Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
SUBJECT. Charles Simeon gives an excellent
summary of this Psalm in the following sentences:--"The Psalms are a rich
repository of experimental knowledge. David, at the different periods of his
life, was placed in almost every situation in which a believer, whether rich or
poor, can be placed; in these heavenly compositions he delineates all the
workings of the heart. He introduces, too, the sentiments and conduct of the
various persons who were accessory either to his troubles or his joys; and thus
sets before us a compendium of all that is passing in the hearts of men
throughout the world. When he penned this Psalm he was under persecution from
Saul, who sought his life, and hunted him 'as a partridge upon the mountains.'
His timid friends were alarmed for his safety, and recommended him to flee to
some mountain where he had a hiding-place, and thus to conceal himself from the
rage of Saul. But David, being strong in faith, spurned the idea of resorting to
any such pusillanimous expedients, and determined confidently to repose his
trust in God." To
assist us to remember this short, but sweet Psalm, we will give it the name of
"THE SONG OF THE STEADFAST."
DIVISION. From 1 to 3, David describes the temptation with which he was
assailed, and from 4 to 7, the arguments by which his courage was sustained.
Verse 1. These verses contain an
account of a temptation to distrust God, with which David was, upon some
unmentioned occasion, greatly exercised. It may be, that in the days when he was
in Saul's court, he was advised to flee at a time when this flight would have
been charged against him as a breach of duty to the king, or a proof of personal
cowardice. His case was like that of Nehemiah, when his enemies, under the garb
of friendship, hoped to entrap him by advising him to escape for his life. Had
he done so, they could then have found a ground of accusation. Nehemiah bravely
replied, "Shall such a man as I flee?" and David, in a like spirit,
refuses to retreat, exclaiming, "In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye
to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" When Satan cannot
overthrow us by presumption, how craftily will he seek to ruin us by distrust!
He will employ our dearest friends to argue us out of our confidence, and he
will use such plausible logic, that unless we once for all assert our immovable
trust in Jehovah, he will make us like the timid bird which flies to the
mountain whenever danger presents itself.
Verse 2. How forcibly the case is put! The bow is bent, the arrow is fitted
to the string: "Flee, flee, thou defenceless bird, thy safety lies in
flight; begone, for thine enemies will send their shafts into thy heart; haste,
haste, for soon wilt thou be destroyed!" David seems to have felt the force
of the advice, for it came home to his soul; but yet he would not yield,
but would rather dare the danger than exhibit a distrust in the Lord his God.
Doubtless the perils which encompassed David were great and imminent; it was
quite true that his enemies were ready to shoot privily at him.
Verse 3. It was equally correct that the very foundations of law and
justice were destroyed under Saul's unrighteous government: but what were
all these things to the man whose trust was in God alone? He could brave the
dangers, could escape the enemies, and defy the injustice which surrounded him.
His answer to the question, "What can the righteous do?" would be the
counter-question, "What cannot they do?" When prayer engages God on
our side, and when faith secures the fulfillment of the promise, what cause can
there be for flight, however cruel and mighty our enemies? With a sling and a
stone, David had smitten a giant before whom the whole hosts of Israel were
trembling, and the Lord, who delivered him from the uncircumcised Philistine,
could surely deliver him from King Saul and his myrmidons. There is no such word
as "impossibility" in the language of faith; that martial grace knows
how to fight and conquer, but she knows not how to flee.
Verse 4. David here declares the great source of his unflinching courage. He
borrows his light from heaven--from the great central orb of deity. The God of
the believer is never far from him; he is not merely the God of the mountain
fastnesses, but of the dangerous valleys and battle plains.
is in his holy temple." The heavens are above our heads in all regions
of the earth, and so is the Lord ever near to us in every state and condition.
This is a very strong reason why we should not adopt the vile suggestions of
distrust. There is one who pleads his precious blood in our behalf in the temple
above, and there is one upon the throne who is never deaf to the intercession of
his Son. Why, then, should we fear? What plots can men devise which Jesus will
not discover? Satan has doubtless desired to have us, that he may sift us as
wheat, but Jesus is in the temple praying for us, and how can our faith fail?
What attempts can the wicked make which Jehovah shall not behold? And since he
is in his holy temple, delighting in the sacrifice of his Son, will he not
defeat every device, and send us a sure deliverance?
throne is in the heavens;" he reigns supreme. Nothing can be done in
heaven, or earth, or hell, which he doth not ordain and over-rule. He is the
world's great Emperor. Wherefore, then, should we flee? If we trust this King of
kings, is not this enough? Cannot he deliver us without our cowardly retreat?
Yes, blessed be the Lord our God, we can salute him as Jehovah-nissi; in his
name we set up our banners, and instead of flight, we once more raise the shout
eyes behold." The eternal Watcher never slumbers; his eyes never know a
sleep. "His eyelids try the children of men:" he narrowly
inspects their actions, words, and thoughts. As men, when intently and narrowly
inspecting some very minute object, almost close their eyelids to exclude every
other object, so will the Lord look all men through and through. God sees each
man as much and as perfectly as if there were no other creature in the universe.
He sees us always; he never removes his eye from us; he sees us entirely,
reading the recesses of the soul as readily as the glancings of the eye. Is not
this a sufficient ground of confidence, and an abundant answer to the
solicitations of despondency? My danger is not hid from him; he knows my
extremity, and I may rest assured that he will not suffer me to perish while I
rely alone on him. Wherefore, then, should I take wings of a timid bird, and
flee from the dangers which beset me?
Verse 5. "The Lord trieth the righteous:" he doth not hate
them, but only tries them. They are precious to him, and therefore he refines
them with afflictions. None of the Lord's children may hope to escape from
trial, nor, indeed, in our right minds, would any of us desire to do so, for
trial is the channel of many blessings.
"Tis my happiness below
Not to live without the cross;
But the Saviour's power to know,
Sanctifying every loss.
* * * * * * * *
Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to his feet--
Lay me low, and keep me there.
Did I meet no trials here--
No chastisement by the way--
Might I not, with reason, fear
I should prove a cast-away?
Bastards may escape the rod,
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
But the true-born child of God
Must not--would not, if he might."
Is not this a very cogent reason why we should not distrustfully endeavour to
shun a trial?--for in so doing we are seeking to avoid a blessing.
Verse 6. "But the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth:"
why, then, shall I flee from these wicked men? If God hateth them, I will not
fear them. Haman was very great in the palace until he lost favour, but when the
king abhorred him, how bold were the meanest attendants to suggest the gallows
for the man at whom they had often trembled! Look at the black mark upon the
faces of our persecutors, and we shall not run away from them. If God is in the
quarrel as well as ourselves, it would be foolish to question the result, or
avoid the conflict. Sodom and Gomorrah perished by a fiery hail, and by a
brimstone shower from heaven; so shall all the ungodly. They may gather together
like Gog and Magog to battle, but the Lord will rain upon them "an
overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone:" Ezekiel
38:22. Some expositors think that in the term "horrible tempest,"
there is in the Hebrew an allusion to that burning, suffocating wind, which
blows across the Arabian deserts, and is known by the name of Simoom. "A
burning storm," Lowth calls it, while another great commentator reads it
"wrathwind;" in either version the language is full of terrors. What a
tempest will that be which shall overwhelm the despisers of God! Oh! what a
shower will that be which shall pour out itself for ever upon the defenceless
heads of impenitent sinners in hell! Repent, ye rebels, or this fiery deluge
shall soon surround you. Hell's horrors shall be your inheritance, your entailed
estate, "the portion of your cup." The dregs of that cup you shall
wring out, and drink for ever. A drop of hell is terrible, but what must a full
cup of torment be? Think of it--a cup of misery, but not a drop of mercy. O
people of God, how foolish is it to fear the faces of men who shall soon be
faggots in the fire of hell! Think of their end, their fearful end, and all fear
of them must be changed into contempt of their threatenings, and pity for their
Verse 7. The delightful contrast of the last verse is well worthy of our
observation, and it affords another overwhelming reason why we should be
stedfast, unmoveable, not carried away with fear, or led to adopt carnal
expedients in order to avoid trial. "For the righteous Lord loveth
righteousness." It is not only his office to defend it, but his nature
to love it. He would deny himself if he did not defend the just. It is essential
to the very being of God that he should be just; fear not, then, the end of all
your trials, but "be just, and fear not." God approves, and, if men
oppose, what matters it? "His countenance doth behold the upright."
We need never be out of countenance, for God countenances us. He observes, he
approves, he delights in the upright. He sees his own image in them, an image of
his own fashioning, and therefore with complacency he regards them. Shall we
dare to put forth our hand unto iniquity in order to escape affliction? Let us
have done with by-ways and short turnings, and let us keep to that fair path of
right along which Jehovah's smile shall light us. Are we tempted to put our
light under a bushel, to conceal our religion from our neighbours? Is it
suggested to us that there are ways of avoiding the cross, and shunning the
reproach of Christ? Let us not hearken to the voice of the charmer, but seek an
increase of faith, that we may wrestle with principalities and powers, and
follow the Lord, fully going without the camp, bearing his reproach. Mammon, the
flesh, the devil, will all whisper in our ear, "Flee as a bird to your
mountain;" but let us come forth and defy them all. "Resist the devil,
and he will flee from you." There is no room or reason for retreat.
Advance! Let the vanguard push on! To the front! all ye powers and passions of
our soul. On! on! in God's name, on! for "the Lord of hosts is with us; the
God of Jacob is our refuge."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm The most probable account of the occasion of this Psalm is that given
by Amyraldus. He thinks it was composed by David while he was in the court of
Saul, at a time when the hostility of the king was beginning to show itself, and
before it had broken out into open persecution. David's friends, or those
professing to be so, advised him to flee to his native mountains for a time, and
remain in retirement, till the king should show himself more favourable. David
does not at that time accept the counsel, though afterwards he seems to have
followed it. This Psalm applies itself to the establishment of the church
against the calumnies of the world and the compromising counsel of man, in that
confidence which is to be placed in God the Judge of all. W. Wilson, D.D., in
Whole Psalm. If one may offer to make a modest conjecture, it is not
improbable this Psalm might be composed on the sad murder of the priests by Saul
(1 Samuel 22:19), when after the slaughter of Abimelech, the high priest, Doeg,
the Edomite, by command from Saul, "slew in one day fourscore and five
persons which wore a linen ephod." I am not so carnal as to build the
spiritual church of the Jews on the material walls of the priests' city at Nob
(which then by Doeg was smitten with the edge of the sword), but this is most
true, that "knowledge must preserve the people;" and (Malachi 2:7),
"The priests' lips shall preserve knowledge;" and then it is easy to
conclude, what an earthquake this massacre might make in the foundations of
religion. Thomas Fuller.
