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115. Psalm 115

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.

2Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?

3But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

4Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.

5They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:

6They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:

7They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.

8They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

9O Israel, trust thou in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.

10O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.

11Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.

12The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron.

13He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.

14The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children.

15Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth.

16The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

17The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.

18But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord.

17 O God! the dead shall not praise thee In these words the prophet goes on to beseech God to show himself propitious towards his Church, were there no other object to be gained than the preventing mankind from being utterly cut off, and the preserving a people, not only to enjoy his kindness, but also to invoke and praise his name. After celebrating God’s peculiar favor towards the Israelites, and the beneficence which he displayed towards mankind at large, he has recourse to the mercy of God for the pardoning of the sins of his people. And he proceeds on this footing, that though the heathen nations revel amidst the profuseness of God’s bounty, yet the seed of Abraham alone are set apart to celebrate his praises. “Lord, if thou shouldst allow us to perish, what would be the result, but that thy name would become extinct, and would be entombed with us?” From his appearing to deprive the dead of all sensibility, a question occurs: If souls, after they have departed from their corporeal prison, still survive? It is certain that they are then more vigorous and active, and; therefore, it must inevitably follow that God is also praised by the dead. Moreover, in appointing mankind their abode upon earth, he so disconnects them with God, that he leaves them a life such as they enjoy in common with the brutal tribes. For the earth was not given exclusively to men, but also to oxen, swine, dogs, lions, and bears, and what is more, to every sort of reptile and insect. For there is not a fly, nor a creeping thing, however mean, which the earth does not supply with an abode. 372372     “Nulla enim musca est, nullus pediculus cui domicilium non praebeat terra.” — Lat. The solution of the first question is easy. Men were so situated on the earth that they might, as it were, with one voice celebrate the praises of God. And it was to this concord that the prophet in this place referred, as does also the Scripture in many other passages.

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the words of the Lord,”
(Psalm 118: 17).

The good king Hezekiah also, said,

“The living, the living, he shall praise thee,” (Isaiah 38:19).

Jonah, too, when cast out of the belly of the fish, said,

“I will offer sacrifices, and I will pay my vows unto the Lord,” (Jonah 2:10.) 373373     Thus the present text of Scripture, and others of a similar kind, as Psalm 6:6; 30:10; 88:11; and Isaiah 38:18, 19, are not to be understood as implying that the Hebrews of those times had no idea of a future state of existence beyond death and the grave. Such an interpretation would be at variance with many passages of the Old Testament, as Psalm 16:10; 49:15; 73:24; Proverbs 14:32; Ecclesiastes 8:11-13; 11:9; 12:14; with the most explicit declarations of the New, as to the possession of this knowledge by the ancient Hebrews, Hebrews 11; Luke 20:37; and with what might reasonably be supposed of persons who were favored with a supernatural revelation, and who enjoyed special intercourse with God, but who, had they been ignorant of a future state, knew less on this subject than Pagan writers, many of whom anticipated such a state in which virtue would receive its appropriate reward. In such passages the sensible appearances occasioned by death, and these alone, are represented. As to the eye of sense, nothing appears in the victim of death but inactivity, silence, decay, and corruption, the sacred writers seize upon these concomitants of that solemn and affecting event to add to the force of the argument which they are prosecuting.

In short, the prophet very justly excludes the dead from taking any part in the celebration of God’s praises; for among them there is no communion and fellowship qualifying them for mutually sounding forth his praises: the proclaiming of his glory on the earth being the very end of our existence. The reply to the second inquiry is this: The prophet says that the earth was given to mankind, that they might employ themselves in God’s service, until they be put in possession of everlasting felicity. True, indeed, the abundance of the earth belongs also to the brutal tribes; but the Holy Spirit declares that all things were created principally for the use of men, that they might thereby recognize God as their father. In fine, the prophet concludes that the whole course of nature would be subverted, unless God saved his Church. The creation of the world would serve no good purpose, if there were no people to call upon God. Hence he infers that there will always be some left alive upon the earth. And he not only promises that the Church shall be preserved, but also calls upon all who are thus preserved to offer a tribute of gratitude to their deliverer; and, moreover, he engages in their name to set forth the praises of God. He does not speak merely of the persons who belong to one age, but of the whole body of the Church which God upholds from one generation after another, that he may never leave himself without some to testify and declare his justice, goodness, and mercy.


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