At the end of all these years the last page of this Commentary is printed, and the seventh preface is requested. The demand sounds strangely in my ears. A preface when the work is done? It can be only nominally a preface, for it is really a farewell. I beg to introduce my closing volume, and then to retire with many apologies for having trespassed so much upon my reader's patience.
A tinge of sadness is on my spirit as I quit "The Treasury of David," never to find on this earth a richer storehouse, though the whole palace of revelation is open to me. Blessed have been the days spent in meditating, mourning, hoping, believing, and exulting with David! Can I hope to spend hours more joyous on this side of the golden gate? Perhaps not; for the seasons have been very choice in which the harp of the great poet of the sanctuary has charmed my ears. Yet the training which has come of these heavenly contemplations may haply go far to create and sustain a peaceful spirit which will never be without its own happy psalmody, and never without aspirations after something higher than it yet has known. The Book of Psalms instructs us in the use of wings as well as words: it sets us both mounting and singing. Often have I ceased my commenting upon the text, that I might rise with the psalm, and gaze upon visions of God. If I may only hope that these volumes will be as useful to other hearts in the reading as to mine in the writing, I shall be well rewarded by the prospect.
The former volumes have enjoyed a singular popularity. It may be questioned if in any age a commentary so large, upon a single book of the Bible, has enjoyed a circulation within measurable distance of that which has been obtained by this work. Among all orders of Christians "The Treasury" has found its way unrestrained by sectarian prejudice - - another proof of the unity of the spiritual life, and the oneness of the food upon which it delights to feed. The author may not dare to be proud of the generous acknowledgments which he has received from men of all sections of the church; but, on the other hand, he cannot pass over them in ungrateful silence. Conscious as he is of his many literary sins of omission and of commission in these seven volumes, he is yet glad to have been permitted to do his best, and to have received abundant encouragement in the doing of it. Of all its good the glory is the Lord's; of all its weakness the unworthy author must bear the blame.
This last portion of the Psalms has not been the easiest part of my gigantic task. On the contrary, with the exception of The Songs of Degrees, and one or two other Psalms, these later hymns and hallelujahs have not been largely expounded, nor frequently referred to, by our great divines. Failing the English, a larger use has been made of the Latin authors; and my esteemed friend, W. DURBAN, B.A., has rendered me great service in their translation. It would astonish our readers if they could see what tomes have been read, what folios have been covered with translations, and in the end what tiny morsels have been culled from the vast mass for incorporation with this Treasury. Heaps of earth have been sifted and washed, and have yielded only here and there a little "dust of gold." No labour has been spared; no difficulty has been shirked. May the good Lord accept my service, and enrich his church by it this day, and when I am gathered to my fathers!
My friend and amanuensis, Mr. J. L. KEYS, has continued to search the British Museum and public Libraries for me; and to him and many other kind friends I owe many a quotation which else might have been overlooked. Of the extracts I am editor in chief, and not much more; for brethren such as Mr. HENSON, of Kingsgate Street, have at sundry times, of their own accord, sent me material more or less useful. In the homiletical department my obligations are exceedingly great, and are duly acknowledged under initials. My venerable friend the Rev. GEORGE ROGERS leads the way; but several other brethren, hailing from the Pastors' College, follow with almost equal steps. Thanks are hereby tendered to them all, and to the multitude of authors from whom I have gathered flowers and fruits, fragrant and nourishing.
And now the colossal work is done! To God be all glory. More than twenty years have glided away while this pleasant labour has been in the doing; but the wealth of mercy which has been lavished upon me during that time my grateful heart is unable to measure. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all those years, and made my heart to sing new psalms for new mercies. There is none like the God of Jeshurun. To him be all glory for ever and ever.
In these busy days, it would be greatly to the spiritual profit of Christian men if they were more familiar with the Book of Psalms, in which they would find a complete armoury for life's battles, and a perfect supply for life's needs. Here we have both delight and usefulness, consolation and instruction. For every condition there is a psalm, suitable and elevating. The Book supplies the babe in grace with penitent cries, and the perfected saint with triumphant songs. Its breadth of experience stretches from the jaws of hell to the gate of heaven. He who is acquainted with the marches of the Psalm country knows that the land floweth with milk and honey, and he delights to travel therein. To such I have aspired to be a helpful companion.
Reader, I beseech David's God to bless thee; and I pray thee, when it is well with thee, breathe a like prayer for
PSALM 125 OVERVIEW.
