A Pure Conscience As Evidenced By Manner Of Living
“We have a good conscience, in all things, willing to live honestly. “‑Heb. 13:18.
A grievous error is indulged if we anchor in the doctrine, merely, of holiness; though, of course, we understand holiness is first a doctrine to be believed, and then an experience to be received, and then, most important of all, a life to be lived.
Mr. Wesley was wise enough to foresee the danger of leading men to anchor in a justified or sanctified state (though he emphasized both justification and sanctification by faith), that which was done for them in a moment, whereas we are acceptable to God not according to our past experiences, but according to the WHOLE TENOR OF OUR PRESENT TEMPERS. What we are now is the imperative thing. We heartily embrace entire sanctification by faith as a subsequent experience to regeneration, but we also see the necessity and imperativeness of outward righteousness and an exalted ethical standard being put in practice between camp and revival time. Not by our correct orthodox doctrinal theories and standards, but by the fruits of holy living shall we be known.
Our text speaks of a good conscience (it is synonymous with a pure conscience) and the evidence thereof‑‑‑‑‑’Having a good conscience,”‑willingly “in all things to LIVE HONESTLY.” The Apostle does not mean “willing” in the mere sense of willingness or desire to do right, such as a person on witnessing an emotional play with a moral, may momentarily feel (even to the shedding of tears), but WILLING in the positive sense of volition, an act or state of mind which not merely admires right in the abstract, but which wills to live honestly and SO DOES. Having the willing mind and also as Paul says, “performing the ‘doing’ of it.” Not merely, either, in a few things, or some things, or many things, but in ALL things; not here and there, or “now and then,” was Paul’s life influenced by this principle of a good conscience in all things, but always and everywhere he exercised himself to have, before God and man, the conscience void of offense. At home or abroad, on land or on sea, all was the same to him. He was as PURE IN LIFE in Athens or Rome as when at home in Tarsus among friends, fellow citizens and loved ones, or as when he was with the brethren at Jerusalem. He needed no one to spy on him! The dominating principle of his life was strong always, an everywhere, equally alike, to have a good conscience in all things.
Necessary Complements of a Good Conscience
Having a good conscience invariably has as a necessary concomitant, all manner of holy and honest living These are inseparably connected. They may not be divorced. Emotionalism, demonstration, shouting, holding up the hand, laughter and hand clapping, getting blest, are not the evidences,‑but plain honest living in all things! We would not deprecate the emotional which is purely the result of the operations of God’s Holy Spirit, but that false pumped‑up, put‑on, worked‑up, or whooped‑up kind that is often used as a cloak for sin. No, our observation has made us too wise to accept that as the evidence. We insist, primarily, that the honest living and working righteousness of the Bible is truer evidence than a hilarious time in meeting, or visions, special revelations, etc. We know a certain party who has the reputation for being the most saintly in the church and the town, too. Their testimony is always of the glowing type and often eventuates into a loud shout, which human enthusiasm sets the other saints on fire. But we also know, we are sorry to write, of something so questionable and sinful this party is a partaker of, that we are sure if we allowed in our life, would lead to a grieved Holy Spirit, a back‑slidden life, and ultimately to hell.
Yes, as naturally as the good tree bears good fruit, so naturally does the really good conscience bear honest living down to the minutest detail and most insignificant transaction of life. In addition to the unmentionable sin of the party above mentioned, a child is sent from the home, manifestly above age, and is given a half‑fare ticket and doubtless with instructions, should, the conductor ask for her age, to tell him she will be twelve her next birthday. Verily, in this case profession of the highest grace has not gone deep enough. When practices are loose and careless the inevitable reason is a defiled, and not a pure and good conscience. Listen, again, to Paul’s evidence: “Having a good conscience, WILLING IN ALL THINGS TO LIVE HONESTLY.” Reader, remember the inseparableness of these two things as the surest evidence of a Christian! Hear the practical James: “My brethren, doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The evil tree does not bring forth the good fruit, nor the good tree the evil. Neither does the defiled conscience send forth honest living, nor the pure conscience dishonest living.
Professors fail to see the tremendous moral significance of careless dealing and practices. As the little foxes spoil the vines, so do these things, Christian character, or rather, reveal its utter absence. The laxity and absence of conscience among professors is amazing. “Faithless in little, also in much.” Here Jesus teaches clearly faithlessness in little things is not consistent with faithfulness in anything. Reader, are you willing to live honestly in all things? Are you doing it? “Oh, it is my desire, and I want to. But do you? This is the test. “If ye love me YE WILL KEEP my commandments. He that loveth Me not, keepeth not my commandments.”
One who is really in possession of a good and pure conscience will have a proper regard for the property rights of others. We know young men studying for the “Profession”(?) of the ministry whose practices are so loose and careless they ought to be down at some mourner’s bench repenting bitterly for their sin to God and then they should get up and commence reparation and confession, adjustment and restitution to men. To one of this class we said: “There is little use for you to continue to study for the ministry, unless you mean to keep your contracts. All you may say will be voided by a wrong life.”
Others under our observation borrow tools, damage and break them, and then, on the sly, sneak them back with no word of confession nor offer to make good their wrong. But then they go on studying for the ministry and professing holiness. As long as such conditions are so abundant among us we must insist the evidence of a “holy life” is not in embracing the theory of sanctification, or human emotionalism, but this: “Having a good conscience, and WILLING to live honestly in all things,” and so doing.
Another Evidence of a Pure Conscience Is Compassion.
“Whenever conscience begins to burn low, compassion begins to shrink. Without charity (purity) of conscience there can be no fine compassion. Whenever conscience becomes obscured, compassion becomes thin, and as soon as that conscience is kindled and begins to glow, you will find, I say, pity begins to flow like springs after the melting of the winter snows, and, therefore, before you can have a full river of pity, you must have a glowing sense of right, and in proportion to our sense of right will be the scope and aptitude of our compassion. When I listen to the heavenly ministers, the cherubim and the seraphim who surround the throne of God and mark the note of their songs, I find that this is where they begin: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts.’ ‘The Lord is very pitiful because the Lord is very pure.’ Sin lies at the door when unsympathetic. This doubtless accounts for ,the myriads of unpitying Christians, ‘sin lies at the door.”‘
Bear in mind, sympathy, pity, compassion are inevitable fruits of a pure conscience. Jesus does not accept one’s pretensions, professions, as the evidence of rightness. He ever insists on the evidences of love, justice and mercy. Hear Him. Shouldst thou not have had COMPASSION on thy fellow servant, thou wicked servant, even as God had compassion on thee? How many like this one who have been forgiven countless sins by God’s compassionate grace when someone else is in the wrong are cruel, merciless, exacting and utterly unsympathetic. “Serves him right; he ought to suffer, etc.” He utterly forgets God’s longsuffering love and kind treatment to him. Pay me that thou owest! Forgiven seventeen million dollars by the Lord and then arrests a poor man for a few dollars’ debt.
It is said the world is dying for sympathy‑one‑half of it dying for sympathy and the other half dying because it does not give it. “Blessed is he that considers the poor (Margin) ‘BOWED DOWN IN SPIRIT,’ the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble and preserve him, and keep him alive; he shall also be blessed on the earth, and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing. Thou wilt make all his bed in sickness.” What wonderful promises to those who are sympathetic, whose imagination places them in the place of all the bowed down of the earth and who are ever ready to help the suffering, sighing, sorrowing ones. Oh, the crime of harsh, stern, set, unyielding professors who never feel pity or sympathy and who never shed the tear! “Their Lord is very pitiful, plenteous in mercy, full of compassion.” But their poor iceberg hearts have not so learned him. Suffering all about does not move them. They can not teach for they have never learned in the mellowing, softening, heart‑breaking school of sorrow. Some great crushing sorrow would be a great boon to their frigid, stoical natures.
When our home burned and the savings of years went up in smoke in an hour, our old Indian washwoman tried, through her tears, to stutter out her sympathy. Others who had culture and professed perfection, never so much as offered a word of consolation. One dear brother simply gave us his hand and meanwhile the tears of sympathy rolled down his cheeks. He was unable to utter a word from his full heart. We understood his message by pressure and were ourselves so overcome we could hardly preach. Often unsympathetic natures have crushing experiences following failure to give sympathy to others and their first thought is: “I wish I had sympathized with others more.” A wife failed to give the word of sympathy to a husband who was bowed down with grief. “O, go lie down,” she said. Presently he was dead at his own hand‑”Died from lack of sympathy,” could truly be written on his tomb.
“Ye, then, that are strong, ought to bear with the weak.” If any be overtaken in a fault ye which are spiritual go to such an one and restore him in the spirit of gentleness, considering, thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”
Reader, have you a good pure conscience? On what evidence? Are you willing, like Paul, to live honestly in all things? In business, do you buy and sell according to God’s Golden Rule standard? Do you consider your fellows’ interests as well as your own? Do you haggle? Is this not another form of getting what is not yours? Is it honest? The writer would as soon reach in the merchant’s pocket and take five dollars as ask him to take five dollars for an article which he sells for ten dollars. If you can not pay the price he places on his goods, kindly inform him you will look elsewhere. A merchant friend of ours told us how he dreaded to see a certain preacher enter his store. He knew it always meant a time of haggle and the familiar whine: “Can’t you let ME have for less?” This was the invariable response from his little soul on being informed the price of any commodity. By the foregoing evidences, honest living in all things, compassion for the weak, offending brother, and the Golden Rule standard for business transactions, reader, have you a pure conscience?
“We know God heareth not sinners, but if any man be worshipper of Him and do His will, him He heareth.”