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a Bible passage
51. Psalm 51
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God! In the previous part of the psalm David has been praying for pardon. He now requests that the grace of the Spirit, which he had forfeited, or deserved to have forfeited, might be restored to him. The two requests are quite distinct, though sometimes confounded together, even by men of learning. He passes from the subject of the gratuitous remission of sin to that of sanctification. And to this he was naturally led with earnest anxiety, by the consciousness of his having merited the loss of all the gifts of the Spirit, and of his having actually, in a great measure, lost them. By employing the term create, he expresses his persuasion that nothing less than a miracle could effect his reformation, and emphatically declares that repentance is the gift of God. The Sophists grant the necessity of the aids of the Spirit, and allow that assisting grace must both go before and come after; but by assigning a middle place to the free will of man, they rob God of a great part of his glory. David, by the word which he here uses, describes the work of God in renewing the heart in a manner suitable to its extraordinary nature, representing it as the formation of a new creature.
As he had already been endued with the Spirit, he prays in the latter part of the verse that God would renew a right spirit within him But by the term create, which he had previously employed, he acknowledges that we are indebted entirely to the grace of God, both for our first regeneration, and, in the event of our falling, for subsequent restoration. He does not merely assert that his heart and spirit were weak, requiring divine assistance, but that they must remain destitute of all purity and rectitude till these be communicated from above. By this it appears that our nature is entirely corrupt: for were it possessed of any rectitude or purity, David would not, as in this verse, have called the one a gift of the Spirit, and the other a creation.
In the verse which follows, he presents the same petition, in language which implies the connection of pardon with the enjoyment of the leading of the Holy Spirit. If God reconcile us gratuitously to himself, it follows that he will guide us by the Spirit of adoption. It is only such as he loves, and has numbered among his own children, that he blesses with a share of his Spirit; and David shows that he was sensible of this when he prays for the continuance of the grace of adoption as indispensable to the continued possession of the Spirit. The words of this verse imply that the Spirit had not altogether been taken away from him, however much his gifts had been temporarily obscured. Indeed, it is evident that he could not be altogether divested of his former excellencies, for he seems to have discharged his duties as a king with credit, to have conscientiously observed the ordinances of religion, and to have regulated his conduct by the divine law. Upon one point he had fallen into a deadly lethargy, but he was not given over to a reprobate mind;” and it is scarcely conceivable that the rebuke of Nathan the prophet should have operated so easily and so suddenly in arousing him, had there been no latent spark of godliness still remaining in his soul. He prays, it is true, that his spirit may be renewed, but this must be understood with a limitation. The truth on which we are now insisting is an important one, as many learned men have been inconsiderately drawn into the opinion that the elect, by falling into mortal sin, may lose the Spirit altogether, and be alienated from God. The contrary is clearly declared by Peter, who tells us that the word by which we are born again is an incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23;) and John is equally explicit in informing us that the elect are preserved from falling away altogether, (1 John 3:9.) However much they may appear for a time to have been cast off by God, it is afterwards seen that grace must have been alive in their breast, even during that interval when it seemed to be extinct. Nor is there any force in the objection that David speaks as if he feared that he might be deprived of the Spirit. It is natural that the saints, when they have fallen into sin, and have thus done what they could to expel the grace of God, should feel an anxiety upon this point; but it is their duty to hold fast the truth that grace is the incorruptible seed of God, which never can perish in any heart where it has been deposited. This is the spirit displayed by David. Reflecting upon his offense, he is agitated with fears, and yet rests in the persuasion that, being a child of God, he would not be deprived of what indeed he had justly forfeited.