Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law. I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word. Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’S flock is carried away captive. As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
~ Psalm 119:53, Psalm 119:136, Psalm 119:158, Jeremiah 9:1, Jeremiah 13:17, Jeremiah 17:16, Hosea 11:8
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
~ Romans 9:2-3
Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
~ Exodus 32:32
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
~ Deuteronomy 5:29, Deuteronomy 32:29, Psalm 81:13
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
~ Isaiah 6:9-10, Isaiah 29:10-14
They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
~ Isaiah 44:18
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
~ Matthew 13:14-15
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
~ Acts 28:25-27
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
~ Romans 11:7-10
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
~ 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
The Redeemer’s Tears Wept Over Lost Souls, by John Howe. 1686. The following contains an excerpt from his work.
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
~ Luke 19:41-42
7. Wherefore no man can certainly know, or ought to conclude, concerning himself or others, as long as they live, that the season of grace is quite over with them. As we can conceive no rule God hath set to himself to proceed by, in ordinary cases of this nature; so neither is there any he hath set us to judge by, in this case. It were to no purpose, and could be of no use to men, to know so much; therefore it were unreasonable to expect God should have settled and declared any rule, by which they might come by the knowledge of it. As the case is then, namely, there being no such rule, no such thing can be concluded; for who can tell what an arbitrary, sovereign, free agent will do, if he declare not his own purpose himself? How should it be known, when the Spirit of God hath been often working upon the soul of a man, that this or that shall be the last act, and that he will never put forth another? And why should God make it known? To the person himself whose case it is, it is manifest it could be no benefit. Nor is it to be thought the holy God will ever so alter the course of his own proceedings, but that it shall finally be seen to all the world, that every man’s destruction was, entirely, and to the last, of himself. If God had made it evident to a man, that he were finally rejected, he were obliged to believe it. But shall it ever be said, God hath made any thing a man’s duty, which were inconsistent with his felicity. The having sinned himself into such a condition wherein he is forsaken of God, is indeed inconsistent with it. And so the case is to stand, that his perdition be in immediate connection with his sin, not with his duty. As it would be in immediate, necessary connection with his duty, if he were bound to believe himself finally forsaken, and a lost creature. For that belief makes him hopeless, and a very devil justifies his unbelief of the gospel, towards himself, by removing and shutting up, towards him, the object of such a faith, and consequently brings the matter to this state, that he perishes, not because he does not believe God reconcilable to man, but because, with particular application to himself, he ought not so to believe.
And it were most unfit, and of very pernicious consequence, that such a thing should be generally known concerning others. It were to anticipate the final judgment, to create a hell upon earth, to tempt them whose doom were already known, to do all the mischief in the world, which malice and despair can suggest, and prompt them unto; it were to mingle devils with men! and fill the world with confusion! How should parents know how to behave themselves towards children, a husband towards the wife of his bosom in such a case, if it were known they were no more to counsel, exhort, admonish them, pray with or for them than if they were devils!
And if there were such a rule, how frequent misapplications would the fallible and distempered minds of men make of it? so that they would be apt to fancy themselves warranted to judge severely, or uncharitably, and as the truth of the case perhaps is unjustly concerning others, from which they are so hardly withheld, when they have no such pretence to embolden them to it, but are so strictly forbidden it and the judgment seat so fenced, as it is, by the most awful interdicts, against their usurpation and encroachments. We are therefore to reverence the wisdom of the divine government, that things of this nature are among the arcana of it: some of those secrets which belong not to us. He hath revealed what was fit and necessary for us and our children, and envies to man no useful knowledge.
But it may be said, when the apostle (1 John. 5. 16.) directs to pray for a brother whom we see sinning a sin that is not unto death, and adds, there is a sin unto death, I do not say he shall pray for it; is it not implied that it may be known when one sins that sin unto death, not only to himself, but even to others too? I answer it is implied there may be too probable appearances of it, and much ground to suspect and fear it concerning some, in some cases; as when any against the highest evidence of the truth of the Christian religion, and that Jesus is the Christ. or the Messiah (the proper and most sufficiently credible testimony whereof, he had mentioned in the foregoing verses, under heads to which the whole evidence of the truth of Christianity may be fitly enough reduce) do notwithstanding, from that malice, which blinds their understanding, persist in infidelity, or apostatise and relapse into it, from a former profession, there is great cause of suspicion, lest such have sinned that sin unto death. Whereupon yet it is to be observed, he doth not expressly forbid praying for the persons whose case we may doubt; only he doth not enjoin it, as he doth for others, but only says, I do not say ye shall pray for it, that is, that in his present direction to pray for others, he did not intend such, but another sort, for whom they might pray remotely from any such suspicion: namely, that he meant now such praying as ought to be interchanged between Christian friends, that have reason, in the main, to be well persuaded concerning one another. In the mean time intending no opposition to what is elsewhere enjoined, the praying for all men, (1 Tim. 2. 1.) without the personal exclusion of any, as also our Lord himself prayed indefinitely for his most malicious enemies, Father forgive them, they know not what they do; though he had formerly said, there was such a sin as should never be forgiven; whereof it is highly probable some of them were guilty: yet such he doth not expressly except: but his prayer being in the indefinite, not the universal form, it is to be supposed it must mean such as were within the compass and reach of prayer, and capable of benefit by it. Nor doth the apostle here direct personally to exclude any, only that indefinitely and in the general such must be supposed not meant as had sinned the sin unto death; or must be conditionally excluded, if they had, without determining who had, or had not. To which purpose it is very observable, that a more abstract for in of expression, is used in this latter clause of this verse. For whereas in the former positive part of the direction, he enjoins praying for him, or them that had not sinned unto death (namely concerning whom there was no ground for any such imagination or suspicion that they had; in the negative part, concerning such as might have sinned it, he doth not say for him or them, but for it, that is concerning, in reference to it,) as if he had said, the case in general only to be excepted, and if persons are to be distinguished (since every sin is some one’s sin, the sin of some person or other) let God distinguish, but do not you, it is enough for you to except the sin, committed by whomsoever. And though the former part of the verse speaks of a particular person, “If a man see his brother sin a sin that is not unto death,” which is as determinate to a person as the sight of our eye can be, it doth not follow the latter part must suppose a like particular determination of any person’s case, that he hath sinned it. I may have great reason to be confident such and such have not, when I can only suspect that such a one hath. And it is a thing much less unlikely to be certain to oneself than another, for they that have sinned unto death, are no doubt so blinded and stupified by it, that they are not more apt or competent to observe themselves, and consider their case than others may be.
8. But though none ought to conclude that their day or season of grace is quite expired, yet they ought deeply to apprehend the danger lest it should expire, before their necessary work be done, and their peace made. For though it can be of no use to them to know the former, and therefore they have no means appointed them by which to know it, it is of great use to apprehend the latter; and they have sufficient ground for the apprehension. All the cautions and warnings wherewith the holy Scripture abounds, of the kind with those already mentioned, have that manifest design. And nothing can be more important, or apposite to this purpose, than that solemn charge of the great apostle; Phil. 2. 12. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; considered together with the subjoined ground of it, ver. 13. For it is God that worketh in you to will, and to do, of his own good pleasure. How correspondent is the one with the other; work, for he works there were no working at all to any purpose, or with any hope, if he did not work. And work with fear and trembling, for he works of his own good pleasure, as if he had said “It were the greatest folly imaginable to trifle with one that works at so perfect liberty, under no obligation, that may desist when he will; to impose upon so absolutely sovereign, and arbitrary an agent, that owes you nothing; and from whose former gracious operations not complied with, you can draw no argument unto any following ones, that because he doth, therefore he will. As there is no certain connection between present time, and future, but all time is made up of undepending, not strictly coherent moments, so as no man can be sure, because one now exists, another shall; there is also no more certain connection between the arbitrary acts of a free agent within such time; so that I cannot be sure, because he now darts in light upon me, is now convincing me, now awaking me, therefore he will still do so, again and again. Upon this ground then, what exhortation could be more proper than this? “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What could be more awfully monitory, and enforcing of it, than that he works only of mere good-will and pleasure? How should I tremble to think, if I should be negligent, or undutiful, he may give out the next moment, and let the work fall, and me perish! And there is more special cause for such an apprehension, upon the concurrence of such things as these:
(1.) If the workings of God’s Spirit upon the soul of a man have been more than ordinarily strong and urgent, and do now cease: if there have been more powerful convictions, deeper humiliations, more awakened fears, more formed purposes of a new life, more fervent desires, that are now all vanished and fled. and the sinner is returned to his old dead, and dull temper.
(2.) If there be no disposition to reflect and consider the difference, no sense of his loss, but he apprehends such workings of spirit in him unnecessary troubles to him, and thinks it well he is delivered and eased of them.
(3.) If in the time when he was under such workings of spirit, he had made known his case to his minister, or any godly friend, whose company he now shuns, as not willing to be put in mind, or hear any more of such matters.
(4.) If hereupon he hath more indulged sensual inclination, taken more liberty, gone against the checks of his own conscience, broken former good resolutions, involved himself in the guilt of any grosser sins.
(5.) If conscience, so baffled, be now silent; lets him alone, grows more sluggish and weaker (which it must) as his lusts grow stronger.
(6.) If the same lively powerful ministry, which before affect ed him much, now moves him not.
(7.) If especially, he is grown into a dislike of such preaching, if serious godliness, and what tends to it are become distasteful to him, if discourses of God, and Christ, of death and judgment, and of a holy life, are reckoned superfluous and needless, are unsavoury and disrelished; if he have learned to put disgraceful names upon things of this import, and the persons that most value them, and live accordingly: if he hath taken the seat of the scorner, and makes it his business to deride, what he had once a reverence for, or took some complacency in.
(8.) If, upon all this, God withdraw such a ministry, so that he is now warned, and admonished, exhorted and striven with as formerly, no more. O the fearful danger of that man’s case! Hath he no cause to fear lest the things of his peace should be for ever hid from his eyes? Surely he hath much cause of fear, but not of despair. Fear would in this case be his great duty, and might yet prove the means of saving him; despair would be his very heinous and destroying sin. If yet he would be stirred up to consider his case, whence he is fallen, and whither he is falling, and set himself to serious seeking of God, cast down himself before him, abase himself, cry for mercy, as for life, there is yet hope in his case. God may make here an instance what he can obtain of himself to do for a perishing wretch! But —
IV. If with any that have lived under the gospel, their day is quite expired, and the things of their peace now for ever hid from their eyes, this is in itself a most deplorable case, and much lamented by our Lord Jesus himself. That the case is in itself most deplorable, who sees not? A soul lost! a creature capable of God! upon its way to him! near to the kingdom of God! shipwrecked in the port! O sinner, from how high a hope art thou fallen! into what depths of misery and woe!