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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Psalms 119



Verses 4-6



Psalms 119:4-6. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently: O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not he ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

IT is impossible to read the psalm before us and not see that true religion is altogether of a practical nature. Doubtless, in the first instance, the Inspired Volume reveals to us a way of reconciliation with our offended God, through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ: but its ultimate object is, to bring our hearts into a conformity to the mind and will of God. In the words before us we see all that is most interesting to the child of God:

I. His indispensable duties—

God commands us, not only to return to him in a way of penitence, but to walk before him in a way of holy obedience.

This he requires throughout the Holy Scriptures—

[He requires it by Moses [Note: Deuteronomy 5:29.], and the prophets [Note: Jeremiah 7:22-23.]; by Christ also [Note: Matthew 28:20.], and his holy Apostles [Note: 1 Peter 1:15-16.]. Indeed, to bring us to holiness of heart and life was the very end for which he gave his only-begotten Son [Note: 1 John 3:8.], and for which Christ himself died [Note: Titus 2:4.] And every command is enforced with an authority which it is at our peril to disregard [Note: James 2:10-12.].]

He requires, too, that in this duty we exert ourselves with “diligence”—

[This is again and again insisted on [Note: Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:18; Deuteronomy 11:22.], both in relation to the keeping of the heart [Note: Proverbs 4:23.], and to the whole of our deportment through life [Note: 2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 3:14.]. We are particularly called to “set our heart” to this work [Note: Deuteronomy 32:46.], that we may understand it in all its parts, and perform it in its utmost extent. In a word, “This is the will of God, even our sanctification [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:3.].”]

How the true saint stands affected towards his duties, may here be seen in,

II. His impassioned desire—

The perfection of a Christian is seen far more in his desires than in his actual attainments.

He feels and mourns over his manifold defects—

[It might be supposed, that the more holy any man were, the more self-complacent he would be: but the very reverse of this is the truth: for, the more holy any man is, the clearer and more enlarged are his views of God’s holy law, and, consequently, the deeper his sense of his short-comings and defects [Note: Romans 7:9.]. Hence he complains with St. Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me [Note: Romans 7:24.]?”]

He desires the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, to remedy these defects—

[He knows, by sad experience how liable he is to be deceived, even whilst he is endeavouring to do the will of God. “His heart is deceitful [Note: Jeremiah 17:9.],” and easily betrayed into error, by its prejudices, its passions, its interests. And sin itself also is deceitful, putting on, in ten thousand instances, the garb of holiness, and the semblance of duty [Note: Hebrews 3:13.]. And Satan is a subtle adversary, that has at command ten thousand wiles and devices, whereby to ensnare him [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.]. What, then, shall the Christian do? He can look only to God, for the gift of his Holy Spirit to guide him aright and to direct his steps [Note: Proverbs 3:6.]. Hence, from his inmost soul, he prays, “Hold thou me up, O Lord [Note: Psalms 17:5.]!” yea, “Direct my heart into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ’s future advent [Note: 2 Thessalonians 3:5.]!”]

But, in the midst of all his troubles, we may behold,

III. His assured encouragement—

Were he left to himself, he well knows he must perish. But “his hope is in the Lord his God.”

That which is required of him, is, to be upright before God—

[God “requireth truth in the inward parts [Note: Psalms 51:6.].” However defective we be in our attainments, there must be no insincerity in our desires. We must “account all God’s commandments concerning all things to be right, and must hate every false way [Note: ver. 128.].” In our regard to them, there must be “no partiulity, no hypocrisy [Note: James 3:17.]:” the smallest commandment must not be considered as light [Note: Matthew 5:19.], nor the greatest be deemed “grievous [Note: 1 John 5:3.].” “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do [Note: Acts 9:6.]?” must be his daily prayer; and to fulfil every command of God, the constant habit of his mind.]

With this one acquisition, he has nothing to fear—

[“God will uphold the upright man [Note: Psalms 37:17.],” Satan may tempt him; his own in-dwelling corruptions may assault him; and he may at times be so harassed, us to be almost at his wit’s end [Note: Psalms 77:7-9.];” but “God will keep him, by his own power, through faith, unto everlasting salvation [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.].” The weaker the Christian feels himself, the more “will God perfect his own strength in his weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.];” nor shall “the hope that has been formed in him ever make him ashamed [Note: Romans 5:5.]:” no: “he shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; and shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end [Note: Isaiah 45:17.].”]

Be ye then, Brethren, christians indeed—

[Get just views of your duty, both towards God and man — — — And be like-minded with God in relation to it, desiring nothing but to be, and do, all that God himself requires — — — And know where all your help and hope is; not in yourselves, but in the Lord your God, who alone can “guide you by his counsel, so as ultimately to bring you to his glory [Note: Psalms 73:24.]” — — — And “may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good work, to do his will; working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ! to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen [Note: Hebrews 13:20-21.].”]

Verse 9



Psalms 119:9. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.

THERE is much despondency in the human mind, especially in reference to the great work of sanctification. There are many who wish to become holy; but they know not how: they would mortify sin; but they cannot: they would serve God in newness of life; but to attempt it, appears to them a hopeless task. The people of the world, if exhorted to give themselves up to God, do not hesitate to affirm that, in the existing state of things, it is impossible: and many who have begun to do this in their own strength, and found its insufficiency for so great a work, have given up in despair, and returned to their former state of carelessness and indifference. But, whilst we acknowledge the impossibility of serving God aright by any strength of our own, we must deny that it is altogether impracticable to fulfil his will. On the contrary, if any man ask, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” we are prepared to answer, that it may be done, “by taking heed thereto, according to God’s word.”

We have here,

I. A difficulty proposed—

“How shall a young man cleanse his way?”

If this question were asked in reference only to outward defilements, it would not be without its difficulties—

[Consider to what temptations a young man is exposed. Those which arise from within, are exceeding great — — — And they are continually strengthened by those occurring from without. Every thing he sees around him has a tendency to foster and to gratify some bad passion; whilst the examples on every side countenance and encourage the indulgence of it. To render evil the less formidable, every one agrees to strip it of its proper names, and to affix to it some gentle appellation that shall conceal its odiousness, and cast a veil over its deformity. Nay, as if it were not sufficient to cloke its malignity, many become its panders and its advocates, and endeavour to laugh out of the world all that squeamishness that betrays a fear of evil, and an aversion to the commission of it. Is it any wonder if young men, so circumstanced, fall into sin? or is it easy for them to keep their garments clean in such an ensnaring and polluting world as this? — — —]

But if the question be asked in reference to the sanctity which God requires, the difficulty will appear great indeed—

[It is not a Pharisaic righteousness, a cleansing of the outside of the cup and platter, that God requires, but real holiness, both of heart and life. We must seek to be “cleansed from secret faults,” as well as from those which are more open; and never account our end fully accomplished, till we are “pure as the Lord Jesus Christ is pure,” and “perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect.” But how shall a young man so cleanse his way? How shall he “mortify the whole body of sin,” keeping in subjection so many unruly appetites, correcting so many unhallowed dispositions, and putting forth into constant exercise so many heavenly graces as are comprehended in real piety? Indeed, we may ask, How shall young persons of either sex so walk before God? In respect of outward decorum, females, from the restraints of education, have a great advantage: perhaps, in reference to vital godliness also, they may be considered as more favoured than the other sex, because they have more opportunity for serious reflection. But real piety is uncongenial with our fallen nature; and to attain it is no easy task to any, of either sex, or of whatever age or quality or condition. The very names by which the divine life is described in Scripture sufficiently shew that it is neither attained nor exercised without great difficulty. A “race,” a “wrestling for the mastery,” a “warring of a good warfare,” all require much exertion; and not for a moment only, but till the victory is accomplished. It must be confessed, therefore, that a young man’s course is very difficult; that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,” in which he has to walk; and that if ever he gain “the kingdom of heaven, he must take it by violence.”]

Happy is it for us, however, that we have, on divine authority,

II. The difficulty solved—

To the question asked, “How shall he cleanse his way?” the answer is given, even “by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” The Holy Scriptures afford, to every human being,

1. A sure directory—

[There may doubtless be particular cases, even to our dying hour, in which it may be difficult to discover the precise line of duty. But, for the most part, the way of righteousness is clearly defined; and it is our own blindness only that makes it appear intricate or doubtful. There is no corruption of the heart which is not there condemned, nor any holy affection which is not there delineated. There every thing is described in its proper colours: piety is exalted as the perfection of our nature; and sin is declared to be “an abomination in the sight of God.” The example of our blessed Lord also is there portrayed with the utmost exactness; so that, whatever doubt might obscure a precept, the true light is reflected on it, and a perfect standard is exhibited before us. It cannot be through. ignorance, therefore, that any shall err, if only they will make use of the light afforded them in God’s blessed word.]

2. Sufficient encouragement—

[There is not a precept in the whole inspired volume which is not made also the subject of a promise. God has engaged to “give us a new heart, and to renew within us a right spirit, and to cleanse us from our filthiness and from all our idols:” so that, however inveterate any lust may be, here is provision against it; and however arduous any duty be, here is sufficient strength promised for the: performance of it. How effectual the word is, when duly improved, may be seen in the general description given of it by the Psalmist: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned; and in keeping of them there is great reward [Note: Psalms 19:7-11.],” Here, whether in respect of direction or efficacy, its sufficiency for our necessities is fully declared. But yet more satisfactory is the declaration of St. Peter, when he affirms, that by “the exceeding great and precious promises of Scripture we may be made partakers of the divine nature, and be enabled to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.].” By the word, therefore, we may cleanse our way; not externally only, but really, truly, spiritually, and to the full extent of our necessities: so that the difficulty in our text is completely solved; and to the inquiry there made, we are prepared to answer, “Having these promises, dearly Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].”]


1. Let the Scriptures of Truth be studied by you—

[Do not form your standard by the opinions of men, or labour to cleanse your way by superstitious observances that have been devised by man; but look to the word of God as the proper rule of your conduct, and seek for holiness in the way that is there prescribed. Be careless in your way, and your ruin will ensue [Note: Ecclesiastes 11:9.] — — — But let the word of Christ dwell in you richly “in all wisdom;” and you shall find it the power of God to the salvation of your souls.]

2. Devote to piety your early youth—

[“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” says Solomon. You must not stay till you are advanced in life before you “cleanse your way,” but engage in that work while yet you are “young.” In the appointment of the sacrifices which were offered under the Law, the lambs were to be but a year old: and in the first-fruits presented unto God for a meat-offering, special care was to be taken that “green ears” should be offered, “beaten out indeed of full ears,” but still green, and needing to be “dried with fire” before they could be ground to flour [Note: Leviticus 2:14-16.]. Does not this shew what use is to be made of our early youth? Methinks, it speaks powerfully: and I pray God that this day the greenest ears amongst you may be consecrated to the Lord, and receive from him some blessed tokens of his favourable acceptance. Let the youngest, who are as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word; and they shall grow thereby [Note: 1 Peter 2:2.]:” and let the “young men have the word of God abiding in them; and they shall overcome the wicked one [Note: 1 John 2:14.].”]

3. Live in the daily habit of self-examination—

[Inward and unperceived uncleanness will come upon you, if you be not always on your guard. A mariner may be drawn from his course by currents, as well as driven by winds: and therefore from day to day, he consults his compass and his chart, to see whether there have been any deviation from his destined path. The same precautions must be used by you. You must not only “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith,” but what progress you are making in the faith. Do this, beloved, daily, and with all diligence; so shall ye “be blameless und harmless, the sons of God, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining among them as lights in the world, and holding forth in your walk and conversation the word of life [Note: Philippians 2:15-16.]:” and be assured, that in so ordering your conversation aright, “you shall at last behold the salvation of God.”]

Verse 18



Psalms 119:18. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law!

THE necessity of Divine teaching, in order to a spiritual acquaintance with the truth of God, is by many denied; and all expectation of the Holy Spirit’s influence for that end is derided as enthusiasm. But, however the profane ungodly world may scoff at the idea, it is “by the Spirit of God alone that we can know the things which are freely given to us of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:12.]:” and the wisest of men, as much as the most ignorant, has reason to adopt the petition in our text, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law!”

From these words we shall take occasion to shew,

I. What wondrous things are contained in God’s law—

If we understand the law here spoken of, as importing the Law of Moses, it certainly is full of wonders: the moral law, being a perfect transcript of the mind of God; and the ceremonial law, being a shadow of all those good things which are revealed to us in the Gospel. But we apprehend that David is speaking rather of the Gospel, even of that “law which is come forth from Zion, and that word which has proceeded from Jerusalem.” No one of the prophets, scarcely excepting even Isaiah himself, had clearer or richer views of Christ than David; and as he speaks of Christ in almost all his psalms, we may justly suppose, that in this place he refers to the wonders that are contained in the Gospel of Christ.

Consider the Gospel generally—

[In it is revealed salvation, salvation purchased by the blood and righteousness of God’s only-begotten Son. What a mystery is this! The God of heaven and earth assuming our nature, that in that nature he may expiate the guilt of a ruined world! We are accustomed to hear of this, and therefore listen to it without emotion: but what should we think of it, if it now reached our ears for the first time? Truly “great is this mystery of godliness!” We, through unbelief and indifference, think little of it: but “the angels,” though infinitely less interested in it than we, “desire day and night to look into it,” and to comprehend, if it were possible, the heights and depths of love that are contained in it [Note: 1 Peter 1:12.].]

Consider it more particularly—

[Mark well the character of this salvation; its freeness, its fulness, its suitableness! It is as free as the light we see, or the air we breathe. It has come to us unsolicited, unsought: and it is given to us “without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.].” The whole world are invited to come to Christ as to an overflowing fountain, and to “take of the water of life freely [Note: Revelation 22:17.].” So full is it, that it neither wants, nor is capable of, any addition. Nothing is left to be supplied by man: he gives nothing, but receives all. “All is treasured up for us in Christ [Note: Colossians 1:19.],” “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and complete redemption [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:30.].” If only we are content to receive out of his fulness, we shall never lack any thing that is necessary either for our present or eternal happiness [Note: John 1:16. Galatians 2:20.]. And this is exactly such a salvation as is suitable to fallen man. If we were required to add any thing to what Christ has done and suffered for us, in order to render it sufficient for our salvation, what could we add? What have we of our own, but sin? The more any one knows of himself, the more he would despair, if any thing were required of him, as a price whereby to purchase an interest in Christ. Doubtless we must repent, and believe, and obey the Gospel, before we can be saved: but repentance, faith, and obedience, though necessary as means to an end, merit nothing at the hands of God; nor have we of ourselves any sufficiency for those things: even those graces are wrought in us by the Spirit of God, who “gives us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” Salvation, from first to last, is altogether of grace; and therefore it is equally suitable to all; to the thief when dying on the cross, as to Nicodemus, or Nathanael, whose whole life and conduct had been so exemplary, and who lived to adorn the doctrine they professed.

Contemplate these things, and say whether they contain not “wonders” that surpass the comprehension, both of men and angels? — — —]

From the text however we may learn,

II. How we are to attain the knowledge of them—

Doubtless we must “search the Scriptures,” and that with all diligence [Note: John 5:39.]. But, if we search them in dependence on our own wisdom, we shall never succeed. We must look up to God for the teachings of his good Spirit, even as David did, and pray, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”

This is the way prescribed by God

[God regards all men as blind [Note: Revelation 3:17.], and incapable of comprehending spiritual things, till he himself has opened their eyes, and given them a spiritual discernment [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14. Ephesians 4:18.] — — — Hence he counsels all to come to the Lord Jesus Christ “for eye-salve, that they muy see [Note: Revelation 3:18.];” and to look to him as the only Author of true wisdom [Note: James 1:5.]. He represents it as the Holy Spirit’s office to take of the things that are Christ’s, and to shew them unto us [Note: John 16:8; John 16:11; John 16:13-14.];” and to bring home to the minds of men a clear perception of those various truths which are most of all interesting to their souls. He considers all men as equally under the necessity of submitting to the teachings of his Spirit [Note: John 6:45.]. The efforts of those who lean to their own understanding, he derides [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:19-20.], and will communicate to “babes the things which he conceals from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25.].” True it is, that God uses both the written and preached word as the means of conveying instruction: but the due reception of that instruction he ascribes to the operation of his own almighty power [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:5-7.]. Even the disciples whom Jesus himself had instructed for three or four years, were not able rightly to apprehend his word, till “he opened their understandings to understand the Scriptures [Note: Luke 24:45.]:” and, when Peter confessed his Lord to be the Christ, he was expressly told, that “flesh and blood had not revealed it” to him, but God himself [Note: Matthew 16:17.]. Be it known then to all, that every child of man, whether learned or unlearned, must “hear and learn of the Father,” who is “the Father of lights, and from whom cometh every good and perfect gift [Note: James 1:17.].”]

This is the way pursued by the saints in all ages—

[Who more instructed than David? yet he was not ashamed to seek from God a spiritual illumination. The saints at Ephesus were inferior to no Church whatever, in a comprehension of divine truth: yet did St. Paul pray for them, that they might yet further “be enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, through whose gracious influences alone they could grow either in knowledge or in grace [Note: Ephesians 1:17-18.]. If we look to those of later times, we find this truth acknowledged by all, excepting those infidels who “deny the Lord that bought them.” The Reformers of our Church have most unequivocally sanctioned the use of these means, and encouraged us to look up to God for “the inspiration of his Spirit,” “that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same [Note: See Collects for First Sunday after Epiphany; and for Whitsunday.].” Let us not be contented with any efforts of our own, or any instructions from man; but let us “cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding, knowing that it is the Lord alone who giveth wisdom, and that out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding [Note: Proverbs 2:1-6.].”]


1. To those who are studying the Holy Scriptures—

[It is surprising what pains many take to acquire a critical knowledge of the Bible, whilst yet they remain contentedly ignorant of those deep things which none but God can teach. But let me entreat you to seek above all things to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, even that glory which He only who commanded light to shine out of darkness can make known unto you [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.] — — —]

2. To those who, though incapable of entering critically into the letter of the Scriptures, have yet, through grace, a knowledge of the spiritual truths contained in them—

[Blessed be God, there are some amongst us, of whom, though unskilled in human knowledge, it may be said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” “They were once blind; but now they see:” “They were once darkness; but are now light in the Lord.” Be thankful to him who has so highly favoured and distinguished you [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:27-28.]; and endeavour to walk worthy of him who has vouchsafed unto you this invaluable blessing [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.]. If ye be “light in the Lord, then walk as children of the light” and of the day [Note: Ephesians 5:8.].]

Verse 20



Psalms 119:20. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.

IN general, there is no other connexion between the different verses of this psalm, than the accidental one of their beginning with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet: yet possibly the collocation of them may occasionally have been determined by their bearing upon some particular point. The whole psalm is an eulogy upon the word of God, and a declaration of the love which David bare towards it. And, whilst we apprehend that every distinct sentence was put down as it occurred to the Psalmist’s mind, without any particular dependence on its context, we suppose that, in the arrangement of some parts, there may have been a design in placing some observations so as to confirm or enforce others which had preceded them. In the 18th verse, David had said, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law:” and in the two following verses, as they stand, he may be considered as enforcing that petition; first, by the consideration of the shortness of his continuance here; and, then, by the exceeding greatness of his wish to obtain the desired blessing: “I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.” Now, this expression being so exceeding strong, I will take occasion from it to point out,

I. The intensity of his desire after the word of God—

Often does he say that he has “longed” for God’s word [Note: ver. 40, 131, 174.]; but here he says, “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath.” To enter into the force of this expression, let us compare his desire after God’s word with the desire felt by others in cases of extreme emergency.

Let us compare it with the desire of,

1. A hunted deer—

[Let us conceive of a deer that has for many hours been fleeing from its pursuers, till its strength is altogether exhausted, and it is ready to faint with fatigue. Let us suppose that its fears are raised to the uttermost, by the rapid advance of its enemies, ready to seize and tear it in pieces. How intense must be its thirst! How gladly would it pause a few moments at a water-brook, to revive its parched frame, and to renovate its strength for further flight! Of this we may form some conception: and it may serve in a measure to convey to us an idea of David’s thirst after the judgments of his God. “O God,” says he, “thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is [Note: Psalms 63:1.].” “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God [Note: Psalms 84:2.].” “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night; while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God [Note: Psalms 42:1-3.]”?]

2. An endangered mariner—

[Mariners for the most part are men of great intrepidity: but when ready to be overwhelmed in the tempestuous ocean, they sink like other men. “When God commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves of the sea, the mariners mount up to the heaven; they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of the trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end [Note: Psalms 107:25-27.].” Such is the description given of them by God himself. But let us take an instance upon record. When Paul was “sailing by Crete, there arose a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon;” and the ship becoming unmanageable, “they let her drive;” and “fearing they should fall into the quicksands, they strake sail, and so were driven.” “Being exceedingly tossed with the tempest, they lightened the ship, casting out with their own hands the very tackling” which they had stowed up for the management of the ship. In this perilous condition they continued a whole fortnight, not having taken during all that time so much as one regular meal. St. Paul, in the immediate prospect of having the ship dashed to pieces, and no hope remaining to any of them of safety unless on broken pieces of the ship, said to them, “This is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing: wherefore I pray you to take some meat; for this is for your health;” he administered to them some bread, and then “cast into the sea the very wheat” with which the ship was provisioned; and soon “the ship ran aground, and was broken in pieces by the violence of the waves [Note: Acts 27:14-41.].” How must all this crew have longed for safety! How must their “soul have broken for the longing which they had” to escape from their peril! Yet not even this exceeded the desire which David had for the word of God.]

3. A deserted soul—

[This will come nearer to the point. The feelings of a hunted deer or an endangered mariner are merely natural: but those of a deserted soul are spiritual, and therefore more suited to illustrate those which David speaks of in our text. See the state of a deserted soul in Job: “O that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! for now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words are swallowed up. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me [Note: Job 6:2-4.].” Or take the case recorded in the 88th Psalm: “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction. Lord, I have called daily upon thee; I have stretched out my hands unto thee. Lord, why casteth thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted, and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off [Note: Psalms 88:6-7; Psalms 88:9; Psalms 88:14-16.].” Here we see what is meant by the soul breaking for the longing that it hath after God. And there is in this psalm another verse, which, to one who has ever felt what it is to have an overwhelming desire after God, will convey the true import of my text: “I opened my mouth and panted: for I longed for thy commandments [Note: ver. 131. This is sadly weakened by Commentators, who interpret it as referring to a person running or oppressed with heat. The sigh of one overwhelmed with a desire after God, expresses the very thing.].”

Nor was this a sudden emotion on some extraordinary occasion: no; it was the constant habit of David’s mind: it was what he felt “at all times:” “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.”]

I am aware that this may appear extravagant. But we must remember that this expression was not a poetic fiction, but an argument solemnly addressed to the heart-searching God. And that it was not stronger than the occasion called for, will appear whilst I shew you,

II. The reason of his so longing for God’s blessed word—

The reasons that might be assigned are numberless. But I will confine myself to three. He so longed for God’s word, because,

1. In it he found God himself—

[In the works of creation somewhat of God may be discerned; but it is in his word alone that all his perfections are displayed, and all his eternal counsels are made known. In this respect, “God has magnified his word above all his name,” and all the means whereby he has made himself known to men [Note: Psalms 138:2.]. There he met Jehovah, as Adam met him, amidst the trees of the garden in Paradise. There “he walked with God, and conversed with him as a friend.” There he had such “fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,” and such “communion with the Holy Ghost,” as he could never find in any other field, nor ever attain but by meditation on the word of God. Can we, then, wonder that he so longed for that word, and that his very soul brake for the longing that he had for it? The wonder rather is, that there should be a person upon earth who could have access to that sacred volume, and not so value it — — —]

2. From it he obtained all that his necessities required—

[Did he desire the forgiveness of all his sins? There he found “a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,” a fountain capable of washing him from all the guilt he had contracted in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. In reference to those very transactions, and to the efficacy of the atoning blood of Christ, he cries, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow [Note: Psalms 51:7.].” Did he need direction in difficulty, support in trouble, and strength for an unreserved obedience? There he found it all, and from thence derived it in the very hour of need, to the full extent of his necessities. Such were the refreshments which he found there, that corn and wine and oil, and all the delicacies of the universe, could but faintly shadow forth: and thence he derived such treasures as were absolutely unsearchable. Can we wonder, then, that the word of God was, in his estimation, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb, and infinitely more precious than the finest gold [Note: Psalms 19:10.]?]

3. By it he gained a foretaste of heaven itself—

[The word was to him as Jacob’s ladder, by which he held intercourse with heaven itself. By it he ascended to Mount Pisgah, and surveyed the Promised Land in all its length and breadth. In it he beheld his Saviour, as it were, transfigured before his eyes, yea, and seated on his throne of glory, surrounded by myriads of saints and angels; yea, and beheld the very throne reserved for himself, and the crown of glory prepared for him, and the golden harp already tuned for him to bear his part amongst the heavenly choir.

I forbear to speak more on this subject; because, if what I have already spoken do not justify the language of my text, nothing that I can add can be of any weight. Only let any person read this psalm, in which no less than one hundred and seventy-six times the excellency of the sacred volume is set forth in every variety of expression that David could invent; and he will see, that the language of my text was no other than what every child of man should both feel and utter.]

But from all this, who does not see—

1. That religion is not a mere form, but a reality?

[Religion, if it be genuine, occupies, not the head, but the heart and soul, every faculty of which it controls and regulates. Religion is in the soul, what the soul is in the body — — — O that we all felt it so! But indeed, Brethren, so it is; and so it must be, if ever we would enjoy the benefits it is intended to convey — — —]

2. That we all have very abundant occasion for shame in a review both of our past and present state?

[We are not, like the unhappy papists, debarred from God’s blessed word. The very least and meanest amongst us has free access to it, and may read it for himself; yea, and derive still greater advantage from it than ever David himself reaped; by reason of the rich additions which have been made to it since his day, and the fuller discovery it gives us of God’s mind and will. Yet how many of us read it not at all, or only in a formal cursory manner, without any such feeling as that which is expressed in my text! My dear Brethren, we suffer loss, exceeding great loss, by our negligence in this respect. Did we but read the word, and meditate on it day and night, and pray over it, and converse with God by it, what might we not obtain, and what might we not enjoy? Well—I leave it, with “commending you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified [Note: Acts 20:32.].” Certain I am that “it is profitable for all that your souls can desire;” and that if you improve it aright, it shall render you perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works [Note: 2 Timothy 3:17.],” and shall “make you wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus [Note: 2 Timothy 3:15.].”]

Verses 30-32



Psalms 119:30-32. I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O Lord, put me not to shame! I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

EVERY thing which has an aspect of egotism is for the most part to be avoided; or, at all events, it should be entered upon with extreme care, and be relinquished as soon as the occasion for it has ceased. Yet, whilst this rule is proper for private Christians, we have reason to be thankful that the Inspired Writers were under no necessity of submitting to it; but that, on the contrary, they were constrained, by the powerful motions of the Holy Spirit, to record the secret workings of their hearts, and to develop the principles by which they were actuated in the divine life. What a treasure has in this view been committed to us in the Psalms of David! In him we see what is the experience of God’s saints in every age. In the very words which we have just read we may behold a Christian’s mind:

I. His retrospective testimony—

We may take the words as declaring,

1. His deliberate choice—

[Whatever was his state in former life, he is now become a new creature: his former sins and errors he has utterly renounced; and has determinately embraced the truth of God, even that truth which God has revealed in the Gospel of his Son. He knows that, as a sinner, he is justly obnoxious to God’s heavy displeasure; and that there is no hope for him, but in that Saviour who died for him upon the cross — — — Hence, with the fullest conviction of his mind and the most deliberate purpose of his soul, has he “fled for refuge to Christ, and laid hold on him as his only hope.”]

2. The means by which he seeks to effect his end—

[The written word of God is regarded by him as the only ground of his faith, and the only rule of his practice. The promises contained in it he treasures up in his mind, for the encouragement of his soul; and the precepts, as a sure directory. The Sacred Volume is to him what the chart and compass are to the mariner: nor will he ever pass a day without consulting it, to ascertain the state of his soul, and the course that he shall pursue.]

3. The exertions made by him in the prosecution of his purpose—

[No sooner did he turn to God in earnest, than he found allurements, on the one hand, to draw him from the Lord; and menaces, on the other hand, to drive him from his God. But his conscience bears him witness, that “he has stuck unto God’s testimonies,” and “cleaved unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.” True, the conflict yet continues, yea, and requires the utmost exertions of his soul: but still he is “steadfast and immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord: assured that, at last, his labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]

Conformable with his past experience is also,

II. His prospective determination—

He feels, indeed, that God alone can uphold him—

[This is strongly expressed in that prayer, “O Lord, put me not to shame!” In vain would be all his own efforts, if he were not aided from on high. Soon would he fall, and make shipwreck of his faith, and “be put utterly to shame,” if God should withdraw from him for one single moment. He feels himself like an infant in its mother’s arms, and cries to God continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” He laments that in his own heart he is narrow and contracted, and incapable of either devising or executing such plans as may advance his spiritual welfare in the way that he could wish. He seems to himself like a ship that is becalmed; and which, for want of winds to carry him forward, is in danger of being diverted from his path by currents which he is unable to withstand. Hence he prays to God for such communications of his Holy Spirit as shall fill his sails, and bear him onward to his destined port. And,]

In dependence on God, he determines to redouble his exertions till he has attained the great object of his desires—

[He is not contented to “walk” in the ways of God: no; he would “run;” he would “run, and not be weary; he would march onward, and not faint.” He considers himself as engaged in a race: and he sees his course clearly marked in the commandments of his God. Hence he determines, that “when God shall enlarge his heart, he will run with all his might, and never stop till the prize shall be accorded to him. Whatever advance he may have made, “he forgets what is behind, and reaches forward to that which is before, and presses on for the prize of his high calling” with increased zeal. He determines that nothing shall abate his ardour, or for a moment divert him from his path. Thus he runs the race that is set before him; and determines, through grace, “so to run it, that he may obtain the prize.”]

Let me now add a few words,

1. Of congratulation, to those who can adopt this language—

[I do hope that some amongst you are like-minded with David in these particulars; and that, if you have not attained his eminence in the divine life, you are yet truly and habitually following his steps. Shall I not, then, say to you, as Moses did to Israel of old, “Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord [Note: Deuteronomy 33:29.]?” Truly, in comparison of you, the greatest, wisest, noblest of mankind are in a poor and low condition. In you the end of your creation has been answered; yea, and the end of your redemption too. In you God delights; yea, he regards you as his peculiar treasure. On you the very angels before the throne account it an honour to wait, as your ministering servants: and for you are prepared crowns and kingdoms that shall never fade away. Was Mary commended by our Lord for having chosen the good part? and was she assured that it should never be taken away from her? The same commendation is yours, and the same assurance is yours also. I do, then, from my soul congratulate you, however pitiable in other respects your condition may be; and, in the name of my Divine Master, I say for your encouragement, “Be not weary in well-doing; for in due season you shall reap, if you fault not.”]

2. Of reproof, to those who are yet strangers to this heavenly experience—

[What have you been doing all your days, that you have never yet made this choice? Are the ways of the world equal in any respect to the way of truth? Are they as reasonable in themselves? Are they as conducive to the best interests of man? or will they prove so happy in their issue? Compare the things which tempt you from the testimonies of the Lord, with the loss which they will occasion, and the evils which they will entail upon you. You may now, perhaps, justify the preference which you give to sin: but say whether you will not one day be ashamed of it? Say whether, in that hour when you shall be bidden to depart from your Saviour’s presence, and to take your portion for ever in a lake of fire, you will not be ashamed of the choice which you have now so unwisely made, and of the hopes which you now so presumptuously cherish? Peradventure you now laugh at the idea of an enlargement of heart, and deride the course to which it leads: but will you do so in that day? Will you not rather lament that you followed the course of this world, instead of prosecuting the ways which load to heaven? I would say then to you, “Seek now the Lord whilst he may be found, and call upon him whilst he is near.” There is no repentance in the grave, nor any reversing of the sentence that shall soon be passed upon you. Begin, then, the course which David ran, and prosecute it with the ardour that filled his soul. So shall you possess with him the joy that is set before you, and inherit to all eternity the rest that remaineth for the people of God.]

Verse 34



Psalms 119:34. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

A SPIRITUAL discernment essentially differs from the mere exercise of our intellectual powers. A man may have the richest stores of human knowledge, and the most discriminating faculty in various branches of science, and yet be under the dominion, the allowed dominion, of his own lusts and passions. But spiritual knowledge is always accompanied with gracious dispositions: and for the sake of its practical effects alone is it to be desired. This appears from what St. Paul says respecting the intercessions which he continually offered before God in the behalf of his Colossian converts: “We do not cease,” says he, “to pray for you, and to desire that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing [Note: Colossians 1:9-10.].” In a foregoing part of this psalm it might seem, as if knowledge alone had been the end for which David desired a spiritual illumination: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” But we see in our text, that he had far other ends in view: he longed for knowledge, only that he might have his soul the more enlarged by it to run the way of God’s commandments: “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”

From these words we will take occasion to shew,

I. How true wisdom will operate—

The provisional engagement which David entered into was no other than what must necessarily result from an answer to his petition. If God give to any of us a spiritual understanding, we shall immediately begin,

1. To keep his law—

[Whatever God has revealed will be a law unto us. Has he bidden us repent? We shall humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes — — — Has he enjoined us to believe in his dear Son? We shall receive him into our hearts, and embrace him as all our salvation and all our desire — — — Has he commanded us to obey his precepts? We shall endeavour to search out his will, and to conform ourselves to it in all things — — — Whatever temptations may assault us, we shall not suffer them to turn us aside from the path of duty. Whatever opposition we may have to encounter, we shall hold on our way, determined to keep God’s law, yea, to “keep it to the end [Note: ver. 112.].” This alone is true wisdom [Note: Job 28:28.]; yea, this is the first beginning of wisdom in the soul [Note: Psalms 111:10.].]

2. To observe it with our whole hearts—

[There are two things which a spiritual understanding will most assuredly teach us, namely, the beauty and excellency of God’s law, and the folly of rendering to it a merely partial obedience.

To an unenlightened mind many of God’s commands appear absurd: and men are ready to say of them, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” But, in the view of one who is taught of God, “there is no commandment grievous:” the scope of every thing which God has spoken, is, to produce the present and eternal happiness of his creatures: the language of every injunction is, Be holy, be happy — — — To attempt to lower any command to the standard of man’s opinion, or of our own wishes, is seen to be the most horrible infatuation: for, if we can deceive man, we cannot deceive God: “to him all things are naked and open.” As he knows the extent of his own commands, so he knows the precise measure of obedience which we pay to them: “He weighs,” not our actions only, but “our spirits” also.

Hence a partial obedience is the same kind of folly as if a man should request permission to take a poisoned cup, because it was sweet; or as if he should shut his eyes, and say, that no man can see him. Convinced of this, he begs of God to “put truth in his inward parts,” and desires to be “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.”]

As from a root which is acknowledged to be good we may anticipate a corresponding produce, so from fruit that is excellent we may infer with certainty the goodness of the root. In proof of this we will proceed to shew,

II. Wherein its operation will approve itself to every reflecting mind—

The observing of God’s law with our whole hearts necessarily evinces the existence of true wisdom in the soul; because,

1. It is consonant with right reason—

[What is disobedience, but a preferring of the creature to God, the body to the soul, and time to eternity? And will any one say that this is reasonable, or that it has even a shadow of reason in it? Reason requires the very reverse of this: and the yielding up of our soul and body to God, as a living sacrifice, is expressly called “a reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].” If we consider ourselves only as the work of God’s hands, this kind of service is reasonable: but, if we consider ourselves as redeemed by the blood of God’s only dear Son, it is infinitely more reasonable: for, “having been bought with a price, we are not our own, but are bound to glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are God’s.”]

2. It is conducive to our best interests—

[We will concede, for argument sake, all that the slaves of pleasure can say in its behalf; yea, we will concede ten times more than its most infatuated votary ever ventured to assert: but, having done this, we will ask, What good will it all do you in a dying hour, and at the bar of judgment? “Godliness,” we are told, “is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” But of ungodliness no such thing can be asserted. Granting, that the ungodliness may be of the least offensive kind: yea, that it shall be so specious, as to assume the appearance, and to gain from many the applause, of piety; still we ask, What will it avail in the day that God shall judge the world? But it is not true, that the pleasures of sin are so great or so satisfactory. On the contrary, there is no comparison between the peace that flows from piety, and the gratifications that result from any criminal indulgence. “The work of righteousness is peace;” but “the way of transgressors is hard.” And, as to the eternal world, there can be no doubt — — — Inasmuch then as piety is most consonant with right reason, and most conducive to our best interests, it approves itself, beyond a possibility of doubt, the genuine offspring of true wisdom.]


1. Those who live in the allowed violation of any one commandment—

[The world may count you wise: yea, “if you are doing well unto yourselves, (that is, are advancing your own temporal interests,) all men will speak well of you [Note: Psalms 49:18.].” But what does God say of you? “They have forsaken the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them [Note: Jeremiah 8:9.]?” Ah! what indeed? To the rich man, whose heart was elated with his temporal prospects, God said, “Thou fool:” and no better character will he assign to you. Think only with what an eye the heart-searching God beholds you; or what the angels think of your conduct; or what you yourselves will think of it in a little time; and you will be at no loss to form a right estimate of it. If you would be truly wise in God’s estimation, your obedience to him must be uniform and unreserved [Note: Matthew 7:24-27. Deuteronomy 4:6.].]

2. Those who profess to be endued with true wisdom—

[If “God have given us an understanding,” then we must evidence it by the purity of our hearts and lives. But many there are, who can talk very fluently and speciously about religion, who yet are very far from being wise in the sight of God. Hear the judgment of God himself on this subject: “Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts (and these are no uncommon inmates with the professors of religion), glory not, and lie not against the truth.” (Let proud, conceited, and contentious professors hear this; They are “liars against the truth.”) This wisdom descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish. “But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy [Note: James 3:13-17.].” Here is the test of true wisdom; here is the evidence of a sound understanding. The man that is destitute of these gracious tempers, is in darkness even until now: but the man who from love to Christ is enabled to live in the habitual exercise of them, has surely an understanding heart, and is made wise unto salvation.]

Verse 37



Psalms 119:37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

THE depths of the human heart are never more plainly disclosed, than when a man comes into the presence of his Maker. Then he opens all his wants, and supplicates relief for all his necessities. The godly man at a throne of grace knows no dissimulation, no concealment, no false humility. What he speaks, (if he be in a right state) he feels. Let us then draw nigh, and listen to the breathings of holy David. He felt the ensnaring influence of worldly things, and the lamentable tendency of fallen man to relax his efforts in the service of his God: hence he poured out his soul in this humble supplication; “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.”

That we may all be stirred up to implore similar blessings at the hands of God, we propose to shew,

I. The fascinating power of earthly vanities—

By the word “vanity,” we understand all those things which are apt to engross the affections of carnal men. The Apostle classes them all under “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life:” and they all justly deserve the name assigned them in the text, because they are sure to disappoint the desires and expectations of all, who look to them for any solid or permanent satisfaction.

These things altogether captivate and enslave the minds of the generality—

[The natural man seeks nothing above them. His mind is not occupied with any thing above them. He “is in the flesh;” he “walks according to the flesh,” “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” His “affections are altogether set upon things below, and not on things above.” His thoughts, his conversation, his labours from day to day, all arise from, and terminate in, the things of time and sense: and from these things alone spring all his hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows — — —]

These things also have great power over those who profess godliness—

[So our Lord has told us in the parable of the Sower. The thorny-ground hearers have made, in appearance at least, a great proficiency in religion. They have far surpassed the stony-ground hearers, who yet have heard the word with joy, and given many cheering and hopeful promises of a future harvest. They have been long established, and brought forth much which both they and others have deemed estimable fruit: but yet, “through the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, the seed that has grown up in them is choked, and they bring forth no fruit to perfection.”

Even persons truly and deeply pious are in great danger from them; else why did our blessed Lord caution even his own immediate disciples in those memorable words, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares [Note: Luke 21:34.].” There is yet an earthly and sensual spirit dwelling in the best of us, and working powerfully to counteract the better dictates of our new man [Note: Galatians 5:17.]: and he knows little of his own heart, who does not see and bewail his own proneness to look back again after the flesh-pots of Egypt.]

But whilst we point out thus the danger of earthly vanities, we would point out also,

II. The way to escape their baneful influence—

We should set a guard upon all our senses—

[The senses are inlets to all manner of evil. Alas! alas! how often has the mind been contaminated by what it has either seen or heard! If it were no more than what we have read in books, or heard in conversation, that was calculated to encourage a worldly spirit, we should all feel abundant reason to lament, that we have not been sufficiently on our guard against the admission of bad impressions on the mind. But the vilest lusts have found an entrance into the heart by these avenues. Some have found to their cost, that one sinful idea, which they have either seen in a book or picture, or heard in conversation, has abode with them through life, when they have greatly desired to forget it; whilst hundreds of sermons which they would have been glad to have remembered, have passed from their minds like the early cloud. Behold David, the man after God’s own heart; what reason had he to curse the day that he ever looked upon Bathsheba! — — — What reason too had Solomon’s fool to lament that ever he listened to the voice of the enchanting adulteress [Note: Proverbs 7:6-23.]! It is not without reason that Solomon advises us not to look upon the wine when sparkling in the glass [Note: Proverbs 23:31-32.]. We must resist the very first entrance of sin into the soul; for it will operate like fire on a house of wood. Alas! “how great a matter does a little fire kindle [Note: James 3:5.]!” Its progress is very rapid: and who shall stop the conflagration, when once it is begun? “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death [Note: James 1:15.].” We exhort all then, like Solomon, to make a covenant with their eyes, and with their ears also, yea, and with the very imaginations of their heart; that neither their corporeal nor intellectual eyes become ministers of sin, or traitors to their souls.]

We should cry earnestly to God for his effectual grace—

[God does and will preserve his people from evil, if they cry unto him. We should therefore call upon him both for his preventing and his quickening grace: we should pray, as David, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.”

There are many ways in which God will turn away our eyes “from beholding vanity.” He will, if we are really seeking it at his hands, keep temptation from us. And how much we are all indebted to him for this, we shall never know, till we come to the bar of judgment, and have all his mercies unfolded to our view. Thousands of our fellow-creatures, who were once as respectable in every point of view as ourselves, have in an hour of temptation so fallen, as to destroy all their own honour and happiness through life. And why have not we done the same? Are we sure that we, if subjected to the same temptations as they, should not have done the same? Oh! if we are wise, we shall cry day and night, “Lead us not into temptation.” But there are many other ways in which God can, and does, impart the same blessing. Perhaps he lays some affliction upon our loins, and visits us with some personal or domestic calamity. We are apt on such occasions to complain of the affliction; whereas, if we saw from what evils the visitation was sent to deliver us, we should be adoring God for it as the richest of all mercies. Let our distress be either in body or mind, who will not bless God for it, if it be the means of weakening the influence of worldly objects on his soul, and of keeping his eyes from beholding vanity? — — —

But, in addition to this, we should cry to him also for his quickening grace. However active we may be in the pursuit of earthly things, we all are too sluggish in our heavenly course. Nine times in this psalm does David cry, “Quicken me!” and ninety times nine do we need to renew the petition every day of our lives. Beg of God then to shew you more and more clearly the excellency of “his way” (even of that salvation which Christ has wrought out for us — — —), and the blessedness of the end to which it leads. This will quicken us more than any thing else. Let us see the excellency of a life of faith; and that will make us despise the things of sense. Let us also get Pisgah views of the land of Canaan; and we shall value nothing that can be offered us in this dreary wilderness. Look at Christ as the way, and Christ as the end; and you will soon “cast away the besetting sins that impede you,” and “run with alacrity the race that is set before you [Note: Hebrews 12:1-2.].”]


1. Young people—

[Greatly do you need to offer the petition in our text. O! bear in mind what is the true character of earthly things: they are “vanity” altogether — — — Bear in mind your danger from them: they will ensnare, and, if the snare be not broken, destroy, your souls — — — Bear in mind your need of divine grace to counteract their influence. It is God only that can preserve you: and, if not preserved by him, you will fall and perish — — —]

2. Those who make a profession of godliness—

[Think not that you are above temptation. Satan tempted even our blessed Lord himself, by “shewing him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” And you will he tempt in like manner. Nor imagine that you may not fall: for Demas was as eminent as any of you, and yet fell at last, through love of this present world [Note: 2 Timothy 4:10. with Colossians 4:14 and Phil. 24.]. In every Church the sad effect of worldly and carnal lusts is seen. You yourselves see it in others. O, beware lest it be seen in you also. It is your duty, and your happiness, to “be crucified unto the world, and to have the world crucified unto you [Note: Galatians 6:14.].” You may use this world, if God have given it to you; but you must “so use it, as not to abuse it; [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.]” and so flee from all occasions of evil, that you may be “found of God at last without spot, and blameless [Note: 2 Peter 3:14.].”]

Verse 45



Psalms 119:45. I will walk at liberty; for I seek thy precepts.

JUSTLY as civil liberty is appreciated amongst us, there are but few who have just conceptions of that liberty which has respect to morality and religion. Every one knows that unrestrained liberty is licentiousness: but every one does not know, that a perfect obedience to God’s Holy Word is the most perfect liberty that man can enjoy. This, however, is plainly intimated in the passage before us; from whence I shall take occasion to shew,

I. That the ungodly are strangers to true liberty—

They will boast of liberty, and “promise it to all who will conform to their ways; but they are altogether in a state of bondage [Note: 2 Peter 2:19.]:”

1. To the world—

[The tastes of men differ, according to their age and to the sphere in which they move: but all of every age and every rank are subject to the laws of custom, which they dare not to infringe. Even the religion of men must be conformed to this standard; and God’s commandments must be reduced to the scale which men have established for the regulation of their own lives. If one be told what God requires, he immediately bethinks himself, ‘What will this person say, or that person do, if I comply with requisitions so foreign to the habits of those around me? Will they not deride my singularity, and set themselves to oppose my insufferable preciseness?’ To justify their conduct, men put the Scriptures altogether aside, as an antiquated volume, the dictates of which are superseded by the wiser and more practicable maxims of fashion and “philosophy, falsely so called.” Yes: of all unconverted men it is declared, that they “walk according to the course of this world [Note: Ephesians 2:2.],” and “gaze strangely at any who presume to choose for themselves a holier path [Note: 1 Peter 4:4.].”]

2. To the flesh—

[There are different degrees in which men yield to the impulse of their corrupt appetites: but every man has “a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members [Note: Romans 7:23.].” In fact, there is not any one so ignorant, but that even his unenlightened reason prescribes to him a better path than he pursues. Let us look around, and see what are the dispositions and habits of all around us. Are not all “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind [Note: Ephesians 2:3.],” without affecting any thing higher than the gratification of their own corrupt appetites? We are told, that “they who are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh [Note: Romans 8:5.]:” and we know, from infallible authority, that to whomsoever we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servants we are to whom we obey [Note: Romans 6:16.].” In truth, even to our dying hour will our conflicts with this tyrannical master continue; for even St. Paul himself complained, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death [Note: Romans 7:24.]?”]

3. To the Devil—

[Well is Satan called “the god of this world: for he worketh in all the children of disobedience [Note: Ephesians 2:2.].” Ever since he prevailed over our first parents in Paradise, he has subjected the whole race of man to his dominion, “taking them in his snares, and leading them captive at his will [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.].” That men deny the agency, and even the existence of this great adversary, is only a proof to what an extent they are “blinded by him [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.],” and how effectually he has lulled them to sleep in his very arms [Note: Luke 11:21.]. Doubtless it is very humiliating to think of ourselves as his vassals: but this is the true state of every unconverted man; and even the saints themselves are not delivered from his influence, but through the mighty power of Jehovah himself, given in answer to fervent and believing prayer [Note: Ephesians 6:12-18. James 4:7. Romans 16:20.].]

But the Psalmist’s mention of liberty leads us more particularly to shew,

II. What sweet enjoyments they have of it who love and serve their God—

David accounted the service of his God to be perfect freedom. And so, indeed, it is: for the man whom “the truth of the Gospel has made free [Note: John 8:32.],” and who “looks to God’s precepts” as his only rule of conduct, he, I say, walks,

1. According to the dictates of his own judgment—

[He has an insight into the mind and will of God, and clearly discerns that there is not, in all the Holy Scriptures, a command which does not conduce to the happiness of all who obey it. His own mind and conscience go along with the word of God, and set their seal to the truth and excellency of every thing contained in it. “Not one commandment appears to him to be grievous [Note: 1 John 5:3.]:” the whole law of God is esteemed by him as “holy, and just, and good [Note: Romans 7:12 and Psalms 119:128.].” To “love God with all his heart and soul and strength, and his neighbour as himself,” does not appear to him any hardship imposed upon him, but the perfection of his nature and completion of his felicity: so that he would on no account have one atom of this law cancelled, or mitigated in the least degree. His own judgment tells him that it is no less his privilege, than it is his duty, to be “holy, as God is holy;” and “perfect, as his Father who is in heaven is perfect.”]

2. Agreeably to the inclination of his own will—

[He is neither drawn nor driven against his own will. He is, indeed, “made willing in the day of God’s power [Note: Psalms 110:3.];” but “he is drawn with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love [Note: Hosea 11:4.].” He does not, indeed, all that he would; yea, in too many respects he does what he would not [Note: Romans 7:15.]:” but this very thing shews that it is rather strength than inclination that he wants [Note: Romans 7:16-20.]. Could he have but the desire of his heart, he would leave no sin unmortified, no duty unfulfilled. He is in the situation of one who is running a race, or “fighting a fight:” had he but his will accomplished, his every antagonist would be vanquished in a moment, and “death itself, his last enemy, be swallowed up in victory.”]

3. In an unbiassed exercise of his own affections—

[He has a real delight in God. He does not observe the duties of prayer and praise through the fear of hell, but from a real pleasure which he feels in drawing nigh to God, whom it is his privilege to call by the endearing name of Father, and in communion with whom he would gladly walk all the day long. Conceive of Adam before his fall; and there you have an image of those who, through the tender mercy of God, are restored. True, they still have “the flesh lusting against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit lusting against the flesh; so that they neither do, nor can do, all that they would [Note: Galatians 5:17.]:” but their taste is the very same with that of angels; and the felicity of angels is begun in them: for their life, so far as they have really attained, is both a preparation for heaven, and a foretaste also of heaven, in their souls.]

Let me then, in conclusion, commend this liberty to your acceptance—

[Think not, my Brethren, that the Gospel is a mere system of restraints: no, it is a “perfect law of liberty [Note: James 1:25.]:” and “all who are made free by Christ, are become free indeed [Note: John 8:36.].” O that religion were but understood in this view! No captive would more delight to shake off his chains, than sinners would to emancipate themselves from the sore bondage in which they are held. Know then, Brethren, that I am authorised, in the name of Jesus Christ, to “preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bruised [Note: Luke 4:18-19.].” The jubilee trumpet now sounds in your ears, and proclaims to you a restoration to all that you have ever lost and forfeited. Did not the poor slave, think you, when called to resume his liberty and his inheritance, account the trumpet a joyful sound? Let the Gospel, then, be such a sound to you: and, instead of regarding God’s service as a hard bondage, adopt the language of the Psalmist: “I will walk at liberty; for I seek thy precepts.” “Take upon you the yoke of Christ, and I pledge myself that you shall find it light and easy; and you shall obtain everlasting rest unto your souls [Note: Matthew 11:28-29.].”]

