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39. Psalm 39

I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.

2I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred.

3My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue,

4 Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.

5Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.

6Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.

7And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.

8Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.

9I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.

10Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.

11When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.

12Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.

13O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.

9. I was dumb Here David blames himself, because he had not preserved that silence which, as we have already seen, the violence of his grief forced him to break. When he says then that he was dumb, he does not mean this as a commendation of the uniform and persevering restraint which he had exercised over himself. It is rather a correction of his error, as if reproving his own impatience, he had spoken within himself in this way: What doest thou? thou hadst enjoined upon thyself silence, and now thou murmurest proudly against God; what wilt thou gain by this presumption? We have here a very profitable and instructive lesson; for nothing is better fitted to restrain the violent paroxysms of grief, than the recollection that we have to do, not with a mortal man, but with God, who will always maintain his own righteousness in opposition to all that men may say against it in their murmuring complaints, and even in their outrageous accusations. What is the reason why the great majority of men run to such excess in their impatience, but because they forget that, in doing so, they dare to plead a controversy with God? Thus, while some impute all their miseries to fortune, and others to men, and others account for them from a variety of causes which their own fancy suggests, while scarcely one in a hundred recognises in them the hand of God, they allow themselves to indulge in bitter complaint, without ever thinking that in so doing they offend God. David, on the contrary, in order to subdue every unholy desire and sinful excess, returns to God, and resolves to keep silence, because the affliction which he is now suffering proceeded from God. As David, who was thus afflicted with the severest trials, resolved nevertheless to keep silence, let us learn from this, that it is one of the chief exercises of our faith to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and to submit to his judgments without murmuring or complaint. It is to be observed, that men humbly and calmly submit themselves to God only when they are persuaded, not only that he does by his almighty power whatever he pleases, but that he is also a righteous Judge; for although the wicked feel that the hand of God is upon them, yet as they charge him with cruelty and tyranny, they cease not to pour forth horrible blasphemies against him. In the meantime, David regards the secret judgments of God with such reverence and wonder, that, satisfied with his will alone, he considers it sinful to open his mouth to utter a single word against him.


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