by Henry Law
A brief statement will show the simple purpose of this work.
Christian households will surely be assembled on each day for domestic worship. Piety cannot allow the morning to open and the evening to close without united prayer for common blessings and united praise for common mercies. Religion will cease to be the pervading element in the house in which the inhabitants fail thus to present themselves together at the throne of grace.
It is impossible to overestimate the blessings which may be expected from such family solemnities. They sweetly sanctify the home, and are a holy picture of celestial oneness. Love will then cement the hearts which together seek a heavenly Father's face—together vow obedience to His will—together consecrate their every faculty to His service—together bless Him for their common hope—together adore Him for the gift of Jesus, and all the preciousness of the Gospel-revelation.
It is presumed, also, that a portion of Scripture will have a place in these exercises, and that suitable comments will enforce God's Word. The Book of Psalms will doubtless not be excluded. Its central position as the heart of Scripture—its devotional character as part of the Jewish liturgy—its adaptation to every circumstance of life, rather entitle it to especial consideration.
Survey most superficially its contents. It traverses every condition of man. It roams with the shepherd in the meadows. It sits with the mighty monarch on the throne. It flees with the fugitive on the hills, and hides with him in the caves. It leads the conquering host to victory. It walks with the busy in the crowded haunts, and leaves not the lonely in their solitude. It is a prop for the staggering steps—a guide for the wanderer—a counselor when perplexities bewilder—a pillow for the weary head—a sympathizing hand to wipe the weeping eye—a voice to whisper comfort to the disconsolate. No words more cheer the dying saint.
The soul in extremest agony for sin finds here a ready outlet for the bitterest streams of sorrow. Words are here supplied to crave deliverance from wrath. When a saving interest in Christ is realized and joy is in the height of rapture, here are the wings to bear aloft to heaven.
But the main glory of this book is its identity with Christ. He brightly shines throughout its varied hymns. He is constantly the speaker, and in these breathings of His Spirit we receive convincing evidence that, without ceasing to be God, He was a perfect man, and preeminently a Man of Sorrows. We here are supplied with a vivid portrait of His character, His work, His love, His sufferings, His glory. It would be no difficult task to construct a Gospel from its prophetic language. It may be regarded as His manual during His career on earth. When, as the expiating God-man, He was uplifted on the accursed tree, and the iron entered into His soul, His misery goes forth in the moanings of a Psalm, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" He gives up the spirit uttering its confiding terms, "Into Your hands I commend My spirit." He ascends amid the shouts, "Lift up your heads, O you gates!" He receives the welcome, "Sit on My right hand."
In it the history of Israel's Church is shadowed out from its cradle in the iron furnace of Egypt, through its days of light and darkness, through its triumphs and reverses, through its rejection in unbelief, through its long and dreary desertion to its ultimate recovery and final glory. Prophets, apostles, ministering servants, have gathered flowers from this field. Whenever the Gospel is preached, weighty arguments, convincing proofs, telling exhortations, dreadful warnings, are extracted from its vast mine. Thus wide is the expanse of suggestions for prayer to which the Book of Psalms invites.
I thus reach the unpretending object of this work. It seeks to give some little aid, when in due course the Psalms are opened out. Divisions are made of appropriate length for such exercise, and devotional thoughts are adjoined tending to excite the spirit of prayer and praise. All attempt to elucidate by critical acumen is utterly eschewed. If it had been possible for the writer to introduce conclusions of learning, they would have been rejected as adverse to the plan. Time has not been employed to establish a connection between the speaker's feelings and historic events. When the reference is clear, no notice is needed. When it is obscure, it is more easy to increase than to remove uncertainty. It is enough to know that the Holy Spirit depicts real and not imaginary cases. It is the reader's profit to find identity in his individual experience. He will often be constrained to feel that He who inspired these words knew accurately the secrets of each heart, and presents a mirror thoroughly divine.
It may interest the scholar to investigate the claims of diverse versions for acceptance. But the hour of prayer is not suitable for such research. Therefore the reasoning powers have never been thus summoned to give aid. To help devotion has been the one and only desire. Other works abound in which the gifts of mind have been nobly used to display the wonders of this Book. The one design here has been to make it a vehicle of piety. The object is attained whenever worship is made a real approach of the heart unto God. It is hoped that the frequent appeals to the heart may exclude formality—that enemy to direct communion with God.
This observation finds excuse in the growing desire to multiply the objective and the picturesque in places of public worship. Surely attention directed to artistic decorations and mimicry of Rome's showy service tends to divert from close dealings with Heaven. Real prayer is not kindled by extraneous sights. It is the Spirit moving in the inner man.
May He, whose glory only has been sought, give His blessing for the sake of Jesus Christ!