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C. H. Spurgeon :: Psalm 119 On the Whole Psalm

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Psalm 119


TITLE.— There is no title to this Psalm, neither is any author's name mentioned. It is THE LONGEST PSALM, and this is a sufficiently distinctive name for it. It equals in bulk twenty-two psalms of the average length of the Songs of Degrees. Nor is it long only; for it equally excels in breadth of thought, depth of meaning, and height of fervour. It is like the celestial city which lieth four square, and the height and the breadth of it are equal. Many superficial readers have imagined that it harps upon one string, and abounds in pious repetitions and redundancies; but this arises from the shallowness of the reader's own mind: those who have studied this divine hymn, and carefully noted each line of it, are amazed at the variety and profundity of the thought. Using only a few words, the writer has produced permutations and combinations of meaning which display his holy familiarity with his subject, and the sanctified ingenuity of his mind. He never repeats himself; for if the same sentiment recurs it is placed in a fresh connection, and so exhibits another interesting shade of meaning. The more one studies it the fresher it becomes. As those who drink the Nile water like it better every time they take a draught, so does this Psalm become the more full and fascinating the oftener you turn to it. It contains no idle word; the grapes of this cluster are almost to bursting full with the new wine of the kingdom. The more you look into this mirror of a gracious heart the more you will see in it. Placid on the surface as the sea of glass before the eternal throne, it yet contains within its depths an ocean of fire, and those who devoutly gaze into it shall not only see the brightness, but feel the glow of the sacred flame. It is loaded with holy sense, and is as weighty as it is bulky. Again and again have we cried while studying it, "Oh the depths!" Yet these depths are hidden beneath an apparent simplicity, as Augustine has well and wisely said, and this makes the exposition all the more difficult. Its obscurity is hidden beneath a veil of light, and hence only those discover it who are in thorough earnest, not only to look on the word, but, like the angels, to look into it.

The Psalm is alphabetical. Eight stanzas commence with one letter, and then another eight with the next letter, and so the whole Psalm proceeds by octonaries quite through the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Besides which, there are multitudes of appositions of sense, and others of those structural formalities with which the oriental mind is pleased,—formalities very similar to those in which our older poets indulged. The Holy Spirit thus deigned to speak to men in forms which were attractive to the attention and helpful to the memory. He is often plain or elegant in his manner, but he does not disdain to be quaint or formal if thereby his design of instruction can be the more surely reached. He does not despise even contracted and artificial modes of speech, if by their use he can fix his teaching upon the mind. Isaac Taylor has worthily set forth the lesson of this fact:—"In the strictest sense this composition is conditioned; nevertheless in the highest sense is it an utterance of spiritual life; and in thus finding these seemingly opposed elements, intimated commingled as they are throughout this Psalm, a lesson full of meaning is silently conveyed lo those who shall receive it—that the conveyance of the things of God to the human spirit is in no way damaged or impeded, much less is it deflected or ciliated by its subjugation to loose modes of utterance which most of all bespeak their adaptation to the infancy and the childlike capacity of the recipient."

AUTHOR.—The fashion among modern writers is, as far as possible, to take every Psalm from David. As the critics of this school are usually unsound in doctrine and unspiritual in tone, we gravitate in the opposite direction, from a natural suspicion of everything which comes from so unsatisfactory a quarter. We believe that David wrote this Psalm. It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David's experience in many interesting points. In our youth our teacher called it "David's pocket book," and we incline to the opinion then expressed that here we have the royal diary written at various times throughout a long life. No, we cannot give up this Psalm to the enemy. "This is David's spoil." After long reading an author one gets to know his style, and a measure of discernment is acquired by which his composition is detected even if his name be concealed; we feel a kind of critical certainty that the hand of David is in this thing, yea, that it is altogether his own.

