Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. Since this Psalm has no title of its own, it
is supposed by some to be a fragment of Psalm 9. We prefer, however, since it is
complete in itself, to consider it as a separate composition. We have had
instances already of Psalms which seem meant to form a pair (Psalm 1 and 2,
Psalm 3 and 4) and this, with the ninth, is another specimen of the double
Psalm. The prevailing theme seems to be the oppression and persecution of the wicked, we
will, therefore, for our own guidance, entitle it, THE CRY OF THE OPPRESSED.
DIVISION. The first verse, in an exclamation of surprise, explains the
intent of the Psalm, viz., to invoke the interposition of God for the
deliverance of his poor and persecuted people. From verse 2 to 11, the character
of the oppressor is described in powerful language. In verse 12, the cry of the
first verse bursts forth again, but with a clearer utterance. In the next place
(verses 13-15), God's eye is clearly beheld as regarding all the cruel deeds of
the wicked; and as a consequence of divine omniscience, the ultimate judgment of
the oppressed is joyously anticipated (verses 16-18). To the Church of God
during times of persecution, and to individual saints who are smarting under the
hand of the proud sinner, this Psalm furnishes suitable language both for prayer
Verse 1. To the tearful eye of the
sufferer the Lord seemed to stand still, as if he calmly looked on, and
did not sympathize with his afflicted one. Nay, more, the Lord appeared to be afar
off, no longer "a very present help in trouble," but an
inaccessible mountain, into which no man would be able to climb. The presence of
God is the joy of his people, but any suspicion of his absence is distracting
beyond measure. Let us, then, ever remember that the Lord is nigh us. The
refiner is never far from the mouth of the furnace when his gold is in the fire,
and the Son of God is always walking in the midst of the flames when his holy
children are cast into them. Yet he that knows the frailty of man will little
wonder that when we are sharply exercised, we find it hard to bear the apparent
neglect of the Lord when he forbears to work our deliverance.
hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?" It is not the trouble, but
the hiding of our Father's face, which cuts us to the quick. When trial and
desertion come together, we are in as perilous a plight as Paul, when his ship
fell into a place where two seas met (Acts 27:41). It is but little wonder if we
are like the vessel which ran aground, and the fore-part stuck fast, and
remained unmoveable, while the hinder part was broken by the violence of the
waves. When our sun is eclipsed, it is dark indeed. If we need an answer to the
question, "Why hidest thou thyself?" it is to be found in the fact
that there is a "needs-be," not only for trial, but for heaviness of
heart under trial (1 Peter 1:6); but how could this be the case, if the Lord
should shine upon us while he is afflicting us? Should the parent comfort his
child while he is correcting him, where would be the use of the chastening? A
smiling face and a rod are not fit companions. God bares the back that the blow
may be felt; for it is only felt affliction which can become blest
affliction. If we were carried in the arms of God over every stream, where would
be the trial, and where the experience, which trouble is meant to teach us?
Verse 2. The second verse contains the formal indictment against the wicked: "The
wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor." The accusation divides
itself into two distinct charges,--pride and tyranny; the one the root and
cause of the other. The second sentence is the humble petition of the oppressed:
"Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined." The
prayer is reasonable, just, and natural. Even our enemies themselves being
judges, it is but right that men should be done by as they wished to do to
others. We only weigh you in your own scales, and measure your corn with your
own bushel. Terrible shall be thy day, O persecuting Babylon! when thou shalt be
made to drink of the winecup which thou thyself hast filled to the brim with the
blood of saints. There are none who will dispute the justice of God, when he
shall hang every Haman on his own gallows, and cast all the enemies of his
Daniels into their own den of lions.
Verse 3. The indictment being read, and the petition presented, the evidence
is now heard upon the first count. The evidence is very full and conclusive upon
the matter of pride, and no jury could hesitate to give a verdict against
the prisoner at the bar. Let us, however, hear the witnesses one by one. The
first testifies that he is a boaster. "For the wicked boasteth of his
heart's desire." He is a very silly boaster, for he glories in a mere
desire: a very brazen-faced boaster, for that desire is villainy; and a most
abandoned sinner, to boast of that which is his shame. Bragging sinners are the
worst and most contemptible of men, especially when their filthy desires,--too
filthy to be carried into act,--become the theme of their boastings. When Mr.
Hate-Good and Mr. Heady are joined in partnership, they drive a brisk trade in
the devil's wares. This one proof is enough to condemn the prisoner at the bar.
Take him away, jailor! But stay, another witness desires to be sworn and heard.
This time, the impudence of the proud rebel is even more apparent; for he "blesseth
the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth." This is insolence, which is
pride unmasked. He is haughty enough to differ from the Judge of all the earth,
and bless the men whom God hath cursed. So did the sinful generation in the days
of Malachi, who called the proud happy, and set up those that worked wickedness
(Malachi 3:15). These base pretenders would dispute with their Maker; they
"Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the god of God."
How often have we heard the wicked man speaking in terms of honour of the
covetous, the grinder of the poor, and the sharp dealer! Our old proverb hath
"I wot well how the world wags;
He is most loved that hath most bags."
Pride meets covetousness, and compliments it as wise, thrifty, and prudent.
We say it with sorrow, there are many professors of religion who esteem a rich
man, and flatter him, even though they know that he has fattened himself upon
the flesh and blood of the poor. The only sinners who are received as
respectable are covetous men. If a man is a fornicator, or a drunkard, we put
him out of the church; but who ever read of church discipline against that
idolatrous wretch,--the covetous man? Let us tremble, lest we be found to be
partakers of this atrocious sin of pride, "blessing the covetous, whom
Verse 4. The proud boastings and lewd blessings of the wicked have been
received in evidence against him, and now his own face confirms the accusation,
and his empty closet cries aloud against him. "The wicked, through the
pride of his countenance, will not seek after God." Proud hearts breed
proud looks and stiff knees. It is an admirable arrangement that the heart is
often written on the countenance, just as the motion of the wheels of a clock
find their record on its face. A brazen face and a broken heart never go
together. We are not quite sure that the Athenians were wise when they ordained
that men should be tried in the dark lest their countenances should weigh with
the judges; for there is much more to be learned from the motions of the muscles
of the face than from the words of the lips. Honesty shines in the face, but
villainy peeps out at the eyes. See the effect of pride; it kept the man from seeking God. It is hard to pray with a stiff neck and an unbending knee. "God is not in all his thoughts:"
he thought much, but he had no thoughts for God. Amid heaps of chaff there was
not a grain of wheat. The only place where God is not is in the thoughts of the
wicked. This is a damning accusation; for where the God of heaven is not, the
Lord of hell is reigning and raging; and if God be not in our thoughts, our
thoughts will bring us to perdition.
Verse 5. "His ways are always grievous." To himself they are
hard. Men go a rough road when they go to hell. God has hedged-up the way of
sin: O what folly to leap these hedges and fall among the thorns! To others,
also, his ways cause much sorrow and vexation; but what cares he? He sits like
the idol god upon his monstrous car, utterly regardless of the crowds who are
crushed as he rolls along. "Thy judgments are far above out of his
sight:" he looks high, but not high enough. As God is forgotten, so are
his judgments. He is not able to comprehend the things of God; a swine may
sooner look through a telescope at the stars than this man study the Word of God
to understand the righteousness of the Lord. "As for all his enemies, he
puffeth at them." He defies and domineers; and when men resist his
injurious behaviour, he sneers at them, and threatens to annihilate them with a
puff. In most languages there is a word of contempt borrowed from the action of
puffing with the lips, and in English we should express the idea by saying,
"He cries, 'Pooh! Pooh!' at his enemies." Ah! there is one enemy who
will not thus be puffed at. Death will puff at the candle of his life and blow
it out, and the wicked boaster will find it grim work to brag in the tomb.
Verse 6. The testimony of the sixth verse concludes the evidence against the
prisoner upon the first charge of pride, and certainly it is conclusive in the
highest degree. The present witness has been prying into the secret chambers of
the heart, and has come to tell us what he has heard. "He hath said in
his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity." O
impertinence runs to seed! The man thinks himself immutable, and omnipotent too,
for he, he is never to be in adversity. He counts himself a privileged
man. He sits alone, and shall see no sorrow. His nest is in the stars, and he
dreams not of a hand that shall pluck him thence. But let us remember that this
man's house is built upon the sand, upon a foundation no more substantial than
the rolling waves of the sea. He that is too secure is never safe. Boastings are
not buttresses, and self-confidence is a sorry bulwark. This is the ruin of
fools, that when they succeed they become too big, and swell with self-conceit,
as if their summer would last for ever, and their flowers bloom on eternally. Be
humble, O man! for thou art mortal, and thy lot is mutable. The
second crime is now to be proved. The fact that the man is proud and arrogant
may go a long way to prove that he is vindicative and cruel. Haman's pride was
the father of a cruel design to murder all the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar builds an
idol; in pride he commands all men to bow before it; and then cruelly stands
ready to heat the furnace seven times hotter for those who will not yield to his
imperious will. Every proud thought is twin brother to a cruel thought. He who
exalts himself will despise others, and one step further will make him a tyrant.
