The psalmist, having in the two foregoing psalms celebrated the wisdom,
power, and goodness of God, in his dealings with his church in
particular, here observes some of the instances of his providential
care of the children of men in general, especially in their distresses;
for he is not only King of saints, but King of nations, not only the
God of Israel, but the God of the whole earth, and a common Father to
all mankind. Though this may especially refer to Israelites in their
personal capacity, yet there were those who pertained not to the
commonwealth of Israel and yet were worshippers of the true God; and
even those who worshipped images had some knowledge of a supreme
"Numen," to whom, when they were in earnest, they looked above all
their false gods. And of these, when they prayed in their distresses,
God took a particular care,
I. The psalmist specifies some of the most common calamities of human
life, and shows how God succours those that labour under them, in
answer to their prayers.
I. Banishment and dispersion,
2. Captivity and imprisonment,
3. Sickness and distemper of body,
4. Danger and distress at sea,
These are put for all similar perils, in which those that cry unto God
have ever found him a very present help.
II. He specifies the varieties and vicissitudes of events concerning
nations and families, in all which God's hand is to be eyed by his own
people, with joyful acknowledgments of his goodness,
When we are in any of these or the like distresses it will be
comfortable to sing this psalm, with application; but, if we be not,
others are, and have been, of whose deliverances it becomes us to give
God the glory, for we are members one of another.
|Exhortation to Celebrate God's Praises.
1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy
endureth for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed
from the hand of the enemy;
3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from
the west, from the north, and from the south.
4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found
no city to dwell in.
5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
6 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he
delivered them out of their distresses.
7 And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to
a city of habitation.
8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
9 For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry
soul with goodness.
I. A general call to all to give thanks to God,
Let all that sing this psalm, or pray over it, set themselves herein to
give thanks to the Lord; and those that have not any special
matter for praise may furnish themselves with matter enough from God's
universal goodness. In the fountain he is good; in the streams
his mercy endures for ever and never fails.
II. A particular demand hereof from the redeemed of the Lord,
which may well be applied spiritually to those that have an interest in
the great Redeemer and are saved by him from sin and hell. They have,
of all people, most reason to say that God is good, and his mercy
everlasting; these are the children of God that were scattered
abroad, whom Christ died to gather together in one, out of
But it seems here to be meant of a temporal deliverance, wrought for
them when in their distress they cried unto the Lord,
Is any afflicted? Let him pray. Does any pray? God will
certainly hear and help. When troubles become extreme that is man's
time to cry; those who but whispered prayer before then cry aloud, and
then it is God's time to succour. In the mount he will be seen.
1. They were in an enemy's country, but God wrought out their rescue:
He redeemed them from the hand of the enemy
not by might or power, it may be
nor by price or reward
but by the Spirit of God working on the spirits of men.
2. They were dispersed as out-casts, but God gathered them out of all
the countries whither they were scattered in the cloudy and dark day,
that they might again be incorporated,
God knows those that are his, and where to find them.
