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mind and conscience being defiled, as the Apostle speaks", doth defile all the rest; it is a mire in the spring; although the pipes are cleansed they will grow quickly foul again ; so Christians, in their
progress in grace, would eye this most, that the conscience be growing purer, the heart more spiritual, the affections more regular and heavenly, and their outward carriage will be holier ; whereas, the outward work of performing duties, and being much exercised in religion, may, by the neglect of this, be labour in vain, and amend nothing soundly. To set the outward actions right, though with an honest intention, and not so to regard and find out the inward disorder of the heart, whence that in the actions fows, is but to be still putting the index of a clock right with your finger, while it is foul, or out of order within, which is a continual business, and does no good. Oh! but a purified conscience, a soul renewed and refined in its temper and affections, will make things go right without in all the duties and acts of our callings.
2. The principle of good in both is Christ: Your good conversation in Christ. The conversation is not good, unless in him, so neither is the conscience.
1. He the person, we must be in him, and then the conscience and conversation will be good in him; the conscience that is morally good, having some kind of virtuous habits, yet being out of Christ, is nothing but pollution in the sight of God; it must be washed in his blood ere it can be clean; all our pains will not cleanse it, floods of tears will not do it; it is blood, and that blood alone that hath the virtue of purging the conscience from dead works".
2. In him, the perfect pattern of holiness; the heart and life is to be conformed to him, and so made truly good.
3. He is the Spirit of Grace, whence it is first derived, and always fed and maintained, and made active; a spirit goes forth from him that cleanseth u Tit. i. 15,
# Heb. ix. 14.
our spirits, and so makes our conversation clean and holy.
If thou wouldst have thy conscience and heart purified and pacified, and have thy life certified, go to Christ for all, make use of him ; as of his blood to wash off thy guiltiness, so of his Spirit to purify and sanctify thee. If thou wouldst have thy heart reserved for God, pure aş his temple; if thou wouldst have thy lusts cast out that pollute thee, and findest no power to do it; go to him, desire him to scourge out that filthy rabble, that abuse his house and make it a. den of thieves. Seek this, as the only way to have thy soul and ways righted, to be in Christ, and then walk in him. Let thy conversation be in Christ, study him, and follow him ; look on his way, on hiş graces, his obedience, and humility, and meekness, till by looking on them, they make the very idea of thee new, as the painter doth of a face he would draw to the life ; so behold his glory, that thou mayest be transformed from glory to glory: But, as it is there added, this must be by the Spirit of the Lord*. Do not, therefore, look on him simply as an example without thee, but as life within thee, having received him ; walk not only like him, but in him, as the apostle St. Paul speaks', and as the word is here, have your conversation not only according to Christ, but in Christ; draw from his fulness grace for grace”.
2dly. The other thing in the words is, the advantage of this good conscience and conversation, its such cess in this contest with evil-speakers. (1.) Even external towards the malicious ungodly world ; they shall be ashamed that falsely accuse you. Thus often it is even most evident to men; the victory of innocency, silent innocency, most strongly confuting all .calumny, making the ungodly false accusers hide their heads. Thus, without stirring, the integrity of a Christian conquers; as a rock, unremoved, breaks the waters that are dashing against it. And this is not only a lawful but laudable way of revenge,
y Col. ii. 6.
2 John i, 16. VOL. II.
* 2 Cor. iii. 13.
shaming calumny out of it, and puuishing evilspeakers by well-doing; shewing really how false their accusers were. This is the most powerful apology and refutation ; as his was of the sophister, that would prove there was no motion, by rising up and walking. And without this good conscience and conversation, we cut ourselves short of other apologies for religion, whatsoever we say for it. One unchristian action will disgrace it more than we can repair, by the largest and best framed speeches on its behalf.
Let those, therefore, that have given their names to Christ, honour him, and their holy profession, most this way; speak for him as occasion requires; why should we not, provided it be with meekness and fear, as our apostle hath taught? But let this be the main defence of religion, live like it, and commend
Thus all should do that are called christians, should adorn that holy profession with holy conversation: but the most are nothing else but spots and blemishes, some wallowing in the mire, and provoking one another to all uncleanness. Oh! the unchristian life of christians! an evil to be much lamented, more than all the troubles we sustain. But these indeed do thus deny Christ, and declare that they are not his.' So many as have any reality of Christ in you, be so much the more holy: the more wicked the rest are, strive to make it up, and to honour that name which they disgrace. And if they will reproach you, because ye walk not with them, and cast the mire of false reproaches on you, take no notice, but go on your way; it will dry, and easily rub off. Be not troubled with misjudgings; shame them out of it by your blameless and holy carriage, for that will do most to put lies out of countenance. However, if they continue impudent, the day is at hand, wherein all the enemies of Christ shall be all clothed over, and covered with shame, and they that have kept a good conscience, and walked in Christ, shall lift up their faces with joy.
2dly. There is an intrinsical good in this goodness of conscience, that sweetens all sufferings, as follows:
Ver. 17. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye
suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing.
There is a necessity of suffering in any way wherein ye can walk; if ye choose the way of wickedness, you shall not, by doing so, escape suffering; and that supposed, this is by far the better, to suffer in well-doing, and for it, than to suffer either for doing evil, or simply to suffer in that way, as the words run, to suffer doing evil, xoxonovõrras máxev.
1. The way of the ungodly is not exempt from suffering, even in their present circumstances, setting aside the judgment and wrath to come. They often suffer from the hands of men, whether justly or unjustly ; and often from the immediate hand of God, always just, both in that and the other, causing the sinner to eat of the fruit of his own ways“. When profane ungodly men offer violences and wrongs one to another; in this God is just against both, in that wherein they themselves are both unjust; they are both rebellious against him, and so, though they intend not his quarrel, he means it himself; sets them to lash one another. The wicked profess their combined enmity against the children of God, yet they are not always at peace amongst themselves : they often revile and defame each other, and so enmity is held up on both sides ; whereas the godly cannot hold them game in that, being like their Lord, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again". Besides, although the ungodly fourish at some times, yet they have their days of suffering, are subject to the common miseries of the life of man, and the common calamities of evil times; the sword and pestilence, and such like public judgments: now, in what kind soever it be that they suffer, they are at a great a Prov. i. 30.
b 1 Pet. ii. 23.
disadvantage, compared with the godly, in their sufferings.
Here impure consciences may lie sleeping, while men are at ease themselves ; but when any great troubļe comes and shakes them, then the conscience naturally begins to awake, and bustle, and proves more grievous to them than all that comes on them from without. When they remember their despis ng the ways of God, neglecting him and holy things, whence they are convinced, how that comfort might be reaped in these days of distress; this cuts and galls them most, looking back at their licentious profane ways; each of them strikes to the heart. As the apostle calls sin, the sting of death“, so is it of all sufferings, and the sting that strikes deepest into the very soul: no stripes are like those that are secretly given by an accusing conscience".
A sad condition it is, to have from thence the greatest anguish, whence the greatest comfort, should be expected ; to have thickest darkness, whence they should look for the clearest light. Men that have evil consciences, love not to be with them ; they are not much with themselves, as Augustine cornpares them to such as have shrewd wives, and therefore love not to be much at home. But yet, outward distress sets a man inward, as foul weather drives him home ; and there, where he should find comfort, he is met with such accusations as are like a continual dropping, as Solomon speaks of a contentious woman. It is a most wretched state to live under sufferings or afflictions of any kind, and a stranger to God, for a man to have God and his conscience against him, that should be his solace in times of distress, being knocked off from the comforts of the world, whereon he rested, and having no provision of spiritual confort within, nor expectation from above: But let us now,
2dly, Consider the state of the children of God in their sufferings, (especially such as are for God); * I Cor. xv, 56. Surdo verbere cedit. Juv. Prov. xix. 3.