Majoring in minors; the 4th and 5th marks of a deluded conscience --James Durham

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NaphtaliPress

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Therefore, as soon as they are deluded and go wrong, they must have a church by themselves, and will join with no other persons in Christian communion, but such as are of their mistaken opinion.
(see fourth and fifth marks below; I've given more context leading into it though see the whole sermon as noted in the close)
Question Two. There is yet a second question on this side; viz., “If conscience may not only think itself to be right, but think so in a high degree, so as even to be persuaded of it, when yet it is wrong?” Answer. Without all question it may. And here we may speak somewhat of a deluded conscience, which is a conscience that not only is wrong and errs, and speaks good when there is no ground for it; but a conscience that has these two things beside in it: 1. It has a persuasion that it is right. 2. It has the affections somewhat stirred by it, and a sort of joy in the thing whereof it is persuaded. It is (I say) a conscience that not only speaks good without ground, but has a persuasion that it is right, and a kind of joy in its way. That there may be and is such a conscience among the generality of professors, cannot be denied, and is clear from what the apostle says in Galatians 5:8. “This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you.” There is a persuasion and yet not of God. And for the other, to wit, that there may be a joy in the thing, see Galatians 3:1. “O foolish Galatians! Who hath bewitched you?” They had a sort of conceit and fainness [eagerness], even to a kind of fascination and bewitching conceit of their being right; neither was there any dealing with them to draw them off [from] that way. There are four sorts of these consciences among professors, according to four several rises that they have, none of which will warrant them to think themselves to be right.....

Now all these delusions may be in these three respects: 1. In respect of things doctrinal—A man may be persuaded that truth is an error and an error is a truth. 2. In respect of matters of practice—A man may take an evil turn or action for a good one, and have a sort of persuasion that it is so; as the Jews had in killing the apostles, who “thought they did God good service,” as the Lord foretold in John 16:2. And 3. In respect of a man’s estate, who thinks he is in friendship with God, when indeed he is not, because he draws his conclusion from wrong premises; either failing in the major proposition, laying down a wrong rule, or in the minor proposition, applying the rule to himself partially. These things you should take along with you in what we are to say further on this point.​

Now for the marks and evidences of a deluded conscience, besides these aforementioned of a legal and of a presumptuous conscience, which may be also marks of this, it has these four or five especially accompanying it. 1. First, a certain frothiness of spirit, or a light unsettled frame. The light that a deluded man has in his state or way, is but like a dream that has no reality in it. “He feedeth on ashes.” And such a one will some way make more conscience of and take more pleasure in that wherein he is deluded, than in any other piece or practice of religion; as it was with the Jews in persecuting the apostles and with the Scribes and Pharisees in seeking to gain a proselyte [Matt. 23:15]. And yet in all that they do, they are but licking froth or scum. “Ephraim feedeth on wind” (Hos. 12:1). What exercise of conscience they have about religion is without any sanctifying effect. It strikes not at the body of death, nor does it promove [advance] godliness. It is readily some frivolous thing that they are so much taken up with and are so eager in the pursuit of, which proves but wind and ashes; to whom it may be in some respect said, as the apostle does to the Galatians, Ye began in the Spirit and seek to be made perfect in the flesh (Gal. 3:3).

2. A second mark of this is, there is always in such a conscience an undistinctness as to the ground whence the man’s consolation flows; or there is much more supposed peace, comfort, joy and satisfaction, than he can give any solid reason for; and they are hugely disproportioned to the foundation they are built upon. Ask a hypocrite, what is the ground of his so firm persuasion and of the comfort and joy resulting therefrom? He will readily answer, “I think it is so,” or “I hope it is so.” Or, if he comes to be somewhat more particular in the account he gives, it will very readily be to this or some such purpose:—“God hath been very good and kind to me” in such and such providences; “He has bestowed on me such and such gifts and benefits”—which yet are but things external and common. Or he will it may be, say, “I prayed to God” in such and such strait, “and He heard and delivered me, and I take that for an earnest that He will hear me also for heaven and eternal life”—as if {on his humiliation} Ahab’s deliverance from a temporary judgment had been to him indeed the earnest of heaven. Or it may be he will further say, “God has kept me from many sins and bestowed many blessings on me” (which He may do unto, and often does to mere natural men), “and therefore He will be merciful to me.” Such conclusions are broader than the premises, and the superstructures than the foundations; and yet, alas! the persuasion of many is built upon such sandy foundations, and is therefore but a delusion, since it has no solid bottom. Thus some who are carried away with an error, will say they cannot defend nor debate for such a thing, but they are persuaded of it, as if a well-grounded persuasion could be without reason.

3. A third character is that a deluded conscience can never abide or endure to be contradicted or put to a trial. If any man shall say to such a person that he or she is deluded, they will be ready to hate him. Thus it was with the deluded Galatians to whom the apostle is constrained to say (Galatians 4:16), “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” They will readily cast [fall] out with the greatest and best friends, and with the men they were wont to love most, when they gainsay them in their delusions; as Paul says in the forecited place, “I bear you record, that if it had been possible, you would once have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. And am I now become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” It is an evil token when a man now hates another whom he loved before, and on no other ground and for no other reason, but because he contradicts him in that particular wherein he is mistaken.



4. A fourth character is (which is of some affinity to the second) that, as a deluded conscience is frothy in its comfort, so it turns a man frothy in his practice. He is much more concerned and zealous to small and minute things than in those of far greater moment; as the apostle insinuates the Galatians were, where he says to them (Gal. 3:3), Are ye so foolish, that having begun in the Spirit, ye are now made perfect by the flesh? He strains at a gnat and swallows a camel, and is not so much taken up with the whole of religion, as he is with that particular thing wherein he is deluded. He has more love unto and sympathy with these that are of his judgment and opinion in that particular, than with all the rest of the Lord’s people that are sound and right. The Galatians could not deny but that Paul had more grace than many or all of these teachers that courted and wooed them so much into that error, and yet they cooled in their affection to him and were fond on them.

5. A fifth character is that a deluded conscience is ordinarily bitter and cruel in the effects of it. As it is proud and vain, so it will persecute to the death them it differs from; hence were the persecutions of the apostles and of Paul especially. And we have seen it in poor deluded souls, who have thought themselves obliged to slay all that were against them or differed from them in these their delusions. Somewhat of this bitter spirit accompanied the delusion of the Galatians. Therefore the apostle says to them (Gal. 5:15), If ye bite and devour one another, etc. And James speaks to the same purpose of such persons (James 3:14). If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth; this wisdom descendeth not from above. Bitter zeal and strife is an evil token and a bitter conscience is readily no good conscience. When a man supposing himself to be in the right, is carried on with a spirit of bitterness (though, in other cases, bitterness through the power of corruption may kyth [appear], yet it is native to delusion) it flows from pride in such persons, exalting themselves above all others. Therefore, as soon as they are deluded and go wrong, they must have a church by themselves, and will join with no other persons in Christian communion, but such as are of their mistaken opinion.
Sermon Four of Six on Acts 24:16, Heaven Upon Earth (1685), in Collected Sermons of James Durham: 61 Sermons, (2017), 213, 214-217.

 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Thomas Brooks argues in Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices that majoring on the minors is one of the marks of a false teacher. To prove his point, Brooks appealed to Christ's condemnation of the Pharisees for their emphasis on tithing mint and dill while neglecting the weightier matters of the law.
 

NaphtaliPress

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Thomas Brooks argues in Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices that majoring on the minors is one of the marks of a false teacher. To prove his point, Brooks appealed to Christ's condemnation of the Pharisees for their emphasis on tithing mint and dill while neglecting the weightier matters of the law.
Can you post a link if you can find that in an online version; thanks!
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I have not added extracts from Thomas Brooks' book to my blog yet; indeed, I have to go through most of volume 1, and volumes 2-3 and 5-6. Not to mention multiple volumes from George Swinnock, John Flavel, John Calvin, and others. Such is the extent of the backlog.
 
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