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the philosopher and the unlettered hind-shall find their distinctions to have been mere illusions. The characters and actions of the greatest and the meanest have, in truth, been equally important, and equally public; while the eye of the omniscient God hath been equally upon them all,-while all are at last equally brought to answer to their common Judge, and the angels stand around spectators, equally interested in the dooms of all. The sentence of every man will be pronounced by him who cannot be merciful to those who shall have willingly sold themselves to that abject bondage from which he died to purchase their redemption,-who, nevertheless, having felt the power of temptation, knows to pity them that have been tempted; by him on whose mercy contrite frailty may rely-whose anger hardened impenitence must dread. To heighten the solemnity and terror of the business, the Judge will visibly descend from heaven,-the shout of the archangels and the trumpet of the Lord will thunder through the deep,-the dead will awake,-the glorified saints will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air; while the wicked will, in vain, call upon the mountains and the rocks to cover them. Of the day and hour when these things shall be, knoweth no man; but the day and hour for these things are fixed in the eternal Father's counsels. Our Lord will come,-he will come unlooked for, and may come sooner than we think.
God grant, that the diligence we have used in these meditations may so fix the thought and expectation of that glorious advent in our hearts, that by constant watchfulness on our own part, and by the powerful succour of God's Holy Spirit, we may be found of our Lord, when he cometh, without spot and blameless!
I speak of the things which I have made touching the King,-or unto the King.-PSALM xlv. 1.
THIS forty-fifth psalm has, for many ages, made a stated part of the public service of the church on this anniversary festival of our blessed Lord's nativity.* With God's assistance, I purpose to explain to you its application, both in the general subject, and in each particular part, to this great occasion; which will afford both seasonable and edifying matter of discourse.
It is a poetical composition, in the form of an epithalamium, or song of congratulation, upon the marriage of a great king, to be sung to music at the wedding-feast. The topics are such as were the usual groundwork of such gratulatory odes with the poets of antiquity: they all fall under two general heads-the praises of the bridegroom, and the praises of the bride. The bridegroom is praised for the comeliness of his person, and the urbanity of his address -for his military exploits-for the extent of his conquests -for the upright administration of his government-for the magnificence of his court. The bride is celebrated for her high birth-for the beauty of her person, the richness of her dress, and her numerous train of blooming bridemaids. It is foretold that the marriage will be fruitful, and that the sons of the great king will be sovereigns of the whole earth. In this general structure of the poem, we find nothing but the common topics and the common arrangement of every wedding-song: and were it not that it is come down to us in the authentic collection of the sacred hymns of the Hebrew church, and that some particular expressions are found in it, which, with all the allowance that can be made for the hyperbolisms of the oriental style (of which, of late years, we have been accus* Preached on Christmas-day.
tomed to hear more than is true, as applied to the sacred writers), are not easily applicable to the parties, even in a royal marriage;—were it not for such expressions which occur, and for the notorious circumstance that it had a distinguished place in the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures, -we should not be led to divine, from any thing in the general structure of the poem, that this psalm had reference to any religious subject. But when we connect these circumstances with another, which cannot have escaped the observation of any reader of the Bible, that the relation between the Saviour and his church, is represented in the writings both of the Old and New Testament under the image of the relation of a husband to his wife,--that it is a favourite image with all the ancient prophets, when they would set forth the loving-kindness of God for the church, or the church's dutiful return of love to him; while, on the contrary, the idolatry of the church, in her apostacies, is represented as the adultery of a married woman,-that this image has been consecrated to this signification by our Lord's own use of it, who describes God in the act of settling the church in her final state of peace and perfection, as a king making a marriage for his son;--the conjecture that will naturally arise upon the recollection of these circumstances will be, that this epithalamium, preserved among the sacred writings of the ancient Jewish church, celebrates no common marriage, but the great mystical wedding,—that Christ is the bridegroom, and the spouse his church. And this was the unanimous opinion of all antiquity, without exception even of the Jewish expositors. For although, with the veil of ignorance and prejudice upon their understandings and their hearts, they discern not the completion of this or of any of their prophecies in the Son of Mary, yet they all allow, that this is one of the prophecies which relate to the Messiah and Messiah's people; and none of them ever dreamed of an application of it to the marriage of any earthly prince.
It is the more extraordinary, that there should have arisen in the Christian church, in later ages, expositors
of great name and authority, and, indeed, of great learning, who have maintained, that the immediate subject of the psalm is the marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh's daughter, and can discover only a distant reference to Christ and the church, as typified by the Jewish king and his Egyptian bride. This exposition, too absurd and gross for Jewish blindness, contrary to the unanimous sense of the fathers of the earliest ages, unfortunately gained credit, in a late age, in the reformed churches, upon the authority of Calvin; insomuch that, in an English translation of the Bible, which goes under the name of Queen Elizabeth's Bible, because it was in common use in private families in her reign, we have this argument prefixed to the psalm: "The majestie of Solomon, his honour, strength, beauty, riches, and power, are praised; and also his marriage with the Egyptian, being an heathen woman, is blessed." It is added, indeed, "Under this figure, the wonderful majestie and increase of the kingdom of Christ, and his church now taken of the Gentiles, is described." Now the account of this matter is this: This English translation of the Bibie, which is, indeed, upon the whole, a very good one, and furnished with very edifying notes and illustrations (except that in many points they savour too much of Calvinism), was made and first published at Geneva, by the English Protestants who fled thither from Mary's persecution. During their residence there, they contracted a veneration for the character of Calvin, which was no more than was due to his great piety and his great learning; but they unfortunately contracted also a veneration for his opinions, a veneration more than was due to the opinions of any uninspired teacher. The bad effects of this unreasonable partiality the Church of England feels, in some points, to the present day; and this false notion, which they who were led away with it circulated among the people of this country, of the true subject of this psalm, in the argument which they presumed to prefix to it, is one instance of this calamitous consequence.
Calvin was undoubtedly a good man, and a great di
vine: but, with all his great talents and his great learning, he was, by his want of taste, and by the poverty of his imagination, a most wretched expositor of the prophecies, just as he would have been a wretched expositor of any secular poet. He had no sense of the beauties, and no understanding of the imagery of poetry; and the far greater part of the prophetical writings, and all the psalms, without exception, are poetical: and there is no stronger instance of his inability in this branch of sacred criticism than his notion of this psalm. "It is certain," he has the arrogance to say, with all antiquity, Jewish and Christian, in opposition to him, "it is certain, that this psalm was composed concerning Solomon. Yet the subject is not dalliance; but, under the figure of Solomon, the holy conjunction of Christ with his church is propounded to us."
It is most certain, that, in the prophetical book of the Song of Solomon, the union of Christ and his church is described in images taken entirely from the mutual passion and early loves of Solomon and his Egyptian bride. And this, perhaps, might be the ground of Calvin's he might imagine, that this psalm was another shorter poem upon the same subject, and of the same But no two compositions can be more unlike than the Song of Solomon and this forty-fifth psalm. Read the, Song of Solomon, you will find the Hebrew king, if you know any thing of his history, produced, indeed, as the emblem of a greater personage, but you will find him in every page. Read the forty-fifth psalm, and tell me if you can any where find king Solomon. We find, indeed, passages which may be applicable to Solomon, but not more applicable to him than to many other earthly kings; such as comeliness of person and urbanity of address, mentioned in the second verse. These might be qualities, for any thing that we know to the contrary, belonging to Solomon; I say, for any thing that we know to the contrary; for in these particulars the sacred history gives no information. We read of Solomon's learning, and of his wisdom, and of the