A PARDONING GOD
"This is the resting place, let the weary rest; and this
is the place of repose"—
"You forgave the guilt of my sin." Psalm 32:5
What an oasis in the bleakest of moral deserts is this!
God the Forgiver—Yes, the Forgiver of great sins!
The psalm from which our motto-verse is taken, and the
fifty-first, are the two liturgies of a penitent backslider, the loud and
agonizing cries of a disinherited son longing for a father's forgiveness.
The Father heard them; and made good in his experience, as in the
experience of all wanderers, His own promise, "Return unto Me, and I will
return unto you." If David had been influenced by a consideration of the
enormity of his sin, before coming in broken-hearted penitence and
conviction to make confession, he might well have seen in it a wall of
separation—an unbridged chasm, proclaiming eternal severance from his God.
Listen to his plea. Listen to the backslider's suit. It
is a strange and remarkable one, "Pardon my iniquity, FOR IT IS GREAT." Most
transgressors would think the greatness of their iniquity the very
reason for the Divine Being withholding pardon. We might have expected to
hear this presumptuous transgressor wailing out, through tears of despair,
'Lord, if my sin had been less heinous and aggravated, then I might
have dreamt of forgiveness. If I had been untaught from my youth—untutored
and undisciplined in Your ways, there might have been excuse or palliation
for my offences, and room to hope on Your part for compassion. But I, guilty
abuser of privileges, quencher of heavenly light, faithless requiter of
abounding mercy, cannot expect, cannot ask You, to forgive these
crimson iniquities. I must be content to be an outcast from Your
presence and love forever.'
No! He makes the very greatness of his sin his
plea for the extension of God's mercy! With man it would have been
different. The enormity of the crime would have closed the door of human
sympathy and human hope. But God's ways are not our ways, nor God's
thoughts our thoughts. "Let me fall into the hands of GOD, for great are
His mercies, but let me not fall into the hands of man." "After
Your loving-kindness, have mercy upon me. According to the multitude
of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions." "God, be
merciful to me, a sinner." "For Your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my
iniquity, FOR it is great!" "From that hour," in the words of an old
writer, "God kept David in the hollow of His hand, the very hand that was
once so heavy upon him."
Reader, are you conscious that your iniquities have thus
separated between you and your Heavenly Father? Are you conscious that you
are not now as once you were? that you enjoy no longer, as you once did,
sensible nearness to the mercy-seat? that you are restraining prayer before
God? that the fine edge of conscience is blunted? that, in one word, you
have lost ground in the Christian life? Arise, confess your sin,
mourn your backsliding, and cry for pardon. Making a full and unreserved
confession, He will not spurn you away. He is waiting to be gracious. In the
words of the women of Tekoah, "He devises ways so that a banished person may
not remain estranged from Him." The Father devises means for the reclamation
of His erring prodigal. He pities the backslider; just as the general on the
field of battle pities the wounded who are carried bleeding by their
comrades to the rear. "Go, proclaim this message toward the north: 'Return,
faithless Israel,' declares the Lord, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I
am merciful,' declares the Lord, 'I will not be angry forever.'"
How many lapsed and fallen ones—driven by some sudden
hurricane—some sudden assault of temptation well-nigh to despair, have
experienced the blessedness of this true repentance! Yes, strange as the
expression may seem, the "blessedness of repentance." You have seen,
when the rain and the storm had spent their fury on some landscape; when the
thunder-cloud had passed, and blue vistas had again opened in the sky, and
the sun had shone forth, silvering the dripping branches—how the woodland
grove rang with the song of birds—all the sweeter and more gladsome seemed
the notes of music, succeeding the gloom which had so long repressed them.
Such is the image of the happiness and joy of the soul in the hour of its
restoration; on being brought up from the miry clay, and again set on the
Rock of Ages. "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your
"Oh, when Angel trumpet is pealing,
Can the record be effaced?
How evade the dread revealing
Which the pen of Heaven has traced?
"Go, in penitence bewailing,
Go, and now bemoan your guilt,
Trust the promise, never failing,
'I will save you, if you wilt.'
"Hasten, every soul despairing,
At the cross of Jesus fall;
Though with legion sins repairing,
He will freely pardon all."
"You Have turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my
sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be
silent. O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever."