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Psalms 32:1 « [A Psalm] of David, Maschil. » Blessed [is he whose] transgression [is] forgiven, [whose] sin [is] covered.
A Psalm of David, Maschil ] i.e. Giving instruction, or making prudent; for David here, out of his own experience, turneth teacher, Psalms 32:7 , and the lesson that he layeth before his disciples is the doctrine of justification by faith, that ground of true blessedness, Romans 4:6-45.4.7 . Docet igitur hic Psalmus vere preciosus praecipuum et proprium fidei Christianae caput, saith Beza, This most precious psalm instructeth us in the chief and principal point of Christian religion; and it differeth herein from the first psalm, that there are set forth the effects of blessedness; but here the cause: Quomodo etiam est Paulus cum Iacobo conciliandus, saith he.
Ver. 1. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven ] The heavy burden of whose trespasses is taken off, as the word importeth, and he is loosed, eased, and lightened. Sin is an intolerable burden, Isaiah 1:3 , such as presseth down, Hebrews 12:1 ; a burden it is to God, Amos 2:13 ; to Christ it was, when it made him sweat water and blood; to the angels, when it brake their backs, and sunk them into hell; to men, under whom the very earth groaneth, its axle tree is even ready to crack, &c.; it could not bear Korah and his company; it spewed out the Canaaanites, &c. Oh, then, the heaped-up happiness of a justified person, disburdened of his transgressions! The word here rendered transgression signifieth treachery, and wickedness with a witness. Aben Ezra saith, David hereby intends his sin with Bathsheba; and surely this psalm and the one and fiftieth may seem to have been made upon the same occasion, they are tuned so near together.
Whose sin is covered ] As excrements and ordure are covered, that they may not be an eyesore or annoyance to any. Sin is an odious thing, the devil’s drivel or vomit, the corruption of a dead soul, the filthiness of flesh and spirit. Get a cover for it, therefore ( sc. Christ’s righteousness, called a propitiation, or coverture, and raiment, Rev 3:18 ), Ut sic veletur, ne in iudicio reveletur, that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear.
Psa 32:2 Blessed [is] the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit [there is] no guile.
Ver. 2. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity ] Let no man think this triplication of the same thing needless or superfluous; since the poor soul, afflicted with sense of sin and fear of wrath, is not easily persuaded of pardon; but when faith would lay hold on the promise Satan rappeth her on the fingers, as it were, and seeks to beat her off. Besides, by such an emphatic repetition and heap of words to one purpose, the great grace of God in pardoning men’s sin, is plainly and plentifully declared and celebrated; it being a mercy that no words, how wide soever, can sufficiently set forth. By the word iniquity some understand original sin, that peccatum peccans, as the schools call it, that πανσπερμια , common cause and impure seminary of all actual disobediences. Neither this, nor any of the fruits of it, doth the Lord impute, reckon, count, or think to the pardoned sinner, 2 Corinthians 5:19 . Cui non cogitat peccatum, so some render it, To whom he thinketh no sin, that is, he reputeth or imputeth it not for a sin, he putteth it not into the reckoning, Isaiah 43:25 ; Isaiah 48:9 ; Isaiah 48:11 ; the bill or bond is cancelled, Colossians 2:14 , and there remaineth no action. Christ is our surety, Hebrews 7:22 . Now the surety and debtor are in law reputed as one person. Christ is made sin for us, that is, in our stead or place, that we might be "made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Corinthians 5:21 .
And in whose spirit there is no guile ] Sed sincere et sine dolo a suis peccatis resipiscit, et ad Dei misericordiam se recipit. The justified are also sanctified, 1 Corinthians 6:11 ; they hide not their sins, as Adam; they neither excuse nor extenuate what evils they have done, but think and speak the worst of their sins; they lay load upon themselves; they hate hypocrisy, and detest dissimulation; it is a question whether they do more desire to be good or abhor to seem only to be so. Basil, as he commendeth that sentence of Plato, that seeming sanctity is double iniquity; so he justly condemneth that saying of Euripides, I had rather seem to be good than be so indeed. That maxim of Machiavel is the same for sense, that virtue itself should not be sought after, but only the appearance; because the credit is a help, the use an encumberance. The pardoned sinner is sanctified throughout, washed not only from his sin (the guilt and filth of it), but his swinish nature also (the love and liking of it); he hath no mind to return to his vomit or wallowing in the mire, saith R. Solomon here; he saith not, Resipiscam et denuo peccabo, vel peccabo et resipiscam, as R. David senseth it, I will repent, and then sin again; or sin again, and then repent. This he knoweth to be incompatible with faith unfeigned, and hope unfailable, 1 Timothy 1:5 1 John 3:3 .
Psa 32:3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
Ver. 3. When I kept silence ] i.e. While I, through guile of spirit (for this leaven of hypocrisy is more or less in the best hearts, though it sway not there), concealed my sin, and kept the devil’s counsel, contenting myself with his false medicines and placiboes. That old manslayer knoweth well that as sin is the soul’s sickness, so confession is the soul’s vomit; and that there is no way to purge the sick soul but upwards. He, therefore, holdeth the lips close, that the heart may not disburden itself. David, by his persuasion, kept silence for a while, but that he found was to his ruth; and if he had held so it might have been to his ruin. Men, in pain of conscience, will shirk for ease rather than sue for pardon; as the prodigal first joined himself to a citizen, then ate husks, &c., before he would resolve to return. Satan had first seduced David, and then gagged him, as it were, that he might keep silence. But then God took him and set him upon the rack, where he roared till he resolved to confess. And the like befell Bilney, Bainham, Whittle, and many other of the martyrs, who, having first yielded, could never be at rest within themselves till they had publicly confessed their fault, and retracted their subscriptions to those Popish articles.
My bones waxed old ] i.e. My strength wasted and wore away, I was in a pitiful plight, per febrim forsan, saith an expositor, by a fever, possibly, the fruit of his inward affliction. So bitter and burdensome is sin cloaked and close kept.
Through my roaring all the day long ] Like a wild beast, belluinos potius quam humanos gemitus et querimonias fudi, I rather roared to the enfeebling of my body than repented to the easing of my conscience (Jun.). I cried out for pain, but prayed not for pardon. As a lion in a snare roareth, as a bird in a gin fluttereth, so it fareth with hypocrites under God’s hand (and with better men too sometimes, and for a season); but especially in pangs of conscience, they bellow like bulls in a net, or swine when a sticking; they beat the air with many brutish roarings and ragings, which avail them no more than if an ox should break out of the slaughter house after the deadly blow given him; the sting of conscience still remaineth.
Psa 32:4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
Ver. 4. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me ] See what God can do when once he taketh a man to do. Day and night he had sinned against God; therefore day and night he suffereth; and glad he may be that he so escapeth, and is not forced to undergo an eternity of extremity. Some think that this psalm and the sixth were made much about a time, when David was recently recovered of some grievous fit of sickness. It may be meant only of his inward terrors, or chiefly, at least; his body suffering by sympathy, as having shared in his sin.
My moisture is turned into the drought of summer ] My natural radical moisture, the oil that maintaineth the lamp of life, is dried up and become like a lump of clay; the vigour also and verdure of my soul is quelled and consumed with the fire of thy fierce wrath. God will bring his best people to this if they put him to it; that they shall find it to be the greatest folly in the world to buy the sweetest sin at so dear a rate.
Selah ] I speak it feelingly. O quantum tormentum, &c. O aridum et exhaustum me prae maestitia, &c., O my pitiful condition! (Vatablus).
Psa 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Ver. 5. I acknowledged my sin unto thee ] Though it were long first, yet thou broughtest me to it. The soul is ready to hang her comforts on every hedge, to shift and shirk in every bycorner for comfort, rather than to repair to the right fountain. Lot should have escaped to the mountains at first; but he would needs go to Zoar; which yet was soon too hot to hold him: David should have acknowledged his sin ere this time; he should speedily have cast up the poison he had swallowed down, before it got to the vitals; but he had no mind to it till he had tasted of the whip, and then he agonized his sin unto the Lord, he put himself into the hands of justice, in hope of mercy. The properties or conditions of sound confession are these, say the schoolmen in this four lines of verse:
Sit simplex, humilis confessio, pura, fidelis,
Atque frequens, nuda et discreta, lubens, verecunda,
Integra, secreta, et lachrymabilis, accelerata,
Fortis, et accusans, et se punire parata.
