Saturday, July 30, 2005

catechism on godly sorrow

What is worldly sorrow?
No matter how great the grief and anxiety of conscience, worldly sorrow is of the flesh. It is counterfeit and only regrets the painful consequences of sin such as offending others or shaming oneself. The World sorrows “for failure, not for sin” (Bernard of Clairvaux). God is considered as judge only and sorrow arises from a legal fear of eternal punishment. It is external, not spiritually effectual (Is. 58:5, 1Kings21:27)

What does wordly sorrow lead to?
Worldly sorrow leads to false repentance which must be repented of. It is often temporary and if the pain is removed the sorrow disappears as though it has never been experienced.

What examples of worldly sorrow are found in Scripture?
Cain sorrowed because he saw his brother accepted of God and sorrowed in jealous pride and self-love. He cried out, not in true repentance, but in dread of his punishment "My punishment is greater than I can bear." Esau wept bitterly but only for a while and he went back to his old sins again (Gen. 27:34). We read likewise of Saul’s tears (1 Sam. 24:16), and the hypocrite’s tears (Mal. 2:13).

What is the danger of worldly sorrow?
Worldly sorrow may lead ultimately to despair, as with Judas, where there is no apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ. Worldly sorrow is to the harm and not to the benefit of the sorrower because it changes nothing and only adds to the person's misery.

What is godly sorrow?
Godly sorrow is a saving grace of God and is true sorrow which grieves at offending against God in his infinite holiness and graciousness. It is literally "sorrow according to God". "Against thee, against thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in thy sight." It is a mourning for sin itself which reveals hatred against it as that which has pierced Christ (Zech. 12:10).

How does Scripture describe godly sorrow?
It is a rending (Joel 2:12, 13), breaking (Ps 51:17) and a melting (Jer. 23:9) of the heart. It is mourning for Christ as for a firstborn son and a constant sorrow while it lies as a heavy burden on the soul (Zech. 12:10; Ps. 38:17; Ps 13:2). It is a self-loathing (Ezek. 36:31, Job 42:6). It is to be covered in shame and reproach for our sin (Jer 3:25; Ezra 9:6; Ezek 16:63). These elements must be present but not in a particular degree.

What is the extent of godly sorrow?
Godly sorrow grieves over sin itself not just one or two troublesome sins, it casts all sin away as equally hateful (Ezek. 18:31; Ezek. 14:6).

What is the benefit of godly sorrow?
Godly sorrow leads to repentance and so to dealing with sin and guilt in the only way that it may be removed.

What does godly sorrow lead to?
Godly sorrow is not repentance in itself but is that penitent grief that leads to true repentance not to be repented of. Godly sorrow may be most intense for only a period of time but the tenderness, peace and hatred of sin which are its fruits still last. It is an enduring disposition in the soul.

Why will godly sorrowers never repent of their repentance?
True penitents will never repent of their repentance because it is to salvation ( 2 Cor 7:10) and unto eternal life (Acts 11:18).

What is promised to the godly sorrower?
Those that sorrow after a godly sort are blessed, 'Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted' (Matt 5:4).

What is the carefulness wrought in godly sorrow?
It means to have a concern rather than thoughtless pride and ignorance. It is a deep examination of our sin, asking: “What have I done?” (Jer. 8:6). It is a carefulness about our own souls in seeking to avoid sin and to please God. It is a fervent, earnest diligence and a holy concern in rectifying what is wrong.

What is the clearing of oneself wrought in godly sorrow?
The sinner recognises that sin is his own (Ps. 51:4; Hos 14:1). We are humbled under the mighty hand of God by a true sense not only of the danger but the guilt of our sin. There is a self-vindication or defence, a clearing of the guilt upon us by endeavours to put away the accursed thing and demonstrate that we do not approve it. We make open confession of our hatred of sin. Through godly sorrow we 'approve ourselves' and show the true marks of grace (Prov. 24:16).

What is the indignation wrought in godly sorrow?
It is indignation marked by self-abhorrence (Job 42:6), the hatred of sin itself and every false way (Ps. 119:104). We see this reproach and self-loathing in Jer. 31:19 and Ezek. 36:31.

What is the fear wrought in godly sorrow?
It is a reverential filial fear towards God (Gen.39:9), fearing to sin against Fatherly love. We fear his holiness and his goodness . We show this by a watchful distrust of ourselves and a fear of the power of sin.

What is the vehement desire wrought in godly sorrow?
It is a vehement desire that justice may be done and that God may be declared just in his holy law (Ps. 51:4; Rom. 7:12&14). It is also a vehement desire to do justice and to effect a thorough reformation (Is. 26:13; Ps. 101:3; Ps. 119:60).

What is the zeal wrought in godly sorrow?
This zeal is a mixture of love for Christ and righteous anger against sin. It is a zeal for duty and for acceptable service to Christ who has purified to himself a people zealous of good works. Zeal proves itself diligent in following its purpose against sin to the end, it is not half-hearted but manifests a universal sincerity to see all sin confessed and rooted out.

What is the revenge wrought in godly sorrow?
The soul seeks to be revenged against sin by putting sin to death (Rom 7:24; Rom 8:13).

What is the danger of overmuch sorrow?
If a person is sunk deep in sorrow for sin without grasping the mercy of God in Christ they may be overwhelmed by overmuch sorrow. The devil is able to gain a foothold in this and bring men to despair by keeping them away from the infinite mercy which is in Christ.