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PART XVI - New York: Robert Carter, 1876

PART XVI.

121. I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine

oppressors. 122. Be surety for thy servant for good: let

not the proud oppress me.

There is something very solemn in the reflection, that God

has set up a Vicegerent in the heart—an internal Judge,

who takes cognizance of every thought, every emotion,

every act—determining its character, and pronouncing its

sentence. This tribunal tries every cause without respect

to persons, time, place, or any circumstances, that might

seem to separate it from other cases under the same juris-

diction. No criminal can escape detection from defect of

evidence. No earthly power can hinder the immediate ex-

ecution of the sentence. The sentence then, of this awful

Judge, whether "accusing or excusing" (Rom. ii. 15), is

of infinite moment. The ignorant expression—'Thank God,

I have a clear conscience!' is used alike by the self-

righteous and the careless. The awakened sinner, however,

pleads guilty to its accusations, and knows not how to

answer them. Blessed be God for the revelation of his

gospel, which proclaims the blood of Jesus — sprinkling the

conscience — silencing its charges — and setting before the

sinner the way of peace! And now through Jesus, "the

new and living way" of access to God, conscience, sitting

on the throne—speaks peace and acceptance; and though

sins of infirmity will remain, defiling every thought, desire,

and act; yet, like the motes on the face of the sun in the

VERSES 121, 122. 313

clearest day, they have little or no influence to obstruct the

shining of the cheerful light upon the heart. (See Heb. x.

19-22.)

The clearing of conscience is however connected with

Christian integrity. "If our heart condemn us not, then have

we confidence toward God." (1 John, iii. 21.) This "tes-

timony of conscience" has often been "the rejoicing"

(2 Cor. i. 12) of the Lord's people, when suffering under

unremitted reproach or proud oppression. They have been

enabled to plead it without offence in the presence of their

holy, heart-searching God*—nay, even when in the near

prospect of the great and final account, they might have

been supposed to shrink from the strict and unerring scru-

tiny of their Omniscient Judge. (Isa. xxxviii. 1—3.)

But observe the influence of this testimony upon our

spiritual comfort. David was at this time under persecu-

tion—no new trial to a child of God (1 Pet. iv. 12. 2 Tim.

iii. 12) and one that will never cease, so long as Satan has

instruments at his command. But see the blessing which

conscious uprightness gave to his prayers: I have done

judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors. Can

my heart and conscience respond to this appeal? Then may

I plead my cause before God, Leave me not to my oppressors.

Let not the proud oppress me. Plead my cause with them.

Let my righteousness be made known. Let it be seen,

that thou "wilt not leave me in their hand, nor condemn

me when I am judged. Let integrity and uprightness pre-

serve me: for I wait on thee." (Ps. xxxvii. 33; xxv. 21.)

But if any deviation from the exact rule of righteousness

between man and man (Matt. vii. 12) has been allowed—

if the world charge me as ungodly, because they have proved

me unrighteous—then let me not wonder, that "the con-

* Samuel-1 Sam. xii. 3-5. Nehemiah— xiii. 14, 22. Job —

x. 7. David—Ps. vii. 3-6; xviii. 20-24; xxvi. 1-6. Paul—Rom.

ix. 1; and the Apostles—1 Thess. ii.10.

314 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

solations of God shall be small with me" (Job, xv. 11.

Comp. Ps. lxvi. 18); nor let me expect a return of the Lord's

cheering manifestation, until the Achan has been removed

from the camp (Josh. vii. 10-15), and by confession to God

(Ib. 19), and reparation to man (Luke, xix. 8), I have "given

glory to the Lord God of Israel."

But let not this appeal be thought to savour of Phari-

saical pride. He pleads not merit. He only asserts his

innocence—the righteousness of his cause—not of his

person. Though upright before man, he ever felt himself

a sinner before God. The highest tone of conscious inte-

grity is therefore consistent with the deepest prostration of

evangelical humility. The difference is infinite between the

proud Pharisee and the upright believer. The Pharisee

makes the appeal with undisturbed self-complacency and

self-righteous pleading. The believer would ever accom-

pany it with the Publican's prayer for mercy. (Luke, xviii.

9-13.) Instantly—in a deep conviction of need,—he

appends the supplication—Be surety for thy servant for good.*

The keen eye of the world may possibly not be able to

affix any blot upon my outward profession; but, "if

thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall

stand?" (Ps. cxxx. 3.) The debt is continually accumu-

lating, and the prospect of payment as distant as ever. I

might well expect to be left to my oppressors, until I should

pay all that was due (Matt. xviii. 34) unto my Lord. But

behold! "Where is the fury of the oppressor?" (Isa. li.

13.) The surety is found—the debt is paid—the ransom

is accepted—the sinner is free! There was a voice heard

in heaven —"Deliver him from going down to the pit: I

have found a ransom." (Job, xxxiii. 24.) Yes, the Son of

God himself became "surety for a stranger," and "smarted

* Comp. Ps. xxvi. 11; Neh. xiii. 22; with 14— a bold testimony

of integrity presented in the character of a sinner.

VERSES 121, 122. 315

for it." (Prov. xi. 15.) At an infinite cost—the cost of

his own precious blood— he delivered me from mine

oppressors — sin — Satan — the world — death — hell. "It

was exacted: and he answered." (Isa. liii. 7. Bp. Lowth.)

As Judah in the place of Benjamin, he was ready to stand

in my stead before his Father —"I will be surety of him:

of mine hand shalt thou require him." (Gen. xliii. 9.) As

Paul in the stead of Onesimus, he was ready to plead, be-

fore the same tribunal—"If he hath wronged thee, or oweth

thee aught, put that on mine account; I will repay it."

(Philem. 18, 19.)

Let this subject be ever present to my mind. Well in-

deed was it for me, that Jesus did not "hate suretyship."

(See Prov. xi. 15, last clause.) Had he refused the vast

undertaking, how could I have answered before the bar of

God? Or had he undertaken only for those who loved him,

again should I have been left without a plea. But when

as my surety he has brought me under his yoke, and made

me his servant, I can plead with acceptance before his

throne, Be surety for thy servant for good,* — for the good,

which thou knowest me to need—my present and eternal

deliverance from my proud oppressors. And do not I need

such a surety every moment? And need I be told how

fully he has performed the Surety's part? So that I may

boldly say—"Who is he that condemneth? it is Christ that

died. It is Christ that lives. There is therefore now no

condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." (Rom.

viii. 33, 34, 1.),

* Comp. Isa. xxxviii. 14, where the same words are used in the

original, "Be surety." "Undertake for me." The same plea is

urged—"Let not the proud oppress me." "O Lord, I am oppressed;

undertake." The same frame of conflict is marked —"Mine eyes

fail for thy salvation," verse 123, "Mine eyes fail with looking

upward."

316 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

123. Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy

righteousness.

And do thine eyes, tried believer, begin to fail? So

did thy Redeemer's before thee. He, whom thou hast been

recollecting as thy Surety, when he stood in thy place,

burdened with the intolerable load of thy sin —bearing the

weighty strokes of Infinite justice upon his soul— he too

was constrained to cry out, "Mine eyes fail, while I wait

for my God." (Ps. lxix. 3. Comp. xxii. 1-3.) Listen, then,

to thy deserted Saviour counselling his deserted people;

"gifted with the tongue of the learned, that he should

know how to speak a word in season to you that are

weary"—"Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that

obeyeth the voice of his servant; that walketh in darkness,

and hath no Light? Let him trust in the name of the

Lord, and stay upon his God." (Isa. 1. 4, 10.)

That our Surety will plead for our good, doubt not. Yet

"the vision is for an appointed time." (Hab. ii. 3.) "But

shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and

night unto him, though he bear long with them?" (Luke,

xviii. 7, 8.) Salvation—a gift of such comprehensive and

enduring blessing—is it not worth the waiting trial?

Wonderful is that arrangement, by which the word of grace

is made the word of righteousness! God hath bound himself

to us by his promises of grace, which are not, Yea and

nay, but "Yea and amen" (2 Cor. i. 20)—under his own

hand and seal. Who that has tried them, but will "set

to his seal that God is true?" (Josh. xxiii. 14, with John,

iii. 33.) Cheering indeed is the thought, that, amidst the

incessant changes in Christian experience, our hope is un-

changeably fixed. We may not indeed always enjoy it;

but our salvation does not depend upon our present enjoy-

ment of its consolation. Is not the blessing as certain—

VERSE 123. 317

yea—is not our assurance of an interest in it as clear, when

we are brought to the dust under a sense of sin, as if we

were "caught up into the third heaven" in a vision of

glory?

In a season of desertion, therefore, while we maintain a

godly jealousy over our own hearts, let us beware of a mis-

trustful jealousy of God. Distrust will not cure our wound,

or quicken us to prayer, or recommend us to the favour of

God, or prepare us for the mercy of the Gospel. Com-

plaining is not humilty. Prayer without waiting is not

faith. The path is plain as noon-day. Continue to believe

as you can. Wait on the Lord. This is the act of faith,

depending on him — the act of hope, looking for him — the

act of patience, waiting his time—the act of submission,

resigned even if he should not come. Like thy Saviour, in

his "agony" of desertion, "pray more earnestly." (Luke,

xxii. 44.) Condemn thyself for the sins of which thou art

asking forgiveness. Bless him for his past mercy, even if

thou shouldest never taste it again. Can he frown thee

from his presence? Can he belie his promise to his wait-

ing people? (Isa. xxx. 18; xlix. 23.) Impossible! Nay!

while he has taken away the sensible apprehensions of his

love, and in its room has kindled longing desires for the lost

blessing; is not this to show himself — if he be "verily a

God that hideth himself"—yet still "the God of Israel, the

Saviour?" (Isa. xlv. 15.) Though he delays his promise,

and holds us as it were in suspense; yet he would have us

know, that he has not forgotten the word of his righteousness.

But this is his wise and effectual mode of trying his own

gift of faith. And it is this "trial of faith"—and not faith

untried—that will be "found to praise, and honour, and

glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. i. 7.)

The full consolation of the Gospel is therefore the fruit

of patient, humble waiting for the Lord, and of earnest

desire, conflicting with impatience and unbelief, and at

318 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

length issuing in a state of child-like submission and de-

pendence. The man who was here expressing his longing

expectation for God's salvation, was evidently, though un-

consciously, in possession of the promise. Nor would he

at this moment have exchanged his hope, clouded as it was

to his own view, for all "the pleasures of sin," or the riches

of the world. Although at this moment he appeared to be

under the partial hidings of his Father's countenance, yet it

is important to observe, that he was not satisfied, as an in-

dolent professor, to "lie upon his face" (Josh. vii. 10) in

this sad condition. His "eyes failed with looking upward"

—stretched up with earnest expectation to catch the first

rising rays of the beaming Sun of Righteousness. He

knew, what all Christians know, who walk closely with

God, that his perseverance in waiting upon God, would

issue in the eventual fulfilment of every desire of his

heart.*

But can we assuredly plead the word of his righteousness

for the anticipation of the object of our desire? Have we

always an express promise answering to our expectations,

"putting God in remembrance" (Isa. xliii. 26) of his

word? Possibly we may have been asking not "according

to his will" (1 John, v. 14. Jam. iv. 3), and therefore may

have "charged God foolishly" (Job, i. 22), as if he had

been unfaithful to his word, when no engagement had been

* Foxe tells us of Mr. Robert Glover, martyr at Coventry, two

or three days before his death, overwhelmed with the prospect of

martyrdom, and mentioning to a friend his earnest supplication for

the light of God's countenance, yet without any sense of comfort.

His darkness continued up to the period of his arriving within

sight of the stake, when suddenly his whole soul was so filled with

consolation, that he could not forbear clapping his hands, and crying

out — 'He is come!—he is come!' He appeared to go up to heaven

in a chariot of fire, exhibiting little or no sensibility of his cruel

death. Was not this the word of his righteousness to one, whose eyes

failed in looking for it.—Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, 1555.

VERSES 124, 125 319

pledged: when we had no warrant to build upon from

the word of his righteousness. If, however, our petition

should be found to be agreeable to his word of promise,

and faith and patience hold on in submission to his will,

we must not, we cannot, suppose, that one tittle that we

have asked will fail. Whether the Lord deliver us or not,

prayer and waiting will not be lost. It is a blessed posture

for him to find us in, such as will not fail to ensure his

acceptance, even though our request should be denied. An

enlivening view of the Saviour is in reserve for us; and

the word of righteousness will yet speak—"This is the rest,

wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest: and this is the

refreshing." (Isa. xxviii. 12, also xxx. 15.) To every

passing doubt and rising fear, oppose this word of his

righteousness.

But let me bring my own heart to the test. Am I

longing for the manifestation of God? Surely if I am

content with what I already know, I know but very little

of the unsearchable depths of the love of Christ; and I

have abundant need to pray for more enlarged desires, and

a more tender enjoyment of his Divine presence. If faith

is not dead, yet it may have lost its conquering and quick-

ening vigour. Let me then exercise my soul in diligent,

careful, patient waiting upon God, equally removed from

sloth and frowardness — and I shall yet find the truth of

that consoling word of his righteousness—"Light is sown for

the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."*

124. Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and

teach me thy statutes. 125. I am thy servant; give me

understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.

A sense of mercy, and the privilege of Divine teaching,

* Ps. xcvii. 11. The same plea under similar circumstances

of conflict is urged, Ps. cxliii. 1.

320 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

were the earnest of the Lord's salvation, for which the eyes

of his servant were failing, and for which he was waiting in

dependence upon the sure word of his righteousness. And

indeed these two wants daily press upon every servant of

God as matter for earnest supplication. Both are in-

timately connected. A deeper sense of mercy will bind us

more strongly to his statutes (Ps. cxvi. 12-14); while a

more spiritual teaching in the statutes will humble us in a

sense of sin, and consequent need of mercy. (Jer. xxxi. 19.)

As it respects the first—if there is a sinner upon the

earth, who needs the special mercy of God, it is his own

servant. For as the Lord sees abundantly more excellence

in his feeblest desire, than in the professor's most splendid

external duties; so he sees far more sinfulness and provo-

cation in the workings of his sin, than in the palpably de-

fective services of professors, or in the open transgression

of the wicked of the earth. Let him scrutinize his motives,

thoughts, and affections, even in his moments of nearest

and happiest approach unto his God; and he will find such

defilement cleaving to every offering, with all the aggra-

vations of mercy, light, and knowledge, vouchsafed, that

the confession of his soul, when comparing himself with his

fellow-sinners, will be, "Of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. i.

15.) And therefore, as a servant of God, I can only come

before him upon the ground of mercy. For my best per-

formances I need an immeasurable world of mercy—par-

doning—saving—everlasting mercy; and yet by the blood

of Jesus I dare to plead—Deal with thy servant according

unto thy mercy.

But then I am ignorant as well as guilty; and yet I

dare not pray for teaching—much and hourly as I need it,

until I have afresh obtained mercy. These two blessings

lead me at once to the foundation of the gospel—in the

work of Christ, and the work of the Spirit—mercy flowing

from the blood of the Son (Eph. i. 7)—teaching from the

VERSES 124, 125. 321

office of the Spirit. (John, xiv. 26; xvi. 13.) Mercy is the

first blessing, not only in point of importance, but in point

of order. I must know the Lord as a Saviour, before I can

go to him with any confidence to be my teacher. But

when once I have found acceptance for my petition —Deal

with thy servant according unto thy mercy—my way will be

opened to enlarge my petition—yea, once and again to

repeat it —Teach me thy statutes. Give me understanding, that

I may know thy testimonies—that I may know with in-

telligent conviction; walk, yea, "run in the way of thy com-

mandments" (Verse 32) with "an enlarged heart." For

let me never forget, that I am "redeemed from the curse"

only—not from the service "of the law" —yea, redeemed

from its curse, that I may be bound to its service. (Gal.

ii. 19. Luke, i. 74, 75.) And does not my especial rela-

tion to my God as his servant, furnish me with a plea for

his acceptance? (Verse 94. Ps. cxliii. 12.) For when this

earth is full of his Mercy"—much more may I, as be-

longing to his house, plead for the special mercy of his

teaching (Verse 64)—his own covenant promise (Heb. viii.

10)—so needful for his servant, who desires to know, that

he may do, his will. (Verses 33, 34; lxxxvi. 11; cxliii.

8, 10.)

But if I am the Lord's servant, how did I become so?

Time was (let me be ashamed and confounded at the re-

membrance of it) when I was engaged for another master,

and in another service. (Rom. vi. 16, 20. Tit. iii. 3.) But

his sovereign grace called me from the dominion of sin—

from the chains of Satan— from the bondage of the world,

and drew me to himself. "His I am—and him I serve."

