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follow from the notion that “ Conscience is the Holy Spirit,” and which are its legitimate results. And he that shall look to men, shall find that a great many hold these conclusions. A great many consider Conscience as infallible, and make it the sole and ultimate test, who have never thought of the premises upon which the conclusion depends.
Now this leads us onward unto one of the most important principles of Ethics ; we will say a fundamental one. That is, the distinction between Conscience, the natural faculty in us, and the voice of the Holy Ghost without us ; Conscience, the eye existing in our nature and being, whereby we see the light, and that Light which we see; Conscience, the ear wherewith we listen to the voice from heaven, and the Voice from Heaven, the voice of the Holy Spirit that is audible to us through that part of our nature.
We say, then, that so far as Conscience is considered under the one aspect of a natural faculty, so far it is liable to the same infumities as the other natural faculties. For the light may be as the sun, and yet the eye which is blind by nature, or blinded by aocident, never see it. The voice may be that of many waters, and yet the deaf ear not hear it. So it is with regard to the Conscience, the faculty in us and in our nature, wherewith we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, is a different thing altogether from the Spirit Himself. And yet in the consideration of Conscience, both the Natural Faculty and the Divine Energy to which it answers, are to be considered.
Now, he that shall look at this last principle.carefully and considerately, in the full light of his own experience, will see many conclusions to follow of the most important and the most interest
In the first place, the eye and power of sight in man proves to him the existence of things visible, at the same time that it is the means of bringing him to the knowledge of them. And no argument will disprove their existence, simply because he has a natural faculty whose business it is to show and manifest them. So of a Future Eternity, no argument whatsoever can disprove the existence, no absence from sense or sight annul it, because of it the Conscience is our sense, and because, corresponding to the Conscience, there is a power that manifests the Future Eternity to us as far as concerns the actual duties of the present life. This is an inference of great practical importance, binding and connect
ing, as we have said, finite acts with infinite consequences, Time with Eternity, the limited being of man with the Infinite God, and that through the Eternal Spirit.
But the most important conclusion that follows from it is this : “So far as the dictates of our Conscience are the dictates of the Holy Spirit of God, so far Conscience is infallible.” This is the rule of the governing power, Conscience, which follows from its own nature as twofold, a natural ear or a natural eye, with a heavenly voice or a heavenly light; and this combined with the other laws of it as a governing power,* shall give us completely and entirely, as a result of Ethical Science, the doctrines and rules of Conscience as applied unto life. This shall be the subject of the next chapter.
The value of Conscience.--Our position in consequence of it.-An examina
tion of it in action, as, 1st, Withholding; 2d, Recording; 3d, Prophesying, -The emotions that are sanctions to it, 1st, Moral Restlessness ; 2d, Shame; 3d, Fear.—The mark upon the Nature, 1st, the Stain; 2d, the Guilt.—Conscience is not properly a “judge,” nor the pain from it properly “punishment."
FROM our examination of the nature of Conscience in the previous chapter, it is manifest what an exceedingly precious endowment this is to man. A secret adviser, so secret that although inaudible to all others, it shall yet speak to the man himself, clearly, distinctly, perpetually, upon all emergencies wherein it is necessary, and upon all occasions. One too whose advice is not to be measured by the man's own degree of knowledge or his station, but that gives to the ignorant, the poor and the weak the proper and suitable guidance for the circumstances in which they are. And that with such an accurately proportionate action, that it has, with no small degree of plausibility, been maintained that
* See the three laws of the “Governing Powers”—Book I. Chap. 3.
† Of course here is to be made the exception-except he have neglected it, and therefore it have become “dull” or insensible," or “seared, or "dead." For this part of the subject, see an ensuing chapter of this book.
Jonscience always a step, and only a step in advance of us, and this has been by some made one of the laws of the Conscience.
However, be this as it may, it is such an adviser that to the ignorant it says, “Ignorant as you may be of worldly knowledge, you are still a moral being, and can live as such ; follow me, and you shall be so, and shall do so—for the position to which I call you is but a step from your present one—within your reach, and to be attained by you, by my help.”
To the poor the adviser is present, too, with a riches that surpasses all earthly wealth—the announcement from the Eternal Throne, by the Eternal Spirit, through its natural adit to the soul, of its infinite value as a Spiritual Existence.
To the ignorant it tells of this sure knowledge that ever rises to the level of our necessities. To the self-distrusting of Omnipotence it speaks All-holiness and All-justice, ready to support him that will go after its guidance. It tells them that no obstacle shall permanently remain in the way, that all passes shall be opened, all barriers burst that oppose his upward progress, who follows this guide.
