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A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., Pastor Emeritus
and given by Jack Ngann, Pastor
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, May 26, 2024

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17; p. 624 Scofield).

I have adapted this sermon from one given by Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843). Although he died shortly before his thirtieth birthday, McCheyne was greatly used in revivals in his native Scotland. He was a premillennialist who believed that the Jewish people will be restored to their homeland and converted at the end of this age. He said, “Regenerated Israel will be as dew from the Lord.” Duncan Matheson said of this young pastor, “He preached with eternity stamped upon his brow.” I offer to you now one of McCheyne’s timeless sermons, and I hope that it will lead someone among you to experience the love and peace that Jesus offers to those who have “a broken and a contrite heart.”

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

The Hebrew word translated “contrite” means “crushed.” David speaks of “a broken and a crushed heart.” McCheyne said: No psalm expresses more fully the experience of a penitent believing soul: his humbling confession of sin (vv. 3, 4, 5); his intense desire for pardon through the blood of Christ (v. 7); his longing after a clean heart (v. 10); his desire to render something to God for all His benefits...he will give [God] a broken heart (vv. 16, 17). Just as long ago they used to offer slain lambs in token of thanksgiving, so he says he will offer up to God a slain and broken heart. I pray that you will come to the same resolution, and offer up to God this afternoon a broken heart.

Under the New Covenant we are told, “Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15). David had committed murder. Therefore it is my opinion that, in this present dispensation, it is best to view what happened to David in this Psalm in the light of a New Testament conversion. We will look at our text in this way.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

I. First, the natural heart is unbroken.

Nothing can break the natural heart of man. He can experience mercies, afflictions, and even death without having a broken heart, a heart that is soft and pliable in God’s sight. The great Biblical illustration of this is the hardened heart of the Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus. Even though one judgment after the other fell on him, he repeatedly rejected the preaching of Moses and Aaron, “he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them” (Exodus 8:15). Even when his own firstborn son died under God’s judgment the Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. We find that the rich man in Hell itself still had a hardened heart, so hard that he even argued with Abraham! (Luke 16:30). Death and Hell itself did not make his heart soft and teachable! He showed no remorse at all for the sinful, godless life he had led! When Christ healed the man with a withered hand, He was “grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5). Their hearts were not broken and contrite even though they saw this miracle. The Apostle Paul spoke of those who despise the goodness of God as having hard and impenitent hearts (Romans 2:5). The law, the gospel, mercies, afflictions, death, and even Hell do not break the natural heart of unconverted men! Their hearts are harder than stone. There is nothing in the universe more hard than the hearts of unconverted men. Jeremiah said, “They have made their faces harder than a rock” (Jeremiah 5:3).

Why are the hearts of the unsaved so hard? The Bible tells us that there is a vail on their hearts. The Bible says, “The vail is upon their heart” (II Corinthians 3:15). The natural heart does not believe the Bible, does not believe the strictness of the law, does not believe in the wrath to come. A covering, or vail, is over their eyes so they cannot see the truth.

Second, Satan has possession of their hearts. He is “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). “The devil...taketh away the word out of their hearts” (Luke 8:12).

Third, they are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Dead souls do not hear what is preached. Dead souls do not feel convicted of sin. Dead souls have “blindness of...heart” (Ephesians 4:18), they are “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19).

Fourth, they hope for safety in some refuge of lies. The prophet Isaiah said, “We have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves” (Isaiah 28:15). They hope for safety in believing a Bible doctrine, in the fact that they pray, give money to the church, are baptized, or some other refuge of lies.

Pray for God to keep you from the curse of a dead, unbroken heart, because you are standing on slippery ground. It will soon be swept away. And also, because you have no real hope unless you come to Jesus.

II. Second, the awakened heart is wounded, but not broken.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

It is good to have an awakened heart, a heart that is wounded, but that is not enough. Your heart must be broken. And the convictions of an awakened heart prepare for it to be broken. How does such an awakening of conviction come about?

The law makes the first wound. When God is going to save a person, He causes that person to think about the sins he has committed by breaking His law. The Bible says,

“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10; p. 1243).

The sins of your life, and of your heart, will seem awful when the Spirit of God wounds your heart.

The sinner is then made aware that he has sinned against a great and holy God. You will say, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Psalm 51:4).

The third wound comes when you are made aware of your own helplessness to make yourself better. Still your heart is not broken. Your heart rises against God because of the strictness of His law, and because you cannot produce faith in Christ. You feel angry with God for leaving you in this miserable condition. This shows that your heart is not yet broken. You feel sorry for yourself and upset that God has not helped you.

Learn that it is one thing to be convicted like this, and another thing to be saved. Do not rest in conviction of sin! You are not yet converted.

III. Third, in conversion the heart is broken in two ways.

First, your heart will be broken away from its own righteousness. When the Holy Spirit draws you to the crucified Jesus, your heart will break away from seeking salvation by something you do. You will then see that you can only be saved by Jesus. You will say with David Brainerd, “I wonder why I ever thought of any other way of salvation.” Then the grace of Jesus is seen to be very wonderful. Do you have this broken heart – broken by thinking of Jesus dying on the cross to pay for your sins, and give you His righteousness? You will no longer look for assurance of salvation. Now you will look to Jesus alone. It is a look at the loving heart of Jesus that breaks the heart from its own righteousness. Oh, pray for such a broken heart! Boasting will be excluded. You will say, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” for me! (Revelation 5:12).

God calling yet! I cannot stay;
     My heart I yield without delay;
Vain world, farewell! from thee I part;
     The voice of God hath reached my heart!
(“God Calling Yet” by Gerhard Tersteegen, 1697-1769;
     translated by Jane L. Borthwick, 1813-1897).

Then, secondly, your heart will be broken away from the love of sin. When you truly trust Christ, you will then hate sin. You will then hate sin because it separates you from God. You will then hate sin because it crucified Jesus, weighed down His soul, made Him sweat Blood, bleed, and die. You will hate sin, realizing that it brought you nothing but unhappiness. You will mourn for your sin because it was committed against the love of Jesus.

IV. Fourth, the advantages of a broken heart.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

A broken heart will keep you from being offended at the preaching of the cross. An unconverted heart is offended by such preaching. Many people hate it. Many others think it is nothing but foolishness. Some people even leave a church because they are offended by the preaching of salvation through the cross alone. The Bible says,

“The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness”
     (I Corinthians 1:18; p. 1212).

Again, the Bible says,

“They are the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18; p. 1260).

But a broken heart cannot be offended by the preaching of the cross. A broken heart could sit forever hearing of righteousness without works, through Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross! A broken heart loves to hear man-made righteousness stamped upon and beaten to dust!

Then too, a broken heart is at rest in Jesus. The unconverted heart never has rest, for

“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20; p. 763).

The awakened heart is not at rest. Sorrows and pains are in the hearts of those who are under conviction of sin, but refuse to trust Jesus. But the truly broken heart throws itself on Jesus. And Jesus’ righteousness imputed to them takes away all fears. The love of Jesus “casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). A broken heart is fully satisfied with Jesus. He is enough for them. Are you fully satisfied with Jesus? Is your heart broken enough to simply come to Him and trust Him? Or are you still struggling to learn, or struggling to find assurance? I pray that you will give up those legal struggles, and trust Jesus, and Jesus alone!

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
     Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you wait until you’re better
     You will never come at all:
Not the righteous, not the righteous,
     Sinners Jesus came to call;
Not the righteous, not the righteous,
     Sinners Jesus came to call.
(“Come, Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).