The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it.
Liquefacta est terra, et omnes qui habitant in ea: Ego confirmavi columnas ejus.
It was Moses, the Man of God, that by special direction from God first began, and brought up this order, to make music the conveyer of men's duties into their minds. And David sithence hath continued it, and brought it to perfection in this book, as having a special grace and felicity in this kind; he for Songs, and his son Solomon for Proverbs. By which two, that is, by the unhappy adage, and by a wanton song, Satan hath ever breathed most of his infection and poison into the mind of man.
In which holy and Heavenly use of his harp, he doth, by his tunes of music, teach men how to set themselves in tune. How not only to tune themselves, but how to tune their households. And not only there, but here in this Psalm, how to preserve harmony, or, as he termeth it, how to sing ne perdas, to a commonwealth. So saith the inscription, which St. Augustine very fitly calleth the key of every Psalm.
For the time of setting this song, by general consent of all expositors, being the latter end of the long dissension between the houses of David and Saul, evident it is, the estate of the [3/4] land was very near to a perdas, and needed ne perdas to be sung unto it.
For, besides the great overthrow in the mountains of Gilboa, given by the enemy, wherein the King and three of his sons were slain, and a great part of the country surprised by the Philistine, the desolation of a divided kingdom was come upon them too. For within themselves they were at Cujus est terra? even at civil wars. At the beginning but 'a play'--so Abner termeth it, but 'bitterness at the end,' as the same Abner confesseth. Surely, it was a weak state and low brought: so much doth David imply in the fore part of the verse, that he found the land a weak land, by means the strengths and pillars of it were all out of course by the misgovernment of Saul. But then withal in the latter part of the verse he professeth, he will leave it a land of strength, by re-establishing the pillars, and re-edifying the state new again. 'The earth,' &c.
The style whereof runneth in the term of Architecture, very aptly resembling the government to a frame of building; the same set upon and borne up by certain bases and pillars, the strength whereof assures, or the weakness endangers the whole; and David himself to a skilful builder, surveying the pillars, and searching into the decays; repairing their ruins, and setting them into course again.
Whereout ariseth naturally the entreaty of these four points:
I. That the weakness or strength of a land, is a point of important consideration.
II. That the strength of a land is in the pillars; and what they are.
III. That the upholding of those pillars appertaineth to David.
IV. How, and in what sort, Saul weakened them in his time; and David in his made them fast.
I. First, David had read that, among the instructions delivered by Moses to the spies, the very first and chief of all was. Whether the land was weak or strong. So he had read, and so he believed it to be, and so it is. For sure, in such lands where this is their song, 'the earth is weak,' their music is all out of tune. For the note is such as affecteth the inhabitants with fear. 1. Fear, in the inhabitant, for these [4/5] two. 1.Virtus testacea, and 2. Cor cereum, 'strength like a potsherd,' and 'a heart like wax:' a weak land, and a fearful inhabitant, go together. 2. Courage, in the enemy: for where Rabshakeh knoweth but so much, that the land is weak, you shall not entreat him to speak any thing but Hebrew.
This music is heavy, and therefore David saw the song must be new set. And so he doth set it anew, changing it into a more pleasant note, 'But I will strengthen it.' And when the note is so changed, 'in that day will this song be sung in the land of Judah, We have a strong city; salvation has God set for the walls and bulwarks of it.'
This music hath life in it, and hearteneth the inhabitant afresh; quaileth the enemy and resolveth the neighbour to say, 'thine are we, O David, and on your side, you son of Jesse.' When a prince may say of his land, as Moses did of Judah, 'His own hands are sufficient for him' (if the Lord help him) 'against all his enemies;' and the land may say of the Prince that which Solomon setteth down as the high commendation of a Prince, that he is Rex Alkum, that is, ne surgito, 'rise not;' no rising against him, for that they which have risen had better have sat still. And they both may send word to the enemy, if he threaten to come and visit them, the word that Joash sent; 'Tarry at home, and provoke not evil against thyself.' This music is blessed, and such hath hitherto been the song of our nation.
What Samuel said, when he pitched the stone of help, we cannot deny, but we may say the same, 'Thus far hath God holpen us;' Whose arm is not shortened though Pharaoh's heart be hardened. Hitherto, 'Salvation hath God set for our walls and bulwarks,' and our prince, Prince Alkum; and our enemy hath not 'boasted himself at the putting off his armour, as at the buckling it on;' and our neighbouring glad to 'lay hold of our skirts and say, We will be yours, for we see God is with you:' the great blessing of God having been upon us, 'Thou shalt lend to many nations, but shalt borrow of none.' Such hath hitherto been our song; and such may it long be--yea, ever, O Lord! And that it may so be, David teacheth the way of keeping it so still, namely, by setting fast the [5/6] pillars of it. Which is the second principal point; what this strength is, and what the pillars are that bear it up.
The Holy Ghost, speaking of strength, nameth two, as indeed the Scripture knoweth no more: 1. The strength of Jacob, and 2. the strength of Israel. 1. Of Jacob, supplanting or prevailing over men; 2. and of Israel, prevailing with God.
1. Jacob's strength I call whatsoever the counsel or might of man affordeth;--his prudent forecast, whereby he overreached Esau and Laban; and his bow and sword, whereby he won from the Amorite. Under these two I comprehend all human strength, the strength of Jacob.
2. But when all is done, we must reserve and keep a strength for God, saith David. Who, if He forsake Alexandria, though it have the sea for his ditch, it shall be carried captive: Who, if He forsake Ephraim, though they be 'well harnessed and carry bows,' they shall 'turn themselves back in the day of battle.' Therefore, ever Dominus cometh in. 'Judah's own hands are sufficient to help,' si Tu Domine, 'if Thou Lord help him against the enemy:' and Nisi Dominus, 'if that the Lord do not keep the house, and watch the house, and make fast the pillars, all is in vain.' Join, saith the Wise man, Ithiel, that is Dominus mecum, and then Ucal, that is, Prævalebo, will not tarry from you; Ucal and He go ever together. Sever, saith David, Hi in curribus, hi in equis, from in nominw Domini, the next news you shall hear of them is, Ibi ceciderunt, &c. 'There they are brought down and fallen.' Therefore we must allow Israel a strength also, without which Jacob's forecast shall fail; for 'He casteth out the counsels of princes,' and his sword too. For, He can 'rebate the edge of the sword.'
Two strengths then they are, and these two David here termeth two pillars, that we may know what be the pillars of the land. For such was the manner of the Jewish building arch-wise, upon two main pillars to set it. We may see it by Samson's desire so to be placed as the two supporters of the temple might be in his two hands, that bowing them all the Church might come down upon their heads. Such an arch of government doth David here devise, and two pillars bearing it up. He telleth us what they be two, and he telleth us what they be for, for he hath already named them in the two former uses; [6/7] 1. Celebrabimus Te Jehova in the first; and 2. Justitias judicabo in the second. God and Right, the pillars; the worship of God, and the execution of justice or right. With these two he beginneth, and with these two again he taketh his farewell; the regard of religion in the ninth, and the care of justice in the last. These two he teacheth us; for these two, he saith, God taught him. 'God'saith he, 'the Strength of Israel, spake to me and said, Thou shalt bear rule over men, 1. doing justice, and, 2. guiding them in the fear of God.' So that these two are the pillars: 1. God, and 2. Right; Justice and the fear of God. These two give strength to that, and to all lands: 1. Celebrabimus Te Jehova; and 2. Justitias judicabo. These two decay all, and weaken the land; 1. Negligimus te Jehova and 2. Injurias judicabo.
God is a pillar; so is His most common name in the Hebrew--Adonai, 'My pillar.' And His Son, a Rock; not only Peter's Rock, but David's Rock too; the Rock both of the Church and Kingdom. And His Spirit, a Spirit not of holiness only and truth, but a 'Spirit of judgment' to them who sit on the throne; and a 'Spirit of strength for them who keep the battle from the gate.' And His favour, 'a Shield,' and His Name, turris fortissima. And therefore Celebrabimus Te Jehova, We will praise Thy Name: for 'the nearer Thy Name is to us' and we to it, 'the more wondrous works wilt Thou declare towards us.' 'Arise, O God, into Thy resting-place, Thou and the ark of Thy strength;' therefore the ark sendeth forth a strength. And Solomon, when he called the two pillars, which he set at the Temple gate, Strength and Steadiness, meant, that out of that gate there proceeded strength and stablishing to the whole realm.
Even the strength and establishing of Si credideritis stabiliemini, by which not only the devil's 'darts' are repelled in the spiritual, but 'the armies of the aliens are put to flight' in earthly warfare. Therefore Moses made such reckoning of Celebrabimus, that having recounted, as the strength of Cain's progeny, their inventing of the tent, making of the flute of brass, and iron works, he opposeth to them all, as able to match them all, in the posterity of the sons of God, the invocation of His Name, begun and set on foot, first by Enoch, as the main pillar of strength which the people of God [7/8] trust to. And St. Paul is bold, 1Tim. 2.1, where, laying, as it were, the chamber-beams and stories of each Christian government; Princes first, by whose means peace, and quietness; from thence knowledge of the truth; from it, godly and honest life; and from them, salvation;--as the base or pillar of all, and that which beareth up, and giveth strength to all, setteth Prayer; prayer to be made, that so princes preserved; that so peace maintained; that so knowledge intended; that so godly and honest life practised; that so salvation attained. Reckoning invocation as a special pillar of each estate; and as a prerogative royal, prayer for all men, but above all men for princes. Thus doth religion strengthen us, and is Israel with God; and not with God only, but is Jacob also, and prevaileth with men too.
Indeed, nothing prevaileth so much, nor worketh so deep, with man, as doth it; and, no men more fast and faithful, then quorum Deus corda tetigit. David therefore, undertaking in this verse to stablish the pillars, sheweth how he will do it in the next: dicam, by telling them their duty out of divinity; by laying before them Deus est judex, God's judgment, and the dregs of the cup which He holdeth in His hand. To make so many men so many pillars, well and wisely said the heathen man, Odium oportet peccandi, non metum facias. To hate sin is the pillar, to fear it is not; for fear will fall away if his understanding be removed, and where the duty is not grounded on Deus est judex, it is no pillar to be built on. Certain it is, that, except God's laws, all laws, fear of sin they breed; but a kind hatred or conscience of sin, they breed not. Well may they bind the hand, fetter the foot, and imprison the body: there is nothing can imprison the heart or thought, save arma militiæ nostræ. And thus is Religion a pillar among them also.
For sure, the Christian duty of bearing wrong, where it is well persuaded, doth mainly strengthen the Civil of doing no wrong; and the Christian, of departing with our own charitably, doth strengthen the Civil of not taking other men's injuriously; and so, of the rest. That he called it not amiss, that called Divinity the backbone of the Prince's law; and consequently, Religion of the commonwealth. So that, not only Moses and Paul by calling on the Name of God, but [8/9] Elias and Jeremy, by teaching the will of God--not by prayer only, but by preaching--are the one, 'an iron pillar,' the other, 'the chariot and horsemen of Israel,' in his time.
Now if all men had faith, dicam would have served, and this one pillar have been enough; but because all men have not religion, but there be in the 'world evil and absurd men,' therefore needed the second, therefore needed Justitias judicabo. Indeed, meliores sunt, 'the better part be they,' quos dirigit amor, 'whom love leadeth;' but plures sunt quos corrigit timor, 'the greater by far, that fear driveth.' Even such as will not be 'led with the cords of a man,' that is, inducements of religion and reason, but they 'must be held with bit and bridle,' that is, the curb of justice.
Which kind of men are of two sorts: Therefore it is Justitias 1.The enemy or Egyptian smiting Israel from without; 2. The injurious Israelite wronging his brother, from within. Why then, Sit nobis Rex, say the people, which is a perfect comprehension of this pillar of justice to do them right, and to defend them by war, when need is, against the foreign enemy; by justice, when cause is, against the domestic oppressor. Against the one Jehoshaphat placeth 'garrisons,' that is, against outward hostility; against the other he ordaineth 'judges,' that is, inward injury.
Dicens Cyro, saith God, Pastor meus, &c. 'which say to Cyrus,' the mighty monarch, 'thou art my shepherd.' A shepherd, by pastoral justice, to see the flock safe from within, the 'ravenous wolf from making havoc of our souls.' Will you know what these two mean? 'O my people,' saith God, 'remember what Balak the king hath devised against you'--speaking of a foreign prince, of the boar, 'and what Balaam hath answered him'--speaking of a false Prophet, of the wolf. The case is very like ours, and God grant us a thankful remembrance and meditation of it; of the long intelligence between Balak and Balaam for our overthrow, and how graciously and marvellously God hath delivered us!
Now, as without the fold these beasts be busy, and God therefore hath 'girt the prince with a sword;' so within also there are certain 'fed rams,' saith Ezekiel, that with their horns push, [9/10] and with their heels lay out against the poor weak sheep (that with vis and fraus, 'deceit' and 'violence' keep evil rule within;) against whom He hath given into their right hand a sceptre, that by arrest of the sceptre they might be quiet from within, and by the edge of the sword, safe from without; so intending the 'mystery of godliness,' and the knowledge thereof, and after it 'the exercise of godliness,' and the practice thereof; that so, after Stabiliatur Regnum meum in this life by Justice, we may come to Adveniat Regnum Tuum in the life to come by Religion. And this is the second pillar, yielding us Jacob's strength, who, as we said, was furnished both with 'his staff' see good order in his flock, and with his sword and bow against the Amorite.
Thus have we the two pillars of the earth, each strengthening the other: Religion rooting Justice within; Justice fencing Religion without, and they both making an arch of government irremoveable.
Yet, these two pillars, as strong and as steady as they are, except they be looked to and upheld, except they have an upholder and that a good one, Religion will cleave, and Justice bend, and they both sink, and the whole frame with them. Therefore mention is made here of a person put in trust with the bearing them up, which is the third point.
Which person is here, Ego autem, the first, that is, David; the first and the chief person in any government. He it is upon whom both these lean; he is the head, that guideth these two arms; he the breath of life in both these nostrils; yea, of all the body, saith Jeremy of Josias. Even christus Domini, 'the anointed of the Lord is the breath of all our nostrils.'
Familiar it is and but means, but very full or forcible, the simile of Esay; wherein he compareth the prince to 'a nail driven into a wall,' whereon are hanged all, both the vessels of service and the instruments of music; that is, he bears them up all. And great cause to desire God, fast may it stick and never stir, this nail; for if it should, all our cups would batter with the fall, and all the music of our choir be marred; that is, both Church and country be put in danger. Which God willing to shew, saith Philo Judæus, he did place the fifth commandment, which is the crown commandment, æj n mesorw 'as it were, in the middle,' and confines of both [10/11] tables; those touching Religion, and those touching Justice; that with one arm he might stay Religion, and with the other stay Justice, and so uphold both.
And, where such support has wanted, both have lain on the ground. For, both of Micah's idolatry, that is corrupt religion, and of the villany offered at Gibeah, and of the outrage committed by them of Dan, both in rifling houses, and sacking whole towns, that is, of open injustice, God rendereth no cause, but this, non erat Rex; the pillars went down, ego wanted. Without which, that is, an established government, we should have no commonwealth, but a wild forest, where Nimrod and his crew would hunt and chase all others; no commonwealth, but a pond where the great fish would devour the small; nothing but a sort of 'sheep scattered without a shepherd,' saith Moses. No more oves pascuæ, 'sheep of the pasture,' when their governor is gone, but oves occisionis, 'sheep for the slaughter.' Non populus, sed turba, 'no people, but a rout;' no building, nor pillars, but a heap of stones. Therefore a joyful noise 'is the shout of a king' among them.
Joyful indeed every way, but joyful especially if this ego be not Saul, but David. David, which giveth strength unto the pillars, and not Saul, an impairer or weakener of them. It is David's complaint in the forepart, he found the land weak when he came to it. So Saul had left it. It is his promise that as Saul by his slackness had brought the estate low, so he by his vigilance would raise it up again. And this is the last point, how Saul decayed, and David restored the pillar again.
The Wise Man saith, that 'evil looking to will decay the principals of any building;' and that was Saul's defect, as the Scripture recordeth. Religion first: instead of Celebrabimus, Negligimus Jehovam. King David, in his oration to the states of his realm before the first Parliament, testifieth, 'the ark was not sought to in the days of Saul;' that pillar was not looked to. Sought to it, was after a sort, religion; but nothing so as it should. 'Come let us have the ark,' saith he; and then, 'Go to, it skills not greatly, carry it back again;' which, what was it but to play fast and loose with religion? To intend Paul, as Felix saith, at our idle time; [11/12] and not to 'redeem time,' to that end? Judge of Religion's case by the reverence of the Ephod. A daughter of his own bringing up, Michal, saw David for honour of the ark wear it, and 'despised him in her heart.' Judge of it by the regard of the Priest, the keeper of the ark: for very love to it, that calling was kept so low and bare that they were tied to the allowance of their shew-bread; the High-Priest had not a loaf in his house besides. This was the first root of his kingdom: the ark not sought to, the Ephod in contempt, the priesthood impoversihed; et Saulo nihil horum curæ , 'and Saul regarded not any of these things.'
Such another indifferency for Church matters we find in Jeroboam. 'Tush,' saith he, jestingly, 'let them kiss the calves and spare not.' Let it go which way it will. But therefore God sends him word by Ahijah, 'that Israel should be as a reed in the water,' bowing to and fro, at the devotion of every wave and every wind, without any steadiness. And was it not so? Search the Chronicles. So, God saw this mind in Saul to His ark and was wrath; withdrew from him His religious and good Spirit, and sent upon him a profane and furious spirit, which carried him on first to a sinful life, and never left him till it had brought him to a shameful death. And God was even saying His disperdas to the kingdom, but David here entreated for a ne perdas, and promised a better care of celebrabimus Jehovam.
Now where Religion thrives not, the other of Justice will not hold long; when one staff is broken, the other holds not whole long after. And surely his justice was suitable to the former, to his weak regard of religion; that also was weak too.
1. Weak towards the enemy. It is said, there was want of necessary furniture of armour and munition in his days. And there had been defect in teaching them to shoot, which David supplied at his entrance. 2. Weak at home too, where he did not justitias, but injurias judicare.
The parts of Justice are two, as we find in the tenth verse. 1. To exalt the horns of the righteous, 2. and to break the horns of the wicked.
1. For the first. Reason was, and so was promise too, that David should have been rewarded with Merab his [12/13] eldest daughter's marriage. I know no how, one Adriel, an obscure fellow, never to have been named but to shew such an one put David by, had his horn exalted above him. This for reward.
2. And his punishment was no better. Merciful to Agag, whose horns should have been broken, and in Ahimelech's case too rigorous, putting him, and eighty-four more, to the sword for a dozen of bread.
And whereas, in kindly justice, the rigour of frangam cornua cometh not at first, but clemency giveth gracious warning,with Dicam imprudentibus. So, without regard thereof, as upon any displeasure, without any word at all, his javelin went straight to nail men to the wall, they knew not wherefore. Thus did justice decay after religion, and one pillar fall upon another, whereof ensued his overthrow, and the land dangerously sick of the palsy. Whereof David complaineth, and prayeth, 'Heal the sores thereof, for it shaketh.'
Now David, as, when he read Abimelech's mishap in the Book of Judges, he made his use of it, as appeareth 2Sam. 11. 21; so here when he saw what had turned Saul to damage, took warning by it (ruina præcedentium, admonitio sequentium), and, to make the land strong, falleth to underset the pillars.
