God Our Justifier

Psalm 32  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 5
(Notes of an Address on Psa. 32)
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and ‘thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. For this shall every one that is godly, pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all; ye that are upright in heart.” — Psalm 32.
The way of the Spirit of God is here plain enough for any soul; but in Romans 4. He gives also an inspired comment, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
If you hire a man, you owe him a certain return, and he has a right to it. It is no question of grace on your part: you owe him his wages.
This principle the Jew was always apt to take with God. As the people of His choice they counted themselves hired servants; which the Gentiles, who worshipped false gods, could not pretend to be. Hence the pains taken to disabuse the Jews of a notion so opposed to the glad tidings of grace. In what concerned their, souls forever with God there must be no mistake, nor even guesswork. The apostle sets, forth not only the grace of God towards the Gentiles, but just the same to the more decent and orderly Jews. To what an account mercy, turns these false thoughts of the Jew! Abraham is the first example given, not in the work he did, but “he believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Are there any souls here at all anxious about their condition before God, and asking how they can be justified? Here the holy Ghost explains the difficulty you have raised. As long as you take the ground of difference in yourself from other sinners, you will never know what it is to be justified. And why? You thereby deny grace, which alone justifies by faith in Christ.
It is quite true that, when justified, God has work for each one to do, and loves such deeds, and rewards the doers; but I am now speaking, to such of you as are lost. Oh! face the truth, whatever it be. Some of you are no doubt willing, to do some great thing (like Naaman); but to do something, either great or small, is work ... And “to him that worketh not ... his faith is counted for righteousness.” Are you content to take this place? To be a bankrupt and a beggar with God? This seems a dreadful case, and so it really is; but it is good for a soul to be brought down to the truth. And why wait?
What are you looking for? Some angel to trouble the water? Is not the Son of God waiting on you now, as near to you as to the poor man who had been in an ill case so long? There is no excuse for you. He is near to all who call upon Him, whether a child, or an aged one, or any other. At any rate wait for nothing more; honor His grace by wishing to bring nothing, but receive all at His hands, because of the mighty redemption. He has wrought. You might be the greatest, the richest, the wisest of men; what is the good of any or all that, if you are going down to hell? Deceive not your own soul―delay for nothing―look to Him only: how long has God waited that you might be saved! He “justifieth the ungodly.” Could God make His grace more simple, absolute, or manifest? Do you plead that you look not to yourself, but to the Spirit to work in you? But the Holy Ghost will not work in you while you do not receive Jesus and His blood for your sins, though it is quite true that He does work in the children of God. This, (however, is not what justifies. It is because of Christ’s redemption that God justifies the believer entirely apart from anything wrought by him.
All else is a delusion. Wishing to bring something of yours is listening to the enemy, not to God. You can only be saved by what God has already brought and already given. “To him that worketh not, but believeth, &c.” Not only is it not by what you do, or can do, that you are justified: God would repudiate ought but faith that it may be of His grace. Some think they are feeling rightly because they know there is no other way, and that they are nothing in themselves. But to say, “I’m a poor sinner,” though true, is not the truth, but Christ is. It is a question, therefore, of receiving and confessing Christ. Nor does one ever feel his evil so much when he first comes to Christ as after.
Danger may be deeply realized―the awful prospect of only waiting for hell-fire. In nine cases out of ten, it is by the true and serious conviction of this just judgment that souls are awakened, though there are those whose hearts are more gently opened to receive the truth.
But, for the most part, it is like the man with the pursuer at his heels, rushing to escape, whom God nerved, as well as urged, on to the open door, without a look behind. There is no other way of escape, and one knows it. “To him that worketh not, but believeth, &c.” For faith receives the object that God puts before the soul; to own one’s danger is not enough without this.
To believe God’s testimony now, as of old, is counted for righteousness. “David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.”
Oh! you who desire to present some good works, who cannot receive the gospel of grace as God’ proclaims it to your souls, why refuse when God invites you? If you have no righteousness of your owe, Jesus is made righteousness to those that believe. “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” And there the Apostle stops his quotation from the Psalm: I will tell you why. Because he would not mix up the practical consequences of faith with the grace which produces them. For the Holy Spirit well knows the constant tendency of souls to look inwardly for evidence, if not for ground to stand on.
But, if we want to see that the Spirit produces real inward change, turn back to what follows in Psalms 32 “And in whose spirit there is no guile.” He who is forgiven is made thoroughly upright. Suppose you are greatly in debt through speculation, prodigality, or any other cause, and you yielded to the temptation of refusing to examine your books and face your circumstances, you would feel at once that such conduct is dishonest.
It may be common, but to go on vainly hoping, and afraid to look how you stand, is evidently inconsistent with honesty. If a good and wealthy friend comes forward and offers to meet all your liabilities, setting you up in business better than before, you might well say, “Perhaps you are not aware how much I owe;” if he answers, that he knows but can provide for all, and sends you to the bank, with unlimited title to draw in his name for every claim: what then?
You return to look at your books, not only with confidence, but with uprightness unknown since you got astray; because the means of your friend are enough and more than enough to cover all. Grace alone can relieve as well as produce honesty. You no longer turn aside uneasily from what you owe, and, the more you examine, ‘the more you know how wrong you have been,’ and how good your friend is to you; and so the knowledge that God gives me righteousness in Christ, and that I am justified in His sight by the mighty work of the Lord Jesus, takes away guile from the spirit. It is not only the blotting out of evil. Man has been dishonest towards God, but he does not weigh this. He feels what is, due to his fellow-man, often because it is good policy, and he wants his fellow-man to be honest to him in return. But where is the equity of caring for men, not for God? He has been dishonest to.
God all his life; and this is ever the gravest side of man’s evil. Abandon all your own thoughts which make light of continual indifference to God and His will. God must give you new life, as well as the removal of your iniquities; and he who is too proud to look to Christ for life and forgiveness will never get to heaven. But he who is forgiven has a change wrought in him by the Spirit; he becomes soft under the grace which also makes him detest himself. The only thing that enables a man to face his sins before God is His grace which has dealt with all in the cross. And not only are iniquities put away but the principle or nature that produces them.
What was the work of Christ for? Was it only for part? only for great sins, leaving you to overcome the little ones? Nay, it was to deal with sin; root, branch, and fruit. Therefore, I beseech you, wait no more, for you know not what.
Instead of dreading to look into his accounts, the man who receives Christ sees God’s grace and his own evil. If you only heard what he pours out on his knees to God, you might think him the greatest sinner in the town. But don’t take fire if others call you what you are and what you call yourself: you will if the flesh is not judged. You have owned yourself as bad or worse before God; if man calls you names, and you take offense at it, does it not prove that you are not walking in the truth of your confession? Preserve before others the sense of what you know to be the truth in your own soul. You have forgotten that you are most sinful; yet you confessed it to God this morning: surely the same thing is true this afternoon! The spiritual man walks before man in the faith of what he is before God. If evil things are said of him, he knows and confesses what is worse of himself.
Here is the genuine honesty of faith― “no guile.”
This is one effect of justification by grace. Guile supposes the desire to appear what we are not.
But I don’t want to keep up a character, when God has brought me to feel what I am.
And there is another point of moment. God has brought me into a new state of being. There is the old man, which, however, I am entitled to regard as dead; but now there is a new man, which I become in Christ. The old “I” abides still; but there is a new “I,” and this new life is Christ. And thus, because grace has blotted self out, and given me a new life and standing, I have not only Christ for me, but Christ in me.
I live in the very same life: because He lives, I also live.
But sometimes a man under the hand of God does not wish all out. “While I kept silence, &c.” (vs. 3). There may be reality in the sense of evil; only as long as it is suppressed, there is misery. Then one wakes up to feel that all is wrong, and goes to God in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Saviour. “I said, I will confess, &c.” As long as there is an effort to hide, there is always a hindrance to that peace and joy in believing which God gives by the gospel. But, when the soul comes and spreads all out before God, there is rest. The heart is now open to God, instead of wishing to conceal from Him. Then one can say, “Thou art my hiding-place” (vs. 7). Can you say that He is your hiding-place? Not to hide from God, but yourself now finding a refuge in Him? Then you need be no more alarmed at anything, ― He will take care of the troubles.
But there is only one way to all this blessing, and that is by Christ and His blood, by the sacrifice of God’s own Son; whereon the Holy Ghost comes down and pronounces you accepted.
You need not this night close your eyes without the conviction that all is clear between your soul and God, who is revealed as the God of grace now. True, He is also a righteous and faithful God, and a rewarder; but you have not to do with this yet, and, if you refuse to be saved by His grace, your blood is on your own head. If you turn away, it is saying your own thoughts and feelings are better than Christ.
The latter part of the Psalm is a kind of Conversation. “Thou art my hiding place,” &c.
“Yes,” God, as it were, answers. But, more than that, “I will instruct, not only preserve. I want you to understand my ways, I want you to be thoroughly and intelligently happy.” What a wonderful way is the guidance of His eye!
A figure of course, yet, expressive not of warning, or hedging up the way, but as a loving parent guides a child, of a look that only love gives, that only love understands. The horse needs restraining from going on too fast, the mule turns to one side or the other and must be curbed; but “I will guide thee with mine eye,” ―the tenderest, closest, most intimate form of guidance. Do you believe God is willing so to do?
None can do you a more direct injury than those who tell you that you cannot know you are accepted and saved. And is this the language of the New Testament only? Even Israel will enter into this blessing by and by; but we have it now. I therefore beg you, slight not the word, mock not God. “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked.” Who shall describe the sorrow of having heard the gospel pressed, your own conscience saying that you ought to come now, and you refused? There is the most urgent need of your looking to Christ. Whatever, hinders, treat it as from the Devil; he will, be disappointed to see you blest, while many will rejoice. God Himself says, “It was meet that we should make merry and be glad.” He has joy in putting the best robe on the poor prodigal.
“He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.” May God give you to receive the glad tidings which He is sending out because He loves you. Do not hesitate more.
Listen to God, bring your case really to Him, and receive the blessing which He waits to bestow, through Jesus, the Lord.
W. K.