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conditional; “ Because of unbelief they were broken off; and we stand by faith."
3. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous ; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.
God may, and often doth, permit “the rod” or power “of the wicked to fall upon the lot of the righteous” in this world. But it is only for the purposes of chastisement, or probation. The rod is not suffered to "rest," or abide, there too long, “lest the righteous," harassed and worn down by oppression, and seeing no end of their calamities, should be tempted to "put their hands to iniquity," and practice that wickedness which they find to prosper so well here below. The import of this verse seemeth to be the same with that of our Lord's prediction concerning the troubles of the latter days. " Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved. But for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.” Matt. xxiv. 21, 22.
4. Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in heart. 5. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity; but peace shall be upun Israel
The “good and upright in heart” are they who stand steady in every change of circumstances; who complain not of God's dispensations, but, believing every thing to be best which he ordains, adhere to bim with a will entirely conformed to his, in adversity no less than in prosperity. To these Jehovah will finally do good;" and they shall receive the reward of their faith and patience; while such as, in time of trial, have fallen away, and returned no more, shall be " led forth” to punishment “with the workers of iniquity," to whose company their apostacy hath joined them. And then,“ peace shall be upon the Israel of God,” with joy and gladness, for evermore.
TWENTY-SEVENTH DAY.-EVENING PRAYER.
ARGUMENT.—In this Psalm the children of Zion, 1–3. describo the joy consequent
upon their restoration from captivity ; 4. they pray God to bring back the rest of their countrymen, and to complete his work ; 5, 6. they foresee and predict the success of their labours in rebuilding their ruined ciry with its temple, and cultivating again their desolated country. The return of Israel from Babylon holds forth a figure of the same import with the exodus of that people from Egypt. And this Psalm, like the prophecies of Isaiah, representeth the blessed effects of a spiritual redemption, in words primarily alluding to that temporal release.
1. When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
That Cyrus should issue a decree for the Jews to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city and temple; that he should dismiss such a number of captives, not only without money and without price, but should send them home laden with presents, Ezra, i. 1-4, this was the work of Jehovah, who only could thus “turn the captivity of Zion.” A restoration so complete, so strange and unlooked for, brought about at once, without any endeavours used on the side of Israel, seemed in all these respects as a “dream ;" and the parties concerned, when they saw and heard such things, could scarcely believe themselves to be awake. That the King of kings, of his own mere love and mercy, should take pity on poor mankind, in their more grievous captivity under sin and death; that he should send his only Son to purchase their liberty, his Spirit to enrich, and conduct them to their country above, and his heralds to proclaim such unexpected deliverance to all the world; this likewise was the work of the same Jehovah, who only could thus “turn again the captivity of bis Zion.” Sinners, when the tidings of a salvation so great and marvellous are preached to them, think themselves in a "dream," and with difficulty give credit even to the royal proclamation, though the great seal of heaven be affixed to it.
2. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. 3. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
The people of God soon find, that they are not mocked with illusions, but that all about them is reality and truth. Then sorrow and sighing, fear and distrust, fly away together. Joy fills their hearts, and overflows by their tongues, in songs of praise. The nations hear, and are astonished, and own the hand of Jehovah in the restoration of his people; “ Jehovah hath done great things for them.” The chosen people echo back the gladsome sound, and reply, with transports of gratitude, “ Jehovah hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” Every word of this agreeth not more exactly to the return from Bablyon, than it doth to that eternal redemption thereby prefigured, which is the grand subject of thanksgiving in the Christian church.
4. Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south. The joy occasioned by Cyrus's proclamation having been described in the former part of the Psalm, we may now suppose some of the Jews ready to set out on their return home; at which time, and during their journey, they prefer this petition to God, that he would be pleased to bring back the rest of their countrymen, who, like “floods” rolling down upon the thirsty regions of the south,”* might
* I think the image is taken from the “ torrents” in the deserts to the south of Judea : in Idumea, Arabia Petræa, &c. a mountainous country. These torrents were continually dried up in the summer; see Job, xi. 17, 18; and as constantly · returned" after the rainy season, and filled again their deserted channels. The point of the comparison seems to be the “ return” and renewal of these (not " rivers") but “ torrents;" which yearly leave their beds dry, but fill them again; as the Jews had left their country desolate, but now “ flowed again" into it. Bishop Lowth, in Merrick's Annotations. —Dr. Durell renders this verse as follows" The turning of our captivity, 0 Lord, is as streams in the south."
people the land, and by their labours put an end to the desolations of Judah. That God would daily increase the number of true converts from the world to the church, to clear and cultivate the mystical vineyard, to build and to ornament the whole city, should be the prayer of every labourer in that vineyard, of every citizen in that city.
5. They that sou in tears shall reap in joy. 6. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubiless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheares with him.
The fatigue of travelling from Babylon to Judea; the melancholy prospect of a long-depopulated country, and ruined city; the toil necessary to be undergone, before the former could be again brought into order, and the latter rebuilt ; all these considerations could not but allay the joy of the released captives, and even draw many tears from their eyes. They are therefore comforted with a gracious promise, that God would give a blessing to the labours of their hands, and crown them with success, so that they should once more see Jerusalem in prosperity, and behold in Zion the beauty of holiness. This promise is conveyed under images borrowed from the instructive scenes of agriculture. In the sweat of his brows the husbandman tills his land, and casts the seed into the ground, where, for'a time, it lies dead and buried. A dark and dreary winter succeeds, and all seeins to be lost. But at the return of spring, universal nature revives, and the once-desolated fields are covered with corn, which, when matured by the sun's heat, the cheerful reapers cut down, and it is brought home with triumphant shouts of joy. Here, O disciple of Jesus, behold an emblem of thy present labour, and thy future reward. Thou “sowest,” perhaps, “in tears;" thou doest thy duty amidst persecution and affliction, sickness, pain, and sorrow; thou labourest in the church, and no account is made of thy labours; no profit seems likely to arise from them. Nay, thou must thyself drop into the dust of death, and all the storms of that winter must pass over thee until thy form shall be perished, and thou shalt see corruption. Yet the day is coming when thou shalt “ reap in joy;" and plentiful shall be thy harvest. For thus thy blessed Master “ went forth weeping, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, bearing precious seed,” and sowing it around him, till at length his own body was buried, like a grain of wheat, in the furrow of the grave. But he arose, and is now in heaven; from whence he “shall doubtless come again with rejoicing," with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God," bringing his sheaves with him.” Then shall every man receive the fruit of his works, and have praise of God.
