Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher - Works Upon This Psalm
TITLE. This Psalm is without a title, and we have no means of
ascertaining either the name of its writer, or the date of its composition, with
certainly. The Jewish doctors consider that when the author's name is not
mentioned we may assign the Psalm to the last named writer; and, if so, this is
another Psalm of Moses, the man of God. Many expressions here used are similar
to those of Moses in Deuteronomy, and the internal evidence, from the peculiar
idioms, would point towards him as the composer. The continued lives of Joshua
and Caleb, who followed the Lord fully, make remarkably apt illustrations of
this Psalm, for they, as a reward for abiding in continued nearness to the Lord,
lived on "amongst the dead, amid their graves." For these reasons it is by no
means improbable that this Psalm may have been written by Moses, but we dare not
dogmatize. If David's pen was used in giving us this matchless ode, we cannot
believe as some do that he this commemorated the plague which devastated
Jerusalem on account of his numbering the people. For him, then, to sing of
himself as seeing "the reward of the wicked" would be clean contrary to his
declaration, "I have sinned, but these sheep, what have they done?"; and the
absence of any allusion to the sacrifice upon Zion could not be in any way
accounted for, since David's repentance would inevitably have led him to dwell
upon the atoning sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood by the hyssop.
In the whole collection there is not a more cheering Psalm, its
tone is elevated and sustained throughout, faith is at its best, and speaks
nobly. A German physician was wont to speak of it as the best preservative in
times of cholera, and in truth, it is a heavenly medicine against plague and
pest. He who can live in its spirit will be fearless, even if once again London
should become a lazar-house, and the grave be gorged with carcases.
DIVISION. On this occasion we shall follow the divisions
which our translators have placed at the head of the Psalm, for they are pithy
Ps 91:1-2 --The state of the godly.
Ps 91:3-8 --Their safety.
Ps 91:9-10 --Their habitation.
Ps 91:11-13 --Their servants.
Ps 91:14-16 --Their friend; with the effects of them all.
Verse 1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most
High. The blessings here promised are not for all believers, but for those
who live in close fellowship with God. Every child of God looks towards the
inner sanctuary and the mercyseat, yet all do not dwell in the most holy place;
they run to it at times, and enjoy occasional approaches, but they do not
habitually reside in the mysterious presence. Those who through rich grace
obtain unusual and continuous communion with God, so as to abide in Christ and
Christ in them, become possessors of rare and special benefits, which are missed
by those who follow afar off, and grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Into the secret
place those only come who know the love of God in Christ Jesus, and those only
dwell there to whom to live is Christ. To them the veil is rent, the mercyseat
is revealed, the covering cherubs are manifest, and the awful glory of the Most
High is apparent: these, like Simeon, have the Holy Ghost upon them, and like
Anna they depart not from the temple; they are the courtiers of the Great King,
the valiant men who keep watch around the bed of Solomon, the virgin souls who
follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Elect out of the elect, they have
"attained unto the first three", and shall walk with their Lord in white, for
they are worthy. Sitting down in the august presence chamber where shines the
mystic light of the Sheckinah, they know what it is to be raised up together,
and to be made to sit together with Christ in the heavenlies, and of them it is
truly said that their conversation is in heaven. Special grace like theirs
brings with it special immunity. Outer court worshippers little know what
belongs to the inner sanctuary, or surely they would press on until the place of
nearness and divine familiarity became theirs. Those who are the Lord's constant
guests shall find that he will never suffer any to be injured within his gates;
he has eaten the covenant salt with them, and is pledged for their protection. Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. The
Omnipotent Lord will shield all those who dwell with him, they shall remain
under his care as guests under the protection of their host. In the most holy
place the wings of the cherubim were the most conspicuous objects, and they
probably suggested to the psalmist the expression here employed. Those who
commune with God are safe with Him, no evil can reach them, for the outstretched
wings of his power and love cover them from all harm. This protection is
constant--they abide under it, and it is all sufficient, for it is the
shadow of the Almighty, whose omnipotence will surely screen them
from all attack. No shelter can be imagined at all comparable to the protection
of Jehovah's own shadow. The Almighty himself is where his shadow is, and hence
those who dwell in his secret place are shielded by himself. What a shade in the
day of noxious heat! What a refuge in the hour of deadly storm! Communion with
God is safety. The more closely we cling to our Almighty Father the more
confident may we be.
Verse 2. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my
fortress. To take up a general truth and make it our own by personal faith
is the highest wisdom. It is but poor comfort to say `the Lord is a refuge, 'but
to say he is my refuge, is the essence of consolation. Those who believe
should also speak--"I will say", for such bold avowals honour God and lead
others to seek the same confidence. Men are apt enough to proclaim their doubts,
and even to boast of them, indeed there is a party nowadays of the most
audacious pretenders to culture and thought, who glory in casting suspicion upon
every thing: hence it becomes the duty of all true believers to speak out and
testify with calm courage to their own well grounded reliance upon their God.
Let others say what they will, be it ours to say of the Lord, "he is our
refuge." But what we say we must prove by our actions, we must fly to the
Lord for shelter, and not to an arm of flesh. The bird flies away to the
thicket, and the fox hastens to its hole, every creature uses its refuge in the
hour of danger, and even so in all peril or fear of peril let us flee unto
Jehovah, the Eternal Protector of his own. Let us, when we are secure in the
Lord, rejoice that our position is unassailable, for he is our fortress
as well as our refuge. No moat, portcullis, drawbridge, wall, battlement and
donjon, could make us so secure as we are when the attributes of the Lord of
Hosts environ us around. Behold this day the Lord is to us instead of walls and
bulwarks! Our ramparts defy the leagured hosts of hell. Foes in flesh, and foes
in ghostly guise are alike balked of their prey when the Lord of Hosts stands
between us and their fury, and all other evil forces are turned aside. Walls
cannot keep out the pestilence, but the Lord can.
As if it were not enough to call the Lord his refuge and
fortress, he adds, My God! in him will I trust. Now he can say no more; "my
God" means all, and more than all, that heart can conceive by way of security.
It was most meet that he should say "in him will I trust", since to deny faith
to such a one were wilful wickedness and wanton insult. He who dwells in an
impregnable fortress, naturally trusts in it; and shall not he who dwells in God
feel himself well at ease, and repose his soul in safety? O that we more fully
carried out the psalmist's resolve! We have trusted in God, let us trust him
still. He has never failed us, why then should we suspect him? To trust in man
is natural to fallen nature, to trust in God should be as natural to regenerated
nature. Where there is every reason and warrant for faith, we ought to place our
confidence without hesitancy or wavering. Dear reader, pray for grace to say,
"In him will I trust."
Verse 3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the
fowler. Assuredly no subtle plot shall succeed against one who has the eyes
of God watching for his defence, We are foolish and weak as poor little birds,
and are very apt to be lured to our destruction by cunning foes, but if we dwell
near to God, he will see to it that the most skilful deceiver shall not entrap
"Satan the fowler who betrays
Unguarded souls a thousand ways,"
shall be foiled in the case of the man whose high and
honourable condition consists in residence within the holy place of the Most
And from the noisome pestilence. He who is a Spirit can
protect us from evil spirits, he who is mysterious can rescue us from mysterious
dangers, he who is immortal can redeem its from mortal sickness. There is a
deadly pestilence of error, we are safe from that if we dwell in communion with
the God of truth; there is a fatal pestilence of sin, we shall not be infected
by it if we abide with the thrice Holy One; there is also a pestilence of
disease, and even from that calamity our faith shall win immunity if it be of
that high order which abides in God, walks on in calm serenity, and ventures all
things for duty's sake. Faith by cheering the heart keeps it free from the fear
which, in times of pestilence, kills more than the plague itself. It will not in
all cases ward off disease and death, but where the man is such as the first
verse describes, it will assuredly render him immortal where others die; if all
the saints are not so sheltered it is because they have not all such a close
abiding with God, and consequently not such confidence in the promise. Such
special faith is not given to all, for there are diversities in the measure of
faith. It is not of all believers that the psalmist sings, but only of those who
dwell in the secret place of the Most High. Too many among us are weak in faith,
and in fact place more reliance in a phial or a globule than in the Lord and
giver of life, and if we die of pestilence as others die it is because we acted
like others, and did not in patience possess our souls. The great mercy is that
in such a case our deaths are blessed, and it is well with us, for we are for
ever with the Lord. Pestilence to the saints shall not be noisome but the
messenger of heaven.
Verse 4. He shall cover thee with thy feathers, and under his
wings shalt thou trust. A wonderful expression! Had it been invented
by an uninspired man it would have verged upon blasphemy, for who should dare to
apply such words to the Infinite Jehovah? But as he himself authorised, yea,
dictated the language, we have here a transcendent condescension, such as it
becomes us to admire and adore. Doth the Lord speak of his feathers, as though
he likened himself to a bird? Who will not see herein a matchless love, a divine
tenderness, which should both woo and win our confidence? Even as a hen covereth
her chickens so doth the Lord protect the souls which dwell in him; let us cower
down beneath him for comfort and for safety. Hawks in the sky and snares in the
field are equally harmless when we nestle so near the Lord. His truth --his true promise, and his faithfulness to his
promise, shall be thy shield and buckler. Double armour has he who
relies upon the Lord. He bears a shield and wears an all surrounding coat of
mail--such is the force of the word "buckler." To quench fiery darts the truth is
a most effectual shield, and to blunt all swords it is an equally effectual coat
of mail. Let us go forth to battle thus harnessed for the war, and we shall be
safe in the thickest of the fight. It has been so, and so shall it be till we
reach the land of peace, and there among the "helmed cherubim and sworded
seraphim, " we will wear no other ornament, his truth shall still be our shield
Verse 5. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night.
Such frail creatures are we that both by night and by day we are in danger, and
so sinful are we that in either season we may be readily carried away by fear;
the promise before us secures the favourite of heaven both from danger and from
the fear of it. Night is the congenial hour of horrors, when alarms walk abroad
like beasts of prey, or ghouls from among the tombs; our fears turn the sweet
season of repose into one of dread, and though angels are abroad and fill our
chambers, we dream of demons and dire visitants from hell. Blessed is that
communion with God which renders us impervious to midnight frights, and horrors
born of darkness. Not to be afraid is in itself an unspeakable blessing, since
for every suffering which we endure from real injury we are tormented by a
thousand griefs which arise from fear only. The shadow of the Almighty removes
all gloom from the shadow of night: once covered by the divine wing, we care not
what winged terrors may fly abroad in the earth. Nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Cunning foes lie in
ambuscade, and aim the deadly shaft at our hearts, but we do not fear them, and
have no cause to do so. That arrow is not made which can destroy the righteous,
for the Lord hath said, "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper."
In times of great danger those who have made the Lord their refuge, and
therefore have refused to use the carnal weapon, have been singularly preserved;
the annals of the Quakers bear good evidence to this; yet probably the main
thought is, that from the cowardly attacks of crafty malice those who walk by
faith shall be protected, from cunning heresies they shall be preserved, and in
sudden temptations they shall be secured from harm. Day has its perils as well
as night, arrows more deadly than those poisoned by the Indian are flying
noiselessly through the air, and we shall be their victims unless we find both
shield and buckler in our God. 0 believer, dwell under the shadow of the Lord,
and none of the archers shall destroy thee, they may shoot at thee and wound
thee grievously, but thy bow shall abide in strength. When Satan's quiver shall
be empty thou shalt remain uninjured by his craft and cruelty, yea, his broken
darts shall be to thee as trophies of the truth and power of the Lord thy God.
Verse 6. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness. It
is shrouded in mystery as to its cause and cure, it marches on, unseen of men,
slaying with hidden weapons, like an enemy stabbing in the dark, yet those who
dwell in God are not afraid of it. Nothing is more alarming than the assassin's
plot, for he may at any moment steal in upon a man, and lay him low at a stroke;
and such is the plague in the days of its power, none can promise themselves
freedom from it for an hour in any place in the infected city; it enters a house
men know not how, and its very breath is mortal; yet those choice souls who
dwell in God shall live above fear in the most plague stricken places-- they
shall not be afraid of the "plagues which in the darkness walk."
Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. Famine may
starve, or bloody war devour, earthquake may overturn and tempest may smite, but
amid all, the man who has sought the mercy seat and is sheltered beneath the
wings which overshadow it, shall abide in perfect peace. Days of horror and
nights of terror are for other men, his days and nights are alike spent with
God, and therefore pass away in sacred quiet. His peace is not a thing of times
and seasons, it does not rise and set with the sun, nor does it depend upon the
healthiness of the atmosphere or the security of the country. Upon the child of
the Lord's own heart pestilence has no destroying power, and calamity no wasting
influence: pestilence walks in darkness, but he dwells in light; destruction
wastes at noonday, but upon him another sun has risen whose beams bring
restoration. Remember that the voice which saith "thou shalt not fear" is that
of God himself, who hereby pledges his word for the safety of those who abide
under his shadow, nay, not for their safety only, but for their serenity. So far
shall they be from being injured that they shall not even be made to fear the
ills which are around them, since the Lord protects them.
"He, his shadowy plumes outspread.
With his wing shall fence thy head;
And his truth around thee wield,
Strong as targe or bossy shield!
Naught shall strike thee with dismay,
Fear by night, nor shaft by day."
Verse 7. A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at
thy right hand. So terribly may the plague rage among men that the
bills of mortality may become very heavy and continue to grow ten times heavier
still, yet shall such as this Psalm speaks of survive the scythe of death. It shall not come nigh thee. It shall be so near as to be
at thy side, and yet not nigh enough to touch thee; like a fire it shall burn
all around, yet shall not the smell of it pass upon thee. How true is this of
the plague of moral evil, of heresy, and of backsliding. Whole nations are
infected, yet the man who communes with God is not affected by the contagion; he
holds the truth when falsehood is all the fashion. Professors all around him are
plague smitten, the church is wasted, the very life of religion decays, but in
the same place and time, in fellowship with God, the believer renews his youth,
and his soul knows no sickness. In a measure this also is true of physical evil;
the Lord still puts a difference between Israel and Egypt in the day of his
plagues. Sennacherib's army is blasted, but Jerusalem is in health.
"Our God his chosen people saves
Amongst the dead, amidst the graves."
Verse 8. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the
reward of the wicked. The sight shall reveal both the justice and the
mercy of God; in them that perish the severity of God will be manifest, and in
the believer's escape the richness of divine goodness will be apparent. Joshua
and Caleb verified this promise. The Puritan preachers during the plague of
London must have been much impressed with this verse as they came out of their
hiding places to proclaim mercy and judgment to the dissolute age which was so
sorely visited with the pest. The sight of God's judgments softens the heart,
excites a solemn awe, creates gratitude, and so stirs up the deepest kind of
adoration. It is such a sight as none of us would wish to see, and yet if we did
see it we might thus be lifted up to the very noblest style of manhood. Let us
but watch providence, and we shall find ourselves living in a school where
examples of the ultimate reward of sin are very plentiful. One case may not be
judged alone lest we misjudge, but instances of divine visitation will be
plentiful in the memory of any attentive observer of men and things; from all
these put together we may fairly draw conclusions, and unless we shut our eyes
to that which is self evident, we shall soon perceive that there is after all a
moral ruler over the sons of men, who sooner or later rewards the ungodly with
Verses 9-10. Before expounding these verses I cannot refrain
from recording a personal incident illustrating their power to soothe the heart,
when they are applied by the Holy Spirit. In the year 1854, when I had scarcely
been in London twelve months, the neighbourhood in which I laboured was visited
by Asiatic cholera, and my congregation suffered from its inroads. Family after
family summoned me to the bedside of the smitten, and almost every day I was
called to visit the grave. I gave myself up with youthful ardour to the
visitation of the sick, and was sent for from all corners of the district by
persons of all ranks and religions. I became weary in body and sick at heart. My
friends seemed falling one by one, and I felt or fancied that I was sickening
like those around me. A little more work and weeping would have laid me low
among the rest; I felt that my burden was heavier than I could bear, and I was
ready to sink under it. As God would have it, I was returning mournfully home
from a funeral, when my curiosity led me to read a paper which was wafered up in
a shoemaker's window in the Dover Road. It did not look like a trade
announcement, nor was it, for it bore in a good bold handwriting these words:
Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the
most High, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither
shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. The effect upon my heart was
immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed,
girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and
peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm. The providence
which moved the tradesman to place those verses in his window I gratefully
acknowledge, and in the remembrance of its marvellous power I adore the Lord my
God. The psalmist in these verses assures the man who dwells in God
that he shall be secure. Though faith claims no merit of its own, yet the Lord
rewards it wherever he sees it. He who makes God his refuge shall find
him a refuge; he who dwells in God shall find his dwelling protected. We must
make the Lord our habitation by choosing him for our trust and rest, and
then we shall receive immunity from harm; no evil shall touch us personally, and
no stroke of judgment shall assail our household. The dwelling here
intended by the original was only a tent, yet the frail covering would prove to
be a sufficient shelter from harm of all sorts. It matters little whether our
abode be a gypsy's hut or a monarch's palace if the soul has made the Most High
its habitation. Get into God and you dwell in all good, and ill is banished far
away. It is not because we are perfect or highly esteemed among men that we can
hope for shelter in the day of evil, but because our refuge is the Eternal God,
and our faith has learned to hide beneath his sheltering wing.
"For this no ill thy cause shall daunt,
No scourge thy tabernacle haunt."
It is impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is
beloved of the Lord; the most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey
and hasten him to his reward. Ill to him is no ill, but only good in a
mysterious form. Losses enrich him, sickness is his medicine, reproach is his
honour, death is his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to
him, for everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He
is secure where others are in peril, he lives where others die.
Verse 11. For he shall give his angels charge over thee. Not
one guardian angel, as some fondly dream, but all the angels are here alluded
to. They are the bodyguard of the princes of the blood imperial of heaven, and
they have received commission from their Lord and ours to watch carefully over
all the interests of the faithful. When men have a charge they become doubly
careful, and therefore the angels are represented as bidden by God himself to
see to it that the elect are secured. It is down in the marching orders of the
hosts of heaven that they take special note of the people who dwell in God. It
is not to be wondered at that the servants are bidden to be careful of the
comfort of their Master's guests; and we may be quite sure that when they are
specially charged by the Lord himself they will carefully discharge the duty
imposed upon them. To keep thee in all thy ways. To be a bodyguard, a garrison
to the body, soul, and spirit of the saint. The limit of this protection "in all
thy ways" is yet no limit to the heart which is right with God. It is not the
way of the believer to go out of his way. He keeps in the way, and then the
angels keep him. The protection here promised is exceeding broad as to place,
for it refers to all our ways, and what do we wish for more? How angels
thus keep us we cannot tell. Whether they repel demons, counteract spiritual
plots, or even ward off the more subtle physical forces of disease, we do not
know. Perhaps we shall one day stand amazed at the multiplied services which the
unseen bands have rendered to us.
Verse 12. They, that is the angels, God's own angels, shall
cheerfully become our servants. They shall bear thee up in their
hands; as nurses carry little children, with careful love, so shall those
glorious spirits bear up each individual believer. Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone;
even minor ills
they ward off. It is most desirable that we should not stumble, but as the way
is rough, it is most gracious on the Lord's part to send his servants to bear us
up above the loose pebbles. If we cannot have the way smoothed it answers every
purpose if we have angels to bear us up in their hands. Since the greatest ills
may arise out of little accidents, it shows the wisdom of the Lord that from the
smaller evils we are protected.
Verse 13. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder. Over
force and fraud shalt thou march victoriously; bold opponents and treacherous
adversaries shall alike be trodden down. When our shoes are iron and brass lions
and adders are easily enough crushed beneath our heel. The young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under
feet. The strongest foe in power, and the most mysterious in cunning, shall
be conquered by the man of God. Not only from stones in the way, but from
serpents also, shall we be safe. To men who dwell in God the most evil forces
become harmless, they wear a charmed life, and defy the deadliest ills. Their
feet come into contact with the worst of foes, even Satan himself nibbles at
their heel, but in Christ Jesus they have the assured hope of bruising Satan
under their feet shortly. The people of God are the real "George and the dragon,
"the true lion kings and serpent tamers. Their dominion over the powers of
darkness makes them cry, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy
Verse 14. Here we have the Lord himself speaking of his own
chosen one. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I
deliver him. Not because he deserves to be thus kept, but because
with all his imperfections he does love his God; therefore not the angels of God
only, but the God of angels himself will come to his rescue in all perilous
times, and will effectually deliver him. When the heart is enamoured of the
Lord, all taken up with him, and intensely attached to him, the Lord will
recognise the sacred flame, and preserve the man who bears it in his bosom. It
is love, --love set upon God, which is the distinguishing mark of those whom the
Lord secures from ill. I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. The
man has known the attributes of God so as to trust in him, and then by
experience has arrived at a yet deeper knowledge, this shall be regarded by the
Lord as a pledge of his grace, and he will set the owner of it above danger or
fear, where he shall dwell in peace and joy. None abide in intimate fellowship
with God unless they possess a warm affection towards God, and an intelligent
trust in him; these gifts of grace are precious in Jehovah's eyes, and wherever
he sees them he smiles upon them. How elevated is the standing which the Lord
gives to the believer. We ought to covet it right earnestly. If we climb on high
it may be dangerous, but if God sets us there it is glorious.
Verse 15. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him. He
will have need to pray, he will be led to pray aright and the answer shall
surely come. Saints are first called of God and then they call
upon God; such calls as theirs always obtain answers. Not without prayer
will the blessing come to the most favoured, but by means of prayer they shall
receive all good things. I will be with him in trouble, or "I am with him in
trouble." Heirs of heaven are conscious of a special divine presence in times of
severe trial. God is always near in sympathy and in power to help his tried
ones. I will deliver him, and honour him. The man honours God,
and God honours him. Believers are not delivered or preserved in a way which
lowers them, and makes them feel themselves degraded; far from it, the Lord's
salvation bestows honour upon those it delivers. God first gives us conquering
grace, and then rewards us for it.
Verse 16. With long life will I satisfy him. The man
described in this Psalm fills out the measure of his days, and whether he dies
young or old he is quite satisfied with life, and is content to leave it. He
shall rise from life's banquet as a man who has had enough, and would not have
more even if he could. And shew him my salvation. The full sight of divine grace
shall be his closing vision. He shall look from Amana and Lebanon. Not with
destruction before him black as night, but with salvation bright as noonday
smiling upon him he shall enter into his rest.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The Talmud writers ascribe not only the
ninety-first Psalm, but the nine ensuing, to the pen of Moses; but from a rule
which will in no respect hold, that all the psalms which are without the name of
an author in their respective titles are the production of the poet whose name
is given in the nearest preceding title. And though it is impossible to prove
that this highly beautiful ode was not written by David, the general drift of
its scenery and allusions rather concur in showing that, like the last, we are
indebted for it to the muse of Moses: that it was composed by him during the
journey through the wilderness, shortly after the plague of the fiery serpents;
when the children of Israel, having returned to a better spirit, were again
received into the favour of JEHOVAH. Besides political enemies, the children of
Israel in the wilderness had other evils in great numbers to encounter, from the
nature and diseases of the climate, which exposed them to coups de soleil, or
sun smiting, during the heat of the day; and to pestilential
vapours, moon smiting, during the damp of the night, so as to render the
miraculous canopy of the cloud that hung over them in the former season, and the
miraculous column of fire that cheered and purified them in the latter, equally
needful and refreshing. In Egypt, they had seen so much of the plague, and they
had been so fearfully threatened with it as a punishment for disobedience, that
they could not but be in dread of its reappearance, from the incessant fatigues
of their journeying. In addition to all which, they had to be perpetually on
their guard against the insidious attacks of the savage monsters and reptiles of
"that great and terrible wilderness", as Moses describes it on another occasion,
"wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought; where there was no
water" (De 8:15); and where, also, as we learn from other parts of Scripture,
bears, lions, leopards or tigers, and "the wolf of the evening", as Jeremiah has
beautifully expressed it, prowled without restraint. Now in the Psalm before us,
and especially in Ps 91:6-13, we have so clear and graphic a description of the
whole of these evils presented to us, as to bring its composition directly home
to the circumstances and the period here pitched upon, and to render it at least
needless to hunt out for any other occasion. J. M. Good's "Historical Outline
of the Book of Psalms", 1842.
Whole Psalm. It is one of the most excellent works of this
kind which has ever appeared. It is impossible to imagine anything more solid,
more beautiful, more profound, or more ornamented. Could the Latin or any modern
language express thoroughly all the beauties and elegancies as well of the
words as of the sentences, it would not be difficult to persuade
the reader that we have no poem, either in Greek or Latin,
comparable to this Hebrew ode. Simon de Muis.
Whole Psalm. Psalm 90 spoke of man withering away beneath
God's anger against sin. Psalm 91 tells of a Man, who is able to tread the lion
and adder under His feet. --Undoubtedly the Tempter was right in referring this
Psalm to "the Son of God" (Mt 4:6). The imagery of the Psalm seems to be in part drawn from that
Passover Night, when the Destroying Angel passed through Egypt, while the
faithful and obedient Israelites were sheltered by God. William Kay.
Verse 1. He, no matter who he may be, rich or poor, learned
or unlearned, patrician or plebeian, young or old, for "God is no respecter of
persons", but "he is rich to all that call upon him." Bellarmine.
Verse 1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most
High. Note, he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High is not he
that conjures up one or two slight and fleeting acts of hope in Him, but the man
that places in him an assiduous and constant confidence. In this way he
establishes for himself in God by that full trust, a home, a dwelling place, a
mansion, ...The Hebrew for he that dwelleth, is bvy, that is, dwelling
in quietude, and resting, enduring and remaining with constancy. Le
Verse 1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most
High. What intimate and unrestrained communion does this describe! --the
Christian in everything making known his heart, with its needs and wishes, its
thoughts and feelings, its doubts and anxieties, its sorrows and its joys, to
God, as to a loving, perfect friend. And all is not on one side. This Almighty
Friend has admitted his chosen one to his "secret place." It is almost
too wonderful to be true. It is almost too presumptuous a thought for such
creatures as we are to entertain. But He himself permits it, desires it,
teaches us to realise that it is communion to which he calls us. "The
secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." And what is this
"secret"? It is that in God which the world neither knows, nor
sees, nor cares to enjoy. It is his mind revealed to those that love him, his
plans, and ways ("He made known his ways to Moses", Ps 103:7), and
thoughts opened to them. Yea, and things hid from angels are manifest to the
least of his friends (1Pe 1:12). He wishes us to know him, and by his Word and
by his Spirit he puts himself before us. Ah! it is not his fault if we do not
know him. It is our own carelessness. Mary B. M. Duncan, in "Under the
Verse 1. By secret here is meant a place of refuge
from the storms of the world under the secret of his providence, who careth for
all his children. Also, by the secret of the most High, some writers
understand the castle of his mighty defence, to which his people run, being
pursued by enemies, as the wild creature doth to his hole or den for succour,
when the hunter hath him in chase, and the dogs are near. This then being the
meaning of that which the prophet calleth the "secret place of the most
High", and our dwelling in it, by confidence in him; we learn, in all
troubles, to cleave to God chiefly or only for help, and to means
but as underlings to his providence. . . . That which is here translated dwelleth, is as much in
weight as sitteth, or is settled; and so, our dwelling in God's secret, is as
much as our sitting down in it: the meaning is, we must make it our rest, as if
we should say, Here will we dwell. From whence we learn, that God's children
should not come to God's secret place as guests to an inn, but as
inhabitants to their own dwellings; that is, they should continue to trust in
God, as well in want as in fulness; and as much when they wither in their
root, as when they flourish in it. Robert Horn.
Verse 1. He that dwelleth, etc.
1. "He dwells", therefore he shall "abide." He shall lodge
2. "He dwells in the secret place", therefore he shall "abide
under the shadow." In the cool, the favour, the cover from the heat
3. "He dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, therefore
he shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty; "i.e., of the all
powerful God, of the God of heaven; of that God whose name is Shaddai, All
sufficient. Adam Clarke.
Verse 1. Shall abide. The Hebrew for "shall abide" is
which signifies, he shall pass the night. Abiding denotes a constant and
continuous dwelling of the just in the assistance and protection of God. That
help and protection of God is not like a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, or in a
vineyard; which is destroyed in a moment, nor is it like a tent in the way which
is abandoned by the traveller. It is a strong tower, a paternal home, wherein we
spend all our life with the best, wealthiest, and mightiest of parents.
Passing the night also denotes security and rest in time of
darkness, temptations and calamities. With God Abraham passed the night, when He
foretold to him the affliction of his descendants in Egypt, and their
deliverance, Ge 15:12-16. Then also God said to him (Ge 15:1), Fear not
Abram. I am thy shield. And leading him forth he showed him the glittering
stars, and said, Tell the number of the stars, if thou bc able; so shall thy
seed be. Le Blanc.
Verse 1. The shadow. The allusion of this verse may be to
the awful and mystic symbols of the ark. Under the ancient ceremony, the high
priest only could enter, and that but once a year, into the holy place, where
stood the emblems of the divine glory and presence; but under the present bright
and merciful dispensation, every true believer has access, with boldness, into
the holiest of all; and he who now dwelleth in the secret place of prayer and
communion with the God of salvation, shall find the divine mercy and care spread
over him for his daily protection and solace. John Morison.
Verse 1. Under the shadow of the Almighty. This is an
expression which implies great nearness. We must walk very close to a companion,
if we would have his shadow fall on us. Can we imagine any expression more
perfect in describing the constant presence of God with his chosen ones,
than this--they shall "abide under his shadow"? In Solomon's beautiful
allegory, the Church in a time of special communion with Christ, says of him--"I
sat down under his shadow with great delight" (So 2:3) --"sat down", desiring not
to leave it, but to abide there for ever. And it is he who chooses to dwell in
the secret place of the most High, who shall "abide under the shadow of the
Almighty." There is a condition and a promise attached to it. The condition is,
that we "dwell in the secret place, "--the promise, that if we do so we "shall
abide under the shadow." It is of importance to view it thus. For when we
remember the blessing is a promised blessing--we are led to feel it is a
gift--a thing therefore to be prayed for in faith, as well as sought for by God's
appointed means. Ah, the hopes that this awakens! My wandering, wavering,
unstable heart, that of itself cannot keep to one course two days together is to
seek its perseverance from God, and not in its own strength. He will hold it to
him if it be but seeking for stedfastness. It is not we who cling to him. It is
he who keeps near to us. Mary B. M. Duncan.
Verse 1-4, 9. O you that be in fear of any danger, leave all
carnal shifts, and carking counsels, and projects, and dwell in the rock of
God's power and providence, and be like the dove that nestles in the holes of
the rock; by faith betake yourselves unto God, by faith dwell in that rock, and
there nestle yourselves, make your nests of safety in the clefts of this rock.
But how may we do this thing, and what is the way to do it? Do this, --Set thy
faith on work to make God that unto thee which thy necessity requires, pitch and
throw thyself upon his power and providence, with a resolution of spirit to rest
thyself upon it for safety, come what will come. See an excellent practice of
this, Ps 91:1, He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty; that is, he shall be safe from
all fears and dangers. Aye, that is true, you will say, who makes any doubt of
it? But how shall a man come to dwell, and get into this secret place, within
this strong tower? See Ps 91:2: I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and
my fortress; as if he had said, I will not only say, that he is a refuge;
but he is my refuge, I will say to the Lord; that is, I will set my faith
on work in particular, to throw, devolve, and pitch myself upon him for my
safety. And see what follows upon this setting faith thus on work, Ps 91:3-4:
Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from
the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, etc.
So confident the Psalmist is that upon this course taken, safety shall follow. Our safety lies not simply upon this, because God is a refuge,
and is an habitation, but "Because thou hast made the Lord which is my
refuge, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, "etc. It is therefore
the making of God our habitation, upon which our safety lies; and this is the
way to make God an habitation, thus to pitch and cast ourselves by faith upon
his power and providence. Jeremiah Dyke.
Verse 1. We read of a stag that roamed about in the greatest
security, by reason of its having a label on its neck, "Touch me not,
I belong to Caesar": thus the true servants of God are always safe, even
among lions, bears, serpents, fire, water, thunder, and tempests; for all
creatures know and reverence the shadow of God. Bellarmine.
Verse 2. My refuge, my fortress, my God. "My refuge."
God is our "refuge." He who avails himself of a refuge is one who is
forced to fly. It is a quiet retreat from a pursuing enemy. And there are
trials, and temptations, and enemies, from which the Christian does best to fly.
He cannot resist them. They are too strong for him. His wisdom is to fly into
the refuge of the secret place of his God-- to rest in the shadow of the
Almighty. His "strength is to sit still" there. Isa 30:7. "My
fortress." The Psalmist says, moreover, that God is his "fortress."
Here the idea is changed-- no longer a peaceful, quiet hiding place, but a tower
of defence-- strong, manifest, ready to meet the attacks of all enemies, ready
and able to resist them all. God is a Friend who meets every want in our nature,
who can supply every need. So when we are weak and fainting, and unable to meet
the brunt of battle, and striving against sin and sorrow and the wrath of man He
is our safe, quiet resting place--our fortress also where no harm can reach us,
no attack injure us. "My God." Now the Psalmist, as a summing up
of all his praises, says "I will say of Him, He is... my God!" Is there any
thing omitted in the former part of his declaration? Everything is
here--all possible ascription of honour, and glory, and power to Him "as
God" --"God over all, blessed for ever, "and of love, reverence, trust,
obedience, and filial relation towards him on the part of the Psalmist, as MY
God ...when reflecting on the refuge and strength which the Lord has always been
to him, and recalling his blessed experiences of sweet communion with God--words
fail him. He can only say (but oh, with what expression!) MY GOD! Mary B.M.
Verse 2. My God. Specially art Thou my God, first, on thy
part, because of the special goodness and favour which Thou dost bestow upon me.
Secondly, on my part, because of the special love and reverence with which I
cling to Thee. J. Paulus Palanterius.
Verse 2-4. If the severity and justice of God terrify, the
Lord offereth himself as a bird with stretched out wings to receive the
supplicant, Ps 91:4. If enemies who are too strong do pursue, the Lord openeth
his bosom as a refuge, Ps 91:2. If the child be assaulted, he becometh a
fortress, Ps 91:2. If he be hotly pursued and enquired after, the Lord becometh
a secret place to hide his child; if persecution be hot, God giveth
himself for a shadow; if potentates and mighty rulers turn enemies, the Lord
interposes as the Most High and Almighty Saviour, Ps 91:1. If his
adversaries be crafty like fowlers or hunters, the Lord promises to prevent and
break the snares, Ps 91:3. Whether evils do come upon the believer night or day,
secretly or openly, to destroy him, the Lord preserveth his child from
destruction;and if stumbling blocks be laid in his child's way, he hath
his instruments, his servants, his angels, prepared to keep the believer that he
stumble not: He shall give his angels charge over thee; not one angel
only, but all of them, or a number of them. David Dickson.
Verse 3. He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler.
Are we therefore beasts? Beasts doubtless. When man was in honour he
understood not, but was like the foolish beasts. (Ps 49:12) Men are
certainly beasts, wandering sheep, having no shepherd. Why art thou proud, O
man? Why dost thou boast thyself, O smatterer? See what a beast thou art, for
whom the snares of the fowler are being prepared. But who are these
fowlers? The fowlers indeed are the worst and most wicked, the cleverest
and the most cruel. The fowlers are they who sound no horn, that they may not be
heard, but shoot their arrows in secret places at the innocent... But lo! since
we know the fowlers and the beasts, our further enquiry must be, what this
snare may be. I wish not myself to invent it, nor to deliver to you what
is subject to doubt. The Apostle shows us this snare, for he was not ignorant of
the devices of these fowlers. Tell us, I pray, blessed Paul, what this snare of
the devil is, from which the faithful soul rejoices that it is delivered?
They that will be rich (in this world?) says he, fall into temptation
and the snare (of the devil?) (1Ti 6:9-10). Are not the riches of this
world, then, the snare of the devil?. Alas! how few we find who can boast of
freedom from this snare, how many who grieve that they seem to themselves too
little enmeshed in the net, and who still labour and toil with all their
strength to involve and entangle themselves more and more. Ye who have left all
and followed the Son of man who has not where to lay his head, rejoice and say,
He hath delivered we from the snare of the fowlers.
Verse 3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the noisome
pestilence. Lord Craven lived in London when that sad calamity, the plague,
raged. His house was in that part of the town called Craven Buildings. On the
plague growing epidemic, his Lordship, to avoid the danger, resolved to go to
his seat in the country. His coach and six were accordingly at the door, his
baggage put up, and all things in readiness for the journey. As he was walking
through his hall with his hat on, his cane under his arm, and putting on his
gloves, in order to step into his carriage, he overheard his negro, who served
him as postillion, saying to another servant. "I suppose, by my Lord's quitting
London to avoid the plague, that his God lives in the country, and not in town."
The poor negro said this in the simplicity of his heart, as really believing a
plurality of gods. The speech, however, struck Lord Craven very sensibly, and
made him pause. "My God, "thought he, "lives everywhere, and can preserve me in
town as well as in the country. I will even stay where I am. The ignorance of
that negro has just now preached to me a very useful sermon. Lord, pardon this
unbelief, and that distrust of thy providence, which made me think of running
from thy hand." He immediately ordered his horses to be taken from the coach,
and the baggage to be taken in. He continued in London, was remarkably useful
among his sick neighbours, and never caught the infection. Whitecross's
Verses 3, 6. Pestilence. It is from a word (rkd) that signifies to
speak, and speak out; the pestilence is a speaking thing, it proclaims the wrath
of God amongst a people. Drusius fetches it from the same root, but in
piel, which is to decree; showing that the pestilence is a thing decreed
in heaven, not casual. Kirker thinks it is called rkd, because it keeps order, and
spares neither great nor small. The Hebrew root signifies to destroy, to cut
off, and hence may the plague or pestilence have its name. The Septuagint
renders it yanatos, death, for ordinarily it is death; and it is
expressed by "Death, "Re 6:8, he sat on the pale horse, and killed with
sword, hunger, death, and beasts of the earth; it refers to Eze 14:21, where the
pestilence is mentioned. Pestilence may be from a word which signifies to
spread, spoil, rush upon, for it doth so; 2Sa 24:15, seventy thousand slain in
three days; and plague, a plhgh from plhssw, to smite, to wound, for it
smites suddenly, and wounds mortally; hence it is in Nu 14:12, "I will smite
them with the pestilence." This judgment is very grievous, it is called in Ps
91:3 the "noisome pestilence, "because it is infectious, contagious; and
therefore the French read it, "de la peste dangereuse, "from the
dangerous pestilence, it doth endanger those that come near it: and Musculus
hath it, a peste omnium pessima, from the worst pestilence of all: and
others, the woeful pestilence; it brings a multitude of woes with it to any
place or person it comes unto, it is a messenger of woeful fears, sorrows,
distractions, terrors, and death itself. William Greenhill.
