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Psalm 71:14-16

14. But I will hope continually, and will add 111111     Horsley reads, “‘I shall be added,’ or ‘made an addition;’ literally, ‘be-made-to-be-added to the sum of thy praise.’” “The sense is,” says he, “that the mercies to the Psalmist would furnish the servants of God with a new topic of praise and thanksgiving.” to all thy praise. 15. My mouth shall recount thy righteousness and thy salvation daily; for I know not the number thereof. 16. I will go in the strengths of the Lord Jehovah! I will make mention of thy righteousness only.


14. But I will hope continually. David again, as having obtained the victory, prepares himself for thanksgiving. There is, however, no doubt, that during the time when the wicked derided his simplicity, he struggled manfully amidst his distresses, as may be gathered from the word hope. Although, to outward appearance, there was no prospect of deliverance from his troubles, and although the wicked ceased not proudly to pour contempt upon his trust in God, he nevertheless determined to persevere in the exercise of hope; even as it is a genuine proof of faith, to look exclusively to the Divine promise, in order to be guided by its light alone amidst the thickest darkness of afflictions. The strength, then, of the hope of which David speaks, is to be estimated by the conflicts which he at that time sustained. In saying, I will add to all thy praises, he shows the confidence with which he anticipated a desirable escape from his troubles. It is as if he had said — Lord, I have been long accustomed to receive benefits from thee, and this fresh accession to them, I doubt not, will furnish me with new matter for celebrating thy grace.

15. My mouth shall recount thy righteousness Here he expresses more clearly what sacrifice of praise he resolved to present to God, promising to proclaim continually his righteousness and salvation. I have often before had occasion to observe, that the righteousness of God does not mean that property of his nature by which he renders to every man his own, but the faithfulness which he observes towards his own people, when he cherishes, defends, and delivers them. Hence the inestimable consolation which arises from learning that our salvation is so inseparably linked with the righteousness of God, as to have the same stability with this Divine attribute. The salvation of God, it is very evident, is taken in this place actively. The Psalmist connects this salvation with righteousness, as the effect with the cause; for his confident persuasion of obtaining salvation proceeded solely from reflecting that God is righteous, and that he cannot deny himself. As he had been saved so often, and in so many different ways, and so wonderfully, he engages to apply himself continually to the celebration of the grace of God. The particle כי, ki, which we have translated for, is by some rendered adversatively although, and explained in this way: Although the salvation of God is to me incomprehensible, and transcends my capacity, yet I will recount it. But the proper signification of the word is more suitable in this place, there being nothing which ought to be more effectual in kindling and exciting our hearts to sing the praises of God, than the innumerable benefits which he has bestowed upon us. Although our hearts may not be affected from having experienced only one or two of the Divine benefits; although they may remain cold and unmoved by a small number of them, yet our ingratitude is inexcusable, if we are not awakened from our torpor and indifference when an innumerable multitude of them are lavished upon us. Let us learn then not to taste of the goodness of God slightly, and, as it were, with loathing, but to apply all our faculties to it in all its amplitude, that it may ravish us with admiration. It is surprising that the authors of the Greek version ever thought of translating this clause, I have not known learning, 112112     The present reading of the Septuagint is, Οὐκ ἔγνων πραγματείας, “I know not the affairs of men;” but Nobilius, in his Notes on the Septuagint, observes, that in some Greek copies it is, γραμματείας, “learning,” of which reading Augustine makes mention; and as the Vulgate reads, “literaturam,” “learning,” this makes it more probable that the ancient reading of the LXX. was not πραγματείας, but γραμματειάς. Horsley has followed the LXX. He considers this clause as the commencement of a new sentence, and connects it with the 16th verse thus: —
   “Although I am no proficient in learning;
I will enter upon [the subject of] the Lord Jehovah’s great might;
I will commemorate thy righteousness.”

   In a foot-note he refers to John 7:15, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” and to Matthew 13:54, 56; and in an additional note he says, “It is strange that Houbigant should treat an interpretation with contempt, which is supported by the versions of the LXX., Jerome, and the Vulgate; which the Hebrew words will naturally bear, and which gives great spirit to the sentiment.” Street reads: —

   “Though I am ignorant of books,
I will proceed with strength,” etc.;

   and observes, that “The word מספר signifies number, but ספר, signifies an epistle, a book.”
an error unworthy of being noticed, were it not that some fanatics in former times, to flatter themselves in their ignorance, boasted that, after the example of David, all learning and liberal sciences should be despised; even as, in the present day, the Anabaptists have no other pretext for boasting of being spiritual persons, but that they are grossly ignorant 113113     “Expertes.” — Lat. “Gros asniers. — Fr. of all science.

16. I will go in the strength of the Lord Jehovah! This may also very properly be translated, I will go into the strengths; and this interpretation is not less probable than the other. As fear and sorrow take possession of our minds in the time of danger, from our not reflecting with that deep and earnest attention which becomes us upon the power of God; so the only remedy for alleviating our sorrow in our afflictions is to enter into God’s strengths, that they may surround and defend us on all sides. But the other reading, which is more generally received, I have thought proper to retain, because it also is very suitable, although interpreters differ as to its meaning. Some explain it, I will go forth to battle depending upon the power of God. But this is too restricted. To go is equivalent to abiding in a steady, settled, and permanent state. True believers, it must indeed be granted, so far from putting forth their energies without difficulty, and flying with alacrity in their heavenly course, rather groan through weariness; but as they surmount with invincible courage all obstacles and difficulties, not drawing back, or declining from the right way, or at least not failing through despair, they are on this account said to go forward until they have arrived at the termination of their course. In short, David boasts that he will never be disappointed of the help of God till he reach the mark. And because nothing is more rare or difficult in the present state of weakness and infirmity than to continue persevering, he collects all his thoughts in order to rely with entire confidence exclusively on the righteousness of God. When he says that he will be mindful of it ONLY, the meaning is, that, forsaking all corrupt confidences with which almost the whole world is driven about, he will depend wholly upon the protection of God, not allowing himself to wander after his own imaginations, or to be drawn hither and thither by surrounding objects.

Augustine quotes this text more than a hundred times as an argument to overthrow the merit of works, and plausibly opposes the righteousness which God gratuitously bestows to the meritorious righteousness of men. It must, however, be confessed that he wrests the words of David, and puts a sense upon them foreign to their genuine meaning, which simply is, that he does not rely upon his own wisdom, nor upon his own skill, nor upon his own strength, nor upon any riches which he possessed, as a ground for entertaining the confident hope of salvation, but that the only ground upon which he rests this hope is, that as God is righteous, it is impossible for God to forsake him. The righteousness of God, as we have just now observed, does not here denote that free gift by which he reconciles men to himself, or by which he regenerates them to newness of life; but his faithfulness in keeping his promises, by which he means to show that he is righteous, upright, and true towards his servants. Now, the Psalmist declares that the righteousness of God alone will be continually before his eyes, and in his memory; for unless we keep our minds fixed upon this alone, Satan, who is possessed of wonderful means by which to allure, will succeed in leading us astray after vanity. As soon as hopes from different quarters begin to insinuate themselves into our minds, there is nothing of which we are more in danger than of falling away. And whoever, not content with the grace of God alone, seeks elsewhere for the least succor, will assuredly fall, and thereby serve as an example to teach others how vain it is to attempt to mingle the stays of the world with the help of God. If David, in regard to his mere external condition in life, could remain stable and secure only by renouncing all other confidences, and casting himself upon the righteousness of God; what stability, I pray you to consider, are we likely to have, when the reference is to the spiritual and everlasting life, if we fall away, let it be never so little, from our dependence upon the grace of God? It is, therefore, undeniable that the doctrine invented by the Papists, which divides the work of perseverance in holiness between man’s free will and God’s grace, 114114     That is, which represents this work as performed, partly by God, and partly by a power which man has in himself underived from God. precipitates wretched souls into destruction.

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