Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." "The LORD has taken away your sin," Nathan replied. "You will not die.
2 Samuel 12:13. - (THE PALACE.)
1. The words of the prophet were a decisive test of the character of David. Had he treated the messenger and his message as others have done (1 Samuel 15:12-21; 1 Kings 13:4; 1 Kings 21:20; 1 Kings 22:8; Jeremiah 36:23; Luke 3:10; Acts 24:25), his partial blindness to his sin would have become total, and he would have fallen to a still lower depth, perhaps never to rise again. But his genuine piety, as well as the exceeding grace of God (2 Samuel 7:15), ensured a better issue; and the confidence in his recovery, which Nathan probably felt in coming to him, was fully justified.
2. Hardly was the sentence pronounced, "Thou art the man!" before the long repressed confession broke from his lips (1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 15:24-31), "I am the man! Who says this of me? Yet - God knows all - yes, I am the man. I have sinned against the Lord."
"Never so fast, in silent April shower,
3. There is no part of his life for the proper understanding of which it is so necessary to read the history in connection with what he himself has written - "the songs of sore repentance," which he "sang in sorrowful mood" (Dante). Psalm 51. (see inscription), 'The prayer of the penitent;' the germ of which lay in this confession, but which was composed after the utterance of the word, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin;" for "the promise of forgiveness did not take immediate possession of his soul, but simply kept him from despair at first, and gave him strength to attain to a thorough knowledge of his guilt through prayer and supplication, and to pray for its entire removal that the heart might be renewed and fortified through the Holy Ghost" (Keil). "It is a generally acknowledged experience that there is often a great gulf between the objective word of forgiveness, presented from without, and its subjective appropriation by man, which hesitating conscience is unable to bridge without great struggles" (Tholuck). Psalm 32., 'The blessedness of forgiveness;' written subsequently. Other psalms have been sometimes associated with his confession, viz. Psalm 6., 38.; three others, viz. Psalm 102., 130., 143., make up "the seven penitential psalms."
4. David is here set before us as "the model and ideal of and the encouragement to true penitence." Consider his acknowledgment of sin as to -
I. ITS MATTER; or the conviction, contrition, change of mind and will, which is expressed. For words alone are not properly confession in the view of him who "looketh at the heart." Having, by means of the prophetic word, been led to enter into himself (Luke 15:17), and had his sin brought to remembrance ("the twin-brother of repentance"), its aggravation described and its punishment declared, he not only recognizes the fact of his sin; but also:
1. Looks at it as committed against the Lord; the living God, the Holy One of Israel; and not simply against man. "Thou hast despised me" (ver. 10). "For my transgressions do I know, And my sin is ever before me. Against thee only have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thine eyes," etc. (Psalm 51:3, 4.)
2. Takes the blame of it entirely to himself, as individually responsible, inexcusable, and guilty; thus accepting the judgment of conscience, without indulging vain and misleading thoughts.
3. Feels sorrow, shame, and self-condemnation on account of its nature and enormity; transgression, iniquity, sin (Psalm 32:1, 2); rebellion against the supreme King, disobedience to his Law; debt, pollution, guile, leprosy, bloodguiltiness (Psalm 51:14). He expresses no fear of consequences, and deprecates them only in so far as they include separation from God and loss of the blessings of his fellowship.
4. Puts it away from him with aversion and hatred, and purposes to forsake it completely (Proverbs 28:13); which confession implies and testifies.
"For mine iniquity will I confess;
II. ITS MANNER; or the evidence afforded of its sincerity by the language employed and the attendant circumstances. Observe:
1. Its promptness, readiness, and spontaneity. As soon as he became fully alive to his sin, he said, "I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah" (Psalm 32:5).
2. Its brevity. Two words only: "I-have-sinned against-Jehovah." "There is in the Bible no confession so unconditional, no expression of repentance so short, but also none so thoroughly true" (Disselhoff). "Saul confessed his sin more largely, less effectually. God cares not for phrases, but for affections" (Hall).
3. Its frankness and fulness, without prevarication or extenuation. "The plain and simple confession, 'I have sinned against God,' is a great thing, if we remember how rich the corrupt heart is in the discovery of excuses and apparent justification, and that the king was assailed by one of his subjects with hard, unsparing rebuke" (Hengstenberg).