(Acts, xxvii. 23.) His service is my highest privilege: his

reward of grace is my glorious hope. "If any man serve

me," saith my Master, "let him follow me: and where I am,

there shall also my servant be. If any man serve me, him will

my Father honour." (John, xii. 26.) As his servant, there-

322 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

fore, I cast myself with confidence upon his mercy, and

expect to be dealt with according to that mercy. Nay,—

shall be denied nothing that I "ask according to his will."

For he has condescended to call me — not his servant, but

"his friend" (John, xv. 15)—yea more, to call himself

"my brother." (John, xx. 17. Heb. ii. 11, 12.)

Lord! thou hast showed me this great favour and grace,

to make me thy servant. I would be thine for ever. I love

thy service too well to wish to change it; yet must I mourn

over my dulness, my backwardness in doing thy will, and

walking in thy way. Oh! teach me thy statutes more

clearly, more experimentally! Give me understanding to

discern their heavenly sweetness and their holy liberty, that

I may live in a more simple and devoted obedience to

them, until I come to see thy face, and to be thy servant in

thy heavenly temple, "no more to go out."*

126. It is time for thee, Lord, to work; for they have made

void thy law.

If I desire a more spiritual understanding of the reve-

lation of God, how can I but mourn to witness its awful

neglect and contempt? It seems as if the ungodly not only

sin against it, but that they would drive it out of the world.

(Exod. v. 2. Ps. xii. 4.) They make it void—denying its

power to rule, to annul its power to punish. Oh! let us

* Rev. 15; iii. 12. The annals of the Reformation furnish

a beautiful record of George of Anhalt—a godly young prince, of

twelve years old. 'He put up constant and fervent prayer to God,

beseeching him to bring his heart under the power of the truth;

and, often, in the privacy of his cabinet, he exclaimed with tears—

Deal with thy servant according to thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes.

His prayers were answered. Under strong conviction, and con-

strained to action on it, he fearlessly ranged himself on the side

of the gospel.'—D’Aubigné’s History of the Reformation, Book v.

ch. vi.

VERSE 126. 323

cherish that distinguishing feature of the Lord's people,

"sighing and crying for all the abominations of the land"

(Ezek. ix. 4); so that we cannot hear or see the name of

God dishonoured, without feeling as for our Father's

wounded reputation.* Can we suffer the men of the world

quietly to go on their course? Must we not throw in our

weight of influence, whatever it may be, to stem the flowing

torrent: and when (as, alas! is too often the case) all

efforts are unavailing, carry the cause to the Lord—"It

is time for thee, Lord, to work?" This pleading does not

contradict the law of love, which requires us to love, pray

for, and to bless our enemies (Matt. v. 44); for the Lord's

people are not angry for their own cause, but for his.

David had no regard to his own honour, but to God's law.

He had not injured his enemies. "He had laboured to

overcome their evil with good." (Ps. xxxv. 11-14.) He

* What a Christian ought to feel under these circumstances, let

us learn from the following extract of the diary of the saintly

Martyn. Upon hearing at Shiraz, in the course of his disputations,

some reproach of his Saviour's name, he writes thus — 'I was cut

to the soul by this blasphemy. In prayer I could think of nothing

else but that great day, When the Son of God shall come in the

clouds of heaven "taking vengeance on them that know not God,"

and convince men of all their hard speeches which they have spoken

against him.' (We might also think that this verse was upon his

mind at this moment.) Mirza Seid Ali perceived that I was con-

siderably disordered, and was sorry for having repeated the verse,

but asked, what it was that was so offensive? I told him, that I

could not endure existence, if Jesus were not glorified; that it

would be hell to me, if he were to be always thus dishonoured. He

was astonished, and again asked the reason why. 'If any one pluck

out your eyes,' I replied, there is no saying why you feel pain. It

is feeling. It is because I am one with Christ, that I am thus

dreadfully wounded.' On his again apologizing, I told him, 'that

I rejoiced at what had happened, inasmuch as it made me feel

nearer the Lord than ever. It is when the head or heart is struck,

that every member feels its membership.'—Martyn’s Life, p. 420, 8vo.

edition.

