Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 37
on the Whole Bible
This psalm is a sermon, and an excellent useful sermon it is,
calculated not (as most of the psalms) for our devotion, but for our
conversation; there is nothing in it of prayer or praise, but it is all
instruction; it is "Maschil--a teaching psalm;" it is an exposition of
some of the hardest chapters in the book of Providence, the advancement
of the wicked and the disgrace of the righteous, a solution of the
difficulties that arise thereupon, and an exhortation to conduct
ourselves as becomes us under such dark dispensations. The work of the
prophets (and David was one) was to explain the law. Now the law of
Moses had promised temporal blessings to the obedient, and denounced
temporal miseries against the disobedient, which principally referred
to the body of the people, the nation as a nation; for, when they came
to be applied to particular persons, many instances occurred of sinners
in prosperity and saints in adversity; to reconcile those instances
with the word that God had spoken is the scope of the prophet in this
psalm, in which,
I. He forbids us to fret at the prosperity of the wicked in their
II. He gives very good reasons why we should not fret at it.
1. Because of the scandalous character of the wicked
notwithstanding their prosperity, and the honourable character of the
2. Because of the destruction and ruin which the wicked are nigh to
and the salvation and protection which the righteous are sure of from
all the malicious designs of the wicked,
3. Because of the particular mercy God has in store for all good
people and the favour he shows them,
III. He prescribes very good remedies against this sin of envying the
prosperity of the wicked, and great encouragement to use those remedies,
In singing this psalm we must teach and admonish one another rightly to
understand the providence of God and to accommodate ourselves to it, at
all times carefully to do our duty and then patiently to leave the
event with God and to believe that, how black soever things may look
for the present, it shall be "well with those that fear God, that fear
|Exhortations and Promises.
A psalm of David.
1 Fret not thyself because of
evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as
the green herb.
3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the
land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the
desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall
bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and
thy judgment as the noonday.
The instructions here given are very plain; much need not be said for
the exposition of them, but there is a great deal to be done for the
reducing of them to practice, and there they will look best.
I. We are here cautioned against discontent at the prosperity and
success of evil-doers
Fret not thyself, neither be thou envious. We may suppose that
David speaks this to himself first, and preaches it to his own heart
(in his communing with that upon his bed), for the suppressing of those
corrupt passions which he found working there, and then leaves it in
writing for instruction to others that might be in similar temptation.
That is preached best, and with most probability of success, to others,
which is first preached to ourselves. Now,
1. When we look abroad we see the world full of evil-doers and workers
of iniquity, that flourish and prosper, that have what they will and do
what they will, that live in ease and pomp themselves and have power in
their hands to do mischief to those about them. So it was in David's
time; and therefore, if it is so still, let us not marvel at the
matter, as though it were some new or strange thing.
2. When we look within we find ourselves tempted to fret at this, and
to be envious against these scandals and burdens, these blemishes and
common nuisances, of this earth. We are apt to fret at God, as if he
were unkind to the world and unkind to his church in permitting such
men to live, and prosper, and prevail, as they do. We are apt to fret
ourselves with vexation at their success in their evil projects. We are
apt to envy them the liberty they take in getting wealth, and perhaps
by unlawful means, and in the indulgence of their lusts, and to wish
that we could shake off the restraints of conscience and do so too. We
are tempted to think them the only happy people, and to incline to
imitate them, and to join ourselves with them, that we may share in
their gains and eat of their dainties; and this is that which we are
warned against: Fret not thyself, neither be thou envious.
Fretfulness and envy are sins that are their own punishments; they are
the uneasiness of the spirit and the rottenness of the bones; it is
therefore in kindness to ourselves that we are warned against them. Yet
that is not all; for,
3. When we look forward with an eye of faith we shall see no reason to
envy wicked people their prosperity, for their ruin is at the door and
they are ripening apace for it,
They flourish, but as the grass, and as the green herb, which nobody
envies nor frets at. The flourishing of a godly man is like that of a
but that of the wicked man is like grass and herbs, which are very
(1.) They will soon wither of themselves. Outward prosperity is a
fading thing, and so is the life itself to which it is confined.
(2.) They will sooner be cut down by the judgments of God. Their
triumphing is short, but their weeping and wailing will be
II. We are here counselled to live a life on confidence and complacency
in God, and that will keep us from fretting at the prosperity of
evil-doers; if we do well for our own souls, we shall see little reason
to envy those that do so ill for theirs. Here are three excellent
precepts, which we are to be ruled by, and, to enforce them, three
precious promises, which we may rely upon.
1. We must make God our hope in the way of duty and then we shall have
a comfortable subsistence in this world,
(1.) It is required that we trust in the Lord and do good, that
we confide in God and conform to him. The life of religion lies much in
a believing reliance on God, his favour, his providence, his promise,
his grace, and a diligent care to serve him and our generation,
according to his will. We must not think to trust in God and then live
as we list. No; it is not trusting God, but tempting him, if we do not
make conscience of our duty to him. Nor must we think to do good, and
then to trust to ourselves, and our own righteousness and strength. No;
we must both trust in the Lord and do good. And then,
(2.) It is promised that we shall be well provided for in this world:
So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
He does not say, "So shalt thou get preferment, dwell in a palace, and
be feasted." This is not necessary; a man's life consists not in the
abundance of these things; but, "Thou shalt have a place to live in,
and that in the land, in Canaan, the valley of vision, and thou shalt
have food convenient for thee." This is more than we deserve; it is as
much as a good man will stipulate for
and it is enough for one that is going to heaven. "Thou shalt have a
settlement, a quiet settlement, and a maintenance, a comfortable
maintenance: Verily thou shalt be fed." Some read it, Thou
shalt be fed by faith, as the just are said to live by faith, and
it is good living, good feeding, upon the promises. "Verily thou
shalt be fed, as Elijah in the famine, with what is needful for
thee." God himself is a shepherd, a feeder, to all those that trust in
2. We must make God our heart's delight and then we shall have our
We must not only depend upon God, but solace ourselves in him. We must
be well pleased that there is a God, that he is such a one as he has
revealed himself to be, and that he is our God in covenant. We must
delight ourselves in his beauty, bounty, and benignity; our souls must
return to him, and repose in him, as their rest, and their portion for
ever. Being satisfied of his loving-kindness, we must be satisfied with
it, and make that our exceeding joy,
We were commanded
to do good, and then follows this command to delight in God, which is
as much a privilege as a duty. If we make conscience of obedience to
God, we may then take the comfort of a complacency in him. And even
this pleasant duty of delighting in God has a promise annexed to it,
which is very full and precious, enough to recompense the hardest
services: He shall give thee the desires of thy heart. He has
not promised to gratify all the appetites of the body and the humours
of the fancy, but to grant all the desires of the heart, all the
cravings of the renewed sanctified soul. What is the desire of the
heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to
please him and to be pleased in him.
3. We must make God our guide, and submit in every thing to his
guidance and disposal; and then all our affairs, even those that seem
most intricate and perplexed, shall be made to issue well and to our
(1.) The duty is very easy; and, if we do it aright, it will make us
easy: Commit thy way unto the Lord; roll thy way upon the Lord
(so the margin reads it),
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, the burden of thy care,
1 Peter 5:7.
We must roll it off ourselves, so as not to afflict and perplex
ourselves with thoughts about future events
not to cumber and trouble ourselves either with the contrivance of the
means or with expectation of the end, but refer it to God, leave it to
him by his wise and good providence to order and dispose of all our
concerns as he pleases. Retreat thy way unto the Lord (so the
LXX.), that is, "By prayer spread thy case, and all thy cares about it,
before the Lord" (as Jephthah uttered all his words before the Lord
"and then trust in him to bring it to a good issue, with a full
satisfaction that all is well that God does." We must do our duty (that
must be our care) and then leave the event with God. Sit still, and
see how the matter will fall,
We must follow Providence, and not force it, subscribe to Infinite
Wisdom and not prescribe.
(2.) The promise is very sweet.
[1.] In general, "He shall bring that to pass, whatever it is,
which thou hast committed to him, if not to thy contrivance, yet to thy
content. He will find means to extricate thee out of thy straits, to
prevent thy fears, and bring about thy purposes, to thy satisfaction."
[2.] In particular, "He will take care of thy reputation, and bring
thee out of thy difficulties, not only with comfort, but with credit
and honour: He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light and
thy judgment as the noon-day."
that is, "he shall make it to appear that thou art an honest man, and
that is honour enough." First, It is implied that the
righteousness and judgment of good people may, for a time, be clouded
and eclipsed, either by remarkable rebukes of Providence (Job's great
afflictions darkened his righteousness) or by the malicious censures
and reproaches of men, who give them bad names which they no way
deserve, and lay to their charge things which they know not.
