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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



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a regular oeconomy, and one common end SerM.
intended in the whole frame, and an enjoy VII.

ment suitable to such a being, resulting from
the regular use of all its parts or exercise of
all it's

there must for this purpose
be a consistency or harmony of the whole,
or the creature must be easy in itself, which
it cannot possibly be, unless the self-reflecting
power, or conscience be satisfied. Hence
arises a proper obligation, the sovereignty of
conscience ought to be acknowledged, and
its dictates obey'd ; for he that hearkens to
its voice, and complies with it, poffefses an
inward tranquillity; he that acts in oppo-
sition to it is by the very frame of his na-
ture uneasy and discontented in himself. Still
it is to be remember'd, as was hinted be-.
fore, that to minds possess’d with the feo -
rious belief and fear of the deity, this has
a reference to his superior tribunal, where
we cannot help expecting that the sentence
of our self-reflecting power will be affirm’d;
for if we consider God as the voluntary de-
signing author of our constitution, 'tis im-
possible, I think, for a reasonable attentive
person to doubt but he intended we should
act according to it's direction; consequentiy,
that our obeying the voice of conscience


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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


more per

*, John. iii. 20, 21.

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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


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SERM is a remarkable example of this in the hila
VII. tory of David, who, after committing the

heinous crimes of adultery and murder seems
to have been for a long time quite insensible
of his guilt ; a whole year pass’d without
any discovery of his remorse or contrițion of
heart. But, when the prophet Nathan
came to him, and in a parable reprefented to
him a case of inhumanity and injustice fome
way parallel to his own, but far inferior,
immediately, he was fir’d with indignation
against the supposed offender. What ftrange
partiality was this, to have so high resent-
ment against the lesser transgression of ande
ther, whilst he was stupidly unconcerned
about much greater guilt of his own? The g
application of the parable, however, was
the means of David's conviction and being
brought to repentance. But after all, the
remedy against this evil is in ourselves, andı
it is the proper office of conscience to extiral
pate it. For what is self partiality, but dis-
honesty of heart? And therefore it is plain-
ly contrary to conscience, not an exception'
to the rule proposed, but a direct violations
of it, just as any other vice is, or an unruly
passion indulged. And if we will resolutely 4


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