3. They were bewildered, had no road to travel in, no dwelling place to
When they were redeemed out of the hand of the enemy, and
gathered out of the lands, they were in danger of perishing in
their return home through the dry and barren deserts. They wandered
in the wilderness, where there was no trodden path, no company, but
a solitary way, no lodging, no conveniences, no accommodations,
no inhabited city where they might have quarters or refreshment. But
God led them forth by the right way
directed them to an inn, nay, directed them to a home, that they
might go to a city of habitation, which was inhabited, nay which
them themselves should inhabit. This may refer to poor travellers in
general, those particularly whose way lay through the wilds of Arabia,
where we may suppose they were often at a loss; and yet many in that
distress were wonderfully relieved, so that few perished. Note, We
ought to take notice of the good hand of God's providence over us in
our journeys, going out and coming in, directing us in our way, and
providing for us places both to bait in and rest in. Or (as some think)
it has an eye to the wanderings of the children of Israel in the
wilderness for forty years; it is said
God led them about, and yet here he led them by the right
way. God's way, though to us it seems about, will appear at last to
have been the right way. It is applicable to our condition in this
world; we are here as in a wilderness, have here no continuing
city, but dwell in tents as strangers and pilgrims. But we are
under the guidance of his wise and good providence, and, if we commit
ourselves to it, we shall be led in the right way to the city that
4. They were ready to perish for hunger
Their soul even fainted in them. They were spent with the
fatigues of their journey and ready to drop down for want of
refreshment. Those that have constant plenty, and are every day fed to
the full, know not what a miserable case it is to be hungry and
thirsty, and to have no supply. This was sometimes the case of
Israel in the wilderness, and perhaps of other poor travellers; but
God's providence finds out ways to satisfy the longing soul and fill
the hungry soul with goodness,
Israel's wants were seasonably supplied, and many have been wonderfully
relieved when they were ready to perish. The same God that has led us
has fed us all our life long unto this day, has fed us with food
convenient, has provided food for the soul, and filled the hungry
soul with goodness. Those that hunger and thirst after
righteousness, after God, the living God, and communion with him,
shall be abundantly replenished with the goodness of his house,
both in grace and glory. Now for all this those who receive mercy are
called upon to return thanks
Oh that men (it is meant especially of those men whom God has
graciously relieved) would praise the Lord for his goodness to
them in particular, and for his wonderful works to others of
the children of men! Note,
(1.) God's works of mercy are wonderful works, works of wonderful power
considering the weakness, and of wonderful grace considering the
unworthiness, of those he shows mercy to.
(2.) It is expected of those who receive mercy from God that they
return praise to him.
(3.) We must acknowledge God's goodness to the children of men as well
as to the children of God, to others as well as to ourselves.
|The Divine Goodness towards Prisoners.
10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being
bound in affliction and iron;
11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and
contemned the counsel of the most High:
12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell
down, and there was none to help.
13 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he
saved them out of their distresses.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and
brake their bands in sunder.
15 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of
iron in sunder.
We are to take notice of the goodness of God towards prisoners and
1. A description of this affliction. Prisoners are said to sit in
in dark dungeons, close prisons, which intimates that they are desolate
and disconsolate; they sit in the shadow of death, which
intimates not only great distress and trouble, but great danger.
Prisoners are many times appointed to die; they sit despairing to get
out, but resolving to make the best of it. They are bound in
affliction, and many times in iron, as Joseph. Thus sore a
calamity is imprisonment, which should make us prize liberty, and be
thankful for it.
2. The cause of this affliction,
It is because they rebelled against the words of God. Wilful sin
is rebellion against the words of God; it is a contradiction to his
truths and a violation of his laws. They contemned the counsel of
the Most High, and thought they neither needed it nor could be the
better for it; and those that will not be counselled cannot be helped.
Those that despise prophesying, that regard not the admonitions of
their own consciences nor the just reproofs of their friends, contemn
the counsel of the Most High, and for this they are bound in
affliction, both to punish them for and to reclaim them from their
3. The design of this affliction, and that is to bring down their
to humble them for sin, to make them low in their own eyes, to cast
down every high, proud, aspiring thought. Afflicting providences must
be improved as humbling providences; and we not only lose the benefit
of them, but thwart God's designs and walk contrary to him in them if
our hearts be unhumbled and unbroken, as high and hard as ever under
them. Is the estate brought down with labour, the honour sunk? Have
those that exalted themselves fallen down, and is there none to help
them? Let this bring down the spirit to confess sin, to accept the
punishment of it, and humbly to sue for mercy and grace.
4. The duty of this afflicted state, and that is to pray
Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, though before
perhaps they had neglected him. Prisoners have time to pray, who, when
they were at liberty, could not find time; they see they have need of
God's help, though formerly they thought they could do well enough
without him. Sense will make men cry when they are in trouble, but
grace will direct them to cry unto the Lord, from whom the affliction
comes and who alone can remove it.
