Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
OCCASION. The Psalm cannot be referred to any
especial event or period in David's history. All attempts to find it a
birthplace are but guesses. It was, doubtless, more than once the language of
that much tried man of God, and is intended to express the feelings of the
people of God in those ever-returning trials which beset them. If the reader has
never yet found occasion to use the language of this brief ode, he will do so
ere long, if he be a man after the Lord's own heart. We have been wont to call
this the "How Long Psalm." We had almost said the Howling Psalm, from
the incessant repetition of the cry "how long?"
DIVISION. This Psalm is very readily to be divided into three parts: the
question of anxiety, 1, 2; the cry of prayer, 3, 4; the song of faith, 5, 6.
Verse 1. "How
long?" This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens
very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart. And what if
there be some impatience mingled therewith; is not this the more true a portrait
of our own experience? It is not easy to prevent desire from degenerating into
impatience. O for grace that, while we wait on God, we may be kept from
indulging a murmuring spirit! "How long?" Does not the
oft-repeated cry become a very HOWLING? And what if grief should find no other
means of utterance? Even then, God is not far from the voice of our roaring; for
he does not regard the music of our prayers, but his own Spirit's work in them
in exciting desire and inflaming the affections. "How long?" Ah! how long do our days appear when our soul is cast down within us!
"How wearily the moments seem to glide
O'er sadness! How the time
Delights to linger in its flight!"
Time flies with full-fledged wing in our summer days, but in our winters he
flutters painfully. A week within prison-walls is longer than a month at
liberty. Long sorrow seems to argue abounding corruption; for the gold which is
long in the fire must have had much dross to be consumed, hence the question
"how long?" may suggest deep searching of heart. "How long
wilt thou forget me?" Ah, David! how like a fool thou talkest! Can God forget?
Can Omniscience fail in memory? Above all, can Jehovah's heart forget his own
beloved child? Ah! brethren, let us drive away the thought, and hear the voice
of our covenant God by the mouth of the prophet, "But Zion said, The Lord
hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking
child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may
forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of
my hands; thy walls are continually before me." "For ever?"
Oh, dark thought! It was surely bad enough to suspect a temporary forgetfulness,
but shall we ask the ungracious question, and imagine that the Lord will for
ever cast away his people? No, his anger may endure for a night, but his love
shall abide eternally. "How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?"
This is a far more rational question, for God may hide his face, and yet he may
remember still. A hidden face is no sign of a forgetful heart. It is in love
that his face is turned away; yet to a real child of God, this hiding of his
Father's face is terrible and he will never be at ease until, once more he hath
his Father's smile.
Verse 2. "How long shall I take counsel, in my soul, having sorrow in
my heart daily?" There is in the original the idea of "laying
up" counsels in his heart, as if his devices had become innumerable but
unavailing. Herein we have often been like David, for we have considered and
reconsidered day after day, but have not discovered the happy device by which to
escape from our trouble. Such store is a sad sore. Ruminating upon trouble is
bitter work. Children fill their mouths with bitterness when they rebelliously
chew the pill which they ought obediently to have taken at once. "How
long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" This is like wormwood in the
gall, to see the wicked enemy exulting while our soul is bowed down within us.
The laughter of a foe grates horribly on the ears of grief. For the devil to
make mirth of our misery is the last ounce of our complaint, and quite breaks
down our patience; therefore let us make it one chief argument in our plea with
the careful reader will remark that the question "how long?" is put in
four shapes. The writer's grief is viewed, as it seems to be, as it is, as it
affects himself within, and his foes without. We are all prone to play most on
the worst string. We set up monumental stones over the graves of our joys, but
who thinks of erecting monuments of praise for mercies received? We write four
books of Lamentations and only one of Canticles, and are far more at home in
wailing out a Misere than in chanting a Te Deum.
