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

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known in the dark ? and thy righteousness in the
land of forgetfulness?"

It hath been sometimes thought, that these verses
imply a denial, or at least a doubt, of the resurrection
from the dead ; whereas they contain, in reality, the
most powerful plea that Christ himself, in his prayers
to the Father, could urge for it ; namely, that, other-
wise, man would be deprived of his salvation, and
God of the glory thence accruing. " Wilt thou
show wonders to the dead," while they continue in
that state; or if thou shouldst, will they be sensible
of those wonders, and make thee due returns of
thankfulness ? " Shall the dead rise up" in the
congregation, *' and praise thee?" Must they not
live again to do that? " Shall thy loving kindness"
to the sons of Adam, in me their Redeemer, " be
declared," shall the Gospel be preached, " in the
grave?" '' or thy faithfulness," in accomplishing the
promises concerning this loving kindness, shall it be
manifested " in that destruction" wrought by death
upon the bodies of men ? " Shall thy wonders,"
the wonders of light, and life, and salvation, " be
known in the dark" tomb ? "and the righteousness,"
which characterizes all thy dispensations, shall it be
remembered and proclaimed " in the land" of silence
and " forgetfulness ?" A Christian, upon the bed
of sickness, may undoubtedly plead with God, in this
manner, for a longer continuance of life, to glorify
him here upon earth. But every respite of that
kind can be only temporary. All men, sooner or

Ps. 88.] 293

later, must die; and then they can never more ex-
perience the mercies, or sing the praises of God,
unless they rise again. So that if the argument
hold in one case, it certainly holdeth still stronger
in the other.

" 13. But unto thee have I cried, O Lord, and
in the morning shall my prayer prevent me. 14.
Lord, why castest thou off my soul? 'mliy hidest thou
thy face from me ?

Since therefore the wonders, the loving kindness,
the faithfulness, and the righteousness of God, can-
not be manifested by man's redemption, if Messiah
be left under the dominion of death, he redoubles
his prayers for the promised deliverance; and speaks
of his redemption in the hour of sorrow, as in Psalm
xxii. 1. " My God, my God, why hast thou for-
saken me?" &c.

"15. I am afflicted and ready to die from my
youth up: "ixihile I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted;
Heh, I am distressed, not knowing which way to
turn myself.* 16. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me,
thy terrors have cut me off. 17. They came round
about me daily like water; they compassed me about

We are not to imagine that the holy Jesus suf-
fered for us only at Gethsemane, and on mount Cal-
vary. His whole life was one continued passion ;

* Dominiis ipse de se, Psal. Ixxxviii. 16. " Fero terrores
tiios; animi linquor." Loquitur de extremis suis angoribus et
doloribus. Vitringa in Jesai. ii. 667.

29^ [Ps. 88.

a scene of labour and sorrow, of contradiction and
persecution ; " he was afflicted," as never man was,
" from his youth up," from the hour of his birth,
when, thrust out from the society of men, he made
his bed in the stable at Bethlehem ; he was " ready
to die," a victim destined and prepared for that
death which, by anticipation, he tasted of through
life; he saw the flaming sword of God's " fierce
wrath" waiting to " cut him off" from the land of
the living; the " terrors" of the Almighty set them-
selves in array against him, threatening, like the
mountainous waves of a tempestuous sea, to over-
whelm his amazed soul. Let not the church be of-
fended or despond, but rather let her rejoice in her
sufferings, by which, through every period of her
existence, from youth to age, she " fiUeth up that
which is behind of the afflictions of Christ," who
suffers and will be glorified in his people, as he hath
already suffered and been glorified for them. See
Col. i. 24.

" 18. Lover and friend hast thou put far from
me, a7id mine acquaintance into darkness."

It is mentioned again, as a most affecting circum-
stance of Christ's passion, that he was entirely for-
saken, and left all alone, in that dreadful day. The
bitter cup was presented filled to the brim, and he
drank it off to the dregs. No man could share in
those sufferings by which all other men were to be
redeemed. His " lovers and friends," his disciples
and acquaintance, " were put far from him ;" they
all " forsook him, and fled," to hide themselves
from the fury of the Jews, " in darkness," in dark,

rs. 89.] 295

that is, secret places. Thus it is written in the
Psalms, and thus in the Gospels it is recorded to
have happened. Oftentimes, O blessed Jesus, do
we forsake thee ; but do not thou forsake us, or take
thy Holy Spirit from us.


Seventeenth Day — Evening Prayer,

ARGUMENT.—This Psalm is appointed by the church to be
read on Christmas-day. It celebrates, ver. 1 — 4. the mercies
of God in Christ, promised to David; 5 — 13. the almighty
power of Jehovah, manifested in his vi'orks and dispensations ;
14-. his justice, mercy, and truth ; 15—18. the liappiness and
security of his people ; 19 — 37. his covenant made with David
as the representative of Messiah, who should come of his seed ;
38—45. the church lamenteth her distressful state, at the time
when this Psalm was penned;* 46 — 51. she prayeth for the
accomplishment of the promise ; and, in the mean time, 52.
blesseth Jehovah,

" 1. I WILL sing of the mercies of the Lord for-
ever : with my mouth will I make known thy faith-
fulness to all generations."

The " mercies of Jehovah" have ever employed
the voices of believers to celebrate them. These
mercies were promises to the human race, in their
great representative and surety, before the world be-

* Sedecia capto, domo David e solio deturbata, promissiones
Dei iiTitas videri propheta queritur, necdum adesse Christum.
Bossuet. Dr. Kennicott imagines it to have been composed by
Isaiah, as a solemn and public address to God, at the time when
Rezin and Pekali were advancing against Jerusalem.

S96 [Ps. 89.

gan; 2 Tim. i. 9. Tit. i. 2. they were prefigured by
ancient dispensations; and, in part fulfilled, at the
incarnation of Christ. The " faithfulness" of God,
in so fulfilling them, is now " made known," by the
holy services of the Christian church, "to all gene-

" 2. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for
ever; thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very

Whatever be at any time the state of the church
on earth, she knoweth that the foundation of God
standeth sure; that the sacred edifice, raised there-
on, will be incorruptible and eternal- as " heaven"
itself, where only mercy and truth are to have their
perfect work, in their everlasting felicity of the re-
deemed. Of this felicity, which is to be the con-
summation of God's promises, and our hopes, we
behold some faint resemblance, as often as we view
the stability, the beauty, and the glory of the visi-
ble material " heavens."

" 3. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I
have sworn unto David my servant: 4. Thy seed
will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to
all generations."

The two former verses set forth a profession of
faith in God's mercy; these two assign the ground
of such faith ; namely, the covenant which God is
here introduced as declaring that he had made with
David, and which he did make with him by the
prophet Nathan : 2 Sam. vii. 12. &c. The cove-
nant relates to David's " seed," and to the " es-

Ps. 89.] 297

tablisliment of his throne" in that seed: literally,
in Solomon for a time; spiritually, in Christ for
ever : " When thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou
shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed
after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and
I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an
house for my name, and I will establish the throne
of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and
he shall be my son." These last words are cited
by the apostle, Heb. i. 5. as spoken of Christ, to
evince his superiority over the angels. Yet, that
the whole passage does, in the letter, relate to So-
lomon, can admit of no doubt, he being the " seed"
and immediate successor of David, and the person
appointed to " build an house for God's name."
Here then we have an incontestable proof, that the
covenant with David had Messiah for its object; that
Solomon was a figure of him; and that the Scripture
hath sometimes a double sense.* It is moreover to
be observed, that the covenants made with Abraham,
David, &c. all had their original and foundation in
the covenant made with Messiah, who was the
true Father of the faithful, the Beloved and Chosen
of God ; the great Prophet, Priest, and King : the
only person qualified to be a Sponsor, and to engage
in a covenant with the Father for mankind. His
sufferings were the price of our redemption : and be-
cause he suffered in the flesh, as '' the Son of Da-
vid," therefore is he " established for ever, and his
throne built up to all generations." Remarkable

* " Disposui testamentum:" percussi foe4us cum electo meo ;
id est, Davide et Christo. Bossuet.

298 [P,. 89.

are the words of the angel to Mary : " The Lord
God shall give unto him the " throne of his father
David ; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob
for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
Luke i. 32.

" 5. And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O
Lord; thy faithfulness also in the congregation of
the saints : or, the heavens shall praise thy wonders,
O Lord; and the saints thy faithfulness in the

Did not " the heavens praise the wonders of Je-
hovah," when a choir of angels descended from above,
to sing an anthem at the birth of Christ ? And how
must the celestial courts have resounded with the
hellelujahs of those blessed spirits, when they again
received their King, returning in triumph from the
conquest of his enemies ? Nor do " the saints"
omit to celebrate God's " faithfulness in the con-
gregation" upon earth, while " with angels and
archangels, and all the company of heaven, they laud
and magnify his glorious name, evermore praising
him, and saying. Holy, holy, holy. Lord God of
hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory
be to thee, O Lord most high."

" 6. For who in the heaven can be compared
unto the Lord ! 'who among the sons of the mighty
can be likened unto the Lord ? 7. God is greatly
to be feared in the assembly of the saints; and to be
had in reverence of all them that m'e about him.
8. O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord
like unto thee ? or to thy faithfulness round about
thee ? or, and thy faithfulness is round about thee."

Ps. 89.] 299

These verses proclaim that right and title which
Jehovah hath to the praises of all his creatures in
'* heaven and earth." No one of them, however
excellent and glorious, however deified and adored
by fond and foolish man, can enter the lists, and
contest the superiority with its Maker. High over
all is the throne of God : before him " angels"
veil their faces, " saints" prostrate themselves with
lowest reverence, and created nature trembles at his
word : his " power" is almighty, and derived from
none ; and with " truth" he is on all sides invested
as with a garment : the former enables him, the lat-
ter (if we may so express it) binds him, to perform
those gracious promises, which mercy prompted him
to make, concerning our eternal redemption.

" 9. Thou rulest the raging of the sea : when
the waves thereof arise thou stillest them."

The extent of the ocean, the multitude of its
waves, and their fury when excited by a storm, ren-
der it, in that state, the most tremendous object in
nature; nor doth any thing, which man beholds,
give him so just an idea of human impotence, and of
that divine power which can excite and calm so bois-
terous an element at pleasure. God himself there-
fore frequently appeals to this instance of his omni-
potence, see Job xxxviii. 11. Jer. v. 22. an attribute
of which our Lord showed himself to have been pos-
sessed, when, being with his disciples in the ship,
he arose and rebuked a tempestuous wind and a rag-
ing sea, and there was instantly a calm. In all our
troubles and temptations, be thou, blessed Jesus, with
us, and then they shall never finally overwhelm us.

300 [Ps. 89.

"10. Thou hast broken Rahab, that is, Egypt,
in pieces, as one that is slain : thou hast scattered
thine enemies with thy strong arm."

The destruction of Pharaoh and the Egyptians is
here mentioned as another instance of God's mighty
power. And it is probable, that the foregoing verse
was intended to allude more particularly to that
miraculous exertion of God's sovereignty over the
waters, the division of the Red Sea, which happened
at the same time; as these two events are generally
spoken of together. Thus Isaiah: " Art thou not
it that hath cut " Rahab," that is, Egypt, " and
wounded the dragon," that is, Pharaoh ? " Art
thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of
the great deep, that hath made the depths of the
sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?" li. 9.
The same power which effected all this, hath since,
in Christ Jesus, overcome the world, destroyed the
works of the devil, and ransomed mankind from the
depths of the grave.

"11. The heavens are thine, the earth also is
thine : as fm^ the world, and the fulness thereof,
thou hast founded them. 12. The north and the
south, thou hast created them; Tabor and Hermon
shall rejoice in thy name."

The " heavens," and all the glorious bodies
there ranged in beautiful order; the " earth," with
its rich furniture, and the unnumbered tribes of its
inhabitants, through its whole extent, from " north
to south," and from east to west ; all these are so
many evidences of that wisdom and power which at

Ps. 89.] 301

the beginning contrived and formed them; all, in
their respective ways, declare the glory, and speak
the praises of their great Creator; but chiefly the
holy land, and the fruitful hills which adorned it.
" Tabor" in one part, and " Hermon" in another,
formerly seemed, as it were, to " rejoice" and sing,
for the abundant favours showered down upon them
by the God of Israel, who hath since caused all na-
tions no less to exult and triumph in his saving


" 13. Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy
hand, and high is thy right hand."

The Psalmist, having produced and meditated on
some eminent instances of divine power, draws this
general conclusion from the premises. Towards the
Christian church " the arm of Jehovah" hath been
revealed in a still more extraordinary manner. She
reflecteth on the wonders wrought by Jesus ; a con-
quest over more formidable enemies than Pharaoh
and his Egyptians ; a redemption from more cruel
bondage; salvation from sin and death; a new crea-
tion, new heavens, and new earth, a new Jerusalem,
and a spiritual Sion. With additional conviction
may she therefore exclaim, " Thou hast a mighty
arm : strong is thy hand, and high is thy right
hand !"


14. Justice and judgment are the habitation,
Heb^ the establishment of thy throne : mercy and
truth shall go before thy face."

Although the power of God be infinite, yet is it
never exerted, but under the direction of his other
Vol. II. O

302 [Ps. 89.

attributes. When he goeth, as a judge, to his tri-
bunal, " mercy and truth go before his face ;" they
are represented as preceding him, to give notice of
his advent, and to prepare his way. " All the ways,"
or dispensations " of the Lord," as it is elsewhere
observed, " are mercy and truth;" Ps. xxv. 10. they
are the substance of all his revelations, which either
promise salvation, or relate the performance of such
promises. By these is man warned and prepared
for " judgment;" which is to be the last and finish-
ing scene. And when the great Judge of all the
earth shall from his throne pronounce the irreversi-
ble sentence, not a creature then present shall be
able to accuse that sentence of injustice. After this
model should the thrones of princes, and the tribu-
nals of earthly magistrates, be constituted in " jus-
tice and judgment," adorned with " mercy and

" 15. Blessed is the people that know the joyful
sound : they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy

Next to the praises of Jehovah, is declared the hap-
piness of those who have him for their God ; who
" know the joyful sound, or sound of the trum-
pet," by which the festivals of the Jewish church
were proclaimed, and the people were called toge-
ther to the ofiices of devotion; who enjoy the " light"
of truth, and through grace are enabled to ** walk"
therein. These blessings are now become our own:
the evangelical trumpet hath sounded through the
once heathen world ; the Sun of Righteousness hath
risen upon all nations. Let us attend to the

P8. 89.] 303

"joyful sound;" let us " walk" in the glorious
" light."

" 16. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day:
and in righteousness shall they be exalted. 17.
For thou art the glory of their strength : and in thy
favour our horn shall be exalted. 18. For the Lord
is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our

It is the duty of Christians, as it was that of Is-
raelites, to ascribe all their strength, their success,
and their glory, whether in matters temporal or spi-
ritual, to Jehovah alone. Having heard the sound,
and experienced the illuminating and reviving influ-
ences of the Gospel, in the name and in the salva-
tion of God we rejoice all the day, and in his righ-
teousness only we trust to be exalted to heaven : to
him we attribute the glory of that strength, with
which, in time of temptation, we may find ourselves
happily endued; and in his favour, or grace, our
horn, or the efforts of our power, shall be exalted,
and crowned with victory; our defence in all dangers
is from Jehovah, who was ever the shield of his an-
cient people; and the Holy One of Israel is our
Redeemer, and our King.

" 19. Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one,
and saidst, I have laid, or, placed, help upon, or,
in one that is mighty ; I have exalted 07ie chosen
out of the people."

The covenant made with David was mentioned in
general terms above, at verses 4, 5. But a more
particular account is now given of God's dispensa-

O 2


[Ps. 89.

tions relative to the son of Jesse, and his posterity.
We are presented with the substance of the revela-
tion made upon this subject, " in vision," to one of
the prophets, perhaps Samuel, or Nathan, here styled
an " holy one," or religious person, one favoured
and accepted by God, who is introduced as manifest-
ing to this his prophet the divine counsels concern-
ing David: " I have placed help upon, or in one,
who shall become an eminent and mighty Saviour of
Israel; from among all the people I have chosen,
and determined to exalt him, for that purpose, to
the throne." Thus was Messiah foretold, in
prophetical visions and revelations, as the person
designed to be the mighty Redeemer of his church;
thus, in the fulness of time, was he chosen from
among all the children of men, and exalted, through
sufferings, to an eternal throne.

'' 20. I have found David my servant ; with my
holy oil have I anointed him. 21. With whom my
liand shall be established; mine arm also shall
strengthen him."

David was the servant of God ; he was, by the
prophet Samuel, anointed with oil; he was strength-
ened and established in his kingdom, by the hand
and arm of Jehovah. But never let Christians fail,
in this eminently figurative character, to contemplate
that true David, (for so he is called, Ezek. xxxiv.
23. xxxvii. 25.) the beloved Son of God; " the
servant and elect of Jehovah, in whom his soul de-
lighted, and on whom he put his Spirit;" Isa. xlii.
1. whom he anointed with his holy oil, with the oil
of gladness, with the Holy Ghost and with power;"

Ps. 89.] 305

Ps. xlv. 7. Acts X. 38. whom he strengthened, and
established in his spiritual kingdom, with his hand
and alrm, and the might of his omnipotence.

" 22. The enemy shall not exact upon, or, de-
ceive, him : nor the son of wickedness afflict, or, sub-
due, him. 23. And I will beat down his foes before
his face, and plague them that hate him. 24. But
my faithfulness and my mercy shall he with him : and
hi my name shall his horn be exalted."

These promises were fulfilled to David, when
God delivered him out of the hand of Saul, and of
all his other adversaries. See 2 Sam. xxii. 1. And
in what a full, perfect, and divine sense, were they
verified to Christ ! That subtle enemy, " which
deceiveth the whole world," was not able to deceive
him ; neither the sons nor the father of wickedness
could overthrow and subdue him : all opposition fell
before him, and they who hated him suffered un-
paralleled desolation ; the promised faithfulness and
mercy of Jehovah were ever with him, and his king-
dom was exalted with glory and honour.

*' 25. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his
right hand in the rivers."

The dominions of David and his son Solomon
extended from the Mediterranean " sea*' to the
" rivers" Euphrates, &c.— the empire of Christ is
universal over Jews and Gentiles, throughout all the
earth. See Ps. Ixxii. 8. &c.

'' 26. He shall cry unto me. Thou art my
father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

306 [Ps. 89.

27. Also I will make my first-born higher than the
kings of the earth."

All this, if in some respects true of David, is
much more emphatically so of our Lord Jesus
Christ. " Son of God" is one of his distinguished
titles ; of " the Father" he continually spoke, and
to the Father he addressed his prayers and cries, in
the days of his flesh ; as man he was raised and
exalted by the power and glory of the Divinity ; he
was " the first-born of every creature, the first be-
gotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings
of the earth." Col. i. 15. Rev. i. 5. Make us,
blessed Lord, the sons of God, and teach us to cry,
Abba, Father ; give us victory and dominion over
sin and death, that we may live and reign with thee
for ever.

" 28. My mercy will I keep for, or, to, him for
evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.
29. His seed also will I make to endure for ever,
and his throne as the days of heaven."

God kept his mercy and covenant with David, by
preserving the line of his posterity, until his great
antitype, Messiah, the subject of all the promises,
came, by whom the kingdom was established for
ever, being changed into a spiritual one, which is
to be transferred from earth to heaven, and rendered
coeval with those eternal mansions of the blessed.

" 30. If his children forsake my law, and walk
not in my judgments; 3L If they break, or pro-
fane, my statutes, and keep not my commandments ;
32. Then will I visit their transgression with the rod,

Ps. 89.] 307

and their iniquity with stripes. 33. Nevertheless,
my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him,
nor suffer my faithfulness to fall. 34. My covenant
will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out
of my lips."

The posterity of David were to enjoy God's fa-
vour, or be deprived of it, as they proved obedient or
disobedient to his " law;" as they executed or per-
verted its civil " judgment ;" as they observed or
neglected its ceremonial " statutes," or religious in-
stitutions; as they kept or broke its " command-
ments," or moral precepts. When they became re-
bellious, idolatrous, and profligate, the rod was lifted
up, and due chastisement inflicted, sometimes by the
immediate hand of Heaven, sometimes by the instru-
mentality of their heathen adversaries; famine and
pestilence, war and captivity, were at different times
employed to reclaim backsliding Israel. But still,
the *' covenant" of God in Christ stood sure ; the
Jewish nation was preserved, through all changes
and revolutions, " until the Seed came to whom the
promise was made;" nor was Jerusalem destroyed,
before the new and spiritual kingdom of Messiah
was set up in the earth. Christian communities, and
the individuals that compose them, are in like man-
ner corrected and punished for their offences. " Ne-
vertheless, God's loving kindness will he not utterly
take from us, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail. His
covenant will he not break, nor alter the thing that
is gone out of his lips." So — " I am with you al-
ways," says the Redeemer, " even to the end of the
world ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against

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