Wednesdays with Watson is a weekly reading taken from my favorite Puritan writer, Thomas Watson. This week’s selection is taken from The Doctrine of Repentance.
‘In that day there shall be a great mourning, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon’ (Zech. 12.1 1). Two suns did set that day when Josiah died, and there was a great funeral mourning. To such a height must sorrow for sin be boiled up.…
Question 1: Do all have the same degree of sorrow?
Answer: No, sorrow does…produce greater or lesser [sorrows]). In the new birth all have pangs, but some have sharper pangs than others.
(1) Some are naturally of a more rugged disposition, of higher spirits, and are not easily brought to stoop. These must have greater humiliation, as a knotty piece of timber must have greater wedges driven into it.
(2) Some have been more heinous offenders, and their sorrow must be suitable to their sin. Some patients have their sores let out with a needle, others with a lance. Flagitious [extremely wicked] sinners must be more bruised with the hammer of the law.
(3) Some are designed and cut out for higher service, to be eminently instrumental for God, and these must have a mightier work of humiliation pass upon them. Those whom God intends to be pillars in his church must be more hewn. Paul, the prince of the apostles, who was to be God’s ensign-bearer to carry his name before the Gentiles and kings, was to have his heart more deeply lanced by repentance.
Question 2: But how great must sorrow for sin be in all?
Answer: It must be as great as for any worldly loss. [‘Eyes are swollen with weeping.’] ‘They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn as for an only son’ (Zech. 12.10). Sorrow for sin must surpass worldly sorrow. We must grieve more for offending God than for the loss of dear relations. ‘In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth’ (Isa. 22.12): this was for sin. But in the case of the burial of the dead we find God prohibiting tears and baldness (Jer. 22.10; 16.6), to intimate that sorrow for sin must exceed sorrow at the grave; and with good reason, for in the burial of the dead it is only a friend who departs, but in sin God departs.
Sorrow for sin should be so great as to swallow up all other sorrow, as when the pain of the stone and gout meet, the pain of the stone swallows up the pain of the gout.
We are to find as much bitterness in weeping for sin as ever we found sweetness in committing it. Surely David found more bitterness in repentance than ever he found comfort in Bathsheba.
Our sorrow for sin must be such as makes us willing to let go of those sins which brought in the greatest income of profit or delight. The physic shows itself strong enough when it has purged out our disease. The Christian has arrived at a sufficient measure of sorrow when the love of sin is purged out.