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Whether one cured of a wounded Conscience be subject to a Relapse.


MAY a man, once perfectly healed of a wounded conscience, and for some years in peaceable possession of comfort, afterwards fall back into his former disease?

PHIL. Nothing appears in Scripture or reason to the contrary, though examples of real relapses are very rare, because God’s servants are careful to avoid sin, the cause thereof; and being once burnt therewith, ever after dread the fire of a wounded conscience.

TIM. Why call you it a relapse?

PHIL. To distinguish it from those relapses more usual and obvious, whereby such who have snatched comfort before God gave it them, on serious consideration that they had usurped that to which they had no right, fall back again into the former pit of despair; this is improperly 389termed a relapse, as not being a renewing, but a continuing of their former malady, from which, though seemingly, they were never soundly recovered.

TIM. Is there any intimation in Scripture of the possibility of such a real relapse in God’s servants?

PHIL. There is; when David saith, I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, but let them not turn again to folly: [Psalm lxxxv. 8.] this imports that if his saints turn again to folly, which by woful experience we find too frequently done, God may change his voice, and turn his peace, formerly spoken, into a warlike defiance to their conscience.

TIM. But this methinks is a diminution to the majesty of God, that a man, once completely cured of a wounded conscience, should again be pained therewith: let mountebanks palliate, cures break out again, being never soundly, but superficially healed: He that is all in all never doth his work by halves, so that it shall be undone afterwards.

PHIL. It is not the same individual wound in number, but the same in kind, and perchance a deeper in degree: nor is it any ignorance or falsehood in the surgeon, but folly and fury in the patient, who, by committing fresh sins, causes a new pain in the old place.


TIM. In such relapses, men are only troubled for such sins which they have run on score since their last recovery from a wounded conscience.

PHIL. Not those alone, but all the sins which they have committed, both before and since their conversion, may be started up afresh in their minds and memories, and grieve and perplex them, with the guiltiness thereof.

TIM. But those sins were formerly fully forgiven, and the pardon thereof solemnly sealed, and assured unto them; and can the guilt of the same recoil again upon their consciences?

PHIL. I will not dispute what God may do in the strictness of his justice. Such seals, though still standing firm and fast in themselves, may notwithstanding break off, and fly open in the feeling of the sick soul: he will be ready to conceive with himself, that as Shimei, [1 Kings ii. 44.] though once forgiven his railing on David, was afterwards executed for the same offence, though upon his committing of a new transgression, following his servants to Gath, against the positive command of the king; so God, upon his committing of new trespasses, may justly take occasion to punish all former offences; yea, in his apprehension, the very foundation of his faith may be shaken, all his former title to heaven brought into question, and he tormented 391with the consideration that he was never a true child of God.

TIM. What remedies do you commend to such souls in relapses?

PHIL. Even the self-same receipts which I first prescribed to wounded consciences, the very same promises, precepts, comforts, counsels, cautions. Only as Jacob, the second time that his sons went down into Egypt, commanded them to carry double money in their hands; [Gen. xliii. 12.] so I would advise such to apply the former remedies with double diligence, double watchfulness, double industry, because the malignity of a disease is riveted firmer and deeper in a relapse.

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