Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. To the Chief Musician. The leader of the
choir, for the time being, is charged with this song. It were well if the chief
musicians of all our congregations estimated their duty at its due solemnity,
for it is no mean thing to be called to lead the sacred song of God's people,
and the responsibility is by no means light. A Psalm of David. His
life was one of conflict, and very seldom does he finish a Psalm without
mentioning his enemies; in this instance his thoughts are wholly occupied with
prayer against them.
DIVISION. From Ps 64:1-6 he describes the cruelty and
craftiness of his foes, and from Ps 64:7-10 he prophesies their overthrow.
Verse 1. Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer. It often helps
devotion if we are able to use the voice and speak audibly; but even mental
prayer has a voice with God which he will hear. We do not read that Moses had
spoken with his lips at the Red Sea, and yet the Lord said to him, "Why criest
thou unto me?" Prayers which are unheard on earth may be among the best heard in
heaven. It is our duty to note how constantly David turns to prayer; it is his
battle axe and weapon of war; he uses it under every pressure, whether of inward
sin or outward wrath, foreign invasion or domestic rebellion. We shall act
wisely if we make prayer to God our first and best trusted resource in every
hour of need. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. From harm and
dread of harm protect me; or it may be read as an expression of his assurance
that it would be so; "from fear of the foe thou wilt preserve me." With all our
sacrifices of prayer we should offer the salt of faith.
Verse 2. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked. From
their hidden snares hide me. Circumvent their counsel; let their secrets be met
by thy secret providence, their counsels of malice by thy counsels of love. From the insurrection of the workers of iniquity. When
their secret counsels break forth into clamorous tumults, be thou still my
preserver. When they think evil, let thy divine thoughts defeat them; and when
they do evil, let thy powerful justice overthrow them: in both cases, let me be
out of reach of their cruel hand, and even out of sight of their evil eye. It is
a good thing to conquer malicious foes, but a better thing still to be screened
from all conflict with them, by being hidden from the strife. The Lord knows how
to give his people peace, and when he wills to make quiet, he is more than a
match for all disturbers, and can defeat alike their deep laid plots and their
Verse 3. Who whet their tongue like a sword. Slander has
ever been the master weapon of the good man's enemies, and great is the care of
the malicious to use it effectively. As warriors grind their swords, to give
them an edge which will cut deep and wound desperately, so do the unscrupulous
invent falsehoods which shall be calculated to inflict pain, to stab the
reputation, to kill the honour of the righteous. What is there which an evil
tongue will not say? What misery will it not labour to inflict? And bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter
words. Far off they dart their calumnies, as archers shoot their poisoned
arrows. They studiously and with force prepare their speech as bent bows, and
then with cool, deliberate aim, they let fly the shaft which they have dipped in
bitterness. To sting, to inflict anguish, to destroy, is their one design.
Insult, sarcasm, taunting defiance, nicknaming, all these were practised among
Orientals as a kind of art; and if in these Western regions, with more refined
manners, we are less addicted to the use of rough abuse, it is yet to be feared
that the less apparent venom of the tongue inflicts none the less poignant pain.
However, in all cases, let us fly to the Lord for help. David had but the one
resource of prayer against the twofold weapons of the wicked, for defence
against sword or arrow he used the one defence of faith in God.
Verse 4. That they may shoot in secret at the perfect. They
lie in ambush, with bows ready bent to aim a coward's shaft at the upright man.
Sincere and upright conduct will not secure us from the assaults of slander. The
devil shot at our Lord himself, and we may rest assured he has a fiery dart in
reserve for us; He was absolutely perfect, we are only so in a relative sense,
hence in us there is fuel for fiery darts to kindle on. Observe the meanness of
malicious men; they will not accept fair combat, they shun the open field, and
skulk in the bushes, lying in ambush against those who are not so acquainted
with deceit as to suspect their treachery, and are to manly to imitate their
despicable modes of warfare. Suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. To secrecy
they add suddenness. They give their unsuspecting victim no chance of defending
himself; they pounce on him like a wild beast leaping on its prey. They lay
their plans so warily that they fear no detection. We have seen in daily life
the arrow of calumny wounding its victim sorely; and yet we have not been able
to discover the quarter from which the weapon was shot, nor to detect the hand
which forged the arrowhead, or tinged it with the poison. Is it possible for
justice to invent a punishment sufficiently severe to meet the case of the
dastard who defiles my good name, and remains himself in concealment? An open
liar is an angel compared with this demon. Vipers and cobras are harmless and
amiable creatures compared with such a reptile. The devil himself might blush at
being the father of so base an offspring.
Verse 5. They encourage themselves in an evil matter. Good
men are frequently discouraged, and not infrequently discourage one another, but
the children of darkness are wise in their generation and keep their spirits up,
and each one has a cheering word to say to his fellow villain. Anything by which
they can strengthen each other's hands in their one common design they resort
to; their hearts are thoroughly in their black work. They commune of laying snares privily. Laying their heads
together they count and recount their various devices, so as to come at some new
and masterly device. They know the benefit of cooperation, and are not sparing
in it; they pour their experience into one common fund, they teach each other
fresh methods. They say, Who shall see them? So sedulously do they mask
their attacks, that they defy discovery; their pitfalls are too well hidden, and
themselves too carefully concealed to be found out. So they think, but they
forget the all seeing eye, and the all discovering hand, which are ever hard by
them. Great plots are usually laid bare. As in the Gunpowder Plot, there is
usually a breakdown somewhere or other; among the conspirators themselves truth
finds an ally, or the stones of the field cry out against them. Let no Christian
be in bondage through fear of deep laid Jesuitical schemes, for surely there is
no enchantment against Jacob, nor divination against Israel; the toils of the
net are broken, the arrows of the bow are snapped, the devices of the wicked are
foiled. Therefore, fear not, ye tremblers; for the Lord is at your right hand,
and ye shall not be hurt of the enemy.
Verse 6. They search out iniquities. Diligently they
consider, invent, devise, and seek for wicked plans to wreak their malice. These
are no common villains, but explorers in iniquity, inventors and concoctors of
evil. Sad indeed it is that to ruin a good man the evil disposed will often show
as much avidity as if they were searching after treasure. The Inquisition could
display instruments of torture, revealing as much skill as the machinery of our
modern exhibitions. The deep places of history, manifesting most the skill of
the human mind, are those in which revenge has arranged diplomacy, and used
intrigue to compass its diabolical purposes. They accomplish a diligent search. Their design is
perfected, consummated, and brought into working order. They cry "Eureka; "they
have sought and found the sure method of vengeance. Exquisite are the
refinements of malice! hell's craft furnishes inspiration to the artistes
who fashion deceit. Earth and the places under it are ransacked for the
material of war, and profound skill turns all to account. Both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart,
is deep. No superficial wit is theirs; but sagacity, sharpened by
practice and keen hatred. Wicked men have frequently the craft to hasten slowly,
to please in order to ruin, to flatter that ere long they may devour, to bow the
knee that they may ultimately crush beneath their foot. He who deals with the
serpent's seed has good need of the wisdom which is from above: the generation
of vipers twist and turn, wind and wiggle, yet evermore they are set upon their
purpose, and go the nearest way to it when they wander round about. Alas! how
dangerous is the believer's condition, and how readily may he be overcome if
left to himself. This is the complaint of reason and the moan of unbelief. When
faith comes in, we see that even in all this the saints are still secure, for
they are all in the hands of God.
Verse 7. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow. They
shot, and shall be shot. A greater archer than they are shall take sure aim at
their hearts. One of his arrows shall be enough, for he never misses his aim.
The Lord turns the tables on his adversaries, and defeats them at their own
weapons. Suddenly shall they be wounded. They were looking to
surprise the saint, but, lo! they are taken at unawares themselves; they desired
to inflict deadly wounds, and are smitten themselves with wounds which none can
heal. While they were bending their bows, the great Lord had prepared his bow
already, and he let slip the shaft when least they looked for such an unsparing
messenger of justice. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." The
righteous need not learn the arts of self defence or of attack, their avenging
is in better hands than their own.
Verse 9. And all men shall fear. They shall be filled with
awe by the just judgments of God, as the Canaanites were by the overthrow of
Pharaoh at the Red Sea. Those who might have been bold in sin shall be made to
tremble and to stand in awe of the righteous Judge. And shall declare the work of God. It shall become the
subject of general conversation. So strange, so pointed, so terrible shall be
the Lord's overthrow of the malicious, that it shall be spoken of in all
companies. They sinned secretly, but their punishment shall be wrought before
the face of the sun. For they shall wisely consider of his doing. The judgments
of God are frequently so clear and manifest that men cannot misread them, and if
they have any thought at all, they must extract the true teaching from them.
Some of the divine judgments are a great deep, but in the case of malicious
persecutors the matter is plain enough, and the most illiterate can understand.
Verse 10. The righteous shall be glad in the Lord. Admiring
his justice and fully acquiescing in its displays, they shall also rejoice at
the rescue of injured innocence yet, their joy shall not be selfish or sensual,
but altogether in reference to the Lord. And shall trust in him. Their observation of providence
shall increase their faith; since he who fulfils his threatenings will not
forget his promises. And all the upright in heart shall glory. The victory of
the oppressed shall be the victory of all upright men; the whole host of the
elect shall rejoice in the triumph of virtue. While strangers fear, the children
are glad in view of their Father's power and justice. That which alarms the
evil, cheers the good. Lord God of mercy, grant to us to be preserved from all
our enemies, and saved in thy Son with an everlasting salvation.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is applied by R. Obadiah to Haman
and Mordecai. The enemy is Haman, the perfect man shot at is Mordecai; about
whom Haman communed with his friends to lay snares for him, and search
diligently for occasions against him and his people, which issued in his own
destruction. The ancient Midrash of the Jews applies it to Daniel, when cast
into the den of lions; and Jarchi supposes that David, by a spirit of prophecy,
foresaw it, and prayed for him who was of his seed; and that everything in the
Psalm beautifully falls in with that account. Daniel is the perfect man aimed
at; the enemy are the princes of Darius's court, who consulted against him,
communed of laying snares for him, and gained their point, which proved their
own ruin. But the Psalm literally belongs to David, by whom it was composed.
Whole Psalm. A cry of God's elect, when persecuted for
righteousness' sake, to their Deliverer and sure Avenger. The general principle
stated is very clear. The Psalm will adjust itself, as an experimental
utterance, to the lips of Christian faith wherever brought into contact with the
evil forces of the prince of this world, so as to suffer affliction for the
gospel's sake; for it expresses the condition and the hope of one actually
imperilled for the truth. How aptly a portion of this Psalm applies to the
suffering Truth Himself in the days of his affliction, when, pierced in his
spirit by lying words, he endured the contradiction of sinners against himself,
needs not be pointed out. Arthur Pridham, in "Notes and Reflections on the
Verse 1. Preserve my life. Hebrew, lives; so called
for the many faculties, operations, revolutions, and commodities of life.
Verse 3. Who whet their tongue, etc. The verb means, says
Parkhurst, "to whet, sharpen, "which is performed by reiterated motion of
friction; and by a beautiful metaphor it is applied to a wicked tongue. It has,
however, been rendered, vibrate, as it is certain a serpent does his
tongue. Richard Mant.
Verse 3. The ingenuity of man has been wonderfully tasked
and exercised in two things, inventing destructive weapons of war, and devising
various methods of ruining men by wicked words. The list of the former is found
in military writings. But the various forms of evil speaking can hardly be
catalogued. Evil speakers have arrows, sharp, barbed, dipped in poison. They
have "swords, flaming swords, two edged swords, drawn swords, drawn in anger,
with which they cut, and wound, and kill the good name of their neighbour." Sins
of the tongue are commonly very cruel. When slander is secret, as it commonly
is, you cannot defend yourself from its assaults. Its canons are infernal. One
of them is, "If a lie will do better than the truth, tell a lie." Another is,
"Heap on reproach; some of it will stick." William S. Plumer.
Verses 3-4. We saw in the Museum at Venice an instrument with
which one of the old Italian tyrants was accustomed to shoot poisoned needles at
the objects of his wanton malignity. We thought of gossips, backbiters, and
secret slanderers, and wished that their mischievous devices might come to a
speedy end. Their weapons of innuendo, shrug, and whisper, appear to be as
insignificant as needles: but the venom which they instil is deadly to many a
reputation. C. H. Spurgeon, in "Feathers for Arrows; or, Illustrations
for Preachers and Teachers," 1870.
Verses 3-4. David, upon sad experience, compares a wicked,
reviling tongue to three fatal weapons--a razor, a sword, and an
arrow. To a razor, such a one as will take off every little hair:
so a reviling tongue will not only take advantage of every gross sin committed
by others, but those peccadilloes, the least infirmities which others better
qualified cannot so much as discern; secondly, to a sword that wounds: so
the tongues of reproaching men cut deeply into the credits and reputations of
their brethren, but a sword doth mischief only near hand, not afar off; and,
therefore, it is in the third place compared to an arrow, that can hit at
a distance: and so revilers do not ill offices to those only in the parish or
town where they live, but to others far remote. How much, then, doth it concern
every man to walk circumspectly; to give no just cause of reproach, not to make
himself a scorn to the fools of the world; but, if they will reproach (as
certainly they will), let it be for forwardness in God's ways, and not for sin,
that so the reproach may fall upon their own heads, and their scandalous
language into their own throats. Jeremiah Burroughs.
