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succeeding imagery, even though the metaphor is abruptly changed just before the close. If this first note does not ring true for us, then there must be for us falsity all through; beautiful words, but not, for us, the beautiful thought! Perhaps some critic may say that, however forcible this picture of Jehovah may have been to the primitive Oriental people among whom it was uttered so many centuries ago, and where one of the chief occupations of life was the care of flocks and herds, it can have little significance to the civilized nations of the earth in this nineteenth century. To the Hebrew, indeed, who was wont to conceive of Jehovah as a mighty monarch, a God of hosts and of battles, a leader of armies against the national enemies, a thunderer in the heavens, and a sender of plagues and of pestilence, in his displeasure, upon the earth, it must have been a comforting relief to listen to this confident description of the same supreme sovereign as a wise and tender shepherd personally leading his flock and supervising and securing the highest felicity of each one. But, our critic asks, are not both of these conceptions, that of the mighty monarch who was the leader of armies, and that of the tender shepherd who was the leader of flocks, equally obsolete as descriptions of Deity to-day?
Other critics may dispute the facts stated in the verse, as at variance with human experience. Could the starving Russians last year, it is asked, believe in a Deity who was a Shepherd to them.
and would not suffer them to want? The Russian
Yet such objections, it must be replied first, could just as legitimately be made in the Hebrew singer's own time. As to the first of these supposed querists, and they are not merely imaginary persons, but represent real objectors to the conception of Deity as a Shepherd of the human. race, the first of our critics is treating this Psalm as if it were intended as a philosophical or metaphysical conception of Deity, whereas it is poetry, and not theology; and poetry, if genuine and lofty,
never becomes obsolete. The Psalmists, whoever they were and whenever they wrote, were not logicians nor scientists: they were simply religious. poets. Of science there was then nothing bearing that name in the modern sense. Nor were these writers engaged in producing such works as Calvin's "Institutes" or Barclay's "Apology." They had no concern with the metaphysical problems of religion which taxed the powers of those eminent logicians, and would not probably have appreciated those famous treatises even so well as you and I can. Our Psalmist was simply a poetical observer of nature and human life from a religious point of view, and then he put what he saw and felt into song. He would have made no insistence on the conception of Supreme Being as a Shepherd, as if that were a description of Deity excluding all others. On the contrary, he turned readily from one metaphor to another, according as he viewed for the time being one aspect or another of man's relations to the mysterious infinity of the worldforces. Now Jehovah was the tender Shepherd; but anon the same pen might characterize him as man's Fortress, his Rock, his King, his high Tower, his Sun and Shield, his Light, his Life, his Savior, Father, Law-giver, and Judge. Writers who employ in their work such picturesque conceptions and descriptions as these are no more to be judged by the rules of prose and logic than is Longfellow's poem of "The Building of the Ship," with its closing application to the "Ship of State,"
to be submitted to the same standards of criticism as the Federalist or the Constitution of the United States. The close of this poem, indeed, with its felicitous expression of ideal hopes and prophecies for the union of the States against actual inimical assaults and threatened perils and death, may be taken as a happy illustration, from our own time, of just what the poetical conception of Jehovah as their Shepherd meant for the Hebrews in the midst of their national troubles.
For, again, those commentators err who imagine that the writer of "the Lord my Shepherd" must have written out of the provincial experience of an idyllic pastoral life, and knew nothing of the terrific evils against which the human race as a whole has to struggle, evils which, these objectors think, overthrow the theory of a shepherding Providence. On the contrary, the Hebrews had experimental acquaintance with nearly every form of human woe. They were aggressive and ambitious as a nation. At first they were a group of discontented wandering tribes seeking a better domain. for their homes, better pasturage for their flocks. They were, in consequence, almost continually at war with their neighbors. They became divided, too, into warring factions among themselves. There were rival and fighting claimants for the throne, with the customary Oriental incidents of intestine intrigues, strifes, assassinations. There were seasons of famine and pestilence. Nature, with all her friendliness, was not always friendly.
Her pitiless bitterness was a familiar foe. In the reign of King David himself, the reputed writer of "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want, there was a fearful plague and a famine of three years, when David ordered some of the chief of his domestic enemies to be killed, as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of Jehovah, who was believed to have sent this calamity upon his people for their sins. Later the nation was conquered, scattered, carried into captivity. Yet, through all and after all, the national prophets and poets did not cease to preach and sing in full confidence, in order to nerve the national heart and will — their ideal faith and hope in Jehovah as a good Shepherd, who would lead his flock out of bondage and want into plenty and peace.
It is evident, therefore, that even originally this conception of Jehovah as a Shepherd had for its germ a faith, a thought, which went below the superficial appearances of events, and was rooted in some deeper reality than outward prosperity and contentment. Mere freedom from calamity and suffering, this was not what the wise, devout Hebrew meant when he sang of Jehovah his Shepherd. This might come as a consequence, but it was not the essential thing which in his inmost heart he craved. There he touched a measurement of want and of weal, in which purely outward treasures and pleasures, however much he valued them, did not count. The Psalmist was not a philosopher, like Socrates; yet he approached in this