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he means, not the ague, the fever, the palsy, the gout, poverty, or affliction ; but sin, pride, worldly-mindedness, deceit, and falsehood. Dread the house of ill fame, the tavern, and the play house, worse than the alms house, the work house, and the infirmary; or even the dungeon, if a good conscience bring you there.
But be not content with negatives ; follow after holiness; positive conformity to Christ, in purity, holy love, zeal, humility, self-denial, and obedience. Attend to external duties; to all relative duties ; first and second-table duties. Keep your heart with all diligence; follow hard after God; maintain communion with him. Press toward the mark, Be content with no measnre of holiness. Though perfected, show you are perfecting. You need not fear running against the mark ; you are too far off. Many have got nearer it than you, who yet bewailed their distance from it. Never rest till you attain it.
In the fear of God. Şanctify the Lord of Hosts in your heart ; let him be your fear and your dread. Stand in awe, and sin not. Live as though you saw Him that is invisible; as though Jesus lodged at your house. Will you fear his divine presence less than his human ? Abide in the fear of the Lord all the day long. He seeth not as man seeth. Beg him to search, try, and lead you in the way everlasting.
NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL SORROW DISTINGUISHED.
2 Cor. vii. 10. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
The Apostle, in these words, has reference to a particular circumstance, which had taken place in the church of Corinth, respecting a member of that community, who had brought a scandal on the cause of Christ by his immoral conduct. In the former Epistle, Paul had reproved them sharply, for not exercising proper discipline on this occasion. 1 Cor. v. That reproof had a good effect, as appears by this
Epistle. Chap. ii. For the Corinthians had been induced to censure and exclude the offender, and that awful ordinance of Christ had brought him to deep repentance; so that now Paul encouraged the church to restore and comfort the penitent. In this chapter he mentions the affair again, and expsesses his great satisfaction in its happy issue, of which Titus had informed him. For his benevolent heart rejoiced in the happiness of others, and especially in their spiritual prosperity. He was unwilling to give pain to any, unless it were necessary for their good; and when that seemed to be the case, he rejoiced when he found that the end was answered, and was ready to forgive and console.
True benevolence will not lead us to encourage others in sin, nor induce us to think them right when they are wrong, nor make us afraid to reprove them; but it will cause us to attend to the severest duties with tenderness, and excite us to rejoice in the recovery of the fallen.
But waiving farther enlargement on these observations, let us notice the general doctrine of the text. Godly sorrow is a chief initial of that after-wisdom, or change of mind which is connected with salvation, whereof none need regret being the subjects, notwithstanding the pain that may attend it; and which widely differs from sorrow on a worldly account, or even from that sorrow for sin of which mere natural men may be the subjects.
The Apostle here contrasts godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world; or the sorrow which has respect to God, and the sorrow which has respect to the world; or the sorrow of good men and bad men. We allow that good men have their sorrows, but so have bad men, and much worse. When the outward cause is the same, yet the inward effect is widely different. If a bad man loses his worldly comforts, he loses his all; but if a good man loses his earthly all, still he cannot lose his God. The unfortunate sinner has no refuge, but the believer betakes himself to his God. The world being idolized by the sinner, he is bereaved, overwhelmed, and driven to desperation : while the believer mourns his departure from God, and learns to live more immediately on him. Or we may apply this expression to
the repentance of real saints, and that of graceless professors. Natural men may profess a kind of sorrow for sin, not always feigned, yet differing widely from true repentance.
Let us then attend to this inquiry-Wherein consists the difference between that sorrow for sin which natural men may feel, and true godly sorrow; as to its source, nature, and issue? Or, in other words,—What is the difference between natural and spiritual repentance?
I may premise, that I do not mean to condemn every thing I shall mention as included in natural repentance, às positively wrong; but only as essentially defective, not answering the character or end of true holiness.