Verses 3, 7-8. The most mischievous weapons of the wicked are
words, even bitter words; but the Word is the chief weapon
of the Holy Spirit: and as with this sword the great Captain foiled the tempter
in the wilderness, so may we vanquish "the workers of iniquity" with the true
Jerusalem blade. J. L. K.
Verse 4. That they may shoot in secret. The wicked are said
to shoot their arrows in secret at the perfect; and then "they say, Who
shall see them?" Ps 64:5. Thus Satan lets fly a temptation so secretly, that he
is hardly suspected in the thing. Sometimes he useth a wife's tongue to do his
errand; another while he gets behind the back of a husband, friend, servant,
etc., and is not seen all the while he is doing his work. Who would have thought
to have found a devil in Peter, tempting his Master, or suspected that Abraham
should be the instrument to betray his beloved wife into the hands of a sin? yet
it was so. Nay, sometimes he is so secret, that he borrows God's bow to shoot
his arrows from, and the poor Christian is abused, thinking it is God chides and
is angry, when it is the devil tempts him to think so, and only counterfeits
God's voice. William Gurnall.
Verse 8. (first clause).
In these cases,
We still have judgment here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: This even handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips. William Shakespeare.
Verse 8. Their own tongue to fall upon themselves. That is,
their own words shall be brought as a testimony against them, and condemn them.
"The tongue is a little member" (Jas 3:5), and therefore a light member; yet it
falls heavy, as heavy as lead. A man were better have his house fall upon him,
than that, in this sense, his tongue should fall upon him. Some have been
pressed to death because they would not speak, but stood mute before the judge;
but more have been pressed to death by their sinful freedom, or rather
licentiousness in speaking; this hath brought them to judgment, and cast them in
judgment... A strange thing, that the fall of a man's tongue should oppress his
body and whole estate; yet so it is, the weight of a man's tongue falling upon
him crushes him to powder. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 8. Their own tongue to fall upon themselves. The
arrows of idle words, though shot out of sight, and possibly quite forgotten,
will hereafter drop down upon the heads of such as drew the bow. Words are but
wind, is the common saying, but they are such wind as will either blow the soul
to its haven of rest, if holy, wholesome, savoury, spiritual, and tending to
edification, or else sink it into the Dead Sea and bottomless gulf of eternal
misery, if idle, profane, frothy, and unprofitable. Edward Reyner (1600-1670)
in "Rules for the Government of the Tongue."
Verse 10. The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall
trust in him. That is, if they have failed in their trust heretofore,
and not given God honour by confiding in him, yet these wonderful works of God
(of which he speaks in the Psalm) work this hope. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 10. All the upright in heart. The word of this text,
jashar, signifies rectitudinem, and planitiem, it signifies
a direct way; for the devil's way was circular, compassing the earth; but the
angel's way to heaven upon Jacob's ladder was a straight, a direct way. And then
it signifies, as a direct and straight, so a plain, a smooth, an even way, a way
that hath been beaten into a path before, a way that the fathers and the church
have walked in before, and not a discovery made by our curiosity, or our
confidence, in venturing from ourselves, or embracing from others, new doctrines
and opinions. The persons, then, whom God proposes to be partakers of his
retributions, are first, recti (that is, both direct men, and plain men),
and then recti corde, this qualification, this straightness and
smoothness must be in the heart; all the upright in heart shall have it. Upon
this earth, a man cannot possibly make one step in a straight and a direct line.
The earth itself being round, every step we make upon it must necessarily be a
segment, an arc of a circle. But yet, though no piece of a circle be a straight
line, yet if we take any piece, nay, if we take the whole circle, there is no
corner, no angle in any place, in any entire circle. A perfect rectitude we
cannot have in any way in this world; in every calling there are some inevitable
temptations. But, though we cannot make up one circle of a straight line (that
is impossible to human frailty), yet we may pass on without angles and corners,
that is, without disguises in our religion, and without the love of craft, and
falsehood, and circumvention, in our civil actions. A compass is a necessary
thing in a ship, and the help of that compass brings the ship home safe, and yet
that compass hath some variations, it doth not look directly north; neither is
that star which we call the north pole, or by which we know the north pole, the
very pole itself; but we call it so, and we make our uses of it, and our
conclusions by it, as if it were so, because it is the nearest star to that
pole. He that comes as near uprightness as infirmities admit, is an upright man,
though he love some obliquities. John Donne.
