by Patte Smith on Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 9:45am ·
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
~ Matthew 5:4
Here are eight steps leading to true blessedness.
Mourning would be a sad and unpleasant subject to address—
were it not that it has blessedness going before,
and comfort coming after.
Mourning is put here, for repentance.
The ASSERTION—mourners are blessed people.
'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 adiabolical mourning.
1. There is a CARNAL mourning when we lament outward losses—who cannot mourn over a crucified Savior! There are abundance of these carnal tears shed. '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 ... repent of their repentance!
The OBJECTS of spiritual mourning.
There are two objects of spiritual mourning—sin and misery.
The first object of spiritual mourning is SIN;
our own sin; and the sin of others.
1. Our OWN sin. Sin must have tears...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? The sinner has that which the devil has put into him. 'Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?' (Acts 5:3). 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? .. 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 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). .. Well, wherein was Judas' sorrow blameworthy? It was a mourning joined with despair...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, he laid his sin upon the people, 'because I feared the people' (verse 24). 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 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 sackclothbut no sorrow. He hung down his head like a bulrush—but his heart was like granite.
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.
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).
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. 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 ingratitude, this is evangelical mourning.
3. We must mourn for sin as it is a privation; it hinders our communion with God. 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; 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. The mourning for the loss of God's favor—is the best way to regain His favor. If you have lost a friend, all your weeping will not fetch him again—but if you have lost God's presence, your mourning will bring your God again.
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. Absalom could not be quiet 'until he had seen the king's face' (2 Samuel 14:32, 33).
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. 'We have served Baal' (Judges 10:10). They mourned for their idolatry. And 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!' Peter wept for that particular sin of denying Christ.
There must be a particular repentance, before we have a general pardon.
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; not only the sting of sin—but the deformed face 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.
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?
Naturalists say of the serpent, before it goes to drink it vomits out its poison. In this 'be wise as serpents'. 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. 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. The war between him and sin. 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.
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.
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 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! You may seek the blessing with tears, as Esau when it is too late. How long shall I say that I will repent tomorrow? Why not at this instant? 'Delay brings danger'. 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 presently stopped. 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). 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.
Even God's own children must mourn after pardon; for God, in pardoning, does not pardon at one instant sins past and future; but as repentance is renewed, so pardon is renewed. Should God by one act pardon sins future as well as past, this would make void part of Christ's office. What need were there of His intercession, if sin should be pardoned before it be committed? There are sins in the godly of daily incursion, which must be mourned for. Though sin is pardoned, still it rebels; though it be covered, it is not cured (Romans 7:23). There is that in the best Christian, which is contrary to God. There is that in him, which deserves hell—and shall he not mourn? A ship that is always leaking must have the water continually pumped out. While the soul leaks by sin, we must be still pumping at the leak by repentance. Think not, O Christian, that your sins are washed away only by Christ's blood—but by water and blood. The brazen laver (Exodus 30:18) that the people of Israel were to wash in might be a fit emblem of this spiritual laver, tears and blood; and when holy mourning is thus qualified, this is that 'sorrowing after a godly sort' (2 Corinthians 7:11), which makes a Christian eternally blessed.
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...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 for the the spitting in the face of Authority. 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)... '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.
Mourn to see God's church a bleeding vine. Mourn to see Christ's spouse with 'garments rolled in blood'.
Truth has fallen in the streets—and peace has fled.
There are three special SEASONS of extraordinary mourning;
1. When there are tokens of God's wrath breaking forth in the nation. England has been under God's black rod these many years. The Lord has drawn His sword. O that our tears may blunt the edge of this sword! When it is a time of treading down, now is a time of breaking up the fallow ground of our hearts. 'Therefore said I, look away from me, I will weep bitterly for it is a time of treading down' (Isaiah 22:4, 5). 'A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds . . . therefore turn to Me with weeping and with mourning' (Joel 2:2, 12). Rain follows thunder. When God thunders in a nation by His judgements, now the showers of tears must distill. If the Lord seems to be packing up and carrying away His gospel—it is now high time to mourn, that by our tears possibly His 'repentings may be kindled' (Hosea 11:8).
2. Before the performing solemn duties of God's worship, as fasting or receiving the Lord's Supper. Christian, are you about to seek God in an extraordinary manner? 'Seek Him sorrowing' (Luke 2:48). Would you have the smiles of God's face, the kisses of His lips? Set open all the springs of mourning, and then God will draw near to you and say, 'Here I am!' (Isaiah 58:9). When Jacob wept, then he 'found God in Bethel' (Hosea 12:4). 'He called the name of the place Peniel, for I have seen God face to face' (Genesis 32:30). Give Christ the wine of your tears to drink—and He will give you the wine of His blood to drink.
3. After scandalous relapses. Though I will not say that there is no mercy for sins of relapse—yet I say there is no mercy without bitter mourning. Scandalous sins reflect dishonor upon religion (2 Samuel 12:14). Therefore now our cheeks should be covered with blushing, and our eyes bedewed with tears. Peter, after His denying Christ, wept bitterly. Christian, has God given you over to any enormous sin as a just reward of your pride and carnal security? Go into the 'weeping bath'. Scandalous sins wound the gospel. Lesser sins grieve the Spirit—but greater sins vex the Spirit (Isaiah 63:10). When we have by scandalous sin darkened the luster of the gospel, now is the time for the dew of holy tears to fall from our eyes.
What is the OPPOSITE to holy mourning? The opposite to mourning is 'hardness of heart', which in Scripture is called 'a heart of stone' (Ezekiel 36:26). A heart of stone is far from mourning and repenting. This heart of stone is known by two symptoms:
One symptom is insensibility. A stone is not sensible of anything—it does not feel. So it is with a hard heart. It is insensible to both its own sin and God's wrath. 'Having lost all sensitivity.' (Ephesians 4:19).
A heart of stone is known by its inflexibility. A stone will not bend. That is hard, which does not yield to the touch. So it is with a hard heart. It will not comply with God's command. It will not stoop to Christ's scepter. A heart of stone will sooner break, than bend by repentance. It is so far from yielding to God, it 'always resists the Holy Spirit' (Acts 7:51).
Oh Christians, if you would be spiritual mourners, take heed of this stone of the heart. 'Harden not your hearts' (Hebrews 3:7,8). A stony heart is the worst heart. A stony heart is such, that only the arm of God can break it--and only the blood of Christ can soften it! Oh the misery of a hard heart! A hard heart is void of all grace. While the wax is hard, it will not take the impression of the seal. The heart, while it is hard, will not take the stamp of grace. It must first be made tender and melting. The plough of the Word will not penetrate a hard heart. A hard heart is good for nothing—but to make fuel for hellfire. 'Because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath' (Romans 2:5). Hell is full of hard hearts—there is not one soft heart there. There is weeping there—but no softness. We read of 'vessels of His wrath--prepared for destruction' (Romans 9:22). Hardness of heart, fits these vessels for hell, and makes them like withered wood, which is fit only to burn.
Hardness of heart makes a man's condition worse than all his other sins besides. If one is guilty of great sins—yet if he can mourn, there is hope. Repentance unravels sin, but hardness of heart binds guilt fast upon the soul. It seals a man under wrath. It is hardness of heart which damns. This makes the sin against the Holy Spirit incapable of mercy, because the sinner who has committed it, is incapable of repentance.
Sundry sharp reproofs
This doctrine draws up a charge against several sorts of people:
1. Those who think themselves good Christians—yet have not learned this art of holy mourning. Men have tears to shed for other things—but have none to spare for their sins. Most are like the stony ground which 'lacked moisture' (Luke 8:6).
Did Christ bleed for sin—and can you not weep! If God's bottle is not filled with tears—His vial will be filled with wrath! We have many sinners in Zion—but few mourners in Zion. So when the waves of sin have even covered men and the stormy wind of God's wrath blows, and is ready to blow them into hell—yet they are asleep in carnal security.
2. This doctrine reproves them who instead of weeping for sin, spend their days in mirth and jollity. Instead of mourners we have jesters. 'They sing with tambourine and harp. They make merry to the sound of the flute' (Job 21:12, 13). 'They do not give themselves to mourning—but follow after their pleasures'. James bids us 'turn our laughter to mourning' (James 4:9). The jovial sinner amuses the devil. 'It is one of the worst sights to see a sinner go laughing to hell.' How unseasonable is it to take the harp and violin—when God is taking the sword! 'A sword is being sharpened and polished. It is being prepared for terrible slaughter; it will flash like lightning! Now will you laugh?' (Ezekiel 21:9, 10). This is a sin which enrages God.
'The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of sackcloth to show your remorse. But instead, you dance and play; you feast on meat, and drink wine. The Lord Almighty has revealed to me that this sin will never be forgiven you until the day you die. That is the judgment of the Lord, the Lord Almighty' (Isaiah 22:12-14). That is, this your sin shall not be done away by any expiatory sacrifice—but vengeance shall pursue you forever!
3. This doctrine reproves those who, instead of mourning for sin, rejoice in sin (Proverbs 2:14); 'Who take pleasure in iniquity' (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Wicked men in this sense are worse than the damned in hell, for they take little pleasure in their sins. There are some so impudently profane, that they will make themselves and others merry with their sins. Sin is a soul sickness (Luke 5:31). Will a man make merry with his disease? Ah wretch! did Christ bleed for sin—and do you laugh at sin! Is it a time for a man to be jesting when he is upon the scaffold, and his head is to be stricken off? You who laugh at sin now, 'So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—when calamity overcomes you like a storm, when you are engulfed by trouble, and when anguish anddistress overwhelm you!' Proverbs 1:24-27
4. This doctrine reproves those that cry down mourning for sin. They are like the Philistines who stopped-up the wells (Genesis 26:15). These would stop-up the wells of godly sorrow. Antinomians say this is a legal doctrine—but Christ here preaches it: 'Blessed are those who mourn.' And the apostles preached it, 'And they went out and preached that men should repent' (Mark 6:12). Holy sincerity will put us upon mourning for sin. He who has the heart of a child cannot but weep for his unkindness against God. Mourning for sin is the very fruit and product of the Spirit of grace (Zechariah 12:10). Such as cry down repentance, cry down the Spirit of grace. Mourning for sin is the only way to keep off wrath from us. To all such I say, as Peter to Simon Magus, 'Repent therefore of this your wickedness and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you', O sinner '(Acts 8:22). Repent that you have cried down repentance.
Excerpted from Gospel Mourning by Thomas Watson