corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.12.11
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Psalms 15

 

 

Verses 1-5

Psalms 15:1-5

Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle?

An ideal worshipper

The ideal worshipper of Jehovah is painted in this Psalm in a few broad outlines. The tone of the Psalm accords with the circumstances of the time when David brought the ark to Jerusalem. The two main points are: the conception of the guests of Jehovah, and the statement of the ethical qualifications of these. The Psalmist consults the Master of the House as to the terms on which He extends hospitality, which terms it is His right to prescribe. The character of the God determines the character of the worshipper. The roots of ethics are in religion. The Old Testament ideal of the righteous man flows from its revelation of the righteous God. Not men’s own fancies, but insight gained by communion with God, and docile inquiry of Him will reliably tell what manner of men they are who can abide in His light. Verse 2 sums up the qualifications of Jehovah’s guest in one comprehensive demand, that he should walk uprightly, and then analyses that requirement into the two of righteous deeds and truthful speech. True, the ideal here is not the full Christian one. It is too merely negative for that, and too entirely concerned with acts. Therein it reproduces the limitation of the earliest revelation . . . Usury and bribery were common sins, as they still are in communities on the same industrial and judicial level as that mirrored in the Psalm. The Psalmist, in the last verse, clearly recognises that such a character as he has outlined not only dwells in Jehovah’s tent, but will stand unmoved though all the world should rook. Righteousness is the one stable thing in the universe. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The good citizen

The qualities which are required of one, not who visits the tabernacle merely, but who dwells in it,--not who ascends the hill only, but rests on it,--are those of an ordinary citizen, those without which a man cannot fulfil any of his common duties in the world. Nay, the qualities are chiefly negative. It is not said that he must be brave, magnanimous, ready to sacrifice himself. He is not to be corrupt in his life, not to take reward against the innocent, not to lie. One of the conditions reads as if it were drawn merely from the civil code of the nation. We have talked as if people might be very good in all relations with their neighbours, and yet not be servants of God. They must be something over and above true citizens for this. But the Old Testament books never teach this. They say boldly, “You are not honest and straightforward in your dealings, and so you think God is the same with you. You do not trust Him. You do not confess your sins to Him, nor draw nigh to His holy hill.” And has the New Testament altered this? Does it teach another lesson? No doubt there is this, that it teaches more perfectly how we may rise up out of our old evil habits; how God has revealed His righteousness in Christ for the remission of sins. But He has revealed His righteousness, and no unrighteousness call have fellowship with Him. Christ is our help to this righteousness, that we may share His nature. Now, do we agree to this? Then let us rejoice and sing; for Christ has ascended on high, that we might be delivered from our old evil life, and that we might possess a righteous life in Him. But if this is not what we want, if we want a religion that will make us easy and comfortable in the frauds which belong to our different crafts and professions,--if the shopkeeper lifts up his voice loudly in the denunciation of Popery or some unpopular opinion, that he may more securely and with less sense of self-reproach adulterate his goods, and use the false weight and the deceitful balance, which are abominable,--then we ought to be told, one and all of us, that the hill of Sinai, with all its thunders, is not more terrible than the Zion on which God dwells; that the New Testament is not more but less tolerant of such practices than the Old, and that God will appear as a swift witness against our crimes and falsehoods. And this not because we are wanting in some transcendent qualities which men have dreamed of as befitting a Church, but because we have those qualities which are the death of nations. But many look upon the nation and the Church as scarcely compatible, indeed, as mostly the opposites of each other. No doubt that with the theory of some in regard to the Church they are opposites. But a nation is pledged, to maintain a wholesome, practical, manly morality, entirely opposed to that morality of “touch not, taste not, handle not” which a Church such as I have described must by its nature favour, and has always favoured in fact,--a morality consistent with the grossest deviations from common truth and honesty. And I solemnly conjure Protestant assertors of individual holiness to see well to it that by their teaching they are not hindering the great protest against idolatry which is involved in the very existence of a nation; whether they are not substituting certain capricious and artificial maxims for the homely morality of the Bible, and whether thus they may not be preparing their sons for that very system which they most dread. But, on the other hand, I would maintain that a holy Catholic Church, in its truest, widest, deepest sense, does lie beneath the holy and righteous nation; that they are not contraries, but that one is the vestibule to the other; that each is the support of the other; that this Church is no imaginary utopian society, no artificial society, but a real society constituted in Christ our ascended Lord. Thus the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father, that He might fill all things, is the meeting point between these two Divine principles, these two human societies. In it we find the consummation of all the expectations and hopes of the old world, that in it we might find the beginning of all that is purest and holiest in the new. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Who shall abide with God

Religious people are concerned to know, for their own comfort, whom God will receive at last into His own tabernacle above.

I. Abiding in God’s tabernacle. Or, dwelling upon His holy hill. We understand these expressions as meaning God’s residence in heaven. Who, then, shall dwell with God in glory everlasting? Let us take heed to our ways, and walk with care and endeavour, by God’s grace, to make our calling and selection sure, that so an entrance may be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

II. In answer to this earnest inquiry. Those who walk uprightly, and work righteousness, and speak the truth in their hearts. An heir of heaven walks with God as reconciled to Him, and walks uprightly, i.e. sincerely and honestly. If we work righteousness we must have a principle of righteousness implanted in us by the saving grace of God. The expression, “speaking the truth in the heart,” is strikingly singular. It shows that people may speak the truth, and yet the heart not love it; but all Christian believers are inwardly what they appear outwardly. (R. Horsfall.)

The Church militant

This is a question by David propounded. Consider--

1. Who demandeth, David, the man of God, seeing the wonderful hypocrisy of men in frequenting the holy assemblies, and making a pretence of religion, being stirred up with singular love to true religion, inflamed with a fervent zeal to God’s glory, burning with earnest desire to know the true saints from dissembling hypocrites, and demanded this question--“Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, who shall rest in Thy holy hill?

2. Of whom he demandeth. He flieth unto God, because it passeth the knowledge of men, who only look into the things apparent and outward. The Lord alone can sunder the wheat from the chaff, the tares from the wheat, the grain from the cockle and darnel. It is the Lord who is Father of all the whole family, which is named either on heaven or on earth, which is His Church; it is the Lord that is the chief Governor and Ruler of His house, which are His subjects; it is God alone who keepeth the Book of Life in the closet of His own heart, wherein He hath registered all His saints. It is the Lord, and not men, which pitched the tabernacle and testimony of His presence. It is the Lord whose property and prerogative it is by right to know the heart. It is the Lord whose eyes are upon all His creatures.

3. What is demanded. By “tabernacle” here some understand the Church militant. By the “hill of God” they understand the Church triumphant. The question then is,” Who shall I make some reckoning of, to be Thy Church visible and militant?”

The Church of God militant here on earth is compared to the tabernacle, and to the holy hill of God.

1. To the tabernacle. This Moses reared. As the tabernacle was pitched here and there, and removed from place to place, so the Church militant hath no certain rest in any appointed place, but is now in this place, now in that, at the appointment of the Lord. As in the time of the ark and tabernacle, God there showeth Himself and His glory unto the people, so doth the Lord reveal Himself in the Church and Assembly of His saints, there declaring His glory. As the Lord promised by Moses to dwell in the tabernacle, and there to walk and be conversant with Israel His people, so does Almighty God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son, our Saviour, dwell in the Church which is His immaterial tabernacle. The Church and Assembly of God’s saints is called the House of God, because He dwelleth therein. The Church militant is also compared unto a hill or mountain.

1. For the allusion that it hath unto Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, being Mount Moriah, where Abraham would have sacrificed his son Isaac. This hill was a type of the true Church, among whom God dwelleth forever.

2. The Church may be called a hill or mountain, for the height, altitude, and lifting up thereof.

3. And for the open sight thereof.

4. In regard of the strength and stayedness, the Church may be called a mountain, for the hilly and high places are most strong and most impregnable. The Church is called a “holy hill,” because God hath sanctified it and made it holy for Himself, because in the Church the Lord giveth manifold testimonies and signs of His holiness, and because the Lord taketh the defence of His Church into His own hands.

Doctrines--

1. See how great the hypocrisy of man oftentimes is in the pretence of godliness.

2. The prophet flieth unto God in the discerning of the true saints from hypocrites. However apparent things may be known unto men, hidden things belong only unto the Lord.

3. Learn not to play the hypocrite.

4. When we lack wisdom we should flee unto God for instruction.

5. Learn the state and condition of the militant Church. It is but as a tabernacle.

6. In this world the saints must not look for any rest, continuance, or certain abode.

7. We must not forsake the Church of God because of afflictions and troubles.

8. Who shall rest in the holy hill of God? The Church militant rejoices in the hope of happiness to come.

9. There is no true and sound rest save in the holy hill of God. (R. Turnbull.)

Earth as seen from the holy hill of communion with God

Unto this mountain, if we should ascend but in thought, as Scipio once did in his dream, and from thence should behold the earth, we should easily contemn this inferior world with the desires thereof. For the whole globe of the earth, together with the water, which seemeth now so great unto us, if we could see it from the highest heavens, would appear unto us like a mote in the sun. But if withal we felt the unspeakable joys of heaven, and from thence should cast down our eyes unto this valley of tears, there to behold the vanity of vanities, as Solomon saith, it cannot be expressed with how fervent a desire we should be inflamed to have our habitation in heaven. Peter, when as he was present in the transfiguration of Christ in the Mount Tabor, and had a taste of the heavenly glory, he was straightway ravished therewith, and desired greatly to remain there. “Lord,” saith he, “it is good being here, let us make three tabernacles,” etc. (G. Downame.)

Dwelling on the holy hill

Our abode in the mountain of God is expressed in the word “dwelling,” whereby two things are signified, perpetuity and rest. Perpetuity, for there the children of God remain not as pilgrims for a time, but as citizens and heirs forever. Whereupon the kingdom of heaven is also called an heavenly inheritance, wherein are everlasting habitations, and an inheritance immortal and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. Again, the word “dwelling” importeth rest. For there the children of God do not wander as pilgrims, neither are subject to any molestations, but do wholly rest from their labours. And for that cause the kingdom of heaven is called the rest of God, and as it were an eternal Sabbath. In respect whereof the land of Canaan was a type of our heavenly country. (G. Downame.)

The soul of man turned towards heaven.

Man is a mirror, and it is an all-important matter which way the mirror is turned. If downwards, it can reflect only earthly things,--the mire, the dirt, the filth of the earth; if turned upward, it may reflect the heavens, with all its glory of sun, moon, and stars. The mirror turned downward is the carnal mind, the mirror turned upward is the spiritual mind. Sometimes in an instant of time the inversion is accomplished, and he who before was of the earth earthy, comes to discern and reflect the things of God and heaven. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

A question and an answer

Question: Who is the man who would be able to ascend unto that hill of God where the highest visions of the Almighty may be perceived? The answer is: The man whose life is blameless. All that follows is a description of the moral qualifications of such a man. What is striking in the Psalm is the moral principle which seems to underlie it. There are laws in the spiritual kingdom, and the Psalmist gets a glimpse of these spiritual laws, and he makes them the subject of his poem. The law here is this, that the condition of power in life, and the condition of the vision of the Almighty, is to be found in the ethical or moral considerations. It is the man whose life is blameless, the man whose character will bear investigation, the man whose whole being and nature are animated by a strict regard of what is morally right and true, that comes by degrees to this possession of strong invincible character, and that capacity for seeing the highest things of God. There is no idea here that the Psalmist can purchase the vision of God by the payment of so much good done. To do that would have been to vitiate the whole moral basis of the idea; for if a man seeks heaven for profit he is not, of course, a heavenly-minded person. Morality and spirituality must be genuine and sincere if they are to be moral or spiritual things at all. What the Psalmist does set forth is this, that the conditions of this insight and power of life lie, not so much in the possession of intellectual force as in the possession of moral capacities. There is a constant tendency to confuse religion with theology. Theology is only the scientific expression of the ideas which are incorporated in religion. Religion itself is quite different. A man may be religious who has very small theological opinions. Our power of seeing Divine things does not depend so much upon our moral integrity as upon our spiritual devotion. Religion is a moral sympathy between the soul of the creature and the spirit of the Creator. It is the moral sympathy between you and me in this world and the great God who put us into this world. That is what is said in the Gospel of St. John, “If any man will do His will,”--if a man has a moral desire to follow out the Divine ideal in his life, if his soul is in sympathy with the Divine moral earnestness, then he shall be able to understand; he will gain a perception of the meaning of God’s action, and the vision of God which would otherwise be denied him. Observe the wonderful way in which the same thought underlies the great creation of the Italian poet. This Psalm is a sort of “Divine Comedy” in miniature, for it exactly expresses the thought which Dante had in his mind. What are the conditions, according to Dante, in which a man can enter into the vision of the great paradise over his head? He must have understood evil, and seen it in all its hideousness, and must have overcome and climbed that steep of purgatory, disciplining by degrees the moral defects in him, until at last, when he climbs to the summit of the mount of purgatory, he is the immovable man, the man who is crowned with crown and mitre, as god over himself. And only when that is achieved, when that moral sincerity is at last made a real thing in him, is he capable of ascending under the guidance of Divine truth into the lofty regions of paradise. This is exactly the same thought. What an enormous source of joy that ought to be to the human heart. Let us remember that we have within us a Divine Spirit that is constantly prompting us to higher things. (W. Boyd Carpenter, D. D.)

Practical Christianity

Religion is not a far-off, but a pressing and everyday affair. The very humblest of mankind may be the greatest saint of God. It is only small and ignorant natures which shrink from lowly tasks. Nothing can be ignoble which a noble purpose glorifies. In this Psalm you have the things necessary for the man who may claim the high blessing of God. What are they. Strange to say, they are precisely those things that we should demand of the ordinary English gentleman, of the ordinary English tradesman, of the ordinary English working man. Mere morality, you may say, and for the most part, negative morality. David does not say he was to be brave, magnanimous, self-sacrificing. He only says that he must not be a liar or a slanderer, or one who wrongs others, or takes rewards against the innocent. You may be tempted to say, surely David puts the scale too low! Had, then, David a less overwhelming sense than we have of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity? If you think in that way to get over the difficulty you are mistaken. But is it really so small a thing to keep innocency and do the thing which is right? The New Testament speaks, over and over again, identically the same language. David’s truth, and the truth of Christ Himself, is, that those who desire to be one with God, everyone who nameth the name of Christ, must, as the first essential, depart from iniquity. You cannot escape these conclusions by saying, “Yes, Christ spake these things before, and not after, His great work was finished, and would have preached otherwise if He had preached after His resurrection.” If you make that answer you subject yourselves to the overwhelming refutation of Scripture. See the Epistle of James, the Lord’s brother. See also the loftiest and most spiritual of St. Paul’s Epistles, that to the Ephesians. If you would rest in God’s holy hill this is quite certain, you must keep innocency, and do the things that are right. (Dean Farrar.)

The citizen of Zion described

The Psalm consists of a question and an answer. David asks the question. He was a good mall, concerned for his own soul. He asks it of the Lord, for He is the infallible Teacher and Law-giver. He asks it in Old Testament terms, speaking of the tabernacle and the holy hill of Mount Zion. The doctrine arising from the words is this--It challengeth everyone’s most serious consideration what sort of persons, sojourning with God here, shall be inhabitants of heaven hereafter. Therefore let us--

I. Show what is implied in this consideration.

1. That all shall not be inhabitants of heaven; some will perish. For all the sons of men will not be saints in heaven. There will be a great company on Christ’s left hand at the great day, doomed to everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41). And many of those who are now about the tabernacle will be a-missing in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). To see those who had not the tabernacle of God among them fall short of heaven is not strange; but many who in external privileges have been exalted to heaven will be brought down to hell (Psalms 125:1-5, ult.).

2. They are persons of a distinguished character now who shall be inhabitants of heaven hereafter. Not of the common gang of the world, nor of professors either. Many professors are foolish virgins, that will get heaven’s door cast in their face (Matthew 25:2-4).

3. In this world they sojourn with God in His tabernacle who shall be the inhabitants of heaven hereafter. The world is no more their home. They are in a peculiar manner consecrated to God and His service (Romans 12:1). All Israel had access to the outer courts of the tabernacle, but the priests only to the tabernacle itself. They are admitted to communion with God in ordinances. And they will enter heaven because they are born from above.

II. The reasons wherefore we should thus seriously consider who shall be the inhabitants of heaven.

1. Because there is a heaven and a hell, and all must land in one or the other.

2. And the laws of heaven admit only such as are qualified for it.

3. None who are capable of such considerations will ever see heaven without it. The work of grace begins here (Lamentations 3:40).

4. If we miss heaven we are ruined eternally.

III. Application of the subject.

1. Consider of it fixedly and solemnly.

2. With application to yourselves.

3. And practically that you may set yourselves to strive for heaven.

4. Divinely, as in the sight of heaven. For remember, heaven is not plenished but with chosen people (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). Hell receives all comers, but not so heaven. None can come there but sealed ones, such as God has marked for Himself (2 Timothy 2:19). And separated ones from the sinful world (1 Corinthians 6:11; Matthew 25:32). As your life is here, so will it be there. (T. Boston, D. D.)


Verses 1-5

Psalms 15:1-5

Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle?

An ideal worshipper

The ideal worshipper of Jehovah is painted in this Psalm in a few broad outlines. The tone of the Psalm accords with the circumstances of the time when David brought the ark to Jerusalem. The two main points are: the conception of the guests of Jehovah, and the statement of the ethical qualifications of these. The Psalmist consults the Master of the House as to the terms on which He extends hospitality, which terms it is His right to prescribe. The character of the God determines the character of the worshipper. The roots of ethics are in religion. The Old Testament ideal of the righteous man flows from its revelation of the righteous God. Not men’s own fancies, but insight gained by communion with God, and docile inquiry of Him will reliably tell what manner of men they are who can abide in His light. Verse 2 sums up the qualifications of Jehovah’s guest in one comprehensive demand, that he should walk uprightly, and then analyses that requirement into the two of righteous deeds and truthful speech. True, the ideal here is not the full Christian one. It is too merely negative for that, and too entirely concerned with acts. Therein it reproduces the limitation of the earliest revelation . . . Usury and bribery were common sins, as they still are in communities on the same industrial and judicial level as that mirrored in the Psalm. The Psalmist, in the last verse, clearly recognises that such a character as he has outlined not only dwells in Jehovah’s tent, but will stand unmoved though all the world should rook. Righteousness is the one stable thing in the universe. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The good citizen

The qualities which are required of one, not who visits the tabernacle merely, but who dwells in it,--not who ascends the hill only, but rests on it,--are those of an ordinary citizen, those without which a man cannot fulfil any of his common duties in the world. Nay, the qualities are chiefly negative. It is not said that he must be brave, magnanimous, ready to sacrifice himself. He is not to be corrupt in his life, not to take reward against the innocent, not to lie. One of the conditions reads as if it were drawn merely from the civil code of the nation. We have talked as if people might be very good in all relations with their neighbours, and yet not be servants of God. They must be something over and above true citizens for this. But the Old Testament books never teach this. They say boldly, “You are not honest and straightforward in your dealings, and so you think God is the same with you. You do not trust Him. You do not confess your sins to Him, nor draw nigh to His holy hill.” And has the New Testament altered this? Does it teach another lesson? No doubt there is this, that it teaches more perfectly how we may rise up out of our old evil habits; how God has revealed His righteousness in Christ for the remission of sins. But He has revealed His righteousness, and no unrighteousness call have fellowship with Him. Christ is our help to this righteousness, that we may share His nature. Now, do we agree to this? Then let us rejoice and sing; for Christ has ascended on high, that we might be delivered from our old evil life, and that we might possess a righteous life in Him. But if this is not what we want, if we want a religion that will make us easy and comfortable in the frauds which belong to our different crafts and professions,--if the shopkeeper lifts up his voice loudly in the denunciation of Popery or some unpopular opinion, that he may more securely and with less sense of self-reproach adulterate his goods, and use the false weight and the deceitful balance, which are abominable,--then we ought to be told, one and all of us, that the hill of Sinai, with all its thunders, is not more terrible than the Zion on which God dwells; that the New Testament is not more but less tolerant of such practices than the Old, and that God will appear as a swift witness against our crimes and falsehoods. And this not because we are wanting in some transcendent qualities which men have dreamed of as befitting a Church, but because we have those qualities which are the death of nations. But many look upon the nation and the Church as scarcely compatible, indeed, as mostly the opposites of each other. No doubt that with the theory of some in regard to the Church they are opposites. But a nation is pledged, to maintain a wholesome, practical, manly morality, entirely opposed to that morality of “touch not, taste not, handle not” which a Church such as I have described must by its nature favour, and has always favoured in fact,--a morality consistent with the grossest deviations from common truth and honesty. And I solemnly conjure Protestant assertors of individual holiness to see well to it that by their teaching they are not hindering the great protest against idolatry which is involved in the very existence of a nation; whether they are not substituting certain capricious and artificial maxims for the homely morality of the Bible, and whether thus they may not be preparing their sons for that very system which they most dread. But, on the other hand, I would maintain that a holy Catholic Church, in its truest, widest, deepest sense, does lie beneath the holy and righteous nation; that they are not contraries, but that one is the vestibule to the other; that each is the support of the other; that this Church is no imaginary utopian society, no artificial society, but a real society constituted in Christ our ascended Lord. Thus the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father, that He might fill all things, is the meeting point between these two Divine principles, these two human societies. In it we find the consummation of all the expectations and hopes of the old world, that in it we might find the beginning of all that is purest and holiest in the new. (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)

Who shall abide with God

Religious people are concerned to know, for their own comfort, whom God will receive at last into His own tabernacle above.

I. Abiding in God’s tabernacle. Or, dwelling upon His holy hill. We understand these expressions as meaning God’s residence in heaven. Who, then, shall dwell with God in glory everlasting? Let us take heed to our ways, and walk with care and endeavour, by God’s grace, to make our calling and selection sure, that so an entrance may be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

II. In answer to this earnest inquiry. Those who walk uprightly, and work righteousness, and speak the truth in their hearts. An heir of heaven walks with God as reconciled to Him, and walks uprightly, i.e. sincerely and honestly. If we work righteousness we must have a principle of righteousness implanted in us by the saving grace of God. The expression, “speaking the truth in the heart,” is strikingly singular. It shows that people may speak the truth, and yet the heart not love it; but all Christian believers are inwardly what they appear outwardly. (R. Horsfall.)

The Church militant

This is a question by David propounded. Consider--

1. Who demandeth, David, the man of God, seeing the wonderful hypocrisy of men in frequenting the holy assemblies, and making a pretence of religion, being stirred up with singular love to true religion, inflamed with a fervent zeal to God’s glory, burning with earnest desire to know the true saints from dissembling hypocrites, and demanded this question--“Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, who shall rest in Thy holy hill?

2. Of whom he demandeth. He flieth unto God, because it passeth the knowledge of men, who only look into the things apparent and outward. The Lord alone can sunder the wheat from the chaff, the tares from the wheat, the grain from the cockle and darnel. It is the Lord who is Father of all the whole family, which is named either on heaven or on earth, which is His Church; it is the Lord that is the chief Governor and Ruler of His house, which are His subjects; it is God alone who keepeth the Book of Life in the closet of His own heart, wherein He hath registered all His saints. It is the Lord, and not men, which pitched the tabernacle and testimony of His presence. It is the Lord whose property and prerogative it is by right to know the heart. It is the Lord whose eyes are upon all His creatures.

3. What is demanded. By “tabernacle” here some understand the Church militant. By the “hill of God” they understand the Church triumphant. The question then is,” Who shall I make some reckoning of, to be Thy Church visible and militant?”

The Church of God militant here on earth is compared to the tabernacle, and to the holy hill of God.

1. To the tabernacle. This Moses reared. As the tabernacle was pitched here and there, and removed from place to place, so the Church militant hath no certain rest in any appointed place, but is now in this place, now in that, at the appointment of the Lord. As in the time of the ark and tabernacle, God there showeth Himself and His glory unto the people, so doth the Lord reveal Himself in the Church and Assembly of His saints, there declaring His glory. As the Lord promised by Moses to dwell in the tabernacle, and there to walk and be conversant with Israel His people, so does Almighty God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son, our Saviour, dwell in the Church which is His immaterial tabernacle. The Church and Assembly of God’s saints is called the House of God, because He dwelleth therein. The Church militant is also compared unto a hill or mountain.

1. For the allusion that it hath unto Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, being Mount Moriah, where Abraham would have sacrificed his son Isaac. This hill was a type of the true Church, among whom God dwelleth forever.

2. The Church may be called a hill or mountain, for the height, altitude, and lifting up thereof.

3. And for the open sight thereof.

4. In regard of the strength and stayedness, the Church may be called a mountain, for the hilly and high places are most strong and most impregnable. The Church is called a “holy hill,” because God hath sanctified it and made it holy for Himself, because in the Church the Lord giveth manifold testimonies and signs of His holiness, and because the Lord taketh the defence of His Church into His own hands.

Doctrines--

1. See how great the hypocrisy of man oftentimes is in the pretence of godliness.

2. The prophet flieth unto God in the discerning of the true saints from hypocrites. However apparent things may be known unto men, hidden things belong only unto the Lord.

3. Learn not to play the hypocrite.

4. When we lack wisdom we should flee unto God for instruction.

5. Learn the state and condition of the militant Church. It is but as a tabernacle.

6. In this world the saints must not look for any rest, continuance, or certain abode.

7. We must not forsake the Church of God because of afflictions and troubles.

8. Who shall rest in the holy hill of God? The Church militant rejoices in the hope of happiness to come.

9. There is no true and sound rest save in the holy hill of God. (R. Turnbull.)

Earth as seen from the holy hill of communion with God

Unto this mountain, if we should ascend but in thought, as Scipio once did in his dream, and from thence should behold the earth, we should easily contemn this inferior world with the desires thereof. For the whole globe of the earth, together with the water, which seemeth now so great unto us, if we could see it from the highest heavens, would appear unto us like a mote in the sun. But if withal we felt the unspeakable joys of heaven, and from thence should cast down our eyes unto this valley of tears, there to behold the vanity of vanities, as Solomon saith, it cannot be expressed with how fervent a desire we should be inflamed to have our habitation in heaven. Peter, when as he was present in the transfiguration of Christ in the Mount Tabor, and had a taste of the heavenly glory, he was straightway ravished therewith, and desired greatly to remain there. “Lord,” saith he, “it is good being here, let us make three tabernacles,” etc. (G. Downame.)

Dwelling on the holy hill

Our abode in the mountain of God is expressed in the word “dwelling,” whereby two things are signified, perpetuity and rest. Perpetuity, for there the children of God remain not as pilgrims for a time, but as citizens and heirs forever. Whereupon the kingdom of heaven is also called an heavenly inheritance, wherein are everlasting habitations, and an inheritance immortal and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. Again, the word “dwelling” importeth rest. For there the children of God do not wander as pilgrims, neither are subject to any molestations, but do wholly rest from their labours. And for that cause the kingdom of heaven is called the rest of God, and as it were an eternal Sabbath. In respect whereof the land of Canaan was a type of our heavenly country. (G. Downame.)

The soul of man turned towards heaven.

Man is a mirror, and it is an all-important matter which way the mirror is turned. If downwards, it can reflect only earthly things,--the mire, the dirt, the filth of the earth; if turned upward, it may reflect the heavens, with all its glory of sun, moon, and stars. The mirror turned downward is the carnal mind, the mirror turned upward is the spiritual mind. Sometimes in an instant of time the inversion is accomplished, and he who before was of the earth earthy, comes to discern and reflect the things of God and heaven. (A. T. Pierson, D. D.)

A question and an answer

Question: Who is the man who would be able to ascend unto that hill of God where the highest visions of the Almighty may be perceived? The answer is: The man whose life is blameless. All that follows is a description of the moral qualifications of such a man. What is striking in the Psalm is the moral principle which seems to underlie it. There are laws in the spiritual kingdom, and the Psalmist gets a glimpse of these spiritual laws, and he makes them the subject of his poem. The law here is this, that the condition of power in life, and the condition of the vision of the Almighty, is to be found in the ethical or moral considerations. It is the man whose life is blameless, the man whose character will bear investigation, the man whose whole being and nature are animated by a strict regard of what is morally right and true, that comes by degrees to this possession of strong invincible character, and that capacity for seeing the highest things of God. There is no idea here that the Psalmist can purchase the vision of God by the payment of so much good done. To do that would have been to vitiate the whole moral basis of the idea; for if a man seeks heaven for profit he is not, of course, a heavenly-minded person. Morality and spirituality must be genuine and sincere if they are to be moral or spiritual things at all. What the Psalmist does set forth is this, that the conditions of this insight and power of life lie, not so much in the possession of intellectual force as in the possession of moral capacities. There is a constant tendency to confuse religion with theology. Theology is only the scientific expression of the ideas which are incorporated in religion. Religion itself is quite different. A man may be religious who has very small theological opinions. Our power of seeing Divine things does not depend so much upon our moral integrity as upon our spiritual devotion. Religion is a moral sympathy between the soul of the creature and the spirit of the Creator. It is the moral sympathy between you and me in this world and the great God who put us into this world. That is what is said in the Gospel of St. John, “If any man will do His will,”--if a man has a moral desire to follow out the Divine ideal in his life, if his soul is in sympathy with the Divine moral earnestness, then he shall be able to understand; he will gain a perception of the meaning of God’s action, and the vision of God which would otherwise be denied him. Observe the wonderful way in which the same thought underlies the great creation of the Italian poet. This Psalm is a sort of “Divine Comedy” in miniature, for it exactly expresses the thought which Dante had in his mind. What are the conditions, according to Dante, in which a man can enter into the vision of the great paradise over his head? He must have understood evil, and seen it in all its hideousness, and must have overcome and climbed that steep of purgatory, disciplining by degrees the moral defects in him, until at last, when he climbs to the summit of the mount of purgatory, he is the immovable man, the man who is crowned with crown and mitre, as god over himself. And only when that is achieved, when that moral sincerity is at last made a real thing in him, is he capable of ascending under the guidance of Divine truth into the lofty regions of paradise. This is exactly the same thought. What an enormous source of joy that ought to be to the human heart. Let us remember that we have within us a Divine Spirit that is constantly prompting us to higher things. (W. Boyd Carpenter, D. D.)

Practical Christianity

Religion is not a far-off, but a pressing and everyday affair. The very humblest of mankind may be the greatest saint of God. It is only small and ignorant natures which shrink from lowly tasks. Nothing can be ignoble which a noble purpose glorifies. In this Psalm you have the things necessary for the man who may claim the high blessing of God. What are they. Strange to say, they are precisely those things that we should demand of the ordinary English gentleman, of the ordinary English tradesman, of the ordinary English working man. Mere morality, you may say, and for the most part, negative morality. David does not say he was to be brave, magnanimous, self-sacrificing. He only says that he must not be a liar or a slanderer, or one who wrongs others, or takes rewards against the innocent. You may be tempted to say, surely David puts the scale too low! Had, then, David a less overwhelming sense than we have of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity? If you think in that way to get over the difficulty you are mistaken. But is it really so small a thing to keep innocency and do the thing which is right? The New Testament speaks, over and over again, identically the same language. David’s truth, and the truth of Christ Himself, is, that those who desire to be one with God, everyone who nameth the name of Christ, must, as the first essential, depart from iniquity. You cannot escape these conclusions by saying, “Yes, Christ spake these things before, and not after, His great work was finished, and would have preached otherwise if He had preached after His resurrection.” If you make that answer you subject yourselves to the overwhelming refutation of Scripture. See the Epistle of James, the Lord’s brother. See also the loftiest and most spiritual of St. Paul’s Epistles, that to the Ephesians. If you would rest in God’s holy hill this is quite certain, you must keep innocency, and do the things that are right. (Dean Farrar.)

The citizen of Zion described

The Psalm consists of a question and an answer. David asks the question. He was a good mall, concerned for his own soul. He asks it of the Lord, for He is the infallible Teacher and Law-giver. He asks it in Old Testament terms, speaking of the tabernacle and the holy hill of Mount Zion. The doctrine arising from the words is this--It challengeth everyone’s most serious consideration what sort of persons, sojourning with God here, shall be inhabitants of heaven hereafter. Therefore let us--

I. Show what is implied in this consideration.

1. That all shall not be inhabitants of heaven; some will perish. For all the sons of men will not be saints in heaven. There will be a great company on Christ’s left hand at the great day, doomed to everlasting fire (Matthew 25:41). And many of those who are now about the tabernacle will be a-missing in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). To see those who had not the tabernacle of God among them fall short of heaven is not strange; but many who in external privileges have been exalted to heaven will be brought down to hell (Psalms 125:1-5, ult.).

