Those who hate me without cause outnumber the hairs of my head; many are those who would destroy me--my enemies without cause. Though I did not steal, I must repay.
I. AS A MAN TO BE PITIED. The sufferings described are many and great. They threatened to be overwhelming. Without, there was no escape; within, there was no peace. Crying for help brought no rescue, and waiting upon God brought no deliverance. Hope deferred made the heart sick. Disappointment only called forth more bitter scorn from enemies, and made the ills that multiplied more and more hard to bear. Besides, there was the distressful feeling that the evils that had come were in large part unmerited, and that the hate of enemies was as unjust as it was unprovoked. When we find a man in such a case, we cannot but sympathize with him. He may be too magnanimous to crave our pity, but all the more our heart goes out to him in compassion, and our prayers are joined with his for deliverance (Job 6:14; Job 19:21; 1 Peter 3:8). It is one of the advantages of suffering that, while it may be a salutary discipline to the sufferer, it becomes a means of calling forth brotherly kindness and manly help from beholders.
II. AS A SINNER TO BE CONDEMNED. There are some who resent any condemnation of the psalmist. They say he was inspired, that he was one of the "holy men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." This is true, but all the same, he speaks of himself as a sinner, and we are more likely to deal truly with him by taking him on his own judgment than by setting him up as if he were perfect, and as if his confessions of sin and folly were made in some non-natural sense. Besides, there are evident proofs here of the working of sin, of the flesh lusting against the spirit, of the struggle which all good men have to make against the rise of unholy passions in time of temptation. If we are to take the language (in vers. 22-28) just as we find it, and if we are to understand it as used by a man of undoubted but of imperfect piety, we cannot but regard it as highly culpable. There is more here than just indignation. The life of the psalmist had been made bitter by the rancour and hate of his enemies, and he seems to give way to wrath, and to hurl back upon his foes the curses which they had so cruelly heaped upon himself. But be this as it may, it is plain that we should guard against indulgence in such language. It is not for us to judge others; it is not for us to return evil for evil. Christ has taught us that they greatly erred who said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour, but hate thine enemy" (Matthew 5:43 45). Rather we are to love our enemies. And what our Lord taught us by word he illustrated in his life. Even of those whose hands were red with his blood, he said, "Father, forgive them;" and his return for all the hate and malice and cruelty of the wicked Jews was to send them first of all the gospel of peace (Luke 23:24; Luke 24:47). If we indulge in resentment, we not only hurt ourselves, but we wrong our brother, for, however badly a man may use us, he is still our brother, and we should not put a greater barrier between him and us by wrath, but rather try to bring him to a better mind by love and mercy (Romans 12:19-21).
III. AS A SAINT TO BE IMITATED. The very fact that we cannot and dare not follow the psalmist in all that we find here, is evidence of his imperfection. We are bound to use our reason - to examine things by the standard of God's Law and the Spirit of Christ. We should only imitate what is good, and what commends itself to our consciences and hearts as good (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1, 2). But if we consider, we shall find much here to admire, and therefore to imitate. It would be well for us, like the psalmist, to call upon God in the day of trouble. We may be in straits, but he can help. We may be repulsed on all sides, and lonely, but he will not cast us off. We should also learn from the psalmist not to plead our own merits, but to cast ourselves on God's mercy. God knows what is best. Above all, we should do what the psalmist could only do imperfectly, in the dim light of the days before the gospel - we should look to Christ, and learn of him how to behave ourselves in times of suffering. - W.F.
I. PREMISE TWO OR THREE THINGS FOR CLEARING OF THE WAY.
I restored that which I took not away.I. WHAT IT IS WHICH WAS TAKEN AWAY, AND FROM WHOM.
1. Glory was taken from God.(1) The glory of God shining forth in the holy government of His reasonable creatures, was taken away by sin.(2) That glory which we are tied to give to God, was withheld by sin.
2. There was righteousness, holiness, and happiness taken from man.
II. WHEREIN IT APPEARS THAT CHRIST DID NOT TAKE THESE THINGS FROM EITHER.
1. It is plain, as to God, that He never took any glory from Him; for He never did anything dishonourable or offensive to God (John 8:29).
4. The innocency of Christ was conspicuous in His very sufferings (Acts 13:28).
III. HOW DID CHRIST RESTORE THOSE THINGS WHICH HE TOOK NOT AWAY? In general, by His active and passive obedience; for both are concerned in this matter, and contribute their joint influence towards the great and blessed work of which I am now speaking.
