Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.…
This psalm is made up partly of confessions and acknowledgments of his great crimes, partly of petitions and supplications, wherein he intercedes for pardon, and prays for forgiveness. And this was but necessary to complete the duty of confession, which without this additional act of devotion might have looked rather like a daring defiance of Divine justice; God having nowhere promised us His pardon, or indeed any other blessing without our asking; nor that He will open the gates of His mercy to penitent sinners, and grant them readmission into His favour again, but upon their earnest applications and importunate knocking.
I. THE SENSE AND MEANING OF THE WORDS.
1. By "sins" we may understand offences of a high nature, wilful and deliberate transgressions, such as are mightily provoking in the sight of God, from which, therefore, he prays God to "hide His face."
2. By "iniquities" may be understood the common frailties and ordinary miscarriages of our lives, those which with the greatest care we can use, cannot well be avoided; such as we daily run on score with God, which, therefore, he desires may be "blotted out."
3. God's "hiding His face " from anything is His passing it by, and His not regarding it (Psalm 55:1; Ezekiel 39:29). Proportionably to "hide His face from our sins " is to overlook them; particularly to suspend sentence, not to proceed to judgment against us, but to forbear us. And this is properly that act of forgiveness the Latins call Igno-scentia, to seem not to know, not to resent injuries, and to put up affronts which are done to His Heavenly Majesty. And, oh blessed God, may every one of us, sinners as we are, say, how do we all of us stand obliged to Thy goodness, that Thou hast not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities; but hast lengthened out our time and Thy patience, and given us space of repentance, and left us still in a possibility of salvation, and hast from time to time hid Thy face from our provoking sins, oven when we have boldly and deliberately dared Thy justice to Thy face! Oh, praised be that unspeakable mercy of Thine.
4. To "blot out all our iniquities" is so to forgive them as that they shall never be remembered more (Ezekiel 33:16). This is a metaphor taken from the usual discharge of debts and release of suits and actions we may have against any man, when we wipe out the score, and cancel all bills and obligations whatever, and give him a free general pardon and quit-claim of all duos or demands. And this is that act of forgiveness which in Latin is called condonatio, an absolute and full discharge. And this is the very term and tenor of evangelical pardon, as Himself hath declared it by His prophet (Isaiah 43:25). Gracious God, be always pleased to hide Thy face from our sins, but never hide it from our persons or from our prayers; which is the severest token of Thy heaviest displeasure.
II. THE NATURE OF GOD'S PARDONING GRACE. Consider the wonderful goodness of God's nature in Himself and of His will towards us, that He doth as it were lay aside all His glorious attributes almost, to serve us; and shows us mercy, even in disparagement to His infinite knowledge and holiness and justice; that, though He cannot but see and know our sins, because He knows all things, yet He takes no notice of them: and because they cannot be hid from His face, He hides His face from them; though He cannot but abominate sin, and hate it with a perfect hatred, yet He loves and bears with the sinner; and though He stand obliged as a righteous judge to punish sin, wherever He finds it, yet He delays the punishment in expectation of our repentance. And this is the first act of pardon, or, at least, step towards it, that God doth not rebuke us in His anger, nor chasten us in His hot displeasure; that there is a suspension at least of punishment, a reprieve in order to a full pardon; which follows in the next place, the blotting out of all our iniquities, so as never to be remembered more; and this is the removal of guilt, a total and final discharge for the future, as that is a forbearance of vengeance at present. That in a manner is but present impunity; this is an absolute discharge for ever; and that —
1. Total: all mine iniquities; and —
2. Final: by being blotted out.
III. HOW THIS FORGIVENESS AND FULL PARDON MAY BE ATTAINED.
1. Contrition. Labour to be thoroughly convinced of thy sins; consider and lay to heart thy dangerous estate; spread thy sins before thy own conscience first, before thou lay them before God in thy confession. Fruit is first bruised and squeezed before it yields its precious liquor; stones, and the hardest metals themselves, when they are melted down, will run. Then, when thou art thus contrite, when thou hast broken thy heart, and melted it with the coals of Divine love, thy soul will pour out itself.
2. Supplication. Get thee to thy Lord right humbly; beseech His mercy to accept thy repentance, and His grace to improve it. Let Him not alone till thou hast obtained a gracious answer.
3. Lay hold on Christ; plead His passion and merits. In His name and mediation thy supplications must hope to speed, and have their designed effect. Lot thy prayers be perfumed in the censer of thy High Priest, and be mingled with His intercessions.
4. Amendment of life; or else all that thou hast done hitherto falls short and comes to nothing,
IV. THE BLESSED EFFECTS AND CONSEQUENCE OF THIS PARDONING GRACE.
1. The favour of God as now reconciled in Christ. If thou hast this pardon, thou hast the light of God's countenance shining upon thy inner man, and art in the same condition as a child restored to his father's love. And this thou mayest know by thy own dutiful behaviour and ingenuous affections, as well as by His kind reception; if thou givest Him cause by thy filial diligence to rejoice in thy return, as thou thyself rejoicest in His reconcilement.
2. This favour procures the peace and quiet of conscience.
3. The gracious assurance of thy present acceptance, both of thy person and performances.
4. The ascertaining of thy future hopes. Present acceptation goes a great way with a faithful servant; but to have, beside and beyond this, an ascertainment of what expectations and future rewards such a servant may look for at the hands of a kind master; this cannot but raise, as well as quiet, his spirit. This will not only fix, but elevate him in his loyalty.
V. MARKS WHEREBY A SINNER MAY KNOW WHETHER HE HATH ATTAINED THIS PARDON.
(Adam Littleton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.