To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
The praise of the Divine glory in the natural world of creation is first general (vers. 1-4) and then particular (vers. 4-6).
I. The whole visible expanse of sky is the theme or occasion of praise. Its teaching or testimony is (1) constant and continuous, (2) independent of language, and (3) universal.
II. The commission given generally to the heavens to declare God's glory and to the firmament to show His handiwork is centred in the particular ascendency and sovereignty of the orb of day. (1) He has a position which implies supremacy. (2) The bright and radiant bravery of the sun is illustrated by significant comparisons. (3) The two leading features of his supremacy are clearly indicated: the wide sweep of his command and the penetrating, all-searching potency of his beams.
The transition from the natural world to the spiritual is made with startling abruptness. As in the stroke of a magic wand, the sun is gone. Another sun breaks forth from a higher heaven—the law of the Lord.
I. This sudden substitution implies similarity or analogy. (1) The law of the Lord has a fixed position; (2) a resplendent beauty and authoritative power; (3) a sweep and range to take in the uttermost bounds of human consciousness and experience, as well as a piercing, fiery energy to ransack every nook and cranny in the thoughts and intents of the human heart.
II. In this great analogy a difference is to be noted. The heavens are the result in time of what God, as the Almighty, is pleased from all eternity to determine fully to do; the law is the image from everlasting to everlasting of what God, as Jehovah, from everlasting to everlasting necessarily is. And as what God in His essential nature is transcends incalculably in glory what God, in the exercise of His discretionary choice, may think fit to do, so the law of Jehovah transcends the heavens which declare His glory, and in which He has set a tabernacle for the sun.
R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 113.
References: Psalm 19:2.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 147. Psalm 19:3.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 249. Psalm 19:3, Psalm 19:4.—V. Welby Gregory, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 315. Psalm 19:4.—W. G. Harder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 398; H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 146. Psalm 19:4-6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 1020; A. P. Stanley, Sermons in the East, p. 71.
Psalm 19:5This rising sun is here a figure, token, or shadow of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I. Every one may understand that as the sun is beyond comparison the brightest object in these outward and visible heavens, so the great privilege of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom and Church of Christ's saints, is to have the Sun of Righteousness, God made Man, especially present, abiding, and reigning in it. It is the kingdom and Church of Christ; that is all its hope and glory.
II. As Christ is a Sun to His Church by His glorious abiding in it, so the manner in which He came to be so is likened by the Divine Psalmist to a bridegroom coming out of his chamber. He married the nature of God to the nature of man, by taking on Him our flesh, of the substance of His mother, and that without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin.
III. The Psalmist goes on, next, to tell us that He is still in a certain sense running His course. Our Saviour, God made Man, born for us, and crucified, and risen again, fills the whole Church and the whole world. But His faithful and considerate people are more particularly made aware of His presence by the outward means of grace and the visible ordinances of the holy catholic Church. The doctrine is given in two words by the Apostle when he says concerning the Church that in it "Christ is all and in all." Christ is in every person, and He is every person's all. Consider these plain thoughts about our duty and practice. (1) According to our profession as Christians, we really regard the most holy Jesus as our all. Surely we shall never willingly miss an opportunity of coming to Him, of prevailing on Him to come more and more to us. (2) Taking that other half of St. Paul's account of how Christ is the Sun of His Church—that He is in all—there is no Christian who is not partaker of Him. This will give us deep thoughts of our duty to our neighbour, as the other of our services paid to Almighty God. It is a remarkable saying of St. Peter, "Honour all men." Do not only deal kindly with them, but respect and honour them. Why? Because they are made after the image of God. By the same rule, and more, the meanest Christian must be honoured, because he bears Christ about within him. In honouring Christians, we are honouring Christ; loving them, we are loving Him; in going out of our way to serve them, we are making a little sacrifice to Him, who thought not His life too dear to be parted with on the Cross for our salvation.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. i., p. 248 (see also J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Christmas to Epiphany, p. 12).
References: Psalm 19:5, Psalm 19:6.—J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, p. 227. Psalm 19:7.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 147. Psalm 19:7-9.—G. Matheson, Expositor, 1st series, vol. xii., p. 89.
Psalm 19:7-9There are here six different names by which the law of Jehovah is called, and six different statements regarding it, corresponding to these different names.
I. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Its very perfection fits it for being the instrument of the Spirit in effecting that result.
II. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." The simple are the credulous ones who listen to any tale, the careless ones who will take no warning. The enmity of the sinner's carnal mind against God disposes him simply to believe the devil's lie. The soul must be converted. The simple must be made wise.
