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)
Nine HINDRANCES of mourning (continued)
7. Procrastination; or an opinion that it is too soon as yet to tune the penitential string. “When the lamp is almost out, the strength exhausted, and old age comes on—then mourning for sin will be in season—but it is too soon now.” That I may show how pernicious this opinion is, and that I may roll away this stone from the mouth of the well, that so the waters of repentance may be drawn forth—let me propose these four serious and weighty considerations:
First, do you know what it is to be in the state of condemnation? And will you say it is too soon to get out of it? You are under ‘the wrath of God’ (John 3:36), and is it too soon to get from under the dropping of this vial? You are under ‘the power of Satan’ (Acts 26:18), and is it too soon to get out of the enemy’s quarters?
Second, men do not argue thus in other cases. They do not say, ‘It is too soon to be rich.’ They will not put off getting the world until old age. No! here they take the first opportunity. It is not too soon to be rich—and is it too soon to be saved from sin? Is not repentance a matter of the greatest consequence? Is it not more needful for men to lament their sin, than augment their estate?
Third, God’s call to mourning is always in the present. ‘Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts’ (Hebrews 3:7, 8). A general besieging a garrison summons it to surrender upon such a day—or he will storm it. Such are God’s summons to repentance. ‘Today if you will hear his voice’. Sinners, when Satan has tempted you to any wickedness, you have not said, ‘It is too soon, Satan’—but have immediately embraced his temptation. You have not put the devil off—and will you put God off?
Fourth, it is a foolish thing to adjourn and put off mourning for sin, for the longer you put off holy mourning—the harder you will find the work when you come to it! A bone which is out of joint is easier to set at first—than if you let it go longer. A disease is sooner cured at first—than if it is let alone until advance stages come. You may easily wade over the waters when they are low but if you wait stay until they are risen, then they will be beyond your depth. O sinner, the more treasons against God you commit—the more do you incense him against you, and the harder it will be to get your pardon. The longer you spin out the time of your sinning—the more work you make for repentance!
To adjourn, and put off mourning for sin is folly in respect of the uncertainty of life. How does the procrastinating sinner know that he shall live to be old? ‘What is your life? It is but a vapor’ (James 4:14). How soon may sickness arrest you, and death strike off your head! May not your sun set at noon? Oh then what impudence is it to put off mourning for sin, and to make a long work, when death is about to make a short work? Caesar, deferring to read the letter which was sent to him, was stabbed in the senate house.
It is folly to put off all until the last—in respect of the improbability of finding mercy. Though God has given you space to repent, he may deny you grace to repent. When God calls for mourning and you are deaf—when you call for mercy God may be dumb ‘I called you so often, but you didn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. 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. I will not answer when they cry for help. Even though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me!’ (Proverbs 1:24-28). Think of it seriously. God may take the latter time to judge you in—because you did not take the former time to repent in.
To put off our solemn turning to God until old age, or sickness, is high imprudence, because ‘death bed repentance’ is for the most part insincere and spurious. Though true mourning for sin be never too late—yet ‘death bed repentance’ is seldom true That repentance is seldom true-hearted, which is grey-headed. It is disputable whether these death-tears are not shed more out of fear of hell—than love to God. The mariner in a storm throws his goods overboard—not that he hates them—but he is afraid they will sink the ship. When men falls to weeping-work late and would cast their sins overboard—it is for the most part, only for fear lest they should sink the ship and drown in hell! It is a great question whether the sickbed penitent begins to mourn—only because he can keep his sins no longer. All which considered may make men take heed of running their souls upon such a desperate hazard, as to put all their work for heaven, upon the last hour.
8. Delay in the execution of justice. “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). God forbears punishing—therefore men forbear repenting. He does not smite upon their back by correction—therefore they do not smite upon their thigh by humiliation (Jeremiah 31:19). The sinner thinks thus: ‘God has spared me all this while; he has eked out patience into longsuffering; surely he will not punish.’ ‘He says to himself—God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees’ (Psalm 10:11). In infinite patience God sometimes adjourns his judgements a while longer. He is not willing to punish (2 Peter 3:9). God is like the bee, which naturally gives honey—but stings only when it is provoked. The Lord would have men make their peace with him (Isaiah 27:5). God is not like a hasty creditor who requires the payment of the debt, and will give no time for the payment. He is not only gracious—but ‘waits to be gracious’ (Isaiah 30:18). But God by his patience, would bribe sinners to repentance. But, alas, how is his patience abused! God’s longsuffering hardens most. Because God stops the vial of his wrath, sinners stop the conduit of tears! That the patience of God may not (through our corruption) obstruct holy mourning, let sinners remember:
First, God’s patience has bounds set to it (Genesis 6:3). Though men will not set bounds to their sin—yet God sets bounds to his patience. There is a time when the sun of God’s patience will set, and, being once set—it never returns any degrees backwards. The lease of patience will soon be run out! There is a time when God says, ‘My Spirit shall no longer strive.’ The angel cried, ‘The hour of judgement has come’ (Revelation 14:7). Perhaps at the next sin you commit—God may say, ‘Your hour has now come!’
Second, to be hardened under God’s patience, makes our condition far worse. Incensed justice will revenge abused patience! God was patient towards Sodom—but when they did not repent, he made the fire and brimstone flame about their ears! Sodom, which was once the wonder of God’s patience—is now a standing monument of God’s severity. All the plants and fruits were destroyed, and, as Tertullian says—that place still smells of fire and brimstone. Long forbearance is no forgiveness. God may keep off the stroke awhile—but justice is not dead—but only sleeps. God has leaden feet but iron hands. The longer God is taking his blow—the sorer it will be when it comes. The longer a stone is falling—the heavier it will be at last. The longer God is whetting his sword—the sharper it cuts. Sins against God’s patience are of a deeper dye; they are worse than the sins of the devils. The fallen angels never sinned against God’s patience. How dreadful will their condition be—who sin because God is patient with them. For every crumb of patience, God puts a drop of wrath into his vial. The longer God forbears with a sinner, the more interest he is sure to pay in hell.
9. Mirth and music. ‘You sing idle songs to the sound of the harp. You drink wine by the bowlful, and you perfume yourselves with exotic fragrances.’ (Amos 6:5, 6). Instead of the dirge, they sing idle songs. Many sing away sorrow, and drown their tears in wine. The sweet waters of pleasure destroy the bitter waters of mourning. How many go dancing to hell—like those fish which swim pleasantly down into the Dead Sea!
Let us take heed of all these hindrances to holy tears. ‘Let the harp play sad music, and the flute accompany those who weep.’ (Job 30:31).