and showeth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore; which may be understood either of David literally, who was the Lord's anointed, and to whom God showed mercy in various instances; and then by his seed is meant the Messiah, who was of his seed according to the flesh; or of the Messiah, whose name signifies Anointed; and who is often called David, Ezekiel 34:23, Hosea 3:5; and so some of the Jewish doctors (u) from this verse prove that the name of the Messiah is David: and by his seed are meant his spiritual seed; all the elect of God, who are given him as his children, to whom he stands in the relation of the everlasting Father: and as mercy is kept with him for evermore, Psalm 89:28; so it is shown to them in regeneration, in the forgiveness of their sins, and in their everlasting salvation.
(u) Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 2.
INTRODUCTION TO Psalm 19
To the chief Musician, a Psalm of David. This psalm was penned by David, and inscribed to the chief musician, as others, to be used in public service, and was designed for Gospel times, as the subject of it shows; which is first, not an account of the light of nature, and then of the law of Moses, but of the Gospel of Christ; and especially as ministered in the times of the apostles, as a citation out of it in Romans 10:18, makes clear.
and the firmament showeth his handiwork; for the same persons may be called the firmament, since they that are wise are said to shine as the brightness of it, Daniel 12:3. These were like to stars in it, and were the light of the world, and declared that redemption is the work which Christ undertook, and came into this world to perform, and which he has finished; his hands have wrought it, and his own arm has brought salvation to him. The Targum interprets the heavens and the firmament, of such persons as contemplate the heavens, and look upon the firmament or air; and so do some other Jewish writers (w).
(w) Jarchi & Kimchi in loc.
and night untonight showeth knowledge, some understand of the constant and continued succession of day and night; which declares the glory of God, and shows him to be possessed of infinite knowledge and wisdom; and which brings a new accession of knowledge to men; others, of the continual declaration of the glory of God, and of the knowledge of him made by the heavens and the firmament, the ordinances of which always continue; the sun for a light by day, and the moon and stars for a light by night; and so night and day constantly and successively proclaim the glory and wisdom of God: but rather this is to be understood of the constancy of the Gospel ministry, and the continuance of the evangelic revelation. The apostles of Christ persevered in their work, and laboured in the word and doctrine night and day: they were in it at all seasons; yea, were instant in season and out of season; and though they are dead, the Gospel continues, and will do as long as day and night remain: and these, like overflowing fountains, sent forth in great abundance, as the word (x) rendered "uttereth" signifies, the streams of divine light and knowledge; they were full of matter, and their tongues were as the pen of a ready writer; they diffused the savour of the knowledge of Christ, in great plenty, in every place where they came. These words express the continuance of the Gospel revelation, as the next do the extent of it.
(x) "eructat", Musculus, Munster, Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; so Ainsworth; "scaturit", Muis; "scaturiendo effundit", Cocceius; "copiose ac constanter instar foecundae cujusdam scaturiginis protrudit, emittit", Gejerus; so Michaelis.
and their words to the end of the world; to the isles afar off, even to these northern and distant ones of England, Scotland, and Ireland, which were reached and visited with the Gospel, either by the apostles, or at least by some of the first ministers of the word;
in them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun; that is, in the heavens and firmament, where the natural sun is placed; and its habitation is fitly called a tabernacle, because it is always in motion and never stops: or this may have some respect to its setting, when, according to the common appearance, and to common understandings, it seems to be hid as in a tent or tabernacle; to be as it were gone to bed, and at rest; when in the morning it rises gay and cheerful, and comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber, as is said in Psalm 19:5, but this is all to be understood, spiritually and mystically, of Christ the sun of righteousness, who has his tabernacle among his people, his churches; and particularly has a place, and the chief place, in the ministry of the Gospel, being the sum and substance of it; and this is of God's putting there, who committed to his apostles the word of reconciliation, the sum of which is Christ; and this is what makes the Gospel so glorious a light, so clear a revelation as it is: the nature, continuance, and extent of this revelation, are described in the foregoing verses; the perspicuity and clearness of it is set forth in this clause, and in what follows.
