Isaiah 44:22
Put in other words, the statement of this text is, "As a cloud is blotted out of the heavens, so have I blotted out thy transgressions." But it is difficult for us to realize what is meant by "blotting out a cloud." So far as we have to do with clouds, we cannot speak of them as "blotted out." Some swiftly hurry by; others move majestically along, - they go out of sight into some other quarter of the heavens; but we do not see them vanish from their place in mid-sky, and become "blotted out." Sometimes the cloud sends down showers upon the earth, and so it exhausts itself; but that cannot be the image of our text, because it intimates a putting away of our sins, so that they shall not shower down upon us the tribulation and anguish that is gathered up in all transgression. But the image which our damp climate cannot furnish is given in the sunny lands of the East. There, in the morning, will often be seen dull heavy masses of clouds, and there is every indication of a showery day. But as the sun rises and gathers strength, these clouds all varnish and disappear; they do not drift away, or pass into another part of the heavens; they just vanish on the spot, they die away, they are "blotted out." Understood thus, it is a striking and impressive figure. Even thus the thick clouds of our sins darken the sky, and those sin-clouds bear manifest tokens of punishment and wrath. But thus also God's love, the sun of his forgiving love, arises, shines out full, and the sin-cloud is dispelled, it vanishes away. It is not driven into the future, to await us there; it is just "blotted out," forgiven and forgotten. With other most impressive figures God endeavours to convince us of the fulness of his forgiving. He makes his servant say, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Where is the east? Where is the west? Is it yonder ridge of hill, behind which we saw the sun set yesterday? Nay, did you stand on that very spot, the west would be still away, away, in the dim distance. The more you hurry toward the east, the further you get away from the west. Go east, and try to find your forgiven sins; behold God has put them in the utmost west. Elsewhere we renal of God's casting our sins behind his back." He not merely puts them behind his back, he casts them there; his love refuses to look on them, his forgiving restoring love will not treasure them up against us; they are flung away; they are done with; they are bonds cancelled, debts settled for ever. And there is another figure - that of "casting our sins into the depths of the sea." Take a jewel, and when upon mid-ocean, drop it over the ship's side into the waters. It is gone. None can descend into those depths and bring it back again. So God, as it were, binds up the book, the "handwriting of ordinances that was against us." He drops it in mid-ocean. And as we see it go, our hearts should be filled with thankful, trustful love to the great Forgiver. To a full return to him who has so dealt with our sins the text invites. This is God's way of pleading.

I. OUR REDEMPTION IS AN ACCOMPLISHED FACT. The terms of the text are very explicit: "I have blotted out I have redeemed." Redemption is not a matter which has to be settled; it is settled. We too often speak of needing to be redeemed; we should speak much more of realizing our redemption - entering into the life and privilege bought for us, and offered to us in the sovereign mercy of our God. That redemption should be regarded as an accomplished fact is taught by our Lord.

1. See the parable of the prodigal son. The charm of the parable is the look it gives us into the lather's heart. He had forgiven the son in his heart long before the forgiving word could be spoken.

2. The parable of the feast. The message sent forth is, "Come, for all things are now ready."

3. Notice how Christ directed the thoughts of men to himself. If our redemption were. not an accomplished fact, of which our Lord was the Divine expression and persuasion, how could he say, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"?

4. This is, indeed, involved in the doctrine of the cross of Christ. God provided that cross as the highest expression of his love to us; it is the persuasion that he has forgiven. It is not in order that he may love us, it is because he did love us, that he gave his only begotten Son.

5. Observe the new terms of condemnation set forth in the gospel: "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life;" "He that believeth not is condemned already." God looks on men as forgiven, but tested by their thoughts of Christ, by their acceptance of his offered love and friendship in the person of Jesus Christ. God says, "I have redeemed you." If you will turn to God, return to God, you shall realize that you arw redeemed. If you will not return, then that very redemption will gather into a burden, weightier far than all others that can come upon you.

II. OUR REDEMPTION, AS AN ACCOMPLISHED FACT, IS GOD'S GREAT POWER ON HUMAN SOULS. This is the very essence of the gospel - the "good news" of God. God is a forgiving God. He has forgiven in his heart; he speaks his forgiveness in Christ. He can pass by iniquity, transgression, and sin. He can keep his righteousness before all his creatures, and Yet reach down a hand of acceptance to us.

1. The cry of God, in olden days, was the cry of this forgiving love, "Ho, every one that thirsteth," etc. (Isaiah 55:1). The wine and milk are bought; they are set ready; take, and eat.

2. Apostles preached a perfect salvation. They told men it was wrought - it was done. They preached remission of sins in the Name of Jesus. Our faith is not asked for a scheme partially realized, a salvation partially accomplished, that needs the addition of our delayings, our tears, our prayers, our goodnesses. It was perfect before we had one thought about it. It sprang out of God's own love; it was manifested in God's own perfect way. He has redeemed us, and wants the fact of his redemption to be a gracious persuasion of us to come to him. We have seen the little bird taken from its nest in the woods, and put into the cage, and it seemed to be happy even with the bars all round it. Not always happy. Sometimes it would flap its wings against the bars, and try to get free, when a glint of warmer sunshine broke in upon it. And when the door was opened, wide opened, the bird scarcely knew what to do; it seemed bewildered, as if it could not believe such good news. But at last it seemed to flash upon it, "I am free - free to the wild woods, and the open sky, and the glad sunshine." And at once it spread its wings and fled away. We are like that bird, caged in with sin: the bars are all round us. Some of us are willing to be caged, some of us fret to be caged. And the fact is that God has set before us an open door. Yet we stand irresolute. What! is the cage really open? May we come forth into the sky of God's free favour and acceptance? Has God kept his holiness and his truth, and yet can he open the door? That is the truth, that is the assurance of the text. That is God's way of pleading, "Return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." - R.T.







I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions.
: — The meaning of the verse may be — He who offered his sacrifice aright, was as sure that the sin for which he offered it was blotted out, as that the smoke of the sacrifice was dispersed by the wind, and was no longer discernible.

(E. Thompson, D. D.)

"This decree made the danger then hanging over the city, pass away like a cloud."

(Demosthenes.)

Clouds do good; but transgressions and sins never do good. They do no good to the body, no good to the soul, no good to the spirit, no good to our present condition, or to our future circumstances; and, in this respect, clouds are unlike sins. Yet there are points of resemblance between clouds and sins. Clouds veil the sun; and sins hide the loving face of God. Clouds hide the lofty firmament; and sins conceal heaven. Clouds contract the prospect; and sins prevent the sight of all coming good. Clouds drop down in rain; and sins fall in punishment. Clouds are beyond our control; and sins committed are entirely out of our power. Clouds are dispersible only by God; and sins God alone can drive away. This is the point of the analogy instituted in our text.

(S. Martin.)

I. THE DIVINENESS OF FORGIVENESS. "I have blotted out," &c. "I, even I." All sin is against God. When you sin against each other you sin against God. And all punishment is in God's hands; and the dispensation of pardon is His prerogative. Blessed be God for keeping it within His own power! Pardon is dispensed faithfully and wisely, for God is light. Pardon is dispensed graciously, for God is love. And pardon is given according to the Divine promise and covenant, for "God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."

II. THE COMPLETENESS OF PARDON. In the country which Isaiah knew, the clouds were entirely blotted out during four months of the year; so that it was an extraordinary thing from May to September, to see a cloud: and the clearness of the atmosphere enabled the prophet to appreciate this illustration to an extent impossible to us, who are so often under a leaden sky. Still, even here, we do know what it is to stand under a blue sky. In the morning, or in the evening, or late at night, we know what it is to stand under the cloudless heavens, and to say, "There is not a cloud to be seen." And when God pardons a man there is not a sin to be seen. The sins of childhood, and youth, and maturity-the sins of every year, and day, and hour — are blotted out. The sins of the body, and the sins of the soul — the sins of the tongue, and of the hand, and of every member of the body — the sins of the thought, and of the imagination, and of desire, and of affection, and of volition, are all blotted out. The sins of the heart, and the sins of the home, the sins of the place of business, and the sins of the Church, and the sins committed against brothers and sisters, and kindred of every degree — against husband, and wife, and children, and neighbours, and friends, and the country, — sins against the Saviour, and against the Holy Spirit, and against our Father in Heaven are blotted out. Sins wilful, sins careless, sins repeated, sins aggravated, are all blotted out. Not some sins, but all sins. The least are not overlooked; the worst are not reserved. Pardon is not the mitigation of punishment — it is not the passing by of some transgressions and the bringing forward of others — but an entire remission of future punishment. Sin is not behind following us; sin is not before preventing us; sin is not above falling upon us; sin is not on either hand hemming us in. Pardoned by God, our sins are gone; actually gone for ever.

III. THE ASSURANCE WHICH GOD GIVES THE PARDONED THAT THEY ARE FORGIVEN. God might forgive without telling us now that He has pardoned us. He might reserve the communication of this fact until the last great day. But He would have the forgiven know that they are pardoned. Now what profit is there in this? Knowledge of pardon is a particular knowledge of God. A man who is pardoned sees God in the dispensation of Divine forgiveness, as God is not to be seen elsewhere, or in any other dispensation. It is one thing to see God in the general provision He has made for the supply of our wants, and quite another thing for us to see God applying that provision to ourselves. A knowledge of pardon is a source of joy and peace. It is, moreover, a power awakening love. You remember the case of the woman who came to Christ, upon the occasion of the great banquet given to Him by one of the chief of the Pharisees. Then, the knowledge of pardon is a motive to the pursuit of holiness.

IV. THE KNOWLEDGE OF PARDON ENCOURAGES US TO BRING OTHERS TO GOD.

V. WHO ARE THE ASSURED?

1. Those who confess to Him their sins.

2. The confession is to be accompanied by the forsaking of sin.

3. There is no forsaking sin, without turning to God.

(S. Martin.)

Man may divert the course of a river, and fill up the former bed; thus blotting out in certain places the river. Man may pare down portions of the hills; thus blotting out the hills. Man may raise the valley; thus blotting out the valley. Man may drain the lake, and sow it with seed, and raise crops upon the soil of the lake's bed; thus blotting out the lake. Man may, to a small extent, alter the boundaries of the ocean; thus blotting out in some places even the sea. Man may tunnel the earth and make a highway where foot never trod. But man can neither bring clouds into the firmament, nor send them away. Moreover a man may blot out ignorance by teaching, and folly by instruction, and some bad habits by good training, and animal wants by the supply of temporal necessities, and captivity by release, and disease by healing; but no man can forgive sins. The dispensation of pardon is too precious, and too important, to be entrusted to men or to angels.

(S. Martin.)

A man, if he were entrusted with the dispensation of forgiveness, might be sleeping, or journeying, or sick, or in various ways out of reach. A man might be angry, or morose, or occupied, or unloving, when the penitent was calling for forgiveness. And an angel might take a hypocrite for a true penitent, or a contrite one for a hypocrite; or he might hesitate to forgive some chief of sinners. God keeps the dispensation of forgiveness in His own kind hand.

(S. Martin.)

There is, at first sight, a little obscurity in this expression. Is the cloud intended to represent the sin, or is it the obscurity with which the sin is to be obliterated? Does the text liken transgressions to a cloud which is to be driven away, or the transgression to be covered and blotted out as if by a cloud? There is a difference in opinion with regard to the matter. But there is no reason for not taking the words literally as they stand, and looking upon sin as likened to a cloud.

I. THE FIGURE UNDER WHICH SIN IS REPRESENTED. "A cloud"; "a thick cloud." It affords an apt illustration of human evil.

1. Clouds obscure the beauty of the earth. Sin obscures the prospects of the soul and shuts out the glories of the heavenly horizon! It blurs the outline of truth, it disturbs our views of life, of our fellow-creatures, of our own actions and the actions and motives of others, of the providence and dealings of God, of the true import of existence, of the future and the past. What is evil seems good; what is good seems evil; what is real seems false; and what is false appears true.

2. Clouds intercept the light of heaven. And what hides the full brightness of the face of God, who is the source of all spiritual light and warmth and joy, but sin? "Your iniquities have separated between Me and you." Our sins have kept the revelation of full light and the manifestation of fullest love from vivifying and rejoicing our hearts. Not that even sin entirely obscures God's mercy and love. The darkest cloud cannot altogether hide the light of day. The sun's rays are so powerful that they penetrate even through the thickest mists. But what a contrast is the feeble light of a November day to that of the genial sunbeam in June! So not even sin can entirely hide the Divine influence of the love of God or prevent it from warming the earth. But how different is its manifestation to what it was amid the glories of Paradise!

3. Clouds cause inconvenience and discomfort. The traveller amid the mountain mists, with his garments soddened and weighted with the moisture, his breathing laboured and his movements hampered, is a fitting representative of the Christian journeying heavenwards amid the many hindrances which check his progress through the uncongenial atmosphere of this sinful world, saturated with the essence, as it were, of iniquity.

4. Clouds are about us everywhere.(1) They overshadow every portion of the globe. Not in the same intensity, not always in the same place, not similar in appearance and density.(2) Does not sin, like the clouds, everywhere compass the spiritual world? It varies, indeed, Some countries are more enlightened, and the clouds not being so dense, more is seen and felt of the light and warmth of the Sun of Righteousness. But there are other countries where mental and spiritual clouds dominate in various degrees of density, till we arrive at those places where the savage reigns supreme and no ray of the light of heaven ever penetrates.(3) Are not the clouds a fitting image of sin in their deceptive beauty? There are occasions when evil shines resplendent with the borrowed glory of heaven. How many noble characters have, in the virtues reflected from Christianity, attracted for a time the admiration and rapture of an astonished and delighted world! For a time! For as soon as the reflection from above, which imparted glory to their characters, was gone, they sank: again into their native nature of darkness and gloom. And observe how much the reflection of Divine truth and heavenly law beautifies this world of ours, with all its sin! The philanthropy towards those who are weak and suffering, the courtesy towards the feeble, the hospitals which are provided, the many means which are adopted for exalting the race: all these are the glints of heavenly sunshine reflected upon the clouds of sin.(4) We also see that the clouds resemble sin because of their unreality. There is nothing on which a man can trust or lean or hope. They are unsubstantial, empty, frail.(5) They also are changing, fleeting, driven away by all kinds and by every breath of wind; never the same, unstable, assuming all sorts of guises in the presence of the light.

II. THE PROMISE WHICH IS HERE BESTOWED. Although the statement is put in the past — "I have blotted out" — yet it is really a future and a conditional declaration. The early part of this chapter is a description of awful impenitence and apostasy. In purpose, in intention, this is forgiven, but it is not a forgiveness independent of reformation. We have seen the sky when the summer sun has driven away the clouds. It is deep, unfathomable, ethereal, blue. The sun's glory is undimmed. The whole of nature rejoices with unspeakable joy. The heart rebounds with lightness. Not a speck on the surface of the heaven casts a shadow on the earth. Such is the idea of a world without sin. All brightness and no clouds, all joy without a sorrow to dim its glory. And this is the spiritual gist of the promise which the great God has made to His believing people. It is an assurance so certain that it is spoken of as having actually taken place. And how will God blot out the sins of His people? By the same means as physically disperse the clouds of earth.

1. By the tempests of wrath. The tempest of God's wrath, as it fell upon the head of Christ, sent a current of electric justice through the load of sin and rendered it possible for its power to be removed.

2. By the glorious shining of rays of warmth and light. It is the warmth of God's infinite, eternal love that shall disperse the last trace of sin. That love shining from His throne shall drive all the consequences of evil from the heart, from the life. And with the clouds of sin shall go all other clouds — the clouds of suffering, of sorrow, of death. And when sin is driven away, that love shall shine in unceasing glory. It will not be limited to time, or place, or season, or circumstance. It will not come in diminished or lessened degrees, but it will be perfect, pure, and complete. Still, this is but a figure — an incomplete one, too — one which has its deficiencies. But God Himself gave it out.

(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

I. AN IMPORTANT DECLARATION. "I have blotted out," &c.

II. A CORRESPONDING DUTY. "Return unto Me."

III. AN ALL-CONSTRAINING MOTIVE. "I have redeemed thee."

(S. Bridge, M. A.)

I. THERE IS RECOGNISED THE EXISTENCE OF SIN.

II. THERE IS AFFIRMED THE EXISTENCE OF MERCY.

(W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

The features of the Divine character, and the blessings of salvation, which are to be manifested in God's dealings with Israel in the latter days, are the very same as are now manifested in God's dealings with all believers. We may consider the text, then, as an exhibition of God's mercy, in which we are ourselves interested.

I. With reference to HIS MERCY.

1. The first words of the text denote an act of God's gracious forgiveness. "I have blotted out thy transgressions and thy sins." In the New Testament scriptures, this expression "blotting out" is connected with the atonement (Colossians 2:14).

2. The language of pardoning mercy goes still farther. "As a thick cloud." How is a thick cloud blotted out? When a debt is blotted out from a debt book, the blot remains. It is true there is no evidence against the sinner; the charge against him is at an end; but the remains of what was a debt are to be seen, and the very act of cancelling it shows that there was a debt. But when a cloud is blotted out, it is different. How is that cloud blotted out? Either by the wind dispersing it, or by the sun breaking through it and dispersing it; and when this is done, we say either that the storm is "blown over," or that there is now a clear sky, and all that we can see, if we see anything, with regard to the threatening cloud, is now composed of those beautiful hues which are lighted up by the shining of a bright sun in a clear sky. Well, then, when God says that He will "blot out as a thick cloud our transgressions, and as a cloud our sin," we are to understand that He undertakes to remove all traces of our transgressions and all remains of guilt from the conscience, so that the sinner thus pardoned may look up to God as a Father full of grace and love, and may approach Him with holy boldness, and without any particle of fear. Observe, then, what full forgiveness God assures us of in this language. "Thick clouds," as well as ordinary clouds, — two expressions which must be taken in a figurative meaning, as including all kinds of sin — what we call "greater and lesser sins" alike — are what the Lord declares His purpose to do away with, and completely to remove from being a ground of fear to those who approach Him in the name of His dear Son.

3. Now, inasmuch as no one can disperse a thick cloud but the God who can send His bright sun to shine through it, so none hut that God who proclaims Himself a pardoning God and Saviour can say, so that the conscience of the sinner shall respond, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins." And this is the forgiveness in which God delights — full, complete, and such as only He Himself can bestow.

II. But in order that this mercy may be ours, and that we may rejoice in it, IT IS NEEDFUL THAT WE SHOULD RIGHTLY RESPOND to that intimation of God's grace. "I have blotted out thy transgressions. Return unto Me."

1. It is the Redeemer. who calls, because it says, "Return, for I have redeemed thee."

2. How different to our natural expectation is this! The Redeemer crying after the sinner, instead of the sinner crying after the Redeemer.

3. Then observe how the language before us manifests the deep concern of God our Saviour. "Return to Me." He would not speak in language like this, if it were not a matter of immense moment to the sinner to return.

4. There is another suggestion: for what purpose is this call of entreaty made? Not that the sinner may receive punishment. God calls thee, O careless one, not to be frowned upon, but smiled upon.

5. Then, after all this intimation of grace on the part of God, there can be no hope of lasting peace or a future glory, except as we return.

III. NOTICE THE LOVE IN THE ASSURANCE THAT HE GIVES ABOUT REDEMPTION. "Return, for I have redeemed thee." What return do you make to the call of Him who assures of mercy and redemption, and who graciously says, Return?

(W. Cadman, M. A.)

I. A wonderful teaching as to the INMOST NATURE OF SIN. I refer especially to the two words for sin which are employed here. That translated transgression literally means "treachery" or "rebellion," and that translated sin "missing a mark." All iniquity is stamped with this damning characteristic, it is rebellion against a loving will, an infinite King, a tender Father. And all iniquity has this, by the merciful irony of Providence, associated with it, that it is a blunder as well as a crime.

II. THE PERMANENT RECORD OF SIN. "I have blotted out." That points, of course, to something that has been written, and which it promises shall be erased. It may be, perhaps, the idea rather of a stain which is covered and removed, but that I think less probable than the other one, that the evil is written down somewhere. A book written; a permanent record of my evil doing. Where is it written? Where, rather, is it not written? Written on character, written to a very large extent even on circumstances, written above all in the calm, perfect memory of the all-judging God. The book is written by ourselves, moment by moment, and day by day. We write it with invisible ink, and it only needs to be held to the fire to flash up into legibility.

III. THE DARKENING POWER OF SIN. "I have blotted out as a thick cloud." When the cloud draws its veil over the heavens, the sunshine and the blue are shut out from a man's eye, and all the flowerets close; and when the heaven is veiled the birds cease to sing. So, like a misty veil drawn across the face of the heavens are man's sins. Our only way of knowing God is by sympathy, by conformity.

IV. THE REMOVAL OF THE SIN. I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins." The erasure implies the making a clean sheet of the blurred page; the cancelling of the whole long formidable column of figures that expresses the debt. The blotting out as a cloud implies the disappearing of the misty vapour, as some thin fleecy film will do in the dry Eastern heavens, melting away as a man looks. So God, in His marvellous patience, shining on the upper side, as it were, of all the mists that wrap and darken our souls, thins these away by the process of self-communication, until they gather themselves up, routed and broken, and disappear, floating in thin fragments beneath the visual horizon. It is to no purpose to ask whether that means pardon or cleansing. It means both. Isaiah could proclaim: "I have blotted out thy transgressions," because Isaiah could also proclaim: "The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed." Now, mark this, that this removal of sin, in all its aspects and powers, is regarded in my text as a past accomplished fact. It is not set forth as contingent upon the man's return, but as the reason for his return. "I have redeemed thee, therefore come back to Me," not "Come back to Me that I may redeem thee." You have to take your portion of the great blessing by the simple act and exercise of faith in Jesus Christ. Then it becomes yours.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Homilist.
It is by no means an uncommon circumstance to find in the Bible the very same natural object employed as a symbol of very different and even opposite things. Thus, the lion is used as the emblem both of Christ and of the Prince of Darkness; fire is used as the emblem both of Divine purity and of human suffering; water is used as the emblem both of peace and of trouble; and the cloud is employed as an emblem both of good and evil. Here the Almighty Himself speaks of sin as a "cloud." In order to guard against an abuse of the comparison, notice two striking points of dissimilarity.

(1)Clouds are objects of beauty.

(2)Clouds are sources of blessing. In what respect, then, is sin like a cloud?

I. He blotteth out sin as a cloud which OBSTRUCTS THE GENIAL INFLUENCES OF HEAVEN. It rolls like a thick cloud between God and the soul. It obstructs the rays of His love; it makes life gloomy and sad.

II. He blotteth out sins as a cloud which RISES FROM BENEATH. Whence come these clouds? Not from the celestial regions. They are exhalations from the earth. From noxious marshy lands and stagnant pools, as well as from restless seas they rise. So it is with sin. It is an exhalation from the depraved heart. The clouds that roll between the soul and its God are an aggregation of the noxious vapours that have risen from the heart.

III. He blotteth out sins as a cloud which EXISTS IN EVERY VARIETY OF FORM. Clouds are endless in their variety. It is so with sin. You have it in the fleeting thought, the transient feeling, the passing word; as well as in the deep plot, the cherished passions, the confirmed habits, the dark, dark life.

IV. He blotteth out sins as a cloud which is CHARGED WITH EVIL. Whilst clouds are sources of blessings to the world, they are often filled with elements of destruction. There are forged the thunderbolts that terrify; there are kindled the lightnings that consume; there are the floods that deluge. It is so with sin. The miseries of retribution are all nursed in it as storms in the cloud.

V. He blotteth out sins as a cloud WHICH NO FINITE INTELLIGENCE CAN DISPERSE. Who can dispel the smallest cloud from the face of the sky? No skill, no strength, can dispel one cloud. It is so with sin. No finite being can dispel it. No Church, priesthood, &c.

VI. He blotteth out sins as a cloud, which ONCE DISPERSED, IS GONE FOR EVER. Sins pardoned, like clouds dispersed, are lost for ever. "In those days, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for and there shall be none, and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found, for I will pardon them." VII. He blotteth out sins as a cloud, which WHEN DISSIPATED BENEFITS THE UNIVERSE.

(Homilist.)

I. A DESCRIPTION OF SIN. Man's transgressions are as a thick cloud.

1. In their number.(1) The sins of the wicked — murders, revellings, debaucheries, and the like.(2) The sins of the' moral man — intellectual sins, worse than the animal — avarice, pride, ambition, unbelief.(3) The sins of the good. The lives of the best of men may seem, to the natural eye, holy and good; but, seen under the microscope of God's law, these are full of impurities.

2. Because they intervene between God and man.

3. Because they engloom the earth.

4. Because they contain the consequences which we dread. Out of the cloud the angry lightnings flash, and in the cloud the fury of the tempest sleeps.

II. A DESCRIPTION OF FORGIVENESS. "I have blotted out," &c. You have witnessed the dispersion of a storm. This is a symbol of God's forgiveness.

1. It is so because it is the work of God only. It is a transaction in which man has no share.

2. God's forgiveness is a complete forgiveness.

3. May we not learn that all sin is overruled to our good? After the storm has gone over us, have we not found the atmosphere purified? Can we not see that the world is disciplined by the deluge of evils which pours forth from the clouds of sin?

4. This is a symbol of God's forgiveness in respect to the gladness which succeeds the storm. The prophet represents the whole earth as awakening, after the dispersion of the storm, to exultant joy. "Sing, O ye heavens," &c. Such is the joy of the world on account of God's forgiveness.

III. A DESCRIPTION OF THE CONDUCT OF THE FORGIVEN. "Return unto Me," &c.

(H. M. Jackson.)

The bestowment of spiritual blessings is a warrant for the expectation of all needful temporal blessings. This passage is the foundation on which God causes His ancient people to rest. God's forgiving love is the promise of all needful help and grace.

I. WE MAKE OUR OWN CLOUDS. As the natural clouds are formed by the vapours drawn up from the sea, so, in a degree, those clouds which darken our skies are the effects of our transgressions.

II. GOD MAKES OUR CLOUDS THE MINISTERS OF HIS MERCY. The natural clouds are the ministers of His mercy, the testimonies of His faithful care, of His loving thoughtfulness for the children of men. But how wonderful that the clouds of our sins should be the ministers of His mercy! The clouds lead us to appreciate the glorious sunlight.

III. GOD DISPERSES OUR CLOUDS BY THE INTERVENTION OF HIS REDEEMING LOVE AND POWER. Clouds move in obedience to nature's laws; and the clouds of our sins cannot be blotted out in an arbitrary method. Not as a bad debt, not as chalked figures may be obliterated. God is a Father, but He is a moral Governor. Even He has only a right to blot out transgressions, because He has redeemed.

IV. GOD DISPERSES OUR CLOUDS IN ORDER THAT WE MAY STAND IN THE CLEAR SUNSHINE. When sin is blotted out, then the soul is started on a career of never-ending fruitfulness.

V. GOD MAKES THE DEPARTING CLOUDS HIS PATHETIC PREACHERS. "Return unto Me." Every time we see the clouds sweeping across the heavens, let us listen to their still small voice.

(W. Burrows, B. A.)

In pardoning His people God freely forgives them all their sins of every description, flowing from corrupt propensities and evil habits, committed through ignorance, infirmity, temptation, or presumption.

(R. Macculloch.)

I. HERE IS AN INTERPOSING AND DIVIDING MEDIUM: a cloud of sins. A vapour, says the Hebrew; and, then, a thick cloud. God's people ought always to dwell in fellowship with their God. There ought to be nothing between the renewed heart and God to prevent joyful and hallowed fellowship; but it is not so. Sometimes a cloud comes between, — a cloud of sin; and, whenever that cloud of sin comes between us and God, it speedily chills us. Our delight in God is no longer manifest; we have little or no zeal in His service, or joy in His worship. Beneath that cloud, we feel like men who are frozen; and, at the same time, darkness comes over us. We get into such a sad state that we hardly know whether we are God's people or not. Besides that, it threatens us. Remember, clouds are earthborn things. Yet, recollect that the sun is not affected by the clouds.

II. THE COMPLETE REMOVAL OF THIS BARRIER. "I have blotted out," &c.

1. No known human power can remove the clouds. So it is with your darkness and doubts if you have fallen into sin.

2. But what a mercy it is that God can remove these clouds of sin.

3. When God drives away these clouds from us, though we may see other clouds, we shall never see those black ones any more. When the Lord takes away His people's sins, they are gone, and gone for ever.

4. The glory of it is that the Lord has already done this great work of grace. "I have," &c.

III. THE TENDER COMMAND. "'Return unto Me.' The great barrier that separated us, is removed; so let us not be divided from one another any longer."

1. When He says, "Return," He wants you to give up that which has grieved Him.

2. The Lord's gracious invitation also means, "Come back, and love Me. See how I have loved you. I have already forgiven you your sin, you who are, indeed, My child, but whose faith has almost disappeared. Though you have provoked Me, I still love you. Will you not love Me? After such pleading, can you keep on in this cold-hearted state towards your God?

3. The Lord also means, "Return again to your old joys."

IV. THE SACRED CLAIM WHICH BACKS UP THE GRACIOUS INVITATION. "I have redeemed thee."

1. The meaning is this: "I have loved you so much that I redeemed you with the blood of My dear Son; and, having loved you so much in the ages past, I love you still. Come back to Me. I did not make a mistake when I first loved you, through which I shall have to change the object of My choice. I knew all about you from eternity,;, all that you ever would be or could be, I knew it; yet I loved you and bought you, &c.

2. You belong to Me.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Return unto Me.
: —

I. THE FREENESS OF THE METHOD OF MAN'S ACCEPTANCE. "Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee." There can be no difficulty in proving that we are bought with a price; there can be no difficulty in showing that it was God Himself to whom the price was paid. But there is something of a difficulty in understanding how purchase can consist with gift; and how that which is dearly bought can be said to be freely bestowed. The difficulty is just what follows. Much is said in the Bible as to our deliverance being perfectly gratuitous; but if God bestows nothing that has not been paid for, what becomes of that gratuitous character of redemption? Certainly it would seem that purchase is so inconsistent with donation, that He of whom forgiveness is bought can lay but slight claim to a surprising liberality. Careful examination, however, will set this in a proper light. "Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee," is an assertion whose proof lies in the assurance that God is ready to receive the prodigal. A deliverance that has been bought for the world is more illustrative of God's free grace than any other which would have required no satisfaction. For a plan of deliverance in every sense gratuitous is one of those absurd creations of the fancy which it would have been impossible to turn into reality. If it could not have been said to man, Thou art a redeemed thing, and a purchased thing, it must have been said, in opposition to our text, Thou shalt not return; thou shalt continue a ruined thing. It fell not within the power of Deity to grant what men call unconditional forgiveness. It is requiring God to undeify Himself — to cease to be the Just One, the Faithful One. The fact that we may return to the Father only because we are purchased by the blood of His Son, wondrously demonstrates the freeness of the grace. The death of the Son does not, after all, place the Father under the necessity of extending forgiveness to sinners; He need not have said, "Return," even though we were redeemed. We are not merely debtors who have nothing to pay — we are criminals who have punishment to endure. If I were only a debtor, and Christ had discharged the debt, I cease to be a debtor, and God cannot, in justice, refuse to release me; but, if I were a criminal, I do not cease to be a criminal because another might have died in my room. Hence it is free grace, and nothing else, that grants me forgiveness.

II. THE EARNEST LONGING THAT GOD HAS THAT SINNERS SHOULD BE SAVED, DISCOVERED IN THE PATHOS OF THE ENTREATY. Men are bid to return because they are redeemed. There are, therefore, two conditions: they must have faith in the Redeemer, and they must have that repentance which includeth forsaking of sin: so precious are you in God's sight that to return is to please God.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I
To redeem is "to buy back"; and our redemption is a buying us out of bondage. We are "sold under sin," and God has bought us back with the precious blood of His well-beloved Son. If you will look at Leviticus 25:23, &c., you will find the law by which the land could be redeemed; or those persons who had waxen poor and sold themselves as bondmen — the law of redemption.

1. Christ is born in our midst that He may become a Kinsman, a Brother to us all, He comes bringing our ransom price. But he does not bid the angels bring the gold and pearls for our deliverance. He gives Himself a ransom for all. And now Jesus comes to us, our loving Brother, and He saith, "I have redeemed thee."

2. Now do not let us serve sin any more. Jesus has bought us back from this hard master. He has bought for us the Father's house too. He has put us in possession of heaven and all its joys. And thus from the bondage of sin and evil of our hearts, we can cry to the King for His help. Prayer is the white-winged bird that can bear our message right up to the Father's house. And an answer shall come.

(M. G. Pearse.)

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