Verse 14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. Some read it "the friendship:" it signifies familiar intercourse, confidential intimacy, and select fellowship. This is a great secret. Carnal minds cannot guess what is intended by it, and even believers cannot explain it in words, for it must be felt to be known. The higher spiritual life is necessarily a path which the eagle's eye hath not known, and which the lion's whelp has not travelled; neither natural wisdom nor strength can force a door into this inner chamber. Saints have the key of heaven's hieroglyphics; they can unriddle celestial enigmas. They are initiated into the fellowship of the skies; they have heard words which it is not possible for them to repeat to their fellows. And he will shew them his covenant. Its antiquity, security, righteousness, fulness, graciousness and excellence, shall be revealed to their hearts and understandings, and above all, their own part in it shall be sealed to their souls by the witness of the Holy Spirit. The designs of love which the Lord has to his people in the covenant of grace, he has been pleased to show to believers in the Book of Inspiration, and by his Spirit he leads us into the mystery, even the hidden mystery of redemption. He who does not know the meaning of this verse, will never learn it from a commentary; let him look to the cross, for the secret lies there.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, etc. It is the righteous that is God's friend, it is to him that God is joined in a loving familiarity, it is to him that God revealeth his secret, telling him what misery and torments he hath reserved for them who by wickedness flourish in this world. And indeed the Lord doth not more hate the wicked than he loves the godly: if he keeps far from the froward, as being an abomination unto him, his very secret shall be with the righteous, as with his dearest friend. It is an honour to him to whom a secret is committed by another, a greater honour to him to whom the king shall commit his own secret; but how is he honoured to whom God committed his secret? for where the secret of God is, there is his heart and there is himself. Thus was his secret with St. John, of whom St. Bernard saith, by occasion of the beginning of his gospel, "Doth he not seem unto thee to have dived into the bowels of the divine Word, and from the secrets of his breast, to have drawn a sacred pith of concealed wisdom?" Thus was his secret with St. Paul, who saith, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which none of the princes of this world knew." 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 . St. Gregory reads, for the secret of God, as the Vulgar Latin doth, sermocinatio Dei, the communication of God is with the righteous; but then addeth, Dei sermocinari est per illustrationem suae praesentiae humanis mentibus arcana revelare, God's communication is, by the illustration of his presence, to reveal secrets to the minds of men. But to consider the words somewhat more generally. There is no less a secret of godliness, than there is of any other trade or profession. Many profess am art or a trade, but thrive not by it, because they have not the secret and mystery of it; and many profess godliness, but are little the better for it, because they have not the true secret of it: he hath that, with whom God is in secret in his heart; and he that is righteous in secret, where no man sees him, he is the righteous man with whom the secret of the Lord is. Michael Jermin, D.D., 1591-1659.
Verse 14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, etc. There is a vital sense in which "the natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God;" and in which all the realities of Christian experience are utterly hid from his perceptions. To speak to him of communion with God, of the sense of pardon, of the lively expectation of heaven, of the witness of the Holy Ghost, of the struggles of the spiritual life, would be like reasoning with a blind man about colours, or with one deaf about musical harmony. John Morison.
Verse 14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, etc. Albeit the Lord's covenant with the visible church be open, and plain in itself to all men in all the articles thereof, yet it is a mystery to know the inward sweet fellowship which a soul may have with God by virtue of this covenant; and a man fearing God shall know this mystery, when such as are covenanters only in the letter do remain ignorant thereof; for to the fearers of God only is this promise made -- that to them the Lord will show his covenant. David Dickson.
Verse 14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. The gospel, though published to all the world, yet it is entitled a mystery, and a mystery hid, for none know it but the saints, who are taught of God, and are his scholars. John 6:45 . That place shows that there must be a secret teaching by God, and a secret learning. "If they have heard, and been taught of God." Now God teacheth none but saints, for all that are so taught come unto him: "Every one who hath heard, and learned of the Father, cometh unto me." Aye, but you will say, Do not many carnal men know the gospel, and discourse of things in it, through strength of learning, etc? I answer out of the text Colossians 1:26-27 , that though they may know the things which the gospel reveals, yet not the riches and glory of them, that same rich knowledge spoken of in the word, they want, and therefore know them not; as a child and a jeweller looking upon a pearl, both look upon it, and call it by the same name; but the child yet knows it not as a pearl in the worth and riches of it as the jeweller doth, and therefore cannot be said to know it. Now in Matthew 13:45 , a Christian only is likened to a merchantman, that finds a pearl of great price, that is, discovered to be so, and sells all he hath for it, for he knows the worth of it. But you will say, Do not carnal men know the worth of the things in the gospel, and can they not discourse of the rich grace of Christ, and of his worth? I answer, yes, as a man who hath gotten an inventory by heart, and the prices also, and so may know it; yet never was he led into the exchequer and treasury, to see all the jewels themselves, the wardrobe of grace, and Christ's righteousness, to see the glory of them; for these are all "spiritually discerned," as the apostle says expressly, 1 Corinthians 2:14 . Thomas Goodwin.
Verse 14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. The truth and sincerity of God to his people appears in the openness and plainness of his heart to them. A friend that is close and reserved, deservedly comes under a cloud in the thoughts of his friends; but he who carries, as it were, a window of crystal in his breast, through which his friend may read what thoughts are writ in his very heart, delivers himself from the least suspicion of unfaithfulness. Truly, thus open hearted is God to his saints: "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." He gives us his key, that will let us into his very heart, and acquaint us what his thoughts are, yea, were, towards us, before a stone was laid in the world's foundation; and this is no other than his Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 , "One who knows the deep things of God;" for he was at the council table in heaven, where all was transacted. This, his Spirit, he employed to put forth and publish in the Scriptures, indited by him, the substance of those counsels of love which had passed between the Trinity of Persons for our salvation; and that nothing may be wanting for our satisfaction, he hath appointed the same Holy Spirit to abide in his saints, that as Christ in heaven presents our desires to him, so he may interpret his mind out of his word to us; which word answers the heart of God, as face answers face in the glass. William Gurnall.
Verse 14. The secret of the Lord. This "secret" is called a secret three ways.
- Secret to the eye of sole nature, and thus it is not meant; for so the grace of Christ is a secret only to heathens and such as are blind as they, for common Christians know it -- the rind of it.
- Secret to the eye of taught nature, nor thus is it meant; for so the grace of Christ is a secret only to the ignorant sort of Christians; many carnal gospellers that sit under a good ministry know it and the bark of it.
- Secret to the eye of enlightened nature, and thus it is meant; for so the grace of Christ is a secret to all unsanctified professors, whether learned or unlearned, namely, the pith of it; for though great doctors and profound clerks, and deep studied divines unconverted, know the doctrine of grace, and the truth of grace; though they can dispute of grace and talk of the glory of grace, yea, and taste a little the good word of grace, yea, and understand it generally, it may be as well as St. Paul and St. Peter, as Judas did, yet the special and the spiritual knowledge thereof, for all their dogmatical illumination, is a secret unto them. William Fenner.
Verse 14. The secret. Arminius and his company ransack all God's secrets, divulge and communicate them to the seed of the woman, and of the serpent all alike; they make God's eternal love of election no secret, but a vulgar idea; they make the mystery of Christ, and him crucified, no secret, but like an apothecary's drug, catholical; they make the especial grace of God no secret, but a common quality; faith no secret, but a general virtue; repentance and the new creature no secret, but an universal gift; no secret favour to St. Peter, but make God a party ante, not to love St. Peter more than Judas; no secret intent to any one person more than another; but that Christ might have died for all him, and never a man saved; no secret working of the Lord in any more than other; but for anything that either God the Father hath done by creating, God the Son by redeeming, or God the Holy Ghost by sanctifying, all the world were left to their scrambling -- take it if you will, if you will not, refuse. They say God would have men to be saved, but that he will not work it for his own part, rather for this man or that man determinatively that he be saved. William Fenner.
Verse 14. He will shew them his covenant, or and he will make them to know (for the infinitive is here thought to be put for the future tense of the indicative, as it is in Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 Ecclesiastes 3:18 Hosea 9:13 12:3, his covenant, i.e.,) he will make them clearly understand it, both its duties or conditions, and its blessings or privileges; neither of which ungodly men rightly understand. Or, he will make them to know it by experience, or by God's making it good to them; as, on the contrary, God threatens to make ungodly men to know his breach of promise. Numbers 14:34 . Or, as it is in the margins of our Bibles, and his covenant, (is i.e., he hath engaged himself by his promise or covenant) to make them know it, to wit, his secret, i.e., that he will manifest either his word or his favour to them. Matthew Poole.
Verse 14. It is neither learning nor labour than can give insight into God's secrets, those Arcana imperii, "The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven." Mt 13:11. "The mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:16 . These things come by revelation rather than by discourse of reason, and must therefore be obtained by prayer. Those that diligently seek him shall be of his Cabinet Council, shall know his soul secrets, and be admitted into a gracious familiarity and friendship. "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." John 15:15 . John Trapp.
Verse 14. Walking with God is the best way to know the mind of God; friends who walk together impart their secrets one to another: "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." Noah walked with God, and the Lord revealed a great secret to him, of destroying the old world, and having him in the ark. Abraham walked with God, and God made him one of his privy council: "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" Genesis 24:40 18:17. God doth sometimes sweetly unbosom himself to the soul in prayer, and in the holy supper, as Christ made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Luke 24:35 . Thomas Watson.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- A secret, and who know it.
- A wonder, and who see it.