4. The perverse heart shall depart from me. Some by perverse heart understand perfidious men; but this I reject as a sense too forced, and it is moreover inconsistent with the context. As David has added in the second clause by way of exposition, I will not know evil, he doubtless in the first protests that he will be free from all perfidiousness and wickedness. The amount is, that he will do his endeavor to keep himself from all wrong-doing, and that he will not even know what it is to do wrong to his neighbors.
5. Whoso slandereth his neighbor fd130 in secret, him will I destroy. In this verse he speaks more distinctly of the duty of a king who is armed with the sword, for the purpose of restraining evil-doers. Detraction, pride, and vices of every description, are justly offensive to all good men; but all men have not the power or right to cut off the proud or detractors, because they are not invested with public authority, and consequently have their hands bound. It is of importance to attend to this distinction, that the children of God may keep themselves within the bounds of moderation, and that none may pass beyond the province of his own calling. It is certain, that so long as David lived merely in the rank of a private member of society, he never dared to attempt any such thing. But after being placed on the royal throne, he received a sword from the hand of God, which he employed in punishing evil deeds. He particularises certain kinds of wickedness, that under one species, by the figure synecdoche, he might intimate his determination to punish all sorts of wickedness. To detract from the reputation of another privily, and by stealth, is a plague exceedingly destructive. It is as if a man killed a fellow-creature from a place of ambush; or rather a calumniator, like one who administers poison to his unsuspecting victim, destroys men unawares. It is a sign of a perverse and treacherous disposition to wound the good name of another, when he has no opportunity of defending himself. This vice, which is too prevalent every where, while yet it ought not to be tolerated among men, David undertakes to punish.
He next characterises the proud by two forms of expression. He describes them as those whose eyes are lofty, not that all who are proud look with a lofty countenance, but because they commonly betray the superciliousness of their proud hearts by the loftiness of their countenance. He farther describes them as wide fd131 of heart, because those who aspire after great things must necessarily be puffed up and swollen. They are never satisfied unless they swallow up the whole world. From this we learn that good order cannot exist, unless princes are sedulously on the watch to repress pride, which necessarily draws after it and engenders outrage and cruelty, contemptuous language, rapine, and all kinds of ill treatment. Thus it would come to pass, that the simple and the peaceable would be at the mercy of the more powerful, did not the authority of princes interfere to curb the audacity of the latter. As it is the will of God that good and faithful kings should hold pride in detestation, this vice is unquestionably the object of his own hatred. What he therefore requires from his children is gentleness and meekness, for he is the declared enemy of all who strive to elevate themselves above their condition.