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with God about sin ; and hence they know it is no ordinary matter they have in hand. They must again to their old work; take the old cup into their hands again. A recovery from depths is as a new conversion.
Ofttimes in it, the whole work, as to the soul's apprehension, is gone over afresh. This the soul knows to have been a work of dread, terror, and trouble, and trembles in itself, at its new trials. And,
3. The Holy Ghost gives unto poor souls, a fresh sense of their deep concernments, on purpose that it may be a means to stir them up unto these earnest applications unto God. The whole work is his, and he carries it on by means suited to the compassing of the end he aimeth at. And by these means is a gracious soul brought into the frame mentioned. Now there are sundry things that concur in and unto this frame.
First, There is a continual thoughtfulness about the sad condition wherein the soul is in its depths. Being deeply affected with their condition, they are continually ruminating upon it, and pondering it in their minds. So David declares the case to have been with him, Psal. xxxviii. 2-8. * Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sins. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long. I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.' Restlessness, deep thoughtfulness, disquietness of heart, continual heaviness of soul, sorrow and anxiety of mind, lie at the bottom of the applications we speak of. From these principles their prayers flow out; as David adds, ver. 9. ' Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not bid from thee.' This way all his trouble wrought. He prayed out of the abundance of his meditation and grief. Thoughts of their state and condition lie down with such persons, and rise with them; and accompany them all the day long. As Reuben cried, “The child is not, and I, whither shall I go?' so doth such a soul; the love of God is not, Christ'is not, and I, whither shall I cause my sorrow to
go? God is provoked, death is nigh at hand, relief is far away, darkness is about me; I have lost my peace, my joy, my song in the night. What do I think of duties? Can two walk together unless they be agreed? Can I walk with God in them, whilst I have thus made him mine enemy? What do I think of ordinances? Will it do me any good to be at Jerusalem, and not see the face of the king ? to live under ordinances, and not to meet in them with the king of saints? May I not justly fear, that the Lord will take his Holy Spirit from me, until I be left without remedy? With such thoughts as these are sin-entangled souls exercised, and they lie rolling in their minds, in all their applications unto God.
Secondly, We see the application itself consists in, and is made by, the prayer of faith, or crying unto God. Now this is done with intenseness of mind; which hath a twofold fruit or propriety : 1. Importunity; and, 2. Constancy.
It is said of our blessed Saviour, that when he was in his depths, about our sins, that he offered up 'prayers and supplications with strong cries and tears;' Heb. v. 7. Strong cries and tears express the utmost intension of spirit. And David expresseth it by roaring, as we have seen before ; as also by sighing, groaning, and panting. A soul in such a condition lies down before the Lord, with sighs, groans, mourning, cries, tears, and roaring, according to the various working of his heart, and its being affected with the things that it hath to do; and this produceth,
1. Importunity. The power of the importunity of faith our Saviour hath marvellously set out, Luke xi. 8-10. as also, chap. xviii. 1. Importunate prayer is certainly prevailing. And importunity is, as it were, made up of these two things : frequency of interposition, and variety of arguings. You shall have a man that is importunate come unto you seven times a day about the same business; and after
any new thought come into his mind, though he had resolved to the contrary, he will come again. And there is nothing that can be imagined to relate unto the business he hath in hand, but he will make use of it, and turn it to the furtherance of his plea. So is it in this case. Men will use both frequency of interposition, and variety of arguings; Psal. lxxxvi. 1. I cry unto thee daily,' or rather, all the day.
He had but that one business, and he attended it to the
purpose. By this means we give God 'no rest;' Isa. Ixii. 7. which is the very character of importunity. Such souls go to God; and they are not satisfied with what they have done; and they go again; and somewhat abideth still with them, and they go to him again; and the heart is not yet emptied, they will go again to him; that he may have no rest. What variety of arguments are pleaded with God in this case, I could manifest in the same David. But it is known to all; there is not any thing almost that he makes not a plea of, the faithfulness, righteousness, name, mercy, goodness, and kindness of God in Jesus Christ; the concernment of others in him, both the friends and foes of God;
is own weakness and helplessness, yea, the greatness of sin itself: • Be merciful to my sin,' saith he, 'for it is great.' Sometimes he begins with some arguments of this kind; and then, being a little diverted by other considerations, some new plea is suggested unto him by the Spirit, and he returns immediately to his first employment and design, all arguing great intension of mind and spirit.
2. Constancy also flows from intenseness. soul will not give over, until it obtain what it aims at, and looks for: as we shall see in our process in opening this psalm.
And this is in general the deportment of a gracious soul in the condition here represented unto us. As poor creatures love their peace, as they love their souls, as they tender the glory of God, they are not to be wanting in this duty. What is the reason that controversies hang so long between God and your souls, that it may be you scarce -see a good day all your lives? Is it not for the most part from your sloth and despondency of spirit? you will not gird up the loins of your minds, in dealing with God, to put them to a speedy issue in the blood of Christ. You go on and off, begin and cease, try and give over; and for the most part, though your case be extraordinary, content yourselves with ordinary and customary applications unto God. This makes you wither, become useless, and pine away in and under your perplexities. David did not so; but after many and many a breach made by sin, yet through quick, vigorous, restless actings of faith, all was repaired, so that he lived
peaceably, and died triumphantly. Up then and be doing ; let not your wounds corrupt because of your folly;' make thorough work of that which lies before you; be it long, or difficult, it is all one, it must be done, and is attended with safety; what you are like to meet withal in the first place, shall nextly be declared.
Ver. 3.—The words of the verse explained ; and their meaning opened.
The general frame of a gracious soul in its perplexities about sin, hath been declared. Its particular actings, what it doth, what it meets withal, are nextly represented unto us.
First, then, in particular, it cries out, 'If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ?'
There is in the words a supposition, and an inference on that supposition. In the supposition, there is, first, the name of God that is fixed on, as suited unto it. And, secondly, the thing itself supposed. In the inference, there is expressed the matter of it, to stand ; and the manner of its proposal, wherein two things occur: 1. That it is expressed by way of interrogation. 2. The indefiniteness of that interrogation; Who sball stand ?
• If thou, Lord;' he here fixes on another name of God; which is Jah. A name though from the same root with the former, yet seldom used, but to intimate and express the terrible majesty of God. He rideth on the heavens, and is extolled by his name Jah;' Psal. Ixviii. 4. He is to deal now with God about the guilt of sin ; and God is represented to the soul as great and terrible; that he may know what to expect and look for, if the matter must be tried out according to the demerit of sin.
? shouldest mark iniquities.' now is to observe and keep as in safe custody; to keep, preserve, and watch diligently. Se to remark and observe, as to retain that which is observed, to ponder it, and lay it up in the heart; Gen. xxxvii. 11. Jacob observed Joseph's dream; that is, he retained the memory of it, and pondered it in his heart.
If thou : אם עונות תשמר ? What then saith he to Jah
The marking of iniquities then here intended, is God's so far considering and observing of them, as to reserve them for punishment and vengeance. In opposition unto this marking, he is said not to see sin, to overlook it, to cover it, or remember it no more; that is, to forgive it, as the next verse declares.
I need not shew that God so far marks all sins in all persons, as to see them, know them, disallow them, and to be displeased with them. This cannot be denied without taking away of all grounds of fear and worship. To deny it, is all one as to deny the very being of God; deny his holiness and righteousness, and you deny his existence. But there is a day appointed, wherein all the men of the world shall know that God knew and took notice of all and every one of their most secret sins. There is then a double marking of sin in God, neither of which can be denied in reference unto any sins, in any persons. The first is physical, consisting in his omniscience, whereunto all things are open and naked. Thus no sin is hid from him; the secretest are before the light of his countenance. All are marked by him. Secondly, moral; in a displacency with, or displeasure against, every sin, which is inseparable from the nature of God, upon the account of his holiness. And this is declared in the sentence of the law, and that equally to all men in the world. But the marking here intended, is that which is in a tendency to animadversion and punishment according to the tenor of the law. Not only the sentence of the law, but a will of punishing according to it, is included in it. If, saith the psalmist, thou the great and dreadful God, who art extolled by the glorious name, Jah, shouldest take notice of iniquities, so as to recompense sinners that come unto thee according to the severity and exigence of thy holy law. What then? It is answered by the matter of the proposal, Who can stand ? That is, none can so do; το γάρ τις ενταύθεν ουδείς έστιν, says Chrysostom. This who, is none: no man; not one in the world. Toys in quis stabit,' or 'consistet;' who can stand, or abide and endure the trial. Every one on this supposition must perish, and that eternally. This the desert of sin, and the curse of the law, which is the rule of this marking of their iniquity, doth require. And there is a notable emphasis in the interrogation, which contains the manner of the inference. Who