An erring conscience?

One of Durham’s works that has not been republished is Heaven Upon Earth (Edinburgh: Andrew Anderson, 1685).  I guess this is understandable given the greater significance of his other works, but it would be good to see this collection of his sermons back in print one day.  In this work Durham gives a couple of interesting ‘signs’ that someones conscience is erring.  They are as follows.

… 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 Galatians to whom the Apostle is constrained to say, cap. 4. v 16. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They will readily cast out their greatest and best friends, and with the they were wont to love the most, when they gainsay them in their delusions, as Paul sayeth 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, am I now become your enemy because I tell you the truth? It’s an evil token, when a man now hateth another whom he loved before, and on no other ground, and for no other reason, but because he contradicteth him, in that particular wherein he is mistaken.

How we take, or react to correction shows much about our spiritual state.  If we recognise that the wounds of a friend are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful then correction will be something we accept and value.  But if we are puffed up with pride then we will turn on those who seek to correct us to our own hurt.

… a deluded conscience … is much more concerned, and zealous in small and minute things than in those of far greater moment … [a deluded conscience] straineth at a gnat and swalloweth a camel; and is not so much taken up with the whole of Religion, as he is with that particular thing in which he is deluded. He hath more love unto, and sympathy with these that are of his judgement in that particular, that with all the rest of the Lord’s people that are sound and right…

Where our priorities lie can also show much about or spiritual state.  There is a great danger of devoting too much time to things of less importance – we all have “hobby horses” but we should not spend all day every day riding them.  It is the main thing which should hold most of our spiritual attention – justification, scripture etc.  Durham makes the same point elsewhere:

We are afraid there is a fault among Christians, that most plain and substantial truths are not so heeded, but some things that may further folk in their light, or tickle their affections, or answer a case, are almost only sought after. Which things (it is true) are good; but if the plain and substantial truths of the gospel were more studied, and made use of, they have in them that which would answer all cases. It is a sore matter when folks are more taken up with notions and speculations, than with these soul saving truths, as, that Christ was born, that he was a true man, that he was, and is King, Priest, and Prophet of his church, etc, and that other things are heard with greediness.

To be “mostly in the main things” is a noble aim.

4 Responses to “An erring conscience?”

  1. Chris Coldwell Says:

    I”m currently working on a collection of all the sermons by Durham for a volume that should match the Naphtali Press Isaiah 53 volume in size ( That should in effect make all of Durham’s works available, including the rarest sermons; and “all” of the Carstares introductory matter. There are hurdles to get across but the largest has been taken out of the way. If the Lord spares, maybe 2010?

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    That is good news indeed! If you dont have access to EEBO and need to check any textual points just let me know.

    On a related point I’ve been meaning to get in touch to ask if you would be open to a submission for the 2009 CPJ (I’m assuming there will be one D.V.) on Durham – depending on the quality of course! I’m thinking particularly of his understanding of the Song of Solomon, although I’d be open to doing something else e.g. the Sabbath.

  3. Chris Coldwell Says:

    Yes; I have access but also have text sources including a copy of the Great Gain and Subtle Self sermons. The EEBO copies are well into the gutter throughout and almost useless. Drop me a note at the email attached to my name here and we can discuss the 2009 submission. If you can have something done in 4 weeks I might consider it for 2008 but that is very tight. Durham would be great; assuming we like Durham 😉 (that’s a volume that could stand redoing but difficult to do except as a standalone and the reprints make it an iffy venture).

  4. An Erring Conscience? -- James Durham - The PuritanBoard Says:

    […] Erring Conscience? — James Durham Extracts from Heaven Upon Earth (1685) by James Durham: An erring conscience? James Durham Thesis __________________ Andrew Myers Husband of Jessica, Father of Jackson, Katie and Samuel Member, […]

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