We begin a further series on the works of George Abbot (1604-1649) by looking at Brief notes upon the whole book of Psalms put forth for the help of such who desire to exercise themselves in them and cannot understand without a guide : being a pithy and clear opening of the scope and meaning of the text to the capacity of the weakest.
There is little merit or need in us here giving any back-ground to the purpose of this work as Master Abbot's verbosity has sufficiently explained all! We begin here with the Argument and Application for the use of the Psalter. God willing we hope to provide Master Abbot's notes on each individual Psalm in a format to encourage daily devotion and the singing of psalms.
Note: The spelling and grammar of the original have been updated and modernised and several sections have also been edited, it is hoped that neither the meaning or intent has been affected by these revisions.
The Argument & Application
ALL Scripture was written by the holy men of God, as they were moved or inspired by the Holy Ghost, but this of the Psalms was not only written by a holy man, but by a holy man in holy frames, who was not only moved by the spirit to write them, but was in the spirit when he penned them; not so much acted by external impulsion, as inward affection, warmth of zeal, and sensible experience. For the Psalms being a special part of the worship of God in all ages of the Church, whereby God not onely speaks to us (as in other Scripture) but we to him, in prayer and praise, (the arguments of almost all of them) were therefore dictated by another spirit, than other Scripture, by the spirit of grace and operation, not only of illumination, prophesy, or inspiration; to show us, how God is to be worshipped, not only by holy regenerate men (such as were all the sacred pen-men) but by the regenerate part of a regenerate man; else, prayers nor praises neither come down from heaven, nor go up to heaven; it was not enough to be a Priest to offer Sacrifice, but it must be done by a holy man with holy fire. And therefore should we sing the Psalms of David in the spirit of David, and read them as he writ them, with frameable tempers to the matter treated.
Of all Scripture, our meditation in the perusal of this Book of the Psalms (so full of practical Gospel) ought to be sweet and spiritual, of which one rightly affirms. Let all the rest of the Scripture be the body, and this is the heart, so full of heavenly affections. Every Psalm whereof is a spiritual pang, or fresh gale, breathed by the Holy Ghost on David’s heart, and penned by him, and the rest, in instant [in an instant], in heat of affection.
His writing is his feeling, and so should be thy reading; the music of the Temple should make music in the living Temples of the Holy Ghost, the sons of Sion: therefore have I laboured not only to render the proper, but also the full extensive meanings of the Psalmists by congruous enlargements, to move the affections, as well as to inform the judgement: so that David’s spirit in these Psalms may be transmigrated into the experienced Reader in proportionable power & energy, wherewith they were conceived & digestedly put over by him to the Church; whereof (as of Christ) he was a most lively type, wading through so many dangers, temptations, ebbings, flowings, yea, and sins too, to create him to be a looking-glass for the Church and Spouse of Christ, who may be black yet comely, and can never pass through any condition of sin or suffering, where first he hath not led the way, and shown the issue, whose varieties of providences, states, and tempers made him of such an evangelical spirit in the time of the Law, as that God styles him a man after his own heart; so that in him we see, that neither great sins nor great afflictions can seperate us from the love and approbation of God, though the one may cost us dear, and the other may lay us low, yet neither the one nor the other can build up such a partition wall, but that the grapling irons of Faith, Prayer, and Repentance are able to demolish it, and make way for us to the throne of grace, whether if we can but come, we shall be sure to speed; for grace can deny grace to none, that graciously ask it.
And therefore if ever we will gain that Encomium [high praise] of being as he was, after God’s own heart, (who loves a zealous penitent, better than a luke-warm innocent) it must be by improving all advantages to the increase of Gospel-growth, thus. If at any time God in his wisdom let us fall, or Satan by his subtlety and strength give us a fall, or we by our weakness catch a fall, all which, may be in one and the same sin, then know, that that sin is thine advantage or opportunity, which thou art to improve to mount thee to a higher rise of Gospel-ground, and step forward towards more grace by the fresh exercise, or exercise of fresh faith and humiliation, God being more pleased with us when we penitently and faithfully confess our sin (wherein David was very ingenuous) than displeased when we commit it. For though we are not to sin that grace may abound, yet when we have sinned, its both our wisdom and duty too, to look that grace do abound, and that we make a sanctified sin of it.
So if we fall into afflictions, there is another opportunity (for the promise is, that all shall work for good, and that, going in and out, we shall find pasture) yea, even a price in our hands, which if improved by the exercise of seasonable and suitable graces, will ready us in our Gospel-way, better than any trade-wind or constant gale of providence can ever do. For it is said, all things work together for good &c. Alluding to the art of the Apothecary in the mixing of various and diverse samples, when not one alone is able to work that effect that many jointly can. And when I speak of change of states, I mean inward as well as outward, for the soul would be as a cake unturned, excellent in something and stark naught in othersome, or as a vessel unemptied, taking taint by long standing in any one condition, and therefore God hath ordered it, that the soul as the Sea shall purge it self by its constant vicissitudes of ebbings and flowings, whether the winds blow without or not. But least Christians wonder at such fortunes as befall them, God hath shown us, that we sail but the course of other men that went before us, and have landed safely through many cross winds and high Seas in a happy issue or conclusion, and David is the highest Sea-mark in all the Bible for men of shipwrecked souls, bodies, states, or names, to cast their eye upon; who ever lived that endured such, and such variety of affliction, for that he was to be the type as of the Crown, so of the cross of Christ, yea, and of every Christian, or the Church in general. And therefore whatever state you are in, the Psalms are as an Apothecary’s stop, full of boxes, and they are full of all manner of medicines for men in all tempers and distempers; at all times, and in all tunes to make use of, especially when thou hast to do in a good cause against a wicked enemy.
The Psalms (which being so frequently used ought the better to be understood) may seem to need none, yet they that look into them with inspection, will find much more sense than lies above.