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have made, that Conscience as a principle must govern if we would have it perfect, as showing that once deprived of its position it loses, as it were, its very nature, and ceases to be that which it was; for then becoming merely a principle among other principles, it loses its nature, and acts only as the subordinate principles do, at intervals, and neither constantly nor reliably.
And when we consider the universal persuasion with regard to it, we find that this which I have called the first law of Conscience, is, under various forms and shapes, the solid conviction and belief of all men as to its action. They represent it as a light which we are to follow—dim and indistinct at first, but which, if we pursue it steadily, becomes brighter and yet more bright. Again : they paint man as in darkness, gloom and storm, in the midst of a desert by night, needing guidance; and Conscience as the minutest and remotest speck of light, appearing upon the verge of the horizon, yet to be followed because it is light, and the only light.
Here, then, in this comparison, which is a familiar one to all nations, is exemplified its increased value as a rule, as depending upon our constancy and perseverance in following its guidance. The brightness is considered to be always growing as long as we press onward, and never to decay while our face is turned towards it and our footsteps are pursuing it.
We have given this example, and shall omit any further enumeration of instances. Suffice it to say, that in all those metaphors which men have employed to designate this faculty, or to denote the mode of its operation, the conviction of the same law is universally to be discerned, a hint which, while it may set the student upon a more extended examination of this particular point, may serve to excuse our further consideration of it. But, however, as an additional support of the doctrine implied in these illustrations, , we beg to refer our readers forwards to our notice of the effect of Habit upon the Moral Nature,* so far as "active" and "passive habit” are concerned, by which he shall find the doctrine of the foregoing paragraphs most strongly supported. And we shall now go forward to the support of our first law from other and more weighty considerations.
He that looks to the preceding chapters shall see that the constitution of the Conscience is two-fold; of a faculty in us, and
* Book IV. Chap. 3.
working upon us through that faculty, the Holy Spirit of God Now the doctrine of the Scriptures as to Him is, that his influenco upon the spirit of man is given in proportion, not capriciously, but after a certain proportion, though what the elements of it are we cannot precisely say, it not having been revealed. But this is clearly said, that it is “grace for grace,”—Grace as a reward for grace well employed, and as a means of obtaining more Grace.* Here, then, in this fact we find the ultimate reason of this first law, that except we are as a matter of principle governed by Conscience, its action is incomplete, for its completeness is in constant progression, depending for light and clearness upon the continual gift of the Spirit, in reward for the continual reception and use of that gift.
And adding this fact to those others previously noticed, † the conclusion, as a matter both of moral science and inward conviction, shall be established, that if we would have Conscience a sure and trustworthy guide, then, as a fixed principle of action, we must obey it. It must rule, and no passion, nor desire, nor appetite within us, and without us no object towards which they may lead us must be sought or pursued, if doing so will contravene our Conscience or lead us into evil in the slightest degree.
This is the first law of the perfection and the governance of Conscience, and the man that takes it to himself, however blasted in character, and condemned by the unanimous verdict of his fellows he may be ; he that shall take, even in the depths of his degradation, this for his guide as a ruling principle, he shall arise out of the deepest pit, he shall be lifted up from his abasement, he shall become a man standing upright in the dignity of manhood.
Let him rely upon it, "for a man who will do so, how deep soever be sunk, there is all hope and no fear.” This declaration, here written with pen and ink, is written upon the hearts of all in the records of Providence, nay, upon the Very Throne of God; for the Holy Spirit, co-essential with the Father, whose voice the Conscience is, has made it a first principle, and a primal truth in the self-experience of all: and to all men the course of the outward world, arrayed and set forth as it is by Almighty power and Omniscient wisdom, echoes back and reasserts that internal conviction. There is none to whom the light does not appear, faint as it may be through their own fault, but still to all, while they are alive upon the earth, it appears and invites to follow; and therefore to all men, even to the vilest and worst, there is hope, all hope, if they will only follow it.
* This, I believe, gives the full sense of the Greek idiom “grace for grace,” and this only adequately expresses it.
+ The fact, that is, of man's moral inability, as he is by himself apart from the influences of Grace; the fact that the Spirit is Jehovah and infallible ; that his Grace comes yirst unto us and awakens us; that the dictates of conscience, assigning no reason for themselves, are yet confirmed by all after experience; that they are authoritative, it is our privilege and duty to obey. All these facts are those referred to in the text. They all, together with this Law of Grace, that is combined with it, declare and prove that the power of the faculty depends upon "supremacy,” that made "subordinate,” it loses its natural and normal influence.
And to those most elevated in their moral qualifications, to them, by the very same reason, all fear, if they abandon this supreme guide and ruling power, and permit themselves to be ruled and governed by anything else than this.
It is a cheap Morality to discourse of virtues and vices, to harangue against this vice and that vice, to give set and commonplace argument against the love of money, against luxury, and against licentiousness: but the plain truth is, that these are but the occasions and external causes of falling, as the storm is to the tree that is rotten at the root; for no external fall has there been into open and flagrant guilt, but first there was an internal fall, a dethronement of the Moral Power from its seat of guidance: and where this once has taken place, then external circumstances may, by the Grace of God, keep the man from the abyss of vice, but he has left the only moral ground, and whatever good he may do, incidentally, yet by his very position, as one closing his eyes upon the light that is given to guide him, and renouncing its guidance, he is ready for the deepest plunge into the foulest degradation.
Such is the first law of Conscience, the law of “ Obedience,” the law that it must govern and we obey-govern supremely, obey entirely.
And this matter of the governance of Conscience, its entire and absolute governance, this which to men in ordinary may seem so exceedingly difficult, this depends not upon the agony of a sudden effort, putting forth unusual strength upon emergency, but upon that second rule of “Permanence,” so that one law, in some measure, derives its strength from the other. He whose Conscience
governs permanently, by that very fact attains the habit that it should govern supremely. The permanent and constant habit, that is, of referring all things to Conscience, and as a matter of fixed and steady principle bowing to its decision and acknowledging its
supremacy,” this shall give, even to the weakest in mind, the power of resisting the most exceeding temptations.
Nor does this depend upon the force of Habit as its peculiar cause, though this, too, will confirm the power, so much as upon a vital and real distinction between the nature of that power which the “governing” faculties have, and that which the “passions” have, that the “power of the governing' faculties is in their constancy of action, and the power of passion' in its concentration to a small interval of time.” This, we have already remarked, comes from their function as “governing,” which implies action constant, not intermitted. And he that shall consider the faculty of Conscience with care, shall find that it is so with it.
To those, then, who may not, at first sight, consider the assertion* of our last chapter as credible, to them we say, let them, instead of looking at vice in the mere outside point of view, in reference to injury done as to money, position, character, and so forth: and thus, when they are hurried away by that evil they are hitherto prone to be conquered by, at that moment calling up the moral powers in arms against it, so that the strife is, for the moment, to place the moral powers to war against the temptation; let them observe the nature of the two as different powers, and give the moral powers a "governing" influence, one that always and in everything reigns; and because of this, in the one thing wherein is their danger, it shall rule the wildest assaults of “passion” within and temptation without.
He that does not cheat from the motive only that “honesty is the best of policy,” who does not lie from the sole motive that such a character would ruin his trade, who commits no adultery from the mere fear of the law and the verdict of a jury; this man may be counted a good moral man in the ordinary outside acceptation of the word, even at the very time when inwardly, in his own heart, he knows that he would do all these things but for the out
* The assertion, namely, that in any human being, however weak his moral faculty may be by nature, and however violent the force of passions, the moral power is able, by nature, to check and subdue any passion what
ward penalty. And his neighbors and himself may wonder why drunkenness is such a temptation to him, or any other of the twenty vices we may mention, and may laugh us to scorn when we say that even that man's moral power is able to conquer it; when the fact of the matter is, that the man is hardly a moral being at all. His Conscience never acts efficiently at all, for it is never obeyed systematically.
To such a man, we say, let your Conscience act,--let it act always and in everything, and as a matter of principle; and soon you will find, that in this law of action, it has power to overcome any gust of temptation and hold it under.
At the same time, we must acknowledge that so far as we have hitherto gone, these two rules of Conscience, as to its action, are more ready to uphold and secure its mastery, when it has been obtained, than to obtain it by themselves. Still, the consideration of them is such, as we conceive, to cast much light and hope upon the course of man.
As depending upon this law of “permanence," we will note one other fact, which is sufficiently strange. It often happens that to the individual man there is some little thing that may be wrong to him, not wrong in itself, but wrong to him,-relatively wrong that is. And this little matter, -it may be the very least thing and the most unimportant in the world, in which none of his friends see any wrong, but which is wrong to him--this a man shall often do, through the force of habit, with the feeling full in his own mind that it is wrong.
And so doing, he breaks the second law of Conscience, and shall make no progress whatsoever. All the good in greater things that is done, is then felt to be good, but is not to him a means of moral progress. When the Conscience declares against any act, how small soever it may be, and in full view of its being wrong that act is done again, then there is no moral progress, no bringing to perfection of the power of Conscience. It is as the small impediment that hinders the starting into motion of a body, which, were the body in motion, would be crushed into dust by a thousandth part of the power that it impedes. Small things, then, as well as great, there are to be brought under the law to which I allude.
But to conclude our examination, the immediate effects of this law of “permanence,” observed as a principle of life, are very ex