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DIALOGUE XIII.

Four wholesome Counsels, for a wounded Conscience to practise.

TIMOTHEUS.

PERFORM your promise; which is the first counsel you commend unto me?

PHIL. Take heed of ever renouncing thy filial interest in God, though thy sins deserve that he should disclaim his paternal relation to thee. The prodigal, returning to his father, did not say, I am not thy son, but I am no more worthy to be called thy son. [Luke xv. 21.] Beware of bastardizing thyself, being as much as Satan desires, 357and more than he hopes to obtain. Otherwise thy folly would give him more than his fury could get.

TIM. I conceive this a needful caution.

PHIL. It will appear so if we consider what the Apostle saith, that we wrestle with principalities and powers. [Ephes. vi. 12.] Now wrestlers in the Olympian games were naked, and anointed with oil to make them sleek and glibbery, so to afford no holdfast to such as strove with them. Let us not gratify the Devil with this advantage against ourselves, at any time to disclaim our sonship in God: if the Devil catches us at this lock, he will throw us flat, and hazard the breaking of our necks with final despair. Oh no! still keep this point: a prodigal son I am, but a son, no bastard; a lost sheep, but a sheep, no goat; an unprofitable servant, but God’s servant, and not absolute slave to Satan.

TIM. Proceed to your second counsel.

PHIL. Give credit to what grave and godly persons conceive of thy condition, rather than what thy own fear (an incompetent judge) may suggest unto thee. A seared conscience thinks better of itself, a wounded worse, than it ought: the former may account all sin a sport, the latter all sport a sin: melancholy men, when sick, are ready to conceit any cold to be the cough of the lungs, and an ordinary pustule no 358less than the plague sore. So wounded consciences conceive sins of infirmity to be of presumption, sins of ignorance to be of knowledge, apprehending their case more dangerous than it is indeed.

TIM. But it seems unreasonable that I should rather trust another saying, than my own sense of myself.

PHIL. Every man is best judge of his own self, if he be his own self; but during the swoon of a wounded conscience, I deny thee to be come to thy own self: whilst thine eyes are blubbering, and a tear hangs before thy sight, thou canst not see things clearly and truly, because looking through a double medium of air and water; so whilst this cloud of pensiveness is pendent before the eyes of thy soul, thine estate is erroneously represented unto thee.

TIM. What is your third counsel?

PHIL. In thy agony of a troubled conscience, always look upwards unto a gracious God to keep thy soul steady; for looking downward on thyself thou shalt find nothing but what will increase thy fear, infinite sins, good deeds few and imperfect: it is not thy faith, but God’s faithfulness, thou must rely upon; casting thine eyes downwards on thyself to behold the great distance betwixt what thou deservest and what thou desirest, is enough to make thee giddy, 359stagger, and reel into despair: ever therefore lift up thine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh thy help, [Psalm cxxi. 1.] never viewing the deep dale of thy own unworthiness, but to abate thy pride when tempted to presumption.

TIM. Sir, your fourth and last counsel.

PHIL. Be not disheartened, as if comfort would not come at all, because it comes not all at once, but patiently attend God’s leisure; they are not styled the swift, but the sure mercies of David: and the same prophet says, the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward: [Isaiah lv. 3, and lviii. 8.] this we know comes up last to secure and make good all the rest: be assured, where grace patiently leads the front, glory at last will be in the rear. Remember the prodigious patience of Elijah’s servant.

TIM. Wherein was it remarkable?

PHIL. In obedience to his master: he went several times to the sea; it is tedious for me to tell what was not troublesome for him to do, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times sent down steep Carmel, [1 Kings xviii. 43.] with danger, and up it again with difficulty, and all to bring news of nothing, till his last journey, which made recompense for all the rest, with the tidings of a cloud arising. So thy thirsty soul, long parched with drought for want of comfort, though late, at last shall be plentifully refreshed with the dew of consolation.

360

TIM. I shall be happy if I find it so.

PHIL. Consider the causes why a broken leg is incurable in a horse, and easily curable in a man: the horse is incapable of counsel to submit himself to the farrier, and therefore, in case his leg be set, he flings, flounces, and flies out, unjointing it again by his misemployed mettle, counting all binding to be shackles and fetters unto him; whereas a man willingly resigns himself to be ordered by the surgeon, preferring rather to be a prisoner for some days, than a cripple all his life. Be not like a horse or mule, which have no understanding: [Psalm xxxii. 9.] but let patience have its perfect work in thee. [James i. 3.] When God goes about to bind up the broken-hearted, [Isa. lxi. 1.] tarry his time, though ease come not at an instant, yea, though it be painful for the present, in due time thou shalt certainly receive comfort.

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