Images de page
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

“swallowed up alive” by their enemies: the “proud waters" which had “overwhelmed” the chariots and horsemen of Egypt might have “gone overthem. But the Lord delivered them, and that deliverance was but the forerunner of many which they had since experienced ; for He who “made heaven and earth” had often broken for them “the snare of the fowlers.” In like manner, we may connect Psalm cxxvi. with the celebration of Pentecost. That festival marked the termination of the corn harvest. The husbandmen had just been gathering in their "sheaves” with joy, and the Psalm takes advantage of their present overflowing gladness to impress upon their hearts a lesson of trust in the universal providence of God. They had not always been thus rejoicing. Some of them —those especially who dwelt in the dry “South”-were, not long ago, sowing their seed with anxiety and fear-it might almost be said, with “weeping.” For a while their anticipations were gloomy; but the rains came at last, the “streams returned,” the crops sprang up and grew; and the end of all had been a cheering harvest. And thus, in the Divine Providence, sorrow was often turned into joy—the tearful sower became, in due time, the gladsome reaper. With the Feast of Tabernacles, again, we may, perhaps, connect Psalm cxxvii. We have seen that the Jews kept this festival in commemoration of the time when their ancestors journeyed through the wilderness. They were now settled in the land which had been promised to their fathers; they were now dwelling in their solid and substantial houses. They had even their walled towns and their cities protected by their watchmen; but, for one week in the year, they were to live in fragile booths, that they might thus vividly recall God's goodness to their ancestors, and remind themselves of their own ultimate dependence upon Him for shelter, protection, and sustenance. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” All their “rising early and sitting up late” would be utterly “vain," without the Divine blessing. Faithless, feverish, godless labour could only issue in their “ eating the bread of sorrows." Whereas, God can "give to His beloved in their sleep;" He can provide for them whilst they are calmly taking their necessary rest ;-even as their fathers in the desert, on awaking every week-day morning, found the heaven-sent bread lying for them on the ground. Still more manifestly, however, does Psalm cxxviii. stand related to this Feast of Tabernacles ; for it is a Psalm which has for its theme the harvest of the godly. It speaks of the pious man as “eating of the labour of his hands," as being blessed abundantly by the God whom he serves. Now, as we have already seen, the festi

val of tabernacles was, in its agricultural aspect, the national harvest-home. And it was well, surely, that those who came up to its celebration, should be reminded of the natural connection subsisting between piety and prosperity. “Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord.... Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.” These multitudes were now rejoicing over the grapes and olives which they had been gathering in. This Psalm reminds them how the piety of the godly not only has its reward in fruitful vines and thriving olive trees, but also, by God's blessing, bears rich fruit in domestic happiness. “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house; thy children like olive-plants round about thy table.” These multitudes, making holiday in their tents of green, were exulting in the beauty and glory of their metropolis ; let them only continue to reverence and serve Jehovah, and they would "see the good of Jerusalem all the days of their life," and," beholding their children's children,” would rejoice in the prosperity and " peace of Israel.” Thus, the general idea of the Psalm is the same as is expressed in the apostolic words, “ Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is.” And the next Psalm (cxxix.) contains the companion picture—the harrest of the ungodly. For the enemies of God's people also plough, and sow, and reap. The plough of the oppressor is the scourge he wields with that scourge he tears the “back” of his victim, as the plough tears up the field. But the righteous Lord "cuts asunder the plough-cords of the wicked "-interferes to deliver His people from the oppressor's cruelty. And as for the "haters of Zion,” when they come, in the end, to reap their harvestthe fruits of all their wicked "ploughing,”—who would ever think of addressing to them the old, familiar salutation of the harvest-field, “The Lord bless you"? For what is their harvest? A despicable thing, which no one would think worth the trouble of " binding into sheaves." It is like-nay, rather, they themselves are like--"the grass upon the house-tops, which withereth afore it groweth up.” They are themselves as despicable as the harvest they reap. Even whilst they are growing, they wither away, and all their glory is gone! Such is the spirit of this Psalm-a Psalm well fitted to be sung by the pilgrim-bands at any one of their sacred festivals.

We trust we have now said enough to invest the “Songs of Degrees," with fresh interest and beauty for many of our readers. We would simply add a word as to our own use of these old Psalms. We are to read them not merely as placing ourselves imaginatively into the position of ancient Israel, but also as making them our own, in the exercise of a spiritual sympathy. The “God of Israel” is our God. The “middle wall of par

away, and Psalm wetted festival enough to our many of of these pet so, its fulfilment ustified in the able

tition” has been broken down. “Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us." Believers in Jesus are now the “people of God." The ancient "sanctuary,” is gone : but that building, of which Christ is the “chief corner-stone," "groweth into a holy temple in the Lord.” There is a “new Jerusalem, which is from above, and which is the mother of us all.” To be Christ's is to be “ Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." And so, inasmuch as all the true Jewish worship of the olden time has its fulfilment in the worship of the Christian Church, we are abundantly justified in appropriating to ourselves such Psalms as these. We may not be able to adopt every word of the songs ; but we may surely catch their spirit, and so make them our own.

