5. I have acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess against myself to Jehovah my wickedness; and thou didst remit the guilt1 of my sin. Selah. 6. Therefore shall every one that is meek pray unto thee in the time of finding thee; so that in a flood of many waters,2 they shall not come nigh unto him. 7. Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
5. I have acknowledged my sin unto thee. The prophet now describes the issue of his misery, in order to show to all the ready way of obtaining the happiness of which he makes mention. When his feeling of divine wrath sorely vexed and tormented him, his only relief was unfeignedly to condemn himself before God, and humbly to flee to him to crave his forgiveness. He does not say, however, that his sins merely came to his remembrance, for so also did the sins of Cain and Judas, although to no profit; because, when the consciences of the wicked are troubled with their sins, they cease not to torment themselves, and to fret against God:yea, although he forces them unwillingly to his bar, they still eagerly desire to hide themselves. But here there is described a very different method of acknowledging sin; namely, when the sinner willingly betakes himself to God, building his hope of salvation not on stubbornness or hypocrisy, but on supplication for pardon. This voluntary confession is always conjoined with faith; for otherwise the sinner will continually seek lurking-places where he may hide himself from God. David's words clearly show that he came unfeignedly and cordially into the presence of God, that he might conceal nothing. When he tells us that he acknowledged his sin, and did not hide it, the latter clause is added, according to the Hebrew idiom, for the sake of amplification. There is no doubt, therefore, that David, when he appeared before God, poured out all his heart. Hypocrites, we know, that they may extenuate their evil doings, either disguise or misrepresent them; in short, they never make an honest confession of them, with an ingenuous and open mouth. But David denies that he was chargeable with this baseness. Without any dissimulation he made known to God whatever grieved him; and this he confirms by the words, I have said. While the wicked are dragged by force, just as a judge compels offenders to come to trial, he assures us that he came deliberately and with full purpose of mind; for the term, said, just signifies that he deliberated with himself. It therefore follows, that he promised and assured himself of pardon through the mercy of God, in order that terror might not prevent him from making a free and an ingenuous confession of his sins.
The phrase, upon myself, or against myself, intimates that David put away from him all the excuses and pretences by which men are accustomed to unburden themselves, transferring their fault, or tracing it to other people. David, therefore, determined to submit himself entirely to God's judgment, and to make known his own guilt, that being self-condemned, he might as a suppliant obtain pardon.
And thou didst remit the guilt of my sin. This clause is set in opposition to the grievous and direful agitations by which he says he was harassed before he approached by faith the grace of God. But the words also teach, that as often as the sinner presents himself at the throne of mercy, with ingenuous confession, he will find reconciliation with God awaiting him. In other words, the Psalmist means that God was not only willing to pardon him, but that his example afforded a general lesson that those in distress should not doubt of God's favor towards them, so soon as they should betake themselves to him with a sincere and willing mind. Should any one infer from this, that repentance and confession are the cause of obtaining grace, the answer is easy; namely, that David is not speaking here of the cause but of the manner in which the sinner becomes reconciled to God. Confession, no doubt, intervenes, but we must go beyond this, and consider that it is faith which, by opening our hearts and tongues, really obtains our pardon. It is not admitted that every thing which is necessarily connected with pardon is to be reckoned amongst its causes. Or, to speak more simply, David obtained pardon by his confession, not because he merited it by the mere act of confessing, but because, under the guidance of faith, he humbly implored it from his judge. Moreover, as the same method of confession ought to be in use among us at this day, which was formerly employed by the fathers under the law, this sufficiently refutes that tyrannical decree of the Pope, by which he turns us away from God, and sends us to his priests to obtain pardon.
6. Therefore shall every one that is meek pray unto thee. Here the Psalmist expressly states that whatever he has hitherto set forth in his own person belongs in common to all the children of God. And this is to be carefully observed, because, from our native unbelief, the greater part of us are slow and reluctant to appropriate the grace of God. We may also learn from this, that David obtained forgiveness, not by the mere act of confession, as some speak, but by faith and prayer. Here he directs believers to the same means of obtaining it, bidding them betake themselves to prayer, which is the true sacrifice of faith. Farther, we are taught, that in David God gave an example of his mercy, which may not only extend to us all, but may also show us how reconciliation is to be sought. The words, every one, serve for the confirmation of every godly person; but the Psalmist at the same time shows, that no one can obtain the hope of salvation but by prostrating himself as a suppliant before God, because all without exception stand in need of his mercy.
The expression, The time of finding, which immediately follows, some think, refers to the ordinary and accustomed hours of prayer; but others more accurately, in my opinion, compare it3 with that place in Isaiah, (Isaiah 55:6,) where it is said, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." It is never out of season, indeed, to seek God, for every moment we need his grace, and he is always willing to meet us. But as slothfulness or dullness hinders us from seeking him, David here particularly intimates the critical seasons when believers are stimulated by a sense of their own need to have recourse to God. The Papists have abused this place to warrant their doctrine, that we ought to have advocates in heaven to pray for us;4 but the attempt to found an argument in support of such a doctrine from this passage is so grossly absurd that it is unworthy of refutation. We may see from it, however, either how wickedly they have corrupted the whole Scripture, or with what gross ignorance they blunder in the plainest matters.
In the flood of many waters. This expression agrees with that prophecy of Joel,
"Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be delivered." (Joel 2:32)
The meaning is, that although the deep whirlpools of death may compass us round on every side, we ought not to fear that they shall swallow us up; but rather believe that we shall be safe and unhurt, if we only betake ourselves to the mercy of God. We are thus emphatically taught that the godly shall have certain salvation even in death, provided they betake themselves to the sanctuary of God's grace. Under the term flood are denoted all those dangers from which there appears no means of escape.
At last the Psalmist gives himself to thanksgiving, and although he uses but few words to celebrate the divine favor, there is, notwithstanding, much force in his brevity. In the first place, he denies that there is any other haven of safety but in God himself. Secondly, he assures himself that God will be his faithful keeper hereafter; for I willingly retain the future tense of the verb, though some, without any reason, translate it into the past. He is not, however, to be understood as meaning that he conceived himself safe from future tribulations, but he sets God's guardianship over against them. Lastly, whatever adversity may befall him, he is persuaded that God will be his deliverer. By the word compass, he means manifold and various kinds of deliverance; as if he had said, that he should be under obligation to God in innumerable ways, and that he should, on every side, have most abundant matter for praising him. We may observe in the meantime, how he offers his service of gratitude to God, according to his usual method, putting songs of deliverance instead of help.