Verse 3. But now prayer lifteth up her voice, like the watchman who proclaims
the daybreak. Now will the tide turn, and the weeper shall dry his eyes. The
mercy-seat is the life of hope and the death of despair. The gloomy thought of
God's having forsaken him is still upon the psalmist's soul, and he therefore
cries, "Consider and hear me." He remembers at once the root of
his woe, and cries aloud that it may be removed. The final absence of God is
Tophet's fire, and his temporary absence brings his people into the very suburbs
of hell. God is here entreated to see and hear, that so he may be
doubly moved to pity. What should we do if we had no God to turn to in the hour
the cry of faith, "O Lord MY God!" Is it not a very
glorious fact that our interest in our God is not destroyed by all our trials
and sorrows? We may lose our gourds, but not our God. The title-deed of heaven
is not written in the sand, but in eternal brass.
mine eyes:" that is, let the eye of my faith be clear, that I may see
my God in the dark; let my eye of watchfulness be wide open, lest I be
entrapped, and let the eye of my understanding be illuminated to see the right
way. Perhaps, too, here is an allusion to that cheering of the spirits so
frequently called the enlightening of the eyes because it causes the face to
brighten, and the eyes to sparkle. Well may we use the prayer, "Lighten our
darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord!" for in many respects we need the Holy
Spirit's illuminating rays. "Lest I sleep the sleep of death."
Darkness engenders sleep, and despondency is not slow in making the eyes heavy.
From this faintness and dimness of vision, caused by despair, there is but a
step to the iron sleep of death. David feared that his trials would end his
life, and he rightly uses his fear as an argument with God in prayer; for deep
distress has in it a kind of claim upon compassion, not a claim of right, but a
plea which has power with grace. Under the pressure of heart sorrow, the
psalmist does not look forward to the sleep of death with hope and joy, as
assured believers do, but he shrinks from it with dread, from which we gather
that bondage from fear of death is no new thing.
Verse 4. Another plea is urged in the fourth verse, and it is one which the
tried believer may handle well when on his knees. We make use of our arch-enemy
for once, and compel him, like Samson, to grind in our mill while we use his
cruel arrogance as an argument in prayer. It is not the Lord's will that the
great enemy of our souls should overcome his children. This would dishonour God,
and cause the evil one to boast. It is well for us that our salvation and God's
honour are so intimately connected, that they stand or fall together.
covenant God will complete the confusion of all our enemies, and if for awhile
we become their scoff and jest, the day is coming when the shame will change
sides, and the contempt shall be poured on those to whom it is due.
Verse 5. What a change is here! Lo, the rain is over and gone, and the time
of the singing of birds is come. The mercy-seat has so refreshed the poor
weeper, that he clears his throat for a song. If we have mourned with him, let
us now dance with him. David's heart was more often out of tune than his harp,
He begins many of his psalms sighing, and ends them singing; and others he
begins in joy and ends in sorrow; "so that one would think," says
Peter Moulin, "that those Psalms had been composed by two men of a contrary
humour." It is worthy to be observed that the joy is all the greater
because of the previous sorrow, as calm is all the more delightful in
recollection of the preceding tempest.
"Sorrows remembered sweeten present joy."
is his avowal of his confidence: "But I have trusted in thy mercy."
For many a year it had been his wont to make the Lord his castle and tower of
defence, and he smiles from behind the same bulwark still. He is sure of his
faith, and his faith makes him sure; had he doubted the reality of his trust in
God, he would have blocked up one of the windows through which the sun of heaven
delights to shine. Faith is now in exercise, and consequently is readily
discovered; there is never a doubt in our heart about the existence of faith
while it is in action: when the hare or partridge is quiet we see it not, but
let the same be in motion and we soon perceive it. All the powers of his enemies
had not driven the psalmist from his stronghold. As the shipwrecked mariner
clings to the mast, so did David cling to his faith; he neither could nor would
give up his confidence in the Lord his God. O that we may profit by his example
and hold by our faith as by our very life!
hearken to the music which faith makes in his soul. The bells of the mind are
all ringing, "My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation." There
is joy and feasting within doors, for a glorious guest has come, and the fatted
calf is killed. Sweet is the music which sounds from the strings of the heart.
But this is not all; the voice joins itself in the blessed work, and the
tongue keeps tune with the soul, while the writer declares, "I will sing
unto the Lord."