Aud we need them still. For we, too, have our ungodly neighbours—“ haters of peace”-from whose “lying lips and deceitful tongues” we have need to be “delivered.” We, too, have need—ere we lie down to rest—to commit ourselves to the keeping of Him who “neither slumbers nor sleeps." We ought ever to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem "—that “city of the living God, to which we “are come.” We also are called, as faithful servants, to keep our "eye" ever fixed on the “hand” of the Heavenly "Master." We have reason to celebrate the goodness of the Almighty Deliverer, who has saved us from becoming a “prey” to the “teeth” of the enemy, and has "broken” for us the “snare of the fowler." We also are invited to trust in the Everlasting Protector, who is "round about His people for ever," as the mountains are still "round about Jerusalem.” He who has delivered us from a worse than Babylonian “ captivity," can make all onr“ tearful sowing” issue in the most “joyful reaping." He who is the Builder of house and home still plans for us whilst we are sleeping, still sends the little children into our homes, filling the “quiver” with “ arrows" of defence. And still also He visits the pious with a bountiful harvest; individual, domestic, and national prosperity is always, in the widest view, the fruit of godly living. Whereas, the “ploughing” of the “wicked” still leads only to a harvest, which, however rich it may seem to the eye, is never really worth the reaping. We too are sometimes down “ in the depths,” and have need to cry to God as the forgiving " Redeemer.” But through humility, contentment, and hope, we also may attain to spiritual rest—“quieting” ourselves, even as “weaned children.” We too have a Zion which “the Lord hath chosen as His habitation;" and, bending before the " throne” of the “Son of David," we may rejoice in the assurance that “on His head sball His crown flourish:” whilst, beholding in Calvary's Cross the “ark" of the new covenant, we are glad to behold also the preachers of this Cross 'clothed with salvation.” The Israel of God is still oneone in the “anointed ” High Priest-one in the reception of the same “dews” of heavenly grace; and we are called to live constantly in the recognition of this “unity.” And, finally, -in the spirit of the Psalm which so appropriately closes the series, as containing the mutual “ Farewell” of the pilgrims and the priests,—we also may encourage each other in “ blessing God,” and may likewise, in word and deed, bless each other “in the name of the Lord.” Thus, therefore, if God has taken us “out of the fearful pit, and the miry clay, and set our feet upon a rock, and put a new song into our mouth,” even the song of the redeemed, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain !” then, surely, as the pilgrim-soldier-citizens of the “kingdom of heaven," we can fill these old songs also with the spirit of the new covenant, and so make them still our own “in the house of our pilgrimage.” Cambridge.

T. C. F.

TICKLING.

Did you ever carefully observe the movements of a person who is being tickled? They are well worth watching, for they are very curious. If you wish, however, to “make an observation," as the philosophers say, do not select as a subject any one who has the reputation of being ticklish. Such persons go off usually into such convulsions, throw their limbs about in such an extreme and lawless confusion, that nothing can be made of thein. Choose rather some sober person, engaged in study, for instance, and you will soon find that all the movements he makes at the moment of being tickled may be characterized by one of two headings. Of course, there will be subsequent movements of anger, etc., but of these you will take no notice, since they do not properly belong to tickling. The real tickling movements, you will find, intended either to thrust your hand from the neighbourhood of his body, or to remove his body from the influence of your hand. Sometimes one kind of movement, and sometimes the other, will be most prominent; but in all cases where there is true tickling, one, at least, will be witnessed.

At first sight, there seems nothing wonderful about this at, all, since it is the most natural thing in the world to remove or get away from anything that offends you. Yet a little consideration will soon show that the movements of tickling are not caused by any distinct act of our own wills, but are, in great

measure at least, of the kind called involuntary. If, for instance, having placed yourself on your back upon the sofa, and having asked some one to be so kind as to tickle the soles of your feet, you carefully examine the state of your feelings while the operation is being carried on, you will find that the jumpings of your legs and the writhings of your body are not the result of any effort of your will, but that, on the contrary, the movements will go on in spite of all your attempts to restrain them, if the tickling has been skilfully performed. The will, in fact, instead of being the cause of, is distinctly antagonistic to the antics ; the more will there is, the more presence of mind there is, the more command the head has over all the rest of the body, the fewer and less marked will be the effects of the titillation. It is a common remark that persons with feeble wills are generally very ticklish ; but this is only partially true, since the success of a tickling depends not only on the weakness or absence of the controlling power, but also on the capability of the skin for receiving tickling sensations, and of the nervous system for conveying them. A person with a highly organized skin may be infinitely more ticklish than a lout with a thick hide, and yet possess a far stronger will. The preventive influence of the will, we may almost say of the brain, or of head-work generally, is also seen in the fact that children are more ticklish than adults. It is likewise “conspicuous by its absence” in some stages of that suspension of the higher forms of head-work which we call sleep. You can tickle a man of the most indomitable will, if you attack him while he is asleep. The bodily frame, however, is not equally susceptible of tickling in all stages of sleep. When in deep slumber, the nervous system seems too insensible to all kinds of impressions to admit of great response to the efforts of a tickler. During the gradual process of awakening, again, even while there is still no consciousness of the world around, much head-work, though of a peculiar kind, as is shown by our dreams, is still going on, and, consequently, the effects of tickling are then often very limited. The best time of all for tickling purposes is the moment when the shadow of unconsciousness is creeping over the brain. Just at that epoch, when the labour of the head has ceased, but when the nervous system is still susceptible to impressions, the fullest success will attend the efforts of the tickler. Of course it is very difficult just to hit this point, but when it is hit there can be no mistake about the results. I am not very ticklish myself (attributable, I suppose, to my strong will), but I remember throwing myself nearly out of bed on one occasion through being tickled at the right time, just as I was falling asleep. Most people are subject to a starting just as they are "going off;" this is most probably a form of tickling.

« PrécédentContinuer »