Whole Psalm. Notice how remarkably the whole Psalm corresponds with
the deliverance of Lot from Sodom. This verse, with the angel's exhortation,
"Escape to the mountains, lest thou be consumed," and Lot's reply,
"I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil take me and I die."
Genesis 19:17-19. And again, "The Lord's seat is in heaven, and upon the
ungodly he shall rain snares, fire, brimstone, storm and tempest," with
"Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire out of
heaven:" and again "His countenance will behold the thing that is
just," with "Delivered just Lot . . . for that righteous man vexed
his righteous soul with their ungodly deeds." 2 Peter 2: 7, 8. Cassidorus
(A.D., 560) in John Mason Neal's "Commentary on the Psalms, from
Primitive and Mediaeval Writers," 1860.
Whole Psalm. The combatants at the Lake Thrasymene are said to have
been so engrossed with the conflict that neither party perceived the convulsions
of nature that shook the ground--
"An earthquake reeled unheedingly away,
None felt stern nature rocking at his feet."
From a nobler cause, it is thus with the soldiers of the Lamb. They believe,
and, therefore, make no haste; nay, they can scarcely be said to feel earth's
convulsions as other men, because their eager hope presses forward to the issue
at the advent of the Lord. Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 1. "I trust in the Lord: how do ye say to my soul,
Swerve on to your mountain like a bird?" (others, "O thou
bird.") Saul and his adherents mocked and jeered David with such
taunting speeches, as conceiving that he knew no other shift or refuge, but so
betaking himself unto wandering and lurking on the mountains; hopping, as it
were, from one place to another like a silly bird; but they thought to ensnare
and take him well enough for all that, not considering God who was David's
comfort, rest and refuge. Theodore Haak's "Translation of the Dutch
Annotations, as ordered by the Synod of Dort, in 1618." London, 1657.
Verse 1. "With Jehovah I have taken shelter; how say ye to my
soul, Flee, sparrows, to your hill?" "Your hill," that
hill from which you say your help cometh: a sneer. Repair to that boasted hill,
which may indeed give you the help which it gives the sparrow: a shelter against
the inclemencies of a stormy sky, no defence against our power. Samuel
Horsley, in loc.
Verse 1. "In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul,
Flee as a bird to your mountain?" The holy confidence of the saints in
the hour of great trial is beautifully illustrated by the following ballad which
Anne Askew, who was burned at Smithfield in 1546, made and sang when she was in
Like as the armed knight,
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight,
And Christ shall be my shield.
Faith is that weapon strong,
Which will not fail at need:
My foes, therefore, among,
Therewith will I proceed.
As it is had in strength
And force of Christe's way,
It will prevail at length,
Though all the devils say nay.
Faith in the fathers old
Which makes me very bold
To fear no world's distress.
I now rejoice in heart,
And hope bids me do so;
For Christ will take my part,
And ease me of my woe.
Thou say'st Lord, whoso knock,
To them wilt thou attend:
Undo therefore the lock,
And thy strong power send.
More enemies now I have
Than hairs upon my head:
Let them not me deprave,
But fight thou in my stead.
On thee my care I cast,
For all their cruel spite:
I set not by their haste;
For thou art my delight.
I am not she that list
My anchor to let fall
For every drizzling mist,
My ship substantial.
Not oft use I to write,
In prose, nor yet in rhyme;
Yet will I shew one sight
That I saw in my time.
I saw a royal throne,
Where justice should have sit,
But in her stead was one
Of moody, cruel wit.
Absorbed was righteousness,
As of the raging flood:
Satan, in his excess,
Sucked up the guiltless blood.
Then thought I, Jesus Lord,
When thou shall judge us all,
Hard it is to record
On these men what will fall.
Yet, Lord, I thee desire,
For that they do to me,
Let them not taste the hire
Of their iniquity.
Verse 1. "How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your
mountain?" We may observe, that David is much pleased with the metaphor
in frequently comparing himself to a bird, and that of several sorts: first, to
an eagle (Psalm 103:5), "My youth is renewed like the eagle's;"
sometimes to an owl (Psalm 102:6), "I am like an owl in the desert;"
sometimes to a pelican, in the same verse, "Like a pelican in the
wilderness;" sometimes to a sparrow (Psalm 102:7), "I watch, and am as
a sparrow;" sometimes to a partridge, "As when one doth hunt a
partridge." I cannot say that he doth compare himself to a dove, but he
would compare himself (Psalm 55:6), "O that I had the wings of a dove, for
then I would flee away and be at rest." Some will say, How is it possible
that birds of so different a feather should all so fly together as to meet in
the character of David? To whom we answer, That no two men can more differ one
from another, that the same servant of God at several times differeth from
himself. David in prosperity, when commanding, was like an eagle; in
adversity, when contemned, like an owl; in devotion, when retired, like a
pelican; in solitariness, when having no company, (of Saul), like
a partridge. This general metaphor of a bird, which David so often
used on himself, his enemies in the first verse of this Psalm used on him,
though not particularising the kind thereof: "Flee as a bird to your
mountain;" that is, speedily betake thyself to thy God, in whom thou
hopest for succour and security.
this counsel was both good in itself, and good at this time, why doth David seem
so angry and displeased thereat? Those his words, "Why say you to my
soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" import some passion, at
leastwise, a disgust of the advice. It is answered, David was not offended with
the counsel, but with the manner of the propounding thereof. His enemies did it
ironically in a gibing, jeering way, as if his flying thither were to no
purpose, and he unlikely to find there the safety he sought for. However, David
was not hereby put out of conceit with the counsel, beginning this Psalm with
this his firm resolution, "In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye then
to my soul," etc. Learn we from hence, when men give us good counsel in
a jeering way, let us take the counsel, and practice it; and leave them the jeer
to be punished for it. Indeed, corporal cordials may be envenomed by being
wrapped up in poisoned papers; not so good spiritual advice where the good
matter receives no infection from the ill manner of the delivery thereof. Thus,
when the chief priests mocked our Saviour (Matthew 27:43), "He trusted in
God, let him deliver him now if he will have him." Christ trusted in God
never a whit the less for the fleere and flout which their profaneness was
pleased to bestow upon him. Otherwise, if men's mocks should make us to
undervalue good counsel, we might in this age be mocked out of our God, and
Christ, and Scripture, and heaven; the apostle Jude, verse 18, having foretold
that in the last times there should be mockers, walking after their own lusts. Thomas
Verse 1. It is as great an offence to make a new, as to deny the true
God. "In the Lord put I my trust;" how then "say ye
unto my soul" (ye seducers of souls), "that she should fly unto
the mountains as a bird;" to seek unnecessary and foreign helps, as if
the Lord alone were not sufficient? "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress,
and he that delivereth me, my God, and my strength; in him will I trust: my
shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge. I will call upon the Lord, who
is worthy to be praised, so shall I be safe from mine enemies." "Whom
have I in heaven but thee," amongst those thousands of angels and saints,
what Michael or Gabriel, what Moses or Samuel, what Peter, what Paul? "and
there is none in earth that I desire in comparison of thee." John King,
Verse 1. In temptations of inward trouble and terror, it is not
convenient to dispute the matter with Satan. David in Psalm 42:11, seems to
correct himself for his mistake; his soul was cast down within him, and for the
cure of that temptation, he had prepared himself by arguments for a dispute; but
perceiving himself in a wrong course, he calls off his soul from disquiet to an
immediate application to God and the promises, "Trust still in God, for I
shall yet praise him;" but here he is more aforehand with his work; for
while his enemies were acted by Satan to discourage him, he rejects the
temptation at first, before it settled upon his thoughts, and chaseth it away as
a thing that he would not give ear to. "In the Lord put I my trust: how
say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" And there are
weighty reasons that should dissuade us from entering the lists with Satan in
temptation of inward trouble. Richard Gilpin.
Verse 1. The shadow will not cool except in it. What good to have the
shadow though of a mighty rock, when we sit in the open sun? To have almighty
power engaged for us, and we to throw ourselves out of it, by bold sallies in
the mouth of temptation! The saints' falls have been when they have run out of
their trench and stronghold; for, like the conies, they are a weak people in
themselves, and their strength lies in the rock of God's almightiness, which is
their habitation. William Gurnall.
Verse 1. The saints of old would not accept deliverances on base
terms. They scorned to fly away for the enjoyment of rest except it were with
the wings of a dove, covered with silver innocence. As willing were many of the
martyrs to die as to dine. The tormentors were tired in torturing Blandina.
"We are ashamed, O Emperor! The Christians laugh at your cruelty, and grow
the more resolute," said one of Julian's nobles. This the heathen counted
obstinacy; but they knew not the power of the Spirit, nor the secret armour of
proof, which saints wear about their hearts. John Trapp.
Verse 2. "For, lo, the wicked bend their bow," etc.
This verse presents an unequal combat betwixt armed power, advantaged with
policy, on the one side; and naked innocence on the other. First, armed
power: "They bend their bows, and make ready their arrows," being
all the artillery of that age; secondly, advantaged with policy: "that
they may privily shoot," to surprise them with an ambush unawares,
probably pretending amity and friendship unto them; thirdly, naked innocence:
if innocence may be termed naked, which is its own armour; "at the
upright in heart." Thomas Fuller.
Verse 2. "For, lo, the ungodly bend their bow, and make ready
their arrows within the quiver: that they may privily shoot at them which are
true of heart." The plottings of the chief priests and Pharisees that
they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill him. They bent their bow, when they
hired Judas Iscariot for the betrayal of his Master; they made ready their
arrows within the quiver when they sought "false witnesses against Jesus to
put him to death." Matthew 26:59. "Them which are true of
heart." Not alone the Lord himself, the only true and righteous, but
his apostles, and the long line of those who should faithfully cleave to him
from that time to this. And as with the Master, so with the servants: witness
the calumnies and the revilings that from the time of Joseph's accusation by his
mistress till the present day, have been the lot of God's people. Michael
Ayguan, 1416, in J. M. Neale's Commentary.
Verse 2. "That they may secretly shoot at them which are
upright in heart." They bear not their bows and arrows as scarecrows in
a garden of cucumbers, to fray, but to shoot, not at stakes, but men;
their arrows are jacula mortifera (Psalm 7), deadly arrows, and lest they
should fail to hit, they take advantage of the dark, of privacy and secrecy;
they shoot privily. Now this is the covenant of hell itself. For what
created power in the earth is able to dissolve that work which cruelty
and subtlety, like Simeon and Levi, brothers in evil, are combined and
confederate to bring to pass? Where subtlety is ingenious, insidious to invent,
cruelty barbarous to execute, subtlety giveth counsel, cruelty giveth the
stroke. Subtlety ordereth the time, the place, the means, accomodateth,
concinnateth circumstances; cruelty undertaketh the act: subtlety hideth the
knife, cruelty cutteth the throat: subtlety with a cunning head layeth the
ambush, plotteth the train, the stratagem; and cruelty with as savage a heart,
sticketh not at the dreadfullest, direfullest objects, ready to wade up to the
ankles, the neck, in a whole red sea of human, yea, country blood: how fearful
is their plight that are thus assaulted! John King.
Verse 3. "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the
righteous do?" But now we are met with a giant objection, which with
Goliath must be removed, or else it will obstruct our present proceedings. Is it
possible that the foundations of religion should be destroyed? Can God be
in so long a sleep, yea, so long a lethargy, as patiently to permit the ruins
thereof? If he looks on, and yet doth not see these foundations when
destroyed, where then is his omnisciency? If he seeth it, and cannot help
it, where then is his omnipotency? If he seeth it, can help it, and will
not, where then is his goodness and mercy? Martha said to Jesus
(John 11:21), "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not
died." But many will say, Were God effectually present in the world with
his aforesaid attributes, surely the foundations had not died, had
not been destroyed. We answer negatively, that it is impossible that the foundations
of religion should ever be totally and finally destroyed, either
in relation to the church in general, or in reference to every true and lively
member thereof. For the first, we have an express promise of Christ. Matthew
16:18. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Fundamenta
tamen stant inconcussa Sionis. And as for every particular Christian (2
Timothy 2:19), "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having
this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his." However, though for the
reasons aforementioned in the objections (the inconsistency thereof with the
attributes of God's omnipotency, omnisciency, and goodness), the foundations
can never totally and finally, yet may they partially be destroyed, quoad
gradum, in a fourfold degree, as followeth. First, in the desires and
utmost endeavours of wicked men,
They bring their--
1. Hoc velle,
2. Hoc agere,
3. Totum posse.
If they destroy not the foundations, it is no thanks to them, seeing
all the world will bear them witness they have done their best (that is, their
worst), what their might and malice could perform. Secondly, in their own
vainglorious imaginations: they may not only vainly boast, but also verily
believe that they have destroyed the foundations. Applicable to this
purpose, is that high rant of the Roman emperor (Luke 2:1): "And it came to
pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all
the world should be taxed." All the world! whereas he had, though much, not
all in Europe, little in Asia, less in Africa, none in America, which was so far
from being conquered, it was not so much as known to the Romans. But hyperbole
is not a figure, but the ordinary language of pride; because indeed Augustus had
very much he proclaimeth himself to have all the world. . . . Thirdly, the
foundations may be destroyed as to all outward visible illustrious
apparition. The church in persecution is like unto a ship in a tempest; down go
all their masts, yea, sometimes for the more speed they are forced to cut them
down: not a piece of canvas to play with the winds, no sails to be seen; they
lie close knotted to the very keel, that the tempest may have the less power
upon them, though when the storm is over, they can hoist up their sails as high,
and spread their canvas as broad as ever before. So the church in the time of
persecution feared, but especially felt, loseth all gayness and
gallantry which may attract and allure the eyes of beholders, and contenteth
itself with its own secrecy. In a word, on the work-days of affliction she
weareth her worst clothes, whilst her best are laid up in her wardrobe, in sure
and certain hope that God will give her a holy and happy day, when
with joy she shall wear her best garments. Lastly, they may be destroyed
in the jealous apprehensions of the best saints and servants of God,
especially in their melancholy fits. I will instance in no puny, but in a star
of the first magnitude and greatest eminency, even Elijah himself complaining (1
Kings 19:10): "And I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take
it away." Thomas Fuller.
Verse 3. "If." It is the only word of comfort in the
text, that what is said is not positive, but suppositive; not thetical,
but hypothetical. And yet this comfort which is but a spark (at which we would
willingly kindle our hopes), is quickly sadded with a double consideration.
First, impossible suppositions produce impossible consequences, "As is the
mother, so is the daughter." Therefore, surely God's Holy Spirit would not
suppose such a thing but what was feasible and possible, but what either had,
did, or might come to pass. Secondly, the Hebrew word is not the conditional im,
si, si forte, but chi, quia, quoniam, because, and (although here it
be favourably rendered if), seemeth to import, more therein, that the sad
case had already happened in David's days. I see, therefore, that this if,
our only hope in the text, is likely to prove with Job's friends, but a
miserable comforter. Well, it is good to know the worst of things, that we may
provide ourselves accordingly; and therefore let us behold this doleful case,
not as doubtful, but as done; not as feared, but felt; not as suspected, but at
this time really come to pass. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 3. "If the foundations," etc. My text is an
answer to a tacit objection which some may raise; namely, that the righteous are
wanting to themselves, and by their own easiness and inactivity (not daring and
doing so much as they might and ought), betray themselves to that bad condition.
In whose defence David shows, that if God in his wise will and pleasure seeth it
fitting, for reasons best known to himself, to suffer religion to be reduced to
terms of extremity, it is not placed in the power of the best man alive to
remedy and redress the same. "If the foundations be destroyed, what can
the righteous do?" My text is hung about with mourning, as for a
funeral sermon, and contains: First, a sad case supposed, "If the
foundations be destroyed." Secondly, a sad question propounded, "What
can the righteous do?" Thirdly, a sad answer implied, namely, that they
can do just nothing, as to that point of re-establishing the destroyed
foundation. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 3. "If the foundations be destroyed," etc. The
civil foundation of a nation or people, is their laws and constitutions. The
order and power that's among them, that's the foundation of a people; and when
once this foundation is destroyed, "What can the righteous do?"
What can the best, the wisest in the world, do in such a case? What can any man
do, if there be not a foundation of government left among men? There is no help
nor answer in such a case but that which follows in the fourth verse of the
Psalm, "The Lord is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven:
his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men;" as if he had
said, in the midst of these confusions, when as it is said (Psalm 82:5),
"All the foundations of the earth are out of course;" yet God keeps
his course still, he is where he was and as he was, without variableness or
shadow of turning. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 3. "The righteous." The righteous indefinitely,
equivalent to the righteous universally; not only the righteous as a single
arrow, but in the whole sheaf; not only the righteous in their personal, but in
their diffusive capacity. Were they all collected into one body, were all the
righteous living in the same age wherein the foundations are destroyed,
summoned up and modelled into one corporation, all their joint endeavours would
prove ineffectual to the re-establishing of the fallen foundations, as
not being man's work, but only God's work to perform. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 3. "The foundations." Positions, the
things formerly fixed, placed, and settled. It is not said, if the roof be
ruinous, or if the side walls be shattered, but if the foundations.
Verse 3. "Foundations be destroyed." In the plural.
Here I will not warrant my skill in architecture, but conceive this may pass for
an undoubted truth: it is possible that a building settled on several entire foundations
(suppose them pillars) close one to another, if one of them fall, yet the
structure may still stand, or rather hang (at the least for a short time) by
virtue of the complicative, which it receiveth from such foundations
which still stand secure. But in case there be a total rout, and an utter ruin
of all the foundations,, none can fancy to themselves a possibility of
that building's subsistence. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 3. "What CAN the righteous?" The can
of the righteous is a limited can, confined to the rule of God's word;
they can do nothing but what they can lawfully do. 2 Corinthians
13:8. "For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the
truth:" Illud possumus, quod jure possumus. Wicked men can do
anything; their conscience, which is so wide that it is none at all, will bear
them out to act anything how unlawful soever, to stab, poison, massacre, by any
means, at any time, in any place, whosoever standeth betwixt them and the
effecting of their desires. Not so the righteous; they have a rule whereby to
walk, which they will not, they must not, they dare not, cross. If therefore a
righteous man were assured, that by the breach of one of God's commandments he
might restore decayed religion, and re-settle it statu quo prius, his
hands, head, and heart are tied up, he can do nothing, because their
damnation is just who say (Romans 3:8), "Let us do evil that good
may come thereof."
Verse 3. "Do." It is not said, What can they
think? It is a great blessing which God hath allowed injured people, that
though otherwise oppressed and straitened, they may freely enlarge themselves in
their thoughts. Thomas Fuller.
Verse 3. Sinning times have ever been the saints' praying times: this
sent Ezra with a heavy heart to confess the sin of his people, and to bewail
their abominations before the Lord. Ezra 9. And Jeremiah tells the wicked of his
degenerate age, that "his soul should weep in secret places for their
pride." Jeremiah 13:17. Indeed, sometimes sin comes to such a height, that
this is almost all the godly can do, to get into a corner, and bewail the
general pollutions of the age. "If the foundations be destroyed, what
can the righteous do?" Such dismal days of national confusion our eyes
have seen, when foundations of government were destroyed, and all hurled into
military confusion. When it is thus with a people, "What can the
righteous do?" Yes, this they may, and should do, "fast and
pray." There is yet a God in heaven to be sought to, when a people's
deliverance is thrown beyond the help of human policy or power. Now is the fit
time to make their appeal to God, as the words following hint: "The Lord
is in his holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven;" in which words
God is presented sitting in heaven as a temple, for their encouragement, I
conceive, in such a desperate state of affairs, to direct their prayers thither
for deliverance. And certainly this hath been the engine that hath been
instrumental, above any, to restore this poor nation again, and set it upon the
foundation of that lawful government from which it had so dangerously departed. William
Verse 4. The infinite understanding of God doth exactly know the sins
of men; he knows so as to consider. He doth not only know them, but intently
behold them: "His eyelids try the children of men," a metaphor
taken from men, that contract the eyelids when they would wistly and accurately
behold a thing: it is not a transient and careless look. Stephen Charnock.
Verse 4. "His eyes behold," etc. God searcheth not as
man searcheth, by enquiring into that which before was hid from him; his
searching is no more but his beholding; he seeth the heart, he beholdeth the
reins; God's very sight is searching. Hebrews 4:13. "All things are naked,
and opened unto his eyes," tetrachlidmena, dissected or anatomised.
He hath at once as exact a view of the most hidden things, the very entrails of
the soul, as if they had been with never so great curiosity anatomised before
him. Richard Alleine, 1611-1681.
Verse 4. "His eyes behold," etc. Consider that God
not only sees into all you do, but he sees it to that very end that he may
examine and search into it. He doth not only behold you with a common and
indifferent look, but with a searching, watchful, and inquisitive eye: he pries
into the reasons, the motives, the ends of all your actions. "The Lord's
throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of
men." Revelation 1:14, where Christ is described, it is said, his
eyes are as a flame of fire: you know the property of fire is to search and
make trial of those things which are exposed unto it, and to separate the dross
from the pure metal: so, God's eye is like fire, to try and examine the actions
of men: he knows and discerns how much your very purest duties have in them of
mixture, and base ends of formality, hypocrisy, distractedness, and deadness: he
sees through all your specious pretenses, that which you cast as a mist before
the eyes of men when yet thou art but a juggler in religion: all your tricks and
sleights of outward profession, all those things that you use to cozen and
delude men withal, cannot possibly impose upon him: he is a God that can look
through all those fig-leaves of outward profession, and discern the nakedness of
your duties through them. Ezekiel Hopkins, D.D.
Verse 4. "His eyes behold," etc. Take God into thy
counsel. Heaven overlooks hell. God at any time can tell thee what plots are
hatching there against thee. William Gurnall.
Verse 4. "His eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of
men." When an offender, or one accused for any offence, is brought
before a judge, and stands at the bar to be arraigned, the judge looks upon him,
eyes him, sets his eye upon him, and he bids the offender look up in his face:
"Look upon me," saith the judge, "and speak up:" guiltiness
usually clouds the forehead and clothes the brow; the weight of guilt holds down
the head! the evil doer hath an ill look, or dares not look up; how glad
is he if the judge looks off him. We have such an expression here, speaking of
the Lord, the great Judge of heaven and earth: "His eyelids try the
children of men," as a judge tries a guilty person with his eye, and
reads the characters of his wickedness printed in his face. Hence we have a
common speech in our language, such a one looks suspiciously, or, he
hath a guilty look. At that great gaol-delivery described in Revelation
6:16, All the prisoners cry out to be hid from the face of him that sat upon
the throne. They could not look upon Christ, and they could not endure
Christ should look upon them; the eyelids of Christ try the children of men. . .
. Wickedness cannot endure to be under the observation of any eye much less of
the eye of justice. Hence the actors of it say, "Who seeth us?"
It is very hard not to show the guilt of the heart in the face, and it is as
hard to have it seen there. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 5. "The Lord trieth the righteous." Except our
sins, there is not such plenty of anything in all the world as there is of
troubles which come from sin, as one heavy messenger came to Job after another.
Since we are not in paradise, but in the wilderness, we must look for one
trouble after another. As a bear came to David after a lion, and a giant after a
bear, and a king after a giant, and Philistines after a king, so, when believers
have fought with poverty. they shall fight with envy; when they have fought with
envy, they shall fight with infamy; when the have fought with infamy, they shall
fight with sickness; they shall be like a labourer who is never out of work. Henry
Verse 5. "The Lord trieth the righteous." Times of
affliction and persecution will distinguish the precious from the vile, it will
difference the counterfeit professor from the true. Persecution is a Christian's
touchstone, it is a lapis lydius that will try what metal men are made
of, whether they be silver or tin, gold or dross, wheat or chaff, shadow or
substance, carnal or spiritual, sincere or hypocritical. Nothing speaks out more
soundness and uprightness than a pursuing after holiness, even then when
holiness is most afflicted, pursued, and persecuted in the world: to stand fast
in fiery trials argues much integrity within. Thomas Brooks.
Verse 5. Note the singular opposition of the two sentences. God hates
the wicked, and therefore in contrast he loves the righteous; but it is here
said that he tries them: therefore it follows that to try and to love are with
God the same thing. C. H. S.
Verse 6. "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares."
Snares to hold them; then if they be not delivered, follow fire and brimstone,
and they cannot escape. This is the case of a sinner if he repent not; if God
pardon not, he is in the snare of Satan's temptation, he is in the snare of
divine vengeance; let him therefore cry aloud for his deliverance, that he may
have his feet in a large room. The wicked lay snares for the righteous, but God
either preventeth them that their souls ever escape them, or else he subverteth
them: "The snares are broken and we are delivered." No snares hold us
so fast as those of our own sins; they keep down our heads, and stoop us that we
cannot look up: a very little ease they are to him that hath not a seared
conscience. Samuel Page, 1646.
Verse 6. "He shall rain snares." As in hunting with
the lasso, the huntsman casts a snare from above upon his prey to entangle its
head or feet, so shall the Lord from above with many twistings of the line of
terror, surround, bind, and take captive the haters of his law. C. H. S.
