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DIALOGUE XVII.

What is to be conceived of their final Estate who die in a wounded Conscience without any visible Comfort.

TIMOTHEUS.

WHAT think you of such, who yield up their ghost in the agony of an afflicted spirit, without receiving the least sensible degree of comfort?

PHIL. Let me be your remembrancer to call or keep in your mind what I said before, that our discourse only concerns the children of God: this notion renewed, I answer. It is possible that the sick soul may receive secret solace, though the standers-by do not perceive it. We know how insensibly Satan may spirt and inject despair into a heart, and shall we not allow the Lord of heaven to be more dexterous and active with his antidotes than the Devil is with his poisons?

TIM. Surely, if he had any such comfort, he would show it by words, signs, or some way, were it only but to comfort his sad kindred, and content such sorrowful friends which survive him; were there any hidden fire of consolation kindled in his heart, it would sparkle in his looks and gestures, especially seeing no 375obligation of secrecy is imposed on him, as on the blind man, when healed, to tell none thereof. [Mark viii. 26.]

PHIL. It may be he cannot discover the comfort he hath received, and that for two reasons: First, because it comes so late, when he lies in the marshes of life and death, being so weak, that he can neither speak, nor make signs with Zechariah, being at that very instant when the silver cord is ready to be loosed, and the golden bowl to be broken, and the pitcher to be broken at the fountain, and the wheel to be broken at the cistern.

TIM. What may be the other reason?

PHIL. Because the comfort itself may be incommunicable in its own nature, which the party can take and not tell; enjoy, and not express; receive, and not impart: as by the assistance of God’s Spirit, he sent up groans which cannot be uttered, [Rom. viii. 26.] so the same may from God be returned with comfort which cannot be uttered; and as he had many invisible and privy pangs, concealed from the cognizance of others, so may God give him secret comfort, known unto himself alone, without any other men’s sharing in the notice thereof. The heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy. [Prov. xiv. 10.] So that his comfort may be compared to the new name given 376to God’s servants, which no man knoweth, save he that receiveth it. [Rev. ii. 17.]

TIM. All this proceeds on what is possible or probable, but amounts to no certainty.

PHIL. Well, then, suppose the worst, this is most sure, though he die without tasting of any comfort here, he may instantly partake of everlasting joys hereafter. Surely many a despairing soul, groaning out his last breath with fear and thought to sink down to hell, hath presently been countermanded by God’s goodness to eternal happiness.

TIM. What you say herein, no man alive can confirm or confute, as being known to God alone, and the soul of the party. Only I must confess that you have charity on your side.

PHIL. I have more than charity, namely, God’s plain and positive promise, Blessed are such as mourn, for they shall be comforted. [Matth.v. 4.] Now though the particular time when be not expressed, yet the latest date that can be allowed must be in the world to come, where such mourners, who have not felt God in his comfort here, shall see him in his glory in heaven.

TIM. But some who have led pious and godly lives have departed, pronouncing the sentence of condemnation upon themselves, having one foot already in hell by their own confession.

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PHIL. Such confessions are of no validity, wherein their fear bears false witness against their faith. The fineness of the whole cloth of their life must not be thought the worse of, for a little coarse list at the last. And also their final estate is not to be construed by what was dark, doubtful, and desperate at their deaths, but must be expounded by what was plain, clear, and comfortable in their lives.

TIM. You then are confident, that a holy life must have a happy death.

PHIL. Most confident. The logicians hold, that, although from false premises a true conclusion may sometimes follow; yet from true propositions nothing but a truth can be thence inferred;5454Ex veris possunt, nil nisi vera sequi. so, though sometimes a bad life may be attended with a good death, (namely, by reason of repentance, though slow, sincere, though late, yet unfeigned, being seasonably interposed,) but where a godly and gracious life hath gone before, there a good death must of necessity follow; which, though sometimes doleful (for want of apparent comfort) to their surviving friends, can never be dangerous to the party deceased. Remember what St. Paul saith, Our life is hid with Christ in God. [Col. iii. 3.]

TIM. What makes that place to your purpose?

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PHIL. Exceeding much. Five cordial observations are couched therein. First, that God sets a high price and valuation on the souls of his servants, in that he is pleased to hide them: none will hide toys and trifles, but what is counted a treasure. Secondly, the word hide, as a relative, imports, that some seek after our souls, being none other than Satan himself, that roaring lion, who goes about seeking whom he may devour. [1 Peter v. 8.] But the best is, let him seek, and seek, and seek, till his malice be weary, (if that be possible,) we cannot be hurt by him whilst we are hid in God. Thirdly, grant Satan find us there, he cannot fetch us thence: our souls are bound in the bundle of life, with the Lord our God. So that, be it spoken with reverence, God first must be stormed with force or fraud, before the soul of a saint sinner, hid in him, can be surprised. Fourthly, we see the reason why so many are at a loss, in the agony of a wounded conscience, concerning their spiritual estate: for they look for their life in a wrong place, namely, to find it in their own piety, purity, and inherent righteousness. But though they seek, and search, and dig, and dive never so deep, all in vain. For though Adam’s life was hid in himself, and he intrusted with the keeping his own integrity, yet, since Christ’s coming, all the original evidences of our salvation are 379kept in a higher office, namely, hidden in God himself. Lastly, as our English proverb saith, he that hath hid can find; so God (to whom belongs the issues from death) [Psalm lxviii. 20.] can infallibly find out that soul that is hidden in him, though it may seem, when dying, even to labour to lose itself in a fit of despair.

TIM. It is pity but that so comfortable a doctrine should be true.

PHIL. It is most true: surely as Joseph and Mary conceived that they had lost Christ in a crowd, and sought him three days sorrowing, [Luke ii. 48.] till at last they found him, beyond their expectation, safe and sound, sitting in the temple: so many pensive parents, solicitous for the souls of their children, have even given them for gone, and lamented them lost, (because dying without visible comfort,) and yet, in due time, shall find them, to their joy and comfort, safely possessed of honour and happiness, in the midst of the heavenly temple and church triumphant in glory.

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