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"16. A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked. 17. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous."
A little, with the blessing of God upon it, is better than a great deal, with the encumbrance of his curse. His blessing can multiply a mite into a talent, but his curse will shrink a talent to a mite. By him "the arms of the wicked are broken," and by him "the righteous are upholden;" so that the great question is, whether HE be with us, or against us; and the great misfortune is, that this question is seldom asked.
"18. The LORD knoweth the days of the upright; and their inheritance shall be for ever. 19. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied."
The favour of God is, to them that obtain it, a better and an enduring substance, which, like the widow's barrel and cruse, wasted not in the evil days of famine, nor will fail in that evil day of eternal want, when the foolish virgins shall be calling in vain for oil, and the rich glutton as vainly imploring a drop of water to cool his tongue.
20. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away."
The destruction of the wicked is here again set before us, but under a different image, namely, that of a sacrifice. Senseless, as cattle, they are fatted for the altar, they wanton in their prosperity, and nourish their hearts against the day of slaughter. In the mean time, the Almighty is whetting that sword, which nothing can withstand; and those fires are kindling, which shall never be extinguished. See Isa. xxxiv. 6-10.
"21. The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again; but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth."
The wicked man, like his leader, the "wicked one," payeth not those whose money or abilities he hath occasion to borrow, and to employ in his service; whereas the disciple of Christ, in imitation of his Master, not only punctually observeth the rules of justice and equity, but thinketh it "more blessed to give than to receive." In like manner, though both are indebted for everything to the bounty of God, the latter maketh all the acknowledgments and returns in his power; while the former never thinketh of making any.
"22. For, or, therefore, such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off."
They who are like their merciful and gracious Lord, and who by their devotion and charity, bless him, are blessed of him; they who are like their cruel and iniquitous master, and who, by their ungodliness, injustice, and hard-heartedness, dishonour their Maker and Redeemer, are cursed of him. To the former therefore it will be said, at the last day, "Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom;" to the latter, "Go, ye cursed, into the fire."
"23. The steps of a good man are ordered, Heb. established, by the LORD; and he delighteth in his way. 24. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand."
This was emphatically true of the man Christ, whose steps Jehovah established, and in whose way he delighted: who, " though he fell" by death, yet was raised again by his mighty hand, and outstretched arm. It is true likewise of Christians, whom it should support and comfort in all dangers and temptations. See, for a parallel, Psalm xci.
"25. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. 26. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed."
So far is charity from impoverishing, that what is given away, like vapours emitted by the earth, returns in showers of blessings into the bosom of the person who gave it; and his offspring is not the worse, but infinitely
the better for it. "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered also himself," Prov. xi. 25. The bread which endureth, as well as that which perisheth, is his; and the blessings of time are crowned with those of eternity.
"27. Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. 28. For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. 29. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever."
The justice and mercy of God, the rewards which await the righteous, and the punishments that will, sooner or later, be inflicted on the wicked, are subjects on which, whoever shall frequently meditate, "will depart from evil, and do good." "Whatsoever thou takest in hand," saith the wise son of Sirach, "remember the END, and thou shalt never do amiss," Eccles. vii. 36.
"30. The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. 31. The law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide."
The word which is here, as in other places innumerable, translated “the righteous," is in the singular number, and might therefore be translated "the Righteous One," or, "the Just One," for it is often designed to point him out to us, who is emphatically so styled; whose "mouth" always "spake wisdom," in whose "heart was the law of God," and whose "steps" NEVER declined to evil. Lord, put thy laws into our hearts, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth may speak; and as the mouth speaks, the hands may act, and the feet may walk.
"32. The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. 33. The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged."
The Jews"watched" that Just one, daily and hourly; they "sought to slay him," and did so; but "Jehovah left him not in their hands," but vindicated his innocence, by raising him from the dead. And the day is coming, when he who hath stood tamely at the bar of men, and hath suffered for truth and righteousness, shall be advanced to a throne among the saints and martyrs, to assist at the trial of his once insulting judges.
"34. Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it."
The apostle, writing to the Hebrew converts, under affliction and persecution, thus expresseth the sentiment contained in this verse. "Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry," Heb. x. 35.