Secondly, It is promised that God will, in due time, roll away
the reproach they are under, clear up their innocency, and bring forth
their righteousness, to their honour, perhaps in this world, at
furthest in the great day,
Note, If we take care to keep a good conscience, we may leave it to God
to take care of our good name.
|Exhortations and Promises.
7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not
thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the
man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any
wise to do evil.
9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the
LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be:
yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight
themselves in the abundance of peace.
12 The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him
with his teeth.
13 The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is
14 The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their
bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of
15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows
shall be broken.
16 A little that a righteous man hath is better than the
riches of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD
upholdeth the righteous.
18 The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their
inheritance shall be for ever.
19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days
of famine they shall be satisfied.
20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD
shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke
shall they consume away.
In these verses we have,
I. The foregoing precepts inculcated; for we are so apt to disquiet
ourselves with needless fruitless discontents and distrusts that it is
necessary there should be precept upon precept, and line upon line, to
suppress them and arm us against them.
1. Let us compose ourselves by believing in God: "Rest in the Lord,
and wait patiently for him
that is, be well reconciled to all he does and acquiesce in it, for
that is best that is, because it is what God has appointed; and be well
satisfied that he will still make all to work for good to us, though we
know not how or which way." Be silent to the Lord (so the word
is), not with a sullen, but a submissive silence. A patient bearing of
what is laid upon us, with a patient expectation of what is further
appointed for us, is as much our interest as it is our duty, for it
will make us always easy; and there is a great deal of reason for it,
for it is making a virtue of necessity.
2. Let us not discompose ourselves at what we see in this world:
"Fret not thyself because of him who prospers in his wicked way,
who, though he is a bad man, yet thrives and grows rich and great in
the world; no, nor because of him who does mischief with his power and
wealth, and brings wicked devices to pass against those that are
virtuous and good, who seems to have gained his point and to have run
them down. If thy heart begins to rise at it, stroke down thy folly,
and cease from anger
check the first stirrings of discontent and envy, and do not harbour
any hard thoughts of God and his providence upon this account. Be not
angry at any thing that God does, but forsake that wrath; it is the
worst kind of wrath that can be. Fret not thyself in any wise to do
evil; do not envy them their prosperity, lest thou be tempted to
fall in with them and to take the same evil course that they take to
enrich and advance themselves or some desperate course to avoid them
and their power." Note, A fretful discontented spirit lies open to many
temptations; and those that indulge it are in danger of doing evil.
II. The foregoing reasons, taken from the approaching ruin of the
wicked notwithstanding their prosperity, and the real happiness of the
righteous notwithstanding their troubles, are here much enlarged upon
and the same things repeated in a pleasing variety of expression. We
not to envy the wicked either worldly prosperity or the success of
their plots against the righteous, and the reasons here given respect
these two temptations severally:--
1. Good people have no reason to envy the worldly prosperity of wicked
people, nor to grieve or be uneasy at it,
(1.) Because the prosperity of the wicked will soon be at an end
Evil-doers shall be cut off by some sudden stroke of divine
justice in the midst of their prosperity; what they have got by sin
will not only flow away from them
but they shall be carried away with it. See the end of these men
how dear their ill-got gain will cost them, and you will be far from
envying them or from being willing to espouse their lot, for better,
for worse. Their ruin is sure, and it is very near
Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be what they now
are; they are brought into desolation in a moment,
Have a little patience, for the Judge stands before the
Moderate your passion, for the Lord is at hand,
And when their ruin comes it will be an utter ruin; he and his shall be
extirpated; the day that comes shall leave him neither root nor
Thou shalt diligently consider his place, where but the other
day he made a mighty figure, but it shall not be, you will not
find it; he shall leave nothing valuable, nothing honourable, behind.
him. To the same purport
The wicked shall perish; their death is their perdition, because
it is the termination of all their joy and a passage to endless misery.
Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; but undone, for ever
undone, are the dead that die in their sins. The wicked are the enemies
of the Lord; such those make themselves who will not have him to reign
over them, and as such he will reckon with them: They shall consume
as the fat of lambs, they shall consume into smoke. Their
prosperity, which gratifies their sensuality, is like the fat of lambs,
not solid or substantial, but loose and washy; and, when their ruin
comes, they shall fall as sacrifices to the justice of God and be
consumed as the fat of the sacrifices was upon the altar, whence it
ascended in smoke. The day of God's vengeance on the wicked is
represented as a sacrifice of the fat of the kidneys of rams
for he will be honoured by the ruin of his enemies, as he was by the
sacrifices. Damned sinners are sacrifices,
This is a good reason why we should not envy them their prosperity;
while they are fed to the full, they are but in the fattening for the
day of sacrifice, like a lamb in a large place
and the more they prosper the more will God be glorified in their ruin.
