AN EXPOSITION OF
New York: Robert Carter, 1876
First published 1827.
Digitized by Erin Bensing, 2007 Gordon College, Wenham, MA
A considerable portion of the Sacred Volume (as the
Book of Psalms and Canticles in the Old Testament, and
a large part of the several Epistles in the New Testament)
is occupied with the interesting subject of Christian Expe-
rience; and exhibits its character, under different dispensa-
tions of religion, and diversified with an endless variety of
circumstances, as ever essentially the same. As the same
features of countenance and elevation of stature have always
marked the human species in the midst of the creation of
God; so an identity of feature and "measure of the stature
of the fulness of Christ" has, in all ages, and under every
shade of outward difference, distinguished the family of
God," as the people that should dwell alone, and should
not be reckoned among the nations." (Num. xxiii. 9.) This
indeed was to have been expected. Human nature has
undergone no change since the fall. In its unrenewed
state it is still captivated in the same chains of sin; and,
when renewed, it is under the influence of the same Spirit
of grace. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and
that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John, iii. 6.)
The modern believer, therefore, when employed in tracing
the records of Patriarchal or Mosaical experience, will
mark in the infirmities of the ancient people of God a
picture of his own heart, "answering, as in water face
answereth to face" (Prov. xxvii. 19) and in comparing
their gracious exercises with his own, he will be ready to
acknowledge,—"All these worketh that one and the self-
same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
(1 Cor. xii. 11.)
In this view, it is the object of this work to exhibit an
Old Testament believer in a New Testament garb, as one
"walking in the same spirit, and in the same steps" with
ourselves and, in bringing his features of character to
the Evangelical standard, it is presumed, that the corre-
spondence will be found to be complete. "Faith which
worketh by love" (Gal. v. 6)— the fundamental distinc-
tion of the Gospel—pervades the whole man with at
least an implied reference to the One way of access to God
(verses 41, 88, 132, 135), and a distinct regard alike to
the promises (verses 25, 32, 49, 74, 169, 170), and to the
precepts (verses 66, 166), of Divine revelation. Nor are
the workings of this principle delineated with less accuracy.
In all the variety of Christian feelings and holy conduct,
we observe its operations leading the soul into communion
with God, and moulding every part into a progressive con-
formity to his image. When we view the "man after
God's own heart," taking God for his portion (verse 57),
associating with his people (verses 63, 79), and feeding
upon his word (verses 47, 48, 97, 111); when we mark his
zeal for his Master's glory (verse 139); his devotedness
(verse 38) and self-denial (verse 62) in his Master's work;
when we see him ever ready to confess his name (verses 45,
46, 115, 172), to bear his reproach (verses 23, 69, 87, 141),
and caring only to answer it by a more steady adherence to
his service (verses 51, 78, 157) —do we not in those linea-
ments of character recognise the picture of one, who in
after times could turn to the churches of Christ, and say
—"Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me?" (1
Cor. iv. 16.) Or can we recollect the Psalmist's insight
into the extent and spirituality of the law of God (verse
96), and his continual conflict with indwelling sin (verses
113, 163), awakening in him the spirit of wrestling prayer
(verses 25, 28), and confidence in the God of his salvation
(verses 114, 176); and not be again forcibly reminded of
him, who has left upon record the corresponding history of
his own experience—"I was alive without the law once;
but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold
under sin. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver
me from the body of this death? I thank God, through
Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. vii. 9, 14, 24, 25.) In
short, let his instancy in prayer (verses 145-149) and praise
(verse 164) be remembered; his determined (verses 5, 36,
80) and persevering (verses 44, 102, 112) cultivation of
heart-religion (verses 30-32, 59, 60) and practical holi-
ness (verses 106, 167, 168), his hungering and thirsting
after righteousness (verses 20, 40, 131, 174); his jealous
fear (verse 161) and watchful tenderness (verses 11, 37,
163) against sin, and regard for the honour of his God
(verse 39); his yearning compassion over his fellow-sinners
(verses 53, 136, 158); his spiritual taste (verses 103, 140);
his accurate discernment (verses 98-100, 104, 129, 130);
the "simplicity" of his dependence (verses 8, 10, 86, 116,
117), and the "godly sincerity" of his obedience (verses
104, 128); his peace of mind and stability of profession
(verse 165); his sanctified improvement of the cross (verses
67, 71, 75); his victory over the world (verses 14, 36, 72,
127, 162); his acknowledgment of the Lord's mercy (verses
64, 65, 68); his trials of faith and patience (verses 81-83,
107, 123); his heavenly liberty in the ways of God (verses
32, 45); his habitual living in his presence (verse 168), and
under the quickening (verses 50, 93) —restraining (verse
101)—directing (verses 9, 24, 30, 105) —and supporting
(verses 92, 143) influence of his word —let these holy
exercises be considered, either separately, or as forming
one admirable concentration of Christian excellence; and
what do we desire more to complete the portrait of a finished
servant of God upon the Divine model? Is not this a
visible demonstration of the power of the word, "perfecting
the man of God, and furnishing him throughly unto all
good works?" (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17.)
Having explained the Evangelical character of this
Psalm, we may notice its peculiar adaptation to Christian
experience. It may be considered as the journal of one,
who was deeply taught in the things of God, long prac-
tised in the life and walk of faith. It contains the anatomy
of experimental religion, the interior lineaments of the
family of God. It is given for the use of believers in all
ages, as an excellent touchstone of vital godliness, a touch-
stone which appears especially needful in this day of pro-
fession; not as warranting our confidence in the Saviour,
or as constituting in any measure our ground of acceptance
with God: but as exciting us to "give diligence to make
our calling and election sure" (2 Pet. i. 10), and quicken
our sluggish steps in the path of self-denying obedience.
The Writer is free to confess, that his main design in the
study of this Psalm was to furnish a correct standard of
Evangelical sincerity for the habitual scrutiny of his own
heart; and if in the course of this Exposition, any sug-
gestion should be thrown out, to call the attention of his
fellow-Christians to this most important, but, alas! too
much neglected duty, he will have reason to "rejoice in
the day of Christ, that he has not run in vain, neither
laboured in vain."* Never let it be supposed, that a dili-
* 'I know of no part of the Holy Scriptures,'—remarks a pro-
found divine—'where the nature and evidences of true and sincere
godliness are so fully and largely insisted on and delineated as in
the 119th Psalm. The Psalmist declares his design in the first
verses of the Psalm, keeps his eye on it all along, and pursues it to
the end. The excellence of holiness is represented as the imme-
diate object of a spiritual taste and delight. God's law, that grand
expression and emanation of the holiness of God's nature, and pre-
scription of holiness to the creature—is all along represented as
the great object of the love, the complacence, and the rejoicing of
the gracious nature, which prizes God's commandments "above gold,
gent, prayerful, probing examination of the "chambers of
imagery," "gendereth unto bondage." Invariably will it
be found to establish the enjoyment of Scriptural assurance.
"Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure
our hearts before him." (1 John, iii. 19, with 18, 20, 21.)
As therefore the preceptive part of the Gospel thus be-
comes our guide in the happy path of filial obedience, our
beloved rule of duty, and the standard of our daily progress;
we shall learn in the use of it to depend more entirely upon
the Saviour, fresh energy will be thrown into our prayers;
and the promises of pardon and grace will be doubly pre-
cious to our souls.
These views of the Divine life cannot be found un-
friendly to the best happiness of mankind. The Psalm
opens with a most inviting picture of blessedness, and
describes throughout the feelings of one, encompassed in-
deed with trials superadded to the common lot of men,
but yet evidently in possession of a satisfying portion—
of a "joy, with which a stranger does not intermedle."
(Prov. xiv. 10.) Of those, therefore, who would affix the
stigma of melancholy to evangelical religion, we are con-
strained to remark, that they "understand neither what
they say, nor whereof they affirm." (1 Tim. i. 7.) The
yea, the finest gold:" and to which they are "sweeter than the
honey and the honeycomb."' Edwards on Religious Affections,
Part iii. Sect. iii. The ordinary and serious breathing of my soul'—
observes a deeply spiritual thinker —'is such as that of the Psalm-
ist throughout the 119th Psalm.'—Halyburton’s Life.
of that goodly land. They that have spied the land
bring a good report of it, and tell —"Surely it floweth
with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it." (Numb.
xiii. 27.) "The work of righteousness is peace; and the
effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever."
(Isa. xxxii. 17.)
The structure of this Psalm is peculiar. It is divided
into twenty-two parts, according to the number of the letters
of the Hebrew Alphabet; each part, and its several verses,
beginning with the corresponding letter of the Alphabet.*
The whole Psalm is in the form of an ejaculatory address,
with the exception of the first three verses, which may
almost be considered as a preface to the whole, and one
other verse in the course of it, where the man of God re-
his "hiding-place," and interrupting his communion with
God. (Verse 115, with 113, 114.) It is not always easy
to trace the connexion between the several verses; at least
not beyond the several divisions of the Psalm. Probably
nothing more was intended, than the record of the exercises
of his own heart at different periods, and under different
circumstances. If, however, they are not links on the same
chain, in continuous and unbroken dependence; they may
at least be considered as pearls upon one string, of equal,
though independent, value. The prominent characteristic
* 'Intelligimus ideo per literas Hebræorum, Psalmum hunc esse
digestum, ut homo master, tanquam parvulus, et ab infantiâ per
literarum elementa formatus, quibus ætas puerilis assuevit, usque
ad maturitatem virtutis exerceat.'—Ambrose.
of the Psalm is a love for the word of God, which is brought
before us under no less than ten different names,* referring
to some latent and distinguishing properties of the Divine
word, whose manifold excellencies and perfections are thus
illustrated with much elegant variety of diction.† In many
instances, however the several terms appear to have been
varied, to adapt themselves to the metre; while, perhaps,
at other times they may be promiscuously used for the
whole revelation of God,‡ that the view of its inexhaus-
tible fulness might thus conciliate a more attentive regard
to its authority, and might add fresh strength to the obli-
gation to read, believe, love, and live in it.
If the Writer may be permitted to suggest the method,
in which this Exposition may be best studied to advantage,
he would beg to refer to the advice of the excellent Philip
Henry to his children—that they should 'take a verse of
Psalm cxix. every morning to meditate upon, and so go
over the Psalm twice in a year:' and 'that' —said he —
'will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scrip-
* Such as way, law, judgments, words, statutes, commandments,
precepts, testimonies, righteousness, truth.
† Rev. T. H. Horne’s Introduction to Scripture, vol. ii. 536.
‡ As a proof of the promiscuous and extended application of
those terms, whose definite sense is restricted to particular parts
of revelation—we may mark the use of the word "law" applied by
our Saviour to quotations from the book of Psalms. Comp. John,
xv. 25; with Ps. xxxv. 16; lxix. 4; also John, x. 34; with Ps.
lxxxii. 6. Under this word—"law"— Calvin observes—'there is
no doubt but that David comprehended the sum of all the doctrine
which God gave to his church.' Sermons on Ps. cxix. verse 153.
Comp. Ps. xix. 7, margin.
ture.'* The Writer does not presume to suppose, that this
superficial sketch will supply food for meditation year after
year. Yet he ventures to hope that it may have its use, in
directing the attention from time to time to a most pre-
cious portion of Holy Writ; which however unfruitful it
may have proved to the undiscerning mind, will be found
by the serious and intelligent reader to be "profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
*P. Henry’s Life, William’s Edition, p. 247. In conformity
with this rule, we find his godly daughter writing thus in her diary:
—1687-8, March 9, Friday morning. I have been of late taking
some pains to learn by heart Ps. cxix., and have made some pro-
gress therein.' Extracted from Mrs. Savage’s MSS. in P. Henry’s
Life—Ditto. As an illustration of the view given by this excellent
man of the importance of this Psalm, an Index is added to this
work of the several matters more or less touched upon; to which,
as well as to the texts referred to throughout the work, the reader's
attention is invited.
† 2 Tim. iii. 16. Luther professed that he prized this Psalm
so highly, that he would not take the whole world in exchange for
one leaf of it. Bishop Cowper sweetly calls it—'a holy Alphabet
—so plain that children may understand it so rich and instructive,
that the wisest and most experienced may every day learn something
from it.' Added to this and other testimonies before given, we give
the remarks of a deeply experimental and solid divine: —'I am
now'—writes the Rev. H. Venn to one of his correspondents upon
the point of expounding the 119th Psalm, which I never did go
through; yet I know not any part of Scripture much more profit-
able. In that Psalm the whole inner man is delineated, and the
several changing frames of our poor hearts, and the several blessed
motions and inspirations of the Holy Spirit are touched in a very
affecting manner. This is the Psalm I have often had recourse to,
when I could find no spirit of prayer in my own heart, and at length
the fire was kindled, and I could pray. What has been your expe-
The composition of this work has been diversified with
as much variety as the nature of the subject would allow.
The descriptive character of the book will be found to be
interspersed with matter of discussion, personal address,
hints for self-inquiry, and occasional supplication, with the
earnest endeavour to cast the mind into that meditative,
self-scrutinizing, devotional frame, in which the new crea-
ture is strengthened, and increases, and goes on to perfec-
tion. Such, however, as the work is, the Writer would
commend it to the gracious consideration of the great
Head of the Church; imploring pardon for what in it may
be his own, and a blessing on what may be traced to a
purer source: and in giving both the pardon and the
blessing, may His holy name be abundantly glorified!*
rience regarding this extraordinary Psalm? I know you do not
read the Scriptures idly, and without self-application. Have you
not found it pleasant and nourishing to your soul, and fastening
upon your mind?'—(Life and Correspondence, p. 410.) Identical
with this representation was the use and blessing which H. Martyn
found in this Psalm: —'Found some devotion in learning some of
119th Psalm.—In the evening grew better by reading Psalm 119,
which generally brings me into a spiritual frame of mind.—My
mind was beginning to sink into discontent at my unprofitable-
ness; but by reading some of Psalm 119, and prayer, I recovered.'
Again in a fretful frame —'It was not till I learnt some of Psalm
119 that I could return to a proper spirit.' Again—'The 119th Psalm
was very solemnizing.'—See his interesting Journals, vol. i. pp. 75,
114, 118, 175, 193, 194.
* Domine Deus, qumcumque dixi de tuo, agnoscant et tui. Siqua
de meo, et tu ignosce et tui.'—August. Lib. 15, de Trin.
July 20th, 1827.
PREFACE TO THE SIXTEENTH EDITION.
THE Writer gratefully acknowledges the kind indulgence,
with which his work has been received by the Church of
Christ. Oh! may his God and Saviour have all the glory,
while he is humbled in thankfulness for the high privilege
of leading his fellow-sinners into the "ways of pleasant-
ness and peace," and ministering to the spiritual blessing
of the family of God!
He has carefully revised the work, and trusts that he
has been enabled to give increased perspicuity to the
style, and a deeper moulding of evangelical statement
to the matter. He desired, that every page should be
lighted up with the beam of the "Sun of Righteousness,"
who is the glory of the Revelation of God—the Christian's
"All in all." He has endeavoured to illustrate true re-
ligion, as the work of the Divine Spirit, grounded on the
knowledge of Christ, advancing in communion with Him,
and completed in the enjoyment of Him, and of the Father
by Him. He has also aimed to elevate the standard of
Christian privilege, as flowing immediately from Him: by
giving such a Scriptural statement of the doctrine of assur-
ance, as may quicken the slothful to greater diligence in
their holy profession, and at the same time encourage the
weak and fearful to a clearer apprehension of their present
The work has been recently translated into German
under the kind patronage of her Majesty the Queen Dow-
ager. The Writer requests the prayers of his Readers, that
this new channel of usefulness may be abundantly blessed
for the grand object of extending the influence of vital
religion throughout the churches.
PREFACE TO THE TWENTY-SECOND EDITION.
This work—once more revised—is now stereotyped, in
order to reduce the price, and to open for it a wider circu-
lation. The Writer again commends it to the blessing
of God, desiring only that fruit may abound for His
glory, and for the edifying of His Church.
Hinton Martell Rectory,
June 4th, 1857.
EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
1. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law
of the Lord.
This most interesting and instructive Psalm, like the
Psalter itself, "opens with a Beatitude for our comfort and
encouragement, directing us immediately to that happiness,
which all mankind in different ways are seeking and in-
quiring after. All would secure themselves from the incur-
sions of misery; but all do not consider that misery is the
offspring of sin, from which therefore it is necessary to be
delivered and preserved, in order to become happy or
The undefiled character described in this verse marks,
in an evangelical sense, "an Israelite indeed, in whom is
no guile" (John, i. 47. Comp. Acts, xxiv. 16), not one
who is without sin, but one who in the sincerity of his heart
can say, "That which I do, I allow not." (Rom. vii. 15.)
As his way is, so is his "walk" —"in the law of the Lord."
He is "strengthened in the Lord, and he walks up and
down in his name" (Zech. x. 12); his "ears hearing a
* Bishop Home on Ps. i. 1.
2 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
word behind him, saying, This is the way, — walk ye in
it"—when he is "turning to the right hand or to the left."
(Isa. xxx. 21.) And if the pardon of sin, imputation of
righteousness (Ps. xxxii. 1, 2, with Rom. iv. 6-8), the com-
munion of saints, and a sense of acceptance with God
(1 John, i. 7); if protection in providence and grace
(2 Chron. xvi. 9. Job, i. 8, 10); and—finally and for
ever, the beatific vision (Matt. v. 8), are the sealed privi-
leges of his upright people, then there can be no doubt,
that "blessed are the undefiled in the way." And if tem-
poral prosperity (Josh. i. 7, 8. 1 Tim. iv. 8. 2 Chron.
xvii. 4, 5), spiritual renovation and fruitfulness (Ps. i. 2,
3), increasing illumination (John, vii. 17), intercourse with
the Saviour (Ib. xiv. 23; xv. 14, 15), peace within (Verse
165. Gal. vi. 16. Isa. xxxii. 17), and—throughout eter-
nity—a right to the tree of life (Rev. xxii. 14), are pri-
vileges of incalculable value; then surely "the walk in the
law of the Lord" is "the path of pleasantness and peace."
may we say — "God is good to
even to such as are of a clean heart." (Ps. lxxiii. 1.)
But let each of us ask— What is the "way" of my
heart with God? Is it always an "undefiled way?" Is
"iniquity" never "regarded in the heart?" Is all that
God hates habitually lamented, abhorred, forsaken? "Search
me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my
thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and
lead me in the way everlasting." (Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24.)
Again—What is my "walk?" Is it from the living
principle of union with Christ? This is the direct — the
only source of spiritual life. We are first quickened in
him. Then we walk in him and after him. Oh! that
this my walk may be steady, consistent, advancing! Oh!
that I may be ever listening to my Father's voice—"I am
the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect!"
(Gen. xvii. 1.)
VERSE 2. 3
Is there not enough of defilement in the most "undefiled
way," and enough of inconsistency in the most consistent
walk" to endear to us the gracious declaration of the
gospel—"If any man sin, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous?" (1 John, ii. 1.)
2. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him
with the whole heart.
The "testimony," in the singular number, usually de-
notes the whole canon of the inspired writings—the reve-
lation of the will of God to mankind—the standard of
their faith. (Comp. Isa. viii. 20.) "Testimonies" appear,
chiefly, to mark the preceptive part of Scripture (Verse
138); that part, in which this man of God always found
his spiritual delight and perfect freedom. Mark his lan-
guage: "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much
as in all riches. Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage
for ever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart." (Verses 14,
111.) Not, however, that this blessedness belongs to the
mere outward act of obedience;* but rather to that prac-
tical habit of mind, which seeks to know the will of God in
order to "keep" it. This habit is under the influence of
the promise of God, "I will put my Spirit within you, and
cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my
judgments, and do them." (Ezek. xxxvi. 27.) And in thus
"keeping the testimonies of God," the believer maintains the
character of one, that "seeks him with the whole heart."
Oh! how many seek, and seek in vain, for no other
reason, than because they do not "seek him with the whole
heart!" The worldling's "heart is divided; now shall he
be found faulty." (Hos. x. 2.) The professor "with his
mouth shows much love; but his heart goeth after his
* "Treasure up his testimonies."—Bp. Horsley.
4 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
covetousness." (Ezek. xxxiii. 31.) The backslider "hath
not turned unto me with his whole heart, but feignedly, saith
the Lord." (Jer. iii. 10.) The faithful, upright believer
alone brings his heart, his whole heart, to the Lord. "When
thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said unto thee,
Thy face, Lord, will I seek." (Ps. xxvii. 8.) For he only
has found an object, that attracts and fills his whole heart,
and, if he had a thousand hearts, would attract and fill them
all. He has found his way to God by faith in Jesus. In
that way he continues to seek. His whole heart is engaged
to know and love more and more. Here alone the blessing
is enjoyed, and the promise made good: "Ye shall seek
me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your
heart." (Jer. xxix. 13.)
But let me not shrink from the question, Do I "keep
his testimonies" from constraint, or from love? Surely when
I consider my own natural aversion and enmity to the law
of God, and the danger of self-deception in the external
service of the Lord, I have much need to pray—"Incline
my heart to thy testimonies. Give me understanding—save
me, and I shall keep thy testimonies." (Verses 36, 125, 146.)
And if they are blessed, who seek the Lord with their whole
heart, how am I seeking him? Alas! with how much dis-
traction! with how little heart-work! Oh! let me "seek
his strength" in order to "seek his face." (Ps. cv. 4.)
Lord! search—teach—incline—uphold me. Help me
to plead thy gracious promise—"I will give them an heart
to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my
people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto me
with their whole heart." (Jer. xxiv. 7.)
3. They also do no iniquity; they walk in his ways.
This was not their character from their birth. Once
they were doing nothing but iniquity. It was without mix-
VERSE 3. 5
ture, without cessation—from the fountain-head.* Now it
is written of them—"they do no iniquity." Once they
walked, even as others (Eph. ii. 2, 3. Col. i. 21), in the
way of their own hearts—"enemies to God by wicked
works." Now "they walk in his ways." They are "new
creatures in Christ; old things are passed away; behold!
all things are become new." (2 Cor. v. 17.) This is their
highly-privileged state—"Sin shall have no dominion over
them: for they are not under the law, but under grace."
(Rom. vi. 14.) They are "born of God, and they cannot
commit sin: for their seed remaineth in them, and they
cannot sin, because they are born of God." (1 John, iii. 9.)
Their hatred and resistance to sin are therefore now as
instinctive, as was their former enmity and opposition to
God. Not, indeed, that the people of God are as "the saints
made perfect," who "do no iniquity." This is a dream of
perfection—unscriptural and self-deluding. (Comp. Eccles.
vii. 20, with Job, ix. 20; Philip. iii. 12.) The unceasing
advocacy of their Heavenly Friend evidently supposes the
indwelling power of sin, to the termination of our earthly
pilgrimage. The supplication, also, in the prayer of our
Lord teaches them to ask for daily pardon and deliverance
from "temptation," as for "daily bread." (Matt. vi. 11-
13.) Yes—to our shame be it spoken—we are sinners
still; yet—praised be God!—not "walking after the
course," not "fulfilling the desires," of sin. The acting
* "Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is evil—only
evil— continually." And this "God saw"— before whom "all
things are naked and open"—who searcheth the heart, and there-
fore cannot be mistaken. (Gen. vi. 5.)
But lest we should conceive this to be the picture of some
generation of so peculiarly aggravated a character, that the awful
demonstration of his wrath could be no longer restrained; this
testimony is repeated by the same Omniscient Judge, immediately
subsequent to the flood (Gen. viii. 21), and confirmed by him in
many express declarations. (Jer. xvii. 9, 10. Matt. xv. 19.)
6 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
of sin is now like the motion of a stone upward, violent and
unnatural. If it is not cast out, it is dethroned. We are
not, as before, "its willing people," but its reluctant,
struggling captives. It is not "the day of its power."
And here lies the holy liberty of the Gospel — not, as
some have feigned,— a liberty to "continue in sin, that
grace may abound" (Rom. vi. 1, 2) but a deliverance from
the guilt and condemnation of abhorred, resisted, yet still
indwelling, sin. When our better will hath cast it off—when
we can say in the sight of an heart-searching God—"What
we hate, that do we"—the responsibility is not ours: "It is
not we that do it, but sin that dwelleth in us." (Rom. vii.
15-20.) Still let us inquire, is the promise of deliverance
from sin sweet to us? (Ib. vi. 14.) And does our successful
resistance in the spiritual conflict realize the earnest of its
complete fulfilment? Blessed Jesus! what do we owe to
thy cross for the present redemption from its guilt and
curse, and much more for the blissful prospect of the glo-
rified state, when this hated guest shall be an inmate no
more for ever! (Rev. xxi. 27.) Oh, let us take the very
print of thy death into our souls in the daily crucifixion of
sin. (Rom. vi. 6.) Let us know the "power of thy resur-
rection," in an habitual "walk in newness of life." (Philip.
iii. 10. Rom. vi. 4, 5.)
4. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
We have seen the character of the Man of God. Let
us mark the authority of God, commanding him to a diligent
obedience. The very sight of the command is enough for
him. He obeys for the command's sake, however contrary
it may be to his own will. But has he any reason to com-
plain of the yoke? Even under the dispensation, which
"gendereth unto bondage" most encouraging were the
obligations to obedience —"that it may be well with them,
VERSE 4. 7
and with their children for ever." (Deut. v. 24. Comp.
Deut. vi. 17, 18; xxviii. 1, 2; Jer. vii. 23.) Much more,
then, we, under a dispensation of love, can never want a
for obedience! Let the daily mercies of
stir up the question —"What shall I render unto the
Lord?" (Ps. cxvi. 12.) Let the far richer mercies of grace
produce "a living sacrifice" to be "presented to the Lord."
(Rom. xii. 1.) Let "the love of Christ constrain us."
(2 Cor. v. 14.) Let the recollection of the "price with
which we were bought," remind us of the Lord's property
in us, and of our obligations to "glorify him in our body,
and in our spirit, which are his." (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.) Let
us only "behold the Lamb of God; "let us hear his
wrestling supplications, his deserted cry, his expiring
agonies—the price of our redemption; and then let us ask
ourselves — Can we want a motive?
But what is the scriptural character of evangelical
obedience? It is the work of the Spirit, enabling us to
obey the truth." (1 Pet. i. 22.) It is the end of the pur-
pose of God, who "hath chosen us in Christ before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without
blame before him in love." (Eph. i. 4.) It is the only
satisfactory test of our profession. (Matt. xii. 33. John,
xiv. 15, 21.)
Then let me begin my morning with the inquiry,
"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" "Teach me thy
way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth; unite my heart to
fear thy name." (Acts, ix. 6. Ps. lxxxvi. 11.) Let me
trade with all my talents for thee: ever watchful, that I
may be employed in thy work; setting a guard upon my
thoughts, my lips, my tempers, my pursuits, that nothing
may hinder, but rather everything may help me, in keeping
thy precepts diligently.
But why do I ever find the precepts to be "grievous" to
me? Is it not that some indolence is indulged; or some
8 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
"iniquity regarded in my heart;" or some principle of
unfaithfulness divides my services with two masters, when
I ought to be "following the Lord fully?" Oh! for the
spirit of "simplicity and godly sincerity" in the precepts of
God. Oh! for that warm and constant love, which is the
main-spring of devoted diligence in the service of God.
Oh! for a larger supply of that "wisdom which is from
above," and which is "without partiality and without
5. Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
The Lord has indeed "commanded us to keep his precepts."
But, alas! where is our power? Satan would make the
sense of our weakness an excuse for indolence. The Spirit
of God convinces us of it, as an incitement to prayer, and
an exercise of faith. If, Reader, your heart is perfect with
God, you "consent to the law that it is good;" you "delight
in it after the inner man" (Rom. vii. 16, 22); you would
not have one jot or tittle altered, mitigated, or repealed,
that it might be more conformed to your own will, or allow
you more liberty or self-indulgence in the ways of sin.
But do you not sigh to think, that, when you aim at the
perfect standard of holiness, you should, at your best mo-
ments, and in your highest attainments, fall so far below
it; seeing indeed the way before you, but feeling yourself
without ability to walk in it? Then let a sense of your
helplessness for the work of the Lord lead you to the throne
of grace, to pray, and watch, and wait, for the strengthen-
ing and refreshing influences of the Spirit of grace. Here
let your faith realize at one and the same view your utter
insufficiency, and your complete All-sufficiency. (2 Cor.
iii. 5.) Here behold Him, who is ever presenting himself
before God as our glorious Head, receiving in himself, ac-
cording to the good pleasure of the Father (Col. i. 18, 19),
VERSE 5. 9
the full supply for this and every successive moment of
inexpressible need. Our work is not therefore left upon
our own hands, or wrought out at our "own charges." So
long as "He hath the residue of the Spirit" (Mal. ii. 15),
"grace" will be found "sufficient;"— Divine "strength
will be made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. xii. 9.) "With-
out him we can do nothing" (John, xv. 5); "through him,
all things." (Phil. iv. 13.) Even the "worm Jacob shall
thresh the mountains," when the Lord says, "Fear not, I
will help thee." (Isa. xli. 14, 15.)
In connecting this verse with the preceding, how accu-
rately is the middle path preserved, equally distant from
the idea of self-sufficiency to "keep the Lord's statutes," and
self-justification in neglecting them! The first attempt to
render spiritual obedience will quickly convince us of our
utter helplessness. We might as soon create a world, as
create in our hearts one pulse of spiritual life. And yet
our inability does not cancel our obligation. Shall God
lose his right, because sin has palsied our ability? Is not
a drunken servant still under his master's law? and is not
the sin which prevents him from performing. his duty, not
his excuse, but his aggravation? Thus our weakness is
that of an heart, which "cannot be subject to the law of
God," only because it is carnal, "enmity against God."*
The obligation therefore remains in full force. Our in-
ability is our sin, our guilt, and condemnation.
What then remains for us, but to return the mandate
to heaven, accompanied with an earnest prayer, that the
Lord would write upon our hearts those statutes, to which
he requires obedience in his word? —"Thou hast commanded
* Rom. viii. 7. Comp. Gen. xxxvii. 4; John, viii. 43; v. 40;
2 Pet. ii. 14,—where the moral inability is clearly traced to the love
of sin, or the obstinate unbelief of the heart, and therefore is in-
excusable. The case of the heathen is traced to the same wilful
source. (Rom. i. 20-28.)
10 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
us to keep thy statutes diligently." We acknowledge, Lord,
our obligation; but we feel our impotency. Lord, help
us: we look unto thee. "Oh that our ways were directed to
keep thy statutes!" "Give what thou commandest; and
then command what thou wilt."* Now, as if to exhibit
the fulness and suitableness of the promises of the gospel,
the commands and prayers are returned back again from
heaven with promises of quickening and directing grace.
Thus does the Lord fully answer his end with us. He did
not issue the commands, expecting that we could turn our
own hearts to them; but that the conviction of our entire
helplessness might cast us upon him, who loves to be sought,
and never will be thus sought in vain. And indeed this is
a part of the "mystery of godliness," that in proportion as
we depend upon him who is alike, "the Lord our righteous-
ness," and our strength, our desire after holiness will in-
crease, and our prayers become more fervent. He who
commands our duty, perfectly knows our weakness, and he
who feels his own weakness is fully encouraged to depend
upon the power of his Saviour. Faith is then the principle
of evangelical obedience, and the promises of his grace
enable us for duty, at the very time that we are commanded
to it.† In this view are brought together the supreme
authority of the Lawgiver, the total insufficiency of the
creature, the full provisions of the Saviour, and the all-
sufficiency of "the God of grace." We pray for what we
want; we are thankful for what we have; we trust for
what is promised. Thus "all is of God." Christ "is the
Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first
and the last." (Rev. xxii. 13.) Thus "grace reigns" tri-
umphant. The foundation is laid in grace, and the head-
stone will be brought forth with shoutings, crying, "Grace,
* "Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis." ― Augustine.
† "Quod lex imperat, fides impetrat."
VERSE 6. 11
grace unto it." (Zech. iv. 7.) The Saviour's work is finished,
and Jesus is crowned Lord of all for ever.
6. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all
The Lord expects our obedience to be not only "diligent,"
but universal. Willingly to dispense with the least of the
commandments, proves that we have yet to learn the spirit
of acceptable obedience. (Matt. v. 19.) Grace is given and
suited for all, no less than for one of them, "that we might
walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." (Col. i. 10.)
One lust "regarded in the heart" is sufficient to keep
possession for the tyrant, however others may be restrained.
Even Herod could "do many things;" and yet his adulter-
ous wife cherished in his bosom, too plainly proved the
sovereignty of sin to be undisturbed. (Mark, vi. 11-20.)
Saul slew all the Amalekites but one; and that single ex-
ception to universal obedience marked his unsoundness,
cost him the loss of his throne, and brought him under the
awful displeasure of his God. (1 Sam. xv. 12-23.) And
thus the corrupt unmortified member brings the whole body
to hell. (Mark, ix. 43-48.) Reserves are the canker upon
godly sincerity. A secret indulgence —"the rolling of the
sweet morsel under the tongue,"—"the part of the price
kept back" (Acts, v. 1, 2)— stamps our service as a rob-
bery, not as an offering. We may be free, sincere, and
earnest in many parts of our prescribed duty; but this
"root of bitterness" renders the whole an abomination.
Sincerity therefore must be the stamp of my Christian
profession. Though utterly unable to render perfect obe-
dience to the least of the commandments, yet my desire
and purpose will have respect unto them all. I shall no more
venture to break the least than the greatest of them; much
less shall I ever think of attempting to atone for the breach
of one by the performance of the rest. They are indeed
12 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
many commandments; yet — like links in a chain — they
form but one law; and I know who has said, "Whoso-
ever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point,
is guilty of all." (
fessor may confine his regard to the second table (as if the
first were ceremonial, or obsolete, or the regulation of the
outward man was the utmost extent of the requirement,) I
would fix my eye with equal regard to both, yet specially
marking any command in either of them; that may appear
most directly opposed to my besetting corruptions. Thus
walking in the fear of the Lord," I may hope to walk "in
the comfort of the Holy Ghost" (Acts, ix. 31); and
"hereby shall I know that I am of the truth, and shall
assure my heart before God." (1 John, iii. 19.)
But where, in my strictest walk, is my hope of accept-
ance, but in him, whose obedience has "fulfilled all right-
eousness" (Matt. iii. 15) in my stead, and whose death "has
redeemed me from the curse" (Gal. iii. 13) of my unright-
eousness, when repentance, prayers, and tears, would have
been of no avail? Yet it is only in the path of holiness
that we can realize our acceptance. (1 John, i. 7; ii. 5;
iii. 21, 24.) The heart occupied with this world's pleasure
knows nothing of this heavenly joy. Its brightness is
dimmed—its freshness fades —its life withers —in the
very breath of an unholy world. A godly assurance of the
present favour of God must be weakened by self-indulgence,
unwatchfulness, allowance of secret sins, or neglect of secret
duties. "If thou return to the Almighty"—said a wise
man—"thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity
far from thy tabernacles. Then shalt thou have thy delight
in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God." (Job,
xxii. 23, 26.)
Let us then carefully examine the character of our
assurance. Does it rest simply and exclusively upon the
testimony of the Gospel? Will it abide the test of the
word of God? Is it productive of tenderness of conscience,
VERSE 7. 13
watchfulness, and circumspection of conduct? Does it ex-
ercise our diligence in adding grace to grace, that we may
"make our calling and election sure," and that "an entrance
may be ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting
kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?" (2 Pet.
i. 5-11.) How boldly can we plead our Christian confidence
in the path of godliness —"I have stuck unto thy testimonies;
O Lord, put me not to shame. Let my heart be sound in thy
statutes, that I be not ashamed." (Verses 31, 80.)
7. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall
have learned thy righteous judgments.
The righteous judgments of God include the whole reve-
lation of his word ― so called — as the rule by which he
judges our present state, and will pronounce our final sen-
tence. (John, xii. 48.) David's attainments here seemed
to be as nothing. So much remained unlearned and un-
known, that he could only anticipate the time, when he
should have learned them. "Thy commandment"—he ex-
claims —"is exceeding broad." (Verse 96.) When the
Apostle, after twenty years' acquaintance with the gospel,
expressed it as the one desire of his heart —"That I may
know Christ" (Philip. iii. 10-14); evidently he entertained
the same humbling views of his high attainments, and the
same exalted apprehensions of the value of treasures yet
unexplored, and progressively opening before him. Thus
wisest saints are only students in the
Yet whatever their learning be, it casts them into the mould
and spirit of their doctrine. (Rom. vi. 17.) Conceit, how-
ever, of knowledge is the greatest enemy to knowledge, and
the strongest proof of ignorance; so that, "if any man
think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet
as he ought to know."—"He deceiveth himself." (1 Cor.
viii. 2. Gal. vi. 3.)
14 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
But what is the motive, that enlivens the believer in
this holy learning? Is it that he may live upon the airy
breath of human applause? No, rather that he may "praise
his God with uprightness of heart." When our mind is dark,
our lips are sealed. But when "he opens our understand-
ings" to "learn his judgments," he will next "open our lips,
and our mouth shall show forth his praise." (Ps. li. 15;
also verses 27, 171.) And this indeed is the end for
which "his people are formed" (Isa,. xliii. 21); for which
they "are called out of darkness into marvellous light."
(1 Pet. ii. 9.) This is the daily frame, in which our God
will be glorified.* Yet must we live as well as sing his
praise. "The praise of the upright heart will be shown in
the holy walk and conversation." (Ps. cxvi. 12-14.)
But let us watch, that our praise really flows "out of
the abundance" of what our hearts have "learned" of his
"righteous judgments." For do we not sometimes speak of
our Saviour with a secret lurking after self-exaltation?
May we not really be seeking and serving ourselves in the
very act of seeming to serve and honour him? Surely the
very thought of the selfishness that defiles our holiest
earthly praise, may well quicken our longings after that
world of praise, where the flame burns active, bright, inces-
sant; where we shall offer our sacrifices without defilement,
without intermission, without weariness, without end. (Rev.
8. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
The resolution to "keep the Lord's statutes" is the na-
tural result of having "learned his righteous judgments." But
how happily does David combine "simplicity" of depend-
ence with "godly sincerity" of obedience! Firm in his
* Ps. 1. 23. For an example of the uprightness of heart in the
service of praise here alluded to, see 1 Chron. xxix. 13-18.
VERSE 8. 15
purpose, but distrustful of his strength, instantly upon
forming his resolution, he recollects that the performance is
beyond his power; and therefore the next moment, and
almost the same moment, he follows it up with prayer,
"I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. Oh!
beware of self-confidence in the Christian course. We
stumble or advance, as we lean upon an arm of flesh, or
upon an Almighty Saviour. Temporary desertion may be
the seasonable chastisement of spiritual wantonness. When
grace has been given in answer to prayer, it was not duly
prized, or diligently improved. The "Beloved"— in answer
to solicitation —"is come into his garden:" he knocks at
the door, but the spouse is "asleep." The answer to prayer
was not expected, not waited for, and therefore not enjoyed;
and the sleeper awakes too late, and finds herself forsaken
by the object of her desire. (Cant. iv. 16, with v. 1-6.)
Again—when we have given place to temptation (2 Chron.
xxxii. 31); when "our mountain stands strong" (Ps. xxx.
6, 7); when love for our Saviour "waxes cold," and our
earnestness in seeking him is fainting (Cant. iii. 1-4); we
must not be surprised, if we are left for a time to the trial
of a deserted state.
Yet we sometimes speak of the hidings of God's coun-
tenance, as if it were a sovereign act, calling for implicit
submission; when the cause should at least be sought for,
and will generally be found, in some "secret thing" of in-
dulgence, unwatchfulness, or self-dependence. (Job, xv. 11.)
It was while David "kept silence" from the language of
contrition, that he felt the pressure of the heavy hand of
his frowning God (Ps. xxxii. 3, 4); and may not the dark-
ness, which has sometimes clouded our path, be the voice
of our God—"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee,
and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore
and see, that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast
forsaken the Lord thy God." (Jer. ii. 19.)
16 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
But in the engagement of the Lord's everlasting cove-
nant, how clear is the warrant of faith!—how ample the I
encouragement for prayer—"Forsake me not utterly!"
David knew and wrote of the Lord's unchangeable faith-
fulness to his people; and while he dreaded even a tem-
porary separation from his God more than any worldly
affliction, he could plead that gracious declaration—"Ne-
vertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from
him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." (Ps. lxxxix. 33.)
We would not indeed make the promises of grace an en-
couragement to carelessness: yet it is indispensable to our
spiritual establishment that we receive them in their full,
free, and sovereign declaration. How many fainting souls
have been refreshed by the assurances —"For a small mo-
ment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I
gather thee: with everlasting kindness will I have mercy
on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer!" "My sheep shall
never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my
hand." (Isa. liv. 7, 8. John, x. 28.) In a lowly, self-
abased, and dependent spirit, we shall best, however, learn
to "make our boast in the Lord;" "confident of this very
thing, that he which hath begun a good work in us, will
perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Ps. xxxiv. 2.
Philip. i. 6.) And even if awhile destitute of sensible con-
solation, still our language will be, "I will wait upon the
Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob; and
I will look for him." (Isa. viii. 17.)
Great, indeed, is the danger and evil to the soul, if we
apprehend the Lord to have forsaken us, because we are in
darkness; or that we are out of the way, because we are
in perplexity. These are the very hand-posts, that show
us that we are in the way of his own promised leading —
painful exercise—faithful keeping—eternal salvation: "I
will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will
lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make
VERSE 8. 17
darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.
These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."
(Isa. xlii. 16.) Oh! the rest—the satisfaction of placing
an implicit confidence in a covenant-keeping God!
Forsaken we may be — but not utterly. David was for-
saken, not like Saul: (Ps. xxx. 7; with 1 Sam. xxviii. 6,
16.) Peter was forsaken, not like Judas (Matt. xxvi. 75;
with xxvii. 3-6), utterly and for ever. What foreboding
have you of such desertion? Is your heart willing to for-
sake him? Have you no mournings and thirstings for
his return? " If, indeed, you forsake him, he will forsake
you." (2 Chron. xv. 2. Comp. 1 Chron. xxviii. 9.) But
can you forsake him? 'Let him do as seemeth him
good (is the language of your heart); I will wait for him,
follow after him, cleave to his word, cling to his cross.'
Mark his dealings with you. Inquire into their reason.
Submit to his dispensation. If he forsakes, beg his re-
turn: but trust your forsaking God. "Though he slay
me, yet will I trust in him." (Job, xiii. 15. Isa. 1. 10. Hab.
iii. 17, 18.) Though my comfort is clouded, my hope
remains unchanging, unchangeable—such as I would not
resign for the glory of an earthly crown. What are these
earnest breathings — this abiding confidence, but his own
work in us? And can the Lord "forsake the work of his
own hands?" (Ps. cxxxviii. 8.) Sooner should heaven and
earth pass, than the faithful engagements of the gospel be
* Augustine's paraphrase of this verse is beautifully illustrative
of the believer's conflict in a state of temporary desertion. "O
Lord, if—lest I should be proud, and should 'say in my prosperity,
I shall never be removed'—it pleaseth thee to tempt me, yet forsake
me not over-long;" that is, if thou hast thus forsaken me, that I
may know how weak I am without thy help, yet "forsake me not
utterly," lest I perish. I know that of thy good-will thou hast given
me strength; and if thou turnest away thy face from me, I shall
forthwith be troubled. "O forsake me not, that I perish not."
18 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
9. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking
heed thereto according to thy word.
Why is the young man so especially called to cleanse his
way? Because God justly claims the first and the best.
And is it not a most affecting proof of the alienation of the
heart from God, that the youth of man ― the bloom and
freshness of his mind—"his first love"—should naturally
be devoted to the service of sin? Ever since fallen man
"begat a son in his own likeness," "the imagination of
man's heart has been evil from his youth." (Gen. v. 3;
viii. 21.) For "who can bring a clean thing out of an
unclean?" (Job, xiv. 4.) And never does the heart utter
the cry, "My Father! thou art the guide of my youth"
(Jer. iii. 4), until the misery of wandering without a guide
has been painfully felt. And even when Divine grace has
awakened the desire to return homewards, the habit of
wandering from God, and the long-cherished pollutions of
sin, seem to form an almost invincible barrier to progress.
The fearful power of "youthful lusts," and the madness
with which the heart is hurried into forbidden indulgences,
give solemn weight to the inquiry, "Wherewithal shall a
young man cleanse his way?" And the answer is ready.
Let him "take heed thereto according to thy word." Thus
did Joseph (Gen. xxxix. 9), and Daniel with his young
companions (Dan. i. 8-20; iii. 12-18), "cleanse their way"
in the defilement of an heathen atmosphere. It was pro-
VERSE 9. 19
bably the recollection of this purifying efficacy of the word,
that induced the venerable Beza to mention in his will,
among his chief matters of thankfulness to God, the mercy
of having been called to the knowledge of the truth at the
age of sixteen; thus, during a course of more than seventy
years' walk with God, "escaping the pollutions of the
world through lust." But the "way can only be cleansed"
by the cleansing of the heart; for how can a corrupt foun-
"send forth" other than "bitter waters?" (
11, 12.) "Out of the heart are the issues of life." Hence
the urgent need to cry—"Create in me a clean heart, O
God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Prov. iv. 23.
Ps. li. 10.)
How precious, therefore, is the word of God, as the
means of this cleansing operation! When our Saviour had
been setting forth himself as "the way, the truth, and the
life," and exhibiting the high privilege of union with him-
self, "Now," he adds, "ye are clean, through the word which
I have spoken unto you." (John, xiv. 6; xv. 1-3.) This is
"the truth," which he pleaded with his Father as the
means of our sanctification. (Ib. xvii. 17.) This sets out
our purifying hope. (1 John, iii. 3.) Here are the pro-
mises, by which we "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness
of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."*
Thus is restored to man that golden "crown"—the stamp
of his Maker's holiness— which "fell from his head when
he sinned." (Lam. v. 16, with Gen. i. 27; Eph. iv. 24.)
But oh! how does the recollection force itself upon us,
* 2 Cor. vii. 1. Comp. 2 Pet. i. 4. Augustine's recorded account
of his own conversion furnishes a striking illustration of this sub-
ject. Confessions, books, viii., ix. The substance of it may be
found in Milner's Church History, vol. ii. 353-356. See Dr. Owen's
valuable work on the Spirit for a most instructive use made of
it, as throwing light upon the doctrine of conversion. Book iii.
20 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
that our way wants daily cleansing! so defiled are our ac-
tions, our thoughts, our motives,—nay more, our prayers
and services. Let us then "take heed according to the word
of God"— specially thankful for its heavenly light, which
guides us to the "Fountain, that is opened for sin and for
uncleanness." (Zech. xiii. 1.) Let us also, under the same
Divine light, seek for the daily sanctifying influence of the
Spirit of God. "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse
thou me from secret faults." (Ps. xix. 12.) "Cleanse the
thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit."
10. With my whole heart have I sought thee; O let me not
wander from thy commandments.
Attention to the word, however important (ver. 9), can
never be practically effective without earnest prayer. Indeed
this is the character of the Lord's people, "a generation of
seekers" (Ps. xxiv. 6); and yet how much do we lose of the
comfort of our religion, and obscure the glory of our pro-
fession, by neglecting to bring "our whole heart" to this
work! When sin is vigorous, and our spiritual affections
are dull, and various hindrances combine in prayer, at this
crisis strong faith is needed to overcome and to persevere.
But here the soul too commonly yields to the difficulty,
and contents itself either with heartless complainings, or
with just sufficient exertion to quiet the voice of conscience,
and produce a delusive peace within. But the Lord will
not be found thus. His promise is not to such seekers as
these; and if we are satisfied with this state, we must look
for a very scanty measure of spiritual success, accompanied
with the total absence of spiritual enjoyment. In a far
different spirit David could appeal—"With my whole heart
have I sought thee." And this assurance, instead of pro-
ducing self-confidence, will, so far as it is genuine, invari-
VERSE 10. 21
ably show itself in a prayerful acknowledgment of our
weakness —"O let me not wander from thy commandments."
Yet the feeblest desire and attempt to seek the Lord is
the Spirit's rising beam in the heart, a "day of small
things" not to be "despised." (Zech. iv. 10.) It is distin-
guished from every other principle by the simplicity of its
object—"This one thing I do. One thing have I de-
sired of the Lord; that will I seek after." (Philip. iii. 13.
Ps. xxvii. 4.) My God! my Saviour! with my whole
heart have I sought thee. "The desire of my soul is to thy
name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul
have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit
within me will I seek thee early." (Isa. xxvi. 8; 9.)
When the soul is thus conscious of "following the
Lord fully," there is a peculiar dread of wandering. In a
careless or half-hearted state, wanderings are not watched,
so long as they do not lead to any open declension. Secret
prayer will be hurried over, worldly thoughts unresisted,
waste of time in frivolous pursuits indulged, without much
concern. Not so, when the heart is fully in pursuit of its
object. There is a carefulness, lest wandering thoughts
should become habitual. There is a resistance of the first
step, that might lead into a devious path. The soul re-
members the "wormwood and the gall" (Lam. iii. 19),
"the roaring lion," and the devouring wolf; and in the
recollection of the misery of its former wandering, dreads
any departure from the Shepherd's fold. This blessed
state of mind the flock of Christ should cherish with godly
jealousy. Yet let it be remembered, that daily progress in
the heavenly walk is not maintained by yesterday's grace.
Humble and dependent prayer must fetch in a fresh supply
continually—"O let me not wander from thy commandments."
Lord, I feel my heart so prone to wander. My affections
are often scattered to the ends of the earth. "Unite my
heart to fear thy name." (Ps. lxxxvi. 11.) Concentrate
22 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
every thought, every desire, in thyself, as the one object
11 . Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin
What an aggregate of guilt and misery is comprehended
in this short word "sin"—the greatest curse that ever
entered the universe of God, and the parent of every other
curse! Its guilt is aggravated beyond the conception of
Injury to a
Its power is misery wherever it extends —in the family—
in the world. In eternity its power is unrestrained. Some-
times the death-bed scene casts a fearful gleam of light
upon "the worm that never dieth, and the fire that never
shall be quenched" (Mark, ix. 44): but experience only
can develope its full-grown horrors. How supremely im-
portant therefore is the object of our preservation from sin!
and how wisely adapted are the means to the end! That
word—which the man of God had just before mentioned
as the guide to the cleansing of the way (Verse 9)—he hides
within his heart—not for concealment, but for security
(Matt. xxv. 25; Ps. xl. 10; with Exod. xxv. 21; Job,
xxii. 22), that it may be ready for constant use. (Josh. i. 8.)
It is not therefore a mere acquaintance with the word, that
will avail us. There must be a cordial assent — a sound
digestion — a constant respect. It must be to us the rule
that we would not transgress—the treasure that we are
afraid to lose. (Matt. xiii. 44.) Often indeed Satan shuts
out its entrance. He "catches away that which was sown."
Too often, again, it is "withered or choked" in the soil. But
"the honest and good heart" "hides it, keeps it, and brings
forth fruit with patience, unto perfection." (Luke, viii. 15,
with the whole parable.) Here it "wells richly in all
wisdom" (Col. iii. 16), the storehouse, as occasion requires;
VERSE 11. 23
a principle of holiness; a covering from sin. In this view
it is recommended by one who had well acquainted himself
with its valuable uses: "My son, let them not" (the
Divine precepts) "depart from thine eyes; keep sound
wisdom and discretion. So shall they be life unto thy soul,
and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way
safely, and thy foot shall not stumble." (Prov. iii. 21-24.
Comp. Prov. ii. 10-15.) David also gives us the same
experience: "By the word of thy lips I have kept me
from the paths of the destroyer." (Ps. xvii. 4.) And it
was probably this recollection, combined with a sense of
continual danger, that suggested the prayer —"Order my
steps in thy word; and let not any iniquity have dominion
over me." (Verse 133.)
The value of the word is inestimable, as our means of
walking with God in the hurry, business, and temptation
of the day. The Psalms furnish precious materials for
ejaculatory prayer; the promises, food for comfort (Verses
50, 92); the rules, such light in perplexity (Verse 105.
