W. C. E. (William Charles Edmund) Newbolt.

Penitence and peace : being addresses on the fifty-first and twenty-third psalms online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryW. C. E. (William Charles Edmund) NewboltPenitence and peace : being addresses on the fifty-first and twenty-third psalms → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Penitence anD Peace


Crown 8z>0. 2s. 6J.

Addresses bearing on the Spiritual Life.

Small %vo. is. (>d.

THE MAN OF GOD. Being Six Addresses de-
livered during Lent at the Primary Ordination
of the Right Rev. the Lord Alwyne Compton,
Bishop of Ely.

Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d.

Spiritual Addresses bearing on the Book of
Common Prayer.




on the



Canon and Chancellor of St. Paul's
Examining Chaplain to the Lord Bishop of Ely



All rights reserved










THESE addresses are published in answer to
requests which have been made from time
to time by those who heard them delivered.
They were first spoken to those preparing for
Holy Orders in the Theological College at
Ely. And I have thought it best to retain
the special character and allusions which
necessarily belong to addresses of that kind,
rather than rearrange them as for a wider

The nature of the appeal made in them,
and the circumstance of their original delivery,
must be my excuse for their purely hortatory
language, and for a certain abruptness of

I assume that both the fifty-first and
twenty-third psalms were written by David.

viii Preface.

My reason for using the Prayer-book
Version of the fifty-first psalm is chiefly that
this version has become so very familiar to
us from its liturgical use. The Bible Version
of the twenty-third psalm, on the other hand,
has been adopted, not without misgivings,
chiefly for some turns of expression in it,
which lent themselves to the object of the

W. C. E. N.

April 28, 1892.
















SIN 102




EVER 142

rant, foe bcsrecfj STfjcr, merciful ILort, to 5Tf)g faitfjful
people paroott anto peace, tfjat tljeg mag be clcansrti from
all tfjetr sins, anti serbe Cljee fottlj a quiet mirrtu ; t^rougfj
3esus Christ our iloro.



" Bonum mihi, quia humiliasti me, ut discam justifica-
tiones Tuas."


" Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness :
according to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine
offences. Wash me throughly from my wickedness : and
cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my faults :
and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have
I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight : that Thou
mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou
art judged. Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in
sin hath my mother conceived me. But lo, Thou requirest
truth in the inward parts : and shalt make me to understand
wisdom secretly." Ps. li. 1-6.

THIS is the psalm which, of all inspired com-
positions (with the one exception of the
Lord's Prayer), has been repeated most often
by the Church. For many hundreds of years
it was said daily, except at certain special
times, in each of the seven offices. And if we
examine it, we shall see that we owe to it
many theological and liturgical phrases, such
as "Lord, have mercy," "the clean heart," "the
broken and contrite heart ; " or, once more, " O

4 The Psalm how divided.

Lord, open Thou our lips ; and our mouth shall
shew forth Thy praise." While here, above
all, is a clear revelation of that Holy Spirit,
Whose sanctifying, indwelling grace is such a
force in the New Testament revelation. 1 But
quite apart from this, who could enumerate the
thousands and thousands of penitents whose
sorrow has found vent in these blessed words ?
Well might the great commentator say, "O
most happy fault, which has brought in so
many straying sheep to the good Shepherd ! "
For this psalm has been associated with
David's penitence, after his act of deceit,
murder, and adultery in the case of Bath-
sheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. And
the psalm has been divided into five portions. 2
The first (verses 1-6) representing the humble
self-abasement of the sinner; the second
(verses 7, 8) setting forth the grounds of
confidence in the mercies of God ; the third
(verses 9-12) containing the prayer that God
would turn away His face from David's sin ;
the fourth (verses 13-17) setting forth the
encouragement that would be vouchsafed to
sinners by his pardon ; while the last divi-

1 See Dr. Neale, Commentary on this Psalm.
* See Dr. Neale, in loc.

Its Penitential Tone suited to all. 5

sion (verses 18-19) seems to portray the rise
of the Catholic Church, which even then he
had begun to look for.

These, at all events, may form a sort
of framework from which to examine this
psalm, so deeply spiritual, so full of mean-
ing, so adapted to the needs of all penitent

And, when we are thinking over a psalm
like this, do not let us think that it is going
too low, for us who are come here out of the
world, to draw very near to God. If we trace
up the sins which we have recorded on our
last self-examination list, we shall be startled
to find how they are in so many cases trailing
fibrous offshoots from the tree of the deadly
sins, only just kept in check. That impatient
word draws its malignity from the stock of
anger ; that evil imagination has thrust in its
tearing thorns like some pushing briar, crop-
ping up from the tree of impurity. Indolence
goes back to sloth, self-indulgence to gluttony.
We need not fear to go too low ; the Church
evidently did not fear to do so, when she
prescribed the frequent use of words like
these, charged as they undoubtedly are with
the deepest penitence.

The True Nature of a Sin

First of all, then, we seem to trace in
these verses this thought the nature of sin
in the eyes of one who sees God. It had all
been carried out so successfully. It was a
complete sin ; there was the temptation, the
delight in the temptation, the consent of the
will, and then the act. The result of it is all
summed up in that mournful verse, "And
when the mourning was past, David sent and
fetched her to his house, and she became
his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing
that David had done displeased the Lord." l
It was all done. God had seen it, noted it
down ; and now what was the result ? Hear
how the words pour out fast and thick :
"offence," "wickedness," "sin," "fault," an
abiding presence of sin, as " evil ; " an out-
raged God, an inward corruption.

How terrible it is that we should have it in
our power to put the whole course of life
out of gear ! Just as one crime against the
State can set all the machinery of our civiliza-
tion against us, on which our existence now
runs so smoothly ; and the network of law,

1 2 Sam. xi. 27.

as seen in the Results of Sin. 7

which secured us freedom of motion in the
right path, serves only to trip us up when we
have left it ; so, one great act of sin against
God has the power to pervert all the spiritual
relationships of our life. David is feeling
here the awful truth, that there is no more
fearful punishment for sin than sin itself; in
its heavy burden, it is an anticipation of the
sharpest pang of hell, the pcena damni, the
cutting off from the presence of God. God
is offended ; a blow is struck against His
Majesty ; the path of His approach is blocked.
Prayer is impossible ; Holy Communion would
be a profanation ; meditation a mockery.
Adam hides himself from the presence of

It is wickedness ; the whole thing has been
the spell of some hideous fascination, like
witchcraft. It is sin, an injury maiming my
whole life. It is a fault, a crack, a jar ; just
that tiny hole drilled in the bell, which for
ever takes from it the clearness of its tone.
My character, or at least my self-respect, is
broken ; penitence is very beautiful, but it is
not innocence. And this must be ever before
me, in so many ways ; the weakness in the
presence of temptation betrays the once

8 The Corresponding Power of Grace

broken will. The sinful memory, ringing
with peals of ribald and mocking laughter,
haunts my still hours. The abiding punish-
ment of God marks the crooked limb still
unstraitened ; the loss of self-respect, and
even of the respect of others, is a mournful
testimony to a moral collapse. Sin goes
through the world armed with its own punish-
ment : and all its malice is enumerated here ;
from the offence which is directed against
God, to the fault which injures the integrity
of my life.

In an ethical study by a popular writer,
in the form of a story ; at a critical moment
the heroine is vouchsafed a vision of a
successful sin in all its hideous nature, and
shrinks back appalled. David sees it here,
but, alas ! too late to save his life from the
shadow which never again left it.


But it would seem as if sin were thus
exhibited in all its bearings, and painted
in its darkest colours, as if to show us that
where iniquity did abound, grace did much
more abound. The penitent, having laid

in Mercy and Absolution. 9

bare his sin, now asks for God's grace. And
first of all he asks for mercy. What a depth
of meaning there is, at all events to English-
speaking people, in the word which we thus
put into the psalm ! When the foe lay
vanquished in the power of the conqueror, to
cry, " Mercy ! " meant to cry, " Ransom ! "
" Spare my life and take a ransom ! " * What
a meaning it may have to us if, when we
cry, " Mercy ! " we feel that we are asking
God to take a ransom !

" Beata cujus brachiis
Pretium pependit saeculi,
Statera facta est corporis
Praedam tulitque Tartari."

This must ever be the cry of the penitent
sinner. " The soul that sinneth it shall die ; "
but He in His pity allows me to plead those
precious merits, and so obtain pardon and

But he goes on to ask God to do
away his offences ; to " blot them out," as we
read elsewhere. Sin remains as a witness
against us, and only God can blot it out.
There is a red line which He draws across it
the writing of a Saviour's blood. This is
what we mean by Absolution. Perhaps we
1 See Richardson's English Dictionary, under " Mercy."

io In a Fuller Cleansing

hardly think enough about this ; we think a
great deal of the shame and agony of con-
fession, but do we think enough of all that is
meant by Absolution ? Do we feel that here
is the relief of a great burden ; the laying
aside of every weight which hinders our
onward course ? In the well-known creation
of the great novelist, the ghost who appears
to the earth-bound miser comes in dragging
behind him the chain of title-deeds and
cash-boxes, as the sign of a long life buried
in the world. We, too, carry a chain ; we
little think that a weakness in character is
owing to some weight pressing on it from far
back in boyhood. We little think that our
inability to mount up comes from a weight
which clogs our heels. Why should we go
heavily while the enemy oppresseth us ?
Why should we have to pay the yearly tax of
our best hopes and aims to the monster who
lies curled up within, called "Habit"? Why
should we go in fear and dread before God ?
David knew better when he said, " Do away
mine offences." And this is what God offers
to do, did we but believe it

But David goes even further. It is a
bold prayer, an awful prayer : " Wash me

cheerfully accepted. 1 1

throughly " more and more. " Amplius lava
me." Have we courage to pray thus ? Did
David see the sword which was henceforth
never to leave his home ? Did he see the
grief to be brought upon him by Absalom,
by Adonijah, by the son of Zeruiah ; and
all the misery of rebellion, and the indignity
of his banishment ? Have we courage to say,
" more and more " ? Alas ! we soon cry out.
We find Lent and its discipline hard. What
shall we do if God sees fit to make all our
life a Lent, in the secrets of His love to us ;
a Lent of sickness, sorrow, or failure ? The
terrible prevalence of suicide is more than a
passing phenomenon ; it means souls snapping
here and there under God's correction.
" Happy is the man whom God correcteth."
Yes, it is hard for the soldier on the battle-
field to lose his right arm, but he welcomes
the sharp knife if it is to save his life. David
was never the same man again. Never mind ;
the life of pain was better than the dull
narcotic of sin. " More and more " it is a
sign of true penitence.

" Minds which verily repent
Are burdened with impunity,
And comforted by chastisement.

12 The Grounds of Confidence Hope.

That punishment's the best to bear
That follows soonest on the sin ;

And guilt's a game where losers fare
Better than those who seem to win." l

If we can welcome punishment, if we can
embrace the sword, if we can expiate our sins
by a lifelong cross, we ought to be glad.
" Wash me more and more, and cleanse me."


It only remains for us to notice the
grounds on which he asks for pardon. In
the first place, there is the multitude of God's
mercies. Each day we live is an argument
in our favour. God sent me here ; God has
rescued me so often ; God is always helping
me ; though I fall, I shall not be cast away.
Hope is a great power. We seem like people
forced to climb higher and higher up the face
of the cliff, by the sea driven in before the
gale. It seems impossible to climb any
further, and the spray is dashing in their faces,
and the rock quivers to its base, as the waves
are shivered upon it. And then they find, it
may be, at their feet, grass and flowers in
the cleft of the rock, which could only grow

1 Quoted from "Eternal Hope," Archdeacon Farrar.

Sincerity of his Dealings with God. 13

above the highest water-mark, and at once
they feel there is hope, and with hope comes
an access of strength. So there are flowers
in the lives of all of us here, which could only
grow at a height above the devouring level
of mortal sin. Let us hope.

And further, he has told God everything ;
he has concealed nothing. " I acknowledge
my faults." Further, he acknowledges the true
relation of sin to God. It is not the injury done
to Uriah or to society ; it is the insult done
to God. " Against Thee only have I sinned."

And further, God knows how weak we are.
" Behold, I was shapen in wickedness ; " and
therefore " the truth in the inward parts " can
only be reached when the plenitude of mercy
touches the magnitude of sin.

Indeed, it would be something if we could
gauge the depth of sin this Lent. You arc
going out to grapple with it. It will be yours
to see its insidious growth in the child who
passes under your hands. It will be yours to
be baffled by its malignant intensity, as it
seems to leap over, with its devouring flame,
sacraments, prayers, and all spiritual barriers,
in some cases in which you are interested.
As you pass through the world, you will be

1 4 The Knowledge of Sinfulness.

like one travelling up the sides of a volcano :
if you thrust your stick beneath the surface
of society, you will find a scorching furnace

Men and women will come to you, in
agony and despair. What if you know
nothing of the diagnosis of sin ! It is so
wonderful that God has put His absolving
power into the hands of men, that they may
give sympathy as well as guidance.

Truly there is enough to make us solemn,
earnest, self-denying, this Lent.

I want to see the mystery of sin.

I want to know something about sin in


" Thou shall purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean :
Thou shall wash me, and I shall be whiter lhan snow. Thou
shall make me hear of joy and gladness : lhat the bones
which Thou hasl broken may rejoice." Ps. li. 7, 8.

IF in the preceding verses we endeavoured
to see something of the exceeding sinfulness
of sin, in those two verses we may see rather
the fulness of the acceptance of the penitent.
If we look into them, we shall see many
mysteries opening up before us. And one
glance will tell us a significant fact, which
lies on the very surface that the imagery
of the acceptance, the details, so to speak, of
the pardon, are taken from the ceremonies
employed in purifying the sufferer from that
most loathsome, most deadly disease, leprosy,
whose lingering corruption has been called
a very sacrament of sin.

This is a startling truth, as we stand
showing to God our broken life ; that sin of

1 6 Sin mewed by God as Leprosy.

which we think so lightly that weakness, as
we are pleased to call it ; that sin of which
we hardly feel ashamed ; that sin which we
acknowledge as it were with a tender self-
disparagement, which suggests a delicate veil
of humility, toning down the abrupt colouring
of a character otherwise, perhaps, too crude ;
the confession which "blesses with faint
blame." God calls this leprosy.

He is treating us for leprosy. In the sad
story of a great invention, when the wife, a
stranger to her husband's grand purpose, and
ignorant of his life's work, had let in the
rough mob to break his model, and wreck
the fruit of patient years of hardly won
discovery ; when she points out to him the
shapeless mass lying at his feet, he only said
out of his broken heart, " You have done
foolishly." What can we think that it costs
God, our loveless word, our wayward action,
our repeated offence ? It means the breaking
down of long years of patient construction,
of gentle struggling with our infirmities.
Well do we call it a fall, a fault, an offence !
He too in His tenderness says, " You have
done foolishly," and proceeds to work our
cure. But it is full of difficulty ; its greatness

Needs a Lepers Cleansing. 1 7

is the measure of our fault. There is this
aspect to all the ordinances of the Church.
The Altar, with its tender and sublime
memories, at the same time represents and
continues the sacrifice due to sin. The Font
at the very entrance of the church speaks
of a death unto sin. Confirmation suggests
a need of strength. Penance presupposes
falls. The clergy in our midst tell of wounds
and bruises and putrefying sores. As " the
Son of God goes forth to war," as the Church
marches on her way " terrible as an army
with banners," * our eyes light on the phy-
sicians, and the ambulance-train, and the
grim realities of the conflict which they imply
to us. If God is to deliver us, and cleanse
us from our sins, the greatness of the remedy
is in proportion to the soreness of the disease.


The cleansing of the leper which David
here refers to is full of significance. The
priest had to take two birds, 2 and of them to

1 Cant. vi. 4.

* See Bonar, " Leviticus," p. 257, etc. ; and Wordsworth
on Lev. xiv.

1 8 Symbolism of the Leper s Cleansing

slay one, and let the blood fall into an earthen
vessel over running water. Then he had to
take cedar-wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop,
and bind them on the living bird, and dip
them in the blood and water, and with them
sprinkle the leper seven times, and then let
the living bird loose in the open field.

Can anything be more significant ? The
two birds to be taken speak of Him Who is
of two natures, human and Divine. The
cedar-wood speaks of the fragrant wood of
the cross. The hyssop, the lowly plant used
for purifying, sets forth the personal applica-
tion of Christ's pardon to the soul. The
scarlet is the royal robe of Him Who " reigns
from the tree." And these are all bound to
the living bird, typical of the Divine nature
in Christ, from Whom all ordinances derive
their significance. And then there is the
sprinkling of the blood and water on the
penitent, and the living bird carries away
the taint, as it were, with him, in his escape
to the open field. Truly as we gaze upon
the Cross, shining more and more clearly
through the symbols, we see His figure
bending towards us ; we hear Him saying,
" This is He that came by water and blood." *

1 I S. John v. 6.

applied spiritually to the Penitent. 19

Contrition has brought the penitent to the
priest ; confession has brought him to the
sevenfold sprinkling of blood and water, with
scarlet and hyssop dipped in the blood of the
dead bird, attached to the living bird ; and
the leper rises up, cleansed, purified, restored,
to take again his privileges to which God has
once more admitted him.

And whatever privileges the leper might
claim in the letter, we may claim in the spirit ;
our defilement is one, and our restoration
shall be one. Contrition, confession, amend-
ment on the part of the sinner, shall be met
on the side of God with Absolution, inward
purity, and restoration to favour and strength.
Just as the leper was cut off from the dead
past, so Absolution breaks the chain which
binds us. As the leper in the signs of his
purification recognized the sweetness and
purity of a restored nature, so in God's for-
giveness we recognize the earnest of the
restored temple of our life. As the leper
could once more move among his fellow-men,
so we can move amongst others, without that
haunting humiliation, " Ah ! if they knew
all ! " I am not ashamed of what I was,
being what I am.

2O The Purging, the making Clean.


" Thou shalt purge me with hyssop." Do
we quite believe it ? It may be, on some
Church festival we have sat down to watch the
great procession of the saints sweeping by
us in all its magnificence, or have taken up
the record of some simple life, and have seen
the common things of an everyday exist-
ence lit up with supernatural brilliancy, and
idealized with saintliness, and have wistfully
asked, " Why cannot I attain unto it ? " Why
do I cast down in despair image after image
of a distorted holiness, veneered with a false
sentiment, and daubed with unreal piety ?
Cleanliness ! Is it that ? Just the first step ?
Cleaning, scouring, cleansing ! Without a
stroke of grander work, with no growing out-
line or developing image cleanliness ?

" Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I
shall be clean."

Those specks of dust, those smears, those
begrimed habits, they make holiness im-
possible. Clean ! But is it not this that I
have longed for? Did the guilty queen her-
self moan with an intenser longing, " What,
will these hands ne'er be clean ? "

The Purging with Plyssop. 2 1

" With hyssop." Do we quite believe it ?
That the hyssop is bound to the scarlet
robe of the King, and tied to the cedar
of the cross, and dipped in the blood and
water, and bound up with the living bird,
the Divine nature of Jesus Christ ? Do
we quite believe it, that we can have some-
thing more to help us, beyond the strong
resolution, so often broken ; more than the
effort of our own will the grace of the
blood of Jesus Christ Himself, to help us to
overcome the old sin, the old weakness, to
remove the old shame, which we hide from
God ; like the Spartan boy, who would let the
stolen animal, which he clasped within the
folds of his dress, tear out his vitals, rather
than extract a confession of unsuccessful
guilt ?

There is the hyssop ; there are sprays of it
in the hand of every priest. Why are we
not purified ; why are we not free ? We are
sprinkled with it, indeed, at every service
"that those things may please Him, which
we do at this present." We may not presume
to pass out of the tainted atmosphere of our
daily walk into His presence without it. But
penitence is too great, too personal a thing, to

22 Its Great Necessity

take place in the public service. " In the
mean time," says the Prayer-book, before
presenting ourselves to God at the Altar ; the
self-examination, the contrition, the confes-
sion, the amendment, must all be done ; and
even then we shall need sprinkling before
we enter on the service of the sanctuary.
Why, then, are we not free ? Why should
cleanliness be the one thing needful, and so
often the one thing wanting ? " And I shall
be clean." Who can tell, but he who has had

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryW. C. E. (William Charles Edmund) NewboltPenitence and peace : being addresses on the fifty-first and twenty-third psalms → online text (page 1 of 8)