"we call the garment (or canopy) spread over the head of the bridegroom and bride, supported by four pillars, in the time of their espousals, ''
who looks lovely and beautiful in his nuptial robes, cheerful and pleasant in his countenance, creating pleasure and delight in all his friends that see him and hear his voice: and this simile is expressive of the brightness and glory of the sun when it rises; and of the joy and pleasure which it produces in the minds of men when they behold it: all which sets forth the loveliness and beauty of Christ, as he is held forth in the ministration of the Gospel, and the joy unspeakable and full of glory which his presence yields, after a short departure from his people; see Isaiah 61:10;
and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race; in which he shows his readiness, velocity, and strength; and this denotes the swiftness of the sun in running its course, and its indefatigableness in its constant motion; though it has been employed therein for so many thousands of years, yet every morning rises with the same cheerfulness, pursues its course, and is never weary: all which may point at the readiness of Gospel ministers, their swiftness to run to and fro, and their strength to fulfil the course of their ministry, in which Christ, the sun of righteousness, is held forth in so glorious a manner.
(y) Elias, in his Tishbi, p. 119. The same word is used Isa. iv. 5. and translated "a defence".
and his circuit to the ends of it; to the west, where it sets; which is expressive of the large compass the Gospel administration took in the times of the apostles; whereby the grace of God appeared to all men, shone out in a very illustrious manner, and Christ became, what the sun is to the earth, the light of the world;
and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof; though things may be hid from the light of it, yet not from its heat, so forcible and penetrating it is Christ, in the administration of the Gospel to all to whom it comes with power, not only enlightens their minds, but quickens their souls, warms their hearts, causes them to burn within them, arises with healing in his wings upon them, and makes his Gospel the savour of life unto life unto them. The psalmist goes on to say more and excellent things of the Gospel, its nature and usefulness.
converting the soul; which is a further proof that the law of Moses is not intended: for though by it is the knowledge of sin, or conviction of sin, which often falls short of conversion; yet the Spirit of God, as a spirit of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, is not received through the doctrine or preaching of the law, but through the ministration of the Gospel; which is designed to turn men from darkness to light, and from the powers of Satan to God; and which use it has when it is attended with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power; see Romans 3:20, though the words may be rendered "relieving", that is, refreshing and comforting the "soul" (z) as in Lamentations 1:11; Through want of bodily food, which is the case in the passage retorted to, the spirits faint and sink, the soul is almost gone, when, by the ministration of proper food, it is as it were brought back again, as the word (a) here used signifies, and the animal spirits are cheered and revived: and of like use is the Gospel; it is the food of the soul, by which it is refreshed and exhilarated, when ready to sink and faint away; hereby it is restored and revived, comforted and nourished;
the testimony of the Lord is sure; this is another name for the word of God, or the Holy Scriptures; so called because they testify of Christ, of his person, office, and grace; of what he is, was to do, and suffer, and perform for his people, and of his glory that should follow thereon, John 5:39; and particularly the doctrine of the Gospel is the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, both which he himself testified, and which is a testimony concerning him, 2 Timothy 1:8. And this is "sure", or "to be believed" (b); the whole of Scripture is true, coming from the God of truth; having for its principal subject Christ, who is truth itself, and being dictated by the Spirit of truth; and particularly the Gospel part of it, and all the truths therein contained, especially the doctrine of salvation by Christ, which is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation: the Gospel is a testimony of record which God himself has bore concerning his Son, and eternal life by him, and therefore sure and to be depended upon; for if the witness of men is received, the witness of God is greater, 1 John 5:9. The effect ascribed to the word of God, Or to the Gospel under this character, is,
making wise the simple. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, render it "babes" or "children"; and so Apollinarius; and the word here used in the Arabic language, is said to (c) signify such; and here it intends babes and children not in years, but in understanding, to whom God is pleased to reveal the truths of his Gospel, when he hides them from the wise and prudent: these simple ones are such who are sensible of their simplicity and folly, and of their want of understanding; who, with Agur, think themselves more foolish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man; and these, by the word of God, are made wise to know themselves, their folly, sinfulness, imperfections, and impotence; and are made wise unto salvation, to know the right way of salvation by Christ; see 2 Timothy 3:15; where the same phrase is used as here, and seems to be borrowed from hence, and is used of the Scriptures; which also make men wise in the knowledge of Gospel doctrines, the wisdom of God in a mystery, which to know is the greatest wisdom and understanding, and much more so than to be acquainted with the law only, Deuteronomy 4:6.