Verse 7. Let us now hear the witnesses in court. Let the wretch speak for
himself, for out of his own mouth he will be condemned. "His mouth is
full of cursing and deceit and fraud." There is not only a little evil
there, but his mouth is full of it. A three-headed serpent hath stowed away its
coils and venom within the den of its black mouth. There is cursing which
he spits against both God and men, deceit with which he entraps the
unwary, and fraud by which, even in his common dealings, he robs his
neighbours. Beware of such a man: have no sort of dealing with him: none but the
silliest of geese would go to the fox's sermon, and none but the most foolish
will put themselves into the society of knaves. But we must proceed. Let us look
under this man's tongue as well as in his mouth; "under his tongue is
mischief and vanity." Deep in his throat are the unborn words which
shall come forth as mischief and iniquity.
Verse 8. Despite the bragging of this base wretch, it seems that he is as
cowardly as he is cruel. "He sitteth in the lurking places of the
villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily
set against the poor." He acts the part of the highwayman, who springs
upon the unsuspecting traveller in some desolate part of the road. There are
always bad men lying in wait for the saints. This is a land of robbers and
thieves; let us travel well armed, for every bush conceals an enemy. Everywhere
there are traps laid for us, and foes thirsting for our blood. There are enemies
at our table as well as across the sea. We are never safe, save when the Lord is
Verse 9. The picture becomes blacker, for here is the cunning of the lion,
and of the huntsman, as well as the stealthiness of the robber. Surely there are
some men who come up to the very letter of this description. With watching,
perversion, slander, whispering, and false swearing, they ruin the character of
the righteous, and murder the innocent; or, with legal quibbles, mortgages,
bonds, writs, and the like, they catch the poor, and draw them into a net.
Chrysostom was peculiarly severe upon this last phase of cruelty, but assuredly
not more so than was richly merited. Take care, brethren, for there are other
traps besides these. Hungry lions are crouching in every den, and fowlers spread
their nets in every field. Quarles well pictures our danger in those memorable lines,--
"The close pursuers' busy hands do plant
Snares in thy substance; snares attend thy wants;
Snares in thy credit; snares in thy disgrace;
Snares in thy high estate; snares in thy base;
Snares tuck thy bed; and snares surround thy board;
Snares watch thy thoughts; and snares attack thy word;
Snares in thy quiet; snares in thy commotion;
Snares in thy diet; snares in thy devotion;
Snares lurk in thy resolves; snares in thy doubt;
Snares lie within thy heart; and snares without;
Snares are above thy head, and snares beneath;
Snares in thy sickness; snares are in thy death.
O Lord! keep thy servants, and defend us from all our enemies!
Verse 10. "He croucheth and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall
by his strong ones." Seeming humility is often armour-bearer to malice.
The lion crouches that he may leap with the greater force, and bring down his
strong limbs upon his prey. When a wolf was old, and had tasted human blood, the
old Saxon cried, "Ware, wolf!" and we may cry, "Ware fox!"
They who crouch to our feet are longing to make us fall. Be very careful of
fawners; for friendship and flattery are deadly enemies.
Verse 11. As upon the former count, so upon this one; a witness is
forthcoming, who has been listening at the keyhole of the heart. Speak up,
friend, and let us hear your story. "He hath said in his heart, God hath
forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it." This cruel man
comforts himself with the idea that God is blind, or, at least, forgetful: a
fond and foolish fancy, indeed. Men doubt Omniscience when they persecute the
saints. If we had a sense of God's presence with us, it would be impossible for
us to ill-treat his children. In fact, there can scarcely be a greater
preservation from sin than the constant thought of "Thou, God, seest
me." Thus has the trial proceeded. The case has been fully stated; and now it is but
little wonder that the oppressed petitioner lifts up the cry for judgment, which
we find in the following verse:--
Verse 12. With what bold language will faith address its God! and yet what
unbelief is mingled with our strongest confidence. Fearlessly the Lord is
stirred up to arise and lift up his hand, yet timidly he is begged not to forget
the humble; as if Jehovah could ever be forgetful of his saints. This verse is
the incessant cry of the Church, and she will never refrain therefrom until her
Lord shall come in his glory to avenge her of all her adversaries.
Verse 13. In these verses the description of the wicked is condensed, and the
evil of his character traced to its source, viz., atheistical ideas with regard
to the government of the world. We may at once perceive that this is intended to
be another urgent plea with the Lord to show his power, and reveal his justice.
When the wicked call God's righteousness in question, we may well beg him to
teach them terrible things in righteousness. In verse 13, the hope of the
infidel and his heart-wishes are laid bare. He despises the Lord, because he
will not believe that sin will meet with punishment: "he hath said in
his heart, Thou wilt not require it." If there were no hell for other
men, there ought to be one for those who question the justice of it.
Verse 14. This vile suggestion receives its answer in verse 14. "Thou
hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy
hand." God is all-eye to see, and all-hand to punish his enemies. From
Divine oversight there is no hiding, and from Divine justice there is no
fleeing. Wanton mischief shall meet with woeful misery, and those who harbour
spite shall inherit sorrow. Verily there is a God which judgeth in the earth.
Nor is this the only instance of the presence of God in the world; for while he
chastises the oppressor, he befriends the oppressed. "The poor
committeth himself unto thee." They give themselves up entirely into
the Lord's hands. Resigning their judgment to his enlightenment, and their wills
to his supremacy, they rest assured that he will order all things for the best.
Nor does he deceive their hope. He preserves them in times of need, and causes
them to rejoice in his goodness. "Thou art the helper of the
fatherless." God is the parent of all orphans. When the earthly father
sleeps beneath the sod, a heavenly Father smiles from above. By some means or
other, orphan children are fed, and well they may when they have such a Father.
Verse 15. In this verse we hear again the burden of the psalmist's prayer: "Break
thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man." Let the sinner lose his
power to sin; stop the tyrant, arrest the oppressor, weaken the loins of the
mighty, and dash in pieces the terrible. They deny thy justice: let them feel it
to the full. Indeed, they shall feel it; for God shall hunt the sinner for ever:
so long as there is a grain of sin in him it shall be sought out and punished.
It is not a little worthy of note, that very few great persecutors have ever
died in their beds: the curse has manifestly pursued them, and their fearful
sufferings have made them own that divine justice at which they could at
one time launch defiance. God permits tyrants to arise as thorn-hedges to
protect his church from the intrusion of hypocrites, and that he may teach his
backsliding children by them, as Gideon did the men of Succoth with the briers
of the wilderness; but he soon cuts up these Herods, like the thorns, and casts
them into the fire. Thales, the Milesian, one of the wise men of Greece, being
asked what he thought to be the greatest rarity in the world, replied, "To
see a tyrant live to be an old man." See how the Lord breaks, not only the
arm, but the neck of proud oppressors! To the men who had neither justice nor
mercy for the saints, there shall be rendered justice to the full, but not a
grain of mercy.
Verses 16, 17, 18. The Psalm ends with a song of thanksgiving to the great
and everlasting King, because he has granted the desire of his humble and
oppressed people, has defended the fatherless, and punished the heathen who
trampled upon his poor and afflicted children. Let us learn that we are sure to
speed well, if we carry our complaint to the King of kings. Rights will be
vindicated, and wrongs redressed, at his throne. His government neglects not the
interests of the needy, nor does it tolerate oppression in the mighty. Great
God, we leave ourselves in thine hand; to thee we commit thy church afresh.
Arise, O God, and let the man of the earth--the creature of a day--be broken
before the majesty of thy power. Come, Lord Jesus, and glorify thy people. Amen
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm There is not, in my judgment, a Psalm which describes the mind, the
manners, the works, the words, the feelings, and the fate of the ungodly with so
much propriety, fulness, and light, as this Psalm. So that, if in any respect
there has not been enough said heretofore, or if there shall be anything wanting
in the Psalms that shall follow, we may here find a perfect image and
representation of iniquity. This Psalm, therefore, is a type, form, and
description of that man, who, though he may be in the sight of himself and of
men more excellent than Peter himself, is detestable in the eyes of God; and
this it was that moved Augustine, and those who followed him, to understand the
Psalm of ANTICHRIST. But as the Psalm is without a title, let us embrace the
most general and common understanding of it (as I said), and let us look at the
picture of ungodliness which it sets before us. Not that we would deny the
propriety of the acceptation in which others receive it, nay, we will, in our
general acceptation of the Psalm, include also its reference to ANTICHRIST. And,
indeed, it will not be at all absurd if we join this Psalm with the preceding,
in its order thus. That David, in the preceding, spoke of the ungodly converted,
and prayed for those who were to be converted. But that here he is speaking of
the ungodly that are still left so, and in power prevailing over the weak ALMUTH,
concerning whom he has no hope, or is in a great uncertainty of mind, whether
they ever will be converted or not. Martin Luther.
