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 l, lamed, prefixed to the name of Asaph, which Calvin renders of, may also be rendered for, as we have before observed, and it is, therefore, somewhat doubtful whether he was the author of the psalms in whose inscriptions his name appears, or whether they were merely delivered to him by David to be sung m the temple worship. We, however, know from 2 Chronicles 29:30, that a seer of the name of Asaph, the son of Berechia, and who, along with his sons, were appointed singers in the sacred services of the temple, (1 Chronicles 6:31, 39; 15:19; 25:1, 2; Nehemiah 12:46,) was the inspired writer of several psalms. It is therefore probable that he was the author of the psalms which bear his name. These are twelve, the 50th, and from the 73d to the 83d, both inclusive. It has been thought by some that these psalms differ very remarkably, both in style and subject, from those of David, the composition being more stiff and obscure than the polished, flowing, and graceful odes of the sweet singer of Israel, and the subject-matter being of a melancholy character, and full of reprehension.