This volume completes one half of my labour upon this priceless book, and my humble prayer is that I may be spared to conclude the other portion. So uncertain is human life, and so often have men's best designs remained unfinished, that I will press on with all diligence, lest, perhaps, the lamp of life should go out ere the writer has seen by its light the word FINIS at the conclusion of the last verse.
This volume has cost more labour than any other, because upon the larger proportion of the Psalms contained in it no great writers have expatiated at length. Some six or seven of them are specially notable, and have, therefore, been expounded and preached upon on all hands, but the rest remain almost untrodden ground in sacred literature, hence the gathering of extracts has required a wider range of reading and far more laborious research. Where one author writes upon a portion of Scripture, all write, while other passages remain almost untouched. This has driven me very much more to the Latin authors, and in them to a vein of exposition very little worked in these days. The neglect of these voluminous expositors is, however, not very censurable, for as a rule the authors are rather heavy than weighty. "Art is long and life is short", hence I found myself unequal to the unaided accomplishment of my task, and I have had to call in the aid of my excellent friend Mr. Gracey, the accomplished classical tutor of "the Pastors' College", to assist me in the work of winnowing the enormous heaps of Latin comments. Huge folios, full of dreary word spinning, yield here and there a few goodly grains, and these, I trust, will be valuable enough to my readers to repay my coadjutor and myself for our pains. For the selection of extracts I alone am responsible, for the accuracy of the translations we are jointly accountable. The reader will note that not without much expense of money, as well as toil, he has here furnished to his hand the pith of Venema, Le Blanc, Lorinus, Gerhohus, Musculus, Martin Geier, Mollerus, and Simon de Muis; with occasional notes from Vitringa, Jansenius, Savonarola, Vatablus, Turrecremata, Marloratus, Palanterius, Theodoret, and others, as they were judged worthy of insertion. I can truly say that I have never flinched from a difficulty, or spared exertion in order to make the work as complete as it lay in my power to render it, either by my own endeavours or the help of others. My faithful amanuensis, Mr. Keys, has been spared to me, and has been a continual visitor at the British Museum, Lambeth Palace, Dr. Williams' Museum, and Sion College; and many have been the courtesies which, despite differences of creed, I have received in his person from those who are in authority in those treasures of literature; for all which I would now record my hearty thanks.
No object has been before me but that of serving the church and glorifying God by doing this work right thoroughly. I cannot hope to be remunerated pecuniarily; if only the bare outlay be met I shall be well content, the rest is an offering to the best of Masters, whose word is meat and drink to those who study it. The enjoyment of the work is more than sufficient reward, and the hope of helping my brethren in their biblical studies is very sweet to me.
The late increase of wages to printers, and the rise both in paper and binding, may compel an advance in the very low price charged for these volumes hitherto, but this shall not be made unless it becomes absolutely necessary to screen me from loss. As a larger sale will secure a return of my outlay, the matter is mainly in the hands of the public. Volume 1 being now in the third edition, and the second edition of Volume 2 being upon the press, I am led to hope that the present volume will also meet with a large and rapid sale; and if so, the old price may suffice to cover the outlay.
My venerable friend, Mr. George Rogers, has furnished me with many hints for the notes to village preachers, and it is hoped that this portion of the work has been so improved that it will not be the least useful part of it. Testimonies received lead to the belief that in the two former volumes numerous students have found help in that department.
There is no need to multiply words in this preface, but it is incumbent upon me to bless the Lord for help given, help daily and hourly sought while I have been occupied in this service; and it is also on my heart to ask a favourable mention of my volumes among their friends from those who kindly appreciate them.
Clapham, March, 1872.