SUBJECT.—The one theme is the word of the Lord. The Psalmist sets his subject in many lights, and treats of it in divers ways, but he seldom omits to mention the word of the Lord in each verse under some one or other of the many names by which he knows it; and even if the name be not there, the subject is still heartily pursued in every stanza. He who wrote this wonderful song was saturated with those books of Scripture which he possessed. Andrew Bonar tells of a simple Christian in a farmhouse who had meditated the Bible through three times. This is precisely what this Psalmist had done,—he had gone past reading into meditation. Like Luther, David had shaken every fruit tree in God's garden, and gathered golden fruit therefrom. "The most," says Martin Boos, "read their Bibles like cows that stand in the thick grass, and trample under their feet the finest flowers and herbs." It is to be feared that we too often do the like. This is a miserable way of treating the pages of inspiration. May the Lord prevent us from repeating that sin while reading this priceless Psalm.

There is an evident growth in the subject matter. The earlier verses are of such a character as to lend themselves to the hypothesis that the author was a young man, while many of the later passages could only have suggested themselves to age and wisdom. In every portion, however, it is the fruit of deep experience, careful observation, and earnest meditation. If David did not write it, there must have lived another believer of exactly the same order of mind as David, and he must have addicted himself to Psalmody with equal ardour, and have been an equally hearty lover of Holy Writ.

Our best improvement of this sacred composition will come through getting our minds into intense sympathy with its subject. In order to this, we might do well to commit it to memory. Philip Henry's daughter wrote in her diary, "I have of late taken some pains to learn by heart Psalm 119, and have made some progress therein." She was a sensible, godly woman. Having done this, we should consider the fulness, certainty, clearness, and sweetness of the word of God, since by such reflections we are likely to be stirred up to a warm affection for it. What favoured beings are those to whom the Eternal God has written a letter in his own hand and style. What ardour of devotion, what diligence of composition can produce a worthy eulogium for the divine testimonies? If ever one such has fallen from the pen of man it is this 119th Psalm, which might well be called the holy soul's soliloquy before an open Bible.

This sacred ode is a little Bible, the Scriptures condensed, a mass of Bibline, Holy Writ rewritten in holy emotions and actions. Blessed are they who can read and understand these saintly aphorisms; they shall find golden apples in this true Hesperides, and come to reckon that this Psalm, like the whole Scripture which it praises, is a pearl island, or, better still, a garden of sweet flowers.

NOTES RELATING TO THE PSALM AS A WHOLE

Eulogium upon the whole Psalm.—This Psalm shines and shows itself among the rest,

Velut inter ignes
Luna minores.   {1}

a star in the firmament of the Psalms, of the first and greatest magnitude. This will readily appear if you consider either the manner it is composed in, or the matter it is composed of. The manner it is composed in is very elegant. The matter it is composed of is very excellent.

1. The manner it is composed in is very elegant; full of art, rule, method theological matter in a logical manner, a spiritual alphabet framed and formed according to the Hebrew alphabet.

2. The matter it is composed of is very excellent; full of rare sublimities, deep mysteries, gracious activities, yea, glorious ecstasies. The Psalm is made up of three things,—(a) prayers, (b) praises, (c) protestations. Prayers to God; praises of God; protestations unto God.

Rev. W. Simmons, in a sermon in the "Morning Exercises," 1661.

{1} And like the moon, the feebler fires among, "Conspicuous shines."—Horace.


Eulogium. This Psalm is called the Alphabet of Divine Love, the Paradise of all the Doctrines, the Storehouse of the Holy Spirit, the School of Truth, also the deep mystery of the Scriptures, where the whole moral discipline of all the virtues shines brightly. And as all moral instruction is delightsome, therefore this Psalm, because excelling in this kind of instruction, should be called delightsome, inasmuch as it surpasses the rest. The other Psalms, truly, as lesser stars shine somewhat; but this burns with the meridian heat of its full brightness, and is wholly resplendent With moral loveliness.

Johannes Paulus Palanterius, 1600.

Eulogium. In our German version it has the appropriate inscription, "The Christian's golden A B C of the praise, love, power, and use of the Word of God."

Franz Delitzsch, 1871.

Eulogium. It is recorded of the celebrated St. Augustine, who among his voluminous works left a Comment on the Book of Psalms, that he delayed to comment on this one till he had finished the whole Psalter; and then yielded only to the long and vehement urgency of his friends, "because," he says, "as often as I essayed to think thereon, it always exceeded the powers of my intent thought and the utmost grasp of my faculties." While one ancient father {2} entitles this Psalm "the perfection of teaching and instruction;" another {3} says that "it applies an all containing medicine to the varied spiritual diseases of men—sufficing to perfect those who long for perfect virtue, to rouse the slothful, to refresh the dispirited, and to set in order the relaxed;" to which might be added many like testimonies of ancient and modern commentators on it.

William De Burgh, 1860.

{2} St. Hilary.

{3} Theodoret.


Eulogium. In proportion as this Psalm seemeth more open, so much the more deep doth it appear to me; so that I cannot show how deep it is. For in others, which are understood with difficulty, although the sense lies hid in obscurity yet the obscurity itself appeareth; but in this, not even this is the case; since it is superficially such, that it seemeth not to need an expositor, but only a reader and listener.

Augustine, 354-480.

Eulogium. In Matthew Henry's "Account of the Life and Death of his father, Philip Henry," he says: "Once, pressing the study of the Scriptures, he advised us to take a verse of this Psalm every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the Psalm twice in the year; and that, saith he, will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scriptures." He often said, "All grace grows as love to the word of God grows."


Eulogium. It is strange that of all the pieces of the Bible which my mother taught me, that which cost me most to learn, and which was to my child's mind most repulsive—the 119th Psalm—has now become of all the most precious to me in its overflowing and glorious passion of love for the law of God.

John Ruskin, in "Fors Clavigera".

Eulogium. This Psalm is a prolonged meditation upon the excellence of the word of God, upon its effects, and the strength and happiness which it gives to a man in every position. These reflections are interspersed with petitions, in which the Psalmist, deeply feeling his natural infirmity, implores the help of God for assistance to walk in the way mapped out for him in the divine oracles. In order to be able to understand and to enjoy this remarkable Psalm, and that we may not be repelled by its length and by its repetitions, we must have had, in some measure at least, the same experiences as its author, and, like him, have learned to love and practise the sacred word. Moreover, this Psalm is in some sort a touchstone for the spiritual life of those who read it. The sentiments expressed in it perfectly harmonise with what the historical books and other Psalms teach concerning David's obedience and his zeal for God's glory. There are, however, within it words which breathe so elevated a piety, that they can have their full sense and perfect truthfulness only in the mouth of Him of whom the prophet king was the type.

From the French of Armand de Mestral, 1856.

Eulogium. The 119th Psalm has been spoken of by a most distinguished living rationalistic critic (Professor Reuss) as "not poetry at all, but simply a litany—a species of chaplet." Such does not seem to be the opinion of the angels of God, and of the redeemed spirits, when that very poem supplies with the language of praise—the paean of victory, "Just and true are thy ways" (Rev 15:3); the cry of the angel of the waters, "Thou art righteous, O Lord!" (Rev 16:5); the voice of much people in heaven, "True and righteous are his judgments" (Rev 19:2); what is this but the exclamation of him, whoever he may have been, who wrote the Psalm—"Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments" (Psa 119:137).

William Alexander, in "The Quiver," 1880.

Incident. In the midst of a London season; in the stir and turmoil of a political crisis, 1819; William Wilberforce writes in his Diary—"Walked from Hyde Park Corner repeating the 119th Psalm in great comfort."

William Alexander, in "The Witness of the Psalms". 1877.

Incident. George Wishart, the chaplain and biographer of "the great Marquis of Montrose," as he was called, would have shared the fate of his illustrious patron but for the following singular expedient. When upon the scaffold, he availed himself of the custom of the times, which permitted the condemned to choose a Psalm to be sung. He selected the 119th Psalm, and before two thirds of the Psalm had been sung, a pardon arrived, and his life was preserved. It may not be out of place to add that the George Wishart, Bishop of Edinburgh, above referred to, has been too often confounded with the godly martyr of the same name who lived and died a century previously. We only mention the incident because it has often been quoted as a singular instance of the providential escape of a saintly personage; whereas it was the very ingenious device of a person who, according to Woodrow, was more renowned for shrewdness than for sanctity. The length of this Psalm was sagaciously employed as the means of gaining time, and, happily, the expedient succeeded.

