CHAP.  7.

The Third Malady of Conscience.
The Danger of it.
The Causes of it.
Two things proposed for Cure of it.


3. MANY there are who much complain of the great disproportion between the notorious wickedness of their former life and their lamentable weakness of an answerable bewailing it; between the number of their sins and fewness of their tears; the heinousness of their rebellions, and little measure of their humiliation. And thereupon, because they did not find and feel those terrors and extraordinary troubles of mind in their turning unto God; those violent passions and pangs in their new birth, which they have seen, heard, or read of, or known in others, perhaps far less sinners than themselves; they are much troubled with distractions and doubts about the truth and soundness of their conversion. 11 hereby they receive a great deal of hurt and hindrance in their spiritual state; for Satan gains very much by such a suggestion, and grounds many times a manifold mischief upon it. For by keeping this temptation on foot, these doubts and troubles in their minds whether they be truly converted or no, he labours and too often prevails —

1. To hinder the Christian in his spiritual building. With what heart can he hold on who doubts of the [[308]] soundness and sure laying of the foundation? What progress is he like to make in Christianity who continually terrifies himself with fearful exceptions and oppositions about the truth of his conversion? A man in a long journey would jog on but very heavily, if he doubted whether he were in the right way or no.

2. To abate, lessen, and abridge his courage in standing on God's side, patience under the cross, and spiritual mirth in good company. To keep him in dulness of heart, deadness of affections, distractions at holy exercises, and under the reign of almost a continual sadness and uncomfortable walking; to make him quite neglect and never look towards those sweet commands of the blessed Spirit “Rejoice evermore. Rejoice; and I say again, rejoice. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice ye righteous; and shoat for joy all ye that are upright in heart.

3. To fasten a great deal of dishonour upon God, when he can make the Christian disavow, as it were, and nullify in his estimation, so great a work of mercy and grace, stamped upon his soul by an Almighty hand. A work for wonder and power answerable, if not transcendent, to the creation of the world. To the production whereof the infinite mercies of the Father of all mercy; the warmest heart's blood of his only Son; the mightiest moving of the blessed Spirit, were required. Now what an indignity and disparagement offered unto so glorious a workman and blessed a work, to assent and subscribe unto the devil, a known liar, that there is no such thing!

4. To double and aggravate upon the Christian the grievous sin of unbelief. Not to believe the promises as they lie in his book, is an unworthy and wicked wrong unto the truth of God. But for a man to draw back and deny when they are all made good upon his soul, makes him worse than Thomas, the apostle; for when he had thrust his hand into Christ's side he believed. But in the present case a man is ready to renounce and disclaim, though he have already grasped in the arms of his faith the crucified bleeding body of his blessed Redeemer, the sacred and saving virtue whereof path inspired into the whole man a new, spiritual, sanctifying life, and a sensible, undeniable change from what it was.

5. To detain the heart locked up, as it were, in a perpetual barrenness from giving of thanks, which is one of the noblest and most acceptable sacrifices and services that is offered unto God. Now what a mischief is this, that an upright heart should be laced up, and his tongue tied by the devil's temptation from magnifying heartily the glory [[308]] of God's free grace for such a work! I mean the new creation, at which heaven and earth, angels and men, and all creatures, may stand everlastingly amazed. So sweet it is and admirable, and makes an immortal soul for ever.

But to keep myself to the point. Those who complain, as I have said, that because the pangs of their new birth were not, in that proportion they desire, answerable to the heinousness of their former pestilent courses and abominableness of their foregone ill-spent life, many times suspect themselves, and are much troubled about the truth of their conversion; may have their doubts and scruples increased, by taking notice of such propositions as these, which divines both ancient and modern let fall sometimes in their penitential discourses:—

“Ordinarily men are wounded in their consciences at their conversion, answerably to the wickedness of their former conversation.”— “Contrition in true converts is for the most part proportionable to the heinousness of their former courses.— “The more wicked that thy former life hath been, the more fervent and earnest let thy repentance or returning be[1].”

