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SERMON XII.

The Witness of our

own Spirit.

2 COR. i. 12.

THIS IS OUR REJOICING, THE TESTIMONY OF OUR

CONSCIENCE, THAT IN SIMPLICITY AND GODLY
SINCERITY, NOT WITH FLESHLY WISDOM, BUT BY
THE GRACE OF GOD, WE HAVE HAD OUR CONVERSA-
TION IN THE WORLD.

I.

SUCH

JCH is the voice of every true believer in Christ, so long as he abides in faith and love. He that followeth me, saith our Lord, walketh not in darknesss : And while he hath the light, he rejoiceth therein. As he hath received the Lord Jesus Christ, so he walketh in him. And while he walketh in him, the exhortation of the apostle takes place in his soul day by day, Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.

2. But that we may not build our house upon the sand, (lest when the rains descend, and the winds blow, and the floods arise and beat upon it, it fall, and great be the fall thereof) I intend, in the following discourse, to shew, what is the nature and ground of a Christian's joy. We know, in general, It is that happy peace, that calm satisfaction of spirit, which arises from such a testimony of his conscience, as is here described by the apostle. But in order to understand this the more thoroughly, it will be requisite to weigh all his words : Whence will easily appear, both what we are to understand by conscience, and what, by the testimony thereof; and also, how he that hath this testimony rejoiceth evermore.

3. And, first, What are we to understand by conscience ? What is the meaning of this word that is in every one's mouth? One would imagine it was an exceeding difficult thing to discover this, when we consider, how large and

numerous

our.

numerous volumes have been from time to time wrote on this subject : and how all the treasures of ancient and modern learning have been ransacked, in order to explain it. And yet it is to be feared, it has not received much light from all those elaborate inquiries. Rather, have not most of those writers puzzled the cause, darkening counsel by words without knowledge ; perplexing a subject plain in itself, and easy to be understood ? For, set aside but hard words, and every man of an honest heart will soon understand the thing

4. God has made us thinking beings, capable of perceiving what is present, and of reflecting or looking back on what is past. In particular, we are capable of perceiving, whatsover passes in our own hearts or lives ; of knowing whatsoever we feel or do ; and that either while it passes, or when it is past, This we mean when we say, Man is a conscious being : he hath a consciousness or in ward perception, both of things present and past, relating to himself, of his own tempers and outward behavi

But what we usually term conscience, implies somewhat {nore than this. It is not barely, the knowledge of our present, or the remembrance of our preceding life. To remember, to bear witness either of past or present things, is only one, and the least office of conscience, Its main business is to excuse or aceuse, to approve or disapprove, to acquit or condemn.

5. Some late writers indeed have given a new name to this, and have chose to stile it, a moral sense. But the old word seems preferable to the new, were it only on this account, That it is more common and familiar among men, and therefore easier to be understood. And to Christians it is undeniably preferable, on another account also ; namely, because it is scriptural ; because it is the word which the wisdom of God hath chose to use in the inspired writings.

And according to the meaning wherein it is generally used there, particularly in the epistles of St. Paul, we may understand by conscience, A faculty or power, implanted by God in every soul that comes into the world, of perceiving what is right or wrong in his own heart or life, in his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions.

6. But what is the rule whereby men are to judge of right and wrong? Whereby their conscience is

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135 to be directed ? The rule of Heathens (as the apostle teaches elsewhere) is the law written in their hearts. Thesë saith he, not having the (outward) law, are a lave unto them selves: Who shew the work of the law (that which the outward law prescribes) written in their heart, by the finger of God: their conscience also bearing witness, whether they walk by this rule or not; and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing; or even excusing, acquitting, defending them, (* ri atomoje you) Rom. ii. 14, 15. But the. Christian rule of right and wrong is the word of God, the writings of the Old and New Testament: All that the prophets and holy. men of old wrote, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost : all that scrip. ture which was given by inspiration of God, and which is indeed profitable for dotrine, or teaching the whole will of God: for reproof of what is contrary thereto ; for corre&tion of error, and for instručtion, or training is up, in righteousness, 2 Tim. iii. 16.

This is a lantern unto a Christian's feet, and a light in all his paths. This alone he receives as his rule of right or wrong; of whatever is really good or evil. He esteems nothing good, but what is here enjoined, either directly, or by plain consequence. He accounts nothing evil but what is here forbidden, either in terms, or by undeniable inference. Whatever the scripture neither forbids nor enjoins (either directly, or by plain consequence) he believes to be of an indifferent nature, to be in itself neither good nor évil: This being the whole and sole outward rule, whereby his conscience is to be directed in all things.