4. Its publicity. He had sought, to hide his sin, but he did not seek to hide his penitence. He would have it set "in the sight of this sun," even as his chastisement would be; in order that the ways of God might be justified before men, and the evil effects of transgression upon them in some measure repaired. It is for this purpose, among others, that confession is made a condition of forgiveness (Job 33:27, 28; 1 John 1:9). "The necessity of confession (to God) arises from the load of unacknowledged guilt. By confession we sever ourselves from our sin and we disown it. Confession relieves by giving a sense of honesty. So long as we retain sin unconfessed, we are conscious of a secret insincerity" (F.W. Robertson, vol. 5.).
III. ITS ACCOMPANIMENT; or the further thoughts, feelings, and purposes which should be present in every ponitential confession.
1. Faith in the "loving kindness and tender mercies" of God (Psalm 51:1).
"But with thee is forgiveness,
4. Consecration to his service (Psalm 51:13-17). "They were not many words which he spoke, but in them he owned two realities - sin and God. But to own them in their true meaning - sin as against God, and God as the Holy One, and yet God as merciful and gracious - was to return to the way of peace. Lower than this penitence could not descend, higher than this faith could not rise; and God was Jehovah, and David's sin was put away" (Edersheim). "It was not his sin, but his struggle with sin, which makes his history remarkable" (D. Macleod). "David experienced in a greater degree than any other Old Testament character the restlessness and desolation of a soul burdened with the consciousness of guilt, the desire for reconciliation with God, the struggle after purity and renovation of heart, the joy of fellowship, the heroic, the all-conquering power of confidence in God, the ardent love of a gracious heart for God; and has given in his psalms the imperishable testimony as to what is the fruit of the Law and what the fruit of the Spirit in man" (Oehler, 'Theology of the Old Test.,' 2:159). "The charm of his great name is broken. Our reverence for David is shaken, not destroyed. He is not what he was before; but he is far nobler and greater than many a just man who never fell and never repented. He is far more closely bound up with the sympathies of mankind than if he had never fallen" (Stanley). Even Bayle is constrained to say, "His amour with the wife of Uriah and the order he gave to destroy her husband are two most enormous crimes. But he was so grieved for them, and expiated them by so admirable a repentance, that this is not the passage in his life wherein he contributes the least to the instruction and edification of the faithful. We therein learn the frailty of saints, and it is a precept of vigilance; we therein learn in what manner we ought to lament our sins, and it is an excellent model." - D.
1. The history of this pious and sincere servant of God is like a broken hull deeply imbedded in the sand, and the ragged masts emerging from the waves to tell others of the danger and to warn them to steer away from the shoal on which this gallant ship was wrecked. David's sad story has a voice to every open ear, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."
I. AS THE SIN HAD BEEN PUBLIC, SO WAS HIS REPENTANCE, His penitent confession is recorded to the end of time, to be read by every child of God, and be made the vehicle of hearty confession by every penitent sinner until the day of judgment.
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.
I. HIS GENERAL CHARACTER. It is a character difficult, perhaps, to understand, but its very difficulty makes it instructive. It is full of variety, full of impulse, full of genius; it is like the characters of our own later times — complicated, intricate, vast; it covers a great range of characters amongst ourselves; it is not like one class or character only, but like many; it is like you, it is like me; it is like this man and that man. He is the shepherd, and the student, and the poet, and the soldier, and the King. He is the adventurous wanderer, strong and muscular, "his feet like steel." He is the silent observer of the heavens by night, "the moon and the stars which God has ordained." He is the devoted friend, the first example of youthful friendship, loving Jonathan "with a love passing the love of women." He is the generous enemy, sparing his rival. He is the father mourning with passionate grief the loss of his favourite child: "O my son Absalom." Again and again we feel that he is one of us — that his feelings, his pleasures, his sympathies, are such as we outwardly love and admire, even if we do not enter into them. But yet more than this, it is exactly that mixture of good and evil which is in ourselves; not all good nor all evil, but a mixture of both — of a higher good, and of a deeper evil, yet still both together. But it is the other side of his character that we are now called to consider; and yet, It is only by considering both sides together that we call draw its true lesson flora either. It was to this tender, and brave, and loving character that the Prophet Nathan came, with the Story of the hard-hearted, mean-spirited man. Every just and generous feeling in David's heart was roused by the story: its simple pathos, now worn through and through by much repetition, was then felt in all the freshness of its first utterance: his anger was kindled against the man. No lengthened comment can add anything to the startling effect of the disclosure of this sudden descent from all that was high and good to all that was base and miserable.
