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“Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.”2 Cor. i. 12.
To have a good conscience is an unspeakable blessing: But what is it that makes the conscience good ? Saul of Tarsus thought that he had a good conscience, while he was blindly persecuting the Church of Christ. When enumerating his legal grounds for confidence, he mentions “zeal, persecuting the Church."* In his powerful appeal before Agrippa, he declared : “ I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.”f To the Galatians he writes : “ Beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it.”. In all this, Saul of Tarsus fulfilled the words of Christ: “The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”'S And whence arose this fiery zeal ? Our Lord tells us : “ And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me." || It arose from ignorance of God and of Christ. When eyes
of Saul were enlightened by the Spirit, he saw himself to be a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious ; yea, the chief of sinners. **
How different were his views and feelings when he became an Apostle of Jesus Christ. While beholding the council, before whom he stood as the prisoner of Jesus Christ, he could say : “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”It To Festus he boldly said: “This I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call * Phil. iii. 6.
+ Acts xxvi. 9. S John xvi. 2.
|| John xvi. 3. 1 Tim. i. 13, 15. ++ Acts xxiii. 1.
Gal. i. 13.
heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets; and have hope toward God,......that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; and herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men
A good conscience is the sunshine of the soul. It is the work of grace. When the sinner
When the sinner is awakened to a sense of his guilt and danger; when he is led to see the all-sufficiency of the Atonement of Christ ; when he is enabled by faith to receive the atonement; and when the precious blood of Christ is applied to his conscience by the Spirit, then the soul, bowed down under a sense of guilt, obtains rest, and the conscience, goaded by tormenting fears, enjoys peace. The conscience, thus pacified and purified, becomes, in the scriptural sense of the term, a good conscience. Almighty God is no longer dreaded as an enemy, but feared as a father, and sin is no longer cherished as a friend, but resisted as a foe.
St. Paul describes this happy state when exhorting the Hebrew Christians to steadfastness in the faith : “ Having, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised.”+.
To Timothy, the Apostle also writes : “The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned."! Happy, then, are they who hold “the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,”S a conActs xxiv. 14_16. + Heb. x. 19-23. #1 Tim. j. 5.
§ 1 Tim. iii. 9.
He can say
science purged from dead works to serve the living God.
A good conscience is tender, alive to the approach of evil, and sensible of the subtle workings of indwelling sin. It is the faithful monitor of the soul. It speaks for God, and in accordance with his word. A scrupulous conscience is always inconsistent. It strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. A seared conscience is devoutly to be dreaded; it is the presage
of eternal death. Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone !"*
The true believer in Jesus can rejoice in the testimony of his conscience, this in ward witness to the sincerity of his profession.
with Peter : “ Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." And with Paul: “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience.”+
Lord give me an enlightened conscience, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, jealous of sin, and ever awake to the motions of the enemy. Keep me watchful, and prayerful, and dependent on thy grace. Preserve me from all blindness and hardness of heart. Teach me thy way, and enable me to walk therein, even that way of holiness, in which all the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles walked ; that way in which all the redeemed are found, as they pass from the earthly to the heavenly Canaan.
Simplicity and godly sincerity are two precious ornaments which adorn the Christian character. Faith is the uniting grace; love is the active principle, which keeps the wheels in motion ; hope is the sustaining grace. How wonderful is the work of God in the soul of man.
When a divine light irradiates the understanding, directs the will, and spiritualises the affections, the sinner becomes a new creature. O! that this blessedness may be mine.
Lord! pity a poor wanderer from thy fold. Without thee I must perish. “O save me for thy mercies' sake."* "Remember me with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people : 0 visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.”+ I want, O Lord, to love thee. I want to feel my heart continually drawn to thee. I am miserable when
* Hosea iv. 17. + John xxi. 17. #2 Tim. i. 3.
heart wanders from thee, and yet, alas ! I am perpetually wandering. Restore my soul; lead me in the paths of righteousness for thy name's sake. Lord ! unite my heart to fear thy name. Uphold my goings in thy way. Preserve me, O God, from hypocrisy and vain-glory. Let me ever remember that Thou art a Spirit; that true religion is altogether of a spiritual nature; and therefore, that thou must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
Guard me from the subtle poison of praise and flattery. Make me deeply sensible of my guilt and wretchedness, and of thy righteousness and fulness. May I never seek the praise of men, nor be grieved if I am despised for thy sake. But may I rather rejoice, when I am counted worthy to suffer shame for thy name. Give me grace to live to thee and for thee. May I delight in thy will.
Keep me from a worldly spirit. I have daily to mourn over the workings of a worldly spirit. O! wean my heart from earth, and fix it upon thyself alone. Enlarge my views of holiness and heaveu. Increase my longings after purity and peace. Let me not rest till my desires be abundantly satisfied in thy presence where is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand where are pleasures for evermore.
Till that happy period arrive, may my rejoicing be this, the testimony of my conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, I have my conversation in the world.
To set the Lord always before us is the great secret of holy living. This we can only do, by living a life of faith in the Son of God; for faith is the eye, * Psa. vi. 4, xxxi. 16.
+ Psa. cvi. 4, 5.
which, by steadily looking unto Jesus, keeps the soul in the narrow path which leads unto life eternal.
We must draw an evidence of our real state and character, not so much from our public, as from our private conduct ; ' not so much from our words, as from our thoughts. In the company of truly pious persons, where a holy atmosphere surrounds us, we are constrained to assume an air of decorum and sobriety: but, when we are in the midst of worldly persons, if we then throw off the garment of restraint, and enter into their spirit and conversation, we have an indisputable evidence that our hearts, whatever our outward profession may be, are not right with God. When no eye sees us but the omniscient
of God, are we as circumspect as when surrounded by our fellow-creatures ? If we are not, we may surely conclude, that the fear of man, and the love of human estimation, is more operative in our souls than the fear of God; and that our consciences are asleep, or in an unenlightened state.
So with respect to thoughts, which are unknown to those around us; if we are secretly indulging thoughts which are all intimately known to the heartsearching God, whilst we would not dare to utter those thoughts to friends about us ; must we not conclude, that with all our professions of piety, we are practisers of iniquity, and in the utmost peril of everlasting damnation ? The pure in heart shall see God.* To keep the heart with all diligence, to set the Lord always before us, to live as seeing Him who is invisible, to act at all times with an eye to his approbation, is the very essence of true religion, the very evidence of the simplicity and sincerity of our motives.
This state of heart is the work of the Spirit; a progressive work. It meets with much opposition from our carnal nature, and the force of indwelling sin; but still it goes on toward perfection. In heaven
Matt. v. 8.