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tended under this name, it is sufficiently clear, that David had been maliciously aspersed and calumniated by such a person; that the Psalm was written to vindicate himself from the imputation, whatever was the nature of it; and consequently may be considered as the appeal of the true David and his disciples against the grand accuser and his associates. The person speaking, 1, 2. declares his trust to be in God; 3-5. protests his innocence; 6-8. desires that judgment may be given in the cause; 9, 10. prays for the abolition of sin, and the full establishment of righteousness; 11-13. sets forth the Divine judgments against sinners; 14-16. describes the beginning, progress, and end of sin, with, 17. the joy and triumph of the faithful.
"1. O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust; save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me."
To a tender and ingenuous spirit, the "persecution" of the tongue is worse than that of the sword, and with more difficulty submitted to; as indeed a good name is more precious than bodily life. Believers in every age have been persecuted in this way; and the King of saints often mentions it as one of the bitterest ingredients in his cup of sorrows. Faith and prayer are the arms with which this formidable temptation must be encountered, and may be overcome. The former assures us, that God can save and deliver" us from it; the latter induces him so to do.
"2. Lest he tear my soul like a lion rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver."
The "lion," of whom David stood in fear, was probably Saul, roused, by a false accusation, to destroy him. The rage of tyrants is often in the same manner excited against the church. And we all have reason to dread the fury of one, who is "the roaring lion," as well as the "accuser of the brethren." From him none can deliver us, but God only.
"3. O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;"
David makes a solemn appeal to God, the searcher of hearts, as judge of his innocence, with regard to the particular crime laid to his charge. Any person, when slandered, may do the same. But Christ only could call upon Heaven to attest his universal uprightness. In his "hands" there was "no iniquity;" all his works were wrought in perfect righteousness; and when the prince of this world came to try and explore him, he found nothing whereof justly to accuse him. The vessel was thoroughly shaken, but the liquor in it continued pure.
"4. If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy."
David probably alludes to the life of Saul, which was twice preserved by him, when he had been pressed by his attendants to embrace the opportu nity of taking it away. See 1 Sam. xxiv. xxvi. Of the Son of David St. Paul says, "in this he commended his love to us, that when we were sinners, he died for us," Rom. v. 8. In so exalted a sense did he "deliver him that without cause was his enemy." Wretched they who persecute their benefactor; happy he who can reflect, that he has been a benefactor to his persecutors.
"5. Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust."
These are the evils which David imprecates on himself, if he were such as his adversaries represented him; persecution, apprehension, death, and disgrace. Christ, for our sakes submitting to the imputation of guilt, suffered all these; but being innocent in himself, he triumphed over them all; he was raised and released, glorified and adored; he pursued and overtook his enemies, he conquered the conquerors, and trampled them under his feet; and he enableth us, through grace, to do the same.
"6. Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of
mine enemies and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded."
To a protestation of innocence succeeds a prayer for judgment upon the case, which is formed on these two considerations; first, the unreasonable and unrelenting fury of the persecutors; secondly, the justice which God has "commanded" others to execute, and which therefore he himself will doubtless execute upon such occasions. How did he "awake," and "arise," and "lift up himself to judgment," on the behalf of his Anointed, in the day of the resurrection of Jesus, and the subsequent confusion of his enemies? And let injured innocence ever comfort itself with the remembrance of another day to come, when, every earth-born cloud being removed, it shall dazzle its oppressors with a lustre far superior to that of a noon-day
"7. So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about; for their sakes, therefore, return thou on high."
The meaning is, that a visible display of God's righteous judgment would induce multitudes who should behold, or hear of it, to adore and glorify him. For their sakes, therefore, as well as that of the sufferer, he is entreated to reascend the tribunal, as formerly, and pronounce the wishedfor sentence. Thus the determination of the cause between Jesus and his adversaries, by his resurrection, and “return on high," brought “the congregation of the nations" around him, and effected the conversion of the world. Nor, in human affairs, does anything more advance the reputation of a people among their neighbours, than an equitable sentence in the mouth of him who sitteth in judgment.
"8. The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me."
Conscious of his "righteousness and integrity," as to the matter in question, David desires to be judged by him, who is to judge the world at the last day. How few, among Christians, have seriously and deliberately considered, whether the sentence of that day is likely to be in their favour! Yet, how many, with the utmost composure and self-complacency, repeat continually the words of this Psalm, as well as those in the Te Deum, "We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge!" Legal, or perfect righteousness and integrity are peculiar to the Redeemer; but evangelical righteousness and integrity all must have, who would be saved.
9. O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: or, the wickedness of the wicked shall, &c. for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. 10. My defence is of God, who saveth the upright in heart.”
It is predicted that wickedness will, in the end, be abolished, and the just immoveably established, by him who knoweth intimately the very thoughts and desires of both good and bad men, and will give to each their due reward. How can we doubt of this, when it has pleased God to afford so many examples and preludes to it, in his dispensations of old time? The righteous cause hath already triumphed in Christ; let us not doubt, but that it will do so in the church. Happy the man, whose hope is therefore in God, because "he saveth the upright in heart."
"11. God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day."
The sense seems to be, that there are daily instances in the world of God's favour towards his people; as also of his displeasure against the ungodly, who are frequently visited by sore judgments, and taken away in their sins. In this light we should consider and regard all history, whether that of our own age and nation, or of any other.
12. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. 13. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors."
The sinner, who is not converted by the vengeance inflicted on others, will himself at length be made an example of. The wrath of God may be slow, but it is always sure. In thoughtless security man wantons and whiles away the precious hours; he knows not that every transgression sets a fresh edge on the sword, which is thus continually whetting for his destruction; nor considers, that he is the mark of an archer who never errs, and who, at this very instant, perhaps, has fitted to the string that arrow which is to pierce his soul with everlasting anguish.
“14. Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood."
This is not to be understood as if "travail" were previous to "conception." The first is a general expression; "Behold, he travaileth with iniquity;" the latter part of the verse is more particular; as if it had been said, "and having conceived mischief, he bringeth forth falsehood." When an evil thought is instilled into the heart of a man, then the seed of the wicked one is sown; by admitting, retaining, and cherishing the diabolical suggestion in his mind, he "conceiveth" a purpose of "mischief;" when that purpose is gradually formed and matured for the birth, he " travaileth with iniquity;" at length by carrying it into action, he bringeth forth falsehood." The purity of the soul, like that of the body, from whence the image is borrowed, must be preserved by keeping out of the way of temptation.
15. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. 16. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate."
All the world agrees to acknowledge the equity of that sentence which inflicts upon the guilty the punishment intended by them for the innocent. No one pities the fate of a man buried in that pit which he had dug to receive his neighbour; or of him who owes his death-wound to the return of an arrow shot against Heaven. Saul was overthrown by those Philistines whom he would have made the instruments of cutting off David. Haman was hanged on his own gallows. The Jews who excited the Romans to crucify Christ, were themselves, by the Romans, crucified in crowds. Striking instances these of the vengeance to be one day executed on all tempters and persecutors of others; when men and angels shall lift up their voices, and cry out together "Righteous art thou, O LORD, and just are thy judgments."
"17. I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness; and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high."
Whatever doubts may at present arise concerning the ways of God, let us rest assured that they will all receive a solution; and that the "righteousness" of the great Judge, manifested in his final determinations, will be the subject of everlasting hallelujahs.
This is the first of those Psalms which the church has appointed to be read on Ascension-day. It treats, as appears from Heb. ii. 6, &c. of the wonderful love of God, shown by the exaltation of our nature in Messiah, or the second Adam, to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and by the subjection of all creatures to the word of his power.
"1. O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens."
The prophet beholds in spirit the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow; like St. Stephen afterwards, he sees heaven opened, and
Jesus standing at the right hand of God; the sight fills his heart with wonder, love, and devotion, which break forth in this address to "Jehovah," as "our Lord;" for such he is by the twofold right of creation and redemption, having made us, and purchased us. On both accounts," how excellent," how full of beauty and honour is his name, diffused by the gospel through "all the earth!" But more especially do men and angels admire and adore him for the exaltation of his "glory," the glory of the only begotten, high "above the heavens," and all created nature, to the throne prepared for him before the foundation of the world.
"2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained, Heb. founded, or constituted, strength, because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and avenger."
This verse is cited by our Lord, Matt. xxi. 16. and applied to little children in the temple, crying, "Hosannah to the Son of David!" which vexed and confounded his malignant adversaries.
The import of the words, therefore, plainly is, that the praises of Messiah, celebrated in the church by his children, have in them a strength and power which nothing can withstand; they can abash infidelity, when at its greatest height, and strike hell itself dumb. In the citation made by our Lord, which the evangelist gives from the Greek of the LXX. we read, "thou hast perfected praise," which seems to be rather a paraphrase than a translation of the Hebrew, literally rendered by our translators, "thou hast ordained strength."
"3. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained: 4. What is man, that thou art mindful of him and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"
At the time of inditing this Psalm, David is evidently supposed to have had before his eyes the heavens, as they appear by night. He is struck with the awful magnificence of the wide extended firmament, adorned by the moon walking in brightness, and rendered brilliant by the vivid lustre of a multitude of shining orbs, differing from each other in magnitude and splendour. And when, from surveying the beauty of heaven, with its glorious show, he turns to take a view of the creature man, he is still more affected by the mercy, than he had before been by the majesty of the Lord: since far less wonderful it is, that God should make such a world as this, than that He, who made such a world as this, should be "mindful of man," in his fallen estate, and should "visit" human nature with his salvation.
5. For thou hast made him a little, or for a little while, lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things under his feet."
On these two verses, with that preceding, St. Paul has left us the following comment. "One in a certain place TESTIFIED, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than [marg. a little while inferior to] the angels; thou crownest him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. BUT Now we see not YET all things put under him. BUT we see JESUS, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour." Heb. ii. 6, &c. See also 1 Cor. xv. 27.
"7. All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8. The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas."
Adam, upon his creation, was invested with sovereign dominion over the creatures, in words of the same import with these; Gen. i. 28. which are
therefore here used, and the creatures particularized, to inform us, that what the first Adam lost by transgression, the second Adam regained by obedience. That "glory" which was "set above the heavens," could not but be over all things on "the earth." And accordingly, we hear our Lord saying, after his resurrection, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," Matth. xxviii. 18. Nor is it a speculation unpleasing, or unprofitable, to consider, that he who rules over the material world, is Lord also of the intellectual, or spiritual creation, represented thereby. The souls of the faithful, lowly and harmless, are the sheep of his pasture; those who, like oxen, are strong to labour in the church, and who, by expounding the word of life, tread out the corn for the nourishment of the people, own him for their kind and beneficent master; nay, tempers fierce and untractable as the wild beasts of the desert, are yet subject to his will; spirits of the angelic kind, that, like the birds of the air, traverse freely the superior region, move at his command; and those evil ones, whose habitation is in the deep abyss, even to the great Leviathan himself; all, are put under the feet of King Messiah: who "because he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, was therefore highly exalted, and had a name given him above every name, that at the name of JESUS every knee should bow, whether of things in heaven, or things on earth, or things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that JESUS is LORD, to the glory of God the Father." Phil. ii. 8, &c.
9. O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!" Let therefore the universal chorus of men and angels join their voices together, and make their sound to be heard as one, in honour of the Redeemer, evermore praising him, and saying, O Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, King of Righteousness, Peace and Glory, King of kings, and Lord of lords, how excellent, how precious, how lovely, how great and glorious is thy Name, diffused over all the earth, for the salvation of thy chosen. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. And let heaven and earth say, AMEN.
SECOND DAY.—MORNING PRAYER.
This Psalm consists of two parts, a thanksgiving, 1-12; and a prayer. 13-20. Upon what particular occasion it was composed, is not known; probably, to celebrate the victories gained by David over the neighbouring nations, after God had exalted him to be King in Sion. See ver. 11. But most certainly the Psalm was intended for the use of the Christian church; and she continually, by using it, 1, 2. declares her resolution to celebrate the praises of her God; since 3, 4. her enemies were vanquished, and her cause was carried; 5, 6. the empire of Satan was subverted, and 7. 8. the kingdom of Christ established; 9, 10. affording to believers refuge and salvation, for all these blessings. 11. Christians are excited to praise their Redeemer, who 12. forgets nothing that is done or suffered for his sake. 13, 14. the church petitions for final deliverance from the world, and the evil thereof; 15, 16. building her hope on the mercies already received; 17, 18. she fortells the destruction of the wicked; and 19, 20. prays for the manifestation of God.
"1. I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works."
In this animated and exalted hymn, the church begins with declaring her resolution, to "praise Jehovah," as the author of her salvation; and that,