NOTES ON PSALM I:1 (CLARKE’S COMMENTARY OF THE BIBLE)
Psa 1:1 KJV Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
This Psalm has no title, and has been generally considered, but without especial reason, as a preface or introduction to the whole book.
The word ashrey, which we translate blessed, is properly in the plural form, blessednesses; or may be considered as an exclamation produced by contemplating the state of the man who has taken God for his portion; O the blessedness of the man! And the word haish, is emphatic: THAT man; that one among a thousand who lives for the accomplishment of the end for which God created him. 1. God made man for happiness. 2. Every man feels a desire to be happy. 3. All human beings abhor misery. 4. Happiness is the grand object of pursuit among all men. 5. But so perverted is the human heart, that it seeks happiness where it cannot be found; and in things which are naturally and morally unfit to communicate it. 6. The true way of obtaining it is here laid down.
That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly] There is a double CLIMAX in this verse, which it will be proper to note:-
- There are here three characters, each exceeding the other in sinfulness. 1. The UNGODLY reshaim from rasha, to be unjust; rendering to none his due; withholding from God, society, and himself, what belongs to each. Ungodly-he who has not God in him; who is without God in the world. 2. SINNERS, chattaim, from chata, “to miss the mark,” “to pass over the prohibited limits,” “to transgress.” This man not only does no good, but he does evil. The former was without God, but not desperately wicked. The latter adds outward transgression to the sinfulness of his heart. 3. SCORNFUL, letsim, from latsah, “to mock, deride.” He who has no religion; lives in the open breach of God’s laws, and turns revelation, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of an invisible world, into ridicule. He is at least a deist, and endeavours to dissolve, as much as he can, the bonds of moral obligation in civil society. As the sinner exceeds the ungodly, so the scornful exceeds both.
The second climax is found in the words, 1. Walk; 2. Stand; 3. Sit: which mark three different degrees of evil in the conduct of those persons.
Observe, 1. The ungodly man-one uninfluenced by God. 2. The sinner-he who adds to ungodliness, transgression. 3. The scornful-the deist, atheist, c., who make a mock of every thing sacred. The UNGODLY man walks, the SINNER stands, and the SCORNFUL man sits down in the way of iniquity.
Mark certain circumstances of their differing characters and conduct. 1. The ungodly man has his counsel 2. The sinner has his way; and, 3. The scorner has his seat.
The ungodly man is unconcerned about religion; he is neither zealous for his own salvation, nor for that of others: and he counsels and advises those with whom he converses to adopt his plan, and not trouble themselves about praying, reading, repenting, c., c. there is no need for such things live an honest life, make no fuss about religion, and you will fare well enough at last. Now, “blessed is the man who walks not in this man’s counsel” who does not come into his measures, nor act according to his plan.
The sinner has his particular way of transgressing; one is a drunkard, another dishonest, another unclean. Few are given to every species of vice. There are many covetous men who abhor drunkenness; many drunkards who abhor covetousness; and so of others. Each has his easily besetting sin; therefore, says the prophet, let the wicked forsake HIS WAY. Now, blessed is he who stands not in such a man’s WAY.
The scorner has brought, in reference to himself, all religion and moral feeling to an end. He has sat down-is utterly confirmed in impiety, and makes a mock at sin. His conscience is seared; and he is a believer in all unbelief. Now, blessed is the man who sits not down in his SEAT.
See the correspondent relations in this account. 1. He who walks according to the counsel of the ungodly will soon, 2. Stand to look on the way of sinners; and thus, being off his guard, he will soon be a partaker in their evil deeds. 3. He who has abandoned himself to transgression will, in all probability, soon become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; and sit down with the scorner, and endeavour to turn religion into ridicule.
The last correspondency we find is:-1. The seat answers to the sitting of the scornful. 2. The way answers to the standing of the sinner; and 3, the counsel answers to the walking of the ungodly.
The great lesson to be learned from the whole is, sin is progressive; one evil propensity or act leads to another. He who acts by bad counsel may soon do evil deeds; and he who abandons himself to evil doings may end his life in total apostasy from God. “When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and when sin is finished, it brings forth death.” Solomon the son of David, adds a profitable advice to those words of his father: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away;” Ps 4:14; Ps 4:15.
As the blessedness of the man is great who avoids the ways and the workers of iniquity, so his wretchedness is great who acts on the contrary: to him we must reverse the words of David: “Cursed is the man who walketh in the counsel of the ungodly; who standeth in the way of sinners; and who sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” Let him that readeth understand.