Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher - Works Upon This Psalm
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. Therefore not written for
private meditation only, but for the public service of song. Suitable for the
loneliness of individual penitence, this matchless Psalm is equally well adapted
for an assembly of the poor in spirit. A Psalm of David. It is a marvel, but
nevertheless a fact, that writers have been found to deny David's authorship of
this Psalm, but their objections are frivolous, the Psalm is David like all
over. It would be far easier to imitate Milton, Shakespeare, or Tennyson, than
David. His style is altogether sui generis, and it is as easily distinguished as
the touch of Rafaelle or the colouring of Rubens. "When Nathan the prophet came
unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba." When the divine message had
aroused his dormant conscience and made him see the greatness of his guilt, he
wrote this Psalm. He had forgotten his psalmody while he was indulging his
flesh, but he returned to his harp when his spiritual nature was awakened, and
he poured out his song to the accompaniment of sighs and tears. The great sin of
David is not to be excused, but it is well to remember that his case has an
exceptional collection of specialities in it. He was a man of very strong
passions, a soldier, and an Oriental monarch having despotic power; no other
king of his time would have felt any compunction for having acted as he did, and
hence there were not around him those restraints of custom and association
which, when broken through, render the offence the more monstrous. He never
hints at any form of extenuation, nor do we mention these facts in order to
apologize for his sin, which was detestable to the last degree; but for the
warning of others, that they reflect that the licentiousness in themselves at
this day might have even a graver guilt in it than in the erring King of Israel.
When we remember his sin, let us dwell most upon his penitence, and upon the
long series of chastisements which rendered the after part of his life such a
DIVISION. It will be simplest to note in the first twelve
verses the penitent's confessions and plea for pardon, and then in the last
seven his anticipatory gratitude, and the way in which he resolves to display
Verse 1. Have mercy upon me, O God. He appeals at once to
the mercy of God, even before he mentions his sin. The sight of mercy is good
for eyes that are sore with penitential weeping. Pardon of sin must ever be an
act of pure mercy, and therefore to that attribute the awakened sinner flies.
"According to thy lovingkindness." Act, O Lord, like thyself; give mercy
like thy mercy. Show mercy such as is congruous with thy grace.
"Great God, thy nature hath no bound:
So let thy pardoning love be found."
What a choice word is that of our English version, a rare
compound of precious things: love and kindness sweetly blended in one--
"lovingkindness." According unto the multitude of thy tender
mercies. Let thy most loving compassions come to me, and make thou thy
pardons such as these would suggest. Reveal all thy gentlest attributes in my
case, not only in their essence but in their abundance. Numberless have been
thine acts of goodness, and vast is thy grace; let me be the object of thine
infinite mercy, and repeat it all in me. Make my one case an epitome of all thy
tender mercies. By every deed of grace to others I feel encouraged, and I pray
thee let me add another and a yet greater one, in my own person, to the long
list of thy compassions. Blot out my transgressions. My revolts, my
excesses, are all recorded against me; but, Lord, erase the lines. Draw thy pen
through the register. Obliterate the record, though now it seems engraven in the
rock for ever; many strokes of thy mercy may be needed, to cut out the deep
inscription, but then thou has a multitude of mercies, and therefore, I beseech
thee, erase my sins.
Verse 2. Wash me throughly. It is not enough to blot out the
sin; his person is defiled, and he fain would be purified. He would have God
himself cleanse him, for none but he could do it effectually. The washing must
be thorough, it must be repeated, therefore he cries, "Multiply to wash me." The
dye is in itself immovable, and I, the sinner, have lain long in it, till the
crimson is ingrained; but, Lord, wash, and wash, and wash again, till the last
stain is gone, and not a trace of my defilement is left. The hypocrite is
content if his garments be washed, but the true suppliant cries, "wash
me." The careless soul is content with a nominal cleansing, but the truly
awakened conscience desires a real and practical washing, and that of a most
complete and efficient kind. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity.
It is viewed as one great pollution, polluting the entire nature, and as all his
own; as if nothing were so much his own as his sin. The one sin against
Bathsheba, served to show the psalmist the whole mountain of his iniquity, of
which that foul deed was but one falling stone. He desires to be rid of the
whole mass of his filthiness, which though once so little observed, had then
become a hideous and haunting terror to his mind. And cleanse me from my
sin. This is a more general expression; as if the psalmist said, "Lord,
if washing will not do, try some other process; if water avails not, let fire,
let anything be tried, so that I may but be purified. Rid me of my sin by some
means, by any means, by every means, only do purify me completely, and leave no
guilt upon my soul." It is not the punishment he cries out against, but the sin.
Many a murderer is more alarmed at the gallows than at the murder which brought
him to it. The thief loves the plunder, though he fears the prison. Not so
David: he is sick of sin as sin; his loudest outcries are against the evil of
his transgression, and not against the painful consequences of it. When we deal
seriously with our sin, God will deal gently with us. When we hate what the Lord
hates, he will soon make an end of it, to our joy and peace.
Verse 3. For I acknowledge my transgressions. Here he sees
the plurality and immense number of his sins, and makes open declaration of
them. He seems to say, I make a full confession of them. Not that this is my
plea in seeking forgiveness, but it is a clear evidence that I need mercy, and
am utterly unable to look to any other quarter for help. My pleading guilty has
barred me from any appeal against the sentence of justice: O Lord, I must cast
myself on thy mercy, refuse me not, I pray thee. Thou hast made me willing to
confess. O follow up this work of grace with a full and free remission! And
my sin is ever before me. My sin as a whole is never out of my mind;
it continually oppresses my spirit. I lay it before thee because it is ever
before me: Lord, put it away both from thee and me. To an awakened conscience,
pain on account of sin is not transient and occasional, but intense and
permanent, and this is no sign of divine wrath, but rather a sure preface of
Verse 4. Against thee, thee only have I sinned. The virus of
sin lies in its opposition to God: the psalmist's sense of sin towards others
rather tended to increase the force of this feeling of sin against God. All his
wrong doing centred, culminated, and came to a climax, at the foot of the divine
throne. To injure our fellow men is sin, mainly because in so doing we violate
the law of God. The penitent's heart was so filled with a sense of the wrong
done to the Lord himself, that all other confession was swallowed up in a broken
hearted acknowledgment of offence against him. And done this evil in
thy sight. To commit treason in the very court of the king and before his
eye is impudence indeed: David felt that his sin was committed in all its
filthiness while Jehovah himself looked on. None but a child of God cares for
the eye of God, but where there is grace in the soul it reflects a fearful guilt
upon every evil act, when we remember that the God whom we offend was present
when the trespass was committed. That thou mightest be justified when
thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. He could not present
any argument against divine justice, if it proceeded at once to condemn him and
punish him for his crime. His own confession, and the judge's own witness of the
whole transaction, places the transgression beyond all question or debate; the
iniquity was indisputably committed, and was unquestionably a foul wrong, and
therefore the course of justice was clear and beyond all controversy.
Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity. He is
thunderstruck at the discovery of his inbred sin, and proceeds to set it forth.
This was not intended to justify himself, but it rather meant to complete the
confession. It is as if he said, not only have I sinned this once, but I am in
my very nature a sinner. The fountain of my life is polluted as well as its
streams. My birth tendencies are out of the square of equity; I naturally lean
to forbidden things. Mine is a constitutional disease, rendering my very person
obnoxious to thy wrath. And in sin did my mother conceive me. He goes
back to the earliest moment of his being, not to traduce his mother, but to
acknowledge the deep tap roots of his sin. It is a wicked wresting of Scripture
to deny that original sin and natural depravity are here taught. Surely men who
cavil at this doctrine have need to be taught of the Holy Spirit what be the
first principles of the faith. David's mother was the Lord's handmaid, he was
born in chaste wedlock, of a good father, and he was himself, "the man after
God's own heart; "and yet his nature was as fallen as that of any other son of
Adam, and there only needed the occasion for the manifesting of that sad fact.
In our shaping we were put out of shape, and when we were conceived our nature
conceived sin. Alas, for poor humanity! Those who will may cry it up, but he is
most blessed who in his own soul has learned to lament his lost estate.
Verse 6. Behold. Here is the great matter for consideration.
God desires not merely outward virtue, but inward purity, and the penitent's
sense of sin is greatly deepened as with astonishment he discovers this truth,
and how far he is from satisfying the divine demand. The second "Behold" is
fitly set over against the first; how great the gulf which yawns between them!
Thou desirest truth in the inward parts. Reality, sincerity, true
holiness, heart fidelity, these are the demands of God. He cares not for the
pretence of purity, he looks to the mind, heart, and soul. Always has the Holy
One of Israel estimated men by their inner nature, and not by their outward
professions; to him the inward is as visible as the outward, and he rightly
judges that the essential character of an action lies in the motive of him who
works it. And in the hidden parts thou shalt make me to know
wisdom. The penitent feels that God is teaching him truth concerning his
nature, which he had not before perceived. The love of the heart, the mystery of
its fall, and the way of its purification--this hidden wisdom we must all
attain; and it is a great blessing to be able to believe that the Lord will
"make us to know it." No one can teach our innermost nature but the Lord, but he
can instruct us to profit. The Holy Spirit can write the law on our heart, and
that is the sum of practical wisdom. He can put the fear of the Lord within, and
that is the beginning of wisdom. He can reveal Christ in us, and he is essential
wisdom. Such poor, foolish, disarranged souls as ours, shall yet be ordered
aright, and truth and wisdom shall reign within us.
Verse 7. Purge me with hyssop. Sprinkle the atoning blood
upon me with the appointed means. Give me the reality which legal ceremonies
symbolise. Nothing but blood can take away my blood stains, nothing but the
strongest purification can avail to cleanse me. Let the sin offering purge my
sin. Let him who was appointed to atone, execute his sacred office on me; for
none can need it more than I. The passage may be read as the voice of faith as
well as a prayer, and so it runs--"Thou wilt purge me with hyssop, and I
shall be clean." Foul as I am, there is such power in the divine
propitiation, that my sin shall vanish quite away. Like the leper upon whom the
priest has performed the cleansing rites, I shall again be admitted into the
assembly of thy people and allowed to share in the privileges of the true
Israel; while in thy sight also, through Jesus my Lord, I shall be accepted.
Wash me. Let it not merely be in type that I am clean, but by a real
spiritual purification, which shall remove the pollution of my nature. Let the
sanctifying as well as the pardoning process be perfected in me. Save me from
the evils which my sin has created and nourished in me. And I shall be
whiter than snow. None but thyself can whiten me, but thou canst in grace
outdo nature itself in its purest state. Snow soon gathers smoke and dust, it
melts and disappears; thou canst give me an enduring purity. Though snow is
white below as well as on the outer surface, thou canst work the like inward
purity in me, and make me so clean that only an hyperbole can set forth my
immaculate condition. Lord, do this; my faith believes thou wilt, and well she
knows thou canst. Scarcely does Holy Scripture contain a verse more full of
faith than this. Considering the nature of the sin, and the deep sense the
psalmist had of it, it is a glorious faith to be able to see in the blood
sufficient, nay, all sufficient merit entirely to purge it away. Considering
also the deep natural inbred corruption which David saw and experienced within,
it is a miracle of faith that he could rejoice in the hope of perfect purity in
his inward parts. Yet, be it added, the faith is no more than the word warrants,
than the blood of atonement encourages, than the promise of God deserves. O that
some reader may take heart, even now while smarting under sin, to do the Lord
the honour to rely thus confidently on the finished sacrifice of Calvary and the
infinite mercy there revealed.
Verse 8. Make me to hear joy and gladness. He prays about
his sorrow late in the Psalm; he began at once with his sin; he asks to hear
pardon, and then to hear joy. He seeks comfort at the right time and from the
right source. His ear has become heavy with sinning, and so he prays, "Make me
to hear." No voice could revive his dead joys but that which quickeneth the
dead. Pardon from God would give him double joy--"joy and gladness." No stinted
bliss awaits the forgiven one; he shall not only have a double blooming
joy, but he shall hear it; it shall sing with exultation. Some joy is
felt but not heard, for it contends with fears; but the joy of pardon has a
voice louder than the voice of sin. God's voice speaking peace is the sweetest
music an ear can hear. That the bones which thou hast broken may
rejoice. He was like a poor wretch whose bones are crushed, crushed by no
ordinary means, but by omnipotence itself. He groaned under no mere flesh
wounds; his firmest and yet most tender powers were "broken in pieces all
asunder; "his manhood had become a dislocated, mangled, quivering sensibility.
Yet if he who crushed would cure, every wound would become a new mouth for song,
every bone quivering before with agony would become equally sensible of intense
delight. The figure is bold, and so is the supplicant. He is requesting a great
thing; he seeks joy for a sinful heart, music for crushed bones. Preposterous
prayer anywhere but at the throne of God! Preposterous there most of all but for
the cross where Jehovah Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the tree. A
penitent need not ask to be an hired servant, or settle down in despairing
content with perpetual mourning; he may ask for gladness and he shall have it;
for if when prodigals return the father is glad, and the neighbours and friends
rejoice and are merry with music and dancing, what need can there be that the
restored one himself should be wretched?
Verse 9. Hide thy face from my sins. Do not look at them; be
at pains not to see them. They thrust themselves in the way; but, Lord, refuse
to behold them, lest if thou consider them, thine anger burn, and I die. Blot
out all mine iniquities. He repeats the prayer of the first verse with the
enlargement of it by the word "all." All repetitions are not "vain repetitions."
Souls in agony have no space to find variety of language: pain has to content
itself with monotones. David's face was ashamed with looking on his sin, and no
diverting thoughts could remove it from his memory; but he prays the Lord to do
with his sin what he himself cannot. If God hide not his face from our sin, he
must hide it forever from us; and if he blot not out our sins, he must blot our
names out of his book of life.
Verse 10. Create. What! has sin so destroyed us, that the
Creator must be called in again? What ruin then doth evil work among mankind!
Create in me. I, in my outward fabric, still exist; but I am empty,
desert, void. Come, then, and let thy power be seen in a new creation within my
old fallen self. Thou didst make a man in the world at first; Lord, make a new
man in me! A clean heart. In the seventh verse he asked to be clean; now
he seeks a heart suitable to that cleanliness; but he does not say, "Make my old
heart clean; " he is too experienced in the hopelessness of the old nature. He
would have the old man buried as a dead thing, and a new creation brought in to
fill its place. None but God can create either a new heart or a new earth.
Salvation is a marvellous display of supreme power; the work in us as
much as that for us is wholly of Omnipotence. The affections must be
rectified first, or all our nature will go amiss. The heart is the rudder of the
soul, and till the Lord take it in hand we steer in a false and foul way. O
Lord, thou who didst once make me, be pleased to new make me, and in my most
secret parts renew me. Renew a right spirit within me. It was there once,
Lord, put it there again. The law on my heart has become like an inscription
hard to read: new write it, gracious Maker. Remove the evil as I have entreated
thee; but, O replace it with good, lest into my swept, empty, and garnished
heart, from which the devil has gone out for a while, seven other spirits more
wicked than the first should enter and dwell. The two sentences make a complete
prayer. Create what is not there at all; renew that which is
there, but in a sadly feeble state.
Verse 11. Cast me not away from thy presence. Throw me not
away as worthless; banish me not, like Cain, from thy face and favour. Permit me
to sit among those who share thy love, though I only be suffered to keep the
door. I deserve to be forever denied admission to thy courts; but, O good Lord,
permit me still the privilege which is dear as life itself to me. Take not
thy Holy Spirit from me. Withdraw not his comforts, counsels, assistances,
quickenings, else I am indeed as a dead man. Do not leave me as thou didst Saul,
when neither by Urim, nor by prophet, nor by dream, thou wouldst answer him. Thy
Spirit is my wisdom, leave me not to my folly; he is my strength, O desert me
not to my own weakness. Drive me not away from thee, neither do thou go away
from me. Keep up the union between us, which is my only hope of salvation. It
will be a great wonder if so pure a spirit deigns to stay in so base a heart as
mine; but then, Lord, it is all wonder together, therefore do this, for thy
mercy's sake, I earnestly entreat thee.
Verse 12. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.
Salvation he had known, and had known it as the Lord's own; he had also felt the
joy which arises from being saved in the Lord, but he had lost it for a while,
and therefore he longed for its restoration. None but God can give back this
joy; he can do it; we may ask it; he will do it for his own glory and our
benefit. This joy comes not first, but follows pardon and purity: in such order
it is safe, in any other it is vain presumption or idiotic delirium. And
uphold me with thy free Spirit. Conscious of weakness, mindful of
having so lately fallen, he seeks to be kept on his feet by power superior to
his own. That royal Spirit, whose holiness is true dignity, is able to make us
walk as kings and priests, in all the uprightness of holiness; and he will do so
if we seek his gracious upholding. Such influences will not enslave but
emancipate us; for holiness is liberty, and the Holy Spirit is a free Spirit. In
the roughest and most treacherous ways we are safe with such a Keeper; in the
best paths we stumble if left to ourselves. The praying for joy and upholding go
well together; it is all over with joy if the foot is not kept; and, on the
other hand, joy is a very upholding thing, and greatly aids holiness; meanwhile,
the free, noble, royal Spirit is at the bottom of both.
Verse 13. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways. It was
his fixed resolve to be a teacher of others; and assuredly none instruct others
so well as those who have been experimentally taught of God themselves.
Reclaimed poachers make the best gamekeepers. Huntingdon's degree of S.S., or
Sinner Saved, is more needful for a soul winning evangelist than either M.A. or
D.D. The pardoned sinner's matter will be good, for he has been taught in the
school of experience, and his manner will be telling, for he will speak
sympathetically, as one who has felt what he declares. The audience the psalmist
would choose is memorable--he would instruct transgressors like himself; others
might despise them, but, "a fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind." If unworthy
to edify saints, he would creep in along with the sinners, and humbly tell them
of divine love. The mercy of God to one is an illustration of his usual
procedure, so that our own case helps us to understand his "ways, "or his
general modes of action: perhaps, too, David under that term refers to the
preceptive part of the word of God, which, having broken, and having suffered
thereby, he felt that he could vindicate and urge upon the reverence of other
offenders. And sinners shall be converted unto thee. My fall shall
be the restoration of others. Thou wilt bless my pathetic testimony to the
recovery of many who, like myself, have turned aside unto crooked ways.
Doubtless this Psalm and the whole story of David, have produced for many ages
the most salutary results in the conversion of transgressors, and so evil has
been overruled for good.
Verse 14. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness. He had been the
means of the death of Uriah, the Hittite, a faithful and attached follower, and
he now confesses that fact. Besides, his sin of adultery was a capital offence,
and he puts himself down as one worthy to die the death. Honest penitents do not
fetch a compass and confess their sins in an elegant periphrasis, but they come
to the point, call a spade a spade, and make a clean breast of all. What other
course is rational in dealing with the Omniscient? O God, thou God of my
salvation. He had not ventured to come so near before. It had been, O
God, up till now, but here he cries, Thou God of my salvation. Faith
grows by the exercise of prayer. He confesses sin more plainly in this verse
than before, and yet he deals with God more confidently: growing upward and
downward at the same time are perfectly consistent. None but the King can remit
the death penalty, it is therefore a joy to faith that God is King, and that he
is the author and finisher of our salvation. And my tongue shall sing aloud
of thy righteousness. One would rather have expected him to say, I
will sing of thy mercy; but David can see the divine way of justification, that
righteousness of God which Paul afterwards spoke of by which the ungodly are
justified, and he vows to sing, yea, and to sing lustily of that righteous way
of mercy. After all, it is the righteousness of divine mercy which is its
greatest wonder. Note how David would preach in the last verse, and now here he
would sing. We can never do too much for the Lord to whom we owe more than all.
If we could be preacher, precentor, doorkeeper, pew opener, foot washer, and all
in one, all would be too little to show forth all our gratitude. A great sinner
pardoned makes a great singer. Sin has a loud voice, and so should our
thankfulness have. We shall not sing our own praises if we be saved, but our
theme will be the Lord our righteousness, in whose merits we stand righteously
Verse 15. O Lord, open thou my lips. He is so afraid of
himself that he commits his whole being to the divine care, and fears to speak
till the Lord unstops his shame silenced mouth. How marvellously the Lord can
open our lips, and what divine things can we poor simpletons pour forth under
his inspiration! This prayer of a penitent is a golden petition for a preacher,
Lord, I offer it for myself and my brethren. But it may stand in good stead any
one whose shame for sin makes him stammer in his prayers, and when it is fully
answered, the tongue of the dumb begins to sing. And my mouth shall shew
forth thy praise. If God opens the mouth he is sure to have the fruit
of it. According to the porter at the gate is the nature of that which comes out
of a man's lips; when vanity, anger, falsehood, or lust unbar the door, the
foulest villainies troop out; but if the Holy Spirit opens the wicket, then
grace, mercy, peace, and all the graces come forth in tuneful dances, like the
daughters of Israel when they met David returning with the Philistine's head.
Verse 16. For thou desirest not sacrifice. This was the
subject of the last Psalm. The psalmist was so illuminated as to see far beyond
the symbolic ritual; his eye of faith gazed with delight upon the actual
atonement. Else would I give it. He would have been glad enough to
present tens of thousands of victims if these would have met the case. Indeed,
anything which the Lord prescribed he would cheerfully have rendered. We are
ready to give up all we have if we may but be cleared of our sins; and when sin
is pardoned our joyful gratitude is prepared for any sacrifice. Thou
delightest not in burnt offering. He knew that no form of burnt
sacrifice was a satisfactory propitiation. His deep soul need made him look from
the type to the antitype, from the external rite to the inward grace.
Verse 17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. All
sacrifices are presented to thee in one, by the man whose broken heart presents
the Saviour's merit to thee. When the heart mourns for sin, thou art better
pleased than when the bullock bleeds beneath the axe. "A broken heart" is an
expression implying deep sorrow, embittering the very life; it carries in it the
idea of all but killing anguish in that region which is so vital as to be the
very source of life. So excellent is a spirit humbled and mourning for sin, that
it is not only a sacrifice, but it has a plurality of excellences, and is
preeminently God's sacrifices. A broken and a contrite heart, O God,
thou wilt not despise. A heart crushed is a fragrant heart. Men contemn
those who are contemptible in their own eyes, but the Lord seeth not as man
seeth. He despises what men esteem, and values that which they despise. Never
yet has God spurned a lowly, weeping penitent, and never will he while God is
love, and while Jesus is called the man who receiveth sinners. Bullocks and rams
he desires not, but contrite hearts he seeks after; yea, but one of them is
better to him than all the varied offerings of the old Jewish sanctuary.
Verse 18. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion. Let
blessings according to thy wont be poured upon thy holy hill and chosen city.
Zion was David's favourite spot, whereon he had hoped to erect a temple. The
ruling passion is so strong on him, that when he has discharged his conscience
he must have a word for Zion. He felt he had hindered the project of honouring
the Lord there as he desired, but he prayed God still to let the place of his
ark be glorious, and to establish his worship and his worshipping people.
Build thou the walls of Jerusalem. This had been one of David's
schemes, to wall in the holy city, and he desires to see it completed; but we
believe he had a more spiritual meaning, and prayed for the prosperity of the
Lord's cause and people. He had done mischief by his sin, and had, as it were,
pulled down her walls; he, therefore, implores the Lord to undo the evil, and
establish his church. God can make his cause to prosper, and in answer to prayer
he will do so. Without his building we labour in vain; therefore are we the more
instant and constant in prayer. There is surely no grace in us if we do not feel
for the church of God, and take a lasting interest in its welfare.
Verse 19. In those days of joyful prosperity thy saints
shall present in great abundance the richest and holiest thank offerings to
thee, and thou shalt be pleased to accept them. A saved soul expects to see its
prayers answered in a revived church, and then is assured that God will be
greatly glorified. Though we bring no more sacrifices for sin, yet as priests
unto God our solemn praises and votive gifts are thank offerings acceptable to
God by Jesus Christ. We bring not the Lord our least things--our doves and
pigeons; but we present him with our best possessions--our bullocks. We are glad
that in this present time we are able to fulfil in person the declaration of
this verse: we also, forecasting the future, wait for days of the divine
presence, when the church of God, with unspeakable joy, shall offer gifts upon
the altar of God, which will far eclipse anything beheld in these less
enthusiastic days. Hasten it, O Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. "After he had gone in to Bathsheba." This was
the devil's nest egg that caused many sins to be laid, one to, and upon another.
See the woeful chain of David's lust, 2Sa 11:1-27 12:1-31. John Trapp.
Title. "When Nathan the prophet came unto him as he
(i.e., David) had come unto Bathsheba." The significant repetition of
the phrase came unto, is lost in the English and most other versions.
"As" is not a mere particle of time, simple equivalent to when,
but suggests the idea of analogy, proportion, and retaliation. J. A.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is the brightest gem in the whole
book, and contains instruction so large, and doctrine so precious, that the
tongue of angels could not do justice to the full development. Victorinus
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is often and fitly called THE
SINNER'S GUIDE. In some of its versions it often helps the returning sinner.
Athanasius recommends to some Christians, to whom he was writing, to repeat it
when they awake at night. All evangelical churches are familiar with it. Luther
says, "There is no other Psalm which is oftener sung or prayed in the church."
This is the first Psalm in which we have the word Spirit used in
application to the Holy Ghost. William S. Plumer.
Whole Psalm. I cannot doubt the prophetic bearing of this
Psalm upon the nation of Israel. In the latter day they shall consider their
ways: repentance and self loathing will be the result. Blood guiltiness heavier
than that of David has to be removed from that nation. They will become the
teachers of the Gentiles, when first the iniquity of their own transgressions
has been purged away. Arthur Pridham.
Whole Psalm. This is the most deeply affecting of all the
Psalms, and I am sure the one most applicable to me. It seems to have been the
effusion of a soul smarting under the sense of a recent and great transgression.
My God, whether recent or not, give me to feel the enormity of my manifold
offences, and remember not against me the sins of my youth. What a mine of rich
matter and expression for prayer! Wash, cleanse me, O Lord, and let my sin and
my sinfulness be ever before me. Let me feel it chiefly as sin against thee,
that my sin may be of the godly sort. Give me to feel the virulence of my native
corruption, purge me from it thoroughly, and put truth into my inward parts,
that mine may be a real turning from sin unto the Saviour. Create me anew, O
God. Withdraw not thy Spirit. Cause me to rejoice in a present salvation.
Deliver me, O God, from the blood guiltiness of having offended any of thy
little ones; and so open my lips that I may speak of the wondrous things thou
hast done for my soul! May I offer up spiritual sacrifices; and oh! let not any
delinquencies of mine bring a scandal upon thy church; but do thou so purify and
build her up, that even her external services, freed from all taint of
corruption or hypocrisy, may be well pleasing in thy sight. Thomas
Verse 1. Have mercy upon me, O God. I tremble and blush to
mention my name, for my former familiarities with thee only make me more
confounded at being recognized by thee after my guilt. I therefore say not,
"Lord, remember David, "as on a happier occasion; nor as propitiating thee, I
used to say, to thy "servant, "or, "to the son of thy handmaid." I suggest
nothing that should recall my former relation to thee, and so enhance my
wickedness. Ask not, then, Lord, who I am, but only forgive me who confess my
sin, condemn my fault, and beseech thy pity. Have mercy upon me, O God. I
dare not say my God, for that were presumption. I have lost thee by sin,
I have alienated myself from thee by following the enemy, and therefore am
unclean. I dare not approach thee, but standing afar off and lifting up my voice
with great devotion and contrition of heart, I cry and say, Have mercy upon
me, O God. From "A Commentary on the Seven Penitential Psalms, chiefly
from ancient sources." By the Right Rev. A. P. Forbes, Bishop of
Verse 1. Have mercy. The Hebrew word here translated
have mercy. signifieth without cause or desert; Ps 35:19 69:4 Eze
14:23; and freely, without paying any price, Ex 21:11. And it is made use of in
Le 6:8, where Noah is said to have found grace in the eyes of the Lord,
that is, special favour, such as the Lord beareth to his chosen in Christ Jesus.
Charles D. Coetlogon, A.M., in "The Portraiture of the Christian
Verse 1. Mercy, lovingkindness, tender mercies. I cannot but
observe here, the gradation in the sense of the three words made use of, to
express the divine compassion, and the propriety of the order in which they are
placed, which would be regarded as a real excellence and beauty in any classical
writer. The first (yngx), denotes that
kind of affection which is expressed by moaning over any object that we love and
pity--that otorge, natural affection and tenderness, which even brute
creatures discover to their young ones, by the several noises which they
respectively make over them; and particularly the shrill noise of the camel, by
which it testifies its love to its foal. The second, (Kdoxk), denotes a strong proneness, a ready, large, and liberal
disposition to goodness and compassion powerfully prompting to all instances of
kindness and bounty; flowing as freely and plentifully as milk into the breasts,
or as waters from a perpetual fountain. This denotes a higher degree of goodness
than the former. The third, (Kymxr),
denotes what the Greeks express by oplagcnizeoyai; that most tender pity which we signify by the
moving of the heart and bowels, which argues the highest degree of compassion of
which human nature is susceptible. And how reviving is the belief and
consideration of these abundant and tender compassions of God to one in David's
circumstances, whose mind laboured under the burden of the most heinous
complicated guilt, and the fear of the divine displeasure and vengeance!
Verse 1. According to the multitude. Men are greatly
terrified at the multitude of their sins, but here is a comfort--our God hath
multitude of mercies. If our sins be in number as the hairs of our head, God's
mercies are as the stars of heaven; and as he is an infinite God, so his mercies
are infinite; yea, so far are his mercies above our sins, as he himself is above
us poor sinners. By this the Psalmist seeketh for multitude of mercies, he would
show how deeply he was wounded with his manifold sins, that one seemed a
hundred. Thus it is with us, so long as we are under Satan's guiding, a thousand
seem but one; but if we betake ourselves to God's service, one will seem a
thousand. Archibald Symson.
Verse 1. Tender mercies, or, according to Zanchy in his
treatise upon the attributes of God, such a kind of affection as parents feel
when they see their children in any extremity. 1Ki 3:26. Charles D.
Verse 1. Blot out my transgressions. (hxm), mecheh, wipe out. There is
reference here to an indictment: the Psalmist knows what it contains; he
pleads guilty, but begs that the writing may be defaced; that a proper
fluid may be applied to the parchment, to discharge the ink, that no
record of it may ever appear against him: and this only the mercy,
lovingkindness, and tender compassions, of the Lord can do. Adam
Verse 1. Blot out my transgressions. What the psalmist
alludes is not, as Mr. Leclerc imagines, debts entered into a book, and
so blotted out of it when forgiven; but the wiping or cleansing of a dish, so as
nothing afterwards remains in it. The meaning of the petition is, that God would
entirely and absolutely forgive him, so as that no part of the guilt he had
contracted might remain, and the punishment of it might be wholly removed.
Verse 1. Blot out, or, as it is used in Ex 17:14,
utterly extirpate, so as that there shall not be any remembrance
of them forever. Isa 43:25 44:22. Charles de Coetlogon.
Verse 1. MY transgressions. Conscience, when it is healthy,
ever speaks thus: "MY transgressions." It is not the guilt of them that
tempted you: they have theirs; but each as a separate agent, has his own degree
of guilt. Yours is your own: the violation of your own and not another's sense
of duty; solitary, awful, unshared, adhering to you alone of all the spirits of
the universe. Frederick William Robertson.
Verses 1, 5. Transgressions...iniquity...sin.
1. It is transgressions, (evp), pesha, rebellion.
2. It is iniquity, (Nwe), avon, crooked dealing.
3. It is sin, (tajx), chattath, error and wandering. Adam Clarke.
Verse 2. Wash me. David prays that the Lord would
wash him; therefore sin defiles, and he was made foul and filthy by his
sin; and to wash him much, and to rinse and bathe him, to show that sin had
exceedingly defiled him and stained him both in soul and body, and made him
loathsome, and therefore he desireth to be washed, and cleansed, and purged from
the pollution of sin. Hence we may learn what a vile, filthy and miserable thing
sin is in the sight of God: it stains a man's body, it stains a man's soul, it
makes him more vile than the vilest creature that lives: no toad is so vile and
loathsome in the sight of man, as a sinner, stained and defiled with sin, is in
the sight of God, till he be cleansed and washed from it in the blood of Christ.
Verse 2. Wash me, etc. (Mbk) is peculiarly applied to the washing and cleansing of
garments, as fullers wash and cleanse their cloths. 2Ki 18:7 Ex 19:10 Le 17:15.
Verse 2. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity. No other
washing will do but lava tu, wash thou; so foul as it will need his
washing throughly. Samuel Page, in "David's Broken Heart, "1646.
Verse 2. Was me throughly. Hebrew multiply to wash me;
by which phrase he implies the greatness of his guilt, and the insufficiency
of all legal washings, and the absolute necessity of some other and better thing
to wash him, even of God's grace, and the blood of Christ. Matthew Poole.
Verse 2. Wash me...cleanse me. But why should David speak so
superfluously? use two words when one would serve? For if we be cleansed, what
matter is it whether it be by washing or no? Yet David had great reason for
using both words; for he requires not that God would cleanse him by miracle, but
by the ordinary way of cleansing, and this was washing; he names therefore
washing as the means, and cleansing as the end: he names washing as the work a
doing, and cleansing as the work done; he names washing as considering the
agent, and cleansing as applying it to the patient; and indeed, as in the figure
of the law there was not, so in the verity of the gospel there is not any
ordinary means of cleansing, but only by washing; and therefore out of Christ
our Saviour's side there flowed water and blood. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 2. Cleanse me from my sin. Observe, it is from the
guilt, and not from the punishment, that he thus asked deliverance. That the
sword should never depart from his house; that the sin, begun, not only secretly
even in its full accomplishment, but far more secretly in the recesses of
David's heart, should be punished before all Israel and before the sun; that the
child so dear to David should be made one great punishment of his offence; these
things, so far as this Psalm is concerned, might, or might not be. It is of the
offence against God; of the defiling, although it were not then so expressly
declared, God's temple by impurity, that David speaks. Ambrose, in J. M.
Verse 2. Sin. The original word signifies to miss an aim, as
an archer does who shoots short of his mark, beyond, or beside it. It is also
used for treading aside, or tripping, in the act of walking. In a spiritual
sense it denotes deviation from a rule, whether by omission or commission.
Thomas T. Biddulph, A.M., in Lectures on the Fifty-first Psalm, 1835.
Verse 2. Sin is filthy to think of, filthy to speak of,
filthy to hear of, filthy to do; in a word, there is nothing in it but vileness.
Verse 3. For I acknowledge my transgressions, etc. To
acknowledge our transgressions, there's confession; and to have
our sin ever before us, there's conviction and contrition. To acknowledge
our transgressions, I say, is to confess our sins; to call them to mind, to
bring them back to our remembrance what we can; to own them with shame, and to
declare them with sorrow; to reckon them up one by one, to give in a particular
account of them, as far as our memory will serve, and to spread them before the
Lord, as Hezekiah did Rabshakah's letter, and in a humble sense of our own
vileness to implore his goodness, that he would multiply his mercies over us, as
we have multiplied our transgressions against him, in their free and full
forgiveness of them all. To have our sin ever before us, is throughly to
be convinced of it, to be continually troubled in mind about it, to be truly
humbled under the sense of it, and to be possessed of those dreads and terrors
of conscience which may never let us rest or enjoy any quiet within our own
breast till we have reconciled ourselves to a gracious God for it. Adam
Verse 3. I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is
ever before me. There cannot be agnitio if there be not
cognitio peccati, and acknowledging, unless there precede a
knowledge of sin. David puts them together. If our sins be not before us, how
can we set them before God? And therefore, to the right exercise of this duty,
there is required a previous examination of our hearts, inspection into our
lives, that we may be enabled to see our sins. He that hath not yet asked
himself that question, Quid feci? What have I done? can never make the
confession, si feci, thus and thus have I done; and in this respect I
would, thought not require, yet advise it as a pious and prudent practice, and
that which I doubt not but many Christians have found benefit by, to keep a
constant daily catalogue, as of mercies received, so of sins committed.
Verse 3. I, my, my. David did not think it sufficient to
acknowledge that the whole human race were sinners; but as if he stood alone in
the world, and was the only offender in it, he says, "I acknowledge my
transgressions; and my sin is ever before me." Charles de
Verse 3. MY sin. David owneth his sin, and confesseth it his
own. Here is our natural wealth: what can we call our own but sin? Our food and
raiment, the necessaries of life, are borrowings. We came hungry and naked into
the world, we brought none of these with us, and we deserved none of them here.
Our sin came with us, as David after confesseth. We have right of inheritance in
sin, taking it by traduction and transmission from our parents: we have right of
possession. So Job: "Thou makest me to possess the sins of my youth." Samuel
Verse 3. My SIN. It is sin, as sin, not its punishment here,
not hereafter, not simply any of its evil consequences; but sin, the sin against
God, the daring impiety of my breaking the good and holy law of this living,
loving God. Thomas Alexander, D.D., in "The Penitent's Prayer," 1861.
Verse 3. Ever before me. Sorrow for sin exceeds sorrow for
suffering, in the continuance and durableness thereof: the other, like a
landlord, quickly come, quickly gone; this is a continual dropping or running
river, keeping a constant stream. My sins, saith David, are ever
before me; so also is the sorrow for sin in the soul of a child of God,
morning, evening, day, night, when sick, when sound, fasting, at home, abroad,
ever within him. This grief begins at his conversion, continues all his life,
ends only at his death. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 3. Before me. Coram populo, before the people;
shame to him: coram ecclesia, before the church; grief to them:
coram inimicis, before the enemies; joy to them: coram Deo,
before God; anger against him: coram Nathane, before Nathan; a
chiding. But if any hope of repentance and amendment, it is peccatum meum
coram me, my sin before me. Here is the distress of a sinner, he never
discerneth how unhappy he is, till his sin is before him. Samuel Page.
Verse 4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this
evil in thy sight. This verse is differently expounded by different
persons, and it has ever been considered, that this one little point is the
greatest difficulty that is met with in the whole Psalm. Although, therefore, I
leave it to others to go according to their own interpretations, yet I have a
good hope that I shall be enabled to give the true and genuine meaning of the
text. This, then, I would first of all advise the reader to do--to bear in mind
that which I observed at the beginning of the Psalm, that David is here speaking
in the person of all the saints, and not in his own person only, not in his own
person as an adulterer. Although I do not say it might not be, that it was this
fall which, as a medium, brought him under the knowledge of himself and of his
whole human nature, and made him think thus: "Behold! I, so holy a king, who
have with so much pious devotedness observed the law and the worship of God,
have been so tempted and overcome by the inbred evil and sin of my flesh, that I
have murdered an innocent man, and have for adulterous purposes taken away his
wife! And is not this an evident proof that my nature is more deeply infected
and corrupted by sin than ever I thought it was? I who was yesterday chaste am
today an adulterer! I who yesterday had hands innocent of blood, am today a man
of blood guiltiness!" And it might be that in this way he derived the feeling
sense of his entire sinfulness, from his fall into adultery and murder, and from
thence drew his conclusion--that neither the tree nor the fruit of human nature
were good, but that the whole was so deformed and lost by sin, that there was
nothing sound left in the whole of nature. This I would have the reader bear in
mind, first of all, if he desire to have the pure meaning of this passage. In
the next place, the grammatical construction is to be explained, which seems to
be somewhat obscure. For what the translator has rendered by the
preterperfect, ought to be the present:Against thee only do I
sin; that is, I know that before thee I am nothing but a sinner; or, before
thee I do nothing but evil continual; that is, my whole life is evil and
depraved on account of sin. I cannot boast before thee of merit or of
righteousness, but am evil altogether, and in thy sight this is my character--I
do evil. I have sinned, I do sin, and shall sin to the end of the chapter.
Verse 4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned. Is there
not matter here to make us at a stand? For, to say, "Against thee have I sinned,
"is most just and fit; but to say, Against THEE ONLY I have sinned,
seems something hard. It had perhaps been a fit speech in the mouth of our
first parent Adam; he might justly have said to God, Against thee only have I
sinned, who never sinned against any other; but for us to say it, who commit
sins daily against our neighbours, and especially for David to say it, who had
committed two notorious sins against his neighbour and faithful friend Uriah,
what more unfit speech could possibly be devised? But is it not that these
actions of David were great wrongs indeed, and enormous iniquities against
Uriah; but can we properly say they were sins against Uriah? For what is
sin, but a transgression of God's law? And how then can sin be committed against
any but against him only whose law we transgress? Or is it, that it may justly
be said, Against thee only have I sinned, because against others perhaps
in a base tenure, yet only against God in capite? Or is it, that
David might justly say to God, "Against the only have I sinned; "because
from others he might appeal, as being a king and having no superior; but no
appealing from God, as being King of kings and supreme Lord over all? Or is it
that we may justly say, Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, seeing
that Christ hath taken and still takes all our sins upon him; and every sin we
commit is as a new burden laid upon his back and upon his back only? Or is it,
lastly, that I may justly say, Against thee, the only, have I sinned,
because in thy sight only I have done it? For from others I could hide it,
and did conceal it? But what can be hidden from the All-seeing eye? And yet if
this had been the worst, that I had sinned only against thee, though this had
been bad enough, and infinitely too much, yet it might perhaps have admitted
reconcilement; but to do this evil in thy sight, as if I should say, I
would do it though thou stand thyself and look on, and as if in defiance; what
sin so formidable? what sin can be thought of so unpardonable? A sin of
infirmity may admit apology; a sin of ignorance may find out excuse; but a sin
of defiance can find no defence. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned. There is a
godly sorrow which leads a man to life; and this sorrow is wrought in a man by
the Spirit of God, and in the heart of the godly; that he mourns for sin because
it has displeased God, who is so dear and so sweet a Father to him. And suppose
he had neither a heaven to lose, nor a hell to gain, yet he is sad and sorrowful
in heart because he has grieved God. John Welch, 1576-1622.
Verse 4. Have I sinned. Me, me, adsum, qui feci:
Here, here am I that did it. I whom thou tookest from following the ewes great
with lambs, whose sheep hook thou hast changed for a sceptre, whose sheep for
thine own people Israel, upon whose head thou hast set a crown of pure gold. I
whom thou didst lately invest in the full monarchy of thy people; to whom thou
gavest the possession of Jerusalem from the Jebusites; I who settled peace,
religion, and courts of justice in Jerusalem, that thou mightest be served and
honoured, and I would fain have built thee an house there; Ego, I, to
whom God committed the trust of government to rule others, the trust of judgment
to punish others, as king over his inheritance. I, to whom God committed the
care of others' souls to guide them by his word, to direct them by good counsel,
to allure them by his gracious promises, to terrify them by his threatenings, as
the Lord's holy prophet. I, who both ways as king and prophet should have been
am example of holiness and righteousness to all Israel. Nathan said, Tu es
homo, thou art the man, in just accusation, and now David saith, Ego sum
homo, I am the man, in humble confession. Samuel Page.
Verse 4. I have done this evil. We may find this in
experience, that there be many who will not stick at a general speech that they
be sinners, and yet will scarcely be known of one special evil to account for.
If you fall with them into the several commandments, they will be ready to
discover a conceit that there is scarce one that they are faulty in. In the
first commandment they acknowledge no God but one; in the second, they do not
worship images; in the third, they swear as little as any, and never but for the
truth; in the fourth, they keep their church on Sundays as well as most; in the
second table, there is neither treason, nor murder, nor theft, nor whoredom, nor
the like gross sin, but concerning it they are ready to protest their innocency.
He that shall hear them in particular, I do not see how he shall believe them in
the general, when they say they be sinners; for when you arraign them at the
several commandments they are ready to plead not guilty to them all. So
long as men are thus without sense and apprehension of particulars, there is no
hope of bringing them ever unto good. Happy is he that is pricked to the heart
with the feeling of this evil. The truth of repentance for that one, will
bring him to a thorough repentance for his whole estate. This one evil
thoroughly understood, brought David on his knees, brake his heart, melted his
soul, made him cry for pardon, beg for purging, and importune the Lord for a
free spirit to establish him. Samuel Hieron, in "David's Penitential Psalm
Verse 4. In thy sight. David was so bent upon his sin, as
that the majesty and presence of God did not awe him at all: this is a great
aggravation of sin, and which makes it to be so much the more heinous. For a
thief to steal in the very sight of the judge, is the highest piece of impudence
that may be; and thus it is for any man to offend in the sight of God and not to
be moved with it. Thomas Horton.
Verse 4. That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and
be clear when thou judgest. But hath not David a defence for it here,
and that a very just one? For, in saying, "Against thee, thee only, have I
sinned, that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, " doth he not
speak as though he had sinned to do God a pleasure? therefore sinned that God
might be justified? And what can be more said for justifying of God? But far is
it from David to have any such meaning; his words import not a lessening but an
aggravating of his sin, as spoken rather thus: Because a judge may justly be
taxed of injustice if he lay a greater punishment upon an offender than the
offence deserves; therefore to clear thee, O God, from all possibility of erring
in this kind, I acknowledge my sins to be so heinous, my offences so grievous,
that thou canst never be unmerciful in punishing though thy punishment should be
never so unmerciful. For how can a judge pass the bounds of equity where the
delinquent hath passed all bounds of iniquity? and what error can there be in
thy being severe when the greatness of my fault is a justification of severity?
That thou canst not lay so heavy a doom upon me, which I have not deserved? Thou
canst not pronounce so hard a sentence against me, which I am not worthy of. If
thou judge me to torture, it is but mildness; if to die the death, it is but my
due; if to die everlastingly, I cannot say it were unjust. Sir Richard
Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, etc. He said not,
"Behold, this evil have I done, "but, Behold, I was conceived in sin,
etc. He says not, "Behold, I, David, "a king, that have received such
and such mercies from God, who would have given me more (as God told him), who
had that entire communion with him, and graces from him, I, even I, have done
this evil. No; he keeps it in till he came to this, and then his heart could
hold no longer: Oh, behold I was conceived in sin. His debasement
was at his auge here. And to whom is it he utters this behold?
What, to men? No; his meaning is not to call on men, q.d., O ye sons of
men, behold! That is but his secondary aim, arising out of his having penned it,
and delivered it unto the church; but when he uttered it, it was to God, or
rather afore God, and yet not as calling on God to behold, for that needed not.
David had elsewhere said, "God looked down, "etc., "and beheld the sons of men,
"when speaking of this very corruption. He therefore knew God beheld it
sufficiently; but he utters it afore God, or, as spoken of himself between God
and himself, thereby to express his own astonishment and amazement at the sight
and conviction of this corruption, and at the sight of what a monster he saw
himself to be in the sight of God in respect of this sin. It was a behold
of astonishment at himself, as before the great and holy God; and therefore it
was he seconds and follows it with another behold made unto God:
"Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts." And it is as if he had
said in both, Oh, how am I in every way overwhelmed, whilst with one eye cast on
myself I see how infinitely corrupt I am in the very constitution of my nature;
and with the other eye I behold and consider what an infinite holy God thou art
in thy nature and being, and what an holiness it is which thou requirest. I am
utterly overwhelmed in the intuition of both these, and able to behold no more,
nor look up unto thee, O holy God! Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, etc. We are not
to suppose that David here reflects upon his parents as the medium of
transmitting to him the elements of moral evil; and that by the introduction of
the doctrine of original sin he intended to extenuate the enormity of his own
crimes. On the contrary, we are to regard him as afflicting himself by the
humbling consideration that his very nature was fallen, that his transgressions
flowed from a heart naturally at enmity with God; that he was not a sinner by
accident, but by a depravity of purpose extending to the innermost desires and
purposes of the soul; and that there was "a law in his members, warring against
the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin and
death" Ro 7:23; and that he was one of a race of guilty beings, none of whom
could plead an exemption from an evil heart of unbelief, ready at all times to
depart from the living God. Till we see sin in the fountain of the heart, we
shall never truly mourn over it in the life and conversation. John
Verse 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity. He is not low
enough down yet, he must come lower. It is not enough for him to confess that
the water is filthy at the pool; he goes back to the source, and confesses that
the whole river is polluted up to its head. The source is unclean; the very
spring wells forth foul waters. Thomas Alexander.
Verse 5. I was shapen in iniquity. I shall not easily be
persuaded to think that parents who are sinners themselves and too much under
the influence of bad affections and passions, will be very likely to produce
children without transmitting to them some of those disorders and corruptions of
nature with which they themselves are infected. And if this be a difficulty, I
would beg leave to observe that it is a difficulty which affects natural as well
as revealed religion. Since we must take human nature as it is, and if it be
really in a state of disorder and corruption, and cannot be otherwise,
considering the common law of its production, the difficulty must have been as
ancient as the first man that was born; and therefore can be no objection
against the truth of revelation, but it must be equally so against natural
religion, which must equally allow the thing, if it be in reality a fact, with
revelation itself. Samuel Chandler.
Verse 5. Infants are no innocents, being born with original
sin, the first sheet wherein they are wrapped is woven of sin, shame, blood, and
filth. Eze 16:4, etc. They are said to sin as they were in the loins of Adam,
just as Levi is said to pay tithes to Melchizedek, even in the loins of his
forefather Abraham Heb 7:9-10; otherwise infants would not die, for death is the
wages of sin Ro 6:23; and the reign of death is procured be the reign of sin,
which hath reigned over all mankind except Christ. All are sinners, infected
with the guilt and filth of sin; the rot (according to the vulgar saying) over
runs the whole flock. Hence David reflects upon original sin as the cause of all
his actual, saying, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my
mother conceive me. Thus man's malady begind betimes, even in our
conception; this subtle serpent sowed his tares very early, so that we are all
"born in sin." Joh 9:34. Christopher Ness's "Divine Legacy, "1700.
Verse 5. Notwithstanding all that Grotius and others have
said to the contrary, I believe David to speak here of what is commonly called
original sin; the propensity to evil which every man brings into the
world with him, and which is the fruitful source whence all transgression
proceeds. Adam Clarke.
Verse 6. Behold. Before he entereth on any of the parts of
the verse he useth the particle of admiration, Behold; which he never
useth but in some remarkable manner, thereby the more to raise us up to the
contemplation of such great matters to be told. Archibald Symson.
Verse 6. Thou desirest truth in the inward parts. Thou
lovest truth, not shadows or images, but realities; thou lovest truth
in the inward parts, inside truth, a true heart, a pure conscience: he is
a Christian who is one inwardly. Ro 2:29. John Bull.
Verse 6. Truth in the inward parts. A great French pear is
called le bon hretien, the good Christian, because they say it is never
rotten at the core. George Swinnock.
Verse 6. In the hidden part thou shalt make me to know
wisdom. Piscator, in his annotations on this Psalm, puts this sense upon it,
that David should bless God for having made him to know this special wisdom in
this hidden thing or matter, and had brought the knowledge thereof home, as a
point of saving wisdom, to the hidden man of his heart, so as to see fully and
clearly this native corruption as the cause of all sin, and on that account to
cause him to lay it to heart. Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 6. In the hidden part thou shalt make me to know
wisdom. It is one thing to be wise headed and wise tongued, and another to
be wise hearted, and therefore in Scripture nothing more ordinary than to set
forth wisdom that is true indeed by the heart. God himself is said to be wise
of heart. Foolish creatures are like Ephraim, "a silly dove without heart."
They may have head enough, notion enough, flashing light,
appearing to others enough, but they are without a heart; they have not the
great work there, a new head and an old heart, a full head
and an empty heart, a light and burning profession, and a dark,
dead, and cold heart; he that takes up in such a condition is a fool and an
errant fool. John Murcot, 1657.
Verse 6. And in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know
wisdom. Some read it, "In the hidden part thou hadst made me to know
wisdom; "that thou hadst done it, but I have fallen from my high state,
marred thy handiwork. "By one plunge into lust I have fallen and fouled myself."
Verse 6. The copulative particle which connects the two
clauses, implies the correspondence between the revelation of the divine will on
the one part and the desire and prayer of the penitent heart on the other.
Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou
shalt make me to know wisdom. "What I want thou hast promised to give."
Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and the awakened mind is conscious
that they are so. Thomas T. Biddulph.
Verses 6-8. The right conviction of sin comprehends its being
acknowledged not only in our works, but also in our entire being.
Agustus F. Tholuck.
Verse 8. Make me to hear joy and gladness. This is the
exceeding great love of the Lord toward his children, that he hath not only
provided a sure salvation for them through the remission of their sins in Christ
Jesus, but also seals up in their heart the testimony thereof by his Holy Spirit
of adoption, that for their present consolation, lest they should be swallowed
up of heaviness through continual temptations. Though he speak not to all his
children as he did to Daniel, by an angel, "O man, greatly beloved of God, "nor
as he did to the blessed Virgin Mary, "Hail, Mary, freely beloved, "yet doth he
witness the same to the hearts of his children by an inward testimony: when they
hear it they are alive; when they want it they are but dead; their souls refuse
all other comforts whatsoever. William Cowper.
Verse 8. Make me to hear joy and gladness. As a Christian is
the most sorrowful man in the world, so there is none more glad than he. For the
cause of his joy is greatest. In respect his misery was greatest, his delivery
greatest, therefore his joy greatest. From hell and death is he freed, to life
in heaven is he brought...The person from whom he seeketh this joy is God:
Make me to hear, saith he; whereby he would teach us that this joy cometh
only from God; it is he who is the fountain of joy and all pleasure, for "all
good things come from above." Natural joys proceed from a natural and fleshly
fountain; spiritual joys spring only from God: so he who seeketh those joys
beneath seeketh hot water under cold ice. Archibald Symson.
Verse 8. Make me to hear joy and gladness. Another reference
to the expiation of the leper, whose ear was to be touched with the blood of the
trespass offering and the oil, as well as thumb and toe, to show that his
faculties were now prepared for the service of God; so David prays that his ears
may be sanctified to the hearing of joy and gladness; this an unsanctified heart
can never receive. W. Wilson.
Verse 8. The bones which thou hast broken. God, in favour to
his children, doth afflict them for sin; and the very phrase of breaking his
bones, though it express extremity of misery and pain, yet it hath hope in it,
for broken bones by a cunning hand may be set again and return to their former
use and strength; so that a conscience distressed for sins is not out of hope;
yet upon that hope no wise man will adventure upon sin, saying, though I am
wounded, yet I may be healed again; though I am broken, I may be repaired; for
let him consider--1. Who breaks his bones--Thou; he that made us our
bones and put them in their several places, and tied them together with
ligaments, and covered them with flesh; he that keepeth all our bones from
breaking; it must be a great matter that must move him to break the bones of any
of us. The God of all consolation, that comforteth us in all our distresses,
when he cometh to distress us, this makes affliction weigh heavy...2. The pain
of the affliction expressed so feelingly in the breaking of bones, which, as is
said, is the anguish of the soul for sin, and fear of the consuming fire of
God's wrath, and the tempest, as Job calls it, of anger. 3. The pain of setting
these bones again: for, though bones dislocated may be put in joint, and though
bones broken may be set again, yet this is not done without pain and great
extremity to the patient. Repentance setteth all our broken, pained bones; it
recovers the soul from the anguish thereof; but he that once feels the smart of
a true repentance, will say, the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season,
are as hard a bargain as ever he made, and as dear bought; they cost tears,
which are sanguis vulnerati cordis, the blood of a wounded heart; they
cost sighs and groans which cannot be expressed; they cost watching, fasting,
taming of the body to bring it in subjection, even to the crucifying of the
flesh with the lusts thereof. Therefore, let no man adventure his bones in hope
of setting them again. Samuel Page.
Verse 8. That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
The displeasure which God expressed against the sins he had been guilty of, and
the deep sense he had of the aggravated nature of them, filled him with those
pains and agonies of mind, as that he compares them to that exquisite torture he
must have felt had all his bones been crushed, for the original word
(tykd), signifies more than broken,
namely, being entirely mashed; and he compares the joy that God's declaring
himself fully reconciled to him would produce in his mind, to that inconceivable
pleasure, which would arise from the instantaneous restoring and healing those
bones, after they had been thus broken and crushed to pieces. Samuel
Verse 9. Hide thy face from my sins. The verb (rtk) properly signifies to veil, or hide with a
veil. Samuel Chandler.
Verse 9. Hide thy face from my sins. He said in the third
verse, that his sin was always in his sight; and now he prays that God would put
it out of his sight. This is a very good order. If we hold our sins in our eyes
to pursue them, God will cast them behind his back to pardon them: if we
remember them and repent, he will forget them and forgive: otherwise,
peccatum unde homo non advertit Deus: et si advertit, animadvertit
--the sin from which man turns not, God looks to it; and if he look to it, sure
he will punish it. William Cowper.
Verse 9. All mine iniquities. See how one sin calleth to
mind many thousands, which though they lie asleep a long time, like a sleeping
debt, yet we know not how soon they may be reckoned for. Make sure of a general
pardon, and take heed of adding new sins to the old. John Trapp.
Verse 10. Create in me a clean heart, O God. O you that
created the first heaven and the first earth of nothing! O you that will create
the new heaven and the new earth (wherein dwells righteousness),
when sin had made the creature worse than nothing! O you that creates the new
creature, the new man, fit to be an inhabitant of the new world, of the new
Jerusalem! O thou that hast said, "Behold, I make all things new:" create
thou in me, even in me, a clean heart; and renew a right spirit within
me. Matthew Lawrence.
Verse 10. Create in me a clean heart, O God, etc. David
prayeth the Lord to create him a new heart, not to correct his old heart,
but to create him a new heart; showing that his heart was like an old garment,
so rotten and tattered that he could make no good of it by patching or piecing,
but even must cut it off, and take a new. Therefore Paul saith, "Cast off the
old man; "not pick him and wash him till he be clean, but cast him off and begin
anew, as David did. Will ye know what this renewing is? It is the repairing of
the image of God, until we be like Adam when he dwelt in Paradise. As there is a
whole old man, so there must be a whole new man. The old man must change with
the new man, wisdom for wisdom, love for love, fear for fear; his worldly wisdom
for heavenly wisdom, his carnal love for spiritual love, his servile fear for
Christian fear, his idle thoughts for sanctified works. Henry Smith.
Verse 10. Create in me a clean heart. Creating, to
speak properly, is to make of nought, and is here used improperly. The prophet
speaketh according to his own feeling and present judgement of himself, as
though he had lost all, and had no goodness in himself. No doubt the prophet's
heart was in part clean, though not so much as he desired. These things thus
opened, here cometh a question first to be answered. Quest. Whether David
could have lost the cleanness of heart, having once had it? Ans. No. The
gifts and calling of God, that is (as I take it), the gifts of effectual
calling, are such as God never repenteth of or taketh away. Faith, hope, and
charity are abiding gifts, as sure as the election of God, which is
unchangeable. Indeed, the children of God, if we only considered them in
themselves with their enemies, night fall away, but being founded upon the
unchangeable nature of God, and immutability of his counsel, they cannot, the
gates of hell shall not prevail against them, the elect cannot be deceived or
plucked out of Christ's hands. Nay, certain it is that David did not actually
leave his former cleanness. For sure it is, his heart smiting him (as here it
did), so doing before in less matters, it was not wholly void of cleanness. And
again, it could not pray for cleanness if it were not somewhat clean. This is
most sure, that by grievous sins much filthiness cometh to the soul, as by a
boisterous wind a tree may lose his leaves and some branches, so as that the
party sinning may be brought into as great passions almost as if he had lost
all, but the desire of grace is an infallible certainty of some grace of that
kind. The prophet therefore desireth not a clean heart because he had it not in
any sort, but because he could not so well perceive it in himself, and take such
comfort in it as he had dome before, and for that he desired it a great deal
more than now he had it. So learned, so rich men, think themselves not learned,
not rich, in respect of that which they do desire, and when the sun is up, the
moon seemeth to have no light. George Estey, in "Certain Godly and Learned
Verse 10. Create in me a clean heart, O God, etc. This
"creation" is from nothing. David uses the same word of our creation which Moses
uses of "the creation of the heaven and the earth." Our creation "in Jesus
Christ" is no mere strengthening of our powers, no mere aiding of our natural
weakness by the might of the grace of God, it is not a mere amendment,
improvement of our moral habits; it is a creation out of nothing, of that which
we had not before. There was nothing in us whereof to make it. We were decayed,
corrupt, dead in trespasses and sins. What is dead becometh not alive, except by
the infusion of what it had not. What is corrupt receiveth not soundness, save
by passing away itself and being replaced by a new production. "The old man"
passeth not into the new man, but is "put off." It is not the basis of the new
life, but a hindrance to it. It must be "put off" and the new man "put on,
"created in Christ Jesus. E. B. Pusey, D.D., 1853.
Verse 10. (first clause). He used the word
creat (Heb. Bara), a word only used of the work of God, and
showing that the change in him could be wrought only by God. Christopher
Verse 10. A clean heart. The priest was required to make a
strict examination of the skin of the leper before he could pronounce him clean;
David prays God to make his heart clean. W. Wilson.
Verse 10. A right spirit. A steadfast spirit, i.e., a
mind steady in following the path of duty. French and Skinner.
Verses 10-12. Who was to do this work? Not himself;
God alone. Therefore, he prays: "O God, create--O lord, renew; uphold by thy
Spirit." Adam Clarke.
Verse 11. Cast me not away from thy presence. David lamented
before that sin had slain him, and made him like a dead man, wanting a heart or
quickening spirit; and now he fears lest, as the dead are abhorred by the
living, so the Lord should cast him as a dead and abominable thing out of his
presence. Whereof we learn this is one of the just punishments of sin; it
procures the casting out of a man from the face of God; and it may let us see
how dear bought are the pleasures of sin when a man to enjoy the face of the
creature deprives himself of the comfortable face of the Creator; as David here,
for the carnal love of the face of Bathsheba, puts himself in danger to be cast
out forever from the presence of the Lord his God. If a man could remember this
in all Satan's temptations, what it is that the deceiver offers, and what it is
again that he seeks, he would be loath to buy the perishing pleasures of sin
upon such a price as Satan selleth them, but would answer him as the apostle did
Simon Magus, "Thy money, with thyself, go into perdition; "thy gain, thy glory,
thy pleasure, and whatever thou wouldst give me to offend the Lord my God, go
with thyself into perdition, for what canst thou offer me comparable to that
which thou wouldst steal from me? But how is it that he prays, Cast me not
out from thy presence? May a man be cast any way from it? Saith he not
himself, "What way can I flee from thy presence?" This is soon answered by
distinguishing his twofold presence--one in mercy, wherewith he refresheth and
comforteth his own, and this without intermission they enjoy who are in heaven;
another, in wrath, whereby he terrifies and torments without intermission the
damned in hell. As to them who are upon the earth, certain it is he is
displeased with many, who, because they see not his angry face, regard it not,
borne out with temporal recreations of the creature, which will fail them; and
there are many, again, to whom he looks as a loving father in Christ, and yet
they see not his merciful face by reason of many interjected veils; but to them
who once have felt the sweetness of his favourable face it is death to want it.
Verse 11. Cast me not away from thy presence. Like the leper
who is banished from society till cleansed, or as Saul was rejected from being
king, because he obeyed not the word of the Lord. 1Sa 15:23. David could not but
feel that his transgression would have deserved a similar rejection. W.
Verse 11. Cast me not away. Lord, though I, alas! have cast
thee from me, yet cast me not away: hide not thy face from me, although I so
often have refused to look at thee; leave me not without help, to perish in my
sins, though I have aforetime left thee. Fra Thomé de Jesu.
Verse 11. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me. The words of
this verse imply that the Spirit had not altogether been taken away from him,
however much his gifts had been temporarily obscured...Upon one point he had
fallen into a deadly lethargy, but he was not "given over to a reprobate mind;
"and it is scarcely conceivable that the rebuke of Nathan the prophet should
have operated so easily and suddenly in arousing him had there been no latent
spark of godliness still remaining...The truth on which we are now insisting is
an important one, as many learned men have been inconsiderately drawn into the
opinion that the elect, by falling into mortal sin, may lose the Spirit
altogether, and be alienated from God. The contrary is clearly declared by
Peter, who tells us that the word by which we are born again is an incorruptible
seed 1Pe 1:23; and John is equally explicit in informing us that the elect are
preserved from falling away altogether. 1Jo 3:9. However much they may appear
for a time to have been cast off by God, it is afterwards seen that grace must
have been alive in their breasts even during that interval when it seemed to be
extinct. Nor is there any force in the objection that David speaks as if he
feared that he might be deprived of the Spirit. It is natural that the saints,
when they have fallen into sin, and have thus done what they could to expel the
grace of God, should feel an anxiety upon this point; but it is their duty to
hold fast the truth, that grace is the incorruptible seed of God, which never
can perish in any heart where it has been deposited. This is the spirit
displayed by David. Reflecting upon his offence, he is agitated with fears, and
yet rests in the persuasion that, being a child of God, he would not be deprived
of what, indeed, he had justly forfeited. John Calvin.
Verse 12. Restore. It is no small comfort to a man that hath
lost his receipt for a debt paid when he remembers that the man he deals with is
a good and just man, though his discharge is not presently to be found. That God
whom thou hast to deal with is very gracious; what thou hast lost he is ready to
restore (the evidence of thy grace I mean). David begged this, and obtained it.
Yea, saith faith, if it were true what thou fearest, that thy grace was never
true, there is mercy enough in God's heart to pardon all thy former hypocrisy if
thou comest in the sincerity of thy heart; and so faith persuades the soul by an
act of adventure to cast itself upon God in Christ. Wilt not thou, saith faith,
expect to find as much mercy at God's hands, as thou canst look for at a man's?
It is not beyond the line of created mercy to forgive many unkindnesses, much
falseness and unfaithfulness, upon an humble, sincere acknowledgment of the
same. The world is not so bad but it abounds with parents who can do thus much
for their children, and masters for their servants; and is that hard for God to
do which is so easy in his creature? Thus faith vindicates God's name. And so
long as we have not lost sight of God's merciful heart, our head will be kept
above water, though we want the evidence of our own grace. William
Verse 12. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, etc. How
can God restore that which he took not away? For, can I charge God with the
taking away the joy of his salvation from me? O gracious God, I charge not thee
with taking it, but myself with losing it; and such is the miserable condition
of us poor wretches, that if thou shouldest restore no more to us than what thou
takest from us, we should quickly be at a fault in our estates, and our ruin
would be as sudden as inevitable. But what am I so earnest for restoring? for
what good will restoring do me? and how shall I more keep it being restored,
than I kept it before being enjoyed? and if I so enjoy it, as still to fear to
lose it, what joy can there be in such enjoying? O therefore, not restore it
only, but establish me with thy free spirit; that as by thy restoring I
may enjoy it entirely, so by thy establishing I may enjoy it securely. Sir
Verse 12. Uphold me. I am tempted to think that I am now an
established Christian, that I have overcome this or that lust so long that I
have got into the habit of the opposite grace, so that there is no fear; I may
venture very near the temptation, nearer than other men. This is a lie of Satan.
I might as well speak of gunpowder getting by habit a power of resisting fire,
so as not to catch the spark. As long as powder is wet it resists the spark, but
when it becomes dry it is ready to explode at the first touch. As long as the
Spirit dwells in my heart, he deadens me to sin, so that if lawfully called
through temptation I may reckon upon God carrying me through. But when the
Spirit leaves me, I am like dry gunpowder. Oh, for a sense of this! Robert
Verse 12. Uphold ne with thy free spirit. A loving mother
chooses a fitting place, and a fitting time, to let her little child fall; it is
learning to walk, it is getting over confident, it may come to a dangerous
place, and if possessed of all this confidence, may fall and destroy itself. So
she permits it to fall at such a place, and in such a way as that it may be
hurt, wholesomely hurt, but not dangerously so. It has now lost its confidence,
and clings all the more fondly and trustingly to the strong hand that is able to
hold up all its goings. So this David, this little child of the great God, has
fallen; it is a sore fall, all his bones are broken, but it has been a precious
and a profitable lesson to him; he has no confidence any longer in himself, his
trust is not now in an arm of flesh. "Uphold me with thy free spirit." Thomas
Verse 12. (last clause). Let a free spirit sustain
me; that is, let me not be enslaved, as I have been, by my sinful passions.
Henry Dimock, M.A., 1791.
Verse 13. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, etc. We
see our duty craves that when we have received mercy from God for ourselves, we
should make vantage of it for the edification of others. Every talent received
from God should be put to profit, but specially the talent of mercy; as it is
greatest, so the Lord requires greater fruit of it, for his own glory, and for
the edification of our brethren. Seeing we are vessels of mercy, should not the
scent and sweet odour of mercy go from us to others? This duty Christ craved
from Peter: "And thou, when thou art converted, confirm thy brethren." And this
duty, as David here promises, so we may read how he did perform it: "Come unto
me, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul."
The property of a Christian is, fides per delectionem efficax, faith
worked by love. What availeth it to pretend faith toward God, where there is no
love toward thy neighbour? and wherein can thy love be declared more than in
this, to draw thy neighbour to the participation of that same merit whereunto
God hath called thee? By the law a man was bound to bring home his neighbour's
wandering beast if he had met with it before; how much more, then, to turn again
his neighbour himself when he wanders from the Lord his God? If two men walking
on the way should both fall into one pit, and the one being relieved out of it
should go his way and forget his neighbour, might it not justly be called a
barbarous and inhuman cruelty? We have all fallen into one and the same mire of
iniquity; since the Lord hath put out his merciful hand to draw us out of this
prison of sin, shall we refuse to put out our hand to see if possibly we may
draw up our brethren with us? William Cowper (Bishop).
Verse 14. (first clause). Deliver me from
bloods. The term bloods in Hebrew may denote any capital crime; and
in my opinion he is here to be considered as alluding to the sentence of death,
to which he felt himself to be obnoxious, and from which he requests
deliverance. John Calvin.
Verse 14. (first clause). The Chaldee reads,
Deliver me from the judgment of murder.
Verse 14. O God, thou God of my salvation. O God, is a good
invocation, for he heareth prayers. Yet to distinguish him from all false gods
he is so particular as to single him from all other: Thou God. And to
magnify him, and to reenforce his petition, he calleth him Deum salutis, "the
God of my salvation, "which expresses him able to deliver him; for it is his
nature, and his love, and his glory, to be a preserver of men. And to bring home
this joy and comfort into his own heart, he addeth, salutis meae, "of my
salvation." So it is oratio fervens, and the apostle telleth us
that such a prayer prevaileth much with God. For God may be a Saviour and a
deliverer, and yet we may escape his saving hand, his right hand may skip us. We
can have no comfort in the favours of God, except we can apply them at home;
rather we may "think on God and be troubled." Samuel Page.
Verse 14. And my tongue shall sing aloud of thy
righteousness. Hierom, Basil, Euthymius, and other ancient doctors observe
that natural corruptions and actual sins are the very rampiers which stop the
free passage of song Ps 51:15. So David doth himself expound himself: Deliver
me from bloodguiltiness, O God: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy
righteousness. His lack of thankfulness did cry, his adultery cry, his
murder cry unto the Lord for revenge; but alas! himself was mute, till God in
exceeding great mercy did stop the mouths of his clamorous adversaries, and gave
him leave to speak. John Boys.
Verse 14. Aloud. This for God, for himself, for the church.
1. For God, that his honour may be proclaimed, therefore they borrowed
the voice of still and loud instruments...2. For himself. Having
received such a benefit, he cannot contain himself, this new wine of spiritual
joy which filleth his vessel must have a vent. All passions are loud. Anger
chides loud, sorrow cries loud, fear shrieks loud, and joy sings loud. So he
expresses the vehemency of his affection; for to whom much is forgiven, they
love much. 3. For others. Iron sharpens iron--examples of zeal and
devotion affect much, and therefore solemn and public assemblies do generally
tender the best service to God, because one provoketh another. Samuel
Verse 15. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew
forth thy praise. As man is a little world in the great, so the
tongue is a great world in the little. Nihil habet medium; aut grande
malum est, aut grande bonum. (Jerome.) It has no mean; it is either a
great evil, or a great good. If good (as Eunapius said of that famous
rhetorician) a walking library, a whole university of edifying knowledge;
but if bad (as St. James doth tell us, Jas 3:6), "a world of wickedness."
No better dish for God's public service, when it is we; seasoned; again, none
worse, when ill handled. So that if we desire to be doorkeepers in God's house,
let us entreat God first to be a doorkeeper in our house, that he would shut the
wicket of our mouth against unsavoury speeches, and open the door of our lips,
that our mouth may shew forth his praise. This was David's prayer,
and ought to be thy practice, wherein observe three points especially: who,
the Lord; what, open my lips; why, that my mouth shall shew
forth thy praise. For the first--man of himself cannot untie the strings of
his own stammering tongue, but it is God only which opened "a door of
utterance." Col 4:3. When we have a good thought, it is (as the school doth
speak) gratia infusa; when a good word, gratia effusa; when
a good work, gratia diffusa. Man is a lock, the Spirit of God has a key,
"which openeth and no man shutteth; "again, "shutteth and no man openeth." Re
3:7. He did open the heart of Lydia to conceive well, the ears of the prophet to
hear well, the eyes of Elisha servant to see well, and here the lips of David to
speak well. Ac 16:1-40 Isa 50:1-11 2Ki 6:1-33. And therefore, whereas in the
former verse he might seem too peremptory, saying, My tongue shall
sing aloud of thy righteousness; he doth, as it were, correct himself by
this later edition and second speech: O Lord, I find myself most unable to sing
or say, but open thou my lips, and touch thou my tongue, and then I am
sure my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. John Boys.
Verse 15. O Lord, open thou my lips, etc. Again he seems to
have the case of the leper before his mind, with the upper lip covered, and only
crying unclean, unclean; and he prays as a spiritual leper to be enabled, with
freedom and fulness, to publish abroad the praise of his God. W. Wilson.
Verse 15. (first clause). He prays that his lips
may be opened; in other words, that God would afford him matter of
praise. The meaning, usually attached to the expression is, that God would so
direct his tongue by the Spirit as to fit him for singing his praises. But
though it is true that God must supply us with words, and that if he do not, we
cannot fail to be silent in his praise, David seems rather to intimate that his
mouth must be shut until God called him to the exercise of thanksgiving by
extending pardon. John Calvin.
Verse 16. For thou desirest not sacrifice; etc. There may be
another reason why David here affirms that God would not accept of a sacrifice,
nor be pleased with a burnt offering. No particular sacrifices were appointed by
the law of Moses to expiate the guilt of murder and adultery. The person who had
perpetrated these crimes was, according to the divine law, to be punished with
death. David therefore may be understood as declaring, that it was utterly vain
for him to think of resorting to sacrifices and burnt offerings with a view to
the expiation of his guilt; that his criminality was of such a character, that
the ceremonial law made no provision for his deliverance from the doom which his
deeds of horror deserved; and that the only sacrifices which would avail were
those mentioned in the succeeding verse, "The sacrifice of a broken
heart." John Calvin.
Verse 16. Else would I give it thee. And good reason it is,
that we who lie daily at the beautiful gate of the temple begging alms of him,
and receiving from his open hand, who openeth his hand, and filleth with his
plenty every living thing, should not think much to return to him such offerings
of our goods as his law requireth. Samuel Page.
Verses 16-17. And now I was thinking what were fit to
offer to God for all his lovingkindness he has showed me; and I
thought upon sacrifices, for they have sometimes been pleasing to him,
and he hath oftentimes smelt a sweet odour from them; but I considered that
sacrifices were but shadows of things to come, are not now in that grace they
have been; for old things are past, and new are now come; the
shadows are gone, the substances are come in place. The bullocks that are to be
sacrificed now are our hearts; it were easier for me to give him bullocks for
sacrifice, than to give him my heart. But why should I offer him that he care
not for? my heart, I know, he cares for; and if it be broken, and offered up by
penitence and contrition, it is the only sacrifice that now he delights in. But
can we think God to be so indifferent that he will accept of a broken heart? Is
a thing that is broken good for anything? Can we drink in a broken glass? Or can
we lean upon a broken staff? But though other things may be the worse for
breaking, yet a heart is never at the best till it be broken; for till it be
broken we cannot see what is in it; till it be broken, it cannot send forth its
sweetest odour; and therefore, though God loves a whole heart in affection, yet
he loves a broken heart in sacrifice. And no marvel, indeed, seeing it is
himself that breaks it; for as nothing but goat's blood can break the adamant,
so nothing but the blood of our scapegoat, Jesus Christ, is able to break our
adamantine hearts. Therefore, accept, O God, my broken heart, which I offer thee
with a whole heart; seeing thou canst neither except against it for being whole,
which is broken in sacrifice, nor except against it for being broken, which is
whole in affection. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken
and a contrite heart, etc. When speaking of thankfulness, we
might have expected him to say, "a joyful heart, or a thankful heart, "
but instead of that he says, "a contrite heart." For the joy of forgiveness does
not banish sorrow and contrition for sin: this will still continue. And the
deeper the sense of sin, and the truer the sorrow for it, the more heartfelt
also will be the thankfulness for pardon and reconciliation. The tender, humble,
broken heart, is therefore the best thank offering. J. J. Stewart
Verse 17. It may be observed that the second word,
(xkbn) which we render contrite,
denotes the being bruised and broken to pieces, as a thing is bruised in a
mortar (See Nu 11:8), and therefore, in a moral sense, signifies such a weight
of sorrow as must wholly crush the mind without some powerful and seasonable
relief. Samuel Chandler.
Verse 18. In thy good pleasure. Whatever we seek must ever
be sought under this restriction, Thy good pleasure. Build thou, but do
it in thine own wise time, in thine own good way. Build thou the walls of
separation that divide the church from the world; let them be in it, not
of it; keep them from its evil. Build thou the walls that bind, that
unite thy people into one city, under one polity, that they all may be one.
Build thou, and raze thou; raze all the inner walls that divide thy people from
thy people; hasten that day when, as there is but one Shepherd, so shall there
be but one sheepfold. Thomas Alexander.
Verses 18-19. Some few learned Jewish interpreters, while
they assign the Psalm to the occasion mentioned in the title, conjecture that
the 18th and 19th verses were added by some Jewish bard, in the time of the
Babylonish captivity. This opinion is also held by Venema, Green, Street, French
and Skinner. There does not, however, seem to be any sufficient ground for
referring the poem, either in whole or part, to that period. Neither the walls
of Jerusalem, nor the buildings of Zion, as the royal palace and the magnificent
structure of the temple, which we know David had already contemplated for the
worship of God (2Sa 7:1, etc.), were completed during his reign. This was only
effected under the reign of his son Solomon. 1Ki 3:1.
The prayer, then, in the 18th verse might have a particular
reference to the completion of these buildings, and especially to the rearing of
the temple, in which sacrifices of unprecedented magnitude were to be offered.
David's fears might easily suggest to him that his crimes might prevent the
building of the temple, which God had promised should be erected. 2Sa 7:13. "The
king forgets not, " observes Bishop Horne, "to ask mercy for his people as well
as for himself; that so neither his own nor their sins might prevent either the
building and flourishing of the earthly Jerusalem, or, what was of infinitely
greater importance, the promised blessing of Messiah, who was to descend from
him, and to rear the walls of the New Jerusalem." James Anderson's Note to
Calvin, in loc.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
The Psalm is upon its surface so full of suggestions for
sermons that I have not attempted to offer any of my own, but have merely
inserted a selection from Mr. G. Rogers and others.
1. The Prayer.
(a) For mercy, not justice. Mercy is the sinner's attribute--as
much a part of the divine nature as justice. The possibility of sin is implied
in its existence. The actual commission of sin is implied in its display.
(b) For pardon, not pity merely, but forgiveness.
2. The plea.
(a) For the pardon of great sins on account of great mercies,
(b) Many sins on account of multitude of mercies.
3. Hell deserving sins on account of tender mercies. We who
have sinned are human, he who pardons is divine.
"Great God, thy nature hath no bound,
So let thy pardoning love be found."
1. Confession. "I acknowledge, "etc.
2. Humiliation, not a mere confession with the lips, but ever
before me--in its guilt--defilement-- consequences in this life and hereafter.
Verses 3-4, 11-12, 17.
1. Scripture estimate of sin.
(a) Personal accountability--My sin.
(b) Estimated as hateful to God--Against thee, etc.
(c) Sin estimated as separation from God.
2. Spiritual restoration. First step--Sacrifice of a broken
spirit. Last step--Spirit of liberty. Thy free spirit. F. W.
Verse 6. See T. Goodwin's Treatise, entitled, "An
Unregenerate Man's Guiltiness before God, in respect of Sin and Punishment."
Book 9 cap. 1-2. (Nichol's edition, Vol. X., p. 324 et seq.)
Verse 7. Here is,
1. Faith in the act of an atonement for sin. "I shall be
2. Faith in the method of its application. "Purge me, "etc.
Sprinkled as the blood of sacrifices.
3. Faith in its efficacy. "I shall be whiter, "etc.
1. The change to be effected.
(a) A clean heart.
(b) A right spirit.
2. The power by which it is accomplished.
(a) A creative power, such as created the world at first.
(b) A renewing power, such as continually renews the face of the
(c) The acquirement of these blessings. The prayer, "Create,
Verses 12-13. A threefold desire.
1. To be happy --"Restore," etc.
2. To be consistent --"Uphold," etc.
3. To be useful --"Then will I teach," etc. --W.
1. It is not our duty to seek the conversion of others until we
are converted ourselves.
2. The greater enjoyment we have in the ways of God, the more
faithfully and earnestly we shall make them known to others.
3. The more faithfully and earnestly we make them known to
others the more they will be influenced by them.
1. Confession. His lips are sealed on account--
(a) Of his fall--and well they might be.
(b) Of natural timidity.
(c) Of want of zeal.
2. Petition, "Open thou, "etc. Not my understanding merely and
heart, but "lips."
3. Resolution. Then he would speak freely in God's praise.
1. When God does not open our lips we had better keep them
2. When he does open them we ought not to close them.
3. When he opens them it is not to speak in our own praise, and
seldom in praise of others, but always in his own praise.
4. We should use this prayer whenever we are about to speak in
his name. "O Lord, open, "etc.
1. Men would gladly do something towards their own salvation if
they could. "Thou desirest not, "etc., else would I give it.
2. All that they can do is not of the least avail. All the
ceremonial observances of Jewish or Gentile churches could not procure pardon
for the least transgression of the moral law.
3. The only offering of man which God will not despise is a
broken and a contrite heart.
4. All other requirement for his salvation God himself will
1. For whom is the prayer offered--for the church or Zion?
(a) Next to our own welfare we should seek the welfare of Zion.
(b) All should seek it by prayer.
2. For what is the prayer offered?
(a) The kind of good, not worldly or ecclesiastical, but
(b) The measure of good. "In thy good pleasure." Thine own love
to it, and what thou hast already done for it.
(c) The continuance of good. "Build, "etc. Its doctrines,
1. When we are accepted of God our offerings are accepted." Then," etc.
2. We should then make the richest offerings in our power, our
time, talents, influence, etc.
(a) Holy obedience.
(b) Self sacrifices, not half offerings, but whole "burnt
offerings; "not lambs merely, but "bullocks."
(c) Zeal for divine ordinances. "Upon thine altar."
3. God will take pleasure in such services. "Then shalt thou be
1. Because from his own redeemed.
2. Because given in the name of the Redeemer. With such
sacrifices God is well pleased.
WORKS UPON THE FIFTY-FIRST PSALM
Exposition of the Fifty-first Psalm, by MARTIN LUTHER, in
"Select works of Martin Luther, translated by REV. HENRY COLE." Vol. I., pp.
"An Exposition upon the 51 Psalm, "in "Certain Godly
and learned Expositions upon divers parts of Scripture. As they were
preached and afterwards more briefly penned by that worthy man of God, Maister
GEORGE ESTEY...Late preacher of the word of God in St. Edmund's Burie." 1603.
"David's Penitential Psalm opened: in thirtie severall
Lectures thereon. By SAM. HIERON. 1617." (4to.)
"Good News from Canaan; or, An Exposition on the 51 Psalm,
"in "The Workes of Mr. William Cowper, late Bishop of Galloway." 1629.
"David's Repentance; or, A plaine and familiar Exposition of
the LI. Psalm: first preached, and now published for the benefit of
God's church. Wherein euery faithful Christian may set before his eyes the
Patterne of vnfeigned Repentance, whereby we may take heed of the falling into
sin again. The eighth edition, newly revised and profitably amplified by the
author, SAMVEL SMITH, preacher of the word of God at Prittlewell in
"A Godly and Fruitful Exposition of the Fifty-one Psalm, the
fifth of the Penitential, "in ARCHIBALD SYMSON'S "Sacred Septenarie."
"Meditations and Disquisitions upon the 51 Psalm of David,
"in "Meditations and Disquisitions upon the seven Psalms of David,
commonly called the Penitential Psalmes." By SIR RICHARD BAKER,
"CLII. Lectures upon Psalm LI. Preached at Ashby Delazovch,
in Leicester Shire. By the late faithful, and worthy Minister of Jesus Christ,
Mr. ARTHUR HILDERSAM. 1642." (Folio.)
"An Exposition of the one-and-fiftieth Psalm, "in pp.
51-239, of "Sermons with some religious and divine Meditations. By the Right
Reverend Father in God, ARTHVRE LAKE, late Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells." 1639.
"David's Broken Heart; or, an Exposition upon the whole
Fifty-one Psalm. By that Reverend divine Doctor SAMUEL PAGE, late
Pastour of Deptford Stroud, in Kent...1646." (4to.)
Exposition of Psalm LI., in "Chandler's Life of David."
Vol. 2 pg 254-273.
"The Portraiture of the Christian Penitent: attempted in a
course of Sermons upon Psalm LI ...By the Rev. CHA. DE COETLOGON,
"Lectures on the Fifty-first Psalm, delivered in the Parish
Church of St. James', Bristol. By the Rev. THOMAS T. BIDDULPH, A.M.
"The Penitent's Prayer: a Practical Exposition of the
Fifty-first Psalm. By the Rev. THOMAS ALEXANDER, M.A., Chelsea."