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Give him, then, the glory of all that your either are or have; and live dependent on him even to the end; for it is he, and he alone, who can uphold you: and as “he is able to keep you from falling, so he will present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy!."]
i Jude, ver. 24.
CONSOLATION IN GOD. Ps. Ixv. 3. Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt
away. FROM reading the experience of the saints, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures, we derive not only comfort and encouragement, but the most refined instruction that can be conveyed to the mind of man. As in light there is a combination of widely different rays, and it is that combination, together with their simultaneous action, which gives to light its peculiar sweetness; so it is a combination of widely different views and feelings that gives to the Christian his divinely-tempered experience in the things of God. In the passage before us, we behold the man after God's own heart bewailing his sinfulness, yet not discouraged; and sweetly comforted in his soul, without any abatement of his contrition. It is this mixture of feeling which so greatly elevates the Christian character.
character. His graces, by means of it, shine with a subdued lustre; and being thus tempered, they are " pleasing to the eyes both of God and mana.” Let us notice, I. His complaint
What are we to understand by this expression, “ Iniquities prevail against me?”
[It cannot be meant that he indulged in sin of any kind;
one who is born of God doth not commit sin; nor indeed can he commit sin (willingly and habitually), because he is born of God.” “Whoso committeth sin in this way, is of the devil b.” Indeed the very terms here used suppose a conflict. David hated and resisted sin in the daily habit of his mind:
a Eccl. xi. 7.
0 1 John iii. 8, 9.
but he had within him a principle of evil as well as of good; “ the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so that he could not do the things that he would.” He was in the same predicament with the Apostle Paul; who, though he delighted in the Law of God after the inward man, “ found a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members.” And under a painful sense of his infirmities he cried, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death," which I am constrained thus to drag along with me, as a putrid carcase, even to my dying hourd? We understand, therefore, David as saying precisely what St. Paul also says: “ To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not: for the good that I would, I do not; and the evil which I would not, that I do."]
And who is there amongst us that has not reason to adopt this language in reference to his own soul?
[If we look at the workings of actual corruption, we shall all find occasion to confess, " Iniquities prevail against me." All, it is true, are not guilty of gross sin : but who is free from indwelling corruption ? “ Who can say, I have made my heart clean î?” There is an abundance both of “spiritual and fleshly filthiness” in every child of man8: the most eminent saint on earth is renewed but in parth: it is in heaven alone that absolute perfection exists. He can know but little of himself who does not see occasion to mourn over many
evil thoughts, and many corrupt propensities. Not to mention those which pertain to man in common with the beast, let us take a view of the workings of our hearts in relation to pride, envy, malice, and revenge : let us call to mind the motions of anger, fretfulness, impatience, of which our consciences must convict us: let us trace the influence of uncharitableness towards those who stand in competition with us, or have made themselves in any way obnoxious to our displeasure. We may soon discover how far any of us are from being perfect, and what need we all have to cry, “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man living be justifiedi.”
But let us look at our short-comings and defects, and then we shall find no difficulty in adopting the complaint of David in our text. The true way to discover our real state before God, is to take his holy Law as the standard whereby to try our habits and attainments. How far are any of us from loving God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and our neighbour as ourselves ! Only let us notice the frame of our souls through the day, yea even in the exercises of devotion, and we shall have no need for any one to tell us how far we are still alienated from God, and how little we have attained of habitual communion with him. And though we may, on the whole, be kind towards our neighbour, let us only be brought by any circumstances into actual collision with him, and we shall discover to others at least, if not discern in ourselves, how very far short of the divine standard our love to him is, and how unlike we are to Christ, who “laid down his life for his enemies.” Let us go on to examine the state of our souls in reference to our blessed Lord and Saviour, who died for us. What admiring and adoring thoughts of him should we entertain from day to day, from hour to hour! What floods of tears should run down our cheeks from a sense of love and gratitude to him for all the wonders of his love; and what an influence should they produce on the whole of our life and conversation.
c Gal. v. 17.
d Rom. vii. 22—24. Alluding to a punishment which some tyrants have inflicted on the objects of their displeasure.
e Rom. vii. 18, 19. f Prov. xx. 9. 8 2 Cor. vi. 1. h 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 10. i Ps. cxliii. 2.
I need go no further to confirm the truth which I am inculcating, namely, that " iniquities do indeed prevail against us to a fearful extent; and that all of us have need to “walk softly before God” in the remembrance of them.)
But, if we partake of David's sorrows, we may also be partakers of, II. His consolation
As the Apostle, after his lamentation, found comfort in Christ, so David also found consolation in God through Christ. He derives comfort, 1. From the free
of God [It is evident that he regards God as a gracious and merciful Being, who would “not be extreme to mark what was done amiss',” but would in judgment remember mercy. And this ground of hope is open to us all: for mercy is the darling attribute of the Deity, if I may so speak, the attribute "in which he delights m;" whilst judgment is that strange work to which he is utterly averse. See the description which Jehovah gives of his own character: “I am the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity,
k Isai. xxxviii. 15.
i Ps. cxxx. 3.
transgression, and sino.” See also his marvellous displays of this attribute towards the children of men: to what an extent it could reachP, and with what rapidity it could fly to the discharge of its delightful office?. Hear the language in which God “reasons" with sinners: (0, blessed reasoning ! pray
God it may convince us all, and not leave so much as a shadow of doubt upon our minds !) “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as woolt.” Yes, Brethren, however discouraging your inward conflicts may be, ye may well “encourage yourselves in the Lord your Gods."]
2. From the sufficiency of the means ordained by God
[God had appointed sacrifices as an atonement for sin : and, though “ they could never take away sin,” or “make a man perfect as pertaining to the conscience," they directed the offerers to that one great sacrifice which was in due time to be offered on the cross, and which was a sufficient “propitiation for the sins of the whole world u.” And, in the view of that sacrifice, David, with all his enormous guilt upon him, could say, " Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Who then amongst us shall despair of mercy, if only we seek it in the Saviour's name? Indeed it is not mercy only, but justice also, that shall plead for us, if we approach our God in the name of Christ: for we are told that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousnessy.” Here, then, let the drooping sinner take courage; and to his complaints, that “ iniquities prevail against him," add the consolatory truth, “ As for my transgressions, O Lord, thou shalt purge them away." Thou hast "opened a fountain for sin and for uncleanness?;" and I believe that it shall be sufficient even for me ; and that “the blood of Jesus Christ, thy Son, shall cleanse me from all sina."] To all of you, then, I would say,
1. Acquaint yourselves with your own ways, that you may be truly humbled
[There can be no humility without self-knowledge: nor must any one be satisfied with an examination of his outward conduct: (that, like St. Paul's in his unconverted state, may be“ blameless b”). We must search our hearts, if we would know ourselves aright; yea, and “beg of God also to search and try us," if we would attain that kind of self-knowledge which alone will be sufficient to humble our proud spirits Mark, then, I pray you, your thoughts, your desires, your motives, your principles, and the entire habit of your minds before God. Mark all your tempers under the various circumstances that arise from day to day : and compare yourselves with the requirements of the Law, and with that great exemplar, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do this, and you will find no temptation to pride yourselves on your attainments, or to exalt yourselves above your less favoured brethren. You will find your place, where the Apostle found his, amongst the chief of sinners, and will vie with him in magnifying and adôring the grace of God ---]
• Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. P 2 Chron. xxxiii, 19. 9 2 Sam. xii. 13. I Isai. i. 18.
s 1 Sam. xxx. 6. Heb. ix. 9, 14. and x. 4, 14.
u 1 John ii. 2. x Ps. li. 7. y 1 John i. 9.
z Zech. xiii. 1. a 1 John i. 7.
2. “Acquaint yourselves with God, that you may be at peace"
[This was the advice which Eliphaz gave to Job', and which I would give to every one of you. It is self-knowledge which alone can humble us: but it is the knowledge of God alone that can afford us any comfort. Indeed, the more we know of our indwelling corruptions, the more shall we despair, if we do not proportionably grow in the knowledge of God and of his Son Jesus Christ. But if we bear in mind what we have already stated respecting the character of God, and the sufficiency of that sacrifice which Christ has offered for us, we shall attain that precise frame of mind, that just admixture of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, of confidence and abasement, which constitutes the perfection of Christian experience, and leads to the highest possible attainments in the divine life. Go then, every one of you, my Brethren, to God in Christ Jesus. Carry nothing with you but your sins. Think not of purging them away by any thing that you yourselves can do; but cast yourselves upon the mercy of God in Christ Jesus; and expect from him the mercy which you need for the pardon of your sins, and the grace which you need for the maintenance of your future conflicts. Only go with Paul, crying, “ O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" and you shall be enabled to add with him, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lorde.”]
b Phil. iii. 6.
c Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24,