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Psalms 19:1 « To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. » The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
The heavens declare the glory of God ] The world, saitb Clement of Alexandria, is Dei Scriptura, the first Bible that God made for the institution of man. The heavens (here instanced as a chief part of that Mundi totius machina ) are compared to a scroll that is written, Revelation 6:14 . As in a horn book, which little ones carry, there be letters in a paper within which appear through the same; so, under the blue sapphire of the firmament, is spread a sheet of royal paper written all over with the wisdom and power of God. This book was imprinted, saith one, at the New Jerusalem, by the finger of Jehovah, and is not to be sold, but to be seen, at the sign of glory, of every one that lifts up his eyes to heaven; where he may plainly perceive Deum esse mentem, architectricem, intelligentem, sapientem, potentem, &c. This lesson is fairly lined out unto us in the brows of the firmament, which, therefore, we are bidden to behold and discern; since therein God hath made himself visible, yea, legible, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that men are left without excuse, Romans 1:20 . But because this book of nature (with its three great leaves, heaven, earth, and sea), though never so diligently read over, cannot bring a man to the saving knowledge of God in Christ, nor make him perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works, behold another and better Book, even that of the Holy Scriptures, set forth, Psalms 19:7-19.19.8 , &c., of this psalm, that like as where the philosopher endeth the physician beginneth; so, where nature faileth us, Scripture may inform and comfort us. In this excellent psalm, then, we have the sum of all true divinity, saith reverend Beza, the end whereof is to give us that knowledge of God, and of his holy worship, whereby we may be made partakers of eternal life. Here, then, in the six first verses the prophet showeth that God manifesteth his glory to mankind by his works; and, first, by the work of creation, Psalms 19:1 ; next, of government, Psalms 19:2-19.19.3 , &c., and that, 1. In the revolution of the starry sky, which revolution, first, causeth a perpetual vicissitude of days and nights, and so declareth the glory of God. 2. It bespeaketh all people at once, as a catholic preacher of God’s glory, Psalms 19:4-19.19.5 . Secondly, in the constant course of the sun (that common servant, as his name importeth), Psalms 19:4 , who, with his motion, Psalms 19:5 , enlighteneth all things with his light, and pierceth all things with his heat, Psalms 19:6 . Thus "the heavens declare the glory of God"; that is, they yield matter and occasion of glorifying him, according to that, Psalms 145:10 , "All thy works praise thee, O Lord; but thy saints bless thee." Some philosophers, and with them some Rabbis (Maimonides), have deemed, or rather doted, that the heaven was a living creature, and did actually praise and serve God. But this conceit is exploded by the wiser sort; and that axiom maintained, Formica coelos dignitate superat, An ant, because a living creature, is more excellent than the whole visible heavens. As for the saints and servants of God, it is truly affirmed by divines that there is not so much of the glory of God in all his works of creation and providence as in one gracious action that they perform.
And the firmament showeth his handywork ] The expanse or outspread firmament. It is taken both for the air, Genesis 1:6 , and for the sky, Genesis 1:14 , the whole cope of heaven, which showeth, Quam eleganter et ad amussim operetur Deus manibus suis; how neatly and exactly God worketh with his hands, which are attributed to him for our weakness’ sake (Vatablus).
Psa 19:2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
Ver. 2. Day unto day uttereth speech ] Some read it, one day succeeding another uttereth (or welleth out, as a fountain, continually, and plentifully) speech, yet without sound, Sicut fons scaturiens (R. Menahem); by a dumb kind of eloquence, eructant; by a continual revolution and succession of days men are instructed concerning the power and providence of God, as also concerning his truth and faithfulness; for if God had hitherto kept promise with nights and days, that one shall succeed the other, will he not much more keep promise with his people? Jeremiah 33:20 ; Jeremiah 33:25 .
And night unto night showeth knowledge ] Days and nights by their perpetual course and order, Dei potentiam et sapientiam concelebrant; there being no less necessity of the night in its kind than of the day. The knowledge it showeth us is, that man in himself is weak, and cannot long hold out hard labour; that he is permitted to sleep a while, and take his rest; that he must abridge himself of some part of his rest to commune with his own heart on his bed, and be still; that if he bestir not himself, and do up his work quickly, the night of death cometh, when no man can work, &c.
Psalms 19:3 [There is] no speech nor language, [where] their voice is not heard.
Ver. 3. There is no speech nor language where their voice ] And yet few hear these universal preachers, these Regii Professores, these real expositors of the divinity, as one styleth them, who do preach to all people at once, Non solum diserte sed et exerte, at surdis plerumque fabulam, they are by the most as little respected as is the cuckoo in June.
Psa 19:4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Ver. 4. Their line is gone out through all the earth ] Or, their rule, or direction, or delineation, or Scripture, confer Isa 28:13 Quod in coelis tanquam in volumine omnibus conspicuo descripta sit Dei gloria, because that in the heavens, as in an open book, is written down the glory of the Creator. The like is done also in other less considerable creatures; every of which do after a sort write as well as speak, and have a pen as well as a tongue. The Chaldee word כבעא for a mint signifieth also a book of histories, because in that one herb large stories of God’s wisdom, might, and love are described unto us. The same word also that signifieth an ear of grain signifieth a word, מלילח because every field of corn is a book of God’s praise, every land a leaf, every sheaf a verse, every ear a word, every corn of wheat a letter, to express the glory of God by, Praesentem narrat quaelibet herba Deum. Antony, the hermit, being asked by a certain philosopher how he could contemplate high things having no help of books? answered, That the whole world was to him instead of a well furnished library; this he had ready by him at all times and in all places, and in this he could read when he pleased the great things of God (Aug. de Doct. Christ. 1. 1; Niceph. l. 8, c. 40). Bernard also saith that was the time when he had no other masters, nisi quercus et fagos, but the oaks and beech trees.
In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun ] That prince of planets, but servant to the saints of the Most High, as his name importeth: so sweet a creature he is, that Eudoxus, the philosopher, professed that he would be content to be burnt up by the heat of it so he might be admitted to come so near it as to learn the nature of it. A tabernacle, or flitting tent, it is here said to have in the heavens; because it never stayeth in one place, but courseth about with incredible swiftness.
Psa 19:5 Which [is] as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, [and] rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
Ver. 5. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber ] sc. After long expectation, with a great, deal of pomp and gaiety; such is the sun rasing, when he first showeth himself above our horizon. Kimchi addeth, that as the bride groom when he is abroad hasteneth home to his bride, so doth the sun to his descent, anhelat ad occasum, Ecclesiastes 1:5 .
And rejoiceth as a strong man (or champion) to run a race] Readily running, and effectually affecting all things with his heat. The Persian angari, or posts, the ostrich, the wild ass, the bustard, the dromedary, the eagle, is nothing so swift as the sun. Bellarmine saith ( De Ascens. Mentis in Demn ), that he runneth in the eighth part of an hour seven thousand miles. This dumb creature gives check to our dulness; as Balaam’s ass also did to that prophet’s madness.
Psa 19:6 His going forth [is] from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
Ver. 6. His going forth is from the end of the heaven ] i.e, From the east unto the west, in which course, notwithstanding, while he compasseth the circle of heaven and earth, he visiteth the south and the north, and is unweariable.
And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof ] i.e. From the beneft of the sun’s heat, who is ut cor incorpore, as the heart in the body, saith Aben Ezra; all things feel the quickening heat of the sun; not only the roots of trees, plants, &c., but metals and minerals, in the bowels of the earth.
Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple.
Ver. 7. The law of the Lord is perfect ] Or, doctrine; the whole word of God, commonly distinguished into law and gospel, is perfect, immaculate, sincere, entire, complete. If Cicero dared to say, that the law of the twelve tables in Rome did exceed all the libraries of philosophers, both in weight of authority and fruitfulness of matter, how much rather is this true of God’s law! saith a learned writer. Nothing may be added to it without marring it, Proverbs 30:6 . Note this against Jewish, Popish, and Turkish traditions and additions; as also against anti-scripturists, and who at first rejected all books but the Bible, and after that grew so wise as to be religious enough without that also. And last of all they came to blaspheme that blessed book, as a dead letter, and a beggarly element, &c.; when as the apostle telleth us, that all Scripture is pure, precious, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, &c., that the man of God may be perfect, &c., 2 Timothy 3:16-55.3.17 . Here in this and the two following verses it is easy to observe - 1. That every one of them are in the Hebrew written with ten words. 2. That here is a sixfold commendation of God’s holy word. (l.) By the several names thereunto given, law, testimony, statutes, &c (2.) By the nature, perfect, sure, right, &c. (3.) By the effects, converting the soul, making wise the simple, &c.
Converting the soul ] This no doctrine besides can do. Integra est doctrina, ae proinde animos redintegrat. Plato went thrice to Sicily to convert Dionysius the tyrant, but could not. Ambrose saith well of Polemo, who of a drunkard, by hearing Xenocrates, became a philosopher, Si resipuit a vino, fuit semper tamen temulentus sacrilegio, If he gave over his drunkenness, yet he continued still drunk with superstition. Seneca the philosopher wrote a book (now lost) against superstitions, but yet lived and died in them; Colebat quod reprohendebat, agebat quod arguebat, quod culpabat adorabat, saith Austin of him, he exercised what he condemned, and would not leave what he did so utterly dislike. But the word works a transmentation, an entire change of the mind and manners, a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17 .
The testimony of the Lord is sure ] These words are faithful and true, Revelation 22:6 , they are all in righteousness, neither is there in them anything perverse or froward, Proverbs 8:8 . Testimonies they are called, 1. Because they testify (as a record) to all ages what the will of the Lord is, John 5:39 John 5:2 . They were given with great contestation, and pressing of all men to keep them. 3. They will be a witness against all such as do not. The gospel also is called a testimony, 1 Corinthians 2:1 2Th 1:10 Isaiah 8:20 .
Making wise the simple ] That is, the humble, teachable, and such as are not puffed up with a conceit of their own wisdom, 1 Corinthians 7:18 , the very entrance into God’s word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple, or to the persuadable, Psalms 119:130 . It is reasonable milk, 1 Peter 2:2 .
Psa 19:8 The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes.
Ver. 8. The statutes of the Lord are right ] As being the issue of the most righteous will of God. Of human laws Demosthenes saith, that they are ευρημα των Yεων , the invention of the gods. Much better may we say the like of this law here commended; right it is, because it teacheth men the right way to life, non flexuosum quale doter care et cautio humana; right also, because it speaketh right to every man’s case and condition, de quolibet in re sua, affording a salve for every sore, a medicine for every malady; so that it may better be called, than was that famous library at Alexandria, η της φυχης ιατρεια , physic for the soul, food and physic both, and of the best sort, the best of the best.
Rejoicing the heart ] This is the proper work of the gospel; the sweet promises whereof hid in the heart, and there mingled with faith, make it to overly abound exceedingly with joy, and to conceive strong consolation; the martyrs of all ages, for instance. And although it be the doctrine of the cross, yet Lecythos habet in malis, it hath cordials of comfort, such as the world can neither give nor take away. The gospel is a precious book; every leaf drops myrrh and mercy. We should therefore prize it much more than Caesar did his Commentaries; Maior fuit cura Caesari libellorum quam purpurae; for, swimming through the waters to escape his enemies, he carried his books in his hand above the waters, but lost his robe. Now what were his books to God’s?
The commandment of the Lord is pure ] And so differeth from human laws, which establish wickedness sometimes; as those of Lycurgus did some kind of theft, adultery, &c. Human doctrines also are mixed with many errors. Irenaeus justly taxeth Plato for this, that he did laete gypsum miscere, mingle lime with milk, stain the pure stream of divine truth with fabulous narrations and fopperies. But every word of God is pure, Psalms 12:7 ; Psalms 18:32 . See Trapp on " Psa 12:7 " See Trapp on " Psa 18:32 "
Enliqhtening the eyes ] Giving both light and sight, Acts 26:18 , the saving knowledge of God and his will, of ourselves and of our duties; and bringing us out of darkness into his marvellous light, 1 Peter 2:9 . When Christ came preaching, the people which sat in darkness saw a great light, Matthew 4:16 . And we have a more sure light of prophecy, whereunto we must take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, 2 Peter 1:19 . While the moon looketh directly upon the sun, she is bright and beautiful; but if she once turn aside, and be left to herself, she loseth all her glory, and enjoyeth but only a shadow of light, which is her own; so while men with humility and teachableness turn their faces toward Christ revealed in the gospel, and those stars in his right hand, the faithful ministers, to receive illumination and instruction; God doth graciously vouch safe unto them the glorious light of saving knowledge. But when they turn their backs upon him and his oracles, and will needs walk by the light of their own tinder boxes kindling a fire, and compassing themselves with sparks, Isaiah 1:11 , they are sure to be bewildered, and to lie down in sorrow.
Psa 19:9 The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether.
Ver. 9. The fear of the Lord is clean ] That is, the doctrine which teacheth the true fear of God is such as cleanseth the conscience, ferreteth out corruption, sanctifieth the whole man, John 17:17 ; John 15:3 Acts 20:32 ; Acts 26:18 .
Enduring for ever ] "For ever, O Lord, thy word is established in heaven." Psalms 119:89 . Heaven and earth shall pass, but not one jot or tittle of the law; not one hair of that sacred head shall fall to the ground, Matthew 5:18 ; should all the powers on earth make war against the very paper of the Scriptures, they cannot possibly destroy it. What God hath written he hath written, and it shall stand inviolable to the world’s end. Antiochus, Epiphanes, Dioclesian, and other tyrants have attempted to burn up all Bibles, but could never effect it. Other laws and religions are antiquated and altered, as all histories testify; not so this.
The judgments of the Lord are true ] Heb. truth, as coming from a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and righteous is he, Deuteronomy 32:4 . All his sayings are faithful, and therefore worthy of all acceptation, 1 Timothy 1:15 . The Eternity of Israel cannot lie, 1 Samuel 15:29 . He will not suffer his faithfulness to fail, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth, Psalms 89:33-19.89.34 . Mονιμον η αληθεια , saith Plato; truth is lasting, and γλυκεια η αληθεια , , Truth is sweet, said Mercury’s priests when they ate their figs. Divine truths should be so to us in a special manner. And as Cyprian, in any great doubt or difficulty, would call to Paulus Concordiensis (who was his notary), for Tertullian’s works, saying, Da magistrum, Reach hither my master; so should we call for the Bible, and therehence fetch satisfaction and settlement, as holding it infallible.
And righteous altogether ] Not one of them to be found fault with; but all of them every way complete and absolute. Iustificata sunt simul, so some render it, they are altogether justified. What a high esteem the Jews at this day have of the law hath been elsewhere noted; while they carry it usually about their synagogues at the end of their service in procession, with many ornaments of crowns and sceptres; the children kissing it as it passeth by them. To their disciples they prescribe, not to write any letter of the law without a copy, no line of it without a rule, no parchment but made of the skin of a clean beast, no word must be written in a different colour. No man might carry it behind him, but lay it next to his heart in his travel; nor read it, but in a clean place; nor sell it, though the copy were moth eaten, and himself half famished (Schicard. de iure Reg. Heb. ). The last day of the feast of tabernacles they call Shimchah Torah, the rejoining at the law. They have chosen also, then, two, that are called sponsi legis; one of which is to read the end of it, called Chathan Torah, the bridegroom of the law ended; the other Chathan Bereshith, because he presently beginneth it again; these are to express joy (Leo Modena of Jewish Rites).
Psa 19:10 More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Ver. 10. More to be desired are they than gold ] Old people are all for profit, young for pleasure; here is gold for the one, yea, the finest gold (gold of Fez, Aceto melle , Plin. l. xi. c. 15), in great quantity; here is honey for the other, yea, live honey dropping from the comb, liquor of the honeycomb. As manna had all sorts of sweet tastes in it; so hath the word to those that have spiritual senses exercised to discern good and evil. Great is the sweetness of human learning to those that have got a taste of it, as it was to Pythagoras and Plato, who travelled far for it; to Julian the apostate, who preferred the study of it before all pastimes whatsoever; to M. Aurelius, the emperor, who said he would not leave the knowledge he might learn in one hour for all the gold that he possessed; to Alphonsus, king of Arragon, who preferred his skill in the mathematics before the empire of Germany when it was offered unto him; he professed that he had rather lose his jewels than his books, and all his kingdoms rather than that little learning he had attained unto. How, then, should we prize divine learning, which is infinitely more precious, profitable, and pleasant! David had much of it, and yet he cries to God ever and anon, "Teach me thy statutes." Moses was but newly come down from the mount, and he presently prays, as one insatiate, "Lord, show me thy glory." The angels themselves know not so much of the mystery of Christ but they would fain know more, 1 Peter 1:12 Ephesians 3:10 , &c.
Psa 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them [there is] great reward.
Ver. 11. Moreover by them is thy servant warned ] Clearly admonished, or furbished and brightened, Daniel 12:3 , made circumspect. God’s testimonies were David’s counsellors, Psalms 119:24 , better than ever was Polybius to Scipio, Agrippa to Augustus, Seneca to Nero, Anaxagoras to Themistocles, Plato to Dio, Aristotle to Alexander or Nigidius to Cicero; princes of old had their Mαημονες , Monitores, remembrancers. David desired no better than God’s statutes for his learned counsel, and by them he resolved to be ruled; for so it followeth,
And in keeping of them ] Xenophon writes that in Lycurgus’s laws this was much to be admired, that whereas all men commended them, yet no other city besides that of Sparta would ever observe them. Men do rather praise right things than practise them; as it was said of Demosthenes. But David was of another strain; he, after a large encomium of God’s commandments, is set upon the keeping of them; and the rather because
In keeping of them there is great reward ] Not only for keeping, but in keeping of them. As every flower hath its sweet smell, so every good action hath its sweet reflection upon the soul; and as Cardan saith, that every precious stone hath some egregious virtue, so here, righteousness is its own reward, though few men think so and act accordingly:
Haud facile invenies multis e millibus unum,
Virtutem pretium qui putet esse sui.
Howbeit, the chief reward is not till the last cast, till we come to heaven. The word here rendered reward signifieth the heel, and, by a metaphor, the end of a work, and the reward of it, which is not till the end. Gnekebh sic τελος apud Graecos. Sicut opus non est usque ad mortem perfectum, sic nec merecs, saith R. David here; As the work is not done till death, so neither is full wages till then to be had.
Psa 19:12 Who can understand [his] errors? cleanse thou me from secret [faults].
Ver. 12. Who can understand his errors? ] This David speaketh doubtless out of a deep sense of his own imperfections and defects in what the law (so much by him commended) requireth; and to prevent mistakes, lest any man, hearing him speak of great reward, should think that heaven may be merited and salvation attained by a man’s own righteousness. No such matter, believe it, saith holy David, I have neither done the law nor deserved the reward, but do fly to God by prayer; and three things I have to beg of him: First, That he would graciously pardon my secret sins and errors, unknown to myself, or at least to others. Secondly, That he would keep me from proud and presumptuous sins, Psalms 19:13 . Thirdly, That he would bridle my tongue and mind from speaking, or but thinking, aught that may be offensive to his majesty, Psalms 19:14 . For the first of these, Humanum est, errare et ignorare suum, It is incident to every man to err, and then to be ignorant of his errors (Jun.). Certain it is, that our lives are fuller of sins than the firmament is of stars, or the furnace of sparks. And if the best man’s faults were written in his forehead, it would make him pull his hat over his eyes, as the proverb hath it. David here seeth such volumes of corruptions in his heart, and so many foul erratas in his life, that he cannot but cry out, Who can understand, &c., O cleanse, &c. The most perfect saints are the most sensible of their imperfections; as the more delicate the senses are the more sharply are they affected with what offends them, Rom 7:14 1 Corinthians 15:9-46.15.10 . Alas for us (saith one good man)! Ipsae lachrymae sunt lachrymabiles; we had need to weep over our tears, sigh over our sobs, mourn over our griefs, &c. Look how when we have swept a room never so clean (saith Spinaeus, De Instit. Christian.), if the sun do but come into it at the windows, we soon espy abundance of filthy motes, mingled with the beams thereof; so is it with our hearts, when once enlightened. What a blind buzzard then was he that said, Non habeo, Domine, quod mihi ignoscas, Lord, I have nothing for thee to pardon! And no wiser was Bellarmine, that great scholar, but ill read in his own heart, if that be true that is reported of him, viz. that when the priest came to absolve him, he could not remember any particular sin to confess till he went back in his thoughts as far as his youth. Of Philip III, king of Spain, it is said, that he lived so strictly that he never committed any gross crime or wilful wickedness; yet coming to die, he cried out, Oh that I had never reigned! Oh that I had lived a private life in the wilderness, that I might not have now to answer for not doing the good or hindering the evil that I might have done in my government! (Val. Max. Christ. 263).
Cleanse thou me from secret faults ] Secret from myself, many of them (sins of ignorance and of inadvertency), secret from the world, more of them, heart sins, but not secret from the Lord, Psa 90:8 Hebrews 4:13 . These are of daily and hourly incursion, involuntary and unavoidable infirmities, yet are they sins properly so called; and we must be cleansed from them by the merit and Spirit of Christ; they must be repented of in general at least; and then there is a pardon of course for them, and they do not usually distract and plunge the conscience.
Psa 19:13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous [sins]; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Ver. 13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins ] Heb. Withdraw, inhibit, for we are naturally prone to the worst of sins, even the best of us, and to lie buried with the world in a bog of wickedness, adding rebellion to sin, and doing wickedly with both hands earnestly, unless God rein us in, and restrain us from such enormities. Pray we therefore as here, Etiam a superbiis contine servum tuum (Midrash Tillin. in Psa 19:13 ). David’s murdering Uriah was a sin of this sort. The Rabbis here observe how the prophet riseth in his request, first for pardon of lesser sins, and then for power against greater; like as a beggar, say they, first craves a little water, and then a morsel of bread. We should do so.
Let them not have dominion over me ] Sin will rebel, but it must not reign in our mortal bodies, it must not play King, and bear sway in the soul. Pray hard against that in chief, Ne iniquitas victrix dominetur, that our lusts be not our lords, that vice vanquish us not.
Then shall I be upright ] Then, when I have gotten both pardoning and prevailing grace, to be cleansed from infirmities and kept from presumptions and arrogance, which cum temerario ausu et fastu fiunt contumaciter, I shall be upright in God’s account and entire in his obedience.
And shall be innocent from the great transgression ] That sin unto death, 1 John 5:16 ; that wickedness with a witness, for which there remaineth no more sacrifice, Hebrews 10:26 , and unto which a way is paved by sins of presumption with a high hand committed against knowledge and conscience.
Psa 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Ver. 14. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation, &c. ] Sint ad beneplaeitum verba, &c. Let both my words and thoughts, as well as my life and actions, be to favourable acceptation; let them be such as may suit with thy law and will.
O Lord, my strength ] Heb. my rock, In Mare, vel in Marah, vel in hoc mundo, say the Rabbis; in the sea of sorrow, and all along the wilderness of this world (Midrash Tillin.).
And my redeemer ] Or, my near kinsman, who is Jesus Christ, in whom we may look for all good from God, by virtue of the covenant. This David well understood, and therefore he layeth all the weight on this, "O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 19". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent