21 March, 2013
The Doctrine Of Repentance - Part 2
By Thomas Watson, 1668
The NATURE of true repentance
1. True godly sorrow is INTERNAL. It is inward in two ways:
(1) It is a sorrow of the heart. The sorrow of hypocrites lies in their faces: "they disfigure their faces" (Matt. ). They make a sour face—but their sorrow goes no further. It is like the dew which wets the leaf, but does not soak to the root. Ahab's repentance was in outward show. His garments were rent—but not his heart (1 Kings ). Godly sorrow goes deep, like a vein which bleeds inwardly. The heart bleeds for sin: "they were pricked in their heart" (Acts ). As the heart bears a chief part in sinning—so it must in sorrowing.
(2) It is a sorrow for heart-sins, the first outbreaks and risings of sin. Paul grieved for the law of sin in his members (Romans ). The true mourner weeps for the stirrings of pride and lust. He grieves for the "root of bitterness" even though it never blossoms into overt act. A wicked man may be troubled for scandalous sins; a real convert laments heart sins.
2. Godly sorrow is SINCERE. It is sorrow for the offence—rather than for the punishment. God's law has been infringed—and his love abused. This melts the soul in tears. A man may be sorry—yet not repent. A thief is sorry when he is caught, not because he stole—but because he has to pay the penalty! Hypocrites grieve only for the bitter consequence of sin. Their eyes never pour out tears—except when God's judgments are approaching. Pharaoh was more troubled for the frogs—than for his sin.
Godly sorrow, however, is chiefly for the trespass against God—so that even if there were no conscience to smite, no devil to accuse, no hell to punish—yet the soul would still be grieved because of the offense done to God. "My sin is ever before me" (Psalm 51:3); David does not say, The sword is ever before me—but "my sin". "O that I should offend so good a God, that I should grieve my Comforter! This breaks my heart!" Godly sorrow shows itself to be sincere, because when a Christian knows that he is out of the gun-shot of hell and shall never be damned—yet he still grieves for sinning against that free grace which has pardoned him!
3. Godly sorrow is always intermixed with FAITH. Sorrow for sin, is chequered with faith, as we have seen a bright rainbow appear in a watery cloud. Spiritual sorrow will sink the heart—if the pulley of faith does not raise it. As our sin is ever before us, so God's promise must be ever before us. As we much feel our sting, so we must look up to Christ our brazen serpent. Some have faces so swollen with worldly grief, that they can hardly look out of their eyes. That weeping is not good—which blinds the eye of faith. If there are not some dawnings of faith in the soul—it is not the sorrow of humiliation, but of despair.
4. Godly sorrow is a GREAT sorrow. "In that day shall there be a great mourning" (Zech. ). Two suns did set that day when Josiah died, and there was a great funeral mourning. To such a height must sorrow for sin be boiled up.
Question 1. Do all have the same degree of sorrow?
Answer: No, there may be greater or lesser sorrow. In the new birth all have pangs—but some have sharper pangs than others.
(1) Some are naturally of a more rugged disposition, of higher spirits—and are not easily brought to stoop. These must have greater humiliation, as a knotty piece of timber must have sharper wedges driven into it.
(2) Some have been more heinous offenders—and their sorrow must be suitable to their sin. Some patients have their abscess let out with a needle, others with a lance. Heinous sinners must be more bruised with the hammer of the law.
(3) Some are designed and cut out for higher service, to be eminently instrumental for God—and these must have a mightier work of humiliation pass upon them. Those whom God intends to be pillars in his church—must be more hewn. Paul, the prince of the apostles, who was to be God's ensign-bearer to carry his name before the Gentiles and kings, was to have his heart more deeply lanced by repentance.
Question 2. But how great must sorrow for sin be in all?
Answer: It must be as great as for any worldly loss. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced—and they shall mourn as for an only son" (Zech. ). Sorrow for sin must surpass worldly sorrow. We must grieve more for offending God—than for the loss of dear relations. "The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth" (Isaiah ). This repentance was for sin. But in the case of the burial of the dead, we find God prohibiting tears (Jer. ; 16:6), to intimate that sorrow for sin must exceed sorrow at the grave. And with good reason, for in the burial of the dead it is only a friend who departs—but in sin God departs!
Sorrow for sin should be so great as to swallow up all other sorrow, as when the pain of the kidney-stone and gout meet—the pain of the kidney-stone swallows up the pain of the gout. We are to find as much bitterness in weeping for sin—as ever we found sweetness in committing it. Surely David found more bitterness in repentance—than ever he found comfort in Bathsheba.
Our sorrow for sin must be such as makes us willing to let go of those sins which brought in the greatest income of profit or delight. The medicine shows itself strong enough—when it has purged out our disease. Just so, the Christian has arrived at a sufficient measure of sorrow—when the love of sin is purged out.
5. Godly sorrow in some cases is joined with RESTITUTION. Whoever has wronged others by unjust fraudulent dealing, ought to make them recompense. There is an express law for this: "He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged." (Num. 5:7). Thus Zaccheus made restitution: "if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount" (Luke 19:8). When Selymus the great Turk, lay upon his death-bed, being urged to put to charitable use that wealth he had wronged the Persian merchants of—he commanded that it should be sent back to the right owners. Shall not a Christian's creed be better than a Turk's Koran? It is a bad sign when a man on his death-bed bequeaths his soul to God, and his ill-gotten goods to his friends. I can hardly think God will receive his soul. Augustine said, "Without restitution, no remission".