2. They are persons of a distinguished character now who shall be inhabitants of heaven hereafter. Not of the common gang of the world, nor of professors either. Many professors are foolish virgins, that will get heaven’s door cast in their face (Matthew 25:2-4).

3. In this world they sojourn with God in His tabernacle who shall be the inhabitants of heaven hereafter. The world is no more their home. They are in a peculiar manner consecrated to God and His service (Romans 12:1). All Israel had access to the outer courts of the tabernacle, but the priests only to the tabernacle itself. They are admitted to communion with God in ordinances. And they will enter heaven because they are born from above.

II. The reasons wherefore we should thus seriously consider who shall be the inhabitants of heaven.

1. Because there is a heaven and a hell, and all must land in one or the other.

2. And the laws of heaven admit only such as are qualified for it.

3. None who are capable of such considerations will ever see heaven without it. The work of grace begins here (Lamentations 3:40).

4. If we miss heaven we are ruined eternally.

III. Application of the subject.

1. Consider of it fixedly and solemnly.

2. With application to yourselves.

3. And practically that you may set yourselves to strive for heaven.

4. Divinely, as in the sight of heaven. For remember, heaven is not plenished but with chosen people (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). Hell receives all comers, but not so heaven. None can come there but sealed ones, such as God has marked for Himself (2 Timothy 2:19). And separated ones from the sinful world (1 Corinthians 6:11; Matthew 25:32). As your life is here, so will it be there. (T. Boston, D. D.)


Verse 2

Psalms 15:2

He that walketh uprightly.

The model church member

The visible Zion was typical of the Invisible Church. In the “holy hill” God dwelt in symbol, in the Universal Church He dwells in viewless spiritual realness. Spiritual citizenship is the common privilege and honour of all who in moral character are abreast of the standard fixed in this Psalm. Who is a Christian, or a worthy member of Christ’s Church, is here perfectly outlined by the infallible pert of inspiration.

I. What he is, in word, deed, life. He only abides in God’s tabernacle who abides in God, and God in him.

1. His walk is in uprightness. This implies spiritual life, exercise, health, progress.

2. His work is in righteousness. This implies activity, beneficent activity, the holiest activity; righteous in its motive, method, and results.

3. His words in truth and love: this implies conversation and testimony. Invisible truth shrines itself in holy words, holy works, a holy walk. Being upright, the Christian cannot be crooked; being righteous, he cannot be a hypocrite; being truthful in his heart, he cannot be false in his conversation and deportment.

II. What he is not (verses 8, 5).

1. No backbiter.

2. No evildoer.

3. No receiver of slander. Were there no ears to receive scandal there would soon be no tongues to speak it. The receiver of such pernicious goods is as vile as the trader in them.

4. No usurer.

5. No patron of bribery. He daily endeavours to maintain a pure hand, a pure purse, a pure ear, a pure heart, and a pure tongue. He will contemn evil wherever found; honour holiness however manifest; swerve not from his word when given, though to personal injury, and be permanently steadfast in his work of faith and life of love. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

Life a walk

Now, if we be travellers or wayfaring men we are to be careful of three things.

1. That we go in the right way; for if we go out of our way, the farther we go the farther we shall be from our journey’s end. This way is the true religion of Christ, which in the Scriptures is called the way, the way of life, the way of peace.

2. The next thing whereof we must be careful is, that being set in the right way we go forward therein, proceeding from faith to faith, and from a less measure of grace unto a greater. For neither must we stand still ill this way, neither must we go back; for if we do so, how shall we come to our journey’s end? We must take heed therefore lest we be non-proficients, and let us fear lest when we cease to be better we begin to be worse.

3. The third thing is, that we be upright in the way, neither treading awry by secret dissembling, nor halting downright betwixt God and Mammon. (G. Downame.)

The God-approved man

The man with whom God will hold communion is described.

I. As to what he is.

1. He is a man of whole heart and life; who does the will of God, and speaks the truth because he loves it: it dwells in his heart, and he speaks it there first, before he speaks it with his tongue. Luther says, “It is a beautiful order. First, the person must be acceptable by cleanness (alluding to the Vulgate translation,--qui ingreditur sine macula), then the work by righteousness; then the word by truth. So God has regard to Abel (himself) first, and then to his gifts.”

2. He is not one who injures others, either by word or by dead or by listening and propagating slander. This is the meaning of the last clause. It may be rendered either: “hath not received (i.e. from others)
a reproach,” etc., or, “hath not taken up,”
i.e. has not stooped so as to pick up dirt out of the dunghill, that he may cast it at his neighbour; or, “hath not lifted up,” i.e. so as to place it like a burden upon his neighbour.

II. As to what he is not.

1. He is one who turns away from the evil and honours the good, who regards as inviolable the sanctity of an oath (not a casuist who sets himself a pretext for breaking his word when it is inconvenient to keep it).

2. He is not one who loves usury or takes bribes. The taking of usury is strictly forbidden in the law, and denounced by the prophets. Kimchi’s casuistic distinction, that it is lawful for the Jew to take usury of strangers, but not of his own people, is very significant; and, like too many Christian as well as Jewish interpretations of Scripture, framed to support a convenient and profitable practice. Thus in heart, in tongue, in actions, in conduct, as a member of society, he is alike free from reproach. Such is the figure of stainless honour drawn by the pen of a Jewish poet. Christian chivalry has not dreamed of a brighter. We have need often and seriously to ponder it. For it shows us that faith in God, and spotless integrity, may not be sundered; that religion does not veil or excuse petty dishonesties; that love to God is only then worthy the name when it is the life and bond of every social virtue. Each line is, as it were, a touchstone to which we should bring ourselves. To speak truth in the heart--to take up no reproach against a neighbour--would not the Christian man be perfect (teleios) of whom this could be said? And that other trait in this Divine character, “who honoureth them that fear the Lord,”--is there a surer test of our spiritual condition than this, that we love and honour men because they love Christ? (J. J. Stewart Perowne, B. D.)

Uprightness of character

“He that walketh uprightly.” Let us mark the strong, masculine beginning of this description of the man who is privileged to be familiar with the Lord. He is “upright”! He is characterised by backbone. There is nothing crooked, wriggling, or soft about his temperament. There is a certain straightness and rigidity which, in all his relationships, is never absent. And mark where this fine masculinity begins. He “walketh” uprightly! The word is descriptive of the movements or motions of life. Now our motions are determined by our motives. Our motives are our motors. To understand, therefore, the inner content of the Psalmist’s words, we must get away into the inward parts, into the secret places of the life. Our motives must be strong and upright. There must be nothing limp and compromising about them. “Strength and beauty” must be in our sanctuary. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The citizen of Zion an upright walker

I. Unfold this character of walking uprightly.

1. It is union in the frame and disposition of his heart (Psalms 125:4). There cannot be uprightness of life without uprightness of heart. If the cripple is made to go straight his legs must have a new set (Psalms 78:37).

2. He walks entirely in the interests of religion (Genesis 17:1).

3. He walks uniformly, his religion is of a piece (Colossians 4:12). As John the Baptist (Luke 7:24).

4. He walks in the way of all known duty, as thus told in Luke 1:6. And as David (Acts 13:22). Hence he will be free from gross pollution of the outward man (Psalms 119:1). The upright want not their spots, sins of daily infirmity,--but they will not wallow in the mire, Nor will he allow himself in any known sin, seen or unseen of man,

5. He walks as under the eye of God (Psalms 16:8).

6. And singly (2 Corinthians 1:12). As opposed to the “double-minded man.” And to the deceitful (Colossians 3:22). And the selfish (Ephesians 6:5).

7. And he walks constantly in uprightness (John 8:31). He perseveres in the Lord’s ways.

II. Those who so walk shall dwell in heaven. For--

1. Heaven is the land of uprightness (Psalms 143:10; Psalms 140:1-13., ult.).

2. The new birth which is from heaven makes them meet for heaven.

3. An upright walk is the saint’s walk, in which they make forward to the kingdom (1 Kings 3:6). The contrary way is the way of the wicked (Proverbs 2:15).

4. The Lord hath in His Word determined this (Proverbs 28:18).

III. Application. This truth shows that there are few of this generation that will dwell in heaven if they turn not over a new leaf. For men do cling to some beloved lust or other, so that neither the word, nor conscience, nor providence can make them part with it. And they care far more for the eye of man than for the eye of God; and are impatient of reproof: Contrary to Psalms 141:5. And they labour not to approve themselves to God in their dealings; but are altogether selfish, considering nothing but their own profit. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The marks of the saints

“Thamim” therefore we may rightly interpret upright, that is, void of dissimulation; and it may be two ways considered:

What uprightness is

I. Towards God.

1. For first, to be upright, it is to walk with God, or before God (as the Lord saith to Abraham, walk before Me and be upright, Genesis 17:1), that is, so to lead our lives as in the sight and presence of God, who seeth the hearts and searcheth the reins of men.

2. Again, to be upright is to walk with a right foot, neither covertly treading awry with Peter (Galatians 2:1-21), nor openly halting with the Israelites (1 Kings 18:21).

3. It is also to be void of hypocrisy and doubling, not to have an heart and an heart, or to be double minded, but to be single hearted.

4. Lastly, this virtue of uprightness is commended unto us under other names, namely, sincerity and truth, sincerity being opposed to mixture, and truth to falsehood, both which hypocrisy is.

II. Now that uprightness is a proper note to the citizens of heaven, it may easily appear by the reciprocal conversion which is betwixt them. For if all the citizens of heaven be upright, and all that be up right are citizens of heaven, then is it manifest that uprightness agreeth to all that be the sons and heirs of God, and to them alone.

III. It behoveth us diligently to try and examine ourselves, whether this note doth belong unto us or not. For unless we be upright we shall not rest in God’s holy mountain, but must look to have our portion with hypocrites.

1. And first, the study and endeavour of the upright is to approve himself to God.

2. It is the property of upright men to yield simple and absolute obedience to the Word of God, denying themselves, their own affections and reason.

3. A third sign of an upright man is, so to contemn the world, and to be weaned from worldly desire, as that he preferreth the keeping of a good conscience.

4. The property of an upright man is to hate sin as well in himself as in others, and to be exercised in judging himself.

5. The upright man repenteth of all sin, having an unfeigned purpose and resolution to abstain from all sin, and not to retain anyone, howsoever besides and contrary to his purpose he may fail in some particulars. But the hypocrite, howsoever he may be brought to abstain from diverse sins whereunto he is not so much addicted, yet he will be sure to cherish and retain some sin or sins that are more dear unto him.

6. It is the property of the upright to love and reverence the good and godly for their godliness sake, and to contemn and despise the wicked, though mighty in the world, because of their wickedness.

7. It is the property of the upright to prefer the greater and weightier duties before the less, the substance before circumstances, the works either of piety or mercy before ceremonies.

8. Another note of an upright man is humility. As contrariwise, pride is the companion of hypocrisy.

9. Again, the upright man, being imbued with a good conscience, is confident in good causes and courageous in time of peril; as Solomon saith, “He that walketh uprightly walketh boldly” (Proverbs 10:9; Proverbs 28:1). And again, “The righteous are bold as a lion.”