Prov. iii. 5, 6); the instruction, such solid matter for
godly conference (Col. iii. 16)— all operating for one end
—a preservation from sin. Being from the word—a mani-
festation of the Saviour's love—what a keeping of the
heart! what a quickening motive! How seasonable in
worldly temptation is the warning of the word hid in the
heart, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and
back, is fit for the
61, 62.) So in the spiritual conflict, let this word—"Him
that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out," be hid in
the heart—what a preservation is it against unbelief!
(John, vi. 37.) Take the word to the unbelieving believer
(if the expression may be allowed), alarmed by ridicule or
persecution—"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated
me before it hated you." (John, xv. 18.) Fearing that he
shall never hold out to the end; "I will never leave thee
24 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
nor forsake thee." (Heb. xiii. 5.) Trembling lest his sins
should rise up to his condemnation―"The blood of Jesus
Christ the Son of God cleanseth from all sin." (1 John, i.
7.) And then as to duties: Let his Saviour's word rebuke
his indolence and unwatchfulness—"What! could ye not
watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter
not into temptation." (Matt. xxvi. 40, 41.) Hide in the
heart the sorrowful story of his agony in the garden, and
his death on the cross, that "sin may appear yet more
But how is the word to gain entrance into hearts like
ours? How shall it be "hid" in so unkindly a soil? No
power of man surely can plant it there. The Holy Spirit's
Almighty agency must be diligently sought; for in pro-
portion as we are filled with his gracious influence shall we
be armed, as was our Master, for the effectual resistance of
our spiritual temptations. (Comp. Luke, iv. 1-12.)
Lastly, connected with this subject, mark the Christian's
character —"In whose heart is my law." (Isa. li. 7.) His
security—"None of his steps shall slide." (Ps. xxxvii. 31.)
His happiness—"O how I love thy law." (Verse 97.)
His victory—"The word of God abideth in him, and he
hath overcome the wicked one." (1 John, ii. 14; with Eph.
vi. 17.) All infallibly provided by the covenant promise,
"I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in
their hearts." (Jer. xxxi. 33.) Oh! let us not then shrink
from a close contact with the word, though the cost may be
the cutting off a right hand for the saving of the life. There
is no better test of our security, than our willingness to
come to the searching light of the word. (Comp. John, iii.
12. Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.
"Praise is comely for the upright." (Ps. xxxiii. 1, 2.)
VERSE 12. 25
It is at once their duty and their privilege. But what does
its highest exercise amount to, when placed on the ground
of its own merit? We clothe our ideas with magnificence
of language, and deck them out with all the richness of
imagery; and perhaps we are pleased with our forms of
praise. But what are they in his sight beyond the offering
of a contemptible worm, spreading before its Maker its own
mean and low notions of Divine Majesty? If a worm were
to raise its head, and cry—'O sun! thou art the source of
light and heat to a widely-extended universe'—it would,
in fact, render a higher praise to the sun, than we can ever
give to our Maker. Between it and us there is some pro-
portion—between us and God none. Yet, unworthy as
the offering confessedly is, he will not despise it. Nay,
more, instead of spurning it from his presence, he has
himself as "inhabiting the praises of
xxii. 3); thus intimating to us, that the service of praise
is "set forth in his sight as incense;" and at the same
time, that it should be the daily and unceasing exercise of
one at his own home.
The true character of praise, however, depends entirely
upon the state of the heart. In the contemplative philo-
sopher it is only cheerless, barren admiration: in the believer
it becomes a principle of comfort and encouragement. For,
can he forget the revelation, which his God has given of
himself in the gospel of his dear Son; how it divests every
attribute of its terrors, and shines before us in all the glory
of his faithfulness and love? The ascription of praise—
"Blessed art thou, O Lord," frames itself therefore into
the prophet's song―"Who is a God like unto thee, that
pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the
remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for
ever, because he delighteth in mercy." (Mic. vii. 18.)
Truly then he is "blessed" in himself, and delights to
communicate his blessedness to his people. Hence we are
26 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
emboldened to ask for continual "teaching in his statutes,"*
in the truths which he has revealed, and the precepts which
he has enjoined; that we may "be followers of him, as dear
children," and "walk with him in love." (Eph. v. 1, 2.)
The practical influence, however, of Divine light, con-
stitutes its peculiar privilege. Man's teaching puffeth up
— God's teaching humbleth. Man's teaching may lead us
into error as well as into truth — God's teaching is "the
unction from the Holy One, by which we know all things."
(1 John, ii. 20.) Man's teaching may make us more
learned — God's teaching makes us more holy. It persuades,
while it enlightens. It draws the heart, inclines the will,
and carries out the soul to Christ. (John, vi. 44, 45.) The
tried character of God encourages us to look for his teach-
ing— "Good and upright is the Lord; therefore will he
teach sinners in the way." (Ps. xxv. 8.) Our warrant is
especially confirmed in approaching him as our covenant
God — "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art
the God of my salvation. Teach me to do thy will: for thou
art my God." (Ps. cxliii. 10.)
Reader! do you desire to praise your God? Then learn
to frequent the new and living way, "by which alone you
can offer your sacrifice acceptably." (Heb. x. 20; xiii. 15.
1 Pet. ii. 5.) And while engaged in this holy service,
inquire, surrounded as you are with the means of instruc-
tion, what progress you are making in his statutes. Seek to
have a deeper acquaintance with the character of God.
Seek to be the vessels of honour and glory, into which he
is pouring more and more continually, "until they be filled
with all the fulness of God." (Eph. 19.) Value the
unspeakable blessing of Divine teaching, by which you learn
to live the life, and begin the blessedness of God.
* The same acknowledgment and plea are made in verses 64, 68.
VERSE 13. 27
13. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy
We have seen the word hid in the heart: now we see it
poured forth from the lips. The Lord has taught us his
statutes; now we declare these judgments of his mouth. But
who can declare them with unction and power, save those
who are taught of God? Now we are introduced to the high
and honourable privilege of becoming a witness for our
Saviour! (Philip. ii. 16.) Our opportunities of service are
our talents, and we trade with a large increase; for "to
every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have
abundance." (Matt. xxv. 29.) But—"our lips are our
own" (Ps. xii. 4)—is the proud language of the world.
Blessed be God; "we know that we are not our own."
(1 Cor. vi. 19.) Most gladly do we acknowledge, that he,
who fashioned our lips, has the best claim to their service.
And when he has added to the claim of creation the right
of purchase (1 Cor. vi. 20), what further constraining can
we need, to induce the consecration of all that we are, and
all that we have, to his glory!
This is a family obligation — to declare the judgments of
God's mouth. Thus did Abraham obtain a blessing for his
children. (Gen. xviii. 19.) Heavenly blessings are the gra-
cious reward of thus honouring our God. (Deut. xi. 18-21.)
This also is the material of our general intercourse — fruit-
ful in spiritual results. Thus did Andrew bring Peter
i. 40-42), and the women of
bours (John, iv. 29, 30), to Jesus. What might we not do
for our fellow-sinners, if our intercourse with them was the
overflowing of a heart full of love; guided by a single de-
sire to glorify our Saviour, and to edify his Church! Fearful,
indeed, is the guilt of sinful silence; and those, who thus
prove their unfaithfulness to God, may well tremble at his
awful denunciations. And yet it is possible to be bold in
28 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
speech for God, when in the closet, the family, or the world,
our consciences justly convict us of insincerity: "Thou
teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" (
ii. 21.) Let us seek, therefore, to have our hearts "filled
with the Spirit" (Eph. v. 18, 19); otherwise ours will be
"the talk of the lips, which tendeth only to penury."
(Prov. xiv. 23; with x. 19.)
This subject illustrates the character of the Lord's peo-
ple —"The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and
his tongue talketh of judgment" (Ps. xxxvii. 30); their
resolution —"My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness
and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers
thereof" (Ps. lxxi. 15); their prayer—"O Lord, open thou
my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise" (Ps.
li. 15); their blessing —"The lips of the righteous feed
many. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life." (Prov. x. 21;
xv. 4.) The example of the Saviour, here as everywhere,
is our perfect and encouraging pattern: "I have preached
righteousness in the great congregation; Lo! I have not
refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." (Ps. xl. 9, 10;
with Luke, iv. 16-22.) In this spirit of their Master, the
Apostles awed their persecutors into forbearance: "We
cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
(Acts, iv. 20.)
How sinful is it to employ our lips for any but the
Lord! Yet not less sinful is our reluctance to employ them
for him! Surely the day, when perhaps we have been fluent
in worldly conversation, and yet have neglected our oppor-
tunities of speaking a word for him, must be considered a
lost day! Is there not much cause for watchfulness, prayer,
and self-denial; lest our silence should deny him, whom by
every obligation we are bound to confess? If our inability
to bear a testimony for our Lord is not painful to us (Comp.
Ps. xxxix. 1, 2; Jer. xx. 9), must we not suspect, if not
the sincerity, at least the strength, of our attachment to
VERSE 14. 29
his precious name? and we can do no better than retire into
our closets with the prayer of contrition—"Enter not into
judgment with thy servant, O Lord." (Ps. cxliii. 2.)
14. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as
in all riches.
How natural is it to be speaking of that which is our
delight! The man of God was always declaring the Lord's
judgments, because they were his rejoicing. There is indeed
a real joy in despising earthly joys. "How sweet"—said
Augustine, referring to the period of his conversion —"was
it in a moment to be free from those delightful vanities, to
lose which had been my dread; to part with which was now
my joy!"* More satisfying is the believer's rejoicing in the
way of God, than that of the miser in his untold riches.
(Verses 72, 127.) Here he may safely say to his soul,
"Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take
thine ease." And these are the only riches within the reach
of all. If we are poor in this world, it is the Lord's pro-
vidence. If we are poor in grace, it is our own fault. It
is because we have despised our Lord's "counsel to buy of
him gold tried in the fire, that we may be rich." (Rev. iii.
18.) And what is this enriching portion?—"Things
* "Quas amittere metus erat, jam dimittere gaudium fuit."—
Aug. Confess. Book ix. Never man in his unregenerate state, by
his own confession, more strongly illustrated the truth of our Lord's
declaration, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."
(John, viii. 34; with 2 Pet. ii. 19.) He describes himself actually
as "wallowing in the mire," with as much delight, as if he were
rolling himself in a bed of spices, or perfuming himself with the
most precious ointment. ("Volutare in cæno, tanquam cinnamonis
et unguentis pretiosis.") Yet when the word pierced his heart, and
brought a new bias and taste into his soul, how delightfully was his
language changed in the recollection of his past "excess of riot!"
"Quam suave est istis suavitatibus carere!"
30 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
present or things to come" (1 Cor. iii. 22); something
enjoyed, and much more expected: the mercies of eternity
added to the blessings of time; the riches of both worlds
—all assured to him by the covenant of grace "in the way
of the Lord's testimonies." Is it not then most strange, that,
with such treasure in possession and in prospect, the child
of God should be so careless in increasing his store, and in
confirming his own interest in it? But the riches of God's
testimonies have this peculiar property, that they cease to
rejoice the heart, when they are not uppermost there. Have
there not been times, when we have actually rejoiced in the
accession of some worldly good, or the accomplishment of
some worldly desire, more than in this heavenly treasure?
What then do we count our riches? To thrive in grace, or
in the world? To be rich towards God, or for our own in-
But though we would rejoice in the testimonies, and would
not, for all this world can afford, lose a verse or a letter of
our Bibles, yet we cannot be satisfied with a general interest.
Many texts— doctrinal, practical, or experimental —have
been specially sealed by the Divine Spirit upon our hearts.*
This or that promise—yea, all the land of promise, as much
as I can set my foot upon—is mine. From these precious
testimonies, shall we not increase our little stock, until we
have apprehended the full enjoyment of the whole if in-
deed the fulness of that which is called "unsearchable"
(Eph. iii. 8) can ever be, in this life at least, completely
But it is not so much in the Lord's testimonies, as "in
the way of them," that David rejoiced—the way to God, of
which they testify (John, xiv. 6 with v. 39); "the way
of holiness" (Isa. xxxv. 8), in which they lead—the narrow
way of the cross — so contrary to our natural desires and
* "This is my scripture"— Origen used to say of such texts.
VERSE 15. 31
inclinations, that none but the true sheep of Christ can
ever enter, or continue in it. Who that walks in these
ways will fail to find them, in duties no less than in privi-
leges, "paths of pleasantness and peace?" Our happiness
is not withered, but flourishing. "Thus saith the Lord,
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths,
where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find
rest for your souls." (Jer. vi. 16.)
15. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto
Our rejoicing in the testimonies of God will naturally flow
in an habitual meditation in them. (Verse 97. Ps. i. 2.)
The thoughts follow the affections. The carnal man can
never be brought to this resolution. Having no spiritual
taste, he has no ability for spiritual meditation. Indeed
many sincere Christians, through remaining weakness and
depravity, are too often reluctant to it. They are content
with indolent reading: and, with scarcely a struggle or a
trial, yield themselves up to the persuasion, that they are
unable sufficiently to abstract their minds for this blessed
employment. But let the trial prove the work. Persever-
ance will accomplish the victory over mental instability,
and the spiritual difficulty will give way to prayer, "Lord!
help me." The fruitfulness of this employment will soon
be manifest. Does it not "stir up the gift of God that is
in us" (2 Tim. i. 6), and keep the energies of the heart in
a wakeful posture of conflict and resistance? Besides this,
it is the digestive faculty of the soul, which converts the
word into real and proper nourishment: so that this revolv-
ing of a single verse in our minds is often better than the
mere reading of whole chapters." Thy words were found,
and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and
32 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
the rejoicing of my heart."* Thus the mind becomes the
instrument of faith and love—of joy and strength.
But this meditation not only includes the stated times
of thought, but the train of holy thoughts, that pass
through the mind during the busy hours of the day. This
maintains an habitual flow of spiritual desires, and excites
the flame of love within, till at length the Psalmist's reso-
lution becomes the inwrought habit of our minds—"I will
meditate in thy precepts."
Can we want a subject for meditation, if indeed the
salvation of Jesus has been made known to our souls?
While musing upon the glorious theme, does not "the fire
burn" (Ps. xxxix. 3 and comp. xlv. 1) within, as if our
hearts were touched with a live coal from the altar of God?
Chide then, believer, thy dull and sluggish spirit, that
suffers the precious manna to lie ungathered upon the
ground, that is slow to entertain these heavenly thoughts;
or rather that heavenly guest, whose peculiar office it is
to "help our infirmities" (Rom. viii. 26), and especially
to "take of Christ's, and show it unto us." (John, xvi.
The exercise, however, of this, as of every other duty,
may prove a barren form, that imparts neither pleasure nor
profit.† Let each of us then ask—'What distinct experi-
mental benefit have I received from the word? Do I en-
* Jer. xv. "Meditation is that exercise of mind, whereby it
recalls a known truth, as some kinds of creatures do their food, to be
ruminated upon, until the nutritious parts are extracted, and fitted
for the purposes of life."—Bishop Horne on this verse.
† "If a chapter be read with the eye merely, while the mind
remains inattentive, and the book be shut as soon as the chapter
is finished, and thus, what has been read immediately escape the
memory; what is there to surprise, if, after the whole Bible has
been several times read through, we discover in ourselves no in-
crease of piety and devotion?" ― Professor Francke.
VERSE 16. 33
deavour to read it with prayerful meditation, until I find
my heart filled with it?
But this communing with the word is not for contem-
plation, but for practice. (Josh. i. 8.) By meditating on
God's precepts, we learn to have respect unto his ways—care-
fully "pondering the path of our feet," that we "turn not
aside." (Prov. iv. 26, 27.) "Thy loving-kindness is before
mine eyes; and I have walked in thy truth." (Ps. xxvi. 3.)
"My foot," saith Job, "hath held his steps; his ways have
I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from
the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of
his mouth more than my necessary food." (Job, xxiii. 11, 12.)
16. I will delight myself* in thy statutes: I will not forget
As delight quickens to meditation (Verses 14, 15), so
does the practical habit of meditation strengthen the prin-
ciple of delight. In the enjoyment of this delight, the
Christian (however small his attainments may be) would
rather live and die, than in the pursuit, and even in the
possession, of the most satisfying pleasures of a vain and
empty world. But if it be a real "delight in the Lord's
statutes," it will be universal — when they probe the secret
lurking-places within, and draw out to the full light the
indulgences of a heart that is yet carnal (see
vii. 14; 1 Cor. iii. 1, 3); when they call for the entire
crucifixion of every corrupt inclination, and the unreserved
surrender of all to the self-denying service of our God. This
spirit is very different from the delight of the hypocrite,
which is rather to "know," than to do, the "ways of his
God" (Isa. lviii. 2); and, therefore, which is satisfied with
* "I will solace and recreate myself."—Ainsworth. A beau-
tiful illustration of the refreshment of the word, when the mind is
tired out with the toilsome encumbering cares of the world.
34 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
outward conformity, with little or no desire to "understand
the errors" of his heart, that he might be "cleansed from
secret faults." (Ps. xix. 12.) The spring of our obedience
will therefore prove its sincerity; and the reality of our
love will be manifested by its fruitfulness and active cheer-
fulness in our appointed sphere of duty.
We may also observe here an evidence of adoption.
Obedience is not a burden, but a delight. The servant may
perform the statutes of God, but it is only the son who
"delights in them." But what—we may ask —is the spring it
of adoption? It is "the Spirit of the Son sent into our
hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Gal. iv. 6.) It is
because we are at peace with God through Jesus Christ;
because the statutes are the message of reconciliation through
him, that they become delightful to those, who are par-
takers of this great salvation. "The spirit of adoption,"
therefore, as the principle of delight, is the spring of accept-
able obedience in the Lord's service.
And surely those who are serving him in this happy
filial walk, are not likely to "forget his word." As the eye
is continually turned to the object of its affection, so the
eye of the soul, that has been fixed with delight on the ways
of God, will be habitually resting upon them. As one of
the wise heathens observed—'I never yet heard of a covet-
ous old man, who had forgotten where he had buried his
treasure.'* The reason is abundantly evident. His heart
is in it. And this explains the forgetfulness of the ungodly
or the formalist. They have no delight in the statutes. And
who is not glad to forget what is distasteful? But if we
"have tasted that the Lord is gracious"— if we have found
a treasure "in the way of his testimonies"—we cannot
forget the sweetness of the experience, or where to go to
refresh ourselves with the repetition of it.
* "Nec vero quenquam senem audivi oblitum quo loco thesau-
VERSE 16. 35
Forgetfulness of the word is, however, to the Christian, a
source of continual complaint, and sometimes also of most
distressing temptation. Not that there is always a real
of guilt upon the conscience. For, as
what quaintly observes—'Grace makes a good heart-
memory, even where there is no good head-memory.' But
means must be used, and helps may be suggested. Watch-
fulness against the influence of the world is of the first
importance. How much of the good seed is choked by the
springing thorns! (Matt. xiii. 22.) If our hearts are ever
refreshed with spiritual delight, we should be as cautious
of an uncalled-for advance into the world, as of exposing an
invalid's susceptible frame to a damp or an unhealthy
atmosphere. Whatever warmth has been kindled in spi-
ritual duties, may be chilled by one moment's unwary rush
into an unkindly clime. We would also recommend in-
creasing attention to the word, as the means of its preserv-
ation (Heb. 1)—the exercise of "faith," without which
it will "not profit" (Ib. iv. 2)—the active habit of love,
bringing with it a more habitual interest in the statutes
(Verse 15) — all accompanied with unceasing prayer for the
gift of the Holy Spirit, made the express subject of promise
for this purpose. (John, xiv. 26.) Under his heavenly teach-
ing and recollection, what delight will be found in the statutes!
what blessed remembrance of his word! And what a happy
spirit is this delight and remembrance of the word—the affec-
tions glowing—the memory pondering—the presence and
manifestation of truth keeping the heart in close commu-
nion with God! "O Lord God, keep this for ever in the
imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and
prepare their hearts unto thee." (1 Chron. xxix. 18.)
36 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
17. Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and
keep thy word.
This prayer appears to have been much upon David's
heart, and in its substance and object it is again repeated.
(Verse 77.) Nor does he fail to acknowledge the answer
to it. (Verse 65. Comp. Ps. xiii. 6; cxvi. 7, 8.) The be-
liever, like David, is a man of large expectations. As
regards himself—his own daily provocations and back-
slidings —he cannot stand upon his own ground. But
when he brings with him the name, the blood, the inter-
cession of Jesus; as soon could God deny his own beloved
Son, as resist the supplication of those who present this all-
prevailing plea. (John, xvi. 23, 24.) Nay—is he not his
own gift to his children, as the pledge of every other gift?
(Rom. viii. 32.) And what other pledge can they need, to
encourage them to draw nigh with the largest desire, and
the most heavenly expectation? We may, indeed, be too
bold in our manner of approach to God;* but we cannot be
too bold in our expectations from him. Standing as we do
upon such high and sure ground, it is equally dishonourable
to him, and impoverishing to ourselves, to ask only a little
* A beautiful example of reverential approach, and of the accep-
tance manifested, is given in Abram's history (Gen. xvii. 3), and is
in some degree illustrated by the private records of Luther.—Note
on verses 147, 148.
VERSE 17. 37
of him. Rather let us, according to his own command,
"open our mouths wide; and he will fill them." (Ps. lxxxi.
10.) Rather let us expect that he will deal—not only
favourably—but bountifully with his servants—that, as "our
God, he will supply all our need according to his riches in
glory by Christ Jesus." (Philip. iv. 19.)
And, indeed, the most experienced believer cannot forget,
that he is in himself still the same poor, weak, empty, help-
less creature as at first. Nothing, therefore, short of a boun-
tiful supply can answer his emergency. And such a supply
is always at hand. The act of prayer increases the power
to pray. The throne of grace is a well, which no power or
malice of the Philistines can stop up. (Comp. Gen. xxvi. 15.)
We need not say, "We have nothing to draw with, and
the well is deep." (John, iv. 11.) Faith will enable us
"with joy to draw out of this well of salvation." (Isa. xii. 3.)
Let us bring our empty vessels, until "there is not a vessel
more." (Comp. 2 Kings, iv. 3-6.) Yes—believer—there
is indeed a bountiful supply of grace—of every kind— suited
to every want—grace to pardon—grace to quicken—grace
to bless. Oh! see, then, that you come not empty away.
Remember—who it that pleads before the throne. Re-
member—that the grace you need is in his hand. From
eternity he foreknew your case. He laid your portion by.
He has kept it for the time of need; and now he only waits
for an empty vessel, into which to pour his supply. He is
ready to show you, how infinitely his grace exceeds all
thoughts—all prayers—all desires—all praises.
And say—what has been the fruit of your pleading,
waiting expectancy at "the throne of grace?" Have you
not returned thence with a fresh spring of devotedness in
his service, with every selfish thought forgotten in the
desire, that you "may live, and keep his word?" Nothing
touched or moved your reluctant heart, but the appre-
hension of bountiful redeeming love. This makes obedience
38 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
easy—delightful—natural—in a manner unavoidable. It
constrains" (2 Cor. v. 14) to it. The man now lives
not the animal life of appetite—not the sensual life of
vanity and pleasure—but the only life that deserves the
name. He lives singly, supremely "to him that died for
him, and rose again." (2 Cor. v. 15.) He "lives, and keeps
his word." His motto and character now is, "To me to
live is Christ." (Philip. i. 21. Comp. Acts, xiii. 36.) He
values life only by his opportunities of serving his God.
(Philip. i. 20.) The first archangel knows not a higher
object of existence. And how encouraging the reflection,
that in this glorious object the meanest servant in the
household of God is an equal participant with the most
blessed inhabitant of heaven!
18. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things
out of thy law.
In order to keep God's word, must we not pray to un-
derstand it? What then is the prayer? Not—give me
a plainer Bible—but open mine eyes to know my Bible.
Not—show me some new revelations beside the law—but
make me behold the wonders of the law. David had acquired
in the Divine school "more understanding than all his
teachers" (Verses 99, 100); yet he ever comes to his God
under a deep sense of his blindness. Indeed those who
have been best and longest taught, are always the most
ready to "sit at the feet of Jesus" (Luke, x. 39), as if they
had everything to learn. It is an unspeakable mercy to
know a little, and at the same time to feel that it is only a
little. We shall then be longing to know more, and yet
anxious to know nothing, except as we are taught of God.
There are indeed in God's law things so wondrous, that
"the angels desire to look into them." (1 Pet. i. 12.) The
exhibition of the scheme of redemption is in itself a world
VERSE 18. 39
of wonders. The display of justice exercised in the way of
mercy, and of mercy glorified in the exercise of justice, is a
wonder, that must fill the intelligent universe of God with
everlasting astonishment. And yet these "wondrous things"
are hid from multitudes, who are most deeply interested in
the knowledge of them. They are "hid," not only from
the ignorant and unconcerned, but "from the wise and
prudent; and revealed" only "to babes" (Matt. xi. 25) —
to those who practically acknowledge that important truth,
that a man "can receive nothing, except it be given him
from heaven." (John, iii. 27.) External knowledge is like
the child spelling the letters without any apprehension of
the meaning. It is like reading a large and clear print
with a thick veil before our eyes. Oh! how needful then
is the prayer—'Unveil;'*—"Open thou mine eyes: "let the
veil be taken away from the law, that I may understand it;
and from my heart, that I may receive it!
But do not even Christians often find the word of God
to be as a sealed book? They go through their accus-
tomed portion, without gaining any increasing acquaint-
ance with its light, life, and power, and without any distinct
application of its contents to their hearts. And thus it
must be, whenever reading has been unaccompanied with
prayer for Divine influence. For we not only need to have
our "eyes opened to behold" fresh wonders, but also to give a
more spiritual and transforming (2 Cor. iii. 18) perception
of those wonders, which we have already beheld.
But are we conscious of our blindness? Then let us
hear the counsel of our Lord, that we "anoint our eyes
with eye-salve, that we may see." (Rev. iii. 18.) The re-
collection of the promises of Divine teaching is fraught
with encouragement. The Spirit is freely and abundantly
promised in this very character, as "the Spirit of wisdom
* "Revela oculos meos. Velamen detrahe oculis meis."—Poli
Synopsis. Margin, "Reveal." Comp. 2 Cor. iii. 14-16.