C. H. S.

Alphabetical Arrangement.—It is observed that the 119th Psalm is disposed according to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, perhaps to intimate that children, when they begin to learn their alphabet, should learn that Psalm.

Nathanael Hardy, 1618-1670.

Alphabetical Arrangement.—True it is that the verses indeed begin not either with the English or yet the Latin letters, but with the Hebrew, wherein David made and wrote this Psalm. The will and purpose of the Holy Ghost is to make us to feel and understand that the doctrine herein contained is not only set down for great clerks which have gone to school for ten or twenty years; but also for the most simple; to the end none should pretend any excuse of ignorance.

From Calvin's Twenty-two Sermons upon the 119th Psalm, 1580.

Alphabetical Arrangement.—There may be something more than fancy in the remark, that Christ's name, "the Alpha and Omega"—equivalent to declaring him all that which every letter of the alphabet could express—may have had a reference to the peculiarity of this Psalm,—a Psalm in which (with the exception of Psa 119:84 and Psa 119:122, exceptions that make the rule more marked) every verse speaks of God's revelation of himself to man.

Andrew A. Bonar, 1859.

Alphabetical Arrangement:—Origen says it is alphabetical because it contains the elements or principles of all knowledge and wisdom; and that it repeats each letter eight times, because eight is the number of perfection.

Alphabetical Arrangement.—That the unlearned reader may understand what is meant by the Psalm being alphabetical, we append the following specimen upon the section.

Aleph:

A blessing is on them that are undefiled in the way
    and walk in the law of Jehovah;
A blessing is on them that keep his testimonies,
     and seek him with their whole heart;
AIs on them that do no wickedness,
    but walk in his ways.
A law hast thou given unto us,
    that we should diligently keep thy commandments.
Ah! Lord, that my ways were made so direct
    that I might keep thy statutes!
And then shall I not be confounded.
    While I have respect unto all thy commandments.
As for me, I will thank thee with an unfeigned heart,
    when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
An eye will I have unto thy ceremonies,
    O forsake me not utterly.

From "The Psalms Chronologically Arranged By Four Friends". 1867.

Author and Subject.—This is a psalm by itself, it excels them all, and shines brightest in this constellation. It is much longer than any of them; more than twice as long as any of them. It is not making long prayers that Christ censures; but making them for a pretence; which intimates that they are in themselves good and commendable. It seems to me to be a collection of David's pious and devout ejaculations, the short and sudden breathings of his soul to God, which he wrote down as they occurred, and towards the latter end of his time gathered them out of his day-book where they lay scattered, added to them many like words, and digested them into this psalm, in which there is seldom any coherence between the verses; but, like Solomon's proverbs, it is a chest of gold rings, not a chain of gold links. And we may not only learn by the psalmist's example to accustom ourselves to such pious ejaculations, which are an excellent means of maintaining constant communion with God, and keeping the heart in frame for the more solemn exercises of religion; but we must make use of the psalmist's words, both for the exciting and the expressing of our devout affections. Some have said of this psalm, He that shall read it considerately, it will either warm him or shame him; and this is true.

Matthew Henry, 1662-1714.

Author and Subject.—This very singular poem has descended, to us without name or title; and with some difficulty in fixing its date. It is by many critics supposed to have been written by King David; and there is in it so much of the peculiar language and strain of feeling that distinguish his compositions, with so perpetually shifting a complication of every condition of life through the whole scale of adversity and prosperity, that seems to distinguish his own history from that of every other individual, as to afford much reason for adopting this opinion, and for inducing us to regard it as a series of poems composed originally by David, at different times under different circumstances, or collected by him, and arranged in their present form, from floating passages of antecedent bards, that were in danger of being lost or forgotten. If this view of the subject approaches to correctness, it may constitute one of the poems which Josephus tells us David gave to the public on the re-establishment of tranquillity after the discomfiture of the traitor Sheba, and the return of the ten refractory tribes to a state of loyalty.

This poem, or rather collection of poems, is designed for private devotion, alone; and we have, here, no distinct reference to any historical or national event, to any public festival, or any place of congregational worship; though a few general hints are occasionally scattered upon one or two of these points. We have nothing of David or Solomon, of Moses or Aaron, of Egypt or the journey through the wilderness; nothing of Jerusalem, or Mount Zion, or Ephrata; of the temple, or the altar, of the priests or the people. It consists of the holy effusions of a devout soul, in a state of closet retirement, unbosoming itself in blessed communion with its God, and descanting on the holy cycle of his attributes, and the consolations of his revealed will under every trial to which man can be exposed.

The form of this psalm is singular; and, though alphabetical, it is without an exact parallel in any of the others. It is, in truth, a set or collection of canticles, or smaller poems, each forming a literal octrain or range of eight couplets; the first octrain taking the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet for the opening letter of every line; the second, the second letter, and in the same manner proceeding through the whole extent of the twenty-two letters that constitute the alphabet of the Hebrew tongue; and consequently extending the entire poem to twenty-two octrains or discourses of eight lines each. Poetical collections of this kind are still common in the East, and especially among the Persian poets, who distinguish their separate poems, or canticles, by the name of gazels, and the entire set or fasciculus by that of diwan. By the Arabian poet Temoa they are happily denominated strings of pearls: an idea which the Persian poets have caught hold of, and playfully illustrated in various ways.

From this peculiarity of construction the couplets of Psalm 119 may, in the Hebrew tongue, be committed to memory with far more ease than in any modern language: for, as each versicle under every octrain commences with the same letter, and the progressive octrains follow up the order of the alphabet, the letter becomes a powerful help to the memory of the learner, and enables him to go through the whole without hesitation.

John Mason Good, 1764-1827.

Author and Subject.—It is at least possible that the plaited work of so long a psalm, which, in connection with all that is artificial about it from beginning to end gives us a glimpse of the subdued, afflicted mien of a confessor, is the work of one in prison, who whiled away his time with this plaiting together of his complaints and his consolatory thoughts.

Franz Delitzsch, 1871.

Subject.—The 119th Psalm is the appropriate sermon, after the Hallel, on the text which is its epitome (Psa 1:1-2), "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly …but his delight is in the law of the Lord." Except in two verses (Psa 119:122 and Psa 119:132), the law is expressly extolled in every verse.

Andrew Robert Fausset, in "Studies in the CL. Psalms," 1876.

Subject.—Every verse contains in it either a praise of God's word, from some excellent quality of it; or a protestation of David his unfeigned affection towards it; or else a prayer for grace, to conform himself unto it; for unto one of these three,—praises, prayers, or protestations may all the verses of this psalm be reduced.

William Cowper.

Subject.—I know of no part of the Holy Scriptures where the nature and evidences of true and sincere godliness are so fully and largely insisted on and delineated as in the 119th Psalm. The Psalmist declares his design in the first verses of the psalm, keeps his eye on it all along, and pursues it to the end. The excellency of holiness is represented as the immediate object of a spiritual taste and delight. God's law—that grand expression and emanation of the holiness of God's nature, and prescription of holiness to the creature—is all along represented as the great object of the love, the complacence, and the rejoicing of the gracious nature, which prizes God's commandments "above gold, yea, the finest gold;" and to which they are "sweeter than honey and the honey-comb."

Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758.

Subject and Connection of its parts.—This psalm, no less excellent in virtue than large in bulk, containeth manifold reflections on the nature, the properties, the adjuncts, and effects of God's law; many sprightly ejaculations about it, conceived in different forms of speech; some in way of petition, some of thanksgiving, some of resolution, some of assertion or aphorism; many useful directions, many zealous exhortations to the observance of it; the which are not ranged in any strict order, but, like a variety of wholesome herbs in a fair field, do with a grateful confusion lie dispersed, as they freely did spring in the heart, or were suggested by the devout spirit of him who indited this psalm, where no coherence of sentences being designed, we may consider any one of them absolutely, or by itself.

Isaac Barrow, 1630-1677.