"I will praise thee every day,
Now thine anger's past away;
Comfortable thoughts arise
From the bleeding sacrifice."
Verse 6. The Psalm closes with a sentence which is a refutation of the charge
of forgetfulness which David had uttered in the first verse, "He hath
dealt bountifully with me." So shall it be with us if we wait awhile.
The complaint which in our haste we utter shall be joyfully retracted, and we
shall witness that the Lord hath dealt bountifully with us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
1. "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?" etc. The departures
of God from true believers are never final; they may be tedious, but they are
temporary. As the evil spirit is said to depart from Christ for a season (Luke
4:13; though he quitted that temptation, he did not quit his design, so as to
tempt no more), so the good Spirit withdraws from those that are Christ's, for a
season only, 'tis with a purpose of coming again. When he hath most evidently
forsaken, 'tis as unquestionable that sooner or later he will return; and the
happiness of his return will richly recompense for the sadness of his desertion;
Isaiah 54:7, "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great
mercies will I gather thee;" here is not only a gathering after a
forsaking, but "great mercies" to make amends for "a
small moment." He who hath engaged to be our God for ever, cannot
depart for ever. Timothy Cruso, 1696.
Verse 1. "How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?"
Whatever be the pressing need of Christ's followers in troubles, and their
constant cleaving to duty for all that; and whatever be Christ's purpose of love
toward them, yet he seeth it fit ofttimes not to come to them at first, but will
let the trial go on till it come to a height, and be a trial indeed, and put
them seriously to it; for before he came he lets them row "about five and
twenty or thirty furlongs" (the last of which make near four miles, eight
furlongs going to a mile); and (Mark 6:48) he came not till the fourth watch of
the night, which is the morning watch. We are indeed very sparing of ourselves
in trouble, and do soon begin to think that we are low and tried enough, and
therefore would be delivered; but our wise Lord seeth that we need more. George
Verse 1. "How long," etc. Enquire into the causes of
God's anger. He is never angry but when there is very great reason, when we
force him to be so. What is that accursed thing in our hearts, or in our lives,
for which God hides his face, and frowns upon us? What particular disobedience
to his commands is it for which he has taken up the rod? Job 10:2; "I will
say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with
me;" as if he should say, Lord, my troubles and my sorrows are very well
known. . . . . . We must not cease to be solicitous to know what are the
particular sins that have made him to tear us up by the roots, to throw us down
as with a whirlwind; what is it that has made him so long angry with us, and so
long to delay his help, that if any evil be undiscovered in our souls, we may
lament it with a seasonable grief, and get a pardon for it. It is not the common
course of God's providence to cover his servants with so thick a darkness as
this is, which our troubled souls labour under in the day, or rather in the
night of his displeasure; and, therefore, we may with humility desire to know
why he proceeds with us in a way that is so singular; for it is some way
delightful to the understanding to pierce into the reasons and causes of things.
Verse 1. "How long wilt thou forget me," etc. For God
to forget David, not to mind him, or look after him, is much! If his eye
be never so little once off us, the spiritual adversary is ready presently to
seize on us, as the kite on the chick if the hen look not carefully after it. .
