When upon thoughts, perplexing thoughts about sin, instead of applying himself to the destruction of it, a man searches his heart to see what evidences he can find of a good condition, notwithstanding that sin and lust, so that it may go well with him. For a man to gather up his experiences of God, to call them to mind, to collect them, consider, try, improve them, is an excellent thing—a duty practiced by all the saints, commended in the Old Testament and the New. This was David’s work when he “communed with his own heart,” and called to remembrance the former lovingkindness of the Lord [Ps. 77:6-9, 10, 11]. This is the duty that Paul sets us to practice (2 Cor. 13:5). And as it is in itself excellent, so it has beauty added to it by a proper season, a time of trial or temptation, or disquietness of the heart about sin, it is a picture of silver to set off this golden apple, as Solomon speaks [Prov. 25:11]. But now to do it for this end, to satisfy conscience, which cries and calls for another purpose, is a desperate device of a heart in love with sin. When a man’s conscience shall deal with him, when God shall rebuke him for the sinful distemper of his heart, if he, instead of applying himself to get that sin pardoned in the blood of Christ and mortified by his Spirit, shall relieve himself by any such other evidences as he has, or thinks himself to have, and so disentangle himself from under the yoke that God was putting on his neck, his condition is very dangerous, his wound hardly curable. Thus the Jews, under the gallings of their own consciences and the convincing preaching of our Savior, supported themselves with this, that they were “Abraham’s children,” and on that account accepted with God; and so countenanced themselves in all abominable wickedness, to their utter ruin.
— John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation
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