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The happiness of the godly; the unhappiness of the ungodly. Psalms 1:1. Blessed is the man— This Psalm is generally supposed to have been designed as a preface to the rest, and as a short luminary of the whole book. The subject of it is, the difference between pious and ungodly men, both in this life and in that which is to come: it was compared either by the collector of this book of Psalms, or by David himself, as Apollinarius and others think. Fenwick, in his introduction to this Psalm, thinks that the subject of it, as of the whole book, is the Messiah; who seems, says he, to be THE Man, (for the Hebrew is emphatical,) whom the prophet here meant to describe as a Blessed One: and so judged St. Augustin. He came to give us an example and to fulfil all righteousness, and is, for that reason, represented as never walking in the counsel of the wicked, but placing his whole delight in the law of the Lord. The character of this Blessed One appears to be drawn here by way of climax. He does not walk after the counsel of the wicked; he does not stand, or even take a step in the way of sinners; he does not even sit in company, so as to have any intimacy or familiar correspondence with such scorners of God and his law, though occasionally, and for their good, he converses with them. Thus, I have not sat with vain persons,—I will not sit with the wicked, Psa 26:4-5 plainly mean, "I will not make them my familiars or chosen companions;" and, thus taken, it seems most naturally to lead to the character of one whose whole delight is in the law of the Lord, and who, for that reason, will be so far from doing evil himself, that he will never enter into any familiarity with evil men. See Fenwick's Psalter in its original form, and Bishop Hare.
Psalms 1:3. Like a tree planted by the rivers of water— It is observed by Fleury, in his excellent dissertation concerning this and several other psalms of the like kind, whose subjects are purely moral, that the want of tender expressions and pathetic sentiments is sufficiently compensated by beautiful paintings, fine metaphors, and noble comparisons. The literal sense of the word פלגי palgei rendered rivers, is divisions, which may refer to the custom of conveying water to orchards or gardens by cuts or trenches, from springs or rivers, to be diverted or stopped, or applied in a greater or less plenty to this or that plantation, as the gardener shall direct: and this acceptation of the word is very proper for this place, as referring to an abundantly flourishing fruit-tree. His and he should be rendered in this verse its and it; Whatsoever it doeth; i.e. the metaphor being kept up "Whatsoever this tree bringeth forth, whether bud, blossom, or fruit, it shall prosper."
Psalms 1:4. Like the chaff— This comparison is frequently used by the Psalmist, and it receives great illustration and emphasis, when we consider that the people of Judea had their threshing-floors on an eminence; that the method of winnowing their corn was, by throwing it up against the wind with a shovel, and that they chose this lofty situation, that the wind might act with more force, and drive the chaff away more easily. The wicked seem to be here compared to chaff, because, instead of continually meditating, and minding the law of God, they are continually hurried on by their corrupt affections from one wickedness to another, and so rendered unable to abide the judgment of the great day. This seems implied in the words, Therefore they shall not stand in the judgment. See Shaw's Travels, and Fenwick. It should be considered, that, in general, the Psalms were made at a time when God governed the Jews with an equal providence; and, according to the promises and threatenings of the law, gave good things to those who obeyed him, and as surely punished the wicked, even in this world. But with us the case is otherwise. We have clearer and better promises; and it is apparent enough, that there is an unequal distribution of things in this world; so that we must wait for our reward till we enter into the next life, when the Son of God shall render to every man according to his work. We must not, therefore, expect that this, and many other such promises, dispersed throughout the Psalms, should always be literally fulfilled in this world; for we can apply them to ourselves, as Christians, no otherwise than as certain assurances, that they who are entitled to them are undoubtedly in God's favour; and, therefore, if we behave so as to deserve them, according to the literal promise to the Jews, we may humbly hope, that either they will be made good to us here, or else, which is far better, we shall, in the world to come, receive a much greater reward. It is observable, that in 2Co 9:9 where St. Paul quotes Psa 112:9 he breaks off in the middle of the verse; which seems the more extraordinary, because there are but a few words left: He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth for ever: here he stops; and the reason seems to be, because the remaining part of the verse, his horn shall be exalted with honour, relates rather to the temporal reward, which the Psalmist assured his countrymen, the Jews, that the charitable man should have. and this the Apostle left out, as an improper consideration for his Christian disciples; for whom, as their views were so much more noble, it was a sufficient encouragement to consider, that their righteousness should remain for ever. I here mention this once for all; and, though there are many passages in the Psalms, where the same observation might be proper, I shall presume that it need not to be repeated.