“Sorrow must be proportionable to our sins. The greater our sin, the fuller must be our sorrow[2].”

“According to the weight of sin upon the conscience, ought penitent sorrow to be weighty[3].”

“He that hath exceeded in sin, let him exceed also in sorrow[4].”

“Look how great our sins are, let us so greatly lament them[5].”

“Let the mind of every one drink up so much of the tears of penitent compunction, as he remembers himself to have withered from God by wickedness[6].”

“Grievous sins require most grievous lamentations[7].”

“The measure of your mourning must be agreeable and proportionable to the sin[8].”

And we may see these rules represented unto us in the practice of Manasseh, who being a most grievous sinner (2 Chron. xxxiii,) “humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (ver. 12). In the woman who is called a sinner (Luke vii, 37) emphatically, and by a kind of singularity, and therefore sorrows extraordinarily (ver. 38), and “wipes Christ's feet with tears.” In the idolatrous Israelites upon their turning unto the Lord (1 Sam, vii, 4, 6), [[310]] “who drew water, and poured it out before the Lord.” In the hearers of Peter, who having their consciences all bloody with the horrible guilt of crucifying the Lord of life (Acts ii, 33, 36), were “pricked in their hearts” (ver. 37) with such horror and raging anguish, as if so many poisoned daggers and scorpions' stings were fastened in them. In Paul, who having been a heinous offender, a grievous persecutor (Acts ix), whereas the other apostles, as one says, had been honest and sober fishermen, tasted deeper of this cup than they; for he tells us, Rom. viii, II, that “the law slew him.” He was strangely amazed with a voice from heaven, struck down to the earth, and stark blind. “He trembled and was astonished: for three days he did neither eat nor drink,” &c. (Acts ix.)

And there is good reason for it. For ordinarily the newly enlightened eye of a fresh bleeding conscience is very sharp and clear, piercing and sightful, greedy to discover every stain and spot of the soul; to dive even to the heart root, to the blackest bottom and ugliest nook of a man's former hellish courses; to look back with a curious survey through the pure perspective of God's righteous law over his whole life, to his very birth sin and Adam's rebellion. And in this sad and heavy search, it is very inquisitive after and apprehensive of all circumstances which may add to the heinousness of sin and horror in his heart. It is quick-sighted into all aggravating considerations; and quickly learns and looks upon all those ways, degrees, and circumstances by which sins are made more notorious and hateful. And what the spirit of bondage in a fearful heart may infer hereupon you may easily judge.

Now to the case proposed; I say,

1. That between sin and sorrow we cannot expect a precise equation; not an arithmetical, but a geometrical proportion. Great sins should he greatly lamented; yet no sin can be sufficiently sorrowed for, though it may be savingly. When we say the pangs of the new birth must be answerable to our former sinful provocations, we mean not that we can mourn for sin according to its merit; that is impossible. But great sins require a great deal of sorrow. We must not think that we have sorrowed enough for any sin, though we can never sorrow sufficiently.

Before I proceed to a farther and fuller satisfaction in the point, let me tell you by the way how uncomfortable and doubtful the popish doctrine is in this matter, that the truth of our tenet may appear the more precious, and taste more sweet.

Their attrition and contrition, as I take it, differ as our legal and evangelical repentance; 1. In respect of the object. Contrition, as they say, is sorrow for sin, as an offence against God; attrition is a grief for sin, as liable to punishment. 2. In respect of the cause. Contrition ariseth from son-like, attrition from servile fear[9].

This contrition is the cause of the remission of sins[10]. Well then, thou art a papist and troubled in conscience. Thou knowest well that without contrition, no remission: but when comest thou to that measure and degree which may give thee some contentment about the pardon of thy sins? Go unto them in this point for resolution and relief, and thou goest unto a rack. Consult with their chapters, “De quantitate Contritionis,” of the amount of sorrow, and they are able to confound thee with many desperate distractions.

1. Look back upon the elder schoolmen; and you shall have Adrian[11] and others tell you of a contrition in the highest strain, and to which nothing can be added[12]. This opinion Vega refutes[13], and Bellarmine dislikes it[14]. Note by the way how sweetly they agree; our concord is angelical in respect of their confusions.

2. Go to Scotus[15] and his followers, and you shall find him to talk of a certain intensity of contrition, which is only known unto God; but this Greg. de Valent. censures as very false[16]. You see again, as there is no truth in their tenets, so no constancy, no concord, and by consequence no comfort to a truly troubled spirit.

3. Come at length to the latter locusts, some modern Jesuits, daubers over of their superstitious ruins with many rotten distinctions (I mean Bellarmine, Greg. de Valent. and their fellows), and they dare not stand either to the unknown intensity of Scotus, nor that of highest pitch, which Adrian holds; but come in with a sorrow for sin, appreciative simmus. And what is that, think you?

Hence Bellarmine (for Valent. speaks more warily in the quoted place, Art. “Neque vero;” yet very weakly too, for in such cases the troubled mind is not wont to rest upon generals only, but will in spite of ourselves bring us to particulars, howsoever Scotus, Navar, and Madina advise the contrary)— “Sorrow for sin,” saith he, “is then sitinanus [[312]] appreciative, when the will cloth more esteem the detestation of sin, than the attainment of any good, or escaping any ill;” and so by consequence (for, as I intimated, a troubled conscience in such a case is very curious and inquisitive, and will not stay only upon confused and general notions of good and ill, but easily descend to particulars, to know its state more perfectly, especially in a point of so great importance) a man must find his heart first to prize the hatred of sin before the happiness of heavenly joys or avoiding hellish pains, before he can come to comfort of the remission of his sins. What a torture were it to a troubled spirit to fall into the hands of such true pharisees, who lay heavy burthens upon others, but will not touch them themselves with the least of their fingers. But, blessed be God! we truly teach that it is not so much the measure and amount, as the truth and heartiness of our sorrow. which fits for the promises of life and pardon of sin. Yet I must say this also, he that thinks he bath sorrowed sufficiently, never sorrowed truly. And I like Bellarmine's last proposition well, in the fore-cited place, if it be thus understood, that we must desire, aim, and endeavour after the highest pitch of godly sorrow which can possibly be attained. But it is one thing to say, either just so much measure of sorrow or no mercy—such a quantity of contrition or no remission—another thing to say we Must long and labour to bring our naughty hearts to this, even to be willing rather to lie in hell than to live in sin. Perfections of grace are aimed at in this life, not attained.

4. I confess some of them sometimes, by reason of freedom in their schools, over-ruled like Caiaphas, or over-mastered by the clearness and invincibleness of the truth, speak something more orthodoxically[17]; but you see them still like the four winds blow in one another's faces. Hereupon 1 have roany times marvelled, that understanding papists looking into the point are not plunged into desperate perplexities, considering the variety of opinions and uncertainty of the degree of sorrow required to their contrition: but when I reflected upon another rotten daubing trick of theirs, I rather wonder at the depths of their antichristian craft in so politicly and plausibly patching together their popish paradoxes, that they may still keep their deluded disciples in contentment, and please them still at least with some palliatives instead of cures. It is this I mean: they [[313]] hold also (Prodigious infatuation! It is impossible that the learned on the pope's side — were not that curse justly upon them, 2 Thes. ii, 10, 11, “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; God sends them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”—should ever be so grossly blinded); I say they hold, that a man ex attrito, by the power of the priestly absolution is made contritus; and that ex opere operate, as Valent. affirms. Which in effect is thus much.; that having but only attrition (legal repentance), that fruitless sorrow which may be found in a Judas, a Latomus, and which a reprobate may carry with him to hell, is by the virtue of their feigned sacrament, “by the sacramental act of absolution,” as they call it, made truly and savingly contrite and put into a state of justification. Hear it in the words of that great and famous light of Ireland[18], and for ever abhor all such popish impostures: “When the priest with his power of forgiving sins interposeth himself in the business, they tell us that attrition, by virtue of the keys, is made contrition; that is to say, that a sorrow arising from a servile fear of punishment, and such a fruitless repentance as the reprobate may carry with them to hell, by virtue of the priest's absolution is made so fruitful, that it shall serve the turn for obtaining forgiveness of sins, as if it had been that, godly sorrow, which worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of (2 Cor. vii, 10); by which spiritual cozenage many poor souls are most miserably deluded, while they persuade themselves that upon the receipt of the priest's acquittance, upon this carnal sorrow of theirs, all scores are cleared until that day, and then beginning upon a new reckoning, they sin and confess, confess and sin afresh; and tread this round so long, till they put off all thought of saving repentance; and so the blind following the blind, both at last follow into the pit.”

