Imatges de pàgina

may do, each one must do justice for himself. The resolution of a member to do wrong can justify no man in partaking of that wrong.

Having considered the causes of an evil conscience, we will


V. Attend to the rules necessary for preserving a good one.

1. The first rule will naturally be, to avoid the causes of an evil conscience; such as presumption, indifference, implicit credulity, pride, self-conceit, sensual lusts and passions, evil society, and licentious communication.

2. We must take pains and use means to be rightly informed. Since the persuasion of conscience, that an action is right, will not justify us in doing it, if we might have known it to be wrong, it concerns us to prove the acceptable will of God and guard against all misconceptions of it. The apostle prays for christians, that they may more and more abound in knowledge and judgment, may discern things that differ-approve things that are excellentand may be sincere and without offence. If a persuasion of conscience would universally justify the conduct, there would be no occasion for enquiry;—we should need only to form an opinion, and act agreeably to it. But since we may sin by a persuasion contrary to the truth, as well as by a conduct contrary to our persuasion, it concerns us to examine carefully what is truth, and what is right, and in our examinations to guard against the blinding influence of prejudice and passion.

3. Let our minds be always impressed with a sense of the importance of duty. Without this sense, we shall neither be concerned to know what, our duty is, nor to do it when we do know it. If an aim to do God's will guides us in our enquiries, we shall seldom judge wrong. The meek God will guide in judgment and teach his way. If we desire to do his will, we shall easily know of every doctrine, whether it be of him.

4. Let us never act contrary to the present conviction of the mind; for to oppose this conviction, not only awakens a sense of guilt, and disturbs the inward peace, but hardens the conscience to more flagrant vices, and subjects it to the absolute dominion of passion and lust.

5. In all cases of doubt, we must consider which side our interest, or inclination favors. If we wish to have the case resolved in one way, rather than in the other, and sit down to examine under this prepossession it is probable, that inclination, and not evidence will make the decision. When we perceive our mind to be in such a state, we must examine with a jealousy, and judge with a distrust of our own hearts. In such cases, it is prudent to enquire, what has been our opinion when we were in a different situation-what would be our opinion, if it respected another person-what advice we would give to a friend-what we would condemn in an enemy. Great confidence in matters generally doubtful, censoriousness, contempt of others, a high conceit of ourselves, resentment of advice and reproof, are broad signs, that prejudice and bigotry have taken the place of conscience. "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. The simple believeth every word, but the prudent looketh well to his goings. A wise man feareth and departeth from evil, but the fool rageth and is confident."

6. Frequent self-examination is necessary to a good conscience. The careless man may have a lethargic ease the quietness of death the attentive only can enjoy a heart-felt satisfaction-the joy of salvation. The most that can be said of the former is, that his conscience does not reproach him. It is the latter only who can feel real peace and approbation of conscience.

Finally. There must be a constant and unreserved regard to religion. As it is the testimony of our conscience to the simplicity and godly sincerity of our conversation, that gives us rejoicing in ourselves, so the more steady and intire this testimony is, the more full will be our joy.

VI. We will briefly consider the advantages of a good conscience.

A conscience enlightened by truth, unbribed by interest and unbiassed by passion, is necessary to our leading a holy and inoffensive life. Such a conscience is as important as a life of obedience to God. This is necessary to our inward peace. An evil conscience may become past feeling; it is a good one only that is a spring of substantial joy.

Peace of mind is our highest comfort in life. It is a cheerful excitement to virtue. It is the sweetest solace in affliction; the firmest support under injuries and reproaches, and the best improvement of the common enjoyments of life. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear? There is no peace equal to the testimony of a good conscienceno torment equal to self-reproach. This makes a great part of the wretchedness of the damned. Their worm dieth not. It was this which haunted Cain, and made him fear, that every one who found him would slay him. It was this that made Herod start, when he heard of Jesus' working miracles, and suspect that John whom he had beheaded was risen from the dead. It was this which hurried Judas to commit violence on himself.

A good conscience is a satisfaction, which nothing can take from us, but sin: an evil conscience is a torment, which nothing can relieve, but repentance. This is a witness and judge within us; and it concerns us to keep it our friend.

This will be our best comfort in death. A guilty conscience fills the dying sinner with horror, and anticipates his approaching torment: an approving conscience gives exultation to the departing soul, by laying hold on eternal life. The latter will bring us with exceeding joy into the presence of our Judge and give us assurance before him, while the former vainly seeks to hide itself from his all-piercing eye. According as we have a good, or an evil conscience, we shall enter into eternal life, or go away into everlasting punishment.

That we may acquire and preserve peace in life, and may enjoy hope and comfort in death, let us maintain a faithful conformity to that religion, which the gospel has taught us. All other means will fail us. We may attempt to relax the strictness of this religion, and may flatter ourselves that a partial, or external conformity will be accepted; or we may endeavor to persuade ourselves, that some more easy way to happiness will be found than that which the gospel has marked. But none of these artifices can fully satisfy us. They will all leave the mind suspicious, fearful and uneasy; and will doubtless disappoint us at last. It is a firm faith in the truth of the gospel, accompanied with an unre

served subjection of soul to its holy precepts, which brings homefelt peace, and ensures the joys of immortality. And while we obey this gospel, we shall have no temptation to renounce the belief of it; for we shall have nothing to fear from its threatnings, but every thing to hope from its promises. That we may hold the faith, let us hold a good conscience; for many having put away this, concerning the faith have made shipwreck.

If sceptical thoughts arise, there is one sure way to remove them-if objections are started there is one effectual method to answer them; it is that which the apostle recommends, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ."



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And straitway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

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THE beginning of this chapter relates Christ's transfiguration on the mountain in the presence of three of his disciples. While he was there, a man sought him to obtain a cure for his only son, who was afflicted with a grievous distemper, and possessed with an evil spirit. Disappointed in not finding Jesus himself, the man applied to the nine disciples there present, who attempted to heal the lad, but without success. When Jesus came down into the plain, he saw his disciples surrounded by a multitude, and engaged in a dispute with the scribes; and he demanded of the latter what was the subject of their debate. "Then one of the multitude said to him, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, who hath a dumb spirit; and wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him, so that he foameth and gnasheth with his teeth and pineth away; and I spake to thy disciples, that they should cast him out, and they could not." It hence appears, that the scribes had been disputing with the disciples about the cure of this youth, which had been attempted in vain. They probably insulted the

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