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xliii. 19. The church, for her sins, may deserve to suffer; but her enemies are not therefore without guilt, nor will they escape without punishment. 8. O remember not against us former iniquities : let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us ; for we are brought very low. 9. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake. Affliction hath then wrought its intended effect, when it hath convinced us of sin, and led us to repentance; when, brought back by it, like the returning prodigal, to the house and presence of our heavenly Father, we acknowledge our guilt as the cause of our misery, and entreat forgiveness of the one, in order to obtain a release from the other; not pleading our own merits, but the mercies of God our Saviour, and the glory of his name. 10. Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? Let him be known among the heathen in our sight, by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed ; or, Let the vengeance of thy servants' blood that is shed, be known among the heathen that is in our sight. It is for “the glory of God's name,” to deliver his church ; because, while she is in trouble, that name is blasphemed by the enemy, as if he wanted either power, or will, to prevent or remove the calamities of his servants. Prayer is therefore here made by the faithful, that God, not to gratify any vindictive spirit of theirs, but to vindicate his own attributes, would break the teeth of the oppressor, and work a public and glorious salvation for his
chosen: at beholding which, the very adversaries themselves might possibly be converted. 11. Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die. Next to those who had been slain, the case of such as groaned in captivity, lying bound in chains and fetters under sentence of death, to be inflicted at the will of their cruel and insulting conquerors, is recommended to God. The Christian, though he may at present be subject to none of these external calamities, forgets not that he is often persecuted, andled captive, by his own desires, and bound in the chains of his sins; that the world to him is a prison; that sentence of death is passed upon him, and he knoweth not how soon that sentence may be executed. How properly therefore, and how fervently, may he, at all times, pray, “O let the sighing of the prisoner “come before thee; according to the greatness of “thy power preserve thou those that are appointed “to die.” 12. And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord. That is, As they have reproached thee with weakness, so manifest to others their weakness, who are but sinful dust and ashes; as they have endeavoured to make thee contemptible, so let the world have just cause to despise them, who have thus presumptuously offended; according as it is written, “Them that “honour me I will honour, and they that despise “me shall be lightly esteemed:” 1 Sam. ii. 30. And, WOL. II. E
however different the appearance of things may now
The church, still in captivity, 1–3. crieth unto God for help and redemption; 4–7. complaineth of her grievous afflictions; 8–13. describeth her former exaltation, and present depression, under the beautiful figure of a Wine: 14–16. returneth again to her supplications, and, 17–19. prayeth for the advent of Messiah, to quicken and comfort her, vowing all loyal obedience, adoration,
and praise to him, as the author of her salvation.
1. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. The Christian church is now become the “Israel” of God: Jesus Christ is the “Shepherd” of this Israel, who leadeth his people “like a flock;” he dwelleth in the midst of them by his Spirit, as of old he dwelt in the holy places, “between the che“rubims.” Let us beseech him to hearken to our prayers, and to manifest the glory of his power in our defence and deliverance. 2. Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up thy strength, and come and save us, God is entreated to go forth, in his strength and his salvation, before the tribes of Israel, as formerly in the wilderness. Ephraim, Benjamin, and Mamasseh, are particularly mentioned;, perhaps, because, according to the established order, those three tribes immediately followed the ark and cherubim, the symbols of the divine presence. See Numb. ii. 18. 3. Turn, or, restore, us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. This verse is a kind of chorus, occurring three times in the course of our Psalm. It implies, that the church is in captivity, from which she prayeth to be “restored to her former freedom and prosperity; that she expecteth such restoration, not from any might or merit of her own, but from the grace and mercy of her Saviour; as well knowing, that her night can be turned into day, and her winter give place to spring, only by the Sun of righteousness rising, and causing his face to shine upon her desolations. This ought, therefore, to be the wish and the prayer of every persecuted church, and of every afflicted soul. 4. O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people 2 The sins of a people may for a time “separate “between them and their God, and hide his face “from them that he will not hear:” Isa. lix. 2. “he “may cover himself with a cloud, that their prayers “should not pass through:” Lam. iii. 44, and seem to reject even the devotions of his distressed servants, while he is proving the strength of their faith, and the sincerity of their repentance. But if the former be strong, and the latter sincere, they will continue to ask, till they have obtained; nor cease to knock till the door be opened. 5. Thou feedest them with the bread of tears, or, of weeping; and givest them tears to drink in great 2measure. There cannot be a more striking picture of Sion in captivity. Her bread is dipped in tears, and her cup is filled to the brim with them: no time is free from grief and lamentation. They who sin, must submit to penance; which if a man doth not impose on himself, God will impose it on him; whereas, if we judged ourselves, we should not be thus judged of the Lord. The church hath appointed seasons, and given directions, for this purpose: but who observes either the one or the other P