324 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

had often wept for their sins (Verses 136, 158), and prayed

for their conversion. (Ps. lxxxiii. 16.) But all was in vain.

Now, Lord, take the rod in thine own hand. "It is time

for thee, Lord, to work,"' This was true zeal—zeal of the

Spirit, not of the flesh. How gracious is our God in per-

mitting his servants thus to plead with him, and as it

were, to give him no rest, until (Isa. lxii. 7) "he shall

arise, and work," and sit upon the throne of the kingdoms

of the earth!

But why does he not break out with some overpowering

manifestation of his power? They are "his sword and

rod" for the chastening of his people (Ps. xvii. 13, 14.

Isa. x. 5, 6), to discipline their watchfulness into constant

exercise. (Ps. lix. 11.) They are the trial of their faith

believing the Lord's justice against apparent inconsistency

(Ib. lxxiii. 16-18); and of their patience—"waiting the

set time of deliverance." (Rev. xiii. 10.) Thus they

become a profitable ministry for the church—and this

valuable end accomplished, God works his work upon them

(Isa. x. 12), and "will avenge his own elect speedily."

(Luke, xviii. 8.)

Meanwhile — waiting for this "little while," let us

"live by faith," Let us be found on the Lord's side.—

labouring for sinners—pleading with their hardness and

rebellion in our Master's name, and for our Master's sake.

Let all the weight of personal exertion and influence, con-

sistent example, and wrestling supplication, be concentrated

in "coming to the help of the Lord against the mighty."

(Judg. v. 23.) Let us see to it, that if we cannot do what

we would, we do what we can. (Mark, xiv. 8.) And if at

last we be overborne by the torrent of ungodliness, we shall

find our refuge and rest in pleading with our Lord for the

honour of his name—Remember this, that the enemy hath

reproached, O Lord, and that the foolish people have blas-

phemed thy name. (Ps. lxxiv. 18, also 10, 11, 22.) "His

VERSE 126. 325

Spirit shall not always strive with man." (Gen. vi. 3.)

Often, when he has seen it time for him to work, have

his judgments made the earth to tremble. "Sodom and

Gomorrah" have "known the power of his anger," and are

"set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eter-

nal fire." (Jude, 7.) And when his time to work is fully

come, what is all the resistance of earth and hell, but as

"setting the briars and thorns against him in battle?"

"I would"—saith he —"go through them. I would burn them

together." (Isa. xxvii. 4.) A word—a frown— a look—is

destruction. "He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength.

Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath pros-

pered?" (Job, ix. 4.) Or "who hath resisted his will?"

(Rom. ix. 19.)

But what shall we say of that stupendous work of his

hand, by which—when men had made void his law—when

no restrictions could bind, no forbearance win them—when

he "saw that there was no man, and wondered that there

was no intercessor, therefore his arm brought salvation unto

him, and his righteousness, it sustained him." (Isa. lix. 16.)

Surely, if we could conceive the hosts of heaven to have

taken up this expression of ardent concern for the glory of

God, It is time for thee, Lord, to work—they could little

have thought of such a work as this—they could never

have conceived to themselves such an unlooked-for, com-

bined display of power, justice, and mercy. To set at

nought then this work—is it not to refuse all hope—all

remedy? To persist in making void the law after so mag-

nificent an exhibition of Almighty working — must it not

expose the transgressors to reap the fruit of their own

obstinacy, and to prepare to meet him as their Judge,

whom they refuse to receive as their Saviour? Nor must

they wonder, if the Lord's people, with a holy indignation

against sin, and a fervent zeal for his glory, should appeal

to his faithfulness for the fulfilment of his judgments—It is

time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.

326 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

127. Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea,

above fine gold.

Therefore I love thy commandments. Yes—shall they

not have double valuation in mine eyes, for the scorn and

reproach which the world cast upon them? They count

them dross—I love them above gold—yea, above fine gold.

This hope, confidence, and idol of the worldling (Job, xxxi.

24), the love of which has been the ruin of thousands (1

Tim. vi. 9, 10) —is not the commandment of God more to

be desired than it? (Ps. xix. 10.) "The merchandize of

it is better than the merchandize of silver, and the gain

thereof than fine gold. It is more precious than rubies:

and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared

unto it." (Prov. iii. 14, 15.) Here has the Lord unlocked

to us his golden treasure, and enriched our souls with "the

unsearchable riches of Christ."

