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Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.—Ver. 136.
MOST of the sentences of this psalm are independent, and do not easily fall under the rules of method; so that we need not take pains in clearing up the context; the verse needs it not, the time permits it not: only you may observe this, that often in this psalm David had expressed his great joy, and now he maketh mention of his exceeding grief. There is a time to rejoice and a time to mourn; as times vary, so do duties; we have affections for every condition. Indeed, in this valley of tears mourning is seldom out of season, either with respect to sin or misery, for ourselves or others. David, that did sometimes mourn for his own sins, and watered his couch with tears, Ps. vi. 6, he took also his time to mourn and bewail other men’s sins: ‘Rivers of tears run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.’
In the words observe David’s grief is set out by—
1. Constancy and greatness of it, rivers of tears run down mine, eyes.
2. The goodness of the cause or reason of it, because they keep not thy law.
‘Rivers of tears.’ He compares his tears to a stream and river always running. The same expression is used Lam. ii. 18, ‘Let tears run down like a river day and night; let not the apples of thine eyes cease.’ When affections are vehemently exercised, the scripture is wont to use such kind of expressions. The will of a godly man is above his performance; it is wont to do much more than the body can furnish him with abilities to express. He had such a large affection that he could weep rivers. ‘Because they.’ Some refer it to eyes, the immediate antecedent; they are usually the inlets of sin; we are first taken by the eye, and then by the heart: ‘She saw the fruit that it was good, and then did eat of it.’ But I rather suppose it is to be referred to men. The Hebrews many times do not express a general antecedent. More particularly his enemies, Saul and his courtiers; for so he saith, ver. 139, ‘My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy word;’ and again, ver. 158, David saith, ‘I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved because they keep not thy word.’ I have brought these places, because parallel with the text; and principally that you may not think David was troubled because of any injuries done to himself, but because of offences done to God. ‘Keep not thy law.’ Keeping of the law is to observe it diligently; not only to maintain it, but to retain it in our eye and practice. It might be matter of grief to David that they of whom he specially speaketh, being persons of power and place, did not maintain the law, and keep it from encroachment and violation, but suffered abuses to pass unpunished; but he speaketh here of retaining the law in their hearts and practice. For it is an expression equivalent with that which is used in ver. 139, ‘Because they have forgotten thy word.’ The point which I shall observe is this—
Doct. That it is the duty and property of a godly man to mourn bitterly, even for other men’s sins.
Here we have David’s instance; and it may be suited with the practice of all the saints. Jeremiah: see Jer. xiii. 17, ‘But if ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride, and mine eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears.’ There you have described the right temper of a good prophet, first to entreat earnestly for them, and in case of refusal to weep bitterly for their obstinacy. Mark, it was not an ordinary sorrow he speaks of there, but a bitter weeping, ‘Mine eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears.’ Not a slight, vanishing sigh, not a counterfeited sorrow; soul and eyes were both engaged; and this in secret places, where the privacy contributeth much to the measure and sincerity of it. Now this is a fit instance of a minister of the gospel.’ We cannot always prevail when we plead with you, and shall not be responsible for it. God never required it at the hands of any minister to work grace and to save souls, but to do their endeavours. But, alas! we do not learn of Jeremiah to go and mourn over their ignorance, carelessness, and obstinacy of those committed to our charge. The next example that I shall produce is that of Lot in Sodom, 2 Peter ii. 7, 8, ‘Who vexed himself, and was vexed from day to day, in seeing and hearing their unlawful deeds.’ Not with Sodom’s injuries, but with Sodom’s sins. It was mat ter of constant grief to his soul; the commonness did not take away the odiousness. My next instance shall be our Lord himself; we read very much of his compassion: I shall produce but two instances of it. One is in Mark iii. 5, ‘Christ looked upon them with anger, and was grieved for the hardness of their hearts.’ They gave him cause of offence, but it doth not only exercise his anger but grief. In our Saviour’s anger there was more of compassion than passion. He was grieved to see men harden themselves to their own destruction. So when he came near to Jerusalem, a city not very friendly to him, yet it is said, Luke xix. 41, ‘When he came near and beheld the city, he wept over it, and said, If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes.’ Our Lord Jesus was made up of compassion; he weepeth not only for his friends but his enemies. As a righteous God he inflicted the judgment, but as man he wept for the offences. First he shed his tears, and then his blood. O foolish, careless city, that will not regard terms and offers of peace in this her day! He bewailed them that knew not why they should be bewailed; they rejoiced, and he mourned: Christ’s eyes are the wetter because theirs were so dry. And now he is in heaven, how doth his free grace go a mourning after sinners in the entreaties of the gospel! But that I may vindicate this point more fully, I shall give—
