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institution, and something of design, they tell us that conscience is a guard and a guide, a rule and a law set over us by God, and they are spoken to make us afraid to sin against our conscience, because by so doing we sin against God; he having put a double bridle upon us, society and solitude, that is, company and ourselves, or rather, God and man; it being now impossible for us to sin in any circumstances, but we shall have a reprover: ἵνα μήτε μόνωσις ἐπεγείρῃ σε πρὸς τὰ μὴ πρέπον, μήτε κοινωνία εὐαπολόγητόν σοι ποιήσῃ τὴν ἁμαρTíav, as Hierocles' said well; that neither company may give countenance or excuse to sin, or solitariness may give confidence or warranty; for as we are ashamed to sin in company, so we ought to fear our conscience, which is God's watchman and intelligencer.
4. To which purpose it was soberly spoken of TertullianTM, 'conscientia optima testis Divinitatis; Our conscience is the best argument in the world to prove there is a God:' for conscience is God's deputy; and the inferior must suppose a superior; and God and our conscience are like relative terms, it not being imaginable why some persons in some cases should be amazed and troubled in their minds for their having done a secret turpitude, or cruelty; but that conscience is present with a message from God, and the men feel inward causes of fear, when they are secure from without: that is, they are forced to fear God, when they are safe from men. And it is impossible that any man should be an atheist, if he have any conscience and for this reason it is, there have been so few atheists in the world, because it is so hard for men to loose their conscience wholly.
5. Quest. Some dispute whether it be possible or no for any man to be totally without conscience. Tertullian's sentence in this article is this: 'Potest obumbrari, quia non est Deus: extingui non potest, quia à Deo est:''It is not God, and therefore may be clouded: but it is from God, and therefore cannot be destroyed.'-But I know a man may wholly lose the use of his reason; some men are mad, and some are natural fools, and some are sots, and stupid; such men as these lose their conscience, as they lose their reason: and as some madmen may have a fancy that there is no sun; so some fools may say there is no God: and as they can be 1 Needham, p. 62, at the bottom.
m Lib de Testimon. Animæ.
lieve that, so they can lose their conscience, and believe this. But as he that hath reason or his eyes, cannot deny but there is such a thing as the sun, so neither can he that hath conscience, deny there is a God. For as the sun is present by his light which we see daily, so is God by our conscience which we feel continually: we feel one as certainly as the other.
6. (1.) But it is to be observed, that conscience is sometimes taken for the practical intellective faculty; so we say, The law of nature, and the fear of God, are written in the conscience of every man.
(2.) Sometimes it is taken for the habitual persuasion and belief of the principles written there; so we say, He is a good man, and makes conscience of his ways. And thus we also say, and it is true, that a wicked person is of a profligate and 'lost conscience;' he hath no conscience' in him. That is, he hath lost the habit, or that usual persuasion and recourse to conscience, by which good men govern their actions.
(3.) Or the word conscience is used effectively, for any single operation and action of conscience: so we speak of particulars, I make a conscience of taking up arms in this cause.' Of the first and last acception of the word 'conscience' there is no doubt; for the last may, and the first can never, be lost: but for the second, it may be lost more or less, as any other habit can: though this with more difficulty than any thing else, because it is founded so immediately in nature, and is so exercised in all the actions and intercourses of our life, and is so assisted by the grace of God, that it is next to impossible to lose the habit entirely; and that faculty that shall to eternal ages do the offices which are the last, and such as suppose some preceding actions, I mean, to torment and afflict them for not having obeyed the former act of dictate and command, cannot be supposed to die in the principle, when it shall be eternal in the emanation; for the worm shall never die.
For, that men do things against their conscience, is no otherwise than as they do things against their reason; but a man may as well cease to be a man, as to be wholly without conscience. For the drunkard will be sober, and his conscience will be awake next morning: this is a perpetual pulse, and though it may be interrupted, yet if the man be alive, it will beat before he dies; and so long as we believe
a God, so long our conscience will at least teach us, if it does not also smite us: but as God sometimes lets a man go on in sin and does not punish him, so does conscience; but in this case, unless the man be smitten and awakened before he dies, both God and the conscience reserve their wrath to be inflicted in hell. It is one and the same thing, God's wrath, and an evil guilty conscience; for by the same hand by which God gives his law, by the same he punishes them that transgress the law. God gave the old law by the ministry of angels; and when the people broke it, he sent evil angels among them;' now God gives us a law in our consciences, and there he hath established the penalty; this is the ' worm that never dies;' let it be trod upon never so much here, it will turn again. It cannot die here, and it shall be alive for ever.
But by explicating the parts of the rule, we shall the best understand the nature, use, and offices, of conscience.
Conscience is the Mind of a Man.
7. When God sent the blessed Jesus into the world to perfect all righteousness, and to teach the world all his Father's will, it was said, and done, "I will give my laws in your hearts, and in your minds will I write them;" that is, you shall be governed by the law of natural and essential equity and reason, by that law which is put into every man's nature and besides this, whatsoever else shall be superinduced, shall be written in your minds by the Spirit, who shall write all the laws of Christianity in the tables of your consciences. He shall make you to understand them, to perceive their relish, to remember them because you love them, and because you need them, and cannot be happy without them he shall call them to your mind, and inspire new arguments and inducements to their observation, and make it all as natural to us, as what we were born with.'
8. Our mind being thus furnished with a holy rule, and conducted by a divine guide, is called "conscience;" and is the same thing which in Scripture is sometimes called "the heart;" there being in the Hebrew tongue, no proper word for conscience, but instead of it they use the word the
heart"; "Oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth," that is, thy conscience knoweth, "that thou thyself hast cursed others," so in the New Testament; "Beloved, if our hearts condemn us not, then have we peace towards God," viz., if in our own consciences we are not condemned. Sometimes it is called 'spirit',' the third ingredient of the constitution of a Christian; the spirit, distinct from soul and body. For as our body shall be spiritual in the resurrection, therefore because all its offices shall entirely minister to the spirit, and converse with spirits, so may that part of the soul,—which is wholly furnished, taught and conducted by the spirit of grace, and whose work it is wholly to serve the spirit,—by a just proportion of reason be called the spirit. This is that which is affirmed by St. Paul; "The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, dividing the soul and the spirit;" that is, the soul is the spirit separated by the word of God, instructed by it, and, by relation to it, is called the spirit. And this is the sense of Origent; "Testimonio sane conscientiæ uti Apostolus dicit eos, qui descriptam continent in cordibus legem," &c. "The Apostle says, that they use the testimony of conscience, who have the law written in their hearts. Hence it is necessary to inquire what that is which the Apostle calls conscience, whether it be any other substance than the heart or soul. For of this it is otherwhere said that it reprehends, but is not reprehended, and that it judges a man, but itself is judged of no man: as John saith, ' If our conscience condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.' And again, St. Paul himself saith in another place, 'Our glorying is this, even the testimony of our conscience;' because therefore I see so great a liberty of it, that in good things it is always glad and rejoices, but in evil things it is not reproved, but reproves and corrects the soul itself to which it does adhere; I do suppose that this is the very spirit, which by the Apostle is said to be with the soul, as a pedagogue and social governor, that it may admonish the soul of better things, and chastise her for her faults, and reprove her: because 6 no man knows the things of a man but the
P Eccles. vii. 22.-Apud Syros conscientia dicitur
à radice for
mavit, depinxit, descripsit; quia scilicet conscientia notat et pingit actiones
nostras, in tabula cordis.
¶ 1 John, iii. 21.
Heb. iv. 12.
r Prov. xviii. 14.
t In Epist, ad Rom. cap. ii. lib, 2,
spirit of a man which is in him;' and that is the spirit of our conscience, concerning which, he saith, that spirit gives testimony to our spirit.”—So far Origen.
9. Thus, conscience is the mind, and God" writing his laws in our minds," is, informing our conscience, and furnishing it with laws, and rules, and measures, and it is called by St. Paul, vóμos ToŬ voòs, the law of the mind";' and though it is once made a distinct thing from the mind (as in those words, "their minds and consciences are defiled,") yet it happens in this word as in divers others, that it is sometimes taken largely, sometimes specifically and more determinately the mind is all the whole understanding part, it is the memory; so Peter called to mind' the word that Jesus spake, that is, he remembered it. It is, the signification or meaning, the purpose or resolution. "No man knoweth the mind of the spirit, but the spirit." It is the discursive or reasoning part; " Mary cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be." It is the assenting and determining part; "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind:" and it is also taken for conscience, or that treasure of rules which are in order to practice. And therefore, when St. Paul intended to express the anger of God punishing evil men with evil consciences and false persuasions, in order to criminal actions, and evil worshippings, he said, "God gave them over, eis vouv adónov, to a reprobate ἀδόκιμον, minde," that is, to a conscience evil, persuaded, furnished with false practical principles; but the return to holiness, and the improvement of a holy conscience, is called, "a being renewed in the spirit of our mind,” ἀνακαίνωσις τοῦ voos, "the renovation of the minde."
10. Now there are two ways by which God reigns in the mind of a man, 1. Faith; and, 2. Conscience. Faith contains all the treasures of divine knowledge and speculation. Conscience is the treasury of divine commandments and rules in practical things. Faith tells us why; conscience tells us what we are to do. Faith is the measure of our persuasions ; conscience is the measure of our actions. And as faith is a gift of God, so is conscience; that is, as the understanding
u Rom. vii. 23.
z 1 Cor. ii, 11.
c Rom. i. 28.
* Titus, i. 15.
a Luke, i. 29.
d Ephes. iv. 23,
y Mark, xiv. 72. b Rom. xiv. 5.
e Rom. xii. 2.