How to interpret the Psalms in a Christ-centered way

This is from W S Plumer’s commentary on Psalms (1867):

We might therefore agree with Morison, that we “perceive no infallible guide but in the comments and appropriations of Christ and his apostles;” and yet with consistency we might with him say, “That many of the Psalms have a double sense attached to them cannot be fairly disputed.” And there is much truth in the remark of Dr. Allix, that “although the sense of near fifty Psalms be fixed and settled by divine authors, yet Christ and his apostles did not undertake to quote all the Psalms they could quote, but only to give a key to their hearers, by which they might apply to the same subjects the Psalms of the same composure and expression.”

Nothing heretofore said was designed to oppose the rule of interpretation laid down by Melancthon, that we must always seek the grammatical sense of Scripture; nor that laid down by Hooker: “I hold it for a most infallible rule in expositions of sacred Scripture, that where a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst.” Let us then in all cases admit the literal or primary sense of Scripture. But this should not hinder us from also admitting in many cases the spiritual or secondary sense. A thing spoken of David may be literally true of him. Thus we have the primary sense. But David was a type of Christ, and what he says primarily of himself may have a secondary fulfilment in Christ, and so we get the spiritual sense. Without admitting thus much, how is it possible ever to apply the doctrine of types in persons to the antitype? When we have a figure, the first thing is to discover the foundation and sense of the figure; the next is to apply it to the matter in hand.

This is not giving unbridled license to the vagaries of men of no judgment. Vitringa was right when he condemned what has often passed under the name of spiritualizing : “I do not deny that many men of uninstructed faculties and of shallow judgment have, in almost every age of the Church, commended to persons like themselves, under the name of allegorical interpretations of Scripture, certain weak and stupid fancies, in which there is neither unction, judgment, nor spiritual discernment: and have sought for those mysteries of theirs which spring from a most frigid invention, either in improper places, or promiscuously in every place, without any discrimination of circumstances, without any foundation in allegory, or in verisimilitude of language: so that I do not wonder that it has occurred to many sensible persons to doubt, whether it would not be better to abandon this study altogether, to the skillful use of which experience teaches us the abilities of but very few are adequate, than to expose Holy Scripture to the senseless experiments of the unskilful, so as to cause great injury to itself, and to excite the applause of the profane.” The truth is that nothing is of more importance to the interpreter of Scripture than good common sense. A foolish or fanciful man will misapply the best rules of exposition. In vain do we expect wisdom from those who lack sobriety.

Martin Bucer: “It would be worth a great deal to the Church, if, forsaking allegories, and other frivolous devices, which are not only empty, but derogate very much from the majesty of the doctrine of Christ, we would all simply and soberly prosecute that which our Lord intends to say to us.”

Nor can we rightly apply to Christ the penitential Psalms, or represent him as asking forgiveness. In himself he was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, perfectly innocent, having nothing to repent of. And if sin imputed to him was to him forgiven, then it was not atoned for by him. Indeed, forgiveness is non-imputation. Nor can we ever apply to Christ those parts of the Psalter which plead for the subduing of corruptions. He had no corruptions to subdue. Yet the remark of Hilary is of great weight: “The key of the Psalms is the faith of Christ.”

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