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ever adopts this, as the rule of es- this, that the conduct of responsitimating his own character and ho- ble agents has a moral character, nestly applies it in all cases, will and must be right or wrong. This not essentially err. Very few, how- estimation 'is ascertained by comever, if any do this. Most minds paring our actions with the rule of adopt a rule, which they have re. right. By this comparison we know ceived by education, from the cus- the character of our conduct and toms of society, or from some fa- judge of actions. Here is the vourite course of speculation. It intellectual apprehension of the is seldom the result of reflection agreement or disagreement of our or careful examination into the ori- actions with the rule of right, which gin, character or authority of its is the most essential operation in provisions; but is adopted without the process called conscience. The notice, not at once, but by degrees. only remaining operation in the proThe rule may never have been ex- cess is the feeling consequent upon pressed in words, or written in a the discovery of moral character. book; and yet it may be as efficient Strictly and technically speaking, in its application as though it had conscience is no more than an apbeen engraved on a tablet of stone. prehension of the right or wrong of To give it efficiency the rule must our conduct, according to the rule be familiar to the mind, and dis- of the mind's adoption; but use has tinctly apprehended, that we may given the term a more extended readily know the result of compa- meaning, so as to include the feelrison when our conduct is brought ing of approbation, or compuncto the test.
tion, connected with the apprehenAs to the consciousness of our sion. We object not to this acown conduct, we have already ex- quired meaning of the term; it is plained this act of the mind, and its convenient and appropriate. But necessity in the operations called we think this fact has misled some conscience will be perfectly mani- to consider conscience a distinct fest from a slight examination. It faculty. It bas also led to a phrais entirely plain that conscience can seology that seems to justify the not relate to those things of which same opinion; thus we say, conwe have no knowledge or conscious- science condemns or justifies, acness. We must, therefore, have cuses or acquits. But when we a consciousness of the feelings or analyze the process we find it to conduct which are to be compared consist of apprehension and feeling. with the apprehended rule. Here To express the same thought in anit may be proper to say that our other form, conscience is judging of conduct is morally right or wrong, our conduct, and the pleasure or good or evil, independently of our pain which follows. We sometimes estimate. We of course mean not speak principally of the intellectual to include those actions which have exercise, and sometimes principally no perceptible relation to the stand- of the feeling, which may also have ard of right, the perfections of led some to consider conscience a God. Breathing, walking, and in faculty of which these are the opegeneral all those actions which in- rations. This impression will also dicate no development of the heart be readily removed by a careful or affections, which will not distin- analysis of the facts as they occur guish good men from bad, bave not in the mind. Another cause of misin themselves or in their relations take on this subject is, that an apany moral quality. But these are prehension of right in one's own exceptions to the general rule of es- conduct gives more lively and lasttimating the conduct of responsible ing pleasure than any perception of beings. The general principle is abstract truth. This consideration
has led some to suppose there is a they were all supposed to be right, distinction in the nature of those every distinction between right and exercises called judgment and con- wrong would be set aside. Filial science; but let the analysis be kindness and parricide, on such a carefully made, and the only dif- principle, would be equally innoference will be found in the objects cent. The truth is, that the only of the exercises, and the degree of unexceptionable rule of judging is pleasure or pain following them. the word of God, revealing his perAny further discussion of this par- fections as the holy standard of ticular is deemed unnecessary in right for all moral beings in the unithis place. The principles and hints verse. That mind, which adopts contained in the foregoing analysis this rule of judging, has a right, are sufficient for our present pur- and that mind which adopts anoposes.
ther diverse from it, has a wrong There are now a few practical standard of estimation. The one questions on the use and influence will do right when he follows the of conscience, which require some dictates of his conscience, and the attention. The first which occurs other will do wrong. All that has is, whether it is always a right rule been said by many about sincerely or sure guide of conduct? The obeying one's conscience, principles involved in the true an- amounts to nothing in determining swer to this question have already a man's true character, until his been recognised. It is settled on rule of judging is known and estithe correctness or incorrectness of mated by the only unerring standthe rule, by which the mind esti- ard. The Christian sincerely folmates conduct and feelings—and lows the dictates of his conscience, on the distinctness or indistinct- in cherishing with tenderness his ness of the apprehension. If the offspring; the worshipper of Jug- . rule of judging be right, and the ap- gernaut follows sincerely the dicprehension of the agreement or dis- tates of his conscience, in offering agreement be distinct and clear, his child a sacrifice to the ghastly the judgment will be according to idol. Multitudes of illustrations truth and righteousness. In such will readily occur to every thinkcase no man can be justified in vio- ing mind, to show that conscience lating the dictates of his conscience. cannot be a sure guide in moral esBut if the rule which the mind has timates of heart or conduct. adopted be wrong, and the appre- Another question, which claims hension be ever so distinct, the de- some attention is, why do men cision will be wrong; or if the rule adopt such different standards, by be right and the apprehension be which to estimate the moral chaobscure or mistaken, the decision racter of their conduct? On the may be wrong. The question may, supposition of a moral sense, or therefore, assume an inductive distinct faculty, of which this form: Do men's minds always judging is the appropriate exercise, adopt a right rule of estimating the it would be difficult, if not imposmorality of their conduct? Facts sible, to account for the fact. The settle this question incontroverti- fact is, however, certain, and we bly in the negative. Nothing is think the analysis here given, furmore certain or clearly ascertained nishes the solution. Men adopt than the fact, that those rules are in- rules of estimating their conduct definitely multiplied and diversi- which accord as nearly as possible fied: often they are directly op- with the propensities of their hearts. posed to each other, in principle and These are exceedingly various, and practical application. It is impos. are excited, strengthened or di. sible that all should be right. If minished by circumstances of education, and by many adventitious understanding in estimating the things. If it be admitted that ori- moral character of our own actions, ginally man had but one rule of means an extensive knowledge of judging and no disposition to seek the rules by which the estimation any other, the depraved principles is made, and skill in applying of his fallen nature will account for them. the diversity. On the admitted A stupid conscience is just the fact of man's fallen state, we place reverse of the former. Without the solution. The process we need knowledge of the correct rule of esnot trace in its details, or inquire timate, or without skill in its aphow the different systems of reli- plication, no man's conscience will gion and moral standards first ori. exert much influence over his life. ginated; they may all be ascribed Arguments and appeals to the conto the fallen principle of man's na- science, or estimates of his conture, under the influence of which duct, will avail nothing with his stu“ he has sought out many inven- pified mind. tions.” On this ground it is per
A tender conscience refers us to fectly easy to perceive, that men the feelings of the heart, and dewill be inclined to vary and lower notes a sensibility, easily excited the standard of estimation, whene- by an apprehension of the agreever they can persuade themselves ment or disagreement of conduct that it is within their province to with the rule of judging. Some adopt their own rules. And what minds seem to have, by nature, is obvious, on principle, is fully il- inuch more delicate sensibility of lustrated by facts. Education, cus. feeling than others; which is distom, aversion to what is good, coverable in childhood. The influand a constitutional propensity to ence of early education, improves avoid painful feelings, are sufficient or diminishes this susceptibility in to account for the diversity of view of right and wrong in conduct. standards, in different minds and at A habit of carefully observing the different times in the same minds. conduct, and regulating it accord
There are some phrases in com- ing to the rule adopted, will inmon use, the explanation of which crease the susceptibility of feeling properly belongs to this description. which constitutes the tenderness of The phrases to which we allude are conscience. those that connect such qualifying In the opposite course, a habit of terms as enlightened and stupid, disregarding the decisions of contender and seared, good and defiled, science, diminishés not only the reawith conscience. An enlightened diness of apprehension, but the susconscience indicates an enlarged ceptibility; and byneglecting to comapprehension of moral priociple, a pare the conduct with the rule, the ready comparison of conduct with sensibility is blunted and the influthe standard of right, and an ac- ence destroyed. This explains what curate discrimination of one's own is meant by a callous or seared conactions. It refers more particularly science. Having been, for a long to the intellectual exercise, than to time, neglected or denied its prothe feelings of the h.art. An en- per influence, it sleeps, or in other lightened mind intends the acquisi- words, the heart loses its sensibility, tion of extensive knowledge; an and becomes indifferent to right enlightened astronomer, mathema- and wrong. Other propensities of tician or theologian, means one skills the heart may be cherished and ed in those branches of knowledge. strengthened; some of them may So an enlightened conscience, re- be even of a delicate, susceptible ferring us to the operations of the character, while this is blunted and VOL. IX. - Ch. Adv.
its character well described in the influence of habit upon the readiphrases being " seared as with a hot ness, distinctness and accuracy of iron,” “ being past feeling, and the mind, in apprehending the rehardened through the deceitfulness lations of conduct to the rule of of sin."
right. A habit of carelessness often A good conscience denotes the produces a sleeping conscience, and adoption of the right rule, a readi- a habit of strict attention a wakeful, ness to apprehend the agreement or influential one. disagreement of conduct with it, Sometimes another effect of habit and a constant, uniform regulation is seen in its influence upon the of feelings, words and actions, ac- heart. By neglecting the compunccording to the rule. This is what tions of conscience, the sensibility the apostle sought to preserve when to error and sin becomes deadened, he exercised himself, “ to have al- and the heart is hardened in sin, al. ways a conscience void of offence though the apprehension of wrong toward God and man."
