by Thomas Watson
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Gospel Mourning (continued)
Sundry sharp reproofs
This doctrine draws up a charge against several sorts of people:
1. Those who think themselves good Christians—yet have not learned this art of holy mourning. Luther calls mourning ‘a rare herb’. Men have tears to shed for other things—but have none to spare for their sins. There are many murmurers—but few mourners. Most are like the stony ground which ‘lacked moisture’ (Luke 8:6).
We have many cry out of hard times—but they are not sensible of hard hearts. Hot and dry is the worst temper of the body. To be hot in sin, and to be so dry as to have no tears—is the worst temper of the soul. How many are like Gideon’s dry fleece, and like the mountains of Gilboa! There is no dew upon them. Did Christ bleed for sin—and can you not weep! If God’s bottle is not filled with tears—his vial will be filled with wrath! We have many sinners in Zion—but few mourners in Zion. It is with most people as with a man on the top of a mast; the winds blow and the waves beat, and the ship is in danger of ship wreck—and he is fast asleep! So when the waves of sin have even covered men and the stormy wind of God’s wrath blows, and is ready to blow them into hell—yet they are asleep in carnal security.
2. This doctrine reproves them who instead of weeping for sin, spend their days in mirth and jollity. Instead of mourners we have jesters. ‘They sing with tambourine and harp. They make merry to the sound of the flute’ (Job 21:12, 13). ‘They do not give themselves to mourning—but follow after their pleasures’. They live epicures, and die atheists. James bids us ‘turn our laughter to mourning’ (James 4:9). But they turn their mourning to laughter. Samson was brought forth to amuse the Philistines (Judges 16:25). The jovial sinner amuses the devil. It is a saying of Theophylact, ‘It is one of the worst sights to see a sinner go laughing to hell.’ How unseasonable is it to take the harp and violin—when God is taking the sword! ‘A sword is being sharpened and polished. It is being prepared for terrible slaughter; it will flash like lightning! Now will you laugh?’ (Ezekiel 21:9, 10). This is a sin which enrages God.
‘The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of sackcloth to show your remorse. But instead, you dance and play; you feast on meat, and drink wine. The Lord Almighty has revealed to me that this sin will never be forgiven you until the day you die. That is the judgment of the Lord, the Lord Almighty’ (Isaiah 22:12-14). That is, this your sin shall not be done away by any expiatory sacrifice—but vengeance shall pursue you forever!
3. This doctrine reproves those who, instead of mourning for sin, rejoice in sin (Proverbs 2:14); ‘Who take pleasure in iniquity’ (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Wicked men in this sense are worse than the damned in hell, for they take little pleasure in their sins. There are some so impudently profane, that they will make themselves and others merry with their sins. Sin is a soul sickness (Luke 5:31). Will a man make merry with his disease? Ah wretch! did Christ bleed for sin—and do you laugh at sin! Is it a time for a man to be jesting when he is upon the scaffold, and his head is to be stricken off? You who laugh at sin now, ‘So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—when calamity overcomes you like a storm, when you are engulfed by trouble, and when anguish and distress overwhelm you!’ Proverbs 1:24-27
4. This doctrine reproves those that cry down mourning for sin. They are like the Philistines who stopped-up the wells (Genesis 26:15). These would stop-up the wells of godly sorrow. Antinomians say this is a legal doctrine—but Christ here preaches it: ‘Blessed are those who mourn.’ And the apostles preached it, ‘And they went out and preached that men should repent’ (Mark 6:12). Holy sincerity will put us upon mourning for sin. He who has the heart of a child cannot but weep for his unkindness against God. Mourning for sin is the very fruit and product of the Spirit of grace (Zechariah 12:10). Such as cry down repentance, cry down the Spirit of grace. Mourning for sin is the only way to keep off wrath from us. Such as with Samson would break this pillar, go about to pull down the vengeance of God upon the land. To all such I say, as Peter to Simon Magus, ‘Repent therefore of this your wickedness and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you’, O sinner (Acts 8:22). Repent that you have cried down repentance.
MOTIVES to holy mourning
Let me exhort Christians to holy mourning. I now persuade to such a mourning as will prepare the soul for blessedness. Oh that our hearts were spiritual stills, distilling the water of holy tears! Christ’s doves weep. ‘They that escape shall be like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, everyone for his iniquity’ (Ezekiel 7:16).
There are several divine motives to holy mourning:
1. Tears cannot be put to a better use. If you weep for outward losses, you lose your tears. It is like a shower upon a rock, which does no good; but tears for sin are blessed tears. ‘Blessed are those who mourn.’ These poison our corruptions; salt-water kills the worms. The brinish water of repenting tears will help to kill that worm of sin which would gnaw the conscience.
2. Gospel-mourning is an evidence of grace. ‘I will pour upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace, and they shall mourn . . .’ (Zechariah 12:10). The Holy Spirit descended on Christ like a dove (Luke 3:22). The dove is a weeping creature. Where there is a dove-like weeping, it is a good sign the Spirit of God has descended there. Weeping for sin is a sign of the new birth. As soon as the child is born, it weeps: ‘And behold the babe wept’ (Exodus 2:6). To weep kindly for sin is a good sign we are born of God. Mourning shows a ‘heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:26). A stone will not melt. When the heart is in a melting frame, it is a sign the heart of stone is taken away.
3. The preciousness of tears. Tears dropping from a mournful, penitent eye, are like water dropping from the roses—very sweet and precious to God. A fountain in the garden makes it pleasant. That heart is most delightful to God—which has a fountain of sorrow running in it. ‘Mary stood at Christ’s feet weeping’ (Luke 7:38). Her tears were more fragrant than her ointment. The incense, when it is broken, smells sweetest. When the heart is broken for sin, then our services give forth their sweetest perfume. ‘There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents’ (Luke 15:7). Whereupon Bernard calls tears ‘the wine of angels’. And surely, God delights much in tears, else he would not keep a bottle for them (Psalm 56:8). One calls tears ‘a fat sacrifice’, which under the law was most acceptable (Leviticus 3:3). Jerome calls mourning a plank after shipwreck. Chrysostom calls tears a sponge to wipe off sin. Tears are powerful orators for mercy. Eusebius says there was an altar at Athens, on which they poured no other sacrifice but tears, as if the heathens thought there was no better way to pacify their angry gods, than by weeping. Jacob wept and ‘had power over the angel’ (Hosea 12:4). Tears melt the heart of God. When a malefactor comes weeping to the bar, this melts the judge’s heart towards him. When a man comes weeping in prayer and smites on his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’ (Luke 18:13), this melts God’s heart towards him. Prayer (says Jerome) inclines God to show mercy; tears compel him. God seals his pardons upon melting hearts. Tears, though they are silent—yet have a voice, ‘The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping!’ (Psalm 6:8). Tears wash away sin. Rain melts and washes away a ball of snow. Repenting tears wash away sin. That sin, says Ambrose, which cannot be defended by argument, may be washed away by tears.
4. The sweetness of tears. Mourning is the way to solid joy. ‘The sweetest wine is that which comes out of the winepress of the eyes’, says Chrysostom. The soul is never more enlarged than when it can weep. Closet tears are better than court music. When the heart is sad, weeping eases it by giving vent. The soul of a Christian is most eased when it can vent itself by holy mourning. Chrysostom observes that David who was the great mourner in Israel—was the sweet singer in Israel. ‘My tears were my food’ (Psalm 42:3). Ambrose says, ‘No food so sweet as tears.’ ‘The tears of the penitent,’ says Bernard, ‘are sweeter than all worldly joy.’ A Christian thinks himself sometimes in the suburbs of heaven, when he can weep. When Hannah had wept, she went away and was no more sad. Sugar when it melts is sweetest. When a Christian melts in tears, now he has the sweetest joy. When the daughter of Pharaoh descended into the river, she found a babe there among the reeds; so when we descend into the river of repenting tears, we find the babe Jesus there who shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. Well therefore might Chrysostom solemnly bless God for giving us this laver of tears to wash in.