AN EXPOSITION OF

 

                   PSALM 119

 

 

 

 

 

                                                            By

                                       Charles Bridges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                     New York:  Robert Carter, 1876

                                                First published 1827.

 

              Digitized by Erin Bensing, 2007 Gordon College, Wenham, MA

 

                                      PREFACE.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


vi                                    PREFACE.

 

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

 


                                       PREFACE.                                       vii

 

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


viii                                           PREFACE.

 

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,


                                     PREFACE.                                         ix

 

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,


x                                               PREFACE.

 

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

children of Edom have never tasted the "clusters of

Canaan," and cannot therefore form any just estimate

 

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.


                                                 PREFACE.                                         xi

 

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.


xii                                             PREFACE.

 

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.

 


                                                 PREFACE.                                         xiii

 

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

righteousness."†

 

    *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-


xiv                                            PREFACE.

 

    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.

 

   Old Newton Vicarage,

        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


xvi                                  PREFACE.

 

weak and fearful to a clearer apprehension of their present

salvation.

    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.

 

     Old Newton Vicarage, October 12, 1842.

 

 

 

   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.

         

                                         PART I.

 

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

'blessed.'"*

    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."

"Truly"—indeed may we say — "God is good to Israel,

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

motive for obedience! Let the daily mercies of Providence

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

hypocrisy!" (Jam. iii. 17.)

 

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

                                 thy commandments.

 

    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,

he is guilty of all." (Jam. ii. 10, 11.) However the pro-

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

the wisest saints are only students in the Divine School.

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.

iv. 8.)

 

      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

thus broken.*

 

    * 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.

 

                                       PART II.

 

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-

tain "send forth" other than "bitter waters?" (Jam. iii.

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.

chap. vi.


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."

(Prayer-Book.)

 

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

of attraction.'

 

11 . Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin

                                     against thee.

 

    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

thought. Injury to a Superior — a Father ― a Sovereign!

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

looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God!" (Luke, ix.

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

exceeding sinful."

    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.

20, 21.)

 

      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

revealed himself as "inhabiting the praises of Israel" (Ps.

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

                                          mouth.

 

    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

(John, i. 40-42), and the women of Samaria her neigh-

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

that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" (Rom.

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-

dulgence?

    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

enjoyed?

    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

                                     thy ways.

 

    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.

14, 15.)

    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

                                        thy word.

 

    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

hidden indulgences of a heart that is yet carnal (see Rom.

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-

rum obruisset."— Cicero de Senectute. Comp. Matt. vi. 21.


                                        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

charge of guilt upon the conscience. For, as Boston some-

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.

 

                                         PART III.

 

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

                                        from me.

 

    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

Jerusalem." (Heb. xii. 22.) He is therefore a pilgrim in

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?

Let the cross of Calvary be the object of our daily contem-

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

contrasting this glow with the church of Laodicea, under a

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

privileges.

    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

grasp.

    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

                                       thy testimonies.

 

    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

infallible counsellor.

    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.

vi. 23.)

    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.

 

                                      PART IV.

 

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

opened.

    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

                                         thy statutes.

 

    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.

iii. 16.)

    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,

10, 12.)

    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

                                         graciously.

 

    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

                                    before me.

 

    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

                                        shame.

 

    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-

timonies."


                                        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.

 

                                   PART V.

 

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 heartthe 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

                               covetousness.

 

    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.

xxiii. 26.)

           


                                        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

vanities, to which, as Christians, we "are dead!" (See Col.

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

                                          fear.

 

     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

                                       are good.

 

    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

gracious Lord.

 

40. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts; quicken me in

                               thy righteousness.

 

    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

 

                                          PART VI.

 

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

his salvation."

    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

the Gospel.'

    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.

359, 360.


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.

1-15.)

    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

                                       have loved.

 

    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

the soul upon the promises of the word? What is the

sensation of godly fear, but the soul trembling before the

threatenings of God? (Verse 120.) What is the object of


120               EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

 

hope, but the apprehended glory of God? What is the

excitement of desire or love, but longing, endearing con-

templations of the Saviour, and of his unspeakable bless-

ings? Hence we can scarcely conceive of the influence of

grace separated from spiritual meditation