PSALM 53 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician. If the leader of the choir is privileged to sing the jubilates of divine grace, he must not disdain to chant the miseries of human depravity. This is the second time he has had the same Psalm entrusted to him (see Psalm 14.), and he must, therefore, be the more careful in singing it. Upon Mahalath. Here the tune is chosen for the musician, probably some mournfully solemn air; or perhaps a musical instrument is here indicated, and the master of the choir is requested to make it the prominent instrument in the orchestra; at any rate, this is a direction not found in the former copy of the Psalm, and seems to call for greater care. The word "Mahalath" appears to signify, in some forms of it, "disease," and truly this Psalm is THE SONG OF MAN'S DISEASE-- the mortal, hereditary taint of sin. Maschil. This is a second additional note not found in Psalm 14, indicating that double attention is to be given to this most instructive song. A Psalm of David. It is not a copy of the fourteenth Psalm, emended and revised by a foreign hand; it is another edition by the same author, emphasised in certain parts, and rewritten for another purpose.
Subject. The evil nature of man is here brought before our view a second time, in almost the same inspired words. All repetitions are not vain repetitions. We are slow to learn, and need line upon line. David after a long life, found men no better than they were in his youth. Holy Writ never repeats itself needlessly, there is good cause for the second copy of this Psalm; let us read it with more profound attention than before. If our age has advanced from fourteen to fifty-three, we shall find the doctrine of this Psalm more evident than in our youth.
The reader is requested to peruse Psalm 14, "Treasury of David," Vol.
Verse 1. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. And this he does because he is a fool. Being a fool he speaks according to his nature; being a great fool he meddles with a great subject, and comes to a wild conclusion. The atheist is, morally as well as mentally, a fool, a fool in the heart as well as in the head; a fool in morals as well as in philosophy. With the denial of God as a starting point, we may well conclude that the fool's progress is a rapid, riotous, raving, ruinous one. He who begins at impiety is ready for anything.
No God, being interpreted, means no law, no order, no restraint to lust, no limit to passion. Who but a fool would be of this mind? What a Bedlam, or rather what an Aceldama, would the world become if such lawless principles came to be universal! He who heartily entertains an irreligious spirit, and follows it out to its legitimate issues is a son of Belial, dangerous to the commonwealth, irrational, and despicable. Every natural man is, more or less a denier of God. Practical atheism is the religion of the race.
Corrupt are they. They are rotten. It is idle to compliment them as sincere doubters, and amiable thinkers -- they are putrid. There is too much dainty dealing nowadays with atheism; it is not a harmless error, it is an offensive, putrid sin, and righteous men should look upon it in that light. All men being more or less atheistic in spirit, are also in that degree corrupt; their heart is foul, their moral nature is decayed.
And have done abominable iniquity. Bad principles soon lead to bad lives. One does not find virtue promoted by the example of your Voltaires and Tom Paines. Those who talk so abominably as to deny their Maker will act abominably when it serves their turn. It is the abounding denial and forgetfulness of God among men which is the source of the unrighteousness and crime which we see around us. If all men are not outwardly vicious it is to be accounted for by the power of other and better principles, but left to itself the "No God" spirit so universal in mankind would produce nothing but the most loathsome actions.
There is none that doeth good. The one typical fool is reproduced in the whole race; without a single exception men have forgotten the right way. This accusation twice made in the Psalm, and repeated a third time by the inspired apostle Paul, is an indictment most solemn and sweeping, but he who makes it cannot err, he knows what is in man; neither will he lay more to man's charge than he can prove.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Probably the two Psalms refer to different periods; the fourteenth to the earlier portion of the world, or of Jewish history; the fifty-third to a later, perhaps a still future time. Jehovah, through Christ, is frequently said to turn to the world to see what its condition is, and always with the same result. "All flesh had corrupted its way" in the days of Noah, and, "when the Son of Man cometh" again, it is intimated that he will scarcely "find faith on the earth." The two Psalms also apply to different persons. The former refers to the enemies of God, who tremble when his presence is made known; they are in great fear, because vengeance is about to be inflicted on them for their sins. Here the Supreme Being is called Jehovah. In the fifty- third Psalm the interests of God's people are principally kept in view. The ungodly are regarded as plotting against the righteous, and it is in this relation their case is considered. The fear that was just and reasonable in the fourteenth Psalm, because it concerned the unrighteous under a sense of impending judgment, is said to be unfounded in the fifty- third, because God was in the midst of his people, scattering the bones of their enemies, and showing himself, not as Jehovah, but as the Elohim of his redeemed children. The fourteenth Psalm contemplates judgment; the fifty-third deliverance; and thus, though seemingly alike, a different lesson is conveyed in each. The Psalm, then, descriptive of the universal and continuous corruption of man's nature, very properly occupies an introductory place in a series intended to represent the enemies of Messiah, who oppose his church during his absence, and who are to attempt to resist his power when he comes again. Before entering upon an examination of the character of these opponents, this Psalm teaches that, until changed by grace, all are gone astray; "there is none righteous, no, not one," and that for all there is but one remedy, the Deliverer coming out of Zion, who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. R. H. Ryland, M.A., in "The Psalms restored to Messiah," 1853.
