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all peril have all wisdom, and can teach any one. But when the waves mount up unto heaven and sink down again into the deep, their soul is melted because of trouble, they reel to and fro, and stagger like drunken men, and all their wisdom is swallowed up; as we have it Psalm cvii.; so that no one stands in so much need of counsel as they who were before the masters of all counsel. Wherefore, here the divine mercy remarkably and excellently shines forth, which, in the time of so great necessity, is always near and enlightens the heart trembling and destitute and devoid of counsel. And this is what David prayed for before, saying, “ Preserve me, O Lord.” For by this counsel the heart is preserved in the midst of this shadow of death. And David himself indeed in the following verse shews what this counsel is.
But what is the meaning of “ Moreover also my reins instructed me in the night season.”
What are “the reins” of Christ which emend' (as Augustine renders it) or chasten' (as our translator has it) or
instruct' (as Hieronymus translates it, and as it is in the Hebrew)? What can this be but that which Paul saith, Hebrews v. 8, 9, “ Yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” And that of Matt. xxvi. 41, “ The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” For although he was full of counsel, yet he felt the infirmity of our nature resisting and struggling against that counsel; in which struggle he learnt obedience by experience. Even as we also are the more instructed the more we are assaulted with temptations, if we are led to endure them prudently and wisely: and, (which seems a contrariety,) the more the man is overcome as to his own strength, the more full of counsel, the more courageous, and the more faithful his spirit is made: as Paul glories, 2 Cor. xii. When I am weak, then am I strong. For strength is made perfect in weakness. Thus the “ reins” of Christ, though they were holy and immaculate, yet, being weak, they shuddered at suffering and death, be
cause the human nature had rather live and be well: 'and yet, under all this horror, his counsel compelled him to watch and be concerned for the things that were of God. And we said above, Psalm vii. that's reins” signified natural pleasure, and also the coneupiscent powers : which pleasure hates all'unpleasantness and sorrow; and loves quiet and delight: which, in all men, as it did in Christ also, makes suffering and death to be bitter and hard to bear: which things must be overcome by " the spirit of counsel and of might.
And David expressively adds in the nights :' which is much better than our translation“ unto night." For here, although we may take nights as signifying, allegorically, adversities ; (for the reins, or the pleasurable powers,' if there be no'adversities cannot at all instruct, because they neither excite nor are excited, and their peculiar property is to instruct and stir up the spirit in temptations;) yet, I would rather understand it as sig. nifying, simply, and without allegory, the time of night; which is a time particularly adapted to fears and tremblings, and for the secret operations of God: so that therein the time is exactly adapted to the work."'i"'! el. Hence we read, Gen. xv. that after the sun-was gone down, “a horror of great darkness fell upon Abraham.” And, Gen. xxxii. we read, that Jacob wrestled with an angel until the morning.' And thus also in the following Psalm, David says, " Thou hast proved my heart, thou hast visited me in the night." For as the night is a time fitted for prayer, (as Christ is recorded to have prayed frequently in the night,)'so also it is a fit time for meditating and for suffering all divine things. And so again, Christ began his agony with the beginning of the night. And again, Job iv. 13, 14, we have it, “ In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men. Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.” And we read many things of the same kind in the scriptures. For the night, as being the time when man is disengaged from all worldly concerns, and when all things are silent, is most adapted for those divine operations ; that is, for
those internal sufferings, which are the fear and horror of death; by which the spirit of man is most powerfully instructed, if he be wise and sustain the teaching. And hence, these things came into a very usual expression with the Psalmist,“ Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night;” not, expressing exactly what that terror is; for that is known only by experience. But he that will know more about these nights in their allegorical significations, let him consult the sermons of Taulerus.
Ver. 8.--I saw the Lord always before me: for he is on my right hand, so that I should not be moved.
Here he opens the mystery of that counsel for which he blessed the Lord in the preceding verse :- namely,
that he set the Lord alone before his eyes;' and such a Lord, who was always at his right hand, that he should not be moved;' that is, a propitious and merciful Lord, And this is what was shewn at the begin ning of the Psalm, where he cried, “ Preserve me, O God, for I hope in thee.” This is what I have so often observed already that no one can sustain a suffering or death, unless he is able to use this counsel, and unless he is able to set before him an all-merciful God, iyea, ja God as full of mercy as possible ; as it is said, Wisdom i, 1, “ Think of the Lord in goodness.”. And again, Psalm ü. 2, 3, Many, there be that say unto my soul, There is no help for him in his God, But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head.” And again, Psalm xxvi. 3, thy loving-kindness is before mine eyes. I have walked in thy truth.” For I have said, that the object of hope is the pure unmerited mercy of God freely held out to us in the promise, and nothing but this; which is to be begged and sought for by the unworthy. And hence, all those counsellors are the worst, and are devilish, who cast their sins in the teeth of the suffering or dying, or who set, before them God as an exactor, who is to be gained over by, satisfactions and proposed good works. The Lord never gave , such counsel, but Satan; and
therefore all who follow it, grow nearer and nearer to desperation and blasphemy than to blessing and mercy.
The Hebrew and Hieronymus have it, 'I set the Lord always before me.' And the Lord being thus set before the man, gives him a heart courageous, happy, and prepared to all good works, and to do and bear all things: and it is this setting before,' as I have often said, that is to be the spring of our whole life and of all our works. For who would not do and dare every thing most willingly who had a persuasion that he pleased God, and that God was propitious and favourable ? And what sin, however pleasing, would he not contemn and hate while enjoying this trust and confidence in God? This faith, in truth, does not, and cannot, do any evil, even as also it cannot be overcome by any evil. No one, but he who has experienced it, can conceive how this faith draws from all evil and moves to all good. Wherefore, in this verse, the Spirit most beautifully sets before us the very nature, effects, and worth of that faith which thus trusteth in God. For what is it to trust in God, but for the man to set God always before him, and to be firmly persuaded that God is on his right hand, so that he shall not be moved? And he that remains in this 'setting before,' how shall be not always live well and work well ? What storm of evil shall ever subvert him? He is founded upon the firm rock!
Hence the Hebrew here uses very emphatic words.First we have “ I placed" or "set.' For 'to place or set' implies firmness and a foundation : shewing, that faith is an affection or state of mind, constant, and most firm, which never wavers nor totters at any time.
Then we have "the Lord.” For the faith is not fixed in our own works; no, nor in any creature whatever; but in God alone: and hence it is called divine strength, because it deals with the divine mercy. Whereas, an evil conscience and ungodliness deal with a man's own sin and free-will.
The next is, “ before my eyes.” This expresses liveliness and vigilance of faith. For faith is not, as some of our moderns will have it, a habit that lies
still, snoring and sleeping in the soul; but is always turned towards God with a straight and perpetually looking and watching eye. Hence it comes to pass, that it is the author and origin of all works, nay, the first thing and last in all good works, yea, it is the whole life.
And to these he adds “always.” This is to embrace every time: because faith makes the good times of peace, and endures the evil times of war; it is never inactive; nay, it is always most active. Hence we see, how excellent a logician David is, who gives faith its right definition. And what else are all the Psalms than certain definitions of faith, hope, and love? And it is under these feelings and affections that all and each of us are exercised; and they shew, that faith, hope, and love, are properly certain pure and divine affections.
“For he is on my right hand :” that is, he is present in secret and in spirit, even though my enemies persecute me on the left hand, or openly. We have the same, Psalm xx. 6, “With the saving strength of his right hand :” that is, his right hand is powerfully saved, how weak soever his left hand may be. And so here also, Christ is left in weakness on the left hand, but is upheld by power on his right hand.—The scriptures use the expressions ‘right hand,' and left hand,' figuratively, for the internal and external man; as Christ says, Matt. vi. 3, “ But thou when thou doeth thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth : that thine alms may be in secret.” Wherein he means, that alms are the secret of the right hand, and that the doing them openly is the left hand : of which we shall perhaps say more hereafter.
“That I should not be moved.” He does not say, that I should not be touched, that I should not be tempted, or that I should not be made to feel. For faith is a powerful affection. The man wishes to rest after being exercised, but he cannot, nor is he permitted so to do; yet, he always remains conqueror, and is never moved nor hurled from his place. For this is the victory even our faith, saith John, 1 Epist. v. And Paul