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2 CORINTHIANS vii. 10.
* FOR GODLY SORROW WORK ETH REPENTANCE TO SALVATION
NOT TO BE REPENTED OF: BUT THE SORROW OF THE WORLD WORKETH DEATH."
In these words two kinds of sorrow are described; one whose origin is divine, whose influence is sanctifying, and whose consequences are blessed; the other a carnal passion, vehement in its operations, sad and fatal in its results !
results!. One is called “GODLY SORROW,” the other,“ SORROW OF THE WORLD;" THIS “worketh death,” THAT yields the precious fruits of “repentance to salvation, not to be repented of.” How different the two affections of the mind, how opposite their result! At some period of our lives we all are the children of sorrow, the heirs of grief and woe. What an interesting subject of inquiry is thus presented to us! What is the nature of my sor
rows? Is it sanctifying, and godly? or is it irritating, and deadly in its effects ?. The apostle's definition of these two affections of the mind may materially assist this inquiry; let us therefore pray that while we are considering them it may please God to soften our hearts, to melt us down to true repentance and genuine sorrow for sin, even that which leads to salvation “never to be repented of!”
We shall FIRST, AND MORE BRIEFLY, SIDER THE SORROW OF THE WORLD, AND ITS SAD CONSEQUENCES.
When St. Paul condemns “the sorrow of the world,” it is evident that he does not intend to denounce all grief which is caused by temporal afflictions; for such sorrow is not in itself necessarily sinful, nor is it any where forbidden in Scripture. The religion which the Lord Jesus Christ introduced into the world is not a system of stoical apathy, nor does it enforce the total suppression of the feelings; it requires only that they should be duly controlled. The tears of the Saviour at the grave of Lazarus are the surest proof of the innocence of grief in itself, and his prevailing character as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” gives to the mourner an air of sanctity. The expression in the text cannot therefore refer so much to the source as to the nature of sorrow. Any sorrow which is immoderate and unsanctified is “the sorrow of the world.” Even that anguish of mind which is caused by the stings of a guilty conscience, and the fear of eternal torments, may be only “the sorrow of the world,” and may “ work death !" Every kind of grief, whether mental or bodily, temporal or spiritual, partakes of the nature of this fatal sorrow, if it tend to produce rebellion against the dispensations of Divine Providence. Of this description was the excessive grief of the afflicted Jacob, when he refused to be comforted, and exclaimed, “I will go down into the
grave unto my son, mourning !"* Such too was the sorrow of David, when heedless of the deliverance which God had wrought for him, he was inconsolable for his son Absalom, saying, “ Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”+ Jonah too was under the influence of this sinful affection when he said, " It is better for me to die than to live." I In these and all similar cases, when the heart rebels against the will of God, “the sorrow of the world” is displayed, and but for the grace of God it would “work death.”
Fearful examples are recorded in Scripture, illustrative of the fatal consequences of unrestrained and unsanctified sorrow. Here the impious Cain exclaims, “My punishment is greater than I can bear !" Behold Saul, driven to desperation and suicide by malevolence and dis
* Gen. xxxvji. 35.
+ 2 Sam. xviii. 33. Jonah iv. 8.
appointed ambition! See the traitor Judas too, impelled by the intolerable reproaches of conscience, he seeks a miserable refuge in selfmurder !-Nor are such lamentable events unaccountable. When we consider how many persons there are who are called to endure reverses of fortune the most severe, vexations and trials the most irritatiny, and persecutions the most cruel, without those consolations which spiritual religion alone can impart, it is not surprising that a fearful number of suicides should occur. It may indeed be hoped that this rash, rebellious, and desperate act is rarely committed by persons in a sane state of mind. For the death of the deliberate suicide appears almost to shut the door of hope! To stand immediately in the presence of a justly-incensed God—to die in an act of daring rebellion against His laws--to rush unprepared into eternity-how appalling the reflection! How earnestly
How earnestly should we pray for the preservation of our reason, and for meekness and patience under all trials and adversities !*
But there are many ways in which this “sorrow of the world” may
6 work death” to the soul, though it may not urge a man on to self-destruction. There is not a greater error than to suppose that there is any thing in affliction itself which naturally or necessarily leads the sufferer to seek a solace or a refuge in religion. On the contrary, the sorrow of the world, if it be not softened and constrained by the grace of God, has a directly opposite tendency. As the rock is in vain lashed by the furious billows, or as the oak riven by the winds, yet stands unbending and stubborn, so the proud heart of the unconverted man resists the impetuous storm of God's judgments. Blow after blow descends upon the head of the unhumbled sinner, and yet his soul increases in obstinacy and sullen resentment. Unconscious of his guilt as a transgressor, and ignorant of the real nature of sin, he proudly appeals to the tribunal of his own reason against the righteous judgments of the great God! He disputes the equity of divine Providence; he thinks himself unjustly selected as the victim of unprecedented misfortunes; and he is ready to adopt the advice of Job's counsellor—“to curse God, and die!” * O most fearful state of cherished and deliberate wickedness! The fountain of infinite mercy, love, patience, and goodness is sealed by the hand of unbelief and pride! Nor is this an extraordinary case! It is the natural result of “ the sorrow of the world,” that is, a sorrow unsubdued by religious principle, and uncontrolled
* It is not intended by any thing here advanced, to assert that no real christian under the influence of insanity can commit suicide. It is obvious that insanity destroys moral responsibility, and that God's people are not exempt from that calamity.