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47. The God who giveth me vengeance. The Psalmist again attributes to God the victories which he had obtained. As he could never have expected to obtain them unless he had been confident that he would receive the aid of God, so now he acknowledges God to be the sole author of them. That he may not seem carelessly to bestow upon him, as it were, in passing, only a small sprinkling of the praise of his victories, he repeats, in express terms, that he had nothing but what God had given him. In the first place, he acknowledges that power was given him from above, to enable him to inflict on his enemies the punishment which they deserved. It may seem at first sight strange that God should arm his own people to execute vengeance; but as I have previously shown you, we ought always to remember David’s vocation. He was not a private person, but being endued with royal power and authority, the judgment which he executed was enjoined upon him by God. If a man, upon receiving injury, breaks forth to avenge himself, he usurps the office of God; and, therefore, it is rash and impious for private individuals to retaliate the injuries which have been inflicted upon them. With respect to kings and magistrates, God, who declares that vengeance belongeth to him, in arming them with the sword, constitutes them the ministers and executioners of his vengeance. David, therefore, has put the word vengeance for the just punishments which it was lawful for him to inflict by the commandment of God, provided he was led under the influence of a zeal duly regulated by the Holy Spirit, and not under the influence of the impetuosity of the flesh. Unless this moderation is exemplified in performing the duties of their calling, it is in vain for kings to boast that God has committed to them the charge of taking vengeance; seeing it is not less unwarrantable for a man to abuse, according to his own fancy and the lust of the flesh, the sword which he is allowed to use, than to seize it without the command of God. The Church militant, which is under the standard of Christ, has no permission to execute vengeance, except against those who obstinately refuse to be reclaimed. We are commanded to endeavor to overcome our enemies by doing them good, and to pray for their salvation. It becomes us, therefore, at the same time, to desire that they may be brought to repentance, and to a right state of mind, until it appear beyond all doubt that they are irrecoverably and hopelessly depraved. In the meantime, in regard to vengeance, it must be left to God, that we may not be carried headlong to execute it before the time. David next concludes, from the perils and distresses in which he had been involved, that if he had not been preserved by the hand of God, he could not in any other way have escaped in safety: My deliverer from my enemies; yea, thou hast lifted me up from those who had risen up against me. The sense in which we are to understand the lifting up of which he speaks is, that he was wonderfully raised up above the power and malice of his enemies that he might not sink under their violence, and that they might not be victorious over him.




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