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Friday, April 12th, 2024
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 51

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verses 1-3


Psalms 51:1-3. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions! Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.

SIN is, for the most part, thought a light and venial evil, especially amongst the higher ranks of society: as though the restraints of religion were designed only for the poor; and the rich had a dispensation granted them to live according to their own will. But sin, by whomsoever committed, will, sooner or later, be as the gall of asps within us; nor can all the charms of royalty silence the convictions of a guilty conscience. View the Psalmist. He had been elevated, from the low condition of a shepherd’s boy, to a throne: yet, when he had offended God in the matter of Uriah, there was not found in his whole dominions a more miserable wretch than he. Before his repentance became deep and genuine, “his bones waxed old through his roaring all the day long: for day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him; and his moisture was turned into the drought of summer [Note: Psalms 32:3-4; Psalms 38:2-8.].” Even in his penitence we may see how heavy a load was laid upon his mind. This psalm was written on that occasion: and the words before us, whilst they declare the workings of his mind, will serve to shew us, in a general view, the true penitent:


In his occasional approaches to the throne of grace—

“Mercy” is the one object of his desire and pursuit. Observe,


His petitions—

[“Have mercy upon me, O God; blot out my transgressions! wash me throughly from mine iniquities; and so cleanse me from my sin,” that no stain of it may remain upon my soul! Here he views his sins both individually and collectively; and, spreading them before the Lord with conscious guilt, he implores the forgiveness of them: dreading lest so much as one should be retained in the book of God’s remembrance, as a ground of procedure against him in the last day — — — Thus will every true penitent come to God: and plunge, as it were, into the fountain of the Redeemer’s blood, “the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness” — — —]


His pleas—

[Though David had, till the time of his grievous fall, served God with a more than ordinary degree of zeal and piety, he makes no mention of any past merits, nor does he found his hope on any future purposes. He relies only on the free and sovereign grace of God, as displayed towards sinners in the gift of his only dear Son: and to that he looks, as the ground and measure of the blessings he implores. This is the view which every true penitent must have. He should see that God is of his own nature inclined to mercy [Note: Exodus 34:6-7.]; and that all which Christ has done for us is the fruit of the Father’s love [Note: John 3:16. Ephesians 2:4-5.Titus 3:4-5; Titus 3:4-5.]. Such are the pleas which God approves; and such will surely prevail in the court of Heaven.]

But, view the penitent farther,


In the daily habit of his mind—

Repentance is not a mere occasional expression of the mind, but a state or habit that is fixed and abiding in the soul. The true penitent, wherever he goes, carries with him,


A sense of guilt—

[“His sin is ever before him:” indeed, he wishes it to be so: he desires to be humbled under a sense of it: and though he longs to have his transgressions blotted out of God’s book, he would never have them effaced from his memory; or cease, if he could help it, to have as deep an impression of their odiousness and malignity, as if they had been but recently committed — — — To his latest hour he would “walk softly” before God, in the remembrance of them.]


A sense of shame—

[He is ashamed when he reflects on his conduct throughout the whole of his life; yea, “he blushes and is confounded before God [Note: Ezra 9:6.],” and even lothes and abhors himself in dust and ashes [Note: Job 42:6.].” Nor does a sense of God’s pardoning love produce any difference; except, indeed, as enhancing the lothesomeness of his character in his own eyes [Note: Ezekiel 36:31; Ezekiel 16:63.].” The name which, in sincerity of heart, he acknowledges as most appropriate to him, is that which the Apostle Paul assumed, “The chief of sinners.”]


Those who are not conscious of having committed any flagrant transgression—

[Many, doubtless, are of this character. But have they, on that account, any reason to boast? Who is it that has kept them? “Who is it that has made them to differ?” Will they themselves deny that the seeds of all evil are in them? or that, if they had been subjected to the same temptations as others, they might have proved as frail as they? Are they better than David previous to his fall? Let them, then, confess their obligations to God; and remember, that if in outward act they have less reason for humiliation than others, they have the same depravity in their hearts, and are in reality as destitute of vital piety as others; and, consequently, have the same need of humiliation and contrition as they.]


Those who are deeply sensible of their guilt before God—

[What a consolation must it be to you, to see that there was mercy even for such a transgressor as David. Greater enormity than his can scarcely be conceived: yet not even his prayers were poured forth in vain. Two things, then, I would say to you. The first is, Do not attempt to extenuate your own guilt, as though you would thereby bring yourselves more within the reach of mercy. The other is, Do not presume to limit God’s mercy, as though it could not extend to such a sinner as you. You never need be afraid of beholding your wickedness in all its extent, if only you will bear in mind that God’s mercy in Christ Jesus is fully commensurate with your utmost necessities or desires. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin:” and the more you feel your need of it, the more shall you experience its unbounded efficacy. Only humble yourselves as David did; and, like him, you shall experience all the riches of redeeming grace.]


Those who have obtained mercy of the Lord—

[Happy, beyond expression, are ye! as David says; “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sin is covered.” Be joyful, then, in God your Saviour. But still remember, that you have need at all times to watch and pray. If David, after all his high attainments, fell, who is secure? “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” And learn from him to guard against the very first approaches of evil. It was by a look that his corruptions were inflamed: and from the progress of evil in his heart, you may learn to make a covenant with your eyes, yea, and with your hearts too. You see in him “how great a matter a little fire kindleth.” Walk humbly, then, before God; and cry to him day and night, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not!”]

Verse 4


Psalms 51:4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

THE occasion of this psalm is well known: it refers to one of the most melancholy transactions that ever took place in the world. In point of enormity, the deed is almost without a parallel; because it was performed by a man who till that time had made the highest professions of religion, and had been characterized even by God himself as “the man after God’s own heart [Note: If this were the subject of a Magdalen Sermon, it would be proper in a delicate manner to enlarge somewhat on the crime itself.].” But it is not the crime which David committed, but only the repentance which followed it, that is the subject of our present consideration. For a long time his heart was hardened: but after that Nathan had come from God to accuse and condemn him, he yielded to the conviction, and humbled himself before God in dust and ashes. In this psalm is recorded the prayer which David offered unto God on that occasion: and it was given by David to the Church, that it might be a pattern, and an encouragement, to penitents in all future ages. The particular declaration in our text is introduced as an aggravation of his guilt. We are not however to interpret it so strictly, as if the crime which David had committed were really no offence against man; for in that view it was as heinous as can possibly be conceived: it was a sin against Bathsheba, whom he had defiled: against Uriah, whom he had murdered; against Joab, whom he had made an instrument to effect the murder; against all the soldiers, who were murdered at the same time; against the friends and relatives of all who were slain; against his own army, who were hereby weakened and discouraged; against the whole nation, whose interests were hereby endangered; against the Church of God, who were hereby scandalized; and the ungodly world, who were hereby hardened in their iniquities. It was “a sin also against his whole body [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:18.].” We must therefore understand the expression rather as comparative; as if it had been said, “Against thee, thee chiefly, have I sinned.” Nevertheless, as an offence against God, the enormity of the crime is so great, as almost to swallow up and annihilate every other consideration of it, as the meridian sun reduces to non-existence, as it were, the twinkling of a star. It is from this consideration of it that every sin derives its chief enormity. Dropping therefore any further reference to David’s crime, we shall endeavour to shew in general,


The malignity of sin as an offence against God—

Men in general think little of sin, except as it affects the welfare of society: as an offence against God, it is scarcely ever deemed worthy of notice. But every sin, of whatever kind, necessarily strikes at God himself: it implies,


A forgetfulness of his presence—

[He is omnipresent; nor is any thing hid from his all-seeing eye — — — But, when we commit sin, we lose all recollection that God’s eye is upon us: we say in our hearts, “The Lord shall not see; neither shall the God of Jacob regard it [Note: Psalms 94:7.]:” “How shall God know? Is there knowledge with the Most High [Note: Psalms 73:11.]?” “Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he cannot see [Note: Job 22:13-14.].” This is no deduction of ours, but the declaration of God himself: and the truth of it is evident: for, if even the presence of a fellow-creature is sufficient to overawe men, so that they cannot perpetrate crimes to which they are most strongly tempted; so much more would the presence of Almighty God restrain us, if we were conscious that he was inspecting and witnessing all the secrets of our hearts.]


A contempt Of his authority—

[God, as the great Lawgiver, requires obedience to his laws, every one of which bears the impress of divine authority upon it But in violating his commands, we trample on his authority, and say in effect, “I am at my own disposal: who is Lord over me [Note: Psalms 12:4.]?” “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord: neither will I obey his voice [Note: Exodus 5:2.]:” “I will not have this man to reign over me [Note: Luke 19:14.].” We have a striking exemplification of this in the conduct of the Jews, who, contrary to God’s command, would go down into Egypt: “As for the word that thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, (said they to Jeremiah,) we will not hearken unto thee; but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth [Note: Jeremiah 44:16-17.].” Thus, as God himself says, “We not only forget him, but cast him behind our back [Note: Ezekiel 23:35.].”


A disbelief of his truth—

[God has spoken frequently respecting his determination to punish sin: he has said, that “he will by no means clear the guilty;” and that, “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not pass unpunished.” Now, if we truly believed his word, we could not rush into sin: the apprehension of such tremendous consequences would deter us from it. But we are hardened by unbelief. Unbelief was the source of all the Israelites’ rebellions in the wilderness [Note: Psalms 106:24.Hebrews 3:19; Hebrews 3:19.]; and it is the fruitful spring of all our disobedience: “Ye shall not surely die,” is at the root of every evil we commit [Note: Genesis 3:4.]. But “God is not a man, that he should lie, or the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good [Note: Numbers 23:19.]?” Let us bear this in mind, that in the commission of sin, and the expectation of impunity, we “make God himself a liar [Note: 1 John 5:10.].”]


A denial of his justice—

[God has represented himself as “a God of judgment, by whom actions are weighed [Note: 1 Samuel 2:3.];” and has declared his purpose to “call every work into judgment,” and to “judge every man according to his works.” But, in violating his laws, “we say, in fact, God will not require it [Note: Psalms 10:13.]:” “The Lord is altogether such an one as ourselves [Note: Psalms 50:21.];” “he will not do good, neither will he do evil [Note: Zephaniah 1:12.].” What an indignity is this to offer to the Governor of the Universe, the Judge of quick and dead! He has spoken of the last day as “the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God:” but, if the issue of it were such as we expect, and heaven were awarded to wilful and impenitent transgressors, it would rather be a day wherein God’swant of justice and of holiness shall be displayed before the whole assembled universe.]


A defiance of his power—

[Men who commit iniquity are represented as “stretching out their hands against God, and strengthening themselves against the Almighty; yea, as running upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his buckler [Note: Job 15:25-26.]:” and to what a fearful extent this is done, we may see by the testimony of God himself: “They, the workers of iniquity, say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it [Note: Isaiah 5:19.].” Does this appear an exaggerated account of men’s impiety? See then how they are described by the Psalmist: “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above, out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them [Note: Psalms 10:4-5.].” What an astonishing height of impiety is this; to puff at God’s threatenings, as if we defied him to his face! Yet do we see that this is the very conduct of men, whenever we warn them to flee from the wrath to come: we seem to menace them with judgments which they have no cause to fear, and to set in array against them an enemy whom they are at liberty to despise.]

When once we view sin as an offence against God, we shall be prepared to acknowledge,


The equity of his judgments which he has denounced against it—

That God has denounced the heaviest judgments against it, is certain—
[Against sin in general he has denounced eternal misery: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17. Romans 1:18.]” — — — Against every individual that commits it, he has also denounced his judgments: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die [Note: Eze 18:20. 1 Peter 1:17.]” — — — Against every particular sin, whatever be men’s excuses for retaining it, the same awful sentence is proclaimed [Note: Mark 9:42-48.] — — — Death, everlasting death, is the wages due to sin [Note: Romans 6:23.], and the wages that shall be paid to every sinner at the last day [Note: Matthew 25:46.] — — —]

In executing these he will be completely justified—
[We are ready to account such denunciations of wrath severe, and to question the equity of them — — — But thepenal evil of damnation will not appear in the least to exceed the moral evil of sin, if we duly consider against whom sin is committed.

Consider his greatness. “Great is the Lord,” says the Psalmist, “yea, his greatness is unsearchable.” If we could conceive the meanest reptile, or the smallest insect, endued with such a measure of intelligence as to be able in some degree to appreciate the dignity of a mighty monarch; and then to exalt itself against him, and to pour all manner of contempt upon him; the atrocity of such presumption would justly excite our keenest indignation. But the whole universe together is not as the smallest insect in comparison of God; and yet we, we atom insects of an atom world, dare to set ourselves against his divine majesty, yea, to defy him to his face. Will God then be unjust if he execute his judgments on such impious worms? Are we at liberty to insult him; and is he not at liberty to avenge himself on us? — — —]

But consider also his goodness. O how unbounded has this been! How has he borne with us in all our rebellion! How has he sent his only-begotten Son, to expiate our sin, and to open a way for our reconciliation with him! How has he sought to glorify in our salvation those very perfections, which we have so impiously despised, and which he might well glorify in our everlasting condemnation! How has he sent his Holy Spirit, to instruct, renew, and comfort us! How has he sent his word and ministers, to invite, entreat, expostulate, yea, and, as it were, to “compel us” to accept of mercy! This he has done from our youth up: this he is doing yet daily and hourly: and, as if all his own happiness were bound up in ours, he says, “How shall I give thee up?” “Wilt thou not be made clean? Oh! when shall it once be?” This is the God against whom we are sinning. This is the God whom we wish extinct [Note: Psalms 14:1. Omitting the words in Italics.]; and respecting whom we say, “Make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” This is he, “whose blessed Son we trample under foot, and to whose eternal Spirit we do despite [Note: Hebrews 10:29.]:” yea, that very “goodness and long-suffering and forbearance which should lead us to repentance,” are made by us an occasion of multiplying our offences against him. Say now whether he will “be unrighteous in taking vengeance?” Were a fellow-creature to make such returns to us, and to render nothing but evil to us for all the good we did him, should we think that he had any claim on us? Should we account ourselves unjust, if we did not acknowledge him as one of our dearest friends, and place him on a footing with our own beloved children, and make him an heir of all that we possessed? Should we not feel ourselves amply justified in rejecting such an absurd and groundless claim as this? Know then, that we have no claim on God; and, when he shall exclude us from the inheritance or his saints, “he will be justified” in the judgment that he shall denounce against us. Indeed, in assigning us this portion, he will only give effect to our own wishes, and answer us in the desire of our own hearts: we said to him, “Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thee [Note: Job 21:14.];” and he will say to us, “Depart from me; depart accursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels [Note: Matthew 25:41.].”]

The whole creation will unite in vindicating these judgments as just and good—
[Doubtless, if it were possible, sinners would urge at the bar of judgment the objections which here they presume to bring against the justice of their God. But sin will then appear in all its deformity: it will then be seen what a God we sinned against, and what mercies we despised. Even in this world, when once persons are brought to view themselves aright, they justify God in all that he sees fit to inflict upon them [Note: It is worthy of observation, that God’s goodness to David is mentioned as the greatest aggravation of his offence. 2 Samuel 12:7-9.]. Aaron [Note: Leviticus 10:3.], Eli [Note: 1 Samuel 3:18.], Hezekiah [Note: Isaiah 39:8.], David [Note: Psalms 39:9.], all confessed, that God had a right to deal with them in the way that he had done. Much more in the day of judgment, when every thing will be seen in its true light, will the whole universe approve the sentence which God shall pass on the world of the ungodly: they will make the very punishment of the wicked a subject of their songs; “saying, Allelujah! salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments [Note: Revelation 15:3; Revelation 19:1-2.].” Indeed the miserable objects themselves, though they cannot join in the song, will be unable to condemn the sentence. The man who was excluded from the marriage-feast for not having on a wedding garment, might have urged, that he was brought in before he had time to procure one: but his plea would have been false and unavailing; and therefore “he was speechless [Note: Matthew 22:12.];” a striking monument of conscious guilt, and an awful specimen of a condemned soul [Note: Romans 3:19.].]

In this acknowledgment then of David we may see,


The grand constituents of repentance—

[Many may be sorry that they, have subjected themselves to punishment, just as a criminal may that he has forfeited his life to the laws of his country: but no man can truly repent, till he sees, that his whole life has been one continued state of rebellion against God; and that “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” is his just desert. Till a man has that view of himself, he will never be thoroughly broken and contrite; he will never lothe and abhor himself for his iniquities; he will never have that “repentance which is unto life, that repentance which is not to be repented of.” We entreat you all then to judge of your repentance by these marks. Do not be satisfied with being humbled on account of sin; but inquire particularly, whether you are more humbled from a view of it as against man, or a view of it as against God. These ought to bear no proportion in your estimate of your own character. Your own nothingness and vileness can only be estimated aright when viewed in contrast with the majesty you have offended, and the mercy you have despised: and till you see that everlasting misery in hell is your deserved portion, you can never lie so low as you ought to lie.]


The true preparative for pardon—

[Something we must bring with us to the Saviour: but what is that which we ought to bring? Must we get a certain portion of good works wherewith to purchase his salvation? No: this is a price which he will utterly despise. That which we are to bring is precisely what a patient brings to a physician, a sense of his extreme need of the physician’s aid. Christ came to save sinners: we then must feel ourselves sinners. He came to seek and save that which was lost: we then must feel ourselves lost. A just sense of our guilt and misery is all that he requires: if we come wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, he will give us that gold that has been tried in the fire, the raiment that shall cover our nakedness, and the eye-salve that shall restore our eyes to sight. If we come to him full, we shall be sent empty away: but if we come hungry and empty, we shall “be filled out of his inexhaustible fulness,” we shall “be filled with all the fulness of our God.”]


The best preservative from sin—

[When Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he answered her, “How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God [Note: Genesis 39:9.]?” Thus we would recommend all, when tempted to commit iniquity, to consider, first, what God will think of it; and next, what they themselves will think of it in the last day? Now it may appear light and venial, especially if it be not such a heinous sin as adultery or murder: but when it comes to be seen in its true light, as against an infinitely good and gracious God; and when the judgments which he has denounced against it come to be felt; what shall we think of it then? Oh! ask yourselves, ‘What will be my view of this matter in the last day?’ Then even the sins that now seem of no account, will appear most heinous, and the price paid for a momentary indulgence, most prodigal. The selling of a birthright for a mess of pottage is but a very faint emblem of the folly of those, who for the whole world are induced to barter the salvation of their souls. View things in any measure now, as you will view them at the last day; and you will rather die a thousand deaths than sin against your God.]

Verse 5


Psalms 51:5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

ONE of the most essential marks of real penitence is, a disposition to see our sins as God sees them: not extenuating their guilt by vain and frivolous excuses, but marking every circumstance that tends to aggravate their enormity. During their impenitence, our first parents cast the blame of their transgression upon others; the man on his wife; and the woman on the serpent that had beguiled her: but, when true repentance was given them, they no doubt beheld their conduct in a very different view, and took to themselves all the shame which it so justly merited. The sin of David in the matter of Uriah was great, beyond all the powers of language to express. Yet there were points of view in which none but a real penitent would notice it, and in which its enormity was aggravated a hundred-fold. This is the light in which the Royal Penitent speaks of it, in the psalm before us. Having spoken of it as an offence, not merely against man, but primarily, and almost solely, against Jehovah himself, he proceeds to notice it, not as an insulated act or course of action, but as the proper fruit of his inherent, his natural, corruption. We are not to suppose, that he intended by this to cast any reflection on his mother, of whom he elsewhere speaks in most respectful terms; nor are we to imagine, that he adduces the nature which he had derived from her, as an excuse for the wickedness he had committed: his intention is, to humble himself before God and man as a creature altogether corrupt, and to represent his wickedness as no other than a sample of that iniquity or which his heart was full, a stream issuing from an overflowing fountain. This, we doubt not, is the genuine import of the words which we have now proposed to consider; “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin hath my mother conceived me.”
In prosecuting this important subject, we shall endeavour to establish,


The truth asserted—

The doctrine of Original Sin is here distinctly affirmed. It is indeed by many denied, under the idea that it would be inconsistent with the goodness and mercy of God to send into the world immortal beings in any other state than one of perfect purity. But it is in vain for us to teach God what he ought to do: the question for us to consider is, What hath God done? and what account has he himself given us of our state? And here, if the Scriptures be true, there is no room for doubt: we are the corrupt off-spring of degenerate parents; from whom we derive a polluted nature, which alone, since their fall, they could possibly transmit. This we shall proceed to prove,


From concurring testimonies—

[Moses, in his account of the first man that was born into the world, expressly notices, that Adam begat him not in the likeness of God, in which he himself had been originally created, but “in his own likeness,” as a fallen and corrupt creature [Note: Genesis 5:3.]: and how different the one from the other, may be conjectured from the conduct of this first-born, who imbrued his hands in his brother’s blood. In his account too, as well of the post-diluvian, as of the ante-diluvian world, he tells us, that “every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually [Note: Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21.].” Job, not only affirms the same awful truth, but shews us that it is impossible in the nature of things to be otherwise: since from a thing that is radically and essentially unclean, nothing but what is unclean can proceed [Note: Job 14:4; Job 15:14-16; Job 25:4.]. The testimony of Isaiah and Jeremiah is altogether to the same effect [Note: Isaiah 6:5.Jeremiah 17:9; Jeremiah 17:9.]; as is that also of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes [Note: Chap. 9:3.]. And, in the New Testament, our Lord himself teaches us to regard the heart as the proper womb, where every species of iniquity is generated, and from whence it proceeds [Note: Mark 7:21.]: and St. Paul declares of himself, as well as all the rest of the human race, that they “are by nature children of wrath [Note: Ephesians 2:3.].” But how can we be in such a state by nature, if we are not corrupt? Can God regard as objects of his wrath creatures that possess his perfect image? No: it is as fallen in Adam that he views us, and as inheriting a depraved nature that he abhors us [Note: The subject does not lead us to notice Adam as a federal head; and therefore we confine ourselves to what lies immediately before us].]


From collateral evidence—

[Whence was it that God appointed the painful and bloody rite of circumcision to be administered to infants of eight days old, but to shew that they brought into the world with them a corrupt nature, which it was the bounden duty of all who were in covenant with him to mortify and subdue? Whilst, on the one hand, it sealed to them the blessings of the covenant, it intimated to them, on the other hand, that they needed to have “their hearts circumcised, to love the Lord their God.”

Again, how comes it that every child, from the first moment that he begins to act at all, manifests corrupt tempers and dispositions? If only some, and those the children of wicked men, evinced such depravity, we might be led to account for it in some other way: but when, with the exception of one or two who were sanctified from the womb, this has been the state of every child that has been born into the world, we are constrained to acknowledge, that our very nature is corrupt, and that, as David tells us, “we are estranged from the womb, and go astray as soon as we are born [Note: Psalms 58:3.].”

Further, How can we account for the sufferings and death of infants, but on the supposition, that they are partakers of Adam’s guilt and corruption? Sufferings and death are the penalty of sin: and we cannot conceive that God would inflict that penalty on millions of infants, if they were not in some way or other obnoxious to his wrath. St. Paul notices this, as an irrefragable proof that all Adam’s posterity fell in him, and through him are partakers of guilt and misery [Note: Romans 5:12; Romans 5:14.].

Once more; Whence is it that all need a Saviour? If children are not, in the eye of God, transgressors of his law, they cannot need to be redeemed from its curse. But Christ is as much the Saviour of infants as of adults. We find no intimation in the Scriptures that any are saved without him: on the contrary, it is said, that, “as in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In the temple shown to Ezekiel, there was one door for the prince: it was the door by which the Lord God had entered: and was to be for ever closed to all except the prince [Note: Ezekiel 44:2-3.]. So Christ alone enters into heaven by his own merits: to all besides him that door is closed: and Christ alone is the door by which we must enter in; he is the only way to the Father: nor, as long as the world shall stand, shall any child of man come unto the Father but by him [Note: John 10:9; John 14:6.].

These things then, especially, as taken in connexion with the many express declarations before quoted, are decisive proofs, that David’s account of himself was true, and that it is equally true of all the human race.]
This truth being established, we proceed to mark,


The importance of adverting to it in estimating our state before God—

Unless we bear in mind the total corruption of our nature, we can never estimate aright,


Our individual actions—

[Even in common courts of judicature, the great object of inquiry is, not so much the act that has been done, as the mind of the agent: and, according as that appears to have been depraved or blameless, the sentence of condemnation or acquittal is passed upon him. Precisely thus must we judge ourselves in our conduct towards God. To elucidate this part of our subject, we will suppose two persons to have been guilty of the same act of treason towards an earthly sovereign, but to have differed widely from each other in respect of the mind with which they acted: one entered upon it unwittingly, and without any consciousness that he was doing wrong: the other knowingly, and aware that he was rebelling against his lawful sovereign. One did it reluctantly, through the influence of one whom he could not easily withstand; but the other willingly, as a volunteer in the service, and as following the impulse of his own mind. One went without premeditation, being taken hastily and off his guard: the other with a fixed purpose, after much plotting and deliberation. In one it was a solitary act, altogether contrary to the whole of his former life: in the other it was frequent, as often as the temptation arose, or the occasion offered. The one proceeded with moderation, not having his heart at all engaged in it: the other with a fiery zeal, abhorring in his soul the authority he opposed. The one had his mind open to conviction, and might easily be prevailed upon to renounce his error: the other was filled with self-approbation and self-applause, thinking nothing of his risks and dangers, if he might but help forward the utter subversion of the government. Take these two persons, and say, whether, notwithstanding their acts were in appearance the same, there would not be an immense difference between the measure of their criminality in the estimation of an upright judge? There can be no doubt on this subject. Take then any other sin whatever, (for all sin is treason against the King of kings;) and examine how far it has been voluntary, deliberate, habitual; how far it has been against light and knowledge; and how far it has proceeded from a heart radically averse to God and holiness. Let sins of omission be examined in this way, as well as sins of commission: and then the things which now are accounted light and venial, will appear hateful in the extreme, not merely as blighted “grapes of a degenerate vine,” but as “grapes of Sodom, and clusters of Gomorrha:” their enormity will be felt, in proportion to the strength and fixedness of the principle from which they spring.]


Our general character—

[If our actions have not been openly sinful, we are ready to bless ourselves as having but little ground for shame and remorse. But if we consider “the enmity of the carnal mind against God,” and view our utter want of all holy affections, and exceeding proneness to some besetting sins, we shall see but little reason to glory over the vilest of mankind. We shall see abundant cause indeed for thankfulness to God, who by his preventing grace has restrained us from many evils into which others have run: but we shall take no credit to ourselves as better than others. If we behold bitter fruit produced by others, we shall remember that there is the root of it all in ourselves: if we see in others the streams of wickedness, we shall bear in mind, that the fountain of it all is in ourselves also. Thus, however free we may be from any flagrant enormity, we shall be ready to acknowledge with Paul, that “in us, that is, in our flesh, dwelleth no good thing;” and with Job to say, “Behold, I am vile! I repent, and abhor myself in dust and ashes.” So far from indulging self-preference and self-esteem, we shall find no names more suited to us than those by which St. Paul designated his own character, “Less than the least of all saints,” and “The very chief of sinners [Note: Ephesians 3:8. 1 Timothy 1:15.].”]

From this view of our natural corruption, we may learn,

How greatly we need the renewing influence of God’s Spirit—

[Outward amendment might suffice for outward sins: but where the heart itself is so corrupt, we must have “a new heart given to us,” and “be renewed in the spirit of our minds.” With such hearts as ours, it would be impossible for us to enter into the kingdom of heaven, or to enjoy it even if we were there: we could not bear the sight of so holy a God; nor endure to spend our lives in such holy employments. — — — Know then, that “old things must pass away; and all things must become new.” “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh:” the stream can rise no higher than the fountain head. If ye would enjoy the things of the Spirit, ye must be “born of the Spirit,” who alone can impart the faculties necessary for that end. Let your prayer then be like that of David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me [Note: ver. 10.]!”]


How carefully we should watch against temptation—

[If we carried about with us a load of powder which a single spark would cause to explode, we should be extremely careful to avoid whatever might subject us to danger. Should we not then, with hearts so corrupt, and with temptations so thick around us, look well to our ways, and pray unto our God to keep us from the evils of an ensnaring world? Well did our blessed Lord say, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation:” “The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak.” Who that reflects on David’s state previous to his fall, does not fear for himself, and cry mightily unto God, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe!” “Uphold me with thy free Spirit, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me!” To all then we say, “Be not high-minded, but fear:” “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”]

Verse 6


Psalms 51:6. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

MANKIND at large are chiefly observant of their outward conduct; but the child of God cannot rest in externals: he is anxious about the internal habits of his soul; and desires to have them conformed to the mind and will of God. The words before us strongly express this idea. By many indeed they are interpreted, as if David intended in them to aggravate yet further the guilt he had contracted, which had been in direct opposition both to the profession he had made, and to the light he had enjoyed [Note: In this case, the last clause is read in the past tense; “Thou hast made me to know.”]. But we conceive that the words, as they stand in our translation, convey the true meaning of the Psalmist; and that they relate, not to his sins, but his repentance for them. The sense of them appears to be to this effect; “Thou requirest me to be truly sincere in my present humiliation; and, if I am, as I desire to be, thoroughly sincere, thou wilt make this whole dispensation a source of the most important instruction to my soul.” In this view of the words, they are an humble address to God, declarative of,


The disposition He requires—

“Truth,” is a conformity of our feelings and actions to our professions: and this God requires of us in the whole of our spirit and conduct. He requires it,


In our acknowledgments—

[We confess ourselves sinners before God. But such a confession is of no value in his sight, unless it be accompanied with suitable emotions. Think then, what becomes us, as sinners: what deep sorrow and contrition should we feel for having offended Almighty God! what self-lothing and self-abhorrence for our extreme vileness and baseness! what ardent desires after mercy! what readiness to justify God in all that he may be pleased to inflict upon us in this world, whatever means or instruments he may see fit to use; yea, and in the eternal world also, even if he cast us into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and make us everlasting monuments of his wrathful indignation! This should be the state and habit of our minds: we should have “our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust,” “crying, Unclean, unclean!” In a word, we should adopt from our inmost souls the language of Job, “Behold, I am vile! therefore I repent and abhor myself in dust and ashes.” In proportion as we feel thus, we are upright, and have “truth in our inward parts:” but so far as we are wanting in these feelings, we are hypocrites in heart,” drawing nigh to God with our lips in a way belied by our hearts [Note: Matthew 15:7-8.].”


In our purposes—

[We profess, as persons redeemed by the blood of our incarnate God, to give up ourselves to him, and to live unto Him who died for us: and, if we are sincere in this, our determination is fixed, that, with God’s help, nothing shall ever keep us from executing this intention. We have deliberately counted the cost. We are aware, that “if we will live godly in Christ Jesus, we must suffer persecution:” but we are prepared to meet it, from whatever quarter it may come, yea, though “our greatest foes should be those of our own household.” We are ready to sacrifice our reputation, our interests, and our very lives also, rather than in any respect deny our God, or suffer ourselves to be diverted from the path of duty. We are determined, through grace, to put away every thing that may retard our progress heavenward, and to aspire after the highest possible attainments in righteousness and true holiness. Now God requires, that we should be acting up to this profession, “setting our face as a flint against the whole world,” and standing in the posture of Daniel or the Hebrew Youths, willing to have our bodies consigned to a den of lions, or a fiery furnace, rather than violate our duty by any sinful compliance. If we are halting or hesitating, we have not truth in our inward parts.]


In our endeavours—

[Purposes must be judged of by the exertions that are put forth in order to carry them into effect. A diligent attendance therefore on all the means of grace must of necessity be required of us: in the public ordinances, and in our private chambers, whether we be hearing, or reading, or meditating, or praying, we must be like men in earnest, even like the man-slayer fleeing from the pursuer of blood, that scarcely stopped to look behind him, till he should reach the appointed sanctuary, the city of refuge. Remissness in such a cause argues a want of real integrity: if truth be indeed in our inward parts, we shall run as in a race, which leaves us no time to loiter: and wrestle with all our might, lest we be foiled in the contest; and fight as those who know that there is no alternative but to overcome or perish. In all the interior workings of our minds we shall resemble the Corinthians, who were “clear in this matter [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:11.].”]

That we may not be discouraged by the strictness of God’s requirements, let us consider,


The benefit he will confer—

There is a wisdom that is to be gained only by experience: what has its seat in the head, may be learned by the head: what dwells in the heart, must be learned by the heart: and of the heart there is but one teacher, even God; according as it is said, “Who teacheth like God [Note: Job 36:22.]:” and again, “There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding [Note: Job 32:8.].”

Amongst the treasures of wisdom which God will impart to the truly upright, and the hidden things which he will cause them to know, are,


The deceits of the heart—

[These are very deep, and absolutely unsearchable [Note: Jeremiah 17:9.]; yet in a measure will God discover them to those who have truth in their inward parts. The world at large know nothing of them: “they are calling evil good, and good evil; they put darkness for light, and light for darkness; and bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter [Note: Isaiah 5:20.]:” “they feed also on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned them aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, or say, Is there not a lie in my right hand [Note: Isaiah 44:20.]?” They contrive to satisfy their minds that all is well with them, or at least to lull their consciences asleep with the hope that all will be well with them before they die. They have a thousand pleas and excuses which they urge in their own defence, and which they vainly hope will be accepted by their Judge. If we attempt to open their eyes, they reply, with indignation, “Are we blind also [Note: John 9:40.]?” Thus are they both blinded and “hardened” through the deceitfulness of sin. But those who are really “Israelites indeed, and without guile,” have their eyes opened to see what delusions they have cherished: and being thus “brought out of darkness into marvellous light,” they find that promise fulfilled to them, “They that erred in spirit shall come to understanding [Note: Isaiah 29:24.].” “Their eye being made single, their whole body is full of light.”]


The devices of Satan—

[The men of this world, though “taken in his snares, and led captive by him at his will,” have no idea of his agency. But he is a subtle adversary; and his “wiles” are innumerable. He can even “transform himself into an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:13-14.];” and, when aiming a deadly blow at our souls, assume the garb of “a minister of righteousness.” His first device is, to persuade men that they are in no danger of the judgments they fear. If he fail in that, he will instil into their minds the notion that they have gone too far, and that there is no hope for them. If that snare do not succeed, he will draw them aside, after some points of less importance, or “matters of doubtful disputation.” Multitudes of false apostles has he at his command, who will gladly aid him in this accursed work [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:13.], and concur with him m his endeavours to “corrupt their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.].” But, if we are following the Lord fully, he will not leave us “ignorant of Satan’s devices, or suffer him to get his wished-for advantage over us [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:11.].” He will arm us against that adversary, and enable us to withstand him [Note: Ephesians 6:11.]. He will give us “the shield of faith, whereby we shall ward off and quench all his fiery darts [Note: Ephesians 6:16.],” and be able so to “resist him, that he shall flee from us [Note: James 4:7.].”]


The mysteries of grace—

[“Great is the mystery of godliness,” and great the mystery of grace, whether we consider the work wrought for us by Jesus Christ, or the work wrought in us by his Holy Spirit. These constitute that “wisdom, which is foolishness with man,” and which “the natural man cannot receive, because it is spiritually discerned [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:7-9; 1 Corinthians 2:14.].” To know this, we must be taught of God: “We must receive, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, before we can know the things that are freely given to us of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:12.].” And O! how wonderful a work does this appear, when “God shines into our hearts to reveal it to us [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.]!” How worthy of God! how suitable to man! how passing the comprehension, whether of men or angels! Verily, the man whose eyes are thus opened, seems to be brought into a new world: “old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” The ignorant world are amazed at the new line of conduct he pursues, just as Elisha’s servant was at his master’s confidence in the midst of danger. But, if their eyes were opened to see, as the Believer does, the invisible God [Note: 2 Kings 6:15-17. Hebrews 11:27.] above him and within him, they would wonder rather, that there were any bounds to his transports, or any limit to his exertions.]


The beauties of holiness—

[All who are warped by their prejudices, or blinded by their lusts, are incapable of estimating aright the beauty and blessedness of true piety: it appears to them little short of madness. And even those who make a profession of godliness, but possess not truth in their inward parts, have very erroneous conceptions of true holiness. Some place it in a confident espousal of certain principles, or a zealous attachment to a particular party: others, inclining more to practical religion, make all duty to centre in some one point, such as the mortification of the flesh, or almsgiving, or penances of man’s invention. Even those who are more enlightened, are apt to regard only one particular set of graces that are more congenial with their own feelings, and to neglect those which are of an opposite aspect; one despising every thing in comparison of zeal and confidence; another leaning altogether to the side of prudence and timidity. But the man into whose hidden part God has put true wisdom, views holiness, not with prismatic partiality, separating one grace from another, but all embodied, as light in the sun; every grace tempering its opposite, and all combining to the production of perfect beauty. He discards neither the vivid nor the darker ray: but, having all in united exercise, sorrow with joy, and fear with confidence, “the beauty of the Lord his God is upon him [Note: Psalms 90:17.],” and he shines in the Divine image in righteousness and true holiness [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].]

From this subject we may learn,

Whence it is that men get so little insight into the Gospel—

[Many hear the Gospel during their whole lives, and never attain any just knowledge of it. How shall we account for this? We suppose the Gospel to be preached with all possible fidelity, and yet it seems never to convey any light to their minds. The reason is, that they never take any pains to apply it to their own souls, or to get any one truth realized in their own experience. They assent to every thing they hear; but they are content with being hearers, without ever once attempting to become doers of the word they hear. They “see perhaps their face, as in a glass, for the moment; but they go away, and forget what manner of men they are [Note: James 1:22-25.].” But our blessed Lord has told us, that we must aim at doing his will, in order to get any just insight into what he has revealed [Note: John 7:17.]: and, as this desire is altogether wanting in the persons we are speaking of, they never derive any solid benefit from the Gospel. O Brethren! you must “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own souls.” You must apply the word to your own hearts: when you hear your sins pointed out, you must endeavour to humble yourselves for them in dust and ashes: when you hear of Christ as the one only Saviour of a ruined world, you must endeavour to flee to him for refuge: when the Holy Ghost is set forth as the one great source of all spiritual life and motion, you must cry to God the Father for his dear Son’s sake to send the Holy Spirit into your hearts, that the whole work of grace may be wrought within you. It is your neglect of thus harrowing in the seed by meditation, and of watering it with tears, that has given Satan an opportunity of taking it out of your hearts as soon as ever it has been sown there [Note: Matthew 13:4; Matthew 13:19.]. Get the “honest and the good heart,” which truly desires to make a just improvement of the word, and God will yet cause the seed to spring up in your hearts, and to bring forth fruit to the salvation of your souls.]


Whence it is that many who profess the Gospel are so little ornaments to it—

[It is a melancholy fact, that many who profess godliness walk very unworthy of their high calling. Like Ezekiel’s hearers, they are gratified with the preaching of the Gospel, as persons are with “one who plays well upon an instrument; but their heart still goeth after their covetousness [Note: Ezekiel 33:31-32.],” or some other besetting sin. But this is owing to their not having “truth in their inward parts:” if they had, they would not be satisfied with professing the Gospel, and talking about it, and looking with pity (or perhaps with contempt) on those who do not understand it: no; they would look to their spirit, that it should be meek and humble; they would look to their conduct also, that it should be blameless and without guile: they would “give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” Ah, Brethren! think what God requires of all, and of those who make a profession of religion more especially: and beg of God to endue your souls with truth and wisdom, “that ye may be sincere and without offence until the day of Christ.” You may fancy that you “know all the depths of Satan [Note: Revelation 2:24.]:” but if your professed “hope in Christ does not purify your souls as Christ is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.],” you are yet blinded by him, and utterly deceiving your own souls [Note: James 1:26.].]


How to get the whole work of God perfected in our souls—

[Come to the Gospel with hearts tender and contrite, that they may be to it as wax to the seal. Then shall you have in your own souls “the witness” of all its most important truths [Note: 1 John 5:10.]: and shall be able to answer from your own experience that question which God puts so triumphantly to all the world: “Doth not my word do good to him that walketh uprightly?” You are not straitened in God: be not straitened in your own souls. Desire much: ask much: expect much: and God will supply your every want “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”]

Verse 7


Psalms 51:7. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

EVERY part of God’s word is profitable for our instruction in righteousness; but, in the Psalms, religion is exemplified, and, as it were, embodied. The workings of genuine repentance are admirably delineated in that before us. David traces his iniquities to their proper source, his original corruption. He acknowledges the necessity of a thorough renovation of soul: and, in legal terms, but of evangelical import, he implores forgiveness.
The expressions in the text intimate to us,


The nature of sin—

The generality of the world imagine sin to be a light and venial evil. Some indeed have learned to dread it as destructive of their eternal happiness; but very few have any idea of it as defiling and debasing the soul.

It is in this view, however, that we are now called to consider it—
[Sin has defiled every member of our body, and every faculty of our soul: hence St. Paul speaks of it as “filthiness both of the flesh and spirit [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” What uncircumcised ears [Note: Acts 7:51.], what venomous tongues [Note: James 3:6.], what adulterous eyes [Note: 2 Peter 2:14.], have the greater part of mankind [Note: See Romans 3:10-19.]! How are all their members used as instruments of unrighteousness [Note: Romans 6:13.]! What pride, and envy, what wrath, and malice, are harboured in the bosom ! How gladly would we cast off all allegiance to God, and be a god unto ourselves [Note: Psalms 12:4.]! Thus, in fleshly lusts, we degrade ourselves almost to a level with the beasts [Note: 2 Peter 2:22.]; and, in spiritual filthinesss, we too much resemble the fallen angels [Note: John 8:44.]. How different is this state from that in which we were first created [Note: Genesis 1:27.]! Yet is the change effected solely by the agency of sin [Note: Romans 5:12.].]

In this view, more especially, is sin represented in the text—
[The Psalmist evidently refers to the state of a leper, or a leprous house. No disorder was more lothesome than leprosy [Note: Leviticus 13:8.]. A person infected with it was driven from the society of his dearest relatives, and was necessitated to proclaim his uncleanness to all who approached him [Note: Leviticus 13:44-46.]. Nor could his disorder ever be cured by the art of man. If he were ever healed, it was by God alone, without the intervention of human means. Hence David, knowing the filthiness and incurableness of sin, cries to God.]

Similar representations also abound in every part of the sacred writings—
[Our natural depravity is declared in expressions of the like import [Note: Job 15:14-16.] Our acquired corruptions are said to render us lothesome objects [Note: Proverbs 13:5.]. The very remains of sin in the holiest of men are also described in similar terms [Note: Romans 7:24. The allusion seems to be to a dead body, which was sometimes fastened to criminals, till they died in consequence of the stench arising from it. In such a light did St. Paul view the remains of sin which he felt within him.]: yea, the most eminent saints, in bewailing their sinfulness, have used the very same figure as David in the text [Note: Isaiah 6:5.]. Happy would it be for us, if we had these news of sin: we should soon put away our proud, self-exalting thoughts, and should adopt the confessions of holy Job [Note: Job 9:20-21; Job 9:30-31.].]

But, vile as sin is, it may be both forgiven and subdued—


The means of deliverance from it—

It has been already observed, that David alludes to the case of a leper. This is manifest from the terms, wherein he implores deliverance. Under Jewish figures he sets forth the only means of salvation—
[Certain means were prescribed by God for the purification of a leper [Note: Leviticus 14:2-7.]. When God had healed him, “the priest was to take two clean birds, with cedar-wood, scarlet, and hyssop.” Having killed one of the birds, the priest was to “dip the hyssop and the live bird in the blood of the bird that had been slain:” he was then to “sprinkle the leper seven times, and to let loose the living bird.” This ordinance typified the death of Christ, with his resurrection, and subsequent ascension into hearen with his own blood [Note: Hebrews 9:12.]. A similar ordinance is explained by the Apostle in this very manner [Note: Hebrews 9:13-14.], and the same effect is plainly ascribed to the things here typified [Note: Romans 4:25.].” It is therefore in reference to Christ that David says, “Purge me with hyssop.”

In the purification of a leprous house, water was used with the blood [Note: Leviticus 14:48-53.]. This further typified the renewing influences of the Spirit of Christ, and David seems to allude to it, when he adds, “Wash me,” &c. Nor is this by any means a forced or fanciful distinction. An inspired writer lays peculiar stress upon it [Note: 1 John 5:6.], and every enlightened person sees as much need of Christ’s Spirit to wash him from the defilement of sin, as of his blood to purge him from its guilt.]

The efficacy ascribed to these means is not at all exaggerated-
[There is no sin whatever which the blood of Christ cannot cleanse. We cannot conceive more enormous transgressions than those of David, yet even he could say with confidence, “Purge me, &c and I shall be clean.” Purified in this way, his soul would become “whiter than snow.” This blessed truth is attested by the beloved Apostle [Note: 1 John 1:7.], and it is urged by God himself as an inducement to repentance [Note: Isaiah 1:18.]. Our renewal indeed by the Holy Spirit is not perfect in this life, but it shall be continually progressive towards perfection [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:16.], and, when the leprous tabernacle shall be taken down, it shall be reared anew in consummate purity and beauty [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1.Philippians 3:21; Philippians 3:21.].]


How mistaken are they, who seek salvation by any righteousness of their own!

[We can no more eradicate sin from our souls, than a leprosy from our bodies. No man ever more deeply bewailed his sin, or more thoroughly turned from it than David [Note: Psalms 6:6; Psalms 38:4-6.], yet he did not say, “Purge me with my tears, my repentances, or my duties, but, purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:” he would make mention of no righteousness but that of Christ [Note: Psalms 71:15-16.]; nor would St. Paul himself trust for a moment in any other [Note: Philippians 3:9.]. Shall we then boast as if we were more penitent than David, more zealous than Paul? Let us rather humble ourselves in the language of Job [Note: Job 9:15 and xl. 4.], and determine to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ [Note: Galatians 6:14.].]


What encouragement is here afforded to mourning penitents!

[If David did not despair of merey, who else can have cause to do so? If the blood of Christ could so purge him, why may it not us also? If it had such efficacy a thousand years before it was shed, surely it will not be less efficacious now it has been poured forth. But it is not the mere shedding of Christ’s blood that will profit us. We must, by faith, apply it to our own souls. Let us then go to the blood of sprinkling which speaketh such good things to us [Note: Hebrews 12:24.]; let us cry with earnest and repeated entreaties, “Purge me, wash me.!” thus shall our polluted souls be whiter than snow itself, and ere long we shall join, in that general chorus [Note: Revelation 1:5-6.].]

Verse 8


Psalms 51:8. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

NEXT to the obtaining of pardon, a penitent will desire the manifestation of that pardon to his soul. A state of suspense on such a subject as the forgiveness of sins, is too painful to be endured without earnest prayer to God for the removal of it. We wonder not, therefore, that the Psalmist, after imploring mercy at the hands of God through the blood of the great Sacrifice, should seek a restoration of peace and joy: for, in truth, a soul that has once tasted peace with God, and known the joy of his salvation, can never be satisfied, till it basks in the beams of divine love, and has the light of God’s countenance lifted up upon it.
The terms in which the Psalmist implores this blessing, will lead me to shew,


The power of sin to wound the soul—

We may all have some idea of the anguish arising from broken bones. But that is small, in comparison of that which is brought upon the soul by sin. “The spirit of a man will sustain any bodily infirmity: but a wounded spirit, who can bear?” Deep indeed are the wounds inflicted by sin, in the case of,


An unconverted sinner—

[Hear the desponding complaint of Cain: “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” He felt himself an outcast from God and man: and was haunted by a guilty conscience, which was ever tormenting him with its accusations, and causing him to anticipate, with terrible apprehensions, his final doom. The state of Judas was not less appalling than his. The traitor had promised himself much pleasure from the wages of his iniquity: but no sooner had he betrayed his Lord, than he was filled with remorse, and constrained to confess his guilt, and could no longer retain the money with which he had been bribed, yea, could no longer endure his very existence, but went and hanged himself.
Previous to the commission, sin appears but a light and venial evil: and, even after it has been committed, often leaves the mind in a state of extreme insensibility and obduracy. But let it once be brought home to the conscience by the operation of the Spirit of God, and it will inflict a wound there, which will be a foretaste of hell itself, even “a certain looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall consume ”the soul for ever.]


A blacksliding saint—

[The example of Peter may teach us the bitter effects of sin on a mind susceptible of its enormity. What pangs did he feel, when his Divine Master looked upon him, and fixed conviction on his soul! No longer able to contain himself, “he went out and wept bitterly.” But let us fix our attention more particularly on David, whose words we are considering. Under a sense of his enormous guilt, “his bones waxed old through his roaring all the day long: for God’s hand was heavy upon him, so that his moisture was turned to the drought of summer [Note: Psalms 32:3-4.].” Hear his cries under the agonies he endured: “O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure: for thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger: neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as an heavy burthen they are too heavy for me. I am troubled: I am bowed down greatly: I go mourning all the day long. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart [Note: Psalms 38:1-8.]”. In another psalm he still further complains, “My soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves [Note: Psalms 88:3; Psalms 88:6-7.].” Who that hears these bitter wailings must not acknowledge that sin is a tremendous evil, and that, however it may be “rolled tinder the tongue for a season as a sweet morsel,” “it will bite at last like a serpent, and sting like an adder?”]

Let us, not, however, be so intent on the power of sin to wound the soul, as to forget,


The power of grace to heal it—

What were the sins which had broken David’s bones? Adultery and murder. And was it possible that they should be forgiven, and that the person who had committed them should ever “hear again of joy and gladness?” Yes: there is nothing too hard for God’s power to effect; nothing too great for his mercy to bestow.
The provision made for sinners in the Gospel is adequate to the necessities of all—
[This is a blessed truth, and full of the richest consolation. If there were any bounds to the mercy of God, or to the merits of his dear Son, millions of the human race must sit down in utter despair. But, when we learn that Christ is “a propitiation for the sins of the whole world” and that “his blood cleanseth from all sin; ”when we are informed also, that persons who are accepted in the Beloved, stand before God “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, and are holy and without blemish;” none can say, “There is no hope for me.” On the contrary, even David himself is authorised to say, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”]

The man who lays hold on the Gospel shall have all his sorrows turned into joy—
[Of this, David himself was an eminent example. Even he could say, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness [Note: Psalms 30:11.].” Who can tell the full efficacy of “the balm of Gilead?” “Who can fully declare what peace and joy are imparted to the sinner, when God lifts upon him the light of his reconciled countenance? Verily, the peace that is then imparted to his soul “passeth all understanding;” and “the joy” that flows in upon him “is unspeakable and glorified.” Behold the converts on the day of Pentecost, or the jailer, when, once the Saviour was revealed to him: how speedily were all their sorrows dissipated, and their griefs turned into the sublimest joy! And cannot many amongst ourselves attest that God is still the same, and that his grace is as effectual as ever for the reviving and the comforting of the contrite soul [Note: Isaiah 57:15.]? Be it known to all, that “God will not contend for ever; neither will he be always wroth: lest the spirit should fail before him, and the souls which he has made [Note: Isaiah 57:16.].”]

We may learn from hence,

What folly it is to “make a mock at sin”—

[Yes truly; they are justly called fools” who do so: for whilst sin robs us of our innocence, it can create a very hell upon earth. And who is he, against whom it may not prevail? Look at David, the man after God’s own heart: see from what an eminence he fell, and into what an abyss of guilt and misery! Does not his example speak loudly to us all? Does it not say to every one of us, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall?” Beware, then, of sin: beware of the very first motions of sin in the soul. “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” And let all of us “flee from sin, as from the face of a serpent;” and cry daily unto God to “hold us up in his arms, that our footsteps slip not,”]


What a mercy it is that the Gospel is sounding in our ears—

[Where can the weary and heavy-laden soul find rest, but in Christ Jesus? What hope could David ever have entertained, if he had not looked to the great sacrifice to purge away his sin? The Law did not so much as prescribe any offering for such sins as his: and if he had not looked forward to the Gospel, he must have died without hope. But his broken bones were healed by a sight of Christ; and so shall ours be, if we “flee for refuge to Him, as to the hope that is set before us.” To all, then, I will say, Improve your privileges: and if your bones be broken with a sense of sin, the prophet’s counsel is given you this day by my mouth: “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us: he hath smitten, and he will bind us up [Note: Hosea 6:1.].”]

Verse 10


Psalms 51:10. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

PARDON and peace are the first blessings which a penitent will seek. But no true penitent will be satisfied with them: he will desire with no less ardour the renovation of his soul in righteousness and true holiness — — — The psalm before us gives a just epitome of the penitent’s mind. David begins with fervent supplications for pardon: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions!” He comes afterwards to implore a sense of God’s forgiving love: “Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” He then desires a restoration of his soul to the divine image: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
In these words we may see,


The great constituents of true piety—

A mere reformation of life, however exemplary, will be no better than the painting of a sepulchre, which is “full of rottenness and all uncleanness.” If we would be approved of our God, we must have,


A clean heart—

[”The heart of fallen man is full of evil [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:3.]:” and from it, as from its proper source, all manner of evil proceeds [Note: Mark 7:21-23.]. God himself has testified respecting it. that “all its thoughts and imaginations are evil [Note: Genesis 6:5.].” Hence there is an in dispensable necessity, that it should be renewed by grace: for, if left in an unrenewed state, it could not enjoy heaven, even if it were admitted there. Being altogether corrupt, it could not delight itself in the presence of a holy God, or find satisfaction in those exercises of praise in which the glorified saints and angels are incessantly engaged. To find happiness in God and holy exercises, it must acquire a totally different taste: or rather, it must be wholly changed: it must be cleansed from all its corrupt propensities: it must be made averse from sin: and all its powers must be sanctified unto the Lord.]


A right spirit—

[By a “right” spirit is meant a “constant” spirit. A man, even after he is once cleansed, is yet prone to sin. He is beset with temptations both from without and within: and he needs to “be strengthened with might in his inner man,” in order that he may be able to withstand them. It will be in vain that he has been once “cleansed from the pollutions of the world: if he be ever again entangled with them and overcome, “His last end will be worse than the beginning [Note: 2 Peter 2:20.].” He must “be steadfast, immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.],” if ever he would find acceptance at the last. “He must endure unto the end, if ever he would be saved.”]

Seeing that these things are so necessary, let us inquire,


How they are to be obtained—

They are not the work of man, but of God alone. They are God’s work,


In their commencement—

[The giving of a clean heart is justly called “a new creation:” “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Hence he that is in Christ is called “a new creature [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17.].” When we survey the heavenly bodies, we see and know that they cannot have been the work of any created being: the impress of Divinity is stamped upon them. And not less certain is it that a new heart must be the gift of God. True it is, that God has said, “Make you a new heart, and a right spirit: for why will ye die [Note: Ezekiel 18:31.]?” But it is also true, that God has promised to give it to us: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-26.].” Here all is the gift of God: and it is to be obtained from God in the exercise of prayer and faith. It is our duty to have a clean heart: and therefore God says, “Make you one.” But, since we cannot do it of ourselves, we are to turn the command into a petition: “Create it in me, O God!” And, to shew us that such petitions shall not be in vain, God makes our petition the subject of an express promise: “A new heart will I give you” This points out the true way of obtaining all spiritual blessings: we must be sensible that it is our duty to possess them: but, from a consciousness of our inability to obtain them by any efforts of our own, we must cry to God for them, and plead with him the promises which he has given us in the Son of his love. “Laying hold on these promises,” we shall obtain the strength which we stand in need of; and shall be enabled to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].”]


In their progress—

[Stability of mind is as much the gift of God as regeneration itself: it is He alone that can “make us perfect; establish, strengthen, settle us [Note: 1 Peter 5:10.].” We need only look to David for an illustration of this truth. What man ever lived, on whom you might depend more fully than on him? He was “a man after God’s own heart: “disciplined in the school of adversity, and honoured with divine communications to as great an extent as the most favoured of the sons of men. Yet behold, how he fell! Look at Solomon too. Who, that had seen him at the dedication of the temple, would have ever supposed that he should betray such weakness and folly as he did, during the greater part of his reign? Alas! “what is man,” if left to himself; if left only for a single instant? If God be not with him to uphold him, he will become the sport of every temptation, “driven to and fro with every wind,” whether of sentiment or of feeling [Note: Ephesians 4:14.]. He must be assisted in every part of his duty, whether of “putting off the old man. or putting on the new.” The same Almighty power which raised Christ from the dead must work mightily in him [Note: Ephesians 1:19-20.]. to “renew him in the spirit of his mind [Note: Ephesians 4:23-24.],” till the whole work of God be perfected within him: and to the latest hour of his life his prayer must be, “May the very God of peace, who brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make me perfect in every good work, to do his will; working in me that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Christ Jesus [Note: Hebrews 13:20-21.]!”]


Those who feel no need of such a change as is described in our text—

[By the generality, such a change is deemed no better than a wild enthusiastic conceit: and if a man have been baptized into the faith of Christ, and been enabled to maintain an honourable and consistent walk through life, he is conceived to be in a state of perfect safety. But had not Nicodemus been admitted into covenant with God in the way prescribed by God himself, and in the only way in which any were or could be admitted under the Mosaic dispensation? and was he not a person of most exemplary character? Yet to him did our Lord say again and again, “Ye must be born again;” and if a man be not born again, “he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven [Note: John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:7.].” To get rid of this awful admonition, many will identify regeneration with the act of baptism, under an idea that the inward grace must of necessity accompany the outward sign. But if this be the case in one sacrament, it must be equally so in the other: whereas we are told, that a man may partake of the Lord’s supper unworthily; and, instead of being saved by it, may only “eat and drink his own damnation [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:29.].” And so may a man render baptism the means of his more aggravated condemnation; as Simon Magus actually did: for he continued as much “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity” after his baptism, as he was before, with the additional guilt of his hypocrisy in having applied for baptism in a state altogether unworthy to receive it [Note: Acts 8:21-23.]. Beloved Brethren, whatever men may say, you must be born again of the Spirit, as well as of water: you must become “new creatures in Christ Jesus:” and if God create not in you a clean heart, and renew not in you a right spirit, Satan himself may hope for heaven as well as you: for, if there be any truth in the word of God, “without holiness,” real, inward, universal holiness, no man shall see the Lord [Note: Hebrews 12:14.].”]


Those who profess to have experienced it—

[There are two things against which I would particularly take occasion to guard you: the one is presumption; the other is despondency.
You have probably heard persons speak of divine grace being an imperishable seed: which, once bestowed, must of necessity bring a man to glory. But it is the word of God which is the only imperishable seed [Note: 1 Peter 1:23.]: nor is there in the universe a man who is authorised to say, ‘I cannot fall.’ To enter into this subject at large, is beyond my present purpose. The man who cannot see his frailty in the character of David, and his inability to restore himself in the long impenitence of David, will probably be left to learn these things by bitter experience. But to every man among you “that has an ear to hear,” I would say, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:12.].” And if I were speaking even to a prophet of the Most High, and he as eminent as David himself, I would whisper in his ear this salutary caution, “Be not high-minded, but fear [Note: Romans 11:20.].”

Yet, if there be here one who has fallen into sin, I would say, Despair not, as though there were not mercy enough in the bosom of your God to pardon you, or power enough in his arm to keep you. Yea, if, like David, you had committed the aggravated crimes of adultery and murder, I would still point you to the great Sacrifice, even to the Lord Jesus Christ: and would put into your mouth that prayer of David, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow [Note: ver. 7.].” I would, however, remind such an one, that it will not be enough for him to obtain pardon and peace: he must have “a clean heart created in him, and a right and constant spirit renewed within him,” if ever he would “see the face of God in peace.” Yet I would add, that there is nothing impossible with God: and that he who magnified his mercy in the salvation of an adulterous and murderous David, will “cast out none who come to him” in humility and faith, as David did.]

Verse 14


Psalms 51:14. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation! and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

THIS psalm is full of encouragement to a real penitent; but in particular the petition before us. Consider the crime committed—murder; the most atrocious murder that ever was committed. Consider by whom it had been committed—the man after God’s own heart, who had experienced from God more signal interpositions than almost any other man that ever breathed. Consider the long and inconceivable obduracy which he had indulged since the commission of if, even to the very hour when his guilt was charged upon him by the Prophet of the Lord. Could such a sin as this be forgiven? Could such an offender dare to ask forgiveness, or entertain the remotest hope of obtaining it? Surely, if David could approach his God under such circumstances as these, with the smallest hope of acceptance, then may we see in this passage,


The privilege of a contrite soul—

There is not a sinner in the universe who may not go to God, as “a God of salvation”—
[Were there only a hope that mercy might be a constituent of the divine character, and an attribute which might by some possibility be displayed, it were a sufficient encouragement to the vilest sinner upon earth to call upon his God. But the title here assigned to the Most High, opens to us a most wonderful view of his character. He is “a God of salvation;” as having devised a way of salvation for a ruined world: as having given us his only dear Son to effect it: as having accepted the sacrifice of his Son in our behalf; and, as applying that salvation to those whom “he has chosen in Christ Jesus before the world began.” He is “a God of salvation,” as making the redemption of the world his great concern; yea, as altogether occupied in it; so as, if I may so speak, to be swallowed up in it, and to be “a God of it.” We read of him as “a God of patience and consolation,” yea, “a God of all grace:” but the title given in my text meets most fully the necessities of mankind, and opens a door of hope to every sinner under heaven.]
Nor is there a sin which, if truly repented of, shall not be forgiven—
[We read, indeed, of the sin against the Holy Ghost, as excepted from the tremendous catalogue of pardonable sins. But it is not excepted because of its enormity, as though it were too great to be forgiven; but only because that sin implies a wilful and deliberate rejection of the only means of salvation: it destroys, not because it exceeds the efficacy of the Redeemer’s blood, but because it tramples on that blood which alone can expiate even the smallest sin. A man who determinately rejects all food, needs not to do any thing else to ensure his own destruction: he rejects the necessary means of life, and therefore must inevitably perish. But we may say without exception, that “the blood of Jesus Christ both can and will cleanse from all sin,” if only we sprinkle it upon our conscience, and trust in it for salvation. It is worthy of observation, that the Psalmist expresses no doubt as to the possibility of his acceptance with God. He does not say, “If such guilt can be forgiven, deliver thou me;” but simply, “Deliver me.” Nay, in a preceding part of this psalm he says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow [Note: ver. 7.].” Whatever guilt, therefore, may lie upon the conscience of the vilest sinner under heaven, let him go to God, and cry with humble confidence, “Deliver me, O God of my salvation!”]

From this example of David, we may further learn,


The duty of all who have obtained mercy of the Lord—

The world are ready to complain, “Why do you not keep your religion to yourself? But no pardoned sinner ought to do so: he is bound to render thanks for the mercies vouchsafed unto him.


He owes it to God—

[Surely God is to be honoured, as a God of providence and a God of grace. Are we distinguished above the brute creation? We should bless God for the faculties bestowed upon us. Are we elevated above any of our fellows by the communication of spiritual blessings to our souls? We are bound to praise God for such “an unspeakable gift.” If we forbore to speak His praises, methinks “the very stones would cry out against us.”]


He owes it to the world—

[How are the world to be instructed in the knowledge of God, if those to whom that knowledge is imparted are silent respecting him? We owe a debt to them. “What our eyes have seen, our ears have heard, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life,” we are bound to declare to them. We are not at liberty to put our light under a bushel; but must “make it to shine before men, that they also may glorify our Father who is in heaven.” “When we are converted,” we are bound in every possible way to “strengthen our brethren.”]


He owes it to himself—

[Suppose a man to “have been forgiven much, will he not love much?” and will not love vent itself in the praise of the object beloved? Especially if a man have been made a partaker of God’s righteousness, will he not sing aloud of that righteousness? No doubt he will: and, if the angelic hosts would account it a painful sacrifice if silence were imposed upon them, and they were forbidden to shew forth the praises of their God, so would it be with the believing soul, in proportion to the measure of grace that had been conferred upon him.]

To all, then, I say,

Be particular in your applications to God for mercy—

[Do not rest in mere general confessions or general petitions; but search out the hidden iniquities of your hearts, and spread them distinctly before God in prayer. We have not all committed the sins of David: but are we not all sinners? And if we would search the records of our conscience, might we not find some evils which call for more than ordinary humiliation? Or, if in acts we have been free from any remarkable transgression, have we not felt such motions of sin within us, as might, if God had given us up to temptation, have issued in the foulest transgressions? We need only recollect what our Lord tells us, that an impure and angry-thought is constructive adultery and murder; and we shall see little reason to cast a stone at others, and abundant reason for humiliation before God. I say, then, search out, every one of you, your besetting sins, and implore of God the forgiveness of them.]


Have respect to God under his proper character—

[View God not merely as your Creator, your Governor, and your Judge, but as your Covenant God and Saviour. See how David addresses him: “O God, thou God of my salvation!” Thus it will be well for every sinner of mankind to do. See your own interest in him: see what provision he has made for you; what invitations he has given to you; what promises he has held forth to you. This will encourage penitence: this will strike the rock for penitential sorrows to flow out. In a word, view God as he is in Christ Jesus, a God reconciling the world unto himself; and you will never indulge despair, nor ever doubt but He will shew mercy to all who call upon him in spirit and in truth.]


Determine, through grace, to improve for God the blessings you receive—

[It was a suitable determination of David, that, if his requests should be granted, “his tongue should sing aloud of God’s righteousness.” A similar resolution becomes us. Are we interested in a salvation which displays “the righteousness of God,” and makes every perfection of his to concur in the promotion of our welfare? Let us not be silent: let us not be ashamed to confess him before men: though the whole world should endeavour to silence us, let us not regard them for one instant: but let us say with David, “I will praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel: My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long [Note: Psalms 71:22-24.].”]

Verses 16-17


Psalms 51:16-17. Thon desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

“WHEREWITHAL shall I come before the Lord?” is the first inquiry that will be made by an awakened sinner. No sooner were the murderers of our Lord “pricked to the heart” with a conviction of their guilt, than they cried out, (the whole assembly of them together), “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” In answer to this, man proposes many costly offerings; and for the obtaining of peace would present unto God any thing that he should require [Note: Micah 6:6-7.]. Had God required sacrifices to be offered for David’s sins, he would gladly have offered them, however numerous or costly they had been: “Thou desirest not sacrifice: else would I give it thee.” But there is only one thing required, and that universally, of all people under heaven: and what that is, we are informed in the words before us: “The sacrifices of God,” &c.

Here are two points to be inquired into;


What is that sacrifice which God approves—

The term “sacrifice” is metaphorically applied to many things: to praise and thanksgivings [Note: Hebrews 13:15.]; to almsdeeds [Note: Hebrews 13:16.]; to a surrender of the soul to God [Note: Romans 12:1.]. But in our text it does not so much refer to any offerings whereby a pardoned sinner may honour God, as to that disposition of mind whereby an unpardoned sinner may facilitate his acceptance with God. As to any external services, David informs us that these would not answer the desired end: for though many offerings under the law were appointed and approved of God as typical of the great sacrifice, yet were they in themselves of no value [Note: Psalms 50:8-14.], especially when compared with obedience [Note: 1 Samuel 15:22.Hosea 6:6; Hosea 6:6.]; and, when substituted for obedience, they were hateful and abominable in the sight of God [Note: Isaiah 1:11-15; Isa 66:3 and Amos 5:21-23.]. For such sins as David’s there was actually no sacrifice appointed: no penalty less than death could be awarded to the person that was found guilty either of adultery or murder [Note: Numbers 35:31 Deuteronomy 22:22.]. But there is a sacrifice which will forward the acceptance even of such an atrocious sinner as David: it is called in our text, “A broken and contrite heart.” To ascertain what is meant by this, let us consider,


The term—

[We all have some idea of what is meant by “a broken heart,” when applied to worldly sorrow. It signifies a person overwhelmed with sorrow to such a degree, that he is always bowed down under its weight, and incapable of receiving consolation from any thing but the actual removal of his burthens. Thus far it may serve to illustrate the meaning of our text, and to shew what is meant by a heart broken with a sense of sin — — — But in other respects there is an exceeding great difference between the two: for a heart broken with worldly troubles, argues an ignorance of our own demerit—a want of resignation to God—a want of affiance in him—and a low esteem of those benefits which sanctified affliction is calculated to produce — — — In these respects therefore it forms a contrast, rather than a resemblance, to true contrition.

Let us then drop the term, and consider the thing.]


The thing—

[“A broken and a, contrite heart” consists in a deep sense of our guilt and misery—a self-lothing and abhorrence on account of the peculiar aggravations of our sin, (as committed against a gracious God and a merciful Redeemer,)—a readiness to justify God in his dealings with us, whatever they be, —and such an insatiable desire after mercy, as swallows up every other sensation, whether of joy or sorrow — — —
View all these things distinctly and separately—compare them with the workings of David’s mind as set forth in this psalm [Note: ver. 3, 4, 7–9.] — — — view them as illustrated by other portions of Holy Writ [Note: 2 Chronicles 34:27. Job 40:4; Job 42:6. with Zechariah 12:10. Luke 15:18-19. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. or all together. 2 Corinthians 7:11. or as exemplified in other of David’s Psalms, Psalms 38:4-10; Psalms 40:12. Perhaps it will be best to confine the illustrations to Psalms 51, 38 for fear of swelling this part of the subject too much.] — — — and the more they are considered, the more will they discover to us the precise nature of that sacrifice which is described in the text.]

Let us now proceed to inquire,


Why God honours it with his peculiar favour—

That God does signally honour it, is certain—
[When it is said that “a broken and contrite heart God will not despise,” more is meant than is expressed: it means, that God will honour it with tokens of his peculiar approbation. Whoever he be that offers to him this sacrifice, God will notice him, even though there were only one in the universe, and he the meanest and vilest of mankind. Not all the angels in heaven should so occupy his attention as to prevent him from searching out that person, and keeping his eye continually fixed upon him for good [Note: Isaiah 66:2.]— — — Moreover, God will comfort him; he will not merely view him from heaven, but will come down and dwell in his heart on purpose to comfort and revive him [Note: Isaiah 57:15.] — — — Nor is this all; for God will surely and eternally save him [Note: Psalms 34:18. Job 33:27-28.]: and the more abased the man is in his own eyes, the higher will God exalt him on a throne of glory [Note: Luke 18:14.] — — —]

And the reasons of his so honouring it are plain—
[It is the work of his own Spirit on the soul of man. No created power can effect it: we may break and bruise the body, but we can never produce in any one a broken and contrite spirit. This is God’s prerogative [Note: Job 40:11.Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 11:19.]; and whoever has obtained this blessing must say, “He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing, is God [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:5.].”—Again, It is the precise disposition that becomes us. If the holy angels that never sinned veil their faces and their feet in the presence of their God, what prostration of mind must become such guilty creatures as we are! Surely we must “put our hands on our mouth, and our mouth in the dust, crying, Unclean, unclean [Note: Lamentations 3:29. with Leviticus 13:45.]!” yea rather, we should “gird us with sackcloth, and wallow ourselves in ashes, and make mourning as for an only son, even most bitter lamentation, [Note: Jeremiah 6:26. with James 4:9-10.].”—Further, It disposes us to acquiesce cordially in Gods’ appointed method of recovery. Till we are thoroughly broken-hearted with a sense of sin, we never estimate aright the unspeakable blessings of Redemption. “We may profess a regard for the Gospel; but we do not really “glory in the cross of Christ;” Christ does not truly become “all our salvation and all our desire.” But to the truly contrite, O how precious is the name of Jesus, that adorable name, the foundation of all our hopes, the source of all our joys!—Lastly, It invariably stimulates us to a cheerful unreserved obedience. No commandment is hard to a person, when once his heart is truly broken and contrite. Let us see that we were dead, and that Christ died for us; and a sense of “his love will constrain us to live to him,” and to “glorify him with our body and our spirit, which are his.”

Say now, whether here be not reason sufficient for the distinguished favours which God vouchsafes to the contrite soul? We know that there is nothing meritorious in contrition: but there is in it a suitableness for the reception of the divine mercies, and for the reflecting back upon God the honour which he confers upon it.]

This subject may well be improved,


For the conviction of the impenitent—

[Worldly sorrow has more or less been the portion of us all: but how few have “sorrowed after a godly sort!” The generality have never laid to heart their sins at all: and they who have felt some compunction, have for the most part been satisfied with a little transient sorrow, and something of an outward reformation of life. But let this be remembered, that when it is said, “God will not despise the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart,” it is manifestly implied, that he will despise every thing short of that. Do not then deceive yourselves with an expectation that God will accept your feigned or partial humiliation: your penitence must be deep, and your change radical: your sorrow for sin must far exceed any worldly sorrow, and must bring you incessantly to the foot of the cross, as your only refuge and your only hope: nor will any repentance short of this be “a repentance unto salvation, but only a repentance eternally to be repented of [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:10.].”]


For consolation to the penitent—

[When once you become truly penitent, men will begin to despise you: they will look upon you as a poor weak enthusiast, and will “cast out your name as evil” — — — But your comfort is, that God will not despise you. If the Psalmist had merely affirmed this, it would have been a rich ground of consolation: but he makes it a matter of appeal to God; “A broken and contrite spirit, thou, O God, will not despise.” What a glorious truth! When you are so vile and contemptible in your own eyes that you blush and are confounded before God, and “dare not even lift up your eyes unto heaven,” God looks upon you with pleasure and complacency, and acknowledges you as his dearly beloved child [Note: Jeremiah 31:18-20.]. Do you want evidence of this? See for whom God sent his only-begotten Son into the world [Note: Isaiah 61:1-3,]; and read the account given of the very first sermon that Jesus ever preached [Note: Luke 4:17-21.]: and hear to whom in particular he addressed his invitations [Note: Matthew 11:28.]: consider these, I say, and then reject the consolation if you can.]


For instruction to the more advanced Christian—

[Is a broken and contrite heart the sacrifice with which you must come to God? Know that it is that which you must continue also to offer him to the latest hour of your lives. You are not to lose the remembrance of your shame and sorrow, but to “lothe yourselves after that God is pacified towards youa,” ye [Note: Ezekiel 16:63.], and because that God is pacified towards you. The more abundant is his mercy towards you, the more should you abhor yourself for having ever sinned against so gracious a God. You cannot but have seen in others, and probably felt within yourselves a disposition to depart from this ground, and to indulge a spirit of self-sufficiency and pride. I entreat you to examine yourselves with respect to it — — — It is a common evil, and is very apt to lurk in us unperceived. But if we see it not ourselves, we shall without fail discover it to others; or, if they should not discover it, God will behold it, and that too with utter abhorrence [Note: Pro 16:5 and 1 Peter 5:5.]. Watch over yourselves therefore, and pray that you may grow continually in lowliness of mind, in tenderness of conscience, in meekness of temper, and in purity of heart. The more you resemble little children, the higher will you be in the kingdom of God [Note: Matthew 18:4.].]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 51". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/psalms-51.html. 1832.
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