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51. Psalm 51

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

18Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

19Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

1. Have mercy upon me. David begins, as I have already remarked, by praying for pardon; and his sin having been of an aggravated description, he prays with unwonted earnestness. He does not satisfy himself with one petition. Having mentioned the loving-kindness of the Lord, he adds the multitude of his compassions, to intimate that mercy of an ordinary kind would not suffice for so great a sinner. Had he prayed God to be favorable, simply according to his clemency or goodness, even that would have amounted to a confession that his case was a bad one; but when he speaks of his sin as remissible, only through the countless multitude of the compassions of God, he represents it as peculiarly atrocious. There is an implied antithesis between the greatness of the mercies sought for, and the greatness of the transgression which required them. Still more emphatical is the expression which follows, multiply to wash me Some take הרבה, 258258     There are here two verbs, הרבה, herebeh, and כבסני, kabbeseni, the first signifying to multiply, and the second to wash Many expositors think that the verb הרבה, herebeh, is used in the sense of an adverb, and they read, Multum lava me “When two verbs of the same tense are joined together, whether a copula goes between them or not, the first is often expressed in Latin by an adverb.” — Glass. Lib. 1, Tract. 3, De Verbo Can. 29, tom. 1, p. 272. See Genesis 25:1; Psalm 6:10; 45:5; 78:41; and 102:3 herebeh, for a noun, but this is too great a departure from the idiom of the language. The sense, on that supposition, would indeed remain the same, That God would wash him abundantly, and with multiplied washing; but I prefer that form of expression which agrees best with the Hebrew idiom. This, at least, is certain from the expression which he employs, that he felt the stain of his sin to be deep, and to require multiplied washings. Not as if God could experience any difficulty in cleansing the worst sinner, but the more aggravated a man’s sin is, the more earnest naturally are his desires to be delivered from the terrors of conscience.

The figure itself, as all are aware, is one of frequent occurrence in Scripture. Sin resembles filth or uncleanness, as it pollutes us, and makes us loathsome in the sight of God, and the remission of it is therefore aptly compared to washing This is a truth which should both commend the grace of God to us, and fill us with detestation of sin. Insensible, indeed, must that heart be which is not affected by it!

Psalm 51:3-6

3. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is continually before me. 4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in thy sight; that thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. 5. Behold, I was born in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6. Behold, thou hast desired truth in the inward parts, and hast shown me wisdom in secret.

 

3. For If know my sins 259259     As if he had said, “I confess and acknowledge that I have sinned, nor do I say as Cain did, ‘I know not,’ (Genesis 4:9.) What I formerly shamefully and foolishly excused and extenuated, I now acknowledge before thee and thy prophet, and the whole Church, in this penitential psalm.” The verb is in the future, I will know or acknowledge, to intimate that he would continue to retain an humble sense of his guilt. He now discovers his reason for imploring pardon with so much vehemency, and this was the painful disquietude which his sins caused him, and which could only be relieved by his obtaining reconciliation with God. This proves that his prayer did not proceed from dissimulation, as many will be found commending the grace of God in high terms, although, in reality, they care little about it, having never felt the bitterness of being exposed to his displeasure. David, on the contrary, declares that he is subjected by his sin to constant anguish of mind, and that it is this which imparts such an earnestness to his supplications. From his example we may learn who they are that can alone be said to seek reconciliation with God in a proper manner. They are such as have had their consciences wounded with a sense of sin, and who can find no rest until they have obtained assurance of his mercy. We will never seriously apply to God for pardon, until we have obtained such a view of our sins as inspires us with fear. The more easily satisfied we are under our sins, the more do we provoke God to punish them with severity, and if we really desire absolution from his hand, we must do more than confess our guilt in words; we must institute a rigid and formidable scrutiny into the character of our transgressions. David does not simply say that he will confess his sins to man, but declares that he has a deep inward feeling of them, such a feeling of them as filled him with the keenest anguish. His was a very different spirit from that of the hypocrite, who displays a complete indifference upon this subject, or when it intrudes upon him, endeavors to bury the recollection of it. He speaks of his sins in the plural number. His transgression, although it sprung from one root, was complicated, including, besides adultery, treachery and cruelty; nor was it one man only whom he had betrayed, but the whole army which had been summoned to the field in defense of the Church of God. He accordingly recognises many particular sins as wrapt up in it.


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