Psalm 19:11


The former part of the psalm is a comparison and a contrast between God's revelation of himself in nature and in his Law. Now the psalmist passes on to consider his own relation to the Divine Law; what light it throws upon his character and circumstances, and what rewards it bestows upon those who abide in the steadfast observance of it.

I. WHAT THE DIVINE LAW TAUGHT THE PSALMIST. (Vers. 12, 13.)

1. His manifold sins and errors. "Who can understand his errors?" Who can tell how often he offendeth? Our sins and mistakes are greater in number than we can understand or reckon. Our moral infirmity is greater than we can estimate.

2. That he was largely an ignorant transgressor. "Cleanse thou me from the sins that I know not of." Arising from self-deception and self-ignorance. Others see in us what we cannot see in ourselves. The proud and covetous and unjust do not think themselves so. Cleanse us from the pretence to virtues which we have not.

3. To pray for deliverance from the temptation to deliberate sins. That he might not commit presumptuous, wilful sin. He does not ask for the pardon of such sins, but to be restrained from them. "If we sin wilfully after that we have come to the knowledge of the truth," etc. No sacrifice in the Jewish Law for such sins.

II. THE LAW GREATLY REWARDS THE STEADFASTLY OBEDIENT. (Vers. 11, 14, 15.)

1. By giving them an increasing spirit of consecration. "Let my words and meditations and actions be more and more acceptable in thy sight." Obedience leads to further obedience, and longs for nothing short of being perfectly acceptable to God.

2. By giving a more perfect consciousness of God's acquaintance with our thoughts and ways. The whole passage shows that, as well as the fourteenth verse. The disobedient think they can hide their ways from God. "How doth God know?" The obedient know that all things are naked and open before him; and rejoice in the thought, because they are aiming at what is acceptable to him.

3. By revealing God as a sure, faithful Redeemer from all evil. A rock is the image of faithful stability, and means that God will not swerve from his promise of redemption. The disobedient are the unbelievers; they attribute their own mind to God, and so cannot trust him. - S.







By them is Thy servant warned.
We are not to confuse the imperfections of religious professors with the unchangeable sovereignty of the Divine laws.

I. CALL ATTENTION TO SOME OF THEM THUS CONNECTED WITH OUR OWN HISTORY, and the warnings they give.

1. Those which relate to the heart of man. We are told its deceitful character.

2. Examples in human character. They, as well as the words of Scripture, warn us against sin.

3. Those that come from the truth of eternity and of judgment to come.

II. THE REWARD OF OBEDIENCE.

1. It is present in the conscience; and

2. Prospective, in heaven.

3. And it is great in comparison with our deserts.

4. And in obedience itself there is great reward.

(W. D. Horwood.)

At Tramore, near Waterford, a place where the Atlantic breakers dash with sublime fury against the rocks, there are on the headlands three towers, and on the middle one stands what is called "The Metal Man." This is a figure made of metal, and painted to resemble a sailor. With his finger he points to some very dangerous rocks that are to be shunned. There are rocks in life's troublesome sea that are ready to shipwreck the bodies and souls of the young.

In keeping of them there is great reward.
In this Psalm David speaks of the two great books by which God administers instruction. The volume of nature. The volume of inspiration. Having enlarged on the excellent properties and glorious effects of the Divine Word, he illustrates its value by a comparison with the things of this world, by the results of his experience, and the infinite advantage connected with the observance of it. David possessed, in the Scriptures then extant, an abstract of all those glorious truths revealed to ourselves, and an abstract of sufficient clearness to guide him to God, to peace, to holiness, to heaven. The possession of the Scriptures, however, is not sufficient to bring the soul to God. These statutes must be kept as well as possessed, for it is in keeping them that there is great reward. The book not only supplies ideas, it also raises the character of the humble student. The Scripture is a book of privileges. There is not a Christian but is entitled to all the clustering promises which grow on this tree of life. Practice is necessary to complete our duty to the Scriptures. All religion hinges upon this point. The Psalmist says, "In keeping of them there is great reward." Reward is that which is earned by an equivalent, or that which is a suitable recompense for the action performed. But the reward of observing the Word of God is not merely a consequence, neither is it earned by what can be claimed as an equivalent. They are rewards of grace, both in this life and in the future life.

(T. Kennion, M. A.)

I. RELIGION CONDUCETH TO THE HAPPINESS OF THIS LIFE.

1. As to the mind; to be pious and religious brings a double advantage to the mind of man. It tends to the improvement of our understandings. It raises and enlarges the minds of men, and makes them more capable of true knowledge. It improves the understandings of men by subduing their lusts and moderating their passions. Intemperance, sensuality, and fleshly lusts debase men's minds. Religion purifies and refines our spirits. Freedom from irregular passions doth not only signify that a man is wise, but really contributes to the making of him such. Religion also tends to the ease and pleasure, the peace and tranquillity, of our minds. This is the natural fruit of a religious and virtuous course of life. Religion contributes to our peace, by allaying those passions which are apt to ruffle and discompose our spirits; and by freeing us from the anxieties of guilt and the fears of Divine wrath and displeasure.

2. Religion also tends to the happiness of the outward man. The blessings of this kind respect our health, or estate, or reputation, or relations.

II. RELIGION CONDUCETH TO THE ETERNAL HAPPINESS AND SALVATION OF MEN IN THE OTHER WORLD. The consideration of future happiness is our most powerful motive. How religion conduces to happiness in the new life is seen from —

1. The promises of God; and

2. From the nature of the thing. It is a necessary disposition and preparation of us for that future life. When all is done there is no man can serve his own interest better than by serving God.

(J. Tillotson, D. D.)

"What is the chief good?" was the great inquiry of the ancient schools; and the different answers to this question formed the principal distinctions amongst the various sects of philosophy. Happiness is the end of all the pursuits of men; it is the object of all their sighs. Yet are they almost always disappointed in the means which are taken to obtain it. They follow the dictates of their passions. And it is not till after they have sought it in vain through every form of false pleasure that they come at length to find it, where alone reason and religion have concurred to place it, in obedience to God and a life of virtue. Here the anxious mind finds a calm and settled peace which it had not known, and which it could not know amid the agitations of the world. I purpose, in this discourse, to confine my view to the internal comforts that flow from religion. It offers the highest satisfactions to the mind; it yields the purest pleasures to the heart; it introduces serenity and peace into the breast; and finally, it affords a source of happiness which is always within our power, which is secure from the vicissitudes of life, and which shall be eternal.

(S. S. Smith, D. D.)

Compare this text with the saying of Paul, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable." Where, then, is the present reward of keeping God's commandments? There might be a reward hereafter; how could there be one now? What are we to say to this apparent contradiction? St. Paul was supposing a case; we must ascertain what his supposition was not, and what it was. Take a man whose whole soul was in his religion, who upheld himself in every trial by the consolations of the blessed hope. He has staked everything on the truth, and having surmounted a thousand obstacles and made his way through a thousand foes, and offered his body on the altar of the living God, he is pressing on with rejoicing and elevated spirit. Tell him that there is no resurrection, and no hope in Christ for an after state of being, and what then? That man would be most miserable if he took into his heart your message. You may say that in shutting out the future we still leave the present; but the present is the foretaste of the future. In cutting off the streams you destroy the fountain. If such a man were told that after fighting through life he would be vanquished in death, what would be left him of gladness? 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? Our object has been to show that there is nothing in the quoted words of St. Paul which militates against the fact alleged in our text, and in other parts of Scripture, that, in respect of present happiness — happiness during this life — the godly have the advantage over the ungodly.

(Henry Melvill, B. D.)

You will observe the Psalmist does not say after, but in the keeping of the commandments there is great reward. That reward is the pleasure which lies in God's service now, not in the payment which is judicially made for it afterwards; just as the eye is regaled in the instant by sights of beauty, or the ear by the melody which falls upon it.

I. WHAT ARE THE INGREDIENTS OF THE PRESENT REWARD?

1. There is the happiness that flows direct from the sense of doing or having done what is right. The testimony of a good conscience. There is a felt and present solace in the taste of that hidden manna which it administers.

2. The affections of the heart which prompt to obedience. For love, whether it be towards God or towards men, is blessed. In its play and exercise there is instantaneous joy; there is delight in the original conceptions of benevolence, and delight also in its outgoings, whilst malignity, envy, and anger do but rankle the bosom. And we can confidently appeal, even to ungodly men, for the truth that in the grovelling pursuits, whether of sense or avarice, they never experienced so true a delight as in those moments when their spirit was touched into sympathy with other spirits than their own. And not only of love, but of all the other virtues, the same can be said. They one and all of them yield an immediate satisfaction to the wearer. The moralities of the human character are what make up the happiness and harmony of the soul. They are the very streams of that well which, struck out in the bosom of regenerated man, spring up there into life everlasting.

II. THE ADVANTAGE OF THE REWARD BEING IN, AND NOT AFTER, THE KEEPING OF THE COMMANDMENTS. Suppose it had been after, and quite distinct from that enjoyment of which we have spoken, and which lies directly and essentially in the obedience itself. This can easily be imagined — a heaven of gratification to the senses as a reward for holiness. Virtue then would be so much work for so much wages; heaven would not be looked for as a place of holiness, but as the price that is given for it. The candidates of immortality would be so many labourers for hire. And it would be no evidence at all of the love which you have for a work, that you have a love for its wages. It makes all the difference whether or no we love our work. Sordidness and sacredness are not wirier apart. This is so in common and ordinary work. How much more when it is the service of God that is in question!

III. HOW THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST AFFECTS THIS QUESTION.

1. It releases you altogether from the law as a covenant. It tells you that you are not to work for heaven, because that heaven is secured to you in another way. Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We could never pay for it, and therefore God gives it to us. And how blessed this is even for our characters as the subject of God's will. The old economy of "do this and live" makes up the. very spirit of bondage, and of low mercenary bargaining. With the fears of legality, the sordidness of legality is sure to make entrance again into the heart. Hence the only access to a sinner's heart for the love of holiness in itself is by making him the free offer of heaven as an unconditional gift, and at the same time making him understand that it is, in truth, holiness and nothing else which forms the very essence of heaven's blessedness. These are the things which constitute the difference between the real and the formal Christian. The inferior creatures may be dealt with by terror or by joy as well as he; his very obedience may proceed from the earthliness of his disposition. Much of the Christian may be put on; but the question is, if you delight in the law of God after the inner man, or whether you obey it because of consequences? Whether you are allured to holiness by the beauty of its graces, or by the bribery of its gains? Surely there is nothing noble in him who labours for the reward that comes after keeping the commandments, and thinks not of the "great reward" that comes "in keeping the commandments."

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

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