The Nature and Necessity of Godly Sorrow and Weeping for Sinne, as accompanying Conver∣sion.
JOEL. 2. 13.
WE are arrived to the fourth Observable passage in the Prophets Ex∣hortation, and that is the form or nature wherein this turning to God doth consist. The very being and substance of conversion to God, is expressed in this phrase, Rent your hearts, and not your garments. To Rent the heart, is a Metaphor from bodies or garments, as in the Doctrine is to be shew∣ed: Onely two things may be taken notice of in this phrase. To rent the garments, was a custom among the Jews, whereby they did declare their excessive and im∣patient sorrow or detestation: Thus the High Priest rent his cloathes, when he charged Christ with Blasphemy; and Ahab rent his cloathes, when there was fear of some great judgements coming upon them: Thus Paul and Silas rent their garments with indignation, when the people of Lystra would have sacri∣ficed to them as Gods, Acts 14. 14. Thus you see it was a custom among the Jews, in apprehension of great grief, either for sins or judgements, to rent their garments; as they used also to cover their heads with ashes, and to go in sack∣cloath, which outward forms of mourning, are not to be drawn into practice a∣mong us, because all Nations have their several ways of publique mourning. The next thing observable is, the expression by way of negation, Rent your hearts, and not your garments; its usual with the Hebrews, to express a compara∣tive by a negative, Rent your hearts, and not your garments, that is, rather then your garments; so, I would have mercy, and not sacrifice; i. e. rather then sacri∣fice: God by this teaching us, that all external duties of Worship and Religi∣on are nothing at all, without the gracious and godly frame of the heart.
That Conversion unto God, is accompanyed with a tearing or rending of the*heart.
It is with as much grief and agony, as if the very heart were torn asunder. He tells us, that turning to God doth not consist in outward acts of humiliation and sorrow; if this were so, hypocrites would be very diligent in it; no, there must be a cutting or dividing the heart asunder, from all those former sins, that were so constantly committed. This point is worthy the Ministers earnest zeal, for people generally are not in earnest about this work; they will hear much, yea, it may be, say much about it; but to have the heart thus wrought upon, is very rare.
Page 490 To open it therefore, consider, First, That the Scripture hath other equivalent expressions to this in the Text: That which is here called A rent heart, in other * places is called A broken heart, yea, A contrite heart, Psal. 51. 17. A wounded spirit A tender melting heart, An heart of flesh, A soft heart, Ezek. 32. All which have, their peculiar efficacy, to demonstrate this gracious work of God.
A broken heart, is taken from a broken vessel, or broken bones: Now this doth imply, what pain, what grief, yea and misery a man undergoeth, while he is in turning unto God. David expresseth his broken heart, by broken bones: Oh think not then, that thou who hast lived with an heartfull of ease, mirth, and carnal jollity, that ever thou hast attained to this duty: No, this is that thou art afraid of; As Luther said, his soul hated the word Repent, because he appre∣hended it a word of bitterness, gall and wormwood, and at that time knew no∣thing of Christ, and the Gospel that might sweeten this bitterness: Thus the hearts of many wicked men, do even hate and abhor the very name and thoughts of a broken and rent heart for sin: They would not be put out of those plea∣sures and jolly security in sin, upon any terms.
Again, as the vessel, when broken, hath presently all that was in it discover∣ed and laid open: Thus it is with an heart in conversion to God, the breaking of it, makes all that wickedness and ungodliness appear, which formerly was hid and covered: Then he wallowed in such foul and noisom ways, and never took any notice of it; then he always blessed and flattered himself, still saying, I hope in God, I trust in God, I have a good heart, &c. O but when once the spirit of God breaks that hollow and hypocritical heart of thine, then O what depths of iniquity appear! What swarms of lust shew themselves! Then thou art monster, and abominable in thy own eyes; then thou canst no longer indure thy self, thou wilt be no longer a stranger, and unknown to thy self. The hea∣thens commended that sentence, as fallen down from heaven, Nosce teipsum, Know thy self: But (alas) they had onely candle light, or moon light, not the light of the Sun, the Scripture, to discover themselves, and to judge of them∣selves by it.
The other phrase is A Contrite heart, and that is more then broken; for this is to be bruised or pounced into small dust: So that this doth excellently denote, what a rent heart is; viz. An heart that is beaten into small pieces, that doth not retain the outward form or shape that once it had; it is wholly changed and altered. Take an earthen vessel, and let it be pounced into dust, and there re∣maineth nothing of its old beauty or figure: So it is here, when the heart is thus contrite, Oh it hath nothing of its old security, of its old mirth and jollity, it hath nothing of its old false peace and self-flattering, but becomes changed in∣to another hue.
The phrase likewise of A wounded spirit, doth fully set forth this Rent heart. The body wounded, is subject to much grief and pain, but a spirit wounded to much more; therefore saith the Wise man, A wounded spirit who can bear? Pro. 18. 14. If thy heart be ever wounded for sin, it will be the heaviest burthen in the world to bear: Oh then thou wilt think poverty, outward torments, bodily pain, nothing to a wounded soul: Oh but when shall we, like that good Samari∣tan, meet with such persons that lie wounded for their sins, that we may pour oyl into their wounds! when shall the two edged Sword of the word give such heart-wounds!
As for a Soft, tender melting heart: These come much to the same sense; for be∣fore our conversion, every mans heart is of stone, and adamantine, like cold iron, will receive no impression; Doth not experience teach it? Why is it, that after so many mercies, so many judgements, so many afflictions, so many sermons, men are as prone and ready to sin as ever, but from the hardness of their heart? *
Secondly, Let us consider, what this phrase implyeth, Rent your hearts; and then the negative, Not your garments: And
Page 491 First, It supposeth grief and trouble in the heart: The parts of a mans flesh can∣not * be rent or torn asunder, but it must be with great sorrow: And thus it is with the heart of a true convert, he findes much spiritual trouble and grief up∣on his soul; his soul is rent and torn into many sad dividing thoughts, between hope and fear, between faith and despair, between joy and grief; as you may see in Davids Psalms, such contrary affections working on him, that his heart seemeth to be like the sea, when contrary winds blow upon it: Oh then! this argueth, that many men have never been in these spiritual deeps, and to feel the wondrous works of God upon them; they have never said to their sins, as Paul to his weeping friends, Why do ye break my heart? They have never said, O how is my heart torn in pieces! There have been bodily punishments for hainous crimes, when the Malefactors have been torn in pieces, limb by limb, by wilde horses; this must needs be exquisite torment, yet this hath been born; But a wounded spirit who can bear? These tearings and divisions of heart, when sin in all the guilt and aggravations of it, is laid upon the conscience, who could in∣dure, did not God support in these agonies?
Secondly, It implyeth, violence offered to the heart: Even as a garment rent, or * our flesh rent, it is even by a violent motion; and so it is here, in conversion there is an holy and mighty violence offered unto our unregenerate part: To take that off from the sinful objects, it hath been fixed upon, is like keeping the greedy dog off from the sweet blood he hath begun to suck: Thus the Scri∣pture expresseth the work of godliness, by such words as implyeth great violence and pain offered to the carnal part in a man: Hence its called Crucifying the flesh, Gal. 5. 24. Rom. 8. 13. Gal. 3. 5. There was great violence and lingering mise∣ry the party crucified was put unto; and so we are called to mortifie the sinful lusts of the soul; so that although there were no external tribulations in the way to heaven, though there were no persecutions, no troubles, yet that which is done upon thy heart, upon thy sinful lusts, will make the way to heaven a straight and narrow way. There is a soul-Martyrdom, as well as a body-Martyr∣dom; and which is more terrible for flesh and blood to undergo, is hard to tell. No wonder then, if you see men stick so at conversion; O its an hell, its a torment to them; Why? the reason is plain, conversion is a real Purgatory; they go through fire and water to be made clean; they give themselves to be sacrificed by grace: Grace will not spare any one dear sin or lust they have been accustomed unto. Its also no wonder if Gods children finde it so difficult, so contrary to nature, to do any thing graciously; for how can it be but painful to hang crucified upon the cross, as it were? for thus, as Christ dyed for sin, so they dye to sin.
Thirdly, In renting, there is a separation and disunion of the heart, from that to*which it was once united: And herein lieth the very formal nature of rending, to make a violent division of one part from another, so that the near union is per∣fectly dissolved; especially this is seen in continuous bodies: And thus it is also in a spiritual consideration; herein lieth the very proper and real notion of a godly rending of heart, when its wholly divided from those sins it did once cleave unto: This is true, that love doth make the party loving, and the object loved all one. Hence it is, that the believer joyned to Christ, is said to be made one spirit, because he cleaves as glue to the Lord: Thus those that constantly follow sins, they are made one with sin and the Devil; when therefore they are truly converted, then comes this glorious separation and disunion; they are no longer one, but twain, now sin and they have no more union or communion, as it were: And how blessed is it to separate those, whom not God, but the De∣vil hath joyned together.
Fourthly, This implyeth impatiency of spirit, as not being able to hear, see, or*bear sin: It supposeth an extraordinary and raised apprehension of some dread∣ful evil before us: Thus the High Priest did, when he thought Christ spake Page 492 blasphemy; and thus the true Convert, he hath raised and aggravating thoughts about the evil of sin; he looks upon it with a more dreadful and sad eye then men of the world do: Doth the flesh, doth the world or Satan tempt to sin? Oh what horror takes hold upon him, what trembling amazement is upon him! he hath no patience, the zeal of God doth so burn in his heart: Oh this is a sure evidence, that few do truly turn to God; for where is that trembling, that im∣patience in thee against sin? how readily and willingly doest thou imbrace this Serpent, this Toad in thy bosom!
Fifthly, As impatiency, so indignation also, and high disdain is included in this phrase: Thus Paul and Silas when the men of Lystra would have Sacri∣ficed * to them as gods, tore their garments with indignation, looking upon it as a most unsufferable thing; and the like indignation against themselves have all un∣feigned converts; for every sin hath gross idolatry in it; for thereby a man at∣tributes his supreame affections, desires and thoughts, also to sin, which do belong to God. The Body-Idolater, he worships a stock or a stone, and bow∣eth down to that: Thou settest up lust or sin, and bowest down thy soul to that: Oh then, what cause hath the soul to cry out, as Christ did, Get thee be∣hinde me Satan! In every sin, Satan doth tempt thee to fall down and wor∣ship him.
Lastly, This doth suppose that a true Convert is thus affected, as well for other mens sins as his own: For seeing this renting of the heart, implyeth a deep ap∣prehension * of the dishonor that is done to God by every sin; then wheresoever it seeth sin committed, whether by our selves or others, it cannot but break out in this heavenly impatiency and indignation; yea, the nearer they are to him who do sin, if his children, if his servants, if his family, they are in the greater zeal: Oh then, if you ask for a sign of a mans conversion, see how he is affect∣ed to other mens sins as well as his own: When thou art converted, strengthen thy brother, Luke 22. 23. Conversion doth not stay upon a mans own self, but reach∣eth it self to others: Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted to thee, said David, Psa. 50. 1. so that if ever thou hast turned to God with thy whole heart, with this mourning and rending of soul, thou couldst never bear sin in others: What? can a true convert endure those that are prophane and ungodly in his company, in his family? No, light can agree with darkness as well: Come then and behold your selves in this glass; by this see what judgement thou mayest pass upon thy self: Thou art so far from casting out the wicked from thee, the ungodly out of thy family; thou art so far from zeal to Gods glory, to bid all evil works depart; that thou onely choosest such, and makest them the object of delight; and thou canst not endure, but art mad through malice against those that walk purely, and more strictly then thou doest. Could David say, Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law, Psal. 119. 116. and shalt thou sit in the seat of the scorner, and walk in the ways of ungodly men! Oh let this truth make thy ears to tingle, yea, thy heart to tremble: How canst thou say, without gross hypocrisie, that thy heart is rent for sin, and yet lovest to see it committed by others, thy family being like an hell, rather then heaven, wherein all kinde of impiety is committed!
The next particular is to consider, what is implyed in the Negative or Com∣parative, And not your garments: And that is, *
First, That no outward sign of sorrow or grief of heart, is regarded by God, if the heart it self be not exercised therein: God allowed of sackcloth and ashes, of smiting on the breast, of rending garments; but this was as dung before him, he abhorred it, if the hearts of men were not wounded for sin: And no won∣der if God did refuse these outward signs, if without the heart, when his own solemn and Religious duties, Prayer, Sacrifice, and the like, his soul did loath, while their hearts were unwashed, and unclean. Hence are those frequent complaints and expostulations God hath with the people of Israel, why they Page 493 were so diligent in external duties of Religion, and so little careful about clean∣sing and washing the heart: O that people could once be fit subjects to receive this truth. We still cry, The Temple of the Lord, Circumsion, as the Jews did; Our Baptism, our Prayers; but O where is the man that looks to any godly work upon his heart.
