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Andrew Bonar’s Commentary on the Psalms

August 10, 2015 4 comments

In my continuing study of the covenantal premillennial writers, comes Andrew Bonar’s “Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms,” (available in electronic format, PDF and through Google Play) which includes interesting, concise commentary on each Psalm.  I have found it works best to read through this commentary as I read along in my daily Psalm reading (part of my ongoing genre reading plan which includes two Psalms per set, and a full genre set every day or every other day), now up through Psalm 64.

The content for each Psalm includes the KJV text followed by Bonar’s comments that are part technical – with actual Hebrew words and meaning, along with reference to the views of various scholars of the day (such as Hengstenberg) and footnotes – along with some good devotional thoughts.  Throughout, Bonar relates each Psalm to how our Lord Himself could pray and “use” the particular words in His own experience as man during His First Coming, the One who was truly dependent on His father.  This style or emphasis takes some getting used to, but Bonar addresses texts that specifically mention the writer’s sins and need of forgiveness, by referencing Christ having sin imputed to Him, as well as noting the contrast in Psalm 51 (the occasion of David’s sin with Bathsheba) with the 50 psalms before it.  I also see this emphasis of Christ’s experiences as a man, relating to what I have been studying in the 1689 Exposition series, which in the study of chapter 8 of the confession, brought out this point about Christ’s two natures, the union of these natures and the human experience of Christ in full dependence on the Father, in the Spirit given to Him without measure — and what a great example this is to us in our Christian walk (though in our imperfect way) and dependence upon the Father through the Spirit indwelling us.

Each Psalm commentary also relates the text to all believers, how all believers can pray and relate to the Psalm — the “and His church” part of the title.  The devotional thoughts include the idea of meditating upon certain ideas, considering the “Selah” of some Psalms, and remembering God’s promises.  To end each commentary is a brief summary statement describing the Psalm, such as “Our Joseph and his seed foreseeing the doom of the archers that have shot at them,” for Psalm 64, or, for Psalm 61, “The Righteous One, when an outcast, looking for the day of his Restoration.”

Finally, here are a few good excerpts from Bonar’s commentary:

Psalm 61:  In this life, every member of the Church has a varied lot—now at rest, then troubled; now hopeful, then fearful; now a conqueror, then a combatant. Seated as he is on the Rock of Ages, immovably seated, he sees at one time a fair sky and a bright sun; then, the thick cloud spreads gloom over nature; soon, the beam struggles through again, but soon all is mist once more. Such being the sure complexion of our sojourning here, we rejoice to find sympathy therewith evinced by our God who knows our frame, and evinced by the fact that He so often turns in the Songs of Zion from one state of mind to another, and from one aspect of our case to another.”

Psalm 53: The state of earth ought to be deeply felt by us. The world lying in wickedness should occupy much of our thoughts. The enormous guilt, the inconceivable pollution, the ineffably provoking atheism of this fallen province of God’s dominion, might be a theme for our ceaseless meditation and mourning. To impress it the more on us, therefore, this Psalm repeats what has been already sung in Psalm xiv. It is the same Psalm, with only a few words varied; it is “line upon line, precept upon precept;” the harp’s most melancholy, most dismal notes again sounded in our ear. Not that the Lord would detain us always or disproportionably long amid scenes of sadness, for elsewhere he repeats in like manner that most triumphant melody; but it is good to return now and then to the open field on which we all were found, cast out in loathsome degradation.

Psalm 37: Instead of complaining of our burdens, and anxieties, and cares, and fears, and instead of throwing them off in stoical indifference, let us “roll them on the Lord” (as ver. 5), and then “Wait—be silent”—standing still at the Red Sea, till God opens the way. “The meek” are they who bow to God’s will; they shall as surely “inherit the earth,” as ever Israel entered into possession of Canaan. This is a promise repeated in verses 11, 22, 29, 34, as if to reiterate, “that though you have little of earth and earth’s good things now, all shall yet be yours, and the ungodly be gone for ever.”

Psalm 32: Forgiveness is so great a blessing that all else may follow. If the Lord forgive our sin, what next may we not ask? On this account, then, His people pray. Our Head intercedes, because His offering of Himself was accepted; we pray, because through Him we have already got pardon, and may get any other real blessing. Yes, we may get such blessing, that “at the time of *the floods of great waters,” whensoever that be —whether calamities personal and national, or the waves of the fiery flood, parallel to that of Noah, that shall yet sweep away the ungodly,—even then we shall be altogether safe. The forgiven man is hidden, instructed, taught, guided by God’s tender care.