Title. -- A Song of Degrees. Another step is taken in the ascent, another station in the pilgrimage is reached: certainly a rise in the sense is here perceptible, since full assurance concerning years to come is a higher form of faith than the ascription of farther escapes to the Lord. Faith has praised Jehovah for past deliverances, and t, ere she rises to a confident jury in the present and future safety of believers. She asserts that they shall forever secure who trust themselves with the Lord. We can imagine the pilgrims chanting this song when perambulating the city walls.
We do not assert that David wrote this Psalm, but we have as much ground for doing so as others have for declaring that it was written after the captivity. It would seem provable that all the Pilgrim Psalms were composed, or, at least, compiled by the same writer, and as some of them are certainly by David, there is too conclusive reason for taking away the rest from him.
Verse 1. They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion. The emphasis lies upon the object of their trust, namely, Jehovah the Lord. What a privilege to be allowed to repose in God] How condescending is Jehovah to become the confidence of his people! To trust elsewhere is vanity; and the more implicit such misplaced trust becomes the more bitter will be the ensuing disappointment; but to trust in the living God is sanctified common sense which needs no excuse, its result shall be its best vindication. There is no conceivable reason why we should not trust in Jehovah, and there is every possible argument for so doing; but, apart from all argument, the end will prove the wisdom of the confidence. The result of faith is not occasional and accidental; its blessing comes, not to some who trust, but to all who trust in the Lord. Trusters in Jehovah shall be as fixed, firm, and stable as the mount where David dwelt, and where the ark abode. To move mount Zion was impossible: the mere supposition was absurd.
Which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. Zion was the image of eternal steadfastness, -- this hill which, according to the Hebrew, "sits to eternity," neither bowing down nor moving to and fro. Thus doth the trusting worshipper of Jehovah enjoy a restfulness which is the mirror of tranquillity; and this not without cause, for his hope is sure, and of his confidence he can never be ashamed. As the Lord sitteth King for ever, so do his people sit enthroned in perfect peace when their trust in him is firm. This is, and is to be our portion; we are, we have been, we shall be as steadfast as the hill of God. Zion cannot be removed, and does not remove; so the people of God can neither be moved passively nor actively, by force from without or fickleness from within. Faith in God is a settling and establishing virtue; he who by his strength setteth fast the mountains, by that same power stays the hearts of them that trust in him. This steadfastness will endure "for ever," and we may be assured therefore that no believer shall perish either in life or in death, in time or in eternity. We trust in an eternal God, and our safety shall be eternal.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. In the degrees of Christian virtue, this psalm represents the sixth step -- the confidence which the Christian places in the Lord. "It teacheth us, while we ascend and raise our minds unto the Lord our God in loving charity and piety, not to fix our gaze upon men who are prosperous in the world with a false happiness." (Augustine.) --H. T. Armfield, in "The Gradual Psalms", 1874.
Whole Psalm. This short psalm may be summed up in those words of the prophet (Isa 3:10-11), "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him." Thus are life and death, the blessing and the curse, set before us often in the psalms, as well as in the law and in the prophets. --Matthew Henry, 1662-1714.
Verse 1. They that trust in the LORD. Note how he commandeth no work here to be done, but only speaketh of trust, In popery in the time of trouble men were taught to enter into some kind of religion, to fast, to go on pilgrimage, and to do such other foolish works of devotion, which they devised as an high service unto God, and, thereby thought to make condign satisfaction for sin and to merit eternal life. But here the Psalmist leadeth us the plain way unto God, pronouncing this to be the chiefest anchor of our salvation, -- only to hope and trust in the Lord; and declaring that the greatest service that we can do unto God is to trust him. For this is the nature of God -- to create all things of nothing. Therefore he createth and bringeth forth in death, life; in darkness, light. Now to believe this is the essential nature and most special property of faith. When God then seeth such a one as agreeth with his own nature, that is, which believeth to find in danger help, in poverty riches, in sin righteousness, and that for God's own mercy's sake in Christ alone, him can God neither hate nor forsake. --Martin Luther (1483-1546), in "A Commentary on the Psalms of Degrees."
Verse 1. They that trust in the Lord. All that deal with God must deal upon trust, and he will give comfort to those only that give credit to him, and make it appear they do so by quitting other confidences, and venturing to the utmost for God. The closer our expectations are confined to God, the higher our expectations may be raised. -- Matthew Henry.
Verse 1. They that trust, etc. Trust, therefore, in the Lord, always, altogether, and for all things. --Robert Nisbet, in "The Songs of the Temple Pilgrims", 1863.
Verse 1. Shall be as mount Zion. Some persons are like the sand -- ever shifting and treacherous. See Matthew 7:26 . Some are like the sea -- restless and unsettled. See Isaiah 57:20 James 1:6 . Some are like the wind -- uncertain and inconstant. See Ephesians 4:14 . Believers are like a mountain -- strong, stable, and secure. To every soul that trusts him the Lord says, "Thou art Peter." --W. Hr. J. Page, of Chelsea, 1883.
Verse 1. As mount Zion, etc. Great is the stability of a believer's felicity. --John Trapp, 1601-1669.
Verse 1. Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, etc. Lieutenant Conder, reviewing Mr. Maudslay's important exploration, says, "It is especially valuable as showing that, however the masonry may have been destroyed and lost, we may yet hope to find indications of the ancient enceinte in the rock scarps which are imperishable." This is very true; for, while man can destroy what man has made, the everlasting hills smile at his rage. Yet who can hear of it without perceiving the force and sublimity of that glorious description of the immobility of believers.
"They that trust in Jehovah are as mount Zion,
Which shall not be moved, it abideth for ever."
--James Neil, in "Palestine Explored", 1882.
Verse 1. Cannot be removed, etc. They can never be removed from the Lord, though they may be removed from his house and ordinances, as sometimes David was; and from his gracious presence, and sensible communion with him; and out of the world by death: yet never from his heart's love, nor out of the covenant of his grace, which is sure and everlasting; nor out of his family, into which they are taken; nor from the Lord Jesus Christ, nor out of his hands and arms, nor from off his heart; nor from off him, as the foundation on which they are laid; nor out of a state of grace, either regeneration or justification; but such abide in the love of God, in the covenant of his grace, in the hands of his Son, in the grace wherein they stand, and in the house of God for evermore. -- John Gill, 1697-1771.
Verse 1. Abideth for ever. So surely as Mount Zion shall never be "removed", so surely shall the church of God be preserved. Is it not strange that wicked and idolatrous powers have not joined together, dug down this mount, and carried it into the sea, that they might nullify a promise in which the people of God exult! Till ye can carry Mount Zion into the Mediterranean Sea, the church of Christ shall grow and prevail. Hear this, yet murderous Mohammedans! --Adam Clarke, 1760-1832.
Verse 1. Abideth. Literally, sitteth; as spoken of a mountain, "lieth" or "is situated"; but here with the following forever, used in a still stronger sense. --J. J. Stewart Perowne, 1868.
Verse 1-2. -- That which is here promised the saints is a perpetual preservation of them in that condition wherein they are; both on the part of God, "he is round about them from henceforth even for ever"; and on their parts, they shall not be removed, -- that is, from the condition of acceptation with God wherein they are supposed to be, -- but they shall abide for ever, and continue therein immovable unto the end. This is a plain promise of their continuance in that condition wherein they are, with their safety from thence, and not a promise of some other good thing provided that they continue in that condition. Their being compared to mountains, and their stability, which consists in their being and continuing so, will admit no other sense. As mount Zion abides in its condition, so shall they; and as the mountains about Jerusalem continue, so doth the Lord continue his presence unto them.
That expression which is used, Psalms 125:2 , is weighty and full to this purpose, The LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. What can be spoken more fully, more pathetically? Can any expression of men so set forth the safety of the saints? The Lord is round about them, not to save them from this or that incursion, but from all; not from one or two evils, but from every one whereby they are or may be assaulted. He is with them, and round about them on every side that no evil shall come nigh them. It is a most full expression of universal preservation, or of God's keeping his saints in his love and favour, upon all accounts whatsoever; and that not for a season only, but it is "henceforth", from his giving this promise unto their souls in particular, and their receiving of it, throughout all generations, "even for ever." --John Owen, 1616-1683.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The mark of the covenant: "They that trust."
- The security of the covenant ( Psalms 125:1-2 ).
- The rod of the covenant ( Psalms 125:3 ).
- The tenor of the covenant ( Psalms 125:4 ).
- The spirit of the covenant, -- "peace."
Verse 1. See "Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 1,450: "The Immortality of the Believer."
- The believer's singularity: he trusts in Jehovah.
- The believer's stability: "abideth for ever."
- The believer's safety: "As the mountains", etc.