Psalm 58:10


There is a contrast in this psalm between the unjust judges of the earth, and God the righteous Judge of all men (vers. 1, 2, and ver. 11). "Do ye really, O ye gods, speak righteousness? Do ye in uprightness judge the children of men? Nay, in heart ye work iniquities, in the land ye weigh out the violence of your hands" (Delitzsch). This indignant protest is just. Judges have often been false to their trust. They have prostituted their power to selfish ends. They have increased instead of diminished the evils of society, and made confusion worse confounded by their wicked deeds. There are signal examples of this in the Bible, and though the lines have fallen unto us, in these last days, in pleasant places, our fathers, in the days of Bonner and Jeffries and Claverhouse, and in days of persecution, suffered grievously. But how different is it with God the Judge of all the earth! His judgments are all righteous. Even the wicked cannot complain. In their punishment they only receive, as their own consciences testify, "the just reward of their deeds." Our attention is specially concentrated on the wicked.

I. THEIR CHARACTER IS PORTRAYED. (Vers. 1-5.) Character is a growth. No man becomes of a sudden either very bad or very good. There is gradation - "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." We are shown wickedness in its germ. It has its source in a bad heart - a heart not right with God. From within it works toward without. Evil may for a time be concealed or held in check, but it is sure to show itself. People may be worse than they seem. God only knows the evil that lies hidden and rooted in the heart. Then we see wickedness in its development. It has been said that "tongue sins are our first transgressions." But how quickly do we proceed from "lies" to other and more flagrant forms of wickedness! The more the will of the flesh is indulged, the stronger it becomes. The poison spreads through all the veins.

"The soul grows clothed by contagion,
Imbodies and imbrutes, till she quite lose
The Divine property of her first being."


(Milton) Then cometh the consummation. All checks and warnings and remonstrances are in vain. Men become "more deaf than adders to the voice of true decision." Like Saul, they choose the evil instead of the good. Like Rehoboam, they persist in their sins. Like Ahab, they sell themselves to work iniquity. Like Israel, they harden their hearts against all teaching and rebuke, till in the end there is no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16).

II. THEIR JUDGMENT IS PREDICTED. (Vers. 6-11.) God is long suffering and merciful. How excellent his counsels! how tender his rebukes I how gracious his calls to repentance! But when evil men knowingly and obstinately persist in their evil ways, judgment must be done. The psalmist adds image to image to strengthen the argument, and to set forth the more vividly the awful doom of the wicked.

1. Judgment, is required in the interests of humanity. In all good governments there are laws for the protection of society. If evil doers will not repent, they must be restrained. Their power to do injury must be stopped.

2. Besides, judgment is demanded in accordance with righteousness. There is nothing arbitrary in the procedure. Even evil must be dealt with fairly.

3. Judgment also is necessary for the vindication of Goers truth. There is a moral necessity why it should be "ill with the wicked." "God is not a man, that he should lie." But evil on itself shall back recoil, And mix no more with goodness, when at last. Gather'd like scum, and settled to itself, It shall be in eternal restless change, Self-fed and self-consumed; if this fail, The pillar'd firmament is rottenness, And earth's base built on stubble. (Milton.) W.F.









The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
That is a terrible picture. It expresses not only the dreadful amen, dance of blood, but also the satisfaction of the "righteous" at its being shed. There is an ignoble and there is a noble and Christian satisfaction in even the destructive providences of God. It is not only permissible but imperative on those who would live in sympathy with His righteous dealings and with Himself, that they should see in these the manifestation of eternal justice, and should consider that they roll away burdens from earth and bring hope and rest to the victims of oppression. It is no unworthy shout of personal vengeance, nor of unfeeling triumph, that is lifted up from a relieved world when Babylon falls. If it is right in God to destroy, it cannot be wrong in His servants to rejoice that He does. Only they have to take heed that their emotion is untarnished by selfish gratulation, and is not untinged with solemn pity for those who were indeed doers of evil, but were themselves the greatest sufferers from their evil. It is hard, but not impossible, to take all that is expressed in the psalm, and to soften it by some effluence from the spirit of Him who wept over Jerusalem, and yet pronounced its doom.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Hearing a whole quire of birds chirping merrily together, my curiosity was excited to inquire into the occasion of their convocation and merriment, when I quickly perceived a dead hawk in the bush, about which they made such a noise, seeming to triumph at the death of an enemy. I could not blame them for singing the knell of one who, like a cannibal, was wont to feed upon their living bodies, tearing them limb from limb, and scaring them with his frightful appearance. Over this bird, which was so formidable when alive, the most timid wren or titmouse did not now fear to chirp and hop. This occurrence brought to my mind the case of tyrants and oppressors. When living, they are the terror of mankind; but when dead, they are the objects of general contempt and scorn. "When the wicked perish, there is shouting" (Proverbs 11:10). The death of Nero was celebrated by the Romans with bonfires and plays; birds ate the naked flesh of Pompey; Alexander lay unburied thirty days; but. a useful and holy life is generally closed by an honourable and lamented death.

Verily there is a reward for the righteous
What are the personal attributes that go to make up, constitute, and distinguish a righteous character before God?

I. IT HAS CHRIST FOR ITS GROUNDWORK. Being "over all God blessed for ever," His life was not derived from, nor dependent on, any other. His life was not only innocent of every transgression, in thought, word, and deed; but He was "Jesus Christ the Righteous." He neglected no duty, personal, relative, or official. His life was a service; His death was a sacrifice — of propitiation for the sins of the world.

II. IT HAS FAITH FOR ITS PRINCIPLE, OR INSTRUMENT OF APPROPRIATION. Is faith, then, in itself, a meritorious, or deserving act or exercise? No more than the outstretching of the arm, the opening of the hand to receive Christ, or of the opening of the eye to look to Him, or the moving of the feet to come to Him. It is simply the instrument, the graciously furnished, and Divinely appointed instrument, the only Divinely appointed instrument, or organ, by which the sinner receives, and becomes united to "Christ the righteousness of God." "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace."

III. IT HAS THE HEART FOR ITS SEAT. Justification is a change of state, by which we are freed from condemnation; sanctification is a change of nature, by which we are brought into resemblance and communion with Him. The one indicates a relative change in relation to the law; the other, a real and personal change in God's sight. By the one, we receive a title to the promised recompense of reward; by the other, we are "made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."

IV. IT HAS THE LIFE FOR ITS EVIDENCE. A man is not certainly known by what he says, but he is known by what he does, and does habitually in every condition and relation of life.

(G. Robson.)

Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.
I. WHAT ARE THE DISCRIMINATING FEATURES WHICH DISTINGUISH THE RIGHTEOUS.

1. In describing the righteous, we must distinguish them —(1) From the great mass of mankind, from the world that "lieth in wickedness" (Romans 3:10).(2) From mere moralists, who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others (Romans 10:3).

2. In describing the righteous, we characterize them.(1) By the genuineness and spirituality of their faith. Righteous men are men of faith (Hebrews 11:3-7). Righteousness is obtained by faith (Romans 4:3, 5, 18, 20, 22; Galatians 3:6). But faith must have an object; this is the Lord Jesus Christ, who became sin for us.(2) By the rectitude and purity of their principles.(3) By the consistency of their conduct.

II. WHAT IS THAT REWARD TO WHICH THE RIGHTEOUS ARE ENTITLED?

1. A gracious and voluntary reward (Romans 6:23; Revelation 2:7, 10, 17).

2. Distant and remote.

3. Suitable and proportionate.

4. Glorious and eternal, and therefore worthy of its Author. In the descriptions of this reward we remark two things; a complete freedom from all evil, both moral and natural, and from all possibility of evil; and the eternal enjoyment of all the good of which their natures are capable.

III. WHAT EVIDENCES HAVE WE FOR CREDITING THE ASSERTION IN THE TEXT?

1. The character of God. He is a being of infinite goodness, and His goodness will incline Him to reward the righteous. He is a being of infinite justice, and His justice prompts Him to render to every man according to his works.

2. The positive declarations of Scripture (Genesis 15:1; Matthew 19:28, 29; Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 22:14).

3. The general consent of mankind.

(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

A military gentleman ones said to an excellent old minister in the north of Scotland, who was becoming infirm, "Why, if I had power over the pension list, I would at once have you on a pension of half-pay for your long and faithful services." He replied, "Ah, my friend, your master may put you off with half-pay, but my Master will not serve me so meanly; He will give me full pay. Through His grace and favour I expect a full reward, and nothing less will content me."

(The Quiver.)

Verily, there is
I. THE PRESENT APPEARANCES OF THINGS ARE APT TO MAKE WRONG IMPRESSIONS ON OUR MINDS, RESPECTING GOD'S DEALINGS WITH MANKIND. Though we may see the wicked in prosperity and the righteous in affliction, we should ever keep in mind, that prosperity is no sign of God's favour, and that affliction is no necessary sign of His displeasure; and therefore, amidst the changes and vicissitudes of life, let us be on our guard against false and hasty reasonings, with regard to God's dealings with mankind.

II. A DAY WILL COME, WHEN THE TRUTH WILL BE SEEN AND ACKNOWLEDGED BY ALL, that "verily there is a reward for the righteous; doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth." While we reflect upon these things, as certain and true, it is most important to inquire particularly into the nature of this judgment, and of this reward. The Bible gives us full instruction in this matter. It tells us, that "the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good"; and that God "will render to every one according to his works."

(J. S. Pratt.)

I. THE GENERAL LAWS AND CONSTITUTION OF NATURE EXHIBIT THE JUSTICE, AS WELL AS THE WISDOM OF GOD. As there is an evident subservience of the general frame of the world to the benefit of human life, and such various provisions in nature to answer the Divine intentions of producing knowledge, virtue, and happiness in mankind; as numberless proofs of wisdom and benevolence appear throughout the whole; here is the strongest presumption in favour of the Divine justice; and it is most irrational to imagine that injustice can find place in a plan or constitution of so much wisdom and goodness.

II. In consequence of that constitution of things which His creative wisdom hath established, and which shows undeniably the goodness of His intentions, THERE ARE CERTAIN MEASURES OF DIVINE JUSTICE IN CONTINUAL EXECUTION, FOR THE PUNISHMENT OF VICE AND THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF VIRTUE. Here begins the moral government of God; and the marks or proofs, by attending to which, we may be convinced that there is verily a God that judgeth in the earth. The subordinations of human society are appointed by the Author of nature for the purposes of His governing justice, civil and domestic government, etc. We may further trace the footsteps of Divine justice in the natural resentments of mankind against the perpetrators of wicked actions; who thereby expose themselves to a general indignation or contempt; for the passions and affections of men, even of vicious men, naturally rise in favour of virtue and detestation of vice in others. There is an order, also, in the constitution of the human body, for the punishment of some vices. As those crimes which are most injurious to society are generally punished, by the public resentments of that society which they injure; so those vices that are of a personal nature find their own punishment nearer home. Finally, there is the most certain and effectual provision of nature, far the punishment of wickedness and the reward of virtue, in the frame of the human mind. There is as it were a tribunal of justice erected in every man's own heart, where conscience sits as judge, to whose approving or condemning sentence men are continually exposed, and most of all in the seasons of retirement and reflection.

III. THESE MEASURES OF DIVINE JUSTICE ARE MORE EXTENSIVE THAN MEN GENERALLY APPREHEND OR BELIEVE. The stings of conscience are often keen and piercing to the inmost soul; the passions of vice are corroding, and destroy mental quiet and repose; the resentments of society, the disaffection of friends and relatives, are galling to the heart; the terror of human laws is grievous and burdensome; and infamy, disease and death, the frequent effects of debauchery and villainy, cannot be thought slight punishments. Now, though wicked persons may avoid some of these punishments, yet it is hardly possible that any criminal in the world can escape them all. The internal peace and pleasure which arise from innocence and conscious virtue are little esteemed or considered; nor are the troubles and pains, which ensue from guilt, in the natural course of things, much regarded as proofs of Divine justice.

IV. THE PARTICULAR INSTANCES WHICH APPEAR TO THE CONTRARY ARE BUT EXCEPTIONS TO THAT GENERAL ORDER ESTABLISHED IN NATURE. The tyranny and persecution which have raged in the world for a succession of ages, by which the best of men have been the most inhumanly treated, present the darkest scene that ever was beheld in the world, in respect to the providence and justice of the Supreme Governor. But these persecutions were the means of trying and exercising the probity and piety of numbers of men, and of producing the noblest harvest of genuine virtue. It may be reasonably thought that it was in order to this end Divine Providence permitted such an amazing tyranny to rise, prevail, and continue. In this view the Holy Scriptures teach us to look upon such scenes, and thus to reconcile them with the justice of an over-ruling Providence.

V. To vindicate the perfect justice of the Divine government, to give proper consolation to the minds of good men, and to raise virtue to the highest excellence and stability, RECOURSE MUST BE HAD TO THE DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE; and in this point the Gospel-revelation is abundantly sufficient to give entire satisfaction, and to support all good men under the severest trials.

(S. Bourn.)

It was a saying of Solon, the Athenian law-giver, that a republic walks upon two feet; one being just punishment for the unworthy, the ether due reward for the worthy. If it fail in either of these, it necessarily goes lame.

Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.
Homilist.
I. THE ENMITY OF MAN TOWARDS MAN.

1. From the description that David here gives of his enemies, we learn that —(1) They hated him with a deadly hate. They sought nothing less than his life; they were "bloody men."(2) They hated him without a cause. "Without my fault."(3) They hated him with furious rage. They are represented as furious beasts of prey, as ravenous dogs, as malignant slanderers, whose words are cutting as a "sword," from whose mouth belches the lava of abuse.(4) They hated him with persistent effort. They watch in the day, wait in ambush, return at night, and thus on until their fiendish purposes are attained.

2. The fact that men are thus enemies to men —(1) Argues human apostasy. At some time or other there has happened in human life a moral earthquake which has riven the social body into pieces.(2) Reveals the need of Christ. He reconciles man to man by reconciling all men to God.

II. THE APPEAL OF SELFISHNESS TO HEAVEN. What merit is there in such a prayer as this? Can it ever meet acceptance with that God who willeth not the death of a sinner, and who is not "willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance"?

III. THE CONFIDENCE OF PIETY IN GOD. Despite all the imperfections of David's character, the root of the matter was in him. "I will sing aloud of thy mercy," etc. Perfection of character is only gradually reached. "The acorn," it has been said, "does not become an oak in a day; the ripened scholar was not made such by a single lesson; the well-trained soldier was not a raw recruit yesterday; it is not one touch of the artist's pencil that produces a finished painting; there are always months between seed-time and harvest; even so, the path of the just is like the 'shining light' which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

(Homilist.)

Christian Age.
A lady was wakened up by a very strange noise of peeking against the window-pane, and she saw a butterfly flying backward and forward inside the window-pane in great fright, and outside a sparrow pecking and trying to get at it. The butterfly did not see the glass, and expected every moment to be caught; and the sparrow did not see the glass, and expected every moment to catch the butterfly; yet all the while the little creature was as safe as if it had been three miles away, because of the glass between it and the sparrow. So it is with the Christians who are abiding in Christ. His presence is between them and every danger. It really does seem that Satan does not understand about this mighty and invisible power that protects us, or else he would not waste his efforts — like the sparrow, he does not see. And Christians are often like the butterfly, and do not see their defence, and so are frightened, and flutter backwards and forwards in terror. But all the while Satan cannot touch the soul that has the Lord Jesus between itself and him.

(Christian Age.)

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