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all events, be blessed to make sin more odious, and Christ more precious in your sight, and to make you long more and more for that only place where sin will be no more, where all who meet shall have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb, and where all tears shall be wiped away from all eyes for ever.
2 COR. vii. 10.
GODLY SORROW WORKETH REPENTANCE TO SALVATION NOT TO BE REPENTED OF; BUT THE SORROW OF THE WORLD
THERE had been grievous sins in the church of Corinth, in the guilt of which the whole community had partaken by the toleration of the offending parties. Upon this subject the apostle admonished them in the former epistle: "Your glorying," he says, " is not good," (it is most unsuitable to the state of disgrace in which you stand, and to the danger to which you are exposed,) "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" On that occasion he gave them the necessary command to "purge out the old leaven," and to "put away from among themselves the wicked person." It would appear that they unhesitatingly complied with the apostle's direction ; and it is to their ready obedience in this matter that he refers in the chapter from which my text is taken: "Great," he says, "is my glorying of you; I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation."4 He tells them of the manifold 1 1 Cor. v. 6. 2 Ibid. v. 7. 3 Ibid. v. 13. 4 2 Cor. vii. 4.
trials he had had in Macedonia, but that "God that comforteth them that are cast down, comforted him by the coming of Titus." How beautiful is this description of the tender pity of God towards his depressed and dejected children; and how plainly does it show that, while he can pour his consolation directly into the hearts of his servants, he often makes use of the intervention of their fellow men to aid and cheer them! But it was not, he says, by the coming of Titus only that God had comforted him ; it was doubtless a great mercy to see the face of Titus, his own son in the common faith, in the midst of his distresses; but great as this was, the principal ground of his comfort was the happy intelligence that Titus was enabled to bring him, that his beloved converts had received his reproofs and his instructions as became them. The apostle here tenderly adverts to the state of his own feelings in rebuking them, showing how the reproof was wrung from him by its necessity; and that he mourned while he corrected them. But now his past regret was effaced in the present joy. "I rejoice," he "not that ye were made sorry, (to give pain to them could afford no pleasure to him,) but I rejoice that ye sorrowed to repentance, for ye were made sorry after a godly manner that ye might receive damage by us in nothing." My brethren, this will ever be the feeling and desire of the faithful minister of Christ, that those committed to him may receive damage by him in nothing; it will be his earnest
4 2 Cor. vii. 6.
5 2 Cor. vii. 9.
prayer that he may withhold nothing that is profitable for them; and if necessity ever obliges him to inflict pain, either in his public addresses or in his more private communications, be assured it is with sorrow; and that it is often more distressing to himself than to them. His greatest joy is when he sees the fruit of such admonitions, when he sees the grace of God working in the minds of those whom he has reproved; and when the sorrowing hearts of his hearers enable him to say, "I rejoice that I have confidence in you in all things."6
The declaration contained in the text arises out of the mention of the sorrow which he had been the means of occasioning, and assigns his reason for rejoicing in it; namely, that godly sorrow, such as theirs was, worketh repentance unto salvation; while (on the other hand) the sorrow of the world worketh death. This DISTINCTION BETWEEN GODLY AND WORLDLY SORROW, is one of immense consequence; and may well form a subject for our consideration suitable to the season. And may God the Holy Ghost, the author of godly sorrow, and of godly comfort too, give us an understanding heart, and bless it to our present and our future peace.
First, then, we observe, that there is what the apostle calls A GODLY SORROW; that is, a sorrow according unto God. Now what are the peculiar
features of this sorrow?
It has God for its OBJECT. What I mean by this, is, that where a man sorrows after a godly sort, God
6 2 Cor. vii. 16.
His sorrow has
is the chief object of his thought. a direct reference to God's laws. The scriptural definition of sin is, that it is "the transgression of the law;" that is, of the law of God; and it is that which stamps on the least sin its malignity. If a child resists parental authority, the character of his offence is not determined by the nature of the command; whether it concerns a great or a small matter, that consideration is merged into this simple one, that it is disobedience to a parent. But the world knows no such measure of sin. They estimate it by its evil influence, and in their estimation of it God is not in all their thoughts. Many sins against God are nothing in their eyes; but it is not so with godly sorrow. Godly sorrow regards the least deviation from God's command, although no earthly being suffered by it; and is ever under the influence of this principle, "Thou God commandest, and thou God seest." And even where the transgression of God's commands more immediately affects others, this, deeply as it should give rise to sorrow, is swallowed up in the consideration that the offence is against God. I need hardly advert to the illustration of this, which the case of David affords; who, notwithstanding the grievous injury he had done to others, says to God, "Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight. Not meaning that his duty did not lead him to repent of his sin against his fellow-being; but that that sin, great as it was, was as nothing in comparison
7 1 John iii. 4.
8 Ps. li. 4.