Psalm 51:17
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
A Broken and a Contrite HeartJ. A. Alexander, D. D.Psalm 51:17
Brokenness of HeartThomas Horton, D. D.Psalm 51:17
Repentance After ConversionPsalm 51:17
The Broken HeartJames Parsons.Psalm 51:17
The True OblationT. D. Witherspoon, D. D.Psalm 51:17
To the Broken-HeartedA. G. Brown.Psalm 51:17
What Does God Require? -- Consider the TextR. S. McAll, LL. D.Psalm 51:17
Wherein the Real Sacrifice and Service of God ConsistsWatson Smith.Psalm 51:17
A Petition and an ArgumentPsalm 51:1-19
Blot Out My TrangressionsAndrew Murray.Psalm 51:1-19
David's RepentanceJ. S. Macintosh, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
God's Former Dealings a Plea for MercyThomas Horton, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
God's LovingkindnessT. Alexander, M. A.Psalm 51:1-19
God's MercyA. Symson.Psalm 51:1-19
God's-Tender MerciesT. Alexander, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
LessonsS. Hieron.Psalm 51:1-19
Sin Blotted OutCampbell Morgan, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
The Exceeding Sinfulness of SinCanon Newbolt.Psalm 51:1-19
The Fifty-First PsalmF. W. Robertson, M. A.Psalm 51:1-19
The Greatness of Sin to a True PenitentMonday Club SermonsPsalm 51:1-19
The Minister's PsalmW. Forsyth Psalm 51:1-19
The Moan of a KingJ. Parker, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
The Penitent SinnerHomilistPsalm 51:1-19
The Prayer for MercyAndrew Murray.Psalm 51:1-19
The Prayer of the PenitentG. F. Pentecost, D. D.Psalm 51:1-19
The Prayer of the PenitentDavid O. Mears.Psalm 51:1-19
The Psalmist's Prayer for MercyT. Biddulph, M. A.Psalm 51:1-19
True PrayerW. Forsyth Psalm 51:10, 17
Working for GodC. Short Psalm 51:13-19
With a conscience set free from guilt, with a heart renewed by the Spirit of God, and full of thankfulness for God's great mercy, he cannot keep silent, but will seek to turn other sinners to God. The thirty-second psalm shows how this resolution was kept.

I. HE WHO BY HIS EXAMPLE HAD TAUGHT OTHERS TO SIN WILL NOW SEEK TO CONVERT THEM TO THE WAY OF OBEDIENCE. (Ver. 13.) To the ways of God's commandment. We cannot undo all the evil which our example has done; but we can in part repair it if we renew our lives.

II. DELIVERED FROM HIS SIN, HE WOULD PROCLAIM THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN PUNISHING AND DELIVERING HIM. (Ver. 14.) God is good and righteous in both - in punishing and saving from sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF PARDONED SIN UNCLOSES THE LIPS WHICH SIN HAD SEALED, AND HE CAN NOW TRULY PRAISE GOD. (Ver. 15.) God opens the lips by giving the sense of forgiveness; then we can preach and sing with a full heart.

IV. THE TRUEST SACRIFICE WE CAN OFFER TO GOD FOR OUR SIN IS REPENTANCE. (Vers. 16, 17.) Not blood or burnt offering; the cleansing of the heart by sorrow and renewal of mind - the work of God's Spirit.

V. WHEN A MAN HAS BEEN TRULY RESTORED HIMSELF, HIS SYMPATHIES WIDEN OUT WITH PRAYER FOR THE NATION AND THE WORLD. (Vers. 18, 19.) Genuine concern for others is founded upon the regeneration of our own spiritual nature. Zeal for others is spurious if we have not been zealous about ourselves; like those philosophers Cowper speaks of -

"Giving lives to distant worlds, And trifling in our own."

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.
What is a broken heart? We use the expression to set forth the effects of heavy affliction and sorrow. And so here, the broken heart tells of deep sorrow on account of our Sin. Before, it had hope for itself; now it has none, and, thus broken, it is offered with shame and grief. Before, it could listen to the truths of the Gospel unmoved, but now it quivers with emotion. The same wind which moves violently the waters of the lake of Gennesaret is said to leave unruffled those of the Dead Sea. So the man may have been at one time insensible, but he is far from that now.

I. SUCH BROKEN AND CONTRITE HEART IS A SACRIFICE OF GOD. Men think it is the price which they pay for forgiveness, and they do not see why it is necessary that Christ should die. But debts cannot be cancelled by mere regret, and the sacrifice of the broken heart always follows, never precedes, the application to the heart of the sacrifice of Christ's blood. Whenever Christ saves a sinner He invariably breaks his heart. The same cross which sets him free from the penalty of the law, sets him free also from the obduracy of his own nature; and these two deliverances always go together, and we can never be sure that we have the one unless we have the other.

II. IT IS AN OFFERING WHICH GOD DOES NOT DESPISE. He might have done so, and it is a wonder that He does not. Text implies this, and thankfulness and confidence.

III. BUT UNGODLY MEN DESPISE IT. Let them not think they will always feel as they do now. They would rather be detected in crime than in sorrow for it. But God can break their heart. At times He does so, by His word, mightily applied, or by terrible sorrow; and certainly by death. The only gift of God to a lost sinner is the gift of an insensibility unknown before.

(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

David and other Old Testament saints knew well that it was not in ceremonial observances, but in spiritual service.

I. GOD'S DESIRE AND SEARCH IS AFTER THE HEART, the soul of man. Our human parental heart teaches us this. Do we not desire our children's hearts? And so with God; He wants His children back, and hence He so values the first returning relenting thought.

II. WHEREFORE THIS IS SO. All men are sinners, not in the same form, but in the possession of the heart of evil. But see the great change which is wrought when the soul is turned to God. God is revealed to the soul. Conviction of sin follows. We see our sin in the light of God's goodness, and the vision of that goodness now waiting to be gracious, still further subdues the heart.

III. THIS NEW STATE OF HEART WILL BE PERMANENT, and will be seen in trust, in humility, in thankfulness, in consecration.

(Watson Smith.)


1. It consists in a quickness of sense and apprehensiveness. A broken spirit is a sensible spirit; it presently discerns what is amiss, either in it, or towards it. As a broken bone or joint, it presently feels the least annoyance that is; even so likewise does a broken heart. That heart which is truly contrite and broken, it is sensible of the least grievance that may be; and this whether in regard of sin, or in regard of punishment,(1) In regard of sin first, it is very quick and sensible here; those whose hearts are hardened and obdurate, they can commit one sin upon another, and yet never be affected with it, or lay it to heart; but those which are broken, and Be tender-spirited, the least miscarriage that troubles them, and goes to their souls, they are humbled, not only for greaser sins, but also for smaller infirmities; and not only for more notorious practices, but likewise for failings in duties themselves; and not only for outward and notorious miscarriages, which come into all men's view, but even also for the secretest obliquities and deflections of the inward man.(2) So in regard of punishment also. Broken hearts and contrite spirits tremble at the very shak-ings of the rod. A wise man, that is, one spiritually wise, which has true grace and godliness in him, and has a principle of spiritual life, such an one is very sensible of judgment.

2. It consists in a pliableness and fashionableness of heart and spirit; a hard heart is capable of no impression; ye cannot work it, or frame it to anything; but a broken heart ye may mould it in any way, and turn it whithersoever ye please. And this is another thing which is considerable in it: it is such a heart as yields to all God's dealings and workings with it, to His Word, and to His Providence, and that in the several dispensations of it, it is pliable to everything.


1. It signifies the person in whom it is to be subjected to God, and brought in obedience to Him. A man may offer bodily sacrifice, and perform outward duties to God, and yet stand aloof from Him, and have his heart still reserved to himself; but now, when it is once broken and contrite, it then stoops and gives itself up to God's disposing; and this is that which God does mainly look after in those that come to Him, He desires still to have the better of them, and to have their spirits brought in order to Him, which is all in all in them; this is that which God calls for (Providence 23:16). Now, this is never done by us till it be in some manner broken and bruised in us; because till then, we shall be apt to rest upon our own bottom, and to subsist wholly in ourselves, and some worth of our own.

2. It is that which makes the best amends for all the sins which are committed by us. The breaking of our hearts, it best satisfies for the breaking of God's laws; not as if thereby we did indeed make satisfaction to God's justice (which is only done by the blood of Christ), but it is that which does carry the best shadow of compensation with it.

3. A broken heart is most desired, as that which makes the best improvement of all God's providences and dispensations, etc. This makes us more thankful for mercies, and this makes us more corrigible under afflictions'.

(Thomas Horton, D. D.)

I. AS SETTING BEFORE US MOST IMPORTANT TRUTH — that God delights not in sacrifice or burnt-offering, but in the principles and feelings of sincere and heartfelt piety.

1. It is established by every correct view of the Divine character.(1) God is a Spirit. Nothing can be acceptable to Him, as such, but spiritual service, the worship of the soul.(2) God is Lord of all. He made, preserves, and governs all; and whatever we present is first His own.(3) He is a God of love. He delighteth not to impoverish but to enrich His creatures.

2. It is illustrated by the great facts of revelation, and reflects on them, in return, a correspondent illustration and beauty.(1) Sacrifices were designed not to relieve the offender from the compunction and penitence naturally arising from the remembrance of his faults, by the easy substitution of a trifling mulet instead of a deep and heartfelt contrition, but to render that compunction and penitence more solemn and more lively; to impress those feelings of contrition more awfully upon the soul by a most vivid and affecting exhibition of the just desert of sin. When he beheld the dying victim whom he had made his substitute, he was there to discern the fearful extent of that condemnation he had merited, and thus, humbled and sorrowful, was to acknowledge and bewail his misery, as exposed to the righteous indignation of a just and holy God.(2) If in the sacrifices under the law it was not the mere pangs or death of the victim, but the moral dispositions with which it was presented, that God delighted in; if it was not in the mere punishment of sin, but its effect upon the conscience and the heart, that God took pleasure; then, in the sacrifice of Christ, we conceive this grand principle more abundantly established. And, oh, how full of a humbling and holy joy is the doctrine we have now endeavoured to explain, when we behold the necessity of our punishment for sin thus awfully manifested, and yet the fear of its endurance done away for ever by the offering of the Lamb of God!


1. How forcibly does this language express that exalted estimate of the worth of pardon, which will ever be cherished by those who sincerely repent!

2. How strikingly it exhibits the penitent's humble sense of utter helplessness and incapacity for any service or offering of his own to procure the invaluable blessing!

3. How beautifully does the text describe a simple and grateful reliance upon the freeness of Divine mercy! Where is the man that weeps when no eye sees him, for the defilement of his degenerate nature? Let him not despair. Let him return unto the Lord. Let him lay his hand upon the great propitiation, and believe, and live for ever!

(R. S. McAll, LL. D.)

I. LET US CONSIDER WHAT THIS SACRIFICE IS. It is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart.

1. If you and I have a broken spirit, all idea of our own importance is gone. What is the use of a broken heart? Why, much the same as the use of a broken pot, or a broken jug, or a broken bottle! Men throw it on the dunghill. Hence David says, "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise," as if he felt that everybody else would despise it. Now, do you feel that you are of no importance? Admire the grace of God to you, and marvel at it in deep humiliation of spirit. That is a part of the sacrifice that God will not despise.

2. Next, if you and I have a broken and a contrite heart, it means that frivolity and trifling have gone from us. A broken spirit is serious, and solemn, and in earnest.

3. A broken spirit is one out of which hypocrisy has gone. Reveal yourselves unto yourselves, and so reveal yourselves unto your God.

4. A broken spirit signifies that now all the secrets and essences of the spirit have flowed out. There is much of religion, now-a-days, that is very superficial, it is all on the surface; a very small quantity of gospel paint, with just a little varnish of profession, will go a very long way, and look very bright. But broken hearts are not like that; with broken hearts the hymn is a real hymn, the prayer is a real prayer, the hearing of sermons is earnest work, and the preaching of them is the hardest work of all. Oh, what a mercy it would be if some of you were broken all to pieces! There are many flowers that will never yield their perfume till they are bruised. Even the generous grape lets not its juice flow forth till it is trodden under foot of men.

II. LET US OFFER THE SACRIFICE. Come, let us mourn a while on account of our past sin; we will do so from several points of view.

1. First, let us deeply regret that we have sinned against so good a God. Shall we not feel within our hearts a burning indignation against sin, because it is committed against so holy, so good, so glorious a being as the infinitely-blessed God?

2. Let us mourn to think that we have offended against so excellent and admirable a law.

3. Let us grieve that we have sinned against a Saviour's love. Those hands, those feet, have saved me, yet I nailed them there. That opened side is the refuge of my guilty spirit, yet I made that fearful gash by my sin.

4. Think of our sins against the Holy Spirit. O my soul, how could]st thou ever grieve Him? How couldst thou ever have resisted that best and tenderest Friend? I do not ask you to torture yourselves, but I do invite you now to indulge the joyful grief of sweet heavenly penitence as you remember the love of the Spirit.

5. Let us set our sin in the light of God's countenance.

6. I want you to set sin in the light of your marvellous experiences. Wonders of grace have been ours!

7. Think of the injury you have done to others by your example. Whatever any of us do, we are sure to have some who will copy us; it cannot be avoided. This thought has a sharp sting in it for any who, by word or by example, have taught others to do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord.

8. Think of all the opportunities that we lose whenever we fall into sin. I do repent of sin unfeignedly because it has hindered my progress. What a preacher I might have been! Oh, what winners of souls you might have become by this time!

( C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. Renounces all idea of merit, and seeks alone for mercy (ver. 1).

2. Will always feel its sins to be peculiarly its own (ver. 2).

3. Will make full confession of sin (ver. 3).

(1)Without excuse.

(2)In the plainest language possible.

4. Mourns most over the Godward aspect of sin (ver. 4).

5. Will never cavil with God about the deserved punishment (ver. 4).

6. Will mourn its general depravity (ver. 5).

7. Will always be as anxious for purity as for pardon (ver. 7).

8. Is not a despairing heart (ver. 9).

9. Is an agonized heart (ver. 8).

II. A BROKEN HEART IS NOT DESPISED BY GOD. We have His royal word for it (Isaiah 66:2). I know that Christ will never despise it, and that for a very good reason. He has suffered from it Himself. You say, "Ah, but mine is broken on account of sin: His was not." Was it not? It was broken by the unutterable horror of having sin imputed to Him, and occupying the sinner's place. Thy pangs, thy sorrows, thy griefs, thine unutterable longings for the light of the Father's face — all these are known unto thy Saviour. He will not despise thee. I am sure He will not, because it was He who broke thy heart. It would be despising His own handiwork were He to reject a contrite spirit. It would be casting on one side that which He hath Himself made.

(A. G. Brown.)

I. IN WHAT A BROKEN HEART CONSISTS. It is in itself a state where the mind is rendered susceptible of deep spiritual feeling — that feeling being mainly grief and sorrow.


1. The Agent. You must remember that the state we are describing never can be supposed to originate in any human or finite power whatever. It is not, for example, produced by the force of instruction, whether administered in juvenile or in riper years. It is not produced by processes of personal reflection; and it is not produced by movements of the natural conscience. We do not deny that they do sometimes appear to possess influences very similar to the influences of religion; and we are aware how conscience, especially under particular circumstances, occasionally becomes lashed and roused into such a state of alarm and accusing energy, that its awakenings are not at all distinguishable from the impulses of veritable and substantial piety. But yet, after all, the appearances are deceitful, and the results are impotent. The "heart of stone," if we may use such a figure, is, as it were, only shifted in its position — that change of position rendering the moral frame uneasy and disturbed. The substance of the heart itself yet remains unpenetrated and untransmuted, and the truth remains, that were man left to himself, and to beings like himself, never would he know and feel what real contrition is. After this limitation of human agency, we are prepared to determine that the production of this state is to be ascribed exclusively to the supreme power of the Divine Spirit.

2. This, then, is the Agent in the production of the state we have noticed. We must also observe the instrumentality which the Agent employs. And the Divine Spirit always operates upon the mind of man by an instrumentality which is precisely adapted to its nature; we mean the Word of truth, as it reveals the character, the claims, and the procedure of God, along with the character, the duties, and the prospects and destinies of man. And especially as it sets forth the love of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. This prominency will be found distinctly ascribed to it by the manner in which it constituted the one grand topic of inspired and apostolic ministry in primitive times.

III. WHY A BROKEN HEART IS COMMENDED. We are to commend as precious and valuable the "broken heart."

1. Because it is the state by which alone man can be saved from everlasting ruin.

2. It introduces to the enjoyment of all spiritual blessings.

(James Parsons.)

In the temple of Israel there were two altars: the first, the great "altars of burnt-offering." It was the altar of atonement, the only one in all the world on which God looked down with approval. At its base flowed the blood of every victim that was slain. On its broad bosom it received, and with its fiery breath it consumed, the holocausts and hecatombs of the thousands of Judah. But within the holy place was another altar; it was the altar of incense, fit representative of an order of sacrifices that were not expiatory, but oblations. They were not for the purpose of making atonement and seeking reconcilation, but for expressing the consecration to God of the redeemed soul. And the acceptableness of such oblation was expressed by the offering of the fragrant incense that was burnt upon that altar. Now, it is of this second class of sacrifices that the psalmist is speaking in our text. He is referring not to the sacrifices of expiation, but of oblation. The sinner is already pardoned, the atoning sacrifice has already been accepted, and he approaches the golden altar, not to deprecate worth or to plead for pardon, but as a forgiven sinner to offer on this altar the oblation of his gratitude and devotion, the love which wells up with overflowing fulness in a heart redeemed from sin. Now, looking at this sacrifice, we note —

I. THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE SERVICE WHICH GOD REQUIRES. That which is to be laid upon His altar is not some material gift, however costly, but an offering of the spirit.

II. IN THE SACRIFICES OF GOD THE HEART CONSTITUTES ITS VERY ESSENCE. God's religion is pre-eminently one of love. Hence, the true oblation can only be of love, the only true sacrifice that of the heart. Contrast the sacrifices on the great brazen altar and those on the altar of incense. That holy place was the sanctuary of forgiven hearts, the retreat of those whose sins had been put away by the expiation offered on the altar without. Then are we taught that it is the heart which God demands as an oblation upon His altar. Only love will satisfy love.

III. BUT THE HEART MUST BE BROKEN AND CONTRITE. This is one reason why the way to the altar of incense is by that of expiation, that men may learn the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for their sin. This it is which makes it so hard for man to lay upon this altar the acceptable sacrifice. If there were no demand for repentance and confession, no need for such self-humbling as in the dust, man would readily come. But only the broken and contrite heart will God accept, or ought He to accept. For such should be our posture before God. Not that of pride, but of deep humility.

(T. D. Witherspoon, D. D.)

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