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CORRESPONDENCE

State Road, Del., Feb. 22, 1881

DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – I have been requested to write for the SIGNS upon the sentence recorded in the sixty-eight Psalm: “Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.”

To get hold of the sense and force of this expression, it will be necessary to notice the sentence preceding it with which it stands connected, and also to notice the Psalm from which it is taken as a whole. The occasion that the inspired psalmist appropriates to this devotional work appears to have been the removal of the ark to its final and permanent abode in the city of David. As Jerusalem had come to be known as that city that the Lord God had chosen out of all tribes of Israel to put his name there, whenever the ark should be so removed, and occupy its place in the sacred temple, instead of dwelling under curtains, it will be one of those suggestive occasions that awakened both the harp and the pen of this inspired and prophetic singer. He sees the Lord arising to his resting place, to dwell in his holy hill, in this removal and final settlement of the ark of his strength. He looks forward to the fulfillment of what the LORD had said unto his Lord, in regard to sitting upon his throne until his enemies were made his footstool. “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered,” &c. “As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.” If the writer had been an eye witness to the effect of Christ’s preaching upon the multitude of Scribes and Pharisees who gathered about him, he could not have more accurately described it. As a scorching and consuming fire, so his heart-scorching words burned and devoured; and so they fled from it, and so they melted away before it, and so they melted away before it. The presence of God, the power of God and the work of God were in his word, and were the life and spirit of the word; and so with the breath of his lips he exposed and slew the wicked. They could not stand it; they were consumed by it as chaff, or as the dry stubble. The same word that proceeded out of his mouth, manifesting the enemies of truth and consuming them, is that upon which his children live, and in which they exceedingly rejoice. The psalmist goes on immediately from this to contemplate the other side of the picture: “Let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name,” &c. This all then is to be understood of New Testament times and gospel preaching, when the old Jewish ark shall no more be remembered nor come into mind. The psalmist’s eyes are opened to behold wondrous things out of the law, and he goes on with rapture to describe and to declare the events, the wonderful events, when his Lord shall thus come. “God setteth the solitary in families.” “He bringeth out those which are bound with chains.” He is (or will be) a Father to the fatherless, and a Husband to the widow, in this his holy and chosen habitation. But the earth is shaken, and even Sinai is moved, and they flee away from the presence of God when he appears as the God of all the families of Israel. “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” This word of the Lord publishes salvation and brings good tidings. It declares how God setteth the solitary in families, and how he has prepared of his goodness for the poor. It reveals a dwelling place which God has chosen for his people to dwell in, and which he has blessed forever; and shows that his congregation are gathered unto this abode to dwell in it as their habitation.

The psalmist sees with the prophetic vision an utter rout and discomfiture of all the hosts and armies who are found in opposition to this word. “Kings of armies did flee apace.” And yet it was the same blessed word which was good tidings to the meek, and which did bind up the broken-hearted. When the Lord did arise to judgment to save all the meek of the earth, he scattered the kings and princes and the rulers of the darkness of this world, as snowflakes are scattered upon the mountains, or as the figs fall from the tree when shaken by the stormy wind. They set themselves against him, and take counsel together; but “The Lord shall have them in derision.” There is brought to view in this connection a “she,” that did not go forth to battle in this fight, but tarried at home. “She” is the subject of those wonderful declarations upon which I was requested to write. The warfare is accomplished for her, and she tarries at home to enjoy all the benefits of victory, and to divide the spoil. This “she” is the same as those righteous that should be glad, or those solitary that should be set in families, and all those other subjects of sorrow and distress of which the psalmist gives account in this Psalm, to whom the Lord will arise for their help. These are they that had lien among the pots. This figurative expression is a very strong and expressive one, and presents them as sunk exceeding low. They are cast out among the rubbish, and are regarded as marred or broken pottery, that is of no possible value or use. They have been consigned to the ditch or to the mire, or other place of garbage and filth. They are regarded as contaminated, for that they have companied with sinners. If they are not black or defiled of themselves, they have been among the pots, and so must be shunned. They are viewed as the offscouring and refuse of all things. That they, or that “she,” shall be as the wings of a dove, implies something more than merely comparing her to the dove itself. The wise man in the song speaks of her repeatedly as a dove, and as the Redeemer’s dove, my dove, &c; but this comparison to the wings of a dove presents her in a quite a more important and triumphant light. This capacity for soaring, and for triumphant flight, very naturally suggests a great contrast with lying among pots, and also that she might have been a dove before, only that she had not wings that she was capable of using. But now, in the day of her espousals, she is covered with his feathers, and under his wings she is permitted to trust. So the psalmist in his distress, when weighed down, sinking in deep waters, weary and heavy laden, sighed for the wings of a dove, that he might fly away and be at rest. Then would he hasten away from the windy storm and tempest. By faith he could anticipate, and by faith he could pray for, just what the gospel provides, and just what is here contemplated, as fulfilled to the church under the ministration of grace and truth. Clothed with the garments of his salvation, and covered with his righteousness, she now appears as a dove with wings; and not only so, but there is a beauty and brilliancy upon these wings not appertaining to the dove in herself considered. The dove, though meek and mournful, though harmless and proverbially comely, is not brilliant or silvery in color. But when she is raised from the lying among the pots, to be a crown of glory in the hands of the Lord, and a diadem of beauty in the hands of her God, then indeed will she be covered with silver.

The psalmist, in another Psalm, and in the use of another figure, says, “At his right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir.” And again, “Her clothing is of wrought gold.” As a bride, she is brought to the King in raiment far exceeding in gorgeousness and brilliancy what earthly princes wear, with which she is permitted to adorn herself as a bride, or as a king’s daughter. As his dove, his undefiled, arising from among the pots, arising in the might and triumph of his righteousness to fly in the midst of heaven, her wings are covered with the silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. There is evidently a dropping of the heavens and of heavenly things here brought to view; and the poor and the fatherless, the solitary and those bound with chains, are all set in families, enjoy a spiritual relationship, and enter into the King’s palace.

There is much in this subject for all those who have named the name of Christ to consider. The dove was a dove all the same among the pots, a living dove, while downtrodden and oppressed, although among defilement, degradation and death, yet capable of soaring, and elemented to this higher state of being. The love, the meekness and the sorrow were all there. She is ready to rejoice in her deliverance at any time, whenever she may emerge from among the pots. When it is said that his glory is risen upon Zion, it is also said that his glory is seen upon her. While we talk of this soaring majesty of the church, of her heavenward flights, of her being clothed and adorned with the spirit and grace of her Redeemer, and conformed to the image of the Son of God, we do well to remember that these things should be seen upon us. Certainly those who have spiritual discernment should see that those who have named the name of Christ do indeed put him on, and that they are not making provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof. They should be found binding the graces of the Spirit upon them, as bride doeth, and adorning themselves therewith as with precious jewels.

I have not given full quotations. Those who have not the passages clearly in mind will find it will aid them to look over the connection for themselves.

Your brother in hope,
E. RITTENHOUSE.

Signs of the Time
Volume 49, No. 6
March, 15, 1881