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Preface

A  considerable portion of the Sacred Volume (as the Book of Psalms and Canticles in the Old Testament, and a large part of the several Epistles in the New Testament) is occupied with the interesting subject of Christian Experience ; and exhibits its character, under different dispensations of religion, and diversified with an endless variety of circumstances, as ever essentially the same. As the same features of countenance and elevation of stature have always marked the human species in the midst of the creation of God ; so an identity of feature and " measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" has, in all ages, and under every shade of outward difference, distinguished the family of God," as the people that should dwell alone, and should not be reckoned among the nations." (Num. xxiii. 9.) This indeed was to have been expected. Human nature has undergone no change since the fall.  In its unrenewed state it is still captivated in the same chains of sin ; and, when renewed, it is under the influence of the same Spirit of grace.  “That -which is born of the flesh is flesh ; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John, iii. 6.) The modem believer, therefore, when employed in tracing the records of Patriarchal or Mosaical experience, will mark in the infirmities of the ancient people of God a picture of his own heart, " answering, as in water face answereth to face" (Prov. xxvii. 19); and in comparing their gracious exercises with his own, he will be ready to acknowledge,—" All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (1 Cor. xii. 11.)

In this view, it is the object of this work to exhibit an Old Testament believer in a New Testament garb, as one “ walking in the same spirit, and in the same steps" with ourselves; and, in bringing his features of character to the Evangelical standard, it is presumed, that the correspondence will be found to be complete. " Faith which worketh by love" (Gal. v. 6)—the fundamental distinction of the Gospel—pervades the whole man; with at least an implied reference to the One way of access to God (verses 41, 88, 132, 135), and a distinct regard alike to the promises (verses 25, 32, 49, 74, 169, 170), and to the precepts (verses 66, 166), of Divine revelation. Nor are the workings of this principle delineated with less accuracy. In all the variety of Christian feelings and holy conduct, we observe its operations leading the soul into communion with God, and moulding every part into a progressive conformity to his image. When we view the “ man after God's own heart," taking God for his portion (verse 57), associating with his people (verses 63, 79), and feeding upon his word (verses 47, 48, 97, 111); when we mark his zeal for his Master's glory (verse 139); his devotedness (verse 38) and self-denial (verse 62) in his Master's work ; when we see him ever ready to confess his name (verses 45, 46,115,172), to bear his reproach (verses 23, 69, 87,141), and caring only to answer it by a more steady adherence to his service (verses 51, 78, 157)—do we not in those lineaments of character recognise the picture of one, who in after times could turn to the churches of Christ, and say —“ Wherefore, I beseech you, be ye followers of me?" (1 Cor. iv. 16.) Or can we recollect the Psalmist's insight into the extent and spirituality of the law of God (verse 96), and his continual conflict with indwelling sin (verses 113, 163), awakening in him the spirit of wrestling prayer (verses 25, 28), and confidence in the God of his salvation (verses 114, 176); and not be again forcibly reminded of him, who has left upon record the corresponding history of his own experience—“ I was alive without the law once ; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. 0 wretched man that I am 1 who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Rom. vii. 9, 14, 24, 25.) In short, let his instancy in prayer (verses 145-149) and praise (verse 164) be remembered; his determined (verses 5, 36, 80) and persevering (verses 44, 102, 112) cultivation of heart-religion (verses 30-32, 59, 60) and practical holiness (verses 106, 167, 168), his hungering and thirsting after righteousness (verges 20, 40, 131, 174); his jealous fear (verse 161) and -watchful tenderness (verses 11, 37, 133) against sin, and regard for the honour of his God (verse 39); his yearning compassion over his fellow-sinners (verses 53,136,158); his spiritual taste (verses 103, 140); his accurate discernment (verses 98-100, 104, 129, 130); the " simplicity" of his dependence (verses 8, 10, 86, 116, 117), and the “godly sincerity" of his obedience (verses 104, 128); his peace of mind and stability of profession (verse 165); his sanctified improvement of the cross (verses 67, 71, 75); his victory over the world (verses 14, 36, 72, 127, 162); his acknowledgment of the Lord's mercy (verses 64, 65, 68); his trials of faith and patience (verses 81-83, 107, 123); his heavenly liberty in the ways of God (verses 32, 45); his habitual living in his presence (verse 168), and under the quickening (verses 50, 93)—restraining (verse 101)—directing (verses 9, 24, 30, 105)—and supporting (verses 92, 143) influence of his word—let these holy exercises be considered, either separately, or as forming one admirable concentration of Christian excellence; and what do we desire more to complete the portrait of a finished servant of God upon the Divine model? Is not this a visible demonstration of the power of the word, " perfecting the man of God, and furnishing him throughly unto all good works?" (2 Tim. iii. 16,17.)

