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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.

4 Their idols This contrast is introduced for the purpose of confirming the faith of the godly, by which they repose upon God alone; because, excepting him, all that the minds of men imagine of divinity is the invention of folly and delusion. To know the error and the madness of the world certainly contributes in no small degree to the confirmation of true godliness; while, on the other hand, a God is presented to us, whom we know assuredly to be the maker of heaven and earth, and whom we are to worship, not without reason or at random. The more effectually to silence the arrogance of the ungodly, who proudly presume to set at nought God and his chosen people, he contemptuously ridicules their false gods, first calling them idols, that is to say, things of nought, and, next, showing from their being formed of inanimate materials, that they are destitute of life and feeling. For can there be anything more absurd than to expect assistance from them, since neither the materials of which they are formed, nor the form which is given to them by the hand of men, possess the smallest portion of divinity so as to command respect for them? At the same time, the prophet tacitly indicates that the value of the material does not invest the idols with more excellence so that they deserve to be more highly esteemed. Hence the passage may be translated adversatively, thus, Though they are of gold and silver, yet they are not gods, because they are the work of men’s hands. Had it been his intention merely to depreciate the substance of which they were composed, he would rather have called them wood and stone, but at present he speaks only of gold and silver. In the meantime, the prophet reminds us that nothing is more unbecoming than for men to say that they can impart either essence, or form, or honor to a god, since they themselves are dependent upon another for that life which will soon disappear. From this it follows, that the heathen vainly boast of receiving help from gods of their own devising. Whence does idolatry take its origin but from the imaginations of men? Having abundance of materials supplied to their hand, they can make of their gold or silver, not only a goblet or some other kind of vessel, but also vessels for meaner purposes, but they prefer making a god. And what can be more absurd than to convert a lifeless mass into some new deity? Besides, the prophet satirically adds, that while the heathen fashion members for their idols, they cannot enable them to move or use them. It is on this account that the faithful experience their privilege to be the more valuable, in that the only true God is on their side, and because they are well assured that all the heathen vainly boast of the aid which they expect from their idols, which are nothing but shadows.

This is a doctrine, however, which ought to receive a greater latitude of meaning; for from it we learn, generally, that it is foolish to seek God under outward images, which have no resemblance or relation to his celestial glory. To this principle we must still adhere, otherwise it would be easy for the heathen to complain that they were unjustly condemned, because, though they make for themselves idols upon earth, they yet were persuaded that God is in heaven. They did not imagine that Jupiter was either composed of stone, or of gold, or of earth, but that he was merely represented under these similitudes. Whence originated this form of address common among the ancient Romans, “To make supplication before the gods,” but because they believed the images to be, as it were, the representations of the gods? 368368     “Car que vouloit dire ceste facon de parler dont usoyent les anciens Romains, faire oraison deuant les dieux sinon qu’ils estimoyent que les idoles estoyent comme les representations des dieux?” — Fr. The Sicilians, says Cicero, have no gods before whom they can present their supplications. He would not have spoken in this barbarous style, had the notion not been prevalent, that the figures of the heavenly deities were represented to them in brass, or silver, or in marble; 369369     But though these images might, at first, be intended merely to bring the real Deity before the senses, and thus to impress the mind the more deeply with sentiments of awe and devotion, yet in process of time they began to be considered, especially by the ignorant multitude, as being really gods. and cherishing the notion, that in approaching these images the gods were nearer to them, the prophet justly exposes this ridiculous fancy, that they would enclose the Deity within corruptible representations, since nothing is more foreign to the nature of God than to dwell under stone, or a piece of marble, or wood, and stock of a tree, or brass, or silver. 370370     The heathen not only considered their idols or images as representing their gods, but believed that, when consecrated by their priests, they were thereby animated by the gods whom they represented, and hence were worshipped as such. “Augustine (De Civitate Dei, B. 8, c. 23) tells us of the theology of the heathen, received from Trismegistus, that statues were the bodies of their gods, which, by some magical ceremonies, or θεουργίαι, were forced to join themselves as souls, and so animate and enliven those dead organs, to assume and inhabit them. And so Proclus (De Sacrif et Mag.) mentions it as the common opinion of the Gentiles, that the ‘gods were, by their favor and help, present in their images;’ and, therefore, the Tyrians, fearing that Apollo would forsake them, bound his image with golden chains, supposing then the god could not depart from them. The like did the Athenians imagine when they clipped the wings of the image of Victory; and the Sicilians, in Cicero, (De Divin.) who complain that they had no gods in their island, because Verres, Praetor in Sicily, had taken away all their statues. And so we know Laban, when he had lost his Teraphim, tells Jacob, (Genesis 31:30,) ‘that he had stolen his gods;’ and so of the golden calf, after the feasts of consecration, proclamation is made before it, ‘These be thy gods, O Israel!’ But this of the animation and inspiriting of images, by their rites of consecration, being but a deception and fiction of their priests, the Psalmist here discovers it, and assures all men that they are as inanimate and senseless after the consecration as before; base silver and gold, with images of mouths and ears, etc., but without any power to use any of them, and, consequently, most unable to hear or help their votaries.” — Hammond For this reason, the prophet Habakkuk designates that gross mode of worshipping God, the school of falsehood. (Habakkuk 2:18.) Moreover, the scornful manner in which he speaks of their gods deserves to be noticed, they have a mouth, but they do not speak; for why do we betake ourselves to God, but from the conviction that we are dependent upon him for life; that our safety is in him, and that the abundance of good, and the power to help us, are with him? As these images are senseless and motionless, what can be more absurd than to ask from them that of which they themselves are destitute?


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