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THE PSALMS OF DAVID

BY

JOHN CALVIN

IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL. I.

OXFORD : PRINTED BY D. A. TALBOYS,

FOR THOMAS TEGG, LONDON;

R. GRIFFIN AND CO. GLASGOW ; TEGG AND CO. DUBLIN ; AND J. AND S. A. TEGG, SYDNEY AND HOBART TOWN.

MDCCCXL.

JOHN CALVIN,

TO THE GODLY AND CANDID READERS,

HEALTH, ETC.

If the benefit accruing to the church of God from reading

my Commentaries, be as great as the advantage I have de-

rived from writing them, I shall have no reason to regret

having undertaken the task. Although I had expounded the

Book of Psalms in this small school of mine three years ago, when I had concluded this labour, I resolved not to publish more extensively what I had deposited with those of my own

household in a spirit of familiarity. Also before I commenced

my exposition at the request of my brethren, I said in all sin-

cerity that I regarded it as superfluous, because that most

faithfvd teacher of the church, Martin Bucer, by the con-

summate erudition, diligence, and fidelity he had displayed

in this walk, had at least wrought this effect, that there was

the less necessity for my work. Nor if the Commentaries of

Wolphgang Musculus had at that time been before the public,

could I in justice have passed them over in silence, since he

too has earned no small praise in the judgment of good men

by his carefulness and pains.

I had not yet arrived at the

conclusion of the work, when lo I am assailed with fresh im- portunities, not to suffer my meditations, which had been taken down faithfully and dexterously, and not without great

I still persisted in my pur-

pose : only promising, and this I had long since purposed,

to write something in French, that our own nation might be

assisted in the study of so useful a book. While thinking

about making this attempt, suddenly, and beside my pur- pose, by some mysterious impulse or other, I made the ex-

periment of a Latin exposition in one Psalm. And now, as my success, while it corresponded with my wishes, far sur-

labour, to be lost to the world.

vi

PREFACE.

;

passed my hopes, I grew bolder: accordingly, I began to at- tempt the same in some few Psalms. On perceiving this, my

intimate friends, as though they held me bound to them,

urged me with increased confidence not to break down in

1 had one motive for obeying them, which in

the beginning had induced me to make the first experiment

and that was, lest at any time what had been taken down

my course.

from my discourses, should be brought out without my ap-

Certainly I was dragged reluctantly

probation or privity.

by this fear, rather than led by my own free will to weave

this web. Meanwhile, however, as the work proceeded, I

began to perceive more distinctly how far from superfluous this lucubration would be ; and also from my own individual

case I found experimentally, that to readers not so exercised

I should be a useful assistant in understanding the Psalms. What various and resplendent riches are contained in this

treasury, it were difficult to find words to describe.

For my

own part, I know that whatever I shall say, will fall far short

of their desert.

But because it is better to give the readers

some taste, though but slight, of the great advantage to be

derived from it, than to pass it over in utter silence, I may ' be permitted briefly to advert to a matter whose magnitude does not admit of being completely unfolded. I am in the

habit of calling this book, not inappropriately,

' The

Anatomy of all the parts of the soul,' for not an affection

will any one find in himself, an image

of which is not re-

flected in this mirror.

Nay, all the griefs, sorrows, fears,

misgivings, hopes, cares, anxieties, in short, all the disquiet-

ing emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be

agitated, the Holy Spirit hath here pictured to the life. The other scriptures contain the commands which God enjoined

his servants to bear to us. But here prophets themselves conversing with God, because they lay bare all their inmost thoughts, invite or hale every one of us to examine himself

in particular, lest aught of the many infirmities to which we

are liable, or of the many vices with which we are beset

should remain undetected. A rare and surpassing benefit,

when, every lurking-place having been explored, the heart is brought into the light cleansed from hypocrisy, that most

;

PREFACE.

viii

In a word, if calling upon God be the greatest

protection to our safety, since a better or more unerring rule

can be obtained nowhere than in this book, according as each man shall have profited most in understanding it, so

will he have attained to a good part of the heavenly doctrine.

Earnest prayer springs, first, from a sense of our need, and

next, from faith in the promises of God. Here the readers

will be most effectually awakened to a sense of their mala-

dies, and instructed in seeking the remedies for them.

And moreover, whatever may contribute to animate us, when God is to be prayed to, is pointed out in this book. Nor

indeed are the promises alone presented to us ; but there is

placed before us one who is arming himself to prayer standing in the midst, between the invitation of God, on the

one hand, and the impediments of the flesh on the other ; so that if at any time manifold misgivings disquiet us, we

may learn to wrestle with, them till the soul mount up to

God free and unencumbered. And not only so, but though

beset by doubts, apprehensions, and alarms, that we may,

nevertheless, press forward to praying, till we are satisfied

with the consolation it affords. For thus ought we to resolve :

that though distrust may close the gate of access to our

prayers, yet must we not give way, whensoever our minds waver or are agitated with inquietude, but must persevere,

till faith emerge victorious from her encounters. And in

many passages we may observe the servants of God fluctuat-

ing in such a manner while praying, that almost overpow^ered by the alternations of success and failure, they obtain the

palm only by arduous efforts.

noisome pest.

There, on the one hand,

the weakness of the flesh betrays itself, while, on the other, the power of faith exerts itself; if not so active as vvere to be

wished for ; yet at least prepared to strive until by degrees

it acquii'es full energy. However, as those points which

bear upon the method of praying ai-ight will be found spread

through the whole work, I will not burden the readers with

superfluous repetition, neither will I delay their pi-ogress.

This only it will be worth while to point out cursorily, that

by this book we are taught, (and there is nothing more to be

desired.) not only how familiar access to God may be opened

viii

PREFACE.

to us, but how we may lawfully and freely lay bare before him the infirmities which a sense of shame prevents our

confessing to men.

the most exact manner how we may offer acceptably the sacrifice of praises, which God declareth to be most precious in his sight, and of most sweet savour. Nowhere are there

Nay further, here also is prescribed in

read more luminous commendations both of God's unex- ampled beneficence towards his church, and of all his works ;

nowhere are recorded so many deliverances, nowhere are

the instances of his fatherly providence and concern for

us set forth more gloriously ; lastly, nowhere is the method

of praising God delivered more fully,

or are

we

sti-

mulated more powerfully to render to him this office of god-

liness.

Moreover, although the book is replete with all the

precepts which avail to the framing of our life to holiness,

piety, and righteousness ; still above all things will it in-

struct us to the patient endurance of the cross ; and this is

the infallible proof of obedience ; namely, when renouncing the guidance of our own affections, we submit ourselves to

God, and are content that our life should be so governed ac-

cording to his will, that our bitterest griefs become sweet, be-

cause they are from him. Lastly, not only are there recited

here general encomiums of God's goodness which may teach

us that we should rest contented on him alone, in order that

godly minds may wait for certain help from him in every ne- cessity ; but the free remission of sins, which alone both

makes God favourable to us, and procures us perfect peace with him, is so set forth, that nothing is wanting to complete

the knowledge of eternal salvation.

Now if the pains be-

stowed by me upon these Commentaries shall profit my read-

ers, let them be assured that by the ordinary experience of

conflicts with which the Lord hath exercised me, I have been

in no ordinary degree assisted, not only in adapting to my

immediate use whatever of doctrine I was permitted to draw

from hence, but also in that it opened to me a more familiar

way towards comprehending the drift of each of the writers

of the Psalms.

them, it was no small help to me in obtaining a fuller under- standing of the complaints he makes of the intestine sorrows

And as David holds the chief place among

PREFACE.

ix

of the church, that I had suffered the same things which he deplores, or similar to them, from enemies of the church who

were of her own household.

For although I am very far

indeed removed from him, nay, though aspiring slowly and

laboriously to attain to the many virtues in which he ex-

celled, I am still encumbered with their opposite vices, yet if

I possess any quality in common with him, 1 hesitate not to

make the comparison. Therefore, although while perusing

the instances of his faith, patience, fervour, zeal, and vip-

rightness, the unlikeness drew from me, as it ought to do,

unnumbered sighs, still it has been of vast advantage to me

to behold in him, as it were in a glass, as well the com-

mencements of my own calling, as the entire course of my

endeavours to make it good ; so that I knew the more as-

suredly that whatsoever that most illustrious prince and

prophet endured, was held out to me for an ensample. How far inferior my lot is to his, it is unnecessary to ob- But, as he was exalted from the sheepfolds to the

supreme dignity of empire, so, taking me out of my originally

serve.

obscure and humble estate, God hath thought me worthy of

the honourable office of a herald and minister of the Gos- pel. When I was as yet a very little boy, my father des-

tined me for the study of theology. But when he perceived

that legal knowledge universally raised its cultivators to

wealth and influence, the prospect it held out induced him abruptly to change his purpose. Thus it came to pass, that

called back from the study of philosophy, I was reluctantly

led to acquaint myself with laws ; and although I endea-

voured to apply myself honestly to this pursuit, yet God by

the mysterious rein of his providence, at length guided me

back and gave another direction to my course.

since I was devoted to the superstitions of popery too per-

tinaciously to admit of my being easily extricated from such

an abyss of mire, my mind, which had become more callous

than might be expected from one of my years, he subdued

to teaciiableness by a sudden conversion. And thus, imbued

with some taste of true godliness, I was fired with so vehe-

ment a desire to improve in it, that although I did not cast off all other studies, yet I pursued them with less warmth.