Verse 51-52



Psalms 119:51-52. The proud have had me greatly in derision; yet have I not declined from thy Law. I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have comforted myself.

THERE is not, throughout the whole Scriptures, any woe so little feared, so little thought of, so little credited, as that which was denounced by our blessed Lord, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you [Note: Luke 6:26.]!” But, in truth, there is no denunciation more certain to be executed than that: for there is nothing that can more infallibly prove us to be the enemies of God, than the approbation and love of an ungodly world. If it be asked, Whence this should be? I answer, that “the things which are highly esteemed amongst men are an abomination in the sight of God; and that the things which are pleasing to God are no less an abomination in the sight of men: and consequently, that, whichever of the two we serve, we must of necessity lose the favour of the other. This is what our blessed Lord has told us: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon;” ye cannot adhere to either without despising and renouncing the other [Note: Matthew 6:24.]. And the truth of this has been exemplified in all the saints, from the time of Abel to the present moment. What David speaks respecting his own experience of it, will lead me to consider,

I. The trials he endured—

He was held greatly in derision by his ungodly subjects—

[If any one could have escaped contempt, we should have supposed that David would be the happy man. His rank in society, as the king of Israel; his extraordinary prowess in arms; the services he had rendered to his country; and the marvellous sublimity of his piety, must, we should have thought, have rendered him an object of universal love and admiration. But, amongst his proud and envious subjects, this last quality neutralized, us it were, all his merits, and reduced him to an object of hatred and contempt. The highest people in his kingdom delighted to speak against him [Note: ver. 23.]; whilst the lowest readily joined in their opprobrious treatment of him [Note: Psalms 69:12.]. The fat bulls of Bashan on the one hand, and the dogs on the other, compassed him about [Note: Psalms 22:12; Psalms 22:16.], and treated him with every species of indignity. Even his own wife, who should have been ready to stem the torrent of abuse that was cast upon him, herself joined in it with peculiar malignity [Note: 2 Samuel 6:20.]; and the very best actions of his life were made the chief subjects of their profane raillery [Note: 2 Samuel 6:16 and Psalms 69:10-12.]. And let not this be thought a light affliction. Truly it is painful to flesh and blood to bear such contemptuous treatment: so, at least, the Apostle represents it in the Epistle to the Hebrews [Note: Hebrews 10:32-33.]; and so David himself found it to be: “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us!” says he: “for we are exceedingly filled with contempt; our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud [Note: Psalms 123:3-4.].”]

And can we hope to escape a similar trial?

[Look at the saints from the beginning, and find one that ever escaped it? How contemptuously did the scoffers of the antediluvian world ridicule the conduct of Noah, all the time that he was preparing the ark [Note: 2 Peter 3:3-6.]! What an object of derision, too, was Isaac, on account of his confidence in God [Note: Genesis 21:6. with Galatians 4:29.]! Behold Lot also in Sodom [Note: 2 Peter 2:7-8.], and Elisha [Note: 2 Kings 2:23.] and Jeremiah [Note: Jeremiah 20:7.] in Israel: or rather, look at our blessed Lord himself, and all his holy Apostles; what was there too contemptuous for the ungodly to say either of him [Note: Matthew 27:39-44.] or them [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:13.]? — — — How, then, can any one hope to escape in the present day? Is “the carnal mind less at enmity with God” now, than in former ages? That the laws of the land protect the godly to a certain degree, is true; but from the shafts of calumny and contempt, no laws, whether divine or human, can protect us: and this species of persecution, at least, shall every one experience, who will come out from the world, and boldly declare himself to be on the side of Christ [Note: John 15:19.]. “If they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household [Note: Matthew 10:25.].”]

For our direction, then, let us contemplate,

II. The graces he exercised—

Whilst he bore his trials with patience, he suffered none of them to divert him from the path of duty—

[David’s mind was too firmly fixed on God to be moved by the scoffs and raillery of a profane world. What he did, he did from principle. He regarded God’s Law as a rule from which no trial whatever should induce him to depart. Not only would he not turn back from the path of duty; he would not turn aside from it, no, not for a moment. The more contemptuously he was treated by men, the more diligently he sought communion with his God, in the study of his blessed word [Note: ver. 23, 24.], and in the exercise of fervent prayer [Note: Psalms 69:13.]. Hence, when he and his people were treated with the utmost possible scorn and derision, he could appeal to God in the following triumphant language: “All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant: our heart is not turned back; neither have our steps declined from thy ways [Note: Psalms 44:13-18. with 69:20.].”]

And such, also, is the firmness which we should manifest—

[It should be with us “a small matter to be judged of man’s judgment [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3.].” We should have but one object, and that is, to approve ourselves to God; and, having “the testimony of our consciences that we have pleased him,” we should not lay to heart the displeasure of others, however contemptuously or virulently it may be displayed. Onward we should go in our destined path, not turning either to the right hand or to the left. If the whole world should deride us, we should not be induced either to do any thing which will offend our God, or to forbear any thing which will honour him. That they “hate our light,” and are offended at it, is no reason at all why we should “put it under a bushel:” whoever they may be, whether friends or foes, our reply to them should be, “I will yet be more vile than thus [Note: 2 Samuel 6:22.].”]

Nor will this be very difficult, when once we have tasted of,

III. The consolations he enjoyed—

In the recollection of “God’s judgments of old, he comforted himself”—

[The term “judgments” has in the Scriptures a great variety of meanings. In the psalm before us it seems to import the declarations and decisions of Jehovah. Now God, in his word, has abundantly declared that such treatment is to be expected, and that it is, to those who suffer it, a token for good: “The just upright man is laughed to scorn. He that is ready to slip with his feet, is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease [Note: Job 12:4-5.].” A lamp burning bright in a dark place is an object of high regard; but when it is so burnt down that the flame is quivering on the wick, and almost extinct, it is regarded rather as an object of disgust. And such is the light in which even the best of worldly men are viewed, when once God is pleased to convert them to himself: they are no longer welcomed as friends to exhilarate and enliven their companions, but are lothed rather, as the bane of social happiness. In God’s estimation, however, they are proportionably exalted; and are taught to consider “the reproach of Christ as greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt [Note: Hebrews 11:26.].” In the view of these things, the Psalmist “comforted himself;” saying, “Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy Law is my delight. Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts [Note: ver. 77, 78.].”]

The same sources of comfort are ever open unto us also—

[Our blessed Lord speaks of this treatment as the certain portion of all his people: “Ye shall be hated of all men, for my name’s sake [Note: Matthew 10:22.].” And does he represent this as a matter for grief and sorrow? Far from it: he tells us rather to “rejoice and leap for joy, because great will be our reward in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:10-12.].” Besides, in these afflictions we are made “partakers of Christ’s sufferings;” and by means of them “the Spirit of glory and of God is made more visibly and more abundantly to rest upon us:” and though, “on the part of our enemies, God is evil spoken of and dishonoured, on our part he is glorified [Note: 1 Peter 4:13-14.].” and, to crown the whole, we are assured, that, “if we suffer thus with Christ, we shall also in due time be glorified together [Note: Romans 8:17.].” And are not these declarations abundantly sufficient to comfort us, under all that we can be called to suffer for Christ’s sake? No doubt they are: and, therefore, if we participate with David in his trials and his graces, we shall, both in this life and the next, be partakers also of his consolations.]

Learn, then, from this subject,

1. What expectations to form—

[You must not dream of honour from man; but be contented with the honour that cometh of God [Note: John 5:44.] — — — You must expect to go through “honour and dishonour, through evil report as well as good report [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:8.].”]

2. What conduct to pursue—

[Be not cast down when these trials come upon you; but submit to them, as sent of God for your good; and “rejoice that you are counted worthy to endure them for the Lord’s sake [Note: Acts 5:41.]” — — —]

3. What recompence to look for—

[Be not anxious about the approbation of men, if only you may but approve yourselves to God. In a little time you will stand at his judgment-seat; and then you shall receive a testimony from him, and “your righteousness shall appear as the noon-day.” If “the Lord Jesus do but confess you before his Father and his holy angels,” it will be no grief to you that you have suffered for confessing him [Note: Matthew 10:32.]. A crown of righteousness and glory will be an ample recompence for all the hatred and contempt that an ungodly world could pour upon you.]

Verse 59-60



Psalms 119:59-60. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.

AT what period of David’s life these words were written, we are not informed: if in his early youth, they relate to his first conversion to God; but if in his middle or more advanced life, they declare the daily habit of his soul. Under any circumstances they are very instructive. To young people they shew, that it is never too early to begin a life of entire devotedness to God. To those engaged in business of any kind, they manifest, that, whilst in the world, they should not be of the world, but in the midst of all their cares they should preserve their minds spiritual and heavenly. To the great and noble, yea, to princes and kings, they hold forth a solemn admonition to imitate the Jewish monarch, and to be as eminent in piety, as they are elevated above others in state and dignity. This all may learn from them, that if ever we would find acceptance with God in the great day, we must turn to him,

I. With care and diligence—

Inconsideration is the source of almost all the evil that exists—

[Men will not give themselves the trouble to look back upon their past conduct. They take for granted that all has been right, or at least not materially wrong; and that they have done nothing that calls for any particular humiliation before God. Of this the prophet Jeremiah complains [Note: Jeremiah 8:6.]; as does our Lord also of the Jews in his day [Note: John 3:19-20.]. Nor will men take much pains to ascertain the path of duty in reference to what is future: they love rather to act from the impulse of the moment; nor have they any apprehensions that they shall offend God by any thing that they may do. “They do what is right in their own eyes,” without inquiring whether it be right in God’s sight, or not; or whether he remembers it, or not [Note: Hosea 7:2.].]

But we should compare our actions carefully with the word of God—

[The sacred volume is the only adequate standard of truth and virtue. If we satisfy ourselves with the opinions of men and the customs of the world, we shall be sure to err. We should take “God’s testimonies,” and try our ways by them. In particular, we should notice what God has testified to us in his gospel; and see whether in our spirit and conduct we are such as he requires us to be. In this lies the vast difference between the standard of the world and that of God: the world regards nothing but our outward conduct, and that chiefly in reference to the welfare of society; whereas God has respect to all our dispositions towards him and his Christ, and to all our motives and principles of action towards men. We should take the scripture then as our touchstone; and see how far the whole habit of our minds accords with what is required of us there, and what we see exemplified in the primitive saints — — — Yea, we should set Christ himself before us, and try ourselves by the standard of his perfection — — —]

And, having ascertained what God’s word requires, we should rectify our lives according to it—

[We must “turn,” not our thoughts only, but “our feet” also, unto his testimonies. Having found out our past errors, we should humble ourselves for them, and determine, through grace, to run into them no more: and having discovered “the good old way,” we should strive, through grace, to “walk in it.” As for obstacles of any kind, we should not regard them. We should have it settled in our minds, that “the high-way of holiness” is the only road that will lead to heaven; and we should resolve, that, however narrow and unfrequented it may be, we will walk in it, even though earth and hell should conspire to obstruct our progress [Note: Matthew 7:13-14.] — — — This is the advice given us by the voice of inspiration [Note: Lamentations 3:40.]: and to follow it is the duty, the interest, the happiness, of every human being [Note: Ecclesiastes 12:13. Luke 10:42.].]

In this however there should be no delay: we should all address ourselves to this work,

II. With promptitude and decision—

Next to utter thoughtlessness is the evil of procrastination—

[There are none so blind as not to know that they have some occasion for repentance, or so hardened as to have formed a determined resolution that they will never repent. All have a faint purpose in their minds, that at some future period they will repent: but then they put it off at present, in expectation of some “more convenient season.” The young think that they have time enough before them, and that any great attention to religion is unsuited to their age. The busy are so engaged in their several concerns, that they think they may well be excused attending to religion, till a time of greater leisure. Every one finds some excuse for himself, and puts off the evil day, in hopes that some period will arrive when he shall be better disposed to the great work of turning unto God — — —]

But it is folly and madness to defer this important work—

[It must be done; or else we inevitably and eternally perish — — — No man can call an hour his own. “We know not what a day, an hour, a moment, may bring forth:” whilst we are looking for days and years to come, God may say, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” The difficulty of the work increases daily. The force of habit is exceeding great: and the longer we fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind, the more difficult it will be to mortify and subdue them — — — We are in danger also of provoking God to withdraw from us all the assistances of his Spirit. We may “grieve the Holy Spirit,” yea, may “quench” also his sacred motions. God has said, “My Spirit shall not alway strive with man:” and if once he say respecting us, “Let them alone,” our doom is sealed as surely as if we were already gone beyond redemption. And how awful is the state of those who are taken unprepared! What “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth” will they experience, cursing their own folly, and vainly wishing it were possible for them to have another opportunity afforded them for working out their salvation [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.]!

Say then whether any man should defer one hour this necessary work! surely we should “make haste, and not delay, to keep God’s commandments [Note: See Hebrews 3:7-14.].”]

That in this great work you may not miscarry, we would subjoin some useful advice—

Cry mightily to God — — —, and seek of him,

1. Impartiality in judging—

[Self-love always prompts us to form a favourable estimate of our own conduct. If we search at all, we search rather for excuses than for sins; for grounds of self-approbation, rather than of self-reproach. But what folly is this! God will form his estimate aright, whether we do or not; and by his own estimate he will judge us in the last day. Professors of religion, no less than others, are warped by self-love; and thousands there are whose spirit and conduct are directly at variance with the Gospel, whilst yet they boast of themselves as lights in a dark world — — — O search your hearts, as the Jews searched their houses for leaven, or as you would search a room for jewels which you had lost. You would not hastily shut your eyes, and say, There is no jewel here; but you would be examining every corner, to find as many as possibly you could; not content to leave so much as one undiscovered. If such impartiality were once exercised by us in detecting our sins, we should not be far from the kingdom of God.]

2. Fidelity in acting—

[Were a traveller, after long and laborious search, to find the true way to the place whither he was journeying, he would retrace his steps, and proceed in the path which led to the place of his destination. It might be less pleasant than his former path; but still he would walk in it. Say not then that a life of entire devotedness to God is difficult, or that the ways of Christ and his Apostles would make you singular, or require sacrifices on your part. Be it so: but still you must go forward: you must “not confer with flesh and blood:” you must give yourselves up, in body, soul, and spirit, to the Lord. You must strive to “walk altogether as Christ walked,” and to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”]

3. Firmness in persevering—

[It is comparatively easy to begin well: the difficulty lies in persevering. The fear of death, or some strong impression on our minds, will operate for a time; but, if there be not a root of grace in us, we shall soon turn back to our evil ways. And, if we do that, we make our state really worse than it was before we thought of our ways at all [Note: 2 Peter 2:21.]. O “be not weary in well doing.” Make up your mind to encounter difficulties, and to endure hardships: and know that the end will richly repay for all the difficulties of the way.]

Verse 68



Psalms 119:68. Thou art good, and doest good: teach me thy statutes.

THE perfections of God, if considered only in a speculative view, must excite our admiration; but, if contemplated in reference to our state and conduct, they will be to us a source of unspeakable comfort, and a spring of incessant activity. What emotions a knowledge of the Divine goodness will produce in the soul, we see in the words before us; in discoursing upon which we shall notice,

I. The goodness of God—

In conformity with the text, we shall call your attention to,

1. His essential goodness—

[This is not an indiscriminate regard to all, whether they be good or evil; for such a regard would not consist with justice, or holiness, or truth: but it is a general benevolence towards the whole creation, operating incessantly for the good of the whole. The manner in which it discovers itself is as various as the states of men: but, however diversified its operations may be, it is the same principle in God. It is the sum of all his perfections: towards the undeserving it is grace; and to the ill-deserving, mercy: to the indigent it is bounty; to the distressed, pity and compassion: towards the impenitent it is forbearance; and to the obstinate and incorrigible it is justice. This is the view which God himself gives us of his goodness [Note: Moses prays for a sight of God’s glory; God promises to shew him his goodness; and then represents it as consisting in an united exercise of all his perfections. Exodus 33:18-19; Exodus 34:6-7.]; and, in this view, it resides in him necessarily, in him only, and in him continually.]

2. His communicative goodness—

[This he manifests to the world at large. When first he created the world, he formed every thing “very good.” And if we look around us, we shall be constrained to say, “The earth is full of his goodness.”

Towards man in particular, his goodness is more abundantly displayed. Towards the ungodly he has shewn it, by giving his only dear Son to die for them, and his good Spirit to instruct them: yea, he has set apart an order of men also to entreat them in his name to accept the proffered salvation. Towards the godly he has abounded yet still more in the exceeding riches of his grace: for, in addition to all that he has done for the ungodly, he has made his word effectual for their conversion; and he watches over them with paternal care, supplying all their wants, and protecting them in all their dangers; and, to complete the whole, he will crown them finally with his glory [Note: Psalms 103:1-5.].]

Such a view of God as this cannot but lead us to adopt,

II. The petition grounded upon it—

The petition itself is such as all ought to offer for themselves—

[By “the statutes” of God we understand both the truths he has revealed, and the precepts he has enjoined. Of these we are by nature ignorant; nor can we by mere human exertions ever acquire a right understanding of them [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.]. We must be taught of God: our eyes must be opened by his Spirit: then only shall we keep his statutes, when God himself shall “write them on the fleshy tables of our hearts.”]

But the petition has peculiar force as grounded on a discovery of God’s goodness; for, in that, as in a glass, we see,

1. Our duties—

[The law of God primarily declares our duty towards him: but none ever attain a just knowledge of that duty from the law alone; they cannot see the necessity of loving God with all their hearts, till they have some idea of the obligations they lie under to him for the stupendous work of redemption. But let the love of God in Christ Jesus be once clearly revealed to the soul, and the excellency of the law will instantly appear; and obedience to it will be considered as perfect freedom.]

2. Our defects—

[We are naturally averse to acknowledge our vileness and wickedness. But a sight of the Divine goodness softens the mind, and renders it ingenuous. Hence the more we are acquainted with God, the more we know of ourselves; and the more we have experienced of his love, the more we “abhor ourselves for our ingratitude to him, and our want of conformity to his image [Note: Job 42:5-6. Ezekiel 16:63.].”]

3. Our encouragements—

[Wherever we look, we have no encouragement but in God. Indeed, if only we be acquainted with his goodness, we want no other encouragement: for, what will not He do, who is so good in himself? and what will He refuse us, who has done so much for us already [Note: Romans 8:32.]? Such considerations as these are sufficient to counterbalance every difficulty that the world, or the flesh, or the devil can place in our way. Having this God for our God, we can want nothing for time or for eternity.]

Verse 71



Psalms 119:71. It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

DAVID had “been afflicted from his youth up” — — — and we think it highly probable that to that very circumstance he was indebted, under God, for those extraordinary attainments in devotion and holiness, which have rendered him a pattern for the saints in all future ages. By means of his trials he was constrained to take refuge in his God: and by constant communion with God, he obtained a deep insight into his revealed will, and a rich experience of his superabounding grace. This seems at least to have been his own view of the case, long after his afflictions had ceased: for to his familiarity with affliction he ascribes his enlarged acquaintance with the statutes of his God: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.”

In confirmation of his testimony, we shall shew,

I. The benefit of affliction, as leading to knowledge—

Affliction, in itself considered, is an evil: but, if viewed in connexion with the benefits resulting from it, it may justly be esteemed “a good.” Thousands there are who have reason to bless God for it, as instrumental to the bringing of them to the knowledge of a Saviour, whom, without such trials, they would have continued to neglect. Indeed it is eminently and extensively useful in this view:

1. It opens our ears to instruction—

[People who are at ease, however eager they may be after human knowledge, have no desire after that which is spiritual and divine. If it be tendered to them, they reject it: if it be pressed upon them, they cast it behind their backs with indignation and scorn. To one who would instruct them in arts or sciences, they would feel thankful: but to one who would lead them to the knowledge of the true God, they make no return, but that of contempt and hatred [Note: John 3:19. Matthew 7:26.].

But when heavy affliction is come upon them, they are softened: they will listen to advice; they will even be thankful for it: they will read the Scriptures, or some other religious book: and will pay considerable attention to those subjects which hitherto have provoked only their derision.

With this view, and for the production of this very effect, God frequently vouchsafes to send it [Note: Job 36:8-10.]: and those who are brought by it to this measure of thoughtfulness about their souls, have reason rather to be thankful for it as a benefit, than to complain of it as a judgment.]

2. It makes us sensible of our need of better things than this world can give—

[In the midst of carnal enjoyments a man wishes for nothing more: but when trials of various kinds oppress his mind, his taste for earthly gratifications is weakened: their insufficiency to remove, or even to alleviate, trouble is felt; and they no longer afford him that kind of satisfaction which they once did. Amusements, and company, have lost their relish: his mind is indisposed for them: they are become to him insipid, undesirable, irksome, odious. Something more substantial is now wanted: something on which his soul may rest, as conducive to its present and eternal welfare. This was the effect produced upon the Prodigal. Whilst he could revel in luxury and pleasure, he cared for nothing; but when his money was expended, and he was a prey to want, and could find no help, no pity, from man, then he began to reflect on the abundance that there was in his Father’s house, and to desire a participation of it, though in the lowest and most menial office there. And had he not reason to be thankful for the trials which produced so blessed an effect? In like manner then we also should acknowledge as a blessing every trial that is sent us for the accomplishment of so good an end.]

3. It drives us to God in grayer—

[Those who never called upon God in the time of their prosperity, are often stirred up to seek him in a season of adversity. “In their affliction,” says God, “they will seek me early [Note: Hosea 5:15.]:” and to the same effect the Prophet testifies, “Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; they poured forth a prayer when thy chastening was upon them [Note: Isaiah 26:16.].” In the 107th Psalm this effect of troubles is marked in every instance: “Then cried they unto the Lord in their trouble [Note: ver. 6, 13, 19, 28.]:” and in every instance this was the prelude to their deliverance. Who then that experiences this effect from his trials has not reason to be thankful for them? Let it only be said of us, “Behold, he prayeth;” and we shall have no cause for complaint, though we should have been struck blind, like Saul, and had our blindness continued to the latest hour of our lives [Note: Acts 9:3-4; Acts 9:8.].]

4. It brings us to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus—

[Of itself, affliction cannot effect this; but when accompanied by Divine grace, it often does. Indeed where a willingness to receive instruction, and a desire after spiritual blessings are excited in the soul, and issue in fervent prayer to God, there we may reasonably hope that all spiritual blessings will flow into the soul. God will not suffer any to seek his face in vain. Even though, like Manasseh, we may have brought down God’s wrath upon us by the most heinous iniquities, yet if we humble ourselves under his chastisements, and implore mercy at his hands, we shall, like him, be heard, and be made stupendous monuments of his power and grace [Note: 2 Chronicles 33:11-13]. Did he ever regret the sufferings by which he was thus brought to enjoy peace with God? Neither shall we, whatever trials may be made subservient to this blessed end.]

But will the end really compensate for the means used to effect it? Yes: and to prove that it will, we shall proceed to shew,

II. The blessedness of knowledge, though gained by affliction—

Such knowledge as we are speaking of, the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus, is indeed inestimable. Let us view it,

1. As compared with the price paid for it—

[It is said by Solomon, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” Now as we have before spoken of affliction as the means of bringing us to the knowledge of the truth, we may, in popular language, call it, The price paid for knowledge. Whatever then the affliction be, we do not hesitate to say that it is richly recompensed by the fruit which it produces.

Suppose the affliction to be of a temporal nature: we have been bereaved of our dearest friends and relatives; we have suffered the loss of all our property, and been reduced to very embarrassed circumstances; our health also has been destroyed, so that we are sinking under an accumulation of woes. Suppose our case as distressing as that of Job himself: still, if it have been sanctified to our eternal good, we can call it by no other name than, A blessing in disguise. Did Job, when brought to a deeper view of his own depravity, and to a richer discovery of the Divine perfections, regret the sufferings which had been overruled for that end? Did he not rather abhor himself for having judged too hastily respecting the designs of God; and cordially approve of those dispensations, which in his haste he had been ready to condemn? Thus shall we also do, when once we have “seen the end of the Lord [Note: James 5:11.].” We may in our haste exclaim, “All these things are against me:” but at last we shall testify of all God’s most afflictive dispensations, as Joseph did, that “God meant them for good [Note: Genesis 50:20.].”

But suppose the trials to be of a spiritual nature. These are yet far more afflictive: “A wounded spirit who can bear?” How grievously David was oppressed by them, we are informed in many of his psalms [Note: See Psalms 38:1-8; Psalms 77:3-9; Psalms 88:6-7; Psalms 102:1-10.] — — — But yet his testimony in our text was the real dictate of his heart. And we may ask of others, Were the wounds which brought you to the heavenly Physician too severe? Do you not number them amongst your richest mercies? Has not every loss been more than compensated in the acquisition of salvation; and every pang more than recompensed in the peace and joy to which, through the knowledge of Christ, you have attained? It was a matter of just computation with the Apostle, that “the sufferings of this present life (whatever they may be) are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”]

2. As estimated according to its own intrinsic worth—

[But who can ever rightly appreciate its worth? St. Paul “counted all things to be but dross and dung in comparison of it [Note: Philippians 3:8.].” We must be able to estimate all the miseries of hell, and all the glories of heaven, before we can form any estimate of its value; and, if we could ascertain the full importance of those, we should still be as far as ever from having a complete conception of the worth of spiritual knowledge; unless we could estimate also all the glory that will accrue to the ever blessed Trinity from the contrivance and execution of this stupendous plan, and the application of this salvation to a ruined world.]


1. To those that are at ease—

[How faint, for the most part, are your desires after spiritual knowledge! Whether you hear, or read, or pray, what formality pervades it all! But, if God have indeed designs of love towards you, you will be taught by the rod, what you will not learn without: “He will cause you to pass under the rod, in order that he may bring you into the bond of the covenant.” And if lesser trials will not accomplish the purposes of his grace, he will visit you with heavier: “from chastening you with rods he will scourge you with scorpions.” Yet think not that a season of affliction is in itself favourable for the pursuit of spiritual knowledge: it is far otherwise: pains of body, and distress of mind, have a tendency to impede, rather than assist, the exercises of the mind. Ask those who are in deep affliction, Whether they find it easy to collect their thoughts, and fix them with energy on the concerns of their souls; and they will bear one uniform testimony, that health is the time to seek the Lord. Be persuaded then, now whilst you are at case, to study “God’s statutes,” and especially those which declare to us the way of salvation ordained for sinful man. Know that there is no other knowledge of any importance whatever in comparison of this; and that, if even the most grievous sufferings should be welcomed as accessary to the attainment of it, much more must it deserve all the time and attention that can be bestowed upon it. You never need fear that you will hereafter have occasion to complain, that its fruits did not repay you for the cultivation of it.]

2. To those that are under any great affliction—

[The rod under which you suffer, has a voice, to which you should listen with all possible attention [Note: Micah 6:9.]. It is sent to you in love and mercy. God designs to teach you, by means of it, many things which you would not so well learn without it. It may be that you are already instructed in the Gospel of Christ; but yet there is much of which you are ignorant; and many things which you do know, need to be known by you in a very different manner. Even our blessed Lord himself, “though he was a Son, learned obedience by the things which he suffered,” yea, and “was made perfect through sufferings.” Be content to have God’s work carried on and perfected in you in the same way: and be more anxious to obtain the benefit which your affliction is sent to impart, than to get rid of the affliction itself. If your tribulation work in you patience and experience and hope, learn to glory in it, and to number it amongst your richest blessings. And do not wait till the affliction is removed, to acknowledge God’s goodness to you in sending it; but now, whilst you are under the affliction, get it so improved and sanctified to the good of your soul, that you may be able to say, “It is good for me, O Lord, that I am afflicted; for by means of it I do learn thy statutes:” I see, “it is in very faithfulness that thou afflictest me;” and, if only thou “make me a partaker of thy holiness, send me what thou wilt, and when thou wilt: be the cup never so bitter to my taste, I will say, “Not my will, but thine be done.”]

Verse 76



Psalms 119:76. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.

THE peculiar construction of this psalm forbids us to look for much connexion between its several parts. It is composed of short detached sentences, committed to writing at different times as they occurred to the mind of the Royal penman, and afterwards reduced to a certain kind of order; eight of them beginning with the same letter through all the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. If however we take the words of our text as connected with the preceding verse, we must understand it as a prayer that a sense of God’s loving-kindness might be given him to comfort him under his afflictions. This sense we shall not exclude; though we shall not entirely limit it to this: for, if we take the words by themselves, they contain some peculiarly important hints, which we are desirous to impress upon your minds.

In elucidating them, we propose to shew,

I. What the Scriptures speak respecting the loving-kindness of God—

They are full of this glorious subject: they declare,

1. That it is the one source of all the benefits we enjoy—

[Survey the lustre and use of the heavenly bodies, the rich fecundity of the earth, the structure of the human body, or the faculties of the soul; Whence do they proceed? Who is their author; and by what motive was he actuated in bestowing them upon us? Can they be traced to any other source than the kindness of our God? Behold the gift, the stupendous gift of God’s only dear Son, and of salvation by him! Can this be traced to any other source [Note: See John 3:16. Titus 3:4-5. Ephesians 2:7.] — — —]

2. That it is our chief support under all trials—

[We will grant something to philosophy; and acknowledge that it can fortify the mind in some degree: but it is not to be compared with religion in point of efficacy. That may silence murmurs, and produce a reluctant submission; but this will turn trials into an occasion of joy and glorying [Note: Romans 5:1-3. Acts 5:41; Acts 16:25.].]

3. That a comfortable sense of it is the privilege of all the Lord’s people—

[God promises “his Holy Spirit unto all them that ask him.” That Spirit shall be in them “a spirit of adoption,” a witness, an earnest, a seal, a Comforter. From the days of Abel to the present hour, God has delighted to rejoice the souls of his servants by the testimonies of his love.]

But, if the loving-kindness of God be thus manifested to his people, it may be asked,

II. Why David prayed that it might be for his comfort? He did so,

1. Because, without a sense of it, his trials would have been insupportable—

[David was exposed to many and severe trials: and, if he had not been favoured with peculiar supports, he would have sunk under them. This he often mentions [Note: 1 Samuel 30:6 and Psalms 116:3-5.]: and St. Paul also acknowledges his obligation to God for similar supports [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.]. When such manifestations were withdrawn, even Jesus himself almost fainted [Note: Matthew 27:46.]: but when they were vouchsafed, the weakest females were made triumphant over all the malice of their persecutors [Note: Hebrews 11:35.].]

2. Because, though all are partakers of it, all do not find it to their comfort—

[How many have the blessings of health and wealth, who taste nothing of God’s loving-kindness in them, but make them the occasions of more flagrant opposition to his will! How many have been restored to health, who by their subsequent misconduct have turned that mercy into a real curse! Above all, how many have made Christ himself a stumbling-block instead of a Saviour, and “the gospel a savour of death,” when it might have been to them “a savour of life!” Thus would all men do, if they were left to themselves: even Hezekiah’s miraculous recovery, and St. Paul’s visit to the third heavens, would have issued only in their deeper condemnation, if God had not given grace to the one, and “a thorn in the flesh” to the other, to counteract the propensities of their fallen nature. Well then might David make this a matter of prayer to God, when none but God could impart to him this benefit.]

3. Because, if it be not to our comfort, it will be, in a most awful manner, to our discomfort—

[It is no light matter to abuse the merciful kindness of God. The day is coming, when every mercy we have received, must be accounted for; and when “it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha than for those” who have slighted a preached gospel. Every mercy therefore should be received with a holy fear and jealousy, lest it should prove only an occasion of more aggravated guilt, and heavier condemnation.]


[Let us more frequently reflect on the loving-kindness of God [Note: Psalms 26:3; Psalms 63:3.]—Let us meditate on it especially in seasons of trouble [Note: Ps. 143:78.]—And let us endeavour to requite it by devoting ourselves unreservedly to his service [Note: Psalms 116:12 and Isaiah 63:7.]—]

Verses 97-100



Psalms 119:97-100. O how love I thy Law! It is my meditation all the day. Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

NOTHING is more hateful than boasting. To boast of our superiority to others, as the Pharisees did, saying, “I thank thee, O Lord, that I am not as other men,” is to betray an entire want of Christian humility, and an utter ignorance of our own state. But of all boasting, that which arises from a conceit of our own wisdom is perhaps the most odious and the most contemptible. “Be not wise in your own conceit [Note: Proverbs 3:7. Romans 12:16.],” is a caution repeatedly given us in the Holy Scriptures; and an inattention to it will assuredly expose us to God’s heavy displeasure [Note: Isaiah 5:21.]. Yet there are occasions whereon we may, in appearance, transgress this duty, and yet be blameless. St. Paul was on some occasions necessitated to assert his claim to public authority, and his right to dictate to the Church of God: and though he apologised for his conduct in this respect, and called himself “a fool” for giving way to it, he yet felt it his duty, on the whole, to maintain the truth against those who opposed it, and to demand from others that deference which his Apostolic character authorised him to expect [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:7-11; 2 Corinthians 11:16-18; 2 Corinthians 12:11.]. In the passage before us, I must confess, David had no such call to exalt himself above others. But he wrote for the benefit of the Church of God in all ages: and therefore, whilst conveying general truths, “he transferred them to himself,” in order that he might speak to better effect [Note: See 1 Corinthians 4:6.]. His object was to shew, that every one who took the word of God for his guide would be so elevated by it above the most exalted of merely human characters, that he might justly arrogate to himself a wisdom superior to them all; since an unconverted character, whoever he might be, had no higher wisdom than that which was human; whilst the man who was taught by the word and Spirit of God, possessed a wisdom that was truly divine. In this view, then, I propose to vindicate the language of my text; and to shew, that David, in obeying the word of God, was “wiser than his enemies,” with all their subtlety; and “wiser than his teachers,” notwithstanding all their learning; and “wiser than the ancients,” in despite of all their experience. Of every one who is obedient to God’s word this may be said:

I. In that he answers more fully the ends for which the Holy Scripture was given—

[For what was the Scripture given, but to be a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths? — — — This being the case, what shall we say of the man who neglects to study the Inspired Volume? What should we say of a mariner, who, in navigating a sea that was full of rocks and quicksands, should neglect to consult his chart and his compass, or should proceed in his voyage with the same kind of confidence, in opposition to their dictates, as lie would if he were following the course which they prescribed? Let him in other respects be ever so wise, no one would hesitate to commend the circumspect sailor as wiser than he. Then in this view, may the divinely-instructed follower of Christ account himself wiser than others, whether friends or enemies, if, when they enjoy the advantage of this infallible guide, they refuse to consult its dictates, or to follow its directions. If no one would hesitate to pronounce this judgment in a case where only the bodily life was concerned, much less would any one doubt where the interest at stake is nothing less than that of the immortal soul — — —]

II. In that he manifests a more becoming regard to the wonders revealed in it—

[Let any one contemplate the wonders of redemption — — — and say, whether he can be wise who neglects to search into them, and to improve them for the good of his soul? But the man who receives “the testimony of Christ,” and labours to have it “confirmed in his own soul,” is wise; and, when comparing himself with those who despise the Gospel, whatever superiority they may possess in other respects, may, without any undue arrogance, account himself wiser than they. “The very angels in heaven are desiring to look into these unsearchable mysteries;” and, “if we disregard them, what wisdom can be in us [Note: Jeremiah 8:9.]?”]

