Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Sibbes on Conscience
We should not sin in hope of concealment. What if thou conceal it from others, canst thou conceal your own conscience? As one said well, what good is it for thou that none knows what is done, when thou knowest it thyself? What profit is it for him that hath a conscience that will accuse him, that he hath no man to accuse him but himself? He is a thousand witnesses to himself. Conscience is not a private witness*. It is a thousand witnesses. Therefore, never sin in hope to have it concealed. It were better that all men whould know it than that thyself should know it. All will one day be written in Thy forehead. Conscience will be a blab. If it cannot speak the truth now, though it be bribed in this life, it will have power and efficacy in the life to come...
* Sibbes seems to use "private" here in the sense of singular or solitary.
From the Anglican Puritan divine, Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), Commentary on II Corinthians, chapter I, found in Works of Richard Sibbes, Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1981 3:208.
a) The Puritans are particularly rich in practical wisdom, indeed they placed a premium on the practical application of God's Word to life. However, one needs to beware of their doctrinal shortcomings, such as a tendency to separate Word and Spirit, Grace and Sacrament, Sign and Thing Signified.
b) The Puritans influenced German Pietism, no doubt because their warm practical orientation was seen to be an antidote to the perceived dryness of the high theology of later Lutheran orthodoxy. It would be interesting to track down and make a list of all the English Puritan works translated into German.