George Horne.

A commentary on the book of Psalms (Volume 2) online

. (page 18 of 24)
Online LibraryGeorge HorneA commentary on the book of Psalms (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The latter member of the verse under consideration
teaches us to pray for help and salvation, as the "ser-
vants" of God, whose eyes therefore look naturally
to him, '* as the eyes of servants," in affliction,
look unto the hand of their masters:" Psalm cxxiii.
2. And happy, surely, are we in a Master, who
himself, for our salvation, once lived, and prayed, and
suffered, and died, in " the form of a servant."
Phil. ii. 7.

" 3. Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for I cry
unto thee daily."

There is no man upon the earth, but needeth
" mercy;" he who is truly sensible of his need, will
" cry daily" for it; and he who doth so, may com-
fort himself with the hope of obtaining it. The
prayers of Jesus, poured forth for the salvation of
his mystical body, in the days of his flesh, were fre-
quent and mighty; his intercession for us in heaven
is continual. Does the man believe this, who prays
not at all, or who prays without devotion?

" 4. Rejoice the soul of thy servant; for unto
thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

Sorrow was the portion of Christ in this world,
and the church hath no reason to expect any other
from it. He that would have real " joy" in his

Ps. 86.] 277

heart, must beseech God to give it him, for no
creature hath it to give. Nay, the love of the
world must be renounced, before this divine gift can
even be " received." The affections must be loosened
from earth, and " lifted up" to heaven, on the wings
of faith and love; for in the soul that is full of sen-
sual pleasures and indulgences, there is neither room
nor taste for spiritual delights.

" 5. For thou. Lord, art good, and ready to for-
give: and plenteous in mercy unto all them that
call upon thee."

We are encouraged to " lift up our souls to
God," in prayer, because his " goodness," and
the " plenteousness of his mercy" in Christ Jesus,
incline him to give his holy Spirit of peace and com-
fort to " all that call upon him." His favour is no
longer confined to Judea; there is now no distinction
of age, condition, or country: but the sinner, who-
ever or wherever he be, if he call upon the saving
name of Jesus, is heard, pardoned, and accepted,
upon the terms of the evangelical covenant.

" 6. Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer; and attend
to the voice of my supplications. 7. In the day
of my trouble I will call upon thee; for thou wilt
answer me."

In confidence of an " answer," nourished and
strengthened by all the foregoing considerations,
the suppliant renews his prayer, while " the day of
trouble" lasts; and that day will not end, but with
this mortal pilgrimage; since he who loves his coun-
try, will ever be uneasy while he is detained among
Vol. II. N

278 [Ps. 86.

strangers and enemies, perils and temptations. But
the trouble is overpaid with profit, which rendereth
us adepts in the practice of devotion, which con-
vinceth us that we are abroad, and maketh us to
wish and sigh for our true and only home.

" 8. Among the gods there is none like unto
thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto
thy works."

Another reason why application should be made
to Jehovah, is his infinite superiority over all those
that, by infatuated men, were ever called " gods."
From the ancient idolatry, which taught adoration
to the sun, moon, and stars, to the, light and the
air, we have been delivered by the Gospel: nor do
we any longer profess to worship Jupiter, and the
other Heathen gods and goddesses. But do not
many still trust in idols, and have they not, in effect,
other objects of worship, from whose hands they ex-
pect their reward? Are not the hearts of the co-
vetous, the ambitious, the voluptuous, so many
temples of Mammon or Plutus, of Jupiter or Mars,
of Bacchus, Comus, and Venus? But what are
these deities; what is their power; and what are
their gifts? What is the whole world, and all that
is therein, when compared with its Maker and Re-
deemer; what is it when applied to, for the ease and
comfort of a wounded spirit? — " Among the gods
there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are
there any works like unto thy works!"

" 9. All nations whom thou hast made, shall come
and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify
thy name."