III. In that he consults supremely those interests, which the Scriptures declare to be alone worthy of his attention—

[What can the whole world offer to a man, that is worthy to be put in competition with his soul? The concerns of the soul are declared by our blessed Lord to be “the one thing needful.” Let the most learned man upon the face of the earth neglect these concerns, and the most unlettered man make them the great objects of his undivided attention; shall we hesitate to say which of the two is the wiser man? He who is wise for time only, is a fool: but he who is wise for eternity, is truly wise. “The fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom;” and he who possesses it not, has not ever yet passed the threshold of Wisdom’s porch: but “a good understanding have all they who cultivate the fear of the Lord; and the praise of their conduct shall endure for ever.”]

Let me, in conclusion, give you,

1. A word of caution—

[Take not occasion, from these words of David, to think lightly of self-complacency and self-applause. David was no boaster: on the contrary, no one was ever lower in his own estimation than he: and you will find humility the most prominent feature of all the Scripture saints. “Less than the least of all saints” was the character which Paul assumed; and, “if he gloried at any time, it was of his infirmities alone,” that his Lord and Saviour might be the more glorified in him [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]: so likewise I would recommend to you to “take the lowest place,” and, instead of exalting yourselves above others, to “prefer others in honour before yourselves,” and “to esteem others better than yourselves [Note: Romans 12:10. Philippians 2:3.]:” “for not he that commendeth himself shall be approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:18.].”]

2. A word of advice—

[“Love the word of God.” Verily, it is deserving of all your love — — — and you should “esteem it more than your necessary food.” Next, “meditate upon it all the day.” Many read the Scriptures without profit, because they do not ruminate upon them, and digest them in their souls. Let some short portion of God’s word be selected for your meditation every day; and you cannot fail to profit by it, especially if your meditations be turned into prayer. Lastly, take it as the only rule of your life. This is essential to the Christian character. A speculative knowledge, however extensive and accurate, will avail you nothing: it is the practical and experimental knowledge alone that can benefit the soul. The very use of the Scriptures is, to “perfect the man of God, and thoroughly to furnish him unto all good works.” This it is which will make you truly wise, or, rather, that will prove you to be so: for then will the Scripture “have had its perfect work,” and you will be “wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.”]

Verse 128



Psalms 119:128. I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.

RELIGION is the same in every age. The doctrines of it, though they have been more fully and clearly revealed under the Christian dispensation, have never varied in substance; nor has the practice of it ever changed, except in the observance of rites and ceremonies. To love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves, was the essence of true religion in the days of Abraham and of Moses; and so it is at this day. Doubtless there can be no true religion where the Gospel is set at nought, and despised: but the Gospel may be highly approved as a system, whilst the heart is far from being right with God. It is not by their profession of any principles that we are to judge of men’s states, but by the practical effects of those principles on their hearts and lives. Our blessed Lord has established this as the only true criterion, the only adequate test; “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Now the genuine fruit of piety is as clearly exhibited in the words before us, as in any part of the Inspired Volume: and the passage is peculiarly worthy of notice, because in the writer of it were combined the fullest conviction of the understanding, together with the strongest affections of the heart: in his judgment, “he esteemed God’s precepts to be right;” and in his heart, “he hated” every thing that was opposed to them.

May God of his infinite mercy inspire us with the same heavenly sentiments, whilst we consider these two things,—The Christian character as here delineated, and The light which it reflects upon the Gospel of Christ!

I. The Christian character as here delineated—

In the text is drawn a broad line of distinction between the child of God, and every other person under heaven.

Christians are either nominal or real. Each class has gradations, from the highest to the lowest; but between the two classes there is an immense gulph, that separates them as far as the east is from the west. To ascertain to which of the two we belong, is of infinite importance; but self-love blinds our eyes, and renders the discovery of it extremely difficult. This Scripture however holds up, as it were, a mirror before us; and, if we will look steadfastly into it, we may discern with great precision what manner of persons we are.

The difference between the two classes is this: the nominal Christian, however eminent he may in appearance be, is partial in his regard for God’s precepts [Note: Malachi 2:9.]: but the true Christian approves and loves them all without exception [Note: Psalms 119:6.].

The nominal Christian, we say, is partial in his regard for God’s precepts. He may esteem those which countenance his own particular party. The Papist, for instance, and the Protestant, will severally glory in those passages of Holy Writ which seem to justify their adherence to their respective modes of worship, and to afford them ground for believing that theirs is the more Scriptural and Apostolic Church. The various classes of Protestants also will manifest an ardent zeal for the support of their respective tenets, and be almost ready to anathematize each other, as not giving sufficient weight to those particular passages, on which they severally found their respective differences. They not only esteem their own grounds of faith “to be right,” but they “hate” the sentiments opposed to them “as erroneous and false.”

The nominal Christian may also love those precepts which do not materially condemn him. The man who is sober, chaste, honest, just, temperate, benevolent, may take a real pleasure in such passages of Scripture as inculcate the virtues in which he supposes himself to have excelled; and may feel an indignation against the ways, by which those precepts are grossly violated.

He may yet further delight in such precepts as, according to his interpretation of them, afford him ground for rejecting the Gospel. No passages in all the word of God are more delightful to him than such as these: “Be not righteous overmuch;” and “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” He has no fear lest he should not be righteous enough; nor is he very anxious to inquire what is implied in walking humbly with God: it is sufficient for him that these passages are, in his eyes, opposed to what he calls enthusiasm; setting aside the necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus, and of a life of entire devotedness to his service: and his hatred of all passages that bear an opposite aspect, is in exact proportion to his zeal for these.

But, whilst such parts of Scripture are approved by him, does he love all that the Inspired Volume contains? Does he love those precepts which are most sublime and spiritual? No; it is no pleasure to him to hear of “setting his affections on things above,” or of having “his conversation in heaven:” nor does it afford him any gratification to be told, that the measure of holiness which he must aspire after, is that which was exhibited in the Lord Jesus, whose example he is to follow in the whole of his spirit and temper, his conversation and conduct, “walking in all things as he walked.”

Nor does he particularly affect those precepts which require much self-denial. “To crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts,” and to root out from his soul every evil, though it be dear to him “as a right eye,” or necessary to him as “a right hand,” and to have a compliance with these precepts as his only alternative between that and the taking his portion in “hell-fire,” is no pleasing sound in his ears, notwithstanding it proceeds from the meek and lowly Jesus [Note: Mark 9:42-48.].

Least of all is he gratified with precepts that strike at his besetting sin. The proud man does not delight to hear the workings of pride delineated; nor the covetous man the evils of covetousness depicted; nor the gay and dissipated the folly of their ways exposed; nor the self-righteous man the delusive nature of his hopes declared. No, they are all ready to deride the statements that condemn their ways, just as the Pharisees derided our Lord, when he had unveiled their covetous and hypocritical devices; “The Pharisees were covetous (it is said), and they derided him.” The hearts of these people rise against all such doctrines; and with no little bitterness they exclaim, “In so saying, thou reproachest us [Note: Luke 11:45.].”

The true Christian, on the contrary, approves and loves all the commands of God; both those which are evangelical, and those which are moral.

He loves those which are evangelical. It is no grief to him to be told, that he must renounce all dependence on his own righteousness, and rely entirely on the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is rather with the most heartfelt delight that he hears those gracious commands, “Look unto me, and be ye saved;” “Come unto me, and I will give you rest;” “Believe on me, and have everlasting life.” “He esteems these precepts to be right;” he feels them to be exactly suited to his necessities: he knows, and is assured, that his own righteousness is only as “filthy rags;” and that in any other garment than the robe of Christ’s righteousness, it is impossible for him to stand in the presence of a holy God. He sees also that this mode of justification before God is the only one which can consist with the honour of God’s justice, and with the demands of his law. Hence whatever opposes this way of salvation, “he hates;” yea, he shudders at the very thought of claiming any thing on the ground of his own worthiness, saying, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He thankfully traces all his mercies to the covenant made from all eternity between the Father and the Son; and to that covenant he looks, as “ordered in all things, and sure;” and from his inmost soul he says of it, “This is all my salvation, and all my desire.”

Moreover, as the duty of coming to Christ, so the duty of “living altogether by faith in Christ,” the duty of abiding in him as branches of the living vine, of receiving from his fulness continual supplies of grace and strength, and of “growing up into him in all things, as our living Head;” the duty, I say, of making him “our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption,” our all, and of glorying in him, and in him alone; all this is heard by the true Christian with ineffable delight: he would that Christ should have all the glory: he sees it to be “right,” that He who came down from heaven, and died upon the cross to save him, and ascended up on high, and has all fulness treasured up in him for the use of his Church and people, and who dwells in them “as their very life;” I say, he sees it “right,” that this adorable Saviour should “be exalted, and extolled, and be very high;” yea, that he should be on earth, as he is in heaven, the one object of our adoration, and the continual theme of our praise. And, whilst a blind and ignorant world are ready to blame his zeal for the Redeemer’s glory as carried to excess, his constant grief is, that he cannot love him more, and serve him better.

Nor is the true Christian less delighted with the moral precepts, not one of which would he desire to have relaxed or moderated in the smallest degree. Instead of wishing them to be lowered to the standard of his attainments, or regarding them as grievous on account of their purity, he loves them for their purity [Note: Psalms 119:140.], and would esteem it his highest privilege to be conformed to them. He is well persuaded, that they are all “holy, and just, and good:” and he loves them as perfective of his nature, and conducive to his happiness.

He loves them, I say, as perfective of his nature. For what is holiness, but a conformity to the Divine image, as sin is to the image of the devil? It was by transgression that man lost that resemblance to the Deity which was stamped upon him at his first creation; and it is by the new-creating influence of the Spirit quickening him to a course of holy obedience, that this resemblance is gradually restored. Conscious of this, he pants after holiness, desiring to “be changed into his Redeemer’s image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Nor does he love them less as conducive to his happiness: for sin and misery are inseparable, as holiness also and true happiness are. What is the language of every precept in the Decalogue? It is this: ‘Be holy, and be happy.’ Of this he is convinced; and he finds, by daily experience, that “in keeping God’s commandments there is great reward,” and that “Wisdom’s ways are indeed ways of pleasantness and peace.”

At the same time, “he hates every false way;” every deviation from the perfect rule of righteousness is painful to him: he “hates it;” and hates himself on account of it. As a touch, which would scarcely be felt in any other part of the body, will occasion the severest anguish to the eye, so those thoughts or feelings which would be altogether unnoticed by other men, inflict a wound on his conscience, and cause him to go mournfully before the Lord of Hosts. Ask him on such an occasion, What it is that has caused him thus to mourn and weep? Is it that his God has required so much? No: but that he himself has attained so little. He wants to “be sanctified wholly to the Lord, in body, soul, and spirit;” and, could he accomplish the desire of his heart, he would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” This is the object of his highest ambition; and, when he finds, that, notwithstanding all his efforts, he still falls short of it, he groans inwardly, and says with the Apostle, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?”

Behold, then, the Christian’s character as here delineated. To a superficial observer he may not appear to differ much from others; but to those who have had opportunities of discovering the real desires of his soul, he is a perfect contrast with the whole ungodly world. The very best of nominal Christians are content with low attainments, and plead for indulgences in those things which are agreeable to their corrupt nature. The more sublime and spiritual precepts they soften down to the standard of their own practice; and rather applaud themselves for their excellencies, than lothe themselves for their defects. The true Christian, on the contrary, will admit of no standard but that of absolute perfection: and, whereinsoever he falls short of it, as he does in his very best services, he lothes and “abhors himself in dust and ashes;” nor has he any hope of acceptance with God, but in the view of that atonement which was once offered for him on the cross, and of that blood which the Lord Jesus Christ once shed on Calvary to cleanse him from his sins. We mean not to say, that these defects are subversive of all the Christian’s peace; for, if that were the case, who could possess any peace at all? The Christian, notwithstanding his imperfections, has “comfort in the testimony of a good conscience,” and in an assurance, that his God will “not be extreme to mark what is done amiss;” but he does not on this account allow himself in any sin whatever. The use he makes of his own corruptions is, to cleave the more steadfastly to Christ as his only hope, and to watch and pray the more diligently, that he may be preserved from evil, and be enabled by Divine grace to endure unto the end.

Now this description of the Christian’s character leads me to shew,

II. The light it reflects on the Gospel of Christ—

Three things it suggests to us; namely,

An answer to those who misrepresent the Gospel—

A reproof to those who would abuse the Gospel—and A direction to those who would adorn the Gospel.

First, we may derive from hence an answer to those who misrepresent the Gospel. It has in all ages been a favourite argument against the Gospel, that it supersedes the necessity of good works, and opens the flood-gates of licentiousness. It was urged repeatedly against St. Paul himself; who on that account set himself to answer it with all imaginable care: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” And again, “Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?” To both these questions he answers with holy indignation, “God forbid!” And, when his enemies went so far as to affirm, that he gave men a licence to sin, saying, “Let us do evil that good may come;” he scorned to return any other answer than this, “Their damnation is just.” And it were greatly to be wished, that those who now so confidently repeat these accusations against the followers of St. Paul, would reflect on the guilt they incur, and the danger to which, by such calumnies, they expose themselves. To this present hour the same objections are made to all those statements which resemble Paul’s. If we deny to good works the office of justifying the soul, we are represented as denying the necessity of them altogether. Though these objections have been refuted a thousand times, and should be refuted ten thousand times more, the enemies of the Gospel will still repeat them with as much confidence as ever. Let them, however, look into our text, and see what David’s principles were. Of all the Old Testament saints, there was not one who more determinately sought to be justified by the righteousness of Christ without any works of his own, than he. Hear what is said of him by St. Paul, in confirmation of the very sentiments which Paul himself maintained; “To him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness: even as David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin [Note: Romans 4:5-8.].” Here we have a full exposition of David’s views respecting the Gospel. And how did these views operate on his soul? Did the idea of being justified by a righteousness not his own, a righteousness without works, a righteousness imputed to him, and apprehended solely by faith, did this, I say, make him regardless of good works? No: look at the text, thou Objector, and be convinced: look at the text, thou Calumniator, and blush.

Search, next, the writings of St. Paul, and see whether there was any difference in this respect between him and David? Was there in theory? No: for St. Paul affirms, that “the grace of God which bringeth salvation teaches us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live righteously, soberly, and godly, in this present world.” Was there in practice? No: neither David nor any other Saint ever made higher attainments in holiness than St. Paul: “he was not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles.”

Perhaps it will be said that the professed followers of St. Paul differ from him in this respect; and that whilst in speculation they adopt his doctrine, in practice they deny its sanctifying efficacy. That there are Antinomians in the world, we confess: there were in the days of Christ and his Apostles; some who called Christ, “Lord! Lord! whilst yet they did not the things which he commanded;” and some, who “professed to know God, but in works denied him.” And it must be expected, that, corrupt as human nature is, such characters will be found in every age. But is such conduct the necessary result of these principles? Was it so in the Apostles’ days? or is it so at this day? If justification by faith alone be necessarily productive of laxness in morals, whence comes it that a higher tone of morality is universally expected from those who maintain that doctrine, than from others? Whence is it that the smallest evils in such persons are more severely marked, than the most licentious courses of the ungodly world? We appeal to all who hear us, Whether, if a professor, and especially a preacher, of this doctrine were to demean himself in all things for one single day in the way that the generality of his own age and station live all the year round, the mouths of all who beheld him would not be opened against him as a hypocrite [Note: It having been observed to the author, that the words “age and station” might be mistaken for age and order, and thus be supposed to aim at the Clergy, he judges it right to guard against any such misconception of his meaning. The scope of his observation is this: A Professor, and especially a Preacher, of the doctrines here referred to, is expected to be more strict in his conduct than others who deny those doctrines. And, whether he be young or old, or of the higher or lower orders of society, if he were to manifest the same worldly spirit, to avow the same worldly sentiments, to shew the same indifference to religion, and to indulge in the same latitude of conversation altogether, as the generality of others who are of the same age and rank of life do, he would be accounted most glaringly and grossly inconsistent. Some, notwithstanding their aversion to these doctrines, are more guarded in their spirit and conversation; but the generality are not: and therefore the author purposely limited his observations to “the generality.”]? Whence should this be, if those who maintain the doctrine of justification by faith alone, represented it as liberating men from their obligation to good works? And how comes it, that the very persons who are complained of for the licentious tendency of their principles, should at the same time be universally condemned for the over-righteous sanctity of their lives?

