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[Many propose to themselves a false standard of right and wrong
By conforming to their own principles they may gain the approbation of their own minds
But it does not therefore follow that they are innocentTheir mistakes cannot change the quality of their actions Error may extenuate, but cannot remove their guilth-]
To be truly void of offence, conscience must have a clear discovery of the rule of duty
[The rule of duty is concise and plainThis however, though allowed in theory, is practically denied
Men persuade themselves that the love of the world will consist with their duty to Godk
And that pride, envy, selfishness, &c. may accord with love to man!
How should conscience, thus blinded, give a just verdict!
Or how should its blindness cause that to be good which is in itself evil?-)
It should be able also to testify upon good grounds that there is a correspondence between that rule and our actions
[It should be in the habit of examining our principles and motives
And be on its guard against any bias from prejudice or passion
It should be able to appeal to God for the truth of its testimony
Not that it need to testify of sinless perfectionn
But it must testify, that, after the strictest search, it can find no sin habitually indulged, or duty allowedly neglected—]
The true import of “a good conscience" being fixed, we observe II. That every true Christian labours to maintain it This is certainly the character of one who fears God
[The world are satisfied with gaining the applause of
5 Would those who think it meritorious to extirpate heretics, or those, of whom our Lord speaks, John xvi. 2. be justified in following the dictates of their deluded consciences? St. Paul determines this in his own case, compare Acts xxvi. 9.-11. with i Cor. xv. 9. and 1.Tim. i. 13, 15.
i Matt. xxü. 37-40. ki John ji. 15. Ti Cor. xiii. 427. ** That is not possessed by any, James-iii. %.
But the Christian makes but little account of man's judgment"
He knows that the eye of God is upon his heart-
And this, not at certain seasons only, but "always"
Nor will he be deterred by any regard to ease, or interest, or fear
Enquiring only, “ What is duty?” he will say with the apostle]
Nor can any one be a true Christian who has not attained it
[Every pardoned sinner is supposed to be without guilerAll in the primitive church are spoken of in this light
St. Paul did not hesitate to affirm that this was his character! —
And the same is ascribed to one who was far inferior to him
Nor is any one in a state of salvation who has not attained it
This is expressly asserted by David, and St. John'.) APPLICATION
[We all are willing to believe ourselves real ChristiansAnd it is painful to rob any one of so comfortable a hope
Let us then, as Christians, unite our acknowledgments to Goda
Let us adore him for that grace, whereby he enables us to maintain, always, and in all things, a conscience void of offence
ô Heb. iv. 13. p He does not think that his observance of relative duties supergedes the necessity of delight in God; nor, on the other hand, that the devoutest exercise of prayer and praise can absolve him from his obligations to equity and mercy. Jam. iii. 17. 4 Acts xxi. 13.
fi I Cor. iv. 3.
r Ps. xxxii. 2. s Phil. i. 10. and ii. 15. See also 1 Thess. v. 23. ! Acts xxiii. l. 2 Cor. i. 12.
u John i. 47. * Many things may conspire to rob a Christian of the comfort of such a conscience, (the corruptions of his heart, the temptations of Satan, and even bodily disorders, may cause him to despond for a season) but a just ground for such a conscience he cannot but pos.
y Ps. Ixvi. 18. 21 John iii. 8–10. If this were rigorously interpreted, it would contradict other passages of scripture, 1 Kings viii. 46. But to reconcile it with allowed sin is impossible.
a Rom. ix, 1, 2.
But if, in this appeal to him, we feel misgivings, or conscience suggest an opposite testimony, let us remember that admonition]
bi John iii. 20, 21.
DLXXVII. PAUL'S INDIFFERENCE TO MEN’s.JUDG
1 Cor. iv. 3—5. With me it is a very small thing that I should
be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. There. fore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
THE ministers of Christ are generally either unduly exalted, or undeservedly depreciated, by those around them
But they should discharge their duties with fidelity, without any regard to the opinions of men
And approve themselves to him who will judge them righteously in the last day1. The tribunal to which Paul referred his character He was not concerned about man's judgment
[By some he was looked up to as the head of a party _ By others he was deemed unworthy to liveb
But he knew that men's judgment would continue only for à day
He was therefore alike indifferent to their censure or applause-] He could not wholly depend upon his own judgment
(He did not know that he lived in any allowed sin Yet he was aware that, through the deceitfulness of sin and of his own heart, he might be led to form too favourable an estimate of his own state
He knew that God might discern much iniquity where we see noned
a I Cor. iii. 4.
b Ver. 13.
He therefore could not venture too confidently to trust even to the testimony of his own conscience-]
He committed himself rather to the unerring judgment of God
[He did not indeed hope for an acquittal on the ground of innocence
Or expect a reward as due to him on the footing of strict justice
But he relied on God's equity as tempered with mercy
And willingly left himself to the righteous disposal of his Judge-] II. The advice he gives to us in reference to this subject
He guards us against passing an uncharitable judgment on others
[There are certain cases in which we are necessitated to judge others both for our own security, and for the church's goode
But we should not needlessly or uncharitably exercise this right
To scrutinize too narrowly the motives of men is to invade the province of God himself
We should therefore forbear to execute an office, for which we are neither qualified nor designed-)
He recommends us to leave others to the judgment of God
[A time is coming, wherein God himself will judge the world
He will then bring to light the most hidden counsels of our hearts
Every holy desire or evil inclination shall then have its due influence in the sentence passed upon us
And“ all shall have praise” or dispraise, in the proportion and degree that the unerring Judge shall appoint
To him then we should commit each other and ourselves in an assured expectation that “the Judge of all the earth will do right”-] INFER
1. How little do they know of Christianity who are of a proud censorious spirit!
[Many who profess religion are exceeding prone to indulge this unchristian temper
el Cor. v.
3, 5, 11, 12.
f James iv. 11, 12.
But amidst their high conceit of their own attainments they themselves are only as tinkling cymbalse
Let them consider what judgment awaits them at God's tribunal," and they will need no persuasion to correct their sinful habits-]
2. What consolation does the gospel afford to those who are persecuted for righteousness sake!
(Christians must expect to have “all manner of evil spoken of them falsely for Christ's sake"
But God will bring forth their righteousness as the noonday"
The speedy approach therefore of his judgment may well reconcile them to the momentary disgrace which they are called to sufferi-]
3. What need have we all to prepare for the judgmentscat of Christ!
[It will be to little purpose that we have been admired of Our state will be fixed at last agreeably to our character in the sight of God
Let us then study to approve ourselves to “him who trieth the heart, and searcheth the reins”.
And endeavour so to act in all things, that, whether applauded or condemned by men, we may be accepted of our God-]
& 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3.
h Matt. vii. 1, 2. James ii. 3. As a man, knowing that his innocence would be indisputably proved before a judge in a few hours, would disregard the hasty judgment of a malignant enemy, or an ignorant stranger, and rather rejoice in the prospect of a more equitable decision, so should the Christian cheerfully endure the short-lived ignoniny that is undeservedly cast upon him.
DLXXVIII. WEANEDNESS FROM THE WORLD.
Ps. cxxxi. 2. My soul is even as a weaned child.
AMONG the great variety of representations whereby the Christian's character is set forth in the holy scriptures, that of a little child holds a very distinguished place."
* Matt. xviii. 3.