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in the next. This opinion is adopted by Delitzsch : 'Gesenius first taught that the fifteen songs have their name from the step-like progressive rhythm of the thought, and that consequently the name, like the triolet (roundelay) in Western poetry, does not refer to liturgical usage, but to the technical structure. The correctness of this view has been duly appraised by, more particularly, De Wette, who adduces this rhythm of steps, or degrees, among the more artificial rhythms. The songs are called Songs of Degrees or Gradual Psalms, as being songs that move onward towards a climax, and that by means of thonń (énithon“), i.e., a taking up again of the immediately preceding word by way of giving intensity to the expression, and they are placed together on account of this characteristic.'* So that we may regard them as ladder-like Psalms, whereby, as by successive steps, there is a gradual ascent of the soul unto God. Thus the unity of Divine purpose, expressed in the experiences with which the faithful are disciplined by the will of God, their trials being not capricious exercises of faith, but a perfectly - ordered discipline, would be well expressed These fifteen Gradual Psalms lead, as the songs of the Pilgrim Church, to rest and to resurrection. They sing of the cruel persecution of Mesech, of the wild hordes of Kedar, among whom the soul dwells in a weary exile ; of the contempt of the haughty; of the snares of treachery and the ploughshare of cruel reproach. We can almost feel in them the hot breath of the MartyrChurch in her anguish. The whole number of the Alleluia Psalms corresponds with the number of the Psalms of Degrees—fifteen songs of pilgrimage and travel with fifteen of holy joy and final beatitude. If the Songs of Degrees were chanted by the pilgrim-companies as they journeyed from their long exile back to the Holy City, then they may be regarded as the songs of wayfaring, while the Alleluia Psalms are the songs of victory and eternal triumph, to be sung when the pilgrim-saints reach the City of Peace and rest in God for ever.
* Delitzsch on the Psalms, iii., p. 267.
In the use of poetry this shining ladder has been likened to the last passing of the soul to God by a holy and religious death. How many feet are daily ascending this ladder from the Church on earth to the blessed life in Paradise !
‘Spirits elect, through suffering rendered meet
For those high mansions: from the nursery.door
Unto the golden floor.' Tertullian, in his excessive reverence for martyrdom, uses this ladder as a symbol of that glorious end. But this is scarcely a proper use, and may not be further pressed.
Yet we cannot forbear transcribing the touching words in the passion of the martyrs Perpetua and Felicia.* Perpetua says : 'I saw a golden ladder of marvellous height, reaching up even to heaven, and very narrow, so that persons could only ascend it one by one; and on the sides of the ladder were fixed every kind of iron weapon. There were there swords, lances, hooks, daggers : so that if anyone went up carelessly, or not looking upwards, he would be torn to pieces, and his flesh would cleave to the iron weapons. And under the ladder itself was crouching a dragon of wonderful size, who lay in wait for those who ascended, and frightened them from the ascent. Saturus' (a fellow-confessor) went up first. . . . And he attained the top of the ladder, and, turning, said to me: “Perpetua, I am waiting for you ; but be careful that the dragon do not
And I said : “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, he shall not harm me.” And from under the ladder
They suffered probably about the year 202 A.D. Cf. Milman, History of Christianity,'ii., pp. 165-172, and notes.
itself, as if in fear of me, he slowly lifted up his head : and, as I trod upon the first step, I trod upon his head. And I went up and saw a wide garden, and in its midst a whitehaired* man sitting, in the dress of a shepherd, of high stature, milking sheep, and standing around were many thousands of white-robed ones. And He raised His head and looked upon me and said: “Thou art welcome, daughter." Then she relates how He seemed in her dream to give her from the cheese a little cake, which she took with folded hands, while voices said, Amen, and she awoke, tasting still an inexpressible sweetness. After which dream she adds, with a simple but intense pathos, she and her brother, to whom she had related it, 'understood that it was to be a passion (a martyrdom), and ceased henceforth to have any hope in this world.' It is a touching relation, and, while it has much beauty in its very simplicity of expression, it witnesses to the enthusiasm of the devotion in those days, which might easily outrun sobriety and issue in perilous excesses. Personal devotion to our Lord may become purely chivalrous and sentimental, unless it is united with a contrition for sin and a clear doctrinal knowledge of the great mystery of redemption. These mould and beautify the passion of love with gentle and soulsubduing impulses of reverence and humility. The description of our Lord in this vision harmonizes with the early allegorical representations in the Catacombs, that never attempted any nearer likeness in those earliest ages.
And now let us turn to the Scala Paradisi. After insistance upon reading and meditation as two inferior degrees of the spiritual ascent, the unknown author proceeds:
"To feel the interior sweetness of meditation cannot be given except from above. Therefore, the soul perceiving
* Cf. Rev. i. 14, where the snows of eternal life' are on the head of Christ, the Eternal Son. Cf. Trench, ‘The Seven Churches,' p. 34.
this sweetness, and that by itself it cannot attain to this, it humbles itself and flees unto prayer, saying: "I sought Thy face, O Lord; Thy face I sought. Long meditating in my heart, in my meditation the fire burned with the desire to know Thee more abundantly. The more I know Thee, the more do I long to know Thee; not now in the husk of the letter, but in an interior experience. Nor do I seek this, O Lord, in any wise for any merits of mine, but for Thy mercies' sake; for I entirely confess how unworthy I am, and but a sinful soul; yet even the whelps eat of the crumbs that fall from the Master's table. Give, therefore, even to me, O Lord, an earnest of the inheritance to come, at least one drop of the heavenly rain, by which my thirst may be allayed, for I burn in love towards Thee."
* By such eloquence doth the soul fan its devotion into intenser heat; by such invocations doth it seek its Spouse, when of a sudden the Lord, preventing its prayer in the midst, breaks in upon its desires and meets it, His heart overflowing towards it with the holy dews of a heavenly sweetness. So He refreshes the wearied soul, satisfies all its thirst, replenishes its dryness, and makes it to be forgetful of all earthly things in the strengthening, reviving memory of Himself. Thus the man becomes wholly spiritual.
'() Lord, how shall we know when Thou doest this, and what is the sign of Thy coming to us? Can it be that of this consolation and spiritual joy our tears and sighs are the witnesses ? For what agreement have sighings with consolation, or tears with gladness, if yet such tears as these may be called tears and are not rather the overflowing fountain of an inward dew descending into the soul from above? O Lord, if these tears be so sweet which flow from the memory and desire of Thee, how sweet will be the joy which shall be received from Thine unveiled Vision ! If it be so sweet to weep for Thee, what sweetness will it be then to rejoice for Thee !* But why do we drag forth such hidden acts of communion into open speech? How dare we endeavour to set forth in common words such spiritual conferences that may not be told nor expressed ? They who never felt cannot understand such things, which may be read only in the book of the heart's experience, and can be learned only by a Divine anointing. Of little living virtue is the perusing of the outward letter unless the inward sense and spiritual gloss be received from the heart itself. O my soul, too long has been our speech, and yet it is good to be here, and with Peter and John to look upon the glory of the Bridegroom, and to abide with Him, if we might but make, not two nor three tabernacles, but one, wherein He and thou, O my soul, might dwell together and enjoy mutual delight. But even now the Bridegroom saith : “O soul, let Me go, for the day breaketh, and thou hast received the light of My grace and the visitation of love which thou didst desire." Behold, He withdraws from thee, Who was so long desired, and is so quickly gone; yet He abides with thee so far as for thy guidance, thy governance, and thy union mystical with Himself.
'Fear not then, O bride, nor despair, nor think thyself despised, if for a little while thy Lord hide Himself from thee. All these things work together for thy good, and thou hast advantage both from His access and from His departing. For thy sake He comes, and for thy sake He departs. He comes for thy consolation, He withdraws His presence for thy warning, lest the greatness of the consolation should lift thee up, lest His perpetual presence should cause thee to despise thy fellows in religion, and this unbroken visitation of comfort should be ascribed presently not to His grace, but to thy own merit ; for the Bridegroom gives this grace to whom and when He will, but not as a privilege possessed in our own right. It is an ordinary proverb,
* Cf. the beautiful “Lamentatio in Passionem,' iv. 522, C.