This image brings the miser before us. His heart and

treasure are in his gold. With what delight he counts it!

with what watchfulness he keeps it! hiding it in safe cus-

tody, lest he should be despoiled of that which is dearer

to him than life. Such should Christians be: spiritual

misers: counting their treasure, which is above fine gold;

and "hiding it in their heart,"* in safe keeping, where the

great despoiler shall not be able to reach it. Oh, Chris-

tians! how much more is your portion to you than the

miser's treasure! Hide it; watch it; retain it. You need

* Verse 11. Augustine tells us of himself, that while a Manichee,

he slighted the Scripture for the plainness of its style, which

appeared to him (from a false standard of criticism) not to be

compared with the dignity of Ciceronian eloquence. ('Visa mihi

est indigna scriptura quam Tullianæ dignitati compararem.'— Con-

fess. lib. iii. cap. 5.) But after his blessed acquaintance with Christ,

though Tully was still read with pleasure, yet this thing alone—

said he— abated his former interest, that the name of Christ was not

there. Lib. iii. cap. 4.

VERSE 127. 327

not be afraid of covetousness in spiritual things: rather

"covet earnestly" (1 Cor. xii. 31) to increase your store;

and by living upon it, and living in it, it will grow richer

in extent, and more precious in value.

But have I through Divine grace been enabled to with-

draw my love from tie unworthy objects which once pos-

sessed it: and to fix it on that which alone offers satisfac-

tion? Let me attempt to give a reason to myself of the

high estimation in which I hold it, as infinitely transcend-

ing those things, which the world venture their all—even

their temporal happiness — to obtain. Therefore I love the

commandments of God above gold: yea, above fine gold

because, while the world and my own heart have only com-

bined to flatter me, they have discovered to me my real

state, as a self-deceived (Rom. vii. 9), guilty (James, ii.

10), defiled (Rom. vii. 14) sinner before God: because they

have been as a "schoolmaster to bring me to Christ" (Gal.

iii. 24)—the only remedy for sin, the only rest for my

soul. I love them; because they have often supplied whole-

some reproofs in my wanderings, and plain directions in my

perplexity. I love them; because they restrict me from

that which would prove my certain ruin; and because in

the way of obedience to them the Lord has "accepted me

with my sweet savour." (Ezek. xx. 41. Comp. Isa. lxiv. 5.)

Should I not love them? Can gold, yea, fine gold, offer to

me blessings such as these? Can it heal my broken heart?

Can it give relief to my wounded spirit? Has it any peace

or prospect of comfort for me on my death-bed? And

what cannot—what has not—what will not—the precious

word of God do at that awful season of trial? O my God,

I would be deeply ashamed, that I love thy commandments

so coldly—that they are so little influential upon my con-

duct —that they so often give place to objects of compara-

tive nothingness in thy sight. O that my heart might be

wholly and habitually exercised in them, that I may find

328 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

the "work of righteousness to be peace, and the effect of

righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever!" (Isa.

xxxii. 17.)

128. Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things

to be right: and I hate every false way.

The general contempt of religion acts upon the Christ-

ian's judgment no less than upon his affections. Is

wickedness breaking loose to make void the law? Therefore

he esteems it to be right. His judgment—instead of being

shaken—is more determined. How beautiful is it to see

the leaven of grace pervading the whole man! In the

fervour of his heart he loves the commandments even above

fine gold; but yet his "love will abound yet more and

more in knowledge and in all judgment." (Philip. i. 9.) His

is an intelligent and universal regard to them—esteeming

all the precepts concerning all things to be right. This con-

stitutes his separate and exclusive character. He is readily

known from the thoughtless worldling. But his difference

from the professor, though really as marked in the sight

of God, is far less perceptible to general observation.

Consisting more in the state of heart, than in any external

mark of distinction, it is often only within the ken of that

eye, whose sovereign prerogative it is to "search the heart"

(Jer. xvii. 10), and to "weigh the spirits." (Prov. xvi. 2.)

Many profess to esteem the precepts to be right, so far as

they inculcate the practice of those moral virtues, of which

they may present some faint exhibition, and demand the

abandonment of those sins, from the external influence of

which they may have been delivered. But when they begin

to observe the "exceeding breadth of the commandment"

(Verse 96)—how it takes cognizance of the heart, and

enforces the renunciation of the world, the crucifixion of

sin, and the entire surrender of the heart unto God; this

VERSE 128. 329

searching touchstone separates them from the church, and

exposes to open day the brand of hypocrisy upon their

foreheads. "Herod did many things." (Mark, vi. 20.)

And so the enemy still will allow a partial subjection to

the precepts. But—as he well knows—one sin holds us

his captive as well as a thousand. The wilful contempt of

one precept is the virtual rejection of all. All, therefore—

not many —is the Christian's word. He fails in some—

yea, in all—but all are the objects of his supreme regard

—every duty, and every circumstance and obligation of

duty (Luke, i. 6)— the evangelical as well as the moral

precepts—teaching him to renounce himself in every part

(his sins as a source of pleasure, and his duties as a ground

of dependence): and to believe in the Son of God as the

only ground of hope. (1 John, iii. 23; John, vi. 29.) He

never complains of the strictness of the precepts! —but he

is continually humbled in the recollection of his noncon-

formity to them. Every way, however pleasing to the

flesh, that is opposed to the revealed will of God, is hated,

as false in itself, and false to his God. This "godly sin-

cerity" will apply to every part of the Christian Directory.

So that any plea for the indulgence of sin (as if it ad-

mitted of palliation, or was compensated by some surplus

duty, or allowed only for some temporary purpose) or any

wilful shrinking from the universality of obedience—blots

out all pretensions to uprightness of heart. If holiness be

really loved, it will be loved for its own sake; and equally

loved and followed in every part. (2 Cor. vii. 1.) By this

entire "approval of things that are excellent," we shall

"be sincere and without offence unto the day of Christ."

(Philip. i. 10.)

O my soul, canst thou abide this close test? Hast thou

as much regard to the precepts, as to the privileges, of the

Gospel? Is no precept evaded, from repugnance to the

cross that is entailed to it? Is no secret lust retained?

330 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

Art thou content to let all go? If my hatred of sin is

sincere, I shall hate it more in my own house than abroad.

I shall hate it most of all in my own heart. Here lies

the grand seat of hypocrisy. And therefore may the great

Searcher of hearts enable me to search into its depths I

May I take the lamp of the Lord to penetrate into its

dark interior hiding-places of evil! May I often put the

question to my conscience, What does the Omniscient

Judge know of my heart?' Perhaps at the time that

the Church holds my name in esteem, the voice of con-

science, as the voice of God, may whisper to me—"That

which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination

in the sight of God." (Luke, xvi. 15.) Some false way,

yet undetected within, may keep me lifeless and un-

fruitful in the midst of the quickening means of grace.

Let me look into my house—my calling—my family

my soul; and in the course of this search how much matter

will be found for prayer, contrition, renewed determination

of heart, and dependence upon my God! "O that my ways

were directed to keep thy statutes! I will keep thy statutes; O

forsake me not utterly." (Verses 5, 8.) And oh! let my

spirit be wounded by every fresh discovery of sin. Let my

soul bleed under it. But specially and instantly let me

apply to the "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."

Here let me wash my soul from the guilt of sin, and regain

my peace with God. And to him, who opened this foun-

tain, let me also repair for a large supply of spiritual

strength. May his power and grace sharpen my weapons

for the spiritual conflict, until every secret iniquity is over-

come, and for ever dispossessed from my heart!

And just as sin, besides its guilt, brings its own misery;

so does this whole-hearted purity carry with it its own

happiness. Can I forget the time, when, under Divine

grace and teaching, I made a full presentment of myself

(See Rom. xii. 1), when I began to estimate myself as an

VERSE 128. 331

hallowed, devoted thing —sacred— set apart for God?

Was not this the first sunshine of my happiness? Nor

was this offering made with momentary excitement, notional

intelligence, forced acquiescence, or heartless assent. My

judgment accorded with the choice of my heart. All was

right in his precepts. All that was contrary to them was

abominable. And will not this form the essence of the

happiness of heaven, where every aspiration—every motion

—every pulse of the glorified soul—in the eternity of life

—will bear testimony to the holiness of the service of God?

(Rev. xv. 3, 4.)

332 EXPOSITION OF PSALM CXIX.

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