Doct. That it is the duty and property of a godly man to mourn bitterly, even for other men’s sins.
Here we have David’s instance; and it may be suited with the practice of all the saints. Jeremiah: see Jer. xiii. 17, ‘But if ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride, and mine eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears.’ There you have described the right temper of a good prophet, first to entreat earnestly for them, and in case of refusal to weep bitterly for their obstinacy. Mark, it was not an ordinary sorrow he speaks of there, but a bitter weeping, ‘Mine eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears.’ Not a slight, vanishing sigh, not a counterfeited sorrow; soul and eyes were both engaged; and this in secret places, where the privacy contributeth much to the measure and sincerity of it. Now this is a fit instance of a minister of the gospel.’ We cannot always prevail when we plead with you, and shall not be responsible for it. God never required it at the hands of any minister to work grace and to save souls, but to do their endeavours. But, alas! we do not learn of Jeremiah to go and mourn over their ignorance, carelessness, and obstinacy of those committed to our charge. The next example that I shall produce is that of Lot in Sodom, 2 Peter ii. 7, 8, ‘Who vexed himself, and was vexed from day to day, in seeing and hearing their unlawful deeds.’ Not with Sodom’s injuries, but with Sodom’s sins. It was mat ter of constant grief to his soul; the commonness did not take away the odiousness. My next instance shall be our Lord himself; we read very much of his compassion: I shall produce but two instances of it. One is in Mark iii. 5, ‘Christ looked upon them with anger, and was grieved for the hardness of their hearts.’ They gave him cause of offence, but it doth not only exercise his anger but grief. In our Saviour’s anger there was more of compassion than passion. He was grieved to see men harden themselves to their own destruction. So when he came near to Jerusalem, a city not very friendly to him, yet it is said, Luke xix. 41, ‘When he came near and beheld the city, he wept over it, and said, If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes.’ Our Lord Jesus was made up of compassion; he weepeth not only for his friends but his enemies. As a righteous God he inflicted the judgment, but as man he wept for the offences. First he shed his tears, and then his blood. O foolish, careless city, that will not regard terms and offers of peace in this her day! He bewailed them that knew not why they should be bewailed; they rejoiced, and he mourned: Christ’s eyes are the wetter because theirs were so dry. And now he is in heaven, how doth his free grace go a 422mourning after sinners in the entreaties of the gospel! But that I may vindicate this point more fully, I shall give—
1. Some observations concerning mourning for the sins of others.
2. Give you the reasons of it.
The observations are these five:—
1. That it is an absolute duty to preach this doctrine, not only some high and raised effect of grace. When we produce these instances and examples of the word, David, Lot, Jeremiah, and Christ, many think these are rare and extraordinary instances, elevated beyond the ordinary line and pitch of Christian practice and perfection. No; it is a matter of duty lying upon all Christians. When God goes to mark out his people for preservation, who are those that are marked? The mourners: Ezek. ix. 4, ‘Go through the midst of the city, and set a mark upon the foreheads of them that sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof.’ None are marked out for mercy but the mourners. The great difference between men and men in the world is the mourners in Zion and the sinners in Zion; so that it lieth upon all, if we would have God’s mark upon us. And the apostle reproveth the Corinthians for the want of this mourning: 1 Cor. v. 7, ‘Ye are puffed up, when ye should rather have mourned.’ Possibly many of the converted Corinthians disliked the foulness of the fact, but they did not mourn and solemnly lay it to heart; therefore the apostle layeth a charge upon them. In all the examples that have been produced, that of Jesus Christ only is extraordinary; and yet we are bound to have the same mind in us that was in Jesus. We must have the same mind, though we cannot have the same measure of affection. Christ had the spirit without measure, but we must have our proportion. If David can speak of floods, certainly we should at least be able to speak of drops. Somewhat of David’s and Christ’s spirit. Nay, the example of Christ in this very thing is propounded by the apostle: Rom. xv. 3, ‘For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.’ The apostle speaketh there of bearing one another’s burdens. Christ would bear the burden of all the world. He was moved with a zeal for the dishonour done to God, and compassion to men; and so undertook the burden upon him, not to please himself, or seek the ease and safety of the natural life. Well, then, it is not some raised effect of grace, but a necessary duty which concerns all; a frame of heart which all the children of God have. If you love God, and love your neighbour, if you believe heaven and hell, and have any sense of the truth of the promises or threatenings, you will be thus affected in some measure to mourn and grieve for the sins of others.
2. This duty doth chiefly concern public persons, though it lies upon all Christians, magistrates and ministers and officers of the church, because of their public and universal influence. Public persons must have public affections as well as public relations. You shall see in that type the church of the Jews is represented in their officers, Zech. iii. 1. When the people were corrupted, and in a calamitous condition, Joshua the high priest is brought in standing before the Lord in filthy garments, the priest is accused by Satan. Certainly public persons are more responsible to God than others, and more concerned than others 423in the sins committed in the land, or places where they have a charge. Among private persons, a householder is more responsible than a private member of the family, if one under his charge fall into a notorious sin. You are responsible for your children and servants, and so are we for your souls. Under the law, Exod. xxii. 10, God said if a man did deliver unto his neighbour an ox, or an ass, or a sheep, or any beast to keep, and it did die, or was hurt, or was driven away, no man seeing it, or it did miscarry through his negligence, he was to make it good, because it was delivered into his hand. So I may say here, in quoting this law, Hath God a care of oxen? God hath committed souls to us, he hath put them into the hands of magistrates and ministers to keep them. Now because we do not discharge our duty, he will require their blood at our hands, Ezek. xxxiii. 7-9. Because of our trust and charge, we are bound to have more public affections: Joel ii. 17, ‘Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar.’ Ministers should be exemplar for spiritual feeling and tenderness and humiliation. Under the law the measures of the sanctuary were double to other measures. I apply it to this very thing. Our portion must be greater, because of the burden that lies upon us. Paul speaketh as one sensible of the weightiness of his charge, in 2 Cor. xi. 29, ‘Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?’ Paul trembled to see a weak Christian in the hands of Satan; and when they had taken offence, and begun to stumble, this was his trouble and grief. Mourning and burning is put for the violence of any affection. So Jeremiah the prophet, ‘My soul shall weep in secret places for your pride.’
3. That tears are not absolutely necessary for the expression of this grief and tenderness. David saith, ‘Rivers of tears.’ Why? For grief doth not always keep the road and highway; and many times when water goes out, wind comes in. Many are puffed up with sensitive trouble, and put more upon tears than they do upon the frame of the heart which should engage us to this. All constitutions are not: alike moist; a tender heart may be matched with a dry brain. When men are careful to get things reformed, and are affected with the calamity of the church more than their own private loss, this is that which God requires. However, let me tell you, if we find tears for other things, we should find tears for these duties, when we come to remember our own sins, and the sins of others. God did not make the affections in vain. A man that hath a thorough sanctified soul will have affections exercised in some measure proportionable; and therefore, if we can shed tears abundantly upon other occasions, we should remember this water should be reserved for sanctuary uses. David when he is spoken of, is represented as one having a moist eye upon all occasions; yet Lot had a tender heart, being offended with public disorders. It is said, 2 Peter ii. 8, ‘His righteous soul was vexed.’ Great devotionists are usually very tender. Good men are much given to tears, and these sensitive stirrings of affection are a great help to religion; and therefore should not wholly be neglected. But if there be a serious displacency against sin, a deep laying to heart God’s dishonour, though they cannot command tears, the duty is discharged. Humiliation lieth more in heart grief and trouble, than the 424sensitive and passionate expression of it. And yet upon religious occasions we should express ourselves as passionately as we can, and not content ourselves with a few cold words and dull thoughts; but our liveliest affections should be exercised about the weightiest things: James iv. 9, ‘Be afflicted and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to heaviness.’ When we are deprecating the wrath of God, humbling ourselves under the offences done to his infinite majesty by ourselves or others, there should be more tenderness, and we should do it in the most lively affectionate manner that possibly we can.
4. The greatest sinners, when they are once converted to God, have the greatest compassion afterwards towards other sinners. Why? They know the heart of a sinning man, they have had most experience of the power and prejudice of corruption, and also sensibly tasted of the love of God, and his goodness in Christ Jesus; and so their hearts are entendered thereby to pity others, and they more earnestly desire others should partake with them of the same grace. As Israel were pressed to pity strangers, because they themselves were once strangers in Egypt, they knew what it was to be neglected and despised in a strange land; so they that are acquainted with the temptations of Satan, with the bitter fruits of sin, with the prejudices that men lie under before they come to take to the ways of God, they have greater compassion towards the souls of others than others have. This is observed to be fulfilled in the apostle Paul, whose zeal lay otherwise more in the active than in the contemplative way; for in his writings we find him mostly doctrinal and rational, yet when he speaketh of sinners, he doth it always with grief and bowels: Phil. iii. 18, ‘I tell you weeping.’ And still he presseth Christians to a greater tenderness, to be more in grief for than censure of their brother’s faults:. Gal. vi. 1, ‘If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted;’ and Titus ii. 3, when he presseth to gentleness to all men, ‘For we ourselves,’ saith he, ‘were sometimes foolish and disobedient, deceived and deceiving, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another; but after the love and kindness of God appeared,’ &c. This melted his heart, to consider what he was, and what God had made him by grace. Whereas sullen men, of a severe temper, of a constant, rigid innocency, are wont to be more harsh and carried out with greater indignation than sorrow. Sin and they have not been so much acquainted. Others, that know how cunning this strumpet is to insinuate and entice the soul, pity those that are deceived with its enticing blandishments. Certainly men that profess religion, and do not observe their own hearts, or else have lived in a more equitable course of honesty, without any sensible change, are not touched with such tenderness. But they that once come to remember how obstinate they were in prejudices against the ways of God, how securely they walked in a way of sin, without any sense of God’s displeasure, or serious thoughts of the bitter fruit of it, now God hath plucked them as brands out of the burning, they would fain save others also that are heirs of the same promise. The high priests under the law were taken from among 425men, Heb. v. 2, that they might have more compassion; so the Lord multiplies these instances of grace, that they might have more compassion towards others. They that have felt the terrors of the Lord, and know the wounds and bruises of a troubled conscience, are more affective in persuading, more compassionate in mourning for others, 2 Cor. v. 7.
5. There must be not only a constant disposition to mourn over the sins of others, but upon some more than ordinary occasions it must with much seriousness be exercised and set a-work. It is said of Lot, 2 Peter ii. 8, ‘He vexed his righteous soul’ in seeing their filthiness with his eyes and hearing their blasphemies with his ears, these were continual torments to him; he could go nowhere but he heard or saw something that was matter of grief to him. That is a sad prognostic of an approaching judgment when a country is so bad that it is made, as it were, a prison to a godly man. Daily a Christian hath his occasions of sorrow. How can we walk the streets with dry eyes when we here shall see a reeling drunkard, there hear a profane swearer rending and tearing the sacred name of God in pieces, a filthy speaker, theatres and the devil’s temples crowded with such a multitude of people, that men may learn more how to please the flesh and hate godliness, and feast their ears with filthy talk? To see people so mad against God, and ready to cast off the yoke of Christ everywhere, this occasions matter of grief and mourning before the Lord. But besides this, there must be solemn exercises, when our eyes must gush out with tears, and we must open the flood-gates. We must wish, as Jer. ix. 1, ‘Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!’ There are certain times when this is necessary, as times of great sin, and of judgment felt or feared.
~Thanks to Rich Leino