And first,

X

PREFACE.

A year had not elapsed when all who were desirous of purer

doctrine, were continually coming to learn of me while as yet but a novice and tyro. I, who was naturally somewhat simple, and was always fond of the shade and retirement,

then sought where to hide myself; but this was so far from being permitted me, that all my retreats were like a public

lecture room. In a word, whereas the one great object with me was to live retired and undistinguished, God so led me about through various turnings, that he yet suffered me

not to rest anywhere, until in spite of the bent of my nature,

I was dragged forth into the light.

And it was for the pur-

pose of enjoying the repose so long denied me in the seclu-

sion of some obscure nook, that I left my fatherland and

retired into Germany. But lo ! while I lay hid and unknown

at Basle, it happened, since, in consequence of many pious

persons having been burnt in Gaul, a flame of indignation was kindled in Germany by those fires, that wicked and lying

pamphlets were circulated for the purpose of putting it out,

which stated that none were so cruelly dealf with but Ana- baptists and turbulent characters, who, by their untoward

ravings, were undermining not only religion, but all civil

order.

Perceiving that the object of these crafty instru-

ments of the court was not only that the shameful effusion of innocent blood might be buried under an unfounded slander upon the holy martyrs, but that thereafter they might be allowed to wade through indiscriminate slaughter

without exciting compassion in any one for their victims, I

resolved that unless I opposed myself to them to the utmost

of my power, my silence could not be exculpated from the

charge of perfidy.

This was the motive for publishing my '' Institute"; first,

that I might vindicate from undeserved contumely those my

brethren, whose death was precious in the sight of the Lord;

and then, since the same severities menaced many other

unhappy men, that at least some sympathy and concern for

them might be excited in foreign nations.

this dense and laborious work which is now extant, but only

a brief manual that was published at that time ; and for no

other purpose than to bear witness to the faith of those

For it was not

PREFACE.

xi

whom

I saw basely maligned by impious

and faithless

flatterers. Moreover, whether my object was slyly to acquii-e fame appeared from my speedy departure, especially

as no one there knew that I was the author.

That I was

the author I always concealed elsewhere also, and resolved

to persist in the course I had begun, when at length I was detained at Geneva, not so nuich by the counsel or exhor-

tation, as by the terrible imprecations of William Farel, if I

refused, as though God out of heaven had laid his mighty

hand upon me. As the wars had prevented my proceeding

direct to Strasburg, I had resolved to pass rapidly along this route, so as not to remain more than one night in the city.

A little before, popery had been put to the rout by the

exertions of this excellent man and Peter Viret; but matters were still in an unsettled state, and the city was divided into

unholy and noxious factions. One man, who, basely abandon-

ing our cause, now went back again to the papists, at once

brought me into notice. Upon this, Farel, so amazing was the zeal for promoting the Gospel with which he burned,

immediately strained every nerve to detain me. And as he

understood that I was secretly devoted to studies of a private

nature, when he saw that he made no progress by entreaty, he fell to violent imprecation, that God might curse my retire-

ment if I shrunk from rendering assistance in so great a

necessity.

Thus subdued by terror, 1 abandoned the

journey I had undertaken, so, however, that, conscious as I

was of the bashfulness and timidity of my nature, I would not bind myself to discharge any definite office. Scarce

four months had elapsed when we were assailed on one side

by anabaptists, on the other by a certain iniquitous apostate, who, relying upon the secret support of some of the great

ones, was enabled to give us a great deal

of trouble.

And

during all this time dissensions within the church, and those

one upon another, disturbed us strangely.

I, who confess

that I am naturally of a timid, yielding, and lowly mind, was

compelled to encounter such fierce tempests, as part of my

early training; and though I did not sink under them, yet

was I not sustained by such greatness of mind that I did not

rejoice more than became me in being ejected by violence.

xii

PREFACE.

And again, disengaged and free from the obligation of this

calling, I resolved to remain quiet in a private station, when

that most distinguished minister of Christ, Martin Bucer, haled me back to a new post by a mode of forcible entreaty

similar to that which Farel had employed. Accordingly,

being alarmed by the example of Jonas, which he held up to

proceeded in the office of teaching. And though I

always continued like myself, studiously avoiding celebi'ity, I

was even borne I know not how, to the imperial assemblies,

where, whether I would or not, I was compelled to appear

me, I

before the eyes of many.

Afterwards, when the Lord

having compassion on this city had allayed those calamitous

troubles, and by his wonderful power had scattered as well

their wicked counsels as their sanguinary attempts, a neces- sity was imposed upon me of seeking again my former station contrary to my earnest wishes. For although the welfare

of this church was a matter of such deep concern, that I

could not refuse to die for its sake, yet my timidity sug-

gested to me many plausible excuses, why I should not

willingly subject my shoulders to so arduous a burden afresh.

At length, the solemn obligation of duty and my honour carried it that I should restore myself to the flock from

which I had been torn ; yet with what grief, what tears, and

what heaviness, the Lord is my best witness, and many

godly men who would have wished me delivered from this

painful state, had they not been sore pressed by the same

fear which weighed me down.

It will be a long story if I

should attempt to relate with what a variety of encounters

God hath exercised me, and with what a diversity of trials

he hath proved me from that time.

But that T may not

occasion any disgust to my readers by a waste of words, I

now repeat briefly what I observed before, that since David

shewed me the way by his own footsteps, I experienced no

small comfort therefrom. For as the Phihstines and other

foreign enemies harassed that holy king with incessant

wars, but the malice and wickedness of perfidious men

nearer home, wounded him still deeper ; so I, assailed on all

sides, have enjoyed scarce one moment undisturbed by foreign

or intestine conflicts. Since Satan had oftentimes employed

PREFACE.

xiii

many means to pull down the fabric of this church, it came

to this at last, that I who am inapt for war, and timorous,

was compelled to crush his deadly assaults by opposing my

person to him.

For five whole years had I to fight without

intermission to preserve order, since froward men were

furnished with overgrown influence, and some too of the common people, seduced by the allurements they held out to

them, sought to obtain the power of doing what they

pleased without control. For to men devoid of religion,

and despisers of the heavenly doctrine, the ruin of the church was a light matter, provided that, getting possession

of the power they sought, they might dare whatever passion

prompted. Many, too, poverty and hunger, some, insatiable

ambition, or a vile lust of gain, impelled to frantic designs,

that by throwing everything into confusion, they would rather involve themselves and us in one common ruin, than continue in a state of subordination. During this so long a period of time, scarcely a weapon that is forged in the

Nor, to

workshop of Satan was not employed by them.

such a pass had they come, was there any other way of putting a stop to their wicked machinations, than cutting them off

by an ignominious death ; which was indeed a mournful spectacle to me ; for though they deserved any punishment,

yet I would rather they had lived in prosperity, safe and

untouched, as would have been the case, had they not

obstinately refused to listen to wholesome counsels. Although

this five years' trial was severe and painful to me, not less

severely was I racked by the malignity of those who ceased

not to assail myself and my ministry with virulent slanders.

For though a good part of them are so blinded by a passion

for calumny, that they at once betray their shamelessness

to their own infamy, while others are not so concealed by

their cunning but that they too lie prostrate, convicted and

disgraced ; yet when a man has been a hundred times purged

of a charge, to be attacked again without any cause, is an

indignity sore to be endured.

Because I maintain that the

world is governed by the secret providence of God, pre-

sumptuous men rise up against me, and allege that by this

means God is made the author of evil : a trumpery calumny,

xiv

PREFACE.

and which, did it not meet with hearers who have an appetite

for such food, would of itself quickly come to nought ; but there are many, whose minds are so eaten up with envy and

spleen, or ingratitude, or dishonesty, that they shrink from

no falsehood, how'ever preposterous, and even portentous.

Others endeavour to overthrow God's eternal predestination, which distinguishes the reprobate from the elect ; others

undertake to defend freewill, and presently multitudes are

carried away to join them, not so much from ignorance, as a perversity of zeal, which I know not how to characterize.

And if they were professed enemies that brought these

But those who

shroud themselves under the name of brother, and not only feed on Christ's sacred bread, but also administer the same

to others, those, in short, who boast aloud that they are

heralds of the Gospel ; for them to wage such nefarious

wars, how detestable is it ? Here, indeed, I may complain

most justly with David: The man of my peace, and who

ate bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me, Ps.

He ivho ivas of one mind with me^

troubles

upon us it were to be

borne.

xli. 10. also Ps. Iv.

14.

and my partner who went with me to the temple of God,

with whom I took siveet counsel, hath assailed me with

reptroaches as an enemy. Others spread ridiculous rumours about my treasures, others about my enormous influence;

by others my dainty fare is bandied about. And shall he who is content with scanty food and the garb of a plebeian, nor requires from the very humblest, more of frugality than is seen in himself, shall he be held as over luxurious ? As for the

influence they envy, all I wish is, that they had it instead of

me, for they estimate my power by the weight of cares with

which I am overwhelmed. That I am not a monied man, if

I cannot persuade some folks while I am alive, my death at

length will prove. I confess, indeed, I am by no means poor,

because I crave no moi'e than is necessary to support me. Although there is no colourable ground for these figments,

yet they are received with applause by