1. Some observations concerning mourning for the sins of others.
2. Give you the reasons of it.
The observations are these five:—
1. That it is an absolute duty to preach this doctrine, not only some high and raised effect of grace. When we produce these instances and examples of the word, David, Lot, Jeremiah, and Christ, many think these are rare and extraordinary instances, elevated beyond the ordinary line and pitch of Christian practice and perfection. No; it is a matter of duty lying upon all Christians. When God goes to mark out his people for preservation, who are those that are marked? The mourners: Ezek. ix. 4, ‘Go through the midst of the city, and set a mark upon the foreheads of them that sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof.’ None are marked out for mercy but the mourners. The great difference between men and men in the world is the mourners in Zion and the sinners in Zion; so that it lieth upon all, if we would have God’s mark upon us. And the apostle reproveth the Corinthians for the want of this mourning: 1 Cor. v. 7, ‘Ye are puffed up, when ye should rather have mourned.’ Possibly many of the converted Corinthians disliked the foulness of the fact, but they did not mourn and solemnly lay it to heart; therefore the apostle layeth a charge upon them. In all the examples that have been produced, that of Jesus Christ only is extraordinary; and yet we are bound to have the same mind in us that was in Jesus. We must have the same mind, though we cannot have the same measure of affection. Christ had the spirit without measure, but we must have our proportion. If David can speak of floods, certainly we should at least be able to speak of drops. Somewhat of David’s and Christ’s spirit. Nay, the example of Christ in this very thing is propounded by the apostle: Rom. xv. 3, ‘For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.’ The apostle speaketh there of bearing one another’s burdens. Christ would bear the burden of all the world. He was moved with a zeal for the dishonour done to God, and compassion to men; and so undertook the burden upon him, not to please himself, or seek the ease and safety of the natural life. Well, then, it is not some raised effect of grace, but a necessary duty which concerns all; a frame of heart which all the children of God have. If you love God, and love your neighbour, if you believe heaven and hell, and have any sense of the truth of the promises or threatenings, you will be thus affected in some measure to mourn and grieve for the sins of others.
2. This duty doth chiefly concern public persons, though it lies upon all Christians, magistrates and ministers and officers of the church, because of their public and universal influence. Public persons must have public affections as well as public relations. You shall see in that type the church of the Jews is represented in their officers, Zech. iii. 1. When the people were corrupted, and in a calamitous condition, Joshua the high priest is brought in standing before the Lord in filthy garments, the priest is accused by Satan. Certainly public persons are more responsible to God than others, and more concerned than others in the sins committed in the land, or places where they have a charge. Among private persons, a householder is more responsible than a private member of the family, if one under his charge fall into a notorious sin. You are responsible for your children and servants, and so are we for your souls. Under the law, Exod. xxii. 10, God said if a man did deliver unto his neighbour an ox, or an ass, or a sheep, or any beast to keep, and it did die, or was hurt, or was driven away, no man seeing it, or it did miscarry through his negligence, he was to make it good, because it was delivered into his hand. So I may say here, in quoting this law, Hath God a care of oxen? God hath committed souls to us, he hath put them into the hands of magistrates and ministers to keep them. Now because we do not discharge our duty, he will require their blood at our hands, Ezek. xxxiii. 7-9. Because of our trust and charge, we are bound to have more public affections: Joel ii. 17, ‘Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar.’ Ministers should be exemplar for spiritual feeling and tenderness and humiliation. Under the law the measures of the sanctuary were double to other measures. I apply it to this very thing. Our portion must be greater, because of the burden that lies upon us. Paul speaketh as one sensible of the weightiness of his charge, in 2 Cor. xi. 29, ‘Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?’ Paul trembled to see a weak Christian in the hands of Satan; and when they had taken offence, and begun to stumble, this was his trouble and grief. Mourning and burning is put for the violence of any affection. So Jeremiah the prophet, ‘My soul shall weep in secret places for your pride.’
3. That tears are not absolutely necessary for the expression of this grief and tenderness. David saith, ‘Rivers of tears.’ Why? For grief doth not always keep the road and highway; and many times when water goes out, wind comes in. Many are puffed up with sensitive trouble, and put more upon tears than they do upon the frame of the heart which should engage us to this. All constitutions are not: alike moist; a tender heart may be matched with a dry brain. When men are careful to get things reformed, and are affected with the calamity of the church more than their own private loss, this is that which God requires. However, let me tell you, if we find tears for other things, we should find tears for these duties, when we come to remember our own sins, and the sins of others. God did not make the affections in vain. A man that hath a thorough sanctified soul will have affections exercised in some measure proportionable; and therefore, if we can shed tears abundantly upon other occasions, we should remember this water should be reserved for sanctuary uses. David when he is spoken of, is represented as one having a moist eye upon all occasions; yet Lot had a tender heart, being offended with public disorders. It is said, 2 Peter ii. 8, ‘His righteous soul was vexed.’ Great devotionists are usually very tender. Good men are much given to tears, and these sensitive stirrings of affection are a great help to religion; and therefore should not wholly be neglected. But if there be a serious displacency against sin, a deep laying to heart God’s dishonour, though they cannot command tears, the duty is discharged. Humiliation lieth more in heart grief and trouble, than the sensitive and passionate expression of it. And yet upon religious occasions we should express ourselves as passionately as we can, and not content ourselves with a few cold words and dull thoughts; but our liveliest affections should be exercised about the weightiest things: James iv. 9, ‘Be afflicted and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to heaviness.’ When we are deprecating the wrath of God, humbling ourselves under the offences done to his infinite majesty by ourselves or others, there should be more tenderness, and we should do it in the most lively affectionate manner that possibly we can.
4. The greatest sinners, when they are once converted to God, have the greatest compassion afterwards towards other sinners. Why? They know the heart of a sinning man, they have had most experience of the power and prejudice of corruption, and also sensibly tasted of the love of God, and his goodness in Christ Jesus; and so their hearts are entendered thereby to pity others, and they more earnestly desire others should partake with them of the same grace. As Israel were pressed to pity strangers, because they themselves were once strangers in Egypt, they knew what it was to be neglected and despised in a strange land; so they that are acquainted with the temptations of Satan, with the bitter fruits of sin, with the prejudices that men lie under before they come to take to the ways of God, they have greater compassion towards the souls of others than others have. This is observed to be fulfilled in the apostle Paul, whose zeal lay otherwise more in the active than in the contemplative way; for in his writings we find him mostly doctrinal and rational, yet when he speaketh of sinners, he doth it always with grief and bowels: Phil. iii. 18, ‘I tell you weeping.’ And still he presseth Christians to a greater tenderness, to be more in grief for than censure of their brother’s faults:. Gal. vi. 1, ‘If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted;’ and Titus ii. 3, when he presseth to gentleness to all men, ‘For we ourselves,’ saith he, ‘were sometimes foolish and disobedient, deceived and deceiving, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another; but after the love and kindness of God appeared,’ &c. This melted his heart, to consider what he was, and what God had made him by grace. Whereas sullen men, of a severe temper, of a constant, rigid innocency, are wont to be more harsh and carried out with greater indignation than sorrow. Sin and they have not been so much acquainted. Others, that know how cunning this strumpet is to insinuate and entice the soul, pity those that are deceived with its enticing blandishments. Certainly men that profess religion, and do not observe their own hearts, or else have lived in a more equitable course of honesty, without any sensible change, are not touched with such tenderness. But they that once come to remember how obstinate they were in prejudices against the ways of God, how securely they walked in a way of sin, without any sense of God’s displeasure, or serious thoughts of the bitter fruit of it, now God hath plucked them as brands out of the burning, they would fain save others also that are heirs of the same promise. The high priests under the law were taken from among men, Heb. v. 2, that they might have more compassion; so the Lord multiplies these instances of grace, that they might have more compassion towards others. They that have felt the terrors of the Lord, and know the wounds and bruises of a troubled conscience, are more affective in persuading, more compassionate in mourning for others, 2 Cor. v. 7.
5. There must be not only a constant disposition to mourn over the sins of others, but upon some more than ordinary occasions it must with much seriousness be exercised and set a-work. It is said of Lot, 2 Peter ii. 8, ‘He vexed his righteous soul’ in seeing their filthiness with his eyes and hearing their blasphemies with his ears, these were continual torments to him; he could go nowhere but he heard or saw something that was matter of grief to him. That is a sad prognostic of an approaching judgment when a country is so bad that it is made, as it were, a prison to a godly man. Daily a Christian hath his occasions of sorrow. How can we walk the streets with dry eyes when we here shall see a reeling drunkard, there hear a profane swearer rending and tearing the sacred name of God in pieces, a filthy speaker, theatres and the devil’s temples crowded with such a multitude of people, that men may learn more how to please the flesh and hate godliness, and feast their ears with filthy talk? To see people so mad against God, and ready to cast off the yoke of Christ everywhere, this occasions matter of grief and mourning before the Lord. But besides this, there must be solemn exercises, when our eyes must gush out with tears, and we must open the flood-gates. We must wish, as Jer. ix. 1, ‘Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!’ There are certain times when this is necessary, as times of great sin, and of judgment felt or feared.
[1.] Of great sin, for then things begin to draw to a judgment. As for instance—
(1.) When outward gross sins are frequently committed, such as are against the light of nature: Hosea iv. 1, 2, ‘The Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, no mercy, no knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood,’ &c. God’s severity is last mentioned wherein men bewray their high presumption in profaning the name of God and violating his commands without any the least appearance of profit and advantage—lying and falsehood, a sin inconsistent with human society. God, who is the God of truth and the patron of it, cannot endure it. So the lives, goods, chastity of men to be abused, this God cannot bear with: ‘Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.’ God doth not contend usually for lesser faults or ordinary infirmities, but gross sins, by way of omission or commission.
(2.) These sins are the more odious, and do provoke God when universal: Isa. i. 5, 6, ‘The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint; from the sole of the foot, even to the head, there is no soundness in it,’ &c. Though there be a few secret mourners, yet when the contagion becometh general, and riseth to a head, the Lord will take no notice of them as to the keeping off a common judgment: Ezek. ix. 4, 5, ‘And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the fore heads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in my hearing, Go ye after them through the city, and smite; let not your eyes spare, neither have ye pity;’ and Ezek. xiv. 14, ‘Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God;’ and Jer. xv. 1, ‘Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be towards this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.’ Yet the sentence against Sodom was revocable if but ten righteous persons could be found in it, Gen. xviii. 32. Nay, a larger offer concerning Jerusalem, larger than that which God made to Sodom; if but a man: Jer. v. 1, ‘Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it.’ Though Jerusalem were a city larger and more populous than Sodom and other cities. When the whole body of a people grows monstrous in sin. If a ruling party be sound, though the body be corrupt and vicious, that iniquity be not established by a law, or countenanced by them; or if the ruling party be corrupt and vicious, yet if the body of the people, or a considerable number, be serious and holy, and mourn in secret for the sins of the times, God may spare a land. But when all flesh have corrupted their ways, then the flood comes.
(3.) When resolute and incorrigible. Resolute; we have, and we will: Jer. xliv. 16, 17, ‘As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee; but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers.’ And incorrigible: Jer. v. 3, ‘They have refused to receive correction, they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return.’
(4.) When bold in sinning: Isa. iii. 9, ‘The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not.’ When men commit sin without shame or fear, break over all banks of love, moderation, or civility.
[2.] In respect of judgments felt or feared. When the day of the Lord is near, or already begun, when the smoke foreshoweth the fire is a-coming, and the decree ready to break forth, these are mourning times.
Secondly, The reasons why this is the duty and property of God’s children; they do it out of obedience, it is their duty; and they do it out of an innate disposition, it is their property.
1. It is their duty because God hath commanded it. Now all God’s commands are equal, and full of reason; and there is a great deal of reason why God should lay this kind of duty upon the creature.
[1.] That it may be an allay to zeal. That is an excellent and well-tempered zeal when grief is mixed with anger: as it is said of Christ, he looked about with anger, and was grieved at the hardness of their hearts; when we are angry at the sin, and mourn for the person, and mourn over him. Zeal against the sin, that shows our love to God; and our commiseration of the person, that shows our love to man. Samuel spared not Saul in his sin, yet mourned for him. And all the prophets of God you shall find, when they were threatening the people for their sins, were grieved lest their threatening should be accomplished. False zeal hath malice and mischief; it mourns not for the person, because it coveteth his shame and destruction. Now it is the great wisdom of God he would have this temper mixed. There must be anger for the offence done to God, and a grief that our brother hath offended. The world is apt to cry out upon the children of God, as persons peevish and rancorous; but this is a rare vindication, when they see you as apt to mourn as to chide, that all your expostulations with them come rather from conscience than interest; it is an excellent allay and praise to public zeal.
[2.] God would have us mourn for the sins of others, to engage us to seek redress and reformation. We should soon neglect the duty that we owe to the age and place where and when we live, were it not for this, that the want of it would be burdensome to us, and the abounding of iniquity will cost us bitter tears upon God’s command, and upon zealous endeavours to get a public reformation. Ezra first mourns bitterly, then reforms zealously: Ezra ix. 6, 7, ‘I plucked off the hair of my head, and rent my garment, and said, O my God, I am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to thee, O God; for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens,’ &c. Zealous actions, which few practise in their own case; yet sins of others, you see, work an afflictive grief and shame in those that fear God. These were the actions of Ezra when he was bewailing the sins of others, and this made him so resolute and active in the reformation that is described in the next chapter. Their love begets sorrow, and their sorrow care. Who would not seek to redress the evil which is burdensome to him? Many times the world is angry, because we are so clamorous for reformation and repentance. You have liberty enough, say they, and may serve God in your own way, and go to heaven quietly; why should you trouble yourself about others? But can a man that grieveth for the abominations of the times be silent till they be redressed? A Christian is troubled about the salvation of others, to see so many thousands of souls carried to hell by droves, and hurried to their own destruction. Can pity and remorse behold this, without care and endeavours with God and man to get it remedied? Certainly, the children of God are not impertinently active and pragmatical. Public reformation is not only a relief to their souls, but to their bowels. They are troubled, therefore thirst and long to see it redressed: 2 Cor. vii. 11, ‘Godly sorrow,’ saith Paul, what carefulness it wrought in you!’ He speaketh of their public church sorrow. Till they mourned, they neglected the discipline of the church, and let incest go without censure. O my brethren! until we mourn for public disorders, we shall not mourn over one another. We think it is enough to keep ourselves free, and to make a little conscience of our own ways. Always private sorrow will beget public care. If thou hast wept sore in secret places, thou wilt be earnest with God and man to remove the occasion of thy grief.
[3.] The Lord requireth this to keep our hearts the more tender and upright; it is an act God useth to make us more careful of our own souls, to be troubled at the sins of others, at sin in a third person. It keepeth us at a great distance from a temptation. This is like quenching of fire in a neighbour’s house; before it comes near us, thou runnest with thy bucket. There is no way to keep us free from the infection, so much as mourning. The soul will never agree to do that which grieved itself to see another do. ‘And as it keepeth us upright, so also humble, fearful of divine judgment, tender lest we ourselves offend, and draw down the wrath of God. He that shruggeth when he seeth a snake creeping upon another, will much more be afraid when he cometh near to himself. In our own sins we have advantage of conscience scourging the soul with remorse and shame. In bewailing the sins of others, we have only the reasons of duty and obedience. They that fight abroad out of love to valour and exploits, will certainly fight out of love to their own safety at home. So God would have us more abroad, more against the sins of others, that our hearts may be more set against those sins with which we ourselves are apt to be foiled.