To all, then, who misrepresent the Gospel, we would give this reply:—Look at David, and see what the effect of the Gospel had on him: look at Paul, and contemplate its effects on him: look at the uniform declarations of Scripture, and see what was the life of all the primitive Believers: nay, look only at the expectations which you yourselves have formed: for, if you see a professor of the Gospel act unworthy of his profession, you deem him inconsistent; which is a proof, that both the obligation to holiness is acknowledged on his part, and the performance of it is expected on yours; and consequently, that the Gospel is, by your mutual consent, “a doctrine according to godliness.”

From the passage before us, we may in the next place, offer a reproof to those who would abuse the Gospel. We have already acknowledged, and with deep grief we confess it, that there are some persons professedly of Antinomian principles, who are so occupied with contemplating what Christ has wrought out for them, that they cannot bestow a thought on what he has engaged to work in them. To speak of holiness, or any point of duty, they account low, and legal: yea, they think that Christ has by his own obedience to the law superseded the necessity of holiness in us; and that the whole work of salvation is so finished by him, that there remains nothing to be done by us, nothing of repentance for sin, nothing of obedience to God’s commands, but solely to maintain confidence in the provisions of God’s everlasting Covenant, and to rejoice in God as our God and portion.

Shocking as these sentiments are, they have been professed of late to a great extent; and many have been deceived by them: but, to show how unscriptural they are, we need only refer to the character of David, as drawn in the words of our text: Does he discard the law as a rule of life? Does he pour contempt upon the precepts of God as unworthy of his notice? No: throughout all his Psalms he speaks of them as objects of his supreme delight: “O how I love thy law! all the day long is my study in it.” “I love thy precepts above gold; they are sweeter to me than honey and the honey-comb.” To the same effect St. Paul also speaks: “I consent unto the law that it is good:” and again, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man!” He does, it is true, speak of himself as “dead to the law;” and of the law as dead with respect to him; and from thence, that the marriage bonds, by which the law and we were formerly united, are for ever dissolved. But what use does he teach us to make of this liberty? Does he speak of it as freeing us from all moral restraints? No; but as a reason for our giving up ourselves henceforth in a marriage union to Christ as our second husband, that we may bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:1-4. with Galatians 2:19.]. Now then, we would ask, Were David and Paul right? If so, what must we think of the sentiments of these deluded people? Are they more spiritual than David? or have they a deeper insight into the Gospel than Paul? The very circumstance of their discarding all the exhortations of St. Paul, and casting behind them all his practical instructions, demonstrates, that they are, for the present at least, “given up to a delusion, to believe a lie.” Some of them, we trust, do not practically live according to these principles; and, where this is the case, we hope that God, in his mercy, will sooner or later give them to see their errors: but, if they practically carry into effect their principles, they will have reason to curse the day that ever they were born.

To the younger part of our audience we will beg permission to suggest a few hints on this important subject.

You, when you go into the world, will be in danger of being ensnared by people of this stamp. There is something very imposing in the idea of glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and of making him “all in all.” The devout mind is delighted with this thought; and is easily induced to regard with jealousy any thing that may be supposed to interfere with it. But be not wise above that which is written; and let nothing tempt you to imagine, that you can honour Christ by setting aside any of his commandments. It is by your love to his commandments that you are to approve yourselves his disciples; and however delighted you may be with the visions of Mount Tabor, you must never forget that you have work also to do in the plain [Note: Luke 9:33; Luke 9:37.]. We are far from wishing any one to be working from self-righteous principles, or in a legal spirit: nor would we utter a word that should discourage the fullest confidence in God. It is our privilege, doubtless, to trace all our mercies up to his everlasting love, and to view them all as secured to us by covenant and by oath [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18.]: but then it is no less our privilege to fulfil God’s will, and to resemble the holy angels, of whom it is said, that “they do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word.” Beware then lest ye ever be led off from this ground. Rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the propitiation for your sins, as your all-prevailing Advocate, and as your living Head: but, whilst you believe in him, and love him, and rejoice in him, let your faith, and love, and joy, stimulate you to a holy and unreserved obedience. If he has “set your heart at liberty,” let the effect be to “make you run with more enlargement the way of his commandments.”

Lastly, we may derive from our text a direction to those who would adorn the Gospel. “Esteem all God’s precepts to be right, and hate every false way.” If God has enjoined any thing, do not ask whether the world approves of it; nor, if he have forbidden any thing, inquire of the world, whether you shall abstain from it. The world are as inadequate judges of Christian morality, as they are of Christian principles: both the one and the other are “foolishness to the natural man.” Of all the sublimer precepts, whether evangelical or moral, they are ready to say, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” But let no true Christian “consult with flesh and blood.” Let him rather say with David, “Away from me ye wicked: I will keep the commandments of my God.” Does God call you to “live no longer to yourselves, but unto him?” or, Does the Lord Jesus Christ bid you “follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach;” and readily to “lay down your lives for his sake?” Let “not these commandments be grievous in your eyes;” but rather “rejoice if you are counted worthy to suffer for his sake.” If at any time you be urged to turn aside from the path of duty, do not let the maxims or habits of the world bias you one moment: you are “not to follow a multitude to do evil:” if a thing be right, you should love it and cleave to it, though the whole world should be against you; just as Noah, Daniel, and Elijah did: and, if a thing be evil, you must not do it, though the loss of all things, yea even of life itself, should await you for your integrity. It were better far to go into a fiery furnace for your steadfastness, than to save yourselves by an undue compliance.

Doubtless this holy walk and conversation will involve you in the charge of singularity; but whose fault is it, if this conduct makes you singular? Is it yours? Is it not rather theirs, who will not yield obedience to the precepts of their God? We mean not by this to justify any who would affect a needless singularity: far from it: it is only where the world are wrong, that we would recommend any to separate from them. But wheresoever they are wrong, there you must “quit yourselves like men,” and shew them by your example a more perfect way. In important matters, the whole universe should not shake your resolution. Where duty evidently calls, you must be firm, and “faithful unto death.” It is confessedly “a strait and narrow way” in which you are called to walk; and, whilst walking in it, you must of necessity, like Noah, “condemn those” who are walking in “the broad road that leadeth to destruction [Note: Hebrews 11:7.];” and consequently, like him, you must incur the scorn and hatred of an ungodly world. But it is better far to brave the hatred of the ungodly, than to participate in the lot that shortly awaits them.

To all, then, who would “adorn the doctrine of our Saviour,” we beg leave to offer this plain and salutary direction—

“Let your light shine before men;” and let it shine so bright, as to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men,” and to “make those ashamed, who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” Labour habitually to do this in every thing that relates either to God or man. Let your enemies, if possible, “have no evil thing to say of you;” nothing to lay hold of; nothing that shall give occasion for that malignant triumph, “There! there! so would we have it.” Be jealous for the honour of Christ and his Gospel. Remember that the world, who are blind enough to each other’s faults, will be eagle-eyed in discerning yours: while they will make allowances enough for each other, they will make no allowances for you: and whilst they impute each other’s frailties to the weakness of human nature, they will impute yours to the principles you profess. Be careful then to “cut off occasion from those who seek occasion against you.” Watch over your whole temper, and spirit, and conduct; that “your conversation may be altogether such as becometh the Gospel of Christ:” and “let your light be like that of the sun, shining more and more unto the perfect day.” In a word, “be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; knowing assuredly, that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”

Verse 132-133



Psalms 119:132-133. Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name. Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

TO many, the Psalms are less interesting than most other parts of Scripture, as having in them a less variety of incident whereon to engraft instruction, as also a less measure of plainness in the instruction they convey. But, whatever may be wanting in them in these respects, it is more than compensated by the piety of sentiment and ardour of devotion which pervade them all. If other parts of Scripture add more to our stock of knowledge, this produces a more elevated tone of feeling, and, if deeply studied, tends in a pre-eminent degree to bring the soul into communion with its God, and to prepare it for the enjoyment of the heavenly world. Let us but get the spirit of the Psalmist in the prayer before us, and we shall have no reason to complain that we were not amused with curious speculations, or edified with matters of deep research.

Our business on the present occasion will be quite simple, namely,

I. To explain the petitions here offered—

Two things the Psalmist here implores of God;

1. The manifestations of his mercy—

[Mercy is that which every child of Adam needs: he needs it too, not merely for some particular violations of God’s law, but for every action of his life: there is iniquity even in his holiest things: his very tears need to be washed, and his repentances to be repented of. Hence he must, from the very beginning to the end of life, and in reference to every moment that he has lived, implore mercy at the hands of the heart-searching God — — —

In this request he sets, as it were, before his eyes all the instances of mercy which God has shewn to his most favoured people from the foundation of the world. We may indeed understand his words as a general kind of plea taken from the wonted goodness of God to others: and then this petition will accord with that offered in another psalm, “Remember me with the favour which thou bearest unto thy chosen; O visit me with thy salvation [Note: Psalms 106:4-5.]!” But there seems here a more specific reference to some particular exhibitions of God’s mercy in the days of old; multitudes of which must of necessity present themselves to his mind, whenever his attention was directed towards them. What mercy had God shewn to Adam, in promising a Saviour to him, instead of inflicting on him the judgments he had so deeply merited! What mercy to Abel also, in giving him such manifest tokens of his favour! To Enoch also, in affording him such constant access to him, and in translating him to glory, without ever suffering him to taste the bitterness of death! In like manner his mercy to Noah, in delivering him from the deluge which overwhelmed the whole world beside; and to Abraham also, whom he admitted to all the familiarity of a most endeared friend. These, and many other instances, we may suppose to have been in his mind, when he proposed them to God as patterns of the mercy which he himself desired to partake of.

This is the true way in which every child of God should pray. From all that God has done for his saints in former times he should take encouragement, and should enlarge his expectations to the utmost extent that the sacred records authorize. God is the same gracious and almighty Being in every age: and what he has done for one he may do for another: and though he may not vouchsafe to us precisely the same interpositions as he did to others, he will, as far as our particular occasions may call for them: and we are enemies to ourselves, if we do not open our mouths wide, and ask all that our situation and circumstances can require.]

2. The communications of his grace—

[He desired to be delivered, not from guilt only, but from the power and dominion of sin also. This desire was without reserve: he wished not to retain “any iniquity,” however pleasant or profitable, or even justifiable it might be in the eyes of an ungodly world. In this he approved himself sincere and upright: and in this, every true Christian will resemble him — — —

But in order to this, he begged to be guided altogether by the oracles of truth. The word of God is the only standard of right and wrong: if we follow any other directory, we shall err: if we adhere to that, we cannot but fulfil the will of God. This is the constant declaration of God himself [Note: ver. 9.]; and it accords with the experience of his people in every age [Note: ver. 11.]. Happy would it be for us, if we would study the Scriptures with this particular view. We are not disposed to undervalue speculative knowledge: but that which is practical is infinitely to be preferred. The Scriptures are given us as a “light to our paths” in general, and as “a lantern” in every particular case when we know not where to place “our feet.” Let us truly seek to be in every thing governed by them; and then, though we be mere fools, as it were, in other things, we shall never greatly err [Note: Psalms 19:7. Isaiah 35:8.].]

From this general view of the petitions, we proceed,

II. To shew the instruction to be derived from them—

Though not written with a didactic view, they convey much instruction, in reference both,

1. To Christian principles—

[The union of the two petitions may not improperly suggest to us, that a desire after pardon must invariably be joined with a desire of sanctification also. Were a desire of pardon all that is required to form the Christian character, a Christian would differ but little from those who are gone beyond redemption. Sin must be hateful to us, even as it is to God himself, who cannot look upon it without the utmost abhorrence — — —

Nor is the order in which they stand devoid of good and useful instruction. Mercy is to be sought in the first place. To look for sanctification first, and make that a ground whereon to hope for mercy, would subvert the whole Gospel of Christ. We mean not to say, that we should build such an observation as this on the mere circumstance of the petitions occurring in that particular order; for that circumstance would by no means justify any such conclusion: but from that circumstance we may fitly take occasion to make such an observation which is sanctioned and confirmed by every part of the inspired writings. And we cannot too strongly impress it on the minds of all, that in constructing the spiritual edifice, we must ever be careful to distinguish between the foundation and the superstructure, and to assign to each its appropriate place and office — — —]

2. To Christian practice—

[Here the just improvement of the petitions is clear and obvious: they teach us to be humble Christians, practical Christians, consistent Christians.

We should be humble Christians. The manner in which the petition for mercy is expressed conveys an idea of deep humility. It is as if he had said, “Lord, I am unworthy that thou shouldst look upon so base, so vile a creature as I am: well might my sins provoke thee to hide thy face from me for ever: but O! look upon me, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.” Thus it is that we should ever seek for mercy. It is impossible for us ever to lie too low before our God. To the latest hour of our lives we should preserve the spirit of the publican, who, whilst he sought for mercy, “dared not so much as to lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!” — — —

We should also be practical Christians. To think that we can be interested in the mercy of God whilst we are continuing in sin, is a horrible, a fatal delusion. Let not any one entertain such an idea for one moment. Christ’s work is finished indeed as it respects himself; but not as it respects us: there is a work to be wrought in us, as well as that which has been wrought for us: and whatever we may imagine about the secret purposes of God, this is revealed as an immutable decree, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord” — — —

To crown the whole, we must be consistent Christians. To harbour any sin, of whatever kind it be, will prove us hypocrites. “If we regard iniquity in our hearts, God will never hear us,” never accept us. The right hand or right eye must be sacrificed, as well as those sins which may be more easily put away — — — O let us seek to be “Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile,” and to be “sincere and without offence until the day of Christ!”]

Verse 136



Psalms 119:136. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.

THE generality, if exhorted to labour for the salvation of others, are ready to reply, “Am I my brother’s keeper [Note: Genesis 4:9.]?” But they who have truly the fear of God in their hearts will be anxious for the welfare of their fellow-creatures. This concern has at all times distinguished the saints of God [Note: Jeremiah 9:1.]: and it was eminently conspicuous in David. Repeatedly in this psalm does he declare his feelings on this subject [Note: ver. 158 and 53.]; and with peculiar energy in the words before us.

We propose to shew on what account we ought to weep for sinners—

I. On account of the blessings they lose—

There are many present blessings which men lose by not keeping God’s law—

[There is a “peace that passeth understanding,” and a “joy unspeakable,” that attends the believing in Christ, and the devoting of ourselves to his service. The having all one’s lusts in subjection must contribute not a little to serenity of mind; but the enjoying of God’s favour, and the light of his countenance, is a source of the richest happiness that mortals can possess on earth [Note: ver. 165. Proverbs 3:17. Isaiah 32:17.].”

But what peace is there to the wicked [Note: Isaiah 57:20-21.]? What can he know of the love of God shed abroad in his heart? What comfort can he have in the prospect of death and judgment?]

But the eternal blessings which they lose, exceed our highest conceptions—

[The obedient believer has “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading [Note: 1 Peter 1:4.].” There is a crown of righteousness, and a throne of glory, reserved for him in heaven [Note: 2 Timothy 4:8.]: and he shall spend eternity itself in the immediate vision and fruition of his God.

But can we say this respecting the impenitent and unbelieving? No: there is no admission for him into those bright abodes: “the unrighteous cannot inherit that kingdom [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9.];” “the unclean cannot enter there [Note: Revelation 21:27.].” There shall be “a difference between those who serve God, and those who serve him not [Note: Malachi 3:18.]:” and the wish that ungodly men feel to be found at last in the place of those whom they now despise, is a proof that they have in their own minds some apprehension of the sentence that awaits them in another world [Note: Numbers 23:10.].]

And are not these things matters of just lamentation?

[It is much to be regretted that men will “feed on ashes [Note: Isaiah 44:20.],” and seek to “fill their belly with the east wind [Note: Job 15:2.],” when they might “eat the bread of life,” and “delight their souls with marrow and fatness [Note: Isaiah 55:2.].” And still more must we pity him, who, when there is a rest prepared, and a supper spread for him in heaven, has provoked God to swear, that he shall never enter into that rest [Note: Hebrews 3:18.], nor ever partake of that supper [Note: Luke 14:24.].]

But there is yet greater reason to weep,

II. On account of the miseries they bring upon themselves—

Not to mention the misery of a guilty conscience, which in many instances is so great as to render life itself a burthen—

How inexpressibly dreadful are the judgments which the wicked will endure in hell!

