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Psalms 32:1-11 - Homilies By C. Clemance

Divine forgiveness.

This psalm is one of those historically established as David's. £ It has long been a favourite with the greatest saints, who are the very ones that own themselves the greatest sinners. Luther referred to it as one of his special psalms. So Dr. Chalmers, who, it is said, could scarcely read its first three verses without tears filling his eyes. The compression necessary to keep this work within moderate limits renders it impossible to do more than point out how it might profitably be expanded and expounded in a course of sermons. It is headed, "a Psalm, giving instruction;" i.e. a didactic psalm—a doctrinal one, in fact, and as such is to be one of the songs of the sanctuary. Note: They fall into error who do not regard the rehearsal of Divine truth as a fitting method of sacred song. We may not only sing praise to God, but may speak "to one another in psalms, and hymns, £ and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord." This psalm is a grateful rehearsal of the blessedness of Divine forgiveness. We see therein—

I. FORGIVENESS NEEDED . Here, indeed, the expositor must be clear, firm, direct, swift, pointed. We have:

1 . Sin committed. The Hebrew language, poor as is its vocabulary in many directions, is abundant in the terms used in connection with sin. £ It is and ever will remain the differential feature of the education of the Hebrew people, that they were taught so emphatically and constantly the evil of sin. For this purpose the Law was their child-guide with a view to Christ ( Galatians 3:24 ). Of the several terms used to express sin, three are employed here. £ One, which denotes "missing the mark;" a second, which denotes "overstepping the mark;" a third, which denotes "crookedness or unevenness." Over and above corresponding terms in the New Testament, we have two definitions of sin. One in 1 John 3:4 , "Sin is the transgression of law;" another in 1 John 5:1 , "All injustice is sin." We can never show men the value of the gospel until they see the evil of sin. Some minds are most effectively reached by one aspect of truth, and others by another; but surely from one or other of these Scripture terms or phrases the preacher may prepare a set of arrows that by God's blessing will pierce some through the joints of their armour. Nor can the reality or evil of sin be fairly evaded by any plea drawn from the modern doctrine of evolution; since, even if that theory be valid, the emergence of consciousness and of moral responsibility at a certain stage of evolution is as certain a phenomenon as any other. Men know they have done wrong, and it behoves the preacher not to quit his hold of them till he has driven conviction of the evil of sin against God deeply into the soul!

2 . Sin concealed. ( 1 John 5:2 .) "I kept silence," i.e. towards God. In the specific case referred to here, sin had disclosed its fearful reality by breaking out openly; it was known, yet unacknowledged. Hence:

3 . Sin rankled within ( 1 John 5:2 , "my bones," etc.). Remorse and self-reproach succeeded to the numbness which was the first effect of the sin. There was a reaction—restlessness seized on the guilty one. The action of a guilty conscience brings within a man the most terribly consuming of all agitation. He cannot flee from himself, and his guilt and dread pursue him everywhere ( Job 15:20-25 ; Job 18:11 ; Job 20:11-29 ; £ , Proverbs 28:1 ). Hence it is a great relief to note the next stage.

4 . Sin confessed. ( 1 John 5:5 .) What a mercy that our God is one to whom we can unburden our guilt, telling him all, knowing that in the storehouse of infinite grace and love there is exhaustless mercy that wilt "multiply pardons" ( Isaiah 55:7 , Hebrew)!

5 . Sin put away. ( 1 John 5:2 .) "In whose spirit there is no guile;" i.e. no deceit, no reserve, no concealment, no continuing in the sin which is thus bemoaned, but, at the moment it is confessed towards God, honestly and entirely putting it away. And when once the sin and guilt are thus put away before God, it will not be long ere the penitent has to recount the experience of—

II. FORGIVENESS OBTAINED AND ENJOYED . He who guilelessly puts away sin by repentance will surely find that God lovingly' puts it away by pardon ( 1 John 5:5 ). And as the Hebrew is ample in its terms for sin, so also is it in the varied words and phrases to express Divine forgiveness. Three of these are used here; but in the Hebrew there are, at least, ten others, £

1 . "Forgiven." ( 1 John 5:1 .) The Hebrew word means "lifted off;" in this case the LXX . render "remitted," but sometimes they translate the Hebrew term literally, by a word which also means "to lift off," "to lift up," "to bear," and "to bear away." £ (cf. John 1:29 ; 1 John 3:5 ; Matthew 9:5 , Matthew 9:6 ). In Divine forgiveness, the burden of sin is lifted off from us and borne away by the Son of God; the penitent is also "let go." His indictment is cancelled, and from sin's penalty he is set free. £

2 . Covered ; as with a lid, or a veil: put out of sight. God looks on it no more ( Micah 7:18 ).

3 . " Iniquity not imputed. " It is no more reckoned to the penitent. With absolution there is complete and entire acquittal, and with the non-imputation of sin there is the imputation of righteousness ( Romans 3:1-31 ; Romans 4:1-25 ; Romans 5:1-21 .), or the full and free reception of the pardoned one into the Divine favour, in which a standing of privilege, that in his own right he could not claim, is freely accorded to him through the aboundings of Divine grace.

III. FORGIVENESS BEARING FRUIT . This psalm is itself the product of a forgiven man's pen. It would be a psychological impossibility for an unregenerate and unpardoned man ever to have written it. The psalmist's experience of forgiving love bears fruit:

1 . In grateful song. ( 1 John 5:7 .) "Songs of deliverance" will now take the place of consuming remorse and penitential groans.

2 . In new thoughts of God. ( 1 John 5:7 .) "Thou art my Hiding-place" etc. In the God whose pardoning love he has known, he will now find a perpetual Protector and Friend.

3 . In joyous declaration to others. ( 1 John 5:1 , 1 John 5:2 .) "Blessed … blessed," etc. The emphasis is doubly intense.

4 . In exhortation . ( 1 John 5:8 , 1 John 5:9 .) We regard these as the psalmist's words, £ in which he uses his own experience to counsel others. Broken-hearted penitents make the best evangelists. The exhortation is threefold.

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