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DISCOURSE VII.

Psalm xxii. 4.—“ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the

shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

We have already considered the description which the Psalmist, in the preceding verses of this beautiful hymn, has given, of the benefits which he derived from the care and protection of Jehovah as his Shepherd-God,—the assurance which he enjoyed, that in no case should he be permitted to “lack any good thing,"—the exuberant though peaceful blessedness which he derived from the truths and promises of God's Word, as if he were made “to lie down in green pastures,” and were led “ beside the still waters," the restoration which God was wont to vouchsafe his soul, whether from the wanderings of backsliding, or the pressure of despondency,—and the guidance and support which, as the fruit of such restoration, the Lord communicated to him “in the ways of righteousness, even for his own name's sake.” We now come to an application and development of the

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general image peculiarly picturesque and striking,— in which he who is the object of Jehovah's pastoral love and care is represented passing through a dreary and terrific vale, covered with funereal shade,-yet even there intrepid and serene in the assurance of an almighty affection and an almighty power, pledged for his safety and his happiness. There are three things, then, in this verse to be considered: 1. The circumstances in which the believer is described as placed,—“ He is walking through the valley of the shadow of death.” 2. The feelings which, in these circumstances, he has found good reason to entertain," he fears none evil;" and, 3. The grounds on which he justifies, the considerations by which he nourishes these feelings," the Lord is with him ; Jehovah's rod and staff, they comfort him.”

First, then, let us consider the circumstances in which the believer, “ the sheep of Jehovah's hand,” is here described as placed. “He walketh in the valley of the shadow of death." The original term, translated valley, expresses that particular kind of valley which we denominate a defile or a ravine,-a deep and narrow cleft through a mountain-chain, where, independently of the ruggedness and difficulty of the path, the peril appears the greater, from the impossibility of seeing to any extent around us, in order to guard against impending danger, or, where the danger descends, of making good our escape, whether by flight or by concealment; while the wild horrors of the scene are enhanced by the frowning shade of overhanging rocks, and perchance of dark foliage, that exclude the sun and overcast the vale with troubled and malignant light. But this is not all. The path through which the feeble sheep is here described pursuing its drear and perilous way, is not merely denominated a valley, by a term which suggests to our minds the idea of a deep, and rugged, and dark defile, but, “ the valley of the shadow of death.” The terrible image embodied in the Hebrew word, “ the shadow of death,” has been brought out by interpreters in two different ways. There is a very close resemblance and connexion between the term which is here translated “shadow,” and that which, in the original tongue, denotes

an image” or “ representation,”-a connexion easily explained by the circumstance, that the shadow of an object in nature exhibits generally the outline, the image, the adumbration of the object itself; whence " the valley of the shadow of death” has been supposed to describe a gloomy defile, in which the traveller sees, as it were, the image of death depicted wherever he turns his eyes,-where spectral and portentous shades are gliding past him in gloom and mystery,--and where the outline of the form and features of the fell anatomy is traced in visible delineation on all the ghastly scenery around. Others, again, and perhaps with greater simplicity of interpretation, have found the idea of the text, not so much in the outline which the shadow contains of the object from which it falls, as in the darkness which it casts on the object it envelopes,--as if Death were represented under the likeness of some dark and mighty bird overshadowing the vale with his outstretched wings,--spreading his gigantic pinions, as it were, an impervious and impenetrable roof, on the rocky walls of the ravine, and turning it into a black and stifling funeral-vault, shut out above and all around from the genial influences of the sky and of the day. In this sense the phrase is plainly used in the bitter malediction with which Job, in his impatience, cursed his day, and said, “Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it ; let the darkness of the day terrify it.” You will not greatly err in combining all the ideas I have mentioned into one image, to shadow forth the circumstances in which the believer is supposed to be situated in the text,-a deep and rugged defile, walled in with frowning precipices, haunted by spectral forms, and overhung with sepulchral gloom. Such is the image,-and what is that which the image represents ? The common Scriptural application of the phrase is to a state of disaster, degradation, and affliction, to which there appears no other issue but impending death and destruction; as where the ancient Church complains to God in her distress, “ Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons ; thou hast covered us with the shadow of death ;" or where the prophet describes “ that great and terrible wilderness" through which Jehovah led his people by the hand of Moses, as " a land of deserts and of pits,-a land of drought and of the shadow of death.” To walk, therefore, in “ the valley of the shadow of death,” is to be placed in circumstances of overwhelming distress, of overwhelming peril. We are not to limit its application, as I believe the common apprehension does, to the time when the believer is literally dying, traversing the mysterious passage which conducts from world to world, the dim defile which leads from time, and opens on eternity. That this is one particular instance comprehended within the range of the general figure, I readily admit,—the instance, too, which comes most feelingly and most directly home to the experience of every individual believer; and as such, in the sequel, I shall make it the subject of special illustration. But in the mean while I desire you to observe that, according to the Scriptural extent of the expression, in every instance where the Christian feels himself surrounded with circumstances of deadly peril and alarm, even though the result should not be death in the literal sense of the expression--in every instance in which, from the gloom and pressure of external circumstances, his heart is smitten with

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