7. And if it be directed thereby in fact, then hath he the answer of a good conscience toward God. A good conscience is what is elsewhere termed by the apostle, a conscience void of offence. So, what he at one time expresses thus, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day; Acts xxij. I. he denotes at another; by that expression, Herein do I exercise - myself, to hrve always a conscience 'void of offence toward God and toward nan, Chap. xxiv. 16. Now in order to this, there is absolutely required, First, A right understanding of the word of God, of his holy, and acceptable, and perfeet will concerning us, as it is revealed therein. For it is impossible we should walk by a rule, if we do not know what it means. There is, Secondly, required, which how few have attained ? a true knowledge of ourselves, a knowledge both of our hearts and lives, of our inward tempers and outward

con.

conversation : seeing if we know them not, it is not possible that we should compare them with our rule. There is required, Thirdly, an agreement of our hearts and lives, of our tempers and conversation, of our thoughts, and words, and works with that rule, with the written word of God. For without this, if we have any conscience at all, it can be only an evil conscience. There is, Fourthly, required, an inward perception, of this agreement with our rule. And this habitual perception, this inward consciousness itself, is properly a good conscience ; or, in the other phrase of the apostle, A conscience void of offence, toward God and toward man.

8. But whoever desires to have a conscience thus void of offence, let him see that he ļay the right foundation. Let him remember, other foundation of this can no man lay, than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ. And let him also be mindful, that no man buildeth on him but by a living faith; that no man is a partaker of Christ, until he can clearly testify; The life which I now live, I live, by faith; in the Son of God; in him who is now revealed in my heart; who loved me, and gave himself for me. Faith alone is that evidence, that conviction, that demonstration of things invisible, whereby the eyes of our understanding being opened, and divine light poured in upon them, we see the wondrous things of God's law, the excellency and purity of it; the height; and depth, and length, and breadth thereof, and of every commandment contained therein. It is by faith, that beholding the light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, we perceive, as in a glass, all that is in ourselves, yea, the inmost motions of our souls. And by this alone can that blessed love of God be shed abroad, in our hearts, which enables us so to love one another, as Christ loved us. By this, is that gracious promise fulfilled, unto all the Israel of Gud, I will put my laws into their minds, and write (or engrave) them in their hearts, Heb. viii. 10. Hereby producing in their souls, an entire agreement with his holy and perfect law, and bringing into captivity every thought to the. obedience of Christ.

And as an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, so a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. As the heart therefore of a believer, so likewise his life is thoroughly conformed to the rule of God's commandments. In a consciousness whereof, he can give glory to God, and say with

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the Apostle, This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.

9. We have had our conversation. The Apostle, in the original, expresses this by one single word (avesçapnuisv.) But the meaning thereof is exceeding broad, taking in our whole deportment, yea, every inward as well as out. ward circumstance, whether relating to our soul or body. It includes every motion of our heart, of our tongue, of our hands and bodily members. It extends to all our actions and words ; to the employment of all our powers and faculties; to the manner of using every talent we have received, with respect either to God or man..

10. We have had our conversation in the world; even in the world of the ungodly: Not only among the children of God, (that were, comparatively, a little thing) but among the children of the devil, among those that lie in wickedness, ev. tw, wompw, in the wicked one. What a world is this ! How thoroughly impregnated with the spirit it continually breathes ! as our God is good and doth good, so the god of this world, and all his children, are evil, and do evil, (so far as they are suffered) to all the children of God. Like their father, they are always lying in wait, or walking about, seeking whom they may

devour Using fraud or force, secret wiles or open violence, to destroy those who are not of the world : Continually warring against our souls, and by old or new weapons and devices of every kind, labouring to bring them back into the snare of the devil, into the broad road that leadeth destruction.

11. We have had our whole conversation in such a world, in simplicity and godly sincerity. First, in simplicity. This is what our Lord recommends, under the name of a single eye. The light of the body saith he, is the eye. If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. The meaning whereof is this. What the eye is to the body, that the intention is, to all the words and actions. If therefore this eye of thy soul be single, all thy actions and conversation shall be full of light, of the light of heaven; of love; and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

We are then simple of heart, when the eye of our mind is singly fixt on God: When in all things we aim No. III.

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