A Conscience Without Offense

Acts 24:16

Conscience is that faculty of the soul which pronounces on the character of our actions. This faculty is a constituent part of our nature and is common to man everywhere and at all times. This office is to determine or pronounce upon the moral quality of our actions—to say whether this or that is good or bad. Conscience is an independent witness standing as it were between God and man; it is in man, but for God, and it cannot be bribed or silenced. Someone has called it “God’s spirit in man’s soul.” It is something in us bearing witness against us when we offend its integrity.

The apostle labored to have always a conscience void of offense. But this implies systematic obedience to the dictates of conscience. Set on the throne of the soul to communicate the light and truth of God, and to witness impartially whether it is obeyed or not, of course there can be but one way to keep this conscience void of offense, and that is by so acting as not to offend, grieve, or incense it again.

To keep a conscience void of offense requires unremitting effort, exertion and determination. “Herein do I exercise myself” (Acts 24:16 KJV)—the whole man, soul, mind, body, myself. Here is need for “exercise” indeed. Here is “the fight of faith,” the faith of the saints, which can dare, do, and suffer anything rather than defile its garments.

When inclination lures, when the flesh incites to that which conscience condemns, the will must say “No,” and repel the tempter. Our first parents fell here. Their consciences were on the right side, but their wills yielded to the persuasions of the enemy, to unlawful self-gratification. Joseph’s conscience thundered the right path, and his will acted it out. Pilate’s conscience also thundered the right course, but his will failed to carry it out.

Do you resolutely say, “I will not do this thing and sin against God?” To keep a pure conscience requires great vigilance, lest by surprise or inattention we defile it. Our enemy lays many a snare to take us unawares.

A pure conscience is its own reward. No matter who condemns, if it approves, there is peace and sunshine in the soul. As a clean conscience is its own reward, so an offended conscience is its own punishment.

Catherine Booth, Practical Religion

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