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V. 1- 3. This psalm is generally considered as a preface to the book, and supposed to have been prefixed to it by Ezra.
(Notes, Ezra 7:6-10. Nehemiah 8:1-2.) It establishes the important distinction between the righteous and the wicked; and assures us of the felicities of the former, and the misery of the latter. All men shun misery, and aim to be happy : but few understand that misery springs from sin, and that happiness can be enjoyed only in the favour of God. This the Scriptures declare ; and by this light the believer seeks and finds, what he would otherwise seek in vain. In such portions of the word of God, we ought not to look for the way in which sinners are made righteous ; or for the origin of that difference which subsists among men, who are all of one nature : for they only inform us of the character of such as are accepted by God, and are in the way to heaven.
The translation in our prayer-book renders this in the past tense ; and though the original might very well bear that meaning, yet the context and the whole tenour of Scripture shew, that this cannot be the exclusive sense ; for that would imply, that they alone are blessed, who never have walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful : whereas penitent believers, whatever their previous character has been, are partakers of the blessings, which is evidenced by their subsequent conduct ; and none but they answer this description.
" The ungodly " are those, however moral or virtuous, who profanely despise spiritual blessings, and live without any due regard to God and religion, as all unconverted men do. " The counsel of the ungodly " signifies, the maxims and principles of worldly men, who form their plans and calculate advantages or disadvantages, according to their several pursuits, without bringing eternal things, and the favour or displeasure of God, into the account : and " walking in this counsel," signifies an habitual conduct formed on such principles, and regulated according to such rules. " Sinners," in this climax, seems to mean, those who add to their ungodliness gross immoralities, and such crimes as natural conscience and the opinion of the world protest against. (Notes, Luke 7:37-39. John 9:24-34. Romans 5:6-10.)
And to " stand in the way " of sinners," implies, the habit of vices gradually overcoming the sense of shame and remorse of conscience ; till a quiet, rarely interrupted by convictions, is super induced. Yet these occasional convictions are the source of uneasiness ; and this prepares the sinner for " sitting down " in the seat of the scornful." " The scornful " no doubt are those, who encourage themselves and each other in ungodliness and wickedness by infidel and atheistical tenets ; and who have recourse to corrupt principles, to bear them out in corrupt practices ; and so are given up to a blinded and deluded mind, as a punishment of their conduct in following the impulse of a wicked heart. And to " sit in the seat of the scornful," is to become teachers and apostles of infidelity, and impiously to ridicule, with all the genius, wit, and sense, which they possess, the doctrines, precepts, and worshippers of God. (Notes,).Proverbs 1:21-23
Thus " the simple ones love simplicity, and fools hate " knowledge, and scorners delight in their scorning." But the happy persons here described, have been preserved, or recovered, from these dreadful evils. They have, by divine grace, separated from all ungodly companions, and lost their relish for the vain pleasures of the world ; they have learned to delight in the word of God, and to meditate continually upon it. This engages their affections, and occupies that time, and those thoughts, which others waste in vanity or sloth : thus they become like a tree planted in a well watered soil, which seasonably brings forth fruit, and abides verdant and flourishing ; and Whilst they are rendered stedfast and joyful in hope, and fruitful in holiness, they are made useful to others, and eventually prosper in the best desires and purposes of their heart.
(Notes, Joshua 1:8. Jeremiah 17:5-8.) The seat of the scornful. (1) ’ The seat of pestilences.’ Sept. See Acts 24:5. Gr.
V. 4- 6. The Psalmist, having briefly stated the character and felicity of the righteous, contrasts with these the worthlessness and misery of the ungodly, however distinguished ; comprising all, who are not accepted worshippers of God. These are not only like unfruitful or withered trees, but despicable and useless as the chaff; they are readily driven from one delusion to another; and shall soon be torn away from all their worldly prosperity, and cast into hopeless misery. However their success may now be envied, or their character mistaken, the judgment of God will infallibly separate them from the congregation of the righteous. (Notes, Job 20:4-29
For the Lord hath appointed, and he approves, the way in which the righteous walk ; he knows all its snares, dangers, and difficulties, and will watch over all who walk in it : but he leaves the wicked to the consequences of that way which they choose ; and it leads directly to the pit of destruction. (Notes,Psalms 37:18-19. Proverbs 4:18-19. Nahum 1:7-8. 2 Timothy 2:19.)
The tendency of corrupt nature is from bad to worse.
Men first forget and neglect God and his worship, and act from worldly maxims and principles ; then they often venture on gross and scandalous crimes ; and at length they frequently settle in infidelity, or an impious contempt of religion, and become the avowed and determined enemies of its doctrines and precepts. None know, when they first shake off the impressions of a religious education, or venture to neglect known duty, how far they may be left to proceed : when inward and outward restraints are surmounted, they may rush downward into impiety and iniquity, with accelerated velocity, as the stone falls to the earth. We ought to be thankful, if we have been preserved from these dreadful enormities, and have not been left to ’’ sit down "finally " in the seat of the scornful." And young person’s should be warned not to venture aside into a path which leads to consequences so fatal : for numbers are left to wander from God, to be hardened in sin, and finally to perish. But blessed be God for the covenant of grace, and Jesus the Mediator of it : by his perfect obedience even unto death, he is become " the end of *he law " for righteousness to everyone that believeth." Whenever the sinner becomes sensible of his guilt and misery, he may return by Christ, the living Way, and join the company of the righteous. In the exercise of repentance and faith, he separates from the society of the ungodly, in which he can no longer delight. He cannot now act according to their maxims, or conform to their fashions, join in their pleasures, or relish their profane scoffs and jests.
Perceiving the vanity of the world and the odiousness of sin, he begins to delight in the word of God, which shews him the preciousness of Christ, and the beauty of holiness.
Reading and meditating daily on the sacred Scriptures with faith and prayer, he becomes " in Christ a new creature ; " he has now new desires, pleasures, hopes, fears, sorrows, companions, and employments ; his thoughts, words, and actions are changed ; he enters upon a new stale and bears a new character. (Notes, Deuteronomy 6:6 f ).
" Behold all things " are become new ! " and the word of God is the support, comfort, and rule of his new and heavenly life. This man’s religion does not consist in notions or forms; in due season he will bring forth the substantial fruits of righteousness : for he is planted and takes root in a good soil; and, through the word, derives from Christ those communications of divine grace, which gradually transform his soul into the Redeemer’s image. Nor will his profession end in apostasy : for his Saviour lives, and he shall live also ; and though he may be tried and often disappointed, yet he shall find at last, that he had all profitable success in each of his undertakings. How different the character, prospect, and end of the ungodly ! Their doom will be as dreadful, as their characters are worthless ; for, being " vessels of wrath fitted for destruction," they will be driven from the presence of the Lord into unquenchable fire. They may indeed here impose upon their fellow creatures, as well as deceive themselves ; but the Judge will perfectly and finally separate them from the righteous, and will send them away into everlasting punishment, while he receives his people into life eternal. (Notes, Matthew 25:31-36.) If then we would be happy, we must choose the way which the Lord knows and approves, though it be unfashionable and despised; we must come out and be separate from the wicked ; we must learn to redeem our time for the study of the scriptures and attendance on the ordinances of God ; we must examine whether we can and do delight in these sacred exercises, and in any measure become fruitful in holiness. And if we meet with troubles by the way, we should keep the end in view : for surely we can never envy those, however prosperous or admired, who throng that broad road which leads to destruction. (Note, Matthew 7:13-14.) ^
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Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 1". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13