Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLVII.: of conscience. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XLVII.: of conscience. - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1 
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols.
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Every man's conscience is, as it were, a second God within him, both to judge of his actions within, and without him, and also of his person, