Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee.
1. In the first stanza (vers. 1, 2) the speaker is a devout Israelite, who is feeling keenly the misery of his circumstances. The metaphor appears to be taken from a shipwreck; and, on the lips of a Hebrew, the picture would be one of unutterable horror. We Britons love the sea. But to the Jews the sea was an object of terror, a cruel and devouring monster, greedy of its prey, and smiling only to deceive; the symbol of treachery, unrest, and desolation. What were those depths out of which the psalmist cried to God? Were they the calamities which beset him and his countrymen? Or were they his overwhelming sins? To a Hebrew mind these were indistinguishable. It was an inveterate belief among the Israelites that, just as prosperity was the reward of goodness, adversity was the punishment of sin; and, wherever adversity alighted, sin must have been there before. This theory added to the sufferings of the Exiles an element of distress which we can hardly appreciate. It appears very plainly in our psalm. Here is a devout Israelite plunged, like the rest of his countrymen, into the depths of disaster. As a Hebrew this could only have one meaning for him, namely, that God was visiting their sins upon him and them.
2. The second stanza (vers. 3, 4) is the response of a neighbour — probably an old man, who had lived into a calmer and stronger faith than the other had yet attained to. Though his words are addressed to God, they are a reply to his companion. First he glances at the vexing problem which, as we have seen, was at the bottom of his companion's trouble — why righteous men should suffer so terribly. His answer is the rough-and-ready one, that in God's sight no one is righteous, and beneath His pure and searching scrutiny the fairest lives show very foul. This is just the theological commonplace, so shallow and irreverent, that all men alike are sinful and deserve equal condemnation at God's hands. It is quite true indeed that we are all sinners; but we are not all sinners to the same extent, and God will not blindly treat us all alike. The man speaks more truly when he leaves off theorizing and testifies to his own experience of God. "Thou dost not watch for iniquities, but with Thee is the forgiveness." God, he means, is not a stern tyrant, never satisfied with our efforts to serve Him, ever watching for mistakes and searching them out. He is right willing to forgive us even at our worst. The closing line of this stanza is a surprise. We should have expected, "with Thee is forgiveness that Thou mayest be loved"; but we read instead, "that Thou mayest be feared." On the lips of a Hebrew "the fear of God" meant very nearly devout reverence. It is the Old Testament phrase for the true worship, and our psalmist means that, were there no forgiveness in the heart of God, there would be no worship in the heart of man. Religion would be impossible were God a relentless and merciless avenger.
3. In the third stanza (vers. 5, 6) the first speaker replies, "You tell me God forgives! Have I not besought His forgiveness till I am weary? But all to no purpose. For His word have I hoped — for some assurance of His forgiveness; but not a whisper has broken the pitiless silence." The figure in verse 6 would go home to the Exiles. How often, as they camped outside Babylon and sat sleepless and tearful through the watches of the night, had they seen the sentries pacing the ramparts of the city and hailing the flush of dawn in the eastern horizon which told them their weary vigil was near its close! No figure could more pathetically express the psalmist's eager expectation of the dawning of God's mercy on his long night of sorrow.
4. In the concluding stanza (vers. 7, 8) the bystanders chime in. "My soul hath hoped in Adonai," the despondent man had said; and the chorus echoes, "Hope, Israel, in Jehovah." The second speaker had declared his faith that "with Jehovah is the forgiveness"; but, ere it closes, the psalm reaches a still grander assurance. "Hope in Jehovah, for with Jehovah is the lovingkindness, and plentifully with Him is redemption." It is a great belief that God forgives, but an unspeakable greater that, in spite of all that seems to prove the contrary, He has in His heart towards us an infinite lovingkindness and a purpose of final and complete redemption. The psalm ends with a prophecy of great salvation and boundless peace in store for Israel. To the Hebrews "redemption from iniquities" would mean not merely a spiritual deliverance, but the removal of all the disasters and sufferings which sin entailed. And this triumphant assurance of a future unstained by sin and unvexed by sorrow is born of that twofold faith, so simple yet so grand, that there is in the hears of God a boundless lovingkindness, and that He is working out, by means of all our varied experiences, our ultimate and eternal redemption.
(D. Smith, M. A.)
Homilist.I. IMPLORING HEAVEN (vers. 1, 2).
1. Heaven alone can deliver.
2. From the greatest depths Heaven can hear the cries. This appeal, therefore, is —
(1) (2) (3) (4) II. CONFESSING SIN (vers. 3, 4). 1. He identifies suffering with sin. All evils, physical, intellectual, social, religious, and political, spring from moral evil. 2. He identifies deliverance with God's mercy.(1) God is so merciful that He does not "mark iniquities," that is, He does not keep; regain them. Malign natures never forget injuries, benevolent natures cannot retain them.(2) God is so merciful that He forgives men their iniquities. The highest form of love is the forgiving love.(3) Because He is thus so merciful, men can trust Him. "That Thou mayest be feared." Not servilely, but trustfully, lovingly, loyally, cheerfully. Had He not forgiveness in His nature, what rational soul could reverence Him? III. WAITING ON GOD (vers. 5-8). 1. This implies —(1) Trusting in God. Trusting in His wisdom, goodness, and rectitude.(2) Expecting from God. Expecting that He will interpose in mercy, and grant the necessary relief.(3) Vigilance of soul. It is not a passive state of mind, it is watchful and earnest. 2. He exhorts Israel to trust in the Lord —(1) Because there is mercy with Him. The mercy which the sufferer requires, mercy to succour and deliver.(2) Because there is plenteous redemption with Him. There is no limit to His redemptive willingness and ability. "Where sin abounded grace doth much more abound."(3) Because all Israel will one day be redeemed. The author, undoubtedly, had the belief that all evil will one day be swept from the face of the earth. (Homilist.)
(2) (3) (4) II. CONFESSING SIN (vers. 3, 4). 1. He identifies suffering with sin. All evils, physical, intellectual, social, religious, and political, spring from moral evil. 2. He identifies deliverance with God's mercy.(1) God is so merciful that He does not "mark iniquities," that is, He does not keep; regain them. Malign natures never forget injuries, benevolent natures cannot retain them.(2) God is so merciful that He forgives men their iniquities. The highest form of love is the forgiving love.(3) Because He is thus so merciful, men can trust Him. "That Thou mayest be feared." Not servilely, but trustfully, lovingly, loyally, cheerfully. Had He not forgiveness in His nature, what rational soul could reverence Him? III. WAITING ON GOD (vers. 5-8). 1. This implies —(1) Trusting in God. Trusting in His wisdom, goodness, and rectitude.(2) Expecting from God. Expecting that He will interpose in mercy, and grant the necessary relief.(3) Vigilance of soul. It is not a passive state of mind, it is watchful and earnest. 2. He exhorts Israel to trust in the Lord —(1) Because there is mercy with Him. The mercy which the sufferer requires, mercy to succour and deliver.(2) Because there is plenteous redemption with Him. There is no limit to His redemptive willingness and ability. "Where sin abounded grace doth much more abound."(3) Because all Israel will one day be redeemed. The author, undoubtedly, had the belief that all evil will one day be swept from the face of the earth. (Homilist.)
(3) (4) II. CONFESSING SIN (vers. 3, 4). 1. He identifies suffering with sin. All evils, physical, intellectual, social, religious, and political, spring from moral evil. 2. He identifies deliverance with God's mercy.(1) God is so merciful that He does not "mark iniquities," that is, He does not keep; regain them. Malign natures never forget injuries, benevolent natures cannot retain them.(2) God is so merciful that He forgives men their iniquities. The highest form of love is the forgiving love.(3) Because He is thus so merciful, men can trust Him. "That Thou mayest be feared." Not servilely, but trustfully, lovingly, loyally, cheerfully. Had He not forgiveness in His nature, what rational soul could reverence Him? III. WAITING ON GOD (vers. 5-8). 1. This implies —(1) Trusting in God. Trusting in His wisdom, goodness, and rectitude.(2) Expecting from God. Expecting that He will interpose in mercy, and grant the necessary relief.(3) Vigilance of soul. It is not a passive state of mind, it is watchful and earnest. 2. He exhorts Israel to trust in the Lord —(1) Because there is mercy with Him. The mercy which the sufferer requires, mercy to succour and deliver.(2) Because there is plenteous redemption with Him. There is no limit to His redemptive willingness and ability. "Where sin abounded grace doth much more abound."(3) Because all Israel will one day be redeemed. The author, undoubtedly, had the belief that all evil will one day be swept from the face of the earth. (Homilist.)
II. CONFESSING SIN (vers. 3, 4). III. WAITING ON GOD (vers. 5-8). (Homilist.)
II. CONFESSING SIN (vers. 3, 4).
III. WAITING ON GOD (vers. 5-8).
I. THE CRY FROM THE DEPTHS.
1. The depths are the place for us all.
2. Unless you have cried to God out of these depths, you have never cried to Him at all. The beginning of all true personal religion lies in the sense of my own sin and my lost condition. If a man does not think much about sin, he does not think much about a Divine Saviour.
3. You want nothing more than a cry to get you out of the depths. There is no way for you up out of the pit but to cry to God, and that will bring a rope down. Nay, rather, the rope is there. Your grasping the rope and your cry are one. "Ask, and ye shall receive!" God has let down the fulness of His forgiving love in Jesus Christ our Lord, and all that we need is the call, which is likewise faith, which accepts while it desires, and desires in its acceptance; and then we are lifted up "out of the horrible pit and the miry clay," and our feet are set upon a rock, and our goings established.
II. A DARK FEAR AND A BRIGHT ASSURANCE. The man's prayer is, as it were, blown back into his throat by the thought, "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord t who shall stand?" And then — as if he would not be swept away from his confidence even by this great blast of cold air from out of the north, that comes like ice and threatens to chill his hope to death — "But," says he, "there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mightest be feared." So these two halves represent the struggle in the man's mind. They are like a sky, one half of which is piled with thunder-clouds, and the other serenely blue. It needs, first of all, that the heart should have tremblingly entertained the contrary hypothesis, in order that the heart should spring to the relief and the gladness of the counter truth. It must first have felt the shudder of the thought, "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities" in order to come to the gladness of the thought, "But there is forgiveness with Thee!" And that forgiveness lies at the root of all true godliness. No man reverences, and loves, and draws near to God so rapturously, so humbly, as the man that has learned pardon through Jesus Christ.
III. THE PERMANENT, PEACEFUL ATTITUDE OF THE SPIRIT THAT HAS TASTED THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF FORGIVING LOVE — A CONTINUAL DEPENDENCE UPON GOD, Like a man that has just recovered from some illness, but still leans upon the care, and feels his need of seeing the face of that skilful physician that has helped him through, there will be still, and always, the necessity for the continual application of that pardoning love. But they that have tasted that the Lord is gracious can sit very quietly at His feet and trust themselves to His kindly dealings, resting their souls upon His strong word, and looking for the fuller communication of light from Himself. "More than they that watch for the morning." That is beautiful! The consciousness of sin was the dark night. The coming of His forgiving love flushed all the eastern heaven with diffused brightness that grew into perfect day. And so the man waits quietly for the dawn, and his whole soul is one absorbing desire that God may dwell with him, and brighten and gladden him.
IV. THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE BECOMES GENERAL, AND AN EVANGEL, A CALL UPON THE MAN'S LIPS TO ALL HIS BRETHREN. "Let Israel hope in the Lord." There was no room for anything in his heart when he began this psalm except his own self in his misery, and that Great One high above him there. There is nothing which isolates a man so awfully as a consciousness of sin and of his relation to God. But there is nothing that so knits him to all his fellows, and brings him into such wide-reaching bonds of amity and benevolence, as the sense of God's forgiving mercy for his own soul. So the call bursts from the lips of the pardoned man, inviting all to taste the experience and exercise the trust which have made him glad: "Let Israel hope in the Lord." And then look at the broad Gospel that he has attained to know and to preach. "For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is redemption." Not only forgiveness, but redemption — and that from every form of sin. It is "plenteous" — multiplied. Our Lord has taught us to what a sum that Divine multiplication amounts. Net once, nor twice, but "seventy times seven" is the prescribed measure of human forgiveness, and shall men be more placable than God!
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
II. SOUL-CRYING. "As spices smell best," says Trapp, "when beaten, and as frankincense is most odoriferous when cast into the fire, so do men pray most and best out of the depths of trouble."
1. The cry of self-helplessness appealing to Omnipotence.
2. The cry of earnest entreaty.
III. SOUL-APPREHENSIONS (vers. 3, 4). Jehovah is strict to "mark," but slow to execute judgment. No sin escapes His eye: His entry against us is correct, but His mercy restrains hasty justice and holds back the due deserts of our iniquities.
IV. SOUL-WAITING (vers. 5, 6).
1. Patient hopefulness.
2. Eager expectation, begotten of strong faith.Waiting, hoping, expecting, never can be disappointed: through it the "cry" of distress becomes changed into the chorus of victory.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
I. DAVID'S DISTRESSING CONDITION (vers. 1, 2). Before God fills a soul, He empties it.
II. DAVID'S PENITENTIAL CONFESSION (ver. 3).
III. DAVID'S GROUND OF HOPE (ver. 4). We are told that when Darius heard that the Athenians had captured Sardis, he was indignant, and vowed vengeance on the city. He went out into the open air, and sending an arrow towards the heavens, he appealed to the god, Jove, and vowed that he would destroy the city, and at the same time commanded one of his servants to enter into his presence every noon, and cry, "Remember Sardis." Is it thus that God deals with us? No! He waits not to smite, but to heal; not to punish, but to pardon; not to ruin, but to regenerate. Consider —
2. The death of Christ.
3. God's acts. Manasseh, David, Saul of Tarsus, Zaccheus, Bunyan, all obtained forgiveness, and so may you.
IV. DAVID'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS GOD (vers. 5, 6). Seasons of spiritual depression, though painful, are profitable. They excite earnest desires, and prepare the mind for the reception of richer blessings.
V. DAVID'S ENCOURAGING EXHORTATION (ver. 7). Some tell us that a man must tumble into the Slough of Despond before he can become a rejoicing believer. David thought it better policy to try to prevent them falling into that slough. Despair paralyzes. Hope invigorates.
VI. THE ENCOURAGING PROMISE (ver. 8).
1. Sinner, are you in the depths? Looking on your past life, do you see little else but sin? Looking beyond the grave you see no light. No ray of hope lights up your impenetrable gloom. The stars shine brightest at night, and the promise of pardon beams with the brightest lustre when we are on the borders of despair. Hear it, and rejoice. "He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
2. Believer, do you pray for grace to destroy sin, and fill your heart with love? The blessing you desire shall be granted. This is no doubtful speculation, no untried theory. Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, have obtained pardon and purity through faith in Christ.
I. THE CRY (vers. 1, 2). He needs an entire renovation; only the Creator can bestow that. He needs absolution; only the Being offended can grant this. To Him, therefore, to Jehovah he addresses himself. He prays earnestly and perseveringly.
II. THE INDIRECT CONFESSION (vers. 3, 4). If Jehovah should take the matter in hand, no escape would be possible. For He is the all-seeing God, from whom nothing can be hid. Other standards are deflected and partial; this is uniform and steadfast. Its Author cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked. Who, then, shall stand when He rises up? The question answers itself. None; no, not one.
III. EXPRESSIONS OF LONGING AND HOPE. (vers. 5, 6). President Edwards, during a long sickness, observed that those watching with him often looked out for the morning eagerly. It reminded him of this psalm; and when the dawn came it seemed to him to be an image of the sweet light of God's glory. For such longing is not unsatisfied. They who have it experience the Beatitude, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Longings for earthly goods are often disappointed, but never the conviction which leads a man to say, "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."
IV. THE EXHORTATION (vers. 7, 8). Divine grace is not easily exhausted. There is enough and to spare. With Jehovah is the lovingkindness, shown in creation's fulness, the array of fruits and flowers, the song of birds, brilliant skies, all that pleases in air, earth, and sea, the countless blessings that come upon the just and the unjust. Nay, with Him is "abundant redemption," deliverance for the lost and undone. It is not a scant provision, but liberal. There is no end to its riches, no limit to its efficacy. It extends to all vices, crimes, and shortcomings of heart, speech, or behaviour — can make sins of scarlet as white as snow, such as are red like crimson to be as wool.
(T. W. Chambers, D. D.)
Expository Outlines.I. THE PRAYER.
1. The blessed Object to whom he repaired. He well knew that "vain is the help of man."
2. The earnest spirit which he manifested (vers. 1, 2). The repetition is very emphatic, and shows how extreme was his need, and how anxiously he implored the Divine Being to interpose on his behalf.
II. THE MUSINGS IN WHICH HE INDULGED (vers. 3, 4).
1. Solemn. "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities," etc. On such a supposition we must all perish, and that for ever.
2. Joyful. "But there is forgiveness with Thee," etc. This is evident from —
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) III. THE COURSE PURSUED (vers. 5, 6). His waiting was — 1. Sincere. "My soul doth wait." (1) (2) 2. Intelligent. "In His Word do I hope." 3. Ardent (ver. 6). (Expository Outlines.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) III. THE COURSE PURSUED (vers. 5, 6). His waiting was — 1. Sincere. "My soul doth wait." (1) (2) 2. Intelligent. "In His Word do I hope." 3. Ardent (ver. 6). (Expository Outlines.)
(3) (4) (5) (6) III. THE COURSE PURSUED (vers. 5, 6). His waiting was — 1. Sincere. "My soul doth wait." (1) (2) 2. Intelligent. "In His Word do I hope." 3. Ardent (ver. 6). (Expository Outlines.)
III. THE COURSE PURSUED (vers. 5, 6). His waiting was — 1. Sincere. "My soul doth wait." 2. Intelligent. "In His Word do I hope." 3. Ardent (ver. 6). (Expository Outlines.)
III. THE COURSE PURSUED (vers. 5, 6). His waiting was —
1. Sincere. "My soul doth wait."
2. Intelligent. "In His Word do I hope."
3. Ardent (ver. 6).
Homilist.This psalm is the outpouring of a broken heart, crushed because of sin.
I. THE SIMILE — "Out of the depths." A fitting image of intensity of grief. We cast about ordinarily in the shallows and level plains. We rise to the mountains to sing. Are they not nearer heaven? We sink to the depths to weep. The depths and cavities of the rocky Palestine were inaccessible and filled with noisomeness and pestilence. Thank God, life is not all depths. Thank God that even in the depths He can hear — from the gloom, the bewilderment, the despair. The depths indicate a fall. It is natural to get lower. It is not a natural place of resort. The depths also indicate carelessness. The circumspect will take heed to his ways. All sin leads to despair.
II. THE ACTION — "I cried." No word could more fitly express the soul's action when in the depths. It indicates —
1. Consciousness of danger. Some are engulphed and unconscious.
2. Absence of formality. There is no time for a well-ordered prayer. The circumstances are too tragic to permit of the consideration of grammar or propriety. Deliverance is life.
3. Sense of helplessness. The strong man can do nothing. At the same time there is a sense of hope. There is one thing which the most convicted sinner can do — he can cry.
III. THE HELPER — "To Thee, O Lord."
1. Here is some one at hand. He is able to hear.
2. Here is some one of ability. The depths are God's kingdom as well as the heights. He is a strong deliverer.
3. Here is one of willingness. He is ready to save, waiting to be gracious. Oh, it is good for a sinner to be in the "depths." He would not cry unless he felt their mortal woe.
I. THE CHILDREN OF GOD DO FALL INTO DEPTHS. In this plight we find David often, though a man after God's own heart (Psalm 6:2, 3; Psalm 88:2, etc.; 40:12; and Jonah, a prophet, Jonah 2:2, etc.; and Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:13; and Job especially, Job 6:4). But why is this thus, seeing our Head, Christ Jesus, hath suffered for us?
1. That we may know what Christ suffered for us by our own experience, without which we should but lightly esteem of our redemption, not knowing how to value Christ's sufferings sufficiently, which is a horrible sin (Hebrews 2:3).
2. By our sufferings we know what a bitter thing sin is.
3. By our afflictions and depths we manifest God's power and glory the more in our deliverance: for the greater the trouble is, the greater is the deliverance; as the greater the cure is, the greater credit the physician gets.
4. Many times, by less evils, it is God's manner to cure greater; and thus He suffers us to feel wrath, to cure us of security, which is as a grave to the soul; as also to cure spiritual pride, that robs us of grace (2 Corinthians 12:7).
5. These depths are left to us to make us more desirous of heaven; else great men, that are compassed about with earthly comforts, alas, with what zeal could they pray, "Thy kingdom come," etc.? No; with Peter they would rather say, "Master, it is good for us to be here" (Mark 9:5).
6. God works by these afflictions in us a more gentleness of spirit, making us meek and pitiful towards those that are in depths, which was one cause of Christ's afflictions: He suffered that He might help and comfort others. He suffered Peter to stumble, that, when he was converted, he should "strengthen his brethren" (Luke 22:32).
II. THOUGH CHRISTIANS FALL INTO DEPTHS, YET GOD UPHOLDS THEM THAT THEY SINK NOT DOWN INTO THEM WITHOUT RECOVERY.
1. For the Spirit of God is in them, and where it is it is stronger than hell, yea, though the grace be but as a grain of mustard seed.
2. As there are depths of misery in a Christian, so in God there are depths of love and of wisdom.
3. Faith, where it is, unites the soul to Christ, and to God through Him, and draws down Divine power — to lay hold on the almighty power of God by true and fervent prayer, — at whose rebuke the waters of affliction flee away (Psalm 77:16); and so the stronger the faith is, the stronger is the delivery, for it is of a mighty power, enabling us to wrestle with God, as Jacob did. Thus when we lay hold on God, and God on us, what can drown us?
4. It is the nature of God's working to be by contraries: in His works of creation, making all things of nothing; in His works of providence He saves by little means from greatest dangers.
III. AFFLICTIONS STIR UP DEVOTIONS.
1. Let us interpret God's dealings with a sanctified judgment. He is a wise physician, and knows when strong or gentle physic is most requisite. Sometimes God by great afflictions doth manifest great graces, but so as notwithstanding they may be mingled with a deal of corruption; and it is God's use that hereby His graces may be increased, and the corruption allayed, to bring down the greatest cedars, and to eclipse the greatest lights.
2. Let us oppose desperations by all means, by prayer, by crying; and if we cannot speak, by sighing; if not so, yet by gesture, especially at the time of death, for God knows the heart. For then it stands upon eternal comfort. And therefore let us do anything to show our faith fails not. We must know that every one shall meet with these enemies, that would cause us to despair if they could, for this life is a warring and striving life. We shall have enemies without and within us that will fight against us.
IV. OBSERVE BY THE EXAMPLE OF THIS HOLY MAN THAT PRAYERS ARE TO BE MADE ONLY TO GOD, who knows our wants, supports us and binds us up; and it is only Christ that doth this. None can love us more than He that gave Himself for us. He is our eye whereby we see, our mouth whereby we speak, our arms whereby we lay hold on God; and therefore it is an intolerable unthankfulness to leave this "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness, and to dig to ourselves cisterns that will hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13).
( Sibbes, Richard.)
1. By the deep places is meant the deep places of afflictions, and the deep places of the heart troubled for sin. Afflictions are compared go deep waters (Psalm 18:17; Psalm 69:1). And surely God's children are often cast into very desperate cases, and plunged into deep miseries. To the end they may send out of a contrite and feeling heart such prayers as may mount aloft and pierce the heavens. Those that are furthest cast down are not furthest from God, but nearest unto Him. God is near to a contrite heart, and it is the proper seat where His Spirit dwelleth (Isaiah 66:2). And thus God dealeth with us, as men do with such houses that they are minded to build sumptuously and on high, for then they dig deep grounds for the foundation. Mark hereby the dulness of our nature, that is such, that God is forced to use sharp remedies to awaken us. When, therefore, we are troubled either by heavy sickness, or poverty, or oppressed by the tyranny of men, let us make profit and use thereof, considering that God hath cast His best children in such dangers for their profit; and that it is better to be in deep dangers praying, than on the high mountains of vanity playing.
2. By the deep places may be understood also a heart deeply wounded with the considerations of sin and God's justice, for God will not accept such superficial and scurvy prayers, which come only from the lips, and not from a contrite and broken heart. Let not men think to find mines of gold or silver in the streets; no, they must dig into the bowels of the earth for them. So, let us not deceive ourselves thinking God's favour may be gotten everywhere, for in the deep places it is to be found.
If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
I. First, we have A CONFESSION, — a confession which it will be well for every one of us to make (ver. 3).
1. The psalmist may have felt that, if a human witness had been appointed to mark his sin, he might have been able to stand; but he says, "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, who shall stand?" You have sometimes had a white pocket handkerchief, and you have admired its whiteness; but when the snow has fallen, and you have laid your handkerchief upon the newly-fallen snow, it has looked quite yellow instead of white; and so is it with the holiest life when it is placed by the side of the life of Christ, or looked at in the light of the perfect law of God; then we see how stained and defiled it really is. So, Lord, we might stand up before our fellow-men, and plead "Not guilty," when they belie and slander us, as they do; but, before Thy holy presence, "if Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?"
2. The psalmist also speaks of a special form of guilt. He does not say, "If Thou shouldest mark open and overt transgression, — the breaking out of bounds, and going astray in the paths of evil"; but he says, "If Thou shouldest mark iniquities." Pull that word to pieces, and it becomes in-equities" — whatever is not right in the sight of God. If He were to mark those in-equities, who could stand before Him? Not one of us could do so.
3. Notice, next, how the psalmist inquires, "Who shall stand?" If there were any way of getting into heaven by a back door, or of hiding our sins from God's eye, we might have some ground of hope; but there will come a day when we shall stand before God like prisoners at the bar. David, who probably wrote this psalm, had known many good men in his time, and he was accustomed to associate with the excellent of the earth; yet he says, "O Lord, who shall stand?" And I may repeat his question now, since God has marked our iniquities, "Who among us can stand in His sight upon the footing of our own good works?" Echo answers, "Who?"
II. THE PSALMIST'S CONFIDENCE (ver. 4).
1. We know that there is forgiveness with God, because we have been informed by revelation concerning the character of God; and we find one prominent feature in the character of God is that "lie delighteth in mercy."
2. Moreover, this impression, conveyed to us by the general tenor of the Scriptures, is deepened by the direct teaching of the Gospel. Why did Jesus come into the world to be a Saviour if God does not delight to save the lost? Why did He offer an atonement if it were not that sin might be put away by that atonement?
3. Further, we are assured that God will forgive sin because we have so many definite promises to that effect. This blessed Book is as full of promises and proclamations of mercy as an egg is full of meat. It abounds in messages of love and grace; it tells us that God willeth not the death of the sinner, that He delighteth not in judgment, for that is His left-handed work, but that His compassion freely moves towards the blackest and vilest of sinners when they repent, and return unto Him.
III. THE CONSEQUENCE OF FORGIVENESS. "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." Thus, you see, the doctrine of free forgiveness actually produces in man's mind a fear of God. You might have thought the psalmist would have said, "There is no forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared"; but it is not so.
1. The opposite of our text is very manifest. When there is no forgiveness, or when a man thinks there is none, what is the consequence? He is driven to despair, and despair often leads to desperate living. If there is no hope of forgiveness, then there is no proper fear of God.
2. Many are abiding in a state of carelessness, because they really do not know whether there is any pardon to be had. When a man is in doubt as to whether he can be forgiven, he says, "I am afraid it would be a very long process, and I do not know whether I should get it even then. Perhaps, however, there is no pardon to be had, so I might become a religious man, and yet miss the forgiveness of sins." That is the thought of many, and therefore they become torpid and lethargic, careless and indifferent; but when the Holy Spirit teaches a man that there is forgiveness to be had, he would leap out of his very body rather than miss it.
3. How encouraging, too, is the belief that there is pardon to be had! But, more, how sanctifying is the actual reception of it! Walk carefully, prayerfully, humbly before God and men, putting your trust, not in yourselves, but in Christ alone, and you shall then find, in your experience, the best exposition of the text, "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared"; for you will prove, by your own fear of God, which is continually before your own eyes, that His free, rich, sovereign grace, manifested in your pardon, did not produce in you indulgence in sin, but gave you the sweet liberty of walking in holiness, and in the fear of the Lord.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. EXPLAIN THE MEANING OF THE ASSERTION. If Thou, Lord, shouldst execute the decrees of justice, and punish everything that is done amiss, the holiest man on earth would not be able to abide the trial; how much less would such a sinner as I be able to stand?
II. CONFIRM THIS TRUTH FROM SCRIPTURE AND EXPERIENCE.
1. It is the constant doctrine of the Holy Scriptures; it is the uniform language of humility and penitence there (Psalm 143:2; Job 9:2-4; Job 40:4, 5; Job 42:5, 6; Psalm 19:12; Lamentations 3:22, 23).
2. I shall propose three general subjects of examination.(1) Hew many duties have you omitted which you must be sensible you ought to have performed?(2) How often have you been guilty of express transgressions of the law of God?(3) How many blemishes and imperfections cleave to those very duties which you endeavour to perform in obedience to his will?
III. PRACTICAL APPLICATION.
1. How great is the deceitfulness of sin! How astonishing the blindness of sinners!
2. If the holiest cannot stand before God, if no flesh living can be justified in His sight, how fearful must be the state of those who are lying under the guilt of atrocious, aggravated, and repeated crimes!
3. If any Christian desires to keep his ten-science tender and faithful, to have a deep, growing and humbling sense of his own sinfulness; if he would bar the gate against the entrance of pride, or banish it after it has obtained admission; if he desires to walk humbly and watchfully, let him live as in the presence of God, let him often sift himself at His awful tribunal.
(J. Witherspoon, D. D.)
But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.I. WE ARE INDEBTED TO REVELATION ALONE FOR THE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS FACT, THAT THERE IS FORGIVENESS WITH GOD.
1. The heathen, who have no revelation, and deists, who have rejected revelation, could not form any proper idea on this subject. The only other grounds of knowledge are reason, and the light of nature; but neither can these guide us to the fact which is here stated. We could not infer, from God's essential goodness, or from the works of nature, that He would forgive sin at all. It does not necessarily depend on His existence, or on His goodness. It must depend entirely on an act of His will; — but whether He will, who can tell?
2. If we could prove from the light of nature that God would forgive sin, it is still evident that we could infer nothing as to the persons to be forgiven — the extent to which the blessing was to reach. An universal act of indemnity — free forgiveness of all sin, could never have entered into the minds of men. No; this would be regarded as a licence to sin. No; some sins only will be forgiven; some persons only will be pardoned; — but which, and who? Who can possibly tell?
3. As to the way in which forgiveness is to be obtained, we could learn nothing by the light of nature. Men have not been satisfied with repenting; they have looked out for sacrifices — for an atonement. Whence came pilgrimages, penances, mortifications, sacrifices? All these things show that men were convinced that something more than repentance was needed. So that it is clear we are indebted entirely to revelation for the knowledge of the way of forgiveness of sins. This way is by the satisfaction made by Christ, and received by the Father.
II. IN THE FORGIVENESS THUS PROMISED, AND FLOWING TO US THROUGH THIS CHANNEL, PECULIAR CHARACTERS ARE MARKED DOWN, WHICH ARE ALMOST AS ASTONISHING AS THE FACT ITSELF.
1. It comes to all persons, and reaches to all crimes, with only one exception. That exception is "the sin against the Holy Ghost."
2. This forgiveness takes place at the time of repenting and believing. The Gospel puts the blessing of forgiveness in the present tense: — "Thy sins are forgiven thee"; — "Thy faith hath made thee whole"; — "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins."
3. This forgiveness is invariably followed by the special fruits of the Divine favour. It is not barren and unproductive. If God pardon us, it is that we may come nigh unto Him — that we may hear His fatherly voice — that we may become the depositaries of His grace and the objects of His love.
4. This forgiveness is renewed and perpetuated.
I. It is not an act that TAKES PLACE OUTSIDE OF THE OFFENDER. When a human father forgives his offending child, or a human sovereign his offending subject, it is an outward act. But Divine forgiveness is an inner change, it is a moral revolution; the soul breaking away from its past — its past masters, purposes, and life.
II. It is not an act PROMPTED BY ENTREATIES. A father forgives his offending child because of the child's importunate appeals, and the king his rebels for the same reason. But Divine forgiveness is uninfluenced. He is essentially a forgiving God, and no entreaties need alter His purposes of mercy.
III. It is not an act EXERCISED WITH LIMITATION. In human forgiveness there is a limitation to persons, only a few of the offenders are selected for the favour. Limited also to time. He who has been forgiven more than once is not likely to receive such a favour again, and his chances decrease with every repetition of the offence. But in Divine forgiveness there is no limitation. "Abundantly pardon." "Seventy times seven."
IV. It is not an act of EXCITED SYMPATHY RATHER THAN PLAN. The forgiving act of man is generally excited by commiseration for the offender, it is not the plan of his life, it is an occasional act. But Divine forgiveness is a plan settled, eternal, immutable. His forgiveness delivers men not only from the consequences of sins, but from the sins themselves. "He sent His Son to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
(David Thomas, D. D.)
I. GIVE A BRIEF VIEW OF THE DISCOVERIES WHICH GOD HATH MADE OF HIS MERCY, AS THE FOUNDATION OF THE SINNER'S HOPE; or, in other words, show what reason we have to believe that there is forgiveness with Him.
1. The patience and forbearance of God towards sinners, in the course of His providence, is the effect of His mercy. Even this affords some faint hope that there may be forgiveness with Him (Jonah 4:2). We may add to this His continual benignity and kindness to all His creatures, not excepting the evil, the unthankful, and the unholy. The native tendency of both these is to lead the guilty to repentance, as we are told (Romans 2:4).
2. God hath revealed Himself in His Word, as merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and slow to anger (Exodus 34:5-7; Psalm 103:8; Micah 7:18; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 55:1, 6, 7; Malachi 3:17).
3. But that nothing may be wanting for the complete illustration of this truth, observe that it appears in the clearest manner from the Gospel of Christ that there is forgiveness with God (John 3:16; 1 Peter 1:18; Hebrews 6:18).
II. POINT OUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MERCY OF GOD AND HIS FEAR.
1. A discovery of the mercy of God is absolutely necessary to His being loved and served by those who have once been sinners. There can be no religion at all, either in inclination or performance, if there be no forgiveness with God. How should any so much as attempt what they believe to be an unprofitable labour?
2. As a discovery of the mercy of God is absolutely necessary to our serving Him at all, so it is perhaps of all others the most powerful motive to induce us to serve Him in sincerity. Nothing whatever more illustrates the Divine glory. It presents Him as the proper object of worship, of confidence, and of love.
3. But, further, even taking fear in a more limited sense, as signifying a holy reverence and dread of the power and majesty of God, there being forgiveness with Him, is so far from weakening, that it strengthens this fear; and that on the two following accounts.(1) The infinite obligations we lie under to Divine mercy must serve to improve our sense of the evil of sin, as committed against so good and so gracious a God, and to increase our abhorrence of it.(2) Forgiveness with God tends to increase our fear and reverence of Him, from the manner in which, and the condition on which, it is bestowed. Every circumstance of this dispensation of Divine mercy is calculated to abase the sinner, and leave him nothing whereof to glory before God.
III. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. Learn that none can understand, embrace, or esteem the mercy of God, but those who are convinced of their sin and misery.
2. Observe that the publication of Divine mercy, that the illustration of the riches of Divine graze in the Gospel, hath not the least tendency to lessen our sense of the evil of sin, or the obligation we lie under to obedience: on the contrary, it serves greatly to improve both the one and the other.
3. See the difference between a real and Scriptural discovery of forgiveness with God, and that careless security which arises from a presumptuous reliance on His general mercy. The one prevents conviction, the other produces it.
4. See of how much moment it is to the Christian to keep clear views of the mercy of God, as well as of His own interest in it. The moment he loses the comfortable sense of peace with God, his chariot-wheels are troubled, and he drives heavily. It makes his duty burdensome, and his trials insupportable.
5. See in what way you may most effectually, and most certainly, preserve your peace with God, viz. by the frequent exercise of penitence and confession.
(J. Witherspoon, D. D.)
I. A DECLARATION OF MERCY.
1. It proceeds from the free, spontaneous motion of God's good pleasure.
2. The sins and offences that are the subject-matter of it.(1) Their number is numberless.(2) Their magnitude. We have them painted out to us in their colours (Isaiah 1:18), with a crimson tincture, and a scarlet dye: with a redness and a blushing; sin thus wearing the colour of shame. Yet in the same verso we have forgiveness changing their hue to the whiteness of snow and the innocence of wool.
3. The persons on whom this pardon is conferred, who are men; that is, very worthless and inconsiderable creatures, in comparison of those to whom the same pardon is denied.
II. THE END OF SUCH A DECLARATION, WHICH IS FEAR AND OBEDIENCE. "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared."
1. What this fear is. There are three sorts of fear: an anxious, distracting, amazing fear; a slavish and servile fear; and a filial, reverential fear. Now, there is this difference between these three sorts of fear; that the first is properly the fear of a malefactor, the second of a slave, and this last of a son; which is that alone that is designed in these words: and indeed there is good reason that God should require it, since He intends to turn His servants into sons. And is it not equal to require a son's affection where He resolves to bestow a son's inheritance? Besides, this affection is of all others the most sedulous, diligent, and serviceable, and therefore there is a more than ordinary significance in those words (Malachi 3:17).
2. How God's forgiveness may be an argument to enforce this fear.(1) Because the neglect of the fear of God, upon supposal that He has forgiven us our sins, is highly disingenuous.(2) Because the neglect of God's fear upon the account of His forgiveness, besides the disingenuity of it, is also most provoking and dangerous.
1. The different nature of Christ's spiritual kingdom from all other kingdoms in the world; and that not only in respect of the external administration of it, that it is not bolstered up with pomp and show, and other little assistances of grandeur and secular artifice; but chiefly in respect of that which is the main instrument and hinge of government and subjection, the fear of the subject.
2. Upon what ground every man is to build the persuasion of the pardon of his sins. It is the temper of most persons to be more busy about their assurance than their obedience; and to be confident of their reward, while they should be solicitous about their duty.
(R. South, D. D.)
I. My first head is taken from the first word of the text: "But." Here is h WHISPER OF HOPE. "if Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But" — Oh, the sweet music of that little word! It seems to come in when the terrible drum of alarm is being beaten, and the dreadful clarion of judgment is sounding forth. There is a pause with this word, "But there is forgiveness." It is a soft and gentle whisper from the lips of love.
1. This comes into the soul after a full confession of sin. When thou hast knelt down before God, and acknowledged thy transgressions and thy shortcomings, and thy heart is heavy, and thy soul is ready to burst with inward anguish, then mayest thou hear this gracious word, "But there is forgiveness."
2. This whisper of hope sometimes comes to the soul by the Spirit of God as the result of observation. David, Manasseh, Saul of Tarsus, have been pardoned; why not I?
3. This whisper comes also in opposition to the voice of despair, for despair says to a soul under a sense of sin, "There is no mercy for you; you have sinned beyond all limits, your death-warrant is signed, the verdict has been given against you, there remains nothing for you but everlasting warnings." Nay, soul, God's Word against thy word any day! God's Word says, "There is forgiveness."
4. This whisper of hope is an answer even to the law of God. There is another mountain besides Sinai — Zion; there is another lawgiver besides Moses — Jesus.
II. AN ASSURANCE OF THE WORD OF GOD. "There is forgiveness."
1. Turn to the Old Testament, end you will see that it reveals sacrifice, — lambs and bullocks, and goats. What did they all mean? They meant that there was a way of pardon through the shedding of blood; they taught men this, that God would accept of certain sacrifices on their behalf. Then turn to the New Testament, and there you will see it revealed more clearly still that God has accepted a sacrifice, the sacrifice which He Himself gave, for "He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all."
2. Notice the broad indefiniteness of the text. "There is forgiveness." Where God draws no limit, do not you draw any. If God sets the door wide open, and says, "There is forgiveness," then come along, you sinners, whoever you may be, from gaols and penitentiaries, come along from your Pharisaic places of boasting and self-righteousness, come along with you, for there is forgiveness even for you. Ye rich, ye poor, ye learned, ye ignorant, ye that know nothing, know at least this, "There is forgiveness."
3. Notice, too, the immediate presentness of the text. Our version has it, "There is forgiveness," but there is not even the verb in the Hebrew. The translators put in the words, "There is," so we are to read it, "There was forgiveness"; "There is forgiveness"; "There will be forgiveness as long as life lasts." But I like it as it stands here. "There is forgiveness" to-night; "there is forgiveness" now; "there is forgiveness" where thou sittest, just as thou art, just now.
III. A DIRECTION OF WISDOM: "There is forgiveness with Thee." "With Thee."
1. Hearest thou this, dear heart? Thou art shrinking from thy God; thou art anxious to run away from Him; that is where the forgiveness is, with God. Where the offence went, from that very place the forgiveness comes.
2. God .has it in His immediate gift — waiting for thee.
3. And if it be with God, then there is a way for thee to get to it, for there is One come who stands between thee and God. There is a Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; but you do not need a mediator between Christ and yourself, you can come to Him just as you are.
IV. A DESIGN OF LOVE. "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." Do you not see how it is that men fear the Lord because He forgives their sins?
1. It must be so, because, first, if He did not forgive their sins, there would be nobody left to fear Him, for they would all die. If He were to deal with men after their sins, He must sweep the whole race of mankind off the face of the earth; but there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared.
2. Next, if it were certain that God did not pardon sin, everybody would despair, and so again there would be nobody to fear Him, for a despairing heart grows hard like the nether millstone. Because they have no hope, men go on to sin worse and worse; but there is forgiveness with God that He may be feared. A man who has been forgiven is afraid that he should go and sin again after such love and such mercy. He is melted down by the goodness of the Lord, he does not know what to make of it. For a time he can hardly believe that it is true. Look! it is a singular way to come to fear God; but believe that you are forgiven, prize your forgiveness, know that your sins are blotted out, cling to the Cross, and so all that sweet fear of God, by which is meant the whole of piety, will abound in your soul.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. ONLY GOD CAN RELEASE A GUILTY CONSCIENCE; only He can speak peace to a soul in distress. This ought to comfort us, that we have to do with a forgiving God (Nehemiah 9:31). There is none like to Him, to whom it is natural to remit and forgive sin. It is His name (Exodus 34:6): "Forgiving iniquities, transgressions, and sins," all manner of sins; sins against knowledge and against conscience; with Him is plentiful forgiveness.
II. AS GOD ONLY FORGIVES SIN, SO HE EVER FORGIVES SIN. It is always His nature, as the fire always burns; as He is Jehovah, He is merciful. Christ is "the Lamb of God," that doth take away the sins of the world. It is a perpetual act; as we say the sun doth shine, the spring doth run. He is (Zechariah 13:1), that "fountain that is opened for sin and uncleanness." Mercy is His nature, and forgiveness is an effect of His mercy.
III. GOD'S MERCY IS FREE, AND FROM HIMSELF. Though in us is sin and iniquity, yet in Thee is mercy; and therefore God saith (Ezekiel 36:22). Yet must not this be understood so as if it were freely and only from God the Father, excluding Christ. But therefore it is, in that we shall stand in need of no satisfactory merits of our own.
IV. THE BEST CHRISTIAN AND MOST GRACIOUS MAN ALIVE NEEDS FORGIVENESS OF HIS SINS; for where the conscience is enlightened it will discover what corruption it finds, and so the necessity of being delivered. We must daily pray, "Forgive us our sins," yea, the best of the disciples must do it. If we come not with this petition, "our sins are written with a pen of iron, and with the claw of an adamant" (Job 19:24).
V. THIS MERCY AND FORGIVENESS IS GENERAL TO ALL THAT CAST THEMSELVES ON HIS FREE MERCY. It is Satan's subtility to persuade us at the first that sin is nothing; but when it is committed, and cannot be recalled, then he tells us it is greater than can be pardoned. No; the Gospel is the power of God to salvation to all that do believe. Let none despair. It is a greater sin than the former. He pardons all persons: Manasses the sorcerer, Cornelius, Zaecheus, persecuting Paul. The parable of the lost sheep, the lost groat, the prodigal son, testifies it. God offers it freely, "Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Jeremiah 27:13). He complains when it is neglected: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered you together!" (Matthew 23:37). "He threatens" because men will not hear, and "He pardons all sins." There is no disease above the skill of this Physician. He healeth all thy sins and all thy infirmities (Psalm 103:1-3).
( Sibbes, Richard.)
I. THERE MUST BE SOMETHING PECULIAR ABOUT GOD'S FORGIVENESS THAT IT LEADS TO FEAR. Had my text in connection with God introduced scenes of terror — the great white throne; the books of judgment; the falling heavens; the dying sun; the departing earth; the pit; the smoke of torment; the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched — all hearts would have responded like an echo to the text, and this question had trembled on our lips, "Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy." But this is not the way. And how is it, that while the parents who constantly forgive are not feared, God, with whom is forgiveness, is? Why is it that forgiveness does not in His ease, as in theirs, breed insolent presumption?
II. LET ME EXPLAIN THOSE PECULIAR CHARACTERS IN THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD WHICH BREED FEAR, NOT PRESUMPTION, IN THE FORGIVEN.
1. The manner of the forgiveness sets forth the holiness of God and the evils of sin in the strongest light. Turn to the Cross of Calvary, to that august and awful spectacle on which angels, suspending their songs, are gazing in silent wonder. By that bloody tree, under that frowning sky, the earth trembling beneath our feet and the sun darkened above our heads, does sin seem a light and little thing?
2. The manner of forgiveness sets forth not only God's hatred of sin, but His love to sinners in the strongest light. It is hard be say whether it most illustrates His hatred of our sins or His love of ourselves. It, costs man nothing to forgive, but it cost God His Son. I cannot fathom, and I dare not fancy the feelings of the eternal Father, when He saw the Son whom He loved with infinite affection spit upon, scourged, reviled, bleeding, dying on the accursed tree. But how must He have loved you for whom He gave a Son so loved! And how will the love this breeds in you make you fear to dishonour or displease One who has so loved you — securing your forgiveness on such an immovable foundation and at so great a price.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
1. The text is true to human nature because, in all strong characters, whether high or low, despair that is blank and absolute does not excite fear, but stuns and paralyzes it. In Scott's tale, the desperado dies believing nothing, hoping nothing, and also fearing nothing. Religious despair is reckless. "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared;" for while man utterly hopeless can attain to a gigantic and almost sublime defiance, yet brave men who set their teeth to die, and would have perished with indomitable valour, have wept like children when the unhoped-for deliverance came. So that fear is, after all, the dusky shadow of hope, lengthening, no doubt, like other shadows, as the sun withdraws, but vanishing, like them, when the darkness is complete.
2. The text has also much to tell us about the nature of the forgiveness of God. So far is the forgiveness of God from any carelessness about the moral law, that He once proclaimed Himself, in the same sentence, as forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and yet by no means clearing the guilty. And again, "Thou, Lord, art merciful, for Thou rewardest every man according to his work." For, indeed, no act was ever done which left the doer exactly as it found him. Just as the Church can never in this life return to Eden and its fruit-groves, though her pilgrimage in the desert may lead her to the splendours of the New Jerusalem; so it is with each individual soul. The mercy of God may bring us to a better place than that which we relinquish, but to the place we forfeit we never may return again. And yet, O unhappy man, it is because there is forgiveness with God, and because He does not cease to care for your sinful soul, that He thus disquiets you. Go down upon your knees, and thank Him that He lets no soul shrivel and dry up without strong pains; thank Him for this noble misery, which forbids you to grow base tamely, which makes it the true penalty of being knavish, not that other men suspect you to be a knave, but that, deep within, the clear, strong voice of your own conscience calls you so. "Thou, Lord, art merciful, for Thou rewardest every man according to his work." For now observe that the corrosive pains of remorse are capable of being transformed into the humbling, but sweet and infinitely wholesome sorrows of penitence and restoration.
(C. A. Chadwick, D. D.)
I wait for the Lord.I. WAITING.
1. This is the constant posture of all the saints of God. Fancy not that in heaven they have no emotion but that of joy; we know that all their emotions are joyous, but among them is this one, — that they, too, are waiting until the Lord shall again manifest Himself, for, in the day of His appearing, those disembodied spirits shall put on their resurrection bodies.
2. The children of God, on earth, are frequently in the posture of waiting as individuals. Do you not wait to be able to serve God better? Are not some of you waiting to have your tongues unloosed, — waiting to have your hearts enlarged, — waiting for better opportunities of doing God's work, or for more grace to use the opportunities you have, — and waiting for the Divine seal upon the efforts which you have put forth? I know that is so; and if we could get all that, we should still be waiting, — waiting to see all our families saved, — waiting to see all our neighbours saved.
3. It is a very blessed posture, for waiting tries faith, and that is a good thing, because faith grows by trial. Waiting exercises patience, and that is also a good thing, for patience is one of the choice gifts of God. Waling endears every blessing when it comes; and thus we get two joys, — the joy of waiting for the joy, as well as the joy of enjoying the joy when it comes.
1. Hope is the reason for waiting.
2. Hope is the strength of waiting.
3. Hope is the sweetener of waiting. But make sure that your hope is a good hope, that it is a well-founded hope, that it is a happy hope, that it is a hope that "maketh not ashamed," that it is a hope that fixes itself on Christ alone; for if you have not that hope, you will not wait; and if you do not wait, you will not receive. It is the waiting soul that gets the blessing.
III. WATCHING. He that waits, and he that hopes, learns to watch. First notice the figure here used, and then observe that the figure is exceeded: "My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning."
1. First, what is the figure here used? With steady and weary tramp, the watchman has gone from one tower to another speaking to his brother sentinel as he has met him, keeping to his beat all through the dreary, cold, rainy, windy night; and he says to himself, "I wish it were morning." As he exchanges the watchword with his companion, he says, "I wish it were morning. My eyelids are heavy; my head begins to ache with this constant watching for the enemy; I wish it were morning." Have you never been in that posture?
2. But the figure is exceeded by the fact, for the text says, "My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning." We have been watching longer than they who guard the city towers. The sentinel has only a few hours' night-watch; but some of us have been watching for these thirty years, some of you for these fifty years; ah, some of you for sixty years! I do not wonder that you have a stronger desire for the morning than they have wire have only watched for one night. Besides, you expect so much more than they do, for when the day comes, what does it bring to them? A little ease for the sentinel, a little rest for the nurse; but they will have to go back to the nursing or the watching as soon as the shades of night return. You and I are waiting for a daylight that will bring us endless rest and perfect joy; well may we watch more than they that watch for the morning, for theirs is but the morning of a day, but ours is the morning of an eternity which shall know no end. They do but watch for the sun with his passing beams; we watch for the Sun of Righteousness whose glory makes heaven itself. Well may we grow eager when we think of what is yet to be revealed in us. Well may our hunger increase as we think of the sweets that are reserved for us.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. TRUE DEPENDENCE IS RESTFUL IN GOD. There are two beings hers — God and the soul. If I am to depend upon God, I must look within upon my own life and see whether I so live that I can fairly lean on the great Father and depend upon Him. It is here that the beautiful question of a child's relationship to the Father comes in. May a wicked man say, "I depend upon God; He will bring all things right"? Look at this matter fairly. Is our dependence such as ought to characterize one who seeks the help and favour of God? Are our objects His objects? Are our aims His aims? Is the life we are living only an edifice to worldly ambition, or is it a temple fitted for the skies? I am to wait for the Lord. But while I am waiting, what am I? Is it the dependence of a child, seeking to do God's will; looking thoughtfully around to know how the life may glorify Him? It is waiting that is so difficult. But in our hours of waiting, painful as I deem them to be, God comes very near to us. We pray more at such times. I think that these long trials make the hungry eyes look longingly over the sea to earth sight of the sails of the vessel in which God's angels are coming! I think the long night makes us hopeful for the dawn of the day. I think that whilst we wait, we learn more of that purifying consciousness of dependence that slays our pride, and feeds our humility. There is much that is disciplinary in this, "I wait for the Lord."
II. TRUE DEPENDENCE IS WATCHFUL. In this world, when we are dependent upon anything, we always get ready. If houses of business think there is to be a spring trade in something that appertains to artistic beauty or modes of dress, and men are dependent upon this for revival of trade, they watch for every sign of plenty. They can do nothing until the "wave" comes. But the "wave" would be no use to them if they had not stocked their warehouses. "My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning." You like to be watched for. You like the little children in the summer-time to say, "Father is coming." The fisherman likes to see his wife and daughter on that old pier watching for him. God likes us to watch for Him.
III. TRUE DEPENDENCE IS HOPEFUL. "In His Word do I hope;" for "God is not a man that He should lie, or the Son of man that He should repent." And in that Word the true believer does hope continually. It is not the testimony of the past only, it is the experience of the children of God to-day, that the promises — and they are greater in number than the stars — all the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea and amen.
IV. TRUE DEPENDENCE IS COMPLETE. "He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities." I like to follow that thought out, and to feel that quiet dependence upon God is personal in regard to one's own life of sin and transgression. I like to follow it out in regard to one's family life, and to feel how God will work if we only trust Him.
(W. M. Statham.)
I. THE OBJECT OF THE CHRISTIAN'S WAITING. He waits for the development of God's purposes, for the accomplishment of God's will, for the coming of the Lord to his soul, in all the fulness of His grace to scatter the clouds of ignorance, be overpower the strength of temptation, to silence the upbraidings of conscience, to purge his soul of corruption, to confirm his faith and holy resolutions, and so to deliver him from the dangers of sin, the sharp pang of sorrow, and the misgivings of unbelief.
II. THE SPIRIT OF THE CHRISTIAN'S WAITING.
1. Patience. To wait for the Lord is to rest in Him, to abide in Him.
2. But this patience is not a mere passive submission, as the slave bows his head under the yoke he cannot throw off. All the active qualities of the Christian life are associated with that waiting for the Lord, which the spirit of patience invests with peace.
3. While he waits for the Lord, he does so with an earnest expectation and desire.
4. With loins girt and lamps burning.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT BY WHICH THE SPIRIT OF WAITING IS SUSTAINED. The faith of man is built upon the faithfulness of God. There is a promise for every need, and certainty in every promise.
(A. J. Macleane, M. A.)
I. BY WHOM CAN THIS LANGUAGE BE APPROPRIATED?
1. By the penitent.
2. By the backslider.
3. By the afflicted Christian.
4. By the Christian about to die. As the long absent child, arrived at the door of his father's house, pants for admittance there, so does the soul of the believer, on the threshold of eternity, wait for its God.
II. ON WHAT GROUND MAY THE LANGUAGE OF THE TEXT BE APPROPRIATED WITH CONFIDENT EXPECTATION.
1. "The Word of the Lord," it should never be forgotten, "is a tried Word." It has cheered the gloomy, and strengthened the feeble, and animated the dying.
2. The extent of a Christian's privileges no mind can embrace. Take him at his worst state, in the difficulties of his first approach to God; in subsequent darkness; or in death; having still an interest in the promises of God, he claims an inheritance which monarchs might envy, and which angels delight to share.
(O. A. Jeary.)
not all the fulness of His blessing at once. Though He may give taste of pardon of sin in present, yet not presently deliverance out of danger (Proverbs 4:18). There is no day that is perfected in an instant; and the reasons hereof may be —
1. To force us be search our souls, whether we be fit for blessing; whether we be thoroughly humbled, and have thoroughly repented or not. Thus dealt he with Jonas, and thus with the children of Israel for Achan's cause.
2. It may be a means to stir us up to more earnestness in seeking: to make us like the woman of Canaan, more earnest the more she was repelled.
3. He gives us occasion of waiting, to show the truth and soundness of His graces in us; otherwise should we have no means to try how the grace in us would serve us in time of need.
4. Hereby God doth endear those favours that we want, that it may come the more welcome to us, and we be the more thankful for it. Thus God dealt with this holy man; and thus doth He with His Church. For while we live here we are always children of hope; not miserable, because we have a sweet taste of what we hope for, and not perfectly happy, because we want fulness. Before Christ, they hoped for His coming in the flesh; since Christ, we look for His "second coming in glory"; in grace we look for glory; and when our souls are in glory, they look for the redemption of the bodies, and for the day of restoring of all things.
5. This should whet in us our desires and prayers for our heavenly estate; and not make our heaven here on earth, but desire earnestly the full harvest, by considering how excellent the first-fruits of glory in this life are; and with the creature (Romans 8:19), "wait, and expect, and long, and groan for the time of the dissolution of all things"; and make this a note to discern of our estate; for it is a certain infallible token of a good frame of spirit in us, if we can long for that better life in the fulness that we have here; that we can desire to be with Christ. Furthermore, note this as a difference between the estates of the wicked and the godly. The wicked must look for worse and worse continually. His best is here, and while he hath this world; but the godly, their worst is here, their best is to come.
( Sibbes, Richard.)
More than they that watch for the morning.I. THIS WORLD IS A NIGHT, The morning presupposes the night, and this world most properly is compared to a long winter's night which is very uncomfortable. The night also is cold, wanting the sun which warmeth the earth; so is the world a shadow of death, a dark dungeon.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE WATCHMEN. Every particular Christian ought to be a watchman; for he hath enemies both spiritual and corporal, continually assaulting him, to destroy both his soul and his body, for which cause our Saviour often exhorted his hearers to watch and pray, and by nature we fall asleep, as the apostles did in the garden, and Jonas in the ship. Therefore it is good we should be careful to watch over our ways. The watch looks to the enemy without, but we have more need to watch over our domestic and inward enemies, lest they surprise us, even our lusts and concupiscences, our pride, our avarice, our malice, all which are like to overthrow our soul. Let us, therefore, watch, lest we be surprised.
III. COMFORT AND LIGHT MUST COME FROM ABOVE. The watchman waiteth for the day, and he is very glad when he seeth it break, for then he knoweth the sun is rising upon the earth, which will enlighten all the world. No comfort is to be found on earth for a Christian soul in this dark night; we must look to the day dawning, when Christ in that day of His glorious appearing shall come to deliver His Church from all miseries: which all Christians should earnestly attend, and fervently pray with the spouse, Come, Lord Jesus. The watchman looketh about to see the sun spread out his beams; he knoweth that light doth not come from below. We should turn our eyes from the world, because here is no comfort, and look unto Christ Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, from whom only we may expect a comfortable deliverance out of all our miseries.
IV. THE LIGHT COMETH IN THE MORNING. Before break of day is greatest darkness, and then the sun ariseth, and by his beams expelleth the same; the light cometh not till the morning. The apostles rowed all night, till they were become weary, and out of all hope, and then Christ came in the fourth watch and relieved them, being then in a most desperate ease. So the Lord, although he tarrieth to let us see our own weakness, yet no doubt He will come: He dealt thus with Jacob, he wrestled all night with him till the break of day, and then blessed him; David, after he was long pursued and persecuted by Saul, yet at last got rest and ease. The Jews were nearly destroyed by their enemies, but God raised up saviours to defend them. Despair not, then, and disquiet not yourselves; be not discouraged, howsoever ye see the Church, which is, as the disciples' boat, tossed to and fro by the waves of persecuting tyrants. Look to heaven, for the day of her deliverance is at hand; yea, that everlasting deliverance, When the Sun of Righteousness shall arise and shine on her for ever.
Homilist.I. THE OBJECT OF HIS HOPE IN HIS SORROWS — "I wait for the Lord." This implies two things —
1. A belief that the Lord would appear for him. He seemed as if He was hidden from him now. The clouds of his sorrow concealed Him, as the mists of the earth conceal the sun, but he knew that He would come, and he waited.
2. A belief that at His appearance he should have relief. He would not wait if he felt there would come no deliverance, still less if he felt that his sorrows would be aggravated by the event. God will come to deliver His people out of their sorrows. "I know that my Redeemer liveth," etc.
II. THE GROUND OF HIS HOPE IN HIS SORROW. "In His Word do I hope."
1. His Word promises deliverance to the good in sorrow.
2. His Word is infallibly true. What He has promised must be fulfilled.
III. THE EARNESTNESS OF HIS HOPE IN HIS SORROW. "My soul waiteth for the Lord more," etc. This implies —
1. The intensity of his distress. His soul is in the midnight of sadness, and he looks with stronger solicitude for relief than they that watch for the morning. In a suffering world there are thousands every night who watch earnestly for the morning. The man tossed on the bed of agony watches for the morning; the prisoner in his cell watches for the morning; the mariner in the storm watches for the morning; the general who has to decide on the coming day the destiny of his campaign, watches for the morning. None, however, watch more anxiously for the morning than the soul in anguish watches for its God.
2. The certainty of his deliverance. The night always appears long to the sufferer; still the morning comes at last. The sun comes mounting the steeps of heaven, chasing the darkness away, brightening the landscape, and pouring gladness into the world. Even so deliverance will come to the good.
Great Thoughts.Day will soon break to those who long for it in the gloom or shadows of night. God's world never stands still. From the creation, when "the evening and the morning were the first day," light has followed darkness, and dawn has come from dusk. This is a thought for every weary soul to whom it seems as if daylight would never come. If there is no dawn here, there is dawn not far ahead, and we shall see it before long.
"Out of the darkness of night
The world rolls into light;
It is daybreak everywhere."
(F. W. Aveling.)
Let Israel hope in the Lord.
I. In obtaining Gospel blessings THE FIRST EXERCISES OF FAITH MUST BE TOWARDS GOD IN CHRIST JESUS, and not towards the blessings themselves.
1. This is the most natural order which faith can follow. Look first to the Giver, and then to the gift. Look for the Helper, and then for the help.
2. This is the necessary order — first to Christ, and then to His yoke, and to His peace.
3. It is also the easiest order. Do not try to believe in pardon in the abstract, but in Jesus the Sacrifice and Saviour, who has once for all appeared to put away sin. By looking to Him you will be saved; and what is easier than to look?
4. I believe that, in every case wherein the soul finds peace, this is the actual order. We may go about after pardon, renewal, and holiness, but we find no rest unto our souls while hunting for these. As a matter of fact, we look unto Him and are lightened, and not by any other means.
II. ALL EXERCISES OF FAITH IN REFERENCE TO OTHER THINGS MUST BE IN CONNECTION WITH THE LORD. As the stars called "the Pointers" always point to the pole-star, so must our faith ever look to God in Christ Jesus. Having begun with Jesus, our faith must not look elsewhere. I would do nothing without Jesus. I would not even wish to repent except my eye were upon the Cross. I would not hope to think a holy thought except as my soul still gazed upon. Jesus my all. Away, away with every idea of mercy except it be mercy received through Jesus, for He alone is full of grace, and of His fulness must we receive. Mercy flows through Christ alone. So is it with "plenteous redemption." What a grand utterance that is — "plenteous redemption"! Is there not rare music in the sound l It means plenteous forgiveness for plenteous sin, through a price paid, a ransom given. In Christ only can you find this. "With Him is plenteous redemption." Do not dream of finding redemption in ordinances, in prayers, in tears, or in anything but the life and death and person of the Son of God. "Plenteous redemption." Why, that means deliverance from the bondage of many lusts, freedom from the thraldom of strong passions, a ransom of captives from fierce taskmasters.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
With Him is plenteous redemption.
I. THIS REDEMPTION IS AMPLE AND UNLIMITED. St. Paul was certainly not deceiving Christians when he taught them to pray for "all men" (1 Timothy 2:1), which would be mere mockery, if all might not come to a knowledge of the truth. The Prayer Book has not been leading us astray when it has made us say so many times, and with such earnestness of heart, "That it may please Thee to have mercy upon all men." If Christ died only for the "elect," where would be the propriety of such petitions?
II. IT CANNOT BE EXHAUSTED, AND PROVISION HAS BEEN MADE FOR EACH ONE OF US. One of the lay preachers who accomplished so much good in Scotland amplified and re-echoed the sentiment — "It was not a live lamb that was tied to the door-posts of the Israelites in Egypt; only its blood was sprinkled over them. It is not the life of Christ that saves, nor imitations of His life; but His death, His blood."
(J. N. Norton.)
Homiletic Review.I. REDEMPTION implies captivity to the penalty and power of sin; release into safety and liberty; and the ransom of the obedience and suffering of Jesus. Faith secures release by appropriating the work of Christ, which abolishes penalty, and the work of the Holy Spirit, which regenerates and so changes the whole nature as to deliver from penalty.
II. THIS REDEMPTION IS PLENTEOUS.
1. In the breadth of forgiveness, covering all offenders and offences, and removing them out of the sight of God.
2. In covering the breadth of man's need, Christ saves to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). Mind, heart, conscience, and will all purged by the power of redeeming blood.
3. In the freedom and fulness of infinite grace such a price — such love — such provision even for non-partakers.
III. IT IS WITH HIM. God the Father devised, the Son executes, the Spirit applies the scheme. No hope or help in man for himself or fellow-man.
I. REDEMPTION. What has Christ redeemed? His redemption is a very compendious redemption. He has redeemed many things; He has redeemed the souls of His people; He has redeemed the bodies of His people; He has redeemed the original inheritance which man lost in Adam; He has redeemed, in the last place, the world, considered in a certain sense — in the sense in which He will have the world at last. "The whole creation," said Paul, "groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now"; waiting for what? "waiting for the redemption"; and by the redemption I understand that this world shall be washed of all her sin; her curse shall be removed, her stains taken away, and this world shall be as fair as when God first struck her from His mind. This Christ has redeemed; this, Christ shall, and most assuredly must, have.
II. "PLENTEOUS REDEMPTION."
1. It is "plenteous" when we consider the millions that have been redeemed.
2. It is "plenteous," again, if we consider the sins of all who are redeemed. S. Remember, again, that this "plenteous redemption" is plenteous because it is enough for all the distresses of all the saints. Your wants are almost infinite; but this atonement is quite so.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.).