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pursuit of the flying foe, in the cause of religious truth, evangelical humility, and righteousness.
“And thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things; " rather,
" And thy own right hand shall show thee wonderful things."
In these last words, the Saviour, effecting every thing by his own power, is represented under the image of a great champion in the field, who is prompted by his own courage, and a reliance on his own strength and skill, to attempt what might seem impracticable; singly to attack whole squadrons of the enemy,—to cut his way through their embattled troops,--to scale their ramparts and their walls,—and at last achieves what seems a wonder to himself, when the fray is over, when he is at leisure to survey the bulwarks he has demolished, and the many carcasses his single arm has stretched upon the plain. Such great things he will be able to effect; for 5. "Thine arrows," saith the Psalmist, "are very sharp
In the heart of the king's enemies;
Insomuch that peoples fall under thee." To open the true spiritual meaning of all this highwrought imagery, will be ample matter for another Discourse. I shall close, therefore, for the present, with this preliminary observation, as the fundamental principle of the interpretation, which, by God's assistance I shall give. That the war in which the Saviour is engaged is very different from the wars which the princes of this world wage upon one another: it is not for the destruction of the lives of men, but for the preservation of their souls.
I speak of the things which I have made touching the King, or unto
the King.-PSALM xlv. 1.
In my last discourse, I proceeded so far in my exposition of this mystic marriage song, as to enter upon what I reckon the second section of the whole psalm, consisting of five verses, from the third to the seventh, both inclusive; in which, under images taken from military exploits, the successful propagation of the gospel is described, through the whole of that period which commenced at our Lord's ascension, and will terminate with the triumphs of the church at his second advent.
From the commendation of the comeliness of the King's person, and the graciousness of his speech, which, in the second verse, are put figuratively for the perfect innocence and sanctity of our Lord's life on earth, and the sweetness of his gracious doctrine of pardon, peace, and justification, the Psalmist, persevering in the same figurative strain, passes to the topic of his royal Bridegroom's military prowess. He accosts the King as a warlike prince, preparing to take the field, -describes his weapons and the magnificence of his armour, and promises him victory and universal dominion.
I shall now endeavour to open and explain to you, with God's assistance, the true spiritual meaning of all this highwrought imagery. But first I must repeat, with some enlargement and explanation, as the fundamental principle of the interpretation I am about to give, the observation with which I closed my last discourse,-namely, that the war in which the Psalmist represents the Saviour as en
different from the wars which the princes of this world wage with one another: it is not for the destruction of the lives of men, but for the preservation of
their souls. It may happen indeed,—it has happened heretofore,-in our own times it has happened, and it will inevitably happen again, that the struggles of Christianity, with the adverse faction, may kindle actual war between the secular powers, taking part on one side or on the other. This our Lord himself foretold. “Suppose ye,” he said, " that I am come to give peace on earth ? I came not to send peace, but a sword.”
but a sword.” Such wars are, on the one side, no less holy, just, and good, than, on the other, they are wicked and impious: for when the antichristian powers attack religious establishments by the sword, by the sword they may and must be defended. It is the mere cant of puritanism to allege the precept of mutual forgiveness, the probibitions of returning evil for evil, and of resisting persecution, as reprobating such wars. All those injunctions relate to the conduct of individuals with respect to one another, or with respect to the government of which they are subjects. The individual is to be ready at all times to forgive his personal enemies : he is not to indulge a spirit of revenge in the retaliation of private injuries'; and least of all is he to resist by force even the injustice, as affecting bimself, of his lawful sovereign. But when antichrist arms his powers for the persecution of the faithful and the extinction of the faith, if Christian princes arm their powers to oppose him, their war is godly, and their cause is blessed. These wars, however, are not within the pur- , view of this prophecy, as the sequel of my discourse will show. This prophetic text of the Psalmist relates only to that spiritual war which Christ wages with the enemies of man, for man's deliverance,--to the war arising from that enmity which was originally put between the seed of the serpent and the woman's seed.
The offensive weapons in this war of charity, according to the Psalmist, are of two sorts,-a sword, and arrows.
The common military sword is a heavy massive weapon, for close engagement: wielded by a strong and skilful arm, it stabs and cuts, opens dreadful gashes where it falls, severs limbs, lops the head, or cleaves the body.
The arrow is a light missile weapon, which, in ancient times, was used to annoy the enemy at a distance, and particularly when put to flight. It comes whizzing through the air unseen; and, when it hits, so small is the wound, and so swift the passage of the weapon, that it is scarcely felt, till it fixes its sharp point in the very heart.
Now both these weapons, the sword and the arrow, are emblems of one and the same thing; which is no other than the word of God, in its different effects, and different manners of operation on the minds of men, represented under these two different images.
The word of God may be divided, indeed, into two parts,—the word of reproof, commination, and terror; and the word of persuasion, promise, and hope. The former holds up to the sinner the picture of himself,--sets forth the turpitude of sin---the holiness of God—God's hatred of unrighteousness, -and alarms the conscience with the danger of a state of enmity with God, and with denunciations of implacable wrath and endless punishment.
The second, the word of persuasion, promise, and hope, sets before the penitent the riches of God's mercy, displayed in the scheme of man's redemption,-points to the cross, where man's guilt was expiated,—bids the contrite sinner rely on the Redeemer's intercession,—offers the daily supply of grace to confirm him in his resolutions, and assist him in his efforts to conform himself to the precepts and example of the Saviour,--and promises victory and glory to them that persevere: thus turning despondency into hope, and fear into love.
The first, the word of terror, is the sword girt upon Messiah's thigh; the second, the word of persuasion, is the arrow shot from his bow.
For the sense of the first metaphor, we have the authority of the sacred writers themselves. “The sword of the Spirit,” says St. Paul to the Ephesians, “is the word of
God.” And in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the full signification of the figure is opened, and the propriety of the application shown: “For the word of God,” says the inspired author, “is quick and powerful (rather, lively and energetic), and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing to the parting of soul and spirit, and to the joints and marrow;"—that is, as the soldier's sword of steel cuts through all the exterior integuments of skin and muscle, to the bone, and even through the hard substance of the bone itself, to the very marrow, and divides the ligaments which keep the joints of the body together; so this spiritual sword of God's awful word penetrates the inmost recesses of the human mind-pierces to the very line of separation, as it were, of the sensitive and the intelligent principlelops off the animal part-divides the joints where reason and passion are united-sets the intellect free to exert its powers-kills sin in our members-opens passages for grace to enter and enrich the marrow of the soul, and thus delivers the man from his body of death.
Such are the effects for which the powerful word of terror is compared to a two-edged sword.
The comparison of the word of promise to the arrow is more easily understood; being more familiar, and analogous to those figures of speech which run through all languages, by which, whatever makes a quick and smart impression on the moral feelings, is represented under the image of a pointed missile weapon,-as when we speak of “ the thrilling darts of harmony,” or “the shafts of eloquence. The Psalmist speaks of these arrows of God's word, as sticking in the hearts of the King's enemies,”— that is, of the enemies of the King Messiah ; for he, you will remember, is the only king in question. His enemies, in the highest sense of the word, are those who are avowedly leagued with the apostate faction,--atheists, deists, idolaters, heretics, perverse disputers,—those who, in any manner, of set design oppose the gospel --who resist the truth by argument, or encounter it with ridicule--who ex