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the renovation of his soul in righteousness and true holiness
The psalm before us gives a just epitome of the penitents mind. David begins with fervent supplications for pardon : "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions!” He comes afterwards to implore a sense of God's forgiving love : “ Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” He then desires a restoration of his soul to the divine image :
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
In these words we may see, 1. The great constituents of true piety
A mere reformation of life, however exemplary, will be no better than the painting of a sepulchre, which is “ full of rottenness and all uncleanness.' If we would be approved of our God, we must have, 1. A clean heart
[“ The heart of fallen man is full of evila," and from it, as from its proper source, all manner of evil proceeds. God himself has testified respecting it, that "all its thoughts and imaginations are evil.” Hence there is an indispensable necessity, that it should be renewed by grace: for, if left in an unrenewed state, it could not enjoy heaven, even if it were admitted there. Being altogether corrupt, it could not delight itself in the presence of a holy God, or find satisfaction in those exercises of praise in which the glorified saints and angels are incessantly engaged. To find happiness in God and holy exercises, it must acquire a totally different taste; or rather, it must be wholly changed: it must be cleansed from all its corrupt propensities: it must be made averse from sin : and all its powers must be sanctified unto the Lord.] 2. A right spirit
[By a “ right” spirit is meant a “constant” spirit. A man, even after he is once cleansed, is yet prone to sin. He is beset with temptations both from without and within : and he needs to “ be strengthened with might in his inner man, in order that he may be able to withstand them. It will be in vain that he has been once “ cleansed from the pollutions of the world: if he be ever again entangled with them and overcome,
a Eccl. ix. 3.
b Mark vii. 21-23.
c Gen. vi. 5.
“ His last end will be worse than the beginning ." He must “ be steadfast, immoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lorde,” if ever he would find acceptance at the last. “He must endure unto the end, if ever he would be saved."]
Seeing that these things are so necessary, let us inquire, II. How they are to be obtained
They are not the work of man, but of God alone. They are God's work, 1. In their commencement
[The giving of a clean heart is justly called “ a new creation :" Create in me a clean heart, O God.” Hence he that is in Christ is called “ a new creature'.” When we survey the heavenly bodies, we see and know that they cannot have been the work of any created being: the impress of Divinity is stamped upon them. And not less certain is it that a new heart must be the gift of God. True it is, that God has said, “ Make you a new heart, and a right spirit: for why will ye dieť?" But it is also true, that God has promised to give it to us: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and shall be clean :. from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh,
and I will give you an heart of flesh h.” Here all is the gift of God: and it is to be obtained from God in the exercise of prayer and faith. It is our duty to have a clean heart: and therefore God says, “ Make you one.” But, since we cannot do it of ourselves, we are to turn the command into a petition : “ Create it in me, O God!” And, to shew us that such petitions shall not be in vain, God makes our petition the subject of an express promise : “A new heart will I give you. This points out the true way of obtaining all spiritual blessings: we must be sensible that it is our duty to possess them: but, from a consciousness of our inability to obtain them by any efforts of our own, we must cry to God for them, and plead with him the promises which he has given us in the Son of his love. " Laying hold on these promises," we shall obtain the strength which we stand in need of; and shall be enabled to“ cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of Godi.”] 2. In their progress—
[Stability of mind is as much the gift of God as regeneration itself: it is He alone that can “make us perfect; establish, , d 2 Pet. ii. 20. e 1 Cor. xv. 58.
f 2 Cor. y. 17. & Ezek. xviii. 31. h Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26. i 2 Cor. vii. 1.
strengthen, settle usk.” We need only look to David for an illustration of this truth. What man ever lived, on whom you might depend more fully than on him? He a man after God's own heart;” disciplined in the school of adversity, and honoured with divine communications to as great an extent as the most favoured of the sons of men. Yet behold, how he fell! Look at Solomon too. Who, that had seen him at the dedication of the temple, would have ever supposed that he should betray such weakness and folly as he did, during the greater part of his reign? Alas! " what is man," if left to himself; if left only for a single instant? If God be not with him to uphold him, he will become the sport of every temptation,“ driven to and fro with every wind," whether of sentiment or of feeling! He must be assisted in every part of his duty, whether of “putting off the old man, or putting on the new. The same Almighty power which raised Christ from the dead must work mightily in himm, to "renew him in the spirit of his mind"," till the whole work of God be perfected within him; and to the latest hour of his life his prayer must be, May the very God of peace, who brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make me perfect in every good work, to do his will; working in me that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Christ Jesus!"] ADDRESS,
1. Those who feel no need of such a change as is described in our text
[By the generality, such a change is deemed no better than a wild enthusiastic conceit: and if a man have been baptized into the faith of Christ, and been enabled to maintain an honourable and consistent walk through life, he is conceived to be in a state of perfect safety. But had not Nicodemus been admitted into covenant with God in the way prescribed by God himself, and in the only way in which any were or could be admitted under the Mosaic dispensation ? and was he not a person of most exemplary character? Yet to him did our Lord say again and again, “ Ye must be born again;" and if a man be not born again," he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven P.” To get rid of this awful admonition, many will identify regeneration with the act of baptism, under an idea that the inward grace must of necessity accompany the outward sign. But if this be the case in one sacrament, it must be equally so in the other: whereas we are told, that a man may partake of the Lord's supper unworthily; and, instead of being saved by it, may only
k 1 Pet. v. 10.
Eph. iv. 23, 24. VOL. y.
I Eph. iv. 14.
m Eph. i. 19, 20.
“ eat and drink his own damnation 9.” And so may a man render baptism the means of his more aggravated condemnation; as Simon Magus actually did: for he continued as much“ in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity” after his baptism, as he was before, with the additional guilt of his hypocrisy in having applied for baptism in a state altogether unworthy to receive it! Beloved Brethren, whatever men may say, you must be born again of the Spirit, as well as of water: you must become “new creatures in Christ Jesus: " and if God create not in you a clean heart, and renew not in you a right spirit, Satan himself may hope for heaven as well as you: for, if there be any truth in the word of God, “ without holiness," real, inward, universal holiness, no man shall see the Lord."] 2. Those who profess to have experienced it
[There are two things against which I would particularly take occasion to guard you: the one is presumption; the other is despondency.
You have probably heard persons speak of divine grace being an imperishable seed; which, once bestowed, must of necessity bring a man to glory. But it is the word of God which is the only imperishable seed: nor is there in the universe a man who is authorised to say, 'I cannot fall.' To enter into this subject at large, is beyond my present purpose. The man who cannot see his frailty in the character of David, and his inability to restore himself in the long impenitence of David, will probably be left to learn these things by bitter experience. But to every man among you
“ that has an ear to hear," I would say, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall u.” And if I were speaking even to a prophet of the Most High, and he as eminent as David himself, I would whisper in his ear this salutary caution, “ Be not high-minded, but fear."
Yet, if there be here one who has fallen into sin, I would say, Despair not, as though there were not mercy enough in the bosom of your God to pardon you, or power enough in his arm to keep you. Yea, if, like David, you had committed the aggravated crimes of adultery and murder, I would still point you to the great Sacrifice, even to the Lord Jesus Christ; and would put into your mouth that prayer of David, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow y." I would, however, remind such an one, that it will not be enough for him to obtain pardon and peace : he must have “a clean heart created in him, and a right and constant spirit renewed within him,"if ever he would see the face of God in peace.” Yet I would add, that there is nothing impossible with God; and that he who magnified his mercy in the salvation of an adulterous and murderous David, will “cast out none who come to him " in humility and faith, as David did.]
q 1 Cor. xi. 29.
r Acts viii. 21-23.
s Heb. xii. 14.
THE PENITENT ENCOURAGED. Ps. li. 14. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God
of my salvation! and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
THIS psalm is full of encouragement to a real penitent; but in particular the petition before us. Consider the crime committed-murder; the most atrocious murder that ever was committed. Consider by whom it had been committed—the man after God's own heart, who had experienced from God more signal interpositions than almost any other man that ever breathed. Consider the long and inconceivable obduracy which he had indulged since the commission of it, even to the very hour when his guilt was charged upon him by the Prophet of the Lord. Could such a sin as this be forgiven ? Could such an offender dare to ask forgiveness, or entertain the remotest hope of obtaining it? Surely, if David could approach his God under such circumstances as these, with the smallest hope of acceptance, then may we see in this passage, I. The privilege of a contrite soul
There is not a sinner in the universe who may not go to God, as “a God of salvation": —
[Were there only a hope that mercy might be a constituent of the divine character, and an attribute which might by some possibility be displayed, it were a sufficient encouragement to the vilest sinner upon earth to call upon his God. But the title here assigned to the Most High, opens to us a most wonderful view of his character. He is a God of salvation;" as having devised a way of salvation for a ruined world; as having given us his only dear Son to effect it; as having accepted the sacrifice of his Son in our behalf; and, as applying that salvation to those whom " he has chosen in Christ