Originally each division and verse began with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the Hebrew, each verse begins with the respective Hebrew letter/name for that division. There are 22 divisions
of 8 verses each, for 176 verses. Naming goes as follows:
ALEPH, BETH, GIMEL, DALETH, HE, VAU, and on
for 22, completing the Hebrew alphabet.
THE TREASURY OF DAVID, in seven large volumes,
is to be found in thousands of libraries, but it is too huge a work to
be commonly known among the thousands of Israel. Hence it came into my
mind to publish certain parts of it in smaller books, that many more
might be profited by it.
The One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm is of such a size as to stand out from all the rest, and claim a separate treatment. It is known among the Germans as ‘"The Christians' golden A B C of the praise, love, power, and use of the Word of God." And from them I have borrowed the title of this volume. Each portion of the Psalm begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As a specimen, we would show how the first eight verses may be so rendered as to begin in each case with the letter A, or Aleph.
This psalm is a wonderful composition. Its expressions are many as the waves, but its testimony is one as the sea. It deals all along with one subject only; but although it consists of a considerable number of verses, some of which are very similar to others, yet throughout its one hundred and seventy-six stanzas the self-same thought is not repeated: there is always a shade of difference, even when the color of the. thought appears to be the same. Some have said that in it there is an absence of variety; but that is merely the observation of those who have not studied it. I have weighed each word, and looked at each syllable with lengthened meditation; and I bear witness that this sacred song has no tautology in it, but Is charmingly varied from beginning to end. Its variety is that of a kaleidoscope: from a few objects innumerable permutations and combinations are produced. In the kaleidoscope you look once, and there is a strangely beautiful form you shift the glass a very little, and another shape, equally delicate and beautiful, is before your eyes. So it is here. What you see is the same, and yet never the same. it is the same truth, but it is always placed in a new light, put in a new connection, or in some way or other invested with freshness.
I do not believe that any subject other than a heavenly one would have allowed of such a psalm being written upon it; for the themes of this world are narrow and shallow. Neither could such a handling have been given even to a sacred subject by any mind less than divine; inspiration alone can account for the fullness and freshness of this psalm.
The best compositions of men are soon exhausted; they are cisterns, and not springing fountains. You enjoy them very much at the first acquaintance, and you think you could hear them a hundred times over; but you could not: you soon find them wearisome. Very speedily a man eats too much honey: even children at length are cloyed with sweets. All human books grow stale after a time; but with the Word of God the desire to study it increases, while the more you know of it the less you think you know. The Book grows upon you: as you dive into its depths you have a fuller perception of the infinity which remains unexplored. You are still sighing to enjoy more of that which it is your bliss to taste. All this is true even of the psalm which is in itself nothing more than the eulogy of the divine testimony.
This wonderful psalm, from its great length, helps us to wonder at the immensity of Scripture. From its keeping to the same subject it helps us to adore the unity of Scripture, for it is but one. Yet, from the many turns it gives to its one thought, it helps us to see the variety of Scripture. How manifold are the words and thoughts of God I In his Word, just as in creation, the wonders of his skill are displayed in many ways.
I admire in this psalm the singular commingling of testimony, prayer, and praise. In one verse the Psalmist bears witness; in a second verse he praises; in a third verse he prays. It is an incense made up of many spices; but they are wonderfully compounded and worked together, so as to form one perfect sweetness. The blending greatly increases the value of the whole. You would not like to have one-third of the psalm composed of prayer — marked up to the sixtieth verse, for instance; and then another part made up exclusively of praise; and yet a third portion of unmixed testimony. It is best to have all these divinely-sweet ingredients intermixed, and wrought into a sacred unity, as you have them in this thrice-hallowed psalm. Its prayers bear testimony, and its testimonies are fragrant with praise.
Mr. Charles Bridges has written upon this psalm a peculiarly delightful work. I do not seek to rival him; but I would attempt the edification of the Lord's people in the same way as he has done, for he has made no effort to display learning, but has aimed at promoting devotion. Several notable authors traversed this heavenly country before Mr. Bridges, and I am one of those who follow after him: the succession will not end till the Lord comes.
I commend my labor to my Lord's acceptance, and pray that his Holy Spirit may make these praises of Holy Scripture to ring as sweet bells in the ears of his own people evermore.
Dear Reader, pray for
Thy brother in Christ,
C. H. Spurgeon
Westwood, July 1887.