In three graphic pictures we see the slanderer’s history. A woman in travail furnishes the first metaphor. “_He travaileth with iniquity_.” He is full of it, pained until he can carry it out, he longs to work his will, he is full of pangs until his evil intent is executed. “_He hath conceived mischief_.” This is the original of his base design. The devil has had doings with him, and the virus of evil is in him. And now behold the progeny of this unhallowed conception. The child is worthy of its father, his name of old was “the father of lies,” and the birth doth not belie the parent, for _he brought forth falsehood_. Thus, one figure is carried out to perfection; the Psalmist now illustrates his meaning by another taken from the stratagems of the hunter. “_He made a pit and digged it_.” He was cunning in his plans, and industrious in his labours. He stooped to the dirty work of digging. He did not fear to soil his own hands, he was willing to work in _a ditch_ if others might fall therein. What mean things men will do to wreak revenge on the godly. They hunt for good men, as if they were brute beasts; nay, they will not give them the fair chase afforded to the hare or the fox, but must secretly entrap them, because they can neither run them down nor shoot them down. Our enemies will not meet us to the face, for they fear us as much as they pretend to despise us. But let us look on to the end of the scene. The verse says, he “_is fallen into the ditch which he made_.” Ah! there he is, let us laugh at his disappointment. Lo! he is himself the beast, he has hunted his own soul, and the chase has brought him a goodly victim. Aha, aha, so should it ever be. Come hither and make merry with this entrapped hunter, this biter who has bitten himself. Give him no pity, for it will be wasted on such a wretch. He is but rightly and richly rewarded by being paid in his own coin. He cast forth evil from his mouth, and it has fallen into his bosom. He has set his own house on fire with the torch which he lit to burn a neighbour. He sent forth a foul bird, and it has come back to its nest. The rod which he lifted on high, has smitten his own back. He shot an arrow upward, and it has “_returned upon his own head_.” He hurled a stone at another, and it has “_come down upon his own pate_.” Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost. Ashes always fly back in the face of him that throws them. “As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him” (#Ps 109:17|.) How often has this been the case in the histories of both ancient and modern times. Men have burned their own fingers when they were hoping to brand their neighbour. And if this does not happen now, it will hereafter. The lord has caused dogs to lick the blood of Ahab in the midst of the vineyard of Naboth. Sooner or later the evil deeds of persecutors have always leaped back into their arms. So will it be in the last great day, when satan’s fiery darts shall all be quivered in his own heart, and all his followers shall reap the harvest which they themselves have sown.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS.
Verse 14.–“_Behold, he travaileth with iniquity_,” etc. The words express the _conception, birth, carriage_, and _miscarriage_, of a _plot_ against David. In which you may consider:–(1.) What his _enemies_ did. (2.) What _God_ did. (3.) What _we all_ should do: his enemies’ _intention_, God’s _prevention_, and our _duty_; his enemies’ intention, _he travaileth with iniquity, and conceiveth mischief_; God’s prevention, _he brought forth a lie_; our duty, _behold_. … Observe the aggravation of the sin, _he conceiveth_. He was not put upon it, or forced into it; it was voluntary. The more liberty we have not to sin, makes our sin the greater. He did not this in passion, but in cold blood. The less will, less sin.–^Richard Sibbs.
Verse 14.–“_He travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief_.” All note that conceiving is before travailing, but here travailing, as a woman in labour, goeth first; the reason whereof is, that the wicked are so hotly set upon the evil which they maliciously intend, that they would be immediately acting of it if they could tell how, even before they have conceived by what means; but in fine they bring forth but a lie, that is, they find that their own hearts lied to them, when they promised good success, but they had evil. For their haste to perpetrate mischief is intimated in the word rendered “_persecutors_” (verse #13|), which properly signifieth _ardentes, burning_; that is, with a desire to do mischief–and this admits of no delay. A notable common-place, both setting forth the evil case of the wicked, especially attempting anything against the righteous, to move them to repentance–for thou hast God for thine enemy warring against thee, whose force thou canst not resist–and the greedy desire of the wicked to be evil, but their conception shall all prove abortive.–^J. Mayer, in loc.
Verse 14.–“_And hath brought forth falsehood_.” Every sin is a lie.–Augustine.
Verse 14.– Earth’s entertainments are like those of Jael, Her left hand brings me milk, her right, a nail.”
Verses 14,15.–“_They have digged a pit for us_”–and that low, unto hell–“_and are fallen into it themselves.” “No juster law can be devised or made, Than that sin’s agents fall by their own trade.” The order of hell proceeds with the same degrees; though
it give a greater portion, yet still a just proportion, of torment. These wretched guests were too busy with the waters of sin; behold, now they are in the depth of a pit, “where no water is.” Dives, that wasted so many tuns of wine, cannot now procure water, not a pot of water, not a handful of water, not a drop of water, to cool his tongue. _Desideravit guttam, qui non dedit micam_ [Augustine, Hom. 7]. A just recompense! He would not give a crumb; he shall not have a drop. Bread hath no smaller fragment than a crumb, water no less fraction than a drop. As he denied the least comfort to Lazarus living, so Lazarus shall not bring him the least comfort dead. Thus the pain for sin answers the pleasure of sin. … Thus damnable sins shall have semblable punishments; and as Augustine of the tongue, so we may say of any member. … If it will not serve God in action, it shall serve him in passion.–^Thomas Adams.
Verse 15.–“_He made a pit and digged it_.” The practice of making pitfalls was anciently not only employed for ensnaring wild beasts, but was also a stratagem used against men by the enemy, in time of war. The idea, therefore, refers to a man who, having made such a pit, whether for man or beast, and covered it over so as completely to disguise the danger, did himself inadvertently tread on his own trap, and fall into the pit he had prepared for another.–^Pictorial Bible.
Verse 16.–That most witty of commentators, Old Master Trapp, tells the following notable anecdote, in illustration of this verse: That was a very remarkable instance of Dr. Story, who, escaping out of prison in Queen Elizabeth’s days, got to Antwerp, and there thinking himself out of the reach of God’s rod, he got commission under the Duke of Alva to search all ships coming thither for English books. But one Parker, an English merchant, trading to Antwerp, laid his snare fair (saith our chronicler), to catch this foul bird, causing secret notice to be given to Story, that in his ship were stores of heretical books, with other intelligence that might stand him in stead. The Canonist conceiving that all was quite sure, hasted to the ship, where, with looks very big upon the poor mariners, each cabin, chest, and corner above-board were searched, and some things found to draw him further on: so that the hatches must be opened, which seemed to be unwillingly done, and great signs of fear were showed by their faces. This drew on the Doctor to descend into the hold, where now in the trap the mouse might well gnaw, but could not get out, for the hatches were down, and the sails hoisted up, which, with a merry gale were blown into England, where ere long he was arraigned, and condemned of high treason, and accordingly executed at Tyburn, as he had well deserven.
Verse 16.–The story of Phalaris’s bull, invented for the torment of others, and serving afterwards for himself, is notorious in heathen story. … It was a voluntary judgment which Archbishop Crammer inflicted on himself when he thrust that very hand into the fire, and burnt it, with which he had signed to the popish articles, crying out, “_Oh, my unworthy right hand_!” but who will deny that the hand of the Almighty was also concerned in it?–^William Turner in “Divine Judgments by way of Retaliation,” 1697.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Verses 14,15,16.–Illustrate by three figures the devices and defeat of persecutors.