« Prev Dialogue VI. That in some Cases more Repentance… Next »

DIALOGUE VI

That in some Cases more Repentance must be preached to a wounded Conscience.

TIMOTHEUS.

SO much for the malady, now for the remedy. Suppose you come to a wounded 321conscience, what counsel will you prescribe him?

PHIL. If, after hearty prayer to God for his direction, he appeareth unto me, as yet, not truly penitent, in the first place I will press a deeper degree of repentance upon him.

TIM. O miserable comforter! more sorrow still! Take heed your eyes be not put out with that smoking flax you seek to quench, and your fingers wounded with the splinters of that bruised reed you go about to break.

PHIL. Understand me, sir. Better were my tongue spit out of my mouth, than to utter a word of grief to drive them to despair who are truly contrite. But on the other side, I shall betray my trust, and be found an unfaithful dispenser of divine mysteries, to apply comfort to him who is not ripe and ready for it.

TIM. What harm would it do?

PHIL. Raise him for the present, and ruin him, without God’s greater mercy, for the future. For comfort daubed on, on a foul soul, will not stick long upon it; and, instead of pouring in, I shall spill the precious oil of God’s mercy. Yea, I may justly bring a wounded conscience upon myself, for dealing deceitfully in my stewardship.

TIM. Is it possible one may not be soundly humbled, and yet have a wounded conscience?

322

PHIL. Most possible: for a wounded conscience is often inflicted as a punishment for lack of true repentance: great is the difference betwixt a man’s being frightened at, and humbled for, his sins. One may passively be cast down by God’s terrors, and yet not willingly throw himself down as he ought at God’s footstool.

TIM. Seeing his pain is so pitiful as you have formerly proved, why would you add more grief unto him?

PHIL. I would not add grief to him, but alter grief in him; making his sorrow, not greater, but better. I would endeavour to change his dismal, doleful dejection, his hideous and horrible heaviness, his bitter exclamations, which seem to me much mixed in him with pride, impatience, and impenitence, into a willing submission to God’s pleasure, and into a kindly, gentle, tender Gospel repentance for his sins.

TIM. But there are some now-a-days who maintain that a child of God after his first conversion needs not any new repentance for sin all the days of his life.

PHIL. They defend a grievous and dangerous error. Consider what two petitions Christ couples together in his prayer: when my body, which every day is hungry, can live without God’s giving it daily bread, then and no sooner 323shall I believe that my soul, which daily sinneth, can spiritually live without God’s forgiving it its trespasses.

TIM. But such allege, in proof of their opinion, that a man hath his person justified before God, not by pieces and parcels, but at once and forever in his conversion.

PHIL. This being granted doth not favour their error. We confess God finished the creation of the world, and all therein, in six days, and then rested from that work, yet so that his daily preserving of all things by his Providence may still be accounted a constant and continued creation. We acknowledge in like manner, a child of God justified at once in his conversion, when he is fully and freely estated in God’s favour. And yet seeing every daily sin by him committed is an aversion from God, and his daily repentance a conversion to God, his justification in this respect may be conceived entirely continued all the days of his life.

TIM. What is the difference betwixt the first repentance, and this renewed repentance?

PHIL. The former is as it were the putting of life into a dead man, the latter, the recovering of a sick man from a dangerous wound: by the former, sight to the blind is simply restored, and eyes given him; in the latter, only a film is removed, drawn over the eyes, 324and hindering their actual sight. By the first, we have a right title to the kingdom of Heaven; by our second repentance, we have a new claim to Heaven, by virtue of our old title. Thus these two kinds of repentance may be differenced and distinguished, though otherwise they meet and agree in general qualities: both having sin for their cause, sorrow for their companion, and pardon for their consequent and effect.

TIM. But do not God’s children after committing of grievous sins, and before their renewing their repentance, remain still heirs of Heaven, married to Christ, and citizens of the New Jerusalem?

PHIL. Heirs of Heaven they are, but disinheritable for their misdemeanour. Married still to Christ, but deserving to be divorced for their adulteries. Citizens of Heaven, but yet outlawed, so that they can recover no right, and receive no benefit, till their outlawry be reversed.

TIM. Where doth God in Scripture enjoin this second repentance on his own children?

PHIL. In several places. He threatens the Church of Ephesus (the best of the seven) with removing the candlestick from them, except they repent: [Rev. ii. 5.] and Christ tells his own disciples, true converts before, but then guilty 325of ambitious thoughts, that except ye be converted ye shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven. [Matth. xviii. 3] Here is conversion after conversion, being a solemn turning from some particular sin; in relation to which it is not absurd to say, that there is justification after justification: the latter as following in time, so flowing from the former.

« Prev Dialogue VI. That in some Cases more Repentance… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection