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purpose to follow this teaching of ecclesiastical Christianity. Rather have I aimed to keep with the Hebrew, who believed that this world was not so bad that it could not be redeemed, and that its utmost desolations could be made to rejoice, and blossom as the rose. I have sought to show how even here, along the dusty, toilsome, and often sorrowful ways of earthly life, the Eternal has brought the green pastures and still waters close to our reach; aye, how he has caused them also to spring up in human souls themselves, ample with an inward bounty and beauty of spirit to compensate for outward trials and wants. The Hebrew believed in a Deity omnipotent for good on earth, but did not give time enough for the accomplishment. This thought allows all time for the grand consummation, which, through man's own help, shall show earth's deserts converted into gardens and its hells into rooms of heaven.
THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM IN THE
PATHS OF SAFETY.
“ He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
In this verse of the Twenty-third Psalm, the revised version ventures a single change from the King James translation. It substitutes the word "guideth” for “leadeth.” The euphony is thereby somewhat improved, since we have the word "leadeth” in the preceding verse; and the sense is in no way altered. The original Hebrew, moreover, has two different words, and hence on this point the revised version is the more exact; while the change from the common version is so slight that an ordinary reader, even though familiar with the old form of words, would hardly notice the variation.
n. And this, I may say in passing, illustrates one of the rules which appears to have been followed by the authors of the new translation; namely, to be faithful to truth in the rendering unless old and devout associations were to be too rudely shocked, but, when these were likely to be
thus shocked, then exactness of truth must yield to the devout associations, even though the original utterance be believed to be a miraculous revelation of the perfect truth. But in this verse the revisers might have made still greater changes in the interest of exactness, and have thereby still further improved the poetic diction. Following in the main the version of Dr. Noyes, we should then have this rendering of the verse which is to occupy our attention this morning: "He reviveth my soul; he guideth me in paths of safety for his name's sake." You will note that the phrase "paths of safety,” which the Hebrew allows, is in finer keeping with the metaphor of the Shepherd leading his flock than is the common version “paths of righteousness.” And yet, as we shall see later, the final idea is not essentially different.
The meaning of the first clause, “He reviveth my soul” (or “restoreth,” as the King James version has it) is that the Shepherd takes means to impart new life to the flock or to refresh their spirits, after fatiguing journeys, for instance, or hard pasturage, or exhaustion from heat. The effect of the resting in green pastures and beside the still waters is gathered up designedly by the poet in these first words of the subsequent verse, "He reviveth my soul"; and then a still further idea is added to the same thought in the suggestion of the Shepherd guiding his refreshed and reinvigorated flock onward in “paths of safety.”
And this is a good place to call attention to a
unique feature which often appears in the rhythmical structure of Hebrew poetry. It is called “ rhythm by gradation.” The Psalms thus constructed are entitled “Psalms of Degrees,” or “Steps.” Perhaps they were originally used as chants in solemn processions. And their peculiarity is that “the thought or expression of a preceding verse is resumed and carried forward in the next.” One of the best illustrations where it is simply the resumption and enlargement of the expression is the One Hundred and Twenty-first Psalm:
"I will lift up mine eyes to the hills,
And the Twenty-third Psalm presents a fine example of the resumption of the thought rather than the verbal form,- the resumption of the thought, with enlargement and heightening from verse to verse, from the first sentence, “The Eternal is my Shepherd,” to the climax of the last words, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Eternal forever.” Sometimes the relation between the verses is not so much a resumption of the thought as suggestion of thought. The “I shall not want ” of the first verse suggests the abundance and refreshment of the quickened life and its continual guidance in safe paths beyond both want and harm. In the next verse, again, the safe paths extend even into the valley of deathly shadows. Bearing in mind this peculiarity of structure, we are helped to a clearer perception of the delicate shadings and blendings of the thought as well as of the beauty of the poetical form.
green pastures and still waters" of the second verse; and this bounty of grass and of “waters of restful quietness
suggests the refreshed and
Let us now return from this digression, explanatory of the peculiar connecting links between the verses of the Psalm as a whole, to the more special theme contained in this third verse. And our first inquiry is, What was the thought in the Hebrew poet's own mind, which he clothed in the poetic language of this verse? Possibly it may have occurred to some of you that, in the substitution of the phrase "paths of safety” for “paths of righteousness," the one most conspicuous ethical element of the Psalm has been swept away. But not so. The Hebrew word (Tsaroq) is capable of both renderings. It is a word rich in varied meanings, yet all of them branching from one root-thought. The primitive significance of the word as applied to physical things (and in that usage the word originated) is straightness, evenness.
It was specially applied to straightness and evenness of paths, as opposed to crookedness, roughness, and deviousness. It meant rightness and fitness of physical things with one another. Hence, and still on a physical plane, it meant safety, felicity, deliverance from difficult places. But, with