This is a word we do not often hear. So many people complain of feeling wretched; so few, alas, confess that they are blessed. Yet “wretched,” or “blessed,” we are all. We need not be the first, we may and should be the second.
These are two conditions, or states, and it is well to ask, “In which am I?”
The pen of David—the sweet singer of Israel—describes, in words of profound interest, each of these two states experimentally. In Psalm 51 he puts into words the deep exercise through which he himself had passed before God, in the acknowledgment and confession to Him of his guilt.
To his conscience that guilt was awfully real. “My sin is ever before me,” said he. It caused him constant misery. “Against Thee, Thee only,” he cried, “have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.”
He knew that God takes cognizance of sin, all sin, every sin; and that He holds us responsible for all we think and say and do. Nor can the sinner, as such, escape the Judgment Bar. It was the deep and agonizing sense of this that made David miserable, and that left him in a state of absolute wretchedness.
It is a bitter cup to drink—this facing of one’s personal guilt. It is crushing, but it is necessary.
Repentance is the first step on the right road. It means a “right-about” a going down, a veritable humiliation before God; but ten thousand times better to go into the dust in time than into damnation for ever. Notice, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
These words define the conditions. Wise, indeed, the man who repents before God in time!
Well, then, in this Psalm we find David’s state of positive and intolerable wretchedness—that of a guilty and unpardoned sinner weighted by the fearful load of conscious iniquity.
But he cried to God and sought His forgiveness. “Purge me with hyssop”—the least of herbs—as though he were willing to be reduced to nothing—“and I shall be clean.” “Wash me,” he prayed, “and I shall be whiter than snow,” because the purity needed for God’s presence is far greater than earth’s cleanest, purest, whitest covering. Nor did he pray in vain. His cry was heard, and he was graciously answered, as he lay in the dust of self-abhorrence.
Oh, how thankful we should be for the mercy of God—how thankful for the blood of Christ!
“And Nathan said unto David, ‘The Lord has put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.’” Such was God’s message through His prophet to the guilty king.
David was pardoned before God, though his hateful sin brought unspeakable sorrow upon his house and family. “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”
Still, he was pardoned, and he knew it, and felt it, and rejoiced in it.
Hence in Psalm 32 he writes, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” The word “blessed” may be translated “happy,” though the word in the text is richer and deeper.
David, the guilty sinner once, is now the object of mercy. He is forgiven consciously, and can write of “the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputes righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:6). He tasted this beatitude. It was his realized experience.
I can assure the reader that the sense of the forgiveness of all one’s sins, for time and for eternity—the imputation of God’s righteousness without a single merit on our own part—yields joy too deep for language. “They began to be merry” in the father’s house, when once the poor penitent prodigal was restored. To him, and to all such, the condition is one of pure and unmingled “blessedness.”
Can it ever be lost?
Well, can the Spirit ever be grieved?
“Where is the blessedness ye spake of?” inquired Paul of his Galatian converts Ah, where? Alas, they had bartered the blessedness of grace for the blight of legal observances, liberty for bondage, joy for sorrow, and Christianity for Judaism—a sad exchange indeed How easily is the power of life frittered away, and the Spirit of God slighted.
Yes, such blessedness can be lost, and will be lost, most certainly, unless its possessor is kept faithful and humble.
Then can he be lost? That is, thank God, another question altogether. The salvation of the true believer is not contingent on his faithfulness, but on God’s settled purpose. On the other hand the present peace and comfort of his soul depend entirely on his fidelity to Christ. Relationship is one thing, communion another.
May we so live day by day that “this blessedness” may be our constant experience.
“O keep us, love divine, near Thee,
That we our nothingness may know,
And ever to Thy glory be
Walking in faith while here below.”