5. Their deliverance out of the affliction: They cried unto the
Lord, and he saved them,
He brought them out of darkness into light, welcome light, and
then doubly sweet and pleasant, brought them out of the shadow of
death to the comforts of life, and their liberty was to them life
from the dead,
Were they fettered? He broke their bands asunder. Were they
imprisoned in strong castles? He broke the gates of brass and
the bars of iron wherewith those gates were made fast; he did
not put back, but cut in sunder. Note, When God will work
deliverance the greatest difficulties that lie in the way shall be made
nothing of. Gates of brass and bars of iron, as they cannot keep him
out from him people (he was with Joseph in the prison), so they cannot
keep them in when the time, the set-time, for their enlargement, comes.
6. The return that is required from those whose bands God has loosed
Let them praise the Lord for his goodness, and take occasion
from their own experience of it, and share in it, to bless him for that
goodness which the earth is full of, the world and those that dwell
|The Divine Goodness towards the Afflicted.
17 Fools because of their transgression, and because of their
iniquities, are afflicted.
18 Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near
unto the gates of death.
19 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he
saveth them out of their distresses.
20 He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from
21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and
declare his works with rejoicing.
Bodily sickness is another of the calamities of this life which gives
us an opportunity of experiencing the goodness of God in recovering us,
and of that the psalmist speaks in these verses, where we may
I. That we, by our sins, bring sickness upon ourselves and then it is
our duty to pray,
1. It is the sin of the soul that is the cause of sickness; we bring it
upon ourselves both meritoriously and efficiently: Fools, because of
their transgression, are thus afflicted; they are thus corrected
for the sins they have committed and thus cured of their evil
inclinations to sin. If we knew no sin, we should know no sickness; but
the transgression of our life, and the iniquity of our heart, make it
necessary. Sinners are fools; they wrong themselves, and all against
their own interest, not only their spiritual, but their secular
interest. They prejudice their bodily health by intemperance and
endanger their lives by indulging their appetites. This their way is
their folly, and they need the rod of correction to drive out the
foolishness that is bound up in their hearts.
2. The weakness of the body is the effect of sickness,
When people are sick their soul abhors all manner of meat; they
not only have no desire to eat nor power to digest it, but they
nauseate it, and their stomach is turned against it. And here they may
read their sin in their punishment: those that doted most on the meat
that perishes, when they come to be sick are sick of it, and the
dainties they loved are loathed; what they took too much of now they
can take nothing of, which commonly follows upon the overcharging of
the heart with surfeiting and drunkenness. And when the appetite is
gone the life is as good as gone: They draw near unto the gates of
death; they are, in their own apprehension and in the apprehension
of all about them, at the brink of the grave, as ready to be turned to
3. Then is a proper time for prayer: Then they cry unto the
Is any sick? Let him pray; let him be prayed for. Prayer is a salve
for every sore.
II. That it is by the power and mercy of God that we are recovered from
sickness, and then it is our duty to be thankful. Compare with this
1. When those that are sick call upon God he returns them an answer of
peace. They cry unto him and he saves them out of their
he removes their griefs and prevents their fears.
(1.) He does it easily: He sent his word and healed them,
This may be applied to the miraculous cures which Christ wrought when
he was upon earth, by a word's speaking; he said, Be clean, Be
whole, and the work was done. It may also be applied to the
spiritual cures which the Spirit of grace works in regeneration; he
sends his word, and heals souls, convinces, converts, sanctifies them,
and all by the word. In the common instances of recovery from sickness
God in his providence does but speak, and it is done.
(2.) He does it effectually: He delivereth them out of their
destructions, that they shall neither be destroyed nor distressed
with the fear of being so. Nothing is too hard for that God to do who
kills and makes alive again, brings down to the grave and raises up,
who turneth man almost to destruction, and yet saith,
2. When those that have been sick are restored they must return to God
an answer of praise
Let all men praise the Lord for his goodness, and let those,
particularly, to whom God has thus granted a new life, spend it in his
service; let them sacrifice with thanksgiving, not only bring a
thank-offering to the altar, but a thankful heart to God.
