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107. Psalm 107

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. 2Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; 3And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. 4They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. 5Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. 6Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. 7And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. 8Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 9For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. 10Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; 11Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: 12Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. 13Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. 14He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. 15Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 16For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. 17Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. 18Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. 19Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. 20He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. 21Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 22And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. 23They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. 25For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. 28Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 32Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. 33He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. 35He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. 36And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; 37And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase. 38He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease. 39Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow. 40He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. 41Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. 42The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. 43Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.

23. They that go down to the sea in ships Here we have another instance of God’s superintending care towards mankind pointed out to us by the prophet, exemplified in the bringing of those who are shipwrecked to the harbour, and this, too, as if he had raised them from the depth and darkness of the tomb, and brought them to live in the light of day. I do not understand what is here said about those who are accustomed to navigate the ocean seeing the wonders of God, as referring generally to the many wonderful things with which it abounds. Such persons are well fitted to bear testimony regarding the works of God, because they there behold more vast and various wonders than are to be seen upon earth. But it appears to me preferable to connect this with the subsequent context, where the prophet is his own interpreter, and where he shows how suddenly God raises and calms the tempest.

The sum of the matter is, that the scope of the passage is to point out that the lives of those who navigate the seas are often in great jeopardy by the storms which they encounter; because, as often as the ocean heaves and is agitated, and the billows rise and rage, so often does death stare them in the face. But he furnishes us with a still more vivid picture of the providence of God; for in telling us, that the sea does not of its own accord rise into a tempest, he makes use of the verb, he speaks, intimating that the word and providence of God make the winds blow, to agitate the sea. True, indeed, the mariners imagine from certain phenomena, that a storm is approaching, but sudden changes proceed only from the secret appointment of God. Therefore, he gives not merely a historical narrative of the manner in which squalls and storms arise, but, assuming the character of a teacher, begins with the cause itself, and then directs to the imminent danger with which the tempest is fraught; or rather, portrays, as in a picture, the image of death, in order that the goodness of God may appear the more conspicuous when the tempest happily ceases without any loss of life. They mount up, says he, to the heavens, they descend into the deeps; as if he should say, they mount up into the air, so that their life may be destroyed, and then they tumble down towards the caverns of the ocean, where they may be drowned. 284284     “The men of the ship go up to heaven, i.e., rise high in the air when the wave lifteth up the ship, and afterwards, because of the wave they descend to the deep; and from thus ascending and descending, the soul of the men of the ship melteth within them on account of the danger in which they are placed.” — Kimchi. Next, he mentions the fears which torment them, or rather which may deprive them of understanding; intimating by these words, that however skilfully mariners may steer their vessels, they may happen to be deprived of their senses; and being thus paralysed, they could not avail themselves of aid, were it even at hand. For though they collect all their tackling, cast their sounding line into the deep, and unfurl their sails to all points, yet after making every attempt, and all human skill is baffled, they give themselves up to the mercy of wind and wave. All hope of safety being cut off, no farther means are employed by them. And now that all human aid fails, they cry unto God for deliverance, which is a convincing evidence that they had been as it were dead. 285285     The consternation into which those at sea are thrown in a dangerous storm, and their deliverance by God in answer to prayer, is so beautifully described in the well known and admirable hymn of Addison, that we shall take the liberty to quote a part of it:
   “Think, O my soul! devoutly think,
How with affrighted eyes,
Thou saw’st the wide-extended deep,
In all its horrors rise.

   “Confusion dwelt on every face,
And fear in every heart;
When waves on waves, and gulfs on gulfs,
O’ercame the pilot’s art.

   “Yet then, from all my griefs, O Lord,
Thy mercy set me free;
Whilst in the confidence of prayer,
My soul took hold on Thee.

   “For though in dreadful whirls we hung
High in the broken wave,
I knew Thou wert not slow to hear,
Nor impotent to save.

   “The storm was laid, the winds retir’d,
Obedient to thy will;
The sea that roar’d at thy command,
At thy command was still!”

29. He maketh the storm a calm A profane author, in narrating the history of such an event, would have said, that the winds were hushed, and the raging billows were calmed; but the Spirit of God, by this change of the storm into a calm, places the providence of God as presiding over all; thereby meaning, that it was not by human agency that this violent commotion of the sea and wind, which threatened to subvert the frame of the world, was so suddenly stilled. When, therefore, the sea is agitated, and boils up in terrific fury, as if wave were contending with wave, whence is it that instantly it is calm and peaceful, but that God restrains the raging of the billows, the contention of which was so awful, and makes the bosom of the deep as smooth as a mirror? 286286     Among the circumstances selected by the prophet in this striking description of a storm at sea, God’s agency, both in raising and calming it, is not to be overlooked. He is introduced as first causing, by His omnipotent command, the tempest to sweep over the ocean, whose billows are thus made to rise in furious agitation mountains high: and, again, as hushing the winds into a calm, and allaying the agitation of the waves. The description would be utterly mutilated were the special reference to the Divine power in such phenomena omitted. “How much more comfortable, as well as rational, is the system of the Psalmist, than the Pagan scheme in Virgil, and other poets, where one deity is represented as raising a storm, and another as laying it. Were we only to consider the sublime in this piece of poetry, what can be nobler than the idea it gives us of the Supreme Being, thus raising a tumult among the elements, and recovering them out of their confusion, thus troubling and becalming nature?” — Spectator, Number 485. Having spoken of their great terror, he proceeds next to mention their joy, so that their ingratitude may appear the more striking, if they forget their remarkable deliverance. For they are not in want of a monitor, having been abundantly instructed by the storm itself, and by the calm which ensued, that their lives were in the hand and under the protection of God. Moreover, he informs them that this is a species of gratitude which deserves not only to be acknowledged privately, or to be mentioned in the family, but that it should be praised and magnified in all places, even in the great assemblies. He makes specific mention of the elders, intimating that the more wisdom and experience a person has, the more capable is he of listening to, and being a witness of, these praises.

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