By admin | February 18, 2009
Treatment of each Psalm:
Spurgeon followed a uniform treatment of each Psalm, according to the following pattern: Introduction, Division, Exposition, Explanatory notes and quaint sayings, and Hints to preachers. Let me speak briefly about each of these:
1. Introduction: The first thing the reader encounters in each Psalm is a paragraph or two of introduction. Spurgeon commented on everything: the author (if named), the title if one is provided, even Hebrew words that seem to be directions for singing—“to the Choirmaster” or “upon the Lillies.” He used these paragraphs to set the stage for the exposition of the Psalm.
2. Division: This is simply the way in which Spurgeon viewed the progress of thought in the psalm—it is an outline of the leading thoughts of the text. The treatment of the longer Psalms usually follows Spurgeon’s understanding of the outline of the Psalm.
3. Exposition: After the Introduction and words about the division of thought, the reader comes to the exposition proper. It is always verse by verse, sometimes clustering verses together. No stone is unturned, no word or phrase neglected as the expositor slowly works his way through each verse. Spurgeon was in no rush as he wrote this book, and the result is a remarkable thoroughness of exposition.
4. Explanatory notes and quaint sayings: At the end of each section of exposition, Spurgeon provided an amazing collection of comments and sayings gleaned from a wide variety of authors ancient and modern. This is presented to us verse by verse or even phrase by phrase; at times this section is longer than the exposition. An astonishing array of quotations collected from the best of Christian literature is provided. All of the leading Reformers and Puritans—Owen, Bunyan, Manton, Luther, Calvin—are present—this is to be expected—they were Spurgeon’s constant reading companions and provided much of the material here. But they are not the only group represented; many of the lesser known scholars of that era are also at hand: Francis Vatablus; Sebastian Castellio; Giambattista Follengo; Musculus; Vitringa, and many others. He says that much expense of toil and money was used to collect these writers’ comments. The church fathers appear regularly: Augustine, Ambrose, the Venerable Bede, Cyprian, Jerome, Origin, Tertullian and more. But there are also many other interesting characters: The Roman satirist Juvenal, a 12th century author named Euthymius Zigabenus; Plato; Aristotle; Homer; Ovid; Sophocles; even Rabbinic citations are incorporated a few times (Maimonides, David Kimchi, Aben Ezra). Spurgeon sought for the best and most illustrative material, whatever the source might be. He seems to have been, like Paul at Athens, willing to use whatever tool might be at hand to drive home his point. The list could go on and on and on. But our amazement should not end with the names of these writers, the quality of their comments is all the more impressive. While Spurgeon clearly states that he cannot endorse all of the views of all of the authors cited, the quotations made are or tremendous help to the reader. They are always thought-provoking and illuminating, and give a demonstration of God’s goodness in teaching the truth to his people through a wide variety of instruments.
5. Hints to preachers: After these quotations we find sermon outlines; sometimes they cover the whole psalm, always they include portions or specific verses. Spurgeon offers an apology for these in the preface to V1: “The Hints to Preachers are very simple, and an apology is due to my ministerial readers for inserting them, but I humbly hope they may render assistance to those for whom alone they are designed, viz., lay preachers whose time is much occupied, and whose attainments are slender.” While this may be true, they give us hints as to how Spurgeon viewed the Psalms for preaching.
6. In addition to these 5 things present in the comments on almost every Psalm, there are also occasional comments for special purposes; for example, the Songs of Degrees (Psalms 120-134) receive special comment.
All in all, the work is a remarkable achievement in Scriptural commentary.
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