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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Psalms 32

 

 

Verses 1-6

DISCOURSE: 547

TRUE BLESSEDNESS DECLARED

Psalms 32:1-6. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long: (for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:) my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.

TO have the experience of David in all the diversified conditions of life faithfully submitted to us, is an advantage for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. There was scarcely any trouble, either of a temporal or spiritual nature, which he was not called to endure, and under which he has not stated to us the workings of his mind. We are accustomed to hear of his sins and his penitence, his sorrows and his joys: but there is one particular frame of mind, in which he continued for many months, which we are apt, for the most part, to overlook, or to pass by with a mere transient observation; I mean, his state of impenitence and hardness of heart after the commission of his sin in the matter of Uriah. But this is an exceedingly profitable point of view in which to behold him, because of the general tendency of sin to harden the heart: and to see how he obtained peace at last is also of great advantage, inasmuch as it will shew us, how we may obtain peace, even after the commission of the greatest transgressions. When he wrote this psalm he had regained that happy state from which he had fallen: and he here records, for the instruction of the Church in all future ages,

I. Wherein true blessedness consists—

A man who has no prospects beyond this present world, will seek happiness in the things of time and sense. But “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth.” We are immortal beings, and are hastening to a state, where a period will arrive, at which our present existence, even though it should have been continued a thousand years, will have been only as the twinkling of an eye. In that state either happiness or misery awaits us, according as we enter upon it under the guilt of our former sins, or with our sins forgiven. We may justly say, therefore, True happiness consists, as our text informs us, in having our sins forgiven. To elucidate this topic, let us consider the blessing here spoken of,

1. As a non-imputation of sin—

[Who that is in the smallest degree conscious of the number and heinousness of his transgressions, and of the awful punishment due to him on account of them, must not regard it as an unspeakable mercy to have them all blotted out from the book of God’s remembrance? What in the whole universe can in his estimation be compared with this? If he could possess the whole world, yea, if he could possess ten thousand worlds, what comfort would the acquisition give him, if he had the melancholy prospect of being speedily plunged into the bottomless abyss of hell? If there were a large company of condemned criminals, some rich and noble, others poor and ignoble, and one of the meanest of them had received the king’s pardon whilst all the rest were left for execution; who among them would be accounted the happiest? How much more then, when the death to which unpardoned sinners are consigned is an everlasting death in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone! No one who reads the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and sees the termination of their respective states, can for a moment hesitate to pronounce Lazarus, with all his miseries and privations, far happier in a sense of reconciliation with his God, than the rich worldling in the enjoyment of all his pomp and luxury.]

2. As a positive imputation of righteousness—

[In the words of David we should not have seen the doctrine of imputed righteousness, if St. Paul had not expressly told us that that doctrine was contained in them. He tells us [Note: Romans 4:6-8.], that in these words “David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Now this idea goeth much farther than mere forgiveness: forgiveness exempts from punishment; but an imputation of the Redeemer’s righteousness to us insures to us an eternal great reward [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:21.]. O how happy must that man be who is clothed in the unspotted robe of Christ’s righteousness, and can, on the footing of that righteousness, claim all the glory and felicity of heaven! He may look forward to death and judgment, not only without fear but with holy confidence and joy, assured, that in God’s sight he stands “without spot or blemish.” Who, we would ask, can be happy, like the man who has been begotten to a lively hope, that in and through Christ, there is reserved for him an incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading inheritance in heaven?]

3. As a renovation of soul consequent on reconciliation with God—

[Though sin is pardoned, and righteousness is imputed, purely through the free grace of God to the chief of sinners, without any good works already performed by them [Note: Mark the expressions, “the ungodly,” “without works,” Romans 4:5-6.], yet no pardoned sinner is left in an unholy state: on the contrary, he is “renewed in the spirit of his mind:” “a new heart is given unto him:” and he is made “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” If this were not the case, pardon itself could not make him happy. A soul under the dominion of sin could not be happy, even if it were in heaven: sin would eat his vitals, as doth a canker. It is the restoration of the soul to the Divine image that constitutes a very principal part of its felicity: for when we are “holy, as God is holy,” then are we happy, as God is happy. We must be careful however not to confound those different sources of happiness. St. Paul was so jealous on this head, that when quoting the words of our text, be omitted these at the close of it, lest any one should imagine that our sanctification were in any respect the ground of our justification before God. Sanctification is the fruit and consequence of our having received a justifying righteousness: and, though it in no respect procures our reconciliation with God in the first instance, (for that is procured solely through faith in Christ,) yet it is as inseparably connected with justifying faith, as good fruit is with a good tree: nor can the soul be happy in a sense of the Divine favour, till it has this evidence of its acceptance with him.]

But David proceeds to inform us,

II. How he himself attained unto it—

For a long time he was altogether destitute of it—

[Partly through stoutness of heart, and partly through unbelief, he for a long time refused to humble himself for his heinous iniquities. But was he happy during that period? Hear his own representation of his state and feelings: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. The state of an impenitent sinner is fitly compared to the troubled sea, which cannot rest, but incessantly casts up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith God, to the wicked.” We have a striking elucidation of this point in the history of Judas and of Peter. Both of them had sinned grievously: but Peter, through the influence of faith, repented; whilst Judas, under the influence of unbelief, sought refuge in suicide from the accusations of his own mind. Thus it is with many who are haunted with a sense of guilt, but will not abase themselves before God: they “roar all the day long;” and “howl upon their beds, like dogs; but they cry not unto God from their inmost souls [Note: Hosea 7:14.].” Hence they can find no rest, or peace; and often precipitate themselves into the torments of hell, to get rid of the torments of a guilty conscience. Ignorant people impute these acts to religion: but it is the want of religion that produces them: it is the want of true contrition that causes their guilt so to prey upon their minds. “God’s hand is heavy upon them,” because they will not humble themselves before him: and the longer they continue to set him at defiance, the more may they expect to feel the pressure of his righteous indignation [Note: See Psalms 38:1-8; Psalms 102:3-7.] — — —]

At last through penitence he attained unto it—

[“He at last acknowledged his sin, and confessed his transgressions unto the Lord:” and then God, who delighteth in mercy, spoke peace unto his soul. The transition was indeed surprisingly rapid: “for he only said, I will confess my transgressions, and instantly God forgave the iniquity of his sin [Note: See 2 Samuel 12:13.].” Doubtless God saw the sincerity of his heart: he saw not only that David mourned over his past offences, but was determined through grace to give himself up in future wholly and unreservedly to the Lord: and therefore he would not delay to restore to him the light of his countenance, and the joy of his salvation. We have a beautiful instance of this rich display of mercy in the parable of the Prodigal Son — — — as also in the converts on the day of Pentecost — — — and in the jailer [Note: Acts 16:34.] — — — And similar displays of mercy may we ourselves hope for, if only we humble ourselves before him, and seek to be clothed in the Redeemer’s righteousness: for “he is rich in mercy unto all who call upon him.”]

Having stated thus his own experience, David proceeds to tell us,

III. What improvement we should make of it—

Unspeakably encouraging is the record here given us. We should take occasion from it,

1. To seek the Lord for ourselves—

[“The godly” will make their prayer unto God; and the ungodly also should do it. If any man ever had reason to despair, David had, after having so grievously departed from his God. But he cried unto the Lord, and obtained mercy at his hands. Shall the ungodly then say, My sins are too great to be pardoned? Or shall “the godly,” after the most horrible backslidings, sit down in despair, and say, “There is no hope?” No: the example of David absolutely forbids this — — — At the same time it shews the folly of delaying repentance: for there is no peace to the soul in an impenitent state: neither here nor hereafter can we be happy in any other way than that which God has marked out for us. If penitential sorrow be painful, it never corrodes like impenitent obduracy: there is in it a melting of soul that participates of the nature of holy joy: and, if “weeping do endure for a night, joy is sure to come in the morning.” If then we would be truly happy, let us flee to Christ as the Refuge set before us: he is “the Lord our Righteousness;” and the vilest sinner upon earth shall find his “blood able to cleanse from all sin,” and his righteousness sufficient to clothe our souls, so that the “shame of our nakedness shall never appear.” But let us take care,]

2. To seek him whilst he may be found—

[There is “a time wherein he may be found” of every one of us; and a time wherein he may not be found. This is an awful truth; but it is attested by many passages of Holy Writ: “O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace!” said our Lord to Jerusalem; “but now they are hid from thine eyes.” God may, and does, “give over many to a reprobate mind,” and to final impenitence: “So I gave them up.” But if you have the least desire of mercy, we are warranted to say, “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” O then improve the present hour: “Seek ye the Lord whilst he may be found; call ye upon him whilst he is near.” “If you cover your sins, you cannot prosper; but if you confess and forsake them, you shall find mercy.” “If you say that you have no sin, you deceive yourselves; but if you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 548

JOY IN THE LORD INCULCATED

Psalms 32:11. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

THERE is in this world, as there will also be in the eternal state, an inconceivable distance between the righteous and the wicked. The Psalmist tells us, that “many sorrows shall be to the wicked:” and so we find it to be, from universal experience. For, where is there an ungodly man, who does not feel within him an aching void, which the world can never fill? — — — Whose mind is not agitated with tormenting passions, which prove a source of disquiet both to himself and to those around him? — — — Who feels not a consciousness of unpardoned guilt; and a dread of that tribunal, before which he is shortly to appear? — — — On the other hand, the Psalmist assures us, that “the man who trusts in the Lord is encompassed with mercy all around:” he is happy in the favour of his God, in the subjugation of his passions, in the exercise of all holy affections, and in the prospect of everlasting felicity. Hence he adds, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart!”

That we may enter into the spirit of his words, I will endeavour to set before you,

I. The character here addressed—

“The righteous” are delineated in the Scriptures, sometimes by one peculiarity, and sometimes by another. The character here assigned them is peculiarly worthy of our consideration, because it is such as the most ungodly man upon earth must, in theory at least, approve. The whole world unites in applauding integrity, as exercised towards man: but here we shall be led to view it as exercised towards God. Now, “the upright” man is one,

1. Whose desire after God is supreme—

[Nothing ought to stand in competition with God: we should love him with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. More especially should we pant after God as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, “counting all things but loss for the knowledge of him,” and saying, with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee [Note: Philippians 3:8. Psalms 73:25.]” — — —]

2. Whose affiance in him is entire—

[No man, who has not been taught of God, can conceive how difficult it is to divest ourselves of self-righteousness and self-dependence, These evils cleave more closely to us than the flesh to our bones. When we think that we are freed from them, we shall still find the workings of them in our hearts. But the truly upright person “renounces all confidence in the flesh [Note: Philippians 3:3.];” and, like the Apostle, “desires to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which is of the Law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ.” He considers “all fulness as treasured up in Him” for the use of his Church and people; and from His fulness he desires to receive all the supplies which he stands in need of, whether of “wisdom, or righteousness, or sanctification, or redemption.”]

3. Whose devotion to him is unreserved—

[The upright has given up himself as a living sacrifice to Christ [Note: Romans 12:1.]. He would not have any lust unmortified; nor would he retain any thing that should stand in competition with his duty. Even life itself is regarded as of no value, in comparison of Christ, and the glory of his name — — —

Any thing less than this is hypocrisy: but to possess this character is to be “an Israelite indeed, and without guile.”]

To these persons I will now address,

II. The exhortation—

To rejoice in the Lord is your high privilege. Let me, then, exhort you to rejoice in him,

I. On account of what he has already done for you—

[Here I might speak of “the sorrows” from which you are delivered, and of the mercies with which you are encompassed: but I will rather confine myself to that peculiar blessing vouchsafed to you, the being made “upright before God.”

Who amongst the children of men ever attained this character by any power of his own? No: whosoever possesses it, must say, “He that hath wrought me to the self-same thing, is God [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:5.].” Consider, then, how great a blessing this is — — — In comparison of it, crowns and kingdoms would be of no value. For this gift, therefore, you should bless and adore your God with your whole hearts, yea, and shout for joy with your whole souls.]

2. On account of what he has engaged to do for you—

[Would you have stability in life? He has promised it in his blessed word: “The righteous shall hold on his way; and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger [Note: Job 17:9.]. Would you have peace in death? This, also, he has engaged to give: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace [Note: Psalms 37:37.].” Would you have glory in eternity? This, also, shall be your assured portion at the right hand of God [Note: Psalms 15:1-2; Psalms 24:3-6.] — — —

Is not here, then, abundant cause for joy and thanksgiving? Verily, “if you hold your peace, the very stones will cry out against you.”]

3. On account of his sufficiency to fulfil all his engagements—

[Whom has Jesus ever suffered “to be plucked out of his hands?” — — — There is in him no want of power: “He is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Nor is he changeable in will: for “he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” “Of those whom the Father hath given him, he never has lost any,” nor ever will — — —]

Address,

1. To those who possess not this character, I would say, Seek to attain it

[Be not satisfied with integrity towards man, but seek to have an upright heart towards God. Let there be no hypocrisy harboured within you. See to it, that your desire after God be really supreme — — — that your affiance in Christ be altogether unmixed with any measure of hope or confidence in yourselves — — — and that your devotion to him be without reserve — — — Cease not, till you have in your own hearts and consciences an evidence that you are thus given up to God: and then may you claim, at his hands, the blessings which he has promised to the upright in heart [Note: Psalms 112:2.] — — — But deceive not your own souls. Rest not in false appearances of any kind: but beg of God to make you altogether what he himself will approve.]

2. To those who possess this character, I would say, Live in the enjoyment of your privilege

[It is your privilege to “rejoice even with joy unspeakable and glorified.” Be not satisfied with a low and drooping state of mind. Live nigh to God: let your fellowship with him be more intimate and more abiding. It is not his will that your graces should languish, or your joys be at a low ebb. He would rather that your soul, through a sense of his presence, should be ever “shouting” for joy. See the state of the Church as drawn by the prophet Isaiah [Note: Isaiah 12:4-6.]: see it as drawn by David also [Note: Psalms 98:4-9.]: and let your present life be, as God would have it, an earnest and a foretaste of the heavenly bliss.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 32:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/psalms-32.html. 1832.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
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