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(4.) If a man cannot be conscious of the character of his own supreme or ultimate choice, in which choice his moral character consists, how can he know when, and of what, he is to repent? If he has committed sin of which he is not conscious, how is he to repent of it? And if he has a holiness of which he is not conscious, how could he feel that he has peace with God?
But it is said, that a man may violate the law, not knowing it, and consequently have no consciousness that he sinned, but that, afterwards, a knowledge of the law may convict him of sin. To this I reply, that if there was absolutely no knowledge that the thing in question was wrong, the doing of that thing was not sin, inasmuch as some degree of knowledge of what is right or wrong is indispensable to the moral character of any act. In such a case, there may be a sinful ignorance, which may involve all the guilt of those actions that were done in consequence of it; but that blameworthiness lies in that state of heart that has induced this, and not at all in the violation of the rule of which the mind was, at the time, entirely ignorant.
(5.) The Bible everywhere assumes, that we are able to know, and unqualifiedly requires us to know, what the moral state of our mind is. It commands us to examine ourselves, to know and to prove our own selves. Now, how can this be done, but by bringing our hearts into the light of the law of God, and then taking the testimony of our own consciousness, whether we are, or are not, in a state of conformity to the law? But if we are not to receive the testimony of our own consciousness, in regard to our present sanctification, are we to receive it in respect to our repentance, or any other exercise of our mind whatever? The fact is, that we may deceive ourselves, by neglecting to compare ourselves with the right standard. But when our views of the standard are right, and our consciousness bears witness of a felt, decided, unequivocal state of mind, we cannot be deceived any more than we can be deceived in regard to our own existence.
(6.) But it is said, our consciousness does not teach us what the power and capacities of our minds are, and that therefore if consciousness could teach us in respect to the kind of our exercises, it cannot teach us in regard to their degree, whether they are equal to the present capacity of our mind. To this I reply:
Consciousness does as unequivocally testify whether we do or do not love God with all our heart, as it does whether we love Him at all. How does a man know that he lifts as much as he can, or runs, or walks as fast as he is able? I answer, by his own consciousness. How does he know that he repents or loves with all his heart? I answer, by his own consciousness. This is the only possible way in which he can know it.
The objection implies that God has put within our reach no possible means of knowing whether we obey Him or not. The Bible does not directly reveal the fact to any man, whether he obeys God or not. It reveals his duty, but does not reveal the fact whether he obeys. It refers for this testimony to his own consciousness. The Spirit of God sets our duty before us, but does not directly reveal to us whether we do it or not; for this would imply that every man is under constant inspiration.
But it is said, the Bible directs our attention to the fact, whether we outwardly obey or disobey, as evidence whether we are in a right state of mind or not. But I would inquire, How do we know whether we obey or disobey? How do we know anything of our conduct but by our consciousness? Our conduct, as observed by others, is to them evidence of the state of our hearts. But, I repeat it, our consciousness of obedience to God is to us the highest, and indeed the only, evidence of our true character. If a man's own consciousness is not to be a witness, either for or against Him, other testimony can never satisfy him of the propriety of God's dealing with him in the final judgment. There are cases of common occurrence, where the witnesses testify to the guilt or innocence of a man, contrary to the testimony of his own consciousness. In all such cases, from the very laws of his being, he rejects all other testimony: and let me add, that he would reject the testimony of God, and from the very laws of his being must reject it, if it contradicted his own consciousness. When God convicts a man of sin, it is not by contradicting his consciousness; but by placing the consciousness which he had at the time, in the clear strong light of his memory, causing him to discover clearly, and to remember distinctly what light he had, what thoughts, what convictions, what intention or design; in other words, what consciousness he had at the time. And this, let me add, is the way, and the only way, in which the Spirit of God can convict a man of sin, thus bringing him to condemn himself. Now, suppose that God should bear testimony against a man, that at such a time he did such a thing, that such and such were all the circumstances of the case; and suppose that at the same time the individual's consciousness unequivocally contradicts Him. The testimony of God in this case could not satisfy the man's mind, nor lead him into a state of self-condemnation. The only possible way in which this state of mind could be induced, would be to annihilate his opposing consciousness, and to convict him simply upon the testimony of God.
(7.) Men may overlook what consciousness is. They may mistake the rule of duty, they may confound consciousness with a mere negative state of mind, or that in which a man is not conscious of a state of opposition to the truth. Yet it must forever remain true that, to our own minds, "consciousness must be the highest possible evidence" of what passes within us. And if a man does not by his own consciousness know whether he does the best that he can, under the circumstances whether he has a single eye to the glory of God and whether he is in a state of entire consecration' to God he cannot know it in any way whatever. And no testimony whatever, either of God or man, could, according to the laws of his being, satisfy him either as to conviction of guilt on the one hand, or self-approval on the other.
(8.) Let me ask, how those who make this objection know that they are not in a sanctified state? Has God revealed it to them? Has He revealed it in the Bible? Does the Bible say to A.B., by name, "You are not in a sanctified state?" Or does it lay down a rule, in the light of which his own consciousness bears this testimony against him? Has God revealed directly by His Spirit, that he is not in a sanctified state, or does He hold the rule of duty strongly before the mind, and thus awaken the testimony of consciousness that he is not in this state? Now just in the same way consciousness testifies of those that are sanctified, that they are in this state. Neither the Bible nor the Spirit of God makes any new or particular revelation to them by name. But the Spirit of God bears witness to their spirits by setting the rule in a strong light before them. He induces that state of mind which conscience pronounces to be conformity to the rule. This is as far as possible from setting aside the judgment of God in the case; for conscience, under these circumstances, is the testimony of God, and the way in which He convinces of sin on the one hand, and of entire consecration on the other; and the decision of conscience is given to us in consciousness.