on Psalms 58 :11
So that a man shall say - That is, people, seeing these just judgments of God, shall say, There is a reward (פרי peri, fruit) to the righteous man. He has not sown his seed in vain; he has not planted and watered in vain: he has the fruit of his labors, he eats the fruit of his doings. But wo to the wicked, it is ill with him; for the reward of his hands has been given him.
He is a God that judgeth in the earth - There is a God who does not entirely defer judgment till the judgment-day; but executes judgment now, even in this earth; and thus continues to give such a proof of his hatred to sin and love to his followers that every considerate mind is convinced of it. And hence arise the indisputable maxims: "There is, even here, a reward for the righteous;" "There is a God who, even now, judgeth in the earth."
I have seen Indian priests who professed to charm, not only serpents, but the most ferocious wild beasts; even the enraged elephant, and the royal tiger! Two priests of Budhoo, educated under my own care, repeated the Sanscrit incantations to me, and solemnly asserted that they had seen the power of them repeatedly and successfully put to the test. I have mislaid these incantations, else I should insert them as a curiosity; for to charms of the same nature the psalmist most undoubtedly alludes.
The term חובר chober, which we translate charmer, comes from חבד to join, or put together; i.e., certain unintelligible words or sentences, which formed the spell.
I once met with a man who professed to remove diseases by pronouncing an unintelligible jingling jargon of words oddly tacked together. I met with him one morning proceeding to the cure of a horse affected with the farcin. With a very grave countenance he stood before the diseased animal, and, taking off his hat, devoutly muttered the following words; which, as a matter of peculiar favor, he afterwards taught me, well knowing that I could never use them successfully, because not taught me by a woman; "for," said he, "to use them with success, a man must be taught them by a woman, and a woman by a man." What the genuine orthography may be I cannot pretend to say, as I am entirely ignorant of the language, if the words belong to any language: but the following words exactly express his sounds: -
Murry fin a liff cree
Murry fin a liss cree
Ard fin deriv dhoo
Murry fin firey fu
Murry fin elph yew
When he had repeated these words nine times, he put on his hat and walked off, but he was to return the next morning, and so on for nine mornings successively, always before he had broken his fast. The mother of the above person, a very old woman, and by many reputed a witch, professed to do miracles by pronouncing, or rather muttering, certain words or sounds, and by measuring with a cord the diseased parts of the sick person. I saw her practice twice: 1st, on a person afflicted with a violent headache, or rather the effects of a coup de soleil; and, 2ndly, on one who had got a dangerous mote or splinter in his eye. In the first case she began to measure the head, round the temples, marking the length; then from the vertex, under the chin, and so up to the vertex again, marking that length. Then, by observing the dimensions, passed judgment on the want of proportion in the two admeasurements, and said the brain was compressed by the sinking down of the skull. She then began her incantations, muttering under her breath a supplication to certain divine and angelic beings, to come and lift up the bones, that they might no longer compress the brain. She then repeated her admeasurements, and showed how much was gained towards a restoration of the proportions from the spell already muttered. The spell was again muttered, the measurements repeated, and at each time a comparison of the first measurement was made with the succeeding, till at last she said she had the due proportions; that the disease, or rather the cause of it, was removed; and that the operations were no longer necessary.
In the case of the diseased eye, her manner was different. She took a cup of clean pure water, and washed her mouth well. Having done so, she filled her mouth with the same water, and walked to and fro in the apartment (the patient sitting in the midst of the floor) muttering her spell, of which nothing could be heard but a grumbling noise. She then emptied her mouth into a clean white bason, and showed the motes which had been conveyed out of the patient's eye into the water in her mouth, while engaged in muttering the incantation! She proffered to teach me her wonder-working words; but the sounds were so very uncouth, if not barbarous, that I know no combination of letters by which I could convey the pronunciation.
Ridiculous as all this may appear, it shows that this incantation work is conducted in the present day, both in Asia and Europe, where it is professed, in precisely the same manner in which it was conducted formerly, by pronouncing, or rather muttering certain words or sounds, to which they attach supernatural power and efficiency. And from this came the term spell: Anglo-Saxon a word, a charm, composed of such supposed powerful words; and wyrkan spell signified among our ancestors to use enchantments.
on Psalms 58 :11
So that a man shall say - That is, every man shall say, or people everywhere shall see this. This expresses the result of a close observation of the divine dealings among people. The conclusion from those dealings is,
(a) that there is, on the whole, a reward for the righteous on earth, or that righteousness tends to secure the favor of God and to promote human happiness; and
(b) that there is a God - a just Being presiding over human affairs.
A reward for the righteous - Margin, as in Hebrew, "fruit for the righteous." That is, righteousness will produce its appropriate "fruits," as trees that are cultivated will reward the cultivator. The idea is, that there is a course of things on earth, even with all there is that is mixed and mysterious, which is favorable to virtue; which shows that there is an "advantage" in being righteous; which demonstrates that there is a moral government; which makes it certain that God is the friend of virtue and the enemy of vice; that he is the friend of holiness and an enemy of sin. Compare the notes at 1 Timothy 4:8.
Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth - Or, Truly there is a God that judges in the earth. In other words, the course of things demonstrates that the affairs of the world are not left to chance, to fate, or to mere physical laws. There are results of human conduct which show that there is a "Mind" that presides over all; that there is One who has a purpose and plan of his own; that there is One who "administers" government, rewarding the good, and punishing the wicked. The argument is, that there is a course of things which cannot be explained on the supposition that the affairs of earth are left to chance; that they are controlled by fate; that they are regulated by mere physical laws; that they take care of themselves. There is a clear proof of divine interposition in those affairs, and a clear proof that, on the whole, and in the final result, that interposition is favorable to righteousness and opposed to sin. No man, in other words, can take the "facts" which occur on the earth, and explain them satisfactorily, except on the supposition that there is a God. All other explanations fail; and numerous as it must be admitted are the difficulties that meet us even on this supposition, yet all other suppositions utterly fail in giving any intelligible account of what occurs in our world. See this argument stated in a manner which cannot be confuted, in Bishop Butler's Analogy, part i. chap. iii.
on Psalms 58 :11