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6

Both we and our ancestors have sinned;

we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.


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6 We have sinned with our fathers It is quite plain from these words, that although the prophet may have spoken in the person of one man, he yet dictates a form of prayer for the common use of the whole Church, seeing that he now identifies himself with the whole body. And from this to the end of the psalm, he gleans from ancient histories that their fathers had always been of a malign and perverse spirit, of corrupt practice, rebellious, ungrateful and perfidious towards God; and confesses that their descendants were not better; and having made this confession, 242242     “Ils vienent a demander pardon de leurs pechez.” — Fr. they come and ask the remission of their sins. And as we are unable to obtain the pardon of our sins until we have first confessed ourselves to be guilty of sin, and as our hardness of heart shuts out the grace of God from us, the prophet, therefore, with great propriety, humbly acknowledges the guilt of the people in this their severe and sore chastisement, and that God might justly inflict upon them a yet harder punishment. On another account it was advantageous for the Jews to have their sins set before them; because, if God punish us severely, we at once suppose that his promises have failed. But when, on the contrary, we are reminded that we are receiving the reward due to us for our transgressions, then if we thoroughly repent, those promises in which God appears as pacified towards us will come to our aid. Besides, by the three expressions which he employs in reference to their transgressions, he points out their enormity, that (as is usually the case) their hearts might not be slightly affected, but deeply wounded with sorrow. For we know how men are fettered by their vices, and how ready to let themselves alone, until compelled to examine themselves in good earnest; nay, what is more, when God calls them to judgment, they make a kind of verbal confession of their iniquities, while, at the same time, hypocrisy blinds their minds. When, therefore, the prophet says, that the people acted iniquitously in sinning, and had become ungodly and wicked, he employs no useless or unnecessary accumulation of words. Let any of us examine ourselves, and we will easily find that we have equal need to be constrained to make an ingenuous confession of our sins; for though we dare not say that we have no sin, yet there is not one of us but is disposed to find a cloak and subterfuge for his sin.

In a very similar manner, Daniel, in the ninth chapter of his prophecies, acknowledges the guilt of his own iniquities and those of the people; and it may be that the author of this psalm followed his example. From both let us learn, that the only way of pleasing God is to institute a rigid course of self-examination. Let it also be carefully observed, that the holy prophets, who never departed from the fear and worship of God, uniformly confessed their own guilt in common with the people; and this they did, not out of feigned humility, but because they were aware that they themselves were tainted with manifold corruptions, for when iniquity abounds, it is almost impossible for even the best of men to keep themselves from being infected by its baneful effects. Not comparing themselves with others, but sisting themselves before God’s tribunal, they at once perceive the impossibility of making their escape.

At that time impiety had attained to such a degree of enormity among the Jews, that it is not astonishing if even the best and most upright men were carried away, as if by the violence of a tempest. How very abominable, then, is the pride of those who hardly imagine that they offend in the least possible way; nay, who even, like certain fanatics of the day, conceive that they have attained to a state of sinless perfection! It must be borne in mind, however, that Daniel, who carefully kept himself under the fear of God, and whom the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, declares to be one of the most upright of men, did not with reigned lips acknowledge his own transgressions, and those of the people, when he confessed them, under a deep sense of their grievously and dreadfully abhorrent character in the eyes of God. True, indeed, he was not overwhelmed in the same torrent of iniquity with others; but he knew that he had contracted a very large amount of guilt. Besides, the prophet does not bring forward their fathers for the purpose of palliating his own delinquency, (as many at the present day set at nought all reproof, shielding themselves with this, namely, that they have been so taught by their fathers, and that, therefore, their bad education, and not they, is at fault,) but rather to show that he and those of his own nation were obnoxious to severe punishment, because even from the very first, and as if co-existent with their early infancy, they never ceased to provoke the displeasure of God against themselves more and more by their fresh transgressions. It is in this manner that he involves the fathers with the children in many of the grounds of condemnation. 243243     “En beaucoup d’articles de condemnation.” — Fr.




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