Psalm 130:4


The psalmist had this, and his history is recorded for our help - for the help of all those who desire this assurance.

I. NOTE TO WHOM THIS BLESSED ASSURANCE IS GIVEN.

1. Not to every one. For many do not care for it - they think there is no need; they persuade themselves that God is easy, and will readily forgive. But this presumption is not God's assurance, for it gives them no settled rest; they have awful misgivings at times. It lasts only so long as their light notions of sin last. When they wake up to the reality of sin, then they are in despair. It awakes no love to God (cf. Luke 7:47); it produces no hatred of sin; if it did, it would lead to that which St. John says, "He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure." Others there are who will not believe. How hard it is to persuade distressed souls that God does forgive!

2. But this assurance is given to such as are described in this psalm.

(1) They have had a very deep sense of sin - have been in "the depths."

(2) They have cried earnestly unto the Lord.

(3) They confess that God's judgment on sin is righteous, and that their condemnation would be just.

(4) They have come to believe that the love of God is deeper than his displeasure with the sinner. And

(5) they have cast themselves in utter faith on that love. These are they to whom God's assurance comes.

II. THE EVIDENCE ON WHICH IT RESTS.

1. It needs evidence; for conscience is against it; God's love is against it; the testimony of nature and science is against it; earthly governments do not forgive; we ourselves do not thus forgive. Therefore evidence for it is needed.

2. Such evidence is furnished by many fasts.

(1) God has spared us thus far - that we are able and at times are willing to forgive those who have wronged us. But if we, then yet more God.

(2) Chiefly the plain declarations of God's Word; the sacrifice of Christ; the experience of those that are forgiven, - they feel it in their hearts; they enjoy the peace of God; its influence is all-sanctifying on their own soul, - it binds them over to God. Such is the evidence for, etc.

III. THE RESULTS THAT FOLLOW. God will be feared, that is, with the fear which love begets in a dear child. Such fear springs from no other source, but ever from this. - S.C.









But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.
I. WE ARE INDEBTED TO REVELATION ALONE FOR THE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS FACT, THAT THERE IS FORGIVENESS WITH GOD.

1. The heathen, who have no revelation, and deists, who have rejected revelation, could not form any proper idea on this subject. The only other grounds of knowledge are reason, and the light of nature; but neither can these guide us to the fact which is here stated. We could not infer, from God's essential goodness, or from the works of nature, that He would forgive sin at all. It does not necessarily depend on His existence, or on His goodness. It must depend entirely on an act of His will; — but whether He will, who can tell?

2. If we could prove from the light of nature that God would forgive sin, it is still evident that we could infer nothing as to the persons to be forgiven — the extent to which the blessing was to reach. An universal act of indemnity — free forgiveness of all sin, could never have entered into the minds of men. No; this would be regarded as a licence to sin. No; some sins only will be forgiven; some persons only will be pardoned; — but which, and who? Who can possibly tell?

3. As to the way in which forgiveness is to be obtained, we could learn nothing by the light of nature. Men have not been satisfied with repenting; they have looked out for sacrifices — for an atonement. Whence came pilgrimages, penances, mortifications, sacrifices? All these things show that men were convinced that something more than repentance was needed. So that it is clear we are indebted entirely to revelation for the knowledge of the way of forgiveness of sins. This way is by the satisfaction made by Christ, and received by the Father.

II. IN THE FORGIVENESS THUS PROMISED, AND FLOWING TO US THROUGH THIS CHANNEL, PECULIAR CHARACTERS ARE MARKED DOWN, WHICH ARE ALMOST AS ASTONISHING AS THE FACT ITSELF.

1. It comes to all persons, and reaches to all crimes, with only one exception. That exception is "the sin against the Holy Ghost."

2. This forgiveness takes place at the time of repenting and believing. The Gospel puts the blessing of forgiveness in the present tense: — "Thy sins are forgiven thee"; — "Thy faith hath made thee whole"; — "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins."

3. This forgiveness is invariably followed by the special fruits of the Divine favour. It is not barren and unproductive. If God pardon us, it is that we may come nigh unto Him — that we may hear His fatherly voice — that we may become the depositaries of His grace and the objects of His love.

4. This forgiveness is renewed and perpetuated.

(J. Leifchild.)

I. It is not an act that TAKES PLACE OUTSIDE OF THE OFFENDER. When a human father forgives his offending child, or a human sovereign his offending subject, it is an outward act. But Divine forgiveness is an inner change, it is a moral revolution; the soul breaking away from its past — its past masters, purposes, and life.

II. It is not an act PROMPTED BY ENTREATIES. A father forgives his offending child because of the child's importunate appeals, and the king his rebels for the same reason. But Divine forgiveness is uninfluenced. He is essentially a forgiving God, and no entreaties need alter His purposes of mercy.

III. It is not an act EXERCISED WITH LIMITATION. In human forgiveness there is a limitation to persons, only a few of the offenders are selected for the favour. Limited also to time. He who has been forgiven more than once is not likely to receive such a favour again, and his chances decrease with every repetition of the offence. But in Divine forgiveness there is no limitation. "Abundantly pardon." "Seventy times seven."

IV. It is not an act of EXCITED SYMPATHY RATHER THAN PLAN. The forgiving act of man is generally excited by commiseration for the offender, it is not the plan of his life, it is an occasional act. But Divine forgiveness is a plan settled, eternal, immutable. His forgiveness delivers men not only from the consequences of sins, but from the sins themselves. "He sent His Son to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."

(David Thomas, D. D.)

After considering our own miserable and guilty state, and how little any plea which we can offer will avail before the holiness and justice of God, it is proper to turn our eyes to His mercy, as the only foundation of our hope and peace.

I. GIVE A BRIEF VIEW OF THE DISCOVERIES WHICH GOD HATH MADE OF HIS MERCY, AS THE FOUNDATION OF THE SINNER'S HOPE; or, in other words, show what reason we have to believe that there is forgiveness with Him.

1. The patience and forbearance of God towards sinners, in the course of His providence, is the effect of His mercy. Even this affords some faint hope that there may be forgiveness with Him (Jonah 4:2). We may add to this His continual benignity and kindness to all His creatures, not excepting the evil, the unthankful, and the unholy. The native tendency of both these is to lead the guilty to repentance, as we are told (Romans 2:4).

2. God hath revealed Himself in His Word, as merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and slow to anger (Exodus 34:5-7; Psalm 103:8; Micah 7:18; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 55:1, 6, 7; Malachi 3:17).

3. But that nothing may be wanting for the complete illustration of this truth, observe that it appears in the clearest manner from the Gospel of Christ that there is forgiveness with God (John 3:16; 1 Peter 1:18; Hebrews 6:18).

II. POINT OUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MERCY OF GOD AND HIS FEAR.

1. A discovery of the mercy of God is absolutely necessary to His being loved and served by those who have once been sinners. There can be no religion at all, either in inclination or performance, if there be no forgiveness with God. How should any so much as attempt what they believe to be an unprofitable labour?

2. As a discovery of the mercy of God is absolutely necessary to our serving Him at all, so it is perhaps of all others the most powerful motive to induce us to serve Him in sincerity. Nothing whatever more illustrates the Divine glory. It presents Him as the proper object of worship, of confidence, and of love.

3. But, further, even taking fear in a more limited sense, as signifying a holy reverence and dread of the power and majesty of God, there being forgiveness with Him, is so far from weakening, that it strengthens this fear; and that on the two following accounts.(1) The infinite obligations we lie under to Divine mercy must serve to improve our sense of the evil of sin, as committed against so good and so gracious a God, and to increase our abhorrence of it.(2) Forgiveness with God tends to increase our fear and reverence of Him, from the manner in which, and the condition on which, it is bestowed. Every circumstance of this dispensation of Divine mercy is calculated to abase the sinner, and leave him nothing whereof to glory before God.

III. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.

1. Learn that none can understand, embrace, or esteem the mercy of God, but those who are convinced of their sin and misery.

2. Observe that the publication of Divine mercy, that the illustration of the riches of Divine graze in the Gospel, hath not the least tendency to lessen our sense of the evil of sin, or the obligation we lie under to obedience: on the contrary, it serves greatly to improve both the one and the other.

3. See the difference between a real and Scriptural discovery of forgiveness with God, and that careless security which arises from a presumptuous reliance on His general mercy. The one prevents conviction, the other produces it.

4. See of how much moment it is to the Christian to keep clear views of the mercy of God, as well as of His own interest in it. The moment he loses the comfortable sense of peace with God, his chariot-wheels are troubled, and he drives heavily. It makes his duty burdensome, and his trials insupportable.

5. See in what way you may most effectually, and most certainly, preserve your peace with God, viz. by the frequent exercise of penitence and confession.

(J. Witherspoon, D. D.)

I. A DECLARATION OF MERCY.

1. It proceeds from the free, spontaneous motion of God's good pleasure.

2. The sins and offences that are the subject-matter of it.(1) Their number is numberless.(2) Their magnitude. We have them painted out to us in their colours (Isaiah 1:18), with a crimson tincture, and a scarlet dye: with a redness and a blushing; sin thus wearing the colour of shame. Yet in the same verso we have forgiveness changing their hue to the whiteness of snow and the innocence of wool.

3. The persons on whom this pardon is conferred, who are men; that is, very worthless and inconsiderable creatures, in comparison of those to whom the same pardon is denied.

II. THE END OF SUCH A DECLARATION, WHICH IS FEAR AND OBEDIENCE. "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared."

1. What this fear is. There are three sorts of fear: an anxious, distracting, amazing fear; a slavish and servile fear; and a filial, reverential fear. Now, there is this difference between these three sorts of fear; that the first is properly the fear of a malefactor, the second of a slave, and this last of a son; which is that alone that is designed in these words: and indeed there is good reason that God should require it, since He intends to turn His servants into sons. And is it not equal to require a son's affection where He resolves to bestow a son's inheritance? Besides, this affection is of all others the most sedulous, diligent, and serviceable, and therefore there is a more than ordinary significance in those words (Malachi 3:17).

2. How God's forgiveness may be an argument to enforce this fear.(1) Because the neglect of the fear of God, upon supposal that He has forgiven us our sins, is highly disingenuous.(2) Because the neglect of God's fear upon the account of His forgiveness, besides the disingenuity of it, is also most provoking and dangerous.

III. DEDUCTIONS.

1. The different nature of Christ's spiritual kingdom from all other kingdoms in the world; and that not only in respect of the external administration of it, that it is not bolstered up with pomp and show, and other little assistances of grandeur and secular artifice; but chiefly in respect of that which is the main instrument and hinge of government and subjection, the fear of the subject.

2. Upon what ground every man is to build the persuasion of the pardon of his sins. It is the temper of most persons to be more busy about their assurance than their obedience; and to be confident of their reward, while they should be solicitous about their duty.

(R. South, D. D.)

I. My first head is taken from the first word of the text: "But." Here is h WHISPER OF HOPE. "if Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But" — Oh, the sweet music of that little word! It seems to come in when the terrible drum of alarm is being beaten, and the dreadful clarion of judgment is sounding forth. There is a pause with this word, "But there is forgiveness." It is a soft and gentle whisper from the lips of love.

1. This comes into the soul after a full confession of sin. When thou hast knelt down before God, and acknowledged thy transgressions and thy shortcomings, and thy heart is heavy, and thy soul is ready to burst with inward anguish, then mayest thou hear this gracious word, "But there is forgiveness."

2. This whisper of hope sometimes comes to the soul by the Spirit of God as the result of observation. David, Manasseh, Saul of Tarsus, have been pardoned; why not I?

3. This whisper comes also in opposition to the voice of despair, for despair says to a soul under a sense of sin, "There is no mercy for you; you have sinned beyond all limits, your death-warrant is signed, the verdict has been given against you, there remains nothing for you but everlasting warnings." Nay, soul, God's Word against thy word any day! God's Word says, "There is forgiveness."

4. This whisper of hope is an answer even to the law of God. There is another mountain besides Sinai — Zion; there is another lawgiver besides Moses — Jesus.

II. AN ASSURANCE OF THE WORD OF GOD. "There is forgiveness."

1. Turn to the Old Testament, end you will see that it reveals sacrifice, — lambs and bullocks, and goats. What did they all mean? They meant that there was a way of pardon through the shedding of blood; they taught men this, that God would accept of certain sacrifices on their behalf. Then turn to the New Testament, and there you will see it revealed more clearly still that God has accepted a sacrifice, the sacrifice which He Himself gave, for "He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all."

2. Notice the broad indefiniteness of the text. "There is forgiveness." Where God draws no limit, do not you draw any. If God sets the door wide open, and says, "There is forgiveness," then come along, you sinners, whoever you may be, from gaols and penitentiaries, come along from your Pharisaic places of boasting and self-righteousness, come along with you, for there is forgiveness even for you. Ye rich, ye poor, ye learned, ye ignorant, ye that know nothing, know at least this, "There is forgiveness."

3. Notice, too, the immediate presentness of the text. Our version has it, "There is forgiveness," but there is not even the verb in the Hebrew. The translators put in the words, "There is," so we are to read it, "There was forgiveness"; "There is forgiveness"; "There will be forgiveness as long as life lasts." But I like it as it stands here. "There is forgiveness" to-night; "there is forgiveness" now; "there is forgiveness" where thou sittest, just as thou art, just now.

III. A DIRECTION OF WISDOM: "There is forgiveness with Thee." "With Thee."

1. Hearest thou this, dear heart? Thou art shrinking from thy God; thou art anxious to run away from Him; that is where the forgiveness is, with God. Where the offence went, from that very place the forgiveness comes.

2. God .has it in His immediate gift — waiting for thee.

3. And if it be with God, then there is a way for thee to get to it, for there is One come who stands between thee and God. There is a Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; but you do not need a mediator between Christ and yourself, you can come to Him just as you are.

IV. A DESIGN OF LOVE. "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." Do you not see how it is that men fear the Lord because He forgives their sins?

1. It must be so, because, first, if He did not forgive their sins, there would be nobody left to fear Him, for they would all die. If He were to deal with men after their sins, He must sweep the whole race of mankind off the face of the earth; but there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared.

2. Next, if it were certain that God did not pardon sin, everybody would despair, and so again there would be nobody to fear Him, for a despairing heart grows hard like the nether millstone. Because they have no hope, men go on to sin worse and worse; but there is forgiveness with God that He may be feared. A man who has been forgiven is afraid that he should go and sin again after such love and such mercy. He is melted down by the goodness of the Lord, he does not know what to make of it. For a time he can hardly believe that it is true. Look! it is a singular way to come to fear God; but believe that you are forgiven, prize your forgiveness, know that your sins are blotted out, cling to the Cross, and so all that sweet fear of God, by which is meant the whole of piety, will abound in your soul.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. ONLY GOD CAN RELEASE A GUILTY CONSCIENCE; only He can speak peace to a soul in distress. This ought to comfort us, that we have to do with a forgiving God (Nehemiah 9:31). There is none like to Him, to whom it is natural to remit and forgive sin. It is His name (Exodus 34:6): "Forgiving iniquities, transgressions, and sins," all manner of sins; sins against knowledge and against conscience; with Him is plentiful forgiveness.

II. AS GOD ONLY FORGIVES SIN, SO HE EVER FORGIVES SIN. It is always His nature, as the fire always burns; as He is Jehovah, He is merciful. Christ is "the Lamb of God," that doth take away the sins of the world. It is a perpetual act; as we say the sun doth shine, the spring doth run. He is (Zechariah 13:1), that "fountain that is opened for sin and uncleanness." Mercy is His nature, and forgiveness is an effect of His mercy.

III. GOD'S MERCY IS FREE, AND FROM HIMSELF. Though in us is sin and iniquity, yet in Thee is mercy; and therefore God saith (Ezekiel 36:22). Yet must not this be understood so as if it were freely and only from God the Father, excluding Christ. But therefore it is, in that we shall stand in need of no satisfactory merits of our own.

IV. THE BEST CHRISTIAN AND MOST GRACIOUS MAN ALIVE NEEDS FORGIVENESS OF HIS SINS; for where the conscience is enlightened it will discover what corruption it finds, and so the necessity of being delivered. We must daily pray, "Forgive us our sins," yea, the best of the disciples must do it. If we come not with this petition, "our sins are written with a pen of iron, and with the claw of an adamant" (Job 19:24).

V. THIS MERCY AND FORGIVENESS IS GENERAL TO ALL THAT CAST THEMSELVES ON HIS FREE MERCY. It is Satan's subtility to persuade us at the first that sin is nothing; but when it is committed, and cannot be recalled, then he tells us it is greater than can be pardoned. No; the Gospel is the power of God to salvation to all that do believe. Let none despair. It is a greater sin than the former. He pardons all persons: Manasses the sorcerer, Cornelius, Zaecheus, persecuting Paul. The parable of the lost sheep, the lost groat, the prodigal son, testifies it. God offers it freely, "Why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Jeremiah 27:13). He complains when it is neglected: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered you together!" (Matthew 23:37). "He threatens" because men will not hear, and "He pardons all sins." There is no disease above the skill of this Physician. He healeth all thy sins and all thy infirmities (Psalm 103:1-3).

( Sibbes, Richard.)

"That Thou mayest be feared" How does that follow? There is forgiveness with Thee! a blessed truth that!

I. THERE MUST BE SOMETHING PECULIAR ABOUT GOD'S FORGIVENESS THAT IT LEADS TO FEAR. Had my text in connection with God introduced scenes of terror — the great white throne; the books of judgment; the falling heavens; the dying sun; the departing earth; the pit; the smoke of torment; the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched — all hearts would have responded like an echo to the text, and this question had trembled on our lips, "Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy." But this is not the way. And how is it, that while the parents who constantly forgive are not feared, God, with whom is forgiveness, is? Why is it that forgiveness does not in His ease, as in theirs, breed insolent presumption?

II. LET ME EXPLAIN THOSE PECULIAR CHARACTERS IN THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD WHICH BREED FEAR, NOT PRESUMPTION, IN THE FORGIVEN.

1. The manner of the forgiveness sets forth the holiness of God and the evils of sin in the strongest light. Turn to the Cross of Calvary, to that august and awful spectacle on which angels, suspending their songs, are gazing in silent wonder. By that bloody tree, under that frowning sky, the earth trembling beneath our feet and the sun darkened above our heads, does sin seem a light and little thing?

2. The manner of forgiveness sets forth not only God's hatred of sin, but His love to sinners in the strongest light. It is hard be say whether it most illustrates His hatred of our sins or His love of ourselves. It, costs man nothing to forgive, but it cost God His Son. I cannot fathom, and I dare not fancy the feelings of the eternal Father, when He saw the Son whom He loved with infinite affection spit upon, scourged, reviled, bleeding, dying on the accursed tree. But how must He have loved you for whom He gave a Son so loved! And how will the love this breeds in you make you fear to dishonour or displease One who has so loved you — securing your forgiveness on such an immovable foundation and at so great a price.

( T. Guthrie, D. D.)

1. The text is true to human nature because, in all strong characters, whether high or low, despair that is blank and absolute does not excite fear, but stuns and paralyzes it. In Scott's tale, the desperado dies believing nothing, hoping nothing, and also fearing nothing. Religious despair is reckless. "There is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared;" for while man utterly hopeless can attain to a gigantic and almost sublime defiance, yet brave men who set their teeth to die, and would have perished with indomitable valour, have wept like children when the unhoped-for deliverance came. So that fear is, after all, the dusky shadow of hope, lengthening, no doubt, like other shadows, as the sun withdraws, but vanishing, like them, when the darkness is complete.

2. The text has also much to tell us about the nature of the forgiveness of God. So far is the forgiveness of God from any carelessness about the moral law, that He once proclaimed Himself, in the same sentence, as forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and yet by no means clearing the guilty. And again, "Thou, Lord, art merciful, for Thou rewardest every man according to his work." For, indeed, no act was ever done which left the doer exactly as it found him. Just as the Church can never in this life return to Eden and its fruit-groves, though her pilgrimage in the desert may lead her to the splendours of the New Jerusalem; so it is with each individual soul. The mercy of God may bring us to a better place than that which we relinquish, but to the place we forfeit we never may return again. And yet, O unhappy man, it is because there is forgiveness with God, and because He does not cease to care for your sinful soul, that He thus disquiets you. Go down upon your knees, and thank Him that He lets no soul shrivel and dry up without strong pains; thank Him for this noble misery, which forbids you to grow base tamely, which makes it the true penalty of being knavish, not that other men suspect you to be a knave, but that, deep within, the clear, strong voice of your own conscience calls you so. "Thou, Lord, art merciful, for Thou rewardest every man according to his work." For now observe that the corrosive pains of remorse are capable of being transformed into the humbling, but sweet and infinitely wholesome sorrows of penitence and restoration.

(C. A. Chadwick, D. D.)

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