetic ritualism and the cherished associations of traditional and liturgical forms of worship, but not that profoundest reality of worship which is in spirit and in truth. And this phrase, “in spirit and in truth," well expresses the desired combination of sentiment and thought which should be sought in religion as a preserver of sincerity. There is a mental perception of truth which is one of the characteristics of the understanding, or the reasoning faculty; but there is also a feeling of truth, which is the function of sentiment in its highest form. And this feeling of truth is a phase of sentiment which means a great deal more for man's nobler culture than can be wrought by any amount of emotion excited by a rare achievement in the forms of art merely, or by a tender affection for the beautiful in poetical expression.
So again I ask, when we repeat the old words, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want," do we cherish them simply for their poetic beauty and their venerable antiquity, or do we have a feeling of their truth? Here, in this first verse, the keynote of the Psalm is struck in the pastoral metaphor wherein Jehovah is pictured as shepherd; and the note is carried through to the end, in all the