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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Psalms 30

 

 

Verse 5

DISCOURSE: 542

THE MERCY OF GOD

Psalms 30:5. His anger endureth but a moment: in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

IN the title affixed to this psalm, it is called “A psalm, or song, at the dedication of the house of David.” If we understand this as referring to a dedication of his house on his first entrance upon it [Note: 2 Samuel 5:11.], there is nothing in the psalm at all suitable to the occasion: but if we refer it to the period of his return to it after the death of Absalom, we shall find a suitableness in it to the circumstances in which he had been placed [Note: 2 Samuel 20:5.]. He had been driven from his throne at a time when he appeared to be most firmly fixed upon it; and had been in most imminent danger of his life, from the hands of his own favourite, but rebellious son, Absalom. God, however, had mercifully interposed for his deliverance, and had restored him once more in safety to his own house. To purify his house from the pollution it had sustained from Absalom, he dedicated it afresh; and penned this psalm, it should seem, for the occasion. But, as this is a matter of conjecture only, and not of certainty, I shall wave all further allusion to either of the occasions; and take the words of my text simply as expressing a most weighty truth, which is at all times, and under all circumstances, proper for our consideration.

Two things we shall notice from it.

I. The mercy of God—

The mercy of God will be found to be altogether of a boundless extent, whether we consider it,

1. As existing in his own bosom—

[He is indeed angry both at sin itself and at those who commit it: and his anger he will surely manifest against every impenitent transgressor. “His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men [Note: Romans 1:18.];” and it will surely “break forth against all the children of disobedience [Note: Ephesians 5:6.].” Nevertheless, the inflicting of his judgments is “a strange act,” to which he is utterly averse [Note: Isaiah 28:21.]. “Mercy” is the attribute in which “he most delights [Note: Micah 7:18.];” and, when he proclaimed his name, it was that by which he most desired to be known: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin [Note: Exodus 34:6-7.].” The whole Scriptures represent him in this view, and declare, with one voice, that he is “rich in mercy [Note: Ephesians 2:4.],” and that “his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting unto those who fear him [Note: Psalms 103:17.].”]

2. As experienced by his people—

[Against the impenitent his anger must, of necessity, continue: but, towards the penitent and believing, it is of the shortest possible duration: “His anger endureth but for a moment.” When Nathan pressed home upon the conscience of David the guilt he had contracted in the matter of Uriah, and had brought him to this acknowledgment, “I have sinned against the Lord,” the prophet was instantly directed by God to declare, that his iniquity, notwithstanding the enormity of it, was pardoned: “The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die [Note: 2 Samuel 12:13.].” Had there been any bounds to his mercy, Manasseh could never have found acceptance with him. The wickedness of that monarch exceeded all that one would have supposed a human being was capable of committing: yet was even he pardoned, as soon as he humbled himself before his God [Note: 2 Chronicles 33:12-13.]. And how rapidly the mercy of God flies to the healing of a contrite soul, may be seen, as in numberless other instances, so in the psalm before us: “Hear, O Lord,” said David, “and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper:” and then he immediately adds, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness [Note: ver. 10, 11. For the further elucidation of this, see Jeremiah 3:12-14; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:1.].”]

The whole preceding context, whilst it declares God’s mercy, sets also before us,

II. Our duty in the contemplation of it—

As having experienced mercy, we are called to sing, and praise our God. But, as we are not all in the holy frame of David, and as the text itself suggests views somewhat different from those of joyous exultation, I shall adhere rather to the words before us, and point out our duty, not so much in the contemplation of mercy enjoyed, as of mercy needed and desired.

Though God so delights in the exercise of mercy, yet he requires that we seek it at his hands [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.]. We must seek it,

1. Supremely—

[“In his favour is life:” and the enjoyment of it must be our one object of pursuit. Not only must all earthly things be as nothing in our estimation, but life itself must be of no value in comparison of it. To have our interest in his favour a matter of doubt, must be as death to our souls: and we must live only to obtain reconciliation with him. What the frame of our minds, in reference to it, should be, we may see in those words of David: “I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Hear me speedily, O Lord! my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit! Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me [Note: Psalms 143:6-8.].”]

2. Humbly—

[“Weeping may endure for a night.” We should certainly weep and mourn for our sins, as our blessed Lord has told us in his sermon on the mount [Note: Matthew 5:4. with Luke 6:20-21.]. And who amongst us has not just ground to weep? Who is there that has not reason to smite upon his breast with grief and shame for his past life, and, like David, to say, “I am weary with my groaning: all the night make I my bed to swim: I water my couch with my tears [Note: Psalms 6:6.]?” This should be the experience of us all: “we must sow in tears, if ever we would reap in joy [Note: Psalms 126:5.].” Shall this be thought suited to the Mosaic dispensation only? It is not a whit less necessary under the Gospel dispensation: “Be afflicted, and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness: humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord; and he shall lift you up.”]

3. Confidently—

[We should never doubt God’s readiness to accept us, when we return to him. Whether our night of weeping be more or less dark, or of a longer or shorter duration, we should feel assured that “a morning of joy shall come,” when “there shall be given to us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness [Note: Isaiah 61:3.].” In the contemplation of God’s mercy as revealed in the Gospel, we should see, that he can be “a just God, and yet a Saviour [Note: Isaiah 45:21.];” yea, that because “he is faithful and just, lie will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness [Note: 1 John 1:9.].” To the exercise of his mercy He has assigned no limit: and we should assign none. We should be perfectly assured that “the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cleanse from all sin [Note: 1 John 1:7];” that “God will cast out none who come to him in his Son’s name [Note: John 6:37.];” on the contrary, that “though our sins have been red like crimson,” we shall, through the Redeemer’s blood, “be made white as snow [Note: Isaiah 1:18.].”]

In this view of our subject, I would call your attention to the following obvious and salutary reflections—

1. How deeply to be pitied are the blind impenitent world!

[They will not believe that God is angry with them, or that they have any need to dread his displeasure: and, if we attempt to convince them of their danger, they account us no better than gloomy enthusiasts. But, whether they will believe it or not, God’s eye is upon them for evil; and if they turn not to him in penitence and faith, they shall ere long feel the weight of his avenging arm. Who that should see a multitude of persons enclosed, like Baal’s priests, and unconscious of their impending fate, would not pity them? Yet here are millions of immortal souls soon to be summoned into the presence of their Judge, and setting at defiance the doom that speedily awaits them: should not “rivers of tears run down our eyes for them [Note: Psalms 119:136.]?” Yes, verily: as our Lord wept over Jerusalem in the view of the destruction that awaited it, and as the Apostle Paul had “great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart” on account of his unbelieving brethren [Note: Romans 9:2.], so should we mourn bitterly for those who will not mourn and be m bitterness for themselves.]

2. How richly to be congratulated is the weeping penitent!

[His carnal friends perhaps pity him for his weakness, or deride him for his folly. But the angels around the throne are of a very different mind: they, even in the presence of God himself, have an augmentation of their joy from one single spectacle like this [Note: Luke 15:10.]: and God himself is not so intent on the heavenly hosts, but that he spies out such a poor object as this, and looks upon him with complacency and delight [Note: Isaiah 66:2.]. Is there, then, here present one weeping penitent? I congratulate him, from my inmost sold. My Brother! crowns and kingdoms are of no value in comparison of the blessing conferred on thee. Be content to go on weeping, as long as God shall see fit to keep thee in that state of discipline: but know, that “joy is sown for thee;” and that, in due season, it shall spring up to an abundant harvest: for thus saith the Lord: “He that goeth on his way and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him [Note: Psalms 126:6.].”]

3. What praises and thanksgivings are due from the pardoned sinner!

[At present you can have but little conception of the blessings conferred upon you: for you cannot see one thousandth part of your guilt, or conceive one thousandth part of the glory that awaits you: and still less can you comprehend the wonders of love and mercy that have been vouchsafed to you in the gift of God’s only dear Son for your redemption. What indeed you do already know, is abundantly sufficient to fill your souls with unutterable joy, and your lips with incessant praise. But what will be your feelings at the instant of the departure of your soul from this earthly tabernacle, and of its admission into the presence of your God? Then you will see somewhat of the depth of misery from which you have been redeemed, and of the height of glory to which you are exalted; and will behold your Redeemer face to face; and join in all the songs of the redeemed: and look forward to eternity as the duration of your bliss. Surely these things should be ever on your minds: they should make you to be “looking for, and hasting unto, the coming of that blessed day.” But, suppose that your night of weeping were to continue to the very hour of your dissolution, how short would it appear, when once that morning burst upon your view! Are you not ashamed that you should ever grudge the seed for such a harvest? Will not one hour of that glory be an ample recompence for all the exertions you ever made for the attainment of it? Go on, then, with heaven in your view: and live in the sweet anticipation of the glory that awaits you. Methinks the very prospect of such a morning constitutes its very dawn, and will be to your souls the commencement of heaven upon earth.]


Verses 6-12

DISCOURSE: 543

CAUSE AND CURE OF SPIRITUAL DESERTION

Psalms 30:6-12. In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved: Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong. Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication: What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me! Lord, be thou my helper! Thau hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent: O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

AMONGST all the friends of vital godliness it is supposed that Christian experience is well understood: but it is a lamentable truth, that those in general who think themselves best acquainted with it, are exceedingly mistaken with respect to some of its most important parts. The distinctive offices of faith and unbelief, of confidence and fear, are by no means clearly defined in the minds either of ministers or people; on the contrary, they are often so confounded as to produce very serious evils; for by the misconceptions respecting them many are instructed to shun what God approves, and to cultivate what he abhors. For instance; A persuasion that we are God’s elect people, and that we are in no danger of perishing, is recommended by many as the root and summit of Christian faith; whilst a fear lest we should have deceived ourselves, or should ultimately perish, is characterized as an evil heart of unbelief: and thus, a godly jealousy over ourselves is discouraged as a sin, and an unfounded confidence respecting our state is encouraged as a virtue. These mistakes arise partly from a blind following of human authorities, and partly from being confined by the trammels of human systems. To have just views on these subjects is of great importance both for ministers and people; for ministers, that they may know how to discriminate between good and evil in their flocks; and to the people, that they may form such an estimate of themselves as God himself forms of them.

The psalm before us will afford us an occasion for marking the distinctions which we conceive to be so eminently useful, and yet so generally wanted. It is said in the title to have been written at the dedication of David’s house; but we apprehend it was rather at the second dedication of it, after it had been shamefully denied by Absalom. To this period of time, rather than to any other, we are directed by many parts of the psalm. It should seem that about that time the prosperity of David had lulled him into a state of undue security; and that God sent him this affliction to rouse him from it. The successive frames of his mind are here clearly marked; and must successively be considered as they are here presented to our view:

I. His carnal security—

[There being to all appearance perfect tranquillity in his kingdom, David conceived that no evil could arise to disturb his repose: and it seems that a similar confidence was also indulged by him in reference to his spiritual enemies. This is, indeed, the common effect of long continued prosperity: but it is a state of mind highly displeasing to God. We are dependent creatures: and ought at all times to feel, that whatever we have, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature, is but lent to us from hour to hour, according to the good pleasure of Him “in whom we live, and move, and have our being.” The very continuance of our lives should be regarded in this view so that we should never think of what we will do in the next year, or even on the morrow, without an express reference to God as the sovereign controller of all events [Note: James 4:13-15.]. Job himself erred exceedingly in this respect, when he said, “I shall die in my nest [Note: Job 29:18.].” The same sense of dependence on God must more especially be maintained in reference to our spiritual life. The very chief of the Apostles, no less than we, needed to preserve upon his mind a consciousness, that, without incessant vigilance and care, he might, “after having preached to others, himself become a cast-away.” However confident any man may be that he stands firm, it becomes him to “take heed lest he fall [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:12.].” And so far is this frame of mind from being, as religious people are apt to fancy it, an effect of legality and unbelief, it is pronounced by God himself as most pleasing to him, and beneficial to us; for “blessed is the man that feareth always [Note: Proverbs 28:14.].”

It is worthy of observation, that David ostensibly acknowledged God as the author of his security: “Thou by thy favour hast made my mountain to stand strong:” but it is evident that his confidence was not really in God, so much as in his situation and circumstances, which had to all appearance a stability on which he might rely. And thus it is with those amongst ourselves who have fallen into a state of carnal security: they profess to depend on God; but their want of holy fear demonstrates, that their confidence is in something which they themselves possess, and which they consider as affording a just ground for the dismission of vigilance and jealous apprehension.

David’s relaxation of this salutary fear was followed by]

II. His spiritual dereliction—

[To punish this undue security, God withdrew from David in some measure the protection of his providence, and the comforts of his grace: he suffered Absalom to carry into effect his traitorous conspiracy against him; and he left David without those heavenly consolations which under former trials he had been wont to experience: “Thou didst hide thy face from me,” says David, “and I was troubled.” Now such rebukes must be expected by all who forget their dependence upon God. “Verily he is a God that hideth himself;” and by the dispensations of his providence and grace he marks his indignation against the backslidings of his people. We doubt not but that his withdrawment of many temporal blessings from us is a punishment for our idolatrous attachment to them, and dependence upon them. It was for this that he sent a worm to destroy Jonah’s gourd; and for this he required the soul of him who thought “he had much goods laid up for many years.” We doubt not also but that the experience of every child of God will more or less attest the same in reference to the withdrawment of his presence from them. In proportion as any have become less vigilant, they lose those manifestations of the Divine presence which in the seasons of holy fear they were privileged to enjoy. Nor is it a mere privation of joy which they experience on such occasions; there is a perturbation of mind arising from a sense of the Divine displeasure, and a painful apprehension lest they should never be restored to the favour of their God. David’s “trouble,” as arising from this source, was of a very overwhelming nature [Note: Psalms 77:2-4.]: and woe be to those who wantonly provoke God to inflict it on them [Note: Deuteronomy 32:20.].

In what way he sought deliverance from this trouble, we see by,]

III. His fervent prayers—

[“He cried unto the Lord, and (as it is in the Prayer-book translation) gat him to his Lord right humbly.” How he pleaded with God, may be seen in our text; and in this he affords an excellent pattern for us under similar circumstances. His plea is to this effect; ‘Lord, withdraw not thyself from me for ever: it is through thy help alone that I can ever recover the state from which I am fallen; and without such a recovery I can never bring any glory to thy name. O leave me not in the wretched state into which I am fallen.’

Now here we see the true, the only, remedy for a soul that has provoked God to depart from it. To have recourse to the doctrines of election and final perseverance under such circumstances, is the way to foster that very disease which God is seeking, by this discipline, to cure. We say not that we are to keep out of sight the promises of God; for beyond a doubt we are to make use of them at all times and on all occasions: but then we are to make use of them, not for the fostering of an unhumbled confidence in God, but for the encouraging of our humiliation before God. We are to be constantly on our guard “not to heal our wounds slightly, or to cry, Peace, peace! when there is no peace.” We should bear in mind that the humbling of our souls is the very end which God aims at in withdrawing his presence from us: and the more we answer this end, the better: nay, if by the suspension of his favour towards us we be brought to a more earnest crying after him, and to an utter abhorrence of ourselves in dust and ashes, we shall have as much reason to adore him for such discipline, as for the most exalted joys he ever afforded us.

This also is a point which we conceive to be of exceeding great importance for the due regulation of our own minds, and for the right counselling of those who are under the hidings of God’s face.

The excellency and efficacy of this remedy may be seen in,]

IV. His speedy recovery—

[Many there are who go mourning almost all their lives. And wherefore? Is it that God arbitrarily, and without occasion, hides his face from them? No: it is owing to this very thing which we have been speaking of, namely, their restraining prayer before God, and not using the proper means of regaining his favour. Indeed many are brought into absolute despair by the very means which they use to remove their apprehensions: they go to the consideration of God’s secret decrees, when they should be mourning over their miscarriages, and imploring pardon for Christ’s sake. Hence they are led to argue thus: ‘If an elect vessel, how could I be in such darkness and distress? But I am in this darkness, therefore God has not elected me; and there is no hope for me.’ But behold the effect of humiliation and contrition! See how speedily God returned to the soul of his servant, in answer to his fervent supplications! The prayers were scarcely offered, before David was enabled to say, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.” And thus would it be with all of us, if we would pursue the method which this holy man adopted. “God delighteth in the prosperity of his servants:” and, as a parent feels relief to his own soul when he can return in love to his offending child, so does God, when he can again lift up the light of his countenance on those, from whom he has been constrained for a season to withhold it [Note: See Jeremiah 13:27 and Psalms 81:13-16.]. The father’s reception of his prodigal son is a sure and delightful specimen of the favour which all will experience, as soon as ever they are brought to the footstool of Divine grace with cries for mercy in the all-prevailing name of Jesus Christ. The testimony of David in this very psalm shall be confirmed in you: “His anger endureth but a moment: in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning [Note: ver. 5.].”

The speedy restoration of God’s favour to him immediately drew forth,]

V. His grateful acknowledgments—

[To bring him back to a state of holy peace and joy was the very end for which God so graciously renewed to him the expressions of his love: it was, says David, “to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.” He calls his tongue “his glory,” because that is the member by which above all he could glorify his God: and he determines instantly to employ it in his praise: “O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” Blessed resolution! O that every one of us would instantly adopt it! O that God would inspire us with grace sufficient to carry it into execution . It is in order to bring all to this, that we have been so particular in the foregoing statement. It is vith a view to this that we so earnestly recommend humiliation before God under seasons of darkness, rather than an attention to abstract points which tend only to foster a delusion. Humility, and contrition, and a believing application of the blood of Christ to our souls, can never deceive us; but, on the contrary, must infallibly lead to songs of praise and thanksgiving: “if we sow in tears, we must reap in joy.” Only observe the process, and see how connected are all the links of the chain: in prosperity, we have relapsed into carnal confidence, and provoked God to leave us in a state of spiritual dereliction: alarmed and humbled by his frowns, we betake ourselves to fervent prayer, imploring mercy in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and through the unbounded grace of God we experience a speedy recovery; and from thenceforth have our mouths filled with grateful acknowledgments to the God of our salvation. We only add to this, that the deeper is our humiliation on account of sin committed, the more speedy and exalted will be our joys on account of deliverance vouchsafed.]

Address—

1. To those who are walking with God—

[What shall we say! Even if you were as eminent as ever David was, we should think it right to guard you against the conceit, that you were in no danger of being “moved.” In relation to all that you possess of temporal things, we would inculcate this salutary lesson, “Let those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who weep be as though they wept not, and those who rejoice as though they rejoiced not, and those who buy as though they possessed not, and those that use this world, as not abusing it.” Every thing must be held as from God, and for God, to be disposed of according to his sovereign will and pleasure. And in reference to every thing of a spiritual nature, we would recommend a constant sense of our entire dependence upon God, saying, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Some will confound this with unbelief: but it differs from unbelief as much as humility from pride: in truth, it is the very root of faith; for it is only in proportion as we feel our liability to fall, that we shall look truly and constantly to Christ for strength. Be weak as new-born infants in yourselves, and God will keep beneath you his everlasting arms, and perfect “his own strength in your weakness.”]

2. To those who have declined from him—

[Many in a state of declension are ready to imagine that God has arbitrarily and without any particular cause withdrawn himself from them. But it may well be doubted whether in any case God ever dealt thus with any of his creatures. Our blessed Lord, when he cried, “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” was suffering the punishment due to those whose iniquities had been laid on him. And Job, whose expression, “I shall die in my nest,” we have before noticed, had evidently a measure of carnal confidence which wanted to be mortified and subdued. With the exception of his case we are not aware of any thing that bears even the appearance of arbitrary proceeding on the part of God: the constant tenor of his acting is that which was proclaimed to Asa, “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him: if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you [Note: 2 Chronicles 15:2.].” Learn then to trace your sin in your punishment: and, if you cannot find the immediate cause of his withdrawment from you. pray to him, with Job, “Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.” The prayer which David offered under such circumstances [Note: Psalms 143:1-8.], will assuredly, if offered up in faith, bring down upon you the blessings of peace and joy. This God himself has promised [Note: Isaiah 57:16-18.] — — — and you may be as fully assured of its accomplishment to your soul, as the promise and oath of God can make you [Note: Isaiah 54:7-10. with Hebrews 6:17-18.] — — —]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 30:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/psalms-30.html. 1832.

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