Of Tears and Sorrow for Sin; And that they must accompany Conversion.
JOEL. 2. 12.
THE third part observable in the division of this Text, is the effect, or if ye will, the concomitant property of a cordial Conversion to God: for we being not immateriall and spirituall substances, as Angels are, but com∣pounded of a soul and a body: therefore many affections are required of us as so compounded, which spirituall substances are not capable of: such are these in the Text, Fasting, Weeping, and Mourning. So that tears and bitter weeping for sinne, are a good sign to evidence an hearty Conversion to God. As for Fasting required also in the Text, that is not commanded primarily and intentionally for it selfs sake, but as its instrumentall and subservient to prayer and mourning for sinne; for as precious seed sown in Bogs and Quagmires, can never come to any maturity; so neither will any duty of humiliation thrive, where the body is not by fasting or debasement prepared for it. What ever else needs explication in the words, shall be discussed in the Doctrine.
Obs. That true and hearty Conversion to God from sinne is to be accompanyed with sorrow and tears for sinne. Its not a slighty, formall craving of forgivenesse * from God, but the soul is so wounded and pierced, and in such agonies, that many tears flow from it. The Scripture commands this sorrow, promiseth such a mel∣ting heart to those that are converted; and we have many examples of those who were hard rocks; but when converted, much water of godly mourning came from them. For a command, (because some have thought this afflicted, mournfull spi∣rit, to be an old Testament-spirit, and not beseeming the spirit of Adoption in the Gospel:) See it in the new Testament commanded, James 4. 9. Be afflicted, and mourn and weep, let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heavinesse. This is required of Christians in the new Testament. And as the Spirit of God did once move upon the waters, so he will still upon spiritual humiliation. This exhortation is directed to those that were fallen into grievous sins, and there is no other way for peace, but through this salt sea of tears. Every word is em∣phaticall 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, be miserable and wretched; that is, be inwardly tou∣ched with a deep sense of your sinnes, which make you miserable. Oh, he that is turning to God from his sinnes, must cry out of himself; O miserable and wretched man that I am, what shall I doe? where is any ease? who will poure oyl in my wounds? The other word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Mourn, isallusive to the custome of mourning in the old Testament, when they went in Sackcloth and Ashes. Thy soul ought to be full of pensivenesse, and bitternesse, as Tamars was, after she Page 485 had been destowred, and thrust out of doors; she teareth her garments, puts Sackcloth on her head, wrings her hands, goes wailing; And I, whither shall I goe? So sinne and the Devil have ravished and constuprated thy soul, which should have been left pure to God. Oh cry out, and make bitter lamentations, for thou art undone for ever, unlesse the grace of God interpose. Let your joy be turned to heavinesse, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, such an heavinesse and grief as may be seen in a mans very looks; Thar all may say, What ailest thou? What troubleth thee? Thus as they abounded in carnall pleasures, and sinfull delights; so now all must be turned contrary; and as this is commanded, so our Saviour makes those blessed that practise it: Blessed are they that mourn, Matth. 5. 4. viz. for their own sinne, and the sinne of others; for they shall be comforted: yea he denounceth a woe to those that laugh and are merrie, that never rend their hearts, or wound their souls for the sins they have committed. Oh then blesse God, and count it an happy time, when God shall turn thy barren heart which was like a wilderness, in∣into running streams for sinne. This is so necessary, that its a grace particularly promised under the Gospel, Zach. 12. They shall mourn, as one mourneth for his only begotten Sonne. See there is the spirit of prayer and mourning promised under the Gospel, and that for sins against Christ, as cordially, affectionately, and a grie∣ved manner, as a mother cryeth for her onely Son. You have examples also for this in the new Testament. Did not Mary Magdalen make her head a fountain of tears, that could weep such showrs as she did? Which made Chrysologus say, Ter∣rarigat Coelum. Could she have cryed more heartily for the losse of her onely child, then she did for her sins? And thus Peter, after his relapse, upon his recove∣ry, is it not said, He went out, and wept bitterly. Matth. 26. 75. So that you see it a∣bundantlie proved, that our turning to God, ought to be with mourning and wee∣ping: but yet the point so generally delivered is subject to misconstructions; and therefore take notice of these particulars.
First, That these waters of tears may arise from a four-fold Spring or Foun∣tain: As, *
First, There are Naturall tears; Such which come naturally from the complexi∣on, or peculiar disposition of the bodie at that time. Philosophers say, That onely man of all creatures doth properly weep; and they dispute much about the effici∣ent cause, and nature of teares. Gregory Nissen, one of the Ancients, that had much learning in naturall Philosophie, makes the cause of tears, to be the vapours that doe upon the apprehension of any evill, quickly arise by consent from the com∣motion and stirring of the bowels, which ascending to the brain, by the coldnesse thereof are presently heated and congealed into water; as clouds are by the coldnes of the middle Region: Yet latter Philosophers reject this: but my purpose is to speak of weeping and tears, not as a Philosopher, but as a Divine. This is certain, there are natural tears, which arise from a tender complexion, whereby children and women are more ready to weep then men, and some men more then others: yea Aristotle observeth, some Drunkards are very prone to weep while they a∣bound with liquor; we call them, Magdalen Drunkards, that while they are full of Beer, and like beasts, will then crie and weep, and complain of their sins: but these tears being nothing but the excrementitious humour of vapours within, they are not at all to be regarded. Some Godlie men have complained, that they cannot weep, nor shed tears for their sinnes. They can for other things, Temporall evils, that afflict sense, but not for sinne. To this I shall Answer anon.
Secondly, There are worldly tears, and carnall weeping; and that is when we weep for the losse of any temporal mercy, or the evill of any misery come upon us: such tears are daily to be seen among us, who live in the world, that is nothing but a Valley of tears. This Christ forbade, when he said, Weep not for me, but for your selves, Luke 23. 28. And this might be every day published aloud, Weep not for the losse of such mercies, Weep not because of such miseries, but because of Page 486 sin and the losse of God. This when immoderate, is an heavy sin, and it worketh death, as the Apostle saith, and is repentance that must be repented of, 2 Cor. 7. 10.
Thirdly, There is hypocriticall weeping. The tears of Crocodiles, when men fast and publickly mourn, yet all this is because of temporal respects, not because * that God is displeased. We have too much of this weeping also: God com∣plaineth of such sorrow among the Israelites, and he compareth it to the how∣ling of beasts. All weeping and crying about sin, if not for sin, is but dissimulation with God.
Lastly, There is a godly weeping, which is wrought in us by the Spirit of God, and that is because we have sinned, and grievously offended God, which fils our * hearts with Gall and Wormwood: This latter is like the rain of the cloud that comes from heaven, sweet and refreshing; the other is like the salt water of the sea, or the muddy filth of boggy places.
Secondly, Godly tears they also arise from a two-fold cause. There are tears of hatred and indignation, or great displeasure against our selves, because we have so foolishly and wretchedly dishonoured God, and ventured our eternal undoing for a moments pleasure. There are also tears of love, and joy, which the heart poures out with much melting, partly because they have grieved so good a Father, and partly through ioy to see so much grace vouchsafed unto them. The former kinde of tears, viz. of hatred and grief, Manasses abounded with, and Peters eyes gush∣ed out such. The latter did flow from Mary Magdalen; for our Saviour attribu∣teth all that sorrow to her much love, because much was forgiven her, Luke 7. 47. and the true Convert is to expresse tears of both these kinds, of grief, and love; of hatred, and joy; Verus paenitens de peccatis dolet, & de dolore gaudet; The true repent∣ing Convert grieveth for his sinnes, and joyeth in his grief. Even naturally there is much ease in weeping, Expletur lachrymis, egeriturque dolor. And hence Tully complained, that though all his tears were spent, yet grief did stick at his heart, How much more will godly tears afford spiritual joy? Let thy heart there∣fore be like the Stillatory, which having the hot love of God daily under it, will plentifully vent forth the warm tears of Godly sorrow for sin.
Secondly, There may be a superstitious and Popish advancement of tears, and a Christian Scripture-acknowledgement of them. This must be also remembred, a * Popish commendation of tears is, when any Merit, Causality or Worth is attribu∣ted to them. Thus in Popery they make them have a spiritual effect, they attribute the washing away of sin to them, they are judged satisfactory: But how arrogant is this Doctrine, to make our tears and Christs bloud equal? If the bloud of Christ only doth purge us from our iniquity, then cannot our tears, which themselves need washing, as he said, Lava Domine Lachrymas meas, O Lord wash my tears, they are so foul. Could we therefore weep an Ocean of tears, yea bloud, yet this could not blot out one debt of ours to God. We do not then require mourning and weeping, as Friers and Popish Writers do: And yet on the other side we abhor those Antino∣mian Doctrines, that make all sorrow and weeping for sinne to be legal, and unbe∣seeming the spirit of the Gospel. No, the Scripture carrieth a mean between these two extreams.
Lastly, This must not be forgotten: There is a two-fold sorrow, or mourning; the one is intellectual, and spiritual; which is an act of the soul, whereby it detesteth * and abhorreth sin above all evil, and vehemently dislikes it, chusing any temporall evill, rather than this evill of sin. And there is a sensitive sorrow; which is accom∣panyed with bodily tears, and expressed in a sensible manner. Even as there is a two-fold prayer, a mental prayer of the soul, whereby we immediately make our requests known unto God; and a vocall bodily prayer, by the mouth also. Thus there is a two-fold sorrow, one rational, affecting the soul of a man, the other sen∣sible, discovering it self in the eyes, and face. Now the former kind of mourning, which is an act of the understanding and will, full of displicencie and vehement Page 487 detestation of sin; this is absolutely to be pressed: No man can think he is con∣verted that hath not this. But then for sensible and bodily tears, practical Di∣vines give these directions: first that in the pangs of our conversion, and while the soul is in its first labour, then many times such Tears abound: whereas afterwards in the progresse of sanctification, they are not powred out so easily. Be not then pre∣sently discouraged, as if thy heart were a rock, and an hard Milstone, because thou findst no affection, no melting, no tears; say not, Thy heaven is made Brasse or Iron; for it may be the time hath been, that thy two eyes have been as the Chur∣ches in the Canticles are said, to be like the Fish-pools of Heshbon. Remember then the bottles of tears thou then didst fill. Its not probable that Mary Magdalen could alwayes weep so plentifully as she did at her first Conversion to Christ, and recon∣cisiation with him.
Secondly, Divines give another good Rule, which is to regard thy pur∣pose, and well advised forsaking of sinne, so as never to return to it, more than any tears whatsoever; for Hypocrites have shed tears, and they many times arise from the bodily Constitution: Some can weep when they list; as there were women hired to mourn: and experience tels us, of many that will weep and cry for their sins, and yet for all that commit them again. Dost thou therefore finde that thy soul loatheth sin, and that thou darest not, or canst not entertain any sin in thy life? never then question thy condition, because thou canst not shed tears, for these are accidental and separable, but the other is eslential to grace; and this dis∣covers the hypocrisie of manie, that because they can sometimes weep and crie, when they speak of their sins, they therefore conclude all is well, though they go on in the practice of sin. No, its inward hating, and outward forsaking of them upon spiritual grounds, will more testifie thy Conversion then rivers of water flowing from thy eyes.
Thirdly, If thou hast mourning and sighing, because thou canst not be so passio∣nately affected with thy sins, as with temporal evils: This may also stay thy heart, thou canst not go out and weep bitterly, thou canst not water thy bed with tears, as David did. Oh, but dost thou groan and •igh after more degrees of godly sor∣row? this may satisfie thee: for they that hunger and thirst are blessed; and if the Spirit of God work in thee groans unutterable, this is greater sorrow than weep∣ing; Groans of heart, are more than tears in the eye. When one Psannenitus an Heathen saw his friend put to death, he wept abundantly; but afterwards, when his Sons were brought to ex-cution, he did not weep. The reason was asked, and this was returned, Leves curae loquuntur, ingentes stupent, Light grief may be vented, but infinite grief stupifieth; and so many times the godly heart is in such an amaz•ment and astonishment that stupifieth it.
Lastly, Then onely is want of Tears for sin, matter of trouble, when it is because of want of hatred to sin, want of meditation, or want of love to God. As for ex∣ample, Thou hast lost thy husband, thy friend, such an estate, and thy daily thoughts of this aggravating every circumstance, makes thee weep many showrs. Now if thou didst seriously set thy self to meditate about sin and all the aggravations of it, thy heart would melt as abundantly also; but thy negligence, thy worldly cares, thy hard heart, thy carelesnesse that makes thee so senselesse. Know in this case, the want of fears is thy fault, and thou dost not meditate and pierce thy heart with sharp considerations that water may gush out.
Now let us see, why Conversion is to be with mourning and weeping: And * First, Because the evill of fin is far greater both in the losse it brings us, and the positive damage it plungeth us into, than any outward evill whatsoever. What a shame then is it, to see people weep over their dead friends? Oh none have sucha loss as they have, and not to weep over their dead souls, for there is no such losse as that by sin: Shall that superstitious man make such a waiting for his Idols that were taken away, and shalt not thou mourn bitterly, because thou losest God and heaven by sin. Its the bitter evill of sin, that makes all other afflictions bitter; there had been no other Page 488 evill in the world to provoke tears, had not sinne been: This brought not onely Thorns and Thistles on the ground, but on every thing else; why then shall we not have mourning for that which is the fountain and root of all other sad things?
Secondly, Therefore we are to turn from sin to God with mourning; Because there is a condecency, and congruity of Justice in it. Its the greatest reason and justice * in the world, that as thou hast by delight and pleasures in sin offended and provo∣ked God; so thou shouldst by grief and bitternesse for sin manifest thy love to him: shal there be a time when sin was sweet and shal there not be a time when it shal al∣so be bitter? Oh consider this all you who have found the short and momentaneous honey of sin, but not the sting of it; that have found it sweet in the mouth, but not like Ezekiels Roll, bitter in the bellie.
Thirdly, Its necessary there should be bitter mourning in our Conversion; Be∣cause of the manner or method God takes in bringing men from sin; which for the * most part is accompanied with such strong convictions of sin, such tremblings, and agonies of soul, that as the woman by Gods appointment is to bring forth in pangs and travail; so doth the heart of a man labour till Christ be formed in it. Gods method is generally to convince of sin, the hainousness of it, all the bloudy circum∣stances that aggravate it, and that in a powerful, particular way; so that he seeth and seeleth himself to be this sinner: Then God discovereth the exactnesse of the Law, the spirituall extent of it, the innumerable curses that it threatens to every disobedient person; and lastly, it discovers an impotency, and an utter inability in a mans self and in all the world to help him, so that he is despairing wholly of himself, and receiving a sentence of condemnation upon his soul, onely the grace of God comes in, before the soul be over-whelmed: That stretcheth out the hand, as Christ did to Peter, before he sink in the waters. Now tell us, Can all these exercises, fears, conflicts, and commotions of heart be without mourning and weeping? It is true in some Converts these pangs and conflicts are greater than in others; yet it being Gods ordinary way to bring about Conversion by Con∣viction out of the Law, here must be needs great divisions and troubles of heart.
Fourthly, There will be mourning and weeping in our Conversion to God, Be∣cause of the sympathy and natural conjunction of soul and body together; so that * what the soul is excessively affected with, there is an over-flowing and redundancy of this upon the body. Thus David is so often in sensible passionate expressions of tears and desires after God, because his soul and heart did so affectionately burn after God; Insomuch that not onely his heart, but his very flesh (he saith) longeth after God, Psal. 84. 2.
Use is, Severely to reprove that stoninesse and hardnesse of heart upon many sinners: When did they ever turn to God with bitter lamentations, and mourning, * and weeping? When was their laughter and joy turned into heavinesse? You have indeed sometimes seen them wring their hands, cry aloud they were undone, be∣cause their estates are lost, their friends are dead, great pains and aches of body have tormented them; but not a sigh, not a tear for their sin. Oh know that in hell there will be weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; then thy sins will be appre∣hended in a more horrid and ghastly manner than now they are. A tear in the eye for sin, is more commendable than a jewel in the ear: and if thou canst not weep, yet sigh and mourn like the Dove. O smite upon the thighes, knock on the breast, say, Even Rocks (Lord) when thou hast smote them have given us water; but thou hast smitten by thy Word, by thy Judgments upon my heart, and yet no mour∣ning at all. The tears of the hearers are the commendations of a Sermon: Did you hear aright, you would pour your hearts out like water, as the Scrip∣ture expression is. Neither doe thou think it a childish weak thing to weep for sinne: For David, who had more knowledge than all his Teachers, yet how plen∣tifull in those showers! Neither doe thou think it an Argument of an ignoble Page 489 spirit; for besides that Homer makes his Heroical spirits 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, easie to weep, who more warlike and potent then David? yet how many penitential and mourn∣ful Psalms doth he make for sin.