40 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
and revelation in the knowledge of God." (Eph. i., 17.) If,
therefore, we desire a clearer insight into these "wondrous
things" of revelation—if we would behold the glorious
beauty of our Immanuel—if we would comprehend some-
thing more of the immeasurable extent of that love, with
which "God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten
Son" (John, iii. 16), and of that equally incomprehensible
love, which moved that Son so cheerfully to undertake our
cause (Heb. x. 5-7), we must make daily, hourly use of
this important petition—"Open thou mine eyes."
19. I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments
Such is the condition of the child of God—a stranger
in the earth! This confession, however, from a solitary
wanderer would have had little comparative meaning. But
in the mouth of one, who was probably surrounded with
every sort of worldly enjoyment, it shows at once the vanity
of "earth's best joys," and the heavenly tendency of the
religion of the Bible. This has been ever the character,
confession, and glory of the Lord's people.* We "would
not live always" (Job, vii. 16); and gladly do we hear the
warning voice, that reminds us to "arise and depart, for
this is not our rest." (Mic. ii. 10.) And was not this
especially the character, not of David only, but of David's
Lord? Born at an inn (Luke, ii. 7)—not "having where
to lay his head" (Matt. viii. 20)— suffering hunger (Ib.
xxi. 18)—subsisting upon alms (Luke, viii. 3)—neglected
by his own (John, i. 11)—he "looked for some to take
pity, but there was none, and for his comforters, but he
found none" (Ps. lxix. 20)—might he not justly take up
the confession—"I am a stranger in the earth?"
* Abraham, Gen. xxiii. 4. Jacob, Gen. xlvii. 9: David, Ps.
xxxix. 12. All, Heb. xi. 13.
VERSE 19. 41
This verse exhibits the Christian in many most inter-
esting points of view; distant from his proper home (Heb.
xi. 9, 10)—without a fixed residence (1 Chron. xxix. 15)—
with no particular interest in the world (Philip. iii. 20)—
and submitting to all the inconveniences of a stranger on
his journey homewards. (Acts, xiv. 22. Heb. x. 34.) Such
is his state! And the word of God includes all that he
wants—a guide, a guard, a companion—to direct, secure,
and cheer his way. "When thou goest, it shall lead thee;
when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou
awakest, it shall talk with thee." (Prow. vi. 22.) Most
suitable then is the stranger's prayer—"Hide not thy com-
mandments from me." Acquaintance with the word of God
supplies the place of friends and counsellors. It furnishes
light, joy, strength, food, armour, and whatever else he
may need on his way homewards.
The pilgrim-spirit is the pulse of the soul. All of us
are travelling to eternity. The worldling is at home in
the earth—a pilgrim only by restraint. His heart would
say—"It is good for me to be here. Let God dispose of
heaven at his pleasure. I am content to have my "portion
in this life." (Ps. xvii. 14. Comp. Luke, vi. 24; xii. 19,
20; xvi. 25.) The child of God is a stranger in the earth.
Heaven is the country of his birth. (Gal. iv. 26.) His
kindred (Eph. 15)—his inheritance (Eph. i. 3, 11, 6.
Matt. xxv. 34)—his Saviour (John, xiv. 3. Col. iii. 1) —
his hope (Philip. iii. 20)—his home (2 Cor. v. 1-6)—all is
there. He is "a citizen of no mean city," of "the heavenly
affection no less than in character. How cheering is the
thought, that "here we have no continuing city," if in heart
and soul we are "seeking one to come!" (Heb. xiii. 14.)
We know, indeed, that we cannot—we would not—
call this world our home, and that it is far better to be
without it, than to have our portion in it. But do we
42 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
never feel at home in the earth, thus forgetting our proper
character, and our eternal prospects? Do we always live,
speak, and act as "strangers in the earth;" in the midst of
earthly enjoyments sitting loose to them, as if our treasure
was in heaven? Does our conversation in the society of
the world savour of the home, whither we profess to be
going? Is the world gaining ascendancy in our affection?
the cross of
plation — the ground of our constant "glorying;" and the
world will then be to us as a "crucified" object. (Gal. vi.
14.) And lastly, let us not forget, that we are looking
forward, and making a progress towards a world, where
none are strangers—where all are children of one family,
dwelling in one eternal home. "In our Father's house,"
said our gracious Head, "are many mansions: I go to pre-
pare a place for you." (John, xiv. 2.)
20. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy
judgments at all times.
This intense desire and affection is the Christian's
answer to his prayers—Open thou mine eyes—Hide not thy
commandments from me. For who that is conversant with
this blessed revelation but longs to be filled with it? In
this glow with the
brighter dispensation, "neither cold nor hot" (Rev. iii. 15):
which state, we may ask, most nearly resembles our own?
Observe also, not only the fervour, but the steady uni-
formity, of this religion. It was not a rapture, but a habit;
constant and uniform; "at all times." With us such en-
joyments are too often favoured seasons, happy moments;
alas! only moments—why not days, and months, and
years? The object of our desires is an inexhaustible
spring. The longing of the soul can never over-reach its
object. The cherished desire, therefore, will become the
VERSE 20. 43
established habit—the element in which the child of God
lives and thrives.
This uniformity is the most satisfactory test of our
profession. Often are the judgments prized in affliction,
when all other resources fail: or under a pang of conscience
when the terror of the Lord is frowning upon the sinner.
(Isa. xxvi. 16.) But the excitement wears off, and the
heart returns to its hardness. Often also the impulse of
novelty gives a strong but temporary impression. (John,
v. 35.) This is very different from the Christian, whose
study is stretching out its desires at all times; finding the
judgments a cordial or a discipline, a support or a preserva-
tion, as his need may require.
Not less important is this habit, as the test of the
soul's prosperity. We are not satisfied with occasional
intercourse with a beloved friend. His society is the life
of our life. We seek him in his own ways, where he is
used to resort. We feel the blank of his absence. We
look out for his return with joyous anticipation. Now, is
this the picture of our soul's longing for communion with
Jesus? We may feel his loss, should the stated seasons
of prayer fail in bringing him near to us. But do we long
for him at all times? Do we "wait for him in the way of
his judgments," where he is wont to be found? (Isa. xxvi. 8
lxiv. 5.) And when spiritual exercises are necessarily
exchanged for the occupations of the world, do we seize the
leisure moment to catch a word — a glimpse —a look? Is
not the heart dumb with shame in the recollection of the
cold habit of external or occasional duty?
But whence this low ebbing of spiritual desire? Do
we live near to the throne of grace? Have we not neg-
lected prayer for the influence of the Spirit? Have we
not indulged a light, vain, and worldly spirit, than which
nothing more tends to wither the growth of vital religion?
Or have not the workings of unbelief been too faintly
44 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
resisted? This of itself will account for much of our
dulness; since the rule of the kingdom of grace is, "Ac-
cording to your faith be it unto you." (Matt. ix. 29.)
Grace is, indeed, an insatiable principle. Enjoyment, in-
stead of surfeiting, only serves to sharpen the appetite.
Yet if we are content to live at a low rate, there will be no
sensible interest in the consolation of the Gospel. We
know, desire, and are satisfied with little; and, therefore,
we enjoy but little. We live as borderers on the land,
instead of bearing our testimony: "Surely it floweth with
milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it." (Num. xiii. 27.)
This is not the thriving, the cheerfulness, the adorning of
the Gospel. It is rather the obscuring of the glory of our
Christian profession, and of the happiness of its attendant
Let not the fervour of desire here expressed be con-
ceived to be out of reach; nor let it be expected in the
way of some sudden manifestation or excitement. Rather
let us look for it in a patient, humble, and persevering
waiting upon the Lord. We may have still to complain
of coldness and wanderings. Yet strength to wait will be
imperceptibly given: faith will be sustained for the con-
flict; and thus "our souls will make their boast in the
Lord," even though an excited flow of enjoyment should
be withheld. One desire will, however, tread upon another,
increasing in fulness, as the grand object is nearer our
At all events, let us beware of resting satisfied with
the confession of our lukewarmness to our fellow-creatures,
without "pouring out our heart before the Lord." There
is a fulness of grace in our glorious Head to "strengthen
the things that remain, that are ready to die," as well as
at the beginning to "quicken" us when "dead in trespasses
and sins." Abundant, also, are the promises and encou-
ragements to poor, dry, barren souls,—"I will heal their
VERSE 21. 45
backslidings; I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall
grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon."
(Hos. xiv. 4-6.) For what purpose are promises such as
these given, but that they may be "arguments," wherewith
to "fill our mouth," when in the contrition of faith we again
venture to "order our cause before God?" And "will he
plead against us with his great power?" No; but "he
will put his strength in us" (Job, xxiii. 4-6); and we
shall yet again "run the way of his commandments"
(Verse 32) with an enlarged heart.
21. Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err
from thy commandments.
Let the histories of Cain (Gen. iv. 5, 13-16), Pharaoh
(Exod. xiv. 15-31), Haman (Esth. vii. 7-10), Nebuchad-
nezzar (Dan. iv. 29-33), and Herod (Acts, xii. 21-23),
exhibit the proud under the rebuke and curse of God. He
abhors their persons (Prov. vi. 16, 17), and their offerings
(Luke, xviii. 11, 12, 14); he " knows them afar off" (Ps.
cxxxviii. 6); "he resisted them" (1 Pet. v. 5; with
Prov. iii. 34); "he scattereth them in the imaginations
of their hearts." (Luke, i. 51.) Especially hateful are they
in his sight, when cloaking themselves under a spiritual
garb; "They say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me;
for I am holier than thou: these are a smoke in my nose, a
fire that burneth all the day." (Isa. lxv. 5; with Luke, xviii.
11.) Most of all, is this sin an abomination in his own
beloved people. David (2 Sam. xxiv. 1-15) and Hezekiah
(2 Kings, xx. 12-18. 2 Chron. xxxii. 31) are instructive
beacons in the church, that they, least of all, must expect
to escape his rebuke—"Thou wast a God that forgavest
them; though thou tookest vengeance on their inventions."
(Ps xcix. 8.) "Now they call the proud happy." (Mal.
iii.15.) But will they be counted so, when they shall be
46 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
manifestly under the curse of God; when "the day of
the Lord shall be upon them to bring them low," yea, to
"burn them in the oven" of "his wrath?" (Isa. ii. 12-17.
Mal. iv. 1.)
Pride probably influences all, that "do err from the Lord's
commandments;" yet doubtless "the Righteous Judge" will
make an infinite difference between errors of infirmity and
obstinate wilfulness. (Ps. xix. 12; with xcv. 10.) The
confession of the man of God, "I have gone astray like a
lost sheep" (Verse 176)—is widely different in character 4
from the subjects of this awful rebuke and curse. "Thou
hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes; for
their deceit is falsehood." (Verse 118.)
We wonder not at this expression of the mind of God
concerning pride. There is no sin more abhorrent to his
character. It is as if we were taking the crown from his
head, and placing it upon our own. It is man making a
god of himself—acting from himself, and for himself. Nor
is this principle less destructive to our own happiness. And
yet it is not only rooted, but it often rears its head and
blossoms, and bears fruit, even in hearts which "hate and
abhor" its influence. It is most like its father, the Devil,
in serpentine deceitfulness. It is always active—always
ready imperceptibly to mix itself up with everything. When
it is mortified in one shape, it rises in another. When we
have thought that it was gone, in some unexpected moment
we find it here still. It can convert everything into
nourishment, even God's choicest gifts —yea, the graces
of his Spirit. Let no saint, therefore, however near he
may be living to God, however favoured with the shillings
of his countenance —consider himself beyond the reach of
this temptation. Paul was most in danger, when he
seemed to be most out of it; and nothing but an instant
miracle of grace and power saved him from the "snare of
the Devil." (See 2 Cor xii. 7.) Indeed, the whole plan of
VERSE 21. 47
salvation is intended to humble the pride of man, by ex-
hibiting his restoration to the Divine favour, as a free gift
through the atoning blood of the cross. How hateful,
therefore, is proud man's resistance to this humbling doc-
trine of the cross, and the humbling requisitions of the life
of faith flowing from it! This makes the sure "founda-
tion" of the believer's hope, "a stone of stumbling" to the
unbeliever's ruin. (Rom. ix. 32, 33. 1 Pet. ii. 7, 8.) As
regards also the means of salvation—how can pride lift up
his head in the view of the Son of God, "taking upon him
the form of a servant," that he might bear the curse of man?
(Philip. ii. 5-8.) "Behold, the soul that is lifted up is not
upright in him." (Hab. ii. 4.)
But can a sinner—can a saint—be proud?—one that
owes everything to free and sovereign grace — one that has
wasted so much time— abused so much mercy— so grieved
the Spirit of God—that has a heart so full of atheism—
unbelief— selfishness? Nay, the very pride itself should
be the matter of the deepest daily humiliation. Thus the
remembrance of it may, under Divine grace, prove an effec-
tual means of subduing it in our hearts. We shall overcome
corruption by its own working, and meet our adversary with
his own weapons. And if this cursed principle be not wholly
destroyed, yet the very sight of its corruption, deepening
our contrition, will be overruled for our spiritual advancement.
O blessed end intended by the Lord's dealings with us!
to "humble and to prove us"—"to know," and to make
us know "what was in our heart, that he might do us good
at the latter end!" (Deut. viii. 2, 16.) Let us not frustrate
his gracious intentions, or build again the things which
he would have destroyed. May we love to lie low—lower
than ever—infinitely low before him! Lord! teach us
to remember, that "that which is highly esteemed among
men, is abomination in thy sight." (Luke, xvi. 15.) Teach
us to bless thee, for even thy sharp and painful discipline
48 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
which tends to subjugate this hateful pride of our hearts
before our Saviour's cross!
22. Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept
The proud under the rebuke of God are usually distin-
guished by their enmity to his people. They delight to
pour upon them "reproach and contempt," with no other
provocation given, than that their keeping the testimonies of
God condemns their own neglect. (Heb. xi. 7.) This must,
however, be counted as the cost of a decided, separate,
and consistent profession. Yet it is such a portion as
Moses valued above all the treasures of the world (Heb. xi.
24-26); yet it is that reproach, which our Master himself
"despised," as "reckoning it not worthy to be compared
with" "the joy that was set before him." (Heb. xii. 2.)
For did he bear his cross only on the way to Calvary? It
was laid for every step in his path; it met him in every
form of suffering, of "reproach and contempt." Look then
at him, as taking up his daily cross in breathing the
atmosphere of a world of sin, and "enduring the contradic-
tion of sinners against himself." (Heb. xii. 3.) Mark him
consummating his course of "reproach and contempt," by
suffering "without the gate;" and can we hesitate to "go
forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach?"
(Heb. xiii. 12, 13.)
The trial, however—especially if cast upon us by those
whom we have loved and valued, or by those whom we
wish to love and value us—proves most severe; and the
spreading our case, after David's example, before the Lord,
is the only preservation from faintness—"Remove from me
reproach and contempt."
Perhaps "contempt" is more hard to bear than "re-
proach." Even our enemies think of us so much better
VERSE 22. 49
than we deserve, that it strikes with peculiar poignancy.
Yet when the submissive prayer of deprecation (see verse
134) is sent us; doubtless some answer— and that the right
answer—will be given; and whether the "reproach" be
removed, or "grace" vouchsafed "sufficient" to endure it
(2 Cor. xii. 8, 9), the issue will prove alike for the glory of
God, and the prosperity of our own souls.
But let us beware of that "way of escape" in returning
to the world, which the insincere are ever ready to pursue.
They dare not act according to the full conviction of their
consciences: they dare not confront their friends with the
avowal of their full determination to form their conduct by
the principles of the word of God. This is hard—this is
impossible. They know not the "victory that overcometh
the world" (see 1 John, v. 4, 5), and, therefore, cannot bear
the mark upon their foreheads —"These are they, which
follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." (Rev. xiv. 4.)
Far better, however, will be the heaviest weight of "re-
proach and contempt," than any such endeavour to remove
it from ourselves. The desire to escape the cross convicts
the heart of unfaithfulness, and makes way for tenfold
difficulties in our path. Every worldly compliance against
the voice of God is a step into the by-path, which deviates
wider and wider from the strait and narrow way, brings
discredit upon our professions, proves a stumbling-block in
the way of the weak, and will cause us, if not actually to
come short, at least to "seem to come short, of the promised
rest." (Heb. iv. 1.)
But is the weight of the cross really "above that we
are able to bear?" He that bore it for us will surely
enable us to endure it for him, and, upheld by him, we
cannot sink. It is a sweet exchange, by which the burden
of sin is removed, and bound to his cross; and what remains
to us is the lighter cross of "reproach and contempt,"—the
badge of our discipleship. (Matt. xvi. 24.) lf, then, we
50 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
have the testimony of our consciences, that in the midst of
the persecuting world we "have kept his testimonies" (Verses
61, 69, 87, 95, 110), here is our evidence of adoption, of
our Father's special love, of the indwelling, comforting,
supporting Spirit. (John, xiv. 15-18, 21-23.) Here, then,
is our warrant of hope, that the overwhelming weight will
be removed from us; and that we shall be able to testify to
our Master's praise in the Churches of God, that "his yoke
is easy, and his burden is light." (Matt. xi. 30.)
23. Princes also did sit and speak against me; but thy servant
did meditate in thy statutes.
David might well give his testimony to "the words of
the Lord," that they were "tried words" (Ps. xii. 7, Prayer-
book translation); for perhaps no one had ever tried then
more than himself, and certainly no one had more experience
of their faithfulness, sweetness, and support. Saul and
his "princes might indeed sit and speak against him;" but
he had a resource, of which they could never deprive him-
"Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." (John, xiv. 27.)
As our blessed Master was employed in communion with
his Father, and delighting in his work at the time when
the "princes did sit and speak against him" (John, xi. 47,
54-57); so, under similar circumstances of trial, this faith-
ful servant of God, by meditation in the Lord's statutes, ex-
tracted spiritual food for his support (comp. Ps. xciv.
19-22); and in this strength of his God he was enabled
to "suffer according to his will, and to commit the keeping
of his soul to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Crea-
tor." (1 Pet. iv. 19.)
The children of Israel in Egypt (Exod. i. 10), Daniel
in Babylon (Dan. vi. 4), and the disciples of Christ in the
early ages of the Church (Matt. x. 17, 18. Acts, iv. 27-29),
have severally found "this same affliction to be accomplished
VERSE 24. 51
in themselves." God is pleased to permit it, to show "that
his kingdom is not of this world" (John, xviii. 36), to wean
his people from earthly dependencies, and to bring out
before the world a more full testimony of his name. (Matt.
x. 18.) One other reason is suggested by this verse—to
make his word more precious by the experience of its
sustaining consolation in the conflict with the power of the
world. Often, indeed, from a want of a present application
of the word, young Christians especially are in danger of
being put to rebuke by the scorner's sneer. The habit of
scriptural meditation will realize to them a present God,
speaking "words of spirit and life" to their souls. The
importance, therefore, of an accurate and well-digested
acquaintance with this precious book cannot be too highly
estimated. In the Christian's conflict it is "the sword of
the Spirit" (Eph. vi. 17), which, if it be kept bright by
constant use, will never be wielded without the victory of
faith. Such powerful support does it give against fainting
under persecution, that the good soldier may ever be ready
to thank God, and to take courage. (Acts, xxviii. 15.)
Christ has left it, indeed, as the portion of his people-
"In the world ye shall have tribulation;" counterbalanced,
however, most abundantly, by the portion which they enjoy
in him—"In me ye shall have peace."* If, therefore,
the one-half of this portion may seem hard, the whole
legacy is such as no servant of Christ can refuse to accept,
or indeed will receive without thankfulness.
24. Thy testimonies also are my delight, and my counsellors.
What could we want more in a time of difficulty than
comfort and direction? David had both these blessings.
* John, xvi. 33. See the beautiful illustration of this whole
declaration—Acts, xvi. 22-25.
52 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
As the fruit of his "meditation in the Lord's statutes," in
his distress they were his "delight;" in his perplexity they
were his "counsellors." He would not have exchanged his
delight for the best joys of earth (Verses 14, 97, 103, 127;
with Ps. iv. 7.) And so wisely did his counsellors direct
his course, that, though "princes sat and spoke against him,"
they "could find none occasion nor fault." (1 Sam. xviii. 14.
Ps. ci. 2; with Dan. vi. 4, 5.) The testimonies of God
were truly "the men of his counsel." (Margin.) He guided
his own conduct by the rules laid before him in the book
of God, as if he were having recourse to the most expe-
rienced counsellors, or rather as if the prophets of his God
were giving the word from his mouth. (Comp. 2 Sam. vii.
4, 5; also xvi. 23.) Thus the subject as well as the
sovereign, had his counsel. On one side was Saul and his
counsellors (Verse 23)—on the other side, David and the
testimonies of his God. Which, think we, was better fur-
nished with that "wisdom which is profitable to direct?"
Subsequently as a king, David was constrained to make
"the testimonies of his God his counsellors" (Deut. xvii.
18-20); and, probably, to his constant regard to their
voice he owed much of his earthly prosperity.*
In such a dark world as this, beset with temptation at
every turn, we pre-eminently need sound and wise counsel.
But all of us carry an evil counsellor within us, and it is
our folly to listen to his voice. (Prov. xxviii. 26.) God
has given us his word as a sure counsellor, and "he that
hearkeneth to its counsel is wise." (Prov. xii. 15.)
Now, do we value the privilege of this heavenly counsel?
Every improvement must increase our delight in it; a heart-
less interest shuts out this blessing. But those who make
the word their delight will always find it their counsellor.
* 2 Sam. viii. 6, Compare also his dying and most en-
couraging advice to Solomon on this subject, founded, doubtless,
upon the recollection of his own experience. 1 Kings, 3.
VERSE 24. 53
Yet a mere cursory reading will never realize to us its holy
delight or counsel. It must be brought home to our own
experience, and consulted on those trivial occasions of every
day, when, unconscious of our need of Divine direction, we are
too often inclined to lean to our own counsel. The Christian
is a man of faith, every step of his way. And this habitual
use and daily familiarity with the testimonies of God will
show him the pillar and the cloud (Num. ix. 15-23), in all
the dark turns of his heavenly road. The word will be to
him as the "Urim and Thummim" (Num. xxvii. 21)—an
Sometimes, however, perplexity arises from the conflict,
not between conscience and sinful indulgence (in which
case Christian sincerity would always determine the path),
but between duty and duty. When, however, acknowledged
obligations seem to interfere with each other, the counsel of
the word will mark their relative importance, connexion,
and dependence: the present path in providence: the
guidance which has been vouchsafed to the Lord's people
in similar emergencies; and the light which the daily life
of our Great Exemplar exhibits before us. The great con-
cern, however, is to cultivate the habit of mind, which falls
in most naturally with the counsel of the word. "Walking
in the fear of the Lord" (see Ps. xxv. 12, 14), in a simple
spirit of dependence (Ps. xxv. 4, 5, 9; cxliii. 8), and torn
away from the idolatry of taking counsel from our own
hearts, we cannot materially err; because there is here a
suitableness between the disposition and the promise—a watch-
fulness against the impetuous bias of the flesh; a para-
mount regard to the glory of God, and a meek submission
to his gracious appointment. If the counsel, however,
should not prove infallible, the fault is not in the word, but
in the indistinctness of our own perception. We want not
a clearer rule, or a surer guide, but a more single eye. And
if, after all, it may not mark every precise act of duty (for
54 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
to do this, even the world itself "could not contain the
books that should be written"), yet it determines the
standard to which the most minute acting of the mind
should be brought (1 Cor. x. 31. Col. iii. 17); and the
disposition, which will reflect the light of the will of God
upon our path. (Matt. vi. 22, 23.)
But let it be remembered, that any want of sincerity in
the heart (1 Sam. xxviii. 6. Ezek. xiv. 2-4)—any allow-
ance of self-dependence (Prov. iii. 5, 6), will always close
the avenues of this Divine light and counsel. We are often
unconsciously "walking in the light of our own fire, and
in the sparks that we have kindled" (Isa. l. 11.) Perhaps
we sought, as we conceived, the guidance of the Lord's
counsel, and supposed that we were walking in it. But, in
the act of seeking, and as the preparation for seeking, did
we subject our motives and inclinations to a strict, cautious,
self-suspecting scrutiny? Was the heart schooled to the
discipline of the cross? Was "every thought brought
into captivity to the obedience of Christ?" (2 Cor. x. 5.)
Or was not our heart possessed with the object, before
counsel was sought at the mouth of God? (Jer. xlii.) Oh!
how careful should we be to walk warily in those uncertain
marks of heavenly counsel, that fall in with the bias of our
own inclination! How many false steps in the record of
past experience may be traced to the counsel of our own
hearts, sought and followed to the neglect and counsel of
God (Josh. ix. 14. Isa. xxx. 1-3); while no circumstance of
perplexity can befall us in the spirit of humility, simplicity,
and sanctity, when the counsel of the Lord will fail!
An undue dependence upon human counsel (Isa. ii. 22),
whether of the living or the dead, greatly hinders the full
influence of the counsel of the word. However valuable
such counsel may be, and however closely it may agree with
the word, we must not forget, that it is not the word—
that it is fallible, and therefore must never be resorted to
VERSE 24. 55
in the first place, or followed with that full reliance, which
we are warranted to place on the revelation of God. On
the other hand, what is it to have God's word as our
"Counsellor?" Is it not to have himself—"the only wise
God?" When our Bibles, in seasons of difficulty, are
searched in a humble, prayerful, teachable spirit, we are as
much depending upon the Lord himself for counsel, as if
we were listening to an immediate revelation from heaven.
We want not a new revelation, or a sensible voice from
above, for every fresh emergency. It is enough, that our
Father has given us this blessed "word as a light to our
feet, and a lamp to our path." (Verse 105. Comp. Prov.
Let me then inquire—What is the counsel of God, that
speaks directly to myself? If I am an unawakened sinner,
it warns me to turn from sin (Prov. i. 24-31. Ezek. xxxiii.
11); it invites me to the Saviour (Isa. lv. 1. John, vii. 37);
it directs me to wait upon God (Hos. xii. 6). If I am a
professor, slumbering in the form of godliness, it shows me
my real condition (Rev. iii. 17); it instructs me in the all-
sufficiency of Christ (Rev. iii. 18), and cautions me of the
danger of hypocrisy (Luke, xii. 1). If through grace I
am made a child of God, still do I need my Father's coun-
sel to recover me from perpetual backsliding (Jer. iii. 12,
13), to excite me to increased watchfulness (1 Thess. v. 6.
Rev. iii. 2), and to strengthen my confidence in the fulness
of his grace (Isa. xxvi. 4), and the faithfulness of his love
(Heb. xii. 5, 6). Ever shall I have reason for the grate-
ful acknowledgment—"I will bless the Lord, who hath
given me counsel." (Ps. xvi. 7.) And every step of my
way would I advance, glorifying my God and Father by
Confiding in his counsel unto the end: "Thou shalt guide
me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory."
(Ps. lxxiii. 24.)
56 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust; quicken thou me according
to thy word.
Sin is no trifle to a child of God. It is his heaviest sor-
row. Thus David―thus the Great Apostle found it.
(Ps. xxxviii. 4. Rom. vii. 24.) And where is the believer
who has not full sympathy with their complaints? To
have a soul cleaving to the dust, and not to feel the trouble,
is the black mark of a sinner, dead in sins—dead to God.
To "know the plague of our own heart" (1 Kings, viii.
38), to feel our misery, to believe and to apply the remedy
(Rom. vii. 24, 25), is the satisfactory evidence of a child
of God. Dust is the portion of the world, and they wish
for no better. But that the soul of the man of God should
continually cleave to the dust, is most strange and humbling.
And yet such is the influence of his evil nature— such the
power of self-will and self-indulgence—such the regard to
human praise, and cherishing of self-admiration, that were
it not that he "abhors himself" for the very dust that
cleaves to him, he would question the existence of a renew-
ing change. He knows what he ought to be. He has
tasted the blessedness of "mounting upward on eagles'
wings." (Isa. xl. 31.) But every attempt to rise is hindered
by the clogging weight that keeps him down. It is, how-
ever, the cleaving of his soul that is so painful—not occa-
sional, but constant—not like the bird of the morning that
descends for a moment, and then soars his upward flight;
VERSE 25. 57
but it seems as if, like the "serpent —dust was to be his
meat" (Isa. lxv. 25); as if the spiritual, heaven-born soul
was to sink and grovel below. And then, as the dust of
the summer-road blinds the eye, and obscures the prospect:
how does this earthliness of soul darken the view of the
Saviour, dim the eye of faith, and hide the glorious pros-
pects which, when beheld in the clear horizon, enliven the
weary pilgrim on his way!
But this complaint is the language of conflict and
humiliation—not of despondency. Mark the believer
carrying it to the Lord—'Here I lie in the dust, without
life or power. Oh! thou Saviour, who "earnest that I
might have life, and that I might have it more abundantly"
(John, x. 10)— Quicken me: Breathe into me thine own
life, that I may rise from the dust, and cleave to thee.'
This cry for quickening grace is the exercise of faith. We
have a covenant to plead. Faith is the hand that takes
hold of the promise —"according to thy word." Can this
word fail? "Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away,
than one jot or one tittle pass" from the engagements of a
covenant-keeping God. "He is faithful that hath pro-
mised." (Heb. x. 23; with Luke, xxi. 33.) The man who
takes hold of this plea, is "a Prince who has power with
God, and prevails." (Gen. xxxii. 28.)
But how different is the character of the mere pro-
fessor! ready probably to make the same confession, yet
without humiliation, without prayer, without faith. No-
thing is more common than to hear the complaint— '"My
soul cleaveth unto the dust." The world has such power over
us — we are so cold — so dead to spiritual things:' while,
perhaps, the complaint is never once brought with wrestling
supplication, but rather urged in indolent self-complacency,
as an evidence of the good state of the heart before God.
Yet it is not the complaint of sickness, but an application
to the physician, that advances the recovery of the patient.
58 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
We do not usually expect to better our condition, by
mourning over its badness, or merely wishing for its im-
provement. Nor is it the confession of sin, but the appli-
cation to the Great Physician, that marks genuine con-
trition before God. That confession which evaporates in
heartless complaints, belongs not to the tenderness of a
renewed heart. But the utterance of genuine prayer is the
voice of God's own "Spirit making intercession for us;"
and then, indeed, how cheering the encouragement, that he
"that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of
the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints
according to the will of God!" (Rom. viii. 26, 27.) Some
are ready to give up or delay their duty, when they have
been unable to bring their heart to it. Thus does "Satan
get advantage of us" by our "ignorance of his devices."
Quickening grace is not the ground or warrant for duty.
Indisposition to duty is not our weakness, but our sin —
not therefore to be indulged, but resisted. We must mourn
over the dulness that hinders us, and diligently wait for
the 'help we every moment need.' God keeps the grace
in his own hands, and gives it at his pleasure, to exercise
our daily dependence upon him. (Philip. ii. 12, 13.) The
acting of grace strengthens the habit. Praying helps to
pray. If the door is closed, "Knock, and it shall be
opened." (Matt. vii. 7, 8.) Assuredly it will not long be
shut to him, who has faith and patience to wait until it be
Now let me sift the character of my profession. Is it
an habitual, persevering, overcoming conflict with sin? Do
I not sometimes indulge in fruitless bemoanings of my
state, when I had far better be exercising myself in vigorous
actings of grace? If I find "my soul cleaving to the dust,"
am I not sometimes "lying on my face" (Josh. vii. 10
when I ought to be "taking heaven by violence " (Matt.
xi. 12), by importunate petitions for quickening grace? Are
VERSE 26. 59
my prayers invigorated by confidence in the word of God?
Oh! let me remember that "they that wait upon the
Lord" shall shake off the dust to which they have cleaved
so long, and "shall mount with wings like eagles" (Isa.
xl. 31), to take possession of their heavenly home.
O Lord, make me more deeply ashamed, that "my soul
should cleave to the dust." Breathe upon me fresh influence
from thy quickening Spirit. Help me to plead thy word of
promise; and oh! may every fresh view of my sinfulness,
while it prostrates me in self-abasement before thee, be
overruled to make the Saviour daily and hourly more pre-
cious to my soul. For defiled as I am in myself, in every
service of my heart, what but the unceasing application of
his blood, and the uninterrupted prevalence of his inter-
cession, give me a moment's confidence before thee, or pre-
vent the very sins that mingle with my prayers from sealing
my condemnation? Blessed Saviour! it is nothing but
thy everlasting merit, covering my person, and honouring
my sacrifice, that satisfies the justice of an offended God,
and restrains it from breaking forth as a devouring fire, to
consume me upon my very knees.
26. I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me; teach me
A beautiful description of the "simplicity and godly
sincerity" of the believer's "walk with God!" He spreads
his whole case before his God, "declaring his ways" of sin-
fulness (Ps. li. 3), of difficulty (Ps. v. 8; xxvii. 11), and
of conduct. (Ps. cxliii. 8, 10; lxix. 5.) And, indeed, it is
our privilege to acquaint our Father with all our care and
need, that we may be pitied by his love, and guided by his
counsel, and confirmed by his strength. Who would not
find relief by unbosoming himself to his Father? This
60 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
showing of ourselves to God — declaring our ways of sin
before him without guile―is the short and sure way of
rest. "Thou heardest me." "When I kept silence, my bones
waxed old through my roaring all the day long." (Ps.
xxxii. 3.) While the voice of ingenuous confession was
suppressed, cries and lamentations were disregarded. It
was not the voice of the penitent child; and, therefore,
where was the sounding of his father's bowels, and of his
mercies towards him?" (Isa. lxiii. 15.) But now, on the
first utterance of confession from his lips, or rather on the
first purpose of contrition formed in his heart; "while he is
yet speaking" (Dan. ix. 20), the full and free pardon, which
had been signed in heaven, comes down with royal parental
love to his soul—"I said, I will confess my transgression
unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my
sin." (Ps. xxxii. 5. 2 Sam. xii. 13. Comp. Jer. iii. 12, 13.)
Oh! what cannot he testify of the more than parental
tenderness, with which "his transgression is forgiven, and
his sin covered!" (Comp. Ps. xxxii. 1; Luke, xv. 18-22;
Prov. xxviii. 13.) And yet, how necessary to the free
declaration of our ways is an acquaintance with the way of
forgiveness! Had not our great "High Priest passed into
the heavens," how awful would have been the thought, that
all things were naked and opened unto the eyes of him
with whom we have to do!" We could only then have "co-
vered our transgressions as Adam, by hiding our iniquity
in our bosom." (Job, xxxi. 33.) But now, even though
"our ways" are so defiled, so crooked that we cannot but
abhor ourselves," on account of them, we are yet encouraged
"boldly" to "declare" them all before God, with the assur-
ance of finding present acceptance, and seasonable grace.
(Heb. iv. 13-16.)
And now, having found the happy fruit of this sincere
and child-like spirit, then follows the obligation of walking
VERSE 26. 61
worthy of this mercy. (Ps. lxxxv. 8.) Hence our need of
the prayer for continual teaching. The same heavenly
guidance, that brought us into the way of return, we need
for every successive step to the end—"Teach me thy way,
O Lord: I will walk in thy truth." (Ps. lxxxvi. 11.) "I
have declared my" ignorance, my sinfulness, and my whole
experience before thee, looking for thy pardoning mercy,
thy teaching Spirit, and assisting grace, "And thou hast
heard me." O continue to me what thou hast been, and
teach me more of thyself?
The hypocrite may pray after his manner. But he
never thus opens his heart, and "declares his ways" beneath
his God. And are we sincere in our dealings with him?
How often do we treat our Almighty Friend as if we were
weary of dealing with him! And even when we do "de-
clare our ways" before him, are we not often content to
leave the result as a matter of uncertainty? We do not
watch for the answer to our prayer. It will come in the
diligent exercise of faith, but not perhaps in our way. We
may have asked for temporal blessings, and we receive
spiritual. (Matt. ix. 2.) We may have "besought" deli-
verance from trial, and we receive "grace sufficient" to
bear it. (2 Cor. xii. 8, 9.) But this is the Lord's wise and
gracious answer—thou heardest me. And how sweet are
those mercies, which come to us manifestly marked with
this inscription — "Received by prayer!" They are such
encouragement to pray again. (Ps. cxvi. 1, 2.) It is not
our inevitable weakness (Rom. vii. 21), nor our lamented
dulness (Mark, xiv. 38, 40), nor our abhorred wanderings
(Verse 113), nor our opposed distractions (Ps. lxxxvi. 11,
last clause), nor our mistaken unbelief (Mark, ix. 22, 24);
it is not any—no, nor all these—that can shut out prayer.
If "iniquity" is not "regarded in our heart," we may always
hear our Saviour's voice, "Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will
62 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name.
Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."*
27. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts; so shall
I talk of thy wondrous works.
Mark the reiterated cries of the man of God for hea-
venly light, Teach me thy statutes—make me to understand
the way of thy precepts. The need and the encouragement
for these cries is equally manifest. Who has ever been
known to understand the way of himself? And to whom
—walking in a well-ordered conversation —has the Lord
ever failed to show it? (See Ps. l. 23.) A man, untaught
by the Spirit of God, may be able to criticise, and even
clearly to expound, much of the word of God. But such
a prayer as this has never ascended from the heart; the
necessity of it has never been felt. And, doubtless, from
this neglect of prayer have arisen those floating fancies and
false and unscriptural doctrines, which crude, unexercised
minds have too hastily embraced. Instead of humbly and
simply asking, "Make me to understand"—men too often
"lean to their own understanding," and are "vainly puffed
up" by their fleshly mind, "not holding the Head." (Col. ii.
18, 19.) Such men may obtain loose fragments of spiritual
knowledge; but they will not be in the faith, "grounded
and settled." (Col. i. 23.) They never know when they
are upon safe ground; and being "unlearned and unstable,
* John, xvi. 23, 24. Every way worthy of that great man,
and a most instructive illustration of Christian sincerity, was the
resolution of President Edwards: 'Resolved to exercise myself in
this all my life long, viz., with the greatest openness to declare my
ways to God, and lay open my soul to him—all my sins, tempta-
tions, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and everything, and
every circumstance, according to Dr. Manton's twenty-seventh ser-
mon on the cxix. Psalm.' Resol. 65. Extracted from his Diary.
Works, vol. i. 16.
VERSE 27. 63
they wrest the Scriptures"— except the sovereign grace
of God interpose—"unto their own destruction." (2 Pet.
Never must we forget, that teaching from above is
indispensable to a right knowledge of the most simple
truths. Ignorance and prejudice pervert the understand-
ing. "Spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned."
(1 Cor. ii. 14.) Divine doctrines can only be apprehended
by Divine light. (Ps. xxxvi. 9.) But under heavenly
teaching, the deeper and more mysterious truths (so far as
they are needful to be understood) are manifested with the
same clearness, as the more elementary doctrines: "Eye
hath not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the
heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for
them that love him. But God hath revealed them to us
by his Spirit. Now we have received—not the spirit of
the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know
the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Cor. ii. 9,
Wondrous, indeed, is the spiritual revelation in the
knowledge of himself; including "the hope of his calling;
— the riches of the glory of his inheritance in his saints; —
the exceeding greatness of his power" manifested to, and
wrought in, his people;—no other or less than that "which
he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead."
(Eph. i. 17-20.) In the understanding of the way, we
would be progressing until the new man "grows up into
the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." ( Eph.
iv. 13.) The smallest attainment in this knowledge is (as
the great day will fully declare) of infinitely greater value
than the highest intelligence in the field of earthly science.
But how important is it to grow in this knowledge!
(2 Pet. iii. 18.) Theoretical attainment is at a stand.
Spiritual and practical knowledge is always advancing.
Little, indeed, comparatively, is necessary for salvation.
64 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
But much for comfort and stedfastness—much also for
the clear discernment of that narrow way of the precepts so
difficult to trace, and when traced so difficult to maintain.
Not less important is it to keep the object in constant
view. Why do I desire to understand that way? That I
may commend it to others—that I may talk of thy won-
drous works. Abhorred be the thought of indulging in a
self-complacent view of my attainments! But oh! let my
God be more admired by me, and glorified in me. (Gal. i. 24.
Matt. v. 16.) And may I advance both myself and others
in his obedience and praise!
Often do we complain of restraint in religious conver-
sation. But the prayer—Make me to understand while I
talk—will bring "a live coal to our lips" from the altar
of God—"Our mouths will then speak out of the abun-
dance of the heart" (Matt. xii. 34), and "minister grace
to the hearers." (Eph. iv. 29.) Humility, teachableness,
simplicity, will bring light into the understanding, influence
the heart, "open the lips," and unite every member that
we have in the service and praise of God.
28. My soul melteth for heaviness; strengthen thou me accord-
ing unto thy word.
Is this David. "whose heart is as the heart of a lion,
here utterly melting?" (2 Sam. xvii. 10. Comp. Josh. vii. 5;
Ps. cvii. 26.) But the sorrows, as the joys of the spiritual
man — dealing immediately with the Infinite and Eternal
God — are beyond conception. (See Job, xxxiv. 29.) Ordi-
nary courage may support under the trials of this life; but
when "the arrows of the Almighty are within us, the poison
thereof drinketh up our spirit." (Job, vi. 4. Comp. Prov.
xviii. 14.) How, then, can the Christian's lot be so envi-
able, when their souls thus melt for heaviness? But this,
be it remembered, is only "for a season." There is a
VERSE 28. 65
"needs-be" for it, while it remains: and in the end it
"will be found unto praise, and honour, and glory." (1 Pet.
i. 6, 7. Comp. Ps. xxx. 5.) Never, perhaps, are their
graces more lively, or the ground of their assurance more
clear, than in these seasons of sorrow. They complain,
indeed, of the diversified power of indwelling sin. But
their very complaints are the evidence of the mighty
working of indwelling grace. For what is it but the prin-
ciple of faith, that makes unbelief their burden? What
but hope, that struggles with their tears? What but love,
that makes their coldness a grief? What but humility,
that causes them to loathe their pride? What but the
secret spring of thankfulness, that shows them their un-
thankfulness, and shames them for it? And, therefore, the
very depth of "that heaviness which melts their souls" away,
is the exhibition of the strength of God's work within, up-
holding them in perseverance of conflict to the end. Would
not the believer then, when eyeing in his heaviest moments
the most prosperous condition of the ungodly, say—"Let
me not eat of their dainties?" (Ps. cxli. 4.) Far better,
and, we may add, far happier, is godly sorrow than worldly
joy. In the midst of his misery, the Christian would not
exchange his hope in the gospel—though often obscured
by unbelief, and clouded by fear— for all "the kingdoms
of the world, and the glory of them." "If the heart know-
eth his own bitterness, a stranger doth not intermeddle
with his joy."* Yet the bitterness is keenly felt. Sin
displeases a tender and gracious Father. (Ps. li. 4.) It
has "pierced" the heart that loves him (Zech. xii. 10);
and shed the blood that saves him. It grieves (Eph. iv.
* Prov. xiv. 10. "A good man lying on his bed of sickness, and
being asked, Which were the most comfortable days that he ever
knew? cried out―O give me my mourning days; give me my
mourning days again, for they were the joyfullest days that ever
I had."—Brookes, Works.
66 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
30) the indwelling Comforter of his soul. God expects to
see him a mourner; and he feels he has reason enough to
mourn — "My soul melteth for heaviness."
But this cry of distress is sometimes that of the child
under his Father's needful chastisement. The world is
dethroned, but not extirpated, in the heart. Much dross
is yet to be removed. The sources of the too attractive
earthly joy must be embittered: and now it is that the
discipline of the cross forces the cry— "My soul melteth for
heaviness." Yet in the midst of heaviness, the child of God
cannot forget that he is loved —that he is saved; and the
recollection of this sovereign mercy makes his tears of
godly sorrow, tears of joy.
But this melting heaviness has not wrought its work,
until it has bowed us before the throne of grace with the
pleading cry of faith—Strengthen thou me! For do we
stand by the strength of our own resolutions or habits of
grace? Unless the Lord renew his supply from moment
to moment, all is frail and withering. But what burden
or difficulty is too great for Almighty strength? "Fear
not, thou worm Jacob; thou shalt thresh the mountains,
and beat them small." (Isa. xli. 14, 15.) And especially is
our success assured, when the plea is drawn, as it is repeat-
edly in this Psalm (Verses 25, 41, 58, &c.)—according to
thy word. For what does that word assure us?—"As thy
days, so shall thy strength be." (Deut. xxxiii. 25.) "Will
he plead against me"— said Job—"with his great power?
No; but he will put strength in me." (Job, xxiii. 6.) Thus
David found it in his own case: "In the day when I cried,
thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength
in my soul." (Ps. cxxxviii. 3.) Thus also to the Apostle
was the promise given and fulfilled: "My grace is sufficient
for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
(2 Cor. xii. 9.) And is not "the God of Israel" still "he
that giveth strength and power unto his people" (Ps.
VERSE 28. 67
lxviii. 35)? still the same "faithful God, who will not
suffer them to be tempted above that they are able, but
will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that
they may be able to bear it?" (1 Cor. x. 13.)
When we are most sensible of our utter helplessness,
and mast simple in our reliance upon Divine strength,
then it is, that the "soul melting for heaviness," is most
especially upheld and established. "Heaviness in the heart
of man maketh it stoop; but a good word maketh it glad."
(Prov. xii. 25.) And how reviving is that "good word"
of the Gospel, which proclaims the Saviour anointed to
"give the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness"
(Isa. lxi. 3), and gifted with "the tongue of 'the learned,
that he might know how to speak a word in season unto
him that is weary!" (Isa. 1. 4.) And no less encouraging
is it to view Him "melting for heaviness" (Ps. xxii. 14)—
"sore amazed, and very heavy" under the accumulated
weight of imputed guilt; learning by this bitter discipline,
"in that he himself suffered being tempted, to succour them
that are tempted." (Mark, xiv. 33; with Heb. ii. 18.) Yet
was he, like his faithful servant, strengthened according to
his Father's word, in the moment of his bitterest agony, by
the agency of his own creation. (Luke, xxii. 43; with 2 Cor.
xii. 8, 9.) And this faithful support, vouchsafed to the
Head, is the seal and pledge of what every member in
every trouble will most assuredly enjoy. "As the suffer-
ings of Christ abound in his people, so their consolation
also aboundeth by Christ." (2 Cor. i. 5.) The blessed
word will supply all their need—life for their quickening,
light for their direction, comfort for their enjoyment,
strength for their support—"Strengthen thou me according
unto thy word."
Lord, may I ever be kept from despondency—regard-
ing it as sinful in itself, dishonourable to thy name, and
weakening to my soul; and though I must "needs be
68 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
sometime in heaviness through manifold temptations," yet
let the power of faith be in constant exercise, that I may
be able to expostulate with my soul—"Why art thou
cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted
within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise
him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
(Ps. xlii. 11.)
29. Remove from me the way of lying; and grant me thy law
Every deviation in principle and conduct from the strait
and narrow path, is a way of lying. Every traveller in the
way "feedeth on the ashes" of his own delusion. (Isa. xliv.
20.) Does it seem a marvel, that the man of God should
deprecate so earnestly the influence of gross sin? "The
brand plucked out of the fire" retains a susceptibility of
the fire. The oldest Christian in the family of God might
at any moment of unwatchfulness be captivated by the chain
of his former sins. Might not the recollection of past
compliances with this shameful sin (1 Sam. xxi. 13; xxvii.
10) naturally have suggested the prayer—Remove from me
the way of lying? But even in the profession of the Gospel,
should we "be removed from him that called us into the
grace of Christ unto another gospel" (Gal. i. 6); should
erroneous doctrines find a place in our system; and—as
the natural consequence of doctrinal errors — should any
inconsistency be marked in our practice; should there be
any allowed principles of sinful indulgence, self-righteous-
ness, conformity to the world, or shrinking from the daily
cross—then, indeed, will the prayer naturally flow from
our hearts—Remove from me the way of lying.
Most justly are ways such as these called "ways of
lying." They promise what it is impossible, in the nature
of things, that they can ever perform: and prove to their
VERSE 29. 69
deluded followers, that "they that observe lying vanities,
forsake their own mercy." (Jonah, ii. 8.) We can be at no
loss to trace these "ways," to their proper source;—to
him, who, "when he speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own:
for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John, viii. 44.) A lie
was his first—alas! too successful—instrument of tempt-
ation, by which he "beguiled Eve through his subtlety"
(Gen. iii. 1-6; with 2 Cor. xi. 3), and still does he pursue
the same deadly work throughout the world lying under his
sway, beguiling the blinded "children of disobedience"
(Rev. xii. 9; with 2 Cor. iv. 4. Eph. ii. 2), into the awful
deception of mistaking their God, and into the blind choice
of preferring "broken cisterns" to "the fountain of living
waters." (Jer. ii. 13.)
The gracious knowledge of the law is the only means of
the removal of this evil way. David, as a king, had it
written by him. (Deut. xvii. 18, 19.) He wished it written
on him—not the book only before his eyes, but stamped on
the heart. The external knowledge is the common benefit
of all. The gracious knowledge is the covenant-blessing of
the Lord's people (Heb. viii. 10)—the only effective prin-
ciple of holiness. The law is still what it was—an enemy
to the ungodly—forcing a hateful light upon their con-
science; but a delight to the servant of God—framing his
will, and directing his conduct. Thus truth extirpates
lying. Christ reigns instead of Belial.
Thus also we are enabled to "keep our hearts"—those
leading wanderers, that mislead the rest. (Prov. iv. 23.)
For wherever we see wandering eyes, wandering feet, and a
wandering tongue, all flow from a heart, that has taken its
own liberty in wandering from God. But with the law as
our rule, and the Spirit as our guide, we shall be directed
and kept in a safe and happy path.
Grant me thy law graciously. Grant me a clearer per-
ception of its holy character—a more sensitive shrinking
70 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
from transgressing it—a more cordial approval of its spirit
—a more entire conformity to its directions.
30. I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid
Only two ways lie before us for our choice—"the way
of lying," and "the way of truth." God by the light of his
word guides us into one— Satan by his temptations allures
us into the other. The way of lying is the natural choice
of man. The choice of the way of truth is the Lord's work
in the hearts of his people—the seal of his special eternal
love. His teaching shows us the way (Ps. xxv. 4; xxxii.
8. Isa. xlviii. 17); and his grace enables us to "choose" it
(Ps. cx. 3. Isa. xliv. 3-5). And who in his subsequent
course has ever found reason to alter his first determination?
Does Mary regret her "choice of the good part?" (Luke,
x. 42.) One whose solid and reflecting judgment was not
likely to make a rash or hasty choice, tells us, of the outset
of his course— "What things were gain to me, those I
counted loss for Christ." The experience of twenty years
—instead of bringing matter for repentance— only con-
firmed him in his choice: and he repeats his determination
with increasing energy of expression; "Yea, doubtless, and
I count all things but loss for the excellency of the know-
ledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philip. iii. 7, 8.) In the
same spirit one of the ancient fathers expresses himself:
If I have any possessions, health, credit, learning—this
is all the contentment I have of them—that I may have
something to despise for Christ, who comprises in his own per-
son all and every thing that is most desirable."*
The connexion of this verse with the preceding well
illustrates the bias of the believer's heart. His experience
* "Totus desiderabilis, et totum desiderabile."—Greg. Naz. Orat. i.
VERSE 30. 71
of the deceitfulness of sin, Satan, and his own heart, stirs
up the prayer —"Remove from me the way of lying." But
his choice is expressed in this verse —"I have chosen the way
of truth." The sincere desire to have "the way of lying re-
moved from us," is a clear evidence, that we have already
"chosen the way of truth:" that "the spirit of truth hath
guided us to him" (John, xvi. 13, 14), who is indeed "the
way of truth"— the true and only "way to God!" (John,
xiv. 6) And of all ways that could be set before the
Christian, this is the way he would "choose" —as bringing
most glory to his God, exalting the Saviour, honouring the
Spirit of God, and securing the salvation of his own soul.
Whatever becomes of me — the Christian would feel — I
would have no other way than this. Yea, though I should
perish, I would abide in it. So transcendant is the dis-
covery of the glory of God—scarcely less clear than the
glory of heaven itself!'
The practical pathway, however, is often rugged—
always narrow. We may have to encounter not only the
reviling of an ungodly world, but even the suspicions of our
brethren, who may not always understand our motives.
Yet if our heart is upright with God, "none of these things
will move us. Our choice is made, and we are prepared
to abide the cost." (Luke, xiv. 28. Acts, xx. 24.)
But that our choice may be daily established, let us not
forget the treasury of our life, light, and grace. Let us lay
the "judgments of God before us." For we have always
some new lesson to learn— some new duty to perform—
some new snare to avoid. We must therefore walk by
rule (see Gal. vi. 16; iii. 16,)—as under the eye
of a jealous God, who enlightens and cheers our path—
Under the eye of the ungodly, who "watch for our halting"
—under the eye of weak Christians, who might be stum-
bled by our unsteady walk—under the eye of established
72 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
Christians, who will be yet further established by the tes-
timony of our consistent profession. The Gospel affords
all the material for this strict and accurate walk. All is
given that is needed. The obedience that is enjoined is
secured. "God working in us" (Philip. 12, 13. Isa.
xxvi. 12), enables us to work for him; and while we are
humbly looking for further supplies, and diligently improv-
ing what has been already bestowed, he is pledged by pro-
mise to assist (Isa. xli. 10. Zech. x. 12), as we are bound
by duty to obey.
What then—let me inquire—is the choice which I
have made? I would remember that it is for eternity.
And if, through the grace that has first chosen me, "I
have chosen the way of truth,"—is the effect of this choice
daily visible in a life and conversation well ordered accord-
ing to the word of God? If it is good to "hide that word
in my heart" (Verse 11), as a safeguard against sin; it is
good also "to lay it before" my eyes, as the chart to guide
my course— the model to direct my work — the support to
uphold my weakness. (Josh. i. 8.)
31. I have stuck unto thy testimonies; O Lord, put me not to
We have just seen the choice of the man of God, and
the rule by which he acted upon it. Now we see his per-
severance—first choosing the way —then sticking to it. While
lie complained of "his soul cleaving to the dust" (Verse 25),
he would yet say— I have stuck unto thy testimonies. Thus
did he illustrate the apostle's delineation of the Christian's
two hearts (as a converted African expressed it), "I delight
in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another
law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, Which is in my
VERSE 31. 73
members. So then with the mind I myself serve the law
of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."* In the midst,
however, of the most painful conflicts, the child of God
holds fast his confidence. He feels that he hates the sin
that he commits, and loves the Saviour, whom, in spite of
himself, he dishonours; so that, with all his sins and un-
worthiness, he fears not to put in his claim among the
family of God.
But, reader, seriously ask yourself—How did you be-
come a Christian? Was it by birth and education, or by
choice? If indeed by grace you have been enabled to
"choose the way of truth," then be sure you firmly stick, to it;
or better, far better, that you had not made choice of it at
all. "No man having put his hand to the plough, and
looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. If ye continue
in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. It had been
better for you not to have known the way of righteousness,
than, after you had known it, to turn from the holy com-
mandment delivered unto you." (Luke, ix. 62. John, viii.
31. 2 Pet. ii. 21.) Yet, praised be God for the security of
perseverance! He that enabled you to "put your hand to
the plough" will keep it there in the habit of faith, firm
and stedfast. "The Lord will perfect that which concern-
eth you." (Ps. cxxxviii. 8.)
* Rom. vii. 22, 23, 25. Thus does Augustine graphically describe
this conflict in his own mind—'The new will which began to be in
me, whereby I would love thee, O my God! the only certain sweet-
ness, was not yet able to overcome my former will, confirmed by
long continuance. So my two wills, the one old, the other new;
the one carnal, the other spiritual, conflicted between themselves,
and rent, my soul by their disagreement.. Then did I understand
by my own experience what I had read, how the "flesh lusteth
against the spirit, and the spirit lusteth against the flesh." I was
myself on both sides, but more in that which I approved, than in
that which I condemned, in myself, because for the most part I
suffered reluctantly what I did willingly.'— Confess. Book viii. ch. 5.
Comp. Rom. vii. 15-20.
74 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
Yet this "cleaving to the Lord" (Acts, xi. 23), can
only be maintained by unceasing conflict. The length and
weariness of the way (Numb. xxi. 4), and the slowness of
your progress, are sources of constant and harassing trial.
Revert, then, to the ground of your original choice. Was
it made under the Lord's light and direction? This reason
may well bind you to "stick to" it. For are not the ways of
God as pleasant—is not Christ as lovely—is not heaven
as desirable—as at the beginning? Nay—have you not
even more reason to adhere to your choice, than you had to
make it? It was formed before at least you could fully
know for yourself. Now "you have tasted" (1 Pet. ii. 3)
—you have the seal of experience. Is not the crown more
joyous in the nearer prospect?
Backslider! "has God been unto you a wilderness,
and a land of darkness" (Jer. ii. 31), that you virtually
give your testimony after trial,—'Satan is the better mas-
ter, and I will return to him?' The world is the happiest
path; and I will walk in it. This is, indeed, choosing a
murderer in the stead of a Father—"forsaking the foun-
tain" for the "broken cistern." (Jer. ii. 13.) Oh! must
there not be repentance in this path? May that repent-
ance come before it be too late! Ponder who it was, that
befriended you in the moment of an awful extremity, and
snatched you as "a brand from the burning." Ponder the
endearing proofs of his love—condescending to become a
man—"a man of sorrows" (Isa. liii. 3), and to die in the
agony of the cross, bearing for you the eternal curse of
God. (Gal. iii. 13.) And does not gratitude remind you
what returns of faithful service are due from a creature so
infinitely indebted to him? Surely the stedfast persever-
ance with which his heart clave to his costly work (comp.
Matt. xvi. 23; Luke, xii. 50; Heb. xii. 2, 3), may serve
to put to shame your unsteadiness in "sticking to his tes-
VERSE 32. 75
Believer! you are determined to abide by your choice
—but not in your own strength. Remember him, who one
hour declared, that he would sooner die with Christ than
deny him; and the next hour denied him with oaths and
curses. (Matt. xxvi. 35, 74.) Learn, then, to follow up
your resolution with instant prayer—"O Lord, put me not
to shame." Leave me not to myself, lest I become a shame
to myself, and an offence to thy Church. "I will keep thy
statutes. O forsake me not utterly." (Verse 8.) Depend-
ence upon the Lord, in a deep sense of our weakness, is the
principle of perseverance. Never will he shut out the
prayer of his faithful servant. He hath promised—"My
people shall never be ashamed" (Joel, ii. 27); and there-
fore, taking firm hold of his promise, you may "go on
your way rejoicing."
32. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt
enlarge my heart.
A glowing picture of the Christian's delight in the
ways of God! If we "have chosen the way of God's com-
mandments," and have been able to "stick unto" this way,
surely we shall wish to "run in it" with constancy and
cheerfulness. We shall want to mend our pace. If we
walk, we shall long to "run." There is always the same
reason for progress, that there was for setting out. Neces-
sity, advantage, enjoyment, spur us on to the end. What-
ever progress we have made, we shall desire to make more;
go on praying and walking, and praying that we
may walk with a swifter motion; we shall be dissatisfied;
Yet not discouraged—"faint, yet pursuing." (Judg. viii. 4.)
Now this is as it should be. This is after the pattern of
the holy Apostle:—"Brethren, I count not myself to have
apprehended: but this one thing I do; forgetting those
things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which
76 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the
high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philip. iii. 13, 14.)
But the secret as well as the pattern of Christian progress
is—looking beyond the Apostle, and the "so great cloud
of witnesses, with which we are encompassed"—and "look-
ing unto Jesus." (Heb. 1, 2.) Faith is the principle
of life, and supplies the daily motion of life; directing
our eye to him as "the Author," until he "becomes the
Finisher," of our faith. This is at once our duty, our pri-
vilege, our happiness, and our strength. This is the
point, at which we begin to run; and we "so run, that we
may obtain." (1 Cor. ix. 24.)
But let us more distinctly mark the medium through
which this spiritual energy flows—an enlarged heart. With-
out this influence how could we run this way of God's com-
mandments? Such is the extent and latitude of the course
(see verse 96), that a straitened heart is utterly inadequate
to carry us through. There must be large treasures of
knowledge, in order that from a rich "treasure-house the
good things" may pour out abundantly. (See 1 Kings, iv.
29; with Matt. xii. 35.) For indeed spiritual "knowledge"
is the principle of "multiplied grace." (2 Pet. i. 2. Comp.
Col. i. 10.) Scriptural truths, divinely fixed in the under-
standing, powerfully influence the heart. Christian pri-
vilege also greatly advances this important end. In season
of depression we are "so troubled, that we cannot speak.
(Ps. lxxvii. 4.) We cannot pour out our hearts, as at
other times, with a large measure of spirit and life. But
when "we joy in God, having received the atonement"
(Rom. v. 11), the spirit is invigorated, as with oil on the
wheels, or as "with wings to mount" (Isa. xl. 31) on high
in the service of praise.
Very different, however, is this enlargement of heart from
enlargement of gifts. Fluency of utterance is too often
fearfully separated from the spiritual life, and utterly un-
VERSE 32. 77
connected with delight in the way of God's commandments.
It is expression, not feeling—counterfeit grace—public,
not secret or personal, religion. The yoke of sin is not
broken, and the self-deceiver will be found at last among
the deluded throng of gifted hypocrites, "punished with
everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord."
(Matt. vii. 22, 23 with 2 Thess. i. 9.)
Indeed the spiritual principle is far too little realized.
At the commencement of the course, conscious guilt
straitens the approach to the throne of grace. Unbelief
imprisons the soul. And even when the deliverer is known,
who "sets at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke, iv. 18),
still the body of death with all its clogging burden and con-
finement presses down the soul. Unbelief also continues
to work, to narrow the conceptions of the gospel, and by
the painful recollections of the past, to bring in distrust,
distance, and bondage. And most painful is this restraint.
For the soul, which is but beginning to see how desirable is
the favour of God, feels also an earnest desire to honour
him. And to him who—having fully "tasted that the
Lord is gracious"—asks, "What shall I render unto the
Lord?" (Ps. cxvi. 12), this remaining influence of "the
spirit of bondage" is more afflicting, than perhaps was a
greater measure of it in a less enlightened stage of his
way. Still, however, this legal spirit pursues him. His
comforts, ebbing and flowing, according as he is dissatisfied
or satisfied with his Christian progress, clearly evince a
secret "confidence in the flesh," greatly hindering that
"rejoicing in Christ Jesus," which so enlarges the heart.
(Philip. iii. 3, 12-14.)
Thus by the shackles of sin, unbelief, and self-right-
eousness, we are indeed sore let and hindered in running
the race set before us.' (Collect for Advent.) The light
is obscured. Faith loses sight of its object. What
otherwise would be a delight becomes a weariness. Obe-
78 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
dience is irksome; self-denial intolerable; the cross heavy.
The heart is, as it were, "shut up, and it cannot get forth."
(Ps. lxxxviii. 8.) Faith is so low: desires are so faint;
hopes so narrow, that it seems impossible to make progress.
Frequent defeats induce despondency. The world is resorted
to. Sin ensnares and captivates. Thus "we did run well;
but we have been hindered." (Gal. v. 7.)
This sad evil naturally leads us to inquire for the remedy.
The case is backsliding, not apostasy. The remedy there-
fore is in that engagement, which embraces a wider expanse
of light, and a more full confidence of love. We find that
we have not been "straitened" in God, but "in our own
bowels." If then the rich fool thought of enlarging his
barns, when his stores had increased upon him (Luke, xii.
16-19), much more should we "enlarge the place of our
tent," that we may make more room for God, encourage
larger expectations, if we would have more full manifest-
ations of him. Let not the vessels fail, before the oil stays.
(See 2 Kings, iv. 6.) Continually let the petition be sent
up —"Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge
my coast!" (1 Chron. iv. 10.) Whatever cause we have
cry out —"My leanness, my leanness!" (Isa. xxiv. 16) —
still let us, in the exercise of faith and prayer, be waiting
for a more cheerful ability to love, serve, and praise. Let
us be restless, till the prison-doors are again opened, and
the command is issued to the prisoners—"Go forth: and
to them that are in darkness — Show yourselves. They
shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all
high places." (Isa. xlix. 9.) Who knoweth but the Lord
will once more shine upon us; once more unloose our fetters,
and renew our strength?
But again and again must we be reminded that every
motion must begin with God. (Prov. xvi. 1.) I will run—
but how? not in my own strength, but by "the good hand
of my God upon me" (Ezra, vii.. 9), delivering and enlarging
VERSE 32. 79
my heart. He does not say—I will make no efforts, unless
thou work for me; but if thou wilt enlarge—I will run.
Weakness is not the plea for indolence, but for quickening
grace. "Draw me"—saith the Church—"we will run
after thee." (Cant. i. 4.) Effectual calling will issue in
running. (Comp. Ps. cx. 3; Isa. lv. 5.) "Where the Spirit
of the Lord is, there is liberty." The secret of Christian
energy and success is a heart enlarged in the love of God.
Let me then begin betimes—make haste —keep straight
on—fix my eye on the mark—"endure unto the end." I
may yet expect in the joy of blessed surprise to exclaim-
"Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots
of Ammi-nadib." (Cant. vi. 12.) Godly sorrow had made
me serious. Now let holy joy make me active. "The joy
of the Lord is my strength" (Neh. viii. 10); and I am
ready, under the power of constraining love (2 Cor. v. 14),
to work and to toil —to run without weariness—to "march
onward" without fainting;* not measuring my pace by my
own strength, but looking to him who "strengtheneth with
all might by his Spirit in the inner man." (Eph. iii. 16.)
Happy fruit of wrestling prayer and diligent waiting on
God! Joy in God, and strength to walk with him, with
increasing knowledge of him, increasing communion with
him, and increasing confidence in him.
* Isa. xl. 31, "march onward."— Bishop Lowth’s Version.
80 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
33. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall
keep it unto the end.
WE need no instruction in the way of sin. That has
been our way, ever since Adam "sought out his own in-
vention." (Eccles. vii. 29. Isa. liii. 6.) The ungodly "de-
sire no knowledge of the way of God's statutes." (Job, xxi.
14.) The heart leads the judgment, and "their heart is
enmity to the law of God." (Rom. viii. 7.) But for a child
of God, this is a prayer for constant use. The outward
revelation is of no avail without the inward teaching. The
Divine Instructor must interpret and apply his own rule.
However plain the word may be, the darkness must be re-
moved from the understanding. Light will not show an
object, except the faculty of sight be given. A blind man
cannot see at noonday. We know nothing spiritually,
except as we are taught of God. The more we are taught,
the more we feel our need of teaching, and the more press-
ing will be our cries for this invaluable blessing. The
blind man must be led in the plainest and most direct, as
well as in the more difficult and rugged paths. And thus
do we need the shining of light from above—not only in
the "deep things of God" — but for the reception of the
most elementary truths. Amid yet we want not this know-
ledge for its own sake—to feed pride or speculation—but
for its practical influence. For of what avail is the dis-
VERSE 33. 81
covery even of important truth, if we be not moulded
into its likeness, and constrained "into the obedience of
faith?" The connexion of every thought with Christian
practice, here directed to its proper end, is a most striking
proof of the Divine origin of the statutes. The most clear
instructions for the regulation of our conduct flow from
single sentences or expressions in these "statutes;" and
this clearly proves an infinite wisdom in their distribution,
a reference in the eternal mind to every detail of practical
duty, and a Divine power and unction, applying the word
to the several circumstances of daily conduct. For, indeed,
what mind but the mind of God could have comprehended
in so small a compass such a vast system of instruction?
In this view, therefore, the Lord's teaching becomes the
spring of obedience. For how can we "keep" a way, which
we do not understand? And who was ever "taught the
way of the Lord's statutes," who had not his heart con-
strained and directed by their spiritual beauty and sweet-
ness? In this path we realize union with the Saviour
(1 John, iii. 24); "the love of God is perfected in us"
(Ib. ii. 5); and our confidence is established before God
(Ib. iii. 21).
The object nearest to the believer's heart, and which
causes him many an anxious—and too often many an un-
believing thought—is the grace of perseverance. Now the
Lord's teaching is the principle of perseverance. It is "the
light of life" (John, i. 4; viii. 12), enlightening the mind,
and quickening the heart. Under this influence, therefore,
we live ― we endure—we cannot fail of keeping the way
unto the end. (1 John, ii. 27.) Thus the end crowns the
work. For with this blessing of perseverance, is sealed to
us the hope of victory over our spiritual enemies, and the
participation of our Saviour's glory. (Rev. ii. 26-28.)
Confidence, indeed, without prayer and dependence upon
82 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
our glorious Head, is most daring presumption. But that
"well-ordered and sure covenant," which "is all our salva-
tion, and all our desire," engages for our continuance
"the way of the Lord's statutes." "I will put my fear in
their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. I will put
my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts and
I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jer. xxxii.
40; xxxi. 33; with 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.)
34. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I
shall observe it with my whole heart.
'He that is his own teacher'—says Bernard—and one
greater than Bernard (Prov. xxviii. 26), has a fool for his
master.' Man cannot teach what he does not know; and
of God, and of his law, he knows nothing. Therefore the
beginning of wisdom is a consciousness of ignorance, a dis-
trust of our own understanding, and the heartfelt prayer-
"Give me understanding." The spiritual understanding is the
gift of Jesus Christ. (1 John, ii. 20; v. 20.) He directs
us to himself, as its fountain—"I am the light of the
world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,
but shall have the light of life." (John, viii. 12; also xii.
46.) This understanding differs from mere intellectual dis-
cernment or speculative knowledge. It is the spring of
spiritual activity in our walk with God (See Col. i. 9, 10);
so that our obedience is not outward and reluctant, but
filial delight and wholeness of heart:—we desire not only
to keep the law of God to the end, but every day to the end-
"with our whole heart."— Such are our obligations towards
him, that we ought to study very accurately the character
of our walk with him; always remembering that service
without the heart—the whole heart—is hateful in his sight
(Isa. i. 11-15. Hos. x. 2. Acts, v. 1-10); and that what is
VERSE 34. 83
now wilfully withheld, will gradually draw away the rest in
apostasy from him. Now are we seeking more "engaged-
ness of heart" for him? Then will this prayer be a suit-
able expression of our need, and the utterance of a humble,
resolute petitioner. It is not, however, enough, that we
have once received, unless we are constantly receiving. We
must ask, that we may receive but after we have received,
we must ask again. Yet is this prayer never offered up,
until the soul has in part received what it is here seeking
for. The natural man is "wise in his own conceit," and
has therefore no idea of his need of Divine teaching.
But we must not be satisfied with even a clear appre-
hension of the doctrines of the Bible, and of the "truth as
it is in Jesus." "Give me understanding"—'not only that
I may believe these doctrines, but that I may keep and
observe them.' In every path of duty, this cry is repeated,
with an importunity, that is never wearisome to the ears of
our gracious Father. And in how many unnoticed in-
stances has the answer been vouchsafed, when some clear
and heavenly ray has darted unexpectedly into the mind, or
some providential concurrence of unforeseen circumstances
has disintangled a path before intricate and involved, and
marked it before us with the light of a sunbeam! How
many whispers of conscience! how many seasonable sug-
gestions in moments of darkness and perplexity, may the
observant child of God record, as the answer to this needful
prayer! "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things,
even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the
Lord." (Ps. cvii. 43.) Nor will our growth in spiritual
understanding fail to evidence itself in the steady consistency
of a well-ordered conversation! "Who is a wise man, and
endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of
a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom."
(Jam. iii. 13.) If then knowledge is valuable according to
its usefulness, one ray of this practical knowledge—the
84 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
result of prayer for heavenly teaching—is more to be
prized than the highest attainments of speculative religion
—flowing from mere human instruction.
35. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for
therein do I delight.
We are equally ignorant of the path of God's command-
ments, and impotent to go in it. We need therefore double
assistance. Our mind must be enlightened; our hearts
constrained; else our knowledge of this humbling path
would make us shrink from it. But under the complete
influence of Divine grace, when understanding has been given
to discern the beauty of it, the soul's warmest desire is
fixed upon it. Conscious helplessness looks upward—Make
me to go: and he who said to the paralytic—"Arise, take up
thy bed, and go unto thy house," speaks the same word of
quickening life and power to the soul "giving heed," "ex-
pecting to receive something of him." (Matt. ix. 6; with
Acts, iii. 4, 5.) It is delightful to acknowledge of this
work, that "all is of God"—that "it is he that worketh
in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (2 Cor.
v. 18. Philip. ii. 13.) To him only can it belong. For
since the natural inclination "is not subject to the law of
God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. viii. 7), Almighty
power must introduce a new and active bias—"Turn thou
me, and I shall be turned." (Jer. xxxi. 18.)—"Make me to
go in the path of thy commandments."
But even when brought into this path, still we want
accelerated motion to run with increasing alacrity. We
want to take "the Lord God for our strength; and he shall
make our feet like hinds' feet, and he shall make us to walk
upon the high places." (Hab. iii. 19.) The path, indeed, is
uninviting to the eye of sense. This distorted vision brings
all its difficulties into full view; hiding all its counter-
VERSE 35. 85
balancing enjoyments. Let us, however, exercise that
"faith," which is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen." (Heb. xi. 1.) Let us exhibit
our proper character, "walking by faith, and not by sight"
(2 Cor. v. 7), and our discernment of unseen things will be
more clear, and our enjoyment of them more permanent.
The prayer will then be with increasing earnestness—
"Make me to go in the path of thy commandments."
But we must not be content with walking in this way;
we must seek to "delight in it." Delight is the marrow of
religion. "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. ix. 7), and
accepts obedience, only when it is given, not when it is
forced. He loves the service of that man, who considers it
his highest privilege to render it, and whose heart rejoices
in the way, "as a giant to run his race." (Ps. xix. 5
cxii. 1.) Fervent prayer and cheerful obedience mark the
experience of the thriving Christian. As a true "child of
Zion, he is joyful in his king" (Ps. cxlix. 2); he loves his
service, and counts it "perfect freedom"—the rule of love,
mercy, and grace.
But is the self-condemned penitent distressed by this
description of a child of God? He cannot find the same
marks in himself; and he too hastily concludes, that he
does not belong to the heavenly family; not considering,
that his very grief is caused by his love to, and "delight in"
that way in which he is so hindered, and in which lie daily
prays—"Make me to go." It was, probably, the same sense
of weakness and inability, "to go in the path of God's com-
mandments," which urged David's prayer; and if it urges
yours, poor trembling penitent—if it sends you to a throne
of grace, you will, ere long, receive an answer of peace, and
"go on your way rejoicing."
This delight in the path is not only following the "man
after God's own heart;" but it is the image of David's
Lord, and our forerunner in this path. He could testify
86 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
to his Father—"I delight to do thy will, O my God"
(Ps. xl. 8; with Heb. x. 7); and to his disciples—"I have
meat to eat that ye know not of. My meat is to do the
will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John, iv.
32, 34.) And as a proof of the intenseness of his delight he
could, to their great amazement, "go before them" (Mark,
x. 32) to Jerusalem, unappalled by the "baptism" of blood
which awaited him; yea, even "straitened" with the un-
quenchable ardour of his love, "until it was accomplished."
(Luke, xii. 50.)
36. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to
But what "makes us to go in the path of God's command-
ments?" The force of his Almighty love effectually inclines
the will, as with a Divine touch. The day of his power, in
which he makes us willing, is a time of love. "I drew
them" — saith he—"with cords of a man, and with bands
of love." (Ps. cx. 3. Ezek. xvi. 8. Hos. xi. 4.) Every man,
who is conscious of the counteracting bias within, will
deeply feel the need of this prayer—"Incline my heart."
The native principle of man draws him to his own self—
to his own indulgence—pleasure—covetousness—assuming
a thousand forms of gratifying self, at the expense of
love to God. Few but are ready to condemn this principle
in others, while perhaps it may be their own "easily-
besetting sin." When the mind is grasping after the world,
as if it were our portion, we have the greatest reason to
"take heed" to our Lord's admonition, and beware of
covetousness" (Luke, xii. 15). When we invest earthly
gratifications with any inherent excellency—virtually
putting them in the place of God—then will be a season
for special supplication—Incline my heart unto thy testi-
monies, and not to covetousness.
VERSE 36. 87
There is probably no principle so opposed to the Lord's
testimonies. It casts out the principle of obedience, since
the love of God cannot co-exist with the love of the world
(1 John, ii. 15); and the very desire to serve Mammon is
a proof of unfaithfulness to God. (Matt. vi. 24.) We
mark the deadly influence in direct breaches of the law of
God. Balaam, in the indulgence of this propensity, set his
will in mad contradiction to God (Num. xxii. 15-21.
2 Pet. ii. 14-16); Ahab was tempted to murder (1 Kings,
xxi. 1-13); David, to murder and adultery (2 Sam. xi.
2-17); Achan, to steal (Josh. vii. 21); Judas, both to
steal from his fellows, and to betray his Master (John, xii. 6.
Matt. xxvi. 14-16); Gehazi and Ananias to lying. (2 Kings,
v. 20-26. Acts, v. 1-8.) And besides—what is the matter
of common but painful observation — how much of the good
seed of the kingdom, that was springing up with the pro-
mise of a plentiful harvest, has this weed of rank luxuriance
"choked, that it has become unfruitful!"* Our Lord's
parables, therefore (Luke, xii. 16-21; xvi. 14, 19, &c.)—
his providence (Matt. vi. 25-31)—his promises (Ib. verse
33. Ps. xxxiv. 9, 10. Isa. xxxiii. 15, 16. 1 Pet. v. 7)
his terms of discipleship (Matt. xvi. 24; xix. 27-29. Luke,
xiv. 33)—his counsels (1 Cor. vii. 29-31. Philip. iv. 5)—
his own example of poverty and renunciation of this world's
comfort (Matt. viii. 20)— all are directed against this
destructive principle. The power of the love of Christ
delivered Matthew (Matt. ix. 9) and Zaccheus (Luke, xix.
1-10) from its influence, and "inclined their hearts to the
testimonies of God." And has not faith still the same power
to turn the heart from the world, from sin, from self, to
Christ? Learn, then, to rest upon the promise of his love
(Heb. xiii. 5), and to delight in his testimonies. Earthly
cares will be cast upon him, and earthly prospects will lose
*Mark, iv. 19.—The example of the rich young man, Matt.
xix. 21, 22, Demas, 2 Tim. iv. 10.
88 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
their splendour.* This life of faith—living in union with
a heavenly Saviour, involves the only effective principle of
resistance. Those who are risen with Christ will be tem-
perate in earthly things, "setting their affections on things.
above." Such — such alone — will "mortify the members
that are upon the earth —evil concupiscence, and covetous-
ness, which is idolatry." (Col. iii. 1-5.)
We desire to sit loose to our earthly comforts. Are
we enabled to check our natural discontent with the Lord's
dealings with us, and to restrain our eagerness to "seek
great things for ourselves" (Jer. vi. 13), by the recollection
of his word—"Seek them not?" (Jer. xlv. 5.)
Let us not forget, that the inclination—even if it is
not brought into active and perceptible motion, is fatally
destructive of the life of religion. "They that will be rich†
fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish
and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and
perdition." Awful warning to professors!—"The love of
money is the root of all evil; which while some have
coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced
themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Tim. vi. 10.)
A most important exhortation to the people of God! —
"But thou, O man of God, flee these things, and follow
after righteousness." (Ib. verse 11.) If the Lord loves
you, he will not indeed lose you; but unless you "take
heed, and beware of covetousness," he will not spare you.
In the midst, therefore, of temptation without, and a world
of sin within, go onwards, with the pilgrim's (1 Pet. ii. 11)
prayer indelibly fixed on your heart —"Incline my heart
unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness."
* Comp. Luke, xii. 15, with parallel verses, 16-21.
† Oi[ boulomenoi ploutein. 1 Tim. vi. 9.— The very inclination to
be rich is alienation from him, who by just right claims the
supreme undisputed whole—"My son, give me thine heart." (Prov.
VERSE 37. 89
37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken
thou me in thy way.
So strongly does the man of God deprecate temptation
to self-indulgence, that he prays to be kept at the greatest
possible distance from it. That his heart may not be inclined
to it: he desires that his eyes may be turned away from
beholding it. Keeping the eye is a grand means of "keeping
the heart." (Num. xv. 39. Job, xxxi. 1.) Satan has so
infused his poison into all the objects around us, that all
furnish fuel for temptation: and the heart — naturally
inclined to evil, and hankering after vanity—is stolen away
in a moment. Vanity includes "all that is in the world—
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of
life." All is sin, "because it is not of the Father, but is
of the world." (1 John, ii. 16.) Of all that belongs to
earth —"the preacher, the son of David"— standing on the
vantage-ground, and having taken within his view the
widest horizon of this world's excellency, has pronounced his
judgment —"Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity
of vanities! all is vanity." (Eccles. i. 1, 2; also ii. 11,
xii. 8.) We have just mentioned "the lusts of other things
choking" many a promising profession. Our Lord's solemn
caution to his own disciples implies their injury to a sin-
cere profession "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time
your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunken-
ness, and cares of this life; and so that day come upon
you unawares." (Luke, xxi. 34.) Some, indeed, seem to
walk, as if they were proof against temptation. They ven-
ture to the very edge of the precipice, under a vain assurance
that no danger is to be apprehended. But such a confidence
is upon the brink of a grievous fall. (Prov. xvi. 18.) The
tender-hearted child of God, trusting in the promise, that
"Sin shall not have dominion over him" (Rom. vi. 14),
90 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
knows that he can only enjoy the security of it, while he is
shrinking from every occasion of sin. He "hates even the
garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude, 23); and, remember-
ing how often his outward senses have ministered to the
workings of his weak and treacherous heart (see Prov. xxiii.
33; Josh. vii. 21), he continues in prayer —"Turn away
mine eyes from beholding vanity!"
Probably the recollection of the circumstance of his
own sin (2 Sam. xi. 2), would to the end of his life remind
David of his special need of this prayer. Yet who that is
conscious of his own weakness and corruption, will find the
prayer unsuitable to his circumstances of daily temptation?
But we must watch as well as pray. For as watchfulness
without prayer is presumption, so prayer without watchful-
ness is self-delusion. To pray that "our eyes" may be
"turned from vanity," without "making a covenant with.
our eyes" (Job, xxxi. 1), that they should not behold it, is
life "taking fire in our bosoms," and expecting "not to
be burnt" (Prov. vi. 27, 28), because we have prayed that
we might not be burnt. If we pray not to be "led into
temptation," we must "watch that we enter not into it."
(Comp. Matt. vi. 13; with xxvi. 41.) The sincerity of
our prayer will be proved by the watchfully avoiding the
circumstances and occasions of temptation. The fear of
sin will manifest itself by a fear of temptation to sin.
"The knife will be put to the throat, if we be given to
appetite." (Prov. xxiii. 2.) We shall be afraid of the wine
sparkling in the glass. (Verses 31, 32.)
But where is the harm of beholding vanity, if we do not
follow it? When Eve beheld the forbidden fruit, perhaps
she did not think of taking it: and when she took it, she
did not think of eating it: but the beginning of sin "is as
the letting out of water," whose progress once opened, beats
down all before it. (Gen. iii. 6; with Prov. xvii. 14.) And
who, after our "beguiled mother," has not found the eye
VERSE 37. 91
an inlet to sin?* When Bunyan's pilgrims were obliged
to pass through Vanity Fair, beset on every side with
temptations and allurements, they stopped their eyes and
ears, and quickening their pace, cried—"Turn away mine
eyes from beholding vanity!" A striking reproof to us, who
too often loiter and gaze, until we begin to covet those
to which, as Christians, we "are dead!" (See
iii. 2, 3.)
Is it asked—What will most effectually "turn my eyes
from vanity?" Not the seclusion of contemplative retire-
ment — not the relinquishment of our lawful connexion
with the world; but the transcendent beauty of Jesus un-
veiled to our eyes, and fixing our hearts. This will "turn
our eyes from vanity" in its most glittering forms. The
sight of the "pearl of great price" (Matt. xiii. 46) dims
the lustre of the "goodliest pearls" of earth; at once
deadens us to the enticements of the world, and urges us
forward in the pursuit of the prize. And is not this our
object? It is not enough, that through special mercy I
am preserved from temptations. I want to be quickened to
more life, energy, delight, and devotedness in the way of my
God. The secret of Christian progress is simplicity and
diligence. "This one thing I do,— forgetting the things
that are behind, and reaching forth to those things that are
before; I press towards the mark, for the prize of the high
calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philip. iii. 13, 14.) The
Spirit leaves no wish in the heart for beholding vanity. The
World with all its flowery paths, is a dreary wilderness;
and Christ and heaven are the only objects of desire—"He
that shutteth his eyes from seeing evil, he shall dwell on
high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks;
* Lot's wife, Gen. xix. 26; Shechem, xxxiv. 2; Potiphar's wife,
xxxix. 7; Achan, Josh. vii. 21; Samson, Judg. xvi. l . Even the
man after God's own heart, 2 Sam. xi. 2. Comp. Prov. vi. 25; Matt.
v. 28; 2 Pet. ii. 14.
92 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
bread shall be given him, his water shall be sure. "Thine
eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land
that is very far off." (Isa. xxxiii. 15-17.) Precious pro-
mises to those, that flee from temptation, and desire to walk
in the ways of God!
38. Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy
Often—instead of being quickened in, the way—I am
fainting under the pressure of unbelief. What then is my
resource? Only the word of promise. Lord! seal— stablish
thy word unto thy servant—devoted as I am — as I would be
— to thy fear. If "the fear of the Lord is the beginning
of wisdom" (Ps. cxi. 10)—a "treasure" (Isa. xxxiii. 6)-
a "strong confidence" (Prov. xiv. 26)—"a fountain of
life" (Verse 27)—how wise—how rich—how safe—how
happy—is he that "is devoted to" it! "Blessed" indeed!
is he—with the favour of his God (Ps. xxxiii. 18), the
secret of his love (Ps. xxv. 14), the teaching of his grace
(Verse 12), and the mercy of his covenant. (Ps. ciii. 17.),
The promises of the Old Testament are generally connected
with the fear of God, as in the New Testament they are,
linked with faith. But in truth, so identified are these two:
principles in their operation, that the faith, by which we
apprehend the forgiveness of God, and the privileges of his
kingdom, issues in a godly, reverential, filial fear. (Ps.
cxxx. 4. Comp. Jer. xxxiii. 8, 9; Hos. iii. 5; also Heb.
xii. 28.) To be devoted to this fear, completes the character:
of a servant of God—the highest honour in the universe—
the substantial joy of heaven itself. (Rev. vii. 15; xxii. 3.)
It is an obedience of choice, of reverence, and of love.
"Joining himself to the Lord, to serve him, and to love:
the name of the Lord—to be his servant." (Isa. lvi. 6.)
'Yes, gracious Lord, I had rather be bound than loosed.'
VERSE 38. 93
I only wish to be loosed from the bonds of sin, that I might
be bound to thee for ever. My heart is treacherous; lay
thine own bonds upon me. "O Lord, truly I am thy ser-
vant: thou hast loosed my bonds" (Ps. cxvi. 16); I am
"devoted to thy fear." Is this my desire, my mind, my de-
termination, my character? Then let me plead my title to
an interest in the promises of the word—rich and free,
"exceeding great and precious" (2 Pet. i. 4),—all mine
yea and amen in Christ Jesus" (2 Cor. i. 20); let me
plead, that every word may be "established" in my victory
over sin, advancing knowledge of Christ, experience of his
love, conformity to his image, and, finally, in my preserv-
ation in him unto eternal life.
But how far has the fear of God operated with me as a
safeguard from sin (Gen. xxxix. 9. Neh. v. 15. Prov. xvi. 6),
and an habitual rule of conduct? (Prov. xxiii. 17.) David's
confidence in the promises of God, far from lessening his
jealousy over himself, only made him more "devoted to the
fear" of God. And if my assurance be well grounded, it
will ever be accompanied with holy fear; the influence will
be known by "standing more in awe of God's word" (Verse
161); having a more steady abhorrence of sin, and a dread
of "grieving the Holy Spirit of God." Thus this filial
fear produces a holy confidence; while confidence serves to
strengthen fear: and their mutual influence quickens de-
votedness to the work of the Lord.
It is interesting to remark, that the Christian privilege
of assurance is not confined to the New Testament dis-
pensation. David's pleading to have the "word of his God
established unto him,"* was grounded upon the tried founda-
tions of faith. And this direct act of faith, as it regards
God in Christ, his engagements and his promises, cannot
* Mark this petition drawn out by David into a full pleading
with his God, 2 Sam. vii. 25, 28, 29. The expression also of the
same confidence will afterwards be noticed. Verse 49.
94 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
be too confident. The promises are made to the whole
Church, that we might each look for our part and interest
in them. God loves to have his own seal and hand-writing
brought before him. "Put me in remembrance"— saith
he: "let us plead together." "He cannot deny himself."
(Isa. xliii. 26. 2 Tim. ii. 13.)
Very cheering is it to mark, how the Lord stablishes his
word in our own experience. Every day he is fulfilling
some promise, and a word made good at one time encou-
rages our confidence for another. (2 Cor. i. 10. 2 Tim. iv.
17, 18. Comp. Matt. xvi. 9.) The word performed in
part is an earnest of the whole, assuring us of the time,
when we shall acknowledge his faithfulness, "who perform-
eth all things for us." (Ps. lvii. 2.) Thus, as the word is
eternally stablished on the foundation of the Divine engage-
ments (Heb. vi. 17, 18), its certainty is sealed to our own
conviction. Our confidence is established, that if he has
spoken a word, he may be trusted for that word.
This, then, is the exercise and the power of faith.
bring wants. I bring thy word of promise. Stablish the
word unto thy servant. Thou hast bought me with a pre-
cious price; thou hast made me thine: thou hast subdued
my heart to thyself, so that it is now "devoted to thy fear."
Whatsoever, therefore, thy covenant has provided for my
sanctification, my humiliation, my chastisement, my present
and everlasting consolation—"Stablish this word:" let it
be fulfilled in me; for I am "thy servant, devoted to thy fear."
39. Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments
There is a reproach, which we have no cause to fear, but
rather to glory in. It is one of the chief privileges of the
Gospel (Matt. v. 10-12. Comp. Philip. i. 29)— the hon-
ourable badge of our profession. (Acts, v. 41; xxiv. 5
VERSE 39. 95
xxviii. 22. Heb. xiii. 13. 1 Pet. iv. 12-16.) But it was
the "reproach" of bringing dishonour upon the name of
his God, that David feared,* and deprecated with most
anxious, importunate prayer. The fear of this reproach is
a practical principle of tender watchfulness and circum-
spection, and of habitual dependence upon an Almighty
upholding power. "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe"
(Verse 117),—will be the constant supplication of one, that
fears the Lord, and fears himself. We do not, perhaps,
sufficiently consider the active malice of the enemies of the
gospel, "watching for our halting" (Jer. xx. 10); else
should we be more careful to remove all occasions of "re-
proach" on account of inconsistency of temper or conver-
sation. None, therefore, that feel their own weakness, the
continual apprehension of danger, the tendency of their
heart to backslide from God, and to disgrace "that worthy
name by which they are called" (James, ii. 7), will think
this prayer unseasonable or unnecessary —"Turn away my
reproach which I fear."
Perhaps also the conflicting Christian may find this a
suitable prayer. Sometimes Satan has succeeded in be-
guiling him into some worldly compliance, or weakened his
confidence, by tempting him to look to himself for some
warrant of acceptance (in all which suggestions he is aided
and abetted by his treacherous heart): and then will this
"accuser of the brethren" turn back upon him, and change
himself "into an angel of light," presenting before him a
black catalogue of those very falls, into which he had sue-
* 2 Sam. xii. 14. We find Saul strongly deprecating this re-
proach—"I have sinned; yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the
elders of my people, and before Israel." (1 Sam. xv. 80.) But how
different the principle in these two instances under a similar trial!
The one tremblingly alive, that the name of God might not be re-
proached through his shameful fall. The other earnest only to
secure his own reputation.
96 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
cessfully led him. Bunyan does not fail to enumerate
these "reproaches," as amongst the most harassing assaults
of Apollyon. In his desperate conflict with Christian, he
taunts him with his fall in the Slough of Despond, and
every successive deviation from his path, as blotting out
his warrant of present favour with the King, and blasting
all hopes of reaching the celestial city. Christian does not
attempt to conceal or palliate the charge. He knows it is
all true, and much more besides! but he knows that this
is true also—"Where sin abounded, grace hath much
more abounded." "The blood of Jesus Christ the Son of
God cleanseth from all sin." (Rom. v. 20. 1 John, i. 7.)
Believers! In the heat of your conflict remember the
only effective covering. "Above all, taking the shield of
faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery
darts of the wicked." (Eph. vi. 16.) Do you not hate the
sins, with which you have been overtaken? Are you not
earnestly longing for deliverance from their power? Then,
even while the recollections of their guilt and defilement
humble you before the Lord, take fresh hold of the gospel,
and you shall "overcome by the blood of the Lamb." (Rev.
xii. 9-11.) Victory must come from the cross. And the
soul that is directing its eye thither for pardon, strength,
and consolation, may sigh out the prayer with acceptance
—"Turn away my reproach which I fear."
But how deeply is the guilt of apostasy or backsliding
aggravated by the acknowledgment, which all are con-
strained to make —"Thy judgments are good!" How affect-
ing is the Lord's expostulation with us! —"What iniquity
have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from
me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain
O my people! what have I done unto thee, and wherein
have I wearied thee? testify against me. I have not caused
thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with in-
cense." (Jer. ii. 5. Mic. vi. 3. Isa. xliii. 23.) No, surely
VERSE 40. 97
we have nothing to complain of our Master, of his work, or
of his wages: but much, very much, to complain of our-
selves, of our unwatchfulness, neglect, backsliding; and
to humble ourselves on account of the consequent reproach
upon our profession.
Never, however, let us cease to cry, that all the reproach
which we fear on account of our allowed inconsistencies of
profession, may, for the Church's sake, be "turned away
from us." Meanwhile, "let us accept it as the punishment
of our iniquity" (Lev. xxvi. 41); and, in the recollection of
the goodness of the Lord's judgments, still venture to hope
and look for the best things to come out of it from our
40. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts; quicken me in
Behold! An appeal to the heart-searching God—
"Thou knowest that I love" (Comp. John, xxi. 17) thy
precepts! The heartfelt acknowledgment of their goodness
naturally leads us to long after them.* The professor longs
after the promises, and too often builds a delusive—because
an unsanctifying — hope upon them. The believer feels it
to be his privilege and safety to have an equal regard to
both — to obey the precepts of God in dependence on his
promises, and to expect the accomplishment of the promises,
in the way of obedience to the precepts. The utmost extent
of the professor's service is the heavy yoke of outward con-
formity. He knows nothing of an "inward delight and longing
after them." Of many of them his heart complains,—"This
is a hard saying: who can hear it?" (John, vi. 60.) The
Christian can give a good reason for his delight even in the
most difficult and painful precepts. The moments of
* Compare the same acknowledgment, Rom. vii. 12, connected
with similar delight, v. 22.
98 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
deepest repentance are his times of sweetest "refreshing
from the presence of the Lord."* Whatever be the plea-
sure of indulgence in sin, far greater is the ultimate
enjoyment arising out of the mortification of it.† Most
fruitful is our Saviour's precept, which inculcates on his
followers self-denial and the daily cross. (Luke, ix. 23.)
For by this wholesome discipline we lose our own perverse
will; the power of sin is restrained, the pride of the heart
humbled; and our real happiness fixed upon a solid and
permanent basis. So that, whatever dispensation some might
desire for breaking the precept without forfeiting the pro-
mise, the Christian blesses God for the strictness, that
binds him to a steady obedience to it. To him it is grievous,
not to keep it, but to break it. A longing therefore after
the precepts, marks the character of the child of God: and
may be considered as the pulse of the soul. It forms our
meetness and ripeness for heaven.
There are indeed times, when the violence of tempt
ation, or the paralysing effect of indolence, hides the move-
ments of the "hidden man of the heart." And yet even
in these gloomy hours, when the mouth is shut, and the
heart dumb, before God —"so troubled, that it cannot
speak" (Ps. lxxvii. 4)—even then, acceptable incense is
ascending before the throne of God. We have a powerful
intercessor "helping our infirmities"— interpreting our de-
sires, and crying from within, "with groanings that cannot
be uttered" (Rom. viii. 26); yet such as, being indited by
our Advocate within, and presented by our Advocate above
* Acts, iii. 19. Luther says the practice of repentance was ever
sweeter to him, after hearing the expression of an old divine—'This
is kind repentance, which begins from the love of God.'
†See David's lively expression of gratitude—first to his God—
then to the instrument employed by him — (Abigail) in restraining
him from the gratification of most unjustifiable revenge. — 1 Sam.
xxv. 32, 33.
VERSE 40. 99
(Heb. ix. 24. Rev. viii. 3, 4), are cheering earnests of
their fulfilment. "He will fulfil the desire of them that
fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them."
(Ps. cxlv. 19.)
These longings might seem to betoken a vigorous ex-
ercise of grace. But shall I be satisfied, while the most
fervent desires are so disproportioned to their grand object
—so overborne by the corruption of the flesh (Rom. vii.
18-24)—and while a heartless state is so hateful to my
Saviour? (Rev. iii. 16.) Idle confessions and complaints
are unseemly and unfruitful. Let me rather besiege the
mercy-seat with incessant importunity (Matt. xi. 12),—
'Quicken me in thy righteousness.' I plead thy righteous-
ness—thy righteous promise for the reviving of my spiritual
life. I long for more lively apprehensions of thy spotless
righteousness. Oh! let it invigorate my delight, my obe-
dience, my secret communion, my Christian walk and con-
versation.' Such longings, poured out before the Lord for
a fresh supply of quickening grace, are far different from
"the desire of the slothful, which killeth him" (Prov. xxi.
25), and will not be forgotten before God." Delight thy-
self in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine
heart." (Ps. xxxvii. 4.) O for a more enlarged expectation,
it and a more abundant vouchsafement of blessing; that we
may burst forth and break out, as from a living fountain
within (John, iv. 14; vii. 38), in more ardent longings for
the Lord's precepts!
But it may be asked—What weariness in, and reluc-
tance to duties, may consist with the principle and exercise
of grace? Where it is only in the members, not in the
mind—where it is only partial, not prevalent—where it
is only occasional, not habitual — where it is lamented and
resisted, and not allowed—and where, in spite of its influ-
ence, the Christian still holds on in the way of duty—
"grace reigns" in the midst of conflict, and will ultimately
100 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
and gloriously triumph over all hindrance and opposition.
But in the midst of the humbling views of sin that present
themselves on every side, let me diligently inquire — Have
I an habitual "hungering and thirsting after righteous-
ness?" And since, at the best, I do but get my longings
increased, and not satisfied; let the full satisfaction of
heaven be much in my heart. "As for me, I will behold
thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I
awake, with thy likeness." (Ps. xvii. 15.)
And what an expectation is this to pretend to! To
think what the infinitely and eternally blessed God is—
and what "man is at his best estate" (Ps. xxxix. 5); then
to conceive of man—the worm of the dust—the child of sin
and wrath — transformed into the likeness of God—how
weighty is the sound of this hope! What then must its
substantiation be? If the initial privilege be glorious
(2 Cor. iii. 18), what will the fulness be! (1 John, iii. 2.)
Glory revealed to us! transfused through us! becoming
our very being! To have the soul filled — not with evan-
escent shadows—but with massive, weighty, eternal glory!
(2 Cor. iv. 17.) Worlds are mere empty bubbles, com-
pared with this, our sure, satisfying, unfading inheritance.
VERSE 41. 101
41. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord; even thy
salvation, according to thy word.
A prayer of deep anxiety—large desire—simple faith!
It is a sinner—feeling his need of mercy—yea, mercies—
abundant mercy (Ps. li. 1)—mercies for every moment—
looking for them only in the Lord's salvation—to be dis-
pensed according to his word. Out of Christ we know only
a God, of justice and holiness. In Christ we behold "a just
God, and yet a Saviour" (Isa. xlv. 21); and in "his sal-
vation mercy and truth are met together; righteousness
and peace have kissed each other." (Ps. lxxxv. 9,10. Comp.
Rom. iii. 26.) Therefore general notions of mercy without
a distinct apprehension of salvation have their origin in
presumption, not in warranted faith. For can there be any
communication of mercy from an unknown God? Can
there be any intercourse with an angry God? "Acquaint
now thyself with him, and be at peace; thereby good shall
come unto thee" (Job, xxii. 21)—"The Lord's mercies, even
Can we conceive the moment, when this prayer is not
suited to us? How can we be at any moment safe or
happy without the spirit of it? To walk as a saved sinner,
"accepted in the Beloved," conformed to his image, devoted
to his service, sealed for his kingdom—this is, or should
be, the sunshine of every day. Let this prayer live in the
heart. Carry continually to the Lord the cry for all his
102 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
mercies—specially for that, which is the seal and crown of
them all — his salvation.
This prayer, however, is peculiarly suitable to the be-
liever, longing to realize that which sometimes is clouded
to his view — his personal interest in the Lord's salvation
It must come to me; or I shall never come to it. I want
not a general apprehension —I am not satisfied with the
description of it. Let it come to me—Let thy mercies be
applied, so that I can claim them, and rejoice in them! I
see thy salvation come to others. Who needs it more than
I? Let it come also unto me. "Look thou upon me, and be
merciful unto me, as thou usest to do to those that love thy
name. Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou
bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy salvation; that
I may see the felicity of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in
the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine
inheritance." (Verse 132. Ps. cvi. 4, 5.)
Now, are we seeking the assurance of this salvation?
Are we waiting to realize its present power, saving us from
sin— Satan―the world — ourselves — and "blessing us
with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus?" Should a
trial of faith and patience be ordained for us, yet in the end
we shall find an enriching store of experience from his
wise dispensations. That he has kept us from turning our
backs upon his ways, when we had no comfort in them;
that he has upheld us with his secret supplies of strength
—is not this the work of his own Spirit within, and the
pledge of the completion of the work? That he has ena-
bled us, against all discouragements, to "continue instant
in prayer," is surely an answer to that prayer, which in our
apprehensions of it, had been cast out. That in waiting
upon him, we have found no rest in worldly consolation, is
an assurance, that the Lord himself will be our soul-satis-
fying and eternal portion. And who is there now in the
sensible enjoyment of his love, who does not bless that
VERSE 42. 103
Divine wisdom, which took the same course with them that
has been taken with us, to bring them to these joys? When
did a weeping seed-time fail of bringing a joyful harvest?
(Ps. cxxvi. 5, 6.)
But let not the ground of faith be forgotten —According
to thy word,— that it shall come fully—freely—eternally—
to him that waiteth for it. (Ps. xxxiii. 22. Comp. ver.81.)
"Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteous-
those that remember thee in thy ways." (Isa. lxiv. 5.)
Many, indeed, are satisfied with far too low a standard of
spiritual enjoyments. It is comfortless to live at a dis-
trace from our Father's house, when we might be dwelling
in the secret of his presence, and rejoicing in the smiles of
his love. But let us not charge this dishonourable state
upon the sovereignty of the Divine dispensations. Let us
rather trace it to its true source—want of desire—want
of faith—want of prayer—want of diligence. What infi-
nite need have we of heavenly influence! What gracious
encouragement to seek it! The way was blocked up—
mercy has cleared the path, opened our access—"The
golden sceptre is always held out." (Esth. v. 2.) Earnest
prayer will bring a sure answer. The blessing is unspeak-
able. Let thy mercies—thy salvation, come unto one, O Lord.
42. So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth
me; for I trust in thy word.