And first, of the first that is, the stone which Saul and his builders cast aside. For, coming to the kingdom, he consecrates all his laws with his act de Arca reducenda, whereat he would needs be present in his own person, because it touched Celebrabimus Jehovam, and that with some disgrace, as Michal imagined; but he was resolute in that point, he could receive no dishonour by doing honour to God's ark. And, when it was brought back, set such an order for the service of it by the Levites, for maintenance so bountiful, so reverend for regard, so decent for order, so every way sufficient, as the care of the Temple might seem to reign in his heart. As indeed it did, and as he professes, 'he could not sleep' till he had set a full order for God's matters, and brought this pillar to perfection. Which his care was secundum cor Dei, and God would signify so much by the ceremony in the Coronation of the kings of Judah. Wherein, putting not only the diadem imperial, but the Book of the Law also, upon the king's head, [13/14] it was intended that Book should be as dear to them as their crown, and they equally study to advance it. And in putting the sceptre of justice in their hands, and in laying the key of the House of David on their shoulders, what else was required, but as they executed the one with their hand, so they should put to the other, arm and shoulder and all? That is, as David here expresseth it, two celebrabimuses to one judicabo.
Thus was strengthened the first pillar, and for the second the Holy Ghost giveth him an honourable testimony; I speak not of his military justice, I need not--therein he was trained up, but that in peace; 'he executed judgment and justice to all his people.' 'The king's power,' saith he, 'loves judgment,'--not power in injury, but power in judgment, saith David; 'power to edification,' saith St. Paul, 'not to destruction;' that is, to build up, not to decay the building. Therefore, virtue and valour wanted not their reward in his time. He professeth after in this psalm, the wind should blow no man to preferment, out of what quarter soever it came, but God by His graces should point them to it. And sure, the diligent description the Holy Spirit uses of his worthies and men of place, sheweth him to have been most exact in this point: first, his three; and then after, his thirty in their order; and that those 'thirty attained not unto the first three.' but every one esteemed and regarded, in his worthiness.
And for depressing the wicked, it was his morning work, as he testifieth, and that, as himself here sets down, in a most heavenly order, with dicam first, as being set over men, and therefore willing to 'lead them with the cords of men,' that is fair and gentle, yet effectual persuasions. And never did the dew of heaven more sweetly refresh the grass, than does a favourable saying pierce the inferior from a mouth of a prince. Therefore, there was no estate in the land, but in this book, I will not say he mildly said, but he even sweetly sung their several duties to them. To his court, his Church, his Judges, his commons, all in one. I will add this, that if David offended in ought, herein it was, in that he used dicam too much and frangam not oft enough. Absalom could object it, when it served his turn; and when David was to leave this world, it lay on his conscience, his clemency [14/15] used in Joab's and Shimei's case. 'A dear and precious thing is the meanest blood in the eyes of David'- so he saith. And that made his people more afraid for him than of him, and to value his life at 'ten thousand' of their own; and that, so many subjects, so many of his guard; not, so many subjects, so many conspirators, as Saul complained.
Yet because clemency is both one foot of the throne, and severity at some other time for time must be kept in this music does no less support it; therefore, where saying will not serve, nor singing, frangam must sometimes be used; where the rod condemned, let the sword be drawn. It is God's own course. If he, for all dicam, lift up his horn against God or good orders, saw off his horn; if he do still mutilâ fronte minitari, caput ejus mittetur ad te, was David's justice;--Take off his head. For dicam is the charm he speaketh of, which, if the viper stop not his ear, will do him good; if it do not, contunde in theriacam, he must be bruised and made into mithridate, that others may be amended by him, seeing he would not be amended by others.
Thus did David repair Saul's ruins; these are his steps, thus did he shew himself as good as his promises here, a skilful upholder of these two main pillars, which bear us and give strength to every land. And by this means he changed both the nature and the name of his country, finding it Jebus, that is, conculcata, and so indeed it was, a city condemned and trodden down with every foot; and leaving it a new name, Jerusalem, and so it was, Salem Jeru, a city to be feared and envied of all round about it. So the land grew strong, and the pillars fast, and David, for his fastening, in favour with God and man. God, Whom he praised, graciously assisting him; and men, whom he preserved, willingly serving him.
The Lord who has sent forth the like strength for our land, establish the good things which He has wrought in us! The Lord so fasten the pillars of our earth, that they never be shaken! The Lord mightily uphold the upholder of them long, and many years; that we may go forth rejoicing in His strength, and make our boast of His praise, all our life long!
Which our gracious God, &c.