Psalms 1:5. Shall not stand in the judgment— That is, "They shall have nothing to allege in their defence, but shall be condemned without remission." The Syriac renders it, They shall not be acquitted.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, This Psalm opens with the description of the holy and truly happy man. Blessed is the man, or, O the blessedness of the man! how great, how unutterable, in time and eternity! His character is strongly marked; and by his fruits he may be known. He walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly; does not take his maxims from the world, which lieth in wickedness, nor fashion his conduct after their destructive ways; nor standeth in the way of sinners, though himself was once such; nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful; however high their pretences to superior wisdom, and however much they affect to treat with contempt the revealed will of God: such children of pride shall not have his ear for a moment; their company he will shun as a plague, and their breath as infectious. But his delight is in the law of the Lord. This sacred clue the man of God with delight follows, and in his law doth he meditate day and light: his Bible is his companion, he wishes no better entertainment; the glorious truths engage his deep meditation, are the matter of his daily converse; and if by night his eyes are kept waking, his thoughts are pleasingly occupied in God's word: in this best course his soul prospers in every divine disposition, and consequently partakes of true and lasting felicity; for holiness and happiness are inseparable. And he shall be, or then shall he be, like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. When, by divine grace, he is thus enabled to delight and meditate in God's word, the gracious effects of it will be evident; his leaf of profession continues green and flourishing, and his holy fruits of righteousness abound. The Lord, whose planting he is, waters him every moment; conveys to his soul the living streams of divine grace, from Jesus the living fountain; and thus he grows tall as the cedar, and fruitful as the vine: nor is his state fading, his leaves withering, or his fruit blasted like the untimely fig's: no, His leaf also shall not wither. Preserved by Almighty grace, decay shall not tarnish his beauty, nor apostacy lay the axe to the root; but whatsoever he doeth shall prosper; every prayer shall receive an answer of peace; every labour shall be attended with success; every providence be sanctified; and, in short, all things work together for his good. Such is the blessed, holy, happy man. May my soul bear the divine impression, and correspond more to this amiable character!
2nd, The very contrast to those above described, is the character of the ungodly; they are not so; sin is their way; the company they keep is, like themselves, ungodly; their opinions are erroneous, as their practice is perverse. They abide in the paths of wickedness, and sit down content with their own deceivings; negligent of God's word, never consulting it in secret; and if they sit under it, what a weariness is it? Their thoughts, dissipated in pursuits of worldly vanity, or fleshly indulgences, never fix on the sacred volume; nor day nor night are they occupied therein. Like a blasted tree their leaf is withered, and, instead of yielding fruit, is only fit fuel for the flames: the curse of God is upon them in all the labour of their hands, and misery follows them closer than their shadow. They are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Vanity is stamped on all their enjoyments; they are driven before the breath of every temptation; light and despicable, in God's account, as the dust of the balance, and ready to suffer the eternal blasting of the breath of his displeasure; when, with his fan in his hand, he shall thoroughly purge his floor, and the chaff shall be burnt with fire unquenchable. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment: in that dreadful day, when God shall summon to his bar the guilty sons of Adam, to receive their eternal doom, then shall confusion cover them, every plea be silenced, every mouth be stopped. Though, with hypocrisy, perhaps, they once joined in the assembly of God's saints, their place shall be no more found; nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous: an awful, an eternal separation shall be made; these shall go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal: For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; they walk by faith in Christ the living way, and they are accounted righteous, as accepted in him; and are really righteous; as they derive a divine nature from him; God knows them, sees and approves the way in which they go, and will soon everlastingly reward them. But the way of the ungodly shall perish: they have chosen their delusions, and must perish in their own deceiving; their way is alway grievous, and the end thereof is misery and death eternal. Lord, shut not up my soul with sinners!
Let the righteous rejoice; let the sinner tremble. In a moment this dread eternity opens, and their everlasting state is determined: oh! that it might awaken the fears of the ungodly, and quicken the diligence of the faithful!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/