2 Peter 2:4-10
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness…
It is the disposition and duty of the righteous to be deeply afflicted with the sins of the places where they live.
I. For the obvious Scripture examples. — Our Lord (Mark 3:5) was "grieved for the hardness of their hearts," namely, in opposing His holy and saving doctrines. David professeth that "rivers of waters ran down his eyes, because men kept not God's law"; and that when he "beheld the transgressors, he was grieved; because they kept not His Word" (Psalm 119:136, 158). The next example shall be Ezra's, who, hearing of the sins of the people in marrying with heathens, in token of bitter grief for it, "rent his garment and his mantle, and plucked off the hair of his beard and of his head, and sat down astonied" (Ezra 9:3); and he did neither '" eat bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away "(Ezra 10:6). To these I might add the example of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13:17). I shall conclude this with that expression of holy Paul (Philippians 3:18).
II. The manner how this duty of mourning for the sins of others is to be performed.
1. In our mourning for the sins of others in respect of God, we must advance —
(1) His great and unparalleled patience and long-suffering extended toward those whose sins we lament. This was evident in Nehemiah's bewailing the sins of the sinful Jews (Nehemiah 9:30).
(2) In mourning for the sins of the wicked, advance God in the acknowledgment of His justice and spotless righteousness, should He with utmost severity take vengeance upon offenders.
(3) In spreading before God the wickednesses of great sinners, admire His infinite power, that can not only stop the worst of men in, but turn them from, their course of opposing God by their rebellions. We are not so to mourn for, as to despair of the conversion of, the worst. They are as much within the converting reach as the destructive reach of God's hand.
(4) In mourning admire that grace and power that hath kept thee from their excesses. It should more comfort thee that thou sinnest not with them, than trouble thee that thou sufferest from them.
2. The second branch of the manner how we must bewail the sins of others is as it respects those for whom and for whose sins we lament and mourn.
(1) We must bewail the sins of our bitterest enemies, as well as of our most beloved relations — a rare and seldom-practised duty I fear that this will be found.
(2) We ought to bewail the sins of our near and dear relations in a greater measure than those of mere strangers — natural affection, sanctified, is the strongest.
(3) They that mourn for others' sins, especially the sins of those they most love, must mourn more for their sins than their afflictions and outward troubles.
(4) We ought to bewail the sins of others according to the proportion of the sins of the times and places where we live.
(5) We ought to mourn for the sins of others advantageously to those for whom we mourn, with the using of all due means to reclaim and reduce them.
(a) By prayer for their conversion and God's pardoning them.
(b) We must endeavour to follow the mourning for sinners with restraining them from sin (if we have it) by power.
(c) We must mourn for sinners with advantaging them by example, that they may never be able to tax us with those sins for which we would be thought sorrowful.
(d) We must follow our mourning for others' sins with labouring to advantage them by holy reproof for the sins we mourn for.
(e) With expressing that commiseration toward a sinner in private which thou expressest for him before God in secret.
(6) We must mourn for those sins of others that are in appearance advantageous to ourselves.
3. I shall consider how we should mourn for the sins of others in respect of ourselves.
(1) They whom God hath set in any place or station of superiority over others, either more public or in families, should be the most eminent mourners for the sins of those committed to their charge.
(2) Those who, now converted, have been the most open sinners in their unconverted state should more lay to heart the sins of the openly wicked than those who have lived more civilly and without scandal.
(3) They that mourn for others' sins must more mourn because those sins are offensive and dishonourable to God and hurtful to sinners, than because they are injurious to themselves that mourn over them.
(4) They that mourn for others' sins should mourn more in secret than in open complaining.
(5) They that mourn for others' sins must mourn to a high degree who have been the occasions and promoters of their sins — either by neglecting to reprove them for, restraining them from, or giving them examples of, sinning. This sanctified conscience will make one of the bitterest ingredients into sorrow for the sins of others.
(6) They that mourn for the sins of others must mourn with a holy reflection upon themselves.
(a) They must reflect upon themselves with sorrow, because they have the same impure natures that the most-to-be-lamented sinner in the world hath.
(b) With a reflection of examination.
(i) Whether you have not some way or other furthered this sinner in his much-to-be-lamented impieties.
(ii) Whether the same open sins that are acted by him — the noted offender — or sins almost or altogether as bad, are not acted and entertained by thee in secret places, or at least in thy heart.
(c) With a reflection of care and watchfulness that thou mayest never dare to fall into the sins that thou bewailest in another; that thou who labourest to quench the fire that hath seized upon thy neighbour's house, mayest be careful to preserve thine from being set on fire also.
III. To show why this holy mourning is.
1. The disposition, and
2. Duty of the righteous,I shall express the reasons of both distinctly.
1. It is their disposition, and that under a threefold qualification —
(1) Because they are a knowing people. They know what tears and heart-breakings sin hath stood them in; they know that sin will cost the wicked either tears of repentance or damnation; they know that sin is but gilded destruction, and fire and brimstone in a disguise (2 Corinthians 5:11).
(2) As to a saint's disposition: he is compassionate and tender-hearted. If sinners mourn, he mourns with them; if not, he mourns for them.
(3) The righteous are a purified, sanctified people. A saint, as such, hates nothing but sin.
2. It is the duty as well as the disposition of the righteous to mourn for the sins of others; and that as they are considerable in a threefold relation.
(1) In their relation to God. As "the sons of God "they are commanded to be "blameless, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation" (Philippians 2:15).
(2) Their relation to the Mediator, the Lord Christ. Here I shall mention only a double relation between Christ and saints, that engageth them to mourn for the sins of others.
(a) The first is His relation to us as a suffering Surety, in respect whereof He paid the debt of penalty which we owed to God's justice; for it was sin in man that made Christ "a man of sorrows."(b) There is a second relation between Christ and saints that should make them mourn for the sins of the wicked; and that is the relation of Teacher and Instructor. We are His disciples and scholars; and it is our duty as much to make Him our Example as to expect He should obtain our pardon. Christ never had a pollution, but oft a commotion, of affection; Christ never wept but for sin or its effects.
(3) Their relation to the wicked, for whose sins they should mourn.
(a) The saints are men with the worst; they have the relation of human nature to the greatest sinners upon earth (Hebrews 13:3). It is a wickedness to hide ourselves from our own flesh (Isaiah 58:7).
(b) The righteous are the same with the wicked in respect of corrupt, depraved nature; born in sin as much as they, with a principle of inclination to all their impieties (Ephesians 2:3). Should it not, then, make thee mourn to consider, by the wickedness of others, thine own inbred depravation? what thou hadst done thyself if God had not either renewed or restrained thee? yea, what thou wouldest do if God should leave thee, and withdraw His grace from thee?
(c) Perhaps the holiest men have been, some way or other, furtherers of the sins of the wicked among whom they live; perhaps by their former sinful example when they lived in the same sins themselves which now the wicked wallow in. Shouldest not thou, then, mourn for killing that soul which God so severely punisheth, though free grace hath pardoned thee? Should we not quench that fire with our tears which we have blown-up with our bellows of encouragement?
(d) In this relation of saints, to sinners that should put them upon mourning for them, it is very considerable that the godly and the wicked make up one community, or political body, in the places where they live. In which respect the sins of some particular offender or offenders may pull down judgments upon the whole body. So that every one had need do his utmost, by mourning, and in whatever other way he can, to redress the sins, and so to prevent the plagues, of the place where he lives.
I. OF INFORMATION in sundry branches.
1. Godliness is uniform in all times, places, and companies. A righteous mar. is not, as the swine in a meadow, clean only in clean places; he will maintain opposition to sin in the midst of inducements to sin. His goodness may justly be suspected that only shows itself in good places, companies, and times.
2. The greatest sinners cannot constrain us to sin. The greatest temptation is no plea for committing the least sin: if we give not away, none can take away our holiness.
3. One cause may produce contrary effects. Others' sins draw the wicked to follow them, but they put the saints upon bewailing them.
4. It is our duty to rejoice in the holiness, if to mourn for the sins, of others. Love to God's house in others was David's gladness (Psalm 122:1). It was the greatest joy of holy John that his spiritual "children walked in the truth "(3 John 1:4). Holy ones were Paul's "joy, crown, and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20).
5. Christianity abolisheth not affection, but rectifies it. Grace is like the percolation or draining of salt water through the earth; it only takes away the brackishness and unsavouriness of our affections and faculties.
6. Everything betters a saint. Not only ordinances, word, sacraments, holy society, but even sinners and their very sinning. Even these draw forth their graces into exercise, and put them upon godly, broken-hearted mourning.
7. The great misery that sill hath brought into the world, to make sorrow and mourning necessary. It should make us long for a better world, where that which is here our duty to practise shall for ever be our privilege to be freed from.
8. There must needs remain a better state for the saints.
9. How ought sinners to mourn for their own sins! The nearer the enemy is, the more dreadful he is. Nothing more dismal than to see a sinner to go, not swiftly only, but merrily, to eternal mourning. "He that hath no tears for himself, should be helped by others."Use
II. The second use is OF REPREHENSION; and that to sundry sorts.
1. To those that reproach the holy mourning of saints for others' sins. They are falsely esteemed the incendiaries in a state whose great study is to quench God's burning wrath. If sinners kindle the fire, let saints quench it.
2. This doctrine of mourning for the sins of others speaks reproof to those that take pleasure in the sins of others (Romans 1:32).
3. This doctrine reproves those that mourn for the holiness of others. I have known some parents that have greatly desired their children should be good husbands, to get and increase their estates; but then have been very fearful lest they should be too godly; and it hath been the righteous judgment of God that their children proved spendthrifts, neither godly nor good husbands. It is often seen that, as gardeners with their shears snip off the tops of the tallest sprigs, so men most labour to discountenance the tallest in Christianity.
4. This doctrine reproves those that put others upon sin, so far are they from mourning for their sins. Poor souls! have they not sins enough of their own to answer for? If is little enough to be a leader to heaven, but too much to be a follower to hell; what, then, to be a leader!Use
III. OF EXHORTATION, to mourn for the sins of the wicked among whom we live.
1. If we mourn not for others' sins, theirs become ours.
2. Mourning for others' sins is the way to awaken thy conscience for thine own former sins.
3. Without mourning for sinners you will never seek the reformation of sinners.
4. This mourning for others' sins will make us more fearful to admit sin into ourselves.
5. Mourning for others' sins speaks thee a man of public usefulness to thy country.
6. Mourning for others' sins makes the sins of others beneficial to thee.
7. Holy commotion of soul for others' sins sends forth a most acceptable and fragrant savour into the nostrils of God.Use
IV. I shall add one use more; and that is DIRECTION to the means of practising this duty of holy mourning for others' sins:
1. Look not upon this duty with self-exemption. As if it belonged only to the highest in the practice of religion, or persons in office. All desire to B.C. marked, and therefore should be mourners (Ezekiel 9:4).
2. Look upon mourning for sin to be no legal practice, but an evangelical duty. The gospel-grace makes tears sweeter, not fewer.
3. Preserve tenderness of conscience in respect of thine own sins.
4. Strengthen faith in divine threatenings against sin.
5. Be holily, not curiously, inquisitive into the state of the times.
6. Take heed of being drowned in sensual delights.
(W. Jenkin, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;