In July I saw a book advertised in an email entitled The Duty and Blessing of a Tender Conscience that got my attention. As I read about it my interest increased when I saw that it was originally published in London in 1691. That’s an old book! Intrigued, I ordered the 2019 reprint in which spelling, formatting, and grammar changes have been made. It has been a relatively easy read with a lot of challenge and conviction.
Author Timothy Cruso (1656-1697) begins his discussion about the subject with a partial verse in II Kings 22. The account is about good King Josiah and his response to God’s message to him through the prophet Huldah. Cruso cites part of her message from God to the king “Because thine heart was tender . . .” (II Kings 22:19).
Those five words from the King James Version provide the starting point for The Duty and Blessing of a Tender Conscience. A broader statement about Josiah’s tender conscience is given in the full verse from the New International Version: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord” (II Kings 22:19, NIV).
Chapter four in the book has the title “The Proper Ingredients of This Tenderness of Heart.” First is the hatred of sin. That certainly makes sense as long as we keep the oft quoted saying in mind: “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Second is love of holiness. Without this ingredient no one will be truly tender in conscience. Third is a fear of God. My sense is that our love of holiness and hatred of sin are the automatic outcomes of what is the real meaning of a fear of God (which is often misunderstood).
I can’t repeat everything in the book in this post, but I do want to relay Cruso’s “The Evidences and Tokens of a Tender Conscience” (chapter six):
1. The first evidence is a zealous concern for the honor of God, when it interferes and stands in competition with our own, both in matters of faith and practice.
2. A second evidence is a strict endeavor that both the ends that we propose, and the means which we employ upon all occasions, may be equally good.”
3. A third evidence is a vigorous resistance of the most plausible and powerful temptations.
4. A fourth evidence is an impartial shunning of the smallest sins.
5. A fifth evidence is a particular care in bridling the tongue, and setting a watch against those common unobserved evils that are especially incident thereunto.
At the risk of including too much, I want to also share six things Caruso suggests we need to monitor to have a tender conscience: much speaking, passionate raging, foolish jesting, rash vowing, unregarded promises, and needles protestations.
With these selections I’m confident you see why I said the book is challenging and convicting. I won’t bore you or set myself up by telling you on which of these I most need to work. But I do encourage you to review what I have borrowed from the book and do some self-examination. Do you have a tender conscience?
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