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mines, against the suggestions of the former, that God is the same good and merciful God to his church and people, if they do but preserve inviolable their fidelity to him, whether, in this world, they enjoy prosperity, or endure affliction.
2. But as for me, my feet were almost gone: my steps had well nigh slipt. 3. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Temptations impede the progress of the Christian in the way of righteousness, and incline him to fall; as it happens to one who walks in a slippery path. The temptation here complained of, is that excited by seeing wealth and honour in the hands of infidelity and villany, while the faithful servants of God are often covered with infamy, and oppressed by poverty. A prospect of this sort is apt to make us distrust the love of heaven towards us, and its providence over us. For our benefit, therefore, in the course of this Psalm, the disease is particularized, and the remedy prescribed.
4. For there are no bands, or, pangs, in their death; but their strength is firm.
Health and strength are to be reckoned among those temporal blessings, which the long suffering of God sometimes permits the ungodly to enjoy. And accordingly we find men of that cast, who live without sickness, and die in a manner without pain : while others, of a contrary character, are worn with chronical, or racked with acute disorders, which bring them with sorrow and torment to the grave.
5. They are not in trouble, as other men: neither are they plagued like other men.
Calamities, which overwhelm the small concerns of the poor righteous man, approach not the borders of the wealthy sinner. Far from poverty, as free from disease, he seems to pass his days exempted from the miseries of mankind, without labour or anxiety; and not so much as to think of those who, distressed on all sides, can scarcely earn their bread by the sweat of their brows. See this sentiment beautifully dilated, Job xxi.
6. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain: violence covereth them as a garment.
Among men who have not the love of God in their hearts, or his fear before their eyes, pride and oppression are the offspring of worldly prosperity. The daughters attend the mother wherever she goes, and show themselves openly without reserve; pride compasses them about as a chain; they wear it for an ornament about their necks, as gold chains, collars, or necklaces, were worn; discovering it by their stately carriage. Violence covers them as a garment; it appears outwardly in all they say or do, and engrosses the whole man.
7. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.
“A man may be known by his look,” says the son of Sirach. The choleric, the lascivious, the melancholy, the cunning, &c. &c. frequently bear their tempers and ruling passions strongly marked on their countenances: but more. especially does the soul of a man look forth at his eyes. The pride of the ungod
ly, occasioned by great and unexpected success in the world, hardly ever fails to betray itself in this way.
8. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.
Prosperity, in an irreligious heart, breeds corruption, which from thence is emitted by the breath in conversation, to infect and taint the minds of others. A circle of fawning dependants is never wanting, to whom the poor, vain, and ignorant creature, exalted in his own conceit above the level of mortality, may, from the chair, without control, dictate libertinism and infidelity, bidding defiance to the laws of God and man.
9. They set their mouth against the heavens; and their tongue walketh through the earth.
The blessings for which a Christian praises his God, only cause the infidel to blaspheme him. So true is that of Solomon The prosperity of fools destroyeth them.” What a pity is it, that the former should ever be less zealous and indefatigable in diffusing his piety, than we know the latter is in propagating his blasphemies through the earth!
10. Therefore his people return thither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
Some commentators think that this verse intends those people who resort to the company of the wicked, because they find their temporal advantage by it; while others are of opinion, that the people of God are meant, who, by continually revolving in their thoughts the subject here treated of, namely, the prosperity of the wicked, are sore grieved, and enforced to shed tears in abundance.
11. And they say, how doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?
They who interpret the foregoing verse of the people of God, tempted by the success of the ungodly to distrust his providence, suppose this and the following verses to be uttered by them, as questioning whether God had any regard to what passed here below. But, to avoid confusion of persons, I would rather suppose the foregoing verse (to whomsoever it may belong) to be parenthetic, and the verse now under consideration to be an epicurean, atheistical speech in the mouth of the wicked above described at large; after which the Psalmist goes on, in his own person, as from the beginning, to relate the temptation which he underwent, and the issue of it.
12. Behold, these are the ungodly who prosper in the world, they increase in riches.
The temptation is now stated in its full force. These worthless, ungodly, blasphemous persons, whose characters I have been delineating, these are the men who prosper in the world, who succeed in every thing they undertake, and roll in riches! What are we to think of God, his providence, and his promises?
13. Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency: 14. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
Nature will be apt upon this occasion to suggest that all my faith, my charity, and my devotion, all my watching, and fastings, in short all the labour and pains I have taken in the way of goodness, have been altogether vain and fruitless; since, while the rebel. lious enemies of God enjoy the world and themselves at pleasure, I, who continue his servant, am in perpetual tribulation and affliction.
15. If I say, I will speak, or, declare, or, preach, thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
The Psalmist, having thus particularized the disease, proceeds now, like a skilful physician of the , soul, to prescribe a medicine for it, which is compounded of many salutary ingredients. And first, to the suggestion of nature, grace opposes the examples of the children of God, who never fell from their hope in another world, because of their sufferings in this. For a man, therefore, to distrust the divine goodness on that account, is to belie their hope, renounce their faith, and strike his name out of their list.
16. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me.
A second reason why a man should not be too forward to arraign God's dispensations of injustice, is the extreme difficulty of understanding and comprehending the whole of them, which indeed is not to be done by the human mind, unless God himself shall vouchsafe it the necessary information. “ It was too painful for me,” says the Psalmist;
17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
The third argument, with which we may repress the spirit of murmuring and distrust, so apt to be excited by the prosperity of the wicked, is one communicated to us by the word of God, which alone can