The Treasury of David

Psalm 25

Title. A Psalm of David. David is pictured in this Psalm as in a faithful miniature. His holy trust, his many conflicts, his great transgression, his bitter repentance, and his deep distresses are all here; so that we see the very heart of “the man after God’s own heart.” It is evidently a composition of David’s later days, for he mentions the sins of his youth, and from its painful references to the craft and cruelty of his many foes, it will not be too speculative a theory to refer it to the period when Absalom was heading the great rebellion against him. This has been styled the second of the seven Penitential Psalms. It is the mark of a true saint that his sorrows remind him of his sins, and his sorrow for sin drives him to his God.

Subject And Division. The twenty-two verses of this Psalm begin in the original with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in their proper order. It is the first instance we have of an inspired acrostic or alphabetical song. This method may have been adopted by the writer to assist the memory; and the Holy Spirit may have employed it to show us that the graces of style and the arts of poetry may lawfully be used in his service. Why should not all the wit and ingenuity of man be sanctified to noblest ends by being laid upon the altar of God? From the singularity of the structure of the Psalm, it is not easy to discover any marked divisions; there are great changes of thought, but there is no variation of subject; the moods of the writer’s mind are twofold—prayer and meditation; and as these appear in turns, we should thus divide the verses. Prayer from Psalms 25:1-7; meditation, Psalms 25:8-10; prayer, Psalms 25:11; meditation, Psalms 25:12-15; prayer, Psalms 25:16-22.
The Treasury of David.

Psalm 25:11


This sentence of prayer would seem out of place were it not that prayer is always in its place, whether in season or out of season. Meditation having refreshed the Psalmist, he falls to his weighty work again, and wrestles with God for the remission of his sin. For thy name’s sake, O Lord. Here is a blessed, never failing plea. Not for our sakes or our merit’s sake, but to glorify thy mercy, and to show forth the glory of thy divine attributes. Pardon mine iniquity. It is confessed, it is abhorred, it is consuming my heart with grief; Lord forgive it; let thine own lips pronounce my absolution. For it is great. It weighs so heavily upon me that I pray thee remove it. Its greatness is no difficulty with thee, for thou art a great God, but the misery which it causes to me is my argument with thee for speedy pardon. Lord, the patient is sore sick, therefore heal him. To pardon a great sinner will bring thee great glory, therefore for thy name’s sake pardon me. Observe how this verse illustrates the logic of faith, which is clean contrary to that of a legal spirit; faith looks not for merit in the creature, but hath regard to the goodness of the Creator; and instead of being staggered by the demerits of sin it looks to the precious blood, and pleads all the more vigorously because of the urgency of the case.

Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings

For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. I cannot do better than quote one of those beautiful passages of the great Vieyra, which gave him the character of the first preacher of his age:—”I confess, my God, that it is so; that we are all sinners in the highest degree.” He is preaching on a fast on occasion of the threatened destruction of the Portuguese dominion in Brazil by the Dutch. But so far am I from considering this any reason why I should cease from my petition, that I behold in it a new and convincing argument which may influence thy goodness. All that I have said before is based on no other foundation than the glory and honour of thy most holy Name. Propter nomen tuum. And what motive can I offer more glorious to that same Name, than that our sins are many and great? For thy name’s sake, O Lord, be merciful unto my sin, for it is great. I ask thee, saith David, to pardon, not everyday sins, but numerous sins, but great sins: multum est enim. O motive worthy of the breast of God! Oh, consequence which can have force only when it bears on supreme goodness! So that in order to obtain remission of his sins, the sinner alleges to God that they are many and great. Verily so; and that not for love of the sinner nor for the love of sin, but for the love of the honour and glory of God; which glory, by how much the sins he forgives are greater and more numerous, by so much the more ennobles and exalts itself. The same David distinguishes in the mercy of God greatness and multitude: greatness, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam;multitude, et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum. And as the greatness of the divine mercy is immense, and the multitude of his lovingkindnesses infinite; and forasmuch as the immense cannot be measured, nor the infinite counted, in order that the one and the other may in a certain manner have a proportionate material of glory, it is necessary to the very greatness of mercy that the sins to be pardoned should be great, and necessary to the very multitude of lovingkindnesses that they should be many. Multum est enim. Reason have I then, O Lord, not to be dismayed because our sins are many and great. Reason have I also to demand the reason from thee, why thou dost not make haste to pardon them?—Vieyra, quoted by J. M. Neale.

For thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity. It is a very usual notion by “name” to understand honour and glory. When God saith to David, “I have made thee a name like the name of men that are in the earth; “when the church saith to God, “Thou didst get thee a name as it is this day; “it is manifest that by name glory is intended. Suitable to this it is that famous men are called by the Hebrews, (‏אַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם‎) Genesis 6:4, and by the Latins, viri nominum, men of name, in which the poet adorneth it with these epithets—Magnum et memorabile nomen, or, great and memorable. Thus, when God forgiveth sin, he doth it for his name’s sake, that is, for his own honour and glory. Indeed, God’s own glory is the ultimate end of all his actions. As he is the first, so is he the last, the efficient, and the final cause; nor is there anything done by him which is not for him. The end of our actions must be in his glory, because both our being and working are from him; but the end of his work is his own glory, because his being and acting are of and from himself. Among all divine works, there is none which more setteth forth his glory than this of remission. Sin, by committing it, brings God a great deal of dishonour, and yet, by forgiving it, God raiseth to himself a great deal of honour. “It is the glory of a man, “and much more of God, “to pass by an offence; “as acts of power, so acts of grace, are exceeding honourable. The attributes of God’s grace, mercy, goodness, clemency, shine forth in nothing so much as in pardoning sins. Paul speaks of riches of goodness which attend God’s forbearance; how much greater riches must there needs be in forgiveness? Nay, indeed, God hath so ordered the way of pardon, that not only the glory of his mercy, but justice, yea, of his wisdom in the wonderful contemporation of both these, is very illustrious. Nomen quasi notamen, quia notificat, the name is that which maketh one known; and by remission of sins, God maketh known his choice and glorious attributes; and for this end it is that he vouchsafes it. It is a consideration that may be our consolation. Since God forgiveth sins for his name’s sake, he will be ready to forgive many sins as well as few, great as small; indeed, the more and greater our sins are, the greater is the forgiveness, and, consequently, the greater is God’s glory; and therefore David, upon this consideration of God’s name and glory, maketh the greatness of his iniquity a motive of forgiveness. Indeed, to run into gross sins, that God may glorify himself by forgiving them, is an odious presumption, but to hope that those gross sins we have run into may, and will, be forgiven by God to us, being truly penitent, for his name’s sake, is a well grounded expectation, and such as may support our spirits against the strongest temptations to despair. Nathanael Hardy.

Pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. He pleads the greatness of his sin, and not the smallness of it: he enforces his prayer with this consideration, that his sins are very heinous. But how could he make this a plea for pardon? I answer, Because the greater his iniquity was, the more need he had of pardon. It is as much as if he had said, Pardon mine iniquity, for it is so great that I cannot bear the punishment; my sin is so great that I am in necessity of pardon; my case will be exceedingly miserable, unless thou be pleased to pardon me. He makes use of the greatness of his sin, to enforce his plea for pardon, as a man would make use of the greatness of calamity in begging for relief. When a beggar begs for bread, he will plead the greatness of his poverty and necessity. When a man in distress cries for pity, what more suitable plea can be urged than the extremity of his case? And God allows such a plea as this: for he is moved to mercy towards us by nothing in us, but the miserableness of our case. He doth not pity sinners because they are worthy, but because they need his pity…Herein doth the glory of grace by the redemption of Christ much consist; namely, in its sufficiency for the pardon of the greatest sinners. The whole contrivance of the way of salvation is for this end, to glorify the free grace of God. God had it on his heart from all eternity to glorify this attribute; and therefore it is, that the device of saving sinners by Christ was conceived. The greatness of divine grace appears very much in this, that God by Christ saves the greatest offenders. The greater the guilt of any sinner is, the more glorious and wonderful is the grace manifested in his pardon. Romans 5:20: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The apostle, when telling how great a sinner he had been, takes notice of the abounding of grace in his pardon, of which his great guilt was the occasion. 1 Timothy 1:13-14. “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” The Redeemer is glorified, in that he proves sufficient to redeem those who are exceeding sinful, in that his blood proves sufficient to wash away the greatest guilt, in that he is able to save men to the uttermost, and in that he redeems even from the greatest misery. It is the honour of Christ to save the greatest sinners, when they come to him, as it is the honour of a physician that he cures the most desperate diseases or wounds. Therefore, no doubt, Christ will be willing to save the greatest sinners, if they come to him; for he will not be backward to glorify himself, and to commend the value and virtue of his own blood. Seeing he hath so laid out himself to redeem sinners, he will not be unwilling to show he is able to redeem to the uttermost. Jonathan Edwards.

Pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. Is any man miserable are his miseries great, are they spiritual, are they temporal? Undoubtedly, if he be humbled in the sense of them, and see himself unworthy of any mercy, he may still be assured of mercy. Though there be spiritual evils, yet if a man see himself wretched, and miserable, the more heavy he finds his iniquity to be, the more hope of mercy there is for him: the Lord’s mercy is over all his works, therefore is he much more merciful to such. If a man hath a feeling of his miseries and unworthiness, then he may use this argument for mercy, my miseries are great: even as David did, “O Lord, be merciful to me, and pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” And the more miserable man are under their own sense, the fitter objects they are for God to show mercy unto. Thus is was with the publican, and so with the prodigal; therefore never doubt, though thy iniquities be never so great, there is a sea of mercy in God. Bernard well observes the difference between justice and mercy; justice requires that there should be desert, but mercy looks upon them that are miserable; and, saith the father, true mercy doth affect misery; mercy doth not stand upon inquisition, but it is glad to find occasion of exercising itself. Richard Stock.

Mine iniquity…is great. Such who come to God to have their sins pardoned, they look upon them as great sins. Pardon mine iniquity, for it is great. The original word as well signifies many as great—”My sins are great and many,” many great sins lie upon me, pardon, oh! pardon them, O Lord, etc… In the opening of this point, I would show why such as come in a right way for pardon do look upon their sins as great sins.

  1. Sinners that come to God for pardon and find it, do look upon their sins as great sins, because against a great God, great in power, great in justice, great in holiness. I am a worm, and yet sin, and that boldly against a God so great; for a worm to lift up himself against a great and infinite God; oh! this makes every little sin great, and calls for great vengeance from so great a God.
  2. Because they have sinned against great patience, despising the goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering of God, which is called, “treasuring up wrath.” Romans 2:4-5
  3. Sins do appear great because against great mercies. Oh! against how many mercies and kindnesses do sinners sin, and turn all the mercies of God into sin!…
  4. That which increases sin in the eyes of poor sinners that cry for pardon, is, that they have sinned against great light—light in the conscience; this heightens sin exceedingly, especially to such are under gospel means; and is indeed the sin of all in this nation; there’s nothing more abases a soul than this, nothing makes it more difficult to believe pardon, when humbled for it…
  5. Continuance in sin much increases sin to a poor soul that is after pardon; especially such as are not very early converted. Psalms 68:21. Oh! I added sin unto sin, saith a poor soul, spending the choice time of my youth in sin, when I might have been getting the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and honouring of God. This lay close upon David’s spirit as appears from the seventh verse: “Oh! remember not the sins of my youth.” Yet we do not find that David’s youth was notoriously sinful; but inasmuch as he spent not his youth to get knowledge, and to serve the Lord fully, it was his burden and complaint before the Lord; much more such whose youth was spent in nothing but vanity, profaneness, lying, swearing, profaning of the Sabbath, sports, pastimes, excess of riot, and the like, when God lays it in upon their consciences, must be grievous and abominable to their souls…
  6. Multitudes of sins do make sin appear great; this made David cry out for “multitudes of mercies.” Psalms 51:1-19, 40:12
  7. Another thing that increases sin is, that it was against purpose and resolutions of forsaking such and such sins; and yet all broken, sometimes against solemn vows, against prayers…
  8. Sin appears great when seen by a poor soul, because it was reigning sin. Romans 5:6. “Sin reigned unto death, “etc. Oh! saith a poor humbled sinner, I did not only commit sin, but I was the servant and slave of sin…
  9. Sin in the fountain makes it great. As it may be said, there is more water in the fountain than in the pools and streams it makes…So in the nature, in the heart, is there, as in the fountain, and therefore ’tis more there than in the breakings forth of it in the outward man…
  10. A sinner drawing nigh to God for pardon sees his sin as great, because thereby he was led captive by the devil at his will…
  11. Sin appears great because great is the wrath of God against sin. Romans 2:12. The way of any sinner’s deliverance from such wrath shows sin to be exceeding great in the price and ransom that is paid for the salvation of him from his sins—the price of the blood of the eternal Son of God…
  12. Lastly, this consideration also increases sin, inasmuch as a poor creature hath drawn and tempted others to sin with him, especially such as have lived more vainly and loosely, and it lies hard upon many a poor soul after thorough conviction. Anthony Palmer (—1678), in “The Gospel New Creature.”

I plead not, Lord, my merits, who am less than the least of thy mercies; and as I look not upon my merit, so nor do thou look upon my demerit; as I do not view my worthiness, so nor do thou view my unworthiness; but thou who art called the God of mercy be unto me what thou art called; make good the glory of thine own name in being merciful unto my sin, of which I cannot say as Lot of Zoar, “Is it not a little one?” No, it is great, for that it is against thee so great a God and so good to me: great, for that my place, my calling, my office is great. The sun the higher it is, the less it seems; but my sins, the higher I am the greater they are, even in thine and other’s eyes. Robert Mossom.

Plead we the greatness of our sins not to keep us from mercy, but to prevail for it: Pardon mine iniquity; why so? for it is great. “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee, “Psalms 41:4. “Do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.” Jeremiah 14:7. This is a strong plea, when sincerely urged by an humble and contrite spirit. It glorifieth God as one that is abundant in goodness, rich in mercy, and one with whom are forgivenesses and plenteous redemption; and it honoureth Christ as infinite in mercy. Hence also the Lord himself, when he would stir up himself to choice acts of mercy to his poor people, he first aggravates their sin against him to the highest, and then he expresses his royal act of grace to them. So Isaiah 43:22-25. “Thou hast not called upon me O Jacob, but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel; thou hast not honoured me with thy sacrifices, but thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Thomas Cobbet, 1608-1686.

“Oh, “says Pharaoh, “take away these filthy frogs, this dreadful thunder!” But what says holy David? “Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant!” The one would be freed from punishment, the effect of sin; the other from sin, the cause of punishment. And it is most true that a true Christian man is more troubled at sin than at frogs and thunder; he sees more filthiness in sin than in frogs and toads, more horror than in thunder and lightning. Jeremiah Dyke’s “Worthy Communicant,” 1645.

Pharaoh more lamented the hard strokes that were upon him, than the hard heart which was within him. Esau mourned not because he sold the birthright, which was his sin, but because he lost the blessing, which was his punishment. This is like weeping with an onion; the eye sheds tears because it smarts. A mariner casts overboard that cargo in a tempest, which he courts the return of when the winds are silenced. Many complain more of the sorrows to which they are born, than of the sins with which they were born; they tremble more at the vengeance of sin, than at the venom of sin; one delights them, the other scares them.—William Secker.

Hints to the Village Preacher

A model prayer. Confession, argument, entreaty, etc.

Great guilt no obstacle to the pardon of the returning sinner. Jonathan Edwards.
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