The Difference Between An Accusing And A Condemning Conscience
“Some bind heavy burdens upon themselves of their own making and then when they can not bear them are tormented in their consciences with imaginary guilt, while others are ready to go distracted through groundless fears of having committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. In a word, do we not see hundreds, who, when they have reason to think well of their state, think there is no hope for them whatever. “‑John Fletcher.
“But sometimes this excellent quality, tenderness of conscience, is carried to an extreme. We find some who fear where no fear is, who are continually condemning themselves without cause; imagining some things to be sinful, which Scripture nowhere condemns; and supposing other things to be their duty which Scripture nowhere enjoins. This is properly termed a scrupulous conscience and is a sore evil. It is highly expedient to yield to it as little as possible. Rather, it is a matter of prayer that you may be delivered from this sore evil, and may recover a sound mind.”-Mr. Wesley.
The morbidly conscientious person is the victim of Satanic accusation and is led, it seems, to spend his time brooding over things which he has done (often trivial) which are not of momentous consequence, so that he is thereby prevented from doing important things he should do. With him, subject to Satanic wiles, it is more important to brood and mope over past things which now can not be helped than to set himself doing something useful. What folly to be brooding over the past (after it is forgiven), worrying about the present, and fearing lest we might err in the future. A young man came to us, who was evidently the victim of morbid conscientiousness. The enemy had so magnified an involuntary instinctive blunder that it seemed to him almost equal to the unpardonable sin. It was ever before him and embittered his life. We told him to resist the devil by refusing to think on the blunder and by positively thinking about something else.
Scrupulous Conscience vs. Hardened Conscience
A “Scrupulous Conscience” is between a tender conscience and a hardened conscience. As much mental anguish and suffering as the Scrupulous Conscience brings its possessor, it is far more to be desired than the other extreme‑the hardened conscience. It is far better to be too conscientious than to stifle conscience. The Scrupulous Conscience is still alive and in a measure protects its possessor from going into sin. Such is not the case with the hardened conscience. It betrays its possessor into sin and, ultimately, into hell, unless God may perchance arouse it. And let us add the hardened conscience is not the state, as is generally supposed, of the openly vile, but often of deceived professors of all degrees of grace, not only of those who profess justification but also of those who profess to be sanctified. That they are, in a measure, victims of a hardened or hardening conscience is evidenced by the fact that they are often bearers of the Word and not doers, deceiving their own selves, or that they can do what God condemns without condemnation.
How You Can Tell
But to return, the over‑ conscientious person is apt to be led to think he has committed the unpardonable sin. You can tell by the following evidences you have not:
You would have absolutely no interest in the salvation of your soul. Over‑conscientious persons generally are very anxious not to do anything wrong; they are especially concerned not to commit the unpardonable sin which the enemy tempts them they have committed; they are ever asking questions as to the nature of that sin lest they should commit it.
AGAIN, these poor souls may know they have not committed the unpardonable sin from the fact of the nature of that sin, which, simply is, in Jesus’ own words, the saying he had a devil, the claiming He cast out devils because he was the prince of devils himself; or in other words, attributing to a Satanic agency, Divine work. If you have ever called Jesus the “Prince of Devils,” you may then have fears of having committed the unpardonable. AGAIN, if you had committed the unpardonable sin, poor scrupulously conscientious one, you would not attend church, prayer meetings, or read your Bible, but would have your conscience hardened, seared and absolutely unconcerned and indifferent of all things pertaining to God and salvation. In this state, Jesus says, there is no forgiveness, either in this world or the one to come. God has given the soul up; the Spirit has ceased to strive and there is, therefore, not so much as one thought of God. Let us here remark for the benefit of those not guilty of this sin, who may thereby justify themselves in other lesser sins, that “any one form of sin persisted in is fatal to the soul” and in the long run amounts to the same as though you had committed the unpardonable sin‑the loss of the soul!
Accusing Conscience and a Condemning Conscience
There is, we think, an infallible test by which you can tell if you are the victim of a condemning conscience, or the subject of the wiles of the devil. He is the accuser of the brethren. When we are at our best for God he is on hand with His suggestions, insinuations and accusations. He teases and tantalizes and harasses and bothers the best of saints from justification to glorification. He intrudes on our most solemn, sacred devotions, and when in our holiest meditations He is on hand to accuse us of deserving deepest damnation. He does not even desert us in the last dying hour. He is very much devoted to His special work, as the Accuser. Thus He has succeeded in leading many to give up in despair and cast away all their confidence, often when they have done nothing grossly wrong. The test is this: When the victim of Satanic accusation, the soul may, notwithstanding, have answers to prayer. When under condemnation the heavens are brass and God does not answer. To illustrate: We were once conducting a camp meeting. The first five days of the meeting were inclement. The rain poured down in torrents. It seemed the verly elements were in league with the demons to prevent the success of the revival. Attendance was accordingly poor. This condition was taken advantage of by the accuser and greatly magnified. Such conflict we never had. We were accused of most everything in the catalogue, and especially, that our spirit in a recent settlement with a brother was surely wrong and God was judging us by the rain and fruitless services. It almost seemed the very devil himself stood up by our side, as we preached, and poured volleys of accusations into our ears while we labored with great agony of mind. “Perhaps the accuser was right. It surely looked so.” But amid it all, God helped us in desperation of faith to hold on in importunate, believing prayer, until we, with others, prevailed. The tide was turned, the down‑pour ceased, the people came, and God sent His power until the people fairly groaned under its oppressive weight, and nealy eighty people were converted and sanctified in the remaining five days of the camp. From this experience, we learned he never to be forgotten lesson, that the Accuser might accuse and perplex, but if our heart condemn us not ten thousand accusations could not prevent us from getting answers to prayer. Praise the Lord!
We have also found it helpful to resist melancholy depressing thoughts like we would sin. If the soul is sure 11 sin has been given up and all known wrongs adjusted, and that there is a willingness to adjust the unknown, as soon as known, and that God is being obeyed at every point, there should be no alarm. Resist the devil in these thoughts which bring on discouragement as you would fight thoughts of lust, blasphemy, or any other evil. “As a man thinks, so is he.” Think about something else!
“And God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, purifying their hear by faith.”