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The Bible Story Part 336

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_Psalm 45_. It is said that the coronation ceremonies of English monarchs are founded on this Psalm--the oil of gladness, the sword, the crown, the sceptre, the throne.

_Psalm 46_. The best known paraphrase is Luther's vigorous version--

"A mighty fortress is our G.o.d."

In times of discouragement he would often say to his friend Melancthon, "Come, let us sing the 46th Psalm." Cromwell also often turned to it, and his speech at the opening of his second Parliament was in part an exposition of this Psalm. At the beginning of the Indian Mutiny, on the Sunday after the troops of Havelock first learned of their danger, he chose, instead of the Psalm of the day, this Psalm for their encouragement. "On the foundation of sure confidence, gained from a reading of many Psalms, John Wesley built up, by means of his intense energy, his organizing genius, and his {500} administrative capacity, the mighty movement that still bears his name. It was with the words of the Psalms that he met the approach of death. Gathering his remaining strength into the cry, 'The best of all, G.o.d is with us,' he lay for some time exhausted. One of the bystanders wetted his parched lips. 'It will not do,' he said, 'we must take the consequence, never mind the poor carcase.' Pausing a little, he cried, 'Thy clouds drop fatness,' and soon after, 'The Lord of hosts is with us; The G.o.d of Jacob is our refuge.' Throughout the night he was heard attempting to repeat these beautiful words from Psalm 46. The next morning he was dead."

_Psalm 51_ was the favorite prayer of Sir Thomas More, the English Catholic, who was as much a martyr for religion and liberty as ever any man of English blood. It was his last prayer, repeated kneeling on the scaffold where he was beheaded. Lady Jane Grey also repeated it on the scaffold, as soon after did her father, the Duke of Suffolk, who also suffered death for his Protestant faith. So did Egmont, executed in Brussels at the command of the infamous Duke of Alva. Carey, the first English missionary to India, desired the first four lines to be the text of his funeral sermon. Shakespeare uses lines 11 and 12 in the King's speech in Hamlet--

"Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens To wash it white as snow?"

Lines 19 and 20 were repeated by the great English teacher, Thomas Arnold, on his deathbed, while Teresa, the Spanish Catholic saint, died repeating lines 15 and 16. Lines 21 and 22 serve as the motto of Michael Angelo's picture of Savonarola. Few Psalms have been more on the lips of holy men of all ages than the 51st.

_Psalm 68_ was the favorite Psalm of the Emperor Charlemagne. It was used by the friends of Savonarola at the crisis of his career. A Franciscan friar, whom he had angered by his preaching, challenged him, after the custom of the Middle Ages, to prove his preaching by the test of fire. One of his friends accepted the challenge for him, and on the appointed day headed a procession which marched through the streets of Florence, singing Psalm 68. The challenger did not appear; and the crowd, with the usual bad logic of crowds, {501} turned against Savonarola. Two days later he was thrown into prison, and torture and death ended the scene. This Psalm was the battle hymn of the Huguenots, in the form of a verse translation into French by Beza, a great scholar of the Reformation. Battle after battle was entered to the sound of this splendid song. At one battle, that of Courtras, a young courtier in the opposing army saw the Huguenots kneel as they sang. "See," he said, "the cowards are afraid. They are confessing."

"When the Huguenots behave thus, they are ready to fight to the death," replied a veteran from the ranks. Cromwell opened his Parliament with a speech expounding this Psalm. Lines 1 and 2 were the text of the sermon at the service held by the Russians of Moscow in 1812 to give thanks for the retreat of the French from Moscow.

Cromwell's "Ironsides" sang this Psalm at the decisive battle at Dunbar, when, the mists arising from the valley, they charged and broke the enemy's ranks.

_Psalm 72_ was the favorite Psalm of Athanasius, the greatest figure at the Nicene Council in 325 A. D. "Against all a.s.saults upon thy body," he says, "thine estate, thy soul, thy reputation, against all temptations, tribulations, plots and slanderous reports, say this Psalm." The familiar representation, in picture, song and story, of the three Wise Men from the East at the Cradle of Christ as three kings, is based on the kings mentioned in lines 18 and 19.

