On the Conscience

“For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.  But why dost thou judge thy brother?…  for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Rom. 15:8-12

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Subsections

On How Human Laws Bind the Conscience & How They do Not

On Toleration & Pretended Liberty of Conscience

Cases of Conscience

On Implicit, or Blind Faith & Obedience

That the Mere Will, Determination, Judgment or Saying So of Authorities is an Insufficient Ground of Faith & Obedience, & that Authorities are Never to Act or Require Something without a Naturally, Morally or Spiritually Sufficient Reason, & that Manifest to Consciences

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Order of Contents

Articles  18+
Books  24+
Quotes
History of the Doctrine
Latin

That the Ultimate Rule of Actions is God’s Word, Not Conscience
Does an Erroneous Conscience Oblige?
That Good Intentions do Not Make an Evil Work Good
The Definition of Binding the Conscience
On Maintaining a Good Conscience
.       That One Cannot Repent of Something that One Cannot See the Blame in
On Wounded, Afflicted & Troubled Consciences
On a Scrupulous Conscience
On a Doubting Conscience

That the Magistrate Does not Bind the Conscience & the Church Craves
.        the Conscience to be Subject to the Word
On Non-Moral Actions, Ignorance, Fear & Guilt


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Articles

1500’s

Calvin, John – Institutes

bk. 4, ch. 10, sections 3-4, ‘The Nature of Conscience’ & ‘The Definition of Conscience Explained’

(Banner of Truth, 1541 ed.), pp. 19, 93-94, 332, 369-70, 646-47, 712-13, 718, 721-22

Bruce, Robert – ‘The Preparation for the Lord’s Supper’, Sermon 1  in The Mystery of The Lord’s Supper, pp. 146-181 and reprinted in The Way to True Peace & Rest, pp. 163-175

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1600’s

Bourne, Immanuel – The Anatomy of Conscience, or a Threefold Revelation of those Three Most Secret Books: 1. The Book of God’s Prescience. 2. The Book of Man’s Conscience. 3. The Book of Life, in a Sermon preached at the General Assizes…  in Lent Last  (London, 1623)

Bourne (1590-1672) was an Anglican clergyman.

Perkins, William – Works of William Perkins  (RHB, 2019)

‘Discourse on Conscience’ in 8.1-111

‘A Case of Conscience’  in 8.595-638

Sibbes, Richard – Josiah’s Reformation  in Works 6:29-90.  See particularly the first of these four sermons, ‘The Tender Heart’, pp. 29-43.

Gillespie, George

The English Popish Ceremonies (Naphtali Press, 2013), pp. 16, 23-24, 28, 30-33, 40-43, 46, 48-49. 189, 287-288 & 307-309

Wholesome Severity Reconciled with Christian Liberty, pp. 321-384 in The Shorter Writings of George Gillespie, vol. 1. (Naphtali Press, 2021)

Burroughs, Jeremiah – Chs. 8 & 9 in Gospel Reconciliation (SDG, 1997), pp. 50-71, under the general subject of making peace with God.

Love, Christopher – ‘Saints Are To Confess Their Sin’ & ‘Cases of Conscience’  in The Penitent Pardoned (SDG 2002), pp. 1-48 & 108-144

Binning, Hugh, [Four untitled sermons on 1 Timothy 1:5], pp. 600-618, in Several Sermons upon the Most Important Subjects of Practical Religion, pp. 551-659. On the relation of faith to the law of God and to love and a good conscience.

Dickson, David – Ch. 1, ‘Of Conscience in General’  in Therapeutica Sacra [Sacred Therapeutics], Showing Briefly the Method of Healing the Diseases of the Conscience, Concerning Regeneration  (Edinburgh, 1664), pp. 1-7

Dickson (1583-1662) was a Scottish covenanter.  See this Introduction by Fentiman to the work in general.

Caryl, Joseph – ‘Mr. Caryl’s Sermon, Preached August 17, 1662’  on Rev. 3:4, pp. 29-42 in Farewell Sermons  (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992), see especially pp. 34-38.

Baxter, Richard – ‘The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience & Spiritual Comfort’  in Thirty-Two Directions, 2:882-973

Annesley, Samuel – ‘How May We Be Universally & Exactly Conscientious?’  in Puritan Sermons, 1:1-38

Pledger, Elias – ‘Of the Cause of Inward Trouble, & How a Christian should Behave Himself when Inward & Outward Troubles Meet’  in Puritan Sermons, 1:306-330

Flavel, John – ‘Doctrine: That the Wrath of God is Dreadfully Incensed Against All Those that Live in any Course of Sin, Against the Light & Dictates of their own Consciences’  in An Appendix to the Treatise on England’s Duty, in Works, 4.271-290

Sharp, John

A Discourse Concerning Conscience: Wherein an Account is Given of the Nature & Rule & Obligation of it: & the Case of those who Separate from the Communion of the Church of England as by Law Established, upon this pretense, that it is against their Conscience to Join in it, is Stated & Discussed  (London: 1684)

Sharp (1645–1714) was a latitudinarian, Anglican archbishop and divine.

‘A Discourse of Conscience, Showing: I. What Conscience is, & what are its acts and offices: II. What is the rule of it: III. The several sorts of conscience: IV. How some practical cases or questions concerning conscience may be resolved: V. The benefit & happiness of a good conscience, & the unhappiness of an evil one: VI. How a good conscience may be attained, & how we may judge whether we have attained it’  (London: 1697)

Sermon 16, on Heb. 13:18, ‘Concerning Man’s Conscience, when it is good, when it is not’  in Sixteen Casuistical Sermons Preached on Several Occasions, vol. 3  (London, 1716)

Manton, Thomas

[Two] Sermons upon Acts 24:14-16  in Works, 17:419-40.  See also 17:431-40.

Sermon upon Acts 24:25, in Works, 18:357-66.  On the awakened but unconverted conscience.

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1700’s

Boston, Thomas

‘Believers Communing with Their Own Hearts’  in Works, 4:262-268

‘Of the Benefits Flowing from Justification, Adoption & Sanctification’  in Works, 2:15-27 in An Illustration of the Doctrines of the Christian Religion, 1:9-2:659. On peace of conscience, see 2:19-23.

Edwards, Jonathan – ‘God Makes Men Sensible of Their Misery Before He Reveals His Mercy & Love’  in Works, 2:830-38.  Also in Jonathan Edwards on Knowing Christ, pp. 49-78. Part of this sermon deals with God’s work on the conscience in bringing men to see their need of Christ.

Charles, Thomas – ‘Natural & Renewed Conscience’  in Spiritual Counsels, pp. 136-40

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1800’s

Payson, Edward – ‘God Heard in the Still Small Voice’  in Works, 2:496-506  On the manner of God’s addressing the conscience by the Spirit in reproving men for their sin.

Thornwell, James Henley – Moral Government  in Discussions, 1:252-263 and in Lectures in Theology  in Discussions, 1:3-441.


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Books

1500’s

Perkins, William – A Discourse of Conscience, Wherein is set Down the Nature, Properties & Differences Thereof: as also the Way to get and Keep Good Conscience  GB  (Cambridge: 1596)

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1600’s

Howesoun, John – A Short Exposition of the 20th & 21st verses of the Third Chapter of the First Epistle of St. John, Containing a very profitable discourse of Conscience, and of all the actions, sorts and kinds thereof, whereby every man may easily know his estate wherein he stands in the sight of his God, and whether his conscience be good or evil, with all things also belonging either to get a good conscience or else to relieve it out of trouble, being grieved and wounded, as in the Epistle to the Reader is more specially mentioned, and in the discourse itself clearly expressed  (Edinburgh, 1600)

Howesoun was reformed.

Worship, William – The Christian’s Jewel, or the Treasure of a Good Conscience  (London, 1617)  Chapters 1-17 especially deal with the conscience in general.

Worship (fl.1603-1625) was a reformed, English chaplain.

Huit, Ephraim – The Anatomy of Conscience, or, The Sum of Paul’s Regeneracy, wherein are handled the places of conscience, worship, and scandal, with diverse rules of Christian practice: very profitable for the Weak Christian  (London, 1626)  ToC

Perkins, William – Three Books on Cases of Conscience  in Works of William Perkins  (RHB, 2019), 8.113-440

Bernard, Richard – Christian See to thy Conscience: or a Treatise of the Nature, Kinds & Manifold Differences of Conscience…  (London, 1631)  450 pp.  ToC

Bernard (bap.1568-1642) was an English conforming puritan.

Ames, William – Conscience with the Power & Cases Thereof Divided into Five Books, bks 1-3  ([Leiden & London] 1639)  Here is bk. 3, ch. 1, ‘Of Obedience’ (EEBO has missing pages) which deals only with obedience to God (not to men).  Bks. 4-5 do not appear to be online.

Bolton, Robert – A Treatise on Comforting Afflicted Consciences  390 pp.

Fenner, William – The Soul’s Looking-Glass, Lively Representing its Estate Before God with a Treatise of Conscience: Wherein the Definitions & Distinctions Thereof are Unfolded, & Several Cases [are] Resolved  (Cambridge, 1643)  212 pp.

Fenner (c.1600-1640) was a reformed puritan.

Sanderson, Robert – Bishop Sanderson’s Lectures on Conscience & Human Law, Delivered in the Divinity School of Oxford  (d. 1663; Oxford, 1877)  ToC  The first four lectures deal with the conscience generally.

Sanderson (1587-1663) was a reformed Anglican and casuist.

Sanderson, as was typical of the Anglican context, gets the answer to the bindingness of human laws wrong; he states at the end of the fifth lecture: “A human ruler does not oblige the conscience to obey the law, but God obliges the conscience to obey the human ruler, in all things not unlawful.”

Taylor, Jeremy – Ductor Dubitantium [A Guide to Doubtings]: or the Rule of Conscience in All her General Measures, Serving as a Great Instrument for the Determination of Cases of Conscience, in Four Books  2nd ed.  (d. 1667; London, 1671)  890 pp.  ToC

Taylor (1613–1667) was an Arminian, Latitudinarian, cleric in the Church of England who achieved fame as an author during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell.  He is sometimes known as the ‘Shakespeare of Divines’ for his poetic style of expression, and he is frequently cited as one of the greatest prose writers in the English language.

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1700’s

La Placette, Jean – The Christian Casuist: or, a Treatise of Conscience  (London: 1705)  490 pp.  ToC

La Placette (1629-1718) was a French Huguenot minister.

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1800’s

Dabney, Robert – The Practical Philosophy: being the Philosophy of the Feelings, of the Will & of the Conscience, with the Ascertainment of Particular Rights & Duties  Buy  (1897)  365 pp.  There is no table of contents, though there is an index at the beginning.

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Quotes

John Calvin

Institutes of the Christian Religion 4.10.3

“Many are greatly puzzled with this question, from not distinguishing, with sufficient care, between what is called the external forum and the forum of conscience (3.19.15).”

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J.I. Packer

‘The Puritan Conscience’ in Puritan Papers, Vol. Two: 1960-1962 (P&R, 2001), pp. 237-257

“…a Puritan was a man supremely concerned about conscience…  The concern which was really supreme in the minds and hearts of the people called Puritans was a concern about God—a concern to know Him truly, and serve Him rightly, and so to glorify Him and to enjoy Him.  But, just because this was so, they were in fact very deeply concerned about conscience, for they held that conscience was the mental organ in men through which God brought His Word to bear on them.  Nothing, therefore, in their estimation, was more important for any man than that his conscience should be enlightened, instructed, purged, and kept clean.  To them, there could be no real spiritual understanding, or any genuine godliness, except as men exposed and enslaved their consciences to God’s Word.”

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On the History of the Doctrine of Conscience

On the Middle Ages

Potts, T.C. – Conscience in Medieval Philosophy  (1980; Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002)

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On the 1600’s – 1700’s

Goudriaan, Aza – 5. The Definition of Human Conscience & the Issue of Synderesis‘  in ch. 4, ‘The Human Being: His Soul & Body, Special Status & Conscience’  in Reformed Orthodoxy & Philosophy, 1625–1750: Gisbertus Voetius, Petrus Van Mastricht & Anthonius Driessen  Buy  (Brill, 2006)

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Latin

Sibbes, Richard

Antidotum Contra Naufragium Fidei et Bonae Conscientiae (An Antidote against making shipwreck of Faith & Good Conscience)  in Works, 7:547-560

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That the Ultimate Rule of Actions is God’s Word, Not Conscience

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Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), p. 212

“God’s Word, not men’s persuasions of conscience (except in this also he be an Arminian) is the rule of men’s actions.”

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Articles

1600’s

Bernard, Richard – chs. 21-38  of Christian See to thy Conscience: or a Treatise of the Nature, Kinds & Manifold Differences of Conscience…  (London, 1631)

Bernard (bap.1568-1642) was an English conforming puritan.

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1700’s

La Placette, Jean – Bk. 3, ‘Of the Care which every man ought to take of his own Conscience’, chs. 3-5  of The Christian Casuist: or, a Treatise of Conscience  (London: 1705)


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Does an Erroneous Conscience Oblige, or Bind?

The Short Answer:

The person with the erroneous conscience, it being made known to him or disputed of, or he being warned of such, or he is not sure about it all:

1. Is not to do anything that he is not sure about and has not faith to do to the Lord;

2. May not do what he believes is right, though it is actually wrong, as this is yet a transgression of the Law of God;

3. May not do what is objectively right, because he does not believe it is right, and cannot do it with faith to the Lord;

4. May do any other number of things with faith unto the Lord that he knows are right, and are right, which are not the issues in dispute;

5. He ought to seek to further inform his conscience, by the Scriptures, counsel, etc., and others ought to help inform his conscience of what is right.

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Article

Gillespie, George – pp. 16-18  of pt. 1, ch. 5  of A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies…  (1637)

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Quote

Samuel Rutherford

A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649), ch. 11, ‘Of the Obliging Power of Conscience’, pp. 133-136.  See the whole chapter for more.

“But touching an erring conscience, the question is not whether an erroneous conscience does so tie that we must do nothing on the contrary, nor is the question whether the nearest, actually obliging rule, be conscience; the Arminians tell us [that] though the Word of God, of itself, and by itself, have power to oblige, yet it actually obliges no man except it be understood, and so is believed to be understood, after we use all possible diligence and prudence, for no man is obliged to follow the true sense of the Word against his conscience, though it be erroneous;

But we think the Word of God is both the farest and nearest, and the only obliging rule, and that the ditement [judgment] of the conscience does neither bind potentially nor actually, but is a mere [in Greek], a messenger and an official relater of the will and mind to God to us, and all the obliging power is from the Word;

[???] the messenger of a king and judge is not the obliging [???] that ties the subject, or the herald’s promulgation of the Law, is no obliging rule; for [the] promulgation of heralds is common both to just and to unjust laws, and certainly unjust laws from a just prince lay no band on the conscience or on the man, far less can the promulgation, as the promulgation, lay any bands on the conscience; the word of a messenger and herald is at the best but a condition, or the approximation of the obliging power to us, but all the obliging power is from the king and the judge.

It is most false then, that these Libertines say that the Word does not actually oblige except it be understood, for the understanding, information and indictment of conscience does not add any actual obligation to the Word that it had not before, it only is a reporter, to carry both the Word and the actual obligation to the man; the herald promulgating the law adds no obligation, actual or potential, to the law that it had not before, only it makes an union in distance, and near application and conjunction between the actually obliging law and the understanding knowledge of the person or subject, who is obliged to keep the law; though it be true the fire cannot actually burn but as timber is cast to it, yet the fire has from its own nature both potential and actual burning, not from the act of casting the timber in the fire;

Nor is this a concludent reason, ‘no man is obliged [to] follow how the true sense of the Word against his conscience, though erroneous, ergo [therefore] the erroneous conscience does oblige, or ergo, actual obligation to obedience is not from the Word, but from the conscience;’ no more than this is a good consequence: no man is obliged to obey the Law in itself, just contrary to the promulgation of an erring and mistaking herald, ergo, the mistaking herald’s promulgation gives to the Law actual obligation over the subject; for it only follows [that] we are not to do contrary to the actual indictment of an erroneous conscience, but not obliged to follow the erroneous conscience;

