"And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6,7)
IN the chapter preceding this from which I have taken my text, and which I read for our instruction this morning, we have an experimental and practical exposition of our last Sunday morning's text--"And grace for grace." I say practical and experimental because the exposition flows forth from the exercised heart and favored spirit of Moses, the man of God. He was the meekest of all men upon the face of the earth, and yet he was taught in the school of painful experience, that left to himself without the presence and power of his God he was the very opposite to meekness. In the face of such an experience this highly-favored saint was brought to that high state of privilege described in the 11th verse: "And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." Jacob, after the covenant Angel's wrestling, said, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." (Gen. 32:30) And poor faint-hearted "Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God." But here Moses looks God in the face with blessed familiarity and in heartfelt communion. He "said unto the LORD, See, Thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people, and Thou hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Yet Thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in My sight. Now, therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight, and consider that this nation is Thy people." In these words we see the infirmity, forgetfulness, and faithfulness of Moses. He said to God, "Thou hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me." Turn to chapter 3:12. God gave commandment to Moses to bring forth Israel out of Egypt, and added His promise, "Certainly I will be with thee." I, the great and glorious JEHOVAH. The I AM. Thy All in all. All thy salvation from sin. All thy wisdom in thy ignorance. All thy strength in weakness. Moses continued, "Yet Thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in My sight." My dear friends, if the Lord were to speak in an audible voice to any of us this morning, saying, Thomas, William, John, or Ann, "I know thee by name, and thou hast found grace in my sight," we might come to the conclusion that we should retire from this place the happiest creatures in creation. But that does not always follow. The Lord may speak peace one moment and something else the next. If He gives us to experience His grace, He is sure to send something to test and prove the reality of the grace He has given. It was so with Moses, for he answers God thus: "Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight." Why that "if?" It is recorded to teach some of us that, with all the grace God bestows upon us, we shall have our doubts and fears producing many an if in our communications with Him. But does it not seem strange that an if should appear here? Moses was at that very moment a recipient and possessor of grace bestowed, evidenced in the very fact that JEHOVAH was then speaking with him as a man speaketh unto his friend. Yet in the face of such magnanimous grace the entreaty of the recipient is heard--"If I have found grace in Thy sight, show me now Thy way." I like that. It is not, "Show me now my way," but "Show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee." Is there anything to find fault with there? Not at all. It is only in keeping with the experience of the apostle Paul, and, to my mind, is a silencer to high-flying professors who talk much about a stock of grace in hand. Such persons might say Moses lived amid the darkness of the old covenant dispensation, and uses old covenant terms. Well, if so, we shall find old covenant terms in Phil. 3:10, "That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death." Did not Paul know Him? Judging according to our weak apprehension, we should say that no man, since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, knew Him better than Paul. Yet, with all his knowledge, he felt as though he knew but little, and thirsted for more. "That I may know Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight." He did not boast in the possession of a stock of grace, but took the grace received as a plea for still more gracious supplies. "And consider that this nation is Thy people. And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto Him, If Thy presence go not with me carry us not up hence." Moses believed in a carrying God, and so do I, thoroughly. You may depend upon it, if I did not believe in a carrying God, you would not see me in the spot I now occupy. O, what a mercy to experience a gracious lift, a covenant upholding in the arms of JEHOVAH-JESUS! This is to enjoy the embracings of everlasting love, and to repose in the sweetness of these precious words--
"The object of that love I am,
And carried like a child."
Ofttimes we are carried when we are not conscious of the fact. What does a child know of the love of the parent's heart when carried to rest at night? But we must go on. Moses says: "For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight?" Now, do you know, that is a question frequently arising in my mind before my God, in reference to Grove chapel and its people. "Wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight?" Some have prayed that the chapel might be crowded, but such forget that a crowded chapel is not always an evidence of spiritual prosperity. There may be in a crowd a profusion of hypocrites and mere professors, who come in just to hang upon the lips of a man, to fill their heads with notions, opinions, and views, whilst their hearts are destitute of the humbling grace of God. God's Gospel is not only to gather together the poor and afflicted, but it is also to scatter the rich and conceited. But let us look at the prayer and the importunity--"Wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? Is it not in that Thou goest with us?" That is it. Lord, go with me into those spots of retirement, where none but Thyself and the devil can ever know the secret struggles and groans of Thy servant. Lord, go with me into that pulpit; may self be excluded, Thyself glorified, Thy Christ exalted, Thy Spirit honored, and Thy grace be experienced in the hearts of Thy people. May Thy presence go with us, and may Thine electing, redeeming, justifying, and preserving grace and glory be richly enjoyed in our midst. "Is it not in that Thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I am Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth." Oh, my dear friends, may God keep you from being afraid of separation, if it distinguishes you from all but the Lord's own people. See! it is not simply separation from Papists, Socinians, and Arminians, but from those who have been well styled Mongrel Calvinists, who will bring in a little of their own responsibility to mar the beauty of God's free and uninfluenced grace. Yes, God's children, whom He has experimentally separated to Himself, are like the Shunamite who sought not after worldly preferment and pleasure; but when these were thrown in her way, so wisely said: "I dwell among mine own people." I love to dwell among an elect people, whose election is known and felt by the presence of God in their midst. I love to dwell among a redeemed people, whose redemption is seen in their acts, their words, their looks, and their sympathies. I love to dwell among a regenerated people, whose regeneration is manifest in their delight to sit in heavenly places, holding communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I love to dwell with a scattered and peeled people, whose hopes have been scattered, and the skin of their fleshly legality peeled from them, that nought but the soothing and mollifying power of Christ's blood will ease their wounded spirits. I love to dwell among a poor and afflicted people, so poor as not to produce a grain of faith, a spark of life, a ray of light, a beam of hope, or a single good word or thought. With these I can bow very low at the footstool of sovereign mercy, sighing, "Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me." (Isa. 38:14) These are the people whom my soul loves. "And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken; for thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name. And he said, I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory." Did he know for what he was asking? You may depend upon it, sometimes God's poor children ask Him for things they are not quite sure about. We ask and it pleases Him to give, and with the gift to send leanness into our souls. We ask and He bestows, and when we are in possession of the desired blessing, the testing is so terrible that we almost wish we had never asked. Here Moses asks God, "Show me Thy glory. And God said, I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee." Now you see something of the glory of the LORD revealed in His sovereignty and independence, doing as He will in His work of salvation, revealing Himself to whom He will, and giving no account of His matters. "And will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And He said, Thou canst not see My face, for there shall no man see Me and live. And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by Me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock." Look here, trembling sinner. Was it ever thy lot to stand in that place by thy God? See! It is new covenant ground. It is the place of His feet which He has made glorious with covenant provision and supply. It is the place sprinkled with atoning blood. It is the place prepared with justifying righteousness. It is the place of resurrection-power and privilege. "And it shall come to pass, while My glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock." What is this rock? Turn to Isa. 26:4, "Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength." (margin, the Rock of Ages). You see, Moses should not only have a firm footing for his faith on the Rock, but also an immunity from his fears in the cleft of the Rock. With such gracious covenant provision in possession we may well sing--
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power."
"And will cover thee with My hand while I pass by." Oh! what a marvelous mercy for the hand of a covenant God to be over His poor, tried, and troubled children. Turn to Zech. 13:7, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn Mine hand upon the little ones." There you have the Rock of refuge, the Cleft of mercy, and the Hand of covenant blessing. That Hand shades them from the power of His glory which would otherwise sweep them into nothingness. But as this glory is revealed in the person and work of the God-Man, they are blessed with the gracious privilege of holding fellowship with the Three-in-One JEHOVAH. "And I will take away Mine hand, and thou shalt see My back parts." What does He mean by this? He means that He will reveal to him all that can be known, understood, or apprehended of Himself in the person of the God-Man Christ Jesus, or that this revelation of Himself should be the earnest of after or future displays of His glorious grace. Absolute or abstract Deity can never be known by mortal, and it is only as He is pleased to reveal Himself through the sinless humanity of His own dear Son, that elect sinners can be taken into union with Himself, or hold sweet communion with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In the nineteenth verse God says: "I will make all My goodness pass before thee." All My goodness, not some of it. All the goodness I have treasured up for thee in the covenant of grace. All the goodness needful for thee during thy sojourn in the wilderness, and in thy conduct to the home of My glory. I will bless thee with a revelation of My glorious sovereignty in the salvation and succor of whom I will, and sympathizing with them in all their sorrow and distress. We now come to notice chapter 34:5, "And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD." "The LORD descended." In every revelation and interposition of JEHOVAH, He must either descend to the position of His people or they must ascend to Him. Sometimes He is pleased to descend to them, and sometimes He is pleased to give them a gracious lift up to Himself as the God of all grace. Wherever they are visited with sweet indications of His presence, they are favored and blessed indeed. If I am passing through the floods of temptation or through the fires of affliction, His gracious promise having been given must be fulfilled in my heart's experience: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." (Isa. 43:2) What have I to fear if He is pleased to reveal Himself to me in the very heights of covenant favor, or in the lowlands of suffering and of sorrow? The fulfillment of His promise is a blessing indeed. But listen!
"And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation."
Notice the name by which He is pleased to proclaim His goodness to Moses: "The LORD." This is His glorious name which cannot be communicated to created beings whatever be their state or condition, sinful ones in the shape of poor fallen humanity here below, or sinless ones, those bright and glorious intelligencies who surround His throne, and who are blessed with that appellation given to them by Paul: "The Elect Angels." (1 Tim. 5:21) There can be no communication of the great and glorious name of JEHOVAH to them or to us. What is its meaning? Self-existent. Can you comprehend it? It is that self-existent, independent One so preciously set forth in that first hymn by Joseph Irons:--
"Aspire, my soul, to yonder throne,
Where sits the Infinite Unknown,
The self-existent God;
Whose being, no beginning knows,
While matchless splendour round Him flows,
And all things wait His nod.
"'Tis His to fill immensity;
No object can escape His eye,
Nor thought His mind elude;
All things were by His wisdom plann'd;
All are supported by His hand;
And all at once are viewed.
"Justice and mercy, truth and love,
Shine from His glorious throne above,
As Israel's covenant God;
In Persons Three--in essence One--
He is the Sovereign LORD alone,
And be His name adored.
"With Him is no futurity;
He stands enwrapp'd in purity;
Unchangeably The Same:
The Great First Cause of all events,
He gives decrees, and ne'er repents;
And HOLY is His name."
Exception has been taken to that line,--
One said to me: "It is too much like the inscription on the heathen altar at Athens: 'TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.'" "My dear fellow," said I, "there is no affinity between the two. In the words of the hymn, the master-mind of the now glorified Joseph Irons sounds forth the praises of Him 'Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see.' JEHOVAH in His own entity. Existing not by virtue of the existence of any created being, yet revealing Himself to His elect in the sovereignty of His will by Jesus Christ." But it is ours to adore Him not only as the self-existent One, but also in His glorious sovereignty. The name JEHOVAH denotes this. He acts according to the counsel of His own will--a will in which He sought the advice and counsel of none. He disposes of men, angels, devils, things, circumstances, and influences according to His own infinite and unerring wisdom. He reigns over the whole earth, and holds in derision all the opposers of His will, and laughs to scorn all His enemies who call into question His sovereign and independent right to dispense His favors as He will in the son of His love. As JEHOVAH, He is the OMNISCIENT. Nothing can escape His vision, knowledge, or understanding. He is the OMNIPRESENT. Read for yourselves the first part of Psalm 139. I thank God I learned it when I was a lad. See: "Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there." Depend upon this, as JEHOVAH is the source of all the bliss and blessedness of the glorified in heaven, so He is the terror of all the damned in hell. This is an awful and terrible subject, which I desire not to dwell upon; but I find it in my Bible, and have felt some of its horrors in my heart's experience, so I must declare it. I know there are some sugar-coated creatures, and would-be philanthropists, who would have us believe that God is too loving for all this; but these forget to consider the strange mysteries of His every-day providence. These, through blind unbelief, imagine that God is too loving to allow suffering in hell, and yet they see how it exists in asylums where madmen are raving, in hospitals where patients agonizing, and in distant lands where barbarities unmentionable are perpetrated. These still further forget, and here I must say, not being a universal charity man, I have not a particle of charity for these despisers of the Word whom God will destroy, (Prov. 13:13) when I think of Him, who is my only Hope of escaping JEHOVAH'S wrath and indignation, leaving the bosom of the Father for the belly of hell, the acclamation of angels for the rage of devils, the delight of His Father for the bloody sweat of Gethsemane, the joy of God's countenance for the desertion on Calvary, when He cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" As we contemplate this, we must stand in awe at the sovereignty of God as displayed in all His doings, and what He doeth shall stand for ever, whatever infidels, skeptics, and mere professors may say to the contrary. "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me: even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee." (Ps. 139:9-12) The Psalmist might well say: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." (Ps. 139:6) But, blessed be God, according to the subsequent portion of the Psalm, that which God had ordained for His children, and they, because of their ignorance and inability, could not attain unto, He, in covenant and incarnation, has descended to for all the members of the one body. Here we see JEHOVAH, the incommunicable, communicating with His people.
JEHOVAH-GOD! Yes, there must be a communication of all contained in covenant connection with that name to His own; yes, of all that He has made Himself to them. Therefore we find here and there words of qualification or explanation added to this name. Look at a few.
JEHOVAH-JIREH, who will supply all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Gen. 22:14; Phil. 4:19)
JEHOVAH-ROPHI, who healeth all my diseases. (Exo. 15:26; Ps. 103:3)
JEHOVAH-NISSI, who covereth my head in the day of battle. (Exo. 17:15; Ps. 140:7)
JEHOVAH-SHALOM, who is my peace in tribulation. (Judges 6:24; John 16:33)
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU, the LORD my righteousness. (Jer. 23:6; Jer. 33:16)
JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, who will be with His people in all places and at all times. (Ezek. 48:35; Gen. 28:15)
JEHOVAH-GOD. God is the old Anglo-Saxon word for good. God is good, and goodness is His nature. Goodness is not a mere attribute of Deity, but the expression of His nature to His covenant people. The Father's goodness is revealed in the Son of His love by the grace and indwelling of His good Spirit. Goodness is God going forth in covenant transactions. The Father blessing His people, the Son saving His people, the Holy Ghost regenerating, reviving, and restoring His people. The Father is good; the Son is good; the Holy Ghost is good. These Three are good in one undivided essence, will, and work. God is found by His own in every pleasure and in every pain; in every friend and in every enemy; in every sorrow and in every joy; in every trial and in every deliverance. But we must pass on.
"Merciful and gracious." What is mercy? Mercy is God's covenant favor shown to elect but miserable sinners. Where there is no misery, there can be no mercy. If you know not what it is to be miserable on account of sin, unbelief, and Satan's temptations, you must be destitute of an experimental acquaintance with God's covenant mercy; but brought to experience it as a sovereign favor from Him who will show mercy on whom He will show mercy, and whose mercy is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, you will gladly join with Toplady and sing,
"A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing,
Nor fear with Thy righteousness on,
My person and offerings to bring;
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view."
God's mercy is not only in the covenant, but flows from it in streams of redeeming love and blood. In His redeeming mercy He brings me from the hug of the devil, from his slavish chains, from the pit wherein is no water of life, love, or grace. But JEHOVAH is also gracious. What are we to understand by this term? When we hear of one person being gracious to another, if we have a right apprehension of the term, we know that the gracious person was not called upon to notice the one upon whom his kind attentions have been bestowed. God gracious, is the revealing of His love to unworthy, undeserving, and hell-deserving objects. Many talk of grace who know nothing of their unworthiness, and who laugh to scorn as a vain idea the right of God to punish the wicked at all. But we, who have been brought to tremble at the thought of His wrath, through a true apprehension of what sin is, and some sweet realization of His pardoning and forgiving love, can sometimes sing--
"Oh, to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee."
Long-suffering. Precious fact! "He is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any one of us should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3:9) God is so longsuffering toward His own that His anger never reaches or overtakes them. He bears with their rebellious and perverse manners in the wilderness, and though they sin against Him, wander from Him, and forget Him altogether, yet He is silent in His love, and neither crushes nor curses them. Nay, for their sake, His judgments against the world slumber, for while an elect vessel of mercy is found amid any moral desolation of this evil world, He stays the rod of His wrath and the fire of His indignation from devouring His adversaries in one common ruin. You see this in the case of Lot. God was determined to destroy the guilty cities of the plain, but not while Lot lingered there. He hurries His righteous servant out of the doomed spot, saying, "Haste thee, escape thither, for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither." (Gen. 19:22) "The same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:29) Look at His long-suffering as described in that precious Scripture, Isa. 30:18, "And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you; for the LORD is a God is judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him."
"My God, and did'st Thou wait for me,
To manifest Thy love?
Henceforth my soul shall wait for Thee,
To see Thy face above."
"Abundant in goodness and truth." Look at the latter, "abundant in truth." JEHOVAH is "a God of truth." (Deut. 32:4) The Son speaks of Himself as "The Truth." (John 14:6) The Holy Ghost is called "The Spirit of truth." (John 14:17) The Gospel is styled "The Word of the truth of the Gospel." (Col. 1:5) Christ said of the Spirit, "He will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13) For many years I was puzzled beyond measure how to understand this. I thought, here is one Scripture declaring that the world itself could not contain the books that should be written concerning the truth," (John 21:25) and here I see the promise of Jesus that I, a poor weak mortal, shall be guided into all truth. This was a mystery that I could not solve, until the Spirit opened my eyes to the fact that it is all truth designed for me to know, and into the knowledge of which I must be surely brought; all truth necessary to preserve me from the wiles of the devil; all truth necessary for my spiritual education. There is "abundance" of truth in JEHOVAH-JESUS to be communicated by the Spirit of truth in the set time of favor, causing the soul to rejoice in the enjoyment of the fulfillment of that promise, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
"Keeping mercy for thousands." He does not say for everybody, or for the great mass of mankind. Oh, no! but "for thousands." The Master said, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:14) The tried and tempted pilgrim knows and feels this, and would often cling to it to the ignoring of the words before us: "keeping mercy for thousands." Elijah felt his isolation so much as to say to God: "Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, and digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life." But what saith the answer of God to him? "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal." (Rom. 11:3,4) Those of us who are acquainted with God's blessed Word, know that the experience of Elijah was not peculiar to himself. It is the experience of the Church in every dispensation. Turn to Psalm 142:4, where you see the isolation of the Man of sorrows, and of all the sorrowful ones in union with Him: "I looked on My right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know Me; refuge failed Me; no man cared for My soul." Read the history of Paul, and you will see that, possessed of all the light and grace with which God had blessed him, he was brought to the same spot of loneliness with his God. He could say, "All men forsook me." (2 Tim. 4:16) When we look at this great London--might I not say, This great Babylon of ours?--judging after the sight of our eyes, we might truly say, "Few are chosen;" but we cannot tell where God's hidden ones are. The other morning I received a letter from a poor old pauper in Marylebone Workhouse--should I not rather say, a prince in a poorhouse? Could our mental vision be so strengthened, we should see highly-favored ones in prison cells, in hospital wards, in lonely chambers, in garrets and cellars. We would have them crowding to church, chapel, and meeting-house, but our God will have His own where He will, and it is a marvelous mercy by the sweet constrainings of the Spirit to say Amen to this. When the grand finale takes place, and the whole election of grace whose names are in the Lamb's book of life are gathered together in one, then we shall see a multitude which no man can number. "The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." (Rev. 5:11)
Some of us have experienced the tender mercy of our God and lost the felt possession of the same again and again, though in fact we can never lose it. He keeps and holds it for us in the midst of all our sins, follies, and imperfections. He will keep it, and neither hell, devils, sins, corruptions, doubts, fears, accursed unbelief, nor all combined can sever a soul from His loved embrace, or debar a child from the enjoyment of that which He keeps for it. This reminds me of an incident I have somewhere read. A prince presents to a subject a ring, the possession of which was the token, pledge, and security of his unchanging affection and regard. He leaves it to the judgment of the subject as to who should hold, keep, and preserve the ring. The subject longs for it, and is entrusted with it; but during his voyage over the ocean of life he loses his hold, and down it falls to the depths beneath. He meets his prince, who desires the production of the token of love. Confusion of face is the lot of the subject, when, to his astonishment, the prince produces the lost treasure. Blessed be God, He holds the waters in the hollow of His hand, the very place where He holds His saints and the mercy kept for them.
"Forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin." Is there any difference here? Yes. Look at Ps. 32:1,2. Transgression forgiven. Sin covered. Iniquity not imputed. Eve transgressed, being deceived. Adam sinned with his eyes wide open. Out of love to his wife, and want of love to his God, he sinned. Iniquity! What is it? It is sin, arising from the enmity of the carnal mind and the deceitfulness of the devil. The slime of the serpent is always seen in it. Yet, whatever be the kind or degree of sin a child of God may fall into, the Father has forgiveness for it. One sins, and is scarcely sensible of it--there is forgiveness for him. Another sins, in foul succession, like David, and appears almost beyond the reach of covenant love, but not so. God, through His servant Nathan, draws out the confession, "I have sinned against the LORD," and blesses him with the gracious communication, "The LORD hath put away thy sin."
"That will by no means clear the guilty." God is holy; He cannot pass by sin. He is just; He cannot regard it with impunity. Sin must meet with its desert, either in the person of the principal or the Surety. See! All out of Christ, left without remedy, must meet and bear the due desert of their transgressions, sins, and iniquities, while all in Christ are set free through the agonies and sufferings of their Surety on Calvary's hill. Now we come to the terrible part of the proclamation, and may God graciously speak a word of counsel to fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, and children now present.
"Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." The Psalmist prayed for an immunity from this--"O remember not against us the iniquities of them that were before us." (Ps. 79:8, margin). We see it bursting out in hereditary diseases. We behold it in the transmission of evil dispositions from father to child. Am I a father? O God, cause me to act as a gracious one in the presence of my children. Am I a husband? O, Thou Husband of Thy Church, teach me to love my wife, and be not bitter against her. Art thou a wife? May the Lord teach thee to be obedient to thy husband in Him. Whatever be our relationship, may it be sweetened by the mercy which He keeps for His own, and graciously communicates to them by the power of His own blessed Spirit.
May He add His blessing, for His name's sake. Amen.