_Psalm 77_. Bishop Hooper, a prisoner for conscience's sake in England in 1553, wrote to his wife to read Psalm 77, because of the great consolation which it contained for those who are in anguish of mind.

Catholics as well as Protestants found comfort in it.

_Psalm 80_ was the first of nine Psalms, translated by Milton into English verse in 1648. Lines 10 and 11 underlie Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "The Measure," stanza 2.

_Psalm 84_. Lines 21 and 22 were the words that called Thomas Aquinas from his life in the world to a monastic career. They came to him as the voice of G.o.d. Paula, a holy woman of the early church, died with the words of this Psalm on her lips. Carlyle, in one of his writings, strikes a note of courage and demand for work, with the joyful confidence of the last two lines.

{502}

_Psalm 85_ Lines 15-17 are the keynote of Book III. of the Imitation of Christ. Langland's _Vision of Piers Ploughman_ is full of allusions to the Psalms, as when Righteousness kisses Peace (Psalm 85, line 21).

_Psalm 86_. In "Rizpah," Tennyson has a beautiful use of lines 30 and 31.

"And read me a Bible verse of the Lord's goodwill toward men-- 'Full of compa.s.sion and mercy, the Lord,' --let me hear it again; 'Full of compa.s.sion and mercy--long suffering.'"

_Psalm 87_. The motto of the University of Durham in England is taken from line 1. Lines 2 and 3 are the motto of Augustine's great work, "The City of G.o.d."

_Psalm 90_ was the favorite Psalm of the Emperor Charles V., of the Reformation period. It has had its place in the burial service of the Church of England since 1662. Newman's _Dream of Gerontius_ uses a part of this Psalm as a chant of the souls in purgatory. Its solemn strains have very often been used in the church to recall men to the thought of the permanence of G.o.d and the fleeting life of man.

_Psalm 91_ is said to be the Psalm that was sung at the first attendance of Beza upon a Protestant service, and to have made a great impression upon him. In 1177, as a long and bitter conflict between the Emperor and the Pope ended in the triumphs of the latter, and Barbarossa bowed before the Pope Alexander, legend says that the Pope set his foot on the neck of the kneeling Emperor, repeating lines 27 and 28.

_Psalm 93_. In the days of the Scottish Covenanters it was believed that Psalm 93 was heard sweetly chanted by spiritual visitants. In the belief of such visions the Covenanters became strong to suffer and endure. Quite another use of the Psalm was as a proof of the fixity of the earth, as against the Copernican theory that the earth, not the sun, moved.

_Psalm 95_ was the battle cry of the Templars during the Crusades, sung as they marched to fight the Saracens. It was used in the more {503} peaceful campaign of missions. Schwartz, the greatest Danish missionary to India, inscribed lines 11 and 12 on the front of a church which he built in South India before the end of the eighteenth century.

_Psalms 96, 103, 146, 147_, are recommended by William Law as setting forth wonderfully "the glory of G.o.d," so that they may always be profitably used for devotion.

_Psalm 100_ gives the name to the familiar tune of "Old Hundred,"

which was the tune to which the Scottish version of Psalm 100 was sung. Edward Fitzgerald chose lines 2 and 3 to be put on his tomb.

_Psalm 103_ was chanted by the Protestants of Scotland at the communion. It is one of the most beautiful of Psalms.

_Psalm 104_ is one of the fine nature Psalms, the most elaborate of the group, which includes Psalms 8,19,29. It has had some curious uses, as when, in the Middle Ages, men opposed the theory of the motion of the sun with lines 11 and 12 and explained earthquakes from lines 57 and 58; when the tail of Leviathan is scorched by the sun, he seeks to seize it, and his movements shake the earth. But a great scientist, Humboldt, wrote, "The 104th Psalm may be said to present a picture of the entire cosmos . . . We are astonished to see, within the compa.s.s of a poem of such small dimension, the universe, the heavens and the earth, thus drawn with a few grand strokes."

_Psalm 105_. Lines 1 and 2 of this Psalm are inscribed on the pulpit in which Baxter, the great Puritan divine, preached. "He was one of the greatest of preachers, patient alike under the lifelong pains of disease and thirty years of almost incessant persecution. He so transformed his parish of Kidderminster that on the Lord's day there was no disorder to be seen in the streets; but you might hear a hundred families singing psalms, and repeating sermons as you pa.s.sed through them."

_Psalm 107_. One of the earliest Scottish reformers, Wishart, was a preacher of remarkable power. At one time, hearing that {504} the plague had appeared in Dundee, he hastened there, and preached his first sermon in one of the gates of the city. Its text was from Psalm 107: "He sent his word, and healed them." Alexander Duff was the first Scotch missionary to India. On his way out, in 1830, the ship in which he sailed was wrecked at the Cape of Good Hope. The pa.s.sengers and crew escaped to a small island, but all their possessions were lost.

Duff's Bible and Book of Psalms were among the few things that drifted ash.o.r.e; and, while pa.s.sengers and crew kneeled on the sand, Duff read Psalm 107. It is said that the loss of all things except the Word of G.o.d made a profound impression on Duff, who was for many years a most devoted and valuable worker in India.

_Psalm 114_ is used in Dante's Divine Comedy, where he gives a picture of a boat, on which are seen a hundred spirits, singing together Psalm 114. (_Purgatorio_, Canto II. 11 40ff.) Milton translated this Psalm into verse when a student at Cambridge, at the age of 15.

_Psalm 116_. At the famous relief of Lucknow in the Indian Mutiny, a soldier known as "Quaker Wallace" went into the fight quoting the Scotch version of this Psalm. Lines 27 and 28 were chosen as one of the texts from which Bernard preached the Crusade.

_Psalm 117_. The shortest Psalm. This is the Psalm which Cromwell sung on the battlefield after his victory at the battle of Worcester.

_Psalm 118_. Luther said of it, "This is my Psalm, my chosen Psalm. I love them all; I love all Scripture; . . . But this Psalm is nearest my heart, and I have a familiar right to call it mine. It has saved me from many a pa.s.sing danger, from which not emperor nor kings nor sages nor saints could have saved me. It is my friend; dearer to me than all the honors and power of the earth." Curiously enough, it was also the favorite Psalm of the emperor of the time, Charles V. This Psalm was sung by the soldiers of the Prince of Orange, King William, when he landed in England. It was sung as they stood upon the beach, and thus the landing was made a religious service. In the words of lines 45 and 46 Queen Elizabeth expressed her relief from the feeling of danger, at the news of the death of Queen {505} Mary, her bitter enemy. When Charlemagne entered Rome he was hailed by the people with lines 51 and 52. So all through Christian history the Psalm has lent itself to use as celebrating triumph and success.

_Psalm 119_ is an alphabetic Psalm, in sections consisting of eight couplets, and each couplet of the same section beginning with the same letter. The sections follow in the order of the Hebrew alphabet. It is the most elaborate alphabetic Psalm, there being several others where each verse begins with a successive letter. It is also the longest Psalm in the book. Still another peculiarity is that every verse contains a reference to the law of G.o.d. It is a Psalm greatly loved by many people. William Wilberforce, the great opponent of slavery, said at one specially busy time that he found great comfort in repeating the 119th Psalm. Ruskin, who learned it in his boyhood, later writing of it, notes how the sense of delight in the law of G.o.d runs through it all. Henry Martyn committed it to memory. David Livingstone learned it in Sunday school at the age of nine. The names of those who have found delight in this Psalm would make a very long list and be representative of many different vocations.

_Psalm 121_. This Psalm was read by David Livingstone with his family on the morning when he started for his first mission tour to Africa. A later missionary, James Harrington, on his journey into Africa, repeated this, which he called his "Traveling" Psalm, every morning.

_Psalm 122_. James Hogg, the Scottish poet, is said to have learned this Psalm before he knew his letters. The Bible was his only book in boyhood. This Psalm was used in the Huguenot wars as the Huguenot's chant of victory after battle.

_Psalm 126_. Robert Estienne, a French printer of the Reformation time, who was very influential in giving the Bible to the people, says that often in his controversies he found strength in this Psalm.

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The Bible Story Part 336 summary

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