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shines forth more illustriously from the person and suffering of Jesus, than from all the other works of God, the true penitent's sorrow will be more or less intense, in proportion to the degree of his spiritual apprehensions, and realizing views of that great object. When, with fixed attention, he can meditate on the divine Surety for sinners, agonizing in the garden and expiring on the cross; when he can realize to his mind, in the exercise of faith, who he was that suffered ; and what he endured from the cruelty and insult of men, the power and malice of Satan, and the avenging justice of the Father; and wherefore he suffered, even that he might bear our sins, and expiate our guilt: then, in an especial manner, his mind is deeply impressed with admiring views of the awful holiness and justice, and the unfathomable love and compassion of God: then sin appears to his mind peculiarly odious, as committed against a God of such a lovely and loving character: then he becomes “ abominable” in his own eyes, and mourns for his sins with peculiar humiliation. They now become “a sore burden, too heavy for him to bear;" he goes mourning for them all the day long, yet mourns that he can mourn no more ; is ashamed that he is no more affected; and “ ab“ hors himself” for the remaining hardness of his heart.
He now no longer vindicates his conduct or extenuates his crimes; his mouth is stopped, his guilt is manifest, and he condemns himself. His judgment of his own character is now totally changed: he used to admire and approve, now he abhors and loathes himself; he was disposed to exalt himself, now he becomes more and more disposed to self-abasement. Then, turning his thoughts inward, he traces back the streams of sin, which have polluted his life, to that fountain of iniquity in his heart, from whence they sprang.
Behold,” says he, “ I was shapen in iniquity, and “in sin did my mother conceive me.”* Abased in himself, and impressed with an awful sense of the holy majesty of God, he would despond, yea, at length absolutely despair, were he not supported by discoveries of the rich mercy of God, and the precious salvation of the gospel. Yet, thus encouraged, he indeed ventures to speak unto the Lord, but it is in the publican's self-abased frame of spirit, and humble words, “ God be merciful to me a “ sinner!”
This deep humiliation of soul renders a man backward to conclude his repentance genuine, his faith sincere, and his sins forgiven. These blessings appear in his eyes so large, his own character so vile, and his humiliation so small, in comparison with what he is conscious it ought to be, that he can hardly raise his hopes so high; and he is so aware of the wickedness of his heart, and discovers so much of Satan's artifice, that he fears being imposed on by a false peace, where eternity is at stake. But, when this hope springs up in his heart, and he discovers, by comparing it with the scripture, with fervent prayer, that it is the hope
« that “ maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is “shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given “ unto him ;” this is so far from drying up his
Psalm li. 5.
tears, and terminating his repentance, that it vastly enlarges and purifies his godly sorrow; which is now attended with a sweetness far exceeding all earthly joy. - The fuller assurance he possesses, that Jesus “ was wounded for his transgressions, “ and was bruised for his iniquities,” the more he abhors his sins and loaths himself. Here he sees, with personal application, what wrath sin merited; what punishment he was worthy of; when a God of such immense compassion would not pardon one sin, without such a satisfaction : yea, would rather not spare his own son, but be “ pleased to “ bruise him” “ in whom his soul delighted," than either leave sin unpunished, or sinful men to perish!
His own concern in this transaction directs his attention peculiarly to it. “ The Father loved him “ and gave his beloved Son to die for him : Christ “ loved him, and gave himself for him," and interceded for him : and thus he was spared and borne with all the years of his rebellion, whilst many others were cut off in their sins. At length God, “ who is rich in mercy, for his great love, where“ with he loved him, even when dead in sins, “ quickened him” by his Spirit: thus born of God, he was pardoned, justified, and adopted into God's family, and numbered amongst the heirs of eternal glory ; to which he is “ sealed” by the graces and consolations of the Holy Spirit; as these are “ the earnest of the promised inheritance.” Such discoveries and prospects elevate the soul to a degree of adoring love and gratitude, before unknown; and this increases the penitent's self-abasement and godly sorrow. His heart is even broken, and
as it were melted, when he considers the number and odiousness of the crimes committed against this glorious and gracious God, who was all the while full of love to him. His character is stamped,
a mourner that shall be comforted." Yet his is a sweet sorrow : whilst, with tears of contrition and gratitude, he praises a pardoning God and a bleeding Saviour, he realizes the paradox, “Sor“rowful, yet always rejoicing;” except that in some dark seasons his heart is insensible, both to the motions of godly sorrow and of holy joy. These alternate variations, in the frame of his spirit, the true Christian experiences through the remainder of his life. His more melting seasons of godly sorrow are blended with and prepare the way for his sweetest consolations; which again increase and purify his mourning for sin: as he then most clearly perceives, what a gracious and glorious God he has offended, and how vile he has been. Thus ingenuous sorrow and holy joy reciprocally assist one another; they intermingle with, and are proportioned to, each other, in his daily experience; till at length death closes the varied, scene. Then
Then“ God wipes away all tears from his eyes;" “ the days of his mourning are ended;" he shall eternally be comforted, and plenteously reap the harvest which here he sowed in tears.—I do not mean to determine any thing concerning the degree in which true penitents obtain these spiritual discoveries, or experience these flowing affections, and melting frames. It is enough, if we can describe the distinguishing nature of true repentance. True grace is of the same nature and tendency, whether we have much or little of it.
If, then, the genuine sorrow for sin, required in scripture, has been described, it is no objection to say,
that many true Christians have very little of these views and affections ; because that is only to say, in other words, that they have but little true repentance ; or (which amounts to the same thing,) have but little true grace. And the less they have of these things, the less evident is their conversion ; the more need have they “ to exa“ mine themselves, whether they be in the faith ;” and to“ give diligence to make their calling and “ election sure.” Certainly we must not adulterate the word of God, that we may accommodate it to the experience of lukewarm professors, in a day when“ iniquity abounds, and the love of
many waxes cold.” This would be the way to reduce things from bad to worse, till true religion vanishes from among us. We must still keep to the standard of God's word, the experience of scriptural saints, and the specimen of primitive Christians, endeavouring to stir up men's minds to imitate these illustrious examples. And, on careful examination, I trust, the above description of godly sorrow will be found scriptural: all real Christians have experienced something of it, and habitually do experience it: and the more distinct their views, the more enlarged their affections, and the deeper their contrition; the more evidently they are true penitents, and entitled to all the consolations belonging to that character.
Nor is the order in which these things are experienced at all material, provided the godly sorrow be of a proper nature and tendency: yet I would just observe, that at all times it is begun