Psalm 101:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. To be holy is to be wise; a perfect way is a wise way. David's resolve was excellent, but his practice did not fully tally with it. Alas! he was not always wise or perfect, but it was well that it was in his heart. A king had need be both sage and pure, and, if he be not so in intent, when he comes to the throne, his after conduct will be a sad example to his people. He who does not even resolve to do well is likely to do very ill. Householders, employers, and especially ministers, should pray for both wisdom and holiness, for they will need them both.

O when wilt thou come unto me? -- an ejaculation, but not an interruption. He feels the need not merely of divine help, but also of the divine presence, that so he may be instructed, and sanctified, and made fit for the discharge of his high vocation. David longed for a more special and effectual visitation from the Lord before he began his reign. If God be with us we shall neither err in judgment nor transgress in character; his presence brings us both wisdom and holiness; away from God we are away from safety. Good men are so sensible of infirmity that they cry for help from God, so full of prayer that they cry at all seasons, so intense in their desires that they cry with sighs and groanings which cannot be uttered, saying, "O when wilt thou come unto me?"

I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Piety must begin at home. Our first duties are those within our own abode. We must have a perfect heart at home, or we cannot keep a perfect way abroad. Notice that these words are a part of a song, and that there is no music like the harmony of a gracious life, no psalm so sweet as the daily practice of holiness. Reader, how fares it with your family? Do you sing in the choir and sin in the chamber Are you a saint abroad and a devil at home? For shame! What we are at home, that we are indeed. He cannot be a good king whose palace is the haunt of vice, nor he a true saint whose habitation is a scene of strife, nor he a faithful minister whose household dreads his appearance at the fireside.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. I will behave myself wisely. The first thing he vows touching himself, is wise behaviour; prudence, not sapience; not wise contemplation, but wise action. It is not wise thoughts, or wise speaking, or wise writing, or wise gesture and countenance, will serve the turn, but wise behaviour: the former are graceful, but the other needful. For as the apostle saith of godliness, "Having a show of godliness, but denying the power thereof"; so certainly there are those who in point of wisdom and sufficiency that do little or nothing thoroughly, but magno conatu nugas, they make much ado about small matters; using all the perspectives of shifting they can devise to make an empty superficies seem a body that hath depth and bulk. --George Hakewill.

Verse 2. I will walk. Walking is a word often used in Holy Scripture, and especially by our prophet in this book of the Psalms; yet more often figuratively than properly. It shall not be amiss, then, out of the property and nature of it, to consider the duties included and implied in it. The natural acts of it, then, are three; motion, progress, and moderations. As it includes motion, so is it opposed to lying, or standing, or sitting; as it includes progress in motion, so is it opposed to jumping or capering up and down in the same place; as it includes moderation, in a progressive motion, so is it opposed to violent running. --George Hakewill.

Verse 2. I will walk within my house. Much, though not all of the power of godliness, lies within doors. It is in vain to talk of holiness if we can bring no letters testimonial from our holy walking with our relations. Oh, it is sad when they that have reason to know us best, by their daily converse with us, do speak least for our godliness! Few so impudent as to come naked into the streets: if men have anything to cover their haughtiness they will put it on when they come abroad. But witat art thou within doors? What care and conscience to discharge thy duty to thy near relations? He is a bad husband that hath money to spend among company abroad, but none to lay in provisions to keep his family at home. And can he be a good Christian that spends all his religion abroad, and leaves none for his nearest relations at home? That is, a great zealot among strangers, and little or nothing of God comes from him in his family? Yea, it were well if some that gain the reputation of Christians abroad, did not fall short of others that pretend not to profession in those moral duties which they should perform to their relations. There are some who are great strangers to profession, who yet are loving and kind in their way to their wives. What kind of professors then are they who are dogged and currish to the wife of their bosom? Who by their tyrannical lording it over them embitter their spirit, and make them cover the Lord's altar with tears and weeping? There are wives to be found that are not clamorous, peevish, and froward to their husbands, who yet are far from a true work of grace in their hearts; do they then walk as becomes holiness who trouble the whole house with their violent passions? There are servants who from the authority of a natural conscience, are kept from railing and reviling language, when reproved by their masters, and shall not grace keep pace with nature? Holy David knew very well how near this part of a saint's duty lies to the very heart of godliness; and therefore, when he makes his solemn vow to walk holily before God, he instanceth this, as one stage wherein he might eminently discover the graciousness of his spirit; "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." --William Gurnall.