Whole Psalm. The state of earth ought to be deeply felt by us. The world lying in wickedness should occupy much of our thoughts. The enormous guilt, the inconceivable pollution, the ineffably provoking Atheism of this fallen province of God's dominion, might be a theme for our ceaseless meditation and mourning. To impress it the more on us, therefore, the Psalm repeats what has been already sung in Psalm 14. It is the same Psalm, with only a few words varied; it is "line upon line, precept upon precept;" the harp's most melancholy, most dismal notes again sounded in our ear. Not that the Lord would detain us always, or disproportionately long, amid scenes of sadness; for elsewhere he repeats in like manner that most triumphant melody, Ps 40:6-12 108:6-13; but it is good to return now and then to the open field on which we all were found, cast out in loathsome degradation. Andrew A. Bonar, in "Christ and his Church in the Book of Psalms," 1859.
Whole Psalm. A second edition of the fourteenth Psalm, with variations more or less important, in each verse. That either of these compositions is an incorrect copy of the other is highly improbable, because two such copies of the same Psalm would not have been retained in the collection, and because the variations are too uniform, consistent, and significant, to be the work of chance or mere traditional corruption. That the changes were deliberately made by a later writer is improbable, because such a liberty would hardly have been taken with a Psalm of David, and because the latter form, in that case, would either have been excluded from the Psalter or substituted for the first form, or immediately connected with it. The only satisfactory hypothesis is, that the original author afterwards rewrote it, with such modifications as were necessary to bring out certain points distinctly, but without any intention to supersede the use of the original composition, which therefore still retains its place in the collection. Thus supposition is confirmed by the titles, which ascribe both Psalms to David... As a general fact, it may be stated, that the variations in the Psalm before us are such as render the expression stronger, bolder, and in one or two cases more obscure and difficult. J. A. Alexander, 1850.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is a variation of Psalm 14. In each of these two Psalms the name of God occurs seven times. In Psalm 14, it is three times Elohim, and four times Jehovah; in the present Psalm it is seven times Elohim. Christopher Wordsworth, 1868.
Whole Psalm. God, in this Psalm, "speaketh twice," for this is the same almost verbatim with the fourteenth Psalm. The scope of it is to convince us of our sins, to set us blushing, and to set us trembling because of them: there is need of "line upon line" to this purpose. God, by the psalmist, here shows --
- The fact of sin. God is a witness to it. He
looks down from heaven and sees all the sinfulness of
men's hearts and lives. All this is open and naked
- The fault of sin. It is iniquity ( Psalms 53:1 Psalms 53:4 ); it is an unrighteous thing; it is that in which there is no good ( Psalms 53:1 Psalms 53:3 ); it is going back from God ( Psalms 53:3 ).
- The fountain of sin. How comes it that men are so bad? Surely, it is because there is no fear of God before their eyes; they say in their hearts, there is no God at all to call us to account, none that we need to stand in awe of. Men's bad practices flow from their bad principles.
- The folly of sin. He is a fool (in the account of God, whose judgment we are sure is right) who harbours such corrupt thoughts. The "workers of iniquity," whatever they pretend to, "have no knowledge;" they may truly be said to know nothing that do not know God. Psalms 53:4 .
- The filthiness of sin. Sinners are "corrupt" ( Psalms 53:1 ); their nature is vitiated and spoiled; their iniquity is "abominable;" it is odious to the holy God, and renders them so; whereas, otherwise he "hates nothing that he has made." What neatness soever proud sinners pretend to, it is certain that wickedness is the greatest nastiness in the world.
- The fruit of sin. See to what a degree of barbarity it brings men at last! See their cruelty to their brethren! They "eat them up as they eat bread." As if they had not only become beasts, but beasts of prey. See their contempt of God at the same time -- they have not called upon him, but scorn to be beholden to him.
- The fear and shame that attends sin ( Psalms 53:5 ). "There were they in great fear" who had made God their enemy; their own guilty consciences frightened them and filled them with horror. This enables the virgin, the daughter of Zion, to put them to shame and expose them, "because God hath despised them"
- The faith of the saints, and their hope and power touching this great evil ( Psalms 53:6 ). There will come a Saviour, a great salvation, a salvation from sin. O that it might be hastened! for it will bring in glorious and joyful times. There were those in Old Testament times that looked and hoped, that prayed and waited for this redemption. Such salvations were often wrought, and all typical of the everlasting triumphs of the glorious church. Condensed from Matthew Henry, 1662-1714.
Verse 1. The fool hath said in his heart, etc. It is in his heart he says this; this is the secret desire of every unconverted bosom. If the breast of God were within the reach of men, it would be stabbed a million of times in one moment. When God was manifest in the flesh, he was altogether lovely; he did no sin; he went about continually doing good: and yet they took him and hung him on a tree; they mocked him and spat upon him. And this is the way men would do with God again. Learn -- First. The fearful depravity of your heart. I venture to say there is not an unconverted man present, who has the most distant idea of the monstrous wickedness that is now within his breast. Stop till you are in hell, and it will break out unrestrained. But still let me tell you what it is -- you have a heart that would kill God if you could. If the bosom of God were nor within your reach, and one blow would rid the universe of God, you have a heart fit to do the deed. Second. The amazing love of Christ -- "While we were enemies, Christ died for us." Robert Murray Macheyne, 1813-1843.
- There is no God. ny' is properly a noun, and means nonentity, or nonexistence: "nothing of God," or "no such thing as God." It cannot be explained as a wish -- "No God!" i.e., O that there were no God! -- because ny' in usage always includes the substantive verb, and denies the existence, or at least the presence, of the person or thing to which it is prefixed. This is also clear from the use of the same word in the last clause, where its sense is unambiguous. J. A. Alexander on Psalm XIV.
Verse 1. There is no God. Thus denying the agency of Providence, for the word Elohim, here translated God, means judge (compare Exodus 22:28 ), and has reference not to the essence, but to the providence of the Deity. Daniel Cresswell, 1776-1844.
Verse 1. It is to be noted that Scripture saith, The fool hath said in his heart, and not "thought in his heart;" that is to say, he doth not so fully think it in judgment, as he hath a good will to be of that belief; for seeing that it makes not for him that there should be a God, he doth seek by all means accordingly to persuade and resolve himself, and studies to affirm, prove, and verify it to himself as some theme or position, all which labour, notwithstanding that sparkle of our creation light, whereby men acknowledge a Deity, burneth still within; and in vain doth he strive utterly to alienate it or put it out, so that it is out of the corruption of his heart and will, and not out of the natural apprehension of his brain and conceit, that he doth set down his opinion, as the comical poet saith, "Then came my mind to be of my opinion," as if himself and his mind had been two diverse things; therefore, the atheist hath rather said, and held it in his heart, than thought or believed in his heart that there is no God. Francis Bacon (1560-1626), in "Thoughts on Holy Scripture".
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
See the hints on Psalm 14.
Verse 1. The fool's inside and outside.
- The folly of atheism. He who says there is no God is
- No reason for the assertion.
- All reason against it.
- The seat of atheism is the heart; it is a moral
unbelief not an intellectual, the language of the
will not of the understanding.
- Cause of atheism.
- Loving evil.
- Hating good. G. R.