Sentence Sermons (Christian Inspiration) #95 --- Conscience
Quotations on Conscience
One answer to the moral dilemma often given is, "let your conscience be your guide." Well, can we? Can we simply follow our consciences when faced with questions of right and wrong? The answer is "yes" and "no"! Yes, our conscience may help us, but also our consciences may be tricked or distorted or ignored. Some "distorted consciences" might be outlined as follow:
(1) The Worn-Down Conscience. If we do certain things enough, the conscience wears down and these things don't seem wrong anymore.
(2) The Rationalized Conscience. In the monumental novel, "War and Peace," the main character says it for us, "Yes, I have sinned, but I have several excellent excuses!"
(3) Consequence Conscience. This is the kind of conscience that only worries about getting caught.
(4) Elastic Conscience. This is the conscience that can be stretched to any compromise.
(5) Childish Conscience. Here is the "naughty mustn't do or you will get punished" mind-set. No significant commitments here, only the notion that religion is a never-ending series of "thou shalt nots."
All of these kinds of consciences are diseased. There is, however, a healthy and helpful mature conscience. It is ever-growing and is rooted not in negatives, but in positive commandments. Mature conscience does not trust feelings as much as it trusts the truth. The key to mature conscience is that it is rooted in love, for there is no goodness apart from love. There is no goodness apart from active, loving good will toward all people. Love is the fixed point in a changing world! Unconditional, indiscriminate love is the measuring stick for matureŠ conscience. Love is the one thing that is always right!
---Jim Moore, Shreveport Journal, Shreveport, La., April 11, 1981.
In building character, make conscience your architect, and let it approve every inch of material used. Begin right. To begin right is to think right; for deeds are but executed thoughts, and if you guard your thoughts, the deeds will take care of themselves. Keep the inside of your hands clean; on this hangs all the law of right living. Get your self-respect and keep it as the immediate jewel of your soul. Live on good terms with yourself. ... I pray you stay on good terms with that little monitor, the conscience, and listen for his whisper at every turn of life. He has the right to rule you. He is a king and he is the only one that ever reigned by divine right. His coronation was not attended by any pomp and pageantry of state, but God was there and gave him dominion over your lives.
---George N. Aldredge, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, May 31, 1903.
Life's perfect standard is not in the matter of a commanding conscience. Because of its oft association with the most sacred things of life, and because of the half truth couched in the beautiful phrase, "conscience is the voice of God in the human soul," innumerable multitudes are going down under the fatal delusion that conscience is always a safe guide in the course of moral conduct. Men forget that the fine edge of conscience can be dulled into a bluntness that cuts no more. It is only when the conscience is enlightened, and when it squares with the Sermon on the Mount, can it be relied on as an unerring guide in life's perfect way.
---Robert E. Goodrich, The Shreveport Times, Shreveport, La., Jan. 20, 1930.
Each heart has its private courtroom where the individual stands trial for his misdeeds. Conscience is a resourceful and persistent accuser, is the prosecuting attorney.
We rise to our defense with all the ingenuity we can muster, but the verdict is "Guilty" until we engage the services of the only advocate who is a match for conscience.
It does not take a black crime or a long list of sins to arouse a sense of guilt. Often it is touched off by so-called little sins. People vary in sensitivity, and the wrong that some shrug off as a peccadillo can be to others the torture of the damned.
Conscience cannot be drowned in liquor or thwarted by ceaseless activity. It cannot be removed by an inflation of the ego, or by a change of scenery, or the consumption of sleeping pills.
Conscience requires an answer. That answer is Jesus Christ. He is our defense. He pleads our cause by offering the facts that all sin has been punished and paid for by His death.
---Oswald C.J. Hoffman, Houston Post, Houston, Texas, July 11, 1953.
A well-regulated conscience begets self-respect. When a man descends so low as to lose this attribute his conscience becomes atrophied, and if not regenerated during earth life, will assert itself in the clearer light of the hereafter, when memory and conscience become dovetailed one into the other; memory recalling evil deeds done though the despising of God's laws, and an outraged accusing conscience lashing the soul as these moving pictures of past misdeeds are thrown upon the screen of remembrance--a self-made hell prepared by the sinner for his own retribution.
Punishment, to be of remedial value, must be reformatory; and we can but feel that the penalty which the wrongdoer brings upon himself is of this nature, that he may come to realize, through suffering, how vastly superior right is to wrong, and arise in earnest effort to redeem the time sinfully squandered. -
--H.S. Jenison, Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla., March 25, 1923.
Real punishment for sin is not administered in jails. Real retribution does not come from ostracism or the scorn of others. It is deeper and much more inevitable, for it thunders from the silences of the soul. Laugh, if you will, at the "weakness" of those who believe in the thing called conscience. Explain it if you wish as educated fear. ... Conscience ever convicts, and the penalties which it brings are sure, certain and unavoidable.
---Burris A. Jenkins, Kansas City Post, Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 22, 1919.
"If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uppermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." (Psalms 139:9-10.)
This is one of David's testimony Psalms in which he is saying: "No matter where I go or how fast I go the Lord is with me."
The light of dawn travels like a giant in seven league boots, but though we travel that fast the Lord is waiting for us when we arrive. I like to think of God through the Holy Spirit as being the co-pilot in our life. He speaks to us through our conscience which is to us as the instrument panel is to the plane. If we will allow Him right of way in our lives He will help us be sure we take on the proper fuel to power us on; He will see to it that we maintain sufficient cruising speed to keep flying; He will help us prepare for changing weather conditions.
When we have done our best in facing life's situations He will always be by our side to help us past the impossible. And this Holy Spirit in the sunset of our lives will help us land safely on the other side of eternity. Do we have the faith that David had?
---George Pearce, Jr., Beauregard News, DeRidder, La., Aug. 26, 1955.
A good conscience is one that is in good working order, that has a healthy sense of right and wrong, of what is true and what is false, and furthermore is strong enough to enforce its demands and then has a comfortable, peaceful sense of satisfaction in obtaining its requirements. A good conscience toward God is one that recognizes its obligation to Him, that is not independent of Him, that is accountable to Him and can only be satisfied in the sense of His approval, of having carries out His commands. ...
A faulty conscience may not be disturbed by disobedience; it may itself have been made faulty by disobedience. It may have lost its healthy tone, its power of control, its ability to enforce its demands or its healthy eagerness to know the will of God, its desire to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong, false and true. It may get into the habit of saying it doesn't make any difference, it may prate about non-essentials. These are the symptoms of a conscience that has in some way been seared, till its hard scales are no more sensitive. It does not feel the delicate touch of the will of God, it is not pained by His grief at our wrong doing and failure to obey.
---P.I. Lipsey, Baptist Record, Jackson, Miss., Jan. 1, 1914.
We need men who are controlled by conscience, rather than by expediency; who are guided by principle rather than by popularity; men who are influenced by a spirit of pure patriotism, rather than a desire for political preferment. Above all, we need men of strong Christian faith who are prepared to uphold their religious convictions in the face of popular prejudice.
---C.Y. Love, The Register and Leader, Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 22, 1912.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1.) There is no peace for a stirring conscience. There is no reform that will do. There is no training that brings relief. It is only the acceptance of the salvation of God in Christ that brings it. Your conscience is not clean, man out of Christ. I know it is not. There is no way but His way for you to have peace.
---William M. Anderson, Jr., Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Aug. 22, 1921.
Conscience is the headlight of practical intelligence, and guides man in the best use of all his powers.
---William M. Anderson, Sr., Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, June 12, 1921.
The voice of conscience is not a shadowy, vague nothingness. It is the living counsel and communion of our real self with the real source of our life in God. The conscience is the most real expression of our deepest life. Our other ideas and ideals may have their trend of opinion from the standards of morality about us, but the conscience, when enlightened by God, voices our real self.
---John Edward Carver, Salt Lake Herald-Republican, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 31, 1913.
Conscience is God's representative in the soul. It lays down the law to the soul. It gives us the feeling of obligation to do the right and to refrain from doing the wrong. And when we do the right the approval of conscience is a great service of comfort to us. And when we do the wrong the condemnation of conscience is a great cause of pain. A good conscience is a continual feast, and they who have that can do without the banquets of the world. Can you lie down to rest at night without encountering the terrors of an aroused conscience?
---M.A. Cooper, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 24, 1936.
A true Christian conscience is born in freedom, nurtured on grace, and supported by knowledge commensurate with the opportunities and capacities of each earnest Christian soul. No one is justified in presiding with righteous indignation over the guilt or malice of another person. Likewise, no one is justified in forming his conscience in casual ways, according to partially digested principles and neighborhood chit-chat, in keeping, merely, with whims and foibles and pleasures.
A key to the process of forming a true conscience is the use of grace. The dynamics of Christian conscience demand than man be on fire for truth and immune to the grosser elements of egotism. It is in and through Christ, the great Mediator, that man is enlightened and fortified for theological controversies and moral decisions. It is necessary to wait on the Word, "the true light that enlightens every man who comes into this world. He came into His own . . . and to as many as received Him He gave the power of becoming sons of God."
---Joseph A. Hughes, North-Central Louisiana Register, Alexandria, La., Oct. 4, 1968.
Atrophies of conscience are poor trophies of judgment.
Conscience is moral sense, but some have neither morals nor sense.
It takes knowledge plus right standards to make a good conscience.
---Frederick D. Leete, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, Jan. 5, 1928.
Conscience is the wireless instrument which registers waves from the Infinite. It fails to register when interfered with by the static of selfishness.
---W.A. MacKenzie, Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla., Nov. 20, 1922.
You can silence conscience, but you cannot take away its frown.
---Ernest C. Wareing, Western Christian Advocate, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 2, 1923.
"See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed thee in the mount." (Hebrews 8:5.) Honest work is the only kind of work a man can afford. If the man wants a pattern, the pattern demands a man. It calls for "all things," every item squared by the specifications, every obscure nook and corner honest. A shoddy ideal will make a shoddy character, and shoddy character will do shoddy work. Conscience is the best carpenter. The man himself comes out in the house he builds. His work is a judgment throne. We impart something of what we are at the heart in what we do.
---John E. White, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., Sept. 22, 1902.
Every man makes his conscience either the prosecuting attorney or the lawyer for the defense.
---Roy L. Smith, Christian Advocate, Chicago, Ill., April 24, 1947.
A rightly trained conscience faithfully obeyed is a safe guide. The man who has it may find himself far from home and among strangers, but he will not do wickedly there just because he is not known and is away from the restraints of home surroundings.
His inner sense will have keeping power in it. He can do nothing more nor less than what the purpose of his heart calls for. He may be called upon to go among a pleasure loving, sense gratifying, wrongdoing people. He will sow no wild oats with the intention of doing better later in life, or when he comes to be among a better class ofŠ people. Because his heart is clean he will keep his hands clean also.
The man who is true to himself and serves his God will find it possible to be true to his brother and will be glad to serve him. For he who knows his own heart knows the heart of his brother. He who has a sense of his own need knows right well the need of his brother. And he who knows God can understand what man should be. For the image of God in man is the perfect man.
---George A. Scott, The Register and Leader, Des Moines, Iowa, Dec. 11, 1911.
What mathematics is to the world, conscience is to the spirit-life. Only conscience can enter into the possibilities of the spirit world. It alone can see the picture of life and write it down upon the table of human memory. It is an advent forever on the ways of time and eternity, treading paths of peace and pleasantness--paths whereon no sceptre's dirty feet shall ever tread. The wings of conscience are like time, never weary, and time, temporaries and space are but an island, only eternity's frontiers are unseen. At night, it strolls away into dreamland, and drives hard for the profound, and crossing the seas of blue, it searches for the shore of the vast beyond. At day there is nothing had from its vision, though the wavesŠ of the vast ocean or the sleeping might of infinite crawl between the vision and the visioner, the seen is unharmed--the knowledge is perfect.
---F.A. Simms, Panhandle Herald, Panhandle, Texas, July 23, 1915.
I would call conscience the soul's susceptibility to moral obligation, and to pain or pleasure according as that obligation is observed or violated. It is not an intellectual faculty, but an emotional principle. It should be distinguished from the moral sense, or reason. As a matter of experience we do distinguish them. Treachery and deceit and cruelty on the part of others arouse our detestation and condemnation, while their friendliness and generosity excite our admiration. This is the experience of the moral sense. Only when we commit these crimes do we feel guilty and when we are kind we feel innocent and deserving of reward. In other words, conscience is exercised with reference to one's own conduct while the moral sense or reason concerns itself about the action of others. This is easily seen in the case of theft or murder.
---T.J. Delaughter, Baptist Message, Shreveport, La., Sept. 12, 1946.
Without revelation conscience is like a sun dial at night. Without God's revelation, seeking to do right is likeŠ looking for a black cat in a dark room that is not there.
If one is wrong, his danger will be in proportion to his conscientiousness or sincerity. ... Many wicked men believe that they are in no danger, and yet their peril is great because they think so intensely that there is no danger. Criminality lies in the failure to enlighten the conscience.
There is a good conscience and there is an evil conscience. A good conscience is one that has been purged by the blood of Jesus Christ, ... is loyal to God and follows the dictates of revealed will. An evil conscience is one that is defiled and perverted. It is not God. It has not been washed by the blood of the redeeming Savior. It is sometimes called good, because it is quiet and easy, and will not ring the fire alarm, or hold out the red flag. In its last stages it is seared over as with a hot iron--parched, paralyzed, insensible. The man knows what the law requires, but he has no impulse to obey and no sting for disobedience. He has peace, the peace of death. ...
Make God's law the standard; keep the mind open to light and advice from true Christians; seek a good conscience through Jesus Christ, and then heed its encouragements and admonitions.
---T.J. Delaughter, Baptist Message, Shreveport, La., Sept. 19, 1946.
Conscience has been called the inward monitor, the guide of the soul, the voice of God within man. It is not a law, nor law-making power, but a moral sense or faculty which discerns the right or wrong of actions, or affections, as viewed in the light of law. All ideas of right and wrong must be according to some standard or law outside of man, and which he not only apprehends but which he feels he must obey. Above all ideas of right and wrong, there is the sense of duty, a moral sense, which we call conscience. Under law we recognize that certain things ought to be done and certain things that ought not to be done; the one as right, the other as wrong. Right-doing is followed by a feeling of approval, wrong-doing by a feeling of disapproval.
This moral faculty does not consist in the moral judgment by itself, nor in the moral feeling by itself. It is in the union of the two that we have conscience. ... Conscience has nothing to do with the making of a standard. It is a faculty that acts with or in conjunction with another, and is a knowledge which we have in connection with something else. It does not usurp the place of the understanding or the reason. The cold reason reads the law--thou shalt and thou shalt not--and conscience, acting with the understanding and reason, discerns theŠ moral qualities of the commands and approves, the one as right, the other as wrong. The will decides whether the law shall be kept or not.
It is mainly after the will has decided, the deed has been done, that conscience does its work; approves or disapproves, rewards with an inward sense of peace, or condemns with a bitter feeling of remorse. I do not mean to say that the conscience does nothing before the will decides. It protests before the deed is done and enforces its penalties afterward. Often though when wrong is contemplated there is a great conflict between conscience and the will, and when such is the case conscience does its principal work beforehand. Thwarted in the conflict, it has little to say afterward. This is why some can commit great sins and suffer little in soul for them. This is why some men can live a shameless life in comparative ease and pronounce condemnation upon the actions of others.
They have fought the battle with conscience for some particular sin, for no man can sin, at least, at first, without settling his conscience. After the battle with conscience, the sinner may live on without any special accusation from within. He has learned to condone the sin he's "inclined to" and condemn the one "he has no mind to."
Some men have more conscience for their neighbors than for themselves. They are lenient toward their sins, but severe against the sins of others. David's sin against Uriah is a case in point. His unholy passion beat down and smothered the voice of conscience and he went on in his course without interruption until the prophet, under the figure of another, made him condemn himself.
That conscience may be inactive in one direction and active in another, and revived again, when seemingly dead as in the case of David, would seem to prove that it may not be obliterated. I doubt if conscience is ever destroyed, unless a sinner run the whole gamut of evil, strike every chord of iniquity and be guilty of every crime in sin's dark catalogue. But men do not sin thus. It is generally some master passion that deflects a soul from its orbit, and takes the sinner far from God. There may be conscience in other matters save this one, and if he is never aroused there, still his alive conscience in other things, together with the sleeping conscience in the case of his darling sin, may be the instrument of eternal unrest.
---J.P. McFerrin, The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., Nov. 14, 1898.
Man has received a revelation of good sufficient to make him morally responsible. The constitution of man is such as to make him find the "satisfaction of his true self in moral good only." Toward this high ideal the impulse of the heart goes forth. God has revealed himself to man, partly in nature and partly in law, and finally in the Son of God who became the Son of Man. The spiritual in man is susceptible to this revelation, and man's consciousness of it in things moral is conscience. Through this faculty we apprehend the divine will, by which we may govern our lives. Through it the voice of God witnesses to eternal right. It takes hold of the divine will and legislates and judges. This gives conscience an awful supremacy--when it wakes and speaks it means that man is in spiritual contact with God, and that God is making His will felt in the depths of man's constitution. This is what was and is meant by the Apostle, when he said: "To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
The position of conscience must then be that of absolute monarch of the life. Every action must be brought before its view, and must bow to its dictate. The whole domain of life must be brought beneath its sweep, and every element made subject to its demands. A conscience thus kept is described as good. (Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:5-19; Hebrews 13:18.) Good because yielded to the will of God, and living in a spirit for the glory of God, never permitting an unforgiven sin to lie upon the heart. Living so that God will approve his deeds.
It may be termed the apprehension of God as righteousness, just as faith is the apprehension of God as grace. The revelation of right within us, or the voice of God speaking in the soul of man.
Conscience, if alienated from God, suffers. Sin clouds its insight, enfeebles its testimony, and perverts its judgment. Sin may become a liberty which enslaves man's will and limits his personality Man is a person, with free will, as God is a person, self-determining and self-realizing. Whatever prevents his full realization of his personal life being in harmony with the personality of God, is sin. Conscience must have independence of action, must be trained for its high and sacred work.
The education of conscience may be said to be twofold. First social. ... Second, individual. Man cannot depend alone upon the society in which he lives for his education of conscience. The primary feature in education is self-education. Then the education of conscience must be the work of the individual. The means about him are three:
A. The institutes of society. All those rights of life, property, honor and reputation. Obedience to these will keep the conscience clear and strong. Rules and regulations setting forth the duties of man to man as man are clearly set forth in the scriptures.
B. The literature in which conscience has expressed itself. There is the whole field of history, of biography and fiction. Here man may find rich information for the correct training of his conscience. ... In the revealed word, which has even commanded the unaffected approval of unbelievers, is to be found in the touchstone of conscience.
C. Communion with God. The highest school for the conscience is communion with the unseen yet none the less real God. The breathing in of the spiritual, the infinite. Only through this training school can the conscience become an infallible guide. Obedience to this higher law will perfect the conscience. The result is not immediate, but is a process carried on through life.
Three factors must be prominent in the individual:
First Desire to know. ... Yet while young, Paul "served God with a pure conscience." (2 Timothy 1:3.) ... Paul sought the true light, and, finding it, walked in it. Light is given to him who seeks light and follows immediately.
Second Obedience. "If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine." (John 7:17.)
Third Loyalty to its constraining principles. There must be faithfulness and reverence to all its holy pleadings. The sense of obligation must be honored and obeyed. Every prompting must receive hearty response and cooperation, if the soul moves toward God and anchors.
The supremacy and sovereignty of conscience: Conscience stands as a sentinel, a watchman, upon the walls of the citadel, crying out when the foe sin approaches. There is no truer friend than this faithful guard. Sin is the enemy to all our happiness. ItŠ takes away hope, destroys character, and robs of peace. Conscience defends from the encroachments of sin in any form whatever.
The function of conscience is that of judge. It sits, as it were, upon the seat of authority in the soul's judgment hall, and pleads for righteousness, justice, love and mercy. ... In conscience the consciousness of God cannot be gotten rid of. ...
Conscience may be dethroned, but it will never surrender its God-given authority. It will never be divested of its solemn powers. Every secret of the imagination, every thought of the heart, every desire of the soul must pass under its scrutiny. Passion may consume, desire may absorb, emotion may plead, reason may ridicule, but over and above all the raging of wild madness will be heard the voice of God in the soul, condemning the wrong and commending the right. In the hour of least expediency, up will spring this stern judge with terrible denunciations and horrible lacerations. ...
Conscience demands a personal God. ... The conscience of humanity has recognized and acknowledged that in Christ and in His teaching, and in His life, is the final revelation of good. Faith, therefore, in Christ becomes a moral obligation. ... The blood of Christ cleanses us and qualifies us to serve the living God. The demands of conscience being satisfied through the atonement made by this eternal sacrifice for sin, therefore we are justified through faith and shall not any more come into condemnation
---C. Polk Goodson, Austin Daily Statesman, Austin, Texas, June 30, 1902.
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