For the sake of the church and of the world, no less than for our own sakes, let us "give diligence" to clear up our interest in the Gospel. The want of personal assurance is not only a loss in our own souls, but a hindrance to our Christian usefulness. Hence our efforts are often powerless in parrying off the attack of him that reproaches us, as well as to "strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees" of our brethren. The charge of hypocrisy, or the want of the "constraining" principle of "the love of Christ," stops the utterance of the word of truth, and obscures our character as a "saint of God," and "a witness" for His name. Justly, indeed, might He punish our unfaithfulness, by forbidding us any more to speak in His name. And therefore the dread of this grievous judgment, and the mourning over precious lost opportunities, stirs up the prayer—'Take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth—Not only take it not out of my heart; but let it be ready in my mouth for the confession of my Master.'
This valuable prayer may preserve us from denying Christ. Too apt are we to allow worldly communion, habits, and conversation without a word of restraint. Let the whole weight of Christian responsibility be deeply felt—faith in the heart, and confession with the mouth—the active principle, and the practical exercise. Should we be content with the dormant principle, where would be the Church—the witness for God in the world? Shall we shrink from the bold confession of Him, who "despised the shame of the cross" for us? Would not this imply distrust of our own testimony—the word of truth?
It does indeed need wisdom to know when, as well as what, to speak. There is "a time to keep silence," and "the prudent shall keep silence in that time." But is it our cross to be "dumb with silence?" And when we "hold our peace, even from good," is our "sorrow stirred—our hearts hot within us—the fire burning"? No—is not the plea of bashfulness or judicious caution often a self-deluding cover for the real cause of restraint—the lack of the personal apprehension of the Lord's mercy? "I believed, and therefore have I spoken." Oh! let not the word of truth be taken utterly out of our mouth. A stammering confession is better than silence. If we cannot say all we want of, or for our Savior, let us say what we can. 'God's servants are very sensible of the infinite value of the least atom of what belongs to Him.' And a word spoken in weakness may be a word of Almighty power, and a present help to some fainting spirit. In our connection with the world, many occasions will unexpectedly occur, if the heart be but wakeful and active to improve them. The common topics of earthly conversation often furnish a channel for heavenly communion, so that our communications with the world may be like Jacob's ladder, whose bottom rested upon the earth, but the top reached unto the heavens. And oh! what a relief is it to the burdened conscience, to stammer out, if it be but a few words for God, even though there be no sensible refreshings of His presence! Yet if we would speak for Him with power and acceptance, it must be out of the "good treasure and abundance of the heart." For it is only when "the heart is inditing a good matter, speaking of the things touching the King, that the tongue is as the pen of a ready writer."
But let us take up this petition as the expression of the Christian's exercises with his God. 'That word utterly'—observes an eminently-tried believer—'though it seems to be beneath the notice of the mind, when one has got very low, is in reality one of the most blessed words in this most blessed book. How often, when I have formerly been upon the brink of giving up all for lost, and of saying, "Evil, be my good"—the thought has perhaps struck me, that, while I am struggling between despondency and rebellion, and too hard, too cold, too discouraged to look up to Him, the blessed Redeemer is pitying the struggle of my soul; and it has kept me where I was, led me to put off despair at least until tomorrow; and then before tomorrow I have seen something of the grace and glory of the Gospel.'
What then is the advice, which this man of God gives from his own experience? 'When you are most deeply deploring your sins, never fail to thank the Lord, or at least to think how you would thank Him, if you dared lift up a face overwhelmed with shame and defeat, that He has not taken away His truth UTTERLY; that He has left you clinging to some twig of hope, instead of leaving you to end—what thousands who look outwardly very calm—have found—the depth of the precipice of despair.' (Nottidge)
The Psalmist's prayer here is the same confidence of faith, that was expressed in the preceding verse—For I have hoped in Your judgments, an acceptable spirit of approach to God, and an earnest of the revival of life and comfort in the Lord's best time and way.
"And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth." Do not prevent my pleading for you by leaving me without deliverance; for how could I continue to proclaim your word if I found it fail me? such would seem to be the run of the meaning. The word of truth cannot be a joy to our mouths unless we have an experience of it in our lives, and it may be wise for us to be silent if we cannot support our testimonies by the verdict of our consciousness. This prayer may also refer to other modes by which we may be disabled from speaking in the name of the Lord: as, for instance, by our falling into open sin, by our becoming depressed and despairing, by our laboring under sickness or mental aberration, by our finding no door of utterance, or meeting with no willing audience. He who has once preached the gospel from his heart is filled with horror at the idea of being put out of the ministry; he will crave to be allowed a little share in the holy testimony, and will reckon his dumb Sabbaths to be days of banishment and punishment.
"For I have hoped in your judgments." He had expected God to appear and vindicate his cause, that so he might speak with confidence concerning his faithfulness. God is the author of our hopes, and we may most fittingly entreat him to fulfill them. The judgments of his providence are the outcome of his word; what he says in the Scriptures he actually performs in his government; we may therefore look for him to show himself strong on the behalf of his own threatenings and promises, and we shall not look in vain.
God's ministers are sometimes silenced through the sins of their people, and it becomes them to plead against such a judgment; better far that they should suffer sickness or poverty than that the candle of the gospel should be put out among them, and that thus they should be left to perish without remedy. The Lord save us, who are his ministers, from being made the instruments of inflicting such a penalty. Let us exhibit a cheerful hopefulness in God, that we may plead it in prayer with him when he threatens to close our lips.
In the close of this verse there is a declaration of what the Psalmist had done in reference to the word of the Lord, and in this the thirds of the octaves are often alike. See 35, "therein do I delight"; 43, "I have hoped in your judgments"; 51, "yet have I not declined from your law"; 59, "I turned my feet unto your testimonies"; and verses 67, 83, 99, etc. These verses would furnish an admirable series of meditations.