I will incline my ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying on the harp.
My text points to two principles; first, there is the bowing before, and hearkening to, the mystery of things — the universal, parabolic utterances; and, second, the turning the mystery and the parable into a cheerful song — the dark saying becoming, like the bird's song in the covert of the night, a clear stream, without sorrow and without care. Find the cheerful aspect of solemn things. See how sorrow is rounded by cheerfulness; hearken, and you will be able to give a cheerful response to the most solemn views of life. The greatest mystery of all art, perhaps, is music; the soul that leaps from the mere material chords and pipes, and, whilst it emanates from, plays upon the spirit of man. There is a mystery and a meaning in music we can never either expound or explore; and it is felt that those natures, which are the greatest burden and mystery to themselves, find most the solace of song in the combinations of all great sounds; we have known this, it is not always that in joyfulness of heart we sing. The girl oppressed by some great trial and loss, as she bends over her needle, or goes about her house-work, will sing, and, while she sings, finds unconsciously that her song has been her medicine, and has given to her relief. And something like this is a very general experience. Hence we have poetry for all cultured people, and hymns for holy people; and do we not know what it is to become happy while we sing? Good it is sometimes to utter the dark saying to the harp rather than to others; it composes, allays, and tranquillizes the mind while we utter it. Therefore, says David, "I will open my dark saying upon the harp." David was a master of the harp, and we see, plainly enough, that to him life was full of dark sayings, uttered with more or less of clearness, coming upon him with more or less of gloom. His dark sayings are abundant. We have often thought together of that wonderful summary of holy genius, the Book of Psalms. He would seem to have given everything to his harp; everywhere, as in the words of the text before us, "he was inclining his ear to a parable." To him, it would seem, nature was a great harp, framed, touched and moved by the finger of God, and every object became jubilant, and even prophetic.
I. ALL SCRIPTURE ITSELF IS A DARK SAYING ON A HARP. However you regard it, you must be amazed by its mysterious unity, not less by its mysterious murmurs — murmurs as of a distant, infinite sea, or as in a forest we listen to the tones as of strange bells among the far-off boughs. There is a Divine reticence in the Bible; there is aa awful secretiveness. Oh! it is all parable; it is all dark saying! Vainly do I ever think I have exhausted any single word or meaning; it is inspiration and revelation throughout. It is a "dark saying," for it is inspiration; it is "uttered," for it is a revelation.
II. MAN HIMSELF IS A DARK SAYING ON A HARP. He is himself a universe of being in which life, and nature and grace seek to combine in music. Consider thy nature: how strange that we should be made thus, strange the opposition between sin and conscience, even in the best of men; strange the contradiction between what man effects and what man is. Has not his history through all time been a dark saying? What is this creature we call man? Is he angel, or is he beast, or is he fiend? for there are things he has done which warrant all these translations, read simply from the sensual eye. And what a mistake the life of man seems! And sometimes, how his failures and his inner conflicts seem to boast of him as of a being built out of the pieces of the wreck of the fall.
III. AND PROVIDENCE IS A DARK SAYING ON A HARP. The mysteries of Providence were as startling to David as they are to us, and the very psalm whence I take this text recites and records them; it did not seem to be a world of highways to the psalmist; and this is one of the great causes of grief and of the dark sayings — the world and its sorrows. It is the cry, the incessant cry, "Why hast thou made all men in vain?" The world is full of dark sayings; it is hieroglyphic all, you feel the incongruity and the contradiction, but you have never felt it so clearly as the Bible has stated it, and especially the psalmists; they perpetually — Asaph, David and others — saw and uttered their sense of the solemn discords of this life. There is a picture I have often turned to look at in the chapel in one of the old palaces of France, and I have sometimes looked, as the dear dreamer said, till the water has found its way to my eyes; it is suspended over the altar — it is the cloud of eternity, and the Ancient of Days is there, and the Lamb is there, and round the circle the harpers harping with their harps — every one robed in white, and every brow bound with the crown — "kings and priests unto God and to the Lamb for ever"; every eye fixed on "the Lamb, as it had been slain," and every crowned form bearing a harp, and striking it "to Him that hath loved." "To them were given harps." Why, what does it mean? Oh, it tells how the lost life will regain and be restored to its unity. This is that harp, all the chords of the being one, and for ever one. Then, indeed, may we say, "I will praise thee on the harp, O God, my God."
(E. Paxton Hood.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.