II. DAVID'S REPENTANCE AND OUR OWN.
1. Let us observe how the Scripture narrative deals with the case. It does not exaggerate — it does not extenuate. David's goodness is not denied because of his sin, nor his sin because of his goodness. The fact that he was the man after God's own heart is not thrust out of sight because he was the man of Nathan's parable. The fact of his sin is not denied, lest it should give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme. This is the first lesson that we learn.
2. The sin of David, and his unconsciousness of his own sin, and so also his repentance through the disclosure to him of his own sin, are exactly what are most likely to take place in characters like his, like ours, made up of mixed forms of good and of evil. The hardened, depraved, worldly man is not ignorant of his sin — he knows it, he defends it, he is accustomed to it. But the good man, or the man who is half good and half bad — he overlooks his sin. His good deeds conceal his bad deeds, often even from others, more often still from himself. Even out of those very gifts which are most noble, most excellent in themselves, may come our chief temptations.
3. Let us observe both the exact point of Nathan's warning, and the exact point of David's repentance. It is most instructive to observe that Nathan in his parable calls attention, not to the sensuality and cruelty of David's crime, but simply to its intense and brutal selfishness. It is remarkable that even deeper than David's sense, when once aroused, of his injustice to man, was his sense of his guilt and shame before God: — "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight." Dark as is the shade of the dark sin done to man, a yet darker shade falls over it when viewed in the unchanging light of the All-Pure and the All-Merciful. This is perhaps especially the case with these grosser sins. David is driven by the very fervour of his penitence to speak of this one sin as he would have spoken of all sins. Every one of us is in danger of falling into sins of which we have no expectation beforehand, of which, like David, we are ignorant even after we have committed them. Whatever be our special failing — self-indulgence, vanity, untruth, uncharitableness — and however it be made known to us — by friends, by preachers, by reflection, by sorrow, by the death of our firstborn, by the ruin of our house — let David's feeling respecting it be ours.
4. This leads us to see what is the door which God opens, in such cases as David's, for repentance and restoration. There is the general lesson, taught by this, as by a thousand ether passages both of the Old and the New Testaments — that, as far as human eye can judge, no case is too late or too bad to return, if only the heart can be truly roused to a sense of its own guilt and of God's holiness. "Thou desirest no sacrifice;" — consider the immense force of the words; how wise, how consoling, how vast in their reach of meaning — "Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee; Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." So spoke David in the fulness of his penitence. So taught the Son of David in the fulness of His grace and truth. Two final lessons we may learn from David's repentance. For others, it teaches us to regard with tenderness the faults, the sins, the crimes of those who, gifted with great and noble qualities, are, by that strange union of strength and weakness which we so often see, betrayed into acts which more ordinary, commonplace characters avoid or escape. And for ourselves, let us remember the still more important lesson that such a foundation of good as that which there was in David's character is never thrown away. If it is not. able to resist the trial altogether, it will at least be best able to recover from it.
(A. P. Stanley, M. A.)
II. HE PUTS UTTERLY OUT OF THE ACCOUNT ALL HIS FORMER FAITHFUL SERVICE; there is not so much as a hint of it; and if a person did not know how David had hitherto walked before the Lord, and been his faithful minister on many trying occasions in the Church of God, he could not have guessed it from any expression here. The truly contrite heart gives glory to God for all the good, and takes shame to itself for all the evil. Here is one of the difficult things in true repentance; how unwilling is the heart to lose sight of any thing which it can set against its sin! Even when it sees the vanity and sinfulness of doing this, it still clings to a lurking comfort in the thought of some merit; it is unwilling to forego every support of self-righteousness, to place itself at the bar of God's judgment, and to be found speechless without one word of defence; yet so David did.
III. HIS REPENTANCE FOLLOWED UP BY ACTIONS. See the utter resignation with which he submits to the first instalment of his punishment in the death of the child; see, again, how humbly he bears the curse of Shimei, when he cries out, "Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial;" thus cruelly reminding him of the very sins which we have been considering. How utterly dead was the spirit of self-justification in the heart of the man who could speak and act thus!
