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his state; but committed himself to the judgment of a merciful and gracious God."] To
procure a just attention to its voice, we proceed to shew II. The benefit and comfort of having its testimony in
our favour Nothing is more terrible than an accusing conscience. Its testimonies are 1. A source of present distress
[When God gives it a commission to scourge a man, it executes the office with great effect. How did it increase the troubles of Joseph's brethren; and torture the soul of the unguarded Darius;k and appal the impious Belshazzar, so that his knees smote one against the other! How did it make Felix tremble on the seat of judgment!m and Judas actually to become his own executioner!" When it operates with a just and salutary influence, it will force the most obdurate to cry out with anguish, and the most confident to weep with great bitterness.p
Many amongst ourselves perhaps have felt its stings, till we have groaned in our spirit, and even “howled upon our bed,” anticipating, and almost tasting, the bitterness of hell itself.9] 2. A pledge of eternal misery
(When conscience is enlightened, it sees innumerable abominations in the heart: and when sanctified, it feels an utter abhorrence of what it does see. But yet “God is greater than our hearts" both in respect of penetration to discover sin, and of holiness to hate it. He “knoweth all things” that have been done amiss, and that too, with all the particular aggravations that have attended every omission of duty, and every commission of iniquity. Not our actions only, but our tery thoughts, are " sealed up in his bag,'' to be brought forward against us at the last day," The present testimonies of conscience are a previous and preliminary sentence, declaring now upon few and partial grounds, what God himself will hereafter declare on a complete review of our whole lives.
We say not indeed that there is no room for repentance: God forbid: the accusations of conscience are the voice of God within us, calling us to repentance: and the most guilty conscience that ever tormented the soul of man, may in an instant be purged by the blood of Jesus: but if conscience summon us to its bar, as God summoned Adam and Cain to answer for their conduct, its decisions shall be ratified in the day of judgment, unless they be reversed through penitence and faith in Christ: what it “ binds on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and what it looses 'on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.”]
bi Cor. iv. 3, 4.
i Gen, xlii. 21. 1 Dan. v. 6.
m Acts xxiv. 25. • Acts ii. 37. & xvi. 29, 30. P Luke xxii. 62. r Job xiv. 17.
k Dan. vi. 18-20.
Nothing, on the other hand, is a richer blessing than a good conscience: its testimonies are 1. A source of unspeakable comfort.
(St. Paul tells us that he found this to be a well-spring of happiness within him; “ 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 nad our conversation in the world,”u Indeed, such a testimony is a continual feast to every one that enjoys it. Having an inward witness of our own sincerity, we may assure our hearts before God,' we may “have boldness of access to him with confidence,"y we may “ask of him what we will, and it shall be done unto us.”Such a testimony inspires a “confidence towards God” in every thing that relates to our present or future welfare; it fills the soul with a “ “ peace that passeth all understanding,” “a joy that is unspeakable and glorified.” How desirable then is it to be able now to appeal to God, like Job, “ Thou knowest that I am not wicked;" or with Peter, « Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee!" And how blessed to say with Hezekiah in a dying hour,“ Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how. I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight!”] 2. An earnest of eternal happiness
[The witness of our conscience is, in fact, the witness of the Spirit of God:d for it is the result of a divine illumination, whereby we discern the agreement of our experience with the word of God, and of a divine communication, rendering that agreement an occasion of joyful confidence. What then can this be but a foretaste of that bliss which shall be consummated in heaven? In this view these divine communications may be considered as “the first-fruits of the Spirit,” and “the earnest of the Spirit;” because they are, as it were, the beginnings of heaven in the soul, and they assure to us a complete and everlasting possession of it. Even in the day of judgment itself this holy confidence will remain:e they who possess it now, will go forth with joy to meet the bridegroom; “ they will stand before him with great boldness;"f and, assured of their relation to him, will exclaim, “ This God is our God for ever and ever.”] INFER
• Heb. x. 22. and 1 John. i. 7. 1 Gen. jji. 9. and iv. 9, !0. u 2 Cor. i. 12. s Ver. 19,
y Eph. ii. 12. z Ver. 22. a Job x. 7.
b Jolin xxi. 17. c Isaiah xxxviii. 3. d Some think these are two distinct witnesses: but perhaps this is the more just view of the matter, See Skel. on Rom. viji. 16.
1. How careful should we be in every part of our conduct!
[Every thing we do is written in the book of God's remembrance; and our own consciences will hereafter, if not now, attest the truth of God's record. How anxious then should we be, that every day and every hour should record something good, rather than what will distress us in the day of judgment. Let us then beg of God to “put truth in our inward parts:" let us exercise ourselves day and night to keep a “conscience void of offence both towards God and man:"g and let us say with Job, “ My heart shall not reproach' me as long as I live."h]
2. How attentive should we be to the voice of con. science!
[Conscience, if we would listen to it, would tell us many plain and wholesome truths. If we would submit to its reproofs, it would keep us from much evil, and lead us safely to heaven. Let none of us then stifle it, or bribe it, or despise it: but let us rather get it well informed, and cherish with care its salutary admonitions. Let us carefully conform ourselves to its dictates, and judge ourselves, that we may not be judged of the Lord.”'']
3. How thankfully should we bathe in the fountain of Christ's blood!
[There is not a day or an hour wherein conscience does not contract some defilement: nor is there a probability of pacifying it, but by continual applications to "the blood of sprinkling." Let us then rejoice that there is “a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness;" and let it be our care day and night to cleanse ourselves in it from every fresh contracted stain. If we neglect this, “our mind and conscience will be defiled;”m but if we “abide in him, we shall have confidence in expectation of his appearance; nor shall we be ashamed before him at his coming.""]
el John iv, 17.
f Wisd. v. I.
& Acts xxiv. 16. & Acts xxiii. 1. ul Jolin ii. 28.
CCCCXIX. AGAINST A DISPOSITION TO RELIN
QUISH THE LORD'S SERVICE.
Luke ix. 62. Jesus said unto him, No man having put his
hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom
SO infinitely important is the service of God, that nothing can ever justify the withdrawing of ourselves from it, or the relaxing of our diligence in the discharge of our proper office-However innocent any earthly employment may be, yea, however decorous, or even necessary, in its place, it must give way to the more urgent calls of our duty to God-Of this our Lord constantly warned his hearers, in order that they might fully count the cost before they became his followers-His answers to three different persons upon this subject are worthy of our particular attention-To the first, who voluntarily tendered to him his services, he replied, that he must expect no worldly advantages in following him, but rather lay his account to meet with poverty and disgrace-In his address to the second, whom he had enjoined to follow him, and who wished to defer his obedience till he should have performed the last offices for his deceased father, our Lord required him to leave those offices to others, who were not occupied in higher pursuits, and instantly to comply with the direction given him; because nothing, however proper in itself, should interfere with the execu. tion of a positive command—To the last, he gave this caution; That since his earthly relatives would most probably prove a snare to him under his present circumstances, he must make up his mind to forsake all for him; for that a wavering mind would unfit him both for the service of God on earth, and the enjoyment of God in heaven
The request of this last person seems to leave brought to our Lord's mind the circumstances of Elisha, when he was called to serve Elijah: and it is to Elisha's occupation that our Lord alludes in the answer he gave him
2 1 Kings xix. 19, 20.
From his words we may deduce two important observa:
1. When we engage in God's service; we should deter
mine, through grace, to continue in it When we “put our hand to the plough” we engage in God's service
[It is obvious that, as God's creatures, and more particu. larly as redeemned by the blood of his dear Son, we are bound to serve and obey him-Now the obedience which he requires, is, that we renounce the world, and mortify sin, and yield up ourselves to him unfeignedly, and without reserve-And when we begin to make a profession of religion, we do, in fact, declare, that henceforth we will walk conformably to the example, of Christ, and the precepts of his gospel-Our very putting of our hand to the plough is, as it were, a public declaration of our intention to prosecute and finish the work assigned us by our divine Master---]
But it is of no use to begin the Lord's work, if tve do not resolutely adhere to it
(When first we turn to the Lord, we propose to ourselves two ends, namely, to glorify God, and to save our own souls: and while we continue faithful to our engagements, we find no reason to complain of disappoiritment-But the very instant we recede from our work, we proclaim; as it were, to all around us, I have tried religion, and found it but an empty name: I have served the Lord, and experienced him to be an tiard Master: I have weighed the world and its services in a balance with God and his service; and I bear my testimony that the world deserves our preference-By such conduct as this a person pulls down all that he has built: he brings incomparably more dishonour to God than ever he brought glory; and sinks his soul into a far deeper condemnation, than if he had never known the way of righteousness --As a man who should begin to plough, would render himself of no use, if he should relinquish his work as soon as he had proceeded to the end of a single furrow; so an apostate from religion rentders his divine Master no service by a temporary obedience, but rather defeats, yea, most completely reverses, the ends proj posed-]
Nor is it an open apostasy only from our holy profession that is so fatal to us: for