Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
I. WHAT CONSCIENCE IS.
1. It is an inbred faculty of the soul, "a noble and Divine power, planted of God in the soul, working upon itself by reflection": or thus, "the soul of a man recoiling upon itself." A faculty, I call it, because it produceth acts, and is not got and lost as habits are, but is inseparable from the soul, immovable from the subject, as neither acts nor habits are. In the understanding part it is a judge, determining and prescribing, absolving and condemning de jure. In the memory it is a register, a recorder, and witness, testifying de facto. In the will and affections, a jailor and executioner, punishing and rewarding. Say we not in common use of speech, which is the emperor of words, My conscience tells me I did or did not such a thing, which is an action of the memory? My conscience bids me do, or forbids me to do this or this, which is but an action of the will. It smites me, it checks me, it comforts or it torments me: what are these but actions of the affections recoiling upon the soul?
2. God hath given it more force and power to work upon men than all other agents whatsoever. It, being internal and domestical, hath the advantage of all foreign and outward.
3. It being individual and inseparable, there is no putting of it to flight or flying from it. It was bred and born with us; it will live and die with us. Agues a man may shake off, tyrants and ill masters a man may fly from; but this saith (as Ruth to Naomi), "I will go with thee whithersoever thou goest." It hath more immediate deputation and authority from God (of whom all principalities and powers receive theirs) than angels, kings, magistrates, father, mother, or any other superior. It is only inferior to God.
II. WHAT A GOOD CONSCIENCE IS.
1. The goodness of it is the peace of it; for stirring, accusing, and galling consciences are consequents of sin, and presuppose some evil.
2. They, secondly, prove good unto us only by accident, and God's goodness, which maketh them as afflictions, gather grapes of thorns; yea, all things work to the best of His beloved, as physicians do poison in their confections
3. And thirdly, they do not always produce this effect. Sometimes as sicknesses and purgations, they are in order to health, as in the Jews (Acts 2). Oftentimes as in Cain, Judas, Ahithophel, they destroy their owners. Good consciences, therefore, properly to speak, are only quiet ones, excusing and comforting; but here take heed the devil, the great impostor of our souls, put not upon our folly and simplicity, three sorts of quiet ones, as he doth to most: the blind, the secure, and the seared. What, then, is a good conscience? That which speaks peace with God's allowance, which is a messenger of good things between God and us, that upon good grounds is in good terms with God. It lies in the lawful peace of it, and not in integrity and freedom from sin.
Parallel VersesKJV: Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.