Verse 2. Within my house. It is easier for most men to walk with a perfect heart in the church, or even in the world, than in their own families.

How many are as meek as lambs among others, when at home they are wasps or tigers. -- Adam Clarke.

Verse 2. Within my house with a perfect heart. Even in our best directed establishments, as well as in private families, cultivation is still in a great measure confined to intellect alone; and the direct exercise and training of the moral and religious sentiments and affections are rarely thought of as essential to their full and vigorous development. Moral precepts are, no doubt, offered in abundance; but these address thelnselves chiefly to the intellect. We must not be satisfied with merely exclaiming, "Be kind, just, and affectionate", when perhaps at the very moment we are counteracting the effect of the advice by our own opposite conduct. "She told me not to lie", said Guy Rivers in speaking of his mother, "and she set me the example herself by frequently deceiving my father, and teaching me to disobey and deceive him." Conduct like this is more common in real life than is supposed, although generally less flagrant in degree. Parents and teachers indeed too often forget that the sentiments feel and do not reason, and that, consequently, even a stupid child may, by the instinctive operation of its moral nature at once detect and revolt at the immorality of practices, the true character of which its reason is unable to penetrate or expose. It is one of the most effectual methods of cultivating and exciting the moral sentiments in children, to set before them the manifestations of these in our habitual conduct ...

What kind of moral duties does the parent encourage, who, recommending kindness, openness, and justice, tricks the child into the confession of a fault, and then basely punishes it, having previously promised forgiveness? And how is openness best encouraged -- by practising it in conduct, or by neglecting it in practice, and prescribing in words. Is it to be cultivated by thrusting suspicions in the face of honest intentions? And how is justice to be cultivated by a guardian who speaks about it, recommends it, and in practice charges each of four pupils the whole fare of a hackney- coach? Or what kind of moral education is that which says, "Do as I bid you, and I will give you sweet-meats or money, or I will tell your mama how good you were", holding out the lowest and most selfish propensities as the motives to moral conduct? Did space permit, I might indeed pursue the whole round of moral and religious duties, and ask similar questions at each. But it is needless. These examples will suffice; and I give them, not as applicable generally either to parents or teachers, but simply as individual instances from among both, which have come within the sphere of my own knowledge, and which bear directly upon the principle under discussion. --Andrew Combe, in "The Principles of Physiology", 1836.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2. --

  1. The end desired: "To behave wisely," etc.; consistency of conduct.
  2. The means employed: "When wilt thou come," etc.; only when God is with us we walk in a perfect way.
  3. The test proposed: "Within my house," where I am most myself and am best known.

--G.R.

Verse 2. -- The wisdom of holiness.

  1. In selecting our sphere of duty.
  2. In timing,: arranging, and balancing duties.
  3. In managing others according to their tempers.
  4. In avoiding disputes with adversaries.
  5. In administering rebuke, giving alms, rendering advice, etc.; the blending of the serpent with the dove.

Verse 2. -- O when wilt thou come unto me? A devout ejaculation.

  1. Revealing the psalmist's need of the divine presence in order to holiness.
  2. His intense longing.
  3. His full expectation.
  4. His the rough appreciation of the condescending visit.

Verse 2. (last clause) -- Home piety. Its duty, excellence, influence, sphere, and reward. Note also the change of heart and firmness of purpose necessary to it.