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SERM. diately struck with when it reflects on its VII.
own wickedness; as, on the contrary, there arises an inward fecurity and confidence from a consciouspess of our own innocence and integrity. Especially the mind, which is firmly persuaded concerning God the supreme, the infinitely wise, the perfectly righteous, and good governor of the world, must feel in the most affecting manner the accusations, and the acquittals of conscience, which pronounces its judgments with an eye to his superior tribunal, and with an expectation of their being confirm’d by him; as the work of the divine law is written on every human heart, we naturally have presaging thoughts of the account which we must give of our own actions, and that every work shall be brought into judgment, and every secret thing, whether it be good or evil.
It is to be observed, that by the constitution of the human mind, which comprehends a variety of principles or springs of action, conscience is properly the fuperier
i controuling faculty, because the power of
1 approving or condemning belongs to it. Every affection, every appetite, is a distinct and direct spring of action ; but as there is
a regular oeconomy, and one common end SerM.
there must for this purpose
Serm. pleases, the contr.ty displeases him. If VII. our hearts condemn us, that is, if conscience
disapprove our dispositions and the habitual course of our actions, or any deliberate defigned work, we have then reason to dread the vengeance of him who is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things : * if our bearts condemn us not, then bave we confidence towards God.
It follows, that to all the purposes of virtue and religion, to satisfy the obligations of our nature and to please God, which is the great aim of piety, the short and comprehensive rule of conduct is always to act according to conscience.
But, the question is concerning the certainty of this rule ; will it bear us out in every
cafe? Is conscience infallible? I answer it is not, nor did God intend we should have an infallible direction in this imperfect state. We are here in an infancy of being, training up to a fect condition, in the mean time liable to fome errors in judgment, and in practice pursuant to them: but the direction proposed, if it be rightly understood and
*, John. iii. 20, 21.
impartially follow'd, is safe and absolutely SERM. the best. In any case propos'd relating to
VII. practice, let the mind free from the importunities of appetite and the tumults of passion, both which it is the province of conscience to correct and restrain, let a man, I say, calmly put the question to himself what is right? and, I believe, his first thoughts will generally suggest to him the
answer in following which he is safe. After-confideration very often gives opportunity for flesh and blood, interest and passion, to infinuate themselves, and mix in our counsels, and lead to tedious reasonings, the effect of which frequently is to mislead of perplex the mind,
There are two sources of error to which our practical judgment in matters of conscience is liable, and of which we should always be aware, and they are, felf partiality, and false notions of religion. The former our experience, if we be attentive, must make us sensible of. We always make allowance for it in the case of other men, who are not supposed to be fair enough judges, in the causes wherein they are interested ; and cool reflexion would satisfy us, that it is often so in our own case, There
SERM is a remarkable example of this in the hila
heinous crimes of adultery and murder seems