Or thus, a little after: —

“It hath been always observed for a special difference betwixt good and bad men, that the one hated sin for the love of virtue, the other only for the fear of punishment. The like difference do our adversaries make betwixt contrition and attrition. That the hatred of sin in the one proceedeth from the love of God, and of righteousness in the other from the fear of punishment; and yet teach for all this that attrition, which they confess would not otherwise suffice to justify a man, being joined with the priest's absolution is sufficient for that purpose. Ile that was attrite [[314]] being by virtue of this absolution made contrite and justified: that is to say, he that was led only by a servile fear, and consequently was to be ranked among disordered and evil persons, being by this means put in as good a case for the matter of the forgiveness of his sins as he that loveth God sincerely. For they themselves do grant, that such as have this servile fear, from whence attrition issueth, are to be accounted evil and disordered men,” &c.

But leaving these blind pharisees in the endless maze of their inextricable errors, until it please the Lord to enlighten them and by a strong hand pull them out, which I heartily desire and will ever pray, I come to prosecute mine own point.

2. If you ask me when trouble for sin is saving, I would answer, when it is true. If you further demand when is it true; I would say, when it drives thee utterly out of thy self, and to sell all in the sense I have said before; and brings thee with a sincere thirst and settled resolution to Jesus Christ, to live and die with him as a Saviour and a Lord, and is accompanied with an universal change in body, soul, and spirit.



[1] Homil. of Repentance.

[2] Mar. ad Virg. corr. cap. viii.

[3] Dike on Repentance, chap. iv.

[4] Idem de Penit. lib. i, cap. ii.

[5] Cypr. de Lapsis ad fm.

[6] Gregor. Pastor. Curse, cap. xxx.

[7] Aug. ad Fratr. in eremo.

[8] Greenhom's Grave Counsel.

[9] See Valent. Disp. vii, q. 8, De Contrit. punct. 2.

[10] Bellar. lib. ii, De Pœnit. cap. xii.

[11] Quæst ii, de Pœnit. quodlib. v, artic. 3.

[12] Valeta. tom. iv, disp. 7, qu. 8, de Contritione, punct. 5.

[13] De Justif. lib. xiii, cap. xiv ad princ.

[14] De Ptenit. lib. ii, cap. xi, art. denique si summus.

[15] In 4 sent. dist. xiv, q. 2.

[16] Torn. iv, col. 17, 24.

[17] See on this point, Vega, lib. iii, cap. xxiv, art... Ad que accedit;”!bid art.., Et Sacerdotes; “Tolet. Instruct. Saceid. lib. ii, cap. v, art. “Quartam dubium; “Navar. cap. i, num. xviii; Estius, in iv, sent. dist. xvi, sect. vii, art. “Adde quòd si summus.” &c.

[18] Usher, in his Answer to a Jesuit's Challenge.