And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offense toward God, and toward men.
It is not a trifle, this self-exercise: it is a strenuous matter of business, whenever it is carried on as it was carried on by the saintly Paul. It ought to be maintained in a similar way to that wherein earnest men strive after earthly objects. An artist, athirst for eminence in his pursuit, craving fellow fame with the great names that emblazon the history of painting and sculpture, will devote himself with affecting eagerness to the quiet of his studio: he will almost worship the glorious works of the master with whose style he would fain be imbued and ingrained; and, when the world is at rest, the light still burns in his room, and he still hangs over the canvas, the chill hand grudging to hold palette and brush at the fiat of the over-tasked brain. That he might but enroll his name among the Murillos and Correggios, oh, he would exercise himself day and night! And so the ambitious politician will spend daylight over statistics and tabular returns, and consume evening and midnight in exciting debate. And so the worshipper of Mammon will sit at the door of Mammon's temple and worship its golden pavement through life's prime and its decrepit age, by sunlight and by starlight a constant votary, intent on the lucre that a spiritual philosophy has defined to be "the root of all evil." Well, the Christian must learn a lesson from all this self-exercise: he must "walk by the same rule," though God forbid that he should "mind the same thing"! In devotion to the great object before him, that of a pure conscience, let him take a leaf from the book of the enthusiast in art, in public life, in money making: all whatsoever they teach, in reference to singleness and fervency of aim, let him observe and do; but let him not do after their works: let him rescue a splendid quality, that of earnestness in self-exercise, from the claims of the perishable, and consecrate it to the demands of heaven. The children of this world are, in this respect, more advanced than the children of light. These things ought not so to be, for there is no province so full of scope for earnestness as that tenanted by the believer in Christ's New Testament. We are sadly apt to treat religion with stiff, formal courtesy, as some periodical visitor who must be entertained politely while present, and forgotten till next advent; whereas it is meant to be identified with ourselves, inwrought in our nature, part and parcel of our being.
(F. Jacox, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.