Psalm 119:158

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 158. I beheld the transgressors. I saw the traitors; I understood their character, their object, their way, and their end. I could not help seeing them, for they pushed themselves into my way. As I was obliged to see them I fixed my eyes on them, to learn what I could from them.

And was grieved. I was sorry to see such sinners. I was sick of them, disgusted with them, I could not endure them. I found no pleasure in them, they were a sad sight to me, however fine their clothing or witty their chattering. Even when they were most mirthful a sight of them made my heart heavy; I could not tolerate either them or their doings.

Because they kept not thy word. My grief was occasioned more by their sin against God than by their enmity against myself. I could bear their evil treatment of my words, but not their neglect of thy word. Thy word is so precious to me that those who will not keep it move me to indignation; I cannot keep the company of those who keep not God's word. That they should have no love for me is a trifle; but to despise the teaching of the Lord is abominable.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 158. -- I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved. Celerinus in Cyprian's Epistles, acquaints a friend with his great grief for the apostasy of a woman through fear of persecution; which afflicted him so much, that at the feast of Easter (the Queen of feasts in the primitive church) he wept night and day, and resolved never to know a moment's delight, till through the mercy of God she should be recovered. --Charles Bridges.

Verse 158. -- I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved. Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbours. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell: many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate they are lost for ever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? Do you not care who is damned, so you be saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace: should you not rather say, as the lepers of Samaria, is it not a day of glad tidings, and do we sit still and hold our peace 2 Kings 7:9 . Hath God had so much mercy on you, and will you have no mercy on your poor neighbours? You need not go far to find objects for your pity: look but into your streets, or into the next house to you, and you will probably find some. Have you never an ignorant, an unregenerate neighbour that sets his heart on things below, and neglects eternity? What blessed place do you live in, where there is none such? If there be not some of them in thine own family, it is well; and yet art thou silent? Dost thou live close by them, or meet them in the streets, or labour with them, or travel with them, or sit and talk with them, and say nothing to them of their souls, or the life to come? If their houses were on fire, thou wouldst run and help them; and wilt thou not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell? If thou knewest but a remedy for their diseases thou wouldst tell it them, or else thou wouldst judge thyself guilty of their death. --Richard Baxter (1615--1691), in "The Saints' Everlasting Rest."

Verse 158. -- Grieved, because they kept not thy law. I never thought the world had been so wicked, when the Gospel began, as now I see it is; I rather hoped that every one would have leaped for joy to have found himself freed from the filth of the Pope, from his lamentable molestations of poor troubled consciences, and that through Christ they would by faith obtain the celestial treasure they sought after before with such vast cost and labour, though in vain. And especially I thought the bishops and universities would with joy of heart have received the true doctrines; but I have been lamentably deceived. Moses and Jeremiah, too, complained they had been deceived. --Martin Luther.

Verse 158. -- Grieved. The word that is here translated "grieved" is from "katat", that signifies to loathe, abhor, and contend. I beheld the transgressors, and I loathed them; I beheld the transgressors, and I abhorred them; I beheld the transgressors, and I contended with them; but not so much because they were mine enemies, as because they were thine. --Thomas Brooks.

Verse 158. -- The day when I first met Colonel Gardiner at Leicester, I happened to preach a lecture from Psalms 114:158 : "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word." I was large in describing that mixture of indignation and grief, strongly expressed by the original word there, with which a good man looks on the varying transgressors of the divine law; and in tracing the causes of that grief, as arising, from a regard to the divine honour, and the interest of a Redeemer, and a compassionate concern for the misery such offenders bring on themselves, and for the mischief they do to the world about them. I little thought how exactly I was drawing Colonel Gardiner's character under each of those heads; and I have often reflected upon it as a happy providence, which opened a much speedier way than I could have expected, to the breast of one of the most amiable and useful friends which I ever expect to find upon earth. We afterwards sung a hymn, which brought over again some of the leading thoughts in the sermon, and struck him so strongly, that on obtaining a copy of it, he committed it to his memory, and used to repeat it with so forcible an accent, as showed how much every line expressed of his very soul. In this view the reader will pardon my inserting it; especially as I know not when I may get time to publish a volume of these serious though artless compositions, which I sent him in manuscript some years ago, and to which I have since made very large additions: --

Arise, my tenderest thoughts, arise,
To torrents melt my streaming eyes;
And thou, my heart, with anguish feel
Those evils which thou canst not heal.
See human nature sunk in shame;
See scandals pour'd on Jesus' name;
The Father wounded through the Son;
The world abused, and souls undone.
See the short course of vain delight
Closing in everlasting night;
In flames that no abatement know,
Though briny tears for ever flow.
My God, I feel the mournful scene;
My bowels yearn o'er dying men,
And fain my pity would reclaim,
And snatch the firebrands from the flame.
But feeble my compassion proves,
And can but weep where most it loves;
Thy own all saving arm employ,
And turn these drops of grief to joy.
--Philip Doddridge, in "The Life of Colonel Garainer."

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 158. -- A grievous sight.

  1. Transgressors beyond God's bounds.
  2. Bounds so kindly set: "thy word."
  3. Transgressions so wantonly ungrateful, so terribly dangerous, so fatal.

Verse 158. -- Sorrow over sinners.

  1. A sight we cannot avoid seeing.
  2. A sorrow we ought not to avoid feeling. (See Lot: 2 Peter 2:7 2 Peter 2:8 . Moses: Deuteronomy 9:18 Deuteronomy 9:19 . Samuel: 1 Samuel 15:11 Jeremiah 9:1 . Paul: Philemon 3:18 . Christ: Luke 19:41 ).
  • A reason we will not avoid endorsing.

    Verse 158. -- A righteous man cannot but be grieved at the sins of the wicked. He sees in them, --

    1. The violation of the divine law which he loves.
    2. Ungrateful rebellion against the God he worships.
    3. Contempt for the gospel of salvation and the blood of Christ.
    4. The dominion of Satan, the enemy of his God.
    5. The degradation of souls which might have been sacred temples.
    6. Prophetic signs of an awful, everlasting retribution.

    --J.F.