Verse 3-5. David now gives us his own experience: no instructor is so efficient as one who testifies to what he has personally known and felt. He writes well who like the spider spins his matter out of his own bowels.
Verse 5. I acknowledged my sin unto thee. After long lingering, the broken heart bethought itself of what it ought to have done at the first, and laid bare its bosom before the Lord. The lancet must be let into the gathering ulcer before relief can be afforded. The least thing we can do, if we would be pardoned, is to acknowledge our fault; if we are too proud for this we double deserve punishment. And mine iniquity have I not hid. We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. We must as far as possible unveil the secrets of the soul, dig up the hidden treasure of Achan, and by weight and measure bring out our sins. I said. This was his fixed resolution. I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord. Not to my fellow men or to the high priest, but unto Jehovah; even in those days of symbol the faithful looked to God alone for deliverance from sin's intolerable load, much more now, when types and shadows have vanished at the appearance of the dawn. When the soul determines to lay low and plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read, And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but the iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away, and that at once, so soon as the acknowledgment was made. God's pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin. Selah. Another pause is needed, for the matter is not such as may be hurried over.
"Pause, my soul, adore and wonder,
Ask, O why such love to me?
Grace has put me in the number
Of the Saviour's family.
Thanks, eternal thanks, to thee."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4-5. See Psalms on "Psalms 32:4" for further information.
Verse 5. Selah. See Volume I., pp 25, 29, 346, 352; and Vol. II., pp 249-252.
Verse 5. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. The godly man is ingenuous in laying open his sins. The hypocrite doth vail and smother his sin; he doth not abscindere peccatum, but abscondere; like a patient that hath some loathsome disease in his body, he will rather die than confess his disease; but a godly man's sincerity is seen in this -- he will confess and shame himself for sin. "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly." 2 Samuel 24:17 . Nay, a child of God will confess sin in particular; an unsound Christian will confess sin by wholesale; he will acknowledge he is a sinner in general, whereas David doth, as it were, point with his finger to the sore: "I have done this evil" Psalms 51:4 ; he doth not say I have done evil, but this evil. He points at his blood guiltiness. Thomas Watson.
Verse 5. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Be thine own accuser in the free confession of thy sins. Peccavi pater (as the prodigal child), "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight." For it fares not in the court of heaven as it doth in our earthly tribunals. With men a free confession makes way for a condemnation; but with God, the more a sinner bemoans his offence, the more he extenuates the anger of his Judge. Sin cannot but call for justice, as it is an offence against God; yet, when once it is a wound to the soul it moveth him to mercy and clemency. Wherefore as David having but resolved to confess his sins, was accosted eftsoon with an absolution: so, Tu agnosce, et Dominus ignoscet (Augustine.) Be thou unfeigned in confessing, and God will be faithful in forgiving. 1 John 1:9 . Only let confessio peccati be professo desinendi (Hilary.) -- the acknowledgment of thy sin an obligation to leave it; and then thou mayest build upon it. "He that confesseth and forsaketh shall have mercy." Proverbs 28:13 . Isaac Craven's Sermon at Paul's Cross, 1630
Verse 5. I said, I will confess, etc. Justified persons, who have their sins forgiven, are yet bound to confess sin to God ... There are many queries to be dispatched in the handling of this point. The first query is, what are the reasons why persons justified and pardoned are yet bound to make confession of sin unto God in private? The reasons are six. First, they are to confess sin unto God because holy confession gives a great deal of ease and holy quiet unto the mind of a sinner: concealed and indulged guilt contracts horror and dread on the conscience. Secondly, because God loves to hear the complaints and the confessions of his own people. Lying on the face is the best gesture, and the mourning weed the best garment that God is well pleased with. A third reason is, because confession of sin doth help to quicken the heart to strong and earnest supplication to God (see Psalms 32:6 ). Confession is to the soul as the whetstone is to the knife, that sharpens it and puts an edge on it; so doth confession of sin. Confessing thy evils to God doth sharpen and put an edge on thy supplication; that man will pray but faintly that doth confess sin but slightly. A fourth reason is, because confession of sin will work a holy contrition and a godly sorrow in the heart. Psalms 38:18 . Declaration doth work compunction. Confession of sin is but the causing of sin to recoil on the conscience, which causeth blushing and shame of face, and grief of heart. A fifth reason is, because secret confession of sin doth give a great deal of glory to God. It gives glory to God's justice. I do confess sin, and do confess God in justice may damn me for my sin. It gives glory to God's mercy. I confess sin, yet mercy may save me. It gives glory to God's omniscience. In confessing sin I do acknowledge that God knoweth my sin. A sixth reason why justified persons must confess sin unto God is, because holy confession of sin will embitter sin, and endear Christ to them, when a man shall let sin recoil on his conscience, by a confession. Condensed from Christopher Love's "Soul's Cordial," 1683.
Verse 5. I said, I will confess ... and thou forgavest. It remaineth as a truth, remission is undoubtedly annexed to confession. Tantum valent tres syllabae PEC-CA-VI, saith St. Austin, of so great force are those three syllables in the Latin, three words in the English, when uttered with a contrite heart, "I have sinned." Nathanael Hardy.
Verse 5. Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. This sin seems very probably to have been his adultery with Bathsheba, and murder of Uriah. Now David, to make the pardoning mercy of God more illustrious, saith he did not only forgive his sin, but the iniquity of his sin; and what was that? Surely the worst that can be said of that, his complicated sin, is that there was so much hypocrisy in it, he woefully juggled with God and man in it; this, I do not doubt to say, was the iniquity of his sin, and put a colour deeper on it than the blood which he shed. And the rather -- I lay the accent there -- because God himself, when he would set out the heinousness of this sin, seems to do it rather from the hypocrisy in the fact than the fact itself, as appears by the testimony given this holy man 1 Kings 15:5 : "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." Were there not other false steps which David took beside this? Doth the Spirit of God, by excepting this, declare his approbation of all that else he ever did? No, sure the Spirit of God records other sins that escaped this eminent servant of the Lord; but all those are drowned here, and this mentioned is the only stain of his life. But why? Surely because there appeared less sincerity, yea, more hypocrisy in this one sin than in all his others put together; though David in them was wrong as to the matter of his actions, yet his heart was more right in the manner of committing them. But here his sincerity was sadly wounded, though not to the total destruction of the habit, yet to lay it in a long swoon, as to any actings thereof. And truly the wound went very deep when that grace was stabbed in which did run the life blood of all the rest. We see, then, God hath reason, though his mercy prompted him, yea, his covenant obliged him, not to let his child die of this wound, yet so to heal it that a scar might remain upon the place, a mark upon the sin, whereby others might know how odious hypocrisy is to God. William Gurnall.
Verse 5. Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. We must observe the matter forgiven, and the manner of forgiving. The matter forgiven is the iniquity of his sin. It is disputed what is here meant by iniquity, whether culpa or paena. Some understand paenam, and think that an allusion is made in this word unto the message of Nathan, wherein God doth remit the heaviest stroke of his wrath, but yet retains some part in punishing the child, and permitting Absalom to rebel and abuse king David's concubines: so Theodoret, Deus non condigna paena Davidem punivit. Some understand culpam, and will have this phrase to be an amplification of that, as if superbia defendens, or taciturnitas celans, or impietas contra Deum assurgens, or some such great guilt were meant by this phrase. But as I do not censure these opinions, which may well stand, so I think the phrase looks back into that word which was in the confession. The sin confessed was ([fp) and this is but an analysis of this word; for (ytajx !w[), what is it, word for word, but the perverseness of my aberration? (hajx) is an aberration from the scope or mark whereat we aim; all men aim at felicity, but most men stray from it, because they are not led by the law that guides unto it, the violating whereof is called (hajx) But some do stray out of mere ignorance, and they only break the law; some out of stubbornness, which will not submit themselves to the Lawgiver; these men's sin is called perverseness, which God is said here to forgive. So that David did not confess more against himself than God includes in his pardon. Well may God exceed our desire; he never doth come short thereof if it do concern our spiritual, our eternal good. As he doth exclude no sinner that doth confess, so doth he except against no sin that is confessed. Arthur Lake.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 5. The gracious results of a full confession; or, confession and absolution scripturally explained.