Psalm 15:3
It matters little when this psalm was written, or by whom. Although there is no reason for denying its Davidic authorship, still its contents are manifestly and equally precious, whoever was the inspired penman, and whenever he penned these words. Manifestly, the psalm is a product of Judaism. The Mosaic legislation had its ritual, but it was not ritualistic. There was not only an altar of sacrifice, but also a pillar of testimony and the tables of the Law; and to leave out either the sacrificial or the ethical part of the Hebrew faith would give as the residuum, only a mutilated fragment of it. This psalm is not one of those which in itself contains a new revelation, but one the inspiration of which is due to a revelation already received. The forms of expression in the first verse indicate this with sufficient clearness; the entire psalm suggests to us three lines of truth for pulpit exposition.

I. THERE IS A HOME FOR THE SOUL IN GOD. We do not regard the question in the first verse as one of despair, but simply as one of inquiry. It suggests that there is a sphere wherein men may dwell with God, and asks who are the men who can and do live in this sphere. The inquiry is addressed to "Jehovah," the redeeming God of Israel, who by this name had made himself known to the chosen people as their God - the Loving, the Eternal, the Changeless One. Moreover, there had been a tabernacle made, and afterwards the palace of the great King was erected on Mount Zion, the holy hill. "This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it." And inasmuch as this was the spot where God dwelt with men, to the devout soul the happiest place was that spot where he could meet with God; and if, perchance, he could there abide, not only to sojourn as for a night, but even to take up his permanent abode, he would realize the very ideal of good. "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." But in the later form of scriptural thought it is not only in this place or that that the yearning spirit can find God, but everywhere; yea, God himself is the soul's home - a home neither enclosed by walls, nor restricted in space, nor bounded by time. And we know what are the features of that home - it is one of righteousness, of a purity which allows no stain; it is one of mercy, in which all the occupants have made a covenant with God by sacrifice; it is one of closest fellowship, in which there may be a perpetual interchange of communion between the soul and the great eternal God. And when we remember that on the one hand, God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, and that on the other hand, even all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, it must always be a wonder of wonders that the sinner should ever be allowed to find a home in God; and never can it be inappropriate to ask the question with which the psalm begins, "Lord, dost thou give it to all men to find their rest in thee? If not, who are these happy ones?" "Who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?"

II. ONLY SOME SOULS FIND GOD A HOME FOR THEM. The rest of the psalm answers the question which is raised at the outset of it. Inasmuch as the very phraseology of the psalm is built upon and assumes the divinely appointed institutions of priesthood, sacrifice, penitence, prayer, and pardon, it is needful only to remark in passing that the man who dwells in God's holy hill is the one who accepts the divinely revealed plan of mercy and pardon through an appointed sacrifice. But the fact that by God's mercy we are permitted to base the edifice of our life on such a foundation does by no means dispense with the necessity or lessen the importance of our erecting such edifice with scrupulous exactness according to the Divine requirements. The two parts of revealed religion cannot be disjoined now, any more than of old; the sacrificial and ethical departments must be equally recognized. And we arc here called upon to study a Scripture portraiture of a virtue which God will approve, by seeing how a man who lives in God will demean himself before the world.

1. His walk is upright. His entire life and bearing will be of unswerving integrity. Bishop Perowne renders the word "uprightly," "perfectly," which in the scriptural sense is equivalent to "sincerely," with an absolutely incorruptible aim at the glory of God.

2. His deeds are right. They correspond with the simplicity and integrity of his life's aim and intent.

3. His heart is true to his words. He does not say one thing and mean another, nor will he cajole another by false pretences.

4. He guards his tongue. He will not "backbite" or "slander:" the verb is from a root signifying "to go about," and conveys the idea of one going about from house to house, spreading an evil report of a neighbour.

5. He checks the tongues of others. He will not take up a reproach against his neighbour. Retailers of gossip and scandal will find their labour lost on him.

6. He abstains from injuring a friend - by deeds of wrong.

7. He estimates people according to a moral standard, not according to their wealth. A base person is rejected, however rich. A man who fears the Lord is honoured, however poor.

8. He is true to his promise, though it may cost him much, even more than he at first supposed.

9. He is conscientious in the use of what he has. He will not be one to bite, to devour, or to oppress another by greed of gain, nor will he take a bribe to trick a guileless man. He will be clear as light, bright as day, true as steel, firm as rock. While resting on the promises of God as a ground of hope, he will follow the Divine precepts as the rule of his life. As Bishop Perowne admirably remarks, "Faith in God and spotless integrity may not be sundered. Religion does not veil or excuse petty dishonesties. Love to God is only then worthy the name, when it is the life and bond of every social virtue." A holy man said on his death-bed, "Next to my hope in Christ, my greatest comfort is that I never wronged any one in business."

III. FROM THEIR HOME IN GOD such SOULS CAN NEVER BE DISLODGED. (Ver. 5, "He that doeth these things shall never be moved.") The man is one who lives up to the Divine requirements under the gospel.

"Yet when his holiest works are done,
His soul depends on grace alone." Even so. And he shall not be disappointed. Note, in passing, it is not his excellence that ensures this security; but the grace of God honors a man whose faith and works accord with his will.

1. No convulsions can disturb such a man. His rest in Divine love is one which is secure against any catastrophe whatever (Psalm 46:1, 2; Romans 8:38, 39).

2. Time is on the side of such a one. For both the graces of faith and obedience will strengthen with age; while the Being who is his Stronghold is the same "yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." Such characters, moreover, can never get out of date.

3. No discoveries in science nor in any department can dim the lustre of such a life. To trust in the great eternal God and to aspire to his likeness, is surely that of which no advance in human thought can ever make us ashamed.

4. The faithful God will never desert such a one. Whoever clings to God in faith, love, and obedience will never find his love unreciprocated or his trust unrecompensed.

5. The promises made to each a one will never fail. They are all Yea and Amen in Christ; they are sealed by "the blood of the everlasting covenant." And hence they who repose their trust in them can never be moved. In conclusion, the preacher may well warn against any attempt to divorce these two departments of character - trust and action.

1. Without trust in God there can be no right action.

2. Without the aim at right action we have no right to trust in God. - C.

He that backbiteth not with his tongue.
? — 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.


1. Who is my neighbour? It is the peculiarity of the Gospel that every man is made my neighbour. 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?(1) It is nothing else but an evil report, or an evil speech, unduly uttered concerning another. A report is evil in two ways — when it is evil in itself, a false report, and when it is evil to a man's neighbour, when your speech tends to your neighbour's disparagement and defamation.(2) When a man publisheth a neighbour's secret infirmities or sins.(3) When a man aggravates the real or supposed faults of his neighbour either in opinion or practice. Men often censure others for things indifferent and of small moment, as, for example, in their habits and garbs.

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.)

"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.)

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.)

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."(1) When anything is falsely said of us, and we are charged with matters that are untrue.(2) When men, by vehemency of words, aggravate and amplify the infirmities and light offences of men.(3) When men blaze abroad the secret sins and infirmities of their brethren.(4) When we deprave the good deeds and well doing of men.(5) When, by our manner of speaking, we leave a surmise and suspicion in the hearts of the hearers.(6) When we report truly the faults of men, yet not for love to the truth, but for envy to the persons. The chief causes of slandering seem to be these: Love of yourselves. Malice towards others. Desire of revenge. Hope of commodity. Study to please.

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 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.
"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.)

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.


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
"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.)


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.)

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