The attitude of the ‘miserable sinner’ is not only not one of despair; it is not even one of depression; and not even one of hesitation or doubt; hope is too weak a word to apply to it.
It is an attitude of exultant joy.
Only this joy has its ground not in ourselves but in our Savior.
We are sinners and we know ourselves to be sinners, lost and helpless in ourselves. But we are saved sinners; and it is our salvation which gives tone to our lives, a tone of joy which swells in exact proportion to the sense we have of our ill deserts; for it is to he to whom much is forgiven who loves much, and who, loving, rejoices much.
Adolph Harnack declares that this mood was brought into Christianity by Augustine. Before Augustine the characteristic frame of mind of Christians was the racking unrest of alternating hopes and fears. Augustine, the first of the
Evangelicals, created a new piety of assured rest in God our Savior, and the psychological form of this piety was, as Harnack phrases it, ‘solaced contrition,’—affliction for sin, yes, the deepest and most poignant remorse for sin, but not unrelieved remorse, but appeased remorse.
There is no other joy on earth like that of appeased remorse: it is not only in heaven but on earth also that the joy over one sinner that repents surpasses that over ninety and none just persons who need no repentance.
Warfield, Benjamin B., Miserable-Sinner Christianity in the Hands of the Rationalists, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol., 7, 113-114.