Verse 11. I said in my haste, All men are liars. In a modified sense the expression will bear justification, even though hastily uttered, for all men will prove to be liars if we unduly trust in them; some from want of truthfulness, and others from want of power. But from the expression, "I said in my haste," it is clear that the Psalmist did not justify his own language, but considered it as the ebullition of a hasty temper. In the sense in which he spoke his language was unjustifiable. He had no right to distrust all men, for many of them are honest, truthful, and conscientious; there are faithful friends and loyal adherents yet alive; and if sometimes they disappoint us, we ought not to call them liars for failing when the failure arises entirely from want of power, and not from lack of will. Under great affliction our temptation will be to form hasty judgments of our fellow men, and knowing this to be the case we ought carefully to watch our spirit, and to keep the door of our lips. The Psalmist had believed, and therefore he spoke; he had doubted, and therefore he spoke in haste. He believed, and therefore he rightly prayed to God; he disbelieved, and therefore he wrongfully accused mankind. Speaking is as ill in some cases as it is good in others. Speaking in haste is generally followed by bitter repentance. It is much better to be quiet when our spirit is disturbed and hasty, for it is so much easier to say than to unsay; we may repent of our words, but we cannot so recall them as to undo the mischief they have done. If even David had to eat his own words, when he spoke in a hurry, none of us can trust our tongue without a bridle.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 11. I said in my haste, All men are liars, Rather, in an ecstasy of despair, I said, the whole race of man is a delusion. Samuel Horsley.
Verse 11. All men are liars. That is to say, every man who speaks in the ordinary manner of men concerning happiness, and sets great value on the frail and perishable things of this world, is a liar; for true and solid happiness is not to be found in the country of the living. This explanation solves the sophism proposed by St. Basil. If every man be a liar, then David was a liar; therefore he lies when he says, every man is a liar -- thus contradicting himself, and destroying his own position. This is answered easily; for when David spoke he did so not as man, but from an Inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Robert Bellantoine.
Verse 11. All men are liars. Juvenal said, "Dare to do something worthy of transportation and imprisonment, if you mean to be of consequence. Honesty is praised, but starves." A pamphlet was published some time ago with the title, "Whom shall we hang?" A very appropriate one might now be written with a slight change in the title -- "Whom shall we trust?" From "A New Dictionary of Quotations," 1872.
Verse 11-15. It seems that to give the lie was not so heinous an offence in David's time as it is in these days; for else how durst he have spoken such words, That all men are liars, which is no less than to give the lie to the whole world? and yet no man, I think, will challenge him for saying so; no more than challenge St. John for saying that all men are sinners, and indeed how should any man avoid being a liar, seeing the very being of man is itself a lie? not only is it a vanity, and put in the balance less than vanity; but a very lie, promising great matters, and able to do just nothing, as Christ saith, "without me ye can do nothing": and so Christ seems to come in, to be David's second, and to make his word good, that all men are liars. And now let the world do its worst, and take the lie how it will, for David having Christ on his side, will always be able to make his part good against all the world, for Christ hath overcome the world.
But though all men may be said to be liars, yet not all men in all things; for then David himself should be a liar in this: but all men perhaps in something or other, at some time or other, in some kind or other. Absolute truth is not found in any man, but in that man only who was not man only; for if he had been but so, it had not perhaps been found in him neither, seeing absolute truth and deity are as relatives, never found to be asunder.
But in what thing is it that all men should be liars? Indeed, in this for one; to think that God regards not, and loves not them whom he suffers to be afflicted; for we may rather think he loves them most whom he suffers to be most afflicted; and we may truly say he would never have suffered his servant Job to be afflicted so exceeding cruelly, if he had not loved him exceeding tenderly; for there is nothing lost by suffering afflictions. No, my soul, they do but serve to make up the greater weight of glory, when it shall be revealed.
But let God's afflictions be what they can be, yet I will always acknowledge they can never be in any degree so great as his benefits: and oh, that I could think of something that I might render to him for all his benefits: for shall I receive such great, such infinite benefits from him, and shall I render nothing to him by way of gratefulness? But, alas, what have I to render? All my rendering to him will be but taking more from him: for all I can do is but to take the cup of salvation, and call upon his name, and what rendering is there in this taking? If I could take the cup of tribulation, and drink it off for his sake, this might be a rendering of some value; but this, God knows, is no work for me to do. It was his work, who said, "Can ye drink of the cup, of which I shall drink?" Indeed, he drank of the cup of tribulation, to the end that we might take the cup of salvation; but then in taking it we must call upon his name; upon his name and upon no other; for else we shall make it a cup of condemnation, seeing there is no name under heaven, in which we may be saved, but only the name of Jesus.