IV. REPENTANCE IN ITS TRUE NATURE IS NOT THE WORK OF A CERTAIN NUMBER OF DAYS OR YEARS; IT LASTS THROUGH LIFE. As David says, "My sin is ever before me," and as David showed by his humbleness of heart to the end of his life.
V. THE SIGHT OF HIS FORGIVENESS. God, who seeth the heart of man, saw the real worth of Erase words, "I have sinned against the Lord." He saw in them the deeds which followed them; He knew that they were not showy blossoms, that would soon drop off, without any setting of fruit, like flowers in an unsuitable climate; He saw in them the earnest of much and good fruit, as in a tree that is in its proper soil and genuine climate. The beginning and the end are at once in the sight of God, and He knew that the words came from a heart which would make them good by the help of His grace; and therefore He accepted David's repentance, and commissioned the prophet Nathan to say unto him, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die."
(B. W. Evans, B. D.)
2. But this history illustrates David's character, while it brings out in parallel the character of God. Did God who has so fully recorded the particulars of his servant's crimes — did He wink at the crime? Did God dread the exposure of David, and care to hide the crime, because the criminal was one of His own family, and household? Let him who is disposed to sneer at David's fall, and to think that God may be partial, study well and carefully the record of David's punishment. But is that all that David's sin and David's fall should teach us and has taught us of judgment?
3. Does it tell us nothing of mercy? Does it bring out nothing further, both of God's character, and the character of His true, though fallen child? "I have sinned against the Lord:" That one thought spreads its sorrowful influence over his whole soul. "My base ingratitude against God, my foul dishonour done to God, the deep offence against his holiness, the sad requital of His unmerited goodness" — that one thought like a dark veil, shuts out all others.
4. And does not David's feeling as a child bring out and illustrate the feeling of God as a father? "If he commit iniquity, I will punish his offences with the rod and his sin with scourges; nevertheless I will not take away my loving kindness from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." When the child who has sinned comes back with a broken spirit, and melting heart, to his wronged and injured, but still loving father, will that father refuse the pardon which is now all in all to his repenting child? Will he turn away coldly from the returning prodigal, and not forgive the offence so deeply felt, so fully acknowledged, and so evidently repeated? And so the broken-hearted David has scarcely sobbed out, "I have sinned against the Lord," when he who knew how true and deep that sorrow was that wrung his heart, replied by his prophet, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die."
(W. W. Champneys, M. A.)
I. MEN OFTEN CORRECTLY UNDERSTAND A MESSAGE FROM THE LORD WITHOUT OBSERVING ITS PERSONAL APPLICATION TO THEMSELVES. David listens with interest and indignation to the words of the prophet. You do wonder, as you observe the appropriateness of the words, that he does not himself see the meaning of the parable. You feel in reading it as if it did not require any exposition. You understand Nathan as soon as you hear his tale. But David heard no interpreter, and in pronouncing judgment upon the unknown offender unconsciously condemned himself, the real culprit. Yet this is so like human nature that I feel the truthfulness of the account. Just like him many of you feel under a message from the Lord. You do not think of yourselves. How many times have some of you uttered your own condemnation, while you supposed you had been pronouncing righteous judgment upon others! To you he has opened his mouth in a parable, and uttered a dark saying; but only because you have not had the true interpretation. Yet often the interpreter was there, if you had consulted him.
II. THE BEGINNING OF RECOVERY FROM SINS TO PRODUCE IN THE HEART OF THE SINNER DEEP CONVICTIONS OF HIS OWN SINFULNESS. To send a messenger to David, though he brought from the Lord the most severe rebuke of the sin, was yet an auspicious omen and sign of mercy for the sinner. Notwithstanding the grievousness and aggravation of the sin, God had not utterly cast off His servant. In wrath He remembered mercy. Mercy he did obtain; but it is for you to observe the sorrowful way he had to travel in order to find mercy of the Lord. The words of Nathan were never forgotten. Let no man think he may sin with impunity. Let no backslider comfort himself with the thought that he will be restored in due time. Restored he may be; but he will retrace every step with many tears. He will be brought back with many stripes, and made to feel, in the sadness of his soul, the evil of his sin, that never, as long as he lives, he may think lightly of it any more.
III. FOR HEINOUS SINS A PROVISION OF MERCY IS MADE, BUT SO MADE AS WILL SECURE LONG AND HUMBLING RECOLLECTIONS OF THE AGGRAVATED GUILT. David was pardoned — freely pardoned — though his sin was very great upon him. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
(R. Halley, D. D.)
The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.I. THE LORD CONVINCING THE SINNER. We Observe that the impression which pierced most deeply was this — he had sinned against his God.
II. GOD PARDONING SIN. This appears particularly deserving of notice, as God's dealing with David may well be regarded as in the case of Paul, a pattern to those who should after believe upon him to life everlasting. It is plain that pardon was here bestowed as an act of God's free and royal grace; it was extended according to his will, at his own time, and in his appointed way. The way in which the Lord here forgave his guilty servant may appear to mere human reason as by no means the wisest; but to such a thought we may well reply, "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." A deeper view would convince us that no other way could have so well displayed the attributes of Jehovah, or so secured the heartfelt humiliation and subsequent holiness of David. Again, this mode of forgiveness must have melted the soul of David into that. union of self-loathing and gratitude, which constitutes genuine repentance, and gives hope and peace, without which there can be no willing obedience, while the memory of the past would ever keep alive self-distrust and watchfulness.
III. THE LORD CHASTENS THE RESTORED PENITENT. Nathan had previously declared that the sword should not depart from his house, but that in domestic trouble his own sin should return upon him; and now he pronounced that, to mark the injury his fall had done to the cause of God, the child of his sinful affection should die. We are not to think from this that any guilt still remained charged upon him before the Lord — no, for his sin was put away — but for his own good and for our admonition, he underwent this painful discipline. Applications:
1. I think this subject speaks a word to the careless or hardened sinner. Are you trying to hope as far as you think about it, that God will pass over your sins? Beware, they must be absolutely pardoned here, or absolutely punished hereafter.
2. There is much also here for the Christian to ponder on — he will reflect with joy and great consolation upon this gracious proof of the infinite mercy of the Lord — to many a soul it has furnished a successful reply to the infected doubts of the tempter; but it unfolds an awful picture of the heart of man. While we learn here that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, let us ever remember that our own strength is but weakness, and to trust in our own hearts foolishness; for that God alone is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.
(H. Townsend.)1. We have two cases of sinners who have been entirely pardoned, and whose actions after the announcement of that pardon have been left on the record of Scripture — David and Mary Magdalene. Certain distinct features appear in their cases after forgiveness, which are separate from the features of their penitence; an intensity of love proportioned to the amount of remitted debt, a life of continual carefulness, and a pathway in which they trod more or less softly to the end el their days. And all this proceeding partly from the deepest gratitude, and partly from the encouragement afforded by knowing they were forgiven. We are all familiar with the glorious effects of the pronouncing of pardons in the case of earthly criminals and earthly punishments. These may as faint shadows symbolise to us the effect on our spiritual life of the pronounced pardon of sin.
2. Under the Jewish dispensation we frequently find that a certain bodily trial was annexed as a penalty to an act of rebellion against God; and when that act of rebellion was repented of the act was cancelled.(1) Thus Zacharias offended against God by the expression of unbelief in the promise of the angel; the penalty of speechlessness was immediately annexed to his crime.(2) The children of Israel rebelled against God by their constant desire to return to Egypt, their unwillingness to yield to the law of Sinai, which imposed a new curb on their stubborn dispositions, and a reluctance to go up and conquer the holy land, where the sons of Anak dwelt. The constant wandering in the wilderness was their punishment.(3) It would be highly dangerous to us to attempt to apply this rule rigidly to our own case. We are seldom certain of the connection between the cause and effect in the case of our own troubles, and even, where we might be able, we should find it hard to say in what cases the removal of infirmity is equivalent to the statement of pardon. But to a certain degree we may apply this rule.
3. But there are other conditions which we may take, as in some degree equivalent to a pronounced pardon. When a sin has bound us in its chains, and we lamenting over its dominion use every effort to subdue it and at last succeed, and form the contrary habit, we may naturally hope that that sin is forgiven. When we remain tied and bound by the chain of our sins in spite of every effort to overcome them, we may take for granted that He, Whose grace is all-sufficient, refuses on account of some lurking impenitence to grant the pardon. There is some goodly Babylonish garment hidden in the heart, and till that is given up the dark citadel will not yield. The moment the surrender is entire, God's hand will free the captive, and the stronger man will enter the strong man's house, take his spoils and the armour wherein he trusted. There are times when strong inward persuasions, feelings of inward joy, the witness of the Spirit may be indications of God's forgiveness. When these feelings are permanent, real, and healthy, we may fairly argue that they can proceed from no other source than the blessed Spirit of God.
