Psalm 119: The Breath of the New Heart (McCheyne)

Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M'Cheyne Bonar, Andrew cover image

Psalm 119 has always been one of my favorite Psalms. I love how the Psalmist talks about the beauty and power of God’s word, precepts, commands, and laws. Speaking of Psalm 119, Robert Murray MCheyne called it “the breathing of the new heart” in a sermon on Romans 7:22-25. After mentioning how an unbeliever has no delight in God’s law (e.g. Rom. 8:7), MCheyne explained what it means when a believer does delight in God’s law:

When a man comes to Christ, this [hatred for the law] is all changed. He can say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” He can say with David, “O how I love Thy law: it is my meditation all the day.” He can say with the Lord Jesus in the 40th Psalm, “I delight to do Thy will, O God, yea, Thy law is within My heart.” There are two reasons for this:

First, the law is no longer an enemyIf any of you who are trembling under a sense of your infinite sins, and the curses of the law that you have broken, flee to Christ, you will find rest. You will find that He has fully cancelled the demands of the law as a Surety for sinners, that He has fully borne all its curses. You will be able to say, “Christ hath redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me, as it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). You have no more to fear, then, from that awfully holy law; you are not under the law, but under grace. You have no more to fear from the law, than you will have after the Judgment Day. When that awful scene is past-when the dead, small and great, have stood before the Great White Throne—when the sentence of eternal woe has fallen upon all the unconverted, and they have sunk into the lake whose fires can never be quenched; would not that redeemed soul say, I have nothing to fear from that holy law; I have seen its vials poured out, but not a drop has fallen on me? So may you say now, O believer in Jesus! When you look upon the soul of Christ, scarred with God’s thunderbolts, when you look upon His body, pierced for sin, you can say-He was made a curse for me; why should I fear that holy law?

Second, the Spirit of God writes the law on the heart. This is the promise: “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33). Coming to Christ takes away your fear of the law, but it is the Holy Spirit coming into your heart that makes you love the law. The Holy Spirit is no more frightened away from that heart. He comes and softens it. He takes out the stony heart and puts in a heart of flesh; and there He writes the holy law of God. Then the law of God is sweet to that soul: he has an inward delight in it. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Now he unfeignedly desires every thought, word, and action, to be according to that law. “Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes: great peace have they that love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” The 119th Psalm becomes the breathing of that new heart. Now also he would fain see all the world submitting to that pure and holy law. “Rivers of water run down mine eyes because they keep not Thy law.” Oh that all the world but knew that holiness and happiness are one. Try yourselves by this. Can you say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man?” Do you love it now? Do you long for the time when you shall live fully under it—holy as God is holy, pure as Christ is pure?

Robert Murray MCheyne, Memoirs, p. 274-275

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002