may be present. The understand. The principal thing intended di- ing may make a righteous decision, rectly by a good conscience is, 'uni- but the heart be too callous to feel. form obedience to its enlightened This state of mind is always acdictates, but it implies all that be- quired by degrees, from sinful inlongs specifically to an enlighten- dulgences, and never at once by ed and tender conscience.
any individual. A defiled or evil conscience is the Sometimes men have great senreverse of one that is good, and de- sibility, and they are very conscinotes the adoption of a wrong rule, entious to avoid some things which a blindness of apprehension, or a are wrong, while, in regard to other callousness of feeling: either will things, even more sinful, they have produce an evil conscience. There no sensibility at all. This fact may is one thought more, which may be accounted for in one of two sometimes be intended by an evil ways; either the rule adopted is conscience, that is a sickly feeling defective, and so the fault is printhat leads to a wrong application of cipally in the understanding; or the rule, which in itself may be the feelings are perverted by the right. Any thing, in short, which dis- deadening influence of sinful intorts the apprehension, or perverts dulgence, and so the fault is printhe sensibility to moral character, cipally in the heart. The associamay produce an evil conscience. tion of thought and feeling, in some
A general remark should here be things, has been broken up by the made, on the influence of habit and habit, but in other things it remains education in forming and improving unbroken. the apprehension and sensibility of The whole discussion shows the the mind in relation to morals. The importance of early education, in facility and readiness with which the true principles of sound morals the mind apprehends any relations and pure religion. The mere acare greatly improved by a habit of quisitions of science, arts and budiscrimination, and injured by ne- siness talent, however valuable in glect. Every student must be their place, have vastly less influaware of the influence which habit ence in the formation of character, gives to his mind in fixing the at- than moral principles and religious tention, in the investigation of ex- doctrines. Every child must adopt, act science, and in associating num- as he grows up, some rules of estibers or facts. It induces a disci- mating his own conduct; to avoid pline of intellect, that makes things it is impossible, from the very coneasy which were before extremely stitution of his mind. To estimate difficult. Not unlike this is the the relations of things in the constant and almost exclusive employ- perverted their intellectual apprement of his mind, the relations hensions, by long continued violaof his own conduct to the objects tions of truth and duty. sought, are the most prominent and We close this article with a sinimportant to be estimated. To gle direction for the formation and bring these suggestions to their pro- preservation of a good conscience. per bearing, which to some may seem 'The first thing to be carefully ob. not very obvious, it must be recol- served is, to study the revealed lected that happiness is the great will of God, and adopt its maxims object of every man's pursuit, and and principles as the rule of estithat the relations of conduct to that mating conduct. The adoption of object involve moral principles, so a correct, righteous rule, is indisthat every man must estimate his pensably important to the formation own conduct by some moral rule of a good conscience. The next or standard. On the admitted prin- thing is, to habituate the mind to ciple and influence of human de- compare the conduct in all its parts pravity, children will be disposed to with the rule thus adopted. A just adopt rules that are wrong, and ul. and delicate discrimination of one's timately subversive of their own own character, must be the result of and others' happiness. Education, much and careful observance of the correctly and wisely conducted. comparison, Itis equally necessary, may do much towards forming an to the readiness and efficient influ. enlightened and tender conscience. ence of the comparison and judg
This law of mental operation ment, that the care should be habit. has more to do with the formation ual and constant. of character, than is generally sup- Another thing is, punctually and posed by the teachers and guar. resolutely to obey, in practice, the dians of youth. As character is feelings consequent upon the comestimated by the people of this parison. This will cherish a tendercountry generally, good morals are ness of feeling, and serve to disci. more valuable to human happiness, pline the whole mind to its proper social order and publick prosperity, exercise and character. The last than wealth, or power, or science. part of the direction is, a prayerful Care should, therefore, be taken to reliance on the teaching of the Holy furnish the young mind with cor- Spirit for guidance. Philosophers rect rules of judgment, so that in may smile at this direction, incorsubsequent life it shall have no oc- porated in a discussion on mental casion to alter them, or adopt differ- science; but we shall show hereaf. ent rules of estimating the conduct. ter, that this is in its place, and These remarks may help to account yastly important to the correct for the fact, that an early religious knowledge of the subject. education is so very efficient in restraining men in after life from gross outbreakings in vice. Religious truth ever has more effect upon such THE PRESENT STATE OF THE PRESmen, and they are more likely than others, to become subjects of perma
No. IV. nent religious impressions. They have adopted correct rules of esti- Having in our last number given mating their character, consequent- our views of the manner in which ly they cannot endure the compunc- the Moderator of the late General tions of their consciences, in the Assembly discharged the duties of commission of crime. This will his office, we expected to proceed always be true of all such, who immediately to a consideration, sehave not hardened their hearts or riatim, of some of the principal