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present: the same difficulties you have to-day, you will have to-morrow, and it may be greater. Begin at once, therefore, to execute your convictions.'
DIRECTION 2. If you would be clear from this great wickedness of holding the truth in unrighteousness, see that you reverence the voice and authority of your conscience ; and resolve with Job, “My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.” Job 27:6. There are two considerations fitted to beget reverence in men to the voice of their consciences.
(1.) Conscience obeyed and kept pure and inviolate, is thy best friend on earth. “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience.” 2 Cor. 1:12. The
heathen “A good conscience is a wall of brass.” What comforted Hezekiah on his supposed death-bed, but the testimony his conscience gave of his integrity ? 2 Kings, 20 : 3.
“ The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways; and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” Prov. 14:14. Mark the opposition ; conscience gives the backslider a heart full of sorrow, while the heart of the upright man is full of peace. He is satisfied from himself, that is, from his own conscience, which though it be not the original spring, yet is the conduit at which he drinks peace, joy, and encouragement.
(2.) Conscience wounded and abused will be our worst enemy; no poniards are so mortal as the wounds of conscience. “A wounded spirit who can bear?” Prov. 18:14. Could Judas bear it, or could Spira bear it? What is the torment of hell, but the worm that dies not; and what is that worm, but the remorse of conscience ? Mark 9:44. Oh, what is that fearful expectation mentioned by the apostle, Heb. 10:27 ; and what sorrows are those described, Deut. 28:65, 66. The primitive Christians chose rather to be cast to the lions than into the power of an enraged conscience. Every little trouble will be insupportable to a sick and wounded conscience, as a quart of water would be to your shoulder in a great vessel of lead.
Oh, if men did but fear their own consciences, if they reverenced themselves, as the moralist speaks, if they exercised themselves to have always a conscience void of offence, as Paul did, Acts 24:16, then would they be clear of this great sin of holding the truth in unrighteousness.
DIRECTION 3. If you would escape the guilt and danger of holding God's truth in unrighteousness, keep your hearts under the awful sense of the day of judgment, when every secret thing must come into judgment, and conscience like a register-book is to be opened and examined. The consideration of that day gives your conscience a seven-fold defence against sin. First, it incites every man to get real, solid grace, and not rest in an empty profession, and this secures us from formal hypocrisy, that we be not found foolish virgins. Matt. 25:3. Second, it excites us to the diligent improvement of our talents, that we be not found slothful servants, neglecting any duty to which God and conscience
Matt. 25:21. Third, it confirms and establishes us in the ways of God, that we wound not conscience by apostasy. 1 John, 2:28. Fourth, it is a loud call to every man to repent, and not to lie stupid and senseless, under guilt. Acts 17:30, 31. Fifth, it is a powerful antidote against formality in religion, the general and dangerous disease of professors. Matt. 7:22, 23. Sixth, it excites holy fear and watchfulness in the whole course of life. 1 Peter, 1:17. Seventh, it puts us not only on our watch, but on our knees in fervent prayer. 1 Peter, 4:7.
And he who feels such effects as these from the consideration of that day, is fortified against the sin my text warns us of, and dares not hold the truth of God in unrighteous
It is our indifference as to a judgment to come, and ignorance of the nature of it, which embolden us to neglect known duties and commit known sins. Amos 6:3; 2 Pet.
3:3, 4. If our thoughts and meditations were engaged more frequently and seriously on such an awful subject, we should rather choose to die than to do violence to our consciences.
DIRECTION 4. Get true apprehensions of the moral evil that is in sin, and of the penal evil that follows; then no temptation shall prevail with you to commit sin that you may escape a present trouble, or neglect a known duty to accommodate any earthly interest, and consequently to hold no truth of God in unrighteousness. It is fear of loss and sufferings that so often overbears conscience; but if men were thoroughly sensible that the least sin is worse than the greatest affliction or suffering, the peace of conscience would be well secured. That this is really so, appears thus : first, afflictions do not make a man vile in the sight of God. A man may be under manifold afflictions, and yet very precious in God's account, Heb. 11:36–38; but sin makes man vile in the sight of God. Dan. 9:14. Second, afflictions do not put men under the curse of God; blessings and afflictions may go together, Psa. 94 : 12, but sin brings the soul under the curse.
Gal. 3:10. Third, afflictions make men more like God, Heb. 12:10; but sin makes us more like Satan. 1 John, 3:8; John 8:34. Fourth, afflictions for conscience' sake are but the creature's wrath inflamed against us; but sin is the inflamer of God's wrath against us, as in the text. Fifth, afflictions are but outward evils on the body; but sin is an internal evil on the soul. Prov. 8:36. Sixth, afflictions for duty's sake have many sweet promises annexed to them, Matt. 5:10; but sin has none. Seventh, the effects of sufferings for Christ are sweet to the soul, 2 Cor. 7: 4, but the fruits of sin are bitter; it yields nothing but shame and fear. Eighth, afflictions for Christ are the way to heaven, but sin is the broad way to hell. Rom. 6:23. Ninth, sufferings for duty are but for a moment, 2 Cor. 4: 17; but sufferings for sin will be eternal. Mark 9 : 44.
If such thoughts might be suffered to dwell with us, how would they guard the conscience against temptations, and secure our peace and purity.
DIRECTION 5. Be thoroughly persuaded of this great truth, that God takes great pleasure in uprightness, and will own and honor integrity amidst all the dangers which befall it. Psa. 11:7; Prov. 11:20. When he would encourage Abraham to a life of integrity, he engages his almighty power for his protection in that way: "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." Gen. 17:1. " The Lord God is a sun and shield ; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psa. 84: 11. An upright man is the boast of heaven, Job 1:8, because he bears the image of God. “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness." Psa. 11:7. And if integrity brings men into trouble, they may be sure the Lord will bring them out.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” Psa. 34 : 19. How safely then may they leave themselves in the hands of his infinite wisdom, power, and fatherly care. Nay, God is not only the protector, but also the rewarder of conscientious integrity, Psa. 18:20; and that in four ways. First, in the inward peace it yields : “ The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever." Isa. 32:17. But the effect of sinful and carnal policy is shame and sorrow. Second, in the success and issue of it; it not only turns to God's glory, but it answers and accommodates our own designs and ends far better than our sinful projects can do. Prov, 28:23. Third, great is the joy resulting from it in the day of death. 2 Kings, 20:3; Psalm 37: 37. Fourth, in the world to come. Psalm 49: 14. Were this duly considered and believed, men would choose rather to part with life than with the purity and peace of their consciences. They would suffer all wrongs and injuries rather than do conscience the least injury
DIRECTION 6. Do not idolize the world, nor overvalue the trifles of this life : it is the love of the world which makes men violate the rules of their own conscience, 2 Tim. 4:10; it is this that makes men strain hard to get loose from the ties of conscience. The young man was convinced, but the world was too hard for his convictions, Luke 18:23 ; the degree of his sorrow was according to the degree of his love of the world. It is not having, but overloving the world that ruins us ; it is a worldly heart which makes men turn and dissemble at the rate they do, in time of temptation. Could you once dethrone this idol, how safe would your conscience be. The church is described as clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, Rev. 12:1; the most zealous age of the church was the age
of poverty. Try then these considerations upon your hearts, to loose them from the inordinate love of the world. First, what good will the world do when you have lost your integrity for its sake, and peace is taken away from the inner man? What joy of the world had Judas, and what comfort had Spira? If you part with your integrity for it, God will blast it and it shall yield you no joy. Second, except you renounce the world, you are renounced by Christ : disclaim it, or he will disclaim you. Luke 14 :33. No man can be admitted into Christ's service, but by sealing this covenant with him. Third, whatever loss you shall sustain for Christ and conscience, he stands pledged to repair it to you, and that with an infinite overplus. Mark 10:29, 30. Fourth, in a word all the riches, pleasures, and honors in the world are not able to give you such joy and heart-refreshing comfort as the acquitting and cheering voice of your own consciences can do. Settle these things in your hearts as defences against this danger.
DIRECTION-7. Beg of God, and labor to get more Chris