The Grand Inquest of Conscience


“The grand inquest of conscience is, is God satisfied?? If he be satisfied, I am satisfied.” – John Flavel, The Fountain of Life, Sermon XI, 149

Confessions of a former Catholic:

My conscience stalked me like a band of hyenas. I felt like I had a festering sore under my shirt.

My guilt drove me to weekly confession.? I’d bare my soul in the shadows to Monsignor O’Leary (fake name) who was 800 years old and half deaf.? He’d blare: “You did what?? How old are you?”? I’d exit the confessional, avoiding eye contact with the other embarrassed penitents, who awaited their own public humiliation.

I confessed the same shameful sins every week.? Sometimes I padded the list with other sins for variety, but figured that soon Monsignor would start recognizing me. So I started rotating with young Father Earnest (also fake name), who at least didn’t broadcast my iniquities to the nations.

Soon thereafter, every 3rd Saturday I’d drive to a nearby town, and reveal my deeds to an ancient priest even more deaf than Monsignor O.? No rest for the wicked.

“Woeful is the state of that man, that feels the worm of conscience nibbling on the most tender part of the soul, and hath no relief against it; that feels the intolerable scalding wrath of God burning within, and hath nothing to cool it.” – ibid, 149-150

Woeful was my state.? Until my burden drove me to Jesus, who saved me and helped me grasp that God no longer held a sword over my head, but was at peace with me, for his justice had been satisfied by Christ’s atoning blood.? “If he be satisfied, I am satisfied.”? The Grand Inquest was over.

“If you ever had ever felt that shame, fear, horror, and despair, which are the dismal effects of an accusing and condemning conscience, you would account it an unspeakable mercy to hear of a way for the discharge of a poor sinner from that guilt: you would kiss the feet of that messenger that could bring you tidings of peace…” – ibid, 150

How about you?? Have you discovered the unspeakable mercy of a conscience cleansed by Jesus’ blood?

photo by kromatic


  • Wendy says:

    There is no freedom like that of full forgiveness in Christ Jesus. He has not only forgiven our sins, but covered them with His blood so that we are welcomed into the family of God. I spent much of my childhood in legalism and guilt- but a true understanding of the forgiveness of our God lifts the burden of guilt and gives freedom. It is a beautiful feeling. I still struggle with guilt sometimes, but I think of the line in “Before the Throne” – “When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there, who made an END of all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free.” This line has been so helpful to me in the times tha I have been tempted to despair under the weight of guilt.

  • Ron Reffett says:

    Hey Mark,
    I am so very thankful that we don’t have to adhere to a strict list of do’s and dont’s. We have a great and perfect high priest who is constantly interceding for us!
    We are no longer under condemnation as Romans 8:1 puts it so beautifully! if we are in Christ there is no longer any reason to be burdened down by a load of guilt and shame. Sin will haunt us until we the day we pass from here to eternity but the good news is though we are worse off than we truly realize, we are more loved than we will ever know.
    Our God is so good, thank you for yet another great reminder of God’s amazing grace for great sinners like myself.
    Ron Reffett

  • Chris says:

    As another former Catholic with an extremely prohibitive conscience, I feel your pain. When I came to know the Lord and understand the gospel, I felt like I imagine Luther felt: freed from bondage and delivered!
    Thanks for this vital reminder.

  • Amen, Wendy!

    I too love “Before the Throne” – Steve and Vikki Cook did us all a huge service in writing their melody and music to it, making it so accessible to so many. I wonder how many thousands of times people have been helped by singing it, and those lines you mentioned always make my heart soar. Thanks for your comments.

    Thanks Ron,

    I really like the phrase you used, “we are more loved than we will ever know.” I am the worst of sinners, far more guilty than my conscience even could make me feel, yet the blood of Jesus has truly lifted all condemnation! Thanks for commenting!


    Isn’t it great to be liberated and delivered like Luther! Amen! Thanks for your comments.

  • Ian Hall says:

    “How about you? Have you discovered the unspeakable mercy of a conscience cleansed by Jesus? blood?”

    I have and what a joy it is.

    Thank you for the post.

  • Oh the blessings of a clean conscience. As a child I was a huge legalist. (Actually, still is something I fight against). I am so grateful for the gospel. It reminds my fearful, law-loving soul that my sins have been atoned for. My conscience has been cleaned. I am accepted into His family. I am His child. Jesus’ death has paid for and covered all my sins. I now have the joy of obedience, but not out of duty or to make God more pleased with me. I obey because He has changed my heart. I obey because He loves me so much and I want to be like Him. The gospel is the only cure for a legalistic soul!

  • Amen, Yeller!

    “The gospel is the only cure for a legalistic soul.” Yeah! I’m so grateful for the gospel!

  • Rachael says:

    I also love “Before the throne”. I hope to one day figure out the conscience issue. It’s easy for me to feel guilty about small things and not the bigger ones. Like the pharisees or whoever who cared about tithing things like spices but neglecting some core heart issues. I really don’t like the conscience, actually, and hope to grow in my faith so that I can feel the power of Christ play out regularly.

  • Hi Rachael,

    The conscience is a gift from God, but sin has thrown a monkey wrench into it, so it doesn’t function perfectly. Sometimes our consciences are overactive, sometimes weak, but we have the gospel, the Spirit, and the Word to guide us. I’m so grateful that the longer we walk with the Lord, the more we grow in joy, and freedom from condemnation, yet at the same time benefit from the Holy Spirit working through our consciences. Thanks for commenting!

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