2. This is their disposition as well as their duty; it must be so, and it cannot be otherwise with the children of God, for several reasons.
[1.] From the tenderness of God’s glory, which is more dear to them than all their own interests. A Christian hath a great affection to the glory of God, is very tender of that; he cannot endure it should be violated, for his heart will even break within him. Can a man see an injury done to a person whom he loves, and not be troubled? Jesus wept for Lazarus, because he loved him, and they say, ‘Behold how he loved him,’ John xi. 36. They that love God can they hear his great name rent with so many blasphemies? so many affronts put upon his grace, the laws of God trampled under foot, and not lay it to heart? God’s glory is more dear to them than their own lives. They had neither had any standing in nature nor grace had it not been for the glory of God. God made all things for himself; therefore when the name of God is violated, his authority despised, his laws broken and set at nought, and no more regarded or esteemed than a ballad or a song, they cannot but express their tenderness and great affection to God by mourning for this. Carnal men are hot in their own cause, cold in God’s. God’s children are quite otherwise, cold in their own cause, and hot in God’s. Therefore they are deeply sensible when God’s honour is weakened. Moses was the meekest man upon earth, yet he brake the tables. How doth this agree? The injuries that were done to himself he could look upon with a meek, quiet spirit, easily put them up; but when he saw the people bring dishonour to the name of God, then he hath a high and deep affection. They cry out, Josh. vii. 9, ‘Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name?’ So Ps. cxv. 1, ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy name give glory.’ They go to God, not to advance our faction and interest: ‘We are brought very low; yet the wrath of man shall praise thee.’ Thy name is dear and precious; they are sorry to see any profane it. God hath abundantly provided for their respect, he hath bid all men love them, when he bid us love one another. So that in effect all the respects of the world are devolved upon one person. And they would have all men love God and honour God.
[2.] It comes from their compassion and pity and love to men. Oh! it grieves them to see so many that do not grieve for themselves; and their eyes are wet because yours are always dry. ‘I tell you weeping,’ saith Paul, Phil. iii. 18. Compassion over the miserable estate of such teachers, and those that are led by them; they and whole droves run after fancies that endanger their souls. False teachers and their proselytes should not only fall under our indignation, but our pity. They are monsters in nature that want bowels, much more in grace. Religion doth not harden the heart, but mollifies it. Jesus Christ was made up of compassion, and all Christians partake of Christ’s spirit: Phil. i. 8, ‘God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.’ Pray mark, Paul had got some of Christ’s bowels, and let me tell you they were tender ones. Com passion towards others, and weeping over their sins, is somewhat like the love of Jesus Christ. He would take our burden upon himself when he was not interested. So the spirit of Christ worketh in all his members, he hath distributed his bowels among them; and therefore they cannot but long for the salvation of others; yea, their heart is broken and mollified with Christ’s compassion to them, and therefore long for fellows in the same grace. Though they have received personal and private injuries, yet they pity their case, and mourn for them. It is matter of humiliation and lamentation: 2 Cor. xii. 21, ‘When I come again I fear my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, which they have committed.’ It is matter of grief to see so many thousands perish, or in a perishing condition.
[3.] This disposition cometh from the antipathy and zealous displeasure that is in their hearts against sin. They know what sin is, the greatest enemy that God and Christ and their own souls have in the world. It was sin that made angels become devils; it was sin that blew up the sparks of hell-fire; it was sin that opposed God, that crucified Christ; it is sin that grieves the Spirit of God; and therefore they mourn when sin gets proselytes. A man cannot endure to see a toad or viper near him; your hearts rise when you see them creep upon another; so do the hearts of the children of God rise, that their enemy and God’s should find such respect and entertainment in the world. It is said of the church of Ephesus: Rev. ii. 2, ‘That she could not bear those which were wicked.’ And David saith, Ps. ci. 3, ‘I hate the works of them that turn aside.’ They know this will grieve the Spirit of God, that this will press him as a cart is pressed with sheaves; and shall God be pressed and burdened, and they not troubled? It cannot be. They that love the Lord will hate evil, Ps. xcvii. 10, both in themselves and others.
