motives? One, indeed, may seem to be bigger than the rest, and to have decided the course of conduct; but we are very imperfect readers of human nature if we rest satisfied with the easy statement that every act has a single reason, a supreme motive. We may venture to apply this to God. We cannot think of him as acting without motive. We may assume that he is influenced by various motives. But we may be sure that there is always the controlling motive - he will do that which is consistent with himself, that which upholds the honour of his own Name. He takes into account our prayers, and lets them be persuasions upon him; but behind all other impulses we must see this one ever constraining him - "for his own Name's sake." In the text this is applied to the blotting out of transgressions. Forgiveness comes to us because the Divine righteousness wants exhibition, and the Divine love wants expression. It is uninfluenced by any cause in us, save as our persuasions are permitted to be secondary causes. The sovereignty of Divine forgiveness is constantly pressed upon us in Scripture; and the atonement is the mode in which it gains expression, rather than the agency by which it is secured. God is a forgiving God because he is. No more can be said about it. But we may fully enter into the joy of his forgiveness. Three things may be opened and illustrated.
I. FORGIVENESS AS A HOLY FEELING AND PURPOSE IN THE HEART OF GOD. The father holds forgiveness of the prodigal in his heart long before the son comes back.
II. THE EXPRESSION OF THE FORGIVENESS TO THOSE WHO HAVE SINNED. This is made in Scripture promises, and in the words and works of Christ.
III. THE APPREHENSION OF THE FORGIVENESS BY THOSE WHO NEED IT. This only can be known by the penitent. On the figure used in the text, which recalls the blotting out of a cloud from the sky, Maclaren says, "Sin is but the cloud, as it were, behind which the everlasting sun lies in all its power and warmth, unaffected by the cloud; and the light will yet strike, the light of his love will yet pierce through, with its merciful shafts, bringing healing in their beams, and dispersing all the pitchy darkness of man's transgressions. And as the mists gather themselves up and roll away, dissipated by the heat of that sun in the upper sky, and reveal the fair earth below, so the love of Christ shines in, melting the mist and dissipating the fog, thinning it off in its thickest places, and at last piercing its way right through it, down to the heart of the man that has been lying beneath the oppression of this thick darkness." - R.T.
Put Me in remembrance.I. TAKE SOME GENERAL NOTICE OF THE COMMAND HERE GIVEN. This command, "Put Me in remembrance," by no means supposes that God is unmindful of any promise, or ignorant of any case.
1. It is His pleasure to see a sinner reduced so low as to have nothing to rest upon, nothing to plead but the promise.
2. God will bring the sinner to such a frame as will render the blessing of pardon sweet when it comes.
3. The expression in the text evidences the strict connection which there is between the means and the end. It is grace which appears in the promises, and it is grace which convinces the soul of its need of those blessings that are contained in them. If you are led to see that these promises contain all your salvation and all your desire, and that all is dispensed freely, this will draw out the heart in prayer and supplication. Prayer opens a communication between God and the soul. "I will pardon"; "I will not remember thy sin" — that is the promise. "Put Me in remembrance" is the command. It is the privilege of a sin-burdened soul to remind God of His covenant engagements, to lay the promises of His grace before Him, to plead the merit of the Redeemer's sacrifice, to set the creature's misery and God's mercy in opposition to each other, to compare our poverty with that fulness of grace which the Gospel reveals. Instead of waiting for qualifications in order to obtain mercy, we are to rest the whole weight of our argument upon the grace which shines in the promise, and which will be greatly honoured in the actual pardon of our guilty souls.
II. OBSERVE WHAT IT IS WHICH AN AWAKENED SOUL HATH TO REMIND GOD OF.
1. The soul reminds God of His grace, and argues from the freeness of it.
2. The firmness of His promises.
3. The concern of God's glory in the pardon and salvation of sinners.
III. OPEN THE NATURE OF THE DECLARATION WHICH HE MAKES BEFORE THE THRONE OF MERCY. "Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified." Declaration in law is showing cause why judgment should not be executed. There must be a declaration of an adequate righteousness in order to our justification before God. Our guilt would sink us into the lowest depths of misery if God did not admit our plea through Jesus. We must also declare our hearty approbation of God's method of dispensing these His favours. Inferences —
1. We see the reason why God will have the promises of His grace to be pleaded before the Throne; it is not to help His memory, but to exercise and encourage our faith.
2. How greatly are they to be pitied, who can remember any thing but that which it concerns them above all to attend to.
3. Have any of you pleaded the promises, cried for mercy and grace, and yet seemed to find no help? Be not discouraged, though the Lord wait, yet tarry for Him, He waiteth that He may be more abundantly gracious.
4. Consider what glories are reserved for that future world, when all the promises shall be completely fulfilled.
(J. King, B. A.)
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.)
I. Our text appears as A HUMBLING CHALLENGE. God had punished Israel on account of sin. Israel was not penitent, but in self-righteousness judged that the Lord was harsh and severe. "Come, then," says God, "come and plead your suit with Me. Put Me in remembrance of any virtues on your part which I may be supposed to have overlooked. If I have misjudged you, if you have not really been neglectful of My service and worship, let the matter be rectified. If really you have a righteousness of your own, put Me in remembrance of it."
1. On looking back we find that the Lord had charged His people with neglect of prayer. "But thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob." This is the charge which we are compelled to bring against all unconverted men and women. Perhaps you offer a form of prayer; but that is nothing if your heart goes not with the words. This is rather to mock God than truly to call upon Him. But come now; if there be any mistake in this charge, disprove it!
2. Next, the Lord charged it upon Israel that they had not delighted in Him. "Thou hast been weary of Me, O Israel." Can you deny this? If you can, you are invited to state your innocence before the Lord.
3. The Lord had also said that these people did not honour Him. "Thou hast not brought Me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured Me with thy sacrifices." It may be you have presented no tokens of love to the Lord at all; or, on the other hand, you may have brought sacrifices, but you have not honoured God by them. You have given that you might be known to give, or because others did so, but not with the view of honouring God. Yet if it be so, if any unconverted man can say that whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does, he seeks to do all to the glory of God, this ought to be known. It would be a new thing under the sun. In truth, it would prove that the man was converted, and had been renewed in the spirit of his mind by the grace of God. But it is not so.
4. Moreover, the Lord charged Israel that they did not love Him. "Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins" — thou hast made Me a very slave with thy waywardness. "Thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities," — God's patience was tried to the utmost with their wanton wickedness. Is not this charge sadly true of many? If it be not so, you are now challenged to vindicate your characters. Do not set up a lying defence, but speak the truth.
6. The challenge before us is occupied not only with the ways of man, but with the ways of God; for the Lord here asserts of Himself, "I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense." That is to say, God is no hard taskmaster. The commandments of God are essential justice; you could not improve upon them; no law could be more for our benefit than that which He has given us. If God has treated you like slaves, then say so, and state your grievance in solemn converse with God. When God forbids us anything, it is because He knows it would be for our harm; and when God commands us to do anything, it is because He knows that it is for our soul's eternal good.
II. I hope you will be able to follow me while our penitence suggests AN AMENDED VERSION. Let us take the text as our consciousness of guilt desires to read it. There are certain things which God in great love invites us to bring before His memory. If you cannot take up His challenge, and prove your personal righteousness, let the charges stand, with your silence as an assent to them; and now plead with Him, and pat Him in remembrance of matters which may serve your turn, and lead to your forgiveness.
1. Put the Lord in remembrance of that glorious act of amnesty and oblivion which in sovereign grace He has proclaimed to the sons of men in the preceding verse. That done, proceed to put the Lord in remembrance of your sins. Make an open unreserved acknowledgment unto the Lord. Confess this also, that you have continued by your sins to go away from Him who invites you to return, and promises you a welcome reception.
2. When you have done this, if your spirit is much depressed, and your heart is driven to despair by a sense of your guilt, then put the Lord in remembrance of the extraordinary reason which He gives for pardoning sin: "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake." Say unto Him thus: "Lord, there is no reason in me why Thou shouldest spare me, but do it for Thine own sake — for Thy love's sake, for Thy mercy's sake."
3. When you have gone as far as that in putting God in remembrance, I would advise you to plead the Lord's purpose and intent revealed in verse 21: "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise." Say, "Lord, I am Thy poor creature. Thou hast made me; even my very body is fearfully and wonderfully made; and the mysterious thing which dwells within me which I call my soul, is also the creature of Thy power. Hast Thou not made me for Thyself? Wilt Thou not have a desire to the work of Thine own hands? Lord, come and bless me! Sinner as I am, and utterly undeserving, yet I am Thy creature; do not fling me upon the dunghill. If Thou wilt forgive me, Lord, might I not praise Thee?"
4. If that does not ease you, go a little further back in the chapter till you come to verse 19: "Behold, I will do a new thing," etc. Plead that published declaration! Say, "Lord, Thou hast said 'I will do a new thing': it will indeed be a new thing if I am saved. I am driven to such self-abhorrence, that if ever I am saved I shall be a leading wonder among Thy miracles of grace." It may be you can say — "Lord, I have been sighing and crying and groaning now by the month together, and I can find no peace. Oh, if Thou wilt but put a new song into my mouth, the dragons and the owls that saw me in my gloom shall open their eyes and be astonished, and honour the Lord God of Israel!" I know some who might say, "Lord, it will fill all the workshop with wonder if I shall rejoice in Jesus. All my friends and companions will wonder that I should become happy and holy through sovereign grace."
III. Our text affords us some PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS. If the Lord says, "Put Me in remembrance," then —
1. It is very clear that we ought to remember these things ourselves. Oh, you that are not saved, remember the years in which you have lived without prayer l What a wonder that you have been permitted to live at all! Remember, next, for your humbling, how weary you have been of God. Some I would urge to remember long years of neglect of God's service, with all their stinginess to the cause of God, all their want of love to God, all the many times in which they have hardened their hearts, stopped their ears, and refused the warnings and invitations of their Saviour.
2. It is time that we should now begin our pleading with God.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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