Having explained the Evangelical character of this Psalm, we may notice its peculiar adaptation to Christian experience. It may be considered as the journal of one, who was deeply taught in the things of God, long practised in the life and walk of faith. It contains the anatomy of experimental religion, the interior lineaments of the family of God. It is given for the use of believers in all ages, as an excellent touchstone of vital godliness, a touchstone which appears especially needful in this day of profession ; not as warranting our confidence in the Saviour, or as constituting in any measure our ground of acceptance with God : but as exciting us to " give diligence to make our calling and election sure" (2 Pet. i. 10), and quicken our sluggish steps in the path of self-denying obedience. The "Writer is free to confess, that his main design in the study of this Psalm was to furnish a correct standard of Evangelical sincerity for the habitual scrutiny of his own heart; and if in the course of this Exposition, any suggestion should be thrown out, to call the attention of his fellow-Christians to this most important, but, alas ! too much neglected duty, he will have reason to " rejoice in the day of Christ, that he has not run in vain, neither laboured in vain."1 Never let it be supposed, that a diligent, prayerful, probing examination of the " chambers of imagery," " gendereth unto bondage." Invariably will it be found to establish the enjoyment of Scriptural assurance. "Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him." (1 John, iii. 19, with 18, 20, 21.) As therefore the preceptive part of the Gospel thus becomes our guide in the happy path of filial obedience, our beloved rule of duty, and the standard of our daily progress; we shall learn in the use of it to depend more entirely upon the Saviour, fresh energy will be thrown into our prayers ;and the promises of pardon and grace will be doubly precious to our souls.

These views of the Divine life cannot be found unfriendly to the best happiness of mankind. The Psalm opens with a most inviting picture of blessedness, and describes throughout the feelings of one, encompassed indeed with trials superadded to the common lot of men, but yet evidently in possession of a satisfying portion— of a "joy, with which a stranger does not intermedle." (Prov. xiv. 10.) Of those, therefore, who would affix the stigma of melancholy to evangelical religion, we are constrained to remark, that they " understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." (1 Tim. i. 7.)  The children of Edom have never tasted the " clusters of Canaan," and cannot therefore form any just estimate of that goodly land.   They that have spied the land bring a good report of it, and tell—" Surely it floweth with milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it." (Numb. xiii. 27.) " The work of righteousness is peace ; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever." (Isa. xxxii. 17.)

The structure of this Psalm is peculiar. It is divided into twenty-two parts, according to the number of the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet; each part, and its several verses, beginning with the corresponding letter of the Alphabet. The whole Psalm is in the form of an ejaculatory address, with the exception of the first three verses, which may almost be considered as a preface to the whole, and one other verse in the course of it, where the man of God rebukes the ungodly from his presence, as if intruding into his " hiding-place," and interrupting his communion with God. (Verse 115, with 113, 114.) It is not always easy to trace the connexion between the several verses ; at least not beyond the several divisions of the Psalm. Probably nothing more was intended, than the record of the exercises of his own heart at different periods, and under different circumstances. If, however, they are not links on the same chain, in continuous and unbroken dependence ; they may at least be considered as pearls upon one string, of equal, though independent, value. The prominent characteristic of the Psalm is a love for the word of God, which is brought before us under no less than ten different names, 2 referring to some latent and distinguishing properties of the Divine word, whose manifold excellencies and perfections are thus illustrated with much elegant variety of diction, 3 In many instances, however the several terms appear to have been varied, to adapt themselves to the metre ; while, perhaps, at other times they may be promiscuously used for the whole revelation of God, 4 that the view of its inexhaustible fulness might thus conciliate a more attentive regard to its authority ; and might add fresh strength to the obligation to read, believe, love, and live in it.

If the Writer may be permitted to suggest the method, in which this Exposition may be best studied to advantage, he would beg to refer to the advice of the excellent Philip Henry to his children—that they should ' take a verse of Psalm cxix. every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the Psalm twice in a year:' and' that’—said he— ' will bring you to be in love with all the rest of the Scripture.'5 The Writer does not presume to suppose, that this superficial sketch will supply food for meditation year after year. Yet he ventures to hope that it may have its use, in directing the attention from time to time to a most precious portion of Holy Writ; which however unfruitful it may have proved to the undiscerning mind, will be found by the serious and intelligent reader to be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 5

The composition of this work has been diversified with as much variety as the nature of the subject would allow. The descriptive character of the book will be found to be interspersed with matter of discussion, personal address, hints for self-inquiry, and occasional supplication, with the earnest endeavour to cast the mind into that meditative, self-scrutinizing, devotional frame, in which the new creature is strengthened, and increases, and goes on to perfection. Such, however, as the work is, the Writer would commend it to the gracious consideration of the great Head of the Church ; imploring pardon for what in it may be his own, and a blessing on what may be traced to a purer source : and in giving both the pardon and the blessing, may His holy name be abundantly glorified!6

Old Newton Vicarage, July 20th, 1827.

1 ‘ I know of no part of the Holy Scriptures,'—remarks a profound divine—'where the nature and evidences of true and sincere godliness are so fully and largely insisted on and delineated as in the 119th Psalm. The Psalmist declares his design in the first verses of the Psalm, keeps his eye on it all along, and pursues it to the end. The excellence of holiness is represented as the immediate object of a spiritual taste and delight. God's law, that grand expression and emanation of the holiness of God's nature, and prescription of holiness to the creature—is all along represented as the great object of the love, the complacence, and the rejoicing of the gracious nature, which prizes God's commandments " above gold, yea, the finest gold:" and to -which they are "sweeter than the honey and. the honeycomb."' EDWARDS on Religious Affections, Part iii. Sect. iii. ' The ordinary and serious breathing of my soul'— observes a deeply spiritual thinker—'is such as that of the Psalmist throughout the 119th Psalm.'— HALYBURTON'S Life.

2 Such as way, law, judgments, words, statutes, commandments, precepts, testimonies, righteousness, truth.

3 Rev. T. H. HORNE'S Introduction to Scripture, vol. ii. 536.

4 As a proof of the promiscuous and extended application of those terms, whose definite sense is restricted to particular parts of revelation—we may mark the use of the word "law" applied by our Saviour to quotations from the hook of Psalms. Comp. John, xv. 25; with Ps. xxxv. 16 ; lxix. 4; also John, x. 34; with Ps. lxxxii. 6. ' Under this word—" law"— Calvin observes—' there is no doubt but that David comprehended the sum of all the doctrine which God gave to his church.' Sermons on Ps. cxix. verse 153. Comp. Ps. xix. 7, margin.

5 P. HENEY'S Life, WILLIAMS'S Edition, p. 247. In conformity with this rule, we find his godly daughter writing thus in her diary: —1687-8, 'March 9, Friday morning. I have been of late taking some pains to learn by heart Ps. cxix., and have made some progress therein.' Extracted from Mrs. SAVAGE'S MSS. in P. HENRY'S Life—Ditto. As an illustration of the view given by this excellent man of the importance of this Psalm, an Index is added to this work of the several matters more or less touched upon ; to which, as well as to the texts referred to throughout the work, the reader's attention is invited.

6. 2 Tim. iii. 16. Luther professed that he prized this Psalm so highly, that he would not take the whole world in exchange for one leaf of it. Bishop Cowper sweetly calls it—' a holy Alphabet —so plain that children may understand it — so rich and instructive, that the wisest and most experienced may every day learn something from it.' Added to this and other testimonies before given, we
give the remarks of a deeply experimental and solid divine :—' I am now'—writes the Rev. H. Venn to one of his correspondents—' upon the point of expounding the 119th Psalm, which I never did go through ; yet I know not any part of Scripture much more profitable. In that Psalm the whole inner man is delineated, and the several changing frames of our poor hearts, and the several blessed motions and inspirations of the Holy Spirit are touched in a very affecting manner. This is the Psalm I have often had recourse to, when I could find no spirit of prayer in my own heart, and at length the fire was kindled, and I could pray. What has been your experience regarding this extraordinary Psalm? I know you do not read the Scriptures idly, and without self-application. Have you not found it pleasant and nourishing to your soul, and fastening upon your mind?'—(Life and Correspondence, p. 410.) Identical with this representation was the use and blessing which H. Martyn found in this Psalm:—' Found some devotion in learning some of 119th Psalm.—In the evening grew better by reading Psalm 119, which generally brings me into a spiritual frame of mind.—My mind was beginning to sink into discontent at my unprofitableness ; but by reading some of Psalm 119, and prayer, I recovered.' Again in a fretful frame—' It was not till I learnt some of Psalm 119 that I could return to a proper spirit.' Again—'The 119th Psalm was very solemnizing.'—See his interesting Journals, vol. i. pp. 75, 114, 118, 175,193, 194.



PREFACE TO THE SIXTEENTH EDITION.

THE "Writer gratefully acknowledges the kind indulgence, with which his work has been received by the Church of Christ. Oh ! may his God and Saviour have all the glory, while he is humbled in thankfulness for the high privilege of leading his fellow-sinners into the " ways of pleasantness and peace,'' and ministering to the spiritual blessing of the family of God !

He has carefully revised the work, and trusts that he has been enabled to give increased perspicuity to the style, and a deeper moulding of evangelical statement to the matter.   He desired, that every page should be lighted up with the beam of the “ Sun of Righteousness," who is the glory of the Revelation of God—the Christian's " All in all." He has endeavoured to illustrate true religion, as the work of the Divine Spirit, grounded on the knowledge of Christ, advancing in communion with Him, and completed in the enjoyment of Him, and of the Father by Him. He has also aimed to elevate the standard of Christian privilege, as flowing immediately from Him : by giving such a Scriptural statement of the doctrine of assurance, as may quicken the slothful to greater diligence in their holy profession, and at the same time encourage the weak and fearful to a clearer apprehension of their present salvation.

The work has been recently translated into German under the kind patronage of her Majesty the Queen Dowager. The Writer requests the prayers of his Readers, that this new channel of usefulness may be abundantly blessed for the grand object of extending the influence of vital religion throughout the churches.

Old Newton Vicarage, October 12,1842.

PEEFACE TO THE TWENTY-SECOND EDITION.

THIS work—once more revised—is now stereotyped, in order to reduce the price, and to open for it a wider circulation. The Writer again commends it to the blessing of God, desiring only that fruit may abound for His glory, and for the edifying of His Church.

Hinton Martell Rectory, June 4th, 1857.

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