Thanksgivings are the best thank-offerings, and shall please the Lord
better than an ox or bullock. And let them declare his works with
rejoicing, to his honour and for the encouragement of others.
The living, the living, they shall praise him.
|The Divine Goodness to Mariners.
23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in
24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the
25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which
lifteth up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the
depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and
are at their wits' end.
28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he
bringeth them out of their distresses.
29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth
them unto their desired haven.
31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
The psalmist here calls upon those to give glory to God who are
delivered from dangers at sea. Though the Israelites dealt not much in
merchandise, yet their neighbours the Tyrians and Zidonians did, and
for them perhaps this part of the psalm was especially calculated.
I. Much of the power of God appears at all times in the sea,
It appears to those that go down to the sea in ships, as
mariners, merchants, fishermen, or passengers, that do business in
great waters. And surely none will expose themselves there but
those that have business (among all Solomon's pleasant things we do not
read of any pleasure-boat he had), but those that go on business,
lawful business, may, in faith, put themselves under the divine
protection. These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders,
which are the more surprising, because most are born and bred upon
land, and what passes at sea is new to them. The deep itself is a
wonder, its vastness, its saltness, its ebbing and flowing. The great
variety of living creatures in the sea is wonderful. Let those that go
to sea be led, by all the wonders they observe there, to consider and
adore the infinite perfections of that God whose the sea is, for he
made it and manages it.
II. It especially appears in storms at sea, which are much more
terrible than at land. Observe here,
1. How dangerous and dreadful a tempest at sea is. Then wonders
begin to appear in the deep, when God commands and raises the
strong wind, which fulfils his word,
He raises the winds, as a prince by his commission raises forces. Satan
pretends to be the prince of the power of the air; but he is a
pretender; the powers of the air are at God's command, not at his. When
the wind becomes stormy it lifts up the waves of the sea,
Then the ships are kicked like tennis-balls on the tops of the waves;
they seem to mount up to the heavens, and then they couch again,
as if they would go down to the depths,
A stranger, who had never seen it, would not think it possible for a
ship to live at sea, as it will in a storm, and ride it out, but would
expect that the next wave would bury it and it would never come up
again; and yet God, who taught man discretion to make ships that should
so strangely keep above water, does by his special providence preserve
them, that they answer the end to admiration. When the ships are thus
tossed the soul of the seaman melts because of trouble;
and, when the storm is very high, even those that are used to the sea
can neither shake off nor dissemble their fears, but they reel to
and fro, and tossing makes them giddy, and they
stagger and are sick, it may be, like a drunken man; the
whole ship's crew are in confusion and quite at their wits'
not knowing what to do more for their preservation; all their wisdom is
swallowed up, and they are ready to give up themselves for gone,
2. How seasonable it is at such a time to pray. Those that go to sea
must expect such perils as are here described, and the best preparation
they can make for them is to make sure a liberty of access to God by
prayer, for then they will cry unto the Lord,
We have a saying, "Let those that would learn to pray go to sea;" I
say, Let those that will go to sea learn to pray, and accustom
themselves to pray, that they may come with the more boldness to the
throne of grace when they are in trouble. Even heathen mariners, in a
storm, cried every man to his god; but those that have the Lord
for their God have a present and powerful help in that and every other
time of need, so that when they are at their wits' end they are not at
their faith's end.
3. How wonderfully God sometimes appears for those that are in distress
at sea, in answer to their prayers: He brings them out of the
(1.) The sea is still: He makes the storm a calm,
The winds fall, and only by their soft and gentle murmurs serve to lull
the waves asleep again, so that the surface of the sea becomes smooth
and smiling. By this Christ proved himself to be more than a man
that even the winds and the seas obeyed him.
(2.) The seamen are made easy: They are glad because they are
quiet, quiet from the noise, quiet from the fear of evil. Quietness
after a storm is a very desirable thing, and sensibly pleasant.
(3.) The voyage becomes prosperous and successful: So he brings them
to their desired haven,
Thus he carries his people safely through all the storms and tempests
that they meet with in their voyage heaven-ward, and lands them, at
length, in the desired harbour.
4. How justly it is expected that all those who have had a safe passage
over the sea, and especially who have been delivered from remarkable
perils at sea, should acknowledge it with thankfulness, to the glory of
God. Let them do it privately in their closets and families. Let them
praise the Lord for his goodness to themselves and others,
Let them do it publicly
in the congregation of the people and in the assembly of the
elders; there let them erect the memorials of their deliverance, to
the honour of God, and for the encouragement of others to trust
|Wonders of Divine Providence.
33 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings
into dry ground;
34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them
that dwell therein.
35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry
ground into watersprings.
36 And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may
prepare a city for habitation;
37 And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield
fruits of increase.
38 He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly;
and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.
39 Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression,
affliction, and sorrow.
40 He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander
in the wilderness, where there is no way.
41 Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh
him families like a flock.
42 The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity
shall stop her mouth.
43 Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they
shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.
The psalmist, having given God the glory of the providential reliefs
granted to persons in distress, here gives him the glory of the
revolutions of providence, and the surprising changes it sometimes
makes in the affairs of the children of men.
I. He gives some instances of these revolutions.
1. Fruitful countries are made barren and barren countries are made
fruitful. Much of the comfort of this life depends upon the soil in
which our lot is cast. Now,
(1.) The sin of man has often marred the fruitfulness of the soil and
made it unserviceable,
Land watered with rivers is sometimes turned into a
wilderness, and that which had been full of water-springs now has
not so much as water-streams; it is turned into dry and sandy
ground, that has not consistency and moisture enough to produce any
thing valuable. Many a fruitful land is turned into saltness,
not so much from natural causes as from the just judgment of God, who
thus punished the wickedness of those that dwell therein; as the
vale of Sodom became a salt sea. Note, If the land be bad, it is
because the inhabitants are so. Justly is the ground made unfruitful to
those that bring not forth fruit unto God, but serve Baal with their
corn and wine.
(2.) The goodness of God has often mended the barrenness of the soil,
and turned a wilderness, a land o drought, into
The land of Canaan, which was once the glory of all lands for
fruitfulness, is said to be, at this day, a fruitless, useless,
worthless spot of ground, as was foretold,
This land of ours, which formerly was much of it an uncultivated
desert, is now full of all good things, and more abundant honour
is given to that part which lacked. Let the plantations in
America, and the colonies settled there, compared with the desolations
of many countries in Asia and Europe, that formerly were famous,
2. Necessitous families are raised and enriched, while prosperous
families are impoverished and go to decay. If we look broad in the
(1.) We see many greatly increasing whose beginning was small, and
whose ancestors were mean and made no figure,
Those that were hungry are made to dwell in fruitful
lands; there they take root, and gain a settlement, and prepare a
city for habitation for themselves and theirs after them.
Providence puts good land under their hands, and they build upon it.
Cities took rise from rising families. But as lands, will not serve for
men without lodgings, and therefore they must prepare a city of
habitation, so lodgings, though ever so convenient, will not serve
without lands, and therefore they must sow the fields, and plant
for the king himself is served of the field. And yet the fields, though
favoured with water-springs, will not yield fruits of increase,
unless they be sown, nor will vineyards be had, unless they be planted;
man's industry must attend God's blessing, and then God's blessing will
crown man's industry. The fruitfulness of the soil should engage, for
it does encourage, diligence; and, ordinarily, the hand of the
diligent, by the blessing of God, makes rich,
He blesses them also, so that they are, in a little time,
multiplied greatly, and he diminishes not their cattle.
As in the beginning, so still it is, by the blessing of God, that the
earth and all the creatures increase and multiply
and we depend upon God for the increase of the cattle as well as for
the increase of the ground. Cattle would decrease many ways if God
should permit it, and men would soon suffer by it.
(2.) We see many that have thus suddenly risen as suddenly sunk and
brought to nothing
Again they are diminished and brought low by adverse
providences, and end their days as low as they began them; or their
families after them lose as fast a they got, and scatter what they
heaped together. Note, Worldly wealth is an uncertain thing, and often
those that are filled with it, ere they are aware, grow so secure and
sensual with it that, ere they are aware, they lose it again. Hence it
is called deceitful riches and the mammon of
unrighteousness. God has many ways of making men poor; he can do it
by oppression, affliction, and sorrow, as he tempted Job and
brought him low.
3. Those that were high and great in the world are abased, and those
that were mean and despicable are advanced to honour,
We have seen,
(1.) Princes dethroned and reduced to straits. He pours contempt
upon them, even among those that have idolized them. Those that
exalt themselves God will abase, and, in order thereunto, will
infatuate: He makes them to wander in the wilderness, where there is
no way. He baffles those counsels by which they thought to support
themselves, and their own power and pomp, and drives them headlong, so
that they know not what course to steer, nor what measures to take. We
met with this before,
(2.) Those of low degree advanced to the posts of honour
Yet setteth he the poor on high, raiseth from the dust to
the throne of glory,
1 Samuel 2:8,Ps+113:7,8.
Those that were afflicted and trampled on are not only delivered, but
set on high out of the reach of their troubles, above their enemies,
and have dominion over those to whom they had been in subjection. That
which adds to their honour, and strengthens them in their elevation, is
the multitude of their children: He maketh him families like a
flock of sheep, so numerous, so useful, so sociable with one
another, and so meek and peaceable. He that sent them meat sent them
mouths. Happy is the man that has his quiver filled with arrows,
for he shall boldly speak with the enemy in the gate,
God is to be acknowledged both in setting up families and in building
them up. Let not princes be envied, nor the poor despised, for God has
many ways of changing the condition of both.
II. He makes some improvement of these remarks; such surprising turns
as these are of use,
1. For the solacing of saints. They observe these dispensations with
The righteous shall see it and rejoice in the glorifying of
God's attributes and the manifesting of his dominion over the children
of men. It is a great comfort to a good man to see how God manages the
children of men, as the potter does the clay, so as to serve his own
purposes by them, to see despised virtue advanced and impious pride
brought low to the dust, to see it evinced beyond dispute that
verily there is a God that judges in the earth.
2. For the silencing of sinners: All iniquity shall stop her
mouth; it shall be a full conviction of the folly of atheists, and
of those that deny the divine providence; and, forasmuch as practical
atheism is at the bottom of all sin, it shall in effect stop the
mouth of all iniquity. When sinners see how their punishment
answers to their sin, and how justly God deals with them in taking away
from them those gifts of his which they had abused, they shall not have
one word to say for themselves; for God will be justified, he will be
3. For the satisfying of all concerning the divine goodness
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, these various
dispensations of divine providence, even they shall understand the
lovingkindness of the Lord. Here is,
(1.) A desirable end proposed, and that is, rightly to understand
the loving kindness of the Lord. It is of great use to us, in
religion, to be fully assured of God's goodness, to be experimentally
acquainted and duly affected with it, that his lovingkindness
may be before our eyes,
(2.) A proper means prescribed for attaining this end, and that is a
due observance of God's providence. We must lay up these things, mind
them, and keep them in mind,
(3.) A commendation of the use of this means as an instance of true
wisdom: Whoso is wise, let him by this both prove his wisdom and
improve it. A prudent observance of the providences of God will
contribute very much to the accomplishing of a good Christian.