It pleased God to cite me inwardly, judicially, in my conscience, and to present all my sins before me in such a sort, that He omitted not a circumstance, but made my conscience to see time, place, persons, as [distinctly] as in the hour I did them. He made the devil accuse me so audibly, that I heard his voice as [vividly] as ever I heard anything, not being sleeping but awaking. And so far as he spoke true, my conscience bare him record, and testified against me very clearly…my conscience condemned me and the condemnator tormented me, and made me feel the wrath of God pressing me down, as it were, to the lower hell; yea, I was so fearfully and extremely tormented, that I would have been content to have been cast into a cauldron of hot melted led, to have had my soul relieved of that insupportable weight.
How do you expect this story to conclude? Do you expect this to end in this man’s conversion?
It doesn’t. He was more than likely already a follower of Jesus at this point.
Perhaps at this point you are assuming that he is a depressed Christian that is lacking assurance. You might assume that what is about to happen in his life is what Jared Wilson has termed Gospel Wakefulness. Maybe this troubled soul will experience and apply the gospel in a way that he never has before.
You would be partially correct. Yet, what is really going on in this moment is that Robert Bruce has been running from gospel ministry. He later said, “I [murmured] long to my calling to the ministry. Ten years, at the least, I never leaped on horseback, nor lighted, but with a repyning and just accusing conscience”.
Here in a loft chamber of Airth Castle in 1581, Bruce could no longer run. Bruce bowed a knee and surrendered to God’s call upon his life. “That same night ere the day dew, or ere the sun rose, he restrained these furies and these outcries of my just accusing conscience, and enabled me to rise in the morning”.
Is it possible that some of the torments of conscience that we experience are a result of our running from the Lord’s calling upon our life? Ministry is scary. Following Christ in the hard stuff is difficult. But there is nothing more unsettling than disobedience to Christ.
This biographical information on Robert Bruce is from Iain Murray’s A Scottish Christian Heritage.