10. It is the privilege of an upright man to be constant in good things and to persevere to the end, keeping also a continued course of piety; for the upright man is he which hath built upon the rock, and therefore cannot utterly be overthrown by any blasts or tempests of temptations.

IV. To consider by what argument we may be stirred up to embrace this virtue if we want it, or to continue and increase therein if we have it. The argument may be reduced to three heads, the excellency, the profit, the necessity of uprightness. But if neither the golden reason of excellency can move us, nor the silver reason of profit allure us, then must the iron reason of necessity enforce us to integrity and uprightness of heart. For first, such is the necessity thereof, that without integrity the best graces we seem to have are counterfeit, and therefore but glorious sins, the best worship we can perform is but hypocrisy, and therefore abominable in God’s sight. For uprightness is the soundness of all grace and virtues, as also of all religion and worship of God, without which they are unsound and nothing worth. Wherefore in the Scriptures it is required that our faith should be unfeigned, that is, such a faith as inwardly purifieth the heart, and outwardly worketh by love; otherwise it is not a true and a lively, but a counterfeit and dead faith. Likewise our love must be unfeigned, that is, as John saith, we must not love in speech and tongue, but in deed and truth; or as Paul speaketh, our love must proceed from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. Our wisdom also must be without dissimulation. Lastly, our repentance and conversion unto God must be unfeigned and from our whole heart. As of prayer: to the acceptable performance whereof there is required uprightness, not only in the action itself, but also in the life of him that prayeth.

V. Let us observe these few rules.

1. Let us, according to the example of David, learn to set God always before our eyes, and ourselves in the sight and presence of God. And to this end let us meditate on His omnipresence and omniscience.

2. To meditation on His omnipresence and omniscience, let us add the consideration of His omni-sufficiency, remembering, as the prophet Hanani said to Asa, that the eyes of the Lord behold all the earth, to show Himself strong with them that are of an upright heart towards Him.

3. Thirdly, to the former let us join a serious meditation of the just judgment. Hitherto we have spoken of integrity, as it is referred unto God; it followeth now that we should entreat thereof as it hath reference unto men. For as we must walk before God in truth and sincerity without hypocrisy, so must we have our conversation among men in simplicity and singleness of heart, without dissembling or guile. To conclude, therefore, this first note: seeing uprightness is made a proper mark of the true child of God and citizen of heaven, whereas contrariwise dissimulation and deceit are the brands of the wicked: it behoveth everyone to apply this note to himself. Dost thou walk uprightly without hypocrisy towards God, without guile towards man? happy and blessed art thou, for thou shalt see God, and as thou art now a sound member of the Church militant, so shalt thou be an inheritor of glory in the triumphant. Dost thou not walk in sincerity towards God, and simplicity towards men, but in hypocrisy and dissimulation? then most fearful is thine estate, unless thou repent, for thou hast no part or fellowship in the doctrine of salvation, or in the communion of saints, but thy portion shall be assigned thee with hypocrites, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (G. Downame.)

The marks of the saints

1. The first virtue and mark to know the true saints of God is innocency of life. By “walking,” in Holy Scripture, conversation and living is usually understood. Men call them innocent whose life is hurtless and harmless, neither stained nor defiled with iniquity or gross sins. The honest conversation of the saints, confirmed with undoubted testimony of a good conscience, is the harmless, hurtless, simple, innocent, and upright life, in this place required. In which virtue excelled Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, and the prophets, Paul, Peter, and the Apostles. Righteousness, doing good, and performing of Christian duties to all men is often in Holy Scripture commended unto the saints and lively members of God’s Church, and the doctrine thereof is large and ample in the Sacred Word.

2. The second thing wherein the people’s duty consisteth is to give the labourer his wages, the workman his hire. There is righteousness of parents, of children, of servants, of the hirer and the hired.

3. The third virtue in God’s saints is truth in tongue and talk. The tongue is a necessary instrument in our common life. Truth is required both in our private and in our public life. To this there are sundry motives and things to stir us. The commandment of Almighty God. The example of Jesus Christ. The Gospel which we profess is truth, and the word of truth. We are inspired with the Holy Spirit of God, whose temples we are. The Spirit is called the Spirit of truth, who “leadeth into all truth.” To speak the truth from the heart is a mark of them which shall dwell in God’s tabernacle. Doctrines:

1. Hypocrites, by their external life, are easily descried.

2. Religion and faith are showed by works of the second table.

3. Sacrifices without works of mercy are rejected.

4. We need not divide ourselves from the Church because there are some hypocrites in it.

5. There is no sound rest in the Church for any but those who desire to live honestly. (R. Turnbull.)

Practical piety

St. Anthony, the first hermit, lived a hard and strait life in the wilderness, praying constantly and meditating on the things of God. There is a story that a voice came to him from heaven, saying, “Anthony, thou art not so perfect as is a cobbler who dwells at Alexandria.” Anthony, hearing this, rose up forthwith and took his staff, and went on his journey till he came to Alexandria, where he found the Cobbler. The cobbler was astonished to see so great a saint come to his house. Then Anthony said to him, “Come, tell me thy whole manner of life, and how thou spendest thy time.” “Sir,” said the cobbler, “talents I have few, and good works have I none, for my life is but simple, for I am but a poor cobbler. In the morning, when I rise, I pray for the whole city wherein I dwell, especially for all such neighbours and poor friends as I have; after that I set to my work, in which I spend the whole day to get my living; and I keep from all falsehood, for I hate all manner of deceit; wherefore, when I make any man a promise I keep it and perform it truly. In the evening I teach and instruct my children, as far as my knowledge serves me, to fear God and do His will. And this is the sum of my simple life.” In this story we see how God loves those that follow their calling and use His gifts as best they can.

Allied virtues

The virtues all lock into each other. They cannot stand alone. Like the stones of an arch, no one of them can be wanting without making all the rest insecure. That character alone is trustworthy in which each virtue takes its relative position, and all are held in place and confirmed by the keystone of a living faith in the great central fact, that there is a God of infinite goodness and truth, whose commandments are the law of life in this world and in the world to come.

Worketh righteousness.

A mark of Zion citizenship

The favoured citizen is a man who is industrious in goodness. Righteousness is not to him a mere department of moral philosophy upon which he has to speculate or theorise, nor is it satisfied with the delineations wrought out in language by heroic poets; it is a condition of spirit and heart before God admitting of culture within and sanctified expression without. The good man may be described as building a life temple of righteousness; he is continually looking around for material which he can put into his building, and his satisfaction is in proportion to the largeness and beauty of the edifice. Those who are addicted to iniquity are described as “workers”; they are not ashamed of their wicked profession, nor is their service marked by self-indulged lethargy. The sojourner in the holy city is not only to do a better work, he is to do it with more serious determination and industry. He is not to be silent in the presence of unrighteousness, but is at all costs to speak out in favour of true justice and virtue. In his circle he is to be known as a man who will spare no effort to advance righteousness, whether found in the claims of an individual, the necessities of an institution, or the policy of a nation. Suspect any form of so-called righteousness that can be silent in the presence of oppression, and that can let wickedness pass by without indignant repudiation. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Righteousness in character

“And worketh righteousness.” There is not only backbone but energy. And the energy is of a special and peculiar kind. It maketh ever for righteousness. It is not only that the issues of life are just and equitable; the equity is found in their very birth. The word “worketh” might be equally well translated “ordaineth.” The friend of God inspects the wishes and purposes and ambitions which appear in his life. He marks their tendency and their aim. Some of these wishes and ambitions he suppresses and rejects; others he selects and welcomes. He discriminates among his allurements. He “ordains” the purposes that make for righteousness, and labours for their judgment. So that the companion of God is holding in his secret place a perpetual ordination service. The righteous suggestion and aspiration are being continually approved and ordained to the ministry of actual life and service. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The transcendent importance of social morality

It is time to preach the doctrine of this Psalm--that there is no true religion apart from social morality.

I. An abiding friendship with God is essential to the happiness of man. The idea in Psalms 15:1 is, “Who shall have permanent friendship with Thee?” This is the cardinal want of humanity. That an abiding friendship with God is essential to man’s happiness may be argued from two things.

1. From what is in the human soul. There is a trusting tendency, an infinite craving, a sense of guilt.

2. From what is in the Divine Word. Nothing is more clearly taught in the New Testament than this.

II. Social morality is essential to an abiding, friendship with God. Look at social morality in two aspects.

1. As described.

2. As necessary. Our conduct towards man determines our relation to God, and our destiny too. True social morality always implies true love to God. It is the practical expression of true religion. Then true social morality is the best means of promoting genuine Christianity. That man does most to spread the religion of Jesus who, in all his connections with his fellow men, does the just and the generous, the merciful and the Christ-like. (Homilist.)

The citizen of Zion a worker of righteousness

It is he that worketh righteousness now shall dwell in heaven.

I. Unfold the character.

1. He is a believer in Christ, and righteous by faith. He that does not work faith works no righteousness at all (John 6:29). For a man must first be righteous before he can work it. A soul not united to Christ cannot do this (John 15:5). All life and strength spiritual is in Christ (1 John 5:11-12). Until the conscience be purged from dead works he cannot work righteousness (Hebrews 9:14). Truth is the spring of all good works (1 Timothy 1:5; 1 John 3:12; Hebrews 11:4). Therefore, let men work as they will, until they be true believers in Christ they cannot work righteousness. Works without faith ruin the soul. See the Pharisee (Luke 18:11-12). But the citizen of Zion is a believer. Also faith without works ruins a man, for it is but a dead faith (James 2:11; James 2:14).

2. He worketh righteousness towards God. He seeks to give God His due (Matthew 22:21; Isaiah 64:5; Acts 10:35).

3. He worketh righteousness towards man. He will wrong no man. He will be blameless and harmless (Philippians 2:15). He seeks to do as he would be done to (Matthew 7:12). And makes conscience of giving everyone their due (Romans 13:7). Not that they are perfect. Good Asa was not (2 Chronicles 16:10, and in Genesis 20:9). But their sins are not deliberate and of set purpose. He is a sincere worker of righteousness towards man. Hence in his particular relations, in the special duties of such relation as husband, wife, parent, master, etc. In a word, he is conscientiously righteous in all things that concern his neighbour (Micah 6:3).

II. Confirm this doctrine. Consider--

1. God is a righteous God.

2. It is the great end of redemption that Christ’s people may be righteous (Luke 1:74-75).

3. And judgment will be according to works. Then be workers of righteousness. (T. Boston, D. D.)

And speaketh the truth in his heart.--

The citizen of Zion a speaker of truth in his heart

This is the third character of the citizen of Zion. Not only does he speak truth, but he speaks it in his heart; that is, his thoughts and reasonings are consistent with truth. The doctrines that are deducible from the text are, that those that shall be inhabitants of heaven speak the truth here, and that they speak it in their hearts as well as to others. As to the first of these.

