Psalm 32:5

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. (Ver. 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 (ver. 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. (Ver. 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. Sinput away. (Ver. 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 (ver. 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." (Ver. 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, 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., 4., 5.), 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. (Ver. 7.) Songs of deliverance" will now take the place of consuming remorse and penitential groans.

2. In new thoughts of God. (Ver. 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. (Vers. 1, 2.) "Blessed... blessed," etc. The emphasis is doubly intense.

(1) There is a blessedness in forgiveness itself. To have the burden of guilt lifted off, and the sentence of condemnation cancelled, what blessedness is here!

(2) There is blessedness which follows on forgiveness. New freedom. New joy in God. New ties of love. New citizenship. New heirship. New prospects. Oh! the blessedness!

4. In exhortation. (Vers. 8, 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.

(1) He bids us not to be perverse and obstinate, i.e. in attempting to conceal our guilt; but rather to show the reason of reasonable men in confessing and abandoning it (ver. 9).

(2) He reminds us that, while resistance to God will only surround us with woes, trust in God will ensure our being encompassed with mercies (ver. 10).

(3) He bids truly sincere, upright, penitent souls - men without guile - to rejoice in God, yea, even to shout for joy, because of that forgiving love which buries all the past guilt of the penitent in the ocean of redeeming grace, and enriches the pardoned one with the heirship of everlasting life. - C.

I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou for-gavest the iniquity of my sin.
It is hard to look things in the face; yet we must do so; we must own our sins honestly.

I. To OUR OWN HEARTS — and then, down comes our pride. We thought ourselves tolerably good, and that we could pass muster as well as most; but beginning to look, we detect, here first, and then there, a blemish, an infirmity, a gross sin. It is best to be frank, and rather to make the most than the least of our faults. The iron-founder examines the huge mass of some iron girder, on which he has spent much labour; he sees one tiny crack, but passes it by, hoping, though with strong misgiving, that the real strength of the metal will not be affected; and ere long he hears that the bridge has fallen, and men have been killed by it, and that the disaster is traced to a flaw in the metal. He had better have faced the disappointment, and have had the piece re-cast, than have been responsible for the accident.

II. To OTHERS. When a man knows his own fault, he does not like others to know it: He would prefer to remain in their eyes the spotless man he once was in his own. It is a degrading thought that others should know that you have been guilty of a meanness, of intemperance, of passion, of untruthfulness; and yet by trying to conceal it from them, you may be adding deception to your former error. Not that we are bound to blaze abroad our faults; that might do more harm than good: but to cover them, or palliate them, so as to retain the good opinion of others, is fruitless and insincere. Bitter though it be to lose the good opinion of friends, still even that is better than disingenuousness.

III. To GOD. It is God whom we have offended: to God must our confession be made. With abject sorrow, and unfeigned shame that we should in any, the least, point have outraged the majesty, the purity, the honour of God; with body, soul, and spirit all bowed down; with reason silent, with no excuses, no special pleading, no attempt to set off against our faults any good things which we have done; but simply engrossed in our hatred of the evil thing we have done, and unreservedly acknowledging its wickedness.

IV. If you cannot quiet your conscience by secret confession to God, use THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION. Something human the man craves, some human voice to tell him to his face that he is forgiven, to assure him, and to dispel doubts.

(G. F. Prescott, M. A.)


1. This misery was corporeally emaciating.

2. This misery lasted as long as the silence.

3. This misery was felt to be from God.


1. The removal of sin from man is a possible act.

2. A blessed act.

3. An encouraging act.

4. A saving act,

(1)It makes safe in the greatest dangers.

(2)It secures the protection of God Himself.

(3)It encircles the life with Divine music.


I. THE PSALMIST HAD KEPT SILENCE. In this he was wrong. Sin had been committed, and the fruits were fermenting and fomenting in his bosom, gendering turmoil and breeding corruption. So sin will dwell in our souls, and we fondle and turn it into a means of enjoyment. We have not the courage to look at these sins as sins, and to cast them out from what ought to be the temple of the Lord. We try as far as possible not even to notice them. We prefer thinking of our supposed excellences, of the good deeds we have done, of our talents, courage, prowess, generosity, and roll these as a sweet morsel under our tongue. We decline thinking on the abuse made of the gifts bestowed on us, — on our ingratitude, ungodliness, our lusts cherished, our envy, our evil temper, our selfishness. There will be times, indeed, when these iniquities are forced upon our attention by the accusations of conscience or the reproaches of our fellow men, or by the troubles into which they bring us. But on these occasions we put ourselves on the defensive and parry off the attack; and when these weapons of defence are wrested from us, then we bring excuses and urge palliations referring to extenuating circumstances, or pleading seductions, or pointing to the fairer side of the offence, to the pleasure it gave, or the kindness or frankness which characterized it. Under such pretexts as these we keep silence when we should speak out, when we should confess the sin and acknowledge the transgression, cast them out from our hearts and slay them before the Lord.

II. WHEN HE KEPT SILENCE HE WAS TROUBLED. God speaks. He speaks in the conscience, saying, this deed, this thought was evil. He speaks in the Word, saying, "The wages of sin is death." He speaks to us by His Spirit, striving to subdue the resistance. But the ear is stopped, that it may not hear; or when the voice is so loud that it cannot but be heard, no attention is paid to it, or it is openly disobeyed. There is now a terrible conflict. There is a voice commanding, but there is a determined effort to drown it, as loud and dismal as the sound of the gong which was used in Mexico to drown the cry of the tortured and bleeding human victims on the altar. What earnestness in the voice demanding, the voice entreating! but there is equal earnestness in the struggles resisting, and the hatred resenting. No wonder that "the moisture is turned into the drought of summer." The terrible heat, exceeding that of a tropical sun, burns up every living thing. The soul is left as an arid waste, without a scrap of vegetation.


IV. THE PSALMIST HAD HIS SINS FORGIVEN. We are not to understand that the confession can merit the forgiveness. The confession can no more merit the forgiveness than the forgiveness can merit the confession. Both are gifts of God, and so bound together that you cannot have the one without the other. An old author represents Christ as coming to us with a gift in each hand. In the one hand He holds out forgiveness, free forgiveness; in the other hand He holds out repentance and confession. If we begin to say, "We are very willing to take the one of these; we know we have sinned, and are most anxious to have the forgiveness; but as to this wringing repentance and its proper fruit, a humbling confession, we wish to avoid them," then Christ will give us neither. But if in simple faith we will only take both, we shall receive both "without money and without price." At the same instant that we break silence and cry in faith for mercy, Heaven also breaks the awful silence, and the mercy is bestowed and received. And now the crowded bosom finds relief; the confined soul experiences enlargement; the fettered spirit is free; the prison doors are thrown open, and the soul walks at liberty and expatiates abroad, on before untrodden ground, and gazes on new and lovely scenes. New affections are called forth, and new-born feelings spring up. The evil burnouts have been let out, and the body feels health returning, and, with health, motive and activity.

(J. McCosh.)

If you blot out of David's psalms his profound sense of moral evil in all its bare, black iniquity, as the great reality of man's experience and life, you blot out those psalms at the same time from the literature of the world: their work is done, their power is dead. But it is the firmness with which he grasps the hand which redeems from this evil, which gives him such a wonderful hold on the heartstrings of humanity. Slave, beggar, soldier, scholar, statesman, priest, all feel equally that he belongs to them, because his experience is so profoundly human; because man the sinner, God the Saviour, are the great themes of his meditation, and of his vivid, burning utterance to the world. Sin and salvation must be the main burden of every gospel which lays masterful hold on human hearts. There are two aspects of sin which need sometimes to be separately considered, that we may see the true method of its Divine treatment, and trace the principles on which it rests.

I. ITS ESSENTIAL INIQUITY. The revelation of Scripture is that sin is a personal act against a person. It runs directly counter to our modern philosophizing on the subject. Man knows that he has sinned, himself has done it. "I have sinned, I have perverted that which is right." That "I" means something which, whatever it may be, distinctly is not Nature and is not God (Psalm 51:4). The heart may be broken at beholding the ruin and anguish sin has wrought, but the core of the matter is not reached until its iniquity, the wrong before God, is seen to be the essence of it. Only when the sin is comprehended in all its evil, can God the Redeemer begin its cure.

II. ITS DISASTROUS FRUITS. Here is a second gauge of the evil of sin — the utter misery which it works (Genesis 3:24; Genesis 4:1-15). Let a man be selfish, envious, lustful, grasping, in the most hidden imaginations of his heart, he can no more help being the author of sorrow to every one who has intimate relations with him, than a dunghill can help breeding fever. It is a terrible subject, this inevitable fruit of sin. This is God's ordinance about sin — its fruit shall be misery. It is the grand hold which He keeps on sinners. Sin is in their power; misery is in His; and it is the hand by which He withholds them from swift perdition (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 7:1.; 1 John 1:6-10). The text casts a valuable light on the essential nature of forgiveness. God forgives the iniquity of the sin, while the mischief which it has wrought He sets Himself to repair. This is and must be slow and toilsome work. It is the work of God in the government of the world, to repair the evil which sin has wrought. But the forgiveness is prompt, absolute and final.


