4. In his eyes the offcast [or reprobate1] is despised; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord; when he hath sworn to his own hurt, he changeth not.
The first part of this verse is explained in different ways. Some draw from it this meaning, that the true servants of God are contemptible and worthless in their own estimation. If we adopt this interpretation, the copula and, which David does not express, must be supplied, making the reading thus, He is vile and despised in his own eyes. But besides the consideration, that, if this had been the sense, the words would probably have been joined together by the copula and, I have another reason which leads me to think that David had a different meaning, He compares together two opposite things, namely, to despise perverse and worthless characters, and to honor the righteous and those who fear God. In order that these two clauses may correspond with each other, the only sense in which I can understand what is here said about being despised is this, that the children of God despise the ungodly, and form that low and contemptuous estimate of them which their character deserves. The godly, it is true, although living a praiseworthy and virtuous life, are not inflated with presumption, but, on the contrary, are rather dissatisfied with themselves, because they feel how far short they are as yet of the perfection which is required. When, however, I consider what the scope of the passage demands, I do not think that we are here to view the Psalmist as commending humility or modesty, but rather a free and upright judgment of human character, by which the wicked, on the one hand, are not spared, while virtue, on the other, receives the honor which belongs to it; for flattery, which nourishes vices by covering them, is an evil not less pernicious than it is common. I indeed admit, that if the wicked are in authority, we ought not to carry our contempt of them the length of refusing to obey them in so far as a regard to our duty will permit; but, at the same time, we must beware of flattery and of accommodating ourselves to them, which would be to involve us in the same condemnation with them. He who not only seems to regard their wicked actions with indifference, but also honors them, shows that he approves of them as much as it is in his power. Paul therefore teaches us, (Ephesians 5:11,) that it is a species of fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness when we do not reprove them. It is certainly a very perverse way of acting, when persons, for the sake of obtaining the favor of men, will indirectly mock God; and all are chargeable with doing this who make it their business to please the wicked. David, however, has a respect, not so much to persons as to wicked works. The man who sees the wicked honored, and by the applause of the world rendered more obstinate in their wickedness, and who willingly gives his consent or approbation to this, does he not, by so doing, exalt vice to authority, and invest it with sovereign power? "But woe," says the prophet Isaiah, (Isaiah 5:20,) "unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness."
Nor ought it to be regarded as a rude or violent manner of speaking, when David calls base and wicked persons reprobates, although they may be placed in an exalted and honorable station. If (as Cicero affirms, in his book entitled The Responses of the Aruspices) the inspectors of the entrails of the sacrifices, and other heathen soothsayers, applied to worthless and abandoned characters the term rejected, although they excelled in dignity and riches, why should not a prophet of God be permitted to apply the name of degraded outcasts to all who are rejected by God? The meaning of the Psalmist, to express it in a few words, is, that the children of God freely judge of every man's doings, and that for the purpose of obtaining the favor of men, they will not stoop to vile flattery, and thereby encourage the wicked in their wickedness.
What follows immediately after, namely, to honor the righteous and
1 "Meschant, ou vilein et abominable." -- Note, Fr. marg. "The wicked, or the vile and abominable."
2 "The LXX., instead of