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DIALOGUE XVIII.

Of the different Time and Manner of the coming of Comfort to such who are healed of a wounded Conscience.

TIMOTHEUS.

HOW long may a servant of God lie under the burden of a wounded conscience?

PHIL. It is not for us to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. [Acts i. 7.] God alone knows whether their grief shall be measured unto them by hours, or days, or weeks, or months, or many years.

TIM. How then is it that St. Paul saith, that God will give us the issue with the temptation, [1 Cor. x. 13.] if one may long be visited with this malady?

PHIL. The Apostle is not so to be understood, as if the temptation and issue were twins, both born at the same instant; for then no affliction could last long, but must be ended as soon as it is begun; whereas we read how Æneas, truly pious, was bedridden of the palsy eight years; [Acts ix. 33.] the woman diseased with a bloody issue twelve years; [Matth. ix. 2.] another woman bowed by infirmity eighteen years; [Luke xii. 11] and the man lame thirty-eight years at the pool of Bethesda. [John v. 5.]

TIM. What then is the meaning of the Apostle?

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PHIL. God will give the issue with the temptation; that is, the temptation and the issue bear both the same date in God’s decreeing them, though not in his applying them: at the same time wherein he resolved his servants shall be tempted, he also concluded of the means and manner how the same persons should infallibly be delivered. Or thus: God will give the issue with the temptation; that is, as certainly, though not as suddenly. Though they go not abreast, yet they are joined successively, like two links in a chain; where one ends, the other begins. Besides, there is a twofold issue; one, through a temptation; another, out of a temptation. The former is but mediate, not final; an issue to an issue, only supporting the person tempted for the present, and preserving him for a future full deliverance. Understand the Apostle thus, and the issue is always both given and applied to God’s children, with the temptation, though the temptation may last long after, before fully removed.

TIM. I perceive, then, that in some a wounded conscience may continue many years.

PHIL. So it may. I read of a poor widow, in the land of Limburgh,5555Melchior Adamus in vitâ Theologorum Exterorum, p. 198. who had nine children, and for thirteen years together was miserably afflicted in mind, only because she had attended the dressing and feeding of her little 382ones before going to mass. At last it pleased God to sanctify the endeavours of Franciscus Junius, that learned godly divine, that, upon true information of her judgment, she was presently and perfectly comforted.

TIM. Doth God give ease to all in such manner, on a sudden?

PHIL. O no: some receive comfort suddenly, and in an instant they pass from midnight to bright day, without any dawning betwixt. Others receive consolation by degrees, which is not poured, but dropped into them by little and little.

TIM. Strange, that God’s dealing herein should be so different with his servants.

PHIL. It is to show, that, as in his proceedings there is no variableness, [James i. 17.] such as may import him mutable or impotent, so in the same there is very much variety, to prove the fulness of his power, and freedom of his pleasure.

TIM. Why doth not God give them consolation all at once?

PHIL. The more to employ their prayers, and exercise their patience. One may admire why Boaz did not give to Ruth a quantity of corn more or less, so sending her home to her mother, but that rather he kept her still to glean; [Ruth ii. 8.] but this was the reason, because that is the best charity which so relieves another’s 383poverty, as still continues their industry. God, in like manner, will not give some consolation all at once, he will not spoil their (painful but) pious profession of gleaning; still they must pray and gather, and pray and glean, here an ear, there a handful, of comfort, which God scatters in favour unto them.

TIM. What must the party do when he perceives God and his comfort beginning to draw nigh unto him?

PHIL. As Martha, when she heard that Christ was coming, stayed not a minute at home, but went out of her house to meet him; [John xi. 20.] so must a sick soul, when consolation is coming, haste out of himself and hie to entertain God with his thankfulness. The best way to make a homer of comfort increase to an ephah (which is ten times as much), [Exod. xvi. 56.] is to be heartily grateful for what one hath already, that his store may be multiplied. He shall never want more, who is thankful for and thrifty with a little: whereas ingratitude doth not only stop the flowing of more mercy, but even spills what was formerly received.

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