And the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the middle,…
I. PRELIMINARY DISTINCTIONS AS TO CONSCIENCE ITSELF. It may be considered as —
1. Ignorant or enlightened. The former, being vitiated by error or corrupted by prejudice, is an unsafe guide. It may condemn virtue and canonize vice. Hence the Jews persecuted Christians, thinking to do God service, and Christians have persecuted one another. But the latter, freed from corrupt influence and acquainted with the rule of duty, distinguishing between things that differ and approving those that are excellent, is a great blessing (Hebrews 13:8).
2. Unnecessarily scrupulous or daringly presumptive. The former makes that a sin which God has not declared sinful, and is a weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 10:12). The latter has no scruples, and bids defiance to the laws and vengeance of heaven (Deuteronomy 29:19).
3. Pure or defiled. The one is purged by the blood of Christ from guilt, and is thus pacified; the other is contaminated by sin, and lays no restraint on the appetites, nor reproves the motions of sin (1 Timothy 3:9; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Timothy 1:15).
4. Tender or seared. The one is a faithful monitor, and trembles at the Divine threatenings (Proverbs 20:27); the other is free from all fear, and too stupid to perform its functions (Zechariah 7:12).
5. Peaceable or troublesome. The one conscious of pardoned guilt and mortified corruptions is one of the greatest mercies this side of heaven. It clans us against the most virulent reproaches and supports under the most agonizing afflictions. The other is a worm at the root of all our comfort; there can hardly be a greater calamity (Proverbs 18:14).
6. Natural and renewed. The first does not entirely neglect its duty, but performs it in an imperfect manner (Romans 2); but the other fulfils its functions more perfectly. The conscience here spoken of is the former, awakened for a time, and then falling asleep again.
II. WHEREIN CONSISTS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CONVICTIONS WHICH ARISE FROM CONSCIENCE AND THOSE IMPRESSED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD. There is a great difference in spiritual convictions. Some are sudden (Acts 2:37), others more gradual; some visible and violent, others invisible and easy, as in the case of the jailor and Lydia. But the distinction between these and natural lies in such things as these.
1. Natural convictions respect only the guilt of sin, spiritual are attended with a painful sense of inherent pollution. The former are illustrated in the cases of Cain, Lamech, Pharaoh, Ahab, and Judas; the latter in the case of the Prodigal, Peter, and Paul.
2. In natural convictions the soul is actuated by slavish fear of temporal and eternal punishments. Persons may dread the consequences of sin, and yet be addicted to it. But spiritual convictions have a respect to the honour and love of God, hence "against Thee, Thee only have I sinned." Godly sorrow proceeds from this.
3. Natural convictions extend only to some sins, and those generally of a more gross and heinous nature, as Achan and Judas. It is true that the Spirit of God in conviction fastens some particular sin, often, on the conscience; but He does not stop there, but leads to the corrupt fountain of sin in the heart, and to those spiritual sins which are beyond natural convictions, pride, avarice, etc.
4. Natural convictions are temporary and vanishing, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar and Felix. The unclean spirit quits its abode, but not its claim, and returns with seven other spirits, etc. It is otherwise with the truly awakened. He not only lies under conviction, but yields to the force of it, and acts permanently under it.
5. Natural convictions may consist with the love of sin. The legal convict is as much an enemy to real holiness as ever; but spiritual convictions are always attended with an abhorrence of sin.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,