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more excellent than others, they certainly do, in a clearer and more eminent degree, glorify God. In the great fabric, that part which hath the highest place, the heavens, hath also this advantage. The greatness of the Great Architect appears somewhat more bright in them; therefore, are they singled out from the rest for that purpose, both here, ver. 3, and Psal. xix. ver. 1. But, beyond all the rest, and even beyond them, is the wisdom and goodness of God displayed in framing of his reasonable creatures.
There are of them two stages, the one higher, the angels; the other lower, yet but a little lower, man; as here, we have them together.
Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, &c. ;-the nature of a spirit, a rational, intelligent spirit, &c.
Ver. 1. 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..
1ERTAINLY it is an high dignity that is con
ferred upon man, that he may as freely and frequently as he will, converse with Him that made him, the great King of Heaven and earth. It is indeed a wonder that God should honour poor creatures so much; but it is no less strange that men having so great privileges, the most part of them do use them so little. Seldom do we come to him in times of ease. And when we are spurred to it by af. flictions and pains, commonly we try all other means rather than this, that is the alone true and unfailing comfort. But such as have learned this way of laying their pained head and heart in his bosom, they are truly happy, though in the world's language they be never so miserable.
This is the recourse of this holy man in the time of his affliction, whatever it was, prayer and tears, bemoaning himself before his God and Father, and that the more fervently, in that he finds his speak. ing to men so unprofitable; and therefore he refrains from it.
The Psalm consists of two parts; his silence to men, and his speech to God; and both of them are set with such sweet notes of music, though they be sad, that they deserve well to be committed to the Chief Musician.
I said, I will take heed to my ways.] It was to himself that he said it; and it is impossible for any other to prove a good or a wise man, without much of this kind of speech to himself. It is one of the most excellent and distinguishing faculties of a reasonable creature, much beyond vocal speech, for in that some birds may imitate us; but neither bird nor beast have any thing of this kind of language, of reflecting or discoursing with itself. It is a won. derful brutality in the greatest part of men, who are so little conversant in this kind of speech, being framed and disposed for it, and which is not only of itself excellent, but of continual use and advantage; but it is a common evil among men, to go abroad, and out of themselves, which is a madness and a true distraction. It is true a man hath need of a well set mind, when he speaks to himself; for otherwise he may be worse company to himself than if he were with others; but he ought to endeavour to have a better with him, to call in God to his heart to dwell with him. If thus we did, we should find how sweet this were to speak to ourselves, by now and then intermixing our speech with discourses unto God.
For want of this, the most part not only lose their time in vanity, in their converse abroad with others, but do carry in heaps of that vanity to the stock which is in their own hearts, and do converse with that in secret, which is the greatest and the deepest folly in the world.
Other solitary employments, as reading the disputes and controversies that are among men, are things not unuseful, yet all turns to waste, if we read not our own heart, and study that: This is the study of every holy man, and between this and the consideration of God, he spends his hours and endeavours. Some have recommended the reading of men more than books: But what is in the one, or both of them, or all the world beside, without this? a man shall find himself out of his proper business, if he acquaint not himself with this, to speak much with
God and with himself, concerning the ordering of
his own ways.
It is true, it is necessary for some men, in some particular charges and stations, to regard the ways of others; and besides, something also there nay be of a wise observing others, to improve the good and evil we see in them, to our own advantage, and bettering our own ways, looking on them to make the repercussion the stronger on ourselves: but except it be out of charity and wisdom, it flows either from uncbaritable malice, or else a curious and vain spirit, to look much and narrowly into the ways of others, and to know the manner of living of
persons about us, and so to know every thing but ourselves; like travellers, that are well seen in foreign and remote parts, but strangers in the affairs of their own country at home. The check that Christ gave to Peter is due to such, What is that to the follow thou mea. “ Look thou to thine own feet, that they be set in the right way.” It is a strange thing that men should lay out their diligence abroad to their loss, when their pains inight be bestowed to their advantage nearer at hand, at home within themselves.
This that the Psalmist speaks here of, taking heed to his ways, as it imports his present diligence, so also it hath in it a reflection on his ways past, and these two do mutually assist one another; for he shall never regulate his ways before him, that has not wisely considered his ways past; for there is wisdom gathered from the observation of what is gone to the choosing where to walk in time to come, to see where he is weakest, and lies exposed to the greatest hazard, and there to guard. Thus David expresses it in another Psalm, I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. And this would not be done only in the great change of one's first conversion from sin, but this double observance still continued every day, looking to his rule, and laying that rule to his way, a John xxi. 22.
b Psal. cxix. 59.
and observing where the balk and nonconformity to the rule is, and renewing his repentance for that, and amending it the next day, that still the present day may be the better for yesterday's error.
And surely there is much need of this, if we consider how we are encompassed about with hazards and snares,' and a variety of temptations, and how little we have, either of strength to overcome, or wisdom to avoid them, especially they being secretly set and unseen (which makes them the more dangerous) every where in the way in which we must walk, and even in those ways where we least think. Every where does the enemy of our souls lay traps and snares for us; in our table, in our bed, in our company, and alone. If the heart be earthly and carnal, there is the snare of riches and gains, or pleasures, present, to think upon; and if they delight in spiritual things, that walk is not exempted neither; there are snares of doubtings, presuinption, and pride; and in converse of one Christian with another, where spiritual affection hath been stirred, it turns often to carnal passions, as the Apostle says of the Galatians, They begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesho.
This observing and watching, as it is needful, soo it is a very delightful thing, though it will be hard and painful to the unexperienced, to have a man's actions and words continually curbed; so that he cannot speak or do what he would: These are fetters and bonds, yet, to those that know it, it is a pleasure to gain experience, and to be more skilled in preventing the surprises of our enemies, and upon that to have something added to our own art, and to be more able to resist upon new occasions, and to find ourselves every day outstripping ourselves; that is the sweetest life in the world; the soul to be dressing itself for the espousals of the Great King, putting on more of the ornaments and beauties of holiness; that is our glory, to be made conformable to the image of God and of Jesus Christ. If an
. Gal. iii. 3.