Sin is no trifle to a child of God. It is his heaviest sorrow. Thus David—thus the Great Apostle found it. And where is the believer who has not full sympathy with their complaints? To have a soul cleaving to the dust, and not to feel the trouble, is the black mark of a sinner, dead in sins—dead to God. To "know the plague of our own heart," to feel our misery, to believe and to apply the remedy, is the satisfactory evidence of a child of God. Dust is the portion of the world, and they wish for no better. But that the soul of the man of God should continually cleave to the dust, is most strange and humbling. And yet such is the influence of his evil nature—such the power of self-will and self-indulgence—such the regard to human praise, and cherishing of self-admiration, that were it not that he "abhors himself" for the very dust that cleaves to him, he would question the existence of a renewing change. He knows what he ought to be. He has tasted the blessedness of "mounting upward on eagles' wings." But every attempt to rise is hindered by the clogging weight that keeps him down.
It is, however, the cleaving of his soul that is so painful—not occasional, but constant—not like the bird of the morning that descends for a moment, and then soars his upward flight; but it seems as if, like the "serpent—dust was to be his food;" as if the spiritual, heaven-born soul was to sink and grovel below. And then, as the dust of the summer-road blinds the eye, and obscures the view—how does this earthliness of soul darken the view of the Savior, dim the eye of faith, and hide the glorious prospects which, when beheld in the clear horizon, enliven the weary pilgrim on his way!
But this complaint is the language of conflict and humiliation—not of despondency. Observe the believer carrying it to the Lord—'Here I lie in the dust, without life or power. Oh! Savior, who "came that I might have life, and that I might have it more abundantly"—Quicken me: Breathe into me Your own life, that I may rise from the dust, and cleave to You.' This cry for quickening grace is the exercise of faith. We have a covenant to plead. Faith is the hand that takes hold of the promise, "according to Your word." Can this word fail? "Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or one tittle pass" from the engagements of a covenant-keeping God. "He is faithful who promised." The man who takes hold of this plea, is "a Prince who has power with God, and prevails."
But how different is the character of the mere professor! ready probably to make the same confession, yet without humiliation, without prayer, without faith. Nothing is more common than to hear the complaint—"My soul cleaves to the dust." The world has such power over us—we are so cold—so dead to spiritual things:' while, perhaps, the complaint is never once brought with wrestling supplication, but rather urged in indolent self-delight, as an evidence of the good state of the heart before God.
Yet it is not the complaint of sickness, but an application to the physician, which advances the recovery of the patient. We do not usually expect to better our condition, by mourning over its badness, or merely wishing for its improvement. Nor is it the confession of sin, but the application to the Great Physician, that marks genuine contrition before God. That confession which evaporates in heartless complaints, belongs not to the tenderness of a renewed heart. But the utterance of genuine prayer is the voice of God's own "Spirit making intercession for us;" and then, indeed, how cheering the encouragement, that He "who searches the hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God!"
Some are ready to give up or delay their duty, when they have been unable to bring their heart to it. Thus does "Satan get advantage of us" by our "ignorance of his devices." Quickening grace is not the ground or warrant for duty. Indisposition to duty is not our weakness, but our sin—not therefore to be indulged, but resisted. We must mourn over the dullness which hinders us, and diligently wait for the 'help we every moment need.' God keeps the grace in His own hands, and gives it at His pleasure, to exercise our daily dependence upon Him. The acting of grace strengthens the habit. Praying helps to pray. If the door is closed, "Knock, and it shall be opened." Assuredly it will not long be shut to him, who has faith and patience to wait until it be opened.
Now let me sift the character of my profession. Is it a habitual, persevering, overcoming conflict with sin? Do I not sometimes indulge in fruitless bemoanings of my state, when I had far better be exercising myself in vigorous actings of grace? If I find "my soul cleaving to the dust," am I not sometimes "lying on my face," when I ought to be "taking heaven by violence," by importunate petitions for quickening grace? Are my prayers invigorated by confidence in the word of God? Oh! let me remember that "those who wait upon the Lord" shall shake off the dust to which they have cleaved so long, and "shall mount with wings like eagles," to take possession of their heavenly home.
O Lord, make me more deeply ashamed, that "my soul should cleave to the dust." Breathe upon me fresh influence from Your quickening Spirit. Help me to plead Your word of promise; and oh! may every fresh view of my sinfulness, while it prostrates me in self-abasement before You, be overruled to make the Savior daily and hourly more precious to my soul. For defiled as I am in myself, in every service of my heart, what but the unceasing application of His blood, and the uninterrupted prevalence of His intercession, give me a moment's confidence before You, or prevent the very sins that mingle with my prayers from sealing my condemnation? Blessed Savior! it is nothing but Your everlasting merit, covering my person, and honoring my sacrifice, which satisfies the justice of an offended God, and restrains it from breaking forth as a devouring fire—to consume me upon my very knees.
"My soul cleaves unto the dust." He means in part that he was full of sorrow; for mourners in the east cast dust on their heads, and sat in ashes, and the Psalmist felt as if these ensigns of woe were glued to him, and his very soul was made to cleave to them because of his powerlessness to rise above his grief. Does he not also mean that he felt ready to die? Did he not feel his life absorbed and fast held by the grave's mold, half choked by the death-dust? It may not be straining the language if we conceive that he also felt and bemoaned his earthly-mindedness and spiritual deadness. There was a tendency in his soul to cling to earth which he greatly bewailed. Whatever was the cause of his complaint, it was no surface evil, but an affair of his inmost spirit; his soul cleaved to the dust; and it was not a casual and accidental falling into the dust, but a continuous and powerful tendency, or cleaving to the earth. But what a mercy that the good man could feel and deplore whatever there was of evil in the cleaving! The serpent's seed can find their meat in the dust, but never shall the seed of the woman be thus degraded. Many are of the earth earthy, and never lament it; only the heaven-born and heaven-soaring spirit pines at the thought of being fastened to this world, and bird-limed by its sorrows or its pleasures.
"quicken me according to your word." More life is the cure for all our ailments. Only the Lord can give it He can bestow it, bestow it at once, and do it according to his word, without departing from the usual course of his grace, as we see it mapped out in the Scriptures. It is well to know what to pray for—David seeks quickening: one would have thought that he would have asked for comfort or upraising; but he knew that these would come out of increased life, and therefore he sought that blessing which is the root of the rest. When a person is depressed in spirit, weak, and bent towards the ground, the main thing is to increase his stamina and put more life into him; then his spirit revives, and his body becomes erect. In reviving the life, the whole man is renewed. Shaking off the dust is a little thing by itself; but when it follows upon quickening, it is a blessing of the greatest value; just as good spirits, which flow from established health, are among the choicest of our mercies. The phrase, "according to your word," means—according to your revealed way of quickening your saints. The word of God shows us that he who first made us must keep us alive; and it tells us of the Spirit of God who through the ordinances pours fresh life into our souls: we beg the Lord to act towards us in this his own regular method of grace. Perhaps David remembered the word of the Lord in Deut 32. 39, where Jehovah claims both to kill and to make alive, and he beseeches the Lord to exercise that life-giving power upon his almost expiring servant. Certainly, the man of God had not so many rich promises to rest upon as we have; but even a single word was enough for him, and he right earnestly urges "according to your word." It is a grand thing to see a believer in the dust and yet pleading the promise, a man at the grave's mouth crying, "quicken me," and hoping that it shall be done.
Note how this first verse of the 4th octonary tallies with the first of the third (17), "That I may live": … "Quicken me." While in a happy state he begs for bountiful dealing, and when in a forlorn condition he prays for quickening. Life is in both cases the object of pursuit: that he may have life, and have it more abundantly. Truly this is wisdom. Fools hunger for meat, and yet lose life; but the wise man knows that the life is more than meat. To pine for riches and neglect the soul is the common sin of unbelievers, and to seek true riches in an increase of life is the prudent course of the believer. Life, eternal life, this is true treasure. Our Lord has come not only that we may have life, but that we may have it more abundantly. Lord, evermore pour your life-floods into us, that we may be quickened to the fullness of our manhood, and filled with all the fullness of God.