"35. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree; or, a native tree, which has grown from the seed without transplantation, in the same spot. 36. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found."
The great Babylonian monarch had his own exaltation, and subsequent degradation, portrayed to him in a vision under this very image, which conveyeth to the mind a most striking and affecting idea of the rise and fall of men and empires, which have now no existence but in history. "I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of the earth. The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; the beast of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven. He cried aloud, and said thus; Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit; let the beasts get
away from under it, and the fowls from his branches," Dan. iv. 10, 11, &c. See the prophet's exposition, 20, 21, &c. and what is said above, on ver. 10. of this Psalm.
"37. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. 38. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off."
After taking a view of those short-lived honours, which the world setteth upon the heads of its most favoured votaries, let us turn our eyes to the "Perfect and Upright One;" let us behold the permanent greatness and the unfading glory of the TREE OF LIFE, which is in the midst of the paradise of God; whose leaves are for the healing of the nations, and whose fruit is the fruit of "peace."
"39. But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble. 40. And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.".
Of thee, O Lord Jesus, is our salvation; be thou our strength in this mortal life, which is a time of trouble; help us against our spiritual enemies, and deliver us from them; deliver us from the wicked one, and from all evil and save us from the guilt and punishment thereof; because we put our trust in thee, and in thee alone.
EIGHTH DAY.-MORNING PRAYER.
In this Psalm, which is the third of those styled Penitential, the sinner, ver. 1. prayeth to be chastened only, and not destroyed; 2-10. describeth the state of his soul under various images, chiefly borrowed from bodily diseases and pains; 11, 12. complaineth of his friends forsaking, and his enemies persecuting him; but, 13-15. continueth patient and resigned, committing his cause to God, whom, 16-22. he beseecheth to help him, on his confession and repentance. As our Lord took upon him the guilt, and suffered the punishment of sin; as there are some passages in the latter part of the Psalm, literally predictive of his passion, and so understood by the best ancient expositors; and as the sinner should be led by his own sorrows to reflect on those of his Redeemer; the meditations of the reader are, there fore, under each particular, directed by the ensuing comment, into that channel.
"1. O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath; neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure."
The petition here preferred, as in the sixth Psalm, is that Jehovah would not condemn, as a Judge, but chasten, as a Father, for the amendment and preservation of the offender. The same prayer, which we sinners make for ourselves, Christ, who bore our sins, once made for us.
"2. For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore." The "arrows," and the "hand" of God, are his judgments on sin; those internal pangs and terrors which pierce the soul, and those external afflictions and calamities which sink and weigh down the spirits. The holy Jesus, at the time of his passion, received these arrows, and sustained this weight, for the sins of the whole world.
"3. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger; neither is there any rest, or, peace, or, health, in my bones, because of my sin.”
The expressions in this verse are applicable to the disorders and diseases which sin hath introduced both into the soul and into the body, as the
terms, "health" and "sickness," are in Scripture no less frequently employed to describe the state of the former, than that of the latter. If a single sinner thus complaineth of his grief and pain, what must have been the agony and passion of him who suffered for all, mercifully and lovingly submitting to be "made sin for us!"
4. For mine iniquities are are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me."
Sins and sorrows are here, as in many other places, represented under the image of mighty waters rolling incessantly over the head of the person sunk into them, and by their accumulated weight depressing them, so that he can no more rise above them. Let us meditate on that deep and tempestuous ocean, into which we were the means of plunging the innocent Jesus.
"5. My wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of my foolishness." Sin is the wound of the soul, which must be washed with the tears of) repentance, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and healed by the Spirit of the Holy One. It requires great care and attention, until the cure be completed. Otherwise, mortification and death ensue, as in the case of outward wounds, if neglected, or ill-managed. See Isa. i. 6. Luke x. 34. All the sores and pains of the body mystical are lamented by him who is the Head of that body, and who felt the sad effects of these corruptions of our nature in the day of his sufferings.