Verse 4. He shall cover thee with his feathers, etc.
Christ's wings are both for healing and for hiding (Mt 4:2), for curing and
securing us; the devil and his instruments would soon devour the servants of
God, if he did not set an invincible guard about them, and cover them with the
golden feathers of his protection. Thomas Watson.
Verse 4. He shall cover thee with his feathers, etc. This is
the promise of the present life. For the promise of the life to come, who can
explain? If the expectation of the just be gladness, and such gladness, that no
object of desire in the world is worthy to be compared with it, what will the
thing itself be which is expected? No eye, apart from Thee, O God, hath seen
what Thou hast prepared for them that love Thee. Under these wings, therefore,
four blessings are conferred upon us. For under these we are
concealed:under these we are protected from the attack of the
hawks and kites, which are the powers of the air: under these a salubrious shade
refreshes us, and wards off the overpowering heat of the sun; under
these, also we are nourished and cherished. Bernard.
Verse 4. He shall cover thee with his feathers, etc.,
His plumes shall make a downie bed,
here thou shalt rest; He shall display
His wings of truth over thy head,
Which, like a shield, shall drive away
The fears of night, the darts of day. Thomas Caryl.
Verse 4. His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. That
which we must oppose to all perils is the truth, or Word of God; so long as we
keep that, and ward off darts and swords by that means, we shall not be
overcome. David Dickson.
Verse 5. The true remedy against tormenting fear is faith in
God; for many terrible things may befall men when they are most secure, like
unto those which befall men in the night: but for any harm which may befall the
believer this way, the Lord here willeth him to be nothing afraid: Thou shalt
not be afraid for the terror by night. Many sadder accidents may befall men
when they are most watching and upon their guard, but the Lord willeth the
believer to be confident that he shall not be harmed this way: Thou shalt not
be afraid for the arrow that flieth by day. Many evils are men
subject unto, which come upon them men cannot tell how, but from such evils the
Lord assures the believer he shall have no harm: Thou shalt not be afraid
of the pestilence which walketh in darkness. Men are subject to many
evils which come upon them openly, and not unawares, such as are calamities from
enemies and oppressors; the Lord willeth the believer to be confident that he
shall not be harmed this way: Thou shalt not be afraid for the
destruction that wasteth at noonday. David Dickson.
Verse 5. Thou shalt not be afraid. Not only do the pious
stand safe, they are not even touched with fear. For the prophet does not say,
Thou shalt not be seized; but, Thou shalt not be afraid. Certainly such a
confidence of mind could not be attributed to natural powers, in so menacing and
so overwhelming a destruction. For it is natural to mortals, it is implanted in
them by God the author and maker of nature, to fear whatever is hurtful and
deadly, especially what visibly smites and suddenly destroys. Therefore does he
beautifully join together these two things: the first, in saying, Thou shalt
not be afraid;the second, by adding, For the terror. He
acknowledges that this plague is terrible to nature; and then by his trust in
divine protection he promises himself this security, that he shall not fear the
evil, which would otherwise make human nature quail. Wherefore, in my judgment,
those persons are neither kind (humani) nor pious who are of opinion that
so great a calamity is not to be dreaded by mortals. They neither observe the
condition of our nature, nor honour the blessing of divine protection; both of
which we see here done by the prophet. Musculus.
Verse 5. Not that we are always actually delivered out of
every particular danger or grievance, but because all will turn (such is our
confidence in God) to our greater good; and the more we suffer the greater shall
our reward and our glory be. To the same purpose is the expression of Isaiah:
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the
rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou
shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Isa 43:2. So
also Hab 3:17-18, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, "&c.; and Job
5:19-20, etc. And therefore here is no ground, if the words be rightly
understood, for any man absolutely to presume or conclude that he shall actually
be delivered out of any particular danger; much less upon such a presumption
wilfully to run into dangers. If such figures, the ornament of all language;
such rhetorical, emphatic amplifications be allowed to human writers, and well
enough understood in ordinary language; why not to holy writers as well, who had
to do with men, as well as others; whose end also was to use such expressions as
might affect and move? That human writers have said as much of the security of
good and godly men, I shall need to go no further than Horace his Ode,
Integer vitae scelerisque purus, &c. Most dangerous then and
erroneous is the inference of some men, yea, of some expositors, here, upon
these words of the psalmist, that no godly man can suffer by the plague, or
pestilence: nor is old Lactantius his assertion much sounder, Non potest ergo
fieri, quin hominem justum inter descrimina tempestatum, &c.,
that no just man can perish by war, or by tempest. (Instit. 1. v, c. 18). Most
interpreters conclude here, that the godly are preserved in time of public
calamities; which, in a right sense, may be true; but withal they should have
added, that all godly men are not exempted at such times; to prevent rash
judgments. Westminster Assembly's Annotations.
Verse 5. The arrow. The arrow in this passage probably means
the pestilence. The Arabs denote the pestilence by an allusion to this flying
weapon. "I desired to remove to a less contagious air. I received from Solyman,
the emperor, this message; that the emperor wondered what I meant, in desiring
to remove my habitation; is not the pestilence God's arrow, which will
always hit his mark? If God would visit me here with, how could I avoid it?
is not the plague, said he, in my own palace, and yet I do not think of
removing." Busbequiu's Travels. "What, say they, is not the plague the
dart of Almighty God, and can we escape the blow that he levels at us? is not
his hand steady to hit the persons he aims at? can we run out of his sight, and
beyond his power?" Smith's Remarks on the Turks, 1673. Herbert also, speaking of Curroon, says, "That
year his empire was so wounded with God's arrows of plague, pestilence, and
famine, as this thousand years before was never so terrible." See Eze 5:16.
S. Burder's Scripture Expositor.
Verses 5-6. Joseph Scaliger explains, in Epis. 9, these two
verses thus, thou shalt not fear, dxkm, from consternation by
night, Uxm, from the arrow flying by day, rgdm, from pestilence
walking at evening, kymqm, from devastation at noon. Under these
four he comprehends all the evils and dangers to which man is liable. And as the
Hebrews divide the twenty-four hours of day and night into four parts, namely,
evening, midnight, morning, and midday, so he understands the hours of danger to
be divided accordingly: in a word, "that the man who has made God his refuge,
"is always safe, day and night, at every hour, from every danger.
Verse 6. The pestilence that walketh in darkness; the
destruction that wasteth at noonday. The description is equally
forcible and correct. The diseases of all hot climates, and especially where
vegetation is highly luxuriant, and marshes and miry swamps are abundant, as in
the wilderness here referred to, proceed from the accumulating vapours of the
night, or from the violence of the sun's rays at midday. The
Beriberi of Ceylon, the spasmodic cholera and jungle fever of India, and the
greater part of the fevers of intertropical climates, especially that called the
yellow fever, chiefly originate from the first of these--"the pestilence
that stalks in darkness"; while sunstrokes or coups de soleil, apoplexies,
inflammations of the brain, and liver complaints of most kinds, proceed from the
second, "the destruction that wasteth at noonday." And it is in allusion
to this double source of mischief that the psalmist exclaims most beautifully on
another occasion, Ps 121:6: "The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon
by night." And hence the Israelites were miraculously defended against both
during their passage through the wilderness by the pillar of a cloud in the
daytime, to ward off the solar rays; and by the pillar of fire by night, to
dissipate the collecting vapours, and preserve the atmosphere clear, dry, and
healthy. J. M. Good.
Verse 6. The putrid plague fever often comes on in the night
while the patient is asleep; the solstitial disease seizes in heat of harvest
upon a man in open air, and cuts him off, perhaps ere evening. It is safety from
perils like these that is spoken of. All these blessings are derived from and
rest on (Ps 91:1) the position of Him that claims them "under the covert of
the Most High." Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 6. The pestilence that walketh in darkness. It walketh
not so much in natural darkness, or in the darkness of the night, as in a
figurative darkness, no man knowing where it walks, or whither it will walk, in
the clearest light, whether to the poor man's house, or to the rich man's house,
whether to the dwelling of the plebeian, or of the prince, till it hath left its
own mark, and given a deadly stroke. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 7. Ten thousand. The word myriad would better
represent the exact idea in the original, as the Hebrew word is different from
that which is translated "a thousand." It is here put for any large number.
Verse 7. It shall not come nigh thee. Not nigh thee? What?
when they die on this side and on that, on every hand of a man, doth it not come
nigh him? Yes, nigh him, but not so nigh as to hurt him: the power of God can
bring us near to danger, and yet keep us far from harm. As good may be locally
near us, and yet virtually far from us, so may evil. The multitude thronged
Christ in the Gospel, and yet but one touched him so as to receive good; so
Christ can keep us in a throng of dangers, that not one shall touch us to our
hurt. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 7. It shall not come nigh thee. Not with a view of
showing that all good men may hope to escape from the pestilence, but as proofs
that some who have had superior faith have done so, I have collected the
following instances from various sources. C. H. S.
Before his departure from Isna (Isny), the town was greatly
afflicted with the pestilence; and he, understanding that many of the wealthiest
of the inhabitants intended to forsake the place, without having any respect or
care of such as laboured with that disease, and that the houses of such as were
infected, were commanded to be shut up by the magistrate, he openly admonished
them, either to continue in the town, or liberally to bestow their alms before
their departure, for the relief of such as were sick. And during the time of the
visitation, he himself in person would visit those that were sick: he would
administer spiritual comfort unto them, pray for them, and would be present with
them day and night; and yet by the providence of God he remained untouched, and
was preserved by the all powerful hand of God. From the Life of Paulus
Fagius, in T. Fuller's Abel Redevivus.
In 1576, Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, the
worthiest of all the successors of St. Ambrose, when he learnt at Lodi, that the
plague had made its appearance in his city, went at once to the city. His
council of clergy advised him to remain in some healthy part of his diocese till
the sickness should have spent itself, but he replied that a bishop, whose duty
it is to give his life for his sheep, could not rightly abandon them in time of
peril. They owned that to stand by them was the higher course. "Well, "he said,
"is it not a bishop's duty to choose the higher course?" So back into the town
of deadly sickness he went, leading the people to repent, and watching over them
in their suffering, visiting the hospitals, and, by his own example, encouraging
his clergy in carrying spiritual consolation to the dying. All the time the
plague lasted, which was four months, his exertions were fearless and unwearied,
and what was remarkable was, that of his whole household only two died, and they
were persons who had not been called to go about among the sick. From "A Book
of Golden Deeds, "1864.
Although Defoe's history of the plague is a work of fiction,
yet its statements are generally facts, and therefore we extract the following:
--"The misery of the poor I had many occasions to be an eyewitness of, and
sometimes also of the charitable assistance that some pious people daily gave to
such, sending them relief and supplies both of food, physic, and other help as
they found they wanted... Some pious ladies were transported with zeal in so
good a work, and so confident in the protection of Providence in discharge of
the great duty of charity, that they went about in person distributing alms to
the poor, and even visiting poor families, though sick and infected, in their
very houses, appointing nurses to attend those that wanted attending, and
ordering apothecaries and surgeons... giving their blessing to the poor in
substantial relief to them, as well as hearty prayers for them. I will not
undertake to say, as some do, that none of those charitable people were suffered
to fall under the calamity itself; but this I may say, that I never knew anyone
of them that came to any ill, which I mention for the encouragement of others in
case of the like distress, and, doubtless, if they that give to the poor lend to
the Lord, and he will repay them, those that hazard their lives to give to the
poor, and to comfort and assist the poor in such misery as this, may hope to be
protected in the work." Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague in London.
Horne, in his notes on the Psalms, refers to the plague in
Marseilles and the devotion of its bishop. There is a full account of him in the
Percy Anecdotes from which we cull the following: --"M. de Belsunce, Bishop of
Marseilles, so distinguished himself for his humanity during the plague which
raged in that city in 1720, that the Regent of France offered him the richer and
more honourable See of Laon, in Picardy; but he refused it, saying, he should be
unwilling to leave a flock that had been endeared to him by their sufferings.
His pious and intrepid labours are commemorated in a picture in the Town Hall of
Marseilles, in which he is represented in his episcopal habit, attended by his
almoners, giving his benediction to the dying... But perhaps the most touching
picture extant of the bishop's humane labours, is to be found in a letter of his
own, written to the Bishop of Soissons, Sept. 27, 1720. `Never, 'he says, `was
desolation greater, nor was ever anything like this. Here have been many cruel
plagues, but none was ever more cruel: to be sick and dead was almost the same
thing. What a melancholy spectacle have we on all sides', we go into the streets
full of dead bodies, half rotten through, which we pass to come to a dying body,
to excite him to an act of contrition, and to give him
absolution.'"Notwithstanding exposure to a pestilence so fatal, the devoted
bishop escaped uninjured.
While France justly boasts of "Marseilles' good Bishop,
"England may congratulate herself on having cherished in her bosom a clergyman
who in an equally earnest manner discharged his pastoral care, and watched over
the simple flock committed to his charge, at no less risk of life, and with no
less fervour of piety and benevolence. The Rev. W. Mompesson was rector of Eyam
in Derbyshire, in the time of the plague that nearly depopulated the town in the
year 1666. During the whole time of the calamity, he performed the functions of
the physician, the legislator, and the minister of his afflicted parish;
assisting the sick with his medicines, his advice, and his prayers. Tradition
still shows a cavern near Eyam, where this worthy pastor used to preach to such
of his parishioners as had not caught the distemper, Although the village was
almost depopulated, his exertions prevented the spread of the plague to other
districts, and he himself survived unharmed.
Verse 8. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the
reward of the wicked. First, indeed, because of thy own escape;
secondly, on account of thy complete security; thirdly, for the sake of
comparison; fourthly, because of the perfect preeminence of justice itself. For
then it will not be the time of mercy, but of judgment; nor shall any mercy in
any way be ever shown towards the wicked there, where no improvement can be
hoped for. Far away will be that softness of human infirmity, which meanwhile
charity nevertheless uses for salvation, collecting in the ample folds of her
outspread net good and bad fishes, that is, pleasant and hurtful affections. But
this is done at sea. On the shore she chooses only the good, and so rejoicing
with them that do rejoice, it hence comes to pass that she weeps not with those
that weep. Bernard.
Verse 9. Here commences the second half of the Psalm. And it
is as though the Psalmist feared lest (as is too often the case with us) we
should, in dwelling on the promises and blessings of God, and applying them to
ourselves, forget the condition to which they are annexed-- the character of
those who are to receive them. He therefore pauses here to remind us of the
opening verses of the Psalm, by repeating again their substance. Mary B. M.
Verse 9. Because thou hast made the Lord, etc. What faith is
this, what trust is that which God hath promised protection and deliverance to
in the time of a plague? What act of faith is it? What faith is it? I answer
first, there is a faith of persuasion, called faith, whereby men are
persuaded and verily believe that they shall not die, nor fall by the hand of
the plague. This is well; but I do not find in the 91st Psalm that this
protection is entailed upon this persuasion, neither do I find this faith here
mentioned. There is also a faith of reliance, whereby a man doth rely upon
God for salvation; this is a justifying faith, true justifying faith; this is
true faith indeed; but I do not find in this Psalm, that this promise of
protection and deliverance in the time of a plague is entailed upon this, nor
that this is here mentioned.
But again, there is a faith, I may call it a faith of recourse
unto God, whereby a man doth betake himself unto God for shelter, for protection
as to his habitation; when other men do run one this way, another that way, to
their hiding places: in the time of a plague for a man then to betake himself to
God, as to his habitation, I think this is the faith here spoken of in this 91st
Psalm: for do but mark the words of the Psalm: at Ps 91:1, "He that dwelleth in
the secret place of the most High, "in the hiding place of the Most High: as if
he should say, "When others run from the plague and pestilence and run to their
hiding places, ""He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, "that
betakes himself to God as his Hiding place and his habitation, he shall abide
under the shadow of the Almighty, shall be protected; and so at Ps 91:9,
"Because thou hast made the Lord which is my refuge, even the Most High thy
habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh
thy dwelling; "as if he should say to us, In time of a plague men are running
and looking out for habitations and hiding places; but because thou hast made
the Lord thy habitation and hast recourse to him as thy habitation, "no evil
shall befall thee, neither shall the plague come nigh thy dwelling:" and again
at Ps 91:11 it is said, "He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee
in all thy ways, "the ways of thy calling; as if he should say, In the time of a
plague men will be very apt to leave station and calling, and so run away from
the plague and pestilence; but saith he, "He shall give his angels charge over
thee, to keep thee in all thy ways, "the ways of thy calling and place; that is,
look when a man in the time of a plague shall conscientiously keep his station
and place, and betake himself to God as his habitation; this is the faith that
is here spoken of, and this is the faith that God hath promised protection to,
here in the 91st Psalm... This promise of protection and deliverance is not made
to a believer as a believer, but as acting and exercising faith; for though a
man be a believer, if he do not act and exercise his faith, this promise will
not reach him, therefore if a believer die, not exercising faith and trusting in
God, it is no disparagement to the promise. William Bridge.
Verse 9. No man can have two homes --two places of
constant resort. And if the Lord be truly "our habitation, " we
can have no other refuge for our souls, no other resting place for our hearts.
Mary B. M. Duncan.
Verses 9-10. There is a threefold preservation which the
church and the members of it may look for from divine providence. One from,
another in, and a third by, dangers.
I. First, from dangers, according to the
promise in one of the Psalms, "Because thou hast made the Lord who is my refuge,
even the Most High thy habitation: there shall no evil befall thee, neither
shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." Austin had appointed to go to a
certain town to visit the Christians there, and to give them a sermon or more.
The day and place were known to his enemies, who set armed men to lie in wait
for him by the way which he was to pass, and kill him. As God would have it, the
guide whom the people had sent with him to prevent his going out of the right
way mistook, and led him into a bypath, yet brought him at last to his journey's
end. Which when the people understood, as also the adversaries' disappointment,
they adored the providence of God, and gave him thanks for that great
deliverance. (Agnoscunt omnes miram Dei providentiam, cui ut liberatori gratias
merito egerunt. Possidonius in vita August, chap. 12.)
II. In dangers. So in Job 5:19-20. "He shall deliver thee in
six troubles, yea in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall
redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword." In time of
famine the widow of Sarepta's store was made to hold out. The providence of God
was with Daniel in the lions' den, shutting up the mouths of those furious
beasts: and with the men in the fiery furnace, giving a prohibition to the fire
that it should not burn, when they were in the jaws of danger, yea of death. The
church hath always been a lily among thorns, yet flourishes still. This bush is
yet far from a consumption, although it has seldom or never been out of the
III. By danger. There is a preservation from greater evils by
less. No poison but Providence knoweth how to make an antidote; so Jonah was
swallowed by a whale, and by that danger kept alive. Joseph thrown into a pit,
and afterwards sold into Egypt, and by these hazards brought to be a nursing
father to the church. Chrysostom excellently, Fides in periculis secura est, in
securitate periclitatur. (Homil. 26, operis imperf in Matt.) Faith is endangered
by security, but secure in the midst of danger, as Esther's was when she said,
"If I perish I perish." God preserveth us, not as we do fruits that are to last
but for a year, in sugar; but as flesh for a long voyage in salt: we must expect
in this life much brine and pickle, because our heavenly Father preserveth us as
those whom he resolves to keep for ever, in and by dangers themselves. Paul's
thorn in the flesh, which had much of danger and trouble in it, was given him on
purpose to prevent pride, which was a great evil. "Lest I, "said he, "should be
exalted above measure through abundance of revelations, there was given me a
thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be
exalted above measure." Elsewhere having commemorated Alexander the
coppersmith's withstanding and doing him much evil, yea Nero's opening his mouth
as a lion against him, and the Lord's delivering of him thence, he concludes as
more than a conqueror. "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and
will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever,
Amen." 2Ti 4:14-15, 17-18. John, Arrowsmith, (1602-1659).
Verses 9-14. Dependence on Christ is not the cause of his
hiding us, but it is the qualification of the person that shall be hid. Ralph
Verse 10. There shall no evil befall thee, etc. It is a
security in the very midst of evils. Not like the security of angels--safety in a
world of safety, quiet in a calm; but it is quiet in a storm; safety amid
desolation and the elements of destruction, deliverance where everything else is
going to wreck. Cicaties Bradley, 1840.
Verse 10. God doth not say no afflictions shall befall us,
but no evil. Thomas Watson.
Verse 10. Sin which has kindled a fire in hell, is kindling
fires on earth continually. And when they break out, every one is asking how
they happened. Amos replies, "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath
not done it?" And when desolation is made by fire, Isaiah declares, The Lord
hath "consumed us, because of our iniquities." Many years ago my house was oft
threatened to be destroyed, but the Lord insured it, by giving me Ps 91:10; and
the Lord's providence is the best insurance. John Bridge.
Verse 11. He shall give his angels charge, etc. Charge;
charge is a strict command, more than a bare command; as when you would have a
servant do a business certainly and fully, you lay a charge upon him, I charge
you that you do not neglect that business; you do not barely tell what he should
do, prescribe him his work, but you charge him to do it. So says the Lord unto
the angels: My servants or children, now they are in the plague and pestilence,
O my angels, I change you stir not from their houses, I charge you, stir not
from such an one's bedside; it is a charge, "He shall give his angels charge."
Further, he doth not only, and will not only charge his angel,
but his angels; not one angel charged with the safety of his people, but many
angels; for their better guard and security, "He shall give his angels charge."
And again, "He will give his angels charge over thee to keep thee; "to
keep thee;charge over thee and to keep thee; not only over the
whole church of God, but over every particular member of the church of God; "He
will give his angels charge over thee to keep thee; "this is his marvellous
care. Well, but besides this, "He will give his angels charge to keep thee in
all thy ways, "not in some of thy ways, but in all thy ways. As God's
providence is particular in regard of our persons, so it is universal in regard
of our ways. "He will give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee, "not in
some but "in all thy ways." But is this all? No: "They shall bear thee up in their hands,
"as every servant desires and loves to take up the young heir, or the young
master into his arms, so the angels. It is a great matter that the Lord promises
to pitch his tents. "And the angels of the Lord shall pitch their tents round
about them that fear him; "but here is more; the angels shall not only pitch
their tents, be their guard, but their nurses, to bear them up in their hands;
but why? "That thou dash not thy foot against a stone." When children begin to
go, they are very apt to fall and get many a knock; to stumble at every little
stone. Now there are many stones of stumbling that are in our way, and we are
very apt to fall and miscarry; but such is the goodness of God, the providence
of God, the goodness of his providence, that as he hath provided his angels to
be our guard, in opposition to all our foreign enemies, so he hath provided his
angels to be our nurses, in opposition to all our weaknesses and infirmities,
that we get no hurt, that we miscarry not in the least.
But what need God make use of angels to protect his people, he
is able to do it alone; and is it not for God's dishonour to make use of them
for the protection of his people? No, it is for the honour of God, for the more
honourable the servants are, the instruments are, that a king or prince doth use
for the protecting of his people, the more honourable is that king or prince.
Now, the angels, they are honourable creatures; frequently they are called gods;
"Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels."... They are the fittest
people in the world for this employment, fittest in regard of themselves,
fittest in regard of the saints. They are fittest in regard of themselves, for
First, they are an exceeding strong and potent people; who more fit to
look to and care for the concerns of the saints and people of God, than those
that are strong and potent? It is said of the angels in Ps 103:20 that they
excel in strength. One angel you know destroyed a hundred and fourscore thousand
of the host of Assyria in a night; as one constable will scare away twenty
thieves, so one good angel invested with God's authority is able to drive away a
thousand evil angels, devils: they are an exceeding strong and potent people.
Second. As they are an exceeding strong and potent people, so they are a
very knowing and a wise people; and who so fit to manage the affairs and
concerns of the saints and people of God, and to protect and defend them, as a
knowing and understanding people? You know what Joab said to David; "Thou art
for wisdom as an angel of God." Says our Saviour, "No man knoweth that day and
time, no, not the angels in heaven; "as if the angels in heaven knew every
secret and were acquainted with every hidden thing: they are an exceeding
knowing people, very prudent and very wise. Third. As they are an
exceeding knowing and wise people, so they are also exceeding active and
expeditious, quick in despatches. Who more fit to protect and defend the saints
and people of God, than those that are active, expedite, and quick in their
despatches? such are the angels. In the first of Ezekiel ye read that every one
had four wings; why?, because of their great activity and expedition, and the
quick despatch they make in all their affairs. Fourth. As they are an
active and expeditious people, so they are a people very faithful both to God
and man; in Ps 103:20-21 they are ready to do God's will, and not only ready to
fulfil God's will, but they do it: "Bless the Lord all ye his angels that excel
in strength (Ps 103:20), that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of
his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts, ye ministers of his that do his
pleasure." They are very faithful; and who so fit to do the work, to attend and
look to the concerns of the saints and people of God, as those that are
faithful? Fifth. As they are an exceeding faithful people, so they are a
people that are very loving to the saints and children of God, very loving;
otherwise they were not fit to be their nurses: what is a nurse without love?
They are loving to the saints. "Do it not, "(said the angel unto John), "I am
thy fellow servant; "do not give divine worship to me, I am thy fellow servant;
fellow servants are loving to one another; they are fellow servants with the
saints... It is recorded of Alexander that being in great danger and to fight
next day with his enemies, he slept very soundly the night before; and he being
asked the reason thereof, said, Parmenio wakes; meaning a great and faithful
captain of his; Parmenio wakes, says he. The angels are called watchmen, they
watch and are faithful, therefore you may be secure, quiet, and at rest: trust
in the Lord for ever, upon this account, in this day trust in the Lord.
If these things be so, then, friends, why should we not stoop
to any work commanded, though it lie much beneath us? Do not you think that the
attending upon a sick man, a man that hath a plague sore running upon him, is a
work that lies much beneath angels? yet the angels do it because it is
commanded, though much beneath them yet they stoop to it because it is
commanded; and what though a work lie much beneath you, yet if it be commanded,
why should you not stoop to it? You will say, Such an one is much beneath me, I
will not lay my hand under his shoes, he is much beneath me; ah, but the angels
lay their hands under your shoes, and the work they do for you is much beneath
them: why should we not be like our attendants? This is angelical obedience; the
angels do you many a kindness, and never look for thanks from you, they do many
a kindness that you are not aware of: why are you delivered sometimes you know
not how? here is a hand under a wing, the ministration of angels is the cause of
it. But I say the work they stoop to for you is much beneath them, and therefore
why should we not stoop to any work commanded, though it lie much beneath us?
Verse 11. He shall give his angels charge over thee, etc.
When Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, he alleged but one sentence of
Scripture for himself, Mt 4:6, and that Psalm out of which he borrowed it made
so plain against him, that he was fain to pick here a word and there a word, and
leave out that which went before, and skip in the midst, and omit that which
came after, or else he had marred his cause. The Scripture is so holy, and pure,
and true, that no word nor syllable thereof can make for the Devil, or for
sinners, or for heretics: yet, as the devil alleged Scripture, though it made
not for him, but against him, so do the libertines, and epicures, and heretics,
as though they had learned at his school. Henry Smith.
Verse 11. One angel armed with the power and glory of God is
stronger than a whole country. Earthly princes are subject to many changes and
great unsurety of life and estate. The reason is, their enemies may kill their
watch, and corrupt their guard. But what men or kingdoms can touch the Church's
watch? what angels of gold are able to corrupt the angels of God? and then how
can that perish that is committed to keepers so mighty and faithful? Secondly,
the charge of us is given to those ministering spirits by parcels, not in gross
and piecemeal, not in a lump: our members in a book, our hairs by tale and
number. For it is upon record, and, as it were, delivered to them in writing in
one Psalm, They keep all our bones, Ps 34:20; in this, they keep our
very foot, putting it in security (Ps 91:12); and elsewhere our whole man
and every member. And can a charge so precisely and so particularly given and
taken, be neglected? Thirdly, their manner of keeping us, as it is set down in
the text, cannot but promise great assurance; for, is not the little child safe
while the nurse carrieth it in her arms, or beareth it in her hands? So while
these nurses so bear us, can we be ill danger? but our nurses on earth may fall;
these nurses, the angels, cannot. Robert Horn.
Verse 11. His angels. Taking the word angel in its literal
meaning, messenger, we may look upon any agency which God employs to
strengthen, protect, and help us, as his angel to us. Mary B.M.
Verse 11. To keep thee in all thy ways. How should those
heavenly spirits bear that man in their arms, like nurses, upon earth living; or
bear up his soul to heaven, like winged porters, when he dies, that refuseth the
right way? They shall keep us in all our ways. Out of the way it is their charge
to oppose us, as to preserve us in the way. Nor is this more a terror to the
ungodly, than to the righteous a comfort. For if an angel would keep even a
Balaam from sinning, how much more careful are all those glorious powers to
prevent the miscarriages of God's children! From how many falls and bruises have
they saved us! In how many inclinations to evil have they turned us, either by
removing occasions, or by casting in secretly good motions! We sin too often,
and should catch many more falls, if those holy guardians did not uphold us.
Satan is ready to divert us, when we endeavour to do well; when to do ill,
angels are as ready to prevent us. We are in Joshua the high priest's ease, with
Satan on the one hand, on the other an angel, Zec 3:1: without this, our danger
were greater than our defence, and we could neither stand nor rise. Thomas
Verse 11. To keep thee in all thy ways. Their commission,
large as it is, reaches no further: when you leave that, you lose your guard;
but while you keep your way, angels, yea; the God of angels, will keep you. Do
not so much fear losing your estate or your liberty or your lives, as losing
your way, and leaving your way: fear that more than any tiring; nothing but sin
exposes you to misery. So long as you keep your way, you shall keep other
things; or if you lose any of them, you shall get what is better: though you may
be sufferers for Christ, you shall not be losers by him. Samuel Sletter,
(1704) in "Morning Exercises."
Verse 11. In all thy ways Your ways are God's ways, your way
is the way commanded by God. If you be out of God's ways, you are out of your
own way: if you be in your way, the angels shall keep you, even in the time of a
plague, and bear you up in their hands that you dash not your foot against a
stone; but if you be out of your way, I will not insure your safety. When Balaam
went upon the devil's errand an angel met him and scared his ass, and the ass
ran his foot against the wall, dashed his foot against the wall. The promise is,
"Thou shalt not dash thy foot against a stone; "but he was out of his way, and
the angel met him and scared his ass, and his ass made him rush his leg against
the wall. Jonah went out of his way when he ran away from God; God bade him go
one way, and he went another. Well, what then were the angels with him for his
protection; the very sea would not be quiet till he was thrown overboard:
instead of angels to protect him, he had a whale to devour him. I confess
indeed, through the free grace and mercy of God, the belly of destruction was
made a chamber of preservation to him, but he was out of his way; and instead of
an angel to keep him that he dash not his foot, his whole body was thrown
overboard. Says Solomon, "As a bird from her nest, so is a man out of his
place:" so long as the bird is in her nest it is free from the hawk, it is free
from the birding piece, it is free from the nets and gins and snares as long as
it is in its nest; but when the bird is off her nest then she is exposed to many
dangers. So, so long as a man is in his way, in his place and in his way, he is
well and under protection; but when a man is off his nest, out of his place and
out of his way, then is he exposed to all dangers: but be but in your way and
then you may assure yourselves of divine protection, and of the management
thereof by the hands of angels. Oh who would not labour always to be in that way
which God hath appointed him to be in? Why should we not always consider with
ourselves and say, But am I in my way? Old Mr. Dod being upon the water and
going out of one boat into another, slipped between them, and the first word he
spake was this, "Am I in my way?" so we should always be saying, But am I in my
way? am I in my way? I am now idling away my time, but am I in my way? Oh my
soul, am I in my way? I am in my calling this day without prayer in the morning
and reading the Scriptures; but am I in my way? Oh, my soul, am I in my way? I
am now in such frothy company where I get no good, but hurt; but am I in my way?
Ever consider this, Am I in my way? You may expect the Lord's protection and the
angels' attendance, if you be in your way, but not else. William Bridge.
Verse 11. We have the safeguard of the empire; not only the
protection of the King, from which the wicked as outlaws are secluded; but also
the keeping of angels, to whom he hath given a charge over us, to keep us in all
h's ways. So nearly we participate of his Divine things, that we have his own
guard royal to attend us. Thomas Adams.
Verse 11. He shall give his angels charge over thee, etc.
And is there care in heaven, and is there love
In heavenly spirits to these creatures base,
That may compassion of their evils move?
There is, else much more wretched were the race
Of men than beasts. But oh, the exceeding grace
Of highest God, that loves his creatures so,
And all his works with mercy doth embrace,
That blessed angels he sends to and fro,
To serve us wicked men, to serve his wicked foe!
How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
To come to succour us that succour want!
How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,
Against foul fiends to aid us militant!
They for us fight, they watch and duly ward,
And their bright squadrons round about us plant;
And all for love and nothing for reward.
Oh, wily should heavenly God to man have such regard!
Verses 11-12. It is observable that Scripture is the weapon
that Satan doth desire to wield against Christ. In his other ways of dealing he
was shy, and did but lay them in Christ's way, offering only the occasion, and
leaving him to take them up; but in this he is more confident, and industriously
pleads it, as a thing which he could better stand to and more confidently
avouch. The care of his subtlety herein, lay in the misrepresentation and abuse
of it, as may be seen in these particulars: (1) In that he urged this promise to
promote a sinful thing, contrary to the general end of all Scripture, which was
therefore written `that we sin not.' (2) But more especially in his clipping and
mutilating of it. He industriously leaves out that part of it which doth limit
and confine the promise of protection to lawful undertakings, such as this was
not, and renders it as a general promise of absolute safety, be the action what
it will. It is a citation from Ps 91:11-12, which there runs thus, He
shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
These last words, "in all thy ways, "which doth direct to a true
understanding of God's intention in that promise, he deceitfully leaves out, as
if they were needless and unnecessary parts of the promise, when indeed they
were on purpose put there by the Spirit of God, to give a description of those
persons and actions, unto whom, in such cases, the accomplishment of the promise
might be expected; for albeit the word in the original, which is translated
"ways" -- Mykrd --doth signify any kind of way or action in the
general, yet in this place it doth not; for then God were engaged to an absolute
protection of men, not only when they unnecessarily thrust themselves into
dangers, but in the most abominably sinful actions whatsoever, which would have
been a direct contradiction to those many scriptures wherein God threatens to
withdraw his hand and leave sinners to the danger of their iniquities; but it is
evident that the sense of it is no more than this, `God is with you, while you
are with him.' We have a paraphrase of this text, to this purpose, in Pr 3:23,
"Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble:" where
the condition of this safety, pointed to in the word "then, " which leads the
promise, is expressly mentioned in the foregoing verses, "My son, let them"
--that is, the precepts of wisdom--"not depart from thine eyes... Then" --not upon
other terms--"shalt thou walk in thy way safely." The "ways" then in this
promise cited by Satan, are the ways of duty, or the ways of our lawful
callings. The fallacy of Satan in this dealing with Scripture is obvious, and
Christ might have given this answer, as Bernard hath it, That God promises to
keep him in his ways, but not in self created dangers, for that was not his way,
but his ruin; or if a way, it was Satan's way, but not his. (3) To these two,
some add another abuse, in a subtle concealment of the following verse in Ps
91:13: Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder. This concerned
Satan, whose cruelty and poisonous deceits were fitly represented by the lion
and the adder, and there the promise is also explained to have a respect to
Satan's temptations --that is--God would so manage his protection, that his
children should not be led into a snare. Richard Gilpin.
Verses 11-12. There is, to my mind, a very remarkable
coincidence of expression between the verses of this Psalm, about the office of
God's angels, and that passage in Isaiah where Christ's sympathy and presence
receive the same charge attributed to them without interposition. In Isa 63:9,
we read, "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his
presence saved them." And again, "They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest
thou dash thy foot against a stone, "compared with "And he bare them, and he
carried them all the days of old." Christ in us, by sympathy with our nature--
Christ in us, by the indwelling of his Spirit in each individual heart --thus he
knows all our needs. Christ with us, in every step, all powerful to make all
work for good, and with love and pity watching over our interests--thus his
presence saves us, and all things are made his messengers to us. Mary
Verse 12. Angels... shall bear thee up... lest thou dash thy
foot against a stone. Angels are introduced as bearing up the
believer in their hands, not that he may be carried in safety over some vast
ocean, not that he may be transported through hostile and menacing squadrons,
not that; when exposed to some extraordinary danger, he may be conveyed to a
place of refuge, but, as bearing him up in their arms, "lest at any time he hurt
his foot against a stone."... Angels, the topmost beings in creation, the
radiant, the magnificent, the powerful--angels are represented as holding up a
righteous man, lest some pebble in the path should make him trip, lest he hurt
his foot against a stone. Is there, after all, any want of keeping between the agency and
the act, so that there is even the appearance of angels being unworthily
employed, employed on what is beneath them, when engaged in bearing us up, lest
at any time we hurt the foot against a stone? Nay, the hurting the foot against
a stone has often laid the foundations of fatal bodily disease: the injury which
seemed too trifling to be worth notice has produced extreme sickness, and ended
in death. Is it different in spiritual respects, in regard of the soul, to which
the promise in our text must be specially applied? Not a jot. Or, if there be a
difference, it is only that the peril to the soul from a slight injury is far
greater than that to the body: the worst spiritual diseases might commonly be
traced to inconsiderable beginnings. . . . It can be no easy thing, this keeping the foot from being hurt
against a stone, seeing that the highest of created beings are commissioned to
effect it. Neither is it. The difficulty in religion is the taking up the cross
"daily, "rather than the taking it up on some set occasion, and under
extraordinary circumstances. The serving God in little things, the carrying
religious principles into the details of life, the discipline of our tempers,
the regulation of our speech, the domestic Christianity, the momentary
sacrifices, the secret and unobserved self denials; who that knows anything of
the difficulties of piety, does not know that there is greater danger of his
failing in these than in trials of apparently far higher cost, and harder
endurance; if on no other account, yet because the very absence of what looks
important, or arduous, is likely to throw him off his guard, make him careless
or confident, and thereby almost insure defect or defeat? Henry Melvill.
Verse 12. To carry them in their hands is a metaphor, and
signifies a perfect execution of their custody, to have a special care of them,
and therefore is rather expressed so, than carrying them on their shoulders.
That which one carries on their hand they are sure to keep. The Spaniards have a
proverb when they would signify eminent favour and friendship, `they carry him
upon the palms of their hands, 'that is, they exceedingly love him, and
diligently keep him. Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. He
persists in the metaphor: children often stumble and fall, unless they be led
and carried in hands and arms. By stones are meant all difficulties,
objections, perils, both to the outward and inward man, as Christ is said to
take care of hairs and sparrows, that is, of every thing even to a hair. Now we
know what this charge is, saving that Zanchy adds also the metaphor of
schoolmasters, and says that we are poor rustic people, strangers; but being
adopted into the household of God, he gives his most noble ministers, the
angels, charge, first of our nursing and then of our education; when we
are weaned, to instruct us, to admonish, to institute, to correct us, to comfort
us, to defend us, to preserve us from all evil, and to provoke us to all good.
And these angels, seeing we are so dear to God, that for our sakes he spared not
his own Son, take this charge with all their hearts upon them, and omit nothing
of their duty from our birth to the end of our life. Henry Lawrence, in "A
Treatise of our Communion and Warre with Angells, "1646.
Verse 13. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder, the young
lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. What avails a
human foot among these? What force of human affection can stand fast among such
terrible monsters? These are spiritual wickednesses, and are designated by not
incongruous titles... One is an asp, another a basilisk, a third a
lion, and a fourth a dragon, because each in his own invisible way
variously wounds, --one by his bite, another by his look, a third by his roar or
blow, and a fourth by his breath. . . . Consider this also, whether perchance we are able to meet these
four temptations with four virtues. The lion roars, who will not fear? If any
there be, he shall be brave. But when the lion is foiled, the dragon
lurks in the sand, in order to excite the soul with his poisonous breath;
breathing therein the lust of earthly things. Who, think you, shall escape his
wiles? None but the prudent. But perhaps whilst you are careful in
attacking these, some annoyance vexes you; and lo! the asp is upon you
forthwith. For he seems to have found for himself a seasonable moment. Who is he
that shall not be exasperated by this asp? Certainly the man of
temperance and modesty, who knows how to abound, and to suffer want. On
this opportunity, I think, the Evil Eye with its wicked allurements may
determine to fascinate thee. Who shall turn away his face? Truly the just
man, who not only desires not to take to himself the glory due to God, but not
even to receive what is presented by another: if yet he is a just man, that
justly executes what is just, who performs not his righteousness before men,
who, lastly, although he is just, lifts not up his head. For this virtue
consists specially in humility. This purifies the intention, this also obtains
merit all the more truly and effectually, because it arrogates less to itself.
Verse 13. Adder. The pethen is classed with the lion
as being equally to be dreaded by the traveller... There is no doubt that the
Egyptian cobra is the pethen of Scripture. J. G. Wood.
Verse 13. Dragon. The expression is used (1) for "sea
monsters, " (2) for serpents, (3) for wild beasts or birds characteristic of
desolate places, and (4) it is used figuratively to represent the enemies of the
Lord, and especially Pharaoh, as head and representative of the Egyptian power,
and Nebuchadnezzar, the head and representative of the Chaldean monarchy. The
term is thus a general one, signifying any monstrous creature, whether of the
land or of the water, and is to be set down with the one or the other, according
as the context indicates. John Duns, in "Biblical Natural Science."
Verse 13. Thou shalt tread upon; thou shalt trample under
feet. Thou shalt tread upon them, not accidentally, as a man treads upon an
adder or a serpent in the way; but his meaning is, thou shalt intentionally
tread upon them like a conqueror, thou shalt tread upon them to testify the
dominion over them, so when the Lord Jesus gave that promise (Lu 10:19) to his
disciples, that they should do great things, he saith, You shall tread upon
serpents; that is, you shall have power to overcome whatsoever may annoy
you: serpentine power is all hurtful power, whether literal or mystical. As the
Apostle assures all believers (Ro 16:20), "God shall tread down
Satan (that old serpent) under your feet shortly." Joseph
Verse 13 (second clause). But what is said unto Christ?
And thou shalt tread on the lion and dragon. Lion, for
overt wrath; dragon for covert lurking. Augustine.
Verse 14. Because he hath set his love upon me. Vulg.
Because he hath hoped in me. Whatever is to be done, whatever is
to be declined, whatever is to be endured, whatever is to be chosen, Thou O Lord
art my hope. This is the only cause of all my promises, this the sole reason of
my expectation. Let another pretend to merit, let him boast that he bears the
burden and heat of the day, let him say that he fasts twice on the Sabbath, let
him finally glory that he is not as other men; for me it is good to cleave unto
God, to place my hope in the Lord God. Let others hope in other things, one in
his knowledge of letters, another in his worldly wisdom, one in his nobility,
one in his dignity, another in some other vanity, for thy sake I have made all
things loss, and count them but dung; since Thou, Lord, art my hope. Bernard,
quoted by Le Blanc.
Verse 14 (.first clause). As there is a because and a
therefore in the process of the law, in concluding death for sin, so
there is a because and a therefore in the process of grace, and of
the gospel, which doth reason from one grace given to infer another grace to be
given, even grace for grace; and such is this here: Because he hath set his
love upon me, therefore will I deliver him. David Dickson.
Verse 14. He does not say, Because he is without sin,
because he has perfectly kept all my precepts, because he has merit and is
worthy to be delivered and guarded. But he produces those qualities which are
even found in the weak, the imperfect, and those still exposed to sin in the
flesh, namely, adhesion, knowledge of his name, and prayer. Musculus.
Verse 14. He hath set his love upon me. In the love of a
divinely illuminated believer there is (1) the sweet property of
gratitude. The soul has just and enlarged views of the salvation which he
has obtained through the name of Jesus. The evils from which he is saved; the
blessings in hand, and the blessings in hope; the salvation in time, and the
salvation through eternity, which can and shall be enjoyed through the name of
Jesus, excites feelings of the most ardent gratitude in the soul of the
Christian. (2) Another delightful ingredient in this settled love is,
admiration. Everything in the scheme and execution of God's redeeming
plan is an object of admiration. All that the Lord Jesus is in himself; all that
he has done; all that he does at the present; and all that he has promised to do
for his people, deserves the warmest admiration. This holy feeling is
experienced in the breast of the man to whom the Lord can say, He hath
set his love upon me. (3) Another ingredient in the illuminated love of the
believer is delightful complacency. Nothing can afford complacent delight
in any excellency unless we are persuaded that we either do possess, or may
possess it. I may go to the palace of the greatest monarch in the world, and be
deeply struck with astonishment and admiration at the wonder beheld, but there
will not be one thrill of complacency felt in my bosom at the view of the
astonishing objects which crowd upon my vision. Why? Because I neither have, nor
can have any interest in them; they are not mine, nor ever can be; therefore, I
cannot take complacent delight in them. But the love of the Christian is a
delightful love, (as Mr. Baxter called it,)because there is in the Lord
everything that is worthy of infinite and eternal admiration; and then there is
the thought which produces a thrill of pleasure, --whatever I admire I can, in
some measure, possess. The illuminated eye of God's favourite sees everything in
the Lord to supply his necessities; everything to satisfy his desires, all his
own; which makes the soul delight itself in the Lord, and he rests in his love.
Therefore, the Lord says of the object of his lovingkindness, "He hath set
his love upon me" --he hath renounced sin as the greatest abomination;
he hath taken off the heart from all idolatrous attachment to the creature, and
placed it fixedly and supremely upon God. William Dawson, Methodist Preacher
Verse 14. He hath set his love upon me. We have a similar
expression in daily use, which means the bending of all our energies to one
end--a ceaseless effort after one object. We say, "I have set my heart on such a
thing." This is what God will have from us--an intense, single hearted love. We
must love him "with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our
strength, and with all our mind, "so that, like Jesus, we may "delight to do his
will." Just let us think of the way in which setting our heart on anything
affects us, head, hands, time, thought, action--all are at work for us
attainment. How we sacrifice everything else to it? Comfort, ease, present
advantage, money, health, nay, our very selves, go freely for the sake of our
cherished wish. Have I so "set my heart upon" God? Temperaments differ. This
may be an overdrawn picture of the way in which some of us seek a cherished
object. But each knows his own capability in this way. God also knows our frame,
and requires his best at every man's hand. There is one thing in this verse which may encourage us very
much. It is not because of perfect love that God will deliver. It is to
the will to love and serve--it is to the setting the heart, that the
promise is made--to the "full purpose of heart" that is set to cleave unto
the Lord. Mary B. M. Duncan.
Verse 14. I will set him on high. That is, in an
inaccessible, or lofty place, I will set him, which means, I will deliver him.
When men truly know God to be a deliverer, they both put confidence in Him, and
call upon Him. Then God exalts and delivers him that calls. Franciscus
Verse 14. I will set him on high, because he hath known my
name. There is a great deal of safety in the knowledge of God, in his
attributes, and in his Christ. A man's safety we see lies in his running to the
tower (Pr 28:10); he runs and is safe. And it is the knowledge of this tower
that sets a man a running to it. Hence we find safety attributed to the
knowledge of the Lord. "I will set him on high, "I will exalt him,
and so he shall be safe. Why so? "Because he hath known my name"; for the
knowing of God aright was that which made him run, and so he is exalted and set
on high. Then a man is safe when he hath got this tower to be his tower, when he
hath gotten God to be his God. Now when we know God, we get him to be our God,
and make this tower our tower, Jer 24:7: "I will give them an heart to know me,
and I will be their God." Jeremiah Dyke, in "The Righteous Man's Tower, "1639.
Verses 14-16. He hath known my name. From this text I would
introduce to your notice the most desirable character under the sun; and I would
exhibit him before you to excite each one to seek, until you obtain the same
blessedness. The character that I shall exhibit is GOD'S FAVOURITE, one who is
an object of the "lovingkindness of the Lord"; and in reading this passage there
are two things which strike our attention concerning such a character.
First, what the Lord says of him. Second, what the Lord
says to him. Now, then, my brethren--LOOK! There stands before you GOD's
Listen to what God says OF him. 1. He says of
him, "He knows my name." The first principle of the life of God
the fallen soul of man is knowledge; spiritual, divine knowledge. The first
operation of the Holy Ghost in the work of salvation, is a conviction of the
character and perfections and relations of God. The Lord says, "he knows my
name." He knows my name as Omniscient, Omnipresent, Holy, Just and True. (1) He
first knows my name as a sin hating, sin avenging God; and this knowledge was a
means of leading him to a deep sense of his own personal corruption, guilt, and
danger as a sinner. (2) But the favourite of the Lord knows his name as revealed
to Moses, as "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and
abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity,
and transgression, and sin." He knows the name of the Lord as concentrated in
the name of Jesus, who "shall save his people from their sins." By the
white beams of God's holiness, (if I may so speak) the sinner sees his
corruption, guilt and deformity: by the red beams of God's justice he
sees his unspeakable danger: by the mild beams of God's mercy, he
discovers a ground of hope--that there is pardon for his aggravated crimes. But
it is in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ, that God appears most delightful.
Hence we can say to every saved soul, as Paul did to the Corinthians: --"God, who
commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give
the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." As
all the colours of the rainbow meet in one sunbeam, so all the perfections of
God as perfectly unite, and more beautifully shine forth, in the person and
offices of Jesus Christ, upon the soul of the penitent believer. This saving
knowledge is always vital, active, and powerful. William Dawson.
Verse 14. He hath known my name. May we not get some light
on this expression from the custom of the Jews, keeping the name JEHOVAH sacred
to their own use, regarding it as too holy even to be pronounced by them in
common use and thus preserving it from being taken in vain by the heathen
around? Thus it was known to Jews only... But whatever be the origin of the
expressions, to "know His name, " to "trust in His name, "to
"believe in His name, "it evidently in all these cases means whatever is
revealed concerning Him--all that by which he maketh himself known. His Word, his
Providence, above all, his Son, are included thus in his name, which we
must know, believe in, and trust. So that to "know his name" is to know himself,
as revealed in the Gospel. Mary B. M. Duncan.
Verse 14. (last clause). Sound love to God, floweth from and
is joined with sound knowledge of God, as his Majesty is declared unto us in
Scripture: the believer who hath set his love upon God, hath
known my name, saith he. David Dickson.
Verse 15. I will answer him. I think we sometimes discourage
ourselves by a misconception of the exact meaning of the expression, "answer,
"taking it to mean only grant. Now, an answer is not necessarily an
acquiescence. It may be a refusal, an explanation, a promise, a conditional
grant. It is, in fact, simply attention to our request expressed.