(z) "recreans animam", Vatablus, Schmidt; "refocillat", Piscator. (a) "Restituens animam", Junius & Tremellius, Cocceius; "reducens", Gejerus, Montanus; so Ainsworth. (b) "fidele", V. L. Musculus, Pagninus; "fide dignum", Piscator, Michaelis. (c) Shemot Rabba, s. 3. fol. 93. 2.
rejoicing the heart. This cannot be understood of the law, which is a voice of terror, pronounces guilty, curses and condemns, is the killing letter, and works wrath; but of the Gospel part of the word, which is a joyful sound; publishes good tidings of good things; and, when applied by the Spirit of God, is found to have this effect, see Jeremiah 15:16;
the commandment of the Lord is pure; not only the Scriptures in general may bear this name, because they deliver out the commands of God to men, as those of a moral and ceremonial kind to the Jews under the former dispensation; so the ordinances of Christ, which are his commands under the Gospel dispensation; yea, the Gospel itself may be so called, though, strictly speaking, it has no command in it; because, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, it is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith, Romans 16:25; besides, the commandment is no other than the word or doctrine, see 1 John 2:7; and as every commandment of the Lord, of what kind soever it is, is pure and holy, so is every word of God, Proverbs 30:5; being without any mixture of men's inventions, or the dross of corrupt doctrine, sincere, unadulterated, clear of all chaff and impurity, consistent, uniform, and all of a piece, and which tends to promote purity of heart, life, and conversation;
enlightening the eyes: that is, of the understanding, so as for a man to see his lost state and condition by nature; to see the glory, fulness, and grace of Christ; to behold wondrous things in the doctrine of the Gospel, and to observe the way of duty in which he should walk: this is the eyesalve in Revelation 3:18; and so the Jewish doctors (f) explaining this text call the law, using the same word as there.
(d) "visitationes", Ainsworth. (e) "Commissiones", Munster; "deposita", so some in Rivetus; "depositum", Gejerus, Michaelis. (f) Vajikra Rabba, s. 12. fol. 155. 3. & Debarim Rabba, s. 8. fol. 243. 3.
enduring for ever; the law is done away; the ceremonial law entirely, and the moral law, as a covenant of works, and as to the ministration of it by Moses; but the Gospel continues; it is an everlasting one; it endures for ever, notwithstanding all the opposition made to it by open persecution, or false teachers;
the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether; "the judgments of the Lord" are the same with "the word of God", as appears from Psalm 119:25; and these seem to design that part of the word, which contains rules of God's judging and governing his people; or the laws, orders, and ordinances of Christ in his house, which his people should observe, and yield a cheerful obedience to, he being their King, Judge, and Lawgiver: and these are "true", or "truth" (g) itself; being wisely made, according to the truth of things, and agreeable to the holiness and righteousness of God, and so righteous; not at all grievous, but easy, pleasant, and delightful, one and all of them.
(g) "veritas", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus, Rivetus.
yea, than much fine gold: more than gold, and the best of gold, and a great deal of it, than thousands of gold and silver; see Psalm 119:72, Proverbs 8:10;
sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb; or "the dropping of the honeycombs" (h), which is the purest and sweetest of the honey; and what honey is to the natural taste of men, that is the Gospel, and the truths of it, to the spiritual taste of believers, Psalm 119:103; and when the presence of Christ is enjoyed, his love is shed abroad, and the blessings of his grace are partook of, the ordinances of the Gospel are very delightful, Sol 2:3; eloquence, and eloquent orators, are sometimes described by mellifluous words; or by their expressions being like honey, and sweeter than that (i).
(h) "stillatione favorum", Vatablus, Rivetus, Cocceius; so Ainsworth. (i) , Homer. Iliad. 1. v. 249.
and in keeping of them there is great reward; which is to be understood, not of keeping the law of Moses, and the precepts of that, which, if a man did keep perfectly and constantly, he should live in them; but of observing the word of God, and by diligent searching into it, reading and learning it, and meditating on it, to get and obtain knowledge of divine things; which carries its own reward with it, and is better than thousands of gold and silver; and of laying up the word of God, and the truths of the Gospel, and keeping them in mind and memory, which is very profitable and serviceable, to promote spiritual peace and comfort, and to preserve from sin, doctrinal and practical; and also of yielding a cheerful obedience to the Gospel, by cordially embracing and professing the doctrines, and submitting to the ordinances of it; from all which arise great profit, and much reward: such come at the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which is preferable to everything else, and is more precious than rubies; and all desirable things; such enjoy the presence of Christ, have much peace and comfort in their souls; they are made wise unto salvation, and are fitted for every good word and work.
(k) "illustratur", Pagninus, Montanus, Rivetus.
cleanse thou me from secret faults; by which are meant not such sins as are done in secret, and are unknown to men; such as David's sin with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 12:12; nor the inward motions of sin in the heart, to which none are privy but God, and a man's own soul; not but that each of these may be properly enough included in such a petition; but sins, which are unknown to a man himself are meant: there are some actions, which, though known when committed, are not known to be sinful ones; and there are some sins which are committed unadvisedly, and through carelessness, and pass unobserved; not only many vain and sinful thoughts pass to and fro uncontrolled, without being taken notice of; but many foolish and idle words are spoken, and many evil actions, through infirmity and inadvertency, are done, which, when a good man, at the close of a day, comes to reflect upon the things that have passed in it, are quite hidden from him, are unknown to him, being unobserved by him; wherefore such a petition is highly proper to be inserted in his address at the throne of grace: and which also supposes the person sensible of the defiling nature of sin, and of his own impotency to cleanse himself from it; and that God only can do it, who does it by the application of the blood of his Son, which cleanses from all sin; for this respects not regenerating and sanctifying grace, but pardoning grace; a manifestation of it, a view of acquittance from sin by Christ, and of freedom from obligation to punishment for it.
let them not have dominion over me: neither presumptuous sins, nor any other, Psalm 119:133; as they shall not, Romans 6:14; as sin has over wicked men; and they yield a ready obedience to the laws and lusts of it; it reigns over them as a king and tyrant, even unto death: it is something very powerful in good men; it prevails over them, and carries them captive; wherefore they pray it may not have a continued dominion, as it shall not; because they are in another kingdom, and under grace as a governing principle, which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life;
then shall I be upright; in heart, and walk uprightly in conversation; being cleansed from secret faults, and kept from notorious crimes, and gross enormities; and shall exercise a conscience void of offence, both to God and man; and be "perfect", as the word is sometimes rendered, at least comparatively; and absolutely so, as washed in Christ's blood, and justified by his righteousness;
and I shall be innocent from the great transgression; which some understand of pride, others of apostasy; perhaps the sin against the Holy Ghost may be intended; though the words may be rendered, "from much transgression" (k); and the sense is, that he should be cleared and acquitted of a multitude of transgressions he had been guilty of; or be preserved from much sin, which otherwise he should have fallen into.
(k) "multa", Montanus, Rivetus, Gejerus, Cocceius; so Ainsworth.