David vs. Paul?

Here is how John Calvin reconciles David’s delight in God’s law in Psalm 19 and Paul’s approbation of  the law in certain parts of his writings.

But in the first place, we must remember what I have shown you at the commencement, that David does not speak simply of the precepts of the Moral Law, but comprehends the whole covenant by which God had adopted the descendants of Abraham to be his peculiar people; and therefore to the Moral Law-the rule of living well- he joins the free promises of salvation, or rather Christ himself, in whom and upon whom this adoption is founded. But Paul who had to deal with persons who perverted and abused the law, and separated it from the grace and Spirit of Christ, refers to the ministry of Moses viewed merely by itself, and according to the letter.

It is  certain, that if the Spirit of Christ does not quicken the law, the law is not only unprofitable, but also deadly to its disciples. Without Christ there is in the law nothing but inexorable rigor, which adjudges all mankind to the wrath and curse of God. And farther, without Christ, there remains within us a rebelliousness of the flesh, which kindles in our hearts a hatred of God and his law, and from this proceed the distressing bondage and awful terror of which the Apostle speaks. 

These different ways in which the law may be viewed, easily show us the manner of reconciling these passages of Paul and David, which seem at  first view to be at variance. The design of Paul it so to show what the law can do for us, taken by itself; that is to say, what it can do for us when, without the promise of grace, it strictly and rigorously exacts from us the duty which we owe to God; but David, in praising it, as he here does, speaks of the whole doctrine of the law, which includes the gospel, and, therefore under the law he comprehends Christ. 

True Joy: John Calvin on Psalm 19

The Word has become for me a joy over the years. There are times where it is dry. But the more I read the more delight I take in it. I used to think I took delight in the Word. And I did. But it was an immature delight, a true delight, but not a deep delight. Deep delight takes time coupled with effort. To love the Book in a moment is possible. To love the Book deeply takes a lifetime of hours sitting beneath it. I am starting to get there.  So I enjoyed reading Calvin’s various comments on God’s Word from his commentary on this Psalm 19:7-14. Here are some of my favorite quotes from this section:

If a man is duly instructed in the law of God, he wants nothing which is requisite to perfect wisdom. (Psalm 19:7)

When we give ourselves up to be guided and governed by the word of God, we are in no danger of going astray, since this is the path by which he securely guides his own people to salvation.(Psalm 19:7)

None are endued with right understanding until they have made progress in the study of the law. (Psalm 19:7)

We know how much every man is wedded to himself, and difficult it is to eradicate from our minds the vain confidence of our own wisdom.(Psalm 19:8)

Those who take delight in committing sin procure for themselves abundant matter of sorrow; but the observance of the law of God, on the contrary, brings to man true joy. (Psalm 19:8)

David shows that whatever men undertake to do at the mere suggestion of their own minds, without having a regard to the law of God as a rule, is error and falsehood. (Psalm 19:9)

By this commendation he distinguishes the law of God from all the doctrines of men, for no blemish or fault can found in it, but it is in all points absolutely perfect. (Psalm 19:9)

We do not esteem the law as it deserves, if we do not prefer it to all the riches of the world. (Psalm 19:10)

If we separate the law from the hope of pardon, and from the Spirit of Christ, so far from tasting it to be sweet as honey, we will rather find in it a bitterness which kills our wretched souls. (Psalm 19:10)

We should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only, but are overwhelmed with an immense mass of impurities. The more diligently any one examines himself, the more readily will he acknowledge with David that if God should discover our secret faults there would be found in us an abyss of sins so great as to have neither bottom nor shore…for no man can comprehend in how many ways he is guilty before God. (Psalm 19:12) 

There is also another useful lesson which we have here to attend to, namely,  that we ought never to pray for pardon, without, at the same time, asking to be strengthened and fortified by the power of God for the time to come, that temptations, in future may not gain advantage over us. And although we may feel in our hearts the incitements to concupiscence [Lust-Here used in the broadest terms to refer to all evil leanings, not just sexual.] goading and distressing us, we ought not, on that account, to become discouraged. The remedy to which we should have recourse is to pray to God to restrain us. (Psalm 19:13)