Robert Murray MCheyne
This piece first appeared in Family Worship, a volume published shortly before the Disruption in 1843, and has not appeared in any volumes of MCheynes writings, nor anywhere else to our knowledge. It has been kindly sent to us by a reader in Australia.
THIS is the Psalm of a believer who has fallen into sin and is seeking, with all his heart, new peace and new holiness. If any that know the Saviour, have fallen into sin and darkness, you will find here the only way of return. May the Spirit write it in our hearts.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. In the very first verse, observe the only thing that draws the soul to seek the face of God; it is “the loving-kindness of God, the multitude of his tender mercies”. It is a look at Calvary; a sight of the face of Jesus which alone can draw our back-slidden heart to cry, “Have mercy upon me”.
But looking unto Jesus makes the soul feel the sinfulness of sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against 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. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. O what a depth of contrition is here expressed! What a sense of infinite unworthiness; what self-abhorrence is here! Have we ever experienced these feelings? An unawakened heart will never confess sin; but when Christ is really revealed to the soul, he cries, “I acknowledge my transgressions”. Our sin then appears like a huge dark cloud, or like mountains of division between us and God: “My sin is ever before me”. And herein the exceeding sinfulness of sin appears; it is done against God! The believer was in the love of God; how basely he has left it. The blood of Emmanuel spoke peace to his conscience; he has trampled it under foot. The Holy Spirit dwelt in him; he has vexed the Holy Spirit: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned”. Nothing but this stops the mouth, and makes us feel worthy of hell.
And whence did this sin come? “Out of the heart.” And how came I by such a heart? Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. This is the very depth of self-loathing. None have felt it but Gods children. May the Spirit open up these fountains of godly sorrow in our hearts this morning. But if we are sitting within sight of the cross, we will not be contented with merely loathing ourselves. We will seek complete forgiveness and new holiness.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore me unto the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Looking to the blood of the Lamb, the divine surety who died for the ungodly, we will say, “Purge me”. Remembering how often the record that God hath given concerning his Son has been sweetest music to our soul in time past, calming our troubled hearts, we cry, “Make me to hear joy and gladness”. What complete forgiveness is demanded in verse 9, “Blot out all mine iniquities”. But will the soul that looks to Jesus be content with forgiveness only? No; he will pray, “create in me a clean heart”. O we must be created again if we are to be kept from sin. It is not good resolutions, or promises, or education, that will keep our soul from sin. We must be new created, renewed, born again. To be in the presence of God, and to have his Holy Spirit dwelling in us, make up the chief joy of which we are capable in this world. To be in God, and God in us, the smile of our Father in heaven, and the upholding of the indwelling Comforter on earth: O let us pray for these things.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise. What a change forgiveness and a new heart make in our conduct toward the world.
1. We love to lead others to the same blessedness: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways”. O who can invite sinners so willingly as one who has been himself forgiven. May all ministers of the Gospel plead in this spirit this day.
2. We love to sing aloud of his righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus is indeed altogether lovely, and we should express our admiration and our joy by singing praises. Our lips have been long sealed in divine things. O if God has opened them let us show forth his praises; yet meekly remembering our sin, with a broken and contrite heart.
3. We love Zion. The world care not for the affliction of Joseph, but, if we have been brought to peace and holiness, we must pray: “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion”. O for the time when the Sabbath shall dawn on every dwelling in our land, and on every shore of our world.