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DIALOGUE XXI.

Whether it be lawful to pray for, or to pray against, or to praise God for, a wounded Conscience.

TIMOTHEUS.

IS it lawful for a man to pray to God to visit him with a wounded conscience? PHIL. He may and must pray to have his high and hard heart truly humbled, and bruised with the sight and sense of his sins, and with unfeigned sorrow for the same: but may not 392explicitly and directly pray for a wounded conscience, in the highest degree and extremity thereof.

TIM. Why interpose you those terms explicitly and directly?

PHIL. Because implicitly and by consequence, one may pray for a wounded conscience: namely, when he submits himself to be disposed by God’s pleasure, referring the particulars thereof wholly to his infinite wisdom, tendering, as I may say, a blank paper to God in his prayers, and requesting him to write therein what particulars he pleases; therein generally and by consequence, he may pray for a wounded conscience, in case God sees the same for his own glory, and the parties’ good; otherwise, directly he may not pray for it.

TIM. How prove you the same?

PHIL. First, because a wounded conscience is a judgment, and one of the sorest, as the resemblance of the torments of hell. Now it is not congruous to nature, or grace, for a man to be a free and active instrument, purposely to pull down upon himself the greatest evil that can befall him in this world. Secondly, we have neither direction nor precedent of any saint, recorded in God’s word, to justify and warrant such prayers. Lastly, though praying 393for a wounded conscience may seemingly scent of pretended humility, it doth really and rankly savour of pride, limiting the Holy One of Israel. It ill becoming the patient to prescribe to his heavenly physician what kind of physic he shall minister unto him.

TIM. But we may pray for all means to increase grace in us, and therefore may pray for a wounded conscience, seeing thereby at last piety is improved in God’s servants.

PHIL. We may pray for and make use of all means whereby grace is increased: namely, such means as by God are appointed for that purpose; and therefore, by virtue of God’s institution, have both a proportionableness and attendency in order thereunto. But properly, those things are not means, or ordained by God, for the increase of piety, which are only accidentally overruled to that end by God’s power against the intention and inclination of the things themselves. Such is a wounded conscience, being always actually an evil of punishment, and too often occasionally an evil of sin; the bias whereof doth bend and bow to wickedness: though overruled by the aim of God’s eye, and strength of his arm, it may bring men to the mark of more grace and goodness. God can and will extract light out of darkness, good out of evil, order out of confusion, and comfort 394out of a wounded conscience: and yet darkness, evil, confusion, &c. are not to be prayed for.

TIM. But a wounded conscience, in God’s children, infallibly ends in comfort here, or glory hereafter, and therefore is to be desired.

PHIL. Though the ultimate end of a wounded conscience winds off in comfort, yet it brings with it many intermediate mischiefs and maladies, especially as managed by human corruption: namely, dulness in divine service, impatience, taking God’s name in vain, despair for the time, blasphemy; which a saint should decline, not desire; shun, not seek; not pursue, but avoid, with his utmost endeavours.

TIM. Is it lawful positively to pray against a wounded conscience?

PHIL. It is, as appears from an argument taken from the lesser to the greater. If a man may pray against pinching poverty, as wise Agur did; [Prov. xxx. 8.] then may he much more against a wounded conscience, as a far heavier judgment. Secondly, if God’s servants may pray for ease under their burdens, whereof we see divers particulars in that worthy prayer of Solomon; [1 Kings viii. 33.] I say, if we pray to God to remove a lesser judgment by way of subvention, questionless we may beseech him to deliver us from the great evil of a wounded conscience, by way of prevention.

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TIM. May one lawfully praise God for visiting him with a wounded conscience?

PHIL. Yes, verily. First, because it is agreeable to the will of God, in everything to be thankful: [1 Thes. v. 18; Ephes. v. 20; Psalm ciii. 22, and cxv. 10] here is a general rule, without limitation. Secondly, because the end, why God and makes any work, is his own glory; and a wounded conscience being a work of God, he must be glorified in it, especially seeing God shows much mercy therein, as being a punishment on this side of hell-fire, and less than our deserts. As also, because he hath gracious intentions towards the sick soul for the present, and when the malady is over, the patient shall freely confess that it is good for him that he was so afflicted. Happy then that soul, who, in the lucid intervals of a wounded conscience, can praise God for the same. Music is sweetest near or over rivers, where the echo thereof is best rebounded by the water. Praise for pensiveness, thanks for tears, and blessing God over the floods of affliction, makes the most melodious music in the ear of Heaven.

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