Part 2: A Commentary on Psalm 15
Verse 3 – Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
The word cherpah, which we here translate a reproach, comes from charaph, to strip, or make bare, to deprive one of his garments; hence choreph, the winter, because it strips the fields of their clothing, and the trees of their foliage. By this, nature appears to be dishonoured and disgraced. The application is easy:
- a man, for instance, of a good character is reported to have done something wrong
- the tale is spread, and the slanderers and backbiters carry it about; and thus the man is stripped of his fair character, of his clothing of righteousness, truth, and honesty.
All may be false; or the man, in an hour of the power of darkness, may have been tempted and overcome; may have been wounded in the cloudy and dark day, and deeply mourns his fall before God. Who that has not the heart of a devil would not strive rather to cover than make bare the fault?
Those who feed, as the proverb says, like the flies, passing over all a man’s whole parts to light upon his wounds, will take up the tale, and carry it about. Such, in the course of their diabolic work, carry the story of scandal to the righteous man; to him who loves his God and his neighbour.
But what reception has the tale-bearer? The good man taketh it not up; he will not bear it; it shall not be propagated from him. He cannot prevent the detractor from laying it down; but it is in his power not to take it up: and thus the progress of the slander may be arrested.
He taketh not up a reproach against his neighbour; and the tale-bearer is probably discouraged from carrying it to another door. Reader, drive the slanderer of your neighbour far away from you: ever remembering that in the law of God, as well as in the law of the land, “the receiver is as bad as the thief.”
Verse 4. In whose eves a vile person is contemned
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, the reprobate, one abandoned to sin; is despised, 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 honourable 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, 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.”