Their venom is like the poison of a serpent, like a cobra that shuts its ears,
I. THEIR CHARACTER IS PORTRAYED. (Vers. 1-5.) Character is a growth. No man becomes of a sudden either very bad or very good. There is gradation - "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." We are shown wickedness in its germ. It has its source in a bad heart - a heart not right with God. From within it works toward without. Evil may for a time be concealed or held in check, but it is sure to show itself. People may be worse than they seem. God only knows the evil that lies hidden and rooted in the heart. Then we see wickedness in its development. It has been said that "tongue sins are our first transgressions." But how quickly do we proceed from "lies" to other and more flagrant forms of wickedness! The more the will of the flesh is indulged, the stronger it becomes. The poison spreads through all the veins.
"The soul grows clothed by contagion,
II. THEIR JUDGMENT IS PREDICTED. (Vers. 6-11.) God is long suffering and merciful. How excellent his counsels! how tender his rebukes I how gracious his calls to repentance! But when evil men knowingly and obstinately persist in their evil ways, judgment must be done. The psalmist adds image to image to strengthen the argument, and to set forth the more vividly the awful doom of the wicked.
1. Judgment, is required in the interests of humanity. In all good governments there are laws for the protection of society. If evil doers will not repent, they must be restrained. Their power to do injury must be stopped.
2. Besides, judgment is demanded in accordance with righteousness. There is nothing arbitrary in the procedure. Even evil must be dealt with fairly.
3. Judgment also is necessary for the vindication of Goers truth. There is a moral necessity why it should be "ill with the wicked." "God is not a man, that he should lie." But evil on itself shall back recoil, And mix no more with goodness, when at last. Gather'd like scum, and settled to itself, It shall be in eternal restless change, Self-fed and self-consumed; if this fail, The pillar'd firmament is rottenness, And earth's base built on stubble. (Milton.) W.F.
Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear
I. Poison — there is such a thing as poison; but where to be found? Wheresoever it is, in man who would look for it? God made man's body of the dust; he mingled no poison with it. He inspired his soul from heaven; he breathes no poison with it. He feeds him with bread; he conveys no poison with it. Whence is this poison? (Matthew 13:27). That great serpent, the red dragon, hath poured into wicked hearts this poison. In this poison there is a double pestilent effect. It is to themselves death; to others a contagious sickness.
1. To themselves. It is an epidemical corruption, dispersing the venom over all parts of body and soul. It poisons the heart with falsehood, the head with lightness, the eyes with adultery, the tongue with blasphemy, the hands with oppression, the whole body with intemperance. It poisons beauty with wantonness, strength with violence, wit with wilfulness, learning with dissension, devotion with superstition. And in all this observe the effect of this poison in themselves. For it doth not only annoy others, but mostly destroy themselves. But the poison of the wicked, whilst it infects others, kills themselves. "His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself" (Proverbs 5:22). Their own wickedness, like poison, hath in themselves these three direful effects.(1) It makes them swell with pride, and blows up the heart as a bladder with a quill. "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse?" (1 Samuel 25:10). "Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?" (Job 21:15). Thus the spider, the poisonous vermin, "climbs up to the roof of the king's palace" (Proverbs 30:28).(2) It makes them swill; the poison of sin is such a burning heat within them, that they must still be drinking.(3) It makes them burst (Acts 1:18). This is the catastrophe of a wicked life. "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:15).
2. To others. You see how fatal the poison of the wicked is to themselves. The hurt it doth to others consists in outward harming, in inward defiling them. Outwardly. — Their poison breaks forth in the injuries of all about them. They spare neither foreigner nor neighhour. There be little snakes in Babylon, that bite only foreigners, and not inhabitants. Pliny writes of scorpions in the hill Carla, that when they sting only wound the natural-born people of the country; but bite strangers gently or not at all. These, like fools, not only strike them that are nearest, but beteem their poison to the overthrow of all. Such a one cannot sleep except he have done mischief; nay, he dies, if others do not die by him. Inwardly. — Their poison doth most hurt by infection. Their poison is got by touching — he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled: by companying with them (Proverbs 1:14); by confederacy; by sight — the very beholding of their wickedness causes it in others.
1. There are mystical serpents.
2. There are the dart-like serpents (Acts 28.). He is the angry man, the hasty, furious one, who flies upon another with a sudden blow.
(Henry Ward Beecher.)
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