. . . . As a father will sometimes cross his son to try the child's disposition,
to see how he will take it, whether he will mutter and grumble at it, and grow
humorous and wayward, neglect his duty to his father because his father seemeth
to neglect him, or make offer to run away and withdraw himself from his father's
obedience because he seemeth to carry himself harshly and roughly toward him,
and to provoke him thereunto; so doth God likewise ofttimes cross his children
and seemeth to neglect them, so to try their disposition, what metal they are
made of, how they stand affected towards him: whether they will neglect God
because God seemeth to neglect them, forbear to serve him because he seemeth to
forget them, cease to depend upon him because he seemeth not to look after them,
to provide for them, or to protect them. Like Joram's prophane pursuivant,
"This evil," saith he, "is of the Lord; what should I wait for
the Lord any longer?" Or whether they will constantly cleave to him, though
he seem not to regard them, nor to have any care of them; and say with Isaiah,
"Yet will I wait upon God, though he have hid his face from us, and I will
look for him though he look not on us;" for, "They are blessed that
wait on him; and he will not fail in due time to show mercy unto all them that
do so constantly wait on him." Isaiah 8:17; 30:18. As Samuel dealt with
Saul; he kept away till the last hour, to see what Saul would do when Samuel
seemed not to keep touch with him. So doth God with his saints, and with those
that be in league with him; he withdraweth himself oft, and keeps aloof off for
a long time together to try what they will do, and what courses they will take
when God seemeth to break with them and to leave them in the suds, as we say;
amidst many difficulties much perplexed, as it was with David at this time. Thomas
desertions. I think them like lying fallow of lean and weak land for some years,
while it gathers sap for a better crop. It is possible to gather gold, where it
may be had, with moonlight. Oh, if I could but creep one foot, or half a foot,
nearer in to Jesus, in such dismal night as that when he is away, I should think
it a happy absence!
I knew that the Beloved were only gone away for trial, and further humiliation,
and not smoked out of the house with new provocations, I would forgive
desertions and hold my peace at his absence. But Christ's bought absence (that I
bought with my sin), is two running boils at once, one upon each side; and what
side then can I lie on?
know that, as night and shadows are good for flowers, and moonlight and dews are
better than a continual sun, so is Christ's absence of special use, and that it
hath some nourishing virtue in it, and giveth sap to humility, and putteth an
edge on hunger, and furnisheth a fair field to faith to put forth itself, and to
exercise its fingers in gripping it seeth not what. --Samuel Rutherford,
Verses 1, 2. That which the French proverb hath of sickness is true of
all evils, that they come on horseback and go away on foot; we have often seen
that a sudden fall, or one meal's surfeit, has stuck by many to their graves;
whereas pleasures come like oxen, slow and heavily, and go away like
post-horses, upon the spur. Sorrows, because they are lingering guests, I will
entertain but moderately, knowing that the more they are made of the longer they
will continue: and for pleasures, because they stay not, and do but call to
drink at my door, I will use them as passengers with slight respect. He is his
own best friend that makes the least of both of them. Joseph Hall.
Verses 1, 2. "HOW LONG wilt thou forget me? HOW LONG wilt
thou hide thy face from me? HOW LONG shall I take counsel in my
soul?" The intenseness of the affliction renders it trying to our
fortitude; but it is by the continuance of it that patience is put to the test.
It is not under the sharpest, but the longest trials, that we are most in danger
of fainting. In the first case, the soul collects all its strength, and feels in
earnest to call in help from above; but, in the last, the mind relaxes, and
sinks into despondency. When Job was accosted with evil tidings in quick
succession, he bore it with becoming fortitude; but when he could see no end to
his troubles, he sunk under them. Andrew Fuller.
Verse 1-4. Everything is strangely changed; all its comeliness, and
beauty, and glory, vanishes when the life is gone: life is the pleasant
thing; 'tis sweet and comfortable; but death with its pale attendants, raises a
horror and aversion to it everywhere. The saints of God dread the removal of his
favour, and the hiding of his face; and when it is hid, a faintness, and a cold
amazement and fear seizes upon every part, and they feel strange bitterness, and
anguish, and tribulation, which makes their joints to tremble, and is to them as
the very pangs of death. Timothy Rogers.
Verses 1, 5, 6. Prayer helps towards the increase and growth of grace,
by drawing the habits of grace into exercise. Now, as exercise brings benefit to
the body, so does prayer to the soul. Exercise doth help to digest or breathe
forth those humours that clog the spirits. One that stirs little we see grow
pursy, and is soon choked up with phlegm, which exercise clearly clears the body
of. Prayer is the saint's exercise-field, where his graces are breathed; it is
as the wind to the air, it brightens the soul; as bellows to the fire, which
clears the coal of those ashes that smother them. The Christian, while in this
world, lives in an unwholesome climate; one while, the delights of it deaden and
dull his love to Christ; another while, the trouble he meets in it damps his
faith on the promise. How now should the Christian get out of these distempers,
had he not a throne of grace to resort to, where, if once his soul be in a
melting frame, he (like one laid in a kindly sweat), soon breathes out the
malignity of his disease, and comes into his right temper again? How often do we
find the holy prophet, when he first kneels down to pray, full of fears and
doubts, who, before he end the duty part, grows into a sweet familiarity with
God, and repose in his own spirit! (Psalm 13:1), he begins his prayer as if he
thought God would never give him a kind look more: "How long wilt thou
forget me, O Lord? for ever?" But by that time he had exercised himself
a little in duty, his distemper wears off, the mists scatter, and his faith
breaks out as the sun in its strength, verses 5, 6: "I have trusted in
thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the
Lord." Thus his faith lays the cloth, expecting a feast ere long to be
set on: he that now questioned whether he should ever hear good news from
heaven, is so strong in faith as to make himself merry with the hopes of that
mercy which he is assured will come at last. Abraham began with fifty, but his
faith got ground on God every step, till he brought down the price of their
lives to ten. William Gurnall.
Verses 1, 6. Whatever discouragements thou meetest with in thine
attendance on God in ordinances, be like the English jet, fired by water, and
not like our ordinary fires, quenched by it; let them add to, not diminish, thy
resolution and courage; let not one repulse beat thee off; be violent, give a
second storm to the kingdom of heaven. Parents sometimes hide themselves to make
their children continue seeking. He that would not at first open his mouth, nor
vouchsafe the woman of Canaan a word, doth, upon her continued and fervent
petition, at last open his hand and give her whatsoever she asks: "O woman,
be it unto thee as thou wilt." Continued importunity is undeniable oratory.
And truly, if after all thy pains thou findest Jesus Christ, will it not make
amends for thy long patience? Men that venture often at a lottery, though they
take blanks twenty times, if afterwards they get a golden bason and ewer, it
will make them abundant satisfaction. Suppose thou shouldst continue knocking
twenty, nay, forty years, yet if at last, though but one hour before thou diest
thy heart be opened to Christ, and he be received into thy soul, and when thou
diest heaven be opened to thee, and thy soul received into it, will it not
infinitely requite thee for all thy labour? Oh, think of it, and resolve never
to be dumb while God is deaf, never to leave off prayer till God return a
gracious answer. And for thy comfort, know that he who began his Psalm with "How
long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face
from me?" comes to conclude it with, "I will sing unto the
Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me." George Swinnock.
Verse 2. "How long?" There are many situations of the
believer in this life in which the words of this Psalm may be a consolation, and
help to revive sinking faith. A certain man lay at the pool of Bethesda, who had
an infirmity thirty and eight years. John: 5:5. A woman had a spirit of
infirmity eighteen years, before she was "loosed." Luke 13:11. Lazarus
all his life long laboured under disease and poverty, till he was released by
death and transferred to Abraham's bosom. Luke 16:20-22. Let every one, then,
who may be tempted to use the complaints of this Psalm, assure his heart that
God does not forget his people, help will come at last, and, in the meantime,
all things shall work together for good to them that love him. W. Wilson,
Verse 2. "How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having
sorrow in my heart daily?" There is such a thing as to pore on our
guilt and wretchedness, to the overlooking of our highest mercies. Though it be
proper to know our own hearts, for the purposes of conviction, yet, if we expect
consolation from this quarter, we shall find ourselves sadly disappointed. Such,
for a time, appears to have been the case of David. He seems to have been in
great distress; and, as is common in such cases, his thoughts turned inward,
casting in his mind what he should do, and what would be the end of things.
While thus exercised, he had sorrow in his heart daily: but, betaking
himself to God for relief, he succeeded, trusting in his mercy, his heart
rejoiced in his salvation. There are many persons, who, when in trouble,
imitate David in the former part of this experience: I wish we may imitate him
in the latter. Andrew Fuller.
Verse 2, 4. "How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"
'Tis a great relief to the miserable and afflicted, to be pitied by others. It
is some relief when others, though they cannot help us, yet seem to be truly
concerned for the sadness of our case; when by the kindness of their words and
of their actions they do a little smooth the wounds they cannot heal; but 'tis
an unspeakable addition to the cross, when a man is brought low under the sense
of God's displeasure, to have men mock at his calamity, or to revile him, or to
speak roughly; this does inflame and exasperate the wound that was big enough
before; and it is a hard thing when one has a dreadful sound in his ears to have
every friend to become a son of thunder. It is a small matter for people that
are at ease, to deal severely with such as are afflicted, but they little know
how their severe speeches and their angry words pierce them to the very soul.
'Tis easy to blame others for complaining, but if such had felt but for a little
while what it is to be under the fear of God's anger, they would find that they
could not but complain. It cannot but make any person restless and uneasy when
he apprehends that God is his enemy. It is no wonder if he makes every one that
he sees, and every place that he is in, a witness of his grief; but now it is a
comfort in our temptations and in our fears, that we have so compassionate a
friend as Christ is to whom we may repair. "For we have not an high priest
which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all
points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15. Timothy
Verse 3. "Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of
death." In time of sickness and grief, the "eyes" are dull
and heavy; and they grow more and more so as death approaches, which closes them
in darkness. On the other hand, health and joy render the organs of vision
bright and sparkling, seeming, as it were, to impart "light" to them
from within. The words, therefore, may be fitly applied to a recovery of the
body natural, and thence, of the body politic, from their respective maladies.
Nor do they less significantly describe the restoration of the soul to a state
of spiritual health and holy joy, which will manifest themselves in like manner,
by "the eyes of the understanding being enlightened;" and in this
case, the soul is saved from the sleep of sin, as the body is in the other, from
the sleep of death. George Horne.
Verse 3. Why dost thou hide thy face? happily thou wilt say,
None can see thy face and live. Ah, Lord, let me die, that I may see thee; let
me see thee, that I may die: I would not live, but die; that I may see Christ, I
desire death; that I may live with Christ, I despise life. Augustine.
Verse 3. "How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?"
Oh, excellent hiding, which is become my perfection! My God, thou hidest thy
treasure, to kindle my desire! Thou hidest thy pearl, to inflame the seeker;
thou delayest to give, that thou mayest teach me to importune; seemest not to
hear, to make me persevere. John Anselm, 1034-1109.
Ah! can you bear contempt; the venom'd tongue
Of those whom ruin pleases, the keen sneer,
The lewd reproaches of the rascal herd;
Who for the selfsame actions, if successful,
Would be as grossly lavish in your praise?
To sum up all in one-- can you support
The scornful glances, the malignant joy,
Or more, detested pity of a rival--
Of a triumphant rival?
--James Thomson, 1700-1748.
Verse 4. "And those that trouble me rejoice when I am
moved"-- compose comedies out of my tragedies. John Trapp.
Verse 5. "I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice
in thy salvation." Faith rejoiceth in tribulation, and triumpheth
before the victory. The patient is glad when he feels his physic to work, though
it make him sick for the time; because he hopes it will procure health. We
rejoice in afflictions, not that they are joyous for the present, but because
they shall work for our good. As faith rejoiceth, so it triumpheth in assurance
of good success; for it seeth not according to outward appearance, but when all
means fail, it keepeth God in sight, and beholdeth him present for our succour. John
Verse 5. "I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice
in thy salvation." Though passion possess our bodies, let
"patience possess our souls." The law of our profession binds us to a
warfare; patiendo vincimus, our troubles shall end, our victory is
eternal. Here David's triumph (Psalm 18:38-40), "I have wounded them, that
they were not able to rise; they are fallen under my feet. Thou hast subdued
under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also given me the neck of mine
enemies," etc. They have wounds for their wounds; and the treaders down of
the poor are trodden down by the poor. The Lord will subdue those to us that
would have subdued us to themselves; and though for a short time they rode over
our heads, yet now at last we shall everlastingly tread upon their necks. Lo,
then, the reward of humble patience and confident hope. Speramus et superamus.
