by Patte Smith on Monday, January 24, 2011 at 9:56am
'The sorrow of the world works death'
~ 2 Corinthians 7:10
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4
Mourning is ...for repentance.
'Blessed are you who weep now' (Luke 6:21)...But will all mourning entitle a man to blessedness? No! there is a twofold mourning which is far from making one blessed. There is a carnal mourning, and a diabolicalmourning.
1. There is a CARNAL mourning when we lament outward losses. 'A cry of anguish is heard in Ramah—weeping and mourning unrestrained. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted—for they are dead!' (Matthew 2:18). There are abundance of these carnal tears shed. We have many who can mourn over a dead child—who cannot mourn over a crucified Savior! .. 'The sorrow of the world works death' (2 Corinthians 7:10)
2. There is a DIABOLICAL mourning and that is twofold:
When a man mourns that he cannot satisfy his impure lust. This is like the devil, whose greatest torture is that he can be no more wicked. Thus Ammon mourned and was sick, until he defiled his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:2). Thus Ahab mourned for Naboth's vineyard, "So Ahab went home angry and sullen. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!' (1 Kings 21:4). This was a devilish mourning.
Again, when men are sorry for the good which they have done. Pharaoh was grieved that 'he had let the children of Israel go' (Exodus 14:5). Many are so devilish that they are troubled they have prayed so much and have heard so many sermons. They repent of their repentance. But if we repent of the good which is past—God will not repent of the evil which is to come.
The OBJECTS of spiritual mourning. To illustrate this point of holy mourning, I shall show you what is the adequate object of it. There are two objects of spiritual mourning—sin and misery.
The first object of spiritual mourning is SIN and that twofold, our own sin; and the sin of others.
1. Our OWN sin. Sin must have tears. While we carry the fire of sin about with us—we must carry the water of tears to quench it! (Ezekiel 7:16). 'They are not blessed' (says Chrysostom) 'who mourn for the dead—but rather those who mourn for sin.' And indeed it is with good reason we mourn for sin, if we consider the GUILT of sin, which binds over to wrath. Will not a guilty person weep, who is to be bound over to the penalty? Every sinner is to be tried for his life and is sure to be cast away—if sovereign mercy does not become an advocate for him.
The POLLUTION of sin. Sin is a plague spot, and will you not labor to wash away this spot with your tears? Sin makes a man worse than a toad or serpent. The serpent has nothing but what God has put into —but the sinner has that which the devil has put into him. ... We have in our hearts the seed of the unpardonable sin. We have the seed of all those sins for which the damned are now tormented! And shall we not mourn? He who does not mourn, has surely lost the use of his reason. But every mourning for sin is not sufficient to entitle a man to blessedness. I shall show what is not the right gospel-mourning for sin, and then what is the right gospel-mourning for sin.
What is NOT the right gospel-mourning for sin? There is a fivefold mourning which is false and spurious.
A despairing kind of mourning. Such was Judas' mourning. He saw his sin, he was sorry, he made confession, he justifies Christ, he makes restitution (Matthew 27). Judas, who is in hell, did more than many nowadays! He confessed his sin. He did not plead necessity or good intentions—but he makes an open acknowledgment of his sin. 'I have sinned!' Judas made restitution. His conscience told him he came wickedly by the money. It was 'the price of blood', and he 'brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests' (Matthew 27:3). But how many are there who invade the rights and possessions of others—but not a word of restitution! Judas was more honest than they are. Well, wherein was Judas' sorrow blameworthy? It was a mourning joined with despair...He drowned himself in tears. His was not repentance unto life (Acts 11:18)—but rather unto death.
An hypocritical mourning. The heart is very deceitful. It can betray as well by a tear—as by a kiss. Saul looks like a mourner, and as he was sometimes 'among the prophets' (1 Samuel 10:12) So he seemed to be among the penitents—'And Saul said unto Samuel, 'I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord' (1 Samuel 15:24). Saul played the hypocrite in his mourning, for he did not take shame to himself—but he did rather take honor to himself: 'honor me before the elders of my people' (verse 30). He pared and minced his sin that it might appear lesser.. A true mourner labors to draw out sin in its bloody colors, and accent it with all its killing aggravations, that he may be deeply humbled before the Lord. 'Our iniquities are increased over our head, and our sin has grown up unto the heavens' (Ezra 9:6). The true penitent labors to make the worst of his sin. Saul labors to make the best of sin; like a patient that makes the best of his disease, lest the physician should prescribe him too sharp remedy. How easy is it for a man to put a cheat upon his own soul—and by hypocrisy to sweep himself into hell!
A forced mourning. When tears are pumped out by God's judgements, these are like the tears of a man who has the stone, or that lies upon the rack. Such was Cain's mourning. 'My punishment is greater than I can bear!' (Genesis 4:13). His punishment troubled him more than his sin! To mourn only for fear of hell is like a thief that weeps for the penalty, rather than the offence. The tears of the wicked are forced by the fire of affliction!
An external mourning; when sorrow lies only on the outside. 'They disfigure their faces' (Matthew 6:16). The eye is tender—but the heart is hard. Such was Ahab's mourning. 'He tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh, and went softly' (1 Kings 21:27). His clothes were torn—but his heart was not torn. He had sackcloth but nosorrow. He hung down his head like a bulrush—but his heart was like granite. There are many who may be compared to weeping marbles, they are both watery and flinty.
A vain fruitless mourning. Some will shed a few tears—but are as bad as ever. They will deceive and be unclean. Such a kind of mourning there is in hell. The damned weep—but the continue to blaspheme God.
What is the RIGHT gospel-mourning? That mourning which will entitle a man to blessedness has these qualifications:
It is spontaneous and free...Mary Magdalene's repentance was voluntary. 'She stood weeping' (Luke 7). She came to Christ with ointment in her hand, with love in her heart, with tears in her eyes.
Gospel-mourning is spiritual; that is, when we mourn for sin more than suffering. Pharaoh says, "Take away the plague!" He never thought of the plague of his heart. A sinner mourns because judgment follows at the heels of sin—but David cries out, 'My sin is ever before me' (Psalm 51:3)...The offence against God troubled him. He grieved more for his treason against God—than the bloody axe. Thus the penitent prodigal, 'I have sinned against heaven, and before you' (Luke 15:18,21)... In particular, our mourning for sin, if it is spiritual, must be under this threefold notion:
1. We must mourn for sin, as it is an act of hostility and enmity against God. Sin not only makes us unlike God—but contrary to God: 'They have walked contrary unto me' (Leviticus 26:40). Sin affronts and resists the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). Sin is contrary to God's nature; God is holy; sin is an impure thing. Sin is contrary to His will. If God be of one mind—sin is of another. Sin does all it can to spite God. The Hebrew word for 'sin' signifies 'rebellion'. A sinner fights against God (Acts 5:39). Now when we mourn for sin as it is a walking contrary to heaven, this is a gospel-mourning.
2. We must mourn for sin, as it is the highest ingratitude against God. It is a kicking against the breasts of mercy. God sends His Son to redeem us, His Spirit to comfort us. We sin against the blood of Christ, the grace of the Spirit—and shall we not mourn? We complain of the unkindness of others, and shall we not lay to heart our own unkindness against God? ..May not the Lord say to us, 'These wounds I have received in the house of my friend!' (Zechariah 13:6). Israel took their jewels and earrings and made a golden calf of them. The sinner takes the jewels of God's mercies and makes use of them to sin. Ingratitude is a 'crimson sin' (Isaiah 1:18). Sins against gospel-love are worse in some sense, than the sins of the devils, for they never had an offer of grace offered to them. Now when we mourn for sin as it has its accent of ingratitude upon it, this is an evangelical mourning.
3. We must mourn for sin as it is a privation... it hinders our communion with God. Mary wept for Christ's absence. 'They have taken away my Lord!' (John 20:13). So our sins have taken away our Lord. They have deprived us of His sweet presence. Will not he grieve, who has lost a rich jewel? When we mourn for sin under this notion, as it makes the Sun of Righteousness withdraw from our horizon; when we mourn not so much that peace is gone—but God is gone, 'My beloved had withdrawn himself' (Canticles 5:6); this is a holy mourning.
Gospel-mourning sends the soul to God. When the prodigal son repented, he went to his father. 'I will arise and go to my father' (Luke 15:18)...Gospel-mourning puts a man upon duty. The reason is, that in true sorrow there is a mixture of hope, and hope puts the soul upon the use of means. That mourning which like the 'flaming sword' keeps the soul from approaching to God, and beats it off from duty—is a sinful mourning. It is a sorrow hatched in hell. Such was Saul's grief—which drove him to the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7). Evangelical mourning is a spur to prayer. The child who weeps for offending his father goes to his presence and will not leave until his father is reconciled to him.
Gospel-mourning is for sin in particular. The deceitful man is occupied with generalities. It is with a true penitent as it is with a wounded man. He comes to the surgeon and shows him all his wounds. Here I was cut with the sword; here I was shot with a bullet. So a true penitent bewails all his particular sins. ..David lays his fingers upon the sore—and points to that very sin which troubled him (Psalm 51:4). 'I have done this evil!' He means his blood-guiltiness. A wicked man will say he is a sinner—but a child of God says, 'I have done this evil!' ..There must be a particular repentance, before we have a general pardon.
Gospel tears must drop from the eye of faith. 'The father of the child cried out with tears, 'Lord, I believe' (Mark 9:24). Our disease must make us mourn—but when we look up to our Physician, who has made a remedy of His own blood, we must not mourn without hope. Believing tears are precious. When the clouds of sorrow have overcast the soul, some sunshine of faith must break forth. The soul will be swallowed up of sorrow, it will be drowned in tears—if faith does not keep it up from sinking. Though our tears drop to the earth—yet our faith must reach heaven.
Gospel-mourning is joined with self-loathing. The sinner admires himself. The penitent loathes himself. 'You shall loath yourselves in your own sight for all your evils' (Ezekiel 20:43). A true penitent is troubled not only for the shameful consequence of sin—but for the loathsome nature of sin... The true mourner cries out, O these impure eyes! this heart which is a conclave of wickedness! He not only leaves sin—but loathes sin. He who has fallen in the dirt loathes himself (Hosea 14:1).
Gospel-mourning must be purifying. Our tears must make us more holy...We must not only mourn—but turn. 'Turn to Me with weeping' (Joel 2:12). What good is it, to have a watery eye and a whorish heart? ...It is an excellent saying of Augustine, 'He truly bewails the sins he has committed, who never commits the sins he has bewailed'. ..The waters of holy mourning are like the river Jordan wherein Naaman washed and was cleansed of his leprosy....Before you think to drink down the sweet cordials of the promises, cast up the poison that lies at your heart. Do not only mourn for sin—but break from sin.
Gospel-mourning must be joined with hatred of sin. ...We must not only abstain from sin—but abhor sin. The dove hates the least feather of the hawk. A true mourner hates the least motion to sin. A true mourner is a sin-hater... To be a sin-hater implies two things: first, to look upon sin as the most deadly evil—as the essence of all evil. It looks more ghastly than death or hell. Second, to be implacably incensed against it. A sin-hater will never admit of any terms of peace. //Anger may be reconciled—hatred cannot. True mourning begins in the love of God—and ends in the hatred of sin.
Gospel-mourning in some cases is joined with restitution. ..If we have wronged others in their estate by unjust, fraudulent dealing, we must make them some compensation. Thus Zacchaeus, 'If I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold' (Luke 19:8), according to the law of Exodus 22:1. James bids us not only look to the heart but the hand: 'Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts' (James 4:8). If you have wronged another, cleanse your hands by restitution. Be assured, without restitution—no remission.
Gospel-mourning must be a speedy mourning. We must take heed of adjourning our repentance, and putting it off until death. As David said, 'I will pay my vows now' (Psalm 116:18), so should a Christian say, 'I will mourn for sin now.' 'Blessed are you that weep now' (Luke 6:21). God has encircled us in the compass of a little time, and charges us immediately to bewail our sins. 'Now God calls all men everywhere to repent' (Acts 17:30). We know not whether we may have another day granted us. Oh let us not put off our mourning for sin until the making of our will. Do not think holy mourning is only a deathbed duty. You may seek the blessing with tears, as Esau when it istoo late. How long shall I say that I will repent tomorrow? Why not at this instant?.. The true mourner makes haste to meet an angry God.
Gospel-mourning for sin is perpetual. There are some who at a sermon will shed a few tears—but they are soon dried up. The hypocrite's sorrow is like a vein opened and presently stopped. The Hebrew word for 'eye' signifies also 'a fountain', to show that the eye must run like a fountain for sin and not cease. The waters of repentance must not overflow with more heat in the morning, at the first hearing of the gospel; and at midday, in the midst of health and prosperity, grow cold and be ready to freeze. No! it must be a daily weeping. As Paul said, 'I die daily' (1 Corinthians 15:31), so a Christian should say, 'I mourn daily'. Therefore keep open an outflow of godly sorrow, and be sure it is not stopped until death. 'Let your tears flow like a river. Give yourselves no rest from weeping day or night' (Lamentations 2:18). It is reported of holy John Bradford that scarcely a day passed him wherein he did not shed some tears for sin. Daily mourning is a good antidote against backsliding.The washing of our souls daily in the brinish waters of repentance is the best way both to prevent and cure the falling into relapses.
2. As we must mourn for our own sins—so we must lay to heart the sins of OTHERS. Thus we should wish with Jeremiah, that our eyes were a fountain of tears, that we might weep day and night for the iniquity of the times. Our blessed Savior mourned for the sins of the Jews: 'Being grieved for the hardness of their hearts' (Mark 3:5). And holy David, looking upon the sins of the wicked, his heart was turned into a spring, and his eyes into rivers. 'Rivers of tears run down my eyes, because they do not keep your Law' (Psalm 119:136). Lot's righteous soul 'was vexed with the filthy lives of the wicked' (2 Peter 2:7). Lot took the sins of Sodom and made spears of them to pierce his own soul.
Have not we cause to mourn for the sins of others? The whole axle of the nation is ready to break under the weight of sin. What an inundation of wickedness is there among us? Mourn for the hypocrisy of the times. Jehu says 'Come, see my zeal for the Lord'—but it was zeal for the throne (2 Kings 10:16). This is the hypocrisy of some. They entitle God to whatever they do. They make bold with God to use His name to their wickedness... 'They build up Zion with blood; yet will they lean upon the Lord and say, Is not the Lord among us?' (Micah 3:10, 11). Many with a religious kiss smite the gospel... Could not Ahab be content to kill and take possession—but must he usher it in with religion, and make fasting a preface to his murder? (1 Kings 21:12). The white devil is worst! To hear the name of God in the mouths of scandalous hypocrites, is enough to affright others from the profession of religion.
Mourn for the errors and blasphemies of the nation. There is now a free trade of error. Toleration gives men a patent to sin.
Mourn for covenant violation. Breach of covenant is spiritual harlotry, and for this God may name us 'Not My people', and give us a bill of divorce (Hosea 1:9).
Mourn for the pride of the nation. Our condition is low—but our hearts are high. Mourn for the profaneness of the land. Mourn for the removing of landmarks (Deuteronomy 27:17). Mourn that there are so few mourners. Surely if we mourn not for the sins of others, it is to be feared that we are not sensible of our own sins. God looks upon us as guilty of those sins in others—which we do not lament. Our tears may help to quench God's wrath!
The saints must be sensible of the injuries of God's church. 'We wept when we remembered Zion' (Psalm 137:1). The people of Israel...sat by the rivers weeping. They laid aside all their musical instruments. 'We hung our harps upon the willows' (verse 2). We were as far from joy as those willows were from fruit. 'How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?' (verse 4). We were fitter to weep than to sing. The sound of song is not agreeable to mourning.
Gospel Mourning, by Thomas Watson