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DIALOGUE XVI.

Obstructions hindering the speedy flowing of Comfort into a troubled Soul.

TIMOTHEUS.

HOW comes it to pass, that comfort is so long a coming to some wounded consciences?

PHIL. It proceeds from several causes: either from God, not yet pleased to give it; or the patient, not yet prepared to receive it; or the minister, not well fitted to deliver it.

TIM. How from God not yet pleased to give it?

PHIL. His time to bestow consolation is not yet come: now no plummets of the heaviest human importunity can so weigh down God’s clock of time, as to make it strike one minute before his hour be come. [John ii. 4.] Till then, his mother herself could not prevail with Christ to work a miracle, and turn water into wine: and till that minute appointed approach, God will not 371in a wounded conscience convert the water of affliction into that wine of comfort which makes glad the heart of the soul.

TIM. How may the hinderance be in the patient himself?

PHIL. He may as yet not be sufficiently humbled, or else God perchance in his providence foresees, that as the prodigal child, when he had received his portion, riotously misspent it, so this sick soul, if comfort were imparted unto him, would prove an unthrift and ill husband upon it, would lose and lavish it. God therefore conceives it most for his glory, and the other’s good, to keep the comfort still in his own hand, till the wounded conscience get more wisdom to manage and employ it.

TIM. May not the sick man’s too mean opinion of the minister be a cause why he reaps no more comfort by his counsel?

PHIL. It may. Perchance the sick man hath formerly slighted and neglected that minister, and God will now not make him the instrument for his comfort, who before had been the object of his contempt. But on the other side, we must also know, that perchance the party’s over-high opinion of the minister’s parts, piety, and corporal presence (as if he cured where he came, and carried ease with him) may hinder the operation of his advice. For God grows jealous 372of so suspicious an instrument, who probably may be mistaken for the principal. Whereas a meaner man, of whose spirituality the patient hath not so high carnal conceits, may prove more effectual in comforting, because not within the compass of suspicion to eclipse God of his glory.

TIM. How may the obstructions be in the minister himself?

PHIL. If he comes unprepared by prayer, or possessed with pride, or unskilful in what he undertakes; wherefore in such cases, a minister may do well to reflect on himself (as the disciples did when they could not cast out the Devil), [Matth. xvii. 19.] and to call his heart to account, what may be the cause thereof: particularly whether some unrepented for sin in himself hath not hindered the effects of his counsels in others.

TIM. However, you would not have him wholly disheartened with his ill-success.

PHIL. O no; but let him comfort himself with these considerations. First, that though the patient gets no benefit by him, he may gain experience by the patient, thereby being enabled more effectually to proceed with some other in the same disease. Secondly, though the sick man refuses comfort for the present, yet what doth not sink on a sudden may soak in by degrees, and may prove profitable afterwards. 373Thirdly, his unsucceeding pains may notwithstanding facilitate comfort for another to work in the same body, as Solomon built a temple with most materials formerly provided and brought thither by David. Lastly, grant his pains altogether lost on the wounded conscience, yet his labour is not in vain in Lord, [1 Cor. xv. 58.] who without respect to the event will reward his endeavours.

TIM. But what if this minister hath been the means to cast this sick man down, and now cannot comfort him again?

PHIL. In such a case, he must make this sad accident the more matter for his humiliation, but not for his dejection. Besides, he is bound, both in honour and honesty, civility and Christianity, to procure what he cannot perform, calling in the advice of others more able to assist him, not conceiving, out of pride or envy, that the discreet craving of the help of others is a disgraceful confessing of his own weakness: like those malicious midwives, who had rather that the woman in travail should miscarry, than be safely delivered by the hand of another more skilful than themselves.

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