III. "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart." By the statutes of Jehovah we may understand the separate and several precepts of the law, as it is broken up into particulars and brought to bear in detail upon the different realms of thought and affection, or of words and deeds, which it is designed to regulate and rule.
IV. "The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." The law, which is manifold in its details, is yet one in essence, one in principle. The statutes, which are many, have one centre, the commandment of Jehovah, or, as I would understand the phrase, what is called, and called rightly, the spirit of the law, its general ruling spirit, as distinguished from its special minute requirements and applications. This spirit of the law is clear as crystal, clear as noonday. Hence it has a wondrous efficacy to enlighten the eyes.
V. "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever." It is a constant and consistent, a permanent and perennial, principle of thought and action. It implies a settled, serene frame of mind, always the same, reverential, conscientious, simple, and guileless, fixed in and on God. It is clean, purged from all sinister aims, all cherished lusts, and the whole miserable scheming of dead formality. And being thus clean, it endureth for ever.
VI. "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." The administration of the law, in the providence of God towards you, is in entire harmony with the establishment of the law in you, as Jehovah commanding and Jehovah feared. And now, as regards the enforcing of it on the part of God, it passes on into yet another formula, and becomes Jehovah judging.
R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 129.
Reference: Psalm 19:8.—J. H. Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 36.
Psalm 19:10-11I. The value of the law, as compared with gold, may be measured by the good it does; its honey sweetness by its manner of doing it.
II. The twofold commendation of the law in ver. 10 may be taken in connection with what follows as well as with what goes before (ver. 11). (1) "By them is Thy servant warned." This makes them in my esteem more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold. If I am the servant of Jehovah, I desire to be continually warned, admonished at every step, reminded of duty, cautioned against danger. (2) "And in keeping of them there is great reward." This explains their being sweeter than honey. The service is the reward begun; the reward is the service perfected. In serving now, amid whatever sufferings, I have a taste of heaven's joy.
R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 153.
Psalm 19:11St. Paul says, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." Where then is the reward, the great present reward, in keeping God's commandments? If an uninspired writer had affirmed that the most miserable being in creation would be a Christian supposing him without hopes for the future, there would have been uttered on all hands a vehement contradiction; the disciples of Christ would have pressed eagerly forward, attesting the possession of such a measure of gladness and peace that if deceived for hereafter, the advantage was on the side of the deception.
I. It were nothing to prove to the lukewarm professor that there should be no resurrection; he has never known the ecstasies of piety, and therefore he feels not the appalling declaration. But it is different with a man whose whole soul is in his religion, who upholds himself in every trial by the consolation which he draws from the future, and who finds a refuge from every grief and a deep fountain to cleanse in the conviction that Christ has abolished death and opened an eternal kingdom to His followers. It must be the extreme point of misery at which a righteous man would be placed who, having taken up Christianity as a charter of the future, should find it altogether limited to the present, and we can contend for it therefore as a literal truth that by bringing home to the true Christian a proof that there is no resurrection you would instantly make him "of all men most miserable." But since you can find no such proof, there is nothing in the saying of St. Paul to invalidate this saying of the Psalmist in our text. U. Whilst we maintain that there are present enjoyments in religion which vastly more than counterpoise the disquietude it may cause, we are certain that if Christian hope were suddenly bounded by the horizon of time, then all this present enjoyment would be virtually destroyed. Each present enjoyment in religion anticipates the future. What would you leave the believer if you intercepted those flashings from the far-off country which struggle through the mist and cloud of this region of eclipse, and shed lustre round the path by which he toils on to glory? Who then shall rival the Christian in misery if, after setting out in the expectation of a blessed immortality, he discovers that only in this life is there hope in Christ? He loses the enjoyments of religion, he cannot relish the enjoyments of irreligion, stripped of the acquired, unfitted for the natural, knowing that he is doomed to be an outcast hereafter, and unable to cheat himself with forgetfulness here. It is nothing against the truth of our text that St. Paul applies the epithet "most miserable" to Christians if Christ had not opened to them eternity. Christ has opened to them eternity; and therefore we can confidently say, with the Psalmist, of the commandments of God, "Moreover by them is Thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2625.
Psalm 19:12I. How is it that sin possesses the power of deceiving; that, being foul, it can often look so fair, or where it cannot conceal altogether, can yet conceal to so large an extent, its native hideousness? I need hardly answer that it derives this power altogether from ourselves. There is that in every one of us which is always ready to take the part of sin, to plead for sin, to be upon sin's side, sin having a natural correspondence and affinity with everything which is corrupt and fallen within us. There is (1) our love of ease; (2) our love of pleasure; (3) our pride. All the pride as well as all the passions of man are enlisted on the side of sin.