Secondly, Therefore is the heart thus prized above all things, because that is the foun∣tain*of all spiritual life: That is the good treasury, that is the fruitful tree; even as the heart in the body doth give life to all other parts of the whole man: My son, give me thy heart, saith God, and, With all keepings, keep thy heart, Prov. 4. This is the seat of all good, or of all evil: This is the souls Magazine, or spiri∣tual Store-house.
Now its very good to observe the reasons why God doth thus prefer a rent * and converted heart, before all outward acts of Religion, for men do not consider these things: They would think themselves beasts, and unworthy the name of Christians, if they should not pray, hear, and come to Church; but then for this curious and necessary workmanship upon the heart, they never minde it at all: Think therefore All is but a tinkling Cymbal, till God hath turn∣ed thy heart thus in duties: For
First, God never commanded simply and meerly any outward duty of Religion,*for its self sake, But especially he required gracious qualifications in the exer∣cise of them: He never commanded prayer, meerly for prayers sake; nor the keeping of the Sabbath, meerly for external observations sake; and in this sense some expound that, Sacrifice and burnt Offerings thou wouldst not have: If therefore these duties be not required, meerly and barely for themselves, why doest not thou attend to that which is the principal? Oh say, Its not this duty, so much as a converted heart in this duty; its not my coming to the Assemblies, its not my hearing Sermons this day, so much as a changed turned heart that God looks at: This is the Benjamin God commands you to bring, else not to see his face. Hence when the hearts of men do not spiri∣tualize this duty; the Scripture calls it no more then a Carnal Religion, or a Religion of the flesh, Phil. 3. and Heb. 9. The Legal Rites, because they did not reach to the purifying of the conscience, are called Carnal Ordinances: See how despicably the Scripture speaks of these things, when performed without spiritual reference to Christ.
Secondly, Its Rent your hearts, and not garments, because all outward duties of*Religion, are but the vessels or pipes which receive such liquour, good or bad, as are put into them: A man may be acting his sin, or his godliness, while he is per∣forming of them; as the Pharisees were: Although a constant, ordinary neg∣lect of Religious duties, be a sure sign of a prophane heart; yet the constant, daily performing of them, is not a sure sign of a gracious godly heart; for they are such as is put into them: Even as the good Angels, and the Devils also have sometimes appeared in humane bodies: And thus godliness or sin may work in outward Religious duties; so that those external performances and expressions, are not to be made arguments of gracious men: These leaves will grow upon corrupt trees, as well as good trees.
Thirdly, No wonder if God prefer a rent heart, before outward signs of humi∣liation,*because these have been, and still are consistent with the most abominable wickedness: They wrought miracles, and cryed, Lord, Lord, who yet were found to be workers of iniquity. The Jews had their New-Moons, and their Oblations, and their daily Fastings; and at the same time also had Idolatries, Adulteries, and all manner of outward filthiness: So that it is a great matter to know wherein true godliness doth consist, what is the life and soul of pray∣ing, hearing, and all Religious duties: One word spoken from a converted rent heart, is more acceptable, then many thousands expressed in a meer custo∣mary and formal way.Page 492〈1 page duplicate〉Page 493〈1 page duplicate〉
Page 494Use 1. Is Conversion a breaking, wounding, tearing and rending of the heart? * then you may quickly judge how remote they are from this blessed estate, that make it their businesse to keep their hearts jolly, secure, merry and full of ease. Oh they must hear nothing, that must be like a two-edged sword at their hearts; you must never tell them of hell, and the day of judgement, of the narrow strict way to heaven. Oh bring not these sad and troublesome things to their ears. Oh thou foo∣lish wretch, that dost wilfully fat thy soul for destruction. Oh think that the word of God never works as it should do, till it hath grieved thee, diseased thee, till it hath made all worldly delights bitter to thee. Dost thou think to eat and drink, and sin, and to have the good things of this life, and yet no threatning enter into thy heart? Oh wert thou not bewitched, and hardned by sin, this present discourse would fall like fire into thy Bowels; and if there were nothing to rend and tear thy heart, the very civil and religious rents that are amongst us, might move thee. What woundings and rendings have there been of the body by the sword? What religious tearings in opinions and affections? Doth not the Lord then teach us by these rents and distractions what we should doe in our hearts? And if after all this thou findest thy heart like Leviathans skin impenetrable, and sayest, How may my heart be rent, and thus graciously affected? I say, depend upon the power∣ful preaching of the Word: That is appointed by God, not only to set Father a∣gainst Son, and Son against Father, but a man against himself, his heart against his heart, his affections against one another.