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.
Oppressors have it not all their own way, they have their fits of trembling and their appointed seasons of overthrow. There—where they denied God and hectored against his people; there—where they thought of peace and safety, they were made to quail.
There were they—these very loud mouthed, iron handed, proud hearted Nimrods and Herods, those heady, high minded sinners— there were they in great fear. A panic terror seized them: “they feared a fear, “as the Hebrew puts it; an undefinable, horrible, mysterious dread crept over them. The most hardened of men have their periods when conscience casts them into a cold sweat of alarm. As cowards are cruel, so all cruel men are at heart cowards. The ghost of past sin is a terrible spectre to haunt any man, and though unbelievers may boast as loudly as they will, a sound is in their ears which makes them ill at ease.
For God is in the generation of the righteous. This makes the company of godly men so irksome to the wicked because they perceive that God is with them. Shut their eyes as they may, they cannot but perceive the image of God in the character of his truly gracious people, nor can they fail to see that he works for their deliverance. Like Haman, they instinctively feel a trembling when they see God’s Mordecais. Even though the saint may be in a mean position, mourning at the gate where the persecutor rejoices in state, the sinner feels the influence of the believer’s true nobility and quails before it, for God is there. Let scoffers beware, for they persecute the Lord Jesus when they molest his people; the union is very close between God and his people, it amounts to a mysterious indwelling, for God is in the generation of the righteous.
There were they in great fear. That we may not mistake the meaning of the point, we must understand that this faintheartedness and cowardliness doth not always come upon presumptuous sinners when they behold imminent dangers, for though none of them have true courage and fortitude, yet many of them have a kind of desperate stoutness and resolution when they do, as it were, see death present before their faces; which proceedeth from a kind of deadness, that is upon their hearts, and a brawniness that hath overgrown their consciences to their greater condemnation. But when it pleaseth the Lord to waken them out of the dead slumber, and to set the worm of conscience work within them, then this doctrine holdeth true without any exception, that the boldest sinners prove at length the basest cowards: and they that have been most audacious in adventuring upon the most mischievous evils, do become of all others most timorous when God’s revenging hand seizes upon them for the same. John Dod, 1547-1645.
God is in the generation of the righteous; that is, he favours that generation or sort of men; God is in all generations, but such he delights in most: the wicked have cause enough to fear those in whom God delights. Joseph Caryl.
The King of Glory cannot come into the heart (as he is said to come into the hearts of his people as such; Psalms 24:9-10), but some glory of himself will appear; and as God doth accompany the word with majesty because it is his word, so he doth accompany his own children, and their ways, with majesty, yea, even in their greatest debasements. As when Stephen was brought before the council, as a prisoner at the bar for his life, then God manifested his presence to him, for it is said, “His face shone as the face of an angel of God” (Acts 6:15); in a proportionable manner it is ordinarily true what Solomon says of all righteous men, “A man’s wisdom makes his face to shine.” Ecclesiastes 8:1. Thus Peter also speaks (1 Peter 4:14): “If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit,” not only of God, or of grace, but “of glory, resteth upon you.” And so in the martyrs; their innocency, and carriage, and godly behaviour, what majesty had it with it! What an amiableness in the sight of the people, which daunted, dashed, and confounded their most wretched oppressors; so that although the wicked persecutors did eat up God’s people as bread (Psalms 14:4), yet it is added that they were in great fear upon this very account, that God is in the generation of the just. God stands, as it were, astonished at their dealings: Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge, (so in the words afore) that they eat up my people as bread, and make no more ado of it that a man doth that heartily eats of his meat? They seem to do thus, they would carry it and bear it out; but for all that they are in great fear whilst they do thus, and God strikes their hearts with terror when they most insult. Why? For, God is in the generation of, or dwelleth in the just, and God gives often some glimmerings, hints, and warnings to the wicked (such as Pilate had concerning Christ), that his people are righteous. And this you may see in Philippians 1:28: “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.” In that latter passage, I observe that an assurance of salvation, and a spirit of terror, and that of God, is given either. In the Old Testament it is recorded of David (1 Samuel 18:12), that although Saul hated him (1 Samuel 18:9), and sought to destroy him (1 Samuel 18:10-11), “yet Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul;” which is the reason in hand. God manifested his presence in David, and struck Saul’s conscience with his godly and wise carriage, and that made him afraid. Thomas Goodwin.
The foolish fears of those who have no fear of God.
The Lord’s nearness to the righteous, its consequences to the persecutor, and its encouragement to saints.
The Treasury of David.
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