Such are the advantages to us of this gift and faculty, looking at the matter generally as we have looked upon it, in the twofold point of view of the light outside us, which we see, and the eye in us, by which we see that light, and also not as yet considering the deficiencies or weaknesses of Conscience the faculty, or the rules for its guidance, matters which we shall in a future part of this work consider.
* The Christian will see in these words, combined with the account given of Conscience in the preceding chapter, the solution of a great question. “By iny help”—that is, “Not of you, but of me; not of your nature alone and unaided, but of it as aided by me, the personal and omnipotent being whọ speak, through the Conscience, to all men-the Holy Spirit.”
Hence is all moral strength and ability of God, coming first unto us from him, and not arising in our nature from nature itself.
Moral strength given, to the unregenerate first, wholly undeserved, nay, often against their own will, in order to habituate them to the thought of good, to teach them by making them to act upon that power for which they have no merit, to lead on in the way of life by support and secret upholding powers: This probationary moral power in the unregenerate is a help given even to the evil, according to the will of the Holy Ghost, the Infinite Teacher, for his own wise purposes. The solution, therefore, of the question, “Does the natural man do good”? is this all the good that even the natural man loes, he does of God's Grace, given him according to the will of the Spirit, and Grace comes first.
The regenerate man is in a different position, having from the Word the strength and power of a son, but still not of himself, but of his new birth, and his nero privileges, and new position. But of this last, which is also very interesting, more at another time.
Having thus seen the advantages to us of Conscience as a gift and faculty, it remains now to examine the position in which we are placed by it--the responsibility that is upon us by that gift.
Now, when we look at the action of Conscience, we see that there are several characters that belong to it, as considered in its relation to our nature, and these we here enumerate by way of summary.
1st, It is commanding.
7th, Making the distinction we have made, as to its twofold nature, Conscience, the faculty in us, we may consider as weak, as liable to errors and mistakes, but Conscience, that which is perceived through the faculty, we consider to be incapable of crror or of mistake, in one word, to be infallible.
And, 8th, As the crown of all that we attribute to the Conscience, we may say that it is authoritative—it has authority. We consider that it is entitled to rule, and that we are privileged and bound to obey. As the Father, within certain limits, is by his very position as Father entitled to command his children; as the Magistrate, within the restrictions established by law, can command; as the Master orders and guides his servants, such is the privilege of the Conscience over the man. It has authority ; its dictates are binding upon us.
We shall carry out this subject of the authority of Conscience at another point of this treatise ; for the present we would apply it in elucidating the position of the individual man. Observing, then, the rule, that if we would understand fully the Moral Powers, we should consider them rather dynamically as powers in action, than statically as powers at rest, we shall see, as regards the man, plainly what the nature of Conscience is, by considering it in action. All actions, then, having in them a moral quality, and
Evil being, as we have above said, not the contrary of Good, but the negation of it, the Conscience in its twofold nature is that which checks the man as he is about to do evil.
It follows from the first principle, that if the conscience does not check him in any action, that action is right, provided his Conscience be in a natural and healthy state. This is in accordance with that which the Scripture says, “If our "heart' condemn us not, then have we peace with God.”*
In the second case, the man is about to act when he feels conveyed to him a check, a sort of inward force opposed to and negativing his intended action, yet that in such a way that he can always overcome it if he will ; and has the full consciousness that he can. This authoritative check he feels; and if the appetite or desire which awoke him to action, carry him on to overcome the check, then has he acted against his Conscience.
The act would be evil in itself--but it has immediate consequences even in his nature. There are passions of his being which are at once brought into play as sanctionst of such a transgression, and these are properly three, and only thrce.
1st, Moral restlessness, or the negation of Peace;
We introduce the consideration of these three in this place, because they are emotions, or passions, or feelings, which we consider as being directly and immediately connected with and caused by the Conscience. The first resolution upon them is that they are not faculties, as memory is a faculty; they are not natural feelings or sensibilities, as the sense of honor or the sense of justice is; they are “emotions,” peculiar emotions, whose existence and being depend upon Conscience. But not upon the existence of Conscience do they depend, but upon the fact that it has been disobeyed. They are emotions whose possibility only exists in the nature of man, the realization of that possibility depending upon the violation of the law of the Conscience. And so far is this true, that when we come to consider our apprehension of a perfect
* 1 John iii. 20. This which in our English version is translated “heart," in the Hellenistic Greek means “ Conscience," from the Hebrew usage of the word “heart."
+ “Sanction” is the Penalty legally attached to the breach of a law.