ARGUMENT.- If this Psalm were written by Solomon, or by David for Solomon,
as tho title importeth, it was probably used again at the time of rebuilding the city and templo, after the return from Babylon. But indeed it is a Psalm which can
never be out of season, the design of its author being to teach us the necessity of a dependence upon God and his blessing, in every work to which we set our hands What is said with regard to an earthly house, city, and family, extendeth also to tho spiritual house, city, and family of Christ, which are now, what Jerusalem, the temple, and the people of Israel, were iu old time.
1. Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: ercept the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakelh but in rain.
In every undertaking, the blessing of God must accompany the labours of man, to render them effectual. No work can prosper without him, nor can any design miscarry under his favour and protection, which are equally necessary to be obtained by the builder in time of peace, and by the soldier in time of war. But they, above all men, ought to implore the divine grace and benediction, who are employed either in building or defending the spiritual house and city of God; especially as the same persons, like the Jews after the captivity, surrounded by enemies always ready to obstruct the work, are often obliged to hold a sword in one hand, while they build with the other. Our own edification in faith and holiness must likewise be carried on by us in this attitude, by reason of the many temptations which are continually assailing us. It may also be remarked, that both Solomon and Zerubbabel had vainly laboured to construct the first or the second material temple, unless Jehovah bimself had built the true house for the reception of his glory, that is to say, the temple of Christ's body, and, after it was fallen down, had reared it again by a resurrection from the dead.
2. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows : for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
The Psalınist doth not, certainly, intend to say, that labour and diligence are vain, but that they are so, except the Lord be with the labourer: the business is not to be done by all the industry and pains, all the carking and caring in the world, without him; whereas, if his aid be called in, if part of our time be spent in prayer, not the whole of it in prayerless toiling and moiling, our work will become easier, and go on better; a solicitude and anxiety for its success and completion will no longer prey upon our minds by day, and break our rest at night; we shall cheerfully fulfil our daily tasks, and then, with confidence and resignation, lay our heads upon our pillows, and God will“ give to his beloved” a sweet and undisturbed "sleep which shall fit them to return every morning, with renewed vigour and alacrity, to their stated employments. This seemeth to be the import of the verse. An obscurity has been occasioned in the translations, by rendering the adverb 73 so; "so he giveth his beloved sleep;" in which form, this last part of the verse will not connect with what goes before. But if 1 be translated, like its kindred particle, 7–8, “ surely* he giveth his beloved sleep;" or, as Dr. Hammond renders it, "since he giveth his beloved sleep," the difficulty will
* This is the second of the senses given to this particle by Noldius, who cites, in confirmation of it, 1 Sam. ix. 13; 1 Kings xx. 40.
vanish, and the sense appear to be as above. Nor can we easily find a more profitable piece of instruction, with regard to the management of all our concerns, temporal and spiritual.
3. Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord : and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
The labours of mankind, first in building houses and cities, and then in guarding and securing their possessions, are undergone, not with a view to themselves alone, but to their families, which they would establish and perpetuate. The Psalmist, therefore, in the preceding verses, having taught men to expect a happy settlement only from the favour of Jehovah, now directs them to look up to him for the further blessing of a numerous and virtuous progeny. He can in a moment blast the most fruitful stock, or he can make the barren woman to keep house, and to become a joyful mother of children." "Lo, children are an heritage of Jehovah;" an heritage which he bestows on those who fear him; "the fruit of the womb is a reward” conferred by him, where he sees it will be a blessing indeed, upon faithful and pious parents. St. Paul calls the converts made by his ministry bis “children;" and all believers are the children;" of Christ, the “heritage" given him by his Father, the “reward” of his righteous life, and meritorious death ; as it is written, “I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance :” “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." Psalm ii. 8; Isa. Jiji. 11.
4. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Children, when well educated, are like so many "arrows in the hand of a strong man,” ready winged with duty and love, to fly to the mark; polished and keen, to grace and maintain the cause of their parents, to defend them from hostile invasions, and instantly to repel every assajlant. The apostles and first Christians were arrows in the hand of Messiah, with which he encountered his enemies, and subdued the nations to the faith. When by the splendour of their sanctity, the power of their miracles, and the efficacy of their preaching, they pierced the hearts of thousands and ten thousands, what were they but “arrows in the hand of naa, the Mighty One ?" And in this instance likewise, it may truly be said, that no wellnurtured son of Christ and the church will hear his father dishonoured, or despise his mother when she is old.
5. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them : they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
In a house full of dutiful children consisteth the happiness of their parents, who then can never want friends; friends, that will at no time be ashamed,” but will at all times rejoice to appear for them, to meet their “enemies” and accusers “in the gate," or place of judgment;* there to answer any charge against them, to vindicate them
Mr. Merrick observes, that the gate was sometimes the seat of war, as well as the