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the general principles on which the writers of them proceeded; and especially respecting the application of many of them, which is made by the writers of the New Testament, to the events which are connected with the advent and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The effect of these considerations was to lead me, ten or twelve years ago, to form the purpose of carefully and repeatedly perusing them in the original Hebrew, and endeavouring to remove from them the obscurities of which, it seemed to me, I had reason to complain. The critics and expositors, whose works I at that time consulted, I found to be governed by principles so much at variance with one another, that I despaired of arriving at the satisfaction which I was desirous to attain, by depending on what, notwithstanding the numerous excellencies by which much of it is distinguished, made me apprehensive that I must exert what discernment or knowledge I might possess, united with a dependence on the aid which Divine goodness is ever ready to vouchsafe to those who seek it with humble sincerity, to enable me to accomplish an object so truly desirable.
While I was endeavouring to carry my purpose into effect, I was suddenly incapacitated for this, and every other intellectual occupation, by the overwhelming increase of a morbid condition of the nerves, which for many preceding years I had had occasion deeply to lament, but which, by a most unlooked for bereavement in my family, was stimulated into such a degree of mental excitement as issued in utter despair; compelled me to relinquish all my professional engagements; to seclude myself from all converse with my friends; and to give myself up, as a victim, to the displeasure of that infinite Being, the dread of whose anger I was unable either to remove or to tolerate. During five or six years I remained in this state of forlorn and utter destitution, without a ray of hope that I should ever emerge from this " region of the shadow of death."
I was, however, mistaken; and God, who is the comforter of those that are cast down, was pleased to deliver me, and to confer upon me a greater degree both of bodily and mental health than I have ever, since the days of early youth, enjoyed.
During the continuance of the distressing state to which I have adverted, my thoughts often recurred involuntarily to several of the Psalms, which had formerly afforded me great delight, but from which I was now unable to extract any consolation. I was not in a condition to peruse them, and they were remembered only with sentiments of the most pungent melancholy; the blessedness of which they are descriptive appeared to be passed away irretrievably and for ever from me; and the passages which most frequently offered themselves to my thoughts were such as this : “ Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.” Psalm xxxviii. 2, 6, 8. Distracted, however, and overwhelmed as I was, a powerful sentiment of the surpassing beauty and excellence of many of the Psalms never altogether deserted me; and perhaps the strongest emotion of my desolate heart was excited by a despairing wish, to derive from them even but a transient perception of the exquisite sweetness which, I was still persuaded, was inherent in them; though I was unvisited by a hope that such a wish would ever be gratified.
My pious readers will not be surprised that, when this deep cloud had been in some degree dissipated, I should advert to my former purpose of attempting an elucidation of this book, so endeared to me by the many examples of suffering, somewhat like my own, which are recorded in it: or that I should desire to confer some small portion of aid on those who are desirous of increasing their acquaintance with it. Soon after my unexpected recovery, my study of the Psalms was recommenced; and I am now willing to indulge a hope, that my
inquiries and studies have not been altogether in vain. Such was the origin of this volume.
I shall now solicit attention to a brief recital of the particular objects which I have had in view, for the purpose of showing more clearly the conceptions which I entertain of what is wanted, for a lucid and intelligible version and explanation of this eminently engaging and instructive portion of the sacred volume of inspiration.
I. My first object has been, to put into the hands of such persons as may think proper to peruse it, a work marked by perspicuity and clearness, rather than by recondite learning, or an enlarged attention to minute verbal criticism. desirous that my readers might have a book which should assist the less informed to understand the Psalms, in order that they might, with the greater advantage, peruse them, as a perennial source of religious instruction and of devout affection. Should I fail to attain this object, my greatest reward will be lost.
II. It appeared to me to be desirable, in the prosecution of the purpose which I have mentioned, that the form and substance of the version contained in the English Bible, which have been hallowed by the use of it for many ages, should not be materially disturbed : as a translation altogether remodelled is likely to interrupt the associations, both of thought and language, which have been the growth of many perusals, and thus to present an old and valued friend in a dress so unusual as to excite suspicions with regard to his identity. In the Introduction which follows this Preface there will be found a reference to the translation of Isaiah, by Bishop Lowth, and of the four Gospels, by Dr. G. Campbell, of Aberdeen,—both of them works distinguished by the very elegant, accurate, and generally satisfactory manner in which they are executed. These valuable productions have, however, failed to secure the general perusal and admiration to which they are justly entitled ; and this has, I imagine, originated chiefly in the very different forms which
they have assumed, under the hands of these eminent translators and critics. Under the influence of this view I have, in not a few instances, restricted myself from adopting a different phraseology from what I probably should have preferred, had not the rule which I have indicated appeared to be worthy of constant regard and attention.
III. As there are few of the Psalms which do not, in addition to the plainest version which I could accomplish, require further elucidation in some parts of them, I have attached such explanations to these passages as seemed to be requisite, though it was not at all my intention to produce a continued commentary. Much greater advantage will, I have no doubt, accrue to the reader, from the constant exercise of his own attentive consideration, than is likely to result from a lengthened and universal commentary, in which every thing is attempted to be explained, but which frequently is productive, by its prolixity, of weariness and disgust. I have placed great dependance upon the Introductions which are prefixed to the Psalms ; and these, together with the analyses which are united with them, will be found, I hope, of considerable assistance towards the communication of a clear conception of the sense of these divine compositions. With relation to the Explanatory Notes that are attached to each of the Psalms, I beg to say, that I have not consciously omitted to offer, in any one instance, such explications as appeared to me to be requisite; nor can my work be justly accused of proceeding in the track of other writers, so as to copy, without investigation, their remarks: a method of writing which is frequently found to perpetuate a series of erroneous judgments, and to establish, by long tradition, mistakes which become injurious, in proportion to the length of time and the number of instances through which such errors are propagated.
It was my design to direct attention to some of the passages in the common version, which appear to me to stand most in need of emendation : but as I have made the alterations, in my
own version, of all these passages which seemed to me to be requisite, I shall decline the somewhat invidious undertaking of bringing a number of them together. I had, indeed, selected nearly fifty such passages, with the design of pointing out the obscurity in which they are involved, and their want of conformity with the true meaning of the sacred writers; but it seems sufficient to have indicated their existence, and to content myself with a request to my readers, that when they experience difficulty in apprehending the meaning of the common English version, they will turn to the respective corresponding places in the version and explanations which are now respectfully submitted to them.