« PreviousContinue »
“ The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of
Jacob defend thee. Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion. Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice. Selah. Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions. Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; he will bear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, Lord: let the king hear us when we call.”— PSALM XX.
THERE are four theories respecting the occasion of writing this Psalm:
First, That it was composed in reference to the Syro-Ammonitic war, as related in 2 Sam. x.
Secondly, That it was prepared for the special encouragement of the king during the rebellion under Absalom, as recorded in 2 Sam. XV.-xviii.
Thirdly, That it has no special national reference, but was composed by David to teach the people, with their king, how to deport themselves towards God and each other in all times of national distress, and especially in time of war.
Fourthly, That while it has this national culture and guidance in view, it looks forward to the distresses of God's church in all ages while contending
against evil, and aiming at the ultimate triumph of the Redeemer's kingdom.
It is not of special consequence in regard to the object for which this Psalm is chosen, to determine which of these theories is best supported by internal evidence. Before dismissing the question, I would offer one remark: there is no necessary incongruity between the first two opinions and those which follow. The Psalm may have been composed in regard either to the war with Ammon and Syria, or to the insurrection and rebellion under Absalom, and yet be intended for general instruction during any time of national distress, and especially useful during a time of war; and though it might have had such a specific origin, it may also have a prophetic bearing upon the spiritual conflict of Christ's kingdom with the kingdom of this world, for nothing is more common in the Psalms than for the sacred writer to look from the temporal to the spiritual, from the national to the universal. Let it not perplex you, that while David is said to be the author of this Psalm, he is also the subject to whom it refers. David wrote it, but in the name of the people of Israel, and for use in their temple service, and in the character of the "sweet singer of Israel.”
I like the idea, suggested by Tholuck, of dividing the Psalm into three parts, as follows: The first five verses sung by the Levites in the temple service in the name of the whole congregation of the Lord, and containing a prayer for the king, as the Lord's anointed, a prayer breathing devoutest confidence in God's protection, and in the righteousness of the cause they plead for. The 6th, 7th, and 8th verses sung by the king in response to the prayer so affectionately offered by the people, and declaring unbounded confidence in God. Such confidence as amounts to the present realization of the blessings sought. The 9th verse, sung by the Levites, containing a prayer for the king, and expressing the assurance of being heard: “Save, Lord, the king. He (Jehovah) will hear us when we call.”
My brethren, it is with a deeply solemn feeling that I call your attention to this most suggestive and beautiful prayer, and for a truly solemn object. I want you to imbibe the very soul of this prayer, and for an object not dissimilar to that for which it was originally written and used. I want to excite your deepest sympathy, and stir up your most pleading prayers, for a nation in distress, a nation the nearest to us of all the nations in the world, in all the elements of blood, language, religion, literature, government, and commerce. I want your most prayerful sympathy for America. It is now nearly twelve months since I ventured to intrude this subject into the solemnities of our Sabbath worship-during the Trent affair. I do it now, as I did then, without any misgiving as to the rightness of doing it. On the contrary, I do it with the full persuasion that as a Christian and Christian minister, I ought to seek, as far as I can, to form in your minds right sentiments on such an occasion of profound interest as that of the war in America,
The “London Emancipation Society" has issued a circular to all ministers of religion in this country, urging upon them a special remembrance of the négro race of America in their religious services on the first day of January, 1863.
This circular is based on the Proclamation of the President, announcing liberty to all the Slave States in rebellion, on and after the first day of January 1863.
I had purposed addressing you on this subject before my attention was called to the circular. I am confirmed in my purpose by it. On that day we can and will pray for our oppressed fellow-creatures; but I prefer, if possible, exciting your prayers beforehand, and showing our sympathy while the thing is proposed, and not accomplished. I would be among those who would cheer on that people and government in a noble and most difficult enterprise, because I believe it is in the direction of truth and justice. I would not merely stand among those who will cheer its fulfilment, as thousands will, who now jeer at the projectors, and cast all obstacles in their way. I can submit to be thought mistaken in the views I shall advance, and I hope, willingly, receive correction of them; but I would not be unmanly in concealing them, because they happen not to be popular, and we cannot advance success in support of them.
Allow me first to lay before you the occasion which calls for our prayerful sympathy as a christian people. First, I invoke your prayerful sympathy for a people in the pangs of civil war.
A nation at war with another nation is a just object of sympathy to all good men, provided there is any ground that justifies its recourse to the sword. There are few greater evils than war; but I think there are some, and we shall all probably agree in regarding slavery as one of the evils which can afflict a people greater even than war. But a nation rent by civil war is of all the most pitiable under the dire sway of the sword, because passing through the severest ordeal to which a nation can be subjectedan ordeal of fire and blood. The ravages committed by war are painful under every circumstance, but those committed by civil war are committed on its own citizens. The blood shed in war is awful to contemplate at any time, but that shed in civil war is the blood of its own sons. The treasure wasted in war is always an enormous sacrifice, but that wasted in civil war is the precious fruit of the thought and toil of its own citizens alone. The animosity enkindled by war is dreadful to think of; but what is it when sown between brethren of the same blood, language, and religion, living upon the same soil?
In civil war, the national stability endangered is wholly its own; the national progress checked, all its own; the national energies cripplėd, mainly its own. There is not even the small and unenviable gratification of injuring another and rival nation. Even the triumphs of the sword awaken only a saddened joy, for they are only the triumphs of brethren against brethren. And even the restoration of peace is a pleasure, chastened by