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  • ADAM CLARKE'S BIBLE COMMENTARY -
    PSALMS 106

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    PSALM CVI

    God is praised for his manifold mercies, 1-3. The prophet prays for himself, 4, 5. A recapitulation of the history of the Hebrew people: of God's mercies toward them, and their rebellions, 6-39. The judgments and affictions which their transgressions brought upon them, 40-42. God's mercy to them notwithstanding their transgressions, 43-46. He prays for their restoration, 47, 48.

    NOTES ON PSALM CVI

    As a part of the preceding Psalms is found in 1 Chronicles 16., so the first and two last verses of this are found in the same place, ( ver. 34-36,) and yet it is supposed by eminent commentators to be a prayer of the captives in Babylon, who acknowledge the mercies of God, confess their own sins, and those of their forefathers, and implore the Lord to gather them from among the heathen, and restore them to their own country. In none of the Versions except the Syriac has it any title, except HALLELUJAH, Praise ye the Lord, the word with which the original commences. The Syriac gives us a sort of table of its contents; or rather shows us the subjects to which it may be applied, and the uses we should make of it. After stating that it has no title, it says, "It calls upon men to observe the Divine precepts, and teaches us that the more the Jews transgressed, the more we should fear. That we should not talk together in the church, nor ever contend with our brethren on any account; and especially when we assist in the celebration of the Divine mysteries and in prayer: and that when we sin we should repent." All this is very good: but it would be difficult to find these subjects in the Psalm, or any thing on which they could be rationally founded. But it shows us that the Scriptures were very easily accommodated to particular uses, not originally intended: and hence arose much of the practice of spiritualizing and allegorizing; which, to say the least of it, has been of no use to the Church of Christ.

    Verse 1. "Praise ye the Lord " - This, which is a sort of title, is wanting in several MSS., and in the Syriac Version.

    "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good " - Ye who live by his bounty should praise his mercy. God is the good Being, and of all kinds of good he is the Author and Dispenser. That the term God among our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, expressed both the Supreme Being and good or goodness, is evident from the Anglo-Saxon version of this clause: "Confess Lord for that God, (or good,) for that on world mildheartness his." Which the old Psalter thus translates and paraphrases: - Trans. "Schifes to Lorde for he is gude; for in worlde the mercy of him." Par. Schryfes synes, and louyngs to God. for he is gude of kynde, that nane do bot aske his mercy; for it lastes to the worlds ende in wriches whame it comfortes and delyvers: and the blysfulhede that is gyfen thrugh mercy is endles. That is: - Confess your sins, and give praise to God, for he is good in his nature to all that ask his mercy; for it lasts to the world's end in comforting and delivering the wretched: and the blessedness that is given through mercy is endless.

    Verse 2. "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? " - His acts are all acts of might; and particularly those in behalf of his followers.

    Verse 3. "Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times. " - How near do the Anglo- Saxon, the ancient Scottish Version, and the present translation, approach to each other! Anglo-Saxon. [A.S]. "Blessed they that holdeth doom, and doth righteousness in ilkere tide." Anglo-Scottish. Blisful tha that kepes dome, and duse rightwisnes in ilk tyme.

    Those are truly blessed, or happy, whose hearts are devoted to God, and who live in the habit of obedience. Those, the general tenor of whose life is not conformed to the will of God, have no true happiness.

    Verse 4. "Remember me " - This and the following clauses are read in the plural by several MSS.: Remember US-that WE may rejoice, - that WE may glory, &c.: and thus all the Versions except the Chaldee; and this is more agreeable to the context.

    Verse 5. "That I may see the good of thy chosen " - That I may enjoy the good, for so the word see is understood among the Hebrews. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God," - they shall enjoy him, possess his favour, and be made like unto him.

    Verse 6. "We have sinned " - Here the confession begins; what preceded was only the introduction to what follows: Our forefathers sinned, and suffered; we, like them, have sinned, and do suffer.

    Verse 7. "Our fathers understood not " - They did not regard the operation of God's hands; and therefore they understood neither his designs nor their own interest.

    "At the sea, even at the Red Sea. " - Some of the rabbins suppose that the repetition of the words point out two faults of the Israelites at the Red Sea. 1. They murmured against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt, when they saw the sea before them, and Pharaoh behind them. 2. When the waters were divided, they were afraid to enter in, lest they should stick in the mud which appeared at the bottom. The word seems to be added by way of explanation, and perhaps may refer to the above: they provoked y l[ al yam, "AT the sea;" Pws yb beyam suph, "IN the sea Suph," or Red Sea. They provoked him at it and in it.

    Verse 8. "He saved them for his name's sake " - wm [ml lemaan shemo, "on account of his name;" to manifest his own power, goodness, and perfections. There was nothing which he could draw from them as a reason why he should save them; therefore he drew the reason from himself.

    There is a singular gloss in the old Psalter on this verse: "Whan thai cam oute of Egypt to the rede Se, whare thai were closed on a syde with a hylle that na man mygt passe: on another side was the rede See: behynde tham was men of Egypt foluand; and for this thai began to gruch, forgetand Gods mygt: bot than he safed tham, depertand the Se in twelfe, to ilk kynde of Isrel a passage." It seems as if this author thought there were twelve passages made through the Red Sea, that each tribe should have a passage to itself.

    Verse 9. "He rebuked the Red Sea " - In the descriptions of the psalmist every thing has life. The sea is an animated being, behaves itself proudly, is rebuked, and retires in confusion.

    Verse 10. "The hand of him that hated them " - Pharaoh.

    Verse 12. "Then believed they " - Just while the miracle was before their eyes.

    Verse 13. "They soon forgat his works " - Three days afterwards, at the waters of Marah, Exod. xv. 24.

    "They waited not for his counsel " - They were impatient, and would not wait till God should in his own way fulfll his own designs.

    Verse 15. "Sent leanness " - They despised the manna, and called it light, that is, innutritive, bread. God gave flesh as they desired, but gave no blessing with it; and in consequence they did not fatten, but grew lean upon it. Their souls also suffered want.

    Verse 16. "They envied Moses " - A reference to the case of Korah and his company.

    Aaron the saint. ] The anointed, the high priest of the Lord.

    Verse 20. "Thus they changed their glory " - That is, their God, who was their glory; and they worshipped an ox in his stead. See the use St Paul makes of this, Rom. i. 23; see also the note there. The incorruptible God was thus served by all the heathen world.

    Verse 22. "Wondrous works in the land of Ham " - The plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. Egypt is called the Land of Ham or Cham, because it was peopled by Misraim the son of Cham.

    Verse 23. "Moses his chosen " - Or elect; (Vulgate, electus ejus; Septuagint, o eklektov autou;) the person that he had appointed for this work. It would be very difficult to show that this word in any part of the Old Testament refers to the eternal state of any man, much less to the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation.

    Verse 28. "They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor " - The Vulgate, Septuagint, and others, have Belphegor; the Syriac and Arabic, the idol Phegor, or Phaaur; the [ ain in the word being pronounced as gh.

    "Ate the sacrifices or the dead " - ytm methim, of dead men. Most of the heathen idols were seen, who had been deified after their death; many of whom had been execrated during their life.

    Verse 33. "They provoked his spirit " - wrmh himru, from hrm marah, to rebel: they brought it into a rebellious state; he was soured and irritated, and was off his guard.

    "So that he spake unadvisedly with his lips. " - For this sentence we have only these two words in the Hebrew, wytpb afbyw vayebatte bisephathaiv, he stuttered or stammered with his lips, indicating that he was transported with anger. See the notes on Num. xx. 10-12.

    Verse 36. "They served their idols " - hybx[ atsabbeyhem, their labours or griefs-idols, so called because of the pains taken in forming them, the labour in worshipping them, and the grief occasioned by the Divine judgments against the people for their idolatry.

    Verse 37. "They sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils. " - See the places referred to in the margin. That causing their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Moloch did not always mean they burnt them to death in the flames, is very probable. But all the heathen had human sacrifices; of this their history is full. Unto devils, ydl lashshedim, to demons. Devil is never in Scripture used in the plural; there is but ONE devil, though there are MANY demons.

    Verse 39. "And went a whoring. " - By fornication, whoredom, and idolatry, the Scripture often expresses idolatry and idolatrous acts. I have given the reason of this in other places. Besides being false to the true God, to whom they are represented as betrothed and married, (and their acts of idolatry were breaches of this solemn engagement,) the worship of idols was frequently accompanied with various acts of impurity.

    "The translation in the Anglo-Saxon is very remarkable: [A.S.] and they fornicated. In Anglo-Saxon, [A.S.] signifies to fire, to ignite; [A.S.] to commit adultery. So [A.S.] is a prostitute, a whore; and [A.S.] is to go a whoring, to fornicate; probably from [A.S.], or [A.S." - to fire, and [A.S.], to lie, or [A.S.], a glutton, - one who lies with fire, who is ignited by it, who is greedily intent upon the act by which he is inflamed. And do not the words themselves show that in former times whoredom was punished, as it is now, by a disease which produces the sensation of burning in the unhappy prostitutes, whether male or female? And to this meaning the following seems particularly to be applicable.

    Verse 40. "Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled " - God kindled a fire in his judgments for those who by their flagitious conduct had inflamed themselves with their idols, and the impure rites with which they were worshipped.

    Verse 43. "Many times did he deliver them " - See the Book of Judges; it is a history of the rebellions and deliverances of the Israelites.

    Verse 46. "He made them also to be pitied " - This was particularly true as to the Babylonish captivity; for Cyrus gave them their liberty; Darius favoured them, and granted them several privileges; and Artaxerxes sent back Nehemiah, and helped him to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. See the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah; and see Calmet.

    Verse 47. "Save us. O Lord-and gather us " - These words, says Calmet, are found in the hymn that was sung at the ceremony of bringing the ark to Jerusalem, 1 Chron. xvi.; but it is supposed they were added by Ezra or some other prophet: here they are in their natural place. The author of the Psalm begs the Lord to gather the Israelites who were dispersed through different countries; for at the dedication of the second temple, under Nehemiah, (where it is probable this Psalm, with the 105th and the 107th, was sung,) there were very few Jews who had as yet returned from their captivity.

    Verse 48. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel " - Here both gratitude and confidence are expressed; gratitude for what God had already wrought, and confidence that he would finish the great work of their restoration.

    "Frown everlasting to everlasting " - lwah d[w lwah m min haolam vead haolam, "from the hidden term to the hidden term," from the beginning of time to the end of time, from eternity and on to eternity.

    , Anglo-Saxon. "Fra worlde and into worlde", old Psalter; which it paraphrases thus: Fra with outen beginning, & withouten endyng.

    "And let all the people say, Amen. " - Let the people join in the prayer and in the thanksgiving, that God may hear and answer. Anglo-Saxon: [A.S.]; "And, quoth all folk, be it, be it." Hallelujah-Praise ye Jehovah! Let his name be eternally magnified! Amen.

    This is the end of the fourth book of the Psalms.

    ANALYSIS OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTH PSALM

    The intention of the prophet in this Psalms is to express God's long-suffering in bearing with rebellious sinners, and yet in pardoning them upon the confession of their sins, and turning to him; both which he exemplifies by a long narration of Israel's rebellions, repentance, and turning to God, and God's dealing with them, which gave him just ocoasion to praise God, and to pray for his Church and people.

    I. An exhortation to praise God, with the reasons in general, ver. 1; and who are fit to perform this duty, ver. 2, 3.

    II. A petition and prayer directed to God in his own person for the whole Church, and the end of it, ver. 4, 5.

    III. A confession of sin, particularly of the Israelites', together with God's patience with them, and their repentance, ver. 6-46.

    IV. His prayer that God would collect his Church out of all nations, that they might meet and praise him, ver. 47, 48.

    I. "Praise Ye the Lord, O give thanks unto the Lord." To this the prophet invites, for two reasons: - 1. "Because he is good." He is beforehand with us, and prevents men with many benefits.

    2. "Because his mercy endures for ever." It is everlasting, and far exceeds our sins and miseries; for after men have offended him, and deserve no mercy, yet he receives the penitent offenders. But who is sufficient for these things? Who is fit to praise him, and set forth his mercies? "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord?" That is, the infinite benefits exhibited to his people. Or, Who can show forth all his praise in preserving, pardoning, and propagating his Church? They alone are happy men "who keep judgment, and do righteousness at all times." 1. They are happy in prosperity and adversity, they dwell in the house of God, under his protection.

    2. "They keep his judgments." Follow in their lives the strict rules of the Divine law, by which they judge all their actions, and so keep faith and a good conscience.

    3. "They do righteousness at all times." They approve that which is right, true, and just; condemn, hate, and punish what is unjust: such are fit to praise God with their tongues, because they praise him in their lives.

    II. After the prophet had invited men to praise God, and showed who were fit to do it, he begins his petition, which he proposes in his own person for the whole Church.

    1. "Remember me." Me; but not me alone, rather thy whole Church. By what we suffer, thou hast seemed to forget thy covenant and promise; but now call it to mind again.

    2. Which I expect, not for any desert of mine, but merely from thy good will: "Remember me with the favour," &c.

    3. "O visit me;" but not in wrath, for such a visitation there is; but in mercy and grace.

    4. "With thy salvation." Save me at this time from my sins, and from my present calamities.

    And to this end I desire thy favour, thy salvation.

    1. "That I may see the good of thy chosen." Be a partaker of and in their happiness.

    2. "That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation." Partake of it.

    3. "That I may glory with thine inheritance." Glorify thee with them.

    But observe here the three eminent titles given to God's Church: - 1. They are a "chosen" people; which is a glorious and gracious title, and intimates favour.

    2. They are his "nation," his peculiar people.

    3. They are his "inheritance." III. In the following part of the Psalm, ver. 7-46, he makes use of a new argument to move God to mercy. He represents not the present condition the people of God are in, not their captivity, miseries, and afflictions, but ingenuously confesses how they had offended God, and how justly they suffered.

    1. "We have sinned with our fathers." Trodden in their steps, and filled up the measure of their sins.

    2. "We have committed iniquity." Not only from infirmity, but choice.

    3. "We have done wickedly." The intent and purpose in it was evil.

    And by these three steps he exaggerates the sin; the act, the frequency, the intent; as every true confessionist to God ought never to extenuate, but to aggravate the offense against himself.

    And because he had mentioned their fathers at large, now he instances their rebellions: "Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt;" that is, they laid them not to heart.

    1. "They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies," &c. When they saw Pharaoh's army on one side, and the sea on the other, they grew heartless, diffident, and murmured.

    2. This was their sin at that time; but God was then merciful to them: "Nevertheless he saved them." For which he assigns two reasons: - 1. "For his name's sake." To advance his glory and honour.

    2. "That he might make his mighty power to be known." Pharaoh and the Egyptians might have taken notice of it by the plagues he had already brought upon them.

    In the following verses, by a distribution, he shows the manner of their deliverance.

    1. By God's rebuke, and drying up of the sea: "He rebuked the Red Sea also," &c.

    2. By the unheard-of way: "He led them through the depths as through the wilderness;" there was no more water there to offend them than in the sands of Arabia.

    3. By the consequence of it: "And he saved them by the hand of him," &c.

    4. "And the waters covered their enemies," &c.

    The effect was, for the present, 1. It extorted from them a confession that God was true in his promises: "Then believed they his words." 2. It excited them to praise him: "They sang his praise," Exod. xv. But these very men who were forced to confess his power and sing his praises for the overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, were scarcely departed from those banks, when they, for want of a little bread and water, grew as impatient and distrustful as they were before.

    1. They made haste to forget: "They soon forgot;" which aggravates their sin.

    2. They forgot his omnipotence, his providence.

    3. "They waited not for his council." With patience they expected not the end, why God in his wisdom suffered them now to wait, which was, to prove their faith, hope, and love.

    4. And what they did at this time they did also at others: "For they lusted exceedingly in the wilderness." Now God yielded to these desires of the people: "He gave them bread, flesh, and water." 1. And he gave them their request, Exod. xvi. 12.

    2. "But he sent leanness into their souls." Which certainly has reference to the quails in Num. xi. 20, 33, where the people ate, and died of plague.

    Another rebellion the prophet now touches, which was, when they rose up against the king and the priest.

    1. "They envied also Moses in the camp;" objecting that he had usurped a power over them, and taken it upon his own head.

    2. "And Aaron, the saint of the Lord." He whom God had chosen, anointed, and sanctified to the priest's office.

    The punishment follows, Numbers 16.

    1. "The earth opened, and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the congregation of Abiram." 2. "And a fire was kindled in their company the flame burned up the wicked." That is, the two hundred and fifty men that presumed to offer incense; and presently after the fourteen thousand seven hundred that murmured, and objected to Moses and Aaron that they had killed the people of the Lord.

    Still the prophet goes on in his story of Israel's stubbornness and rebellion; and comes to their grand sin, their idolatry in erecting the golden calf, Exodus 32.

    1. "They made a calf in Horeb," &c., contrary to God's command.

    2. "Thus they changed their glory." That is, the true God, who was indeed their glory, "into the similitude of an ox," a brute beast, "that eateth grass," a base creature, which much aggravates their sin.

    3. But the prophet aggravates their stupidity and folly: "They forgat God," &c.

    In the following verse are expressed God's just anger and mercy: - 1. His anger against their sins: "Therefore he saith," &c. Pronounced his will to destroy them.

    2. His mercy, in that he spared them at the intercession of Moses: "Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach." The breach and division which this sin had made between God and his people, like that in the wall of a besieged town, in which some valiant captain stands, and opposes himself against the assault of the enemy; so did Moses.

    For his object was the same, it was "to turn away his wrath lest he should destroy;" and the end was answered-it was turned away.

    Farther yet, he calls to mind a new rebellion, which fell out upon the report of the spies sent to search the land, Num. xiii. 26, &c., and 14.

    1. "They despised the pleasant land," and wished to return into Egypt, Num. xiv. 1-5.

    2. "They believed not his word;" for they said, "Hath the Lord brought us," &c.

    3. "But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not," &c., Num. xiv. "Therefore he lifted up his hand against them," &c. As their sin, so their punishment, is extant; Num. xiv. x19: "Your carcasses shall fall in the wilderness; ye shall not come into the land." This punishment fell upon the murmurers themselves; but if their children should be guilty of the like rebellion, they should not escape, for they too should be overthrown; which is fully brought to pass.

    The prophet joins to that of the golden calf another piece of idolatry in the wilderness, to which there was joined fornication also, by the counsel of Balaam and the policy of Balak. This caused them to eat and sacrifice to their god, Num. xxv., which the prophet next insists upon: - 1. "They joined themselves to Baal-peor," because the idol was set up upon that mountain.

    2. "And ate the offerings of the dead." They left the sacrifice of the living God, and ate those meats which were offered to dead idols.

    Upon which there followed God's wrath and their own punishment: - 1. God was angry: "For they provoked him to wrath."And the plague brake in upon them" like mighty waters, or as an army into a city at a breach; for there died of it twenty-four thousand, Num. xxv. 9.

    In the former idolatry God's anger was averted by the intercession of Moses; in this, by the execution of judgment by Phinehas; for: - 1. "There stood up Phinehas; " moved, no question, with a zeal for God's honour.

    2. "And he executed judgment upon Zimri and Cozbi;" for which (let men conceive as they please-I see nothing to the contrary) he had his commission from Moses, or rather God; Num. xxv. 4, 5.

    3. The event was, the plague was stayed; the execution of offenders pacifies the anger of God.

    Which zeal of his was well rewarded: "This was accounted to him for righteousness," &c. This act was an act of righteousness, and an ample reward he had for it; for God established the dignity of the high priesthood in Phinehas and his posterity, as long as the Jewish commonwealth continued.

    The prophet comes to another remarkable sin of the Jews, Num. xx., where the people chid Moses for want of water: - 1. "They angered him also at the waters of strife," when they contradicted Moses.

