There have always been hypocrites in the Church, men who have placed religion in a mere observance of outward ceremonies, and among the Jews there were many who turned their attention entirely to the figures of the Law, without regarding the truth which was represented under them. They conceived that nothing more was demanded of them but their sacrifices and other rites. The following psalm is occupied with the reprehension of this gross error, and the prophet exposes in severe terms the dishonor which is cast upon the name of God by confounding ceremony with religion, showing that the worship of God is spiritual, and consists of two parts, prayer and thanksgiving.
A Song of Asaph.1
The prophet holds up the ingratitude of such persons to our reprobation, as proving themselves unworthy of the honor which has been placed upon them, and debasing themselves by a degenerate use of this world. From this let us learn, that if we are miserable here, it must be by our own fault; for could we discern and properly improve the many mercies which God has bestowed upon us, we would not want, even on earth, a foretaste of eternal blessedness. Of this, however we fall short through our corruption. The wicked, even while on earth, have a pre-eminency over the beasts of the field in reason and intelligence, which form a part of the image of God; but in reference to the end which awaits them the prophet puts both upon a level, and declares, that being divested of all their vain-glory, they will eventually perish like the beasts. Their souls will indeed survive, but it is not the less true that death will consign them to everlasting disgrace.
1 The preposition