It is probable that David penned this psalm when he was persecuted by Saul and his party, who, to give some colour to their unjust rage, represented him as a very bad man, and falsely accused him of many high crimes and misdemeanors, dressed him up in the skins of wild beasts that they might bait him. Innocency itself is no fence to the name, though it is to the bosom, against the darts of calumny. Herein he was a type of Christ, who was made a reproach of men, and foretold to his followers that they also must have all manner of evil said against them falsely. Now see what David does in this case.
I. He appeals to God’s righteous sentence (Ps. 26:1): “Judge me, O God! be thou Judge between me and my accusers, between the persecutor and the poor prisoner; bring me off with honour, and put those to shame that falsely accuse me.” Saul, who was himself supreme judge in Israel, was his adversary, so that in a controversy with him he could appeal to no other then to God himself. As to his offences against God, he prays, Lord, enter not into judgment with me (Ps. 143:2), remember not my transgressions (Ps. 25:7), in which he appeals to God’s mercy; but, as to his offences against Saul, he appeals to God’s justice and begs of him to judge for him, as Ps. 43:1. Or thus: he cannot justify himself against the charge of sin; he owns his iniquity is great and he is undone if God, in his infinite mercy, do not forgive him; but he can justify himself against the charge of hypocrisy, and has reason to hope that, according to the tenour of the covenant of grace, he is one of those that may expect to find favour with God. Thus holy Job often owns he has sinned and yet he holds fast his integrity. Note, It is a comfort to those who are falsely accused that there is a righteous God, who, sooner or later, will clear up their innocency, and a comfort to all who are sincere in religion that God himself is a witness to their sincerity.
II. He submits to his unerring search (Ps. 26:2): Examine me, O Lord! and prove me, as gold is proved, whether it be standard. God knows every man’s true character, for he knows the thoughts and intents of the heart, as sees through every disguise. David prays, Lord, examine me, which intimates that he was well pleased that God did know him and truly desirous that he would discover him to himself and discover him to all the world. So sincere was he in his devotion to his God and his loyalty to his prince (in both which he was suspected to be a pretender) that he wished he had a window in his bosom, that whoever would might look into his heart.
III. He solemnly protests his sincerity (Ps. 26:1): “I have walked in my integrity; my conversation had agreed with my profession, and one part of it has been of a piece with another.” It is vain to boast of our integrity unless we can make it out that by the grace of God we have walked in our integrity, and that our conversation in the world has been in simplicity and godly sincerity. He produces here several proofs of his integrity, which encouraged him to trust in the Lord as his righteous Judge, who would patronise and plead his righteous cause, with an assurance that he should come off with reputation (therefore I shall not slide), and that those should not prevail who consulted to cast him down from his excellency, to shake his faith, blemish his name, and prevent his coming to the crown, Ps. 62:4. Those that are sincere in religion may trust in God that they shall not slide, that is, that they shall not apostasize from their religion.
1. He had a constant regard to God and to his grace, Ps. 26:3. (1.) He aimed at God’s good favour as his end and chief good: Thy loving-kindness is before my eyes. This will be a good evidence of our sincerity, if what we do in religion we do from a principle of love to God, and good thoughts of him as the best of beings and the best of friends and benefactors, and from a grateful sense of God’s goodness to us in particular, which we have had the experience of all our days. If we set God’s loving-kindness before us as our pattern, to which we endeavour to conform ourselves, being followers of him that is good, in his goodness (1 Pet. 3:13), --if we set it before us as our great engagement and encouragement to our duty, and are afraid of doing any thing to forfeit God’s favour and in care by all means to keep ourselves in his love,—this will not only be a good evidence of our integrity, but will have a great influence upon our perseverance in it. (2.) He governed himself by the word of God as his rule: “I have walked in thy truth, that is, according to thy law, for thy law is truth.” Note, Those only may expect the benefit of God’s loving-kindness that live up to his truths, and his laws that are grounded upon them. Some understand it of his conforming himself to God’s example in truth and faithfulness, as well as in goodness and loving-kindness. Those certainly walk well that are followers of God as dear children.
2. He had no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, nor with the workers of those works, Ps. 26:4, 5. By this it appeared he was truly loyal to his prince that he never associated with those that were disaffected to his government, with any of those sons of Belial that despised him, 1 Sam. 10:27. He was in none of their cabals, nor joined with them in any of their intrigues; he cursed not the king, no, not in his heart. And this also was an evidence of his faithfulness to his God, that he never associated with those who he had any reason to think were disaffected to religion, or were open enemies, or false friends, to its interests. Note, Great care to avoid bad company is both a good evidence of our integrity and a good means to preserve us in it. Now observe here, (1.) That this part of his protestation looks both backward upon the care he had hitherto taken in this matter, and forward upon the care he would still take: “I have not sat with them, and I will not go in with them.” Note, Our good practices hitherto are then evidence of our integrity when they are accompanied with resolutions, in God’s strength, to persevere in them to the end, and not to draw back; and our good resolutions for the future we may then take the comfort of when they are the continuation of our good practices hitherto. (2.) That David shunned the company, not only of wicked persons, but of vain persons, that were wholly addicted to mirth and gaiety and had nothing solid or serious in them. The company of such may perhaps be the more pernicious of the two to a good man because he will not be so ready to stand upon his guard against the contagion of vanity as against that of downright wickedness. (3.) That the company of dissemblers is as dangerous company as any, and as much to be shunned, in prudence as well as piety. Evil-doers pretend friendship to those whom they would decoy into their snares, but they dissemble. When they speak fair, believe them not. (4.) Though sometimes he could not avoid being in the company of bad people, yet he would not go in with them, he would not choose such for his companions nor seek an opportunity of acquaintance and converse with them. He might fall in with them, but he would not, by appointment and assignation, go in with them. Or, if he happened to be with them, he would not sit with them, he would not continue with them; he would be in their company no longer than his business made it necessary: he would not concur with them, not say as they said, nor do as they did, as those that sit in the seat of the scornful, Ps. 1:1. He would not sit in counsel with them upon ways and means to do mischief, nor sit in judgment with them to condemn the generation of the righteous. (5.) We must not only in our practice avoid bad company, but in our principles and affections we must have an aversion to it. David here says, not only “I have shunned it,” but, “I have hated it,” Ps. 139:21. (6.) The congregation of evil-doers, the club, the confederacy of them, is in a special manner hateful to good people. I have hated ecclesiam malignantium—the church of the malignant; so the vulgar Latin reads its. As good men, in concert, make one another better, and are enabled to do so much the more good, so bad men, in combination, make one another worse, and do so much the more mischief. In all this David was a type of Christ, who, though he received sinners and ate with them, to instruct them and do them good, yet, otherwise, was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, particularly from the Pharisees, those dissemblers. He was also an example to Christians, when they join themselves to Christ, to save themselves from this untoward generation, Acts 2:40.