A growing consciousness of sin is no certain sign of growing sinfulness; but, on the contrary, a probable sign of growing sanctification.
As sinfulness grows, insensibility increases; as the soul is sanctified, its keen discernment of sin is strengthened and enlarged.
[...] What reveals our pride, and makes us hate it, but the beginnings of humility? What makes anger a torment, but the love of meekness?
[...] What makes want of love, or coldness in prayer, an affliction, but a sense of the blessedness of God’s presence?
What makes the thought of declension, or standing still, or cleaving to the dust, to be a misery and a sorrow, but the aspiration of a heart quickened with the spirit of perseverance, and panting to press onward to the face of God?
This is the secret way in which the presence of God, sanctifying the soul in man, reveals Itself; not by direct self-manifestation, but by its effects.
As in sight and hearing: we perceive external objects, and not our own faculties: the eye does not see itself, but lights and shades; the ear does not hear itself, but harmonies and discords; still less can the eye or ear perceive the true percipient within, which is ourselves.
So is it with the Holy Spirit of God. He reveals all things besides, while He conceals Himself.
He reveals past sins of thought, word, and deed: the unholiness of childhood, youth, and after years;
present sinfulness of imagination, heart, and will; pride, hardness, impurity, impatience, sloth, softness, anger; want of zeal, thankfulness, love, and devotion: all these He sets before the soul in clear array.
But He hides meekness, gentleness, self-mistrust, self-contempt, charity, sorrow for sin, self-accusation, and the like: these things are most hidden from those who have them in the largest measures.
They are seen of angels, confessed by men; but unknown, disbelieved by those in whom they dwell; the gift of humility by itself alone conceals them all:
so that such persons are sure to think themselves to be the least advanced, who, in truth, are most advanced; as they are ever the first who believe themselves to be the last.
Speaking, then, still of sincere Christians, it may be said that…this increased sense of inward sinfulness, is no sign of cleaving to the dust; but rather that God in love is drawing them on.
He is making known to them the fall as it exists in their inmost life, in prelude to making them conscious partakers of the bliss for which they are already unconsciously being prepared.
H.E. Cardinal Manning (1808-1892): Sermons, vol. 3, serm. 8 (“Slowness in the Spiritual Life”)