Psalm 12:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour. They utter that which is vain to hear, because of its frivolous, foolish, want of worth; vain to believe, because it was false and lying; vain to trust to, since it was deceitful and flattering; vain to regard, for it lifted up the hearer, filling him with proud conceit of himself. It is a sad thing when it is the fashion to talk vanity. "Call me, and I will call thee." is the old Scotch proverb; give me a high sounding character, and I will give you one. Compliments and fawning congratulations are hateful to honest men; they know that if they take they must give them, and they scorn to do either. These accommodation bills are most admired by those who are bankrupt in character. Bad are the times when every man thus cajoles and cozens his neighbour.

With flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. He who puffs up another's heart, has nothing better than wind in his own. If a man extols me to my face, he only shows me one side of his heart, and the other is black with contempt for me, or foul with intent to cheat me. Flattery is the sign of the tavern where duplicity is the host. The Chinese consider a man of two hearts to be a very base man, and we shall be safe in reckoning all flatteries to be such.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 1-2,. 4. See Psalms on "Psalms 11:1" for further information.

Verse 2. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The feigned zeal is just like a waterman, that looks one way and rows another way; for this man pretends one thing and intends another thing; as Jehu pretended the zeal of God's glory, but his aim was at his master's kingdom; and his zeal to God's service was but to bring him to the sceptre of the kingdom. So Demetrius professed great love unto Diana, but his drift was to maintain the honour of his profession; and so we have too many that make great show of holiness, and yet their hearts aim at other ends; but they may be sure, though they can deceive the world and destroy themselves, yet not God, who knoweth the secrets of all hearts. Gr. Williams, 1636.

Verse 2. They speak vanity. --

Faithless is earth, and faithless are the skies! Justice is fled, and truth is now no more!
Virgil's Aneid, IV. 373.

Verse 2. With a double heart. Man is nothing but insincerity, falsehood, and hypocrisy, both in regard to himself and in regard to others. He does not wish that he should be told the truth, he shuns saying it to others; and all these moods, so inconsistent with justice and reason, have their roots in his heart. Blaise Pascal.

Verse 2. With flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. There is no such stuff to make a cloak of as religion; nothing so fashionable, nothing so profitable: it is a livery wherein a wise man may serve two masters, God and the world, and make a gainful service by either. I serve both, and in both myself, by prevaricating with both. Before man none serves his God with more devotion; for which, among the best of men, I work my own ends, and serve myself. In private, I serve the world; not with so strict devotion, but with more delight; where fulfilling of her servants' lusts, I work my end and serve myself. The house of prayer who more frequents than I? In all Christian duties who more forward than I? I fast with those who fast, that I may eat with those that eat. I mourn with those that mourn. No hand more open to the cause than mine, and in their families none prays longer and with louder zeal. Thus when the opinion of a holy life hath cried the goodness of my conscience up, my trade can lack no custom, my wares can want no price, my words can need no credit, my actions can lack no praise. If I am covetous, it is interpreted providence; if miserable, it is counted temperance; if melancholy, it is construed godly sorrow; if merry, it is voted spiritual joy; if I be rich, it is thought the blessing of a godly life; if poor, supposed the fruit of conscionable dealing; if I be well spoken of, it is the merit of holy conversation; if ill, it is the malice of malignants. Thus I sail with every wind, and have my end in all conditions. This cloak in summer keeps me cool, in winter warm, and hides the nasty bag of all my secret lusts. Under this cloak I walk in public fairly with applause, and in private sin securely without offence, and officiate wisely without discovery. I compass sea and land to make a proselyte; and no sooner made, but he makes me. At a fast I cry Geneva, and at a feast I cry Rome. If I be poor, I counterfeit abundance to save my credit; if rich, I dissemble poverty to save charges. I most frequent schismatic lectures, which I find most profitable; from thence learning to divulge and maintain new doctrines; they maintain me in suppers thrice a week. I use the help of a lie sometimes, as a new stratagem to uphold the gospel; and I colour oppression with God's judgments executed upon the wicked. Charity I hold an extraordinary duty, therefore not ordinarily to be performed. What I openly reprove abroad, for my own profit, that I secretly act at home, for my own pleasure. But stay, I see a handwriting in my heart which damps my soul. It is characterized in these sad words, "Woe be to you, hypocrites." Matthew 23:13 . Francis Quarle's "Hypocrite's Soliloquy."

Verse 2. With flattering lips, etc. The world indeed says that society could not exist if there were perfect truthfulness and candour between man and man; and that the world's propriety would be as much disturbed if every man said what he pleased, as it was in those days of Israelitish history, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes. The world is assuredly the best judge of its own condition and mode of government, and therefore I will not say what a libel does such a remark contain, but oh, what a picture does it present of the social edifice, that its walls can be cemented and kept together only by flattery and falsehood! Barton Bouchier.

Verse 2. Flattering lips. The philosopher Bion being asked what animal he though the most hurtful, replied, "That of wild creatures a tyrant, and of tame ones a flatterer." The flatterer is the most dangerous enemy we can have. Raleigh, himself a courtier, and therefore initiated into the whole art of flattery, who discovered in his own career and fate its dangerous and deceptive power, its deep artifice and deeper falsehood, says, "A flatterer is said to be a beast that biteth smiling. But it is hard to know them from friends -- they are so obsequious and full of protestations: for as a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend." The Book of Symbols, 1844.

Verse 2. They speak with a double heart. The original is, "A heart and a heart:" one for the church, another for the change; one for Sundays, another for working days; one for the king, another for the pope. A man without a heart is a wonder, but a man with two hearts is a monster. It is said of Judas, "There were many hearts in one man;" and we read of the saints, "There was one heart in many men." Acts 4:32 . Dabo illis cor unum; a special blessing. Thomas Adams.

Verse 2. When men cease to be faithful to their God, he who expects to find them so to each other, will be much disappointed. The primitive sincerity will accompany the primitive piety in her flight from the earth; and then interest will succeed conscience in the regulation of human conduct, till one man cannot trust another farther than he holds him by that tie. Hence, by the way, it is, that though many are infidels themselves, yet few choose to have their families and dependents such; as judging, and rightly judging, that true Christians are the only persons to be depended on for the exact discharge of social duties. George Horne.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2. (first clause). A discourse upon the prevalence and perniciousness of vain talk.

Verse 2. The whole verse. Connection between flattery and treachery.

Verse 2. A double heart. Right and wrong kinds of hearts, and the disease of duplicity.