on Psalms 15 :4
In whose eves a vile person is contemned -
7. This man judges of others by their conduct; he tries no man's heart. He knows men only by the fruits they bear; and thus he gains knowledge of the principle from which they proceed. A vile person, נמאס nimas, the reprobate, one abandoned to sin; is despised, נבזה nibzeh, is loathsome, as if he were covered with the elephantiasis or leprosy, for so the word implies. He may be rich, he may be learned, he may be a great man and honorable with his master, in high offices in the state; but if he be a spiritual leper, an infidel, a profligate, the righteous man must despise him, and hold him, because he is an enemy to God and to man, in sovereign contempt. If he be in power, he will not treat him as if worthy of his dignity; while he respects the office he will detest the man. And this is quite right; for the popular odium should ever be pointed against vice.
Aben Ezra gives a curious turn to this clause, which he translates thus: "He is mean and contemptible in his own eyes;" and it is certain that the original, נבזה בעיניו נמאס nibzeh beeynaiv nimas, will bear this translation. His paraphrase on it is beautiful: "A pious man, whatever good he may have done, and however concordant to the Divine law he may have walked, considers all this of no worth, compared with what it was his duty to do for the glory of his Creator." A sentiment very like that of our Lord, Luke 17:10 : "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do."
Taken in this sense, the words intimate, that the man who is truly pious, who is a proper member of the Church militant, and is going straight to the Church triumphant, is truly humble; he knows he has nothing but what he has received, he has no merit, he trusts not in himself, but in the living God. He renounces his own righteousness, and trusts in the eternal mercy of God through the infinitely meritorious atonement made by Jesus Christ. The language of his heart is: -
"I loathe myself when God I see,And into nothing fall;
Content that thou exalted be,And Christ be all in all."
He honoureth them that fear the Lord -
8. This cause is a proof, however just the sentiment, that Aben Ezra has mistaken the meaning of the preceding clause. The truly pious man, while he has in contempt the honorable and right honorable profligate, yet honors them that fear the Lord, though found in the most abject poverty; though, with Job, on the dunghill, or, with Lazarus, covered with sores at the rich man's gate. Character is the object of his attention; persons and circumstances are of minor importance.
The fear of the Lord is often taken for the whole of religion; and sometimes for that reverence which a man feels for the ma jesty and holiness of God, that induces him to hate and depart from evil. Here it may signify the lowest degree of religion, repentance whereby we forsake sin.
Sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not -
9. If at any time he have bound himself by a solemn engagement to do so and so, and he finds afterwards that to keep his oath will be greatly to his damage; yet such reverence has he for God and for truth that he will not change, be the consequences what they may. He is faithful also to his promises; his bare word will bind him equally with an oath. He that will not be honest without an oath will not be honest with one.
The Hebrew might be thus translated: "He sweareth to afflict himself, and does not change;" and thus the Chaldee has rendered this clause. He has promised to the Lord to keep his body under, and bring it into subjection; to deny himself that he may not pamper the flesh, and have the more to give to the poor.
on Psalms 15 :4
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned - That is, who does not show respect to a man of base or bad character on account of his wealth, his position, or his rank in life. He estimates character as it is in itself, and not as derived from rank, relationship, or station. While, as stated in the previous verse, he is not disposed to take up a false or evil report against another, he is at the same time disposed to do justice to all, and does not honor those who do not deserve to be honored, or apologise for base conduct because it is committed by one of exalted station or rank. Loving virtue and piety for their own sake, he hates all that is opposite; and where conduct deserves reprobation, no matter where found, he does not hesitate to avow his conviction in regard to it. The sentiment here is substantially the same as in Psalm 1:1. See the notes at that verse.
But he honoreth them that fear the Lord - No matter in what rank or condition of life they may be found. Where there is true piety he honors it. He is willing to be known as one that honors it, and is willing to bear all the reproach that may be connected with such a deeply cherished respect, and with such an avowal. Compare Psalm 1:1.
He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not - Who has made a promise, or entered into a contract, that is likely to turn out contrary to his expectations, to his own disadvantage; but who still adheres to his engagement. If the thing itself is wrong; if he has made a promise, or pledged himself to do a wicked thing, he cannot be under obligation to execute it; he should at once abandon it (compare the notes at Matthew 14:9); but he is not at liberty to violate an agreement simply because it will be a loss to him, or because he ascertains that it will not be, as he supposed, to his advantage. The principles here laid down will extend to all contracts or agreements, pecuniary or otherwise, and should be a general principle regulating all our transactions with our fellow-men. The only limitation in the rule is that above stated, when the promise or the contract would involve that which is morally wrong.
on Psalms 15 :4
15:4 Vile - An ungodly man. Honoureth - He highly esteems and loves them, though they be mean as to their worldly condition, and though they may differ from him in some opinions or practices of lesser moment. Sweareth - A promissory oath. Hurt - To his own damage. As if a man solemnly swear, that he will sell him such an estate at a price below the full worth; or that, he will give a poor man such a sum of money, which afterwards he finds inconvenient to him. Changeth not - His purpose, but continues firm and resolved to perform his promise.