Yet it may be some rendering to the Lord if I pay my vows, and do, as it were, my penance openly; I will therefore pay my vows to the Lord, in the presence of all his people. But might he not pay his vows as well in his closet, between God and himself, as to do it publicly? No, my soul, it serves not his turn, but he must pay them in the presence of all his people; yet not to the end he should be applauded for a just payer; for though he pay them, yet he can never pay them to the full; but to the end, that men seeing his good works, may glorify God by his example. And the rather perhaps, for that David was a king, and the king's example prevails much with the people, to make them pay their vows to God: but most of all, that by this means David's piety may not be barren, but may make a breed of piety in the people also: which may be one mystical reason why it was counted a curse in Israel to be barren; for he that pays not his vows to God in the presence of his people may well be said to be barren in Israel, seeing he begets no children to God by his example. And perhaps, also, the vows which David means here were the doing of some mean things, unfit in show for the dignity of a king; as when it was thought a base thing in him to dance before the ark; he then vowed he would be baser yet: and in this case, to pay his vows before the people becomes a matter of necessity: for as there is no honour to a man whilst he is by himself alone, so there is no shame to a man but before the people: and therefore to shew that he is not ashamed to do any thing how mean soever, so it may tend to the glorifying of God; "he will pay his vows in the presence of all his people." And he will do it though it cost him his life, for if he die for it he knows that Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. But that which is precious is commonly desired: and doth God then desire the death of his saints? He desires, no doubt, that death of his saints which is to die to sin: but for any other death of his saints, it is therefore said to be precious in his sight, because he lays it up with the greater carefulness. And for this it is there are such several mansions in God's house, that to them whose death is precious in his sight he may assign the most glorious mansions. This indeed is the reward of martyrdom, and the encouragement of martyrs, though their sufferings be most insufferable, their troubles most intolerable; yet this makes amends for all; that "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." For if it be so great a happiness to be acceptable in his sight, how great a happiness must it be to be precious in his sight? When God, at the creation looked upon all his works, it is said he saw them to be all exceeding good: but it is not said that any of them were precious in his sight. How then comes death to be precious in his sight, that was none of his works, but is a destroyer of his works? Is it possible that a thing which destroys his creatures should have a title of more value in his sight, than his creatures themselves? O, my soul, this is one of the miracles of his saints, and perhaps one of those which Christ meant, when he said to his apostles, that greater miracles than he did they should do themselves: for what greater miracle than this, that death, which of itself is a thing most vile in the sight of God, yet once embraced by his saints, as it were by their touch only, becomes precious in his sight? To alter a thing from being vile to be precious, is it not a greater miracle than to turn water into wine? Indeed so it is; death doth not damnify his saints, but his saints do dignify death. Death takes nothing away from his saints' happiness, but his saints add lustre to death's vileness. It is happy for death that ever it met with any of God's saints; for there was no way for it else in the world, to be ever had in any account: but why say I, in the world? For it is of no account in the world for all this: it is but only in the sight of God; but indeed this only is all in all; for to be precious in God's sight is more to be prized than the world itself. For when the world shall pass away, and all the glory of it be laid in the dust; then shall trophies be erected for the death of his saints: and when all monuments of the world shall be utterly defaced, and all records quite rased out; yet the death of his saints shall stand registered still, in fair red letters in the calendar of heaven. If there be glory laid up for them that die in the Lord; much more shall they be glorified that die for the Lord.
I have wondered oftentimes, why God will suffer his saints to die; I mean not the death natural, for I know statutum est omnibus semel mori; but the death that is by violence, and with torture: for who could endure to see them he loves so cruelly handled? But now I see the reason of it; for, Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. And what marvel then if he suffer his saints to die; when by dying they are wrought, and made fit jewels to be set in his cabinet; for as God has a bottle which he fills up with the tears of his saints, so I may say he hath a cabinet which he decks up with the deaths of his saints: and, O my soul, if thou couldest but comprehend what a glory it is to serve for a jewel in the decking up of God's cabinet, thou wouldest never wonder why he suffers his saints to be put to death, though with never so great torments, for it is but the same which Saint Paul saith: "The afflictions of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed." Sir Richard Baker.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 11. A hasty speech.
- There was much truth in it.
- It erred on the right side, for it showed faith in God rather than in the creature.
- It did err in being too sweeping, too severe, too suspicious.
- It was soon cured. The remedy for all such hasty speeches is -- Get to work in the spirit of Psalms 116:12 .