II. How shall we deliver ourselves from these sorceries of sin? How shall we understand our errors, or at least understand that we can never understand them to the full, and thus seek of God that He would cleanse us from them? (1) Grasp with a full and firm faith the blessed truth of the one sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction made for your sins. (2) Remember that He who made that atonement for your sins, and so enabled you to look them in the face—for they are sins not imputed any more—is also the Giver of the Spirit, of that Spirit which convinces us of sin, of righteousness, of judgment to come. Ask of God, and ask earnestly, and ask continually, for this convincing Spirit.
R. C. Trench, Sermons Preached in Ireland, p. 36.
I. The most ready method of convincing ourselves of the existence in us of faults unknown to ourselves is to consider how plainly we see the secret faults of others.
II. Consider the actual disclosures of our hidden weakness which accidents occasion. We cannot tell how we should act if brought under temptations different from those which we have hitherto experienced. This thought should keep us humble. We are sinners, but we do not know how great. He alone knows who died for our sins.
III. What if we do not know ourselves even where we have been tried and found faithful? Faithful Abraham, through want of faith, denied his wife. Moses, the meekest of men, was excluded from the land of promise for a passionate word. The wisdom of Solomon was seduced to bow down to idols.
IV. No one begins to examine himself and to pray to know himself, like David in the text, but he finds within him an abundance of faults which before were either entirely or almost entirely unknown to him.
V. But let a man persevere in prayer and watchfulness to the day of his death, yet he will never get to the bottom of his heart. Doubtless we must all endure that fiery and terrifying vision of our real selves, that last fiery trial of the soul before its acceptance, a spiritual agony and second death to all who are not then supported by the strength of Him who died to bring them safe through it, and in whom on earth they have believed.
VI. Call to mind the impediments that are in the way of our knowing ourselves. (1) Self-knowledge requires an effort and a work. (2) Self-love answers for our safety. (3) This favourable judgment of ourselves will specially prevail if we have the misfortune to have uninterrupted health, and high spirits, and domestic comfort. (4) The force of habit makes sins once known become secret sins. (5) To the force of habit must be added that of custom. The most religious men, unless they are specially watchful, will feel the sway of the fashion of their age, and suffer from it, as Lot in wicked Sodom, though unconsciously. (6) Our chief guide amid the evil and seducing customs of the world is obviously the Bible. "The world passeth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever." How much extended then, and strengthened, necessarily must be this secret dominion of sin over us when we consider how little we read Scripture! (7) To think of these things, and to be alarmed, is the first step towards acceptable obedience; to be at ease is to be unsafe. We must know what the evil of sin is hereafter if we do not learn it here.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 41.
Psalm 19:12-14I. The first prayer, "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults," springs naturally out of the complaint, "Who can understand his errors?" Germs of evil are in our nature that can never be estimated or counted. You may trace and track sin in its outward manifestations, you may reach it inwardly in its volitions or movements of voluntary choice, but still more deeply seated is the mystery of iniquity in the inner man.
II. In your spiritual exercise of soul upon Jehovah's law, you find secret faults bordering on the region of presumptuous sins. These are acts of the will, as the former are faults of the nature. The prayer implies a keen and vivid apprehension of our liability to such sins.
III. "Let them not have dominion over me." There is the possibility of a sad downward tendency indicated here. Any natural lust, if the will consents to it but a little and but for a little, becomes a tyrant whose yoke it is hard indeed to shake off. It acquires and wields the stern dominion of habit.
IV. "Then shall I be upright." If you follow the course deprecated in the preceding petitions, you must cease to be upright.
V. There is still one more disaster which the spiritual man dreads. He is alive to the terrible risk and danger of the "great transgression." I take this expression to denote the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost which can never be forgiven.
VI. In the closing words the Psalmist prays generally and universally that always and everywhere the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart may be such as God may accept.
R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 164.
References: Psalm 19:12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 299; Ibid., vol. iii., No. 116; J. Jackson, Repentance: its Necessity, Nature, and Use, p. 78; H. Thompson, Concionalia: Outlines for Parochial Use, 1st series, vol. i., p. 111; J. Caird, Sermons, p. 40; J. M. Wilson, Sermons in Clifton College Chapel, p. 60. Psalm 19:13.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 76. Psalm 19:13, Psalm 19:14.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Lent to Passiontide, p. 95. Psalm 19:14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 287. Psalm 19—A. Maclaren, Life of David, p. 24; J. Oswald Dykes, Expositor, 1st series, vol. ix., p. 42; P. Thompson, Ibid., 2nd series, vol. i., p. 170; I.Williams, The Psalms Interpreted of Christ, p. 361.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.