A Portrait
Psalm 51:3
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Lord Macaulay tells us that the Earl of Breadalbane, who was the chief hand in the Massacre of Glencoe, never had rest afterwards. "He did his best to assume an air of unconcern. He made his appearance in the most fashionable coffee-house in Edinburgh, and talked loudly and self-complacently about the important service in which he had been engaged in the mountains. Some of his soldiers, however, who observed him closely, whispered that all this bravery was put on. He was not the man that he had been before that night. The form of his countenance was changed. In all places, at all hours, whether he waked or slept, Glencoe was for ever before him (vol. 3. p. 216). So it was also with David. As Chrysostom has said, He carried in his bosom a painted picture of adultery and murder." Let us consider this.

I. THE SUBJECT OF THE PAINTING. Sin is everywhere. It is in the world, in society, in our friends, but worst of all it is in our own hearts. "My sin!" What is "before" us is not the sins of others, but our own sins, or perhaps some particular sin that stands out in all its hideousness and enormity.

II. THE MEANS BY WINCH THE PAINTING IS WROUGHT OUT. It is not said before the world or the Church, but "before me." Everything is individualized.

"Awakened conscience acts the artist, Uses the sun of heaven's law To photograph the sinner's life; Then holds it up, a hideous monster, To the affrighted eye!" But conscience has its allies. There is memory. All that we have thought and felt and done, all the varied events and experiences of our life, are recorded by memory, Much may seem to be forgotten, but nothing is really lost. Go where you will -

Yet doth remembrance, like a sovereign prince,
For you a stately gallery maintain of gay and tragic pictures?

"My sin!" It is there, in memory, to be brought out at the call of conscience.

"The austere remembrance of that deed Will hang upon thy spirit like a cloud,
And tinge its world of happy images with hues of horror." There is also association. One of its chief uses is to add force to conscience. We are strangely linked with the past. A book will recall the giver. A letter will start various trains of thought, according to its contents and the circumstances in which it is received. A portrait will bring up memories of the departed. Remember how Cowper's heart was moved by the portrait of his mother - "faithful remembrancer of one so dear." So it is as to our sin. The place, the surroundings, the circumstances, or some link of association, may bring all the past before us fresh as a yesterday event. Remember Pharaoh's butler (Genesis 41:9), the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:18), Peter the apostle (Mark 14:72). And what is presented to conscience by memory and association, the imagination works out with powerful effect, brining in not only the past, but the future, the terrible result. But besides all this, we are to take into account the hand of God, working by conscience through providence and Holy Scripture. David's eyes were opened by the ministry of Nathan. He presented his sin to him in a parable, and then brought it home to himself in demonstration of the Spirit. "Thou art the man!" And so it is still. "By the Law is the knowledge of sin;" "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." We have a striking illustration of this in Augustine ('Confessions,' bk. 8. ch. 7): "Thou, O Lord, whilst he was speaking, didst turn me round towards myself, taking me from behind my back, where I had placed me, unwilling to observe myself, and setting me before my face, that I might see how foul I was, how crooked and defiled, bespotted and ulcerous." Sooner or later, this vision will come to us all. "My sin is ever before me." This may be the cry in the torments of hell, and then there is no hope. It may be said under the power of a guilty conscience, and then the answer is, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!"

III. THE FEELINGS WITH WHICH THIS PAINTING SHOULD BE CONTEMPLATED, The sight is painful, but salutary. If it humbles us, it leads us to exalt God. If it embitters sin to us, it endears Christ to us, and binds us for ever to him in love and devotion.

1. Sense of personal guilt. "My sin." We may have been tempted; but in the deepest sense the guilt is ours, surely and inalienably. Our sins are more our own than anything else we possess. With this conviction we cry, "What shall we do?"

2. Grief and self-abasement. Others may speak of "my place," "my merits," "my services;" but for me it is "my sin." The more we study this picture - looking at it in the light of the cross - the more vile and wicked do we become in our own eyes. We see ourselves as God sees us, and are filled with amazement and horror. Besides, we come to understand that our sin is not a casual thing, but the product of the sinful heart within. True grief will lead to sincere and full confession, and confession to forgiveness. When we justify God, God will justify us.

3. Simple and unfeigned faith. Despairing of ourselves, we cease from our own works, and cast ourselves upon the mercy of God. We accept the testimony which God has given of his Son, and, trusting in him, we find peace.

4. Adoring gratitude and love. To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much. We owe everything to Christ, and the love of Christ constraineth us (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). The thought of the sins of the past, which we carry with us, will not only make us humble and watchful, but stimulate us to increasing love and zeal in the service of him who hath redeemed us by his precious blood. - W.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

WEB: For I know my transgressions. My sin is constantly before me.

The Repentance of David
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