Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare you, that you may be justified.
These words follow immediately on that beautiful declaration — "I, even I, am He," etc. We shall find that our text has great significance when taken in connection with this most gracious saying.
1. We cannot but remark on the apparent strangeness, that there should be any appeal to reason or argument, where the matter involved is undoubtedly the great doctrine of atonement. Though there is no express statement of this doctrine, no one acquainted with the appointed mode of salvation, which has been the same in every dispensation, will question that the work of the Mediator is tacitly under. stood whensoever there is a promise of the forgiveness of sin. If this be implied, how strange that God should no sooner have referred to the scheme of our redemption than He invites us to reason with Himself. Undoubtedly the scheme of our redemption is such as could never have been imagined, and such even as, when revealed, it rather becomes us reverently to receive than curiously to investigate. But, nevertheless, it is quite possible to err on the other side — to be as much afraid of allowing reason to intermeddle with the plan of redemption. There is all the difference between the being able to discover this plan and the being able, when discovered, to determine its excellence and fitness.
2. We should hold it to be as great a falsehood as could be alleged against the Gospel were it to be said, that it does not commend itself to man as exactly what he needs; so that, if he receive it, he must receive it on the strength of external testimony, and not at all on his consciousness of its meeting his necessities.
3. The text, following on a promise that sin shall be blotted out, may be said to invite us to a debate, and to propose, as the topic of debate, the salvation of sinners through the atonement made by Christ. It is God Himself who offers to plead on the other side, if we take that of the strangeness of the Gospel, its inexplicable character as addressed to beings so circumstanced as ourselves. How shall the argument be carried on, or by whom shall the discussion be opened? We will not attempt to give the precise pleading on both sides, but rather sum up the facts and statements of the controversy. We suppose man aware of his lost condition by nature, and penetrated with such a sense of the attributes of God as forbids his expecting that sin may go unpunished under such a government as the Divine. And if a man in this state were made acquainted with the Gospel of Christ, he would want nothing but evidence of the truth of this Gospel; he would find an additional evidence in the exactness with which it met his ascertained wants. There is therefore nothing to shrink from in the challenge of the text. A forgiveness, based on a propitiation, and followed by sanctification, is what God propounds as His scheme of redemption; and such a scheme He invites us to discuss with Him in person. What, then, have you to say? You lie under condemnation: how can you be pardoned when you have punishment to endure? The scheme lays the punishment on another. You are of a depraved nature, inclined to evil, and therefore unfit for communion with your maker: how can such as you enter the kingdom of heaven? The scheme provides for your thorough regeneration. If all the difficulties which reason can find in the way of redemption lie either in the necessities of man or the attributes of God, and if the scheme of redemption through Christ meet the first and yield the second, so that even reason herself can perceive that it satisfies every human want and compromises no Divine perfection, why should we not allow that, reason herself being judge, the Gospel is in every respect precisely such a communication as is suited to the case?
4. We have hitherto confined our attention to the fact that it is to an argument, or discussion, that we are invited by God, when He is about to lay before us, in a most simple but comprehensive form, His great scheme of delivering us through a propitiation for sin. But the concluding words of our text — "Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified " — seem to allow you, if you choose, to bring forward any excuse which you may have for not closing with the gracious proffer of salvation through Christ. We may, however, take another, and perhaps equally just, view of the controversy, which is indicated, though not laid open by our text. The verses which follow — "Thy first father hath sinned," etc., would seem to imply that the Jews murmured at God's dealings with them; for God is evidently vindicating Himself. Come all of you who think that you are in any way hardly dealt with by God, approach and plead your cause; it is the Almighty Himself who saith — "Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified." You need not therefore hesitate to utter plainly all you think, and to make statement of your grievances. You urge, it may be, that your lot is one of trial and affliction; that troubles are multiplied beyond your power of endurance, temptations beyond your power of resistance; that, born as you are with corrupt tendencies, placed in a scene where there is everything to incite you to sin, you are summoned to duties which are manifestly too arduous, and threatened in the event of failure with punishments which are as manifestly excessive and severe. Well, keep nothing back; be as minute as you will in exposing the harshness of God's dealings, whether individually with yourselves or generally with mankind; and then, having pleaded your own cause, listen to what the Almighty will say; it is He Himself who hath invited you into controversy, and therefore when you have urged all your grievances, be silent that God may be heard in reply. And I know what you expect to hear: you expect a defence as elaborate as the charge. But when you are hearkening for the copious apology and acute contradiction, lo, there is heard nothing but the beautiful promise — "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." If you have anything to say after such a promise, say it; make what you can of your case. So that the promise is to be taken as a sufficient answer to all that can be urged. But what has such a promise to do with the matter? How does it end the controversy? Do ye ask? Or rather, does not this simple but most gracious announcement of arrangements for the complete rescue of humankind from all their misery and all their guilt make you feel ashamed of having urged any complaint, and aware that in place of murmurs you ought to utter only praises!
5. We wish to impress upon you one great lesson — that it is your business to obey God's commands rather than to explain God's dealings.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.