Verse 6. "He shall rain snares," etc. He shall rain
upon them when they least think of it, even in the midst of their jollity, as
rain falls on a fair day. Or, he shall rain down the vengeance when he sees
good, for it rains not always. Though he defers it, yet it will rain. William
Nicholson, Bishop of Gloucester, in "David's Harp Strung and Tuned,"
Verse 6. "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and
brimstone, and an horrible tempest." The strange dispensation of
affairs in this world is an argument which doth convincingly prove that there
shall be such a day wherein all the involucra and entanglements of
providence shall be clearly unfolded. Then shall the riddle be dissolved, why
God hath given this and that profane wretch so much wealth, and so much power to
do mischief: is it not that they might be destroyed for ever? Then shall
they be called to a strict account for all that plenty and prosperity for which
they are now envied; and the more they have abused, the more dreadful will their
condemnation be. Then it will be seen that God gave them not as mercies, but as "snares."
It is said that God "will rain on the wicked snares, fire and brimstone,
and an horrible tempest:" when he scatters abroad the desirable things
of this world, riches, honours, pleasures, etc., then he rains "snares"
upon them; and when he shall call them to an account for these things, then he
will rain upon them "fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest"
of his wrath and fury. Dives, who caroused on earth, yet, in hell could not
obtain so much as one poor drop of water to cool his scorched and flaming
tongue: had not his excess and intemperance been so great in his life, his fiery
thirst had not been so tormenting after death; and therefore, in that sad item
that Abraham gives him (Luke 16:25), he bids him "remember that thou, in
thy lifetime, receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but
now he is comforted, and thou art tormented." I look upon this as a
most bitter and a most deserved sarcasm; upbraiding him for his gross folly, in
making the trifles of this life his good things. Thou hast received thy good
things, but now thou art tormented. Oh, never call Dive's purple and delicious
fare good things, if they thus end in torments! Was it good for him to be
wrapped in purple who is now wrapped in flames? Was it good for him to fare
deliciously who was only thereby fatted up against the day of slaughter? Ezekiel
Verse 6. "Snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest: this
shall be the portion of their cup." After the judgment follows the
condemnation: pre-figured as we have seen, by the overthrow of Sodom and
Gomorrah. "Snares:" because the allurements of Satan in this
life will be their worst punishments in the next; the fire of anger, the
brimstone of impurity, the tempest of pride, the lust of the flesh, the lust of
the eyes, and the pride of life. "This shall be their portion;"
compare it with the psalmist's own saying, "The Lord himself is the portion
of my inheritance and my cup." Psalm 16:5. Cassidorus, in J. M. Neale's
Verse 6. "The portion of their cup." Hebrew, the
allotment of their cup. The expression has reference to the custom of
distributing to each guest his mess of meat. William French and George
Verse 7. That God may give grace without glory is intelligible; but to
admit a man to communion with him in glory without grace, is not intelligible.
It is not agreeable to God's holiness to make any inhabitant of heaven, and
converse freely with him in a way of intimate love, without such a qualification
of grace: "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness;" his
countenance doth behold the upright;" he looks upon him with a smiling
eye, and therefore he cannot favourably look upon an unrighteous person; so that
this necessity is not founded only in the command of God that we should be
renewed, but in the very nature of the thing, because God, in regard to his
holiness, cannot converse with an impure creature. God must change his nature,
or the sinner's nature must be changed. There can be no friendly communion
between two of different natures without the change of one of them into the
likeness of the other. Wolves and sheep, darkness and light, can never agree.
God cannot love a sinner as a sinner, because he hates impurity by a necessity
of nature as well as a choice of will. It is as impossible for him to love it as
to cease to be holy. Stephen Charnock.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Faith's bold avowal, and brave refusal.
Verse 1. Teacheth us to trust in God, how great soever our dangers be;
also that we shall be many times assaulted to make us put far from us this
trust, but yet that we must cleave unto it, as the anchor of our souls, sure and
steadfast. Thomas Wilcocks.
Verse 1. The advice of cowardice, and the jeer of insolence, both
answered by faith. Lesson--Attempt no other answer.
Verse 2. The craftiness of our spiritual enemies.
Verse 3. This may furnish a double discourse.
God's oath and promise could remove, what could we do? Here the answer is
all earthly things fail, and the very State fall to pieces, what can we do?
We can suffer joyfully, hope cheerfully, wait patiently, pray earnestly, believe
confidently, and triumph finally.
Verse 3. Necessity of holding and preaching foundation truths.
Verse 4. The elevation, mystery, supremacy, purity, everlastingness,
invisibility, etc., of the throne of God.
Verses 4, 5. In these verses mark the fact that the children of men,
as well as the righteous, are tried; work out the contrast between the two
trials in their designs and results, etc.
Verse 5. "The Lord trieth the righteous."
2. What in them is tried?--Faith, love, etc.
3. In what manner?--Trials of every sort.
4. How long?
Verse 5. "His soul hateth." The thoroughness of God's
hatred of sin. Illustrate by providential judgments, threatenings, sufferings of
the Surety, and the terrors of hell.
Verse 5. The trying of the gold, and the sweeping out of the refuse.
Verse 6. "He shall rain." Gracious rain and
Verse 6. The portion of the impenitent.
Verse 7. The Lord possesses righteousness as a personal attribute,
loves it in the abstract, and blesses those who practise it.