Nor are we obliged to follow what our conscience says is true and good, because, or upon this formal reason and ground, that the conscience says so, more than we are to believe and practice what the Church or the conscience of others, [who are] the Church, the learned and godly, say; for we make not the word of the Church the formal object of our faith, but ‘thus saith the Lord’ only, because the Church is but a company of men and so our faith should depend upon men, even though holy and speaking ingenuously what their conscience dictates as true, which is absurd, ergo, by the same reason, what one man’s conscience, our own or others’ say, is not the formal object of our faith and practices, for so also our faith should depend on man, not on God.

And we say the conscience, at its best, is but regula regulata [a rule being regulated] not, regula regulans [a regulating rule], nor ought it to have the throne of God, for God is only Regula Regulans.  If it were a rule, it is to be ruled by God and his Word, yea, as we are to try all things and not believe with a blind faith what others say, or their conscience proposes to themselves and us, as truth, for then we make a Pope of the consciences of men under the notion of teachers and Church; so we are not to be ruled without trying, and absolutely [ruled] by our own conscience, but to try its dictates by the Word of God, otherwise we make a Pope and a God of our own conscience.

…an erroneous conscience must be a transgressing conscience, and it is a contradiction that a faculty sinning should oblige to obedience to the Law of God, in the same consideration, because it sins.”

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That Good Intentions do Not Make an Evil Work Good

Quotes

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government...  (1646), p. 215

“We all know the intention of the end goes in the intention before the action, but not as an essential cause to make an evil action good, or [to] make an indifferent action necessary and honest: A good intention does make a good action good and better, but that a good intention (as idolators are full of good intentions) can never so season the means, as…  that it can make evil to be good.

Vasquez condemns the Fathers of ignorance, because they said, Propositum bonum excusat malum opus [A proposed good excuses a bad work]: so Cassianus said [that] it was lawful to lie for a good end, and Chrysostom and Ambrose said the same, as Vasquez says: see Aquinas for this.”

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Robert Sanderson

pp. 76-77  of Case 4, ‘of Scandal’  in Nine Cases of Conscience Occasionally Determined  (London, 1678)

“2. The first [way in which a man may be guilty of scandal] is, when a man does something before another man, which is in itself evil, unlawful and sinful, in which case, neither the intention of him that does it, nor the event, as to him that sees it done, is of any consideration;

For it matters not whether the doer had an intention to draw the other into sin thereby, or not: neither does it matter whether the other were thereby induced to commit sin or not: the matter or substance of the action being evil, and done before others, is sufficient to render the doer guilty of having given scandal, though he had neither any intention himself so to do, nor were any person actually scandalized thereby; because whatsoever is in itself, and in its own nature evil, is also of itself and in its own nature scandalous and of evil example.

Thus did Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli, give scandal by their wretched profaneness and greediness about the sacrifices of the Lord, and their vile and shameless abusing the women, 1 Sam. 2:17,22.  And so did David also give great scandal in the matter of Uriah, 2 Sam. 12:14.  Here the rule is, Do nothing that is evil, for fear of giving scandal.”

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The Definition of Binding the Conscience

Gillespie, George – Sections 1-2, pp. 7-8  of pt. 1, ch. 4  of A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies…  (1637)

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On Attaining & Maintaining a Good Conscience

Articles

1500’s

Perkins, William – A Discourse of Conscience, Wherein is set Down the Nature, Properties & Differences Thereof: as also the Way to get and Keep Good Conscience  GB  (Cambridge: 1596)

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1600’s

Worship, William – The Christian’s Jewel, or the Treasure of a Good Conscience  (London, 1617)

Worship (fl.1603-1625) was a reformed, English chaplain.

Ward, Samuel – Balm from Gilead to Recover Conscience, in a Sermon  (1616; London, 1618)

Ward (1577-1640) was an English puritan minister.  Ward’s four heads are:

1. What Conscience is.
2. What a good one is; how it may be discerned from bad ones and known to be good.
3. How good a thing it is.
4. What is the use, office and effect of a good one.

