Sorrow, and the Willingness to Let Go of Sin …THE DOCTRINE OF REPENTANCE. Part 6.

Written by, Thomas Watson.
Published in 1668.

man-alone-empty-room[In this series we are looking at all the ingredients necessary for true repentance. In todays thoughts, we are going a bit further in looking at both sorrow for sins and the practical aspects of how this sorrow works out.  Once again, notice how Thomas Watson demonstrates a rare depth to this discussion by bringing forth uniquely pointed admonition and compassion from scripture. Now, let us look again at the second of these respective ingredients. MWP]

1. Sight of sin
2. Sorrow for sin
3. Confession of sin
4. Shame for sin
5. Hatred for sin
6. Turning from sin

REMEMBER: If any one ingredient is left out, repentance loses its virtue.

. . .

Sorrow for sin must be as great as for any worldly loss.

‘They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn as for an only son’ (Lech. 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 diseases The Christian has arrived at a sufficient measure of sorrow when the love of sin is purged out.

Godly sorrow in some cases is joined with restitution

Whoever has wronged others in their estate by unjust fraudulent dealing ought in conscience to make them recompense. There is an express law for this: ‘he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed’ (Num. 5:7). Thus Zacchaeus made restitution: ‘if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold’ (Luke 19.8). Augustine said, ‘Without restitution, no remission’. And it was a speech of old Latimer, If ye restore not goods unjustly gotten, ye shall cough in hell.

Suppose a person has wronged another in his estate and the wronged man is dead, what should he do?

Let him restore his ill-gotten goods to that man’s heirs and successors. If none of them be living, let him restore to God, that is, let him put his unjust gain into God’s treasury by relieving the poor.

What if the party who did the wrong is dead?

Then they who are his heirs ought to make restitution. Mark what I say: if there be any who have estates left them, and they know that the parties who left their estates had defrauded others and died with that guilt upon them, then the heirs or executors who possess those estates are bound in conscience to make restitution, otherwise they entail the curse of God upon their family.

If a man has wronged another and is not able to restore, what should he do?

Let him deeply humble himself before God, promising to the wronged party full satisfaction if the Lord make him able, and God will accept the will for the deed.

It is not a few tears shed in a passion that will serve the turn. Some will fall a-weeping at a sermon, but it is like an April shower, soon over, or like a vein opened and presently stopped again. True sorrow must be habitual.

Carnal Protestants, are strangers to godly sorrow.

They cannot endure a serious thought, nor do they love to trouble their heads about sin. Paracelsus spoke of a frenzy some have which will make them die dancing. Likewise sinners spend their days in mirth; they fling away sorrow and go dancing to damnation. Some have lived many years, yet never know what a broken heart means. They weep and wring their hands as if they were undone when their estates are gone, but have no agony of soul for sin.

 But there is a sensitive sorrow, which is expressed by many tears; a sorrow running out at the eye, all have not. Yet it is very commendable to see a weeping penitent. Christ counts as great beauties those who are tender-eyed; and well may sin make us weep.

Thomas Watson, May 25, 1668

Christ, who died for men, who died for me,
I fall before thy feet, and cannot see
Aught else beside my grievous sins and thee.

How great my work of evil, thou dost know.
Thou who for me didst grieve and suffer so.
Thou who for me upon the cross didst go.

Whatever thing I see, or hear, or speak,
My sin is still before me; Lord most meek.
Thy strong and gracious help alone I seek.

That help can put my guilt forever by,
And make me strong when sin again is nigh;

Forgiving Savior, give it or I die!


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Watson (1620 – 1686) was an English, Nonconformist, Puritan preacher and author.

He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study. In 1646 he commenced a sixteen-year pastorate at St. Stephen’s, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love’s plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on 30 June 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen’s Walbrook. He obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for Nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.