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Sovereign Uses to be made of the Torment of a wounded Conscience.


SEEING the torture of a wounded conscience is so great, what use is to be made thereof?

PHIL. Very much: and first, it may make men sensible of the intolerable pain in hell fire. If the mouth of the fiery furnace into which the children were cast was so hot that it burnt those which approached it, how hot was the furnace itself! If a wounded conscience, the suburbs of hell, be so painful, O how extreme is that place where the worm never dieth, and the fire is never quenched!

TIM. Did our roaring boys (as they call them) but seriously consider this, they would not wish God damn them, and God confound them, so frequently as they do.

PHIL. No, verily: I read in Theodoret of the ancient Donatists, that they were so ambitious of martyrdom (as they accounted it), that many of them, meeting with a young gentleman, requested of him, that he would be pleased to kill them. He, to confute their folly, condescended to their desire, on condition, that first they would submit to be fast 318bound: which being done, he gave order that they should be severely scourged, and then saved their lives. In application: when I hear such riotous youths wish that God would damn or confound them, I hope God will be more merciful than to take them at their words, and to grant them their wish; only I heartily desire that he would be pleased sharply to scourge them, and soundly to lash them with the frights and terrors of a wounded conscience. And I doubt not but that they would so ill like the pain thereof, that they would revoke their wishes, as having little list, and less delight to taste of hell hereafter.

TIM. What other use is to be made of the pain of a wounded conscience?

PHIL. To teach us seasonably to prevent what we cannot possibly endure. Let us shun the smallest sin, lest, if we slight and neglect it, it by degrees fester and gangrene into a wounded conscience. One of the bravest spirits4848Sir Thomas Norris, President of Munster, ex levi vulnere neglecto sublatus. Camden’s Elizab. An. 1641. that ever England bred, or Ireland buried, lost his life by a slight hurt neglected, as if it had been beneath his high mind to stoop to the dressing thereof, till it was too late. Let us take heed the stoutest of us be not so served in our souls. If we repent not presently of our sins 319committed, but carelessly contemn them, a scratch may quickly prove an ulcer; the rather, because the flesh of our mind, if I may so use the metaphor, is hard to heal, full of choleric and corrupt humours, and very ready to rankle.

TIM. What else may we gather for our instruction from the torture of a troubled mind.

PHIL. To confute their cruelty who, out of sport or spite, willingly and wittingly wound weak consciences: like those uncharitable Corinthians, [1 Cor. viii. 12.] who so far improve their liberty in things indifferent, as thereby to wound the consciences of their weaker brethren.

TIM. Are not those ministers to blame, who, mistaking their message, instead of bringing the Gospel of peace, frighten people with legal terrors into despair?

PHIL. I cannot commend their discretion, yet will not condemn their intention herein. No doubt their desire and design is pious, though they err in the pursuit and prosecution thereof, casting down them whom they cannot raise, and conjuring up the spirit of bondage which they cannot allay again: wherefore, it is our wisest way to interweave promises with threatenings, and not to leave open a pit of despair, but to cover it again with comfort.

TIM. Remaineth there not, as yet, another use of this point?


PHIL. Yes, to teach us to pity and pray for those that have afflicted consciences, not like the wicked, who persecute those whom God hath smitten, and talk to the grief of such whom he hath wounded. [Psalm lxix. 26.]

TIM. Yet Eli was a good man, who, notwithstanding, censured Hannah, a woman of sorrowful spirit, to be drunk with wine. [1Sam. i. 13, 14.]

PHIL. Imitate not Eli in committing, but amending his fault. Indeed, his dim eyes could see drunkenness in Hannah where it was not, and could not see sacrilege and adultery in his own sons, where they were. Thus, those who are most indulgent to their own, are most censorious of others’ sins. But Eli afterwards, perceiving his error, turned the condemning of Hannah into praying for her. In like manner, if in our passion we have prejudiced or injured any wounded consciences, in cold blood let us make them the best amends and reparation.

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