What is the salvation which he had just been speaking
of? The whole gift of the mercy of Gods redemption
from sin, death, and hell —pardon, peace, and acceptance
with a reconciled God — constant communication of spiri-
tual blessings—all that. God can give, or we can want; all
that we are able to receive here, or heaven can perfect
hereafter. Now if this comes to us—comes to our hearts
―surely it will furnish us at all times with an answer to him
104 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
that reproacheth us. The world casts upon us the reproach
of the cross. "What profit is there that we have walked
mournfully before the Lord of Hosts?" (Mal. iii. 14.) What
is there to counterbalance the relinquishment of pleasure,
esteem, and worldly comfort? The mere professor can give
no answer. He has heard of it, but it has never come to
him. The believer is ready with his answer, 'I have found
in the Lord's salvation pardon and peace—"not as the
world giveth"—and such as the world cannot take away,
Here, therefore, do I abide, finding it my happiness not to
live without the cross, and testifying in the midst of
abounding tribulation, that there are no comforts like
Christ's comforts.' This was David's answer, when family
trials were probably an occasion of reproach. "Although
my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an
everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is
all my salvation and all my desire." (2 Sam. xxiii. 5.)
But there is a far heavier reproach than that of the
world—when the grand accuser injects hard thoughts of
God — when he throws our guilt and unworthiness — our
helplessness and difficulties, in our face. And how severe
is this exercise in a season of spiritual desertion! Except
the believer can stay his soul upon "a God that hideth
himself, as still the God of Israel, the Saviour" (Isa. xlv.
15), he is unprepared with an answer to him that reproacheth
him. Such appears to have been Job's condition (Job, vi.
vii. ix.), and Heman's (Ps. lxxxviii.), not to speak of many
of the Lord's most favoured people, at different stages of
their Christian life. Most important, therefore, is it for
us to pray for a realizing sense of the Lord's mercies — even
of his salvation—not only as necessary for our peace and
comfort— but to garrison us against every assault, and to
enable us to throw down the challenge —"Rejoice not against
me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in
darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." (Mic. vii. 8.)
VERSE 42. 105
Free grace has saved me—an unspotted righteousness
covers me—an Almighty arm sustains me—eternal glory
awaits me. Who shall condemn? "Who shall separate
us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?"
(Rom. viii. 33-39.)
Now, for this bold front to our enemies, nothing is
wanted beyond the reach of the weakest child of God. No
extraordinary holiness—no Christian establishment in ex-
perience—nothing but simple, humble faith—For I trust
in thy word. Faith makes this salvation ours, in all its
fulness and almighty power: and, therefore, our confidence
in the word will make us "ready always to give an
answer to every one that asketh us a reason of the hope
that is in us, with meekness and fear." (1 Pet. iii. 15.)
"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper;
and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment,
thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants
of the Lord; and their righteousness is of me, saith the
Lord." (Isa. liv. 17.)
But how often is our Christian boldness paralysed by
our feeble apprehensions of the salvation of God! Clear
and full evangelical views are indispensable for the effective
exercise of our weighty obligations. Any indistinctness
here, from its necessary mixture of self-righteousness and
unbelief, obscures the warrant of our personal interest, and
therefore hinders the firm grasp of Almighty strength.
Coldness and formality also deaden the power of Christian
boldness. Much need, therefore, have we to pray for a
realized perception of the freeness, fulness, holiness, and
privileges of the Gospel. Much need have we to use our
speedy diligence, without delay; our painful diligence,
without indulgence: our continual diligence, without wea-
riness; that we be not satisfied with remaining on the
skirts of the kingdom that it be not a matter of doubt,
whether we belong to it or not; but that, grace being
106 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
added to grace, "so an entrance may be ministered to us
abundantly, into" (2 Pet. i. 5-11) all its rich consolations
and everlasting joys.
43. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth;
for I have hoped in thy judgments.
For the sake of the church and of the world, no less
than for our own sakes, let us "give diligence" to clear
up our interest in the Gospel. The want of personal assu-
rance is not only a loss in our own souls, but a hindrance
to our Christian usefulness. Hence our efforts are often
powerless in parrying off the attack of him that reproacheth
us, as well as to "strengthen the weak hands, and confirm
the feeble knees" (Isa. xxxv. 3) of our brethren. The
charge of hypocrisy, or the want of the "constraining"
principle of "the love of Christ," stops the utterance of
the word of truth, and obscures our character as a "saint of
God" (Ps. cxlv. 10-12), and "a witness" for his name.
(Isa. xliii. 10.) Justly, indeed, might he punish our un-
faithfulness, by forbidding us any more to speak in his name.
And therefore the dread of this grievous judgment, and the
mourning over precious lost opportunities, stirs up the
prayer—'Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth'
— Not only take it not out of my heart; but let it be ready
in my mouth for the confession of my Master.'
This valuable prayer may preserve us from denying
Christ. Too apt are we to allow worldly intercourse, habits,
and conversation without a word of restraint. Let the
whole weight of Christian responsibility be deeply felt—
faith in the heart, and confession with the mouth (Rom. x.
9, 10)— the active principle, and the practical exercise.
Should we be content with the dormant principle, where
would be the Church—the witness for God in the world?
Shall we shrink from the bold confession of Him, who
VERSE 43. 107
"despised the shame of the cross" for us? (Heb. xii. 2.)
Would not this imply distrust of our own testimony—the
word of truth?
It does indeed need wisdom to know when, as well as
what, to speak. There is "a time to keep silence," and
"the prudent shall keep silence in that time." (Eccles. iii.
7. Amos, v. 13.) But is it our cross to be "dumb with
silence?" And when we "hold our peace, even from good,"
is our "sorrow stirred —our hearts hot within us — the fire
burning"? (Ps. xxxix. 2, 3.) Nay —is not the plea of bash-
fulness or judicious caution often a self-deluding cover for
the real cause of restraint—the want of the personal appre-
hension of the Lord's mercy? "I believed, and therefore have
I spoken." (2 Cor. iv. 13.) Oh! let not the word of truth be
taken utterly out of our mouth. A stammering confession is
better than silence. If we cannot say all we want of, or for
our Saviour, let us say what we can. 'God's servants are
very sensible of the infinite value of the least atom of what
belongs to him.'* And a word spoken in weakness may
be a word of Almighty power, and a present help to some
fainting spirit. In our connexion with the world, many
occasions will unexpectedly occur, if the heart be but
wakeful and active to improve them. The common topics
of earthly conversation often furnish a channel for hea-
venly intercourse, so that our communications with the
World may be like Jacob's ladder, whose bottom rested
upon the earth, but the top reached unto the heavens.†
* Correspondence of the Rev. J. T. Nottidge (Seeleys) —a most
valuable treasure of experimental religion, p. 350.
† Gen. xxviii. 12. Why do I make any of my visits to any of
my neighbours, or countenance their visits unto me? Lord, I
desire to let fall something, that may be for the good of the com-
pany; even, that more may be known of thee, and done for thee,
for what passes in it. And when I propose to ingratiate myself
unto any people by the civilities of conversation, it shall be, that I
may gain thereby the better advantages to prosecute purposes upon
108 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
And oh! what a relief is it to the burdened conscience,
to stammer out, if it be but a few words for God, even
though there be no sensible refreshings of his presence!
Yet if we would speak for him with power and acceptance,
it must be out of the "good treasure and abundance
of the heart." (Matt. xii. 34.) For it is only when "the
heart is inditing a good matter, speaking of the things
touching the King, that the tongue is as the pen of a
ready writer." (Ps. xlv. 1, 2.)
But let us take up this petition as the expression of
the Christian's exercises with his God. 'That word utterly'
— observes an eminently-tried believer — 'though it seems
to be beneath the notice of the mind, when one has got
very low, is in reality one of the most blessed words in this
most blessed book. How often, when I have formerly been
upon the brink of giving up all for lost, and of saying—
"Evil, be thou my good"—the thought has perhaps struck
me, that, while I am struggling between despondency and
rebellion, and too hard, too cold, too discouraged to look
up to him, the blessed Redeemer is pitying the struggle of
my soul; and it has kept me where I was, led me to put
off despair at least till to-morrow; and then before to-
morrow I have seen something of the grace and glory of
What then is the advice, which this man of God gives
from his own experience? When you are most deeply
deploring your sins, never fail to thank the Lord, or at
least to think how you would thank him, if you dared lift
up a face overwhelmed with shame and defeat, that he has
not taken away his truth utterly; that he has left you
clinging to some twig of hope, instead of leaving you to
them. In conversation, I would especially lay hold on all advan-
tages to introduce as much as I can of a lovely Christ into the
view of all that I come near unto.'—Cotton Mather, Student and
Pastor, pp. 74, 75.
VERSE 44. 109
find—what thousands who look outwardly very calm—
have found—the depth of the precipice of despair.'*
The Psalmist's prayer here is the same confidence of
faith, that was expressed in the preceding verse—For I
have hoped in thy judgments, an acceptable spirit of approach
to God, and an earnest of the revival of life and comfort in
the Lord's best time and way.
44. So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.
The heaping up of so many words in this short verse,
appears to be the struggle of the soul to express the vehe-
mency of its longings to glorify its Saviour. And, indeed,
the Lord's return to us, unsealing the lips of the dumb,
and putting his word again into their mouth, brings with it
a fresh sense of constraining obligation. This fresh occu-
pation in his praise and service is not only our present
privilege, but an antepast of our heavenly employment,
when the word will never more be taken out of our mouth,
but we shall "talk of his wondrous works" (Verse 27) "for
ever and ever." The defects in the constancy and extent of
our obedience (as far as our hearts are alive to the honour
of God) must ever be our grief and burden; and the pros-
pect of its completeness in a better world, is that, which
renders the anticipation of heaven so delightful. There
we shall be blest with suitable feelings, and therefore be
enabled to render suitable obedience—even one unbroken
consecration of all our powers to his work. Then "shall
we keep his law continually for ever and ever." Once ad-
mitted to the "throne of God," we "shall serve him day
and night in his temple" (Rev. vii. 15)—without sin—
without inconstancy — without weariness—without end!
We speak of heaven; but oh! to be there! To be engaged
* Nottidge, ut supra, pp. 350, 351.
110 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
throughout eternity in the service of love to a God of love!
In one day's continuance in the path of obedience even
here, in the midst of the defilement which stains our
holiest services, how sweetly do the moments roll away
But to be ever employed for him, in that place, where
"there shall in no wise enter anything that defileth" (Rev.
xxi. 27)—this gives an emphasis and a dignity to the hea-
venly joy, which may well stamp it as "unspeakable and
full of glory." (1 Pet. i. 8.) May we not then encourage
the hope, that the Lord is making us meet for heaven, by
the strength and constancy of our desires to keep the laws
of God? And is it not evident, that heaven itself can
afford no real delight to one, who feels the service of God
on earth to be irksome? He stands self-excluded by the
constitution of his nature, by the necessity of the case.
He has no heart for heaven, no taste for heaven, no capa-
city for enjoyment of heaven—"He that is unjust, let him
be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy
still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still;
and he that is holy, let him be holy still." (Rev. xxii. 11.)
Heavenly, gracious Father! who and what are we, that
our hearts should be made the unworthy recipients of thy
grace? that our will should be subdued into "the obedience
of faith?" and that we should be permitted to anticipate
that blessed period, when we shall "keep thy law continually,
for ever and ever?" May this prospect realize the happiness
of our present obedience! May He, who has "bought us
with a price" for his glory, reign in our hearts, and live
upon our lips; that each of us may have his mark upon
our foreheads—the seal of his property in us, and of our
obligation to him —"Whose I am, and whom I serve!"
(Acts, xxvii. 23.)
VERSE 45. 111
45. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.
Not only perseverance but liberty, is the fruit of the
Lord's mercy 'to our souls—not the liberty of sin —to do
what we please—but of holiness—to do what we ought;
the one, the iron bondage of our own will;* the other, the
easy yoke of a God of love. It was a fine expression of a
heathen —"To serve God is to reign."† Certainly in this
service David found the liberty of a king. The precepts of
God were not forced upon him; for he sought them." More
to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter
also than honey, and the honey-comb." (Ps. xix. 10.)
The way of the Lord, which to the ungodly is beset with
thorns and briers, is the king's highway of liberty. The
child of God walks here in the gladness of his heart and
the rejoicing of his conscience. Even in "seeking these pre-
cepts," there is "liberty" and enlargement of heart; a na-
tural motion, like that of the sun in its course, "going
forth as a bridegroom, and rejoicing as a strong man to
run a race." (Verse 5.) What must it be then, to walk
in the full enjoyment of the precepts! "Where the Spirit
of the Lord is, there is liberty." "They shall sing in the
ways of the Lord,"— for "how great is his goodness; how
great is his beauty!" (2 Cor. iii. 17. Ps. cxxxviii. 5.
Zech. ix. 17.)
* 'I am bound,' said Augustine—'not with another man's iron,
but with my own iron will. I gave my will to mine enemy, and he
Made a chain, and bound me with it.'— Confess. viii. 6.
† 'In regno vivimus. Deo servire est regnare.'—Seneca.
When the female martyr Agatha was upbraided, because, being
descended of an illustrious parentage, she stooped to mean and
humble offices— 'Our nobility'— she replied—'lies in this; that
we are the servants of Christ.'―Bishop Sumner’s Evidences, pp.
112 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
Are we then obeying the precepts as our duty, or "seek-
ing" them as our privilege? Do we complain of the strict-
ness of the law, or of the corruption of the flesh? Are the
precepts of our own hearts our burden? Is sin or holiness
our bondage? The only way to make religion easy, is to
be always in it. The glow of spiritual activity, and the
healthfulness of Christian liberty, are only to be found in
the persevering and self-denying pursuit of every track of
the ways of God—"If ye continue in my word, then are ye
my disciples indeed: and ye shall know the truth, and the
truth shall make you free. If the Son, therefore, shall make
you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John, viii. 31, 32, 36.)
To have the whole stream of all our thoughts, actions, mo-
tives, desires, affections, carried in one undivided current
towards God, is the complete and unrestrained influence of
his love upon our hearts.
Let but our eyes be opened, our judgments clearly ex-
ercised, our consciences suffered to speak; and this point
is clear — Sin is slavery (John, viii. 34)— Holiness is
liberty. The sinner may live in bonds with as much delight
as if he was in his element. He may seem even to himself
to be at large, while in fact be is "shut up, and cannot
come forth." For such is the tyranny under which he is
bound, that he cannot help himself; and (to use the con-
fession of a heathen) while 'he sees and approves better
things, he follows the worse.'* Every sin is a fresh chain
of bondage (Tit. iii. 3), under the check of a cruel master.
On the other hand—the Lord's commands—as he himself
declares, and all his servants testify—are "for our good
alway." (Deut. vi. 24. Matt. xi. 29, 30. Comp. 1 John, v.
3.) His 'service is perfect freedom.' (Liturgy.) The life
of liberty is to be under the bonds of holy love and duty.
* "Video meliora, proboque;
Deteriora sequor."—Media in Ovid.
VERSE 45. 113
(Luke, i. 74, 75. Comp. Ps. cxvi. 16.) Let the trial be
made of two Masters; conviction must follow.
True it is, that the corrupt and rebellious inclinations
will "lust" (Gal. v. 17) to the end. But as long as in-
dulgence is denied, conflict excited, and the constant en-
deavour maintained to "bring every thought into captivity
to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. x. 5), our liberty is
established, even where it is not always enjoyed. Every
fresh chain, by which we bind ourselves to the Lord, makes
us more free.* While, then, they that "promise us liberty
are themselves the servants of corruption" (2 Pet. ii. 19),
let us live as the children of God — the heirs of the king-
dom — grateful — free — blood-bought souls—remembering
the infinite cost at which our liberty was purchased, and
the moment of extreme peril when we were saved. When
the flesh was weak, and the "law weak through the flesh"
(Rom. viii. 3), and no resolution of ours could break us
from the yoke of sin—then it was that "Christ both died,
and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of
the dead and living" (Ib. xiv. 9), "delivering us from
the hand of our enemies, that we might serve him without
fear." (Luke, i. 74.) And then indeed do we "walk at
liberty," when we "break the bands" of all other lords
asunder," and consecrate ourselves entirely to his precepts.
"O Lord our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion
over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name."†
* "Jugum Christi non deterit, sed honestat colla."— Bernard.
† Isa. xxvi. 13. An incident in the history of ancient Rome
may furnish an illustration of that full liberty and entireness of
heart, which forms the act of acceptable surrender to the Lord.
When the people of Collatia were negotiating an unconditional
capitulation to the Romans, Egerius, on the part of the Romans,
inquired of the ambassadors—'Are the people of Collatia in their
own power?' When an affirmative answer was given, it was next
inquired —'Do you deliver up yourselves—the people of Collatia-
114 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
46. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will
not be ashamed.
"Liberty in walking" in the Lord's ways will naturally
produce boldness in speaking of them. Compare the con-
duct of the three unshaken witnesses for the truth before
the Babylonish monarch. (Dan. iii. 16-18.) Mark the dif-
ference of the spirit displayed by the Apostles, and espe-
cially by Peter, before and after the day of Pentecost:
Look at Stephen before the council (Acts, vi. 15), and Paul
before Felix (Acts, xxiv.), Festus (Acts, xxv.), and Agrippa
(Acts, xxvi.). "God had not given to them the spirit of
fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2
Tim. i. 7.) Hear the great Apostle testifying of himself—
"I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome
also"— at the metropolis of the world, in the face of all
opposition and contempt, and at the imminent hazard of
my life—"For"—says he—"I am not ashamed of the gospel
of Christ." (Rom. i. 15, 16.) In the same determination of
soul, he exhorts his dear son in the faith—"Be not thou
ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his pri-
soner." (2 Tim. i. 8.) To how many does "the fear of man
your city, your fields, your waters, your boundaries, your temples,
your utensils, all your property, divine and human, into my power,
and the power of the Roman people?' 'We surrender all.' And
so,' said he, 'I accept you.'—Livy, Book i. Such may my surrender
be to the Lord! Disentangled from every other yoke, under no
bonds that ought to bind me, Lord, I offer myself, and all that
belongs to me, without exception or reserve, at thy feet. "But
who am that I should be able to offer so willingly after this sort?
For all things come of thee, and of thine own have I given thee."
1 Chron, xxix, 14,
* Contrast Matt. xxvi. 56, 69, 75; with Acts, ii. iii. iv. v. We
can scarcely believe that the same persons are alluded to. But
the explanation of the difficulty had been given by anticipation.
(John, vii. 39.)
VERSE 46. 115
bring a snare?" (Prov. xxix. 25.) Many a good soldier
has faced the cannon's mouth with undaunted front, and
yet shrunk away with a coward's heart from the reproach
of the cross, and been put to blush even by the mention
of the Saviour's name. Far better—the Son of Man
"strengthening you"— to brave the fiery furnace, or the
den of lions in his service, than like Jonah, by flinching
from the cross, to incur the sting of conscience and the
frown of God. (Dan. iii. 16-18; vi. 16-22, with Jonah, i.
Professing Christians! Are we ready to bear our tes-
timony for Jesus, against the sneer and ridicule of the un-
godly? We are not likely to "be brought before kings and
rulers for the Son of Man's sake." (Luke, xxi. 12. Mark,
9.) Yet no less do we need Divine help and strong
faith in withstanding the enmity of a prejudiced relative or
scornful neighbour. Young people! you are perhaps in
especial danger of being ashamed of your Bible, your reli-
gion, your Saviour. You may be brought under the snare
of the "fear of man," and be tempted to compromise your
religion, and to sacrifice your everlasting all from a dread
of "the reproach of Christ." But remember him, who for
your sake "before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good con-
fession" (1 Tim. vi. 13); and shall the dread of a name
restrain you from sharing his reproach, and banish the
obligations of love and gratitude from your hearts? Have
you forgotten, that you once owned the service of Satan?
and will you not be as bold for Christ, as you were for him?
Were you once "glorying in your shame; "and will you now
be ashamed of your glory? Oh! remember who hath said,
"Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in
this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the
Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of
his Father with the holy angels." (Mark, viii. 38.) Think
116 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
much and often of this word. Think on this day. Think
on the station of "the fearful and unbelieving" on the left
hand on that day. Think on their eternal doom (Rev.
xxi. 8). What is a prison, compared to hell? What need
to pray and tremble! If you are sincere in your deter-
mination, and simple in your dependence, then will the.
"love of Christ constrain you" (2 Cor. v. 14), not to a cold,
calculating, reluctant service; but to a confession of your
Saviour, bold, unfettered, and "faithful even unto death."
(Rev. ii. 10.) Every deviation from the straight path
bears the character of being ashamed of Christ. How much
have you to speak in behalf of his testimonies, his ways, his
love! When in danger of the influence of "the fear of
man," look to him for strength. He will give to you, as he
gave to Stephen—"a mouth and wisdom, which all your
adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist." (Luke,
xxi. 15, with Acts, vi. 10.) Thus will you, like them,
be strengthened "to profess a good profession before many
witnesses." (1 Tim. vi. 12.)
47. And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which, I
It is but poor comfort to the believer to be able to talk
well to others upon the ways of God, and even to "bear
the reproach" of his people, when his own heart is cold,
insensible, and dull. But why does he not rouse himself
to the active exercise of faith—"I will delight myself in
thy commandments?" That which is the burden of the
carnal heart is the delight of the renewed soul. The former
"is enmity against God: and therefore is not, and cannot
be, subject to his law." (Rom. viii. 7.) The latter can
delight in nothing else. If the gospel separates the heart
from sinful delights, it is only to make room for delights of
VERSE 47. 117
a more elevated, satisfying, and enduring nature.* Satan,
indeed, generally baits his temptations with that seductive
witchery, which the world calls pleasure. But has he
engrossed all pleasure into his service? Are there no
pleasures besides "the pleasures of sin?" Do the ways
of the Lord promise nothing but difficulty and trial? What
means then the experience of him, who could "rejoice in
them, as much as in all riches," and who "loved them
above gold, yea, above fine gold?" (Verses 14, 127.) The
"fatted calf" of our Father's house is surely a most gainful
exchange for "the husks" of the "far country." ( Luke,
xv. 13-24.) The delights of holiness go deeper than sensual
pleasures. (Ps. iv. 7.) The joy of the saint is not that
false, polluted, deadly joy, which is all that the worldling
knows, and all that he has to look for: but it flows spon-
taneously from the fountain of living waters, through the
pure channel of "the word of God, which liveth and abideth
for ever." Nay, so independent is it of any earthly spring,
that it never flourishes more than in the desolate wilder-
ness, or the sick-bed solitude; so that, "although the fig-
tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines,
yet we will rejoice in the Lord, we will joy in the God of
our salvation." (Hab. iii. 17, 18.) Men of the world see
what religion takes away, but they see little of what
it gives;† else would they reproach —not our folly—
but their own blindness. "Thus saith the Lord God,
Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry;
* 'Delectationes non amittimus, sed mutanaus'— was the ex-
pression of one of the ancients. 'I live a voluptuous life'— said the
excellent Joseph Alleine to his wife —'but it is upon spiritual
dainties, such as the world know not, and taste not of.'
† Cyprian, in one of his epistles (ad Donat.), mentions the great
difficulty he found in overcoming the false view of the gloom of
religion—little suspecting that the cause of the gloom was in him-
self—not in the gospel. But this is explained, Matt. vi. 23.
118 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.
behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty;
behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed;
behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall
cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of
spirit." (Isa. lxv. 13, 14.)
The love and complacency of the soul first fixes on the
commandments. Then how natural is the flow of delight in
them! even at the very time that we are "abhorring our-
selves in dust and ashes" for our neglect of them; and
God never has our hearts, until something of this delight is
felt and enjoyed. But do we complain of the dulness of
our hearts, that restrains this pleasure? Let us seek for
a deeper impression of redeeming love. This will be the
spring of grateful obedience and holy delight. Let us turn
our complaints into prayers, and the Lord will quickly turn
them into praises. Let us watch against everything, that
would intercept our communion with Jesus. Distance from
him must be accompanied with poverty of spiritual enjoy-
ment.—"They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness
of thy house: and thou shalt make them drink of the river of
thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: and in
thy light shall we see light." (Ps. xxxvi. 8, 9.)
48. My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments,
which I have loved: and I will meditate in thy statutes.
David seems at a loss for expressions adequately to set
forth the fervency of his love and delight in the ways and
word of God. Here we find him lifting up his hands
with the gesture of one, who is longing to embrace the
object of his desire with both hands and his whole heart.
(See Ps. lxiii. 4; cxliii. 6.) Perhaps also in lifting up
his hands unto the commandments, he might mean to express
his looking upward for assistance to keep them, and to live
in them. (See Ib. xxviii. 2.) But how humbling this
VERSE 48. 119
comparison with ourselves! Alas how often from the
neglect of this influence of the Spirit of God, do our "hands
hang down," instead of being lifted up, in these holy
ways! We are too often content with a scanty measure
of love: without any sensible "hungering and thirsting
after righteousness;" neither able to pray with life and
power, nor to hear with comfort and profit, nor to "do
good and communicate" with cheerfulness, nor to meditate
with spiritual delight, nor to live for God with zeal and
interest, nor to anticipate the endurance of the cross with
unflinching resolution—the soul being equally disabled
for heavenly communion and active devotedness. Shall we
look for ease under the power of this deadening malady?
Let us rather struggle and cry for deliverance from it. Let
us subscribe ourselves before God as wretched, helpless,
and guilty. He can look upon us, and revive us. Let us
then "take hold upon his covenant," and plead that he
will look upon us. Let us "put him in remembrance" of
the glory of his name, which is much more concerned in
delivering us out of this frame, by his quickening grace,
than in leaving us, stupid, corrupt, and carnal in it. Pro-
fessor! awake: or beg of the Lord to awaken you! For
if your cold sleeping heart is contented with the prospect
of a heaven hereafter, without seeking for a present fore-
taste of its joy, it may be a very questionable matter
whether heaven will ever be yours.
Delight, however, will exercise itself in an habitual
meditation in the statutes. (See Ps. i. 2.) The breathing
of the heart will be—"Oh, how love I thy law! it is my medi-
tation all the day." (Verse 97.) It is in holy meditation on
the word of God, that all the graces of the Spirit are mani-
fested. What is the principle of faith, but the reliance of