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What use they are to make thereof, who neither hitherto were, nor haply hereafter shall be, visited with a wounded Conscience.


ARE all God’s children, either in their life or at their death, visited with a wounded conscience?

PHIL. O no: God invites many with his golden sceptre, whom he never bruises with his rod of iron. Many, neither in their conversion, nor in the sequel of their lives, have ever felt that pain in such a manner and measure as amounts to a wounded conscience.

TIM. Must not the pangs in their travel of the new birth be painful unto them?

PHIL. Painful, but in different degrees. The Blessed Virgin Mary (most hold) was delivered without any pain; as well may that child be born without sorrow, which is conceived without sin. The women of Israel were sprightful and lively, unlike the Egyptians. [Exod. i. 19.] The former favour none can have in their spiritual travel; the latter some receive, who, though other whiles tasting of legal frights and fears, yet God so preventeth them with his blessings of goodness, [Psalm xxi. 3.] that they smart not so deeply therein as other men.


TIM. Who are those which commonly have such gentle usage in their conversion?

PHIL. Generally such who never were notoriously profane, and have had the benefit of godly education from pious parents. In some corporations, the sons of freemen, bred under their fathers in their profession, may set up and exercise their father’s trade, without ever being bound apprentices thereunto. Such children whose parents have been citizens of new Jerusalem, [Gal. iv. 26; Eph. ii. 19; Heb. xii. 22.] and have been bred in the mystery of godliness, oftentimes are entered into religion without any spirit of bondage seizing upon them, a great benefit and rare blessing where God in his goodness is pleased to bestow it.

TIM. What may be the reason of God’s dealing so differently with his own servants, that some of them are so deeply, and others not at all, afflicted with a wounded conscience?

PHIL. Even so, Father, because it pleaseth thee. Yet in humility these reasons may be assigned,—1. To show himself a free agent, not confined to follow the same precedent, and to deal with all as he doth with some. 2. To render the prospect of his proceedings the more pleasant to their sight who judiciously survey it, when they meet with so much diversity and variety therein. 3. That men, being both ignorant 305when, and uncertain whether or not God will visit them with wounded consciences, may wait on him with humble hearts in the work of their salvation, looking as the eyes of the servants to receive orders from the hand of their master; [Psalm cxxiii. 2.] but what, when, and how, they know not, which quickens their daily expectations and diligent dependence on his pleasure.

TIM. I am one of those whom God hitherto hath not humbled with a wounded conscience: give me some instruction for my behaviour.

PHIL. First, be heartily thankful to God’s infinite goodness, who hath not dealt thus with every one. Now because repentance hath two parts, mourning and mending, or humiliation and reformation, the more God hath abated thee in the former, out of his gentleness, the more must thou increase in the latter, out of thy gratitude. What thy humiliation hath wanted of other men, in the depth thereof, let thy reformation make up in the breadth thereof, spreading into an universal obedience unto all God’s commandments. Well may he expect more work to be done by thy hands, who hath laid less weight to be borne on thy shoulders.

TIM. What other use must I make of God’s kindness unto me?

PHIL. You are bound the more patiently to bear all God’s rods, poverty, sickness, disgrace, 306captivity, &c., seeing God hath freed thee from the stinging scorpion of a wounded conscience.

TIM. How shall I demean myself for the time to come?

PHIL. Be not high-minded, but fear; for thou canst not infallibly infer, that, because thou hast not hitherto, hereafter thou shalt not taste of a wounded conscience.

TIM. I will, therefore, for the future, with continual fear, wait for the coming thereof.

PHIL. Wait not for it with servile fear, but watch against it with constant carefulness. There is a slavish fear to be visited with a wounded conscience, which fear is to be avoided, for it is opposite to the free spirit of grace, derogatory to the goodness of God in his Gospel, destructive to spiritual joy, which we ought always to have, and dangerous to the soul, racking it with anxieties and unworthy suspicions. Thus to fear a wounded conscience, is in part to feel it antedating one’s misery, and tormenting himself before the time, seeking for that he would be loath to find: like the wicked in the Gospel, [Luke xxi. 26.] of whom it is said, Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and looking for those things which are coming. Far be such a fear from thee, and all good Christians.

TIM. What fear, then, is it, that you so lately recommended unto me?


PHIL. One, consisting in the cautious avoiding of all causes and occasions of a wounded conscience, conjoined with a confidence in God’s goodness, that he will either preserve us from, or protect us in the torture thereof; and if he ever sends it, will sanctify it in us, to his glory and our good. May I, you, and all God’s servants ever have this noble fear (as I may term it) in our hearts.

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