For I will declare my iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
I. THE NATURE OF THIS PASSION. Sorrow is a trouble or disturbance of mind, occasioned by something that is evil, done or suffered by us, or which we are in danger of suffering, that tends greatly to our damage or mischief: so that to be sorry for a thing is nothing else but to be sensibly affected with the consideration of the evil of it, and of the mischief and inconvenience which is like to redound to us from it; which, if it be a moral evil, such as sin is, to be sorry for it, is to be troubled that we have done it, and to wish with all our hearts that we had been wiser, and had done otherwise; and if this sorrow be true and real, if it abide and stay upon us, it will produce a firm purpose and resolution in us, not to do the like for the future.
II. THE REASON AND GROUNDS OF OUR SORROW FOR SIN.
1. The great mischief that sin is like to bring upon us.
2. Another and better principle of sorrow for sin is ingenuity; because we are sensible that we have carried ourselves very unworthily towards God, and have been injurious to Him, who hath laid all possible obligations upon us.
III. THE MEASURE AND DEGREE OF OUR SORROW FOR SIN.
1. Sin being so great an evil in itself, and of so pernicious a consequence to us, it cannot be too much lamented and grieved for by us; and the more and greater our sins have been, and the longer we have continued and lived in them, they call for so much the greater sorrow, and deeper humiliation from us; for the reasoning of our Saviour, "She loved much, because much was forgiven her," is proportionably true in this case — those who have sinned much, should sorrow the more.
2. If we would judge aright of the truth of our sorrow for sin, we must not measure it so much by the degrees of sensible trouble and affliction, as by the rational effects of it, which are hatred of sin, and a fixed purpose and resolution against it for the future.
IV. How FAR THE OUTWARD EXPRESSION OF OUR INWARD GRIEF BY TEARS IS NECESSARY TO A TRUE REPENTANCE. The usual sign and outward expression of sorrow is tears; but these being not the substance of our duty, but an external testimony of it, which some tempers are more unapt to than others; we are much less to judge of the truth of our sorrow for sin by these, than by our inward sensible trouble and affliction of spirit. He that cannot weep like a child may resolve like a man, and that undoubtedly will find acceptance with God. Two persons walking together espy a serpent; the one shrieks and cries out at the sight of it, the other kills it: so it is in sorrow for sin; some express it by great lamentation and tears, and vehement transports of passions; others by greater and more real effects of hatred and detestation, by forsaking their sins, and by mortifying and subduing their lusts: but he that kills it does certainly best express his inward displeasure and enmity against it. The application shall be in two particulars —
1. By way of caution, and that against a double mistake about sorrow for sin.
(1) Some look upon trouble and sorrow for sin as the whole of repentance. If this were so, there would be store of penitents in hell; for there is the deepest and most intense sorrow, "weeping, and wailing and gnashing of teeth."(2) Another mistake which men ought to be cautioned against in this matter is, of those who exact from themselves such a degree of sorrow for sin as ends in deep melancholy, as renders them unfit both for the duties of religion, and of their particular callings. The end of sorrow for sin is the forsaking of it and returning to our duty; but he that sorrows for sin, so as to unfit him for his duty, defeats his own design, and destroys the end he aims at.
2. The other part of the application of this discourse should be to stir up this affection of sorrow in us. If the holy men in Scripture, David, and Jeremiah, and St. Paul, were so deeply affected with the sins of others as to shed rivers of tears at the remembrance of them, how ought we to be touched with the sense of our own sins, who are equally concerned in the dishonour brought to God by them, and infinitely more in the danger they expose us to! Can we weep for our dead friends; and have we no sense of that heavy load of guilt, of that body of death which we carry about with us? Can we be sad and melancholy for temporal losses and sufferings, and "refuse to be comforted;" and is it no trouble to us to have lost heaven and happiness, and to be in continual danger of the intolerable sufferings and endless torments of another world? I shall only offer to your consideration the great benefit and advantage which will redound us from this godly sorrow; "it worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of." If we would thus "sow in tears," we should "reap in joy."
Parallel VersesKJV: For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
WEB: For I will declare my iniquity. I will be sorry for my sin.