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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 40:9-11

9. I have proclaimed thy righteousness in the great assembly: behold, I will not refrain my lips: O Jehovah! thou knowest it.10. I have not hidden thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy truth and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy goodness nor thy truth in the great assembly.11. O thou Jehovah! withhold not thy tender mercies from me: let thy goodness and thy truth always preserve me.

9. I have proclaimed thy righteousness in the great assembly. Here David again brings forward his own thankfulness, and for no other reason but to induce God to continue his goodness towards him. God, whenever he manifests his liberality towards us, encourages us to render thanks to him; and he continues to act in a similar manner towards us when he sees that we are thankful and mindful of what he has done for us. In the first place, David makes use simply of the word righteousness; but it must be understood of the righteousness of God, which he expressly mentions soon after. Nor does he say, that it was only in the secret affection of the heart, or in private, that he offered praise to God, but that he had openly proclaimed it in the solemn assembly, even as the faithful in those days were wont to testify their devotion by presenting peace-offerings to God when they had been delivered from any great danger. The great assembly of which he speaks is not to be understood of the concourse of people that assemble at courts of law, or at the public market-places, but it denotes the true and lawfully constituted Church of God, which we know assembled in the place of his sanctuary. Accordingly, he declares that he had not concealed in his heart the righteousness of God, which it becomes us publicly to make known for the edification of one another. Those who keep it hid in their hearts are surely seeking as much as in them lies that the memory of God may be buried in oblivion. He calls upon God as a witness of this, not only to distinguish between himself and hypocrites, who often proclaim loudly, and with all their might, the praises of God, and yet do so without the least spark of affection; but also to make it the more abundantly obvious that he had sincerely and heartily uttered the praises of God, and was careful not to defraud him of any part of them. This affirmation teaches us that the subject which is here treated of is one of no small importance; for although God stands in no need of our praises, yet it is his will that this exercise for many reasons should prevail amongst us.

10 I have not hidden thy righteousness within my heart. Here it is necessary to observe the accumulation of terms which are employed to denote the same thing. To the righteousness of God the Psalmist adds his truth, his salvation, and his mercy. And what is the design of this, but to magnify and set forth the goodness of God by many terms or expressions of praise? We must, however, notice in what respects these terms differ; for in this way we may be able to ascertain in what respects they apply to the deliverance of which David here discourses. If these four things should be taken in their proper order, mercy will hold the first place, as it is that by which alone God is induced to vouchsafe, to regard us. His righteousness is the protection by which he constantly defends his own people, and the goodness by which, as we have already said elsewhere, he preserves them. And, lest any should doubt that it will flow in a constant and uninterrupted course, David adds in the third place truth; by which we are taught that God continues always the same, and is never wearied of helping us, nor at any time withdraws his hand. There is, at the same time, implied in this an exhibition of the promises; for no man will ever rightly take hold of the righteousness of God but he who embraces it as it is offered and held forth in the Word. Salvation is the effect of righteousness, for God continues to manifest his free favor to his people, daily affording them aid and assistance, until he has completely saved them.

11 O thou Jehovah! withhold not thy tender mercies from me We now see more clearly, what I have just adverted to, that David speaks of his own thankfulness, that he might secure a continuance of God's favor towards him; and that he opened his mouth in the praises of God, that he might continue to acquire new favors, against which our perverse and ungrateful silence very often closes the gate. We ought, therefore, carefully to observe the relation which the clause, in which David affirms that he closed not his lips, bears to what follows, namely, that God on his part would not contract or stop up the course of his tender mercies; for by this we are taught that God would always be ready to relieve us by his goodness, or rather that it would flow down upon us as from a never-failing fountain, if our own ingratitude did not prevent or cut off its course. The tender mercies of God, which he expresses by the word rchmyd, rachamecha, and of which he here speaks, differ little from his goodness. It was not, however, without cause that David chose to make this distinction. It could only be, first, because he was unable otherwise to satisfy himself in extolling the grace of God; and, secondly, because it was requisite to show that the source from which the mercy and goodness of God proceed, when he is moved in compassion for our miseries to aid and succor us. Then he places his confidence of salvation in the goodness and faithfulness of God, for we must of necessity begin (as I have said a little before) at the free favor of God, that his bounty may extend even to us. But as we are unable to discern that God is gracious to us until he grant us some assurance of his love, his constancy is, with much propriety, placed in connection with his truth in keeping his promises.

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