Ps. 86.] 279

The Psalmist predictcth that this superiority of
Jehovah should one day be acknowledged through-
out all the earth, when " neither in Jerusalem
only, nor in the mount of the Samaritans," but in
every place, " should men worship the Father;"
John iv. 21. when he who " made all nations" by
his Son, should by that Son redeem all nations,
bringing them from the world to the church, there
to " worship before" the true God, and " in songs,
of praise to glorify his holy name." If in these
our times, we behold the nations again falling away
from God, departing from the purity of their faith,
and leaving their first love, let us comfort ourselves
with looking forward to that scene of things de-
scribed by St. John, in which we hope to bear a
part hereafter; " I beheld, and, lo, a great multi-
tude, which no man could number, of all nations,
and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood be-
fore the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with
white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried
with a loud voice, saying. Salvation unto our God
which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."
Rev. vii. 9,

" 10. For thou art great, and doest wondrous
things: thou art God alone."

" Great" is Jehovah in his power, in his wisdom,
in his mercy; " wonderful" in the creation of the
world, wonderful in the preservation and the govern-
ment of it, wonderful in its redemption ; wonderful
in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and
ascension of Jesus, in the descent of the Spirit, the
propagation of the Gospel, the sufferings of saints,



[Ps. 86.

and the conversion of sinners; most wonderful will
he be when he shall raise the deadj judge the world,
condemn the wicked, and glorify the righteous.
And then shall every tongue confess, " Thou art
God alone!"

" 11. Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk
in thy truth : unite my heart to fear thy name."

It is the continual subject of the Mediator's in-
tercession above, and of our prayers below, that we
may be " taught the way of Jehovah," the way to
life eternal, prepared for us, through faith and love
which is in Christ Jesus; that being so taught, we
may likewise be enabled " to walk -in the truth,"
without error in doctrine, or deviation from duty;
believing all things which God hath revealed, and
doing whatsoever he hath commanded us; that the
affections of the " heart" may be withdrawn from
other objects, and, being no longer divided between
God and the world, become " united" in the filial
" fear of his name," as the grand principle of action.

"12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with
all my heart; and I will glorify thy name for ever-
more. 13. For great is thy mercy towards me;
and thou hast dehvered my soul from the lowest

Gratitude for mercies already received, will ob-
tain a continuance and increase of those mercies.
The church is never in so afflicted a state, but she
hath still reason to intermingle hallelujahs with her
hosannas, and, in the midst of her most fervent
prayers, to " praise the Lord her God with all her

Ps. 86.] 281

heart, and to glorify his name for evermore;*' since,
whatever she may suffer upon earth (and even those
sufferings will turn to her advantage), " great,"
most undoubtedly, " hath his mercy been toward
her, in delivering" her, by the resurrection of Jesus,
from the bondage of sin, the dominion of death, and
the bottomless pit of " hell."

'' 14. O God, the proud are risen against me,
and the assemblies of violent men have souirht after
my soul; and have not set thee before their eyes."

From praises we return again to prayers. When
Christ w^as upon earth, we know the treatment he
met with from " proud and violent men, who had
not set God before their eyes;" from self-righteous
Jews, and conceited Gentiles, who rose up, and
took counsel together, against him. What his
church afterwards suffered at the hands of the same
enemies, is likewise well known. How much more
she is to undergo in the latter days, we know not
as yet; but this we do know, that the spirit of the
world stands, now and ever, in opposition to the
Spirit of God; its design is always the same, al-
though its methods of working be divers. Nor can
we be ignorant of those domestic adversaries, that
assembly of haughty and turbulent passions, which
are continually making insurrections, and destroying
the peace of the soul. So that either from without,
or from within, every one, who is a Christian in
deed, shall be sure to have his portion of tribulation.

" 15. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of
compassion, and gracious; long-suffering, and plen-
teous in goodness and truth."

282 [Ps. 86.

Having taken a view of those that are against
us, it is now time to look up to those that are
with us. And can we have better friends, than
all these gracious and favourable attributes of
heaven? Can more comfortable and joyful tidings
be brought us, than that God loveth us with a
father's love; that he is ready to pardon, slow to
anger; and that we have his truth pledged for the
performance of his mercy? What a fountain of
consolation is here opened for the afflicted Christian !
"^ Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and re-
member his misery no more." Prov. xxxi. 7.

"16. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon
me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save
the son of thine handmaid,"

On the consideration of the above-mentioned at-
tributes, a petition is in this verse put up to God,
that he would " turn" his face towards us; that he
would of his " mercy" pardon us, by his grace
" strengthen" us, and by his power " save" us from
all our adversaries. Every Christian is the " ser-
vant" of God, and " the son of his handmaid," the
church; which may say, in the same spirit of hu-
mility and obedience with the blessed Virgin, " Be-
hold the handmaid of the Lord."

" 17. Show me a token for good; that they
which hate me may see it, and be ashamed; because
thou. Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me.

Many outward signs and " tokens" of the divine
favour were in old time vouchsafed to patriarchs,
prophets, and kings of Israel. The law itself was

Ps. 87.]


a collection of external and sacramental figures of
grace and mercy. All these centred and had their
accomplishment in that grand and everlasting sign
and token of God's love to man, the incarnation of
Christ, which all faithful people from the beginning
wished and prayed for. On this sign, the Chris-
tian looks with joy, as the great proof that God has
" holpen him and comforted him," while his faith
in it doth not fail, he hath the witness in himself,
and his actions declare as much to all around him;
" that they which hate him may be " ashamed"
and converted, before that day come, when shame
shall be fruitless, and conversion impossible.


ARGUMENT.— The prophet, 1—3. celebrates the stability and
felicity of Sion ; 4, 5, foretels the accession of the Gentiles to
her; and, 6. their enrolment among her citizens; 7. extols
her as the foimtain of grace and salvation. The Psalm was
probably penned, on a survey of the city of David, just after
the buildings of it were finished.

" 1. His foundation is in the holy mountains:
or, It is his, that is, God's foundation in the moun-
tains of holiness!* 2. The Lord loveth the gates
of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob."

The Psalmist, after having meditated on the
strength, the beauty, and the glory of Jerusalem,

* Some commentators suppose this verse to be a part of the
title, which will then run thus, " For the sons of Korah, a Psalm ;
a song, when he laid the foundation on the holy mountains."

284 [Ps. 87.

being smitten with the love of the holy city, and
imagining the thoughts of his hearers, or readers,
to have been employed on the same subject, breaks
forth at once in this abrupt manner, " It is his
foundation on the holy mountains." By " the holy
mountains," are meant those hills of Judea, which
Jehovah had chosen, and separated to himself from
all others, whereon to construct the highly favoured
city and temple. As the dwellings of Jacob, in the
promised land, were beloved by him more than the
dwelUngs of other nations, so he " loved the gates
of Sion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob."
Jerusalem was exalted and fortified by its situation;
but much more so by the protection of the Almighty.
What Jerusalem was, the Christian church is;
" built" by God " on the foundation of the apostles
and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief
corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed
together, groweth unto an holy temple in the-
Lord :" Ephes. ii. 20. It is, " his foundation in
the holy mountains;" she is beloved of God above
the kingdoms and empires of the earth, which rise
and fall only to fulfil the divine counsels concerning
her. When those counsels shall be fulfilled, in
the salvation of all believers, the world, which sub-
sists only for their sake, will be at an end.

" 3. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city
of God."

As the prophet began, in a rapture, to speak of
the holy city, so now, in fresh transport, he changes
the person, and suddenly addresses himself to it.
The old Jerusalem was " the city of God, and

Ps. 87.] 285

glorious things were therefore said of it" by tlic
Spirit. Pleasant for situation, and magnificent in
its buildings, it was the delight of nations, the joy
of the whole earth; there was the royal residence of
the king's of Judah; there was the temple, and the
ark, and the glory, and the King of heaven dwel-
ling in the midst of her; her streets were honoured
with the footsteps of the Redeemer of men; there
he preached and wrought his miracles, lived, died,
and rose again ; thither he sent down the Spirit, and
there he first laid the foundations of his church. To
know what " glorious things" are said of the new
Jerusalem, the reader must peruse Isaiah Ix. and
Rev. xxi. xxii.

" 4. I will make mention of Rahab, or, Egypt,
and Babylon, to them that know me: Behold,
Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia, or, Arabia, this
man was born there. 5. And of Sion it shall be
said, This and that man was born in her; and the
Hifirhest himself shall establish her."

