Verse 3. Put not your trust in princes. If David be the author this warning comes from a prince. In any case it comes from the Spirit of the living God. Men are always far too apt to depend upon the great ones of earth, and forget the Great One above; and this habit is the fruitful source of disappointment. Princes are only men, and men with greater needs than others; why, then, should we look to them for aid? They are in greater danger, are burdened with greater cares, and are more likely to be misled than other men; therefore, it is folly to select them for our confidence. Probably no order of men have been so false to their promises and treaties as men of royal blood. So live as to deserve their trust, but do not burden them with your trust.
Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. Though you should select one son of man out of the many, and should imagine that he differs from the rest and may be safely depended on, you will be mistaken. There is none to be trusted, no, not one. Adam fell; therefore lean not on his sons. Man is a helpless creature without God; therefore, look not for help in that direction. All men are like the few men who are made into princes, they are more in appearance than in reality, more in promising than in performing, more apt to help themselves than to help others. How many have turned away heartsick from men on whom they once relied! Never was this the case with a believer in the Lord. He is a very present help in time of trouble. In man there is no help in times of mental depression, in the day of sore bereavement, in the night of conviction of sin, or in the hour of death. What a horror when most in need of help to read those black words, NO HELP!
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. Put not your trust in princes, etc. Through some kind of weakness, the soul of man, whensoever it is in tribulation here, despairs of God, and chooseth to rely on man. Let it be said to one when set in some affliction, "There is a great man by whom thou mayest be set free"; he smiles, he rejoiceth, he is lifted up. But if it is said to him, "God frees you", he is chilled, so to speak, by despair. The aid of a mortal is promised, and thou rejoicest; the aid of the Immortal is promised, and art thou sad? It is promised thee that thou shalt be freed by one who needeth to be freed with thee, and you exult as at some great aid: thou art promised that great Liberator, who needeth none to free him, and you despair, as though it were but a fable. Woe to such thoughts: they wander far; truly there is sad and great death in them. --Augustine.
Verse 3. Put your trust in princes. The word rendered "princes" signifieth liberal, bountiful ones, [crg[tai, so princes would be accounted; but there's no trusting to them without God, or against him. --John Trapp.
Verse 3. Put not your trust in princes. King Charles had given the Earl of Strafford a solemn pledge, on the word of a king, that he should not suffer in "life, honour, or fortune", yet with singular baseness and ingratitude, as well as short sighted policy, gave his assent to the bill of attainder. On learning that this had been done, Strafford, laying his hand on his heart, and raising his eyes to heaven, uttered the memorable words, "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the sons of men, for in them there is no salvation." -- James Taylor, in the "Imperial Dictionary of Universal Biography", 1868.
Verse 3. Put not your trust in princes. Shakespeare puts this sentiment into Wolsey's mouth: --
"O how wretched
Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favour!
There is, betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
That sweet aspect of princes, and their ruin,
More pangs and fears than wars and women have:
And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,
Never to hope again."
Verse 3. Put not your trust in princes, etc. True, may some say, it were a folly to trust in weak princes, to trust in them for help who have no power to help; but we will apply to mighty princes; we hope there is help in them. No; those words, "in whom there is no help", are not a distinction of weak princes, from strong, but a conclusion that there is no help in the strongest. That's strange. What? No help in strong princes! If he had said, no help in mean men, carnal reason would have consented; but when he saith, "Trust not in princes, nor in any son of man", one or other, who can believe this? Yet this is divine truth; we may write insufficiency, insufficiency, and a third time, insufficiency, upon them all; the close of this verse may be their motto, There is no help, in them. -- Joseph Caryl.
Verse 3. Princes. Earthly princes offer baubles to allure the soul from the pursuit of an eternal prize. Princes themselves have pronounced their principality to be their own greatest peril. Pope Pius the Fifth said, "When I was a monk I had hope of my salvation; when I became Cardinal I began to fear; when I was made Pope I all but despaired of eternity." --Thomas Le Blanc.
Verse 3. Nor in the son of man. All sons of man are like the man they are sprung of, who, being in honour, did not abide. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 3. For one man to put confidence in another, is as if one beggar should ask an alms of another, or one cripple should carry another, or the blind lead the blind. -- Anthony Farindon.
Verse 3-4. You see the first and the last, highest and lowest, of all the sons of Adam, they may be made honourable princes, but they are born sinful, the sons of men; born weak, there is no help in them; born mortal, their breath departeth; born corruptible, they return to their earth; and lastly, the mortality and corruption is not only in their flesh, but in some part or remnant of their spirits, for their thoughts perish. The prophet (if you mark it) climbeth up by degrees to the disabling of the best men amongst us, and in them of all the rest. For if princes deserve not confidence, the argument must needs hold by comparison, much less do meaner men deserve it. The order of the words is so set that the members following are evermore either the reason or some confirmation to that which went before. "Trust not in princes." Why? Because they are "the sons of men." Why not in "the sons of men"? Because there is no help in them. Why is there no help in them? Because when "their breath goeth forth, they turn again to their earth." What if their flesh be corrupted? Nay, "their thoughts" also "come to nothing."
For, first, this first order and rank which the prophet hath here placed, the princes and gods of the earth, are by birth men; secondly, weak men, and such in whom no help is; thirdly, not only weak, but dying, their breath goeth out; fourthly, not only dying, but subject to dissolution, they turn to the earth; fifthly, if their bodies only were dissolved, and their intentions and actions might stand, there were less cause to distrust them; but their thoughts are as transitory as their bodies. --John King (1559?- 1621), in a Funeral Sermon.
Verse 3-4. The Psalmist inscribes an antithesis. Princes, though masters of armies, possessors of riches, loaded with honours, revelling in pleasures, are at the mercy of a ruthless Black Prince. Death is tyrant over prince and peasant alike. The very pleasures which are envied are often ministers of death to voluptuous princes. --Thomas Le Blanc.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- It dishonours God.
- It degrades you.
- It disappoints in every case.