(2.) Because the condition of the righteous, even in this life, is
every way better and more desirable than that of the wicked,
In general, a little that a righteous man has of the honour,
wealth, and pleasure of this world, is better than the riches of
many wicked. Observe,
[1.] The wealth of the world is so dispensed by the divine Providence
that it is often the lot of good people to have but a little of it, and
of wicked people to have abundance of it; for thus God would show us
that the things of this world are not the best things, for, if they
were, those would have most that are best and dearest to God.
[2.] That a godly man's little is really better than a wicked man's
estate, though ever so much; for it comes from a better hand, from a
hand of special love and not merely from a hand of common
providence,--it is enjoyed by a better title (God gives it to them by
--it is theirs by virtue of their relation to Christ, who is the heir
of all things,--and it is put to better use; it is sanctified to them
by the blessing of God. Unto the pure all things are pure,
A little wherewith God is served and honoured is better than a great
deal prepared for Baal or for a base lust. The promises here made to
the righteous secure them such a happiness that they need not envy the
prosperity of evil-doers. Let them know to their comfort, First,
That they shall inherit the earth, as much of it as Infinite
Wisdom sees good for them; they have the promise of the life that
1 Timothy 4:8.
If all the earth were necessary to make them happy, they should have
it. All is theirs, even the world, and things present,
as well as things to come,
1 Corinthians 3:21,22.
They have it by inheritance, a safe and honourable title, not by
permission only and connivance. When evil-doers are cut off the
righteous sometimes inherit what they gathered. The wealth of the
sinner is laid up for the just,
This promise is here made,
1. To those that live a life of faith
Those that wait upon the Lord, as dependents on him, expectants
from him, and suppliants to him, shall inherit the earth, as a
token of his present favour to them and an earnest of better things
intended for them in the other world. God is a good Master, that
provides plentifully and well, not only for his working servants, but
for his waiting servants.
2. To those that live a quiet and peaceable life
The meek shall inherit the earth. They are in least danger of
being injured and disturbed in the possession of what they have and
they have most satisfaction in themselves and consequently the sweetest
relish of their creature-comforts. Our Saviour has made this a gospel
promise, and a confirmation of the blessings he pronounced on the meek,
Secondly, That they shall delight themselves in the abundance
Perhaps they have not abundance of wealth to delight in; but they have
that which is better, abundance of peace, inward peace and tranquility
of mind, peace with God, and then peace in God, that great peace which
those have that love God's law, whom nothing shall offend
that abundance of peace which is in the kingdom of Christ
that peace which the world cannot give
and which the wicked cannot have,
This they shall delight themselves in, and in it they shall have a
continual feast; while those that have abundance of wealth do but
cumber and perplex themselves with it and have little delight in it.
Thirdly, That God knows their days,
He takes particular notice of them, of all they do and of all that
happens to them. He keeps account of the days of their service, and not
one day's work shall go unrewarded, and of the days of their suffering,
that for those also they may receive a recompence. He knows their
bright days, and has pleasure in their prosperity; he knows their
cloudy and dark days, the days of their affliction, and as the day is
so shall the strength be. Fourthly, That their inheritance
shall be for ever; not their inheritance in the earth, but that
incorruptible indefeasible one which is laid up for them in heaven.
Those that are sure of an everlasting inheritance in the other world
have no reason to envy the wicked their transitory possessions and
pleasures in this world. Fifthly, That in the worst of times it
shall go well with them
They shall not be ashamed of their hope and confidence in God,
nor of the profession they have made of religion; for the comfort of
that will stand them in stead, and be a real support to them, in evil
times. When others droop they shall lift up their heads with joy and
confidence: Even in the days of famine, when others are dying
for hunger round about them, they shall be satisfied, as Elijah
was; in some way or other God will provide food convenient for them, or
give them hearts to be satisfied and content without it, so that, if
they should be hardly bestead and hungry, they shall not (as the wicked
do) fret themselves and curse their king and their God
but rejoice in God as the God of their salvation even when the
fig-tree does not blossom,
2. Good people have no reason to fret at the occasional success of the
designs of the wicked against the just. Though they do bring some of
their wicked devices to pass, which makes us fear they will gain their
point and bring them all to pass, yet let us cease from anger, and not
fret ourselves so as to think of giving up the cause. For,
(1.) Their plots will be their shame,
It is true the wicked plotteth against the just; there is a
rooted enmity in the seed of the wicked one against the righteous seed;
their aim is, if they can, to destroy their righteousness, or, if that
fail, then to destroy them. With this end in view they have acted with
a great deal both of cursed policy and contrivance (they plot, they
practice, against the just), and of cursed zeal and fury--they gnash
upon them with their teeth, so desirous are they, if they could get
it into their power, to eat them up, and so full of rage and
indignation are they because it is not in their power; but by all this
they do but make themselves ridiculous. The Lord shall laugh at
They are proud and insolent, but God shall pour contempt upon them. He
is not only displeased with them, but he despises them and all their
attempts as vain and ineffectual, and their malice as impotent and in a
chain; for he sees that his day is coming, that is,
[1.] The day of God's reckoning, the day of the revelation of his
righteousness, which now seems clouded and eclipsed. Men have their day
now. This is your hour,
But God will have his day shortly, a day of recompences, a day which
will set all to rights, and render that ridiculous which now passes for
glorious. It is a small thing to be judged of man's judgment,
1 Corinthians 4:3.
God's day will give a decisive judgment.
[2.] The day of their ruin. The wicked man's day, the day set for his
fall, that day is coming, which denotes delay; it has not yet
come, but certainly it will come. The believing prospect of that day
will enable the virgin, the daughter of Zion, to despise the rage of
her enemies and laugh them to scorn,
(2.) Their attempts will be their destruction,
[1.] How cruel they are in their designs against good people. They
prepare instruments of death, the sword and the bow, no
less will serve; they hunt for the precious life. That which they
design is to cast down and slay; it is the blood of the saints
they thirst after. They carry on the design very far, and it is near to
be put in execution: They have drawn the sword, and bent the
bow; and all these military preparations are made against the
helpless, the poor and needy (which proves them to be very
cowardly), and against the guiltless, such as are of upright
conversation, that never gave them any provocation, nor offered
injury to them or any other person, which proves them to be very
wicked. Uprightness itself will be no fence against their malice. But,
[2.] How justly their malice recoils upon themselves: Their sword
shall turn into their own heart, which implies the preservation of
the righteous from their malice and the filling up of the measure of
their own iniquity by it. Sometimes that very thing proves to be their
own destruction which they projected against their harmless neighbours;
however, God's sword, which their provocations have drawn against them,
will give them their death's wound.
(3.) Those that are not suddenly cut off shall yet be so disabled for
doing any further mischief that the interests of the church shall be
effectually secured: Their bows shall be broken
the instruments of their cruelty shall fail them and they shall lose
those whom they had made tools of to serve their bloody purposes with;
nay, their arms shall be broken, so that they shall not be able
to go on with their enterprises,
But the Lord upholds the righteous, so that they neither sink
under the weight of their afflictions nor are crushed by the violence
of their enemies. He upholds them both in their integrity and in their
prosperity; and those that are so upheld by the rock of ages have no
reason to envy the wicked the support of their broken reeds.
|Exhortations and Promises.
21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the
righteous showeth mercy, and giveth.
22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and
they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.
23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he
delighteth in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the
LORD upholdeth him with his hand.
25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the
righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is
27 Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
28 For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints;
they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be
29 The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for
30 The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue
talketh of judgment.
31 The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps
32 The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.
33 The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him
when he is judged.
These verses are much to the same purport with the
of this psalm, for it is a subject worthy to be dwelt upon. Observe
I. What is required of us as the way to our happiness, which we may
learn both from the characters here laid down and from the directions
here given. If we would be blessed of God,
1. We must make conscience of giving every body his own; for the
wicked borrows and pays not again,
It is the first thing which the Lord our God requires of us, that we do
justly, and render to all their due. It is not only a shameful paltry
thing, but a sinful wicked thing, not to repay what we have borrowed.
Some make this an instance, not so much of the wickedness of the wicked
as of the misery and poverty to which they are reduced by the just
judgment of God, that they shall be necessitated to borrow for their
supply and then be in no capacity to repay it again, and so lie at the
mercy of their creditors. Whatever some men seem to think of it, as it
is a great sin for those that are able to deny the payment of their
just debts, so it is a great misery not to be able to pay them.
2. We must be ready to all acts of charity and beneficence; for, as it
is an instance of God's goodness to the righteous that he puts it into
the power of his hand to be kind and to do good (and so some understand
it, God's blessing increases his little to such a degree that he has
abundance to spare for the relief of others), so it is an instance of
the goodness of the righteous man that he has a heart proportionable to
his estate: He shows mercy, and gives,
He is ever merciful, or every day, or all the day, merciful,
and lends, and sometimes there is as true charity in lending as
in giving; and giving and lending are acceptable to God when they
proceed from a merciful disposition in the heart, which, if it be
sincere, will be constant, and will keep us from being weary of
well-doing. he that is truly merciful will be ever merciful.
3. We must leave our sins, and engage in the practice of serious
Depart from evil and do good. Cease to do evil and abhor it;
learn to do well and cleave to it; this is true religion.
4. We must abound in good discourse, and with our tongues must glorify
God and edify others. It is part of the character of a righteous man
that his mouth speaketh wisdom; not only he speaks wisely, but
he speaks wisdom, like Solomon himself, for the instruction of those
about him. His tongue talks not of things idle and impertinent,
but of judgment, that is, of the word and providence of God and
the rules of wisdom for the right ordering of the conversation. Out of
the abundance of a good heart will the mouth speak that which is good
and to the use of edifying.
5. We must have our wills brought into an entire subjection to the will
and word of God
The law of God, of his God, is in his heart; and in vain
do we pretend that God is our God if we do not receive his law into our
hearts and resign ourselves to the government of it. It is but a jest
and a mockery to speak wisdom, and to talk of judgment
unless we have the law in our hearts, and we think as we speak. The law
of God must be a commanding ruling principle in the heart; it must be a
light there, a spring there, and then the conversation will be regular
and uniform: None of his steps will slide; it will effectually
prevent backsliding into sin, and the uneasiness that follows from
II. What is assured to us, as instances of our happiness and comfort,
upon these conditions.
1. That we shall have the blessing of God, and that blessing shall be
the spring, and sweetness, and security of all our temporal comforts
Such as are blessed of God, as all the righteous are, with a
Father's blessing, by virtue of that shall inherit the earth, or
the land (for so the same word is translated,
the land of Canaan, that glory of all lands. Our creature-comforts are
comforts indeed to us when we see them flowing from the blessing of
God, we are sure not to want any thing that is good for us in this
world. The earth shall yield us her increase if God, as our
own God, give us his blessing,
And as those whom God blesses are thus blessed indeed (for
they shall inherit the land), so those whom he curses are cursed
indeed; they shall be cut off and rooted out, and their
extirpation by the divine curse will set off the establishment of the
righteous by the divine blessing and be a foil to it.
2. That God will direct and dispose of our actions and affairs so as
may be most for his glory
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. By his grace
and Holy Spirit he directs the thoughts, affections, and designs of
good men. He has all hearts in his hand, but theirs by their own
consent. By his providence he overrules the events that concern them,
so as to make their way plain before them, both what they should do and
what they may expect. Observe, God orders the steps of a good man; not
only his way in general, by his written word, but his particular steps,
by the whispers of conscience, saying, This is the way, walk in
it. He does not always show him his way at a distance, but leads
him step by step, as children are led, and so keeps him in a continual
dependence upon his guidance; and this,
(1.) Because he delights in his way, and is well pleased with
the paths of righteousness wherein he walks. The Lord knows the way
of the righteous
knows it with favour, and therefore directs it.
(2.) That he may delight in his way. Because God orders his way
according to his own will, therefore he delights in it; for, as he
loves his own image upon us, so he is well pleased with what we do
under his guidance.
3. That God will keep us from being ruined by our falls either into sin
or into trouble
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down.
(1.) A good man may be overtaken in a fault, but the grace of God shall
recover him to repentance, so that he shall not be utterly cast down.
Though he may, for a time, lose the joys of God's salvation, yet they
shall be restored to him; for God shall uphold him with his hand,
uphold him with his free Spirit. The root shall be kept alive, though
the leaf wither; and there will come a spring after the winter.