Verse 1. "Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?"
The answer to this is not far to seek, for if the Lord did not hide himself it
would not be a time of trouble at all. As well ask why the sun does not shine at
night, when for certain there could be no night if he did. It is essential to
our thorough chastisement that the Father should withdraw his smile: there is a
needs be not only for manifold temptations, but that we be in heaviness through
them. The design of the rod is only answered by making us smart. If there be no
pain, there will be no profit. If there be no hiding of God, there will be no
bitterness, and consequently no purging efficacy in his chastisements. C. H.
Verse 1. (last clause). "Times of trouble"
should be times of confidence; fixedness of heart on God would prevent fears of
heart. Psalm 112:7. "He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is
fixed." How? "Trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he shall
not be afraid." Otherwise without it we shall be as light as a
weather-cock, moved with every blast of evil tidings, our hopes will swim or
sink according to the news we hear. Providence would seem to sleep unless faith
and prayer awaken it. The disciples had but little faith in their Master's
accounts, yet that little faith awakened him in a storm, and he relieved them.
Unbelief doth only discourage God from showing his power in taking our parts. Stephen
Verse 2. "The wicked in his pride doth persecute the
poor." THE OPPRESSOR'S PLEA. I seek but what is my own by law; it was
his own free act and deed--the execution lies for goods and body; and goods or
body I will have, or else my money. What if his beggardly children pine, or his
proud wife perish? they perish at their own charge, not mine; and what is that
to me? I must be paid, or he lie by it until I have my utmost farthing, or his
bones. The law is just and good; and, being ruled by that, how can my fair
proceedings be unjust? What is thirty in the hundred to a man of trade? Are we
born to thrum caps or pick straws? and sell our livelihood for a few tears, and
a whining face? I thank God they move me not so much as a howling dog at
midnight. I'll give no day if heaven itself would be security. I must have
present money, or his bones. . . . . Fifteen shillings in the pound composition!
I'll hang first. Come, tell me not of a good conscience: a good conscience is no
parcel in my trade; it hath made more bankrupts than all the loose wives in the
universal city. My conscience is no fool: it tells me my own is my own, and that
a well crammed bag is no deceitful friend, but will stick close to me when all
my friends forsake me. If to gain a good estate out of nothing, and to regain a
desperate debt which is as good as nothing, be the fruits and signs of a bad
conscience, God help the good. Come, tell me not of griping and oppression. The
world is hard, and he that hopes to thrive must gripe as hard. What I give I
give, and what I lend I lend. If the way to heaven be to turn beggar upon earth,
let them take it that like it. I know not what you call oppression, the law is
my direction; but of the two, it is more profitable to oppress than to be
oppressed. If debtors would be honest and discharge, our hands were bound: but
when their failing offends my bags, they touch the apple of my eye, and I must
right them. Francis Quarles.
Verse 2. That famous persecutor, Domitian, like others of the Roman
emperors, assumed divine honours, and heated the furnace seven times hotter
against Christians because they refused to worship his image. In like manner,
when the popes of Rome became decorated with the blasphemous titles of Masters
of the World, and, Universal Fathers, they let loose their
blood-hounds upon the faithful. Pride is the egg of persecution. C. H. S.
Verse 2. "Pride," is a vice which cleaveth so fast
unto the hearts of men, that if we were to strip ourselves of all faults one by
one, we should undoubtedly find it the very last and hardest to put off. Richard
Verse 3. "The wicked boasteth," etc. He braggeth of
his evil life, whereof he maketh open profession; or he boasteth that he will
accomplish his wicked designs; or glorieth that he hath already accomplished
them. Or it may be understood that he commendeth others who are according to the
desires of his own soul; that is, he respecteth or honoureth none but such as
are like him, and them only he esteemeth. Psalm 36:4, and 49:18; Romans 1:32. John
Verse 3. "The wicked . . . . . . blesseth the covetous."
Like will to like, as the common proverb is. Such as altogether neglect the
Lord's commandments not only commit divers gross sins, but commend those who in
sinning are like themselves. For in their affections they allow them, in their
speeches they flatter and extol them, and in their deeds they join with them and
maintain them. Peter Muffet, 1594.
Verse 3. "The covetous." Covetousness is the desire
of possessing that which we have not, and attaining unto great riches and
worldly possessions. And whether this be not the character of trade and
merchandise and traffic of every kind, the great source of those evils of
over-trading which are everywhere complained of, I refer to the judgment of the
men around me, who are engaged in the commerce and business of life. Compared
with the regular and quiet diligence of our fathers, and their contentment with
small but sure returns, the wild and wide-spread speculation for great gains,
the rash and hasty adventures which are daily made, and the desperate
gamester-like risks which are run, do reveal full surely that a spirit of
covetousness hath been poured out upon men within the last thirty or forty
years. And the providence of God corresponding thereto, by wonderful and
unexpected revolutions, by numerous inventions for manufacturing the productions
of the earth, in order to lead men into temptation, hath impressed upon the
whole face of human affairs, a stamp of earnest worldliness not known to our
fathers: insomuch that our youth do enter life no longer with the ambition of
providing things honest in the sight of men, keeping their credit, bringing up
their family, and realising a competency, if the Lord prosper them, but with the
ambition of making a fortune, retiring to their ease, and enjoying the luxuries
of the present life. Against which crying sin of covetousness, dearly beloved
brethren, I do most earnestly call upon you to wage a good warfare. This place
is its seat, its stronghold, even this metropolitan city of Christian Britain;
and ye who are called by the grace of God out of the great thoroughfare of
Mammon, are so elected for the express purpose of testifying against this and
all other backslidings of the church planted here; and especially against this,
as being in my opinion, one of the most evident and the most common of them all.
For who hath not been snared in the snare of covetousness? Edward Irving,
Verse 3. "The covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth."
Christ knew what he spake when he said, "No man can serve two
masters." Matthew 6:24. Meaning God and the world, because each would have
all. As the angel and the devil strove for the body of Moses (Jude 9), not who
should have a part, but who should have the whole, so they strive still for our
souls, who shall have all. Therefore, the apostle saith, "The love of this
world is enmity to God (James 4:4), signifying such emulation between these two,
that God cannot abide the world should have a part, and the world cannot abide
that God should have a part. Therefore, the love of the world must needs be
enmity to God, and therefore the lovers of the world must needs be enemies to
God, and so no covetous man is God's servant, but God's enemy. For this cause
covetousness is called idolatry (Ephesians 5:5), which is the most contrary sin
to God, because as treason sets up another king in the king's place, so idolatry
sets up another god in God's place. Henry Smith.
Verse 4. "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance,
will not seek after God." He is judged a proud man (without a jury
sitting on him), who when condemned will not submit, will not stoop so low as to
accept of a pardon. I must indeed correct myself, men are willing to be
justified, but they would have their duties to purchase their peace and the
favour of God. Thousands will die and be damned rather than they will have a
pardon upon the sole account of Christ's merits and obedience. Oh, the cursed
pride of the heart! When will men cease to be wiser than God? To limit God? When
will men be contented with God's way of saving them by the blood of the
everlasting covenant? How dare men thus to prescribe to the infinitely wise God?
Is it not enough for thee that thy destruction is of thyself? But must thy
salvation be of thyself too? Is it not enough that thou hast wounded thyself,
but wilt thou die for ever, rather than be beholden to a plaister of free grace?
Wilt be damned unless thou mayest be thine own Saviour? God is willing
("God so loved the world that he gave his only Son"), art thou so
proud as that thou wilt not be beholden to God? Thou wilt deserve, or have
nothing. What shall I say? Poor thou art, and yet proud; thou hast nothing but
wretchedness and misery, and yet thou art talking of a purchase. This is a
provocation. "God resisteth the proud," especially the spiritually
proud. He that is proud of his clothes and parentage, is not so contemptible in
God's eyes as he that is proud of his abilities, and so scorns to submit to
God's methods for his salvation by Christ, and by his righteousness alone. Lewis
Verse 4. "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance,
will not seek after God." The pride of the wicked is the principal
reason why they will not seek after the knowledge of God. This knowledge it
prevents them from seeking in various ways. In the first place, it renders God a
disagreeable object of contemplation to the wicked, and a knowledge of him as
undesirable. Pride consists in an unduly exalted opinion of one's self. It is,
therefore, impatient of a rival, hates a superior, and cannot endure a master.
In proportion as it prevails in the heart, it makes us wish to see nothing above
us, to acknowledge no law but our own wills, to follow no rule but our own
inclinations. Thus it led Satan to rebel against his Creator, and our first
parents to desire to be as gods. Since such are the effects of pride, it is
evident that nothing can be more painful to a proud heart than the thoughts of
such a being as God; one who is infinitely powerful, just, and holy; who can
neither be resisted, deceived, nor deluded; who disposes, according to his own
sovereign pleasure, of all creatures and events; and who, in an especial manner,
hates pride, and is determined to abase and punish it. Such a being pride can
contemplate only with feelings of dread, aversion, and abhorrence. It must look
upon him as its natural enemy, the great enemy, whom it has to fear. But the
knowledge of God directly tends to bring this infinite, irresistible,
irreconcilable enemy full to the view of the proud man. It teaches him that he
has a superior, a master, from whose authority he cannot escape, whose power he
cannot resist, and whose will he must obey, or be crushed before him, and be
rendered miserable for ever. It shows him what he hates to see, that, in despite
of his opposition, God's counsel shall stand, that he will do all his pleasure,
and that in all things wherein men deal proudly, God is above them. These truths
torture the proud unhumbled hearts of the wicked, and hence they hate that
knowledge of God which teaches these truths, and will not seek it. On the
contrary, they wish to remain ignorant of such a being, and to banish all
thoughts of him from their minds. With this view, they neglect, pervert, or
explain away those passages of revelation which describe God's true character,
and endeavour to believe that he is altogether such a one as themselves.
foolish, how absurd, how ruinous, how blindly destructive of its own object,
does pride appear! By attempting to soar, it only plunges itself in the mire,
and while endeavouring to erect for itself a throne, it undermines the ground on
which it stands and digs its own grave. It plunged Satan from heaven into hell;
it banished our first parents from paradise; and it will, in a similar manner,
ruin all who indulge in it. It keeps us in ignorance of God, shuts us out from
his favour, prevents us from resembling him, deprives us in this world of all
the honour and happiness which communion with him would confer; and in the next,
unless previously hated, repented of, and renounced, will bar for ever against
us the door of heaven, and close upon us the gates of hell. O then, my friends,
beware, above all things, beware of pride! Beware, lest you indulge it
imperceptibly, for it is perhaps, of all sins, the most secret, subtle, and
insinuating. Edward Payson, D.D., 1783-1827.
Verse 4. David speaks in Psalm 10 of great and potent oppressors and
politicians, who see none on earth greater than themselves, none higher than
they, and think therefore that they may impuns prey upon the smaller, as
beasts use to do; and in the fourth verse this is made the root and ground of
all, that God is not in all his thoughts. "The wicked, through the pride
of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his
thoughts." The words are diversely read, and all make for this sense.
Some read it, "No God in all his crafty presumptuous purposes;"
others, "All his thoughts are, there is no God." The meaning whereof
is not only that among the swarm and crowd of thoughts that fill his mind, the
thought of God is seldom to be found, and comes not in among the rest, which yet
is enough for the purpose in hand; but further, that in all his projects and
plots, and consultations of his heart (the first reading of the words intends),
whereby he contrives and lays the plot, form, and draught of all his actions, he
never takes God or his will into consideration or consultation, to square and
frame all accordingly, but proceeds and goes on in all, and carries on all as if
there were no God to be consulted with. He takes not him along with him, no more
than if he were no God; the thoughts of him and his will sway him not. As you
use to say, when a combination of men leave out someone they should advise with,
that such a one is not of their counsel, is not in the plot; so nor is God in
their purposes and advisings, they do all without him. But this is not all the
meaning, but farther, all their thought is, that there is no God. This is there
made the bottom, the foundation, the groundwork and reason of all their wicked
plots and injurious projects, and deceitful carriages and proceedings, that
seeing there is no God or power above them to take notice of it, to regard or
requite them, therefore they may be bold to go on. Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 4. "Of his countenance." Which pride he
carrieth engraven in his very countenance and forehead, and makes it known in
all his carriages and gestures. "Will not seek," namely, he
contemneth all divine and human laws, he feareth not, respecteth not God's
judgments; he careth for nothing, so he may fulfil his desires; enquires after,
nor examines nothing; all things are indifferent to him. John Diodati.
Verse 4. "All his thoughts are, there is no God;"
thus some read the passage. Seneca says, there are no atheists, though there
would be some; if any say there is no God, they lie; though they say it in the
day time, yet in the night when they are alone they deny it; howsoever some
desperately harden themselves, yet if God doth but show himself terrible to
them, they confess him. Many of the heathens and others have denied that there
is a God, yet when they were in distress, they did fall down and confess him, as
Diagoras, that grand atheist, when he was troubled with the strangullion,
acknowledged a deity which he had denied. These kind of atheists I leave to the
tender mercies of God, of which I doubt it whether there be any for them. Richard
Verse 4. "God is not in all his thoughts." It is the
black work of an ungodly man or an atheist, that God is not in all his thoughts.
What comfort can be had in the being of God without thinking of him with
reverence and delight? A God forgotten is as good as no God to us. Stephen
Verse 4. Trifles possess us, but "God is not in all our
thoughts," seldom the sole object of them. We have durable thoughts of
transitory things, and flitting thoughts of a durable and eternal good. The
covenant of grace engageth the whole heart to God, and bars anything else from
engrossing it; but what strangers are God and the souls of most men! Though we
have the knowledge of him by creation, yet he is for the most part an unknown
God in the relations wherein he stands to us, because a God undelighted in.
Hence it is, as one observes, that because we observe not the ways of God's
wisdom, conceive not of him in his vast perfections, nor are stricken with an
admiration of his goodness, that we have fewer good sacred poems than of any
other kind. The wits of men hang the wing when they come to exercise their
reasons and fancies about God. Parts and strength are given us, as well as corn
and wine to the Israelites, for the service of God, but those are consecrated to
some cursed Baal, Hosea 2:8. like Venus in the poet, we forsake heaven to follow
after some Adonis. Stephen Charnock.
Verses 4, 5. The world hath a spiritual fascination and witchcraft, by
which, where it hath once prevailed, men are enchanted to an utter forgetfulness
of themselves and God, and being drunk with pleasures, they are easily engaged
to a madness and height of folly. Some, like foolish children, are made to keep
a great stir in the world for very trifles, for a vain show; they think
themselves great, honourable, excellent, and for this make a great bustle, when
the world hath not added one cubic to their stature of real worth. Others are by
this Circe transformed into savage creatures, and act the part of lions and
tigers. Others, like swine, wallow in the lusts of uncleanness. Others are
unmanned, putting off all natural affections, care not who they ride over, so
they may rule over or be made great. Others are taken with ridiculous frenzies,
so that a man that stands in the cool shade of a sedate composure would judge
them out of their wits. It would make a man admire to read of the frisks of
Caius Caligula, Xerxes, Alexander, and many others, who because they were above
many men, thought themselves above human nature. They forgot they were born and
must die, and did such things as would have made them, but that their greatness
overawed it, a laughing-stock and common scorn to children. Neither must we
think that these were but some few or rare instances of worldly intoxication,
when the Scripture notes it as a general distemper of all that bow down to
worship this idol. They live "without God in the world," saith the
apostle, that is, they so carry it as if there were no God to take notice of
them to check them for their madness. "God is not in all his
thoughts." Verse 4. "The judgments of God are far above out of
his sight;" he puffs at his enemies (verse 5), and saith in his heart,
he "shall never be moved," Verse 6. The whole Psalm describes
the worldling as a man that hath lost all his understanding, and is acting the
part of a frantic bedlam. What then can be a more fit engine for the devil to
work with than the pleasures of the world? Richard Gilpin.
Verse 5. "Grievous," or troublesome; that is, all his
endeavours and actions aim at nothing but at hurting others. "Are far
above," for he is altogether carnal, he hath not any disposition nor
correspondence with the justice of thy law, which is altogether spiritual; and
therefore cannot lively represent unto himself thy judgments, and the issue of
the wicked according to the said law. Romans 7:14; 1 Corinthians 2:14. "He
puffeth;" he doth most arrogantly despise them, and is confident he can
overthrow them with a puff. John Diodati.
Verse 5. "Thy judgments are far above out of his sight."
Because God does not immediately visit every sin with punishment, ungodly men do
not see that in due time he judges all the earth. Human tribunals must of
necessity, by promptness and publicity, commend themselves to the common
judgment, but the Lord's modes of dealing with sin are sublimer and apparently
more tardy, hence the bat's eyes of godless men cannot see them, and the
grovelling wits of men cannot comprehend them. If God sat in the gate of every
village and held his court there, even fools might discern his righteousness,
but they are not capable of perceiving that for a matter to be settled in the
highest court, even in heaven itself, is a far more solemn matter. Let believers
take heed lest they fall in a degree into the same error, and begin to criticise
the actions of The Great Supreme, when they are too elevated for human reason to
comprehend them. C. H. S.
Verse 5. "The judgments of God are far above out of his
sight." Out of his sight, as an eagle at her highest towering so
lessens herself to view, that he sees not the talons, nor fears the grip. Thus
man presumes till he hath sinned, and then despairs as fast afterwards. At
first, "Tush, doth God see it?" At last, "Alas! will God forgive
it?" But if a man will not know his sins, his sins will know him; the eyes
which presumption shuts, commonly despair opens. Thomas Adams.
Verse 5. "As for all his enemies, he puffeth at them."
David describeth a proud man, puffing at his enemies: he is puffed
up and swelled with high conceits of himself, as if he had some great matter in
him, and he puffs at others as if he could do some great matter against them,
forgetting that himself is but, as to his being in this world, a puff of wind
which passeth away. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 5. "As for all his enemies, he puffeth at them;"
literally, "He whistles at them." He is given over to the
dominion of gloomy indifference, and he cares as little for others as for
himself. Whosoever may be imagined by him to be an enemy he cares not. Contempt
and ridicule are his only weapons; and he has forgotten how to use others of a
more sacred character. His mental habits are marked by scorn; and he treats with
contempt the judgments, opinions, and practices of the wisest of men. John
Verse 6. "He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for
I shall never be in adversity." Carnal security opens the door for all
impiety to enter into the soul. Pompey, when he had in vain assaulted a city,
and could not take it by force, devised this stratagem in way of agreement; he
told them he would leave the siege and make peace with them, upon condition that
they would let in a few weak, sick, and wounded soldiers among them to be cured.
They let in the soldiers, and when the city was secure, the soldiers let in
Pompey's army. A carnal settled security will let in a whole army of lusts into
the soul. Thomas Brooks.
Verse 6. "He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for
I shall never be in adversity." To consider religion always on the
comfortable side; to congratulate one's self for having obtained the end before
we have made use of the means; to stretch the hands to receive the crown of
righteousness before they have been employed to fight the battle; to be content
with a false peace, and to use no effort to obtain the graces to which true
consolation is annexed: this is a dreadful calm, like that which some voyagers
describe, and which is a very singular forerunner of a very terrible event. All
on a sudden, in the wide ocean, the sea becomes calm, the surface of the water
clear as a crystal, smooth as glass--the air serene; the unskilled passenger
becomes tranquil and happy, but the old mariner trembles. In an instant the
waves froth, the winds murmur, the heavens kindle, a thousand gulfs open, a
frightful light inflames the air, and every wave threatens sudden death. This is
an image of many men's assurance of salvation. James Saurin, 1677-1730.
Verse 7. "Under his tongue is mischief and vanity."
The striking allusion of this expression is to certain venomous reptiles, which
are said to carry bags of poison under their teeth, and, with great subtlety to
inflict the most deadly injuries upon those who come within their reach. How
affectingly does this represent the sad havoc which minds tainted with
infidelity inflict on the community! By their perversions of truth, and by their
immoral sentiments and practices, they are as injurious to the mind as the
deadliest poison can be to the body. John Morison.
Verse 7. Cursing men are cursed men. John Trapp.
Verses 7, 9. In Anne Askew's account of her examination by Bishop
Bonner, we have an instance of the cruel craft of persecutors: "On the
morrow after, my lord of London sent for me at one of the clock, his hour being
appointed at three. And as I came before him, he said he was very sorry of my
trouble, and desired to know my opinion in such matters as were laid against me.
He required me also boldly in any wise to utter the secrets of my heart; bidding
me not to fear in any point, for whatsoever I did say within his house, no man
should hurt me for it. I answered, 'For so much as your lordship hath appointed
three of the clock, and my friends shall not come till that hour, I desire you
to pardon me of giving answer till they come.'" Upon this Bale remarks:
"'In this preventing of the hour may the diligent perceive the greediness
of this Babylon bishop, or bloodthirsty wolf, concerning his prey. 'Swift are
their feet,' saith David, 'in the effusion of innocent blood, which have fraud
in their tongues, venom in their lips, and most cruel vengeance in their
mouths.' David much marvelleth in the spirit that, taking upon them the
spiritual governance of the people, they can fall into such frenzy or
forgetfulness of themselves, as to believe it lawful thus to oppress the
faithful, and to devour them with as little compassion as he that greedily
devoureth a piece of bread. If such have read anything of God, they have little
minded their true duty therein. 'More swift,' saith Jeremy, 'are our cruel
persecutors than the eagles of the air. They follow upon us over the mountains,
and lay privy wait for us in the wilderness.' He that will know the crafty
hawking of bishops to bring in their prey, let them learn it here. Judas, I
think, had never the tenth part of their cunning workmanship.'" John
Bale, D.D., Bishop of Ossory, 1495-1563, in "Examination of Anne
Askew." Parker Society's Publications.
Verse 8. "He sitteth in the lurking places of the
villages," etc. The Arab robber lurks like a wolf among these sand
heaps, and often springs out suddenly upon the solitary traveller, robs him in a
trice, and then plunges again into the wilderness of sand-hills and reedy downs,
where pursuit is fruitless. Our friends are careful not to allow us to straggle
about, or lag behind, and yet it seems absurd to fear a surprise here--Kaifa
before, Acre in the rear, and travellers in sight on both sides. Robberies,
however, do often occur, just where we now are. Strange country! and it has
always been so. There are a hundred allusions to just such things in the
history, the Psalms, and the prophets of Israel. A whole class of imagery is
based upon them. Thus, in Psalm 10:8-10, "He sits in the lurking places of
the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: he lieth in wait
secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch
the poor, when he draweth him into his net; he croucheth and humbleth himself,
that the poor may fall by his strong ones." And a thousand rascals, the
living originals of this picture, are this day crouching and lying in wait all
over the country to catch poor helpless travellers. You observe that all these
people we meet or pass are armed; nor would they venture to go from Acre to
Kaifa without their musket, although the cannon of the castles seem to command
every foot of the way. Strange, most strange land! but it tallies wonderfully
with its ancient story. W. M. Thompson, D.D., in "The Land and the
Verse 8. My companions asked me if I knew the danger I had escaped.
"No," I replied; "What danger?" They then told me that, just
after they started, they saw a wild Arab skulking after me, crouching to the
ground, with a musket in his hand; and that, as soon as he had reached within
what appeared to them musket-shot of me, he raised his gun; but, looking wildly
around him, as a man will do who is about to perpetrate some desperate act, he
caught sight of them and disappeared. Jeremiah knew something of the ways of
these Arabs when he wrote (chapter 3:2) "In the ways hast thou sat for
them, as the Arabian in the wilderness;" and the simile is used in Psalm
10:9, 10, for the Arabs wait and watch for their prey with the greatest
eagerness and perseverance. John Gadsby, in "My Wanderings,"
Verse 8. "He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in
the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against
the poor." All this strength of metaphor and imagery is intended to
mark the assiduity, the cunning, the low artifice, to which the enemies of truth
and righteousness will often resort in order to accomplish their corrupt and
vicious designs. The extirpation of true religion is their great object; and
there is nothing to which they will not stoop in order to effect that object.
The great powers which have oppressed the church of Christ, in different ages,
have answered to this description. Both heathen and papistical authorities have
thus condescended in infamy. They have sat, as it were, in ambush for the poor
of Christ's flock; they have adopted every stratagem that infernal skill could
invent; they have associated themselves with princes in their palaces, and with
beggars on their dunghill; they have resorted to the village, and they have
mingled in the gay and populous city; and all for the vain purpose of attempting
to blot out a "name which shall endure for ever, and which shall be
continued as long as the sun." John Morison.
Verse 9. "He doth catch the poor." The poor man is the
beast they hunt, who must rise early, rest late, eat the bread of sorrow, sit
with many a hungry meal, perhaps his children crying for food, while all the
fruit of his pains is served into Nimrod's table. Complain of this while you
will, yet, as the orator said of Verres, pecuniosus nescit damnari.
Indeed, a money-man may not be damnified, but he may be damned. For this is a
crying sin, and the wakened ears of the Lord will hear it, neither shall his
provoked hands forbear it. Si tacuerint pauperes loquentur lapides. If
the poor should hold their peace, the very stones would speak. The fines,
rackings, enclosures, oppressions, vexations, will cry to God for vengeance.
"The stone will cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall
answer it." Habakkuk 2:11. You see the beasts they hunt. Not foxes, not
wolves, nor boars, bulls, nor tigers. It is a certain observation, no beast
hunts its own kind to devour it. Now, if these should prosecute wolves, foxes,
&c., they should then hunt their own kind; for they are these themselves, or
rather worse than these, because here homo homini lupus. But though they
are men they hunt, and by nature of the same kind, they are not so by quality,
for they are lambs they persecute. In them there is blood, and flesh, and fleece
to be had; and therefore on these do they gorge themselves. In them there is
weak armour of defence against their cruelties; therefore over these they may
domineer. I will speak it boldly: there is not a mighty Nimrod in this land that
dares hunt his equal; but over his inferior lamb he insults like a young Nero.
Let him be graced by high ones, and he must not be saluted under twelve score
off. In the country he proves a termagant; his very scowl is a prodigy, and
breeds an earthquake. He would be a Caesar, and tax all. It is well if he prove
not a cannibal! Only Macro salutes Sejanus so long as he is in Tiberius's favour;
cast him from that pinnacle, and the dog is ready to devour him. Thomas
Verse 9. "He draweth him into his net." "They
hunt with a net." Micah 7:2. They have their politic gins to catch men;
gaudy wares and dark shops (and would you have them love the light that live by
darkness, as many shopkeepers?) draw and tole customers in, where the crafty
leeches can soon feel their pulses: if they must buy they shall pay for their
necessity. And though they plead, We compel none to buy our ware, caveat
emptor; yet with fine voluble phrases, damnable protestations, they will
cast a mist of error before an eye of simple truth, and with cunning devices
hunt them in. So some among us have feathered their nests, not by open violence,
but politic circumvention. They have sought the golden fleece, not by Jason's
merit, but by Medea's subtlety, by Medea's sorcery. If I should intend to
discover these hunter's plots, and to deal punctually with them, I should afford
you more matter than you would afford me time. But I limit myself and answer all
their plans with Augustine. Their tricks may hold in jure fori, but not in
jure poli--in the common-pleas of earth, not before the king's bench in
heaven. Thomas Adams.
Verse 9. Oppression turns princes into roaring lions, and judges into
ravening wolves. It is an unnatural sin, against the light of nature. No
creatures do oppress them of their own kind. Look upon the birds of prey, as
upon eagles, vultures, hawks, and you shall never find them preying upon their
own kind. Look upon the beasts of the forest, as upon the lion, the tiger, the
wolf, the bear, and you shall ever find them favourable to their own kind; and
yet men unnaturally prey upon one another, like the fish in the sea, the great
swallowing up the small. Thomas Brooks.
Verse 10. "He croucheth, and humbleth himself," etc.
There is nothing too mean or servile for them, in the attempt to achieve their
sinister ends. You shall see his holiness the Pope washing the pilgrims' feet,
if such a stratagem be necessary to act in the minds of the deluded multitude;
or you shall see him sitting on a throne of purple, if he wishes to awe and
control the kings of the earth. John Morison.
Verse 10. If you take a wolf in a lambskin, hang him up; for he is the
worst of the generation. Thomas Adams.
Verse 11. "He hath said in his heart, God hath
forgotten." Is it not a senseless thing to be careless of sins
committed long ago? The old sins forgotten by men, stick fast in an infinite
understanding. Time cannot raze out that which hath been known from eternity.
Why should they be forgotten many years after they were acted, since they were
foreknown in an eternity before they were committed, or the criminal capable to
practice them? Amalek must pay their arrears of their ancient unkindness to
Israel in the time of Saul, though the generation that committed them were
rotten in their graves. 1 Samuel 15:2. Old sins are written in a book, which
lies always before God; and not only our own sins, but the sins of our fathers,
to be requited upon their posterity. "Behold it is written." Isaiah
65:6. What a vanity is it then to be regardless of the sins of an age that went
before us; because they are in some measure out of our knowledge, are they
therefore blotted out of God's remembrance? Sins are bound up with him, as men
do bonds, till they resolve to sue for the debt. "The iniquity of Ephraim
is bound up." Hosea 13:12. As his foreknowledge extends to all acts that
shall be done, so his remembrance extends to all acts that have been done. We
may as well say, God foreknows nothing that shall be done to the end of the
world, as that he forgets anything that hath been done from the beginning of the
world. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 11. "He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he
hideth his face; he will never see it." Many say in their hearts,
"God seeth them not," while with their tongues they confess he is an
all-seeing God. The heart hath a tongue in it as well as the head, and these two
tongues seldom speak the same language. While the head tongue saith, "We
cannot hide ourselves from the sight of God," the heart-tongue of wicked
men will say, "God will hide himself from us, he will not see." But if
their heart speak not thus, then as the prophet saith (Isaiah 29:15), "They
dig deep to hide their counsel from the Lord;" surely they have a hope to
hide their counsels, else they would not dig deep to hide them. Their digging is
not proper, but tropical; as men dig deep to hide what they would not have in
the earth, so they by their wits, plots, and devices, do their best to hide
their counsels from God, and they say, "Who seeth, who knoweth? We, surely,
are not seen either by God or man." Joseph Caryl.
Verse 11. The Scripture everywhere places sin upon this root. "God
hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it." He hath
turned his back upon the world. This was the ground of the oppression of the
poor by the wicked, which he mentions, verses 9, 10. There is no sin but
receives both its birth and nourishment from this bitter root. Let the notion of
providence be once thrown out, or the belief of it faint, how will ambition,
covetousness, neglect of God, distrust, impatience, and all other bitter gourds,
grow up in a night! It is from this topic all iniquity will draw arguments to
encourage itself; for nothing so much discountenances those rising corruptions,
and puts them out of heart, as an actuated belief that God takes care of human
affairs. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 11. "He hath said in his heart," etc.
"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore
the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Ecclesiastes
8:11. God forbears punishing, therefore men forbear repenting. He doth not smite
upon their back by correction, therefore they do not smite upon their thigh by
humiliation. Jeremiah 31:19. The sinner thinks thus,: "God hath spared me
all this while, he hath eked out patience into longsuffering; surely he will not
punish." "He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten."
God sometimes in infinite patience adjourns his judgments and puts off the
sessions a while longer, he is not willing to punish. 2 Peter 3:9. The bee
naturally gives honey, but stings only when it is angered. The Lord would have
men make their peace with him. Isaiah 27:5. God is not like a hasty creditor
that requires the debt, and will give no time for the payment; he is not only
gracious, but "waits to be gracious" (Isaiah 30:18); but God by his
patience would bribe sinners to repentance; but alas! how is this patience
abused. God's longsuffering hardens: because God stops the vials of his wrath,
sinners stop the conduit of tears. Thomas Watson.
Verse 11. "He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he
hideth his face; he will never see it." Because the Lord continues to
spare them, therefore they go on to provoke him. As he adds to their lives, so
they add to their lusts. What is this, but as if a man should break all his
bones because there is a surgeon who is able to set them again?. . . . . .
Because justice seems to wink, men suppose her blind; because she
delays punishment, they imagine she denies to punish them; because she does not
always reprove them for their sins, they suppose she always approves of their
sins, But let such know, that the silent arrow can destroy as well as the
roaring cannon. Though the patience of God be lasting, yet it is not everlasting.
Verses 11, 12, 13. The atheist denies God's ordering of sublunary
matters. "Tush, doth the Lord see, or is there knowledge in the Most
High?" making him a maimed Deity, without an eye of providence, or an arm
of power, and at most restraining him only to matters above the clouds. But he
that dares to confine the King of heaven, will soon after endeavour to depose
him, and fall at last flatly to deny him. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 13. "He hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require
it." As when the desperate pirate, ransacking and rifling a bottom was
told by the master, that though no law could touch him for the present, he
should answer it at the day of judgment, replied, "If I may stay so long
ere I come to it, I will take thee and thy vessel too." A conceit wherewith
too many land-thieves and oppressors flatter themselves in their hearts, though
they dare not utter it with their lips. Thomas Adams.
Verses 13, 14. What, do you think that God doth not remember our sins
which we do not regard? for while we sin the score runs on, and the Judge
setteth down all in the table of remembrance, and his scroll reacheth up to
heaven. Item, for lending to usury; item, for racking of rents; item, for
starching thy ruffs; item, for curling thy hair; item, for painting thy face;
item, for selling of benefices; item, for starving of souls; item, for playing
at cards; item, for sleeping in the church; item, for profaning the Sabbath-day,
with a number more hath God to call to account, for everyone must answer for
himself. The fornicator, for taking of filthy pleasure; the careless prelate,
for murthering so many thousand souls; the landlord, for getting money from his
poor tenants by racking of his rents; see the rest, all they shall come like
very sheep when the trumpet shall sound and the heaven and the earth shall come
to judgment against them; when the heavens shall vanish like a scroll, and the
earth shall consume like fire, and all the creatures standing against them; the
rocks shall cleave asunder, and the mountains shake, and the foundation of the
earth shall tremble, and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, fall upon
us, and hide us from the presence of his anger and wrath whom we have not cared
to offend. But they shall not be covered and hid; but then shall they go the
back way, to the snakes and serpents, to be tormented of devils for ever. Henry
Verse 14. "Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and
spite, to requite it with thy hands," etc. This should be a terror to
the wicked, to think that whatsoever they do, they do it in the sight of
him that shall judge them, and call them to a strict account for every
thought conceived against his majesty; and therefore, it should make them afraid
to sin; because that when they burn with lust, and toil with hatred, when they
scorn the just and wrong the innocent, they do all this, not only in
conspectu Dei, within the compass of God's sight, but also in sinu
divinitatis, in the bosom of that Deity, who, though he suffered them for a
time to run on, like "a wild ass used to in the wilderness," yet he
will find them out at the last, and then cut them off and destroy them. And as
this is terror unto the wicked, so it may be a comfort unto the godly to think
that he who should hear their prayers and send them help, is so near unto them;
and it should move them to rely still upon him, because we are sure of his
presence wherever we are. G. Williams, 1636.
Verse 14. "The poor committeth himself unto thee."
The awkwardness of our hearts to suffer comes much from distrust. An unbelieving
soul treads upon the promise as a man upon ice; at first going upon it he is
full of fears and tumultuous thoughts lest it should crack. Now, daily
resignation of thy heart, as it will give thee an occasion of conversing more
with the thoughts of God's power, faithfulness, and other of his attributes (for
want of familiarity with which, jealousies arise in our hearts when put to any
great plunge), so also it will furnish thee with many experiences of the reality
both of his attributes and promises; which, though they need not any testimony
from sense, to gain them credit with us, yet so much are we made of sense, so
childish and weak is our faith, that we find our hearts much helped by those
experiences we have had, to rely on him for the future. Look, therefore,
carefully to this; every morning leave thyself and ways in God's hand, as the
phrase is. Psalm 10:14. And at night look again how well God hath looked to his
trust, and sleep not till thou hast affected thy heart with his faithfulness,
and laid a stronger charge on thy heart to trust itself again in God's keeping
in the night. And when any breach is made, and seeming loss befalls thee in any
enjoyment, which thou hast by faith insured of thy God, observe how God fills up
that breach, and makes up that loss to thee; and rest not till thou hast fully
vindicated the good name of God to thy own heart. Be sure thou lettest no
discontent or dissatisfaction lie upon thy spirit at God's dealings; but chide
thy heart for it, as David did his. Psalm 42. And thus doing, with God's
blessing, thou shalt keep thy faith in breath for a longer race, when called to
run it. William Gurnall.
Verse 14. "Thou art the helper of the fatherless."
God doth exercise a more special province over men, as clothed with miserable
circumstances; and therefore among his other titles this is one, to be a "helper
of the fatherless." It is the argument the church used to express her
return to God; Hosea 14:3, "For in thee the fatherless find mercy."
Now what greater comfort is there than this, that there is one presides in the
world who is so wise he cannot be mistaken, so faithful he cannot deceive, so
pitiful he cannot neglect his people, and so powerful that he can make stones
even to be turned into bread if he please! . . . . . . God doth not govern the
world only by his will as an absolute monarch, but by his wisdom and goodness as
a tender father. It is not his greatest pleasure to show his sovereign power, or
his inconceivable wisdom, but his immense goodness, to which he makes the other
attributes subservient. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 14. "Thou hast seen it," etc. If God did not
see our ways, we might sin and go unpunished; but foreasmuch as he seeth them
with purer eyes than to behold iniquity and approve it, he is engaged both in
justice and honour to punish all that iniquity of our ways which he seeth or
beholdeth. David makes this the very design of God's superintendency over the
ways of men: "Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite,
to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the
helper of the fatherless." Thus the psalmist represents the Lord as
having taken a view or survey of the ways of men. "Thou hast seen."
What hath God seen? Even all that wickedness and oppression of the poor spoken
of in the former part of the Psalm, as also the blasphemy of the wicked against
himself (verse 13), "Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said
in his heart, Thou wilt not require it." What saith the psalmist
concerning God, to this vain, confident man? "Thou," saith he, "beholdest
mischief and spite;" but to what purpose? the next words tell us
that-- "to requite it with thy hand." As thou hast seen what
mischief they have done spitefully, so in due time thou wilt requite it
righteously. The Lord is not a bare spectator, he is both a rewarder and an
avenger. Therefore, from the ground of this truth, that the Lord seeth all our
ways, and counteth all our steps, we, as the prophet exhorts (Isaiah 3:10, 11),
may "say to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall
eat the fruit of their doings." We may also say, "Woe unto the wicked!
it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him."
Only idols which have eyes and see not, have hands and strike not. Joseph
Verse 14. "Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and
spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou
art the helper of the fatherless." Let the poor know that their God
doth take care of them, to visit their sins with rods who spoil them, seeing
they have forgotten that we are members one of another, and have invaded the
goods of their brethren; God will arm them against themselves, and beat them
with their own staves; either their own compassing and over-reaching wits shall
consume their store, or their unthrifty posterity shall put wings upon their
riches to make them fly; or God shall not give them the blessing to take use of
their wealth, but they shall leave to such as shall be merciful to the poor.
Therefore let them follow the wise man's counsel (Ecclesiastes 10:20),
"Curse not the rich, no, not in thy bedchamber;" let no railing and
unchristian bitterness wrong a good cause; let it be comfort enough to them that
God is both their supporter and avenger. Is it not sufficient to lay all the
storms of discontent against their oppressors, that God sees their affliction,
and cometh down to deliver and avenge them? Edward Marbury.
Verse 14. "Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and
spite, to requite it with thy hand," etc. God considers all your works
and ways, and will not you consider the works, the ways of God? Of this be sure,
whether you consider the ways of God, his word-ways, or work-ways, of this be
sure, God will consider your ways, certainly he will; those ways of yours which
in themselves are not worth the considering or looking upon, your sinful ways,
though they are so vile, so abominable, that if yourselves did but look upon
them and consider them, you would be utterly ashamed of them; yea, though they
are an abomination to God while he beholds them, yet he will behold and consider
them. The Lord who is of purer eyes than to behold any the least iniquity, to
approve it, will yet behold the greatest of your iniquities, and your impurest
ways to consider them. "Thou," saith David, "beholdest
mischief and spite, to requite it:" God beholdeth the foulest, dirtiest
ways of men, their ways of oppression and unrighteousness, their ways of
intemperance and lasciviousness, their ways of wrath and maliciousness, at once
to detest, detect, and requite them. If God thus considereth the ways of men,
even those filthy and crooked ways of men, should not men consider the holy,
just, and righteous ways of God? Joseph Caryl.
Verses 14-18. "God delights to help the poor." He
loves to take part with the best, though the weakest side. Contrary to the
course of most, who when a controversy arises use to stand in a kind of
indifferency or neutrality, till they see which part is strongest, not which is
justest. Now if there be any consideration (besides the cause) that draws or
engages God, it is the weakness of the side. He joins with many, because they
are weak, not with any, because they are strong; therefore he is called the
helper of the friendless, and with him the fatherless, (the orphans) find
mercy. By fatherless we are not to understand such only whose parents are
dead, but any one that is in distress; as Christ promised his disciples; "I
will not leave you orphans," that is, helpless, and (as we translate) comfortless;
though ye are as children without a father, yet I will be a father to you. Men
are often like those clouds which dissolve into the sea; they send presents to
the rich, and assist the strong; but God sends his rain upon the dry land, and
lends his strength to those who are weak. . . . The prophet makes this report to
God of himself (Isaiah 30:4): "Thou hast been a strength to the poor,
a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm," etc. Joseph
Verse 16. "The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are
perished out of his land." Such confidence and faith must appear to the
world strange and unaccountable. It is like what his fellow citizens may be
supposed to have felt (if the story be true) toward that man of whom it is
recorded, that his powers of vision were so extraordinary, that he could
distinctly see the fleet of the Carthaginians entering the harbour of Carthage,
while he stood himself at Lilyboeum, in Sicily. A man seeing across an ocean,
and able to tell of objects so far off! he could feast his vision on what others
saw not. Even thus does faith now stand at its Lilyboeum, and see the long
tossed fleet entering safely the desired haven, enjoying the bliss of that still
distant day, as if it were already come. Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 17. There is a humbling act of faith put forth in prayer. Others
style it praying in humility; give me leave to style it praying in faith. In
faith which sets the soul in the presence of that mighty God, and by the sight
of him, which faith gives us, it is that we see our own vileness, sinfulness,
and abhor ourselves, and profess ourselves unworthy of any, much less of those
mercies we are to seek for. Thus the sight of God had wrought in the prophet
(Isaiah 6:5), "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man
of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." And
holy Job speaks thus (Job 42:5, 6), "Now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I
abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." This is as great a requisite
to prayer as any other act; I may say of it alone, as the apostle (James 1:7),
that without it we shall receive nothing at the hands of God! God loves to fill
empty vessels, he looks to broken hearts. In the Psalms how often do we read
that God hears the prayers of the humble; which always involves and includes
faith in it. Psalm 9:12, "He forgetteth not the cry of the humble,"
and Psalm 10:17, "Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou
wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear." To be
deeply humbled is to have the heart prepared and fitted for God to hear the
prayer; and therefore you find the psalmist pleading sub forma pauperis,
often repeating, "I am poor and needy." And this prevents our thinking
much if God do not grant the particular thing we do desire. Thus also Christ
himself in his great distress (Psalm 22), doth treat God (verse 2), "O my
God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season am not
silent. Our fathers trusted in thee. They cried unto thee, and were delivered.
But I am a worm, and no man; reproached of men, and despised of the people;
(verse 6)" and he was "heard" in the end "in what he
feared." And these deep humblings of ourselves, being joined with vehement
implorations upon the mercy of God to obtain, is reckoned into the account of
praying by faith, both by God and Christ. Matthew 8. Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 17. "Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the
humble." A spiritual prayer is a humble prayer. Prayer is the
asking of an alms, which requires humility. "The publican, standing afar
off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his
breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." Luke 18:13. God's
incomprehensible glory may even amaze us and strike a holy consternation into us
when we approach nigh unto him: "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift
up my face to thee." Ezra 9:6. It is comely to see a poor nothing lie
prostrate at the feet of its Maker. "Behold now, I have taken upon me to
speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes." Genesis 18:27. The lower
the heart descends, the higher the prayer ascends. Thomas Watson.
Verse 17. "Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the
humble," etc. How pleasant is it, that these benefits, which are of so
great a value both on their own account, and that of the divine benignity from
whence they come, should be delivered into our hands, marked, as it were, with
this grateful inscription, that they have been obtained by prayer! Robert
Verse 17. "The desire of the humble." Prayer is the
offering up of our desires to God in the name of Christ, for such things as are
agreeable to his will. It is an offering of our desires. Desires are the
soul and life of prayer; words are but the body; now as the body without the
soul is dead, so are prayers unless they are animated with our desires: "Lord,
thou hast heard the desire of the humble." God heareth not words, but desires.
Verse 17. God's choice acquaintances are humble men. Robert
Verse 17. He that sits nearest the dust, sits nearest heaven. Andrew
Gray, of Glasgow, 1616.
Verse 17. There is a kind of omnipotency in prayer, as having an
interest and prevalency with God's omnipotency. It hath loosed iron chains (Acts
16:25, 26); it hath opened iron gates (Acts 12:5-10); it hath unlocked the
windows of heaven (1 Kings 18:41); it hath broken the bars of death (John 11:40,
43). Satan hath three titles given in the Scriptures, setting forth his
malignity against the church of God: a dragon, to note his malice; a serpent, to
note his subtlety; and a lion, to note his strength. But none of all these can
stand before prayer. The greatest malice of Haman sinks under the prayer of
Esther; the deepest policy, the counsel of Ahithophel, withers before the prayer
of David; the largest army, a host of a thousand Ethiopians, run away like
cowards before the prayer of Asa. Edward Reynolds, 1599-1676.
Verse 18. "To judge the fatherless and the oppressed,"
etc. The tears of the poor fall down upon their cheeks, et ascendunt ad
coelum, and go up to heaven and cry for vengeance before God, the judge of
widows, the father of widows and orphans. Poor people be oppressed even by laws.
Woe worth to them that make evil laws against the poor, what shall be to them
that hinder and mar good laws? What will ye do in the day of great vengeance
when God shall visit you? he saith he will hear the tears of the poor women,
when he goeth on visitation. For their sake he will hurt the judge, be he never
so high, he will for widows' sakes change realms, bring them into temptation,
pluck the judges' skins over their heads. Cambyses was a great emperor, such
another as our master is, he had many lord deputies, lord presidents, and
lieutenants under him. It is a great while ago since I read the history. It
chanced he had under him in one of his dominions a briber, a gift-taker, a
gratifier of rich men; he followed gifts as fast as he that followed the
pudding; a handmaker in his office, to make his son a great man, as the old
saying is, "Happy is the child whose father goeth to the devil." The
cry of the poor widow came to the emperor's ear, and caused him to slay the
judge quick, and laid his skin in his chair of judgment, that all judges that
should give judgment afterward, should sit in the same skin. Surely it was a
goodly sign, a goodly monument, the sign of the judges skin. I pray God we may
once see the sign of the skin in England. Ye will say, peradventure, that this
is cruelly and uncharitably spoken. No, no; I do it charitably, for a love I
bear to my country. God saith, "I will visit." God hath two
visitations; the first is when he revealeth his word by preachers; and where the
first is accepted, the second cometh not. The second visitation is vengeance. He
went to visitation when he brought the judges skin over his ears. If this word
be despised, he cometh with the second visitation with vengeance. Hugh
Latimer, 1480 - 1555.
Verse 18. "Man of the earth," etc. In the eighth
Psalm (which is a circular Psalm, ending as it did begin, "O Lord our God,
how excellent is thy name in all the world!" That whithersoever we turn our
eyes, upwards or downwards, we may see ourselves beset with his glory round
about), how doth the prophet base and discountenance the nature and whole race
of man; as may appear by his disdainful and derogatory interrogation, "What
is man that thou art mindful of him; and the Son of Man, that thou regardest
him?" In the ninth Psalm, "Rise, Lord; let not man have the upper
hand; let the nations be judged in thy sight. Put them in fear, O Lord, that the
heathen may know themselves to be but men." Further, in the tenth Psalm,
"Thou judgest the fatherless and the poor, that the man of the earth do no
more violence." The Psalms, as they go in order, so, methinks they grow in strength, and each hath a weightier force to throw down our presumption. 1. We are "men," and
the "sons of men," to show our descent and propagation. 2. "Men
in our own knowledge," to show that conscience and experience of infirmity
doth convict us. 3. "Men of the earth," to show our original matter
whereof we are framed. In the twenty-second Psalm, he addeth more disgrace; for
either in his own name, regarding the misery and contempt wherein he was held,
or in the person of Christ, whose figure he was, as if it were robbery for him
to take upon him the nature of man, he falleth to a lower style, at ego sum
vermis et non vir; but I am a worm, and no man. For as corruption is the
father of all flesh, so are the worms his brethren and sisters according to the
"First man, next worms, then stench and loathsomeness,
Thus man to no man alters by changes."
Abraham, the father of the faithful (Genesis 18), sifteth himself into the
coarsest man that can be, and resolveth his nature into the elements whereof it
first rose: "Behold I have begun to speak to my Lord, being dust and
ashes." And if any of the children of Abraham, who succeed him in the
faith, or any of the children of Adam, who succeed him in the flesh, thinketh
otherwise, let him know that there is a threefold cord twisted by the finger of
God, that shall tie him to his first original, though he contend till his heart
break. "O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord" (Jeremiah
22); that is, earth by creation, earth by continuance, earth by resolution. Thou
camest earth, thou remainest earth, and to earth thou must return. John King.
Verse 18. "The man of the earth." Man dwelling in the
earth, and made of earth. Thomas Wilcocks.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
The answer to these questions furnishes a noble topic for an experimental
sermon. Let me suggest that the question is not to be answered in the same
manner in all cases. Past sin, trials of graces, strengthening of faith,
discovery of depravity, instruction, etc., etc., are varied reasons for the
hiding of our Father's face.
Verse 2. Religious persecution in all its phases based on pride.
Verse 3. God's hatred of covetousness: show its justice.
Verse 4. Pride the barrier in the way of conversion.
Verse 4 (last clause). Thoughts in which God is not, weighed
Verse 5. "Thy judgments are far above out of his sight."
Moral inability of men to appreciate the character and acts of God.
Verse 6. The vain confidence of sinners.
Verse 8. Dangers of godly men, or the snares in the way of believers.
Verse 9. The ferocity, craftiness, strength, and activity of Satan.
Verse 9 (last clause). The Satanic fisherman, his art,
diligence, success, etc.
Verse 10. Designing humility unmasked.
Verse 11. Divine omniscience and the astounding presumption of
Verse 12. "Arise, O Lord." A prayer needful,
allowable, seasonable, etc.
Verse 13 (first clause). An astounding fact, and a reasonable
Verse 13. Future retribution: doubts concerning it.
whom indulged: "the wicked."
2. Where fostered: "in his heart."
3. For what purpose: quieting of conscience, etc.
4. With what practical tendency: "contemn God." He who disbelieves
hell, distrusts heaven.
Verses 13, 14. Divine government in the world.
doubt it? and why?
2. Who believe it? and what does this faith cause them to do?
Verse 14 (last clause). A plea for orphans.
Verse 16. The Eternal Kingship of Jehovah.
Verse 17 (first clause).
Christian's character-- "humble."
attribute of the Christian's whole life--"desire:" he desires
more holiness, communion, knowledge, grace, and usefulness; and then he desires
3. The Christian's great blessedness--"Lord, thou hast heard the desire of
Verse 17 (whole verse).
1. Consider the nature of gracious desires.
2. Their origin.
3. Their result.
The three sentences readily suggest these divisions, and the subject may be very profitable.