I. A very great affection to God and his favour; for, in the time of trouble, that which he complains of most feelingly is God’s withdrawing his gracious presence (Ps. 10:1): “Why standest thou afar off, as one unconcerned in the indignities done to thy name and the injuries done to the people?” Note, God’s withdrawings are very grievous to his people at any time, but especially in times of trouble. Outward deliverance is afar off and is hidden from us, and then we think God is afar off and we therefore want inward comfort; but that is our own fault; it is because we judge by outward appearance; we stand afar off from God by our unbelief, and then we complain that God stands afar off from us.
II. A very great indignation against sin, the sins that made the times perilous, 2 Tim. 3:1. he beholds the transgressors and is grieved, is amazed, and brings to his heavenly Father their evil report, not in a way of vain-glory, boasting before God that he was not as these publicans (Luke 18:11), much less venting any personal resentments, piques, or passions, of his own; but as one that laid to he art that which is offensive to God and all good men, and earnestly desired a reformation of manners. passionate and satirical invectives against bad men do more hurt than good; if we will speak of their badness, let it be to God in prayer, for he alone can make them better. This long representation of the wickedness of the wicked is here summed up in the first words of it (Ps. 10:2), The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor, where two things are laid to their charge, pride and persecution, the former the cause of the latter. Proud men will have all about them to be of their mind, of their religion, to say as they say, to submit to their dominion, and acquiesce in their dictates; and those that either eclipse them or will not yield to them they malign and hate with an inveterate hatred. Tyranny, both in state and church, owes its origin to pride. The psalmist, having begun this description, presently inserts a short prayer, a prayer in a parenthesis, which is an advantage and no prejudice to the sense: Let them be taken, as proud people often are, in the devices that they have imagined, Ps. 10:2. Let their counsels be turned headlong, and let them fall headlong by them. These two heads of the charge are here enlarged upon.
1. They are proud, very proud, and extremely conceited of themselves; justly therefore did he wonder that God did not speedily appear against them, for he hates pride, and resists the proud. (1.) The sinner proudly glories in his power and success. He boasts of his heart’s desire, boasts that he can do what he pleases (as if God himself could not control him) and that he has all he wished for and has carried his point. Ephraim said, I have become rich, I have found me out substance, Hos. 12:8. “Now, Lord, is it for thy glory to suffer a sinful man thus to pretend to the sovereignty and felicity of a God?” (2.) He proudly contradicts the judgment of God, which, we are sure, is according to truth; for he blesses the covetous, whom the Lord abhors. See how God and men differ in their sentiments of persons: God abhors covetous worldlings, who make money their God and idolize is; he looks upon them as his enemies, and will have no communion with them. The friendship of the world is enmity to God. But proud persecutors bless them, and approve their sayings, Ps. 49:13. They applaud those as wise whom God pronounces foolish (Luke 12:20); they justify those as innocent whom God condemns as deeply guilty before him; and they admire those as happy, in having their portion in this life, whom God declares, upon that account, truly miserable. Thou, in thy lifetime, receivedst thy good things. (3.) He proudly casts off the thoughts of God, and all dependence upon him and devotion to him (Ps. 10:4): The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, that pride of his heart which appears in his very countenance (Prov. 6:17), will not seek after God, nor entertain the thoughts of him. God is not in all his thoughts, not in any of them. All his thoughts are that there is not God. See here, [1.] The nature of impiety and irreligion; it is not seeking after God and not having him in our thoughts. There is no enquiry made after him (Job 35:10; Jer. 2:6), no desire towards him, no communion with him, but a secret wish to have no dependence upon him and not to be beholden to him. Wicked people will not seek after God (that is, will not call upon him); they live without prayer, and that is living without God. They have many thoughts, many projects and devices, but no eye to God in any of them, no submission to his will nor aim at his glory. [2.] The cause of this impiety and irreligion; and that is pride. Men will not seek after God because they think they have no need of him, their own hands are sufficient for them; they think it a thing below them to be religious, because religious people are few, and mean, and despised, and the restraints of religion will be a disparagement to them. (4.) He proudly makes light of God’s commandments and judgments (Ps. 10:5): His wings are always grievous; he is very daring and resolute in his sinful courses; he will have his way, though ever so tiresome to himself and vexatious to others; he travails with pain in his wicked courses, and yet his pride makes him wilful and obstinate in them. God’s judgments (what he commands and what he threatens for the breach of his commands) are far above out of his sight; he is not sensible of his duty by the law of God nor of his danger by the wrath and curse of God. Tell him of God’s authority over him, he turns it off with this, that he never saw God and therefore does not know that there is a God, he is in the height of heaven, and quae supra nos nihil ad nos—we have nothing to do with things above us. Tell him of God’s judgments which will be executed upon those that go on still in their trespasses, and he will not be convinced that there is any reality in them; they are far above out of his sight, and therefore he thinks they are mere bugbears. (5.) He proudly despises all his enemies, and looks upon them with the utmost disdain; he puffs at those whom God is preparing to be a scourge and ruin to him, as if he could baffle them all, and was able to make his part good with them. But, as it is impolitic to despise an enemy, so it is impious to despise any instrument of God’s wrath. (6.) He proudly sets trouble at defiance and is confident of the continuance of his own prosperity (Ps. 10:6): He hath said in his heart, and pleased himself with the thought, I shall not be moved, my goods are laid up for many years, and I shall never be in adversity; like Babylon, that said, I shall be a lady for ever, Isa. 47:7; Rev. 18:7. Those are nearest ruin who thus set it furthest from them.
2. They are persecutors, cruel persecutors. For the gratifying of their pride and covetousness, and in opposition to God and religion, they are very oppressive to all within their reach. Observe, concerning these persecutors, (1.) That they are very bitter and malicious (Ps. 10:7): His mouth is full of cursing. Those he cannot do a real mischief to, yet he will spit his venom at, and breathe out the slaughter which he cannot execute. Thus have God’s faithful worshippers been anathematized and cursed, with bell, book, and candle. Where there is a heart full of malice there is commonly a mouth full of curses. (2.) They are very false and treacherous. There is mischief designed, but it is hidden under the tongue, not to be discerned, for his mouth is full of deceit and vanity. He has learned of the devil to deceive, and so to destroy; with this his hatred is covered, Prov. 26:26. He cares not what lies he tells, not what oaths he breaks, nor what arts of dissimulation he uses, to compass his ends. (3.) That they are very cunning and crafty in carrying on their designs. They have ways and means to concert what they intend, that they may the more effectually accomplish it. Like Esau, that cunning hunter, he sits in the lurking places, in the secret places, and his eyes are privily set to do mischief (Ps. 10:8), not because he is ashamed of what he does (if he blushed, there were some hopes he would repent), not because he is afraid of the wrath of God, for he imagines God will never call him to an account (Ps. 10:11), but because he is afraid lest the discovery of his designs should be the breaking of them. Perhaps it refers particularly to robbers and highwaymen, who lie in wait for honest travellers, to make a prey of them and what they have. (4.) That they are very cruel and barbarous. Their malice is against the innocent, who never provoked them—against the poor, who cannot resist them and over whom it will be no glory to triumph. Those are perfectly lost to all honesty and honour against whose mischievous designs neither innocence nor poverty will be any man’s security. Those that have power ought to protect the innocent and provide for the poor; yet these will be the destroyers of those whose guardians they ought to be. And what do they aim at? It is to catch the poor, and draw them into their net, that is, get them into their power, not to strip them only, but to murder them. They hunt for the precious life. It is God’s poor people that they are persecuting, against whom they bear a mortal hatred for his sake whose they are and whose image they bear, and therefore they lie in wait to murder them: He lies in wait as a lion that thirsts after blood, and feeds with pleasure upon the prey. The devil, whose agent he is, is compared to a roaring lion that seeks not what, but whom, he may devour. (5.) That they are base and hypocritical (Ps. 10:10): He crouches and humbles himself, as beasts of prey do, that they may get their prey within their reach. This intimates that the sordid spirits of persecutors and oppressors will stoop to any thing, though ever so mean, for the compassing of their wicked designs; witness the scandalous practices of Saul when he hunted David. It intimates, likewise, that they cover their malicious designs with the pretence of meekness and humility, and kindness to those they design the greatest mischief to; they seem to humble themselves to take cognizance of the poor, and concern themselves in their concernments, when it is in order to make them fall, to make a prey of them. (6.) That they are very impious and atheistical, Ps. 10:11. They could not thus break through all the laws of justice and goodness towards man if they had not first shaken off all sense of religion, and risen up in rebellion against the light of its most sacred and self-evident principles: He hath said in his heart, God has forgotten. When his own conscience rebuked him with the consequences of it, and asked how he would answer it to the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, he turned it off with this, God has forsaken the earth, Ezek. 8:12; 9:9. This is a blasphemous reproach, [1.] Upon God’s omniscience and providence, as if he could not, or did not, see what men do in this lower world. [2.] Upon his holiness and the rectitude of his nature, as if, though he did see, yet he did not dislike, but was willing to connive at, the most unnatural and inhuman villanies. [3.] Upon his justice and the equity of his government, as if, though he did see and dislike the wickedness of the wicked, yet he would never reckon with them, nor punish them for it, either because he could not or durst not, or because he was not inclined to do so. Let those that suffer by proud oppressors hope that God will, in due time, appear for them; for those that are abusive to them are abusive to God Almighty too.
In singing this psalm and praying it over, we should have our hearts much affected with a holy indignation at the wickedness of the oppressors, a tender compassion of the miseries of the oppressed, and a pious zeal for the glory and honour of God, with a firm belief that he will, in due time, give redress to the injured and reckon with the injurious.
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