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chap. xl. 28–30. There is nothing that is more provoking to the Lord, nor more disadvantageous unto the soul, than such sinful despondency. For,
1. It insensibly weakens the soul, and disenables it, both for present duties, and future endeavours. Hence, some poor creatures mourn, and even pine away in this condition, never getting one step beyond a perplexing sense of sin all their days. Some have dwelt so long upon it, and have so entangled themselves with a multitude of perplexed thoughts, that at length their natural faculties have been weakened, and rendered utterly useless; so that they have lost both sense of sin and every thing else. Against some, Satan hath taken advantage to cast in so many entangling objections into their minds, that their whole time hath been taken up in proposing doubts and objections against themselves; with these they have gone up and down, to one and another, and being never able to come unto a consistency in their own thoughts, they have spent all their days in a fruitless, sapless, withering, comfortless condition. Some, with whom things come to a better issue, are yet for a season brought to that discomposure of spirit, or are so filled with their own apprehensions, that when the things which are most proper to their condition are spoken to them, they take no impression in the least upon them. Thus the soul is weakened by dwelling too long on these considerations; until some cry with those in Ezek. xxxiii. 10. “Our sins are upon us, we pine away in them, and how should we then live?'
2. This frame, if it abides, by itself, will insensibly give countenance unto hard thoughts of God, and so to repining, and weariness in waiting on him. At first the soul • neither apprehends nor fears any such issue. It supposeth
that it shall condemn and abhor itself, and justify God, and that for ever.
But when relief comes not in, this resolution begins to weaken. Secret thoughts arise in the heart, that God is austere, inexorable, and not to be dealt withal. This sometimes casts forth such complaints, as will bring the soul unto new complaints, before it comes to have an issue of its trials. Here, in humiliation antecedaneous to conversion, many a convinced person perisheth. They cannot wait God's season, and perish under their impatience. And what the saints of God themselves have been overtaken withal in their depths and trials, we have many examples and instances. Delight and expectations are the grounds of our abiding with God. Both these are weakened by a conquering, prevailing sense of sin, without some relief from the discovery of forgiveness, though at a distance. And therefore, our perplexed soul stays not here, but presseth on towards that discovery.
Secondly, There is a resting on this frame, that is noxious and hurtful also. Some finding this sense of sin, with those other things that attend it wrought in them, in some measure, begin to think that now all is well, this is all that is of them required. They will endeavour to make a life, form such arguments of comfort, as they can take from their trouble. They think this a ground of peace, that they have not peace. Here some take up before conversion, and it proves their ruin. Because they are convinced of sin, and troubled about it, and burdened with it, they think it shall be well with them; but were not Cain, Esau, Saul, Ahab, Judas, convinced of sin, and burdened with it? Did this profit them? Did it interest them in the promises? Did not the wrath of God overtake them notwithstanding? So is it with many daily, they think their conviction is conversion; and that their sins are pardoned, because they have been troubled.
This then is that which we reject, which the soul in this condition doth carefully avoid ; so to satisfy itself with its humiliation, as to make that a ground of supportment and consolation, being thereby kept off from exercising faith for forgiveness. For this is,
1. A fruit of self-righteousness. For a soul to place the spring of its peace or comfort in any thing of its own, is to fall short of Christ, and to take up in self. We must not only be justified, but glory in him also; Isa. xlv. 25. Men may make use of the evidence of their graces; but only as medium to a farther end; not as the rest of the soul in the least. And this deprives men's very humiliations of all gospel humility. True humility consists more in believing, than in being sensible of sin. That is the soul's great selfemptying and abasing; this may consist with an obstinate resolution to scamble for something upon the account of selfendeavours.
2. Though evangelical sense of sin be a grace, yet it is not the uniting grace; it is not that which interests us in Christ, not that which peculiarly, and in its own nature exalts him. There is in this sense of sin, that which is natural, and that which is spiritual; or the matter of it, and its spirituality. The former consists in sorrow, trouble, selfabasement, dejection, and anxiety of mind, with the like passions. Of these I may say, as the apostle of afflictions, they are not joyous but grievous.' They are such as are accompanied with the aversation of the object which they are conversant about. In their own nature they are no more but the soul's retreat into itself, with an abhorrency of the objects of its sorrow and grief. When these affections are spiritualized, their nature is not changed. The soul in and by them, acts according to their nature; and doth by them as such, but retreat into itself with a dislike of that they are exercised about. To take up here then, must needs be to sit down short of Christ; whether it be for life, or consolation,
Let there be no mistake. There can be no evangelical sense of sin, and humiliation, where there is not union with Christ; Zech. xii. 10. Only in itself, and in its own nature, it is not availing. Now Christ is the only rest of our souls; in any thing for any end or purpose, to take up short of him, is to lose it. It is not enough that we be prisoners of hope, but we must turn to our strong hold; Zech. ix. 12. not enough that we are weary and laden, but we must come to him; Matt. xi. 27, 28. It will not suffice that we are weak, and know we are weak, but we must take hold on the strength of God; Isa. xxvii. 4, 5.
3. Indeed pressing after forgiveness, is the very life and power of evangelical humiliation. How shall a man know that his humiliation is evangelical, that his sorrow is according to God? Is it not from hence he may be resolved, that he doth not in it, as Cain did, who cried his sins were greater than he could bear, and so departed from the presence of God? nor as Judas did, who repented, and hanged himself? nor as Felix did, tremble for awhile, and then return to his lusts ? nor as the Jews did in the prophet, pine away under his iniquities, because of vexation of heart? nor doth he divert his thoughts to other things, thereby to to relieve his soul in his trouble; nor fix upon a righteousness of his own; nor slothfully lie down under his perplexity; but in the midst of it, he plies himself to God in Christ for pardon and mercy. And it is the soul's application unto God for forgiveness, and not its sense of sin, that gives unto God the glory of his grace.
Thus far then have we accompanied the soul in its depths; it is now looking out for forgiveness; which what it is, and how we come to have an interest in it, the principal matter in this discourse intended, is nextly to be considered.
Ver. 4. The words explained, and the design or scope of the psalmist
in them discovered. The state and condition of the soul making application unto God in this psalm is recounted, ver. 1. It was in the depths; not only providential depths of trouble, affliction, and perplexities thereon; but also depths of conscience, distress on the account of sin, as in the opening of those words have been declared.
The application of this soul unto God, with restless fervency and earnestness in that state and condition; its consideration in the first place of the law and the severity of God's justice in a procedure thereon ; with the inevitable ruin of all sinners, if God insist on that way of dealing with them, have also been opened and manifested from the foregoing verses.
Being in this estate, perplexed in itself, lost in and under the consideration of God's marking iniquity according to the tenor of the law, that which it fixes on, from whence any relief, stay, or supportment might be expected in such a condition, is laid down in this verse.
Ver. 4.—' But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.'
I shall first open the words as to their signification and importance; then shew the design of the psalmist in them, with reference to the soul whose condition is here represented; and lastly, propose the general truths contained in them, wherein all our concernments do lie.
There is forgiveness, ihaouos say the LXX. and Jerome accordingly, propitiatio ;'* propitiation :'which is somewhat more than 'venia' or 'pardon,' as by some it is rendered.
111°SD condonatio ipsa;''forgiveness itself.' It is from no to spare, to pardon, to forgive, to be propitious: and is opposed to son, a word composed of the same letters varied (which is common in that language) signifying to cut off, and destroy.
Now it is constantly applied unto sin, and expresseth every thing that concurs to its pardon, or forgiveness. As,
First, It expresseth the mind or will of pardoning, or God's gracious readiness to forgive; Psal. lxxxvi. 5. • Thou, Lord, art good, n301, and ready to forgive;' xonotòg kaừ ÉTLELKNS;
benign and meek;'or,'sparing, propitious. Of a gracious, merciful heart and nature. So Nehem. ix. 17. • Thou art, O God,' ninso propitiationum,' of propitiations or pardons ; or, as we have rendered it,“ ready to forgive;' a God of forgivenesses; or all plenty of them is in thy gracious heart; Isa. lv. 8. So that thou art always ready to make out pardons to sinners. The word is used again, Dan. ix. 9. to the same purpose.
Secondly, It regards the act of pardoning; or actual forgiveness itself; Psal. ciii. 3.non, Who forgiveth all thine iniquities ;' actually dischargeth thee of them: which place the apostle respecting, renders the word by xaploáuevos; Col. iii. 13. “Having freely forgiven you' (for so much the word imports)' all your trespasses.'
And this is the word that God useth in the covenant, in that great promise of grace and pardon; Jer. xxxi. 34.
It is warrantable for us, yea, necessary to take the word in the utmost extent of its signification and use. word of favour, and requires an interpretation tending towards the enlargement of it. We see it may be rendered idaquòs, or' propitiation ;' xápıs or 'grace;' and 'venia,' or * pardoni' and may denote these three things.
1. The gracious, tender, merciful heart and will of God; who is the God of pardons and forgiveness; or ready to forgive, to give out mercy, to add to pardon.
2. A respect unto Jesus Christ, the only chaquòs, or propitiation for sin, as he is expressly called, Rom. iii. 25. i John ii. 2. And this is that which interposeth between the gracious heart of God, and the actual pardon of sinners. All forgiveness is founded on propitiation.
3. It denotes condonation or actual forgiveness itself,
It is a