I. Explain the character or part of the character of a citizen of Zion. Therefore inquire--

1. What is truth? Pilate asked this question, but stayed not for the answer. Truth is a sacred harmony or agreement of things. Anatomists have observed that the tongue in man is tied with a double string to the heart. And so in truth spoken there is necessary a double agreement of our words with our hearts--that we say what we think; and with the thing itself, that it be as you say.

2. What is it to be a speaker of truth? He makes conscience to speak out the truth seasonably (John 18:37). We are to remember (Ecclesiastes 3:7, and Proverbs 29:11). This was Doeg’s sin (Psalms 52:1-9). Those whose tongues are like a loose window in wind, ever clattering, have little wit or grace. Talkativeness is both a sign of little awe of God and is the badge of a fool (Ecclesiastes 5:3; Proverbs 14:33). But the citizen of Zion speaks the truth seasonably, that is, when called of God to speak it. This call may be private and providential, or public and authoritative, as in the courts of justice. When thus called he will speak fully, freely, clearly, and sincerely (2 Chronicles 12:9; 2 Corinthians 2:17).

3. And of speaking nothing but the truth (Isaiah 63:8; 2 Corinthians 13:8). We are never to lie (Job 13:7-8). Let us heed this both in speaking to God (Psalms 68:36) and to men (Ephesians 4:25).

II. Confirm the doctrine. It is evident, for--

1. In the saints the image of Satan is defaced (Revelation 21:1-27, ult.). But

2. The image of God is repaired in them, and truth is a shining lineament in it (Ephesians 4:24; Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19). And

3. The Christian life is a walking in truth (3 John 1:3). There is truth of heart in true Christians, and that makes truth of conversation.

4. And the Lord has expressly declared that liars shall inhabit hell, not heaven, for God is the God of truth.

III. Application.

1. This doctrine writes death on the faces of two sorts of people--those who are concealers of the truth which God calls them to speak out, and all liars. This sin is a common vice; but it is the black brand of one who shall never see heaven. They are barred out of heaven thereby, whether they be jesting liars, who lie to make others merry (Hosea 7:3; Proverbs 26:18-19), or officious liars, who will lie to do themselves or others a good turn. Or pernicious liars, whose motive is mischief (Proverbs 6:17). Or covetous liars, who lie to get gain (Proverbs 20:14). Or proud, boasting liars, who lie to raise others’ esteem of them (Proverbs 25:14). Or flattering liars, who lie to curry favour with those they flatter (Psalms 12:2-3; Proverbs 26:28; Proverbs 29:5). Or fearful liars, who, for fear of others, make lies their refuge, as children often do (Psalms 58:3); and others, too, who are but children in courage (Proverbs 29:25; Revelation 21:8). “Or talkative liars (Proverbs 10:19). Those who are given to much talking will hardly be found regardful of truth. Or rash liars, who lie through inadvertency and customary looseness as to their words (2 Samuel 13:30). Much sin is contracted this way.

2. Speak the truth and keep from lying, for God is the God of truth (Deuteronomy 32:4; Titus 1:2), but the devil is the author and father of lies (John 8:44). He ruined the world at first with a lie (Genesis 3:4-5). Lying, too, is the bane of human society, and a mean, base, and contemptible thing, the native product of the corruption of nature, the spawn of the old serpent left in men’s hearts (Psalms 58:3), and is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:17-19; Proverbs 12:22), and will ruin your souls for evermore. Check it in the young, as ye love their souls. (T. Boston, D. D.)

On truth

David begins this short but beautiful Psalm with a warmth of devotion peculiar to himself. Among other essential requisites that entitle a human being to the distinguished honour of dwelling on the Lord’s holy hill, truth and sincerity are particularly noticed. Some of the obligations that the religion of Christ inculcates are limited by circumstances and will admit of being modified by different causes. But the great virtue of truth is necessary at all times, and binding under all the relations of life. It is never a mere ornament of the mind, or a virtue of the middle order whose absence may be excused. It is absolutely necessary to all virtue; it is the broad basis on which they all rest. I would, then, impress upon you its sacred obligations and guard you against the shame, the guilt, and degradation of falsehood. There is nothing which is a greater recommendation of character. It at all times inspires confidence and ensures respect. It is a proof of innocence and fortitude combined. As charity is said “to cover a multitude of sins,” so an inviolable habit of truth will atone for many imperfections. But its loveliness is never more conspicuous than when contrasted with falsehood. There is nothing that men more complain of than of being mistaken. Treachery and hypocrisy are by no means unusual; but duplicity, equivocation, and behaviour that has a tendency to deceive are amongst the commonest breaches of truth, and are the causes that daily increase the mortifications and disappointments of the young, while they confirm the selfishness and suspicion of the aged. The violator of truth, therefore, is the great corrupter of the world. Those whom nature intended to be open, confidential, and affectionate, freeze into misanthropy, or else become uncandid, suspicions, and deceitful. But the liar is soon caught in his own snares. He will not be believed even when he speaks the truth, and gains no credit even when he deserves it. Whatever other good qualities he may have, the vice of falsehood poisons the whole. He can do no good to others, for no one will confide in him. If we inquire why men violate truth, we shall find that their motives are often vanity, or fear and imbecility. Some are so greedy of a name that they care not how they violate truth if they can gain belief Who will deny that the vanity of giving men information has often polluted the pages of history, degraded philosophy almost to imposture, and inspired even sceptics with something more than the credulity of ignorance. But truth is yet more violated from fear and imbecility. Where this is so our pity and indulgence are appealed to. Children are often led to transgress truth for the sake of some trifling gratification before they can be aware of the depravity of falsehood. They think it the nearest way to enjoyment, and an easy and effectual method to escape detection. It is difficult to correct this when it proceeds from fear, for it often requires much fortitude to speak the truth. Men feel this; how ranch more children. They should be taught in their earliest years that there is no fault so great as falsehood. Needless severity era capricious kind of alternating tyranny and indulgence terribly foster this vice. And nothing but religion will help us herein. God is the God of truth. His works and His Word alike declare that “God is truth.” (J. Hewlett, B. D.)

Truth in the heart

“And speaketh the truth in his heart.” When a man speaks the truth to himself he will speak it to his neighbour. The beginning of all sincerity is to be sincere in one’s self-communings. No man will be guilty of equivocation who does not first deceive himself. The companion of God is absolutely frank and candid with himself. In his heart is to be found the fair angel of truth, and he does not defile her garments by any ill doctrine of reserve or self-evasion. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Speech spoilt by the underlying evil of a corrupt heart

A lady who had lost a little daughter took a photograph and painted it with rare skill and laid it in a drawer, and was grieved to find that soon afterwards it was covered with ugly blotches. She painted it again, and it was again marred. There was something wrong with the paper, some chemical ingredients in undue proportions. No matter how beautiful the picture made on its surface, up ever out of the heart of the paper would come the ooze of decay. So with human life, the heart being wrong spoils all. (J. R. Miller.)


Verse 3

Psalms 15:3

He that backbiteth not with his tongue.

How may detraction be best prevented or cured

The abuses of the tongue are many, one whereof is the malignity of it. A man can scarce come into any company but his ears shall be filled with censures, detractions, reproaches; party against party, person against person. Doctrine: It is the duty, and must be the care, of every true Christian not to take up a reproach against his neighbour.

I. Explain the point.

1. Who is my neighbour? It is the peculiarity of the Gospel that every man is made my neighbour. Augustine says, “Every man is a neighbour to any other man.” Kimchi says, “He is called my neighbour with whom I have any business.”

2. What is a reproach?

3. What is it to take up a reproach against a man’s neighbour? It is a defective manner of expression, and therefore is diversely supplied, but especially and most reasonably two ways--when he takes it up into his mouth, and is the first raiser of the reproach, or the spreader and promoter of it; and when he takes it into his ear. This he may do when he quietly permits it, and gives no check to it; when he hears a reproach greedily, and with delight; and when he easily believes a reproach.

II. The proof of the doctrine. This shall consist in the representation of the sinfulness and injury of this practice of censuring, backbiting, and reproaching of others.

1. It is injurious to God. As an invasion of God’s prerogative: a manifest breach of His laws. It is against particular and express Scriptures; against the fundamental law of love and charity; against the “royal law” of Christ; against the great law of maintaining peace among men; against the great command laid upon all Christians, of excelling other men: it is a sin against the whole design and scope of the Scriptures; it is a great injury to God, because it is a confederacy with God’s greatest enemy, the devil.

2. It is an injury done to thyself. Hereby thou dost contract guilt, the worst of all evils. Hereby thou dost expel or weaken that excellent grace of love, that necessary and fundamental grace, that sweet and amiable grace. Hereby thou dost lay a foundation for thy own reproach.

3. It is a great injury to the person whom thou dost censure and reproach. Thou dost rob him of the best treasure he hath in the world. Hereby thou dost disenable him from getting good, both as to his outward and as to his inward man. Hereby thou dost hinder him from doing of good in the world.

4. It is a great injury to other men. Thou corruptest others by thy example. Thou art a disturber of human society. Thou art a great enemy to the Church of God.

Two questions--

1. May I not speak evil of another person when it is true? A man may be faulty in so doing. A man may speak evil of another person when necessity requires it. If you will speak evil of others, do it in the right method. In doubtful cases silence is the safest way.

2. If the man I speak against is an enemy of God and His people? Well to remember there is much sinful zeal in the world and in the Church. Con-eider how easy a mistake is in this case, and how dangerous. And you must not go out of your way to meet with God’s enemies.

Application:

1. Lamentation for the gross neglect of this duty, or the frequent commission of this sin.

2. Take heed that you be not found guilty of this sin.

3. Avoid the causes of this sin. Take heed of uncharitableness, in all its kinds and degrees. Take heed of loquacity and multitude of words. Take heed of pragmaticalness, which is when men are inquisitive and busy about other men’s matters. Take heed of man-pleasing.

4. Learn the government of your tongues. (Matthew Poole, A. M.)

The good man no backbiter

“He that backbiteth not with his tongue.” That is an extraordinary expression! To bite with the tongue! But the word is even more expressive still. The backbiter is one who walks along the way for the purpose of spying out another’s defects. He then takes the products of his ugly search and presses them into his social intercourse, and endows his words with teeth that are coated with venom. The companion of the Lord paces the common way with quite a different purpose. He, too, spies about, but not with the eyes of the cynic, but with the eyes of a friend, and “his words are a fountain of life.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Venomous speech

We saw in the museum at Venice an instrument with which one of the old Italian tyrants was accustomed to shoot poisoned needles at the objects of his wanton malignity; we thought of gossips, backbiters, and secret slanderers, and wished that their mischievous devices might come to a speedy end. Their weapons of innuendo, shrug, and whisper appear to be as insignificant as needles, but the venom which they instill is deadly to many a reputation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Slander avoided

1. Slander. All reproachful, opprobrious, and vile speech of or to our brethren is condemned; and that speech which, uttered in their absence, tendeth to their disgrace, discredit, or defamation. This evil is against the law of charity. Satan is the author of slander. See his words to Eve. St. James, speaking of slander, said the tongue was full of deadly poison. This sin is in sundry ways committed. Diogenes, being asked, what beast bit sorest, answered, “Among wild beasts, the slanderer; but among tame beasts, the flatterer.”