Mere natural repentance arises at best only from natural principles; especially from natural conscience, which may be greatly alarmed without a change of heart. Spiritual repentance, or godly sorrow, arises from new, supernatural, and divine principles, implanted and excited by the Holy Spirit. Natural repentance arises from a sense of the natural properties of divine things; especially of God's natural perfections; his presence, power, knowledge, eternity, &c. Spiritual repentance, from a sense of the moral excellence of divine things, especially of God's moral perfections. Mere natural repentance springs only from self-love, without any sincere love to God. Spiritual repentance springs from love to God primarily, and from a well regulated self-love, as a subordinate cause. The former arises from a sense of danger by sin. The latter from a sense of the odiousness of sin. Natural men are often alarmed on account of the contrariety of the law to their hearts and conduct. Only true penitents are really grieved for the contrariety of their hearts and conduct to God's holy law. The sorrow of the former is on account of what God has said, and done, or threatened to do against sin. The latter mourn sincerely for what sin has done against God. Natural repentance is only sorrow for sin, as it is against the happiness of the creature. Spiritual repentance is sorrow for sin, as against the honour of God. The one is sorrow for that natural evil which God has made the consequence of moral evil. The other is sorrow for sin, as
moral evil. The repentance of the natural man is partial, ordinarily having no reference to the heart. The sorrow of the renewed soul respects sin universally; flesh and spirit, heart and life. Natural repentance lessens in proportion to hope of impunity, in whatever way it is expected. That which is spiritual will be increased by an assurance of pardon, especially by considering the only way in which pardon can be obtained. The repentance of natural men is forced and involuntary: they rather want to get rid of their sorrow, than of their sin. The repentance of a godly soul is free and voluntary: he wishes for more; and it produces a prevailing inclination to part with sin, with all sin, for ever: Take away all iniquity.” Those would be glad to get rid of their convictions, that they may return again to sin. These are afraid lest convictions should wear off, and lest they should return back to sin. The sorrow of the world leads men to inquire how they may escape from God. Godly sorrow leads them to enquire, how they may return to him : it makes them prize pardon through the blood of Christ, and sanctification of the Spirit.
Natural repentance leaves the soul dead in sin: it soon dies away, or ends in despair. Spiritual repentance is a sign of spiritual life: it is connected with eternal life, and ends in joy.
IMPROVEMENT.—Upon an application of this subject, must not some acknowledge they are so far from true godly sorrow, that they never yet realized even their danger, nor were thoroughly concerned about their own safety and happiness in another world? They live like the beasts that perish. Alas! Hell will bring you to some sort of repentance. There you will open your eyes.
may see, how shamefully defective their repentance has been : even essentially so.
You have not been so sorry for your opposition to the law, as for the law's opposition to your
sins. Oh! that you all may see the reasonableness of true repentance, and your need of divine grace to bring you to such repentance. Christ is exalted to give repentance, as well as remission of sins.
Let Christians themselves pray for an increase of true repentance. None who repented aright, were ever sorry that
they repented so much. Rather, they all lament that their repentance was not deeper, and more constant and abundant. Let us beware of partial views of the law, and false views of the gospel, as chief hindrances of repentance towards God. The law is spiritual, holy, just, and good. The gospel honours the law: though it frees from the curse, it excites to new obedience.
GAL. iv. 20.
I stand in doubt of you. Such is the subject allotted for the present Lecture, which I some months
consented to undertake : but the nearer approach of the service has made me almost repent of my engagement; not that I suspect those whose judgment I esteem will condemn the attempt; or that I would fear any consequences of speaking the truth in love; but I want wisdom, so to unite tenderness and fidelity in this discussion, as to render it suited to the desired end; while I would look to the Lord for success. Father of Lights, help me! and help them to hear with impartiality and self-application.
The design is important and benevolent. I remember well our Lord's charge, “ Judge not, that ye be not judged.” I wish we may all regard it. Let us watch against a censorious spirit, which would lead us to indulge groundless suspicions, and induce us, in doubtful cases, to make the worst of others. But beware also of a false charity, which would lead you to help to delude others, instead of doing them good. Our Lord's test, “ By their fruits ye shall know them,” and the Apostles charge, to “try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world;" show that people are authorized to pass a judgment on ministers, though with caution and candour: and surely we, under the like restrictions, may take the same liberty with them : indeed, it is unavoidable, and necessary for their good.