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we owe him, founded on the relation which a creature beareth to his Creator. And the petition implieth in it a confession of our present inability to know his will without his revelation, and to do it without his grace.
“74. They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.”
They who “ fear God” are naturally “ glad” when “they see" and converse with one like themselves; but more especially so, when it is one whose faith and patience have carried him through troubles, and rendered him victorious over temptations; one who hath "hoped in God's word," and hath not been disappointed. Every such instance affordeth fresh encouragement to all those who, in the course of their warfare, are to undergo like troubles, and to encounter like temptations. In all our trials, let us therefore remember, that our brethren, as well as ourselves, are deeply in terested in the event, which may either strengthen or weaken the hands of multitudes.
“ 75. I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me."
This humble, pious, and dutiful confession will be made by every true child of God, when under the correction of his heavenly Father. From whatever quarter afflictions come upon us, they are "the judgments of God,” without whose providence nothing befalleth us. His judgments are always “ right, or just,” duly proportioned to the disease and strength of the patient; in sending them, God is “faithful" and true to his word, wherein he hath never promised the crown without the cross, but hath on the contrary assured us, that one will be necessary in order to our obtaining the other; and that they who are beloved by him shall not sin with impunity, nor go astray without a call to return. All this we ought to “know," or to be assured of beyond doubt, as we may be from the many declarations in Scripture, from our own experience, and from that of others.
"76. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant."
In the former verse the criminal, finding that the hand of God was upon him, had owned the justice and the faithfulness of his judge in the punishment inflicted. Judgment having thus had her perfect work, the offender, now humbled and penitent, maketh application to the throne of grace, and sueth for that mercy, which God, by his “ word” hath promised to his servants, who are chastened, not for their destruction, but for their salvar tion. When God's “judgments" have brought us to an acknowledgment of our sins, his “merciful kindness" will speedily be our "comfort.”
“77. Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.”
The mercies of God are “ tender mercies,” they are the mercies of a father to his children, nay, tender as the compassion of a mother over the son of her womb. They “come unto” us when we are not able to go to them. By them alone we “live” the life of faith, of love, of joy and glad
And to such as “ delight” in his law, God will grant these mercies, and this life; he will give them pardon, and by so doing, he will give them life from the dead.
“78. Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause; but I will meditate in thy precepts."
This complaint of the Psalmist hath been made by the faithful in all ages, that the men of the world “ dealt perversely with them without a cause," or oppressed them falsely, first spreading slanders and calumnies concerning them, and then persecuting them for those supposed crimes. Such usage should have no other effect upon us, than it had upon David. He prayed that “shame" and disappointment might teach humility to the “ proud” and applied himself still more and more to meditate in the “precepts” of his God.
6v 79. Let those that fear the turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.”
David beseecheth God, if any good men have been alienated from him, either through fear, prejudice, or offence, that they might return to him, join, and acknowledge him. To thee, O thou Son of David, and King of the spiritual Israel, let those among thy people, who, through any temptation, have fallen from their allegiance, return and be subject.
“80. Let my heart be sound in thy statutes: that I be not ashamed."
This is a prayer necessary for all men to use at all times, but more particalarly in seasons of persecution and temptation. By " soundness of heart," is meant solidity and steadfastness in grace and virtue, as opposed to the mere form of godliness, or fair show of the hypocrite, which conceal the rottenness and corruption lurking within ; and also to the sudden and vanishing goodness of the temporary convert, which quickly disappears like the morning dew, and withers like the seed sown on a rock. When internal holiness accompanies and actuates that which is external, when the word is thoroughly rooted, and faith hath acquired the sovereignty over our desires, then our "hearts" are “ found in God's statutes," and there is hope, that, in the day of trial, we shall not give our brethren cause to be ashamed of us, nor be ourselves “ ashamed" before God.
CAPH. PART XI. 681. My soul fainteth for thy salvation : but I hope in thy word, or, I have expected thy word.”
Thus have the true servants of God, in every age, expressed their ardent desire of his salvation. Thus did the patriarchs, the prophets, the kings, and the faithful people, formerly wish to behold the advent of their Saviour in the flesh; until Simeon, taking him in his arms, spoke what they would all have spoken had they been present, “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."* But the Bridegroom was soon taken away, and the heavens have received him, until the restitution of all things; for which the church upon earth at this day waiteth and prayeth; that she may be delivered from all her troubles, and inseparably united to him in whom she delighteth. Every individual, when oppressed by sin and sorrow, may make his supplication in the same words, for that salvation which is by grace, through faith. 682. Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?"
While the promised salvation is delayed, the afflicted soul thinketh every day a year, and looketh toward heaven for the accomplishment of God's word, saying to “her Friend and her Beloved, When wilt thou comfort me? Come, Lord Jesu, come quickly!"*
“83. For I am become like a bottle in the smoke: yet do I not forget thy statutes.'
“ Bottles,” among the Jews, were made of skins. One of these, if exposed to heat and « smoke,” would become shrivelled and useless. Such a change will labour and sorrow cause in the human frame; and the Psalmist here complaineth that his beauty and strength were gone; the natural moisture was dried up; in consequence of which the skin shrivelled, and both colour and vigour departed from him. Disease and old age will produce the same sad effects in us all ; but the body's weakness is the soul's strength; as the outward man decayeth, the inward man is renewed, “1 do not forget thy statutes."
* “ Defecerunt oculi mei;" Ambrosius : “Nonne quandò aliquem desideramus et speramus adfore, eo derigimus oculos unde speramus esse venturum ? Sic teneræ uxor ætatis, de specula litorali, indefessâ expectatione conjugis præstolatur adventum: at quamcunque navim viderit, illic putat conjugem navigare, metuatque ne videndi gratiâ dilecti, alius antevertat, nec ipsa possit prima dicere, video te, mi marite.” Vide reliqua apud Ambrosium, ejusdem planè spiri tus, nec tamen potui temperare, quin hæc excriberem. Sic affectus est quisquis cum Paulo dig. solvi cupit, et esse cum Christo. Sic denique qui semel gustato bono Dei verbo, ut idem Paules ait, sibi postea relictus, deficit tædio sui, ac reddi sibi postulat prægustatem suavissimi ainoris dulcedinem. Bossuet.
“84. How many are the days of thy servants ? When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?"
The well-beloved John heard a question, of the same import with this, asked by the spirits of the martyrs, that had left their bodies, and were waiting in the separate state, for the day of retribution. The answer which was made to them, may likewise satisfy our impatience, when suffering affliction and persecution : “ I saw under the aliar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ? And white robes were given unto every one of them, and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled," Rev. vi. 9, &c.
“85. The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law."
The manner of taking wild beasts was by " digging pits,” and covering them over with turf, upon which when the beast trod, he fell into the pit, and was there confined and taken. But there was a “law," that if a pit were left open, and a tame beast, an ox, or an ass, fell into it, the owners of the pit should make good the damage, Exod. xxi. 33. Much more shall men be called to a severe account, who purposely lay snares and stumbling; blocks before the feet of their innocent brethren, to cause them to fall and perish.
“86. All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.”
Man is perfidious and deceitful; God is “faithful" and true; he hath promised to "help" those who suffer wrongfully, and he will, in the end, show himself to be the avenger of all such. Let them wait with patience, since the King of Righteousness himself suffered as a malefactor before he entered into his glory.
“87. They had almost consumed me upon earth: but I forsook not thy precepts.
However low the church, or any member thereof, may by persecution and tribulation, be brought upon earth, yet nothing can separate them from the love of God, while they " forsake not his precepts," nor disbelieve his promises. The soul, we know, must forsake the body; but God will forsake neither.
“88. Quicken me after thy loving-kindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.”
Through the “loving-kindness" of God our Saviour, the Spirit of life is given unto us, by whose "quickening” influences we are revived, when sunk in sins, or in sorrows, and are enabled with joy and gladness to persevere in keeping the “ testimony of his mouth.”
“89. For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven: or, Thou art for ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven. 90. Thy faithfulnes is unto all generations : thou has established the earth, and it abideth. 91. They continue this day according to thine ordinances : for all are thy servants.'
The eternity of Jehovah, and the immutability of his counsels, are considerations which afford comfort and encouragement to his people, when their enemies are in arms against them. Even in this world the unwearied heavens continue to perform invariably their operations upon themselves and the bodies placed in them; while the globe of the earth, retaining its original form and coherence of parts, still, as at the beginning, supports and maintains the successive generations of men, which live and move upon it, to whom the faithful promises of God are fulfilled, from age to age. Thus doth the unchangeable order of nature itself point out to us the truth of her
great Author, and at the same time reprove the eccentric motions of rebellious man. The heavens and the earth “continue this day according to thine ordinance," O Lord, " for all are thy servants ;” all invariably serve thee, except man, who alone was endowed with reason, that he might obey and glorify thee, in this life and that which is to come.
“ 92. Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction."
The Psalmist assureth us, from his own experience, how pleasant and how profitable, in time of trouble, is the meditation on the fidelity of God, as displayed in the stability of his works. The“ delights” by this afforded, sustained his soul in “afflictions,” which must otherwise have brought him to an end. And the same everlasting word should be the believer's support and consolation, even when the heavens shall melt around him with fervent heat, and the earth, and all that is therein, shall be burnt up. “ Heaven and earth shall pass away,” saith He who made them," but my word shall not pass away.'
“93. I will never forget thy precepts : for with them thou hast quickened
Great are the necessities, and many the disorders of the soul ; but in the Scripture there is provision and medicine for them all; and according to our various wants and maladies, God relieveth and “ quickeneth” us, somotimes with one part of his word, sometimes with another. Now, when we have found ourselves thus benefited, at any time, by a particular passage of holy writ, we should, “ never forget,” but remember and treasure it up in our minds, against a like occasion, when the same affliction or temptation may again befall us.
• 94. I am thine, save me: for I have sought thy precepts."
The double relation which we have the honour to bear to God, by creation and by redemption, as the work of his hands, and the purchase of his blood, is a most endearing and prevailing argument with him, to “save" us from our enemies. But then let it be remembered, that no man can say to God with a good conscience, “ I am thine," unless he can also go on, and say, “ I have sought thy precepts," I desire to serve and obey thee alone; since, after all, "his servants we are to whom we obey;" and if sin be our master, how can we say to a Master, whose interest is directly opposite, “ I am thine?"
6v 95. The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.”
In the preceding verse, David besought God to save him. The reason of that prayer is here assigned, namely, because “the wicked lay in wait for him, to destroy him,” as they afterwards did to destroy one, whom the afflicted and persecuted Psalmist represented. Spiritual enemies are continually upon the watch to destroy us all ; and we can no way escape their wiles, but by “considering,” so as to understand and observe, God's “testimonies."
“96. I have seen an end of all perfection : but thy commandment is exceeding broad.”
“Of all perfection" in this world, whether of beauty, wit, learning, pleasure, honour, or riches, experience will soon show us the “ end.” But where is the end or boundary of the word of God? Who can ascend to the height of its excellency; who can fathom the depth of its mysteries; who can find out the comprehension of its precepts, or conceive the extent of its promises; who can take the dimensions of that love of God to man which it describeth, or that love of man to God which it teacheth. The knowledge of one thing leadeth us forward to that of another, and still as we travel on, the prospect opens before us into eternity, like the pleasant and fruitful mountains of Canaan, rising on the other side of Jordan, when viewed by Moses from the top of Pisgah. O happy region of celestial wisdom, permanent felicity, true riches, and unfading glory; while wecon. template thee, how doth the world lessen, and shrink to nothing in our eyes ! Thy blessings faith now beholdeth, but it is charity which shall hereafter possess and enjoy them.
MEM. PART XIII. “97. O how I love thy law? It is my meditation all the day."
Words cannot express the love which a pious mind entertaineth for the Scriptures. They are the epistle of God to mankind, offering reconciliation, peace, and union with himself in glory; containing reasons why we should love him and each other, with directions how to show forth that love, which, as the Apostle saith, is “the fulfilling of the law,” Rom. xiii. 10. On some portions of these Scriptures should our “meditation" be continually, and each day" should add something to our knowledge, to our faith, to our virtue.
“ 98. Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. 99. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. 100. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts."
The “ commandments" of God were “ever with” David; the “ testimonies” of God were his “meditation;" and the “precepts” of God it was his care to "observe;" therefore his wisdom exceeded the policy of his "enemies," the learning of his “teachers," and the experience of the “ancients.” Thus, by the wisdom of the Scriptures, did the holy Jesus, in the days of his flesh, confound his adversaries, astonish the teachers of the law, and instruct the aged. And it is the high prerogative of the Scriptures, at all times, to render youth and simplicity superior to the inveterate malice and subtlety of the grand deceiver and his associates.
“101. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.”
The foundation of all religion must be laid in mortification and self-denial; for since the will of fallen man is contrary to the will of God, we must abstain from doing the one, in order to do the other. The affections may be styled the “feel” of the soul, and unless these be “refrained from evil ways," no progress can be made in that way which alone is good and right; we cannot " keep God's word.”
" 102. I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught
Perseverance is the effect of instruction from above, by the Spirit, through the word: and our heavenly Teacher differeth from all others in this, that, with the lesson, he bestoweth on the scholar both a disposition to learn, and ability to perform.
“ 103. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
The soul hath its “ taste," as well as the body, and that taste is then in right order, when the “ words” of Scripture are “ sweet” to the soul, as "honey” is to the mouth. If they are not always so, it is because our taste is vitiated by the world and the flesh; and we shall ever find our relish for the word of God to be greatest, when that for the world and the flesh is least, in time of affliction, sickness, and death; for these are contrary one to the other. In heaven the latter will be no more, and therefore the former will be all in all.
“104. Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way."
He who delighteth to study the Scriptures, will “ understand" from them the true nature of righteousness and of sin; he who doth understand the nature of each, will love the former, and, in proportion, “ hate” the latter; and with that which we thoroughly hate, we shall not bear to have any connexion; with suspicion and jealousy we shall eye it approaching; with