(2.) A good man may be in distress, his affairs embarrassed, his
spirits sunk, but he shall not be utterly cast down; God will be the
strength of his heart when his flesh and heart fail, and will uphold
him with his comforts, so that the spirit he has made shall not fail
4. That we shall not want the necessary supports of this life
"I have been young and now am old, and, among all the changes I
have seen in men's outward condition and the observations I have made
upon them, I never saw the righteous forsaken of God and man, as
I have sometimes seen wicked people abandoned both by heaven and earth;
nor do I ever remember to have seen the seed of the righteous reduced
to such an extremity as to beg their bread." David had himself begged
his bread of Abimelech the priest, but it was when Saul hunted him; and
our Saviour has taught us to except the case of persecution for
righteousness' sake out of all the temporal promises
because that has such peculiar honours and comforts attending it as
make it rather a gift (as the apostle reckons it,
than a loss or grievance. But there are very few instances of good men,
or their families, that are reduced to such extreme poverty as many
wicked people bring themselves to by their wickedness. He had not
seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread.
Forsaken (so some expound it); if they do want God will raise them
up friends to supply them, without a scandalous exposing of themselves
to the reproach of common beggars; or, if they go from door to door for
meat, it shall not be with despair, as the wicked man that wanders
abroad for bread, saying, Where is it?
Nor shall he be denied, as the prodigal, that would fain have filled
his belly, but no man gave unto him,
Nor shall he grudge if he be not satisfied, as David's enemies, when
they wandered up and down for meat,
Some make this promise relate especially to those that are charitable
and liberal to the poor, and to intimate that David never observed any
that brought themselves to poverty by their charity. It is
withholding more than is meet that tends to poverty,
5. That God will not desert us, but graciously protect us in our
difficulties and straits
The Lord loves judgment; he delights in doing justice himself
and he delights in those that do justice; and therefore he forsakes not
his saints in affliction when others make themselves strange to them
and become shy of them, but he takes care that they be preserved for
ever, that is, that the saint in every age be taken under his
protection, that the succession be preserved to the end of time, and
that particular saints be preserved from all the temptations and
through all the trials of this present time, to that happiness which
shall be for ever. He will preserve them to his heavenly
kingdom; that is a preservation for ever,
6. That we shall have a comfortable settlement in this world, and in a
better when we leave this. That we shall dwell for evermore
and not be cut off as the seed of the wicked,
Those shall not be tossed that make God their rest and are at home in
him. But on this earth there is no dwelling for ever, no continuing
city; it is in heaven only, that city which has foundations, that the
righteous shall dwell for ever; that will be their everlasting
7. That we shall not become a prey to our adversaries, who seek our
There is an adversary that takes all opportunities to do us a mischief,
a wicked one that watches the righteous (as a roaring lion watches his
prey) and seeks to slay him. There are wicked men that do so, that are
very subtle (they watch the righteous, that they may have an
opportunity to do them a mischief effectually and may have a pretence
wherewith to justify themselves in the doing of it), and very spiteful,
for they seek to slay him. But it may very well be applied to the
wicked one, the devil, that old serpent, who has his wiles to entrap
the righteous, his devices which we should not be ignorant of,--that
great red dragon, who seeks to slay them,--that roaring lion, who goes
about continually, restless and raging, and seeking whom he may devour.
But it is here promised that he shall not prevail, neither Satan nor
(1.) He shall not prevail as a field-adversary: The Lord will not
leave him in his hand; he will not permit Satan to do what he
would, nor will he withdraw his strength and grace from his people, but
will enable them to resist and overcome him, and their faith shall
A good man may fall into the hands of a messenger of Satan, and be
sorely buffeted, but God will not leave him in his hands,
1 Corinthians 10:13.
(2.) He shall not prevail as a law-adversary: God will not condemn
him when he is judged, though urged to do it by the accuser of the
brethren, who accuses them before our God day and night. His
false accusations will be thrown out, as those exhibited against Joshua
The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan! It is God that justifies, and
then who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?
|Exhortations and Promises.
34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee
to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see
35 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself
like a green bay tree.
36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought
him, but he could not be found.
37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end
of that man is peace.
38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end
of the wicked shall be cut off.
39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is
their strength in the time of trouble.
40 And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall
deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust
The psalmist's conclusion of this sermon (for that is the nature of
this poem) is of the same purport with the whole, and inculcates the
I. The duty here pressed upon us is still the same
Wait on the Lord and keep his way. Duty is ours, and we must
mind it and make conscience of it, keep God's way and never turn out of
it nor loiter in it, keep close, keep going; but events are God's and
we must refer ourselves to him for the disposal of them; we must wait
on the Lord, attend the motions of his providence, carefully observe
them, and conscientiously accommodate ourselves to them. If we make
conscience of keeping God's way, we may with cheerfulness wait
on him and commit to him our way; and we shall find him a good Master
both to his working servants and to his waiting servants.
II. The reasons to enforce this duty are much the same too, taken from
the certain destruction of the wicked and the certain salvation of the
righteous. This good man, being tempted to envy the prosperity of the
wicked, that he might fortify himself against the temptation, goes
into the sanctuary of God and leads us thither
there he understands their end, and thence gives us to understand it,
and, by comparing that with the end of the righteous, baffles the
temptation and puts it to silence. Observe,
1. The misery of the wicked at last, however they may prosper awhile:
The end of the wicked shall be cut off
and that cannot be well that will undoubtedly end so ill. The wicked,
in their end, will be cut off from all good and all hopes of it; a
final period will be put to all their joys, and they will be for ever
separated from the fountain of life to all evil.
(1.) Some instances of the remarkable ruin of wicked people David had
himself observed in this world--that the pomp and prosperity of sinners
would not secure them from the judgments of God when their day should
come to fall
I have seen a wicked man (the word is singular), suppose Saul or
Ahithophel (for David was an old man when he penned this psalm), in
great power, formidable (so some render it), the terror of the
mighty in the land of the living, carrying all before him with a
high hand, and seeming to be firmly fixed and finely flourishing,
spreading himself like a green bay-tree, which produces all
leaves and no fruit; like a native home-born Israelite (so Dr.
Hammond), likely to take root. But what became of him? Eliphaz, long
before, had learned, when he saw the foolish taking root, to curse his
And David saw cause for it; for this bay-tree withered away as soon as
the fig-tree. Christ cursed: He passed away as a dream, as a
shadow, such was he and all the pomp and power he was so proud of. He
was gone in an instant: He was not; I sought him with wonder,
but he could not be found. He had acted his part and then
quitted the stage, and there was no miss of him.
(2.) The total and final ruin of sinners, of all sinners, will shortly
be made as much a spectacle to the saints as they are now sometimes
made a spectacle to the world
When the wicked are cut off (and cut off they certainly will be)
thou shalt see it, with awful adorations of the divine justice.
The transgressors shall be destroyed together,
In this world God singles out here one sinner and there another, out of
many, to be made an example in terrorem--as a warning; but in
the day of judgment there will be a general destruction of all the
transgressors, and not one shall escape. Those that have sinned
together shall be damned together. Bind them in bundles, to burn
2. The blessedness of the righteous, at last. Let us see what will be
the end of God's poor despised people.
(1.) Preferment. There have been times the iniquity of which has been
such that men's piety has hindered their preferment in this world, and
put them quite out of the way of raising estates; but those that keep
God's way may be assured that in due time he will exalt them, to
inherit the land
he will advance them to a place in the heavenly mansions, to dignity,
and honour, and true wealth, in the New Jerusalem, to inherit that good
land, that land of promise, of which Canaan was a type; he will exalt
them above all contempt and danger.
Let all people mark the perfect man, and behold the upright;
take notice of him to admire him and imitate him, keep your eye upon
him to observe what comes of him, and you will find that the end of
that man is peace. Sometimes the latter end of his days proves more
comfortable to him than the beginning was; the storms blow over, and he
is comforted again, after the time that he was afflicted. However, if
all his days continue dark and cloudy, perhaps his dying day may prove
comfortable to him and his sun may set in brightness; or, if it should
set under a cloud, yet his future state will be peace, everlasting
peace. Those that walk in their uprightness while they live shall enter
into peace when they die,
A peaceful death has concluded the troublesome life of many a good man;
and all is well that thus ends everlastingly well. Balaam himself
wished that his death and his last end might be like that of the
The salvation of the righteous (which may be applied to the
great salvation of which the prophets enquired and searched
1 Peter 1:10)
is of the Lord; it will be the Lord's doing. The eternal
salvation, that salvation of God which those shall see that order
their conversation aright
is likewise of the Lord. And he that intends Christ and heaven for
them will be a God all-sufficient to them: He is their strength in
time of trouble, to support them under it and carry them through
it. He shall help them and deliver them, help them to do their
duties, to bear their burdens, and to maintain their spiritual
conflicts, help them to bear their troubles well and get good by them,
and, in due time, shall deliver them out of their troubles. He shall
deliver them from the wicked that would overwhelm them and swallow them
up, shall secure them there, where the wicked cease from troubling. He
shall save them, not only keep them safe, but make them happy,
because they trust in him, not because they have merited it from
him, but because they have committed themselves to him and reposed a
confidence in him, and have thereby honoured him.