And mine iniquity have I not hid ] In confession we must show the Lord the iniquity of our sin, the filthiness of our lewdness, the abomination of our provocations, Romans 7:13 . We must bring out our sins (as they took the vessels of the sanctuary, Ezr 8:34 ) by number and by weight; laying open how many transgressions are wrapped up in our sins, and their circumstances. See for this Leviticus 16:21 .
I said, I will confess, &c. ] i.e. I resolved and purposed so to do; but ere that could be done "thou forgavest," &c. God’s ear was in David’s heart before his confession could be in his tongue. So, at another time, he did but conceive a purpose to build God a house, and God rewarded it with the building and establishing of David’s house, 2 Samuel 7:12-10.7.13 ; 2 Samuel 7:16
And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin ] The sting and stain of it, the criminal and penal part of it, the worst thing that was in it; not the fire only, but the filth that was in it; reserving still to thyself a power of fatherly corrections and medicinal miseries. Vel peccatum peccati. Utitur duobus vocabulis ad aggravandum peccatum suum (Kimchi). As we say, terra pulveris, or caenum luti. But the iniquity of sin is wiped off by the sponge of true confession. Homo agnoscit, Dens ignoscit. Man no sooner acknowledgeth the debt but God crosseth the book. It is, therefore, good counsel that a father giveth, Fac confitendo propitium, quem tacendo non facis nescium, Confess and find mercy; since by a senseless silence thou canst not keep thy sins from God’s knowledge of them. Let out that bad blood by opening a vein, that good health may enter.
Per miserere mei, tollitur ira Dei.
Know you what? said Henry VIII to the duke of Suffolk, concerning Stephen Gardiner, when he had confessed his Popery, for which he should have been the morrow after sent to the Tower; he hath confessed himself as guilty in this matter as his man, and hath with much sorrow and pensiveness sued for my pardon. And you know what my nature and custom hath been in such cases, evermore to pardon them that will not dissemble, but confess their fault, &c. (Acts and Mon. fol. 1177).
Selah ] q.d. I speak it joyfully, there being no such matter of mirth in all the world as the sweet sense of forgiveness of sin. O singularem (inquit David hic) Dei erga homines peccata sua agnoscentes gratiam et benevolentiam!
Psa 32:6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Ver. 6. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee ] "For this," that thou hast so graciously done for me, the godly shall gladly perform these two duties; the prayer of faith and the obedience of faith. As I have been an example to them of sin, which is now my grief, so I shall be to them of good, and that is my comfort. Where note, first, That every godly man is a praying man. God hath no dumb children in his house. Secondly, That such will be making use of God’s dealings with others for their own instruction and comfort, "For this." Thirdly, That they will observe the fittest times to make their addresses to God; as courtiers watch their - mollissima fandi tempora.
In a time when thou mayest be found ] i.e. In a time of need, say some, Psalms 50:15 ; or, in a time of favour (as the Chaldee here hath it), Isaiah 55:6 , before the decree bring forth, Zephaniah 2:2 , before the drawbridge be taken up, the day of grace be expired, John 7:34 ; John 8:21 Heb 6:6 Luke 13:29 .
Surely in the floods of great waters ] In the greatest of outward troubles or inward perplexities.
They shall not come nigh unto him ] sc. To prejudice his eternal salvation; freed he shall be, if not from the smart, yet from the hurt, of personal crosses; and for public calamities, he shall be delivered, if not from the common destruction, yet from the common distraction. Washed he may be, as Paul was in the shipwreck, but not drowned with those floods of great waters; be they never so great, they are bounded. Besides, the godly man rescipiscit antequam superveniant fluctus miseriarum, as R. Obad. here noteth, repenteth before those floods come upon him, and so redeemeth his own sorrows. For he saith thus,
Psa 32:7 Thou [art] my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
Ver. 7. Thou art my hiding place, &c. ] And therefore I, being a pardoned person, shall be in safety under thy wings, Psalms 91:4 , per totum.
