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&c. «He trusted in God," &c. “Let him come down from the cross," &c. &c. nay, one of the thieves, crucified with him, “cast the same in his teeth.” Whosoever considers these things, will not be surprised at the expostulation in the following verse.
“17. Lord, how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions."
Christ prayeth, like David of old, for the manifestation of the promised mercy; for the deliverance of the nature which he had assumed, and which he delighted in. Who does not behold in him, surrounded by his enraged and implacable enemies, a second Daniel, praying in the den of " lions ?"
“18. I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people, or, the strong people.”
This verse is exactly parallel to Psalm xxii. 25. wherein, after an enumeration of his sufferings, our Lord predicteth the praise and glory that should accrue to God in the church, after his resurrection, from the preaching of the apostles; which passage see and compare ; as also Isa. Ixv. 3. and Rev. vii. 9.
“ 19. Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye them that hate me without a cause."
The prophet, in the person of Christ, returneth again to make supplication that an end may be put to the insults, the scoffs, and the sneers of the reprobate. O come, that day, when they shall cease for evermore!
“ 20. For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land. 21. Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me and said, Aha, aha! our eye hath seen it."
David would have lived " quietly" under the government of Saul; our Lord did not aim at temporal sovereignty over the Jews; nor did the primitive Christians desire to intermeddle with the politics of the world: yet all were betrayed, mocked, and persecuted as rebels, and usurpers, and the pests of society.
“ 22. This thou hast seen, O Lord: keep not silence: 0 Lord, be not far from me. 23. Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God, and my Lord. 24. Judge me, o Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them tot rejoice over me."
God "seeth” and knoweth all things; yet he permitteth those, who love him best, to be often long afflicted and oppressed, seeming as one at a “ distance,” or “ silent,” or “asleep," that is, regardless of what passes. At such times, we are not to remit, but to double our diligence in prayer, reiterating our cries- “Lord, save us! we perish !" Then will he “ awake and arise, and rebuke the winds and the seas, and there shall be a
“ 25. Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up."
Messiah prayed for an end of his sufferings : that the enemies of mankind might not triumph in his destruction; that death might not finally “swallow him up,” but be itself “swallowed up in victory.” The church daily maketh the same request.
“ 26. Let them, or, they shall, be ashamed and brought to confusion together, that rejoice at mine hurt: let them, or, they shall, be clothed with shame and dishonour, that magnify themselves against me.
The accomplishment of this prediction, by the resurrection of Jesus, and the destruction of Jerusalem, is well known. There are two events to come, parallel to these two which are past, viz. the resurrection of the faithful, and the destruction of the world ; when all who, like the Jews, have “ rejoiced in the hurt" of Messiah, and have“ magnified themselves agains him,” will, like the Jews, be covered with everlasting “confusion.”
“27. Let them, or, they shall, shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause : yea, let them, or, they shall, say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
28. And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness, and of thy praise, all the day long."
As the preceding verse foretold the sorrow of the enemies, so these two describe the joy of the friends to Messiah, upon his victory and exaltation, which have been, and shall continue to be, celebrated by the church in these divine hymns, indited by the Holy Spirit for that purpose, until the songs of time shall end in the hallelujahs of eternity.
In the four first verses of this Psalm, the prophet describeth the principles, the
actions, the conversation, and the imaginations of his wicked persecutors ; and from thence raising his thoughts to heaven, 549. celebrateth the mercy and loving-kindness of Jehovah ; for a continuation of which to himself and the church, he fervently prayeth, 10, 11, and 12. foreseeth the downfall of the ungodly.
“1. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, That there is no fear of God before his eyes.”
If the present reading in the original be the true one, the meaning must be this—The transgressions of a bad man show plainly, in the apprehension of a good one, that the former is destitute of a true fear of God. Bishop Lowth, by a slight alteration or two in the text, renders it to this effect“The wicked man, according to the wickedness in his heart, saith, There is no fear of God before mine eyes."* The great truth which the prophet here declareth himself to be convinced of, is, that all wickedness proceedeth from the absence of “the fear of God” in the person who committeth it; that fear being a principle, which, while it is predominant in the man, will restrain him from transgression. Our laws suppose as much, when in the form of indicting a criminal, they attribute the commission of the offence to his “ not having the fear of God before his eyes.”
6 2. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity he found to be hateful: or, when his sin is ready to be found out and to be hated.”
He who hath lost “the fear of God” is first led into sin, and then detained in it; because, having forgotten the great witness and judge of his actions, he vainly thinks his crimes may be concealed or disguised; till a discovery breaks the charm, and disperses the delusion. The last day will show strange instances of this folly.
“3. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and, to do good, or, to understand that he may do good.”
If the fear of God be not in the heart, “ iniquity and deceit” will be under the tongue; and, then, an apostacy from wisdom and goodness, or the wisdom of goodness, which is the only true wisdom, cannot be far off.
66 4. He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.”
From the actions and the words of him who hath not the fear of God before his eyes, the prophet goeth back to the thoughts and imaginations of his heart, which even in retirement and solitude, are busily employed upon evil, as those of the righteous are, at those seasons, upon God and goodness. A man may know the state of his mind, in some measure, from his morning and evening thoughts “ upon his bed.” He who doth not give diligence to " set himself in a good way,” will soon be set in one that is not good; and he who doth not "abhor" sin, will ere long delight in it.
“5. Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds, or, skies. 6. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great decp.
* See Merrick's Annotations.
From the wickedness of the world, in which we live, we must lift up our eyes for help and comfort to the mercy and truth of God, boundless, pure, and beneficial, as the heavens over our heads; to his righteousness, fixed and permanent, as the everlasting hills; and to his judgments, stupendous and unfathomable as the waters of the great deep. Truth will engage mercy to accomplish the promised salvation of the elect; and righteousness will employ judgment in executing upon the reprobate the vengeance that is due.
“0 LORD, thou preservest man and beast. 7. How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O GOD! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings."
The good providence of God extendeth over all creatures, nourishing and preserving them, as well as man, for whose use they were made. We can never enough value and “extol the loving-kindness" of him, whose overshadowing • wing3" protect and cherish us on earth, in order to bear us from thence to heaven. See Matt. xxi. 37. Deut. xxxiii. 11.
“8. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thon shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.”
In heaven alone the thirst of an immortal soul after happiness can be satisfied. There the streams of Eden will flow again. They who drink of them shall forget their earthly poverty, and remember the miseries of the world no more. Some drops from the celestial cup are sufficient for a time to make us forget our sorrows, even while we are in the midst of them: what then may we not expect from full draughts of those pleasures, which are at thy right hand, O Lord, for evermore?
“9. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”
The rivers before mentioned flow from a “ fountain,” which fetcheth not supplies from without, but whose spring is within itself, and therefore can never be exhausted. The "water of life" proceeds from “the throne of God and the Lamb," Rev. xxii. 1. “ This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” John xvii. 3. God, like the sun, cannot be seen, but by the light which himself emits.
“10. O continue thy loving-kindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.”
The prophet, groaning under the oppression of the wicked, who are described in the first part of the Psalm, prayeth for a continuation of the mercies of God, which he has celebrated in the second part. Give us, O God, the knowledge of thee, and make us upright in heart, that thy loving-kindness and thy righteousness may be our portion for ever.
“ 11. Let not the foot of pride come against me; and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.”
The Christian has reason enough to join with the prophet in this petition, whether we suppose it to deprecate destruction from proud men and sinners, without us, or from pride and sin, within us.
“ 12. There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise."
Faith calleth things that be not as though they were; it carries us forward to the end of time, it shows us the Lord sitting on his throne of judgment; the righteous caught up to meet him in the air; the world in flames under his feet; and the empire of sin fallen, to rise no more.
SEVENTH DAY. EVENING PRAYER.
From the beginning to the end of this Psalm, the Holy Spirit, by the prophet,
adıninistereth advice and consolation to the church and people of the Lord, oppressed and afflicted in the world, by prosperous and triumphant wickedness. Faith and patience are therefore recommended upon the double consideration of that sure reward which awaiteth the righteous, and that certain punishment which shall be inflicted on the wicked. These two events are set before us in a variety of expressions, and under many lively and affecting images. As the Psalm is rather a collection of divine aphorisms on the same subject, than a continued and connected discourse, it admitteth of nothing farther in the way of argument.
“1. Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity: 2. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb."
The Holy Spirit here prescribeth a remedy to a very common, and no less dangerous disorder of the mind, namely, a distrust of God's providence, occasioned by frequently beholding the prosperity of the wicked, in this present world. He who alloweth himself time to consider how soon the fairest spring must give place to a burning summer, a blighting autumn, and a killing winter, will no longer envy, but pity the fading verdure of the grass, and the still more transient glories of the flowers of the field. Herbs and plants are medicinal in more senses than one.*
“3. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed; or, dwell in the land, and feed on truth, faithfulness."
The consideration of the speedy and tragical end of sinners affordeth a powerful argument for perseverance in faith and holiness; for continuing in the church, and making our abode in the pastures of truth; until in the strength of that sacred viand, we come to the heavenly land of promise, and dwell therein for ever.
“ 4. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
He who delighteth in the creature, hath not always the “ desires of his heart" granted, nor is it fit that he should have them; but he who delighteth in God, will desire what he delighteth in, and obtain what he desireth.
" 5. Commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. 6. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day."
Malice and calumny may, for a time, overshadow the splendour of a holy character; but the sun will come forth, and the clouds will fly away. This was most eminently true of the blessed Jesus at his resurrection, and will be verified in his saints at the last day. The history of Susannah affordeth a remarkable instance of it in this life. “ Her heart trusted in the Lord, and he brought forth her righteousness as the light; insomuch that all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and praised God, who saveth them that trust in him," ver. 35. 60.
“7. Rest in, or, be silent to, the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”
If the spotless Lamb of God was dumb, before those who were divesting him of his honours, and robbing him of his life, “ silent” resignation cannot but become one who suffers for his sins. Israel was commanded to “stand still, and see the salvation of God;" but the people gazed upon the pomp and power of Pharaoh, who was in pursuit of them, till their faith failed, and they began to murmur and despond. How often is this our case before we perceive it.
* See an elegant and beautiful discourse on the " lilies of the field," published among the Sermons of the late learued, ingenious, and worthy Dr. Tottie.
“8. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath : fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. 9. For evil-doers shall be cut off; but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth."
At the day of judgment, when “evil-doers shall be cut off,” by the flaming sword of eternal vengeance, and when the saints of the Most High shall “ inherit the new earth,” the latter will have no emotions of anger or envy against the former. Let them so meditate on that day, as to make it present to their minds, and they will have no such emotions now.
“ 10. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.”
The whole duration of the world itself is but a “ little while,” in the sight of him, whose hope is full of immortality. But the calamities and deaths of princes; the tragical fate of empires, swept with the besom of destruction; the overthrow of cities, whose dimensions, towers, and palaces, once astonished the earth, but whose "place" is now no where to be found by the most curious and diligent inquirer; and the desolations of the chosen city Jerusalem; all these are even now sufficient to draw forth the tear of commiseration, and to extinguish the kindling spark of envy in every considerate mind.
“11. But the meek shall inherit the earth ; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”.
The “ meek” are they who bear their own adversities and the prosperity of their enemies without envy, anger, or complaint. For these there is a possession in the kingdom and city of the Prince of "peace,” which “ the Lord the righteous judge shall give them at that day.” 6. Blessed are the meek,” saith that Lord and Judge himself, “for they shall inherit the earth,” Matt. v. 5. “In the mean time, they, and they only, possess the present earth, as they go towards the kingdom of heaven, by being humble, and cheerful, and content with what their good God has alloited them.' They have no turbulent, repining, vexatious thoughts that they deserve better; nor are vexed, when they see others possessed of more honour, or more riches, than their wise God has allotted for their share. But they possess what they have with a meek and contented quietness; such a quietness as . makes their very dreams pleasing, both to God and themselves." Walton's Complete Angler, p. 295.
“12. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. 13. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.”
The original enmity between the wicked one and the Just One will al. ways subsist between the wicked and the just. The rage of the former against the latter is compared to that of mad dogs, or wild beasts; but a day is coming, when all that rage must be turned and employed against themselves. God, who knoweth this, contemneth their vain efforts; and Christians, who know it, and are under the protection of God, should do the same.
“ 14. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation, or, upright of way. 15. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bow shall be broken."
The tongue is a “sword," and a “bow" which shooteth its arrows, even bitter words, against the humble and upright, Jesus, and his disciples. But these are not the only weapons that have been drawn against them. How the malice of the Jews returned upon their own heads, no one is ig. norant; though few lay it to heart, and consider them as set forth for an example.