In this sense, before we call he will answer, and while we are get speaking he
will hear, Isa 65:24. Mary B. M. Duncan.
Verse 15. I will be with him in trouble. I will be with
him in trouble, says God: and shall I seek meanwhile anything else
than trouble? It is good for me to cleave unto God. Not only so, but also to put
my hope in the Lord: because I will deliver him, he says, and honour
him. I will be with him in trouble. My delights, he says, are with
the sons of men. Emmanuel God with us. Hail, thou art highly
favoured, says the Angel to Mary, the Lord is with thee. In
the fulness of grace He is with us, in the plenitude of glory we shall be with
Him. He descends in order to be near to those who are of a troubled heart, that
He may be with us in our trouble... It is better for me, O Lord, to be troubled,
whilst only Thou art with me, than to reign without Thee, to feast without Thee,
to be honoured without Thee. It is good rather to be embraced by Thee in
trouble, to have thee in this furnace with me, than to be without Thee even in
heaven. For what have I in heaven, and without Thee what do I desire upon earth?
The furnace tries the gold, and the temptation of trouble just men.
Verse 15. I will be with him trouble. God hath made promises
of his special presence with his saints in suffering. If we have such a friend
to visit us in prison, we shall do well enough; though we change our place, we
shall not change our keeper. "I will be with him." God will hold
our head and heart when we are fainting! What if we have more afflictions than
others, if we have more of God's company? God's honour is dear to him; it would
not be for his honour to bring his children into sufferings, and leave them
there; he will be with them to animate and support them; yea, when new troubles
arise. Job 5:19. "He shall deliver thee in six troubles." Thomas Watson.
Verse 15. I will be with him in trouble. Again God speaks
and acts like a tender hearted mother towards a sickly child. When the child is
in perfect health she can leave it in the hands of the nurse; but when it is
sick she will attend it herself; she will say to the nurse, "You may attend a
while to some other business, I will watch over the child myself." She hears the
slightest moan; she flies to the cradle; she takes it in her arms; she kisses
its lips, and drops a tear upon its face, and asks, "What can I do for thee, my
child? How can I relieve thy pain and soften thy sufferings? Do not weep and
break my heart; it is thy mother's arms that are around thee; it is thy mother's
lap on which thou art laid; it is thy mother's voice that speaks to thee; it is
thy mother that is with thee; fear not." So the Lord speaks to his afflicted
children. "I will be with him in trouble." No mother can equally
sympathise with her suffering child; as the Lord does with his suffering people.
No! could all the love that ever dwelt in all the mothers' hearts that ever
existed, be united in one mother's heart, and fixed on her only child, it would
no more bear a comparison with the love of God to his people than the summer
midnight glow worm is to be compared to the summer midday sun. Oh, that delightful sentence I will be with him in
trouble. At other times God will leave them in the hands of angels: "I will
give them charge over them, to keep them in all their ways; they bear them up
lest at any time they dash their feet against a stone." But when they are in
trouble, I will say to the angels, "Stand aside, I will take care of them
myself." "I will be with them in trouble." So he speaks to his people:
"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee and through the
rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou
shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord
thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour." When languishing in sickness, He
will make his bed, and his pillow; when travelling through the valley of the
shadow of death, the Lord will be with him, and enable him to sing, "I will fear
no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Thus he
is with them as their physician and nurse, in pain and sickness; as their
strength in weakness; as their guide in difficulty; their ease in pain; and as
their life in death. "I will be with him in trouble." William
Verse 16. With long life will I satisfy him. Saint Bernard
interprets this of heaven;because he thought nothing long that had an
end. This, indeed, is the emphasis of heaven's joy; those blessed souls never
sin, never weep more; they shall not only be with the Lord, but ever with the
Lord. This is the accent which is set on the eulogies given to heaven in
Scripture. It is "an inheritance, "and that an "incorruptible one, that fadeth
not away; "it is "a crown of glory, "and that a weighty one, yea, "an exceeding
great and eternal weight of glory." When once it is on the saint's head it can
never fall, or be snatched off; it is a feast, but such a one that hath a
sitting down to it but no rising up from it. William Gurnall.
Verse 16. With long life will I satisfy him. Observe the
joyful contrast here to the mournful words in the foregoing Psalm. "We spend our
years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and
ten, "(Ps 90:9-10.) The life of Israel in the wilderness was shortened by
Disobedience. The Obedience of Christ in the wilderness has won for us a blessed
immortality. Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 16. With long life will I satisfy him, etc. The margin
here is "length of days; "that is, days lengthened out or multiplied. The
meaning is, I will give him length of days as he desires, or until he is
satisfied with life; --implying (1) that it is natural to desire long life; (2)
that long life is to be regarded as a blessing (comp. Pr 3:2,16 Ex 20:12); (8)
that the tendency of religion is to lengthen out life; since virtue, temperance,
regular industry, calmness of mind, moderation in all things, freedom from
excesses in eating and drinking, --to all of which religion prompts, -- contribute
to health and to length of days; and (4) that a time will come, even under this
promised blessing of length of days, when a man will be "satisfied" with
living; when he will have no strong desire to live longer; when, under the
infirmities of advanced years, and under his lonely feelings from the fact that
his early friends have fallen, and under the influence of a bright hope of
heaven, he will feel that he has had enough of life here, and that it is
better to depart to another world. And shew him my salvation. In another
life, after he shall be satisfied with this life. Albert Barnes.
Verse 16. With long life will I satisfy him. This promise
concerning length of life contains a gift of God by no means to be despised.
Many enemies indeed will plot against his life, and desire to extinguish him as
suddenly and as quickly as possible; but I shall so guard him that he shall live
to a good old age and be filled with years, and desire to depart from life.
J. B. Folengius.
Verse 16. With long life will I satisfy him.
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels noblest, acts the best.
Bailey, in "Festus."
Verse 16. Long life.
They err who measure life by years,
With false or thoughtless tongue;
Some hearts grow old before their time;
Others are always young.
It is not the number of the lines
On life's fast filling page,
It is not the pulse's added throbs,
Which constitute their age.
Some souls are serfs among the free,
While others nobly thrive;
They stand just where their fathers stood
Dead, even while they live.
Others, all spirit, heart, and sense,
Theirs the mysterious power
To live in thrills of joy or woe,
A twelvemonth in an hour! Bryan W. Procter
Verse 16. Long life.
He liveth long who liveth well!
All other life is short and vain:
He liveth longest who can tell
Of living most for heavenly gain.
Fie liveth long who liveth well!
All else is being flung away;
He liveth longest who can tell of true things
truly done each day. Horatius Bonar
Verse 16. I will show him my salvation. The last, greatest,
climax of blessing, including and concluding all! What God does is perfectly
done. Hitherto has his servant caught glimpses of the "great salvation." The
Spirit has revealed step by step of it, as he was able to bear it. The Word has
taught him, and he has rejoiced in his light. But all was seen in part
and known in part. But when God has satisfied his servant with length of
days, and time for him is over, eternity begun, he will "shew him his
salvation." All will be plain. All will be known. God will be revealed in
his love and his glory. And we shall know all things, even as we are known!
Mary B. M. Duncan.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The secret dwelling place. There is the dweller in the dark
world, in the favoured land, in the holy city, in the outer court; but the holy
of holies is the "secret place" --communion, acceptance, etc.
2. The protecting shadow--security, peace, etc.; like hamlets of
olden time clustered beneath castle walls. Charles A. Davis.
1. The person. One who is in intimate, personal, secret,
abiding communion with God, dwelling near the mercyseat, within the veil.
2. The Privilege. He is the guest of God, protected, refreshed,
and comforted by him, and that to all eternity.
Verses 1-2. Four names of God.
1. We commune with him reverently, for he is the Most High.
2. We rest in him as the Almighty.
3. We rejoice in him as Jehovah or Lord.
4. We trust him as EL, the mighty God.
1. Observe the nouns applied to God--refuge from trouble,
fortress in trouble, God at all times.
2. Observe the pronouns applied by man--"I" will say,
"my refuge, my fortress, "etc. G. R.
Verse 2. The power, excellence, fruit, reasonableness, and
open avowal of personal faith.
Verse 3. Invisible protection from invisible dangers; wisdom
to meet cunning, love to war with cruelty, omnipresence to match mystery, life
to baffle death.
Verse 3. SURELY, or reasons for assured confidence in God's
Verses 3-7. Pestilence, panic, and peace; (for times of
widespread disease). Charles A. Davis.
Verses 3, 8-9.
1. Saints are safe--"surely, "(Ps 91:3).
2. The evil is bounded--"only, "(Ps 91:8).
3. The Lord has reasons for preserving his own-- because,
1. The compassion of God.
2. The confidence of saints.
3. The panoply of truth.
1. The exposure of all men to fear. (a) Continually, day and
night. (b) Deservedly: "conscience doth make cowards of us all."
2. The exemption of some men from fear. (a) Because of their
trust. (b) Because of the divine protection.
Verse 7. How an evil may be near but not nigh.
Verse 8. What we have actually seen of the reward of the
1. God our spiritual habitation.
2. God the keeper of our earthly habitation.
3. General truth that the spiritual blesses the temporal.
1. The Personal Blessing.
2. The Domestic Blessing.
3. The connection between the two.
Verses 11-12. A "wrested" Scripture righted.
1. Satan's version--presumptuousness.
2. The Holy Spirit's version--trustfulness. Charles A.
1. The Ministry of Angels as employed by God. (a) Official: "he
shall give, "etc. (b) Personal: "over thee." (c) Constant: "in all thy ways."
2. As enjoyed by man. (a) For preservation: "shall bear thee,
"etc.; tenderly but effectually. (b) Under limitation. They cannot do the work
of God, or of Christ, or of the Spirit, or of the word, or of ministers, for
salvation; "are they not all ministering spirits, "etc. G. R.
Verse 12. Preservation from minor evils most precious
because they are often most grievous, lead to greater evils, and involve much
Verse 13. The believer's love set upon God.
1. Every child of God has his enemies. (a) They are numerous:
"the lion, adder, young lion, dragon." (b) Diversified: subtle and
powerful--"lion and adder; " new and old--"young lion" and the" old dragon."
2. He will finally obtain a complete victory over them-- "Thou
shalt tread, "etc.; "shall put thy foot, "etc.; "the Lord shall bruise Satan,
"etc. G. R.
Verses 14-16. The six "I wills."
Verse 14. Here we have,
1. Love for love: "Because, "etc. (a) The fact of the saints'
love to God. There is, first, love in God without their love, then love for
their love. (b) The evidence of his love to them: "I will deliver him" --from
sin, from danger, from temptation, from every evil.
2. Honour for honour. (a) His honouring God. "He hath known my
name" and made it known; God honouring him; "I will set him on high" --high in
honour, in happiness, in glory. G. R.
Verse 15-16. Observe,
1. The exceeding great and precious promises. (a) Answer to
prayer: "he shall call, "etc. (b) Comfort in trouble: "I will be with him." (c)
Deliverance from trouble: "I will deliver him." (d) Greater honour after
trouble: deliver "and honour him." (e) Length of days; life long enough to
satisfy him. (f) God's salvation; "show him my salvation; "far beyond what man
could think or desire.
2. To whom these promises belong; who is the he and the
him to whom these promises are made. He "calls upon God, "says Ps 91:15;
he "hath known my name, "says Ps 91:14; he "hath set his love upon me, "says the
former part of the same verse; he "has made the Lord his habitation, "says Ps
91:9; he "dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, "says Ps 91:1. Hannah
More says, "To preach privileges without specifying to whom they belong is like
putting a letter in the post office without a direction." It may be very good
and contain a valuable remittance, but no one can tell for whom it is intended.
All the promises of Scripture are plainly directed to those to whom they belong.
The direction put upon the promises of this Psalm is unmistakably clear and
often repeated. G. R.
WORKS UPON THE NINETY-FIRST PSALM
S. Patris Bernardi, in Psalmum 90. (91). Qui habitat.
Sermones (In the Paris edition of Bernard's works, imperial 8vo. 1839,
Volume one part 2, also in the quarto volume of Sermons, Salisburgi
The Shield of the Righteous: or, the Ninety-first Psalme,
expounded, with the addition of Doctrines and Verses. Verie necessarie and
comfortable in these dayes of heauinesse, wherein the Pestilence rageth so sore
in London, and other parts of this Kingdome. By ROBERT HORN, Minister of God's
Word...London. 1628 (4to).
The Righteous man's Habitation in the Time of the Plague and
Pestilence; being a brief Exposition of the Ninety-first Psalm: (In the Works of
William Bridge (1600-1670) Tegg's Edition, Volume one pg. 463-500.
In "UNDER THE SHADOW: being additional leaves from the
Note Book of the late Mary B.M. Duncan, 1867", pp. 85-172, there is an
Exposition of this Psalm.