2. Injury. Men do injury and evil unto other men chiefly in four ways: in body, in goods, in rights and privileges, in name and estimation.

3. Receiving and believing false reports against brethren. Men should not be too light of belief. They are often even pleased with false reports.

4. Flattering the wicked. To hate the wicked and favour the just is a point of equity.

5. Breaking promises. This is usual in the wicked. (R. Turnbull.)

The backbiter

The backbiter is so called because, like the dog, he steals behind those in whom he wishes to flesh his teeth, deals in innuendoes, insinuations, evil surmisings, significant shrugs and looks, words meaning one thing in their literal sense and altogether another thing from the tone in which they are uttered, and so destroys a good name that no open assault could have affected. In this way the weak often overwhelm the strong; the vilest the most pure. The blow from behind and in the dark accomplishes its work of ruin before danger is even suspected. The truly good man, however, will assail no man’s good name. If he cannot speak good of another he will say nothing. He thinks, and justly too, that he has no more right to injure another’s character, than he has to injure his health; to destroy another’s good name, than he has to destroy his life. If he discover a neighbour’s faults he does not noise them abroad, but tries to conceal them; and so, if he discovers his neighbour’s necessities, he does what he can to relieve them. Moreover, be taketh not “up a reproach against his neighbour”; that is, either he will not originate a reproach, or he will not listen to one. The willing listener is as bad as the tale bearer. If there were none to listen to the tale of scandal, there would be none to start it, and none to repeat it; the slanderous ear is as detestable as the slanderous tongue. (David Caldwell, A. M.)

Nor doeth evil to his neighbour.--

The good man no evil-doer

“Nor doeth evil to his neighbour.” I think we are still in the region of speech, and the Psalmist is still describing the influence of destructive conversation. To do evil in one’s speech is to spoil one’s neighbour; to break him to pieces. We have preserved the equivalent of the Psalmist’s phrase down to our own time. We still speak of “picking a person to pieces.” This is precisely the significance of the original word. There is a conversation which mercilessly engages in the exercise of spoliation; breaking up the reputation of another, and leaving it like the bones of some poor bird which has been picked to pieces by a destructive hawk. The speech of the companion of the Lord is quite otherwise. It ever seeks to construct and strengthen. “Let no speech proceed out of your mouth but what is edifying.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

Detraction

From the day that Adam fell, thorns and thistles, with other noxious plants, have sprung up to vex and molest the sinner. As travellers wending their way through some dismal swamp, let us pause a moment on the way and pull up one of these weeds and examine it for our instruction. We may have it in our own garden plot; who knows? The weed we speak of is--Detraction.

I. It is owe of a class of sins. There are many of them, such as slander, calumny, defamation, revilings, aspersions, vilifications, and libel. All these are worse in some respects than detraction; they are coarser, uglier, bigger weeds. Calumny involves deliberate false statement. The defamer publishes his unfriendly message to the world. The libeler writes down and prints, and so puts before the eyes of a thousand readers in lasting form, the expressions of his malignity. And they who revile and asperse give us the idea of common scolds and scatterers of mud and offal, and show meanly themselves for the very manner of their work. But the act of the detractor is different from all these. It needs not lies nor aught which is essential to the others.

II. What, then, is it? It is a taking something away, a kind of petty minute robbery. It consists in depreciating and disparaging others, It is made up of slurs and innuendoes, of hints and gestures; and is often clad in graceful and witty garb. But it is very villainous. For with all our weakness and faults there is some good in everybody which is very precious to its possessor. Now the Lord sees this, however little it be, and makes the most of it. But detraction makes the least of it it can.

III. The causes of this sin.

1. Personal interest. People think there is something to be gained by it.

2. Envy. They cannot endure the prosperity or happiness of others. What evil it works in all public affairs. It is the crying scandal of our day. And in business, men use it to supplant their rivals and to advance themselves. The envious detractor is moved thereto by his bad temper and also by the pleasure, which he ought to be ashamed of,--the pleasure which people take in hearing of the misfortunes of others. Who is not conscious of this pleasure, vile as it is? But

3. Vanity is the chief motive of detraction. Reputation for wit is gained in such easy way by it, and a vain, weak person cannot resist the temptation. Nobody would listen to him on any other subject, but let him open his lips with some wretched gossip or scandal, and all listen. What punishment is too severe for this? It is the pest of society; but as for reform, it is all but impossible. Habit, and rivalry, and lack of high aim maintain it. But we have need greatly to fear if we be guilty of it. (Morgan Dix.)

Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

Evil speaking not to be listened to

“Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.” Then we are not only forbidden to speak evil, we are forbidden to listen to it. We are not only forbidden to cast a slander, we are forbidden to take it up when another has hurled it. To repeat a thing is to incur guilt quite as much as if we originated it. I think that one of the great needs of our day is the grace of sanctified hearing. How much the Master made of the responsibility of possessing ears! “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” “Take heed how ye hear.” There is a discriminating way of listening. There is a listening which encourages the speaker of slander, and there is a closing of the ears which reduces the slanderer to silence. There would be much less evil speaking if there was much less evil listening. The evil speaker yearns for the reward of attention and applause. If these are withheld he will soon tire of his nefarious trade. The companion of the Lord listens for commendations, eulogies, and repeats them to others. He likes to hear a good thing of somebody, and he sings it again into the ears of somebody else. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The law of the lip

I. The nature of slander.

1. The origination of an evil report concerning our neighbour.

2. The circulation of an evil report invented by others.

3. The listening to such a report. Giving it the sanction of our ear.

II. The evil of slander. What mighty unhappiness it causeth.

1. It demoralises the slanderer.

2. It demoralises the person to whom the slander is related.

3. It wrongs the party slandered.

III. The cure for slander. It is a most difficult thing to rule the tongue, and refrain from evil-speaking. What is the grand cure for all sins of the lip? He “speaketh the truth in his heart.” The heart must be changed, enlightened, exalted. Out of a pure fountain flows a pure stream. (W. L. Watkinson.)


Verse 4

Psalms 15:4

In whose eyes a vile person is contemned.

Second moral appreciations

“In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord.” Then he is a man of sound moral appreciations. He does not pay respect where no respect is deserved. He does not withhold respect where it is merited. Says an old Puritan, “We must be as honest in paying respect as in paying our bills.” But let us pay them in the right quarter. Do not let us call the vile person honourable because he is clothed in purple and fine linen, and fareth sumptuously every day. And do not let us esteem the honourable man as vile because his equipage is poor and his nobility is clothed in rags. Let us call villainy vile wherever we find it, and let us esteem nobility as noble in whatever guise it may appear. This is one of the great characteristics of the friend of God; to whom the sweet is sweet and the sour is sour; evil is evil and good is good. Nothing is allowed to interfere with the soundness and sobriety of his judgment, and no verbal jugglery is permitted to destroy the healthiness of his discriminating vocabulary. He knows the superlative, and loves it! “As for the saints that are in the earth, they are the excellent in whom is all My delight.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The believer’s regard for those who fear God

Mr. Fox being asked whether he remembered not such a poor servant of God who had received succour from him in time of trouble answered, “I remember him well; I tell you, I forget the lords and ladies to remember such.” (John Trapp.)

He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

The obligation of an oath

Among the duties mentioned in this Psalm we find this of constancy and faithfulness in keeping those promises which we have confirmed by an oath. Because the greatest temptation to the breaking of oaths proceeds from fear of some temporal damage, or prospect of some worldly advantage, therefore it is said, “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.”

I. In what cases an oath doth oblige. No oath can oblige to that which is impossible; or to that which is unlawful; for justice requires that we do not invade the rights and privileges of other men. Oaths contrary to charity or mercy or humanity are void. No oath can oblige when it hinders a greater good. What if the matter be purely indifferent? There can be here no occasion of difficulty, except the matter be also of no moment. He is undoubtedly guilty of great irreverence towards God, that will cite His name to a trifle. If the matter of the oath be such as causeth a man to doubt whether it be lawful or no, in that case he had better perform it. There are cases relating to the person that swears. Here, whensoever we shall determine that an oath doth not bind, it will be for the want of the person’s rightly understanding that he made one. A man may not know what an oath is; or he may swear when affected by anger, or by drink, or by fear; or by any other passion; or if a man swears to save his life, as from robbers.

II. In what sense an oath ought to be taken. That sense is to be taken which is most suitable to the business men are about. We may not precisely, without limitation, accept the sense of the swearer, or of the imposer, or that which the words of the oath will bear. The swearer may equivocate, or use mental reservations. What if a man swears and doth not intend to swear? Something of intention is always required to an oath. It would be a frivolous excuse for a man to say, he intended to swear, but did not intend to be obliged.

III. How great the obligation of an oath is. It is a solemn invocation of God to witness what we say, by His favour and mercy to us, if it be true; or by His vengeance upon us if it be false. It is a high advantage and privilege which God vouchsafeth to us, in that He gives us leave, upon urgent and weighty causes, to make use of His glorious Name as a seal to confirm the truth of what we assent. If, therefore, we take it up to avouch a falsehood, we are exceedingly ungrateful, we falsify that seal, we profane that dreadful name, we apply that which is most sacred to the worst of uses . . . For these and the like causes an oath hath generally been looked upon as a sufficient assurance and confirmation of the truth of any matter. He that seriously considers what an oath is cannot surely believe that any man is above the obligation of it. And as no man can be too great for such an obligation himself, so neither can he dispense with it in others. (Henry Hellier, M. A.)

Immutable in covenant

“He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” Then he is immutable in covenant. His word is his bond. He is dependable. When he promises he redeems. And he does it even to his own hurt! If it necessitates bleeding, he still redeems it. He is “faithful even unto death.” He is grandly consistent, consistent not in the sense of never changing his opinion, but in the grander sense of never altering his loyalty to truth and his relationship to God. His word is a tower in which the weak and defenceless have a strong defence. (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)


Verse 5

Psalms 15:5

He that putteth not out his money to usury.

Unclean money eschewed

“He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent.” The companion of the Lord rejects the fruits of oppression. He will have no money that bears the marks of blood. Nothing unclean will he take into the building of his estate. In earning his bread he will never use a sting; in labouring he will never bite. He will never allow himself to gain an advantage by illegitimate means. He will accept no bribe, nor give any. “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without light.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The examination of usury

I. Define what usury is. It is that gain which is gotten by lending, covenanting before with the borrower to receive more than was borrowed. Someone, defining usury, calls it the contrary to charity; for “love seeketh not her own,” but usury seeks another’s that is not her own. Then it is far from love; but God is love; so usury is far from God. Usury has her name of biting (nesher), and she may well signify it; therefore St. Paul saith (Galatians 5:15), “If you bite one another, take heed,” etc.

II. Its unlawfulness.

1. It is against the law of charity.

2. Against the law of nations. For all nations have laws against usury, and some restraints against it.

3. Against the law of nature, that is, against the natural compassion which should be among men.

4. Against the law of God (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19). It is a miserable occupation to live by sin, and a great comfort when a man can feel, of his gold and silver, that it is all well gotten, and that he leaves of his own to his children. The usurer loveth the borrower as the ivy loveth the oak, to grow up by it; the usurer would grow rich by the borrower. The ivy claspeth the oak like a lover, but it claspeth out all the juice and sap, that the oak cannot thrive after it. So the usurer claspeth the borrower with such bonds that he ever after grows poor as others grow rich. Christ bids us lend freely. God bade Adam live by the sweat of his brow (face), his own, not that of another, which usurers live by. David says, “A good man is merciful and lendeth,” and then he adds, “he shall never be moved.” In Exodus 23:1-33, it is said, “Lend unto him which wanteth without usury, that the Lord may bless thee.”

III. The different kinds of usury. There be more sorts of it than there are tricks at cards.

1. Some will not take usury, but will have the use of your land or your cattle, and so get even more than by usury.

2. Others will take plates, bedding, and other household stuff, to use or wear, (Amos 2:1-16) “They lie down upon the clothes which are laid to pledge.”

3. Others will take a pawn, which is better than the money they lend, and if the money be not returned by a certain day, they keep the pawn.

4. Others will buy goods at a small price, and then covenant that the borrowers buy them back at the same price on such a day, or else the goods will be theirs (1 Thessalonians 4:6).

IV. The arguments by which usury is defended. There be three opinions. Some say, like God, “Thou shalt die.” They think that usury is utterly unlawful, because God hath forbidden it. Some say, like the woman, “Peradventure thou shalt die”; they doubt whether usury be utterly unlawful or no, because it is so much tolerated. Some say like the serpent, “Thou shalt not die”; they think usury lawful, because it is gainful, as Saul thought that the idolaters beasts should not be killed, because they were fat (1 Samuel 15:9). The arguments for usury which are pleaded are--

1. God doth allow some kind of usury (see Deuteronomy 23:1-25). “Of a stranger thou mayest take usury.” But a stranger signifies an enemy such as they were commanded destroy; only to such might they be usurers. But men take usury of their brother.

2. They say they lend for compassion. But how so when you partake not of your brother’s losses but his gains?

3. They say If he gain, and I gain too, is not this well? Should he not be thankful? Yes, if he hath received a good turn from you. But you bind him to requite it.

4. It is necessary for orphans, widows, and such like, which have no other way of getting their living. But how did the Jews do without it? If it was good for them not to have, is it good for us that we should have usurers?

5. They say, “If I may not gain by the money which I lend, I will keep it to myself.” But you must not do that (Matthew 5:42; Ezekiel 18:1-32).

6. It is only the biting usury which is forbidden. But all usury is that.

7. They, allege the law of the land, which allows it. But if God’s law forbid thee, can man’s law excuse thee? It did not serve Adam to say, “The woman gave me.” And furthermore, the law only restrains. No man is to take more than ten in the hundred; if he do he shall be punished. The law doth not sanction any usury, but only holds back the usurer.

V. The usurer’s punishment.

1. Not only God’s law, but the canon law doth condemn the usurer. It doth excommunicate him, as having no communion with saints.

2. It doth detain him from the sacraments, as having no communion with Christ.

3. Will not suffer him to be buried, as if he were only worthy to lie in hell.

4. It treats his will as he will. But hear the judgment of God’s law. The usurer doth receive two incomes, one of the borrower, and another of the revenger. The first is gem, the other punishment. All the Scripture prophesieth evil unto him. Solomon saith (Proverbs 28:8), “He which increaseth his riches by usury, gathereth for them which will be merciful to the poor.” God saith that He will smite the usurer with His fist (Ezekiel 22:13). As his hands were shut against the poor, so shall God’s hands be against him. And here David saith, “they shall not dwell in God’s temple, nor rest in His holy mountain.” But this punishment is all punishments. Yes, usury signifieth biting, for when it has bitten others it shall bite the usurer too, and never cease. If, therefore, Christ be come to your hearts, as He came to Zacchaeus’ house, restore now, as he did, and escape this judgment.

VI. The giving of usury. Is this lawful? Jeremiah says he never gave nor took (Jeremiah 15:10). But he meant he was no meddler with the world, whereby they should envy him as usurers were most of all envied. But many will borrow who will never lend; and it is said, if there were no borrowers there would be no lenders, if no bribe givers there would be no bribe takers. And there is as much difference between the two men as between covetousness and necessity, for he which borroweth upon, usury borroweth for necessity. But for this God has allowed many things--Adam’s sons to marry with Adam’s daughters; and David to eat the shewbread (Luke 6:4). And so when immediate help is needed to prevent a great mischief, many think that it is lawful to resort to the usurer. But if some may borrow upon usury it does not follow that all may. Yet many borrow who have no need. They borrow because they reckon that they can get more by the money than the money they pay for it. Hence it is that goods are so dear. And there are some who borrow because they want to make their creditors think they are bare of money. These are like foxes, and I doubt not there be more sorts than I know.

VII. What should they do who have got their money by usury? Restore it again. If you cannot say as Samuel said, “Whose goods have I taken?” then you must say as Zacchaeus said, Whose goods have I kept? The best thing is to do no man wrong, the next best is to make amends. For as humility is the repentance of pride, and abstinence of surfeit, and alms of covetousness, and forgiveness of malice, so restitution is the repentance of usury. As a camel when he comes home casteth off his burden at the door, that he may enter into his stable; so they which are laden with other men’s goods, when they go to heaven, must leave their burden where they had it, lest they be too gross to enter in at the narrow gate; therefore that you may not die in your sins, make restitution (2 Samuel 2:26), so do you remember whether this course will be sweet or bitter in the end. Now, seeing that you may not be usurers to men, be usurers to God (Matthew 19:29). (H. Smith.)

The sins of usury and bribe

By usury understand--that gain which, by composition, compact, and agreement going before, is taken for the duty of lending above the principal. It is nothing prejudicial to the dangerous adventures of lawful merchants; neither condemneth it tolerable gains in the retailer. But when, for very lending, without labour, without danger undertaken by transporting goods, or otherwise, there riseth commodity and gain, the principal returning, there is usury. Usury is against God’s law. The Roman Commonwealth decayed after usury was therein entertained. Usury is condemned by the general consent of the Church and the Fathers. The wise men among the heathen condemned it. The usurer is an idolater, for he is covetous. The last forbidden evil is corruption and bribery. The taking of rewards whereby justice is perverted, and the innocent oppressed. (R. Turnbull.)

The lawfulness of usury considered

The Rev. W.J. Dawson, replying to the question “Is usury right?” says: “John Ruskin replies, No. His contention is that if a man has £15,000 it is his duty to spend his principal pound by pound, but to put it to usury, that is to interest, is a sin against society. I confess I have never been able to accept this doctrine. When we talk of £15,000 it is one thing; but apply it to £1000, which we will say is the entire fortune of a widow. If she spends it pound by pound she will soon came to beggary. If it be wisely invested, someone else has the use of it in the promotion of business, and she has a small annual income, which is the barrier between her and want. I do not understand Christ as denouncing usury. What the whole spirit of the Bible denounces is excessive usury.” (The Young Man.)

He that doeth these things shall never be moved.--

On tranquillity of mind

Inquire whether any line of conduct can be pointed out which, independent of external situation in the world, shall tend to make us easy in mind; shall either bestow or aid that tranquillity which all men desire. Direction:

1. That we imitate the character of the man who is described in this Psalm; that we study to preserve a clear conscience, and to lead a virtuous and honourable, at least an inoffensive and innocent, life. So great is the power of conscience over every human being that the remembrance of crimes never fails to overthrow tranquillity of mind. Let him therefore, who wishes to enjoy tranquillity, study, above all things, to act an irreproachable part. 2, Join humble trust in the favour of God. As, after the best endeavours we can use, no man’s behaviour will be entirely faultless, it is essential to peace of mind that we have some ground of hope in the Divine mercy, that through the merits of Jesus Christ our defects shall be forgiven, and grace be shown us by heaven. But a man may be both pious and virtuous and yet, through some defects in the management of his mind and temper, may not possess that happy serenity and self-enjoyment which ought to be the portion of virtue and piety. There is therefore some discipline to be studied; there are some subsidiary parts of character to be attended to, in order to give piety and virtue their full effect for conferring tranquillity.

3. Attend to the culture and improvement of your minds. A fund of useful knowledge and a stock of ideas afford much advantage for the enjoyment of tranquillity. In a mind absolutely vacant, tranquillity is seldom found. The vacancy will too often be filled up by bad desires and passions.

4. Be always careful to provide proper employment of our time. Regular industry and labour, with intervals of ease, is perhaps the state most conducive of any to tranquillity. But if relaxation degenerate into total idleness it becomes in a high degree adverse to tranquillity.

5. Learn to govern our passions. These are the frequent disturbers of our peace. Such of them as belong to the malignant and unsocial class evidently tend to promote vexation and disquiet. If those which are accounted of an innocent nature obtain the entire mastery of our minds, they are sufficient to overthrow the tranquillity of life. This self-command is particularly necessary in all that relates to habitual temper: those slight emotions which ruffle or sour the temper are sufficient, by their frequent recurrence, to poison all self-enjoyment. He who would possess a tranquil state must cultivate calmness and gentleness of disposition.

6. Never expect too much from the world. High hopes and florid views are great enemies to tranquillity. When rashly indulged they are constantly producing disappointments. One of the first lessons, both of religion and wisdom, is to moderate our expectations and hopes. It is a middle region which is the native station of tranquillity. Do not form too high expectations from the character of those who are in social or domestic relations with you.

7. Mix retreat with the active business of the world, and cultivate habits of serious thought and recollection. Reflection and meditation allay the workings of many unquiet passions, and place us at a distance from the tumults of the world. The three great enemies to tranquillity are vice, superstition, and idleness. (Hugh Blair, D. D.)

A man unmoved

“He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” How glorious is the assurance! The companion of the Lord shall never slip. When he is walking over the enchanted ground he shall be preserved wakeful and vigilant. He shall know where the slippery places are, and where the traps are hid, and he shall cross the devil-haunted ground in security. He shall not be carried away by the storm. He shall be unmoved in the blast of adversity. When death comes he shall still stand! The Lord is his keeper, the Lord is at his right hand, disaster shall only strengthen him. “All things shall work together for his good.” Such is the companion of God. Into that fellowship we are all called. What God wishes us to be He is prepared to make us. His ideals are His promises. His commandments are invitations. His high callings are gracious evangels. “Our sufficiency is of God.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)

The fixedness and safety of the ungodly

A ship’s compass is so adjusted as to keep its level amidst all the hearings of the sea. Though forming part of a structure that feels every motion of the restless waves, it has an arrangement of its own that keeps it always in place, and in working order. Look at it when you will, it is pointing, trembling perhaps, but truly, to the pole. So each soul in this life needs an adjustment of its own, that amid the fluctuations of the “earthen vessel” it may be kept ever in a position to feel the power of its great attraction in the skies. (A Parsons Penn.)

Of false pretences to godliness

Religion consists in action; the truth and power of piety lie in practice. “He that doth these things.” Prove--

.

Psalms 16:1-11

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 15:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-15.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology