2 qualifications, 3 notions and 9 marks of true gospel-mourning for sin


This is the second part of Thomas Watson’s section on mourning for sin from his exposition of “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt 5:4). The first part is here. This extract is heavily edited. I’ve mostly just left the header of each section except where I found his explanation was particularly useful.

What is the right gospel-mourning? That mourning which will entitle a man to blessedness has these qualifications:

A. It is spontaneous and free. It must come as water out of a spring, not as fire out of a flint.

B. Gospel-mourning is spiritual; that is, when we mourn for sin more than suffering. 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).

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?

3. We must mourn for sin as it is a privation; it keeps good things from us; it hinders our communion with God.

  1. Gospel-mourning sends the soul to God.
  2. 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.
  3. Gospel tears must drop from the eye of faith.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Gospel-mourning in some cases is joined with restitution.
  8. Gospel-mourning must be a speedy mourning. 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.
  9. 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.

I have a tendency to find a level of sin that I am content to live with. I know that I am sinner and that this will always be the case. So, I excuse myself from sin above this self-determined level, believing that I am incapable of greater godliness. I settle into a routine where as long as I am not upsetting people and am able to function without injuring myself, I’ll live with that level of sin. But notion B and marks 4-6 blow my attitude toward comfortable sinning right out of the water.

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