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He, who is the substance of them all, is come into the world. The Gentiles are no more to offer their idolatrous sacrifices, since their idols have fallen before the Cross. But returning sinners, whether Jews or Gentiles, are to offer the same "sacrifices of" evangelical "righteousness;" not "putting their trust" in them, but "in the Lord" Jesus, through whose Spirit they are enabled to offer, and through whose blood their offerings are acceptable unto God. Faith, hope, and charity, mutually strengthen each other, and compose "a threefold cord," which "is not easily broken."
6. There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us."
The two former verses were addressed to rebellious sinners, inviting them to repentance and reformation. This seems to relate to the righteous, who, in times of calamity and persecution, like the friends of distressed David, are tempted to despond, on seeing no end of their troubles. The Psalmist therefore prescribes prayer to all such, as an antidote against the temptation; he directs them, in the darkest night, to look towards heaven, nor doubt the return of day, when the rising sun shall diffuse light and salvation, and sorrow and sighing shall fly away. How many are continually asking the question in this verse? How few applying to Him who alone can give an answer of peace and comfort.
"7. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased."
No sooner is the prayer preferred, but the answer is given; and the devout soul declares herself to experience a joy in the midst of tribulation, far superior to the joy with which men rejoice in the time of harvest, or that of vintage: a joy, bright and pure, as the regions from whence it descends. Such is the difference between the bread of earth, and that of heaven; between the juice of the grape, and the cup of salvation. Teach us, O Lord, to discern this difference, and to choose aright.
8. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep for thou, LORD, only makest me to dwell in safety."
This conclusion affords ample matter for profitable and delightful meditation, if it be considered, first, as spoken by David, or any other believer, when lying down to rest, full of the joys of a good conscience, and faith unfeigned; secondly, as pronounced by the true David, when composing himself to his rest, in certain hope of a resurrection. And happy the Christian, who having nightly, with this verse, committed himself to his bed, as to his grave, shall at last, with the same words, resign himself to his grave as to his bed, from which he expects in due time to arise, and sing a morning hymn with the children of the resurrection.
The Psalmist in affliction, 1-3. continues, and resolves to continue, instant in prayer; 4-6. declares the irreconcilable hatred which God bears to sin, and 7. his own confidence of being accepted; 8. he petitions for grace to direct and preserve him in the way; 9. sets forth the wickedness of his enemies 10. foretells their punishment, and 11, 12. the salvation of the faithful.
"1. Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my meditation, or, my dove-like mournings.'
Although nothing can really hinder or divert the Divine attention, yet God is represented as "not hearing," when either the person is unacceptable, or the petition improper, or when he would thoroughly prove the faith and patience of the petitioner. Christ, the church, and the believing soul, are all in scripture styled "doves," from their possessing the amiable pro
perties of that bird of meekness and innocence, purity and love. The mournings" of such are always heard and attended to in heaven.
"2. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King and my God: for unto thee will I pray."
The voice of the suppliant's cry will be in proportion to the sense which he hath of his sin. Whom should a subject solicit, but his King? to whom should a sinner pray, but to his God? Let us often think upon the strong cryings of him who suffered for the sins of the world, and upon that intercession, by which the pardon of those sins were procured.
3. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer, Heb. dispose, or set myself in order, unto, or for thee, and will look up."
He who is in good earnest, and hath his heart fully bent upon the work of salvation, like other skilful and diligent artificers, will be "early" in his application to it; he will get the start of the world, and take the advantage of the "sweet hour of prime," to "dispose," and "set himself in order," for the day. What is a slothful sinner to think of himself, when he reads, concerning the holy Jesus, that "in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed !" Mark i. 35.
"4. For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil dwell with thee."
The Psalmist was encouraged to make his early prayers to God in the day of trouble, upon this consideration, that his righteous cause must finally prosper, and the Divine counsels be accomplished in his exaltation, and the depression of his enemies, who were likewise the enemies of God. The same was the case and the confidence of a suffering Messiah; and such is that of his church and people in the world, where "wickedness" may prosper, and "evil" not only live, but reign. Nevertheless, we know that “God hath no pleasure" in them, nor shall they "dwell with him,” as we hope to do.
5. The foolish, Heb. mad, shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing, or falsehood; the LORD doth abhor the bloodthirsty and deceitful man."
No objects of the senses can be so nauseous to them, as the various kinds of sin are in the sight of God. O could we but think, as he does, concerning these, we should rather choose "madness" than transgression, and as soon fall in love with a plague-sore, as a temptation. "Falsehood, blood-thirstiness, and deceitfulness," are marked out as characteristical of the enemies of David, of Christ, and the church; and the history evinces them so to have been. Let us never go within the infection of such pestilential crimes.
"7. But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy and in thy fear will I worship towards thy holy temple."
Wisdom, righteousness, truth, mercy, and sincerity, form a character the reverse of that drawn in the preceding verses, and such an one as God will accept, when appearing before him in his house, and offering with hu mility and reverence the sacrifices of the new law, as David did those of the old, through faith in him who alone filled up the character, and procured acceptance for believers and their oblations.
8. Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness, because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face."
The child of God, admitted into his holy temple, there prefers this petition, praying to be led by the Divine Spirit in a course of holy obedience, all impediments being removed out of the way, which otherwise might obstruct the progress, or cause the fall of one beginning to walk in the path of life; of one who had many "enemies" ready to contrive, to take advanage of, to rejoice and triumph, in his ruin. Thus a man's enemies, while
they oblige him to pray more fervently, and to watch more narrowly over his conduct, oftentimes become his best friends.
9. For there is no faithfulness in their mouth, their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue."
A part of this verse is cited, Rom. iii. 13, together with several other passages from the Psalms and prophets, to evince the depravity of mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles, till justified by faith, and renewed by grace. It is plain, therefore, that the description was designed for others, besides the enemies of the literal David, and is of more general import, reaching to the world of the ungodly, and to the enemies of all righteousness, as manifested in the person of Messiah, and in his church. The charge brought against these is, that "truth" and "fidelity" were not to be found in their dealings with God or each other; that their "inward parts" were very wickedness; their first thoughts and imaginations were defiled, and the stream was poisoned at the fountain; that their "throat was an open sepulchre," continually emitting, in obscene and impious language, the noisome and infectious exhalations of a putrid heart, entombed in a body of sin; and that if ever they put on the appearance of goodness, they "flattered with their tongue," in order the more effectually to deceive and destroy. So low is human nature fallen! "O thou Adam, what hast thou done? For though it was thou that sinned, thou art not fallen alone, but we all that come of thee." 2 Esd. vii. 48.
"10. Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels: cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against thee."
Concerning passages of this imprecatory kind in the book of Psalms, it is to be observed, that they are not spoken of private and personal enemies, but of the opposers of God and his Anointed; nor of any among these, but the irreclaimable and finally impenitent; and this by way of prediction rather than imprecation; which would appear, if the original verbs were translated uniformly in the future tense, as they might be, and indeed, to cut off all occasion from them which desire it, should be, translated. The verse before us would then run thus, "Thou wilt destroy them, O God; they shall perish by their own counsels; thou wilt cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against thee." The words, when rendered in this form, contain a prophecy of the infatuation, rejection, and destruction of such as should obstinately persevere in their opposition to the counsels of heaven, whether relating to David, to Christ, or to the church. The fate of Ahitophel and Absalom, of Judas and the Jews, should warn others not to offend after the same example.
"11. But let all those that trust in thee rejoice; let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. Heb. All they that trust in thee shall rejoice," &c.
As the last verse foretold the perdition of the ungodly, this describes the felicity of the saints; who, trusting in God, rejoice evermore, and sing aloud in the church the praises of their Saviour and mighty defender; the love of whose name fills their hearts with joy unspeakable, while they experience the comforts of grace, and expect the rewards of glory.
12. For thou, LORD, will bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield."
The "blessing" of God descends upon us through Jesus Christ "the righteous" or "just one," as of old it did upon Israel through David, whom, for the benefit of his chosen, God protected, delivered, and placed upon the throne. Thou, O Christ, art the righteous Saviour, thou art the King of Israel, thou art the blessed of Jehovah, the fountain of blessing to all believers, and thy "favour" is the defence and protection of the church militant.
FIRST DAY.-EVENING PRAYER.
This is the first of those Psalms which are styled Penitential. It contains, 1. deprecation of eternal vengeance, and 2, 3. a petition for pardon; which is enforced from a consideration of the penitent's sufferings; 4. from that of the Divine mercy; 5. from that of the praise and glory which God would fail to receive, if man were destroyed; 6, 7, from that of the penitent's humiliation and contrition. 8-10. The strain changes into one of joy and triumph, upon the success and return of the prayer.
"1. O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure."
Let us suppose a sinner awakened to a true sense of his condition, and looking round him for help. Above is an angry God preparing to take vengeance; beneath, the fiery gulph ready to receive him; without him, a world in flames; within the gnawing worm. Thus situated, he begins, in extreme agony of spirit, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure." He expects that God will "rebuke" him, but only prays that it may not be in "anger," finally to destroy him; he desires to be chastened, but chastened in fatherly love, not in the "hot displeasure" of an inexorable judge. As often as we are led thus to express our sense of sin, and dread of punishment, let us reflect on Him whose righteous soul, endued with a sensibility peculiar to itself, sustained the sins of the world, and the displeasure of the Father.
"2. Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed, Heb. shaken or made to tremble."
The penitent entreats for mercy, first, by representing his pitiable case, under the image of sickness. He describes his soul as deprived of all its health and vigour, as languishing and fainting, by reason of sin, which had eat out the vitals, and shaken all the powers and supporters of the spiritual frame, so that the breath of life seemed to be departing. Enough, however, was left, to supplicate the healing aid of the God of mercy and comfort; to petition for oil and wine at the hands of the Physician of spirits. How happy is it for us, that we have a Physician, who cannot but be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, seeing that he himself once took them upon him, and suffered for them even unto the death of the cross, under which he "fainted," and on which "his bones were vexed."
"3. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?" Another argument is drawn from the sense which the penitent hath of this his woful condition, and the consternation and anxiety produced thereby in his troubled mind. These cause him to fly for refuge to the hope set before him. 66 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick;" he is therefore beautifully represented as crying out, with a fond and longing impatience, "but thou, O'LORD, how long?" His strength is supposed to fail him, and the sentence is left imperfect. What, blessed Jesus, were thy "troubles," when to thy companions thou saidst, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!" By those thy sorrows we beseech thee to hear the voice of thine afflicted church, crying to thee from the earth, "My soul also is sore troubled; but thou, O LORD, how long?"
"4. Return, O LORD, deliver my soul; O save me for thy mercies' sake." A third argument is formed upon the consideration of God's "mercy;" for the sake of which, as it is promised to penitents, he is requested to "return," or to turn himself towards the suppliant; to lift up his countenance on the desponding heart; to "deliver" it from darkness and the sha
dow of death, and to diffuse around it light and life, salvation, joy, and gladness, like the sun in the morning, when he revisits a benighted world, and calls up the creation to bless the maker of so glorious a luminary, so bright a representative of redeeming love.
5. For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
The fourth argument proceeds upon a supposition that God created man for his own glory, which, therefore, would be so far diminished, if man were permitted finally to perish. The body could not glorify God, unless raised from the dead: nor could the soul, if left in hell. The voice of thanksgiving is not heard in the grave, and no hallelujahs are sung in the pit of destruction. This plea, now urged by the church, was urged for her without all doubt, by her Saviour in his devotions, and prevailed in his mouth, as through him, it will do in hers.
"6. I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears."
The penitent is supplied with a fifth argument, by the signs and fruits of a sincere repentance, which put themselves forth in him. Such was his sorrow, and such revenge did he take upon himself, that for every idle word he now poured forth a groan, like him that is in anguish through extremity of bodily pain, until he was "weary," but yet continued groaning; while the sad remembrance of each wanton folly drew a tear from the fountains of grief. The all-righteous Saviour himself wept over sinners: sinners read the story, and yet return again to their sins!
"7. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies."
Grief exhausts the animal spirits, dims the eyes, and brings on old age before its time. Thus it is said concerning the man of sorrows, that "many were astonished at him, his visage was marred more than any man, and his form was more than the sons of men," Isaiah lii. 14. How long in these times, might youth and beauty last, were godly sorrow their only enemy? "8. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. 9. The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will hear, or hath heard, my prayer."
Repentance having performed her task, having taught her votary to forsake sin, and to renounce all communication with sinners, now gives place to faith, which appears with the glad tidings of pardon and acceptance, causing the penitent to rejoice in God his Saviour, with joy unspeakable; and inspiring his heart with vigour and resolution to run his course in the way of righteousness. Risen to newness in life, he defies the malice, and predicts the final overthrow of his spiritual adversaries.
"10. Let all mine enemies, or, all mine enemies shall be ashamed, and sore vexed; let them, or, they shall return, and be ashamed suddenly." Many of the mournful Psalms end in this manner, to instruct the believer, that he is continually to look forward, and solace himself with beholding that day, when his warfare shall be accomplished; when sin and sorrow shall be no more; when sudden and everlasting confusion shall cover the enemies of righteousness; when the sackcloth of the penitent shall be exchanged for a robe of glory, and every tear become a sparkling gem in his crown; when to sighs and groans shall succeed the songs of heaven set to angelic harps, and faith shall be resolved into the vision of the Almighty.
David is said to have composed this Psalm concerning the words or the matter of Cush the Benjamite. Whether Saul, or Shimei, or any one else, be in