4. We must consider the result of pardon on the penitent.(1) An intense, earnest, cheerful desire to follow God for the future would be the first impulse of the pardoned sinner. When the man of Gadara was released from Legion, his first impulse was to sit for ever at Jesu's feet. When. Mary's pardon had proceeded from the lips of Him Who never fails, wherever He was, there was she; at the cross, over against the sepulchre, and in the garden on Easter morning. When the blind man of Jericho received his sight from our Blessed Lord, his first impulse was to forsake every worldly consideration and follow Christ. The first impulse of the prodigal, under the hope of possible forgiveness from an offended father, was to work for the remainder of his life cheer. fully as a hired servant. When David had been assured of the forgiveness of God for his sin, his first impulse was to take, with the utmost patience, his punishment, and to rise up cheerfully to go about his religious and his secular duties.(2) Another result of the consciousness of forgiveness is the definiteness of a new beginning of a heavenly life. When a dreary past lies behind us, to which there is no definite end, a long waste of hazy night, an unascertained morning with no clear sunbeams to mark the border-land, we lack spirit and energy in our religious course. When the brilliance of that morning light wholly eclipses the night past we travel on like new beginners, briskly, and clearly and energetically.(3) A third result which arises from the pardoned state is the power to cast off the chains of a now past captivity. The mere consciousness of a sin clinging to us, because unpardoned, gives a continual sense of inconsistency, a constant dread lest the labour we are spending should be in vain.(4) The pardoned condition enables us to realise with a full and vivid power the objects both of faith and hope. These considerations with respect to the pardoned state should lead us to all the lawful investigation which we may follow of what are the trustworthy tokens of that condition; and while we should never rest satisfied for one moment with remaining on the border-land between doubtful and ascertained duty, we should surely also strive to ascertain as closely as we can the real nature and power of absolution-committed to the Church.
(E. Monro.)I. HEAVY AFFLICTIONS ARE NO SIGNS OF AN UNPARDONED CONDITION. There are times, perhaps, when we find it difficult to believe this truth. A light and short affliction seldom much depresses us, for we can easily reconcile it with a Father's faithfulness; but when succeeds blow to blow, when our troubles are peculiar, and long-continued, and harrowing, our hearts begin to fail us. We are tempted to think that a gracious God never can love the creatures whom He so sorely wounds. We could not so afflict our children; we are ready to conclude, therefore, that were we the children of a Heavenly Father, He would not so afflict us: our once peaceful assurance of His pardoning mercy gives way, and is succeeded by perplexity and doubt. Turn to the experience of David. It tells us as plainly as the most comfortless affliction can tell us that a want of spiritual consolation under calamities is no evidence of an unpardoned state. It is true the Gospel teaches us to expect special consolations in special sufferings. It is true also that the hour of affliction has oftentimes proved the happiest, though at the time the afflicted Christian has thought himself utterly forsaken. The feelings of mankind under afflictions have been as various as their afflictions themselves. An accusing conscience is not the scourge of an angry God: it is not the mark of His wrath. But an accusing conscience is a mark of nothing but this, that we are sinners, and that sin is a more evil and bitter thing than we once thought it.
II. A PAINFUL SENSE OF INWARD CORRUPTION IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH PARDONING MERCY. If there is any one lust which, day by day and year after year, leads us captive; any ungodly practice in which we habitually indulge; if the sin which is our fear is at the same time our delight, ever committed with greediness, though sometimes repented of with anguish, the written testimony of God declares that we have no more reason to regard ourselves forgiven than a dying man has to think himself in health. But if sin is opposed, as well as felt; if through the Spirit the base passions of our nature are habitually overcome; if sin causes grief and abhorrence in our souls as well as terror; then, my brethren, we may be assured that God, who is ever waiting to be gracious, will accept of our imperfect services, He will hear our prayers and bless us for Christ's sake. LESSONS:
1. It points out to us the persons to whom the ministers of the Gospel are to speak peace.
2. The text holds out to the sinner the greatest encouragement not to despair, if he is truly sorry for his sins, and intends by God's help to walk in newness of life.
(A. J. Wolff, D. D.)
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