Bible Teachers and Their Use of Typology

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve recently added daily reading of a few devotional books:  Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening, ICR’s “Days of Praise,” and John MacArthur’s “Life of Christ, vol. 2.”  MacArthur’s devotional book, in particular, includes some specific points of his teaching, and so I’ve become aware of slight differences between otherwise like-minded teachers.  For example, in a recent devotional (Jan. 18), MacArthur referred to the account of Jesus coming out of Egypt in Matthew 2:13-15 as fulfillment of Hosea 11:1.  He went on to say:

This is a type, a nonverbal prediction from the Old Testament that illustrates something about Christ without specifically describing it.  However, we can’t credibly label a person or event a genuine Old Testament type except as Scripture itself informs us of it.

Here he differs from S. Lewis Johnson, who frequently employed “types” or illustrations using a specific definition and pattern for valid types — and not restricted to only those types mentioned in the NT.  Consider the following, from a previous blog here:

Typology is really just another word for “illustration” or “example,” and has specific characteristics, including historicity and pattern, with correspondences between people, things (or institutions), or events.  The type is found in the Old Testament, a historical reality, as distinguished from allegory, of which John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progess” is a classic example.  According to S. Lewis Johnson, types are not restricted to only those which are explicitly pointed out in the New Testament (I have heard that claim before), but still must follow the pattern established by the definition.

As I considered these different ideas, an “a-ha” moment came as I recalled a connection between S. Lewis Johnson and J.C. Ryle.  At about the same time I had learned, from both S. Lewis Johnson and J.C. Ryle, of the “type” comparison between 1 Samuel David — after his anointing by Samuel, before becoming King — and our Lord Jesus in this present age.   Then I also remembered J.C. Ryle’s Holiness chapter 20, in which he mentioned several more of these “types” from the Old Testament that relate to Christ either in His First or Second Coming.

Obviously, MacArthur’s restricted definition, relying (only) on the explicit NT teaching, would fail to see these types or illustrations.  Gotquestions.org also takes this more limited definition, one that sees “types” as something different from “illustrations.”

We should point out the difference between an illustration and a type. A type is always identified as such in the New Testament. A Bible student finding correlations between an Old Testament story and the life of Christ is simply finding illustrations, not types. In other words, typology is determined by Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired the use of types; illustrations and analogies are the result of man’s study. For example, many people see parallels between Joseph (Genesis 37-45) and Jesus. The humiliation and subsequent glorification of Joseph seem to correspond to the death and resurrection of Christ. However, the New Testament never uses Joseph as a model of Christ; therefore, Joseph’s story is properly called an illustration, but not a type, of Christ.

Based on what I’ve studied thus far, though, I would agree with SLJ’s point that types really are illustrations — and that people often tend to get terms confused, as in the above from Gotquestions, and try to make “types” something different or more complicated.

The following website, Victorian Web, has good information concerning typology as practiced by 19th century Anglican preachers including J.C. Ryle — and thus the Biblical tradition that S. Lewis Johnson continued into the late 20th century.  A few excerpts:

Unlike allegory, which interprets one thing as in reality signifying another, typology traces the connections and similarities between two unique events, each of which is equally real.  . . .
Typical interpretations of Scripture differ from allegorical ones of the first or fabulous kind, in that they indispensably require the reality of the facts or circumstances stated in the original narrative. And they differ also from the other, in requiring, beside this, that the same truth or principle be embodied alike in the type and the antitype. The typical is not properly a different or higher sense, but a different or higher application of the same sense.

I’ve only begun to look at this, and the Victorian Web articles contain much more information (much of it rather technical).  Yet now I observe an overall difference that correlates with different notions of typology: one’s general interest in the Old Testament versus the New.  It appears that those who make a distinction — that “types” are of a “higher level” than standard “illustrations” – do not spend as much time teaching directly from the Old Testament passages and do not point out the interesting parallels in the “non-type illustrations.”  My sample is admittedly small: John MacArthur’s view of “types” separate from illustrations, versus S. Lewis Johnson, Spurgeon and Ryle — all of whom, as far as I can tell, made no such distinctions between “true types” and “only illustrations.”

At any rate, I have greatly appreciated the Old Testament teaching from the latter group, who (unhindered by a rule that types are only those things mentioned in the NT) often pointed out some very interesting parallels, types (illustrations) of NT truths in the many events that are not specifically referred to as official types by the NT writers.

MacArthur has primarily taught only from the NT (true, much of that was because of his book contract to produce a complete set of NT commentaries), and for Bible reading recommends multiple repeated reading through the NT books yet only one reading per year through the Old Testament. By contrast, S. Lewis Johnson and the other teachers at Believer’s Chapel have taught many expository series through OT books. J.C. Ryle wrote of the importance of the Old Testament, that we should beware of undervaluing the Old Testament, which is just as valuable as the new.  Spurgeon, another who frequently related the events of the Old Testament as types of NT truth, gave generally equal treatment to passages from both the Old and New Testament — as seen in his sermons as well as his devotionals and his writings on the Psalms.