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of their external conduct, unless it testifies also in favor of the christian simplicity and godly sincerity of their internal views and intentions. Conscience is as ready to approve of right motives of action, as to condemn wrong ones.

Whenever christians impartially consult conscience, it never fails to approve of whatever they do from pure and benevolent motives. long, therefore, as they keep their hearts with all diligence, and do what is internally as well as externally right, they have the approbation of conscience, which affords them a just and solid ground to rejoice, which all the world cannot take away. David says, “ Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them," or destroy their peace. And it was a proverb in Israel: “ The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways; and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.” As the reproach of conscience is extremely painful, so the approbation of conscience is extremely pleasant and joyful. And it is peculiar to christians to have the approbation of conscience, which is a permanent source of joy and consolation, both in prosperity and adversity, because it affords them infallible evidence that they have done their duty.

2. Christians have reason to rejoice when their conscience testifies in their favor, because it affords them infallible evidence that they have the approbation of God. Conscience is God's vicegerent in every human breast, and always says the same things that God says. It approves of what God

of what God approves, and condemns what God condemns. When christians feel and act as their conscience dictates and approves, they may know that God approves their views and conduct, and that their hearts are right in his sight. And it is only by the testimony of their approving conscience, that they can possibly know that they are at peace with God, as well as with themselves. Unless their conscience approves of their heart, they cannot know that God approves of it

. Accordingly, the apostle directs christians to determine whether they have the approbation of God, by determining whether they have the approbation of their own conscience. He says, “ As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” When the conscience of christians testifies, or bears witness in their favor, that they have the spirit of adoption, that is, a holy, filial, dutiful spirit, then they may certainly conclude that they are the sons of God, and stand entitled to the everlasting favor and enjoyment of God.

When conscience approves

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of the heart, it is an infallible evidence that God approves of
it; or when the heart and conscience unite their testimony in
the favor of christians, they have the highest evidence that they
are the children and heirs of God. No witness of the Spirit
without the witness of conscience, can give christians an infal-
lible evidence that they have the approbation of their heavenly
Father; but when their conscience approves of their heart, they
may certainly know that he approves of them. Hence says
the apostle John, “ If our heart condemn us, God is greater
than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart
condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.” This
peace of conscience which christians enjoy, stands inseparably
connected with peace with God, which is a source of peculiar
joy and satisfaction. David esteemed the favor of God as the
source of peculiar joy. “There be many that say, who will
show us any good ? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy coun-
tenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart more
than in the time that their corn and wine increased.” Again
he
says,

66 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” And again he says to God," Thy favor is life, and thy loving-kindness is better than life.” The apostle says to christians, “ The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." And he joins himself with christians in saying, “ Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience; and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts."

3. Christians have reason to rejoice when their conscience bears testimony in their favor, because it affords them infallible evidence that they will sooner or later meet the approbation of all the world. Christ forewarned his faithful followers that the world would disapprove, reproach and oppose them, for acting conscientiously in the discharge of their duty. And they have always found that his precaution was proper, and his prediction true. The men of the world disapprove of christians more for doing right than for doing wrong; more for obeying than disobeying their conscience. The men of the world are not displeased with christians for conforming to the world, but for not conforming to the world, and for practically condemning the customs, manners and practices of the world. Christians feel themselves bound to obey the dictates of their own conscience,

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All men

rather than to regard the frowns or flattery of the enemies of truth. But their conscience, which dictates and approves their righteous conduct, assures them that they shall sooner or later meet the approbation, not only of God, but of man. carry in their breast a conscience as well as christians, and their conscience approves of what is right in christians, as well as what is right in themselves. And though their conscience be now defiled and blinded by the moral corruption of the heart, yet it will eventually be awakened to do its office in condemning themselves and approving of christians. This has been verified in a thousand particular instances. Individuals who have disapproved and condemned christians for acting agreeably to their conscience, have afterwards, if not at the time, inwardly approved of their conduct. That which one man's conscience approves, the conscience of every man in the world will approve, when he has a fair and impartial view of it. Whatever the conscience of christians approves in them, all the world will approve, when it is clearly exhibited before them. Job acted conscientiously, for which his friends and enemies condemned him; but finally every eye that saw him and every ear that heard him, blessed him; and those who complained of him most, were constrained to justify him and condemn themselves. Saul hated and opposed David for acting uprightly, according to the dictates of his own conscience; but his conscience constrained him to approve of his integrity and kindness to him. Joseph's brethren hated and abused him for acting according to his own conscience; but when their conscience was awakened to do its office, it justified him and condemned themselves. Paul knew that his conscience approved of his preaching as he did, and therefore he confidently believed that the conscience of his hearers approved of it.“ Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty; not walking in crastiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." When the conscience of christians testifies in favor of their character and conduct, they may be assured that their character and conduct will be approved sooner or later by all mankind, and by the whole intelligent universe. And is not this a solid ground for their rejoicing always and without ceasing? I may add,

4. That they have good reason to rejoice when their conscience testifies in their favor, because it affords them an infallible evidence that they stand entitled to all the blessings of eternal life. Since their conscience testifies that they love God, it equally testifies that God loves them; and since it testifies that God loves them, it equally testifies that they are his children and heirs of eternal life. And to be assured of eternal life, is the broadest and firmest ground of joy unspeakable and full of glory. Accordingly we find that the primitive christians, who had the testimony of their conscience in their favor, did actually rejoice in the full assurance of hope, that they stood entitled to all the blessedness of the heavenly world. Hear them express their joyful hopes and prospects. “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Peter thanks God for the same joyful hopes and prospects of christians. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope; to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. - Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith-might be found unto praise, and honor and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ; whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” While christians have the testimony of conscience in their favor, they have all the promises of God in their favor. Hence says the apostle, this is our rejoicing, that is, the primary source of all our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience that we have acted from christian simplicity and godly sincerity.

IMPROVEMENT.

1. If christians have the testimony of their conscience in their favor; then they may always know their gracious state. They have the spirit of adoption, and their conscience witnesses with their spirit of adoption, that they are really the children of God. The primitive christians carried in their breasts an infallible witness that they were the subjects of saving grace. They say in the text, “ Our rejoicing is this, 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." Their conscience testified that they had acted not from fleshly wisdom or wordly motives, but had acted in simplicity and godly sincerity from gracious motives. Their conscience gave them infallible evidence that they possessed the grace of God in truth. And all real christians carry about with them the same infallible witness that they are in a state of grace. They have a spirit of grace, or a gracious spirit; and their conscience witnesses with their spirit of grace that they are born of God, and are his children. There is scarcely any religious subject which has been involved in more darkness or obscurity, than that which has been called the mystery of sanctification. This has led many to imagine that christians know that they are in a renewed and sanctified state in some mysterious manner which cannot be intelligibly explained. They suppose that the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, reveals to them, either immediately or by some passage of scripture, that they have passed from death unto life, and experienced a saving change. But it appears from what has been said, that it is the testimony of conscience, that they have received the fruit of the Spirit, which gives them the only true and infallible evidence that they are born of the Spirit, and are the children of God. The fruit of the Spirit is love, a filial love to God, which the conscience testifies is saving grace. Christians are required to know that they have passed from death unto life. And this is a reasonable requisition, because they are capable of knowing this, and may know it

, if they impartially consult conscience, which will always tell them the truth on this subject. The apostle Peter exhorts christians to "give diligence to make their calling and election sure." And the apostle Paul says to christians, " Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves.

Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is in you,” that is, the spirit of Christ, “except ye be reprobates?” Every christian is to blame, if he does not know that he is in a gracious state. His ignorance is always owing to negligence. He has the witness in himself, and may know it, if he would only seriously and impartially consult his conscience, which stands ready to testify in his favor. But here you will ask, Does not conscience testify against christians? I answer, it does testify against their sinful exercises, but in favor of their holy ones. And this approbation of their holy exercises is an infallible evidence that they are in a state of grace; but the disapprobation of their sinful exercises is no

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VOL. IV.

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