The accession of the nations to the church is gen-
erally supposed to be here predicted, God de-
clares by his prophets, " I will make mention of,"
or " cause to be remembered, Egypt and Babylon,"
the old enemies of Israel, " to" or " among them
that know me," that is, in the number of my wor-»
shippers; " Behold" also " Philistia, and Tyre,
with Arabia;" these are become mine ; " this," or
each of these, " is born there," i. e, in the city of
God; they are become children of God, and citizens
of Sion; so that " of Sion," or the church," it shall
be said. This and that man," Heb, " a man and a

N 3


[Ps. 87.

man,"* z. e. great numbers of men in succession,
" are born in her ;" alluding to the multitudes of
converts under the Gospel, the sons of that Jerusa-
lem, " which is the mother of us all ;" Gal. iv. 26.
" and the Highest himself shall establish her ;" as
he saith, " Upon this rock will I build my church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Matt. xvi. 18.

" 6. The Lord shall count, when he writeth up
the people, that this man was born there."

In the book of life, that register of heaven, kept
by God himself, our names are entered, not as born
of flesh and blood by the will of man, but as born of
water and the Spirit by the will of God; of each
person it is written, " that he was born there," in
the church and city of God. That is the only birth
which we ought to value ourselves upon, because that
alone gives us our title to " the inheritance of the
saints in light. In Jesus Christ there is neither
Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian," noble nor ignoble, " bond nor
free; but Christ is all, and in all." Col. iii. ll.f

* Dr. Durell renders ur^xi ^iT'H, " The man, even the man,"
tliat is, " The man of men ;" or, " The greatest of all men."
The reduplication, he thinks, according to the oriental phrase-
ology, must mean the superlative, or highest degree. He adds,
According to this interpretation, every one will see who this
eminent personage was to be, from whose l>irth Zion (used by a
synecdoche for Judea) was to acquire so much glory. The latter
hemistic — " And the Highest himself shall establish her" —
seems to me to have reference, not to God the Father, but to his
Son ; it appearing to be exegetical of the preceding one, and to
describe liis divine, as the other does his human nature. Criti-
cal Remarks, p. 167.

f Dr. Durell thinks this verse relates to the pedigree of our

Ps. 87.] 287

" 7. As well the singers as the players on instru-
ments shall be there ,- all my springs are in thee."

The literal version of the words, as Dr. Chand-
ler observes, seems to be, " Cantantes erunt, siciit
choream diccentes : omnes fontes mei in te. They
shall sing like those that lead up the dance," i. e.
most joyfully; singing and dancing frequently ac-
companying one another. And the burden of the
song thus joyfully sung in praise of Sion, was to be
this, " All my springs," or fountains, " are in thee."
And if such be indeed the incomparable excellence
of the church, and such the benefits of her commu-
nion, as they have been set forth in the foregoing
verses, what anthem better deserves to be performed
by all her choirs? In thee, O Sion, is the fountain
of salvation, and from thee are derived all those
springs of grace, which flow, by the divine appoint-
ment, while the world lasts, for the purification and
refreshment of mankind upon earth.

Lord, recorded among the Jews, and given us by the evangelists,
" The Lord will have this recorded, in registering the people, that
HE," the ^r-XT w^a. mentioned above, " was bom there."

288 [Ps. 88.


ARGUMENT. — This Psalm, as Mr. Mudge observes, may well
be said to be composed, according to its title, niDj^b, to create
dejection, to raise a pensive gloom or melancholy in the mind;
the whole subject of it being quite throughout heavy, and full
of the most dismal complaints. The nature and degree of the
sufferings related in it ; the strength of the expressions used to
describe them ; the consent of ancient expositors ; the ap-
pointment of the Psalm by the church to be read on Good
Friday ; all these circumstances concur in directing an applica-
tion of the whole to our blessed Lord. His unexampled sor-
rows, both in body and soul ; his desertion in the day of trouble ;
his bitter passion, and approaching death ; with his frequent
and fervent prayers for the accomplishment of the promises,
for the salvation of the chiu-ch through him, and for the mani-
festation of God's glory; these are the particulars treated of in
this instructive and most affecting composition. *

" 1. O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried
day and night before thee: 2. Let my prayer come
before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry."

We hear in these words the voice of our suffering
Redeemer. As man, he addresseth himself to his
Father, " the Lord God of his salvation," from
whom he expected, according to the promises, a joy-
ful and triumphant resurrection: he pleadeth the

* Cum Psalmis xxii. et Ixix. ad omnia convenit Psalmus
Ixxxviii. quod argumento est, eum eodem modo a nobis esse ex-
plicandum. Continet igitur pariter orationem Christi ad Patrem
e cruce fusam. Auctor hujus Centici non alium in finem illi titu-
lum dedit b-Dttrn, " erudientis," quam ut Ecclesia posteriorum
temporum ex eo disceret ultima haec Messiae fata. Vitringa, Ob-
servat. Sacr. lib. ii. cap. 9.

Ps. 88.] 289

fervency and importunity of his prayers, ofFered up
continually, " day and night," during the time of
his humiliation and sufferings; and he entreatcth to
be heard in these his supplications for his body mys-
tical, as well as his body natural; for himself, and
for us all.

" 3. For my soul is full of troubles; and my life
draweth nigh unto the grave."

Is not this exactly parallel to what he said in the
garden, " My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto
death ? Full," indeed, " of troubles" was thy
" soul," O blessed Jesus, in that dreadful hour,
when, under the united weight of our sins and sor-
rows, thou wert sinking into " the grave," in order
to raise us out of it. Let us judge of thy love by
thy sufferings, and of both by the impossibihty of
our fully comprehending either.

" 4. I am counted with them that go down into
the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength."

Next to the troubles of Christ's soul, are men-
tioned the disgrace and ignominy to which he sub-
mitted. He who was the fountain of immortality,
he from whom no one could take his life, who could
in a moment have commanded twelve legions of an-
gels to his aid, or have caused heaven and earth, at
a word speaking, to fly away before him, he was
" counted with them that go down into the pit;"
he died, to all appearance, like the rest of mankind ;
nay, he was forcibly put to death, as a malefactor ;
and seemed, in the hands of his executioners, " as a
man that had no strength," no power or might, to

290 [Ps. 88.

help and to save himself. " His strength went from
him; he became weak, and like another man."
The people shook their heads at him, saying, '* He
saved others, himself he cannot save."

" 5. Free among the dead, like the slain that lie
in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more; and
they are cut off from thy hand."

" Free among the dead;" that is, set at liberty,
or dismissed from the world, and separated from all
communication with its affairs, as dead bodies are,
" like" other " corpses that lie in the grave, " whom
thou rememberest no more," that is, as living objects of
providence upon earth : in this sense, " they are cut
off from God's hand," which held and supported them
in life. And in no other sense can these expressions
be understood; since to imagine that the Psalmist,
who so often speaks in plain terms of the resurrec-
tion, should here, when personating Messiah, deny
that doctrine, would be a conceit equally absurd, and

" 6. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in dark-
ness, in the deeps. 7. Thy wrath licth hard upon
me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy weaves."

The sufferings of Jesus are represented by his
being plunged into a dark and horrible abyss, with
the indignation of God, due to our sins, resting upon
him, and all the waves of affliction rolling over him.
The same image is used in Psalm Ixix. and many
other places.

"8. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far

Ps.88.] 291

from me: thou hast made me an abomination unto
them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth."

At the apprehension of Christ, " All his disciples
forsook him and fled:" Matt. xxvi. 56. Peter de-
nied and abjured his Master, as if his acquaintance
had been a disgrace, and " an abomination :" at the
crucifixion, it is observed by St. Luke, that " all his
acquaintance stood afar off, beholding these things;"
xxiii. 49. beholding the innocent victim environed by
his enemies, and at length ** shut up" in the sepul-
chre. The day must come, when each person, who
reads this, shall be forsaken by the whole world;
when relations, friends, and acquaintances, shall retire,
unable to afford him any help and assistance; when
he must die, and be confined in the prison of the
grave, no more to " come forth," until that great
Easter of the world, the general resurrection. In
the solitary and awful hour of our departure hence,
let us remember to think on the desertion, the death,
the burial, and the resurrection of our Redeemer.

'* 9. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction :
Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched
out my hands unto thee."

This verse contains a reiteration of the complaint
and prayer made at the beginning of the Psalm.
These are some of the '' strong cryings with tears,"
which, during the course of his intercessions for us
upon earth, the Son of God poured forth " in the
days of his flesh." Heb. v. 7.

" 10. Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? shall
the dead rise and praise thee? 11. Shall thy lov-

292 [Ps. 88.

ing kindness be declared in the grave, or thy faith-
fuhiess in destruction? 12. Shall thy wonders be

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryGeorge HorneA commentary on the book of Psalms (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 24)