As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.…
I. GOD'S RULE.
1. That God chastises His children out of love, and for their good.
(1) Afflictions to them whom God loves are medicinal, and thereby they recover their health by repentance from some spiritual disease.
(2) Afflictions are preservatives to keep them whom God loveth from sin (2 Corinthians 12:7).
(3) Afflictions make the fruitless bring forth fruit, beget many virtues, and make God's graces in us to bloom and bring forth works pleasing unto out Heavenly Father.
(4) Afflictions draw men nearer unto God. The main use of all is for comfort in all our sufferings and crosses whensoever God sends them: for they are signs of our sonship and tokens of His love.
2. That if God spares not those whom He loveth, much less shall His enemies escape punishment.
3. That God rebukes before He chastens.
(1) If this then be God's manner of dealing, it should behove us not lightly to pass by His warnings.
(2) If God so powerfully warns His creature before He strikes him, how dare we strike our brother before we warn him?
II. OUR DUTY. We must be zealous, and repent.
1. Concerning zeal.
(1) Zeal is the intention and vehemency of all our affections in matters of God and His service. It hath its name of Zew, which is, to burn and boil as water over the fire, and thence may be styled the fervency of our affections. Such a one was Apollos (Acts 18:25); and such St. Paul exhorts the Romans to be (Romans 12:11). For as burning is the excess or highest pitch of heat, so is zeal of our affections. But as in our bodies we find aguish burnings as well as the healthful vigour of natural heat; and as Nadab and Abihu offered fire unto God, but not the right and holy fire (Leviticus 10:1), so are there some counterfeits of zeal, as it were false fires, abominable unto God and odious unto men. The kinds, then, of false zeal may be reduced unto three heads.
(a) Hypocritical zeal, which wants sincerity.
(b) Blind zeal, which wants knowledge.
(c) Turbulent zeal, which wants love and moderation. Thus I have briefly described these false fires, that by the law of contraries we may know who is the true zealot.
(2) But why should this zeal be so needful? Let us therefore now see the reasons.
(a) First, therefore, I will seek no farther than my text, where the want of zeal is reckoned for a sin, a sin to be repented of, "Be zealous, and repent": is not that needful, without which all our works are sinful?
(b) It is the ground rule of the whole law of God, and of all the precepts concerning His worship, that we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. What else is this but to love Him zealously, to worship Him with the highest pitch of our affections? For He is the sovereign and chiefest good; what love then can suit to Him but the very top and sovereignty of love?
(c) Zeal is that which carries our devotions up to heaven. As wings to a fowl, wheels to a chariot, sails to a ship; so is zeal to the soul of man. Without zeal our devotions can no more ascend than vapours from a still without fire put under it.
2. Repentance is the changing of our course from the old way of sin unto the new way of righteousness: or more briefly, a changing of the course of sin for the course of righteousness. It is called also conversion, turning and returning unto God. I will describe it briefly in five degrees, which are as five steps in a ladder, by which we ascend up to heaven.
(1) The first step is the sight of sin and the punishment due unto it. For how can the soul be possessed with fear and sorrow, except the understanding do first apprehend the danger? — for that which the eye sees not, the heart rues not. The serious penitent must be like the wary factor, he must retire himself, look into his books, and turn over the leaves of his life; he must consider the expense of his time, the employment of his talent, the debt of his sin, and the strictness of his account.
(2) And so he shall ascend unto the next step, which is sorrow for sin. For he that seriously considers how he hath grieved the Spirit of God and endangered his own soul by his sins, cannot but have his spirit grieved with remorse.
(3) The third step up this ladder is the loathing of sin. A surfeit of meats, how dainty and delicate soever, will afterwards make them loathsome.
(4) The fourth step is the leaving off sin. To what purpose doth the physician evacuate ill humours, if the patient still distempers himself with ill diet? What shall it avail a man to endure the lancing, searching, and tending of a wound, if he stay not for the cure?
(5) The fifth and last step is the cleaving unto God with full purpose of heart to walk before Him in newness of life. All the former degrees of repentance were for the putting off of the old man; this is for the putting on of the new.
III. THE CONNECTION AND DEPENDENCE of these latter words ("Be zealous therefore, and repent") upon the former ("As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.") Many things might be here observed, but I will name but one, which is this, that repentance is the means to avoid and prevent God's judgments. For (as observes) He that hath decreed to publish by justice, hath promised to grant pardon by repentance. And so Jeremiah 18:7.
(J. Mede, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.