Dyke, Jeremiah – Good Conscience: or a Treatise Showing the Nature, Means, Marks, Benefit & Necessity Thereof  (London, 1626)  ToC

Sibbes, Richard – ‘The Demand of a Good Conscience’  a sermon on 1 Pet. 3:21  in Evangelical Sacrifices, in 19 Sermons...  (London, 1640)

Amyraut, Paul – The Triumph of a Good Conscience.  Or a Sermon Preached upon the 2nd of the Revelation, the latter part of the 10th verse.  Wherein the nature of faithfulness is in part opened, and the doctrine of perseverance confirmed, and some cases of conscience cleared  (London, 1648)  This work has an imprimatur by Edmund Calamy.

We do not have any bio info on this Amyraut (b. 1600 or 1601).

Stubbes, Henry – Conscience, the Best Friend upon Earth: or, The Happy Effects of Keeping a Good Conscience…  (London, 1677)  being 3 sermons

Stubbes (c.1605-1678) was an English presbyterian puritan that was ejected from the Church of England in 1662.

Durham, James – Heaven Upon Earth in the Serene Tranquility & Calm Composure, in the Sweet Peace & Solid Joy of a Good Conscience Sprinkled with the Blood of Jesus & Exercised Always to be Void of Offence Toward God & Toward Men: brought down and holden forth in 22 very Searching Sermons on Several Texts of Scripture…  (Edinburgh, 1685)

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Quote

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 2, ch. 1, p. 12

“Our gracious prince, who now by the blessing of God happily reigns over us, will not (we assure ourselves) be offended at us for having regard to our consciences [though it goes against his command], God’s own deputies placed in our souls, so far, that for all the world we dare not hazard their peace and quiet by doing anything with their repugnance and aversation;”

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That One Cannot Repent of Something that One Cannot See the Blame in

Quote

On David Calderwood in 1617, p. xv  in ‘Life of David Calderwood’, appended to The History of the Kirk of Scotland  (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1842-49), vol. 8

“He could not perceive, and therefore would not acknowledge, that he had committed anything worthy of blame.”

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On Wounded, Afflicted, Troubled & Burdened Consciences

On a Wounded Conscience

Bernard, Richard – ch. 45, ‘Of the Wounded Conscience, the Causes, the Continuance Longer or Shorter Time; the Effects & Preparatives to Cure it, of the Sovereign Salve, and Cordials After; how to keep from a Wounded Conscience, of the Difference Between it & the Desperate, & between it & Melancholic Passion’  in Christian See to thy Conscience: or a Treatise of the Nature, Kinds & Manifold Differences of Conscience…  (London, 1631), pp. 304-344

Bernard (bap.1568-1642) was an English conforming puritan.

Fuller, Thomas – The Cause & Cure of a Wounded Conscience…  (d. 1661; London, 1867)  123 pp.  ToC  The additional work appended to the volume is unrelated to this topic.

Fuller (c.1607-1661) was a reformed Anglican.

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On an Afflicted or Troubled Conscience

1500’s

Greenham, Richard

Propositions Containing Answers to Certain Demands in Diverse Spiritual Matters Specially Concerning the Conscience Oppressed with the Grief of Sin.  With an Epistle Against Hardness of Heart…  (Edinburgh, 1597)  ToC

Paramuthion, Two Treatises of the Comforting of an Afflicted Conscience…  with Certain Epistles of the same argument. Hereunto are added Two Sermons, with certain grave and wise counsels and answers…  (London, 1598)

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1600’s

Burton, Henry

Conflicts & Comforts of Conscience, a Treatise, Showing how the Conscience, in Cases of Deepest Distress & Distraction, may Recollect Itself, & Recover Solid & Sound Comfort  (London, 1628)

Burton (bap.1578-1648) was an English, Independent (though he switched his views numerous times), puritan.  Burton’s ears were cut off in 1637 for writing pamphlets attacking the views of Archbishop Laud.  He appears to write in this book from personal experience.

Conformity’s Deformity.  In a Dialogue Between Conformity & Conscience.  Wherein the Main Head of all the Controversies in these times concerning Church-Government is Asserted & Maintained…  (London, 1646)  27 pp.  ToC

Bolton, Robert – Instructions for a Right Comforting [of] Afflicted Consciences: with Special Antidotes against some grievous Temptations: delivered for the most part in the lecture…  EEBO  (London, 1631)  445 pp.  ToC

Downame, John – The Christian Warfare: Written Especially for their Sakes who are Exercised in the Spiritual Conflict of Tentations [Trials or Temptations], and are Afflicted in Conscience in the Sight & Sense of their Sins  4th ed.  (London, 1634)  ToC of pt. 1

Sedgwick, John – The Bearing & Burden of the Spirit, wherein the Sickness & Soundness of the Soul is Opened, and Eight Cases of Conscience Cleared & Resolved for the settling & comforting of perplexed Consciences  (London, 1639)

We do not have any bio info on Sedgwick (c.1600-1643).

Sibbes, Richard – A Consolatory Letter to an Afflicted Conscience Full of Pious Admonitions & Divine Instructions  (London, 1641)  6 pp.  The first half deals with an afflicted conscience; the second half argues against separatism.

Sibbes (c.1577-1635) was a conforming puritan.

Baxter, Richard – The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort, in 32 Directions; Written for the Use of a Troubled Friend, etc.  (1653)  540 pp.  ToC

Dickson, David – Book 3  of Therapeutica Sacra [Sacred Therapeutics], Showing Briefly the Method of Healing the Diseases of the Conscience, Concerning Regeneration  (Edinburgh, 1664)  Use the links in the tables of contents to go the relevant chapter.

Dickson (1583-1662) was a Scottish covenanter.

Goodwin, Thomas – Certain Select Cases Resolved: I. A Child of Light Walking in Darkness, or a Treatise Showing the Causes by which, the Cases Wherein, and the Ends for Which, God Leaves his Children to Distress of Conscience, Together with Directions how to Walk so as to Come forth of such a Condition…  on Isa. 50:10-11  in Works, vol. 3, pp. 231-344

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On a Burdened Conscience

Collinges, John – A Cordial for a Fainting Soul, or, Some essays for the satisfaction of wounded spirits laboring under several burdens, in which several cases of conscience most ordinary to Christians, especially in the beginning of their conversion, are resolved: being the sum of fourteen sermons, delivered in so many lectures…  with a table annexed, containing the several cases of conscience which…  are spoken to directly or collaterally  (London, 1649)

Collinges (1623-1690) was a puritan who continued Matthew Poole’s commentary on the whole Bible after he died.  He is also represented in the six volumes of Puritan Sermons.

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On a Scrupulous Conscience

Article

Calamy, Benjamin – ‘A Discourse about a Scrupulous Conscience, Preached…’  (London, 1683)  41 pp.

Calamy (bap.1646-c.1685) was reformed.

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On a Doubting Conscience

Sharp, John – ‘The Case of a Doubting Conscience’  in Sermons Preached on Several Occasions: with Two Discourses of Conscience, vol. 2  2nd ed.  (London, 1729), p. 305 ff

Sharp (1645–1714) was a latitudinarian, Anglican archbishop and divine.

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That the Magistrate Does not Bind the Conscience & the Church Craves the Conscience to be Subject to the Word

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646)

pp. 550-551

“3.  Magistrates as magistrates hold forth in their Law abstinence from these sins [of adultery, incest, murder, etc.], not as the ambassadors of Christ, craving subjection of conscience and divine faith to those charges, but only external obedience:

For though ministers as ministers crave faith and subjection of conscience to all commandments and inhibitions, as in Christ’s stead, 2 Cor. 5:19-20, yet the magistrate as the magistrate does not crave either faith or subjection of conscience, nor is he in Christ’s stead to lay divine bands on the conscience to submit the soul and conscience to believe and abstain; he is the deputy of God as the God of Order and as the Creator, and Founder, and another of human societies and of peace, to exact external obedience and to lay bands on your hands, not to shed innocent blood, and on your body not to defile it with adultery or incest, nor to violate the chastity of your brother;

Hence it is evident that the adversaries are far out who would have ministers who do hold forth commands that lay hold on the conscience and crave faith and soul-submission under the pain of eternal wrath, to do and act as the deputies and vicars of those who have nothing to do with the conscience [such as prelates who simultaneously held civil offices], and have neither office nor authority to crave soul submission or to threaten or inflict any punishment but such as is circumscribed within the limits of time and which the body of clay is capable of; yea, when the magistrate punishes spiritual sins, heresy, idolatry, he punishes them only with temporary punishment.”

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On Non-Moral Actions, Ignorance, Fear & Guilt

William Ames

Conscience with the Power & Cases Thereof  (1639), bk. 3, ch. 19, ‘Of a Voluntary Act’, p. 92-4

Question 2.  What are those things which make an action to become not voluntary.

4th Answer.  Nothing at all but either absolute violence of constraint, or chance which could not be foreseen or prevented.  And for such things as are done through absolute violence or mere chance, they have neither the nature of obedience or sin.  As if one should be forced to offer incense or bow the knee before an idol, or should merely by chance kill another, Deut. 19:5-10.

Question 3.  What are we to think of those actions which are done through ignorance?

5th Answer.  First, that ignorance which is in some sort a cause of the action (so that if a man knew what he did, he would not do it), if it be involuntary, both in itself and in its cause, that is, not affected nor procured, nor tolerated, does make the action merely casual and involuntary, and so excuses from sin.

6.  Secondly, ignorance of the Law does never wholly excuse, because all men are bound to know the Will of God: but yet it does somewhat lessen the fault if it be not affected, 1 Tim. 1:13; John 4:41; Acts 3:17.  But if it be affected, it is of itself a sin and so does not diminish, but rather increase the guilt of other sins, 2 Pet. 3:5.

7.  Thirdly, an ignorance of the fact, if a man has used such diligence as he ought, does excuse him, because by such an ignorance the fact is made casual.  So Jacob being deceived lay with Leah, whom he took to be Rachel, Gen. 29.  But if due diligence have not been used, ignorance of the fact does not altogether excuse, although it do somewhat lessen the fault.  And this seems to have been the case of Abimelech, Gen. 20:5.

Question 4.  What are we to judge of those actions which are done through fear?

8th Answer.  First, fear does not simply make an action involuntary: but does, considering the circumstances of time and place, etc., impel a man to will this or that.  As appears in that known instance of the merchant, who is induced through fear of death to throw away his merchandise into the sea.  Fear therefore does never wholly excuse from sin: yea more, fear itself is oft a sin forbidden, and a cause too of most grievous sins, Mt. 10:26; Phil. 1:28; 1 Pet. 3:14; Apoc. 21:8.  Although therefore, a great fear or terror, such as is wont sometimes to trouble even a man of good courage before men, be accounted for a good excuse, and is of force to make contracts done through fear void, yet before God such an excuse will not be taken.

9.  Secondly, yet that sin which is committed through some strong terror, is not so grievous (if other things be alike) as that which is committed of the voluntary inclination of the will without any such fear of danger, because in fear the temptation is stronger: and such a fall, if repentance follow, does proceed not so much from malice, as from infirmity and perturbation.  And this was Peter’s case when he denied Christ.”

Question 6.  What are we to judge of those actions which are done through inadvertency or through not minding of what we do?

11 Answer.  Inadvertency or mindlesness is of the same nature with ignorance: because it differs not from it, but only as the privation of an act does differ from the privation of a disposition.  Inadvertency therefore is itself often a sin and is opposed to watchfulness.  At such a time therefore as we are bound to watch and attend, if we watch not and attend, not we may be rightly said to will this watchfulness, not to will it, yea to will our inadvertency, Isa. 1:3.

12.  Again this inadvertency is sometimes voluntarily chosen in itself, Amos 6:10.  Sometimes it is voluntarily chosen in its cause, Mt. 13.

Question 7.  How are we said to will a thing in its cause?

13th Answer.  When we do will something upon which another thing follows.  He which will be present at immoderate drinkings may be said to will drunkenness.  He which willingly gives himself to sleep and idleness, may be accounted guilty of a willing neglect of the duties of his calling.  He which will please men may be said with his will to displease God, Gal. 1:10.”

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