Verse 10. All the upright in heart shall glory. The Psalm
began in the first person singular, Hear my voice, O God, but it ends by
comprehending all the righteous. He who is most anxious about his own salvation
will be found to be the man of the truest and widest love to others; while he
who talks most of unselfishness in religion is generally the most selfish. We
cannot take a more efficient method for benefiting others than by being
earnestly prayerful for ourselves that we may be preserved from sin. Our example
will in itself be useful, and our godliness, by putting power into our
testimony, will increase the value of every rebuke, exhortation, or
encouragement we may utter. Our sin is or will be the church's sorrow, and the
way to make all the upright rejoice is to be upright ourselves. C. H. S.
Verse 10. Shall glory. This retribution is expressed in the
original in the word halal; and halal, to those translators that
made our Book of Common Prayer, presented the signification of gladness, for so
it is there: They shall be glad. So it did to the translators that came
after, for there it is, They shall rejoice; and to our last
translators it seemed to signify glory, They shall glory, say they. But
the first translation of all into our language (which was long before any of
these three), calls it praise, and puts it into the passive: All men
of rightful heart shall be praised. And so truly jithhalelu,
in the original, bears it, nay, requires it; which is not of praise which
they shall give to God, but of a praise that they shall receive for having
served God with an upright heart; not that they shall praise God in doing so,
but that godly men shall praise them for having done so. All this shall grow
naturally out of the root; for the root of this word is lucere, splendere,
to shine out in the eyes of men, and to create in them a holy and a
reverential admiration; as it was John Baptist's praise, that he was "A
burning and a shining lamp." Properly it is, by a good and a holy exemplary
life, to occasion others to set a right value upon holiness, and to give a due
respect for holy men... Shall glory. It is so far from diminishing this
glory, as that it exalts our consolation that God places this retribution in the
future; if they do not yet, certainly they shall glory, and if they do
now, that glory shall not go out, still they shall, they shall for ever glory.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The preservation of life desired.
(a) The desire expressed.
(b) Qualified--from violent death, from fear of, etc.
preservation of life prayed for.
(a) For self improvement.
(b) For usefulness.
(c) For the divine glory. G. R.
Verse 2. (first clause). Applied to Satan.
1. The danger considered.
(a) The enemy, wicked, mighty, malicious, experienced.
(b) His counsel. He tempts cunningly, and with deliberation.
(c) The secrecy of it. He may be exciting others against me, or
sowing evil in myself.
2. The deliverance implored. Hide me.
(a) Keep me from being tempted.
(b) Keep me from evil when tempted.
(c) Bring me out of it all unharmed.
(d) Meanwhile, let me be in thy secret place.
consolation of faith.
(a) God does preserve praying ones.
(b) Our enemy is his enemy.
(c) He has preserved us.
(d) We are his own.
(e) His honour is involved.
Verse 3. Bitter words. An excellent topic in
reference both to the sinner and to professed saints.
Verse 3. The whetting of the tongue. Fresh faults
discovered, evil motives imputed, exaggerations invented, lies forged,
innuendoes suggested, old slanders furnished, and ancient hatreds rekindled.
Verse 6. (two first clauses). The fault hunter; his
motive, his character, his pretences, and his punishment.
1. The subject for consideration --Judgments upon the wicked.
(a) As Judgments.
(b) As judgments from God--that work of God-- his doing.
The consideration of the subject.
(a) They are intended to be considered by others.
(b) They are to be considered wisely.
3. The effect of this
(a) Fear of God.
(b) Praise to God; shall declare, etc. G. R.
1. An act of God; something of his doing.
2. Its effect upon men in general: All men shall fear, and shall declare,
3. A special duty resulting from it, incumbent on good men: The righteous, etc. H. Dove.
1. The persons.
(a) What they are, in distinction from others; the righteous;
(b) What they are in themselves; upright in heart; not perfect,
2. Their privilege.
(a) Amidst all their persecutions to joy in God.
(b) Amidst all their dangers to trust in God. G. R.