IV. WHY DID CHRIST MAKE IT HIS WORK TO RESTORE WHAT HE TOOK NOT AWAY?
1. It was a necessary work, a work which must be done, in order to His being a Saviour.
2. It was a work impossible for any mere creature to do; so that if Christ did not, it could not have been done by any person besides Him.
3. Christ was ordained of God to this work, and in that respect there was a necessity of His accomplishing it (John 9:4).
4. The infinite love of Christ to sinners did sweetly incline Him to this work.
1. When God made man, He bestowed all manner of goods upon him, that were necessary to make him live comfortably here, and to make him eternally happy hereafter.
2. Satan, by this time, having fallen, like a star, from heaven to earth, filled with envy, enters into a resolution, if it were possible, to commit a robbery upon man, and to strike at God's sovereignty through man's side; and accordingly —
3. Satan prevailed upon our first parents, and beguiled them; and thereby the covenant of works was broken.
4. The covenant of works being broken, and man having entered into a rebellion against God with the devil, he justly forfeited all the spiritual and temporal goods that God bestowed upon him, and likewise lost his title to a happy eternity, and became the enemy's vassal; and thus the enemy robbed him of all the goods that God bestowed upon him.
5. The eternal Son of God having a delight in the sons of men, and beholding them in this miserable plight, enters upon a resolution that He will take on man's nature, and that He will in man's nature be avenged upon that serpent that hath beguiled our first parents, and spoiled them of their patrimony. And accordingly, in the fulness of time, He comes, and is manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and to recover all the stolen goods.
II. INQUIRE INTO THE ROBBERY THAT WAS COMMITTED BY SIN AND SATAN, BOTH UPON GOD AND UPON MAN.
1. To begin with the robbery that was committed upon God. It was the devil's great drift, by tempting man to sin against God, to rob God of His glory.
2. Inquire into the goods that wore stolen from man by sin and Satan. Hero we may see a melancholy scene. The glory of the human nature was quite marred by sin. Sin hath robbed us of heaven, and made us heirs of hell and wrath. In short, sin hath disordered and disjointed the whole creation.
III. MAKE IT APPEAR THAT OUR GLORIOUS IMMANUEL MAKES A RESTITUTION OF WHAT WAS TAKEN AWAY BOTH FROM GOD AND FROM MAN. He restores unto God His due, and restores unto man his loss.
IV. INQUIRE INTO THE TIME WHEN CHRIST DID ALL THIS: WHEN DID HE RESTORE THAT WHICH HE TOOK NOT AWAY? (Galatians 4:4, 5).
V. INQUIRE INTO THE REASONS OF THE DOCTRINE. Why was it that our Lord restored what He took not away? Why did He restore these goods that sin and Satan took away both from God and man?
1. Because it was His Father's pleasure.
2. Because it contributed very much to enhance His mediatorial glory.
3. Because of His regard to the holy law of God.
4. Because His delights were with the sons of men.
5. That He might "still the enemy and the avenger," that is, the devil.
1. Is it so that Christ restores what He took not away? Then, hence see, what a generous Kinsman we have of Him; He never took away anything from us, and yet He restores all to the spoiling of His own soul, and pouring it out unto death.
2. This doctrine serves to let us see into the meaning of (Romans 8:3). "He condemned sin." Why, or how did He it? Why, sin is a robber, and is it not just that a robber should be condemned to die? Well, Christ condemns sin, and yet He saves the sinner.
3. Hence see what a criminal correspondence it is that the generality of the children of men have with sin. It is dangerous to haunt and harbour robbers; and yet will you keep a robber in your bosom.
4. If sin be such a robber of God and man, then see how reasonable the command is, to crucify sin, and to mortify the deeds of the body.
5. From this doctrine see what way Christ takes in order to carry on His mediatory work of making peace betwixt God and man.
6. From the doctrine we may likewise see, that the believer in Christ is the wisest man in the world, however the world may look upon him as a fool. Why? because he comes to Christ, and gets restitution of all the losses he suffered either by the sin of the first Adam or his own.
7. See the folly and madness of the sin of unbelief (John 5:40).
8. See the folly of the legalist, that goes about to make restitution to God, and to himself, of what was taken away by sin. But consider, that "by the works of the law no flesh living can be justified"; you will never repair your own losses, nor the dishonour you have done to God, but only by coming to Christ, who is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
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