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he lights up in the soul of man, searching the inmost recesses of the heart; especially if enlightened by the word and Spirit of God. — 2. It takes cognizance of a man's actions; it keeps a good look-out, and watches over them; it has a sort of an omniscience belonging to it; it sees all his goings, yea, it sess his heart, and what passes through that, marks his ways and works, and numbers his steps. 3. It takes an account of them, and registers them; it is a book in which all are written; and though it may be shut up for the present and little looked into, there is a judgment to come, when the books will be opened, and the book of conscience among the rest; according to which men will be judged. 4. It acts the part of a witness for or against men, as even in the heathens; their conscience bearing witness to their actions, good or evil; and so their thoughts excused or accused one another. So the conscience of a good man bears witness for him, and is a co-witness with the Holy Ghost, to which he can appeal, as the apostle did, Rom. ix. i. so the consciences of Joseph's brethren witnessed against them, when they said, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, Gen. xlii. 21. 5. Conscience is a judge, acquitting or condemning. So the conscience of Samuel acquitted him of all charges that could be brought against him, as did God and his people also, 1 Sam. xii. 5. Such a clear conscience had Job; My heart, says he, that is, my conscience, shall not reproach, or condemn me, so long as I live, chap. xxvii. 6. In this sense the apostle uses the phrase, and points at the office of conscience, 1 John iii. 20, 21. 6. In wicked men it has the office of a punisher, or tormenter; and a greater punishment, and a more severe torment cannot well be endured than the stings and lashes of a man's own conscience; this is what the scripture calls the worm that never dies; and the heathens meant by a vulture feeding on mens hearts or livers.
II. The various sorts of conscience; which may be reduced to these two, an evil conscience, Heb. x. 22. and a good conscience, 1 Tim. i. 19.
1. An evil conscience; the consequences of which are guilt, terror, distress and sorrow, sooner or later, unless the heart is purged from it by the blood of Christ; of which there are different sorts. 1. Which is blind and ignorant, arising from an understanding darkened and alienated from the life of God, through ignorance; when in some it comes to that pass, as to have lost the dis tinction between good and evil, and between darkness and light; and some do not care to come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved; and others, like corrupt judges, are bribed with a gift, which blinds the eyes of the wise; and others are so sottishly superstitious, that they think they do God good service when they take away the lives of his people; and such a conscience was Saul's, when he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus, and therefore made havock of the church. 2. A dull, heavy, stupid conscience, which is no more affected than a man that is asleep; and though in danger, as a man asleep in the midst of the sea, and on the top of the mast,
yet careless, unconcerned, and secure; and though stricken and beaten feels it not, and is quite stupified; and like a man in a lethargy, unless a great noise is made, is not easily roused; as Pharaoh, whose conscience was alarmed with the thunder and lightnings, and then he owned he had sinned; but when these were over, he returned to his former hardness and stupidity: and even in good men, conscience may be lulled asleep, and continue stupid for a considerable time; as in the case of David, till Nathan was sent to him, and charged his conscience, saying, Thou art the man. 3. A partial one, when it overlooks greater sins, and is very severe on lesser ones; as Saul bore hard on the Israelites for the breach of a ceremonial law, in eating flesh with the blood, when he made no scruple of slaying fourscore and five priests of the Lord at once: and as the chief priests, who pretended it was not lawful to put the money into the treasury wherewith Christ was betrayed, because it was the price of blood, and yet it was the same money these wicked men had given to Judas to betray him: and likewise it is partial, when it suffers a man to neglect duties and services of the greatest importance, and puts him upon lesser ones; as Saul in his conscience thought he did well when he killed the lean kine, and spared the best of the flock and herd: and so the Pharisees, who omitted the weightier matters of the law, and were strict to observe the traditions of the elders, which were no part of the law. -4. A bribed one; as Herod's conscience was bribed with his oath, and pleaded that for the cutting off of the head of John the Baptist: and the Jews endeavoured to make their conscience easy, in pleading for the taking away the life of Christ, that they had a law, that he who made himself the Son of God should die. 5. An impure one, as the conscience of every unregenerate man is; Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving, is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled, Tit. i. 15. and so the con science of a weak brother may be defiled through the imprudent use of a liberty, by a stronger one, 1 Cor. viii. 7.-6. A seared one, one cauterized, seared, as it were, with a red-hot iron, 1 Tim. iv. 2. and so becomes insensible of sin and danger, and past feeling any remorse for sin; it is without any consciousness of it, and repentance for it, Jer. viii. 6.-7. A desperate one, or one filled with despair; as Cain's was, when he said, My punishment is greater than I can bear; and Judas's, who said, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood and went and destroyed himself: and especially such will be the consciences of the damned in hell, whose worm dieth not, but they will be ever in black despair.
II. A good conscience. There may be in unregenerate men, a conscience in its kind good; it may be naturally good, when it is not morally, spiritually, and evangelically good. Conscience, when it does its office according to its light, is a natural good conscience; as in the heathens, though they were guilty of sins their conscience did not charge them with; so the apostle Paul, before his conversion, lived in all good conscience, Acts xxiii. 1. though a blasphemer
and a persecutor. And, there may be in good men a conscience not commendable, and which, in a sense, cannot be called good. As,
1. There may be in them a mistaken and erring conscience; Some with conscience of the idol, thinking it to be something, when it is nothing, eat it as a thing offered to an idol, and their conscience being weak is defiled, 1 Cor. viii. 7. -2. A doubting conscience. The apostle Paul had no doubt, but was firmly persuaded, that there is nothing unclean of itself; yet observes, that he that doubteth whether it is unclean or no, and to be eaten or not, is damned, that is, he is condemned by himself, Rom. xiv. 14, 23.3. A weak conscience; which arises from weakness of faith about things lawful and pure, Rom, xiv, 1, 14Cor. viii. 7. which is soon and easily quieted, grieved and troubled, at seeing others do that which it doth not approve of, Rom. xiv. 15. and which at once judges and condemns another man's liberty, Róm. xiv. 3. 1 Cor. x. 29. or which, by the example of others, is easily drawn to the doing of that by which it is defiled, wounded, and destroyed, as to its peace and comfort, 1 Cor. viii. 7—12. — 4. A conscience smitten and wounded, which, though not sinful, may be said to be evil, and not good, because distressed; thus David's heart, or conscience, smote him when he had numbered the people, and made him very uneasy, disquieted and uncomfortable; and sometimes it is so smitten, pricked, and wounded, and só loaded with guilt, that is intolerable; a wounded spirit, or conscience, who' can bear? Prov. xviii. 14:-5. There is a conscience enlightened and awakened with a sense of sin and danger; which, though for the presnt distressing, issues well; as in the three thousand pricked in their hearts, who said to the apostles,' Men and brethren, What shall we do? and in the jailer, who came trembling before Paul and Silas, and said, Sirs, What must I do to be saved? which, though attended with great agonies in both instances, issued well, in repentance unto life and salvation, not to be repented of; the immediate effects of a truly awakened conscience, are shame and confusion of face for sin; as in our first parents, who atteinpted to cover their nakedness, and hide themselves; see Rom. vi. 22. dread of the divine Being, fear of punishment, and wrath to come, Rom. iv. 15. an ingeneous confession of sin, and sorrow for it, 1 Tim. i. 13. from which shame, fear, and sorrow, it is relieved by a discovery and application' of pardon through the blood of Christ, which, and which only, makes the conscience a good one. The epithets of a good conscience are,-A tender ene; as in Josiah, humble under a sense of sin, affected with a godly sorrow for it, one that cannot easily comply with a temptation to commit sin; as in Joseph, who said to his mistress, tempting him, How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? and having the fear of God before its eyes, and on its heart, cannot do what others do; as Nehemiah, Neh. v. 15.-A conscience void of offence; such as the apostle Paul was studiously concerned to exercise, Acts xxiv. 16. careful not to offend, by sinning against God, and to give no offence to Jew nor Gentile, nor to the church of God; and this he studied to
have always; not at one time only, but continually; and not in some things only, but in all things, Heb, xiii. 18.-A pure conscience, 1 Tim. iii. 9. 2 Tim. i. 3. Conscience is defiled with sin, as all the powers and faculties of the soul are a pure or purified conscience, is a conscience purged from the dead works of sin by the blood of Christ; an heart sprinkled from an evil conscience by the same; that is the fountain to wash in for sin and for uncleanness, that only cleanses from all sin, Heb. ix. 14. and x. 22. such a conscience is only a good one.
III. The effects of a good and pure conscience; which must make it very desirable and valuable.
1. Freedom from the guilt of sin. This the priests under the law could not remove with their sacrifices, and so could not make the comers to them perfect; could not make their consciences perfect, nor ease them of the burden of sin, and purge them from the guilt of it; then they would have had no more conscience of sins, whereas there was an annual remembrance of them, notwithstanding these sacrifices. From whence it appears, that such who have a truly purged and purified conscience, by the precious blood and better sacrifice of Christ, have no more conscience of sins they are purged from: not but that they make conscience, and are careful to avoid committing sin; but the guilt of sins being removed by the blood of Christ, their consciences do not condemn them for sins that have been committed by them, and from which they are purged, Heb. x. 1, 2.2. Peace of soul and tranquillity of mind. The blood of Christ speaks better things than that of Abel; the blood of Abel, in the conscience of his brother, the murderer, spoke terror, wrath, and damnation; but the blood of Christ, in the conscience of a sinner, purified by it, speaks peace, pardon, and salvation; one that is justified by faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ, has peace with God, and peace in himself; the effect of this is, quietness and assurance for ever. 3. Joy, as well as peace, is another effect of a good and pure conscience; especially when atonement for sin by the sacrifice of Christ is applied and received into it, Rom. v. 11. yea, the testimony of conscience, with respect to integrity and uprightness in conversation, under the influence of divine grace, yields joy and pleasure to a good man, 2 Cor. i. 12. as an evil conscience troubles and distresses, and gives sorrow; a good conscience exhilarates, and makes joyful and cheerful; the wise man says, a merry heart, which some interpret of a good conscience, makes a cheerful countenance, and hath a continual feast, Prov. xv. 13, 15.-4. Boldness, confidence, and glorying in the midst of calumnies, reproaches, and persecutions from the world, is another effect of it; a man of a good conscience can defy all his enemies, and put them on proof of making good their calumnies, and can easily refute them; as Samuel said, 1 Sam. xii. 3. and such a man, for conscience towards God, can endure grief, suffering wrongfully; not as an evil-doer, but as a christian; and therefore is not ashamed, but glorifies God on this behalf, 1 Pet. ii. 19. yea, if a man's heart and conscience does not condemn him, then has he confidence
tewards Ged, 1 John iii. 21. as well as towards men.-5. The effect of a good conscience, purified by the blood of Jesus, is a deliverance from the fears of death and judgment to come; such a man is not affraid of evil tidings now, of evil times approaching, and of judgments coming upon the earth; nor is he terrified at the alarms of death, but meets it with a composed mind, and has corfidence that he shall not be ashamed before the Judge of all at his coming. And these are so many aguments why,
Such a conscience is to be held, and held fast; a good man should exercise himself to have it, and to exercise it, and himself in it, and be careful to do nothing contrary to it; but make use of all means to preserve it, by frequently communing with his own heart, by taking heed to his ways, and by having respect to all the commandments of God; and especially should deal with the blood of Christ continually for the purifying of his heart by faith in it, and for cleansing him from all sin.
OF COMMUNION WITH GOD.
COMMUNION with God is the top of the saints experience in this life, it is the height of experimental religion and powerful godliness. This, of all the enjoyments of God's people on earth, is the nearest to the heavenly bliss; and could entire perfection and endless duration be added to it, it would be that. I shall consider,
I. Communion with God in general, which appears chiefly in a large communication of grace, and the blessings of it from him conveyed through Christ, and applied by the blessed Spirit; and in a free exercise of grace. upon him, under a divine influence: in all which is enjoyed much of the divine presence.
1. Communion is founded in union, and arises from it. There is an union between God and his people; for the more open manifestation and evidence of which our Lord prays, John xvii. 21. That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us! This original union is a federal union between God and them, taking them into a covenant-relation to himself; by virtue of which he becomes their God, and they become his people; it is a conjugal union between them, as between husband and wife; Thy Maker is thine Husband, Isai. liv. 5. The evidence of which union is the gift of the Spirit to them in regeneration and conversion; when there appears to be a vital union and a mutual inhabitation of God in them, and of them in God; Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit, 1 John iv. 13. The bond of this union is the everlasting love of God to them. As it is the love of one friend to another which knits their souls together; as the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul; and as the saints in a spiritual relation are