6. I am troubled, Heb. writhed, or, distorted; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long."
As the body by pain, so the soul by guilt, is "distorted" from its original uprightness; it is "bowed down" to the earth, through shame and fear, being no longer able to look up towards heaven with its accustomed holy confidence, and instead of rejoicing in a good conscience, and the hope of glory, sorrow is its portion, and grief its familiar acquaintance. And what wonder, that we should be humbled and afflicted for our own sins, when the Son of God was so humbled and afflicted for sins not his own?
7. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, or, inflammation; and there is no soundness in my flesh."
The "disease," or "inflammation," complained of, in these metaphorical terms, seems to be the distemperature of our fallen nature, whereby it cometh to pass, that "the flesh lusteth against the spirit:" it is that "other law in our members, warring against the law in our minds, bringing us into captivity to the law of sin," and forcing every son of Adam to cry out "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death!" Happy is it for us, that we are enabled to go on with the Apostle, and to "thank God," that we are delivered, "through Jesus Christ our Lord," on whom were "laid the iniquities of us all."
"8. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart."
The vigour of a man is broken in pieces, and wasted away, by pain and the disquietude from thence arising, which cause piercing cries, and loud lamentations. When sin in the soul is felt, like sickness in the body, it will produce effects in some degree similar. Let us reflect on the sufferings, the cries, and the tears of our Redeemer.
9. LORD, all my desire is before thee: and my groaning is not hid from
The "desires" and "groans" of the penitent are known to God, and marked down in his book: and there is no small comfort in thinking and acknowledging that they are so; but much more comfort is there in the remembrance of those inconceivable "desires," and those unutterable "groanings," which the holy Jesus poured forth for us in the days of his flesh, and which prevail for the acceptance of our own.
"10. My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me."
In bodily sickness, these are three symptoms of approaching dissolution; and the soul is in great extremity, when the three corresponding symptoms appear upon her; namely, when she hath neither resolution to will, power to perform, nor knowledge to discern, the things that belong unto her health and peace.
"11. My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore, or, plague, or, affliction; and my kinsmen, or, my neighbours, stand afar off."
A body afflicted with a noisome distemper, and a soul troubled on account of sin, find but few friends, who have charity enough to stay with, and to minister to them. Let us not be surprised or offended at this, when we see the righteous Jesus, at his passion, destitute and forsaken by all; as it is written, "Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled," Matthew xxvi. 56., and all his acquaintance, "and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things," Luke xxiii. 49.
"12. They also that seek after my life, lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt, speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long. 13. But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man, that openeth not his mouth. 14. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs, or, altercations."
These verses describe and recommend to our imitation the behaviour of David, and of a greater than David, when under persecution; the former from Absalom, Ahitophel, Shimei, &c., the latter from the chief priests and elders, Judas, and the Jews.
"15. For in thee, O LORD, do I hope, or, thee do I wait for: thou wilt hear, or, answer, O LORD my God."
This verse assigns the reason why the ill usage, which we receive at the hands of men, should be borne with patience and resignation; namely, because, as it is not without the permission, so neither will it be without the notice, of the Almighty; who will one day take the matter into his own hands. Christ, saith St. Peter, "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; yet, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously," 1 Pet. ii. 21.
16. For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.
As the glory of God may be said, in some measure, to depend on the behaviour and fate of his servants; on that account, besides the stings of conscience, temporal punishments, and the danger of eternal torments, good men should ever have before their eyes the dishonour which is brought on the name of God, and the stop which is put to the progress of his Gospel, by the fall of any eminently righteous and holy person into sin.
17. For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. 18. For I will declare mine iniquity: I will be sorry for my sin."
The surest way to have our weakness strengthened, and our sin forgiven, is to acknowledge and confess both; and this we need not be ashamed to do, when we consider, that he, who is the Lord, strong and mighty, took our infirmities; and the King of Righteousness bare our sins, in his own body on the tree.
19. But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong; and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied. 20. They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is."
These words joined with the preceding, are applicable to the distress of David, and the prosperity of his adversaries; to the sufferings of Christ and the triumph of the Jews; to the afflictions of the church, and the gaiety of the world; to the weakness of faith, and the strength of nature. The result of all this is, that salvation cometh of God only, and is to be implored in the following words, which conclude the Psalm.
"21. Forsake me not, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me. 22. Make haste to help me, O LORD [God of] my salvation."