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THE CAUSE AND CURE OF A WOUNDED CONSCIENCE.

DIALOGUE I.

What a wounded Conscience is, wherewith the Godly and Reprobate may be tortured.

TIMOTHEUS.

SEEING the best way never to know a wounded conscience by woful experience, is speedily to know it by a sanctified consideration thereof: give me, I pray you, the description of a wounded conscience, in the highest degree thereof.

PHILOLOGUS. It is a conscience frightened at the sight of sin, [Psalm xxxviii. 3.] and weight of God’s wrath, even unto the despair of all pardon during the present agony.

TIM. Is there any difference betwixt a broken spirit [Psalm li. 17.] and a wounded conscience, in this your acception?

PHIL. Exceeding much: for a broken spirit is to be prayed and laboured for, as the most 300healthful and happy temper of the soul, letting in as much comfort as it leaks out sorrow for sin: whereas, a wounded conscience is a miserable malady of the mind, filling it for the present with despair.

TIM. In this your sense, is not the conscience wounded every time that the soul is smitten with guiltiness for any sin committed?

PHIL. God forbid: otherwise his servants would be in a sad condition, as in the case of David, [1 Sam. xxiv. 5.] smitten by his own heart, for being, as he thought, overbold with God’s anointed, in cutting off the skirt of Saul’s garment; such hurts are presently healed by a plaster of Christ’s blood, applied by faith, and never come to that height to be counted and called wounded consciences.

TIM. Are the godly, as well as the wicked, subject to this malady?

PHIL. Yes, verily; vessels of honour, as well as vessels of wrath in this world, are subject to the knocks and bruises of a wounded conscience. A patient Job, pious David, faithful Paul, may be vexed therewith, no less than a cursed Cain, perfidious Achitophel, or treacherous Judas.

TIM. What is the difference betwixt a wounded conscience in the godly, and in the reprobate?

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PHIL. None at all, ofttimes, in the parties’ apprehensions; both, for the time being, conceiving their estates equally desperate: little, if any, in the wideness and anguish of the wound itself, which for the time may be as tedious and torturing in the godly, as in the wicked.

TIM. How then do they differ?

PHIL. Exceeding much in God’s intention: gashing the wicked, as malefactors, out of justice; but lancing the godly, out of love, as a surgeon his patients. Likewise they differ in the issue and event of the wound, which ends in the eternal confusion of the one, but in the correction and amendment of the other.

TIM. Some have said, that, in the midst of their pain, by this mark they may be distinguished, because the godly, when wounded, complain most of their sins, and the wicked of their sufferings.

PHIL. I have heard as much; but dare not lay too much stress on this slender sign, (to make it generally true,) for fear of failing. For sorrow for sin and sorrow for suffering are ofttimes so twisted and interwoven in the same person, yea, in the same sigh and groan, that sometimes it is impossible for the party himself so to separate and divide them in his own sense and feeling, as to know which proceeds 302from the one and which from the other. Only the all-seeing eye of an infinite God is able to discern and distinguish them.

TIM. Inform me concerning the nature of wounded consciences in the wicked.

PHIL. Excuse me herein: I remember a passage in St. Augustine,4747“Angelicum vulnus verus medicus qualiter factum sit indicare noluit, dum illud postea curare non destinavit.” De Mirab. Scrip, lib. 1, c. 2. who inquired what might be the cause that the fall of the angels is not plainly set down in the Old Testament, with the manner and circumstances thereof, resolves it thus: God, like a wise surgeon, would not open that wound which he never intended to cure. Of whose words thus far I make use, that, as it was not according to God’s pleasure to restore the devils, so, it being above man’s power to cure a wounded conscience in the wicked, I will not meddle with that which I cannot mend: only will insist on a wounded conscience in God’s children, where, by God’s blessing, one may be the instrument to give some ease and remedy unto their disease.

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