Thou shalt preserve me from trouble ] Either from it or in it; that I be not hurt by it. The godly, after one trouble, must prepare for another; after one deliverance, expect another. A company cometh, as she said.
Thou shalt compass me about with songs ] i.e. Plentifully furnish me with matter of praise, ita ut laetus Paeana canam. And like as in a lottery, at every prize the trumpet soundeth; so at every deliverance I will sing aloud to thy glory. All my springs shall be in thee.
Psa 32:8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Ver. 8. I will instruct thee and teach thee, &c. ] No disgrace is it then for great men to be teachers of others. Here we have a prince preacher; such as was also Solomon, George prince of Anhalt, and others.
I will guide thee with mine eye ] i.e. With my careful inspection and oversight; I will see that thou profit in godliness. The Chaldee hath it, I will counsel thee, and set mine eye upon thee for good. Thus Christ counselled Peter with his eye, Luke 22:61 . Ministers must watch over their people, and see that all go right. Hence they are called seers, superintendents, bishops.
Psa 32:9 Be ye not as the horse, [or] as the mule, [which] have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Ver. 9. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule ] David having, according to the title Maschil, promised to teach, useth this preface to bespeak attention. Be not uncounsellable, irreclaimable, such as Basil (Ad Evag. Epist. 10) complaineth of, qui neque quid sit verum sciunt, neque sustinent discere, who neither knew, nor would be taught, what was true, and fit to be practised. Of the rhinoceros some write, that slain he may be, caught he cannot be. Others, that he is animal animo indomito, a most untameable creature; for if he be taken, he presently dieth of sullenness. Such spirits we meet with not a few, who yet would take it in foul scorn to be reckoned horses and asses, that have no understanding, neither will be taught any. To these the psalmist here saith, Ne obstupescite, et obbrutescite ad exercitationes Dei, &c. Be not as horse or mule, lest ye be led through a fool’s paradise into a true prison. Be not headlong, headstrong, untameable, untractable, &c. The horse and mule are instanced, as well known among the Jews, and used to be ridden on.
Which have no understanding ] And yet the horse knoweth his owner, &c. Strange things are reported of Bucephalus, and Julius Caesar’s great horse. Of the Egyptian Mamelukes’ horses it is reported, that they were so docible, that at certain signs or speeches of the rider they would with their teeth reach him up from the ground a lance, an arrow, or such like thing; and as if they had known the enemy, run upon him with open mouth, and lash at him with their heels; and had by nature and custom learned not to be afraid of anything.
Whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle ] Lest they kick and bite thee, Ne mordeat nocentve tibi (Jun.). Such is the mad world’s wages and usage of the most faithful preachers. B. Ridley lamented it in his time; the great ones spurned privily against those that went about most busily and wholesomely to cure their sore backs. As for Latimer, Lever, Bradford, Knox, saith he, their tongues were so sharp, they ripped in so deep to their galled backs, to let out the filthy matter, that they could never abide them. Thus he, and much more concerning King Edward VI’s courtiers (Acts and Mon. 1616). The words may be read thus, Whose mouth, except it be held with bit and bridle, they will not come nigh unto thee, that is, thou wilt not be able to rule them. It is a good observation of a modern divine, Not the unruly colt only, but the horse that is broken, hath a bit and bridle also. So even the godly need the bridle of the law, ne spiritum sessorem excutiant, lest they cast their rider.
Psa 32:10 Many sorrows [shall be] to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
Ver. 10. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked ] This is David’s doctrine (his use followeth in the next verse), Many pains, or great smarts, are for the wicked, &c. And as Luther saith, Let him that can rightly distinguish between law and gospel give thanks to God, and know himself to be a good divine; so say I, let him that is firmly persuaded of this truth here delivered know himself to be a good proficient in Christ’s school: for it is the principle of all holy learning.
Psa 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all [ye that are] upright in heart.
Ver. 11. Be glad in the Lord ] Joy is the just man’s portion. A pardoned sinner, as Psalms 32:1-19.32.2 , is here called upon (in a use of consolation) to be as merry as mirth can make him; for what should all such a one? as we say of a rich man. Viscount Lisle, in Henry VIII’s time, died for joy of an unexpected pardon. But what was that to God’s pardon of all sins?
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 32". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent