The Existence and Importance of the Conscience

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Romans 9:1​
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

Greetings all,

I had trouble deciding between the Daily Devotions & NT Epistles forums, but I finally decided on NT Epistles because I hope to encourage discussion.

This morning while reading John Brown's commentary on Romans, I was struck anew of the existence and purpose of the conscience. What it is and its inestimable value.
So here is J. Brown on the conscience from verse one of Romans chapter 9. It's a bit long, so take your time. Read over several sessions—but read it for your soul's profit.

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VII. There is such a thing as a conscience in every man and woman, which attends them constantly, be about what business they will, it is a constant companion: My conscience.
VIII. This conscience is not the man's self, but it is something distinct and different from the man's self, being a power there deputed for God, to act for him, and to walk by his rules, and to be as a censor over the man in all he doth; my conscience bearing me witness, and so it was distinct from himself; and was bearing witness of what himself was saying, and so distinct from himself.
IX. This conscience, which is as God's deputy in every man and woman, is particularly acquainted with every action the man goeth about, is privy to all he doth, be it a matter of small moment, or of greater concernment; for here conscience takes notice of Paul's speaking but a word, I speak the truth, says he, my conscience bearing me witness.
X. This conscience, when sanctified by the Spirit of God, and in a good frame, will not only take notice of the substance of the action which a man goeth about, whether it be lawful or unlawful; but also of the frame of Spirit which the man hath, while he is discharging the duty, and of the manner of his discharging of it, whether it be in a christian manner or not: for the apostle says, I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness; his conscience took notice, (for so we may understand the words also) not only of his speaking truth, but of his speaking truth in Christ, as became a Christian, and sincerely without guile and deceit, that he spoke truth, and did not lie.
XI. Not only is conscience privy to what a man doth, both as to matter and manner, but also is accordingly affected, and can signify its sense of the man's action, it can give its verdict of what the man doth, be it good or evil, as to matter and manner, or both: for here it is said, to bear witness, and so to approve of that which the apostle was about.
XII. Conscience rightly informed, and in a sanctified frame, will not approve and commend the action, or the man in doing of it, though' the action be good in itself, if there be no more, if all the circumstances which make up a christian action be not present; if the action be not performed in a right manner, from a right principle, and to a right end, conscience will never be pleased; so that a man may be doing that which is right in itself, and yet want the testimony of his conscience: for Paul was not only speaking truth, but he had also his conscience bearing witness, because he was honest, even as to the manner of his speaking.
XIII. When conscience is rightly informed, and in a spiritual temper, its testimony is most divine and impartial; much weight should be laid upon it, it being a spiritual discerner of things, and unbiassed; and the attesting of conscience is a weighty and solemn business, and should be gravely and solemnly gone about: for here the apostle puts the testimony of his conscience in with the testimony of God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, saying, My conscience also bearing me witness.
XIV. though' the testimony of conscience may not be appealed unto in trivial and light matters, or irreverently and rashly, it being such a grave and weighty matter to attest conscience; yet a Christian, in some cases, and at some times, may lawfully appeal to his conscience when the case requireth it, that God may thereby get glory and others may be edified; and there is no other way to get the matter cleared, as here; and it must be done soberly, deliberately, and weightedly: as Paul doth here, saying, My conscience bearing me witness, in the Holy Ghost.
XV. A minister, when lying under great calumnies whereby the work of God is marred in his hand, and lying under mistakes whereby others are hindered from profiting by the word in his mouth, and there being no other way whereby these mistakes and calumnies shall be removed and taken off, may lawfully, when in a spiritual and heavenly temper and frame, solemnly appeal to his conscience in vindicating himself from these aspersions and grounds of jealousy; after Paul's example here, who finding the jealousies the Jews had of him as their enemy, were certainly like to hinder them from believing the truth, and such as could no otherways be removed, says here in a solemn manner, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness.
XVI. When conscience is thus duely and rightly appealed to, it should abundantly in reason satisfy us as to the truth of what is affirmed under such a solemn attestation; Paul's taking this way, saith, that this might in reason have sufficed the Jews: I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, &c.
XVII. Though every man hath a conscience within him, yet every man hath not a like good conscience; some have their conscience defiled, Tit. 1:4. some pure, 1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3. and void of offence, Acts 24:16. some weak, some strong, 1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12. some have a seared conscience, 1 Tim. 4:2. some a conscience accusing or excusing, Rom. 2:15. some an evil conscience, Heb. 10:22. and some a good conscience, Acts 23:1; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; Heb. 13:18; 1 Pet. 3:16, 21. some a foul conscience needing purging, Heb. 9:14. some a conscience sanctified, and acting in the Holy Ghost, as here; and this should be endeavoured after: My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.
XVIII. It is very refreshful and comfortable to have a conscience sanctified and in a good frame befriending a man, and this is it which will satisfy him, and bear him up under reproaches, Acts 23 in crosses, 1 Pet. 2:19, 20. and under challenges, 1 John 3:21. as it doth Paul here, who comforted himself with this, that his conscience was bearing him witness in the Holy Ghost.
XIX. Not only should we consult conscience, when we are enterprizing any thing, and ask the judgment of conscience when we have done with the action; but seeing conscience is looking upon us in the very time while we are about an action, and hath some sense and judgment of what we are doing and saying, and can some way acquaint the man therewith; therefore we should, even in the mean time while we are about the action, be consulting conscience, and reflecting thereupon, and this will evidence a tender frame and disposition, as Paul doth here: he is speaking the truth, and he is adverting to what conscience is saying of him in the mean time, whether it be accusing or excusing him, and he finds it approving him, and bearing witness for him: therefore says he, My conscience bearing me witness.
XX. It becomes us all so to walk, even in the manner of the discharge of our duties, as to have our consciences going along with us and approving us: so that though we cannot always actually reflect and find the explicite testimony and verdict of conscience; yet we ought so to walk, as that the thing we do be right, and the frame of our spirit in going about it be stayed and composed, so as conscience be kept in a good tune, and be ready to give its approbation, when consulted: as it was with Paul here, who went about his expressing his great affection towards the Jews with such composedness of spirit, as he carried along with him a good conscience, and had its approbation, saying, My conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.

Brown, J. (1766). An Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 338–340). Edinburgh: David Paterson.
 
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