Title. This admirable ode is simply headed, “To the Chief Musician, by David.” The dedication to the Chief Musician stands at the head of fifty-three of the Psalms, and clearly indicates that such psalms were intended, not merely for the private use of believers, but to be sung in the great assemblies by the appointed choir at whose head was the overseer, or superintendent, called in our version, “the Chief Musician, “and by Ainsworth, “the Master of the Music.” Several of these psalms have little or no praise in them, and were not addressed directly to the Most High, and yet were to be sung in public worship; which is a clear indication that the theory of Augustine lately revived by certain hymn book makers, that nothing but praise should be sung, is far more plausible than scriptural. Not only did the ancient Church chant hallowed doctrine and offer prayer amid her spiritual songs, but even the wailing notes of complaint were put into her mouth by the sweet singer of Israel who was inspired of God. Some persons grasp at any nicety which has a gloss of apparent correctness upon it, and are pleased with being more fancifully precise than others; nevertheless it will ever be the way of plain men, not only to magnify the Lord in sacred canticles, but also, according to Paul’s precept, to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in their hearts unto the Lord. As no distinguishing title is given to this Psalm, we would suggest as an assistance to the memory, the heading—Concerning Practical Atheism. The many conjectures as to the occasion upon which it was written are so completely without foundation, that it would be a waste of time to mention them at length. The apostle Paul, in Romans 3:1-31, has shown incidentally that the drift of the inspired writer is to show that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin; there was, therefore, no reason for fixing upon any particular historical occasion, when all of history reeks with terrible evidence of human corruption. With instructive alterations, David has given us in Psalms 53:1-6 a second edition of this humiliating psalm, being moved of the Holy Ghost thus doubly to declare a truth which is ever distasteful to carnal minds.
Division. The world’s foolish creed (Psalms 14:1); its practical influence in corrupting morals, Psalms 14:1-3. The persecuting tendencies of sinners, Psalms 14:4; their alarms, Psalms 14:5; their ridicule of the godly, Psalms 14:6; and a prayer for the manifestation of the Lord to his people’s joy.
The Treasury of David.
Hatred of God and corruptness of life are the motive forces which produce persecution. Men who having no saving knowledge of divine things, enslave themselves to become workers of iniquity, have no heart to cry to the Lord for deliverance, but seek to amuse themselves with devouring the poor and despised people of God. It is hard bondage to be a worker of iniquity; a worker at the galleys, or in the mines of Siberia, is not more truly degraded and wretched; the toil is hard and the reward dreadful: those who have no knowledge choose such slavery, but those who are taught of God cry to be rescued from it. The same ignorance which keeps men bondsmen to evil, makes them hate the freeborn sons of God; hence they seek to eat them up as they eat bread,—daily, ravenously, as though it were an ordinary, usual, everyday matter to oppress the saints of God. As pikes in a pond, eat up little fish, as eagles prey on smaller birds, as wolves rend the sheep of the pasture, so sinners naturally and as a matter of course, persecute, malign, and mock the followers of the Lord Jesus. While thus preying, they forswear all praying, and in this act consistently, for how could they hope to be heard while their hands are full of blood?
Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? Men’s ignorance is the reason why they fear not what they should fear. Why is it that the ungodly fear not sin? Oh, it’s because they know it not. “Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge?” Sure enough they have none, for they eat up my people as they eat bread; such morsels would scald their mouths, they would not dare to be such persecutors and destroyers of the people of God; they would be afraid to touch them if they did but know what they did. Richard Alleine.
Who eat up my people as they eat bread. That is, quotidie, daily, saith Austin; as duly as they eat bread; or, with the same eagerness and voracity. These man eaters, these Λαοβόροι, cruel cannibals, make no more conscience to undo a poor man, than to eat a good meal when they are hungry. Like pickerels in a pond, or sharks in the sea, they devour the poorer, as those do the lesser fishes; and that many times with a plausible, invisible consumption; as the usurer, who like the ostrich, can digest any metal; but especially money. John Trapp.
Who eat up my people as the eat bread. Oh, how few consult and believe the Scriptures setting forth the enmity of wicked men against God’s people! The Scripture tells us “they eat up God’s people as bread,” which implies a strange inclination in them to devour the saints, and that they take as great delight therein as a hungry man in eating, and that it is natural to them to molest them. The Scripture compares them, for their hateful qualities, to the lions, and bears, to foxes for subtlety, to wild bulls, to greedy swine, to scorpions, to briers and thorns (grievous and vexing things). The Scripture represents them as industrious and unwearied in their bloody enterprises, they cannot sleep without doing mischief. Herodias had rather have the blood of a saint than half a kingdom. Haman would pay a great fine to the king that the scattered Jews (who keep not the king’s laws) may be cut off. Wicked men will run the hazard of damning their own souls, rather than not fling a dagger at the apple of God’s eye. Though they know what one word—aha!!—cost, yet they will break through all natural, civil, and moral obligations, to ruin God’s people. The Holy Ghost calls them “implacable” men, fierce and headstrong; they are like the hot oven for fury, like the sea for boundless rage; yet, “who hath believed” this Scripture “report?” Did we believe what enemies all wicked men are unto all saints, we should not lean to our own prudence and discretion to secure us from any danger by these men; we would get an ark to secure us from the deluge of their wrath; if at any time we be cast among them and delivered, we would bless God with the three children that the hot fiery oven did not consume us; we would not wonder when we hear of any of their barbarous cruelty, but rather wonder at God’s restraining them every day; we would be suspicious of receiving hurt when cast among light and frothy companions; we would shun their company as we do lions and scorpions; we would never commit any trust or secret into their hands; we would not be light hearted whilst in their society; we would not rely on their promises any more than we would on the promise of the devil, their father; we would long for heaven, to be delivered from “the tents of Kedar; “we would not count any of the saints secured from danger, though related to any great wicked man; we would not twist ourselves with them by matching ourselves or children to these sons and daughters of Belial; neither would we make choice of devils to be our servants. Lewis Stuckley.
This is an evil world. It hates the people of God. “Because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15:19. Haman’s hatred was against the whole seed of the Jews. When you can find a serpent without a sting, or a leopard without spots, then may you expect to find a wicked world without hatred to the saints. Piety is the target which is aimed at. “They are mine adversaries because I follow the thing that good is.” Psalms 38:20. The world pretends to hate the godly for something else, but the ground of their quarrel is holiness. The world’s hatred is implacable: anger may be reconciled, hatred cannot. You may as soon reconcile heaven and hell as the two seeds. If the world hated Christ, no wonder that it hates us. “The world hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18. Why should any hate Christ? This blessed Dove had no gall, this rose of Sharon did send forth a most sweet perfume; but this shows the world’s baseness, it is a Christ hating and a saint eating world. Thomas Watson.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? If men rightly knew God, his law, the evil of sin, the torment of hell, and other great truths, would they sin as they do? Or if they know these and yet continue in their iniquities, how guilty and foolish they are! Answer the question both positively and negatively, and it supplies material for a searching discourse.
(first clause). The crying sin of transgressing against light and knowledge.
(last clause). Absence of prayer, a sure mark of a graceless state.
The Treasury of David.
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