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DIALOGUE XIV.

Comfortable Meditations for wounded Consciences to muse upon.

TIMOTHEUS.

FURNISH me, I pray, with some comfortable meditations; whereon I may busy and employ my soul when alone.

PHIL. First, consider that our Saviour had 361not only a notional, but an experimental and meritorious knowledge of the pains of a wounded conscience when hanging on the cross. If Paul conceived himself happy being to answer for himself, before King Agrippa, especially because he knew him to be expert in all the customs and questions of the Jews; how much more just cause has thy wounded conscience of comfort and joy, being in thy prayers to plead before Christ himself, who hath felt thy pain, and deserved that in due time by his stripes thou shouldst be healed?

TIM. Proceed, I pray, in this comfortable subject.

PHIL. Secondly, consider that herein, like Elijah, thou needest not complain that thou art left alone, seeing the best of God’s saints in all ages have smarted in the same kind: instance in David: indeed, sometimes he boasts how he lay in green pastures, and was led by still waters; [Psalm xxiii. 2.] but after he bemoans that he sinks in deep mire, where there was no standing. [Psalm lxix. 2.] What is become of those green pastures? parched up with the drought. Where are those still waters? troubled with the tempest of affliction. The same David compares himself to an owl, and in the next Psalm resembles himself to an eagle.5353Compare Psalm cii. 6, with Psalm ciii. 5. Do two fowls fly of more different kind? The one the 362scorn, the other the sovereign; the one the slowest, the other the swiftest; the one the most sharp-sighted, the other the most dim-eyed of all birds. Wonder not, then, to find in thyself sudden and strange alterations. It fared thus with all God’s servants, in their agonies of temptation; and be confident thereof, though now run aground with grief, in due time thou shalt be all afloat with comfort.

TIM. I am loath to interrupt you in so welcome a discourse.

PHIL. Thirdly, consider that thou hast had, though not grace enough to cure thee, yet enough to keep thee, and conclude that he whose goodness hath so long held thy head above water from drowning, will at last bring thy whole body safely to the shore. The wife of Manoah had more faith than her husband, and thus she reasoned: If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt and a meat offering at our hands. [Judg. xiii. 23.] Thou mayest argue in like manner: If God had intended finally to forsake me, he would never so often have heard and accepted my prayers, in such a measure as to vouchsafe unto me, though not full deliverance from, free preservation in, my affliction. Know God hath .done great things for thee already, and thou mayest conclude, from his grace of supportation 363hitherto, grace of ease, and relaxation hereafter.

TIM. It is pity to disturb you; proceed.

PHIL. Fourthly, consider that, besides the private stock of thy own, thou tradest on the public store of all good men’s prayers, put up to heaven for thee. What a mixture of languages met in Jerusalem at Pentecost, [Acts ii.]—Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, &c. But conceive, to thy comfort, what a medley of prayers, in several tongues, daily centre themselves in God’s ears in thy behalf, English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, &c., insomuch, that perchance thou dost not understand one syllable of their prayers, by whom thou mayest reap benefit.

TIM. Is it not requisite, to entitle me to the profit of other men’s prayers, that I particularly know their persons which pray for me?

PHIL. Not at all, no more than it is needful that the eye or face must see the backward parts, which is difficult, or the inward parts of the body, which is impossible; without which sight, by sympathy they serve one another. And such is the correspondency by prayers betwixt the mystical members of Christ’s body, corporally unseen one by another.

TIM. Proceed to a fifth meditation.

PHIL. Consider, there be five kinds of consciences on foot in the world; first, an ignorant 364 conscience, which neither sees nor saith anything, neither beholds the sins in a soul, nor reproves them. Secondly, the flattering conscience, whose speech is worse than silence itself, which, though seeing sin, soothes men in the committing thereof. Thirdly, the seared conscience, which hath neither sight, speech, nor sense, in men that are past feeling. [Ephes. iv. 19.] Fourthly, a wounded conscience, frighted with sin. The last and best is a quiet and clear conscience, pacified in Christ Jesus. Of these, the fourth is thy case, incomparably better than the three former, so that a wise man would not take a world to change with them. Yea, a wounded conscience is rather painful than sinful, an affliction, no offence, and is in the ready way, at the next remove, to be turned into a quiet conscience.

TIM. I hearken unto you with attention and comfort.

PHIL. Lastly, consider the good effects of a wounded conscience, privative for the present, and positive for the future. First, privative, this heaviness of thy heart (for the time being) is a bridle to thy soul, keeping it from many sins it would otherwise commit. Thou that now sittest sad in thy shop, or walkest pensive in thy parlour, or standest sighing in thy chamber, or liest sobbing on thy bed, mightest perchance 365at the same time be drunk, or wanton, or worse, if not restrained by this affliction. God saith in his prophet to Judah, I will hedge thy way with thorns, [Hos. ii. 6.] namely to keep Judah from committing spiritual fornication. It is confest that a wounded conscience, for the time, is a hedge of thorns (as the messenger of Satan, sent to buffet St. Paul, is termed a thorn in the flesh). [2 Cor. xii. 7.] But this thorny fence keeps our wild spirits in the true way, which otherwise would be straggling: and it is better to be held in the right road with briers and brambles, than to wander on beds of roses in a wrong path, which leads to destruction.

TIM. What are the positive benefits of a wounded conscience?

PHIL. Thereby the graces in thy soul will be proved, approved, improved. Oh, how clear will thy sunshine be, when this cloud is blown over! And here I can hardly hold from envying thy happiness hereafter. Oh that I might have thy future crown, without thy present cross; thy triumphs, without thy trial; thy conquest, without thy combat! But I recall my wish, as impossible, seeing what God hath joined together, no man can put asunder. These things are so twisted together, I must have both or neither.

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