Subject and Connection.—Upon considering the matter of this psalm, it will be found that the stanzas beginning with the same letter have very little, and sometimes not the least connection with each other; and the praises of Jehovah, the excellencies of his law, and supplications, are mingled together without order or coherence. Hence I have been led to think, that the psalm was never intended for an ode to be performed at one time, tout de smite, but was a collection of stanzas of prayer and praise arranged in alphabetical order, from which the pious worshipper might select such as suited his situation and circumstances, using, as he saw fit, either one line or two lines of each stanza, and uniting them together so as to make a connected and coherent composition proper for the occasion and the circumstances in which he was.

Stephen Street, 1790.

Subject and Connection.—In view of the alphabetic or acrostic arrangement of this psalm. Dr. Adam Clarke ventures the following remark:—"All connection, as might naturally be expected, is sacrificed to this artificial and methodical arrangement.'' This is hardly probable, as Dr. Clarke himself felt when he endeavoured in his Analysis, "to shew the connection which the eight verses of each part have among themselves." Each group of eight verses seems to have a theme or subject common to itself, and while the peculiar structure of the psalm has obscured this arrangement, so that it is sometimes difficult to trace, it must not be said that the connection is destroyed.

Frederick G. Marchant, of Hitchin, 1879.

Subject and Connection.—This psalm has been called Psalmus literatus, or alphabetites; and the Masora calls it alpa betha rabba. The name Jehovah occurs twenty-two times in the psalm. Its theme is the word of God, which it mentions under one of the ten terms, תּורָח law; ךְרֶךְ, way; עֵדה, testimonies; פּקוּר, precepts; הֹק, statutes; מצְוָה, commandments; מִשִׁפָט, judgment; דּבר, word; אִמְדָה, sayings; אֱמוּנָה, truth; in every verse except verse Psa 119:122. The last of these terms is scarcely admissible as a term for the word; but it has to suffice only in Psa 119:90. According to this alphabetical series of eight stanzas, the word is the source of happiness to those who walk by it (aleph), of holiness to those who give heed to it (beth), of truth to those whose eyes the Lord opens by his Spirit (gimel), of law to those whose heart he renews (daleth), begets perseverance by its promises (he), reveals the mercy and salvation of the Lord (vau), awakens the comfort of hope in God (zayin), presents the Lord as the portion of the trusting soul (cheth), makes affliction instructive and chastening (teth), begets a fellowship in the fear of God (jod), and a longing for the full peace of salvation (kaph), is faithful and immutable (lamed), commands the approval of the heart (mem), is a light to the path (nun), from which to swerve is hateful (samek), warrants the plea of innocence (ayin), is a testimony to God's character and will (pe), is a law of rectitude (tsade), warrants the cry for salvation (qoph), and prayer for deliverance from affliction (resh), and from persecution without a cause (shin), and assures of an answer in due time (tau). There is here as much order as could be expected in a long alphabetical acrostic.

James G. Murphy, in a "Commentary on the Book of Psalms," 1875.

Whole Psalm.—Dr. Luther and Hilary, and other excellent men, think that here a compendium of the whole of theology is briefly set forth: for the things which are said, generally, about the Scripture, and the word of God, and theology, are helpful to the examination of doctrinal questions.

In the first place, it speaks of the author of that doctrine.

Secondly, of its authority and certainty.

Thirdly, it is declared that the doctrine, contained in the Apostolic and Prophetic books, is perfect, and contains all things which are able to give us instruction unto everlasting salvation.

Fourthly, it affirms the perspicuity of the Scripture.

Fifthly, its usefulness.

Sixthly, its true and saving knowledge and interpretation.

Lastly, it treats of practice; how, for instance, the things which we are taught in the word of God are to be manifested and reduced to practice, in piety, moderation, obedience, faith, and hope, in temptations and adversities.

Solomon Gesner, 1559-1605.

Names given to the Law of God.—The things contained in Scripture, and drawn from it, are here called,

1. God's law, because they are enacted by him as our Sovereign.

2. His way, because they are the rule both of his providence and of our obedience.

3. His testimonies, because they are solemnly declared to the world, and attested beyond contradiction.

4. His commandments, because given with authority, and (as the word signifies) lodged with us as a trust.

5. His precepts, because prescribed to us, and not left indifferent.

6. His word, or saying, because it is the declaration of his mind, and Christ the essential, eternal Word is all in all in it.

7. His judgments, because framed in infinite wisdom, and because by them we must both judge and be judged.

8. His righteousness, because it is all holy, just, and good, and the rule and standard of righteousness.

9. His statutes because they are fixed and determined, and of perpetual obligation.

10. His truth or faithfulness, because the principles upon which divine law is built are eternal truths.

Matthew Henry.

Names given to the Law of God.—The next peculiarity to be observed in this psalm is, the regular recurrence of nine characteristic words, at least one or other of which is found in each distich, with one solitary exception, the second distich of the 12th division. These words—law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, word, saying, and a word which only twice occurs as a characteristic—way.

These are, doubtless, all designations of the Divine Law; but it were doing a deep injury to the cause of revealed truth to affirm that they are mere synonyms; in other words, that the sentiments of this compendium of heavenly wisdom are little better than a string of tautologies. The fact is, as some critics, both Jewish and Christian, have observed, that each of these terms designates the same law of God, but each under a different aspect, signifying the different modes of its promulgation, and of its reception.

Each of these words will now be examined in order, and an attempt will be made to discriminate them.

1. "Law." This word is formed from a verb which means to direct, to guide, to aim, to shoot forwards. Its etymological meaning, then, would be a rule of conduct, a κανών σαφὴς. It means God's law in general, whether it be that universal rule called the law of nature, or that which was revealed to his Church by Moses, and perfected by Christ. In strictness, the law means a plain rule of conduct, rather placed clearly in man's sight, than enforced by any command; that is to say, this word does not necessarily include its sanctions.

2. "Testimonies" are derived from a word which signifies to bear witness, to testify. The ark of the tabernacle is so called as are the two tables of stone, and the tabernacle; the earnests and witnesses of God's inhabitation among his people. Testimonies are more particularly God's revealed law; the witnesses and confirmation of his promises made to his people, and earnests of his future salvation.

3. "Precepts," from a word which means to place in trust, mean something entrusted to man, "that is committed to thee''; appointments of God, which consequently have to do with this conscience, for which man is responsible, as an intelligent being.

4. "Statutes." The verb from which this word is formed means to engrave or inscribe. The word means a definite, prescribed, written law. The term is applied to Joseph's law about the portion of the priests in Egypt, to the law about the Passover, etc. But in this psalm it has a more internal meaning;—that moral law of God which is engraven on the fleshy tables of the heart; the inmost and spiritual apprehension of his will: not so obvious as the law and testimonies, and a matter of more direct spiritual communication than his precepts; the latter being more elaborated by the efforts of the mind itself, divinely guided indeed, but perhaps more instrumentally, and less passively employed.

5. "Commandments," derived from a verb signifying to command or ordain. Such was God's command to Adam about the tree; to Noah about constructing the ark.

6. "Judgments," derived from a word signifying to govern, to judge or determine, means judicial ordinances and decisions; legal sanctions.

7. "Word." There are two terms, quite distinct in the Hebrew, but both rendered "word," in each of our authorized versions. The latter of these is rendered "saying" in the former volume of this work. They are closely connected: since out of twenty-two passages in which "word" occurs, in fourteen it is parallel to it, or in connection with, "saying." From this very circumstance it is evident they are not synonymous.

The term here rendered "word" seems the λογος, or Word of God, in its most divine sense; the announcement of God's revealed will; his command; his oracle; at times, the special communication to the prophets. The ten commandments are called by this term in Exodus; and דּביר is the oracle in the temple. In this psalm it may be considered as,

a. God's revealed commandments in general.

b. As a revealed promise of certain blessings to the righteous.

c. As a thing committed to him as the minister of God.

d. As a rule of conduct; a channel of illumination.

8. As to the remaining word "way," that occurs but twice as a characteristic word, and the places in which it occurs must rather be considered, as exceptions to the general rule; so that I am not disposed to consider it as intended to be a cognate expression with the above. At all events, its meaning is so direct and simple as to require no explanation; a plain rule of conduct; in its higher sense, the assisting grace of God through Christ our Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

John Jebb, 1846.
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