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Psalm 147:15-20

15. While he sends forth his word to the earth, his word runneth very swiftly. 16. Who giveth snow like wool, 293293     We learn from Chardin in a manuscript note on this passage, as quoted by Harmer in his Observations, that towards the Black Sea, in Iberia and Armenia, and therefore he imagines in other countries also, “the snow falls in flakes as big as walnuts; but not being either hard or very compact, it does no other harm than presently to cover and overwhelm the traveller.” The inspired writer had probably seen flakes of equal size on the mountains of Judea; and this would suggest to his mind the strikingly appropriate figure, “He giveth his snow like wool.” and scattereth the hoar frost as ashes. 17. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: 294294     Walford translates, “He casteth down his ice in hail-stones.” “The expression, ‘like morsels,’” says he, “is a literal version of the Hebrew, but it gives so imperfect and obscure a representation of the meaning, as to induce the substitution which is here found. There can be no doubt but that hail is the thing intended: in this the critics are unanimous. It is most likely that the Hebrew term, which is translated ‘morsels,’ means small pieces of some substance, which we cannot now determine.” before his cold who can stand? 295295     “The cold is sometimes extremely severe and even mortal in Palestine and the neighboring countries. Fulchirius Carnotensis, as cited by Mr. Harmer, ‘saw the cold prove deadly to many. Jacobus de Vitriaco informs us, that the same thing happened to many of the poorer people, engaged in an expedition in which he himself was concerned, against Mount Tabor: they had suffered severely the preceding days by cold; but on the 24th of December it was so sharp that many of the poor people, and of the beasts of burden, actually died. Albertus Acquensis tells us the same thing happened to thirty of the people that attended King Baldwin I., in the mountainous districts of Arabia by the Dead Sea, where they had to conflict with horrible hail, with ice, and unheard of snow and rain.’ These citations, as Harmer appositely remarks, may remove our wonder at such passages as that here commented on, in a hymn composed in those warmer climates.” — Mant. 18. He shall send his word, and shall melt them: his breath shall blow, the waters shall flow. 19. He announces his words to Jacob, his edicts and his judgments to Israel. 20. He hath not done so to every nation, and his judgments he hath not showed them. Hallelujah.

 

15. While he sends forth, etc. He again touches upon some instances of the operation of God, everywhere to be seen in the system of nature. And as the changes which take place in the air, and upon the earth, and which should be considered evidences of his power, may perhaps be regarded by the world as the effect of chance, the Psalmist, before proceeding to speak of the snow, hoar frost, and ice, expressly declares, that earth is governed by his power and control. The sending forth of his word is nothing else than the secret influence by which he regulates and governs all things, for without his orders and appointment no movement could take place among the elements, nor could they be borne, now one way and now another, upon their own spontaneous impulse without his foregoing secret decree. He says, that his word runneth quickly, because, when once God has intimated his will, all things concur to carry it into effect. If we do not hold fast by this principle, however acutely we may investigate second causes, all our perspicacity will come to nothing. It is thus that Aristotle, for example, has shown such ingenuity upon the subject of meteors, that he discusses their natural causes most exactly, while he omits the main point of all, upon which the merest child, at least having any religion, has the superiority over him. He must have little discernment who, in the sudden snows and hoar-frosts, does not perceive how quickly the word of God runs. If, then, we would avoid a senseless natural philosophy, we must always start with this principle, that everything in nature depends upon the will of God, and that the whole course of nature is only the prompt carrying into effect of his orders. When the waters congeal, when the hail spreads through the air, and hoar frosts darken the sky, surely we have proof how effectual his word is. But if all these wonders produce no effect upon most men, at least the piercing cold which benumbs our bodies, should force us to recognize the power of God. When the heat of the sun scorches us in summer, and again, upon the succession of winter, all things are bound up, such a change as this, which must have appeared incredible had we not been accustomed to it, cries out loudly that there is a being who reigns above.

19. He announces his words to Jacob, etc. Here it is another word that is spoken of than what was formerly mentioned; for God speaks in a different way to the insensate works of his hands, which he silently subordinates to his will by secret laws impressed upon them, than he does to men who are endued with understanding, for these he teaches with articulate language, that they may obey him intelligently and with consent. Although the blessings formerly mentioned are not to be depreciated, they fall far short of this, that he has condescended to be the teacher of his chosen people, by communicating to them that religious doctrine which is a treasure of everlasting salvation. How little would it avail the Church that it were filled with the perishing enjoyments of time, and protected from hostile violence, did not its hope extend beyond this world. This, accordingly, is the grand proof of his love, that he has set before us in his word the light of eternal life. On this account it is appropriately mentioned here as the crowning part of true solid happiness. And let us learn from this, that we should not only receive the doctrine of God with reverential and holy obedience, but embrace it with affection, for we can conceive of nothing more delightful and desirable than that God should undertake our salvation, and give testimony of this by stretching out his hand to bring us to himself. For this is the design with which the doctrine has been given to us, that amidst the thick darkness of this world, and the devious errors into which Satan misleads the children of men, the great Father of us all may by it cast a foregoing light upon our path before gathering us to the inheritance of heaven. We are to notice, that the part which was sustained by Moses and the Prophets according to divine appointment is here ascribed to God himself, for we only put due honor upon the doctrine of religion, and estimate it at its proper worth when we rise to the consideration of God, who, in using the instrumentality of men, still claims to be considered our chief and only teacher. Thus its due majesty is assigned to the word from the person of its author. Again, he enhances the mercy shown by stating a comparison, intimating that this had not been done for other nations For if it be asked why God preferred one people to others, this pre-eminence will certainly lead us to gratuitous election as its source, since we will find that the children of Israel did not differ from others in any excellency attaching to themselves, but because God passed by others and condescended to adopt them into his favor.


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