[However men may labour to disprove it, hell must be the portion of all that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17.]. And who can form any adequate conception of the torments that shall be there endured? To spend an eternity in such a furnace as that which Nebuchadnezzar kindled for the destruction of the Hebrew youths, would be beyond measure dreadful: but what must it be to lie down in that lake of fire which the breath of the Almighty hath kindled [Note: Isaiah 30:33.]?]

And can we view sinners hastening to that place of torment, and not weep over them?

[Our blessed Lord wept over Jerusalem on account of the temporal calamities that should come upon it: and shall not we weep over the eternal miseries which men are bringing on themselves? Must not our hearts be harder than adamant, if they do not melt into tears at such a sight? Can we weep at the recital of a story we know to be fictitious, and not mourn over such awful realities?]

There is, however, yet greater reason to weep,

III. On account of the aggravated guilt under which they perish—

Devils and heathens will have more to urge on their own behalf, than they who perish under the light of the Gospel—

[The devils may say, Had the Son of God taken our nature, and died for our redemption, we would gladly have availed ourselves of such a provision for our safety; we never would have despised one that had been sent from heaven to redeem us. The heathens may say, Though there was a Saviour given, yet we were never privileged to hear his gospel: had his mercy been ever offered to us, we should “long ago have repented in dust and ashes [Note: Matthew 11:21.].” But what will ungodly Christians say before God? Will they say, They had not a Saviour? or, That his Gospel was not proclaimed to them? No: you know there is a Saviour, who bought you with his blood, and who has offered you, times without number, a full and free salvation. Your mouths therefore must be for ever shut [Note: Matthew 22:12.].]

What additional reason does this give for weeping over the ungodly!

[Every offer of salvation greatly aggravates the guilt of those who reject it: and every increase of guilt will be followed by a proportionable increase of misery. How lamentable then is it, when that very gospel, which should have been a savour of life unto life, is made, through the obstinacy of man, a savour of death unto death [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.]! How truly lamentable when Christ himself becomes an occasion of greater damnation to the very people whom he died to save! Alas! that men should ever so despise their own mercies! O that “rivers of tears might run down our eyes!”]


1. How little true love is there in the world!

[However strong and numerous the instances of men’s carnal attachment be, there are few indeed who manifest any regard for the souls of their fellow-creatures. Instead of weeping for others, the generality would laugh at those who wept for themselves. But, if we have not this mark in our forehead, we are destined to feel the stroke of God’s avenging rod [Note: Ezekiel 9:4-6.].]

2. How earnest ought ministers to be in dealing with the souls of men!

[If all ought to weep for the ungodly, much more should ministers, who are sent to call them to repentance, “warn them night and day with tears [Note: Acts 20:31.].” Forgive then the earnestness, we should rather say, the want of earnestness, of him who labours among you; and pray, that he may so “declare the whole counsel of God,” as to be pure from the blood of all men.”]

3. How earnest ought men to be in seeking the salvation of their own souls!

[If it be the duty of others to weep for us, how much more should we weep for ourselves! Let us then lay to heart the state of our souls, and sow in tears that we may reap in joy [Note: Psalms 126:5.].”]

Verses 145-148



Psalms 119:145-148. I cried with my whole heart; Hear me, O Lord: I will keep thy statutes. I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies. I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word. Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.

IN reading the Psalms of David, we are of necessity led to contemplate the constant spirituality of his mind, and the extraordinary fervour of his devotions: but we are apt to overlook, or to notice only superficially, one of the most lovely features in his character, namely, his ardent desire to fulfil the whole will of God. If we were to read the psalm before us in this particular view, we should be surprised, that we had not been more forcibly struck with this sentiment before. He begins the psalm by declaring those persons pre-eminently blessed, who are most distinguished by their obedience to the laws of God [Note: ver. 1, 2.]. In this way alone had he any hope of avoiding shame and disappointment in the last day [Note: ver. 6.]; and therefore he prayed with all imaginable earnestness, that he might be kept from ever deviating from the path of duty [Note: ver. 10, 19, 20.], and be enabled to “run the way of God’s commandments with an enlarged heart [Note: ver. 32.].” The words which we have just read do not, on a superficial view, convey this idea very strongly to our minds: but on a closer inspection of them, we shall see, that a desire to serve and honour God was the primary object in his petitions, and that even salvation itself was chiefly sought by him on account of the sanctifying and transforming efficacy with which it would be accompanied. Bearing this in mind, we will notice,

I. The object of his desires—

There is no reason to suppose that David alludes to any particular distress or difficulty in these petitions: he seems rather to refer to the whole work of grace and salvation, which he wished to have forwarded in his soul: and he does not merely engage to make a practical improvement of the grace that shall be given him, but rather expresses the satisfaction he felt in looking forward to its effects. Had he merely prayed to God for the salvation of his soul, we should not have disapproved his petitions; because it is proper and necessary for every man to seek above all things the salvation of his soul. But the having such respect to holiness, and the desiring of salvation itself chiefly in reference to that, is a higher style of piety; as we propose more distinctly under this head to shew.

1. It argues a nobler disposition—

[A desire after salvation does not of necessity imply any real love to God. A slave may wish to escape the lash of his master, and yet have no delight in his service: and we also may seek deliverance from condemnation, without any ingenuous feelings towards God. Simon Magus desired the intercessions of Peter and John in his behalf; but he was actuated by no better motive than a fear of the judgments denounced against him [Note: Acts 8:24.]. But when a person desires to attain the Divine image, and makes the glorifying of God, by a holy conversation, the main object of his pursuit, he shews a nobility of mind, and an enlargement of heart, which none but God can bestow. A man by the mere force of natural selfishness may long for pardon; but no man without supernatural grace, can pant after real holiness.]

2. It shews juster views of the nature and source of true happiness—

[If a man were pardoned, he could not be happy, if he were not holy: for sin would ever eat as a canker, and destroy his peace — — — Even heaven itself would be no heaven to one who was not possessed of heavenly dispositions: for what communion could he have with the glorified saints and angels, all of whom are holy as God is holy, and perfect as God is perfect? The angels are represented as ever “fulfilling God’s will, and hearkening to the voice of his word,” with an ardent desire to follow the very first intimations of the Divine pleasure. The saints also “rest not day nor night, singing” with all their powers the praises of their most adorable Redeemer. But how would such an occupation suit those who have no preparation of heart for it? But a disposition to execute the will of God will make a person happy in every situation. If he be bereft of all outward comforts, he will “enjoy the testimony of a good conscience:” so that the person who desires holiness in the first place, proves that his judgment is well informed; and that he justly appreciates that important saying, “The work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever.”]

3. It most corresponds with the ends which the Governor of the universe proposes to himself in all his dispensations—

[God, in creating all things, formed them for his own glory; as it is said, “For thy glory they are, and were created.” In all the works of his providence also he has designed to bind men to himself in a way of uniform and unreserved obedience. This was especially his end in all that he did for the Israelites in the wilderness; he did it, “that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws [Note: Psalms 105:45.].” In the great work of redemption he had the same blessed object in view, namely, “that we might serve him without fear, in righteousness and holiness before him all the days of our life [Note: Luke 1:74-75.].” “This people have I formed for myself, that they may shew forth my praise.” Now in desiring salvation for holiness sake, and in praying for deliverance from all the bonds of sin, in order to “run with more enlarged hearts the way of God’s commands,” we forward the everlasting counsels of the Deity, and prove ourselves, in the most important of all concerns, like-minded with God.]

The worthiness of his object was justly marked by,

II. The ardour of his pursuit—

This blessed object he sought,

1. In fervent and continual prayer—

[Observe his own account: “I cried, I cried, I cried;” I cried “with my heart,” with “my whole heart.” What can we conceive more expressive than such language as this? Yet we are sure he did not exaggerate, or state any thing that was not strictly true. Moreover, so ardent was his mind in these holy exercises, and so great his delight in them, that he “prevented the dawning of the morning,” and rose often while it was yet dark, in order to pour out his soul before God.

Now this shews us how the renovation and salvation of the soul should be sought by every child of man. It should occupy our whole mind; it should engage our whole soul. To seek it in a lukewarm and listless way, is to shew that we have no just value for our souls, and no real delight in God. Examine, we beseech you, beloved Brethren, how it is with you in this respect — — — for ye may as surely know by this the state of your souls before God, as if ye were to look into the very book of God’s remembrance — — — You must distinguish also carefully between the exertions that are made in your own strength, and the efforts which are made in prayer to obtain help from God. It is from these that you must judge of your self-knowledge, and humility, and dependence upon God: for in proportion only as you feel your own weakness, and his readiness to aid you, will your application to him be such as David’s was — — —]

2. In a believing dependence on God’s word—

[The word of God meditated on, and applied to the soul by faith, is the great support and encouragement of all who desire mercy at God’s hands: and David “prevented the night-watches” in order to read it, and meditate upon it, and pray over it. Thus it should be with us also. O then let me ask, Is the blessed word of God the one rule of your desires, and the one ground of your expectations? and in this view is it your meditation day and night? — — — Here again you may obtain an insight into the state of your souls, and learn to estimate with precision your spiritual attainments. You may, as biblical students, be extremely diligent, consuming the midnight oil, and labouring all the day, without being at all nearer to God than those who never look into the sacred records. The question is, Whether you lay hold of it as a word of promise from God to you, and whether you plead it day and night before God in prayer? — — — This will prove you Christians indeed; more especially if the promises of grace for your sanctification be as dear to you as the promises of mercy for your pardon and acceptance. This is the habit of mind which God approves, and which will assuredly issue in everlasting salvation — — —]


1. How have your minds hitherto been exercised in relation to eternal things?

[Have you thus redeemed time, even from your sleep, for the purpose of forwarding with all possible earnestness the welfare of your souls? — — —]

2. What are your views and purposes respecting them in future?

[Are you procrastinating, and wasting your time in indolent habits or worthless pursuits? — — — O! awake from your slumbers: up, and be doing: and the Lord be with you!]

Verse 165



Psalms 119:165. Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

THE force of principle is exceeding great, even where the principle itself is erroneous and vicious, but much more where it is founded upon the unerring word of God. It produces in our conduct, promptitude, uniformity, decision: and, whilst it stimulates to action, it supports the mind in case of failure and disappointment. Now of all principles, that of love to God and to his revealed will is the strongest. We see in the saints of every age what wonders it is able to effect — — — In the words before us, David informs us what peace it will bring into the soul amidst the heaviest trials, and what stability amidst the greatest difficulties. But for the more full elucidation of his words, we will consider,

I. The character here described—

“The law of God” generally throughout the Psalms means the whole revealed will of God. It is not to be confined to the moral, or the ceremonial law; it comprehends the Gospel also: it is “the law which should go forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem;” even, as St. Paul calls it, “the law of faith.”

To “love” this law is a strong expression, importing much more than a mere obedience to it: for we may conceive persons to obey it through fear; whereas those who love it, see an excellency in it, and cordially approve of it in all its parts. They love it,

1. As a mirror of truth—

[In this view it is spoken of by an inspired Apostle [Note: James 1:23-25.]; and it is justly so represented, because it reflects with perfect fidelity every feature of the human heart. It never flatters, never distorts; but shews, to every one who will look into it, precisely what character he bears in the sight of the heart-searching God. An insincere person does not like it; he turns away from it: he will not come to it, because it presents to his view his own deformities. But the true Christian loves it on this very account. He desires to know the worst of himself. He sees that it will be to no purpose for him to deceive his own soul: he is assured that God will not form his estimate according to the partial views which he himself may take: and therefore he desires to see himself just as God sees him. True it is, that he never looks into this glass without finding deeper and deeper cause for humiliation — — — but still he loves it; yea, he loves it on this very account; even as David did, when he said, “Thy word is very pure; therefore thy servant loveth it.”]

2. As a revelation of mercy—

[In this view it is particularly delightful to him. The plan of salvation which it unfolds is so grand, so wonderful, so suitable in all its parts, and so sufficient for all his necessities, that he can never sufficiently admire it — — — It is his meditation, and his song, all the day. The Scripture represents the Gospel as “a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined:” and such indeed he finds it to his soul. In comparison of it, and of the knowledge of it, he “counts all things in the universe but dross and dung” — — —]

3. As a rule of life—

[From the moment of his having found the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer, the one desire of his soul has been to “live to Him who died for us and rose again.” “What wilt thou have me to do?” has been his constant inquiry at the throne of grace: and he delights exceedingly in this word as a sure directory under every situation and circumstance of life. From day to day he reads it with this particular view, that he may know “how to walk and to please God.” He perceives that men are always endeavouring to lower the requisitions of this law: but he strives rather to have his attainments raised to that perfect standard. Not one of all its commandments is regarded by him as grievous. Nothing is grievous, but his own want of conformity to them. Could he have his heart’s desire, it would be to “walk in all things as Christ walked,” and to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” — — —]

In proportion as this character exists in any, is,

II. The blessedness of those in whom it is found—

This, as might well be expected, is exceeding great. We notice it in two respects;

1. The happiness of their minds—

[“Peace,” in the Scripture use of the term, is not a mere absence of trouble, but an actual state of very sublime enjoyment. The person “who loves God’s law” in the way before described, has, as the very first-fruits of his faith in Christ, a sense of reconciliation with God: “being justified by faith, he has peace with God: God has said to him, both by his word and Spirit, “Peace, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Combined with this, he has the testimony of a good conscience. Though he sees nothing in himself but what furnishes him with grounds for humiliation and self-abasement, he cannot be insensible of the change that has been wrought in him: he dares not deny the work of God in his soul. He has the witness of the Holy Spirit, and the testimony of his own spirit, concurring to assure him, that “old things have passed away within him, and all things become new:” and though he cannot attain that measure of perfection that he aspires after, he is conscious that, if he could, he would be “pure as God is pure,” and “perfect as God is perfect.” His daily and hourly employment brings in an abundance of peace to his soul. He is engaged in doing what he believes to be the will of God; and he finds by sweet experience the truth of that saying, “The work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever [Note: Isaiah 32:17. See also Psalms 19:11 and Proverbs 3:17.].” Nor has he less comfort in looking forward to the eternal state. He is not left to be a prey to fears and apprehensions about his future destiny. He knows in whom he has believed, and that his God and Saviour is able to keep him unto that great and awful day. He sees also, that he has in Christ a right and title to the heavenly inheritance; and that, “when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, he has a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Hence, instead of dreading the approach of death, he looks forward to it as the consummation of all his wishes, and the completion of all his happiness; and “desires to depart, that he may be with Christ.” Such is the peace which it is the privilege of all who love the Gospel to enjoy, and which Christ himself has left them as a most invaluable legacy, saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you:” and verily it is “a peace which passeth all understanding.”]

2. The stability of their goings—

[Those who have not this divine principle within them, are liable to be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, and to be “moved from their steadfastness” by every temptation. But not so the true Christian, in whose heart the law of God is engraven. He, though still assaulted with manifold temptations, is enabled to withstand them all. At the very moment of the assault, he says, with Joseph, “How shall I do this wickedness, and sin against God?” And throughout the whole course of his life he experiences, on the whole, the truth of that promise, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.].” If he be tried with the most formidable persecutions, he does not, like the stony-ground hearers, presently desist from following the Lord, but takes up his cross manfully, and makes up his mind to suffer the loss even of life itself, rather than dishonour and deny his Lord. Be his trials ever so numerous, he says concerning them, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me:” “I am ready, not to be bound only, but also to die, for the Lord’s sake.” Perhaps one of the greatest stumbling-blocks which lie in the way of the sincere, is the fall of many who once appeared to run well. These, in their fall, sweep away, as it were with their tail, many, very many, of the stars of heaven [Note: Revelation 12:4.]. But those who truly love God’s law are fixed as the sun in the firmament [Note: Psalms 72:5.]. They know that the truth and excellence of religion does not depend on those who profess it: and therefore, whatever be the conduct of others, he determines, through God’s assistance, to hold it fast even to the end. Thus does he surmount the obstacles which sin and Satan place in his way; and is finally “made more than a conqueror through Him that loved him.”]


1. To those who possess not this character—

[It is indeed a great thing to love God’s law. Let not any imagine, that a general approbation of it is that which will either satisfy God, or bring peace into the soul. We love it not aright, if we do not love it universally, in every thing that it requires, and supremely, above all that the world can give or take away. Nor let any one who does not thus love it, expect peace to his soul; for God has said that there is no peace unto him [Note: Isaiah 57:20-21.]: nor can he have stability, seeing that he is in darkness even until now [Note: 1 John 2:10-11.]. You must inquire for the good old way, and walk therein, if ever you would taste this inestimable blessing [Note: Jeremiah 6:16.] — — —]

2. To those who, whilst they profess to have attained this character, enjoy not the blessings connected with it—

[God’s word is true; nor shall any who trust in it be disappointed of their hope. Hear his sayings [Note: Psalms 23:1-2. Jeremiah 31:9.] — — — and, if you experience not the accomplishment of them in your own souls, know that the fault is in yourselves alone. As sure as ever the character is yours, so most assuredly shall the blessedness also be. “He will keep his saints” in peace and holiness, even to the end [Note: Isaiah 26:3. 1 Samuel 2:9.].]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 119:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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