|« Prev||Dialogue IX. Answers to the Objections of a…||Next »|
Answers to the Objections of a wounded Conscience drawn from the Slightness of his Repentance.
I BELIEVE my sins are pardonable in themselves, but alas! my stony heart is such, that it cannot relent and repent, and therefore no hope of my salvation.
PHIL. Wouldst thou sincerely repent? thou dost repent. The women that came to embalm Christ did carefully forecast with themselves who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? [Mark xvi. 3.] Alas I their frail, faint, feeble 335arms were unable to remove such a weight. But what follows? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away, for it was very great. In like manner, when a soul is truly troubled about the mighty burden of his stony heart interposed, hindering him from coming to Christ; I say, when he is seriously and sincerely solicitous about that impediment, such desiring is a doing, such wishing is a working. Do thou but take care it may be removed, and God will take order it shall be removed.
TIM. But, sir, I cannot weep for my sins; my eyes are like the pit wherein Joseph was put; there is no water in them, I cannot squeeze one tear out of them.
PHIL. Before I come to answer your objection, I must premise a profitable observation. I have taken notice of a strange opposition betwixt the tongues and eyes of such as have troubled consciences. Their tongues some have known (and I have heard) complain that they cannot weep for their sins, when at that instant their eyes have plentifully shed store of tears: not that they spake out of dissimulation, but distraction. So sometimes have I smiled at the simplicity of a child, who being amazed, and demanded whether or no he could speak, hath answered, No. If in like manner, at the 336sight of such a contradiction betwixt the words and deeds of one in the agony of a wounded conscience, we should chance to smile, know us not to jeer, but joy, perceiving the party in a better condition than he conceiveth himself.
TIM. This your observation may be comfortable to others, but is impertinent to me. For, as I told you, I have by nature such dry eyes that they will afford no moisture to bemoan my sins.
PHIL. Then it is a natural defect, and no moral default, so by consequence a suffering, and no sin which God will punish. God doth not expect the pipe should run water where he put none into the cistern. Know also, their hearts may be fountains whose eyes are flints, and may inwardly bleed, who do not outwardly weep. Besides, Christ was sent to preach comfort, [Isaiah li. 3.] not to such only as weep, but mourn in Zion. Yea, if thou canst squeeze out no liquor, offer to God the empty bottles; instead of tears, tender and present thine eyes unto him. And though thou art water-bound, be not wind-bound also; sigh where thou canst not sob, and let thy lungs do what thine eyes cannot perform.
TIM. You say something, though I cannot weep, in case I could soundly sorrow for my sins. But alas! for temporal losses and crosses, I am like Rachel, lamenting for her children, 337and would not be comforted. But my sorrow for my sins is so small that it appears none at all in proportion.
PHIL. In the best saints of God, their sorrow for their sins being measured with the sorrow for their sufferings, in one respect will fall short of it, in another must equal it, and in a third respect doth exceed and go beyond it. Sorrow for sins falls short of sorrow for sufferings, in loud lamenting or violent uttering itself in outward expressions thereof; as in roaring, wringing the hands, rending the hair, and the like. Secondly, both sorrows are equal in their truth and sincerity, both far from hypocrisy, free from dissimulation, really hearty, cordial, uncounterfeited. Lastly, sorrow for sin exceeds sorrow for suffering, in the continuance and durableness thereof: the other like a land-flood, quickly come, quickly gone; this is a continual dropping or running river, keeping a constant stream. My sins, saith David, are ever before me; so also is the sorrow for sin in the soul of a child of God, morning, evening, day, night, when sick, when sound, feasting, fasting, at home, abroad, ever within him. This grief begins at his conversion, continues all his life, ends only at his death.
TIM. Proceed, I pray, in this comfortable point.338
PHIL. It may still be made plainer by comparing two diseases together, the toothache and consumption. Such as are troubled with the former shriek and cry out, troublesome to themselves, and others in the same and next roof: and no wonder, the mouth itself being plaintiff, if setting forth its own grievances to the full. Yet the toothache is known to be no mortal malady, having kept some from their beds, seldom sent them to their graves; hindered the sleep of many, hastened the death of few. On the other side, he that hath an incurable consumption saith little, cries less, but grieves most of all. Alas! he must be a good husband of the little breath left in his broken lungs, not to spend it in sighing, but in living; he makes no noise, is quiet and silent; yet none will say but that his inward grief is greater than the former.
TIM. How apply you this comparison to my objection?
PHIL. In corporal calamities, thou complainest more like him in the toothache, but thy sorrow for thy sin, like a consumption, which lies at the heart, hath more solid heaviness therein. Thou dost take in more grief for thy sins, though thou mayest take on more grievously for thy sufferings.
TIM. This were something, if my sorrow for 339sin were sincere, but alas! I am but a hypocrite. There is mention in the prophet of God’s besom of destruction; [Isaiah xiv. 23.] now the trust of a hypocrite, Job viii. 14, is called a spider’s web; here is my case, when God’s besom meets with the cobwebs of my hypocrisy, I shall be swept into hell-fire.
PHIL. I answer, first in general: I am glad to hear this objection come from thee, for self-suspicion of hypocrisy is a hopeful symptom of sincerity. It is a David that cries out, As for me I am poor and needy; but lukewarm Laodicea that brags, I am rich, and want nothing.
TIM. Answer, I pray, the objection in particular.
PHIL. Presently, when I have premised the great difference betwixt a man’s being a hypocrite, and having some hypocrisy in him. Wicked men are like the apples of Sodom,5050Solinus Polyhistor in Judaea. seemingly fair, but nothing but ashes within. The best of God’s servants are like sound apples, lying in a dusty loft (living in a wicked world),. gathering much dust about them, so that they must be rubbed or pared before they can be eaten. Such notwithstanding are sincere, and by the following marks may examine themselves.
TIM. But some in the present day are utter enemies to all marks of sincerity, counting it 340needless for preachers to propound, or people to apply them.
PHIL. I know as much; but it is the worst sign, when men of this description hate all signs: but no wonder if the foundered horse cannot abide the smith’s pincers.
TIM. Proceed, I pray, in your signs of sincerity.
PHIL. Art thou careful to order thy very thoughts, because the Infinite Searcher of the heart doth behold them? Dost thou freely and fully confess thy sins to God, spreading them open in his presence, without any desire or endeavour to deny, dissemble, defend, excuse, or extenuate them? Dost thou delight in an universal obedience to all God’s laws, not thinking with the superstitious Jews, by over keeping the fourth commandment, to make reparation to God for breaking all the rest? Dost thou love their persons and preaching best, who most clearly discover thine own faults and corruptions unto thee? Dost thou strive against thy revengeful nature, not only to forgive those who have offended thee, but also to wait an occasion with humility to render a suitable favour to them? Dost thou love grace and goodness even in those who differ from thee in point of opinion and civil controversies? Canst thou fee sorrowful for the sins of others, no whit relating unto 341thee, merely because the glory of a good God suffers by their profaneness?
TIM. Why do you make these to be the signs of sincerity?
PHIL. Because there are but two principles which act in men’s hearts, namely, nature and grace; or, as Christ distinguishes them, flesh and blood, and our Father which is in Heaven. Now seeing these actions, by us propounded, are either against or above nature, it doth necessarily follow, that where they are found, they flow from saving grace. For what is higher than the roof and very pinnacle, as I may say, of nature, cannot be lower than the bottom and beginning of grace.
TIM. Perchance, on serious search, I may make hard shift to find some one or two of these signs, but not all of them, in my heart.
PHIL. As I will not bow to flatter any, so I will fall down, as far as truth will give me leave, to reach comfort to the humble, to whom it is due. Know to thy further consolation, that where some of these signs truly are, there are more, yea all of them, though not so visible and conspicuous, but in a dimmer and darker degree. When we behold violets and primroses fairly to flourish, we conclude the dead of the winter is past, though as yet no roses or July flowers appear, which long after lie hid 342in their leaves, or lurk in their roots; but in due time will discover themselves. If some of these signs be above ground in thy sight, others are under ground in thy heart, and though the former started first, the other will follow in order; it being plain that thou art passed from death unto life, by this hopeful and happy spring of some signs in thy heart.
|« Prev||Dialogue IX. Answers to the Objections of a…||Next »|