15. If I should say, I will speak thus, Behold! the generation of thy children: I have transgressed.1 16. Although I applied my mind to know this, it was a trouble [or, a painful thing] in my sight; 17. Until I entered into the sanctuaries of God, and understood2 their latter end.
15. If I should say, I will speak thus. David, perceiving the sinfulness of the thoughts with which he was tempted, puts a bridle upon himself, and reproves his inconstancy in allowing his mind to entertain doubts on such a subject. We can be at no loss in discovering his meaning; but there is some difficulty or obscurity in the words. The last Hebrew verb in the verse,
16. Although I applied my mind to know this. The first verb
By the sanctuaries of God some, even among the Hebrews, understand the celestial mansions in which the spirits of the just and angels dwell; as if David had said, This was a painful thing in my sight, until I came to acknowledge in good earnest that men are not created to flourish for a short time in this world, and to luxuriate in pleasures while in it, but that their condition here is that of pilgrims, whose aspirations, during their earthly pilgrimage, should be towards heaven. I readily admit that no man can form a right judgment of the providence of God; but he who elevates his mind above the earth; but it is more simple and natural to understand the word sanctuary as denoting celestial doctrine. As the book of the law was laid up in the sanctuary, from which the oracles of heaven were to be obtained, that is to say, the declaration of the will of God,6 and as this was the true way of acquiring profitable instruction, David very properly puts entering into the sanctuaries,7 for coming to the school of God, as if his meaning were this, Until God become my schoolmaster, and until I learn by his word what otherwise my mind, when I come to consider the government of the world, cannot comprehend, I stop short all at once, and understand nothing about the subject. When, therefore, we are here told that men are unfit for contemplating the arrangements of Divine Providence until they obtain wisdom elsewhere than from themselves, how can we attain to wisdom but by submissively receiving what God teaches us both by his Word and by his Holy Spirit? David by the word sanctuary alludes to the external manner of teaching, which God had appointed among his ancient people; but along with the Word he comprehends the secret illumination of the Holy Spirit.
By the end of the wicked is not meant their exit from the world, or their departure from the present life, which is seen of all men -- for what need was there to enter into the sanctuaries of God to understand that? -- but the word end is to be regarded as referring to the judgments of God, by which he makes it manifest that, even when he is commonly thought to be asleep, he only delays to a convenient time the execution of the punishment which the wicked deserve. This must be explained at greater length. If we would learn from God what is the condition of the ungodly, he teaches us, that after having flourished for some short time, they suddenly decay; and that although they may happen to enjoy a continued course of prosperity until death, yet all that is nothing, since their life itself is nothing. As, then, God declares that all the wicked shall miserably perish, if we behold him executing manifest vengeance upon them in this life, let us remember that it is the judgment of God. If, on the contrary, we do not perceive any punishment inflicted on them in this world, let us beware of thinking that they have escaped, or that they are the objects of the Divine favor and approbation;8 but let us rather suspend our judgment, since the end or the last day has not yet arrived. In short, if we would profit aright, when we address ourselves to the consideration of the works of God, we must first beseech him to open our eyes, (for these are sheer fools who would of themselves be clear-sighted, and of a penetrating judgment;) and, secondly, we must also give all due respect to his word, by assigning to it that authority to which it is entitled.
1 "Ou, J'ay transgresse contre la generation de tes enfans." -- Fr. marg. "Or, I have transgressed against the generation of thy children"
2 "Aye considere." -- Fr. "Considered."
3 The word in the Hebrew text is
"If I resolve to argue thus,
I should be a traitor to the generation of thy children."
4 "D'autant que toute la vraye sagesse qui doit estre ainsi nommee es hommes, consiste en un seul poinct." -- Fr.
5 Green translates the Hebrew word for this, "hard;" Horsley, "perplexing;" and Boothroyd, "difficult."
6 "C'est a dire, la declaration de la volonte de Dieu." -- Fr.
7 "It is remarkable," observes Horsley, "that the original word for 'sanctuary,' in this place, is plural, which is unexampled when the sanctuary is literally meant." He considers the expression, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God," as meaning, "Till I entered into the secret grounds of God's dealings with mankind." Cresswell explains it -- "Until I entered into the grounds of God's dealings with men, as explained by the sacred writings, which are laid up in the place dedicated to his worship."
8 "Gardons-nous de penser qu'ils soyent eschappez, ou que Dieu leur favorise." -- Fr.