[4.] This disposition comes out of a sagacity of faith, and serious foresight of the effects of sin. They know what sin will come to, and what is the danger of it; therefore, when they see sin in creasing, ‘Rivers of water run down their eyes.’ Wicked men tremble only at the judgment of God, but good men tremble at his word; and therefore they mourn when others fall into danger of the threatening. When Ezra plucked his beard, and was in such a zealous indignation against the sins of the people, bewailing them before the Lord, Ezra ix. 4, ‘Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel.’ At fasts others are slight and obdurate; they look on threatening as a little mock thunder; they are not sensible of the danger. I may set forth this by that allusion, 2 Kings viii. 11, the prophet Elisha wept when he saw Hazael, that he looked wishly on his face till he blushed: ‘The man of God wept, and Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil thou wilt do unto the children of Israel; their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child: and Hazael said, But what! is thy servant a dog?’ &c. So when the children of God look upon sin, they know by the complexion of it what will be the dreadful effects. This will be bitterness in the issue, in time this will produce pestilences, famine, fire, sword, and all other mischiefs and judgments, and expressions of the angry indignation of the Lord. They foresee a storm when the clouds are but a-gathering, therefore they tremble when they see them. This is the sagacity of faith. Now carnal men, on the other side, look upon the threatenings of scripture but as words of course, used as in way of policy, that God only would awe and scare them, but doth not purpose to condemn them. But faith is sagacious. Look, as to the promises, ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ So as to the threatenings, the same evidence of things not seen. The apostle doth not only instance when he had given the general description of the objects of hope for the recompense of reward, but he instances in the threatenings, ‘Noah, being moved with fear, prepared an ark,’ &c. They know, however men slight the word of God, one day it will be found true; and therefore, when they see men add sin to sin, they are troubled. The word is as sure as execution, and works upon them accordingly. They have all things in a near view; the nearer the objects of our faith are in our view, the more they stir up our affections. Dangers and death, when in hand and in present expectation, work far otherwise than they do when they are considered at a distance. So when the effects of sin are looked upon as near at hand, when faith makes them present, then they stir up these affections in the soul.
[5.] A fifth clause is from their public spirit and tender respect to the common good. When they wisely foresee approaching dangers, they are moved with the love and care of their country, and this melteth them. They know sin is of a destroying nature, that ‘one sinner destroyeth much good,’ Eccles. ix. 18. One sinner may do his country a great deal of mischief, an open bold-faced sinner—Achan troubled the whole camp, Josh. vii. 11, 12—much more when a multitude of sinners are increased; therefore they sigh and mourn. Godly men are the truest friends to their native soil; they are the chariots and horse men of Israel. Those that plead with God stand in the gap, keep off judgments, and have the most public spirit; therefore the least they can do is to sigh for it and to plead with wicked men; as Tertullian, Si non vis tibi parcere, parce Carthagini—if thou wilt go on with thy soul-destroying course, and wilt not spare thyself, yet spare Carthage. This will be bitterness in the issue. The children of God are always of a public spirit. David fasted for his enemies, Ps. xxxv. Abraham prayed to God for Sodom, a neighbour country. The godly Israelites were good friends to Babylon in their captivity: Jer. xxix. 11, ‘Seek the peace of the city, whither I have caused you to be carried captive, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof ye shall have peace: ‘if nothing but their interest and share in the common rest and quietness. Passengers are concerned in the welfare of the vessel wherein they are embarked. Babylon fared the better for the Jews’ prayers. Now more especially are their hearts carried out with a respect to their native soil and dearest comforts; therefore this melteth them to see the land defiled with sins and ready for judgments.
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