1. In its nature. It does not touch the accidents of the sin, but its very essence. The accidents will be cured in time. There are two elements to be dealt with — the Divine anger and the sense of alienation and wretchedness in the child. Now as to the first, God when He forgives declares that it is gone. The sinner is slow to believe this, but it is true, and God has His own ways of lodging the sense of it in penitent hearts.

2. Its conditions. How can God forgive sin? Not by ignoring it. The answer of the Gospel is that by man's righteousness, man's iniquity has been put away. Christ stands for man before God, and His righteousness has become a stronger part in humanity than Adam's sin. One has undertaken for us, stands for us, who can make and will make God's righteousness the dominant thing, the conquering thing, the characteristic thing, in humanity; and in Christ God justifies man. But what then has confession to do with it? It is the vital link between the soul and Christ. It is the plea of the soul to the Father, Behold me, sinner as I am, in Christ. My will goes with Him; in His obedience, His hatred of sin, I desire to share; make me partaker of His victorious life. Confession, as the fruit of penitence, transmutes the relation of the soul to Christ. From formal it becomes vital. The name becomes a power. It makes, by the stirring of the thought and will of a free being, the oneness with Christ a spiritual reality. It declares that through Christ there is born in the soul that which is not sinful, which is of the essence of holiness, and ever struggling upwards towards God. Confession rests on Christ, and connects us vitally with His righteousness.

3. Its fruits. Perfect, absolute, and eternal peace, if the sinner but keep firm hold on the fact, "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Man will forgive himself when God forgives him. The fruits of his sin may be there; a broken body, a stained name, poverty, struggle, and sad, sad memories. But all the anguish has gone out of the soul, all the dread, if God forgives. "All things," even the bitter fruits of transgression, "must work together for good to God's justified children.

(J. B. Brown, B. A.)

David describes three states of mind through which he passed.

I. A STATE OF GUILT. "When I kept silence," etc. It was his own bitter experience. He darkly and sullenly turned away from God. Though a voice within him bade him turn, he would not. He hung back and shunned the presence of his God, like Adam in the garden. It is an unspeakably wretched state of mind. There are two cases in which a man may feel what David felt.

1. An awakened sinner may feel it — a sinner for the first time brought to a sense of his transgression.

2. The other case in which a man may experience what David did, is that of one who, after he has known somewhat of God and the comfort of religion, has unhappily in some degree departed from God again, and fallen into sin, and does not at once return to Him with earnest prayer for forgiveness, with full confession of his sin, with renewed applications to the blood of sprinkling. This was David's case; and this, too, was Jonah's. It is easy even for a good man, through negligence and unwatchfulness, to fall into sin and consequent misery; it is not so easy for him to arise and regain the paths of righteousness; it is not so easy to betake himself indeed to the Saviour, and, through the penitent and believing application of His atoning blood, to recover peace of conscience, and with it renewed liberty in the service of God. But there is help for the penitent, help in the abundant mercy of God our Saviour for them that unfeignedly seek it.

II. For mark THE NEXT STAGE OF DAVID'S EXPERIENCE, as it is described in the text: — "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord." A great change was here. David no longer kept silence. O happy is it, when the guilty mind comes to this resolution!

III. A STATE OF HOLY JOY AT BEING RECONCILED TO GOD. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose," etc. Then he represents himself as secure and happy under the guidance and protection of God. And then, once more, he has communion with God in prayer. Are any conscious of sin committed? Dissemble it not. Cloke it not. Go to God your Saviour; confess your sin; and ask forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. Thus, and thus only, can you find peace.

(E. Blencowe, M. A.)


1. It was deliberate. "I said, I will," etc. He was not dull or unfeeling in his sense of sin; but, like one infirm in body, yet strong in courage, he resolved manfully to go through the operation, however painful, having respect to the recompense of the expected cure.

2. It was humble: "I will confess." By this is signified his intention of owning, without any excuses, and specifying, his fault — as was required of the Israelite seeking pardon (Leviticus 5:5), of the high-priest making atonement (Leviticus 16:21); and as was practised by the people (1 Samuel 12:19), and by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:3). With this would be connected submission to his trouble, as designed for punishment of his sin, and acknowledgment of its justice; to which course a particular promise was made under the law (Leviticus 26:40-42).

3. It was personal. "My sin." Many, anxious to pass hastily and lightly over their own failings, try to effect their purpose by making stepping-stones of their neighbours' faults. With the general confession, "I am a grievous sinner," they couple the truth, "and so are we all"; and to the admission, "I have done wickedly," they add the hackneyed saying, "this is a wicked world we live in." Thus they seem to derive a false comfort from the number of their fellow-offenders, as though the crowd of criminals could screen them from the piercing eye, or the daring band of rebels protect them from the avenging hand of a long-suffering, but all-seeing and almighty Judge.

4. It was intelligent, i.e. with understanding: "I will confess my transgressions." The word "transgression" implies a boundary-line to be passed, a fence to be broken; and, without knowing where this is fixed, a man will not be able to see and acknowledge his fault.

5. It was private: "I will confess unto the Lord." David could abase himself before the prophet (2 Samuel 12:13) and his household (vers. 16, 17); but on this occasion he carried his burden to the Lord. It may be asked, Where is the need of confessing to that Lord who "trieth the hearts and reins and understandeth our thoughts afar off"? We answer, The need is ours, and the benefit is ours. The exercise of mentioning our sins leads the mind to dwell longer upon them, discovering their guilt more fully; and helps to mortify our pride, though no mortal ear listens to the recital. It may be further remarked, that David's confession "to the Lord" was an appeal to his judgment, as to his sincerity; and pledged the penitent to a forsaking the sins which he professed to lament.

6. The happy consequences: "Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Here is a benefit, beyond the mere ease obtained by giving vent to the feelings; here is the entire removal of the guilt of acknowledged transgression.


1. In dwelling on David's confession "to the Lord," I would by no means neglect or undervalue the exhortation of the apostle (James 5:16) to well-chosen confidence and sympathy.

2. I would suggest to parents, sponsors, and teachers, as concerned in the training of the young, the importance of insisting on the duty of confession before they pardon their offences.

(G. Newnham, M. A.)


1. Self-abasement (Jeremiah 2:26; Ezra 9:6; Jeremiah 6:15). 2, Self-condemnation (Psalm 51:3-7).

3. Such self-abhorrence must reduce the sinner, who is not altogether abandoned, to self-denial, and abstinence from his former course of wickedness. The trembling penitent adopts the language of Ephraim (Jeremiah 31:18-20); and, prodigal-like (Luke 15:12-32), returns to his compassionate Father

II. The prodigal finding a kind reception, contrary to expectation, must be overwhelmed with GRATITUDE AND THANKFULNESS.

(J, Kidd, D. D.)

1. Notice the elements of this repentance as they come out in this psalm:

(1)Clear consciousness of sin — "I acknowledged my sin."

(2)Loathing sorrow for sin — "Mine iniquity have I not hid."

(3)Confession of sin — "I acknowledged my sin."

(4)Forsaking of sin (ver. 9).

2. Ask these questions:

(1)Having sinned, is not this the noblest possible way in which a sinner can treat his sin — to repent of it?

(2)Is it not far better and nobler thus to repent of it than heedlessly and blindly to go on in sin?

(3)Do you think that, going on in sin carelessly and blindly, it is possible to go on thus toward God?

(4)Therefore can you not see the necessity of repentance?

(W. Hoyt, D. D.)

The word signifies a vehement, a pathetic, a hyperbolical asseveration, and attestation, and ratification of something said before. Such, in a proportion, as our Saviour's "Amen, amen" is, "Verily, verily I say unto you"; such as St. Paul's "fidelis sermo," with which he seals so many truths, is, "This is a faithful saying"; such as that apostle's "Coram domino" is, with which he ratifies many things, "Before the Lord I speak it"; and such as Moses, "As I live, saith the Lord," and "As the Lord liveth." And therefore, though God be in all His words, Yea, and Amen, no word of His can perish in itself, nor should perish in us, that is, pass without observation, yet, in setting this seal of "Selah" to this doctrine, He hath testified His will that He would have all these things the better understood, and the deeper imprinted, that "if a man conceal and smother his sins, "Selah," assuredly, God will open that man's mouth, and it shall not show forth His praise, but God will bring him to fearful exclamations out of the sense of the affliction, if not of the sin; "Selah," assuredly, God will shiver his bones, shake his best actions, and discover their impurity; "Selah," assuredly, God will suffer to be dried up all his moisture, all possibility of repentant tears, and all interest in the blood of Christ Jesus.

(J. Donne, D. D.)

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