Deuteronomy 32:31. "Our God is not as their God, even our enemies being
judges." Psalm 20:7. "Some put their trust in chariots, and some in
horses." But no chariot hath strength to oppose, nor horse swiftness to
escape, when God pursues. Verse 8. "They are brought down and fallen; we
are risen and stand upright." Their trust hath deceived them; down they
fall, and never to rise. Our God hath helped us; we are risen, not for a
breathing space, but to stand upright for ever. Thomas Adams.
Verse 5. None live so easily, so pleasantly, as those that live by
faith. Matthew Henry.
Verse 5. Wherefore I say again, "Live by faith;" again I
say, always live by it, rejoice through faith in the Lord. I dare boldly say it
is thy fault and neglect of its exercise if thou suffer either thy own
melancholy humour or Satan to interrupt thy mirth and spiritual alacrity, and to
detain thee in dumps and pensiveness at any time. What if thou beest of a sad
constitution? of a dark complexion? Is not faith able to rectify nature? Is it
not stronger than any hellebore? Doth not an experienced divine and physician
worthily prefer one dram of it before all the drugs in the apothecary's shop for
this effect? Hath it not sovereign virtue in it, to excerebrate all cares,
expectorate all fears and griefs, evacuate the mind of all ill thoughts and
passions, to exhilarate the whole man? But what good doth it to any to have a
cordial by him if he use it not? To wear a sword, soldier-like, by his side, and
not to draw it forth in an assault? When a dump overtakes thee, if thou wouldst
say to thy soul in a word or two, "Soul, why art thou disquieted? know and
consider in whom thou believest," would it not presently return to its rest
again? Would not the Master rebuke the winds and storms, and calm thy troubled
mind presently? Hath not every man something or other he useth to put away
dumps, to drive away the evil spirit, as David with his harp? Some with merry
company, some with a cup of sack, most with a pipe of tobacco, without which
they cannot ride or go. If they miss it a day together they are troubled with
rheums, dulness of spirits. They that live in fens and ill airs dare not stir
out without a morning draught of some strong liquor. Poor, silly, smoky helps,
in comparison with the least taste (but for dishonouring faith I would say
whiff) or draught of faith. Samuel Ward, 1577-1653.
Verse 6. "I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt
bountifully with me." Faith keeps the soul from sinking under heavy
trials, by bringing in former experiences of the power, mercy, and faithfulness
of God to the afflicted soul. Hereby was the psalmist supported in distress. Oh,
saith faith, remember what God hath done both for thy outward and inward man: he
hath not only delivered thy body when in trouble, but he hath done great things
for thy soul; he hath brought thee out of a state of black nature, entered into
a covenant relation with thee, made his goodness pass before thee; he hath
helped thee to pray, and many times hath heard thy prayers and thy tears. Hath
he not formerly brought thee out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay,
and put a new song in thy mouth, and made thee to resolve never to give way to
such unbelieving thoughts and fears again? and how unbecoming is it for thee now
to sink in trouble? John Willison, 1680-1750.
Verse 6. "I will sing unto the Lord." Mr. John
Philpot having lain for some time in the bishop of London's coal-house, the
bishop sent for him, and amongst other questions, asked him why they were so
merry in prison? singing (as the prophet speaks) Exultantes in rebus
pessimis, rejoicing in your naughtiness, whereas you should rather lament
and be sorry. Mr. Philpot answered, "My lord, the mirth which we make is
but in singing certain Psalms, as we are commanded by Paul, to rejoice in the
Lord, singing together hymns and Psalms, for we are in a dark, comfortless
place, and therefore, we thus solace ourselves. I trust, therefore, your
lordship will not be angry, seeing the apostle saith, 'If any be of an upright
heart, let him sing Psalms;' and we, to declare that we are of an upright mind
to God, though we are in misery, yet refresh ourselves with such singing."
After some other discourse, saith he, "I was carried back to my lord's
coal-house, where I, with my six fellow prisoners, do rouze together in the
straw, as cheerfully (I thank God) as others do in their beds of down." And
in a letter to a friend, he thus writes: "Commend me to Mr. Elsing and his
wife, and thank them for providing me some ease in my prison; and tell them
though my lord's coal-house be very black, yet it is more to be desired of the
faithful than the Queen's palace. The world wonders how we can be so merry under
such extreme miseries; but our God is omnipotent, who turns misery into
felicity. Believe me, there is no such joy in the world, as the people of God
have under the cross of Christ: I speak by experience, and therefore believe me,
and fear nothing that the world can do unto you, for when they imprison our
bodies, they set our souls at liberty to converse with God; when they cast us
down, they lift us up; when they kill us, then do they send us to everlasting
life. What greater glory can there be than to be made conformable to our Head,
Christ? And this is done by affliction. O good God, what am I, upon whom thou
shouldst bestow so great a mercy? This is the day which the Lord hath made; let
us rejoice and be glad in it. This is the way, though it be narrow, which is
full of the peace of God, and leadeth to eternal bliss. Oh, how my heart leapeth
for joy that I am so near the apprehension thereof! God forgive me my
unthankfulness, and unworthiness of so great glory. I have so much joy, that
though I be in a place of darkness and mourning, yet I cannot lament; but both
night and day am so full of joy as I never was so merry before; the Lord's name
be praised for ever. Our enemies do fret, fume, and gnash their teeth at it. O
pray instantly that this joy may never be taken from us; for it passeth all the
delights in this world. This is the peace of God that passeth all understanding.
This peace, the more his chosen be afflicted, the more they feel it, and
therefore cannot faint neither for fire nor water. Samuel Clarke's
Verse 6. "I will sing unto the Lord." How far
different is the end of this Psalm from the beginning! John Trapp.
Verse 6. " I will sing unto the Lord," etc. I never
knew what it was for God to stand by me at all turns, and at every offer of
Satan to afflict me, etc., as I have found him since I came in hither; for look
how fears have presented themselves, so have supports and encouragements; yea,
when I have started, even as it were at nothing else but my shadow, yet God, as
being very tender to me, hath not suffered me to be molested, but would with one
Scripture or another, strengthen me against all; insomuch that I have often
said, Were it lawful, I could pray for greater trouble, for the greater
comfort's sake. Ecclesiastes 7:14; 2 Corinthians 1:5. John Bunyan,
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
The apparent length of sorrow, only apparent. Contrast with days of joy, with
eternal misery and eternal joy. Impatience, and other evil passions, cause the
seeming length. Means of shortening, by refusing to forestall, or to repine
Verse 1 (second clause). Hiding of the divine face. Why at all?
Why from me? Why so long?
Verse 2. Advice to the dejected, or the soul directed to look out of
itself for consolation. A. Fuller.
Verse 2 (first clause).-- Self-torture, its cause,
curse, crime, and cure.
Verse 2. "Having sorrow in my heart daily."
cause of daily sorrow. Great enemy, unbelief, sin, trial, loss of Jesus'
presence, sympathy with others, mourning for human ruin.
2. The necessity of daily sorrow. Purge corruptions, excite graces, raise desires
3. The cure of daily sorrow. Good food from God's table, old wine of promises,
walks with Jesus, exercise in good works, avoidance of everything unhealthy. B.
Verse 2 (second clause).-- Time anticipated when defeat shall
be turned into victory.
Verse 3. By accomodating the text to the believer.
1. True character of Satan, "enemy."
2. Remarkable fact that this enemy is exalted over us.
3. Pressing enquiry, "How long?" B. Davies.
Verse 3. " Lighten mine eyes." A prayer fit for (1)
Every benighted sinner. (2) Every seeker of salvation. (3) Every learner in
Christ's school. (4) Every tried believer. (5) Every dying saint. B. Davies.
Verse 4. Noteth the nature of the wicked two ways; namely, the more
they prevail the more insolent they are; they wonderfully exult over those that
are afflicted. T. Wilcocks.
Verse 5. Experience and perseverance. "I have," "my
Verse 6. The bountiful giver and the hearty singer.
The whole Psalm would make a good subject, showing the stages from
mourning to rejoicing, dwelling especially upon the turning point, prayer. There
are two verses for each, mourning, praying, rejoicing. A. G. Brown.