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Bible Commentaries

Trapp's Complete Commentary

Psalms 15

Verse 1

Psalms 15:1 « A Psalm of David. » LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

Ver. 1. Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? ] Heb. who shall sojourn? for that is our condition while here, in a foreign country, and not at home. The Church militant also is transportative, as well as the tabernacle; and not fixed to one place. Never was the ark settled till set in Solomon’s temple; neither shall we till we come to heaven. David, having described an atheist in Psalms 14:1-19.14.4 , and finding but too many such in the bosom of the Church, politicians, profane persons, hypocrites, who profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, Titus 1:16 (he that dethroneth a king doth as bad as he that denieth him), he therefore begs of God to disterminate, and put a difference between the righteous and the wicked, by certain infallible distinctive notes and characters, wherein men may surely rest without danger of being deceived; since his testimony is beyond all exception, and he is αυτοπιστος self credible. Here, then, that grand and grave question is propounded by David as a prophet of God, consulting with him, and answered by God himself, from more authority’s sake: Who is the true citizen of Zion, the free denizen of the new Jerusalem, who is a right member of the Church militant, and shall be at length of the Church triumphant? A reverend divine said once to a poor soul, that told him he was troubled about his salvation, I tell thee, said he, it is able to trouble the whole world (Sinners’ Salvation, by Hooker, p. 2). Let a man but approve himself the party here described in desire at least, and endeavour, being humbled for his daily failings, and he may be confident.

Who shall dwell in thine holy hill? ] Heaven is aptly compared to a hill, hell to a hole. Now who shall ascend into this holy mount? None but those whom this mount comes down unto, that have sweet communion with God in this life present, whose conversation is in heaven, though their commoration be for a while upon earth, who do here eat, and drink, and sleep eternal life.

Verse 2

Psa 15:2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

Ver. 2. He that walketh uprightly ] This is God’s answer, for men are unsound, and unfit to judge, saith Calvin. They judge according to opinion and appearance many times, and send those to heaven that can never come there; as the pope doth his canonized saints; Mahomet, those that die in defence of Turkism; and parasitical preachers their irreligious benefactors. But God only admitteth such as are righteously religious and religiously righteous; such as through whose whole lives godliness runneth, as the woof doth through the warp. He, then, that shall be an inhabitant of heaven must first walk uprightly, or evenly. Christians, saith Tertullian, are funambulones, as those that walk on ropes, if they tread but one step awry they are utterly gone; they must be sine terrena et profunda fraude, as R. David here glosseth, without guile, and unacquainted with the depths of the devil, Proverbs 11:22 ; the upright in their way are opposed to the froward in heart. And such only shall dwell with devouring fire, that is, with God, Isaiah 33:14-23.33.15 . The Arabic version for uprightly here hath, without a cloud of vices.

And worketh righteousness ] This is wrought by faith, Hebrews 11:33 , and such a man is acceptable to God, Acts 10:35 . But the whole life of unbelievers is sin, saith Austin, neither is there anything good without the chiefest good. It was well said of Luther, Walk in the heaven of the promise, but in the earth of the law; that in respect of believing, this of obeying.

And speaketh the truth in his heart ] His λογος ενδιαθετος and προφορικος are all one, he speaks as he thinks; his speech is the lively image of his inward affection. That was no commendation to that pope and his nephew, of whom it was said, that the one never spoke as he thought, the other never performed what he spoke.

Verse 3

Psalms 15:3 [He that] backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

Ver. 3. He that backbiteth not with his tongue ] That trotteth not up and down for the purpose, as the word signifieth; that walketh not about as a pedlar with his pack, as the word is, Leviticus 19:16 , this is a bloody sin, ibid.; confer Ezekiel 22:9 . Ragal, whence Regal, a foot. Many ways a man may backbite with his tongue, that unruly member.

Imponens, augens, manifestans, in mala vertens,

Qui negat, aut minuit, tacuit, laudatque remisse.

One observeth from this text that there is also a slander of the heart that never cometh into the tongue, sc. hard conceits and evil surmises. Some say that the word here signifieth to speak truth, but with a mischievous mind, to hurt another; as Doeg dealt by David, and is, therefore, accursed, Psalms 52:1-19.52.6 ., and called a liar for his labour, Psa 120:2-3 The smutting of another man’s good name in any kind behind his back is backbiting; it is an irreparable wrong; take heed of it. The eye and the good name can bear no jests, as the proverb hath it.

Nor doth evil to his neighbour ] Neither by disparaging nor disprofiting him. There is an elegance in the original that cannot be translated into English.

Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour ] Or receiveth, or endureth. The tale bearer carrieth the devil in his tongue; the tale hearer in his ear. Plautus wisheth that the one may be hanged by his tongue, and the other by his ear; the receiver, we say, is as bad as the thief. Not only he that maketh a lie, but he that loveth it, is excluded heaven, Revelation 22:15 . It is evil to sow reports and slanders, but worse to harrow them in. The heathen could say, He that easily believeth slanders, aut improbis, out puerilibus est moribus, is either a knave or a fool.

Verse 4

Psa 15:4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. [He that] sweareth to [his own] hurt, and changeth not.

Ver. 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned ] An abject, a reprobate, as one rendereth it; be he as high as Haman; see Esther’s character of him, Esther 7:6 , and Mordecai’s slighting of him, Esther 3:2 (Josephus). Be he as great as Antiochus Epiphanes, to whom the Samaritans, excusing themselves that they were no Jews, wrote thus, To Antiochus, the great god. Daniel counted and called him a vile person, Daniel 11:21 . So Elisha despised Jehoram the king, 2 Kings 3:14 ; we also must despise the wicked; yet non virum, sed vitium, et salvo cuique loci sui honore, giving honour, befitting their places, to whom honour is due, Romans 13:7 ., but shunning that partiality taxed by St James, James 2:3-59.2.4 . The burgess of the New Jerusalem, reprobos reprobat, et probes probat, he cannot flatter any man, nor fancy such as in whom he findeth not aliquid Christi, something of the image of God. A golden colosse, stuffed with rubbish, he cannot stoop to.

But he honoureth them that fear the Lord ] As the only earthly angels, though never so mean and despicable in the world’s eye. Mr Fox, being asked whether he remembered not such a poor servant of God who had received help from him in time of trouble? answered, I remember him well; I tell you I forget lords and ladies to remember such. Ingo, an ancient king of Draves and Veneds, set his pagan nobles, at a feast, in his hall below, and a company of poor Christians with himself in his presence chamber, entertaining them with the royalest cheer and kingliest attendance that might be. At which when his nobles wondered, he told them, this he did not as he was king of the Draves, but as he was king of another world, wherein these should be his companions and fellow princes (Aeneas Sylv. cap. 20).

He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not ] Covetousness he so hateth that, first, he will rather suffer loss than be worse than his oath or honest word; secondly, he lendeth, looking for nothing again; thirdly, he taketh no reward against the innocent, either as a judge or as a pleader. Of many swearers it may be said, that they can play with oaths as children do with nuts; or as monkeys do with their collars, which they can slip off at their pleasure. And of many promisers, that they are like the peacock, all in changeable colours, as often changed as moved; but this is not the guise of God’s people. The Jews at this day keep no oath unless they swear upon their own Torah, or law, brought out of their synagogues (Tertul.). The Turks keep no oath further than may stand with their own convenience. The Papists hold that faith is not to be kept with heretics; and they practise accordingly. But the old Romans had a great care always to perform their word, whatever it cost them; insomuch that the first temple built in Rome was dedicated to the goddess Fidelity. In after times indeed, Romanis promittere promptum erat, promissis autem, quanquam iuramento firmarls, minime stare: The Romans were forward to promise and swear, but careless to perform, if Mirrhanes, the Persian general, may be believed (Procop. de Bel. Persic. lib. 1). But an oath was ever held among all nations a sacred bond, and obligatory, unless it were contra bones mores, against good morals, as the lawyers speak. Joshua and the elders kept their oath to the Gibeonites, though to their inconvenience. Zedekiah was punished for not keeping touch with the king of Babylon. And one of the laws of the knights of the band in Spain was, that if any of them broke his promise he went alone by himself, and nobody spake to him, nor he to any.

Verse 5

Psalms 15:5 [He that] putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these [things] shall never be moved.

Ver. 5. He that putteth not out his money to usury ] To biting usury, so some distinguish it from Tarbith, the toothless usury. But both these are condemned, Ezekiel 18:8 ; Ezekiel 18:13 , and no man of note in all antiquity (Jews and Manichees excepted) for one thousand five hundred years after Christ hath ever undertaken the defence thereof. Here and Neh 5:7-11 it is plainly cried down; neither is there any ground in Scripture for that distinction of usury into biting and toothless. The beaver biteth so sore, as that he never looseth his teeth until he have broke the bones. Usury-Usurers

Nor taketh reward against the innocent ] Olim didici quid sint munera, said one. A good man, as he despiseth the gain of oppressions, so he shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, Isaiah 33:15 , lest the touching thereof should infect and benumb him; as Pliny writeth of the fish torpedo, and as histories report of Demosthenes, that great lawyer, tempted and prevailed with against right, by poisoning Harpalus’s goblet.

He that doeth these things ] For not the hearers of the law, but the doers shall be justified, Romans 2:13 . And to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, shall be eternal life, Romans 15:7 .

Shall never be moved ] Potest in momentum moveri, sed non in aeternum: resurget enim, saith R. Solomon here, Moved he may be for a time, but not removed for ever. His soul is bound up in the bundle of life, near unto the throne of glory; when the souls of the wicked are restless as a stone in the midst of a sling, saith the Targum, in 1 Samuel 15:1-9.15.35 .

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 15". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.