    2. "So that it went ill with Moses for their sakes;" for, being disturbed with choler, "he spake unadvisedly with his lips," - "Hear now, ye rebels," &c.; and he smote the rock. By their murmuring they so provoked his spirit to bitterness, that he who at other times was cheerful, and ready to obey God's commands, now acted with reluctance.

    Hitherto the prophet has set down several rebellions of the Jews during their abode in the wilderness; and now he shows how they behaved themselves after they came into the land of Canaan. Better, a man would think, they should be after God had fulfilled his word to them; but an Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor they their manners; disobedient, stubborn, and rebellious they remained.

    1. God had expressly commanded that the nations of Canaan should be destroyed, Deut. vii. 1-3: "But they did not destroy the nations," &c.

    2. "But they mingled among the heathen:" in leagues and marriages, Judg. ii. and 3.

    3. "And learned their works:" many superstitious and evil customs.

    But, beyond all, they learned to be idolaters; forsook God for the devil.

    1. "They served their idols, which was a snare unto them," for that they became their slaves, Judges 2., &c.

    2. "Yea, they sacrificed their sons," &c., to Moloch.

    3. With inhuman sin, they "shed innocent blood;" the blood of innocent children, &c.

    The consequences of which are double. First, A double pollution.

    Secondly, A heavy punishment.

    1. A pollution of the land: "The land was defiled with blood." 2. A pollution of their own souls: "Thus were they defiled with their own works." The judgment, or punishment, now follows; and a signification whence it proceeded; it came not by chance, but by God's order and anger.

    1. "Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled," &c. For their idolatry, murder, whoredom; so that he was not only angry, but his anger was kindled to a flame.

    2. Insomuch "that he abhorred his own inheritance." And the punishment he inflicted on them was very just: - 1. "He gave them into the hand," that is, the power, "of the heathen." God had given the heathen into their hands to destroy them; which, because they did not, but learned their works, therefore God gave them into the hands of the heathen.

    2. He made them their lords; and hard masters they were, as plainly appears from the Book of Judges, and 1 Samuel.

    And little they; for the prophet in the next verse adds, 1. "Their enemies oppressed them:" tyrants, oppressors they were.

    Read the Book of Judges, &c.

    2. "They were brought into subjection," &c., under the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, &c.

    In which condition God did not forget them, for "many times did he deliver them;" not once only, but often, as by Gideon, Jephthah, Deborah, Samson, and others. But, O the ingratitde of a sinful nation! instead of serving God, "they provoked him with their counsel," that is, by following the dictates of their own hearts.

    And so were very justly brought into the same case they were before; for "they were brought low for their iniquity." And now the prophet adds, which indeed he infers through the whole Psalm, the wonderful and immutable good will of God to them. Though he forgave and delivered them upon their repentance, and they in a short time provoked him again; yet he received them to grace, even after their relapses. And the causes that moved him to this were external and internal.

    The cause that outwardly and occasionally moved him to it was their affliction and cry: "He regarded their affliction " &c.

    But the cause that inwardiy swayed him was his word passed to them, and his mercy.

    1. His word and his promise were passed to "Abraham, to be their God;" and he would not break it. "And he remembered for them his covenant." 2. His tender affection that he bare them; this caused him to repent, and grieve that they should be in misery. "He repented," &c.

    3. And the effect which all these causes had was beneficial to them even in their bondage and captivity; for even their very enemies' hearts were often turned to do them good, as is evident in Jeremiah, David, Daniel, Ezra, ZerubbHebel, Mordecai, and indeed the whole nation under the Babylonian, Philistian, Egyptian, and Persian kings, which the prophet sets down, ver. xl6: "He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives." According to the saying of the wise man: "When a man's ways please God, he will make his very enemies to be at peace with him," Prov. xvi. 7.

    4. And this sense makes the way plainer to what follows, the petition and the doxology; for if God showed himself merciful in the time of his anger, and made it apparent even to the very view of their enemies, encouragement they might have: - 1. To pray: "Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen," &c.

    2. Then to give thanks:

    1. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. 2. And for it let the people do their duty; that is, the solemn and necessary forms: "Let all the people say, Amen. Hallelujah."

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