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03 April, 2013

The Doctrine of Repentance - Part 10

By Thomas Watson, 1668
 The Nature of true repentance

Question: What is there in sin, which may make a penitent hate it?
Answer: Sin is the accursed thing, the most deformed monster. The apostle Paul uses a very emphatic word to express it: "that sin might become exceedingly sinful" (Romans 7:13), or as it is in the Greek, "exaggeratedly sinful". That sin is an exaggerated mischief, and deserves hatred will appear if we look upon sin as a fourfold conceit:

(1) Look upon the origin of sin, from whence it comes. It fetches its pedigree from hell: "He who commits sin is of the devil!" (1 John 3:8). Sin is the devil's special work. God has a hand in ordering sin, it is true—but Satan has a hand in acting it out. How hateful is it to be doing that which is the special work of the devil, indeed, that which makes men into devils!

(2) Look upon sin in its nature, and it will appear very hateful. See how scripture has pencilled sin out: it is a dishonoring of God (Romans 2:23 ); a despising of God (1 Sam. 2:30); a fretting of God (Ezek. 16:43); a wearying of God (Isaiah 7:13); a grieving the heart of God, as a loving husband is with the unchaste conduct of his wife: "I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols" (Ezek. 6:9). Sin, when acted to the height, is a crucifying Christ afresh and putting him to open shame (Heb. 6:6), that is, impudent sinners pierce Christ in his saints, and were he now upon earth they would crucify him again in his person. Behold the odious nature of sin.

(3) Look upon sin in its comparison, and it appears ghastly. Compare sin with AFFLICTION and hell, and it is worse than both. It is worse than affliction, sickness, poverty, or death. There is more malignity in a drop of sin than in a sea of affliction—for sin is the cause of affliction, and the cause is more than the effect. The sword of God's justice lies quiet in the scabbard—until sin draws it out! Affliction is good for us: "It is good for me that I have been afflicted" (Psalm 119:71). Affliction causes repentance (2 Chron. 33:12). The viper, being stricken, casts up its poison. Just so, when God's rod strikes us with affliction, we spit away the poison of sin! Affliction betters our grace. Gold is purest, and juniper sweetest—when in the fire. Affliction prevents damnation. "We are being disciplined—so that we will not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor. 11:32). Therefore, Maurice the emperor prayed to God to punish him in this life—that he might not be punished hereafter.

Thus, affliction is in many ways for our good—but there is no good in sin. Manasseh's affliction brought him to humiliation and repentance—but Judas' sin brought him to desperation and damnation. Affliction only reaches the body—but sin goes further: it poisons the mind, disorders the affections. Affliction is but corrective; sin is destructive. Affliction can but take away the life; sin takes away the soul (Luke 12:20).

A man who is afflicted may have his conscience quiet. When the ark was tossed on the flood waves, Noah could sing in the ark. When the body is afflicted and tossed, a Christian can "make melody in his heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). But when a man commits sin, conscience is terrified. Witness Spira, who upon his abjuring the faith, said that he thought the damned spirits did not feel those torments which he inwardly endured. In affliction, one may have the love of God (Rev. 3:19). If a man should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it should hurt him a little—he will not take it unkindly—but will look upon it as a fruit of love. Just so, when God bruises us with affliction—it is to enrich us with the golden graces and comforts of his Spirit. All is in love. But when we commit sin, God withdraws his love. When David sinned, he felt nothing but displeasure from God: "Clouds and thick darkness surround him" (Psalm 97:2). David found it so. He could see no rainbow, no sunbeam, nothing but clouds and darkness about God's face.

That sin is worse than affliction is evident, because the greatest judgment God lays upon a man in this life is to let him sin without control. When the Lord's displeasure is most severely kindled against a person, he does not say, I will bring the sword and the plague on this man—but, I will let him sin on: "I gave them up unto their own hearts lust, living according to their own desires" (Psalm 81:12). Now, if the giving up of a man to his sins (in the account of God himself) is the most dreadful evil, then sin is far worse than affliction. And if it is so, then how should it be hated by us!

Compare sin with HELL, and you shall see that sin is worse. Torment has its epitome in hell—yet nothing in hell is as bad as sin. Hell is of God's making—but sin is not of God's making. Sin is the devil's creature. The torments of hell are a burden only to the sinner—but sin is a burden to God. In the torments of hell, there is something that is good, namely, the execution of divine justice. There is justice to be found in hell—but sin is a piece of the highest injustice. It would rob God of his glory, Christ of his purchase, the soul of its happiness. Judge then if sin is not a most hateful thing—which is worse than affliction, or the torments of hell.