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6. Blessed are they that mourn
Blessed are they that mourn.
Here are eight steps leading to true blessedness. They may be compared to Jacob’s Ladder, the top whereof reached to heaven. We have already gone over one step, and now let us proceed to the second: ‘Blessed are they that mourn’. We must go through the valley of tears to paradise. Mourning were a sad and unpleasant subject to treat on, were it not that it has blessedness going before, and comfort coming after. Mourning is put here for repentance. It implies both sorrow, which is the cloud, and tears which are the rain distilling in this golden shower; God comes down to us.
The words fall into two parts, first, an assertion that mourners are blessed persons; second, a reason, because they shall be comforted.
1 I begin with the first, the assertion; mourners are blessed persons. ‘Blessed are ye that weep now’ (Luke 6:21). Though the saints’ tears are bitter tears, yet they are blessed tears. 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. There is a diabolical mourning.
There is a carnal mourning when we lament outward losses. ‘In ‘Rama there was a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children . . .’ (Matthew 2:18). There are abundance of these tears shed. We have many can mourn over a dead child, that cannot mourn over a crucified Saviour. Worldly sorrow hastens our funerals. ‘The sorrow of the world worketh 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, till he defiled his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:2). Thus Ahab mourned for Naboth’s vineyard: ‘He laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread’ (1 Kings 21:4). This was a devilish mourning.
Again, when men are sorry for the good which they have done. Pharaoh 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.
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. Sin, and that twofold, our own sin; the sin of others.
Our own sin. Sin must have tears. While we carry the fire of sin about 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 sessions? Every sinner is to be tried for his life and is sure to be cast if mercy does not become an advocate for him.
The pollution of sin. Sin is a plague spot, and will you not labour 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 it. Poison is medicinable (capable of being used as a medicine); but the sinner has that which the devil has put into him. ‘Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?’ (Acts 5:3). What a strange metamorphosis has sin made! The soul, which was once of an azure brightness, sin has made of a sable colour 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 that 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 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 acknowledgement 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 again 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 thought his wound broader than the plaster. 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 him self, but he did rather take honour to himself: ‘honour 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). They would have me fly upon the spoil, and I dare do no other. A true mourner labours to draw out sin in its bloody colours, 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 trespass is grown up unto the heavens’ (Ezra 9:6). The true penitent labours to make the worst of his sin. Saul labours to make the best of sin; like a patient that makes the best of his disease, lest the physician should prescribe him too sharp physic. 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 that 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 extrinsic 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 rent his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh, and went softly’ (1 Kings 21:27). His clothes were rent, but his heart was not rent. He had sackcloth but no sorrow. He hung down his head like a bulrush, but his heart was like an adamant. 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 cozen and be unclean. Such a kind of mourning there is in hell. The damned weep but they blaspheme.
What is the right gospel-mourning? That mourning which will entitle a man to blessedness has these qualifications:
It is spontaneous and free. It must come as water out of a spring, not as fire out of a flint. Tears for sin must be like the myrrh which drops from the tree freely without cutting or forcing. 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. God is for a freewill offering. He does not love to be put to distrain.
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 judgement follows at the heels of sin, but David cries out, ‘My sin is ever before me’ (Psalm 51:3). God had threatened that the sword should ride in circuit in his family, but David does not say, ‘The sword is ever before me’, but ‘My sin is ever before me’. The offence against God troubled him. He grieved more for the treason than the bloody axe. Thus the penitent prodigal, ‘I have sinned against heaven, and before thee’ (Luke 15:18,21). He does not say, ‘I am almost starved among the husks’, but ‘I have offended my father’. In particular, our mourning for sin, if it be spiritual, must be under this threefold notion:
1 We must mourn for sin as it is an act of hostility and enmity. 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 Ghost (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 Antipodes’ to heaven, this is a gospel-mourning. Nature will not bear contraries.
2 We must mourn for sin as it is a piece of the highest ingratitude. 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? Caesar took it unkindly that his son, Brutus, should stab him — ‘and thou, my son!’ 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 dyes a sin in grain, hence they are called ‘crimson sins’ (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 tendered to them. ‘The devil sinned though constituted in innocence, I indeed when restored. He continued in wickedness by reprobation of God, I indeed when recalled by God. He was hardened by punishment, I indeed by (divine) gentleness. And thus both of us went against God, the one by not seeking to know himself, I indeed against the one who died for me. Behold his (the devil’s) dreadful likeness, but in many things I see myself even more dreadful’ (Anselm: Concerning the fall of the Devil.) Now when we mourn for sin as it has its accent of ingratitude upon it, this is an evangelical mourning.
We must mourn for sin as it is a privation; it keeps good things from us; 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, and trading is gone, but God is gone, ‘My beloved had withdrawn himself’ (Canticles 5:6); this is an holy mourning. The mourning for the loss of God’s favour is the best way to regain his favour. 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). Jacob wept and prayed (Hosea 12:4). The people of Israel wept and offered sacrifice (Judges 2:4,5). 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 till his father be reconciled to him. Absalom could not be quiet ‘till 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 Baalim’ (Judges 10:10). They mourned for their idolatry. And David lays his fingers upon the sore and points to that very sin that 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. Clemens Alexandrinus says, he never heard a cock crow, but he fell a-weeping. 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 plaister 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 be not the bladder to keep it up from sinking. Though our tears drop to the earth, our faith must reach heaven. After the greatest rain, faith must appear as the rainbow in the cloud. The tears of faith are bottled as precious wine (Psalm 56:8).
Gospel-mourning is joined with self-loathing. The sinner admires himself. The penitent loathes himself. ‘Ye 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. How did the leper loathe himself! (Leviticus 13:45). The Hebrew doctors say, the leper pronounced unclean was to put a covering on his upper lip, both as a mourner and in token of shame. 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 that is fallen in the dirt loathes himself (Hosea 14:1).
Gospel-mourning must be purifying. Our tears must make us more holy. We must so weep for sin, as to weep out sin. Our tears must drown our sins. We must not only mourn but turn. ‘Turn to me with weeping’ (Joel 2:12). What is it to have a watery eye and a whorish heart? It is foolish to say it is day, when the air is full of darkness; so to say you repent, when you draw dark shadows in your life. It is an excellent saying of Augustine, ‘He truly bewails the sins he has committed, who never commits the sins he has bewailed’. True mourning is like the ‘water of jealousy’ (Numbers 5:12-22). It makes the thigh of sin to rot. ‘Thou breakest the heads of the dragons in the waters’ (Psalm 74:14). The heads of our sins, these dragons, are broken in the waters of true repentance. True tears are cleansing. They are like a flood that carries away all the rubbish of our sins with it. The waters of holy mourning are like the river Jordan wherein Naaman washed and was cleansed of his leprosy. It is reported that there is a river in Sicily where, if the blackest sheep are bathed, they become white; so, though our sins be as scarlet, yet by washing in this river of repentance, they become white as snow. 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. ‘What indignation!’ (2 Corinthians 7:11). 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. Amnon hated Tamar more than ever he loved her (2 Samuel 13:15). To be a sin-hater implies two things: first, to look upon sin as the most deadly evil, a complicated 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 is like the war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. ‘There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days’ (1 Kings 14:30). 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. It is as well a sin to violate the name as the chastity of another. If we have eclipsed the good name of others, we are bound to ask them for forgiveness. If we have wronged them 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. St James bids us not only look to the heart but the hand: ‘Cleanse your hands, ye 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 till 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 ye that weep now’ (Luke 6:21). As Popillius, the Roman Legate, when he was sent to Antiochus (Epiphanes) the king, made a circle round about the king and bade him make his answer before he went out of that circle, so God has encircled us in the compass of a little time, and charges us immediately to bewail our sins. ‘Now God calleth 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 till 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 is too late. ‘During tomorrow?, says Augustine. How long shall I say that I will repent tomorrow? Why not at this instant? ‘Delay brings danger’. Caesar’s deferring to read his letter before he went to the Senate-house, cost him his life. The true mourner makes haste to meet an angry God, as Jacob did his brother; and the present he sends before is the sacrifice of tears.
Gospel-mourning for sin is constant. There are some who at a sermon will shed a few tears, but this land-flood is 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; but it must not be like the Libyan fountain of the sun which the ancients speak of; in the morning the water is hot, at midday cold. 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 issue of godly sorrow, and be sure it be not stopped till death. ‘Let not the apple of thine eye cease’ (Lamentations 2:18). It is reported of holy John Bradford that scarce a day passed him wherein he did not shed some tears for sin. Daily mourning is a good antidote against backsliding. I have read of one that had an epilepsy, or falling sickness, and being dipped in seawater, was cured. 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 be 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.
As we must mourn for our own sins, so we must lay to heart the sins of others. The poets feign that Biblis was turned into a fountain. 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 Saviour mourned for the sins of the Jews: ‘Being grieved for the hardness’ (or brawniness) ‘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 mine eyes, because they keep not thy law’ (Psalm 119:136). Lot’s righteous soul ‘was vexed with the unclean conversation of the wicked’ (2 Peter 2:7). Lot took the sins of Sodom and made spears of them to pierce his own soul. Cyprian says that in the primitive times, when a virgin who vowed herself to religion had defiled her chastity, shame and grief filled the whole face of the congregation.
Have not we cause to mourn for the sins of others? The whole axle-tree of the nation is ready to break under the weight of sin. What an inundation of wickedness is there amongst 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; as if a thief should pretend the king’s warrant for his robbery. ‘They build up Sion with blood; the heads thereof judge for reward; 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 under the fifth rib. 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. A burning torch in the hand of a ghost is most affrighting. 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. What cursed opinion that has been long ago buried in the church, but is now dug out of the grave, and by some worshipped! England is grown as wanton in her religion, as she is antic in her fashions. The Jesuits’ Exchange is open, and every one almost is for an opinion of the newest cut. Did men’s faces alter as fast as their judgements, we should not know them.
Mourn for covenant violation. This sin is a flying roll against England. Breach of covenant is spiritual harlotry, and for this God may name us ‘Lo-ammi’, 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. England is like that man in the gospel who had ‘a spirit of an unclean devil’ (Luke 4:33). Mourn for the removing of landmarks (Deuteronomy 27:17). Mourn for the contempt offered to magistracy, 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 are members of the body mystical as well as political, therefore they must be sensible of the injuries of God’s church. ‘We wept when we remembered Sion’ (Psalm 137:1). The people of Israel, being debarred from the place of public worship, sat by the rivers weeping. They laid aside all their musical instruments. ‘We hanged 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.
When we consider the miseries of many Christians in Germany, the Dukedom of Savoy, and other foreign parts, who have been driven from their habitations because they would not desert the Protestant and espouse the Popish religion; when instead of a Bible, a crucifix; instead of prayers, mass; instead of going to church, they should go on pilgrimage to some saint or relic. When we consider these things, our eyes should run down. Mourn to see God’s church a bleeding vine. Mourn to see Christ’s spouse with ‘garments rolled in blood’.
Methinks I hear England’s passing bell go. Let us shed some tears over dying England. Let us bewail our intestine divisions. England’s divisions have been fatal. They brought in the Saxons, Danes, Normans. If ‘a kingdom divided cannot stand’, how do we stand but by a miracle of free grace? Truth is fallen and peace is fled. England’s fine coat of peace is torn and, like Joseph’s coat, dipped in blood. Peace is the glory of a nation. Some observe, if the top of the beech tree be taken off, the whole tree withers. Peace is the apex and top of all earthly blessings. This top being cut off, we may truly say the body of the whole nation begins to wither apace.
Mourn for the oppressions of England. The people of this land have laid out their money only to buy mourning.
Though we must always keep open the issue of godly sorrow, yet there are some seasons wherein our tears should overflow, as the water sometimes rises higher. There are three special seasons of extraordinary mourning, when it should be as it were high-water in the soul:
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 and it is not yet put up. 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 ye even 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 distil. When God smites upon our back, we must ’smite upon our thigh’ (Jeremiah 31:19). When God seems to stand upon the ‘threshold of the temple’ (Ezekiel 10:4), as if he were ready to take his wings and fly, then is it a time to lie weeping between ‘the porch and the altar’. 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 nigh to you in an ordinance 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 (says he) I have seen God face to face’ (Genesis 32:30). Give Christ the wine of your tears to drink, and in the sacrament he will give you the wine of his blood to drink.
3 After scandalous relapses. Though I will not say with Novatus that there is no mercy for sins of recidivation or relapse, yet I say there is no mercy without bitter mourning. Scandalous sins reflect dishonour 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 security? Go into the ‘weeping bath’. Sins of infirmity injure the soul, but scandalous sins wound the gospel. Lesser sins grieve the Spirit, but greater sins vex the Spirit (Isaiah 63:10). And if that blessed Dove weeps, shall not we weep? When the air is dark then the dew falls. When we have by scandalous sin darkened the lustre of the gospel, now is the time for the dew of holy tears to fall from our eyes.
Next to the seasons of mourning, let us consider the degree of it. The mourning for sin must be a very great mourning. The Greek word imports a great sorrow, such as is seen at the funeral of a dear friend. ‘They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one that mourneth for his only son’ (Zechariah 12:10). The sorrow for an only child is very great. Such must be the sorrow for sin. ‘In that day there shall be great mourning, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon (verse 11). In that valley Josiah, that famous and pious prince, was cut off by an untimely death, at whose funeral there was bitter lamentation. Thus bitterly must we bewail, not the death, but the life of our sins. Now then, to set forth the graduation of sorrow.
Our mourning for sin must be so great as to exceed all other grief. Eli’s mourning for the ark was such that it swallowed up the loss of his two children. Spiritual grief must preponderate over all other. We should mourn more for sin than for the loss of friends or estate.
We should endeavour to have our sorrow rise up to the same height and proportion as our sin does. Manasseh was a great sinner and a great mourner. ‘He humbled himself greatly’ (2 Chronicles 33:12). Manasseh made the streets run with blood and he made the prison in Babylon run with tears. Peter wept bitterly. A true mourner labours that his repentance may be as eminent as his sin is transcendent.
Having shown the nature of mourning, I shall next show what is the opposite to holy mourning. The opposite to mourning is ‘hardness of heart’, which in Scripture is called ‘an heart of stone’ (Ezekiel 36:26). An heart of stone is far from mourning and relenting. This heart of stone is known by two symptoms:
One symptom is insensibility. A stone is not sensible of anything. Lay weight upon it; grind it to powder; it does not feel. So it is with an hard heart. It is insensible of sin or wrath. The stone in the kidneys is felt but not the stone in the heart. ‘Who being past feeling . . .’ (Ephesians 4:19).
An 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 an hard heart. It will not comply with God’s command. It will not stoop to Christ’s sceptre. An heart of stone will sooner break than bend by repentance. It is so far yielding to God that like the anvil it beats back the hammer. It ‘resists the Holy Ghost’ (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. If it were brazen, it might be melted in the furnace of iron; it might be bowed with the hammer. But a stony heart is such that only the arm of God can break it and the blood of God soften it. Oh the misery of an hard heart! An 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 go upon an hard heart. An hard heart is good for nothing but to make fuel for hellfire. ‘After thy hardness of heart thou treasurest up 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 fitted to destruction’ (Romans 9:22). Impenitence fits these vessels for hell, and makes them like sere wood which is fit to burn. Hardness of heart makes a man’s condition worse than all his other sins besides. If one be guilty of great sins, yet if he can mourn, there is hope. Repentance unravels sin, and makes sin not to be. But hardness of heart binds guilt fast upon the soul. It seals a man under wrath. It is not heinousness of sin, but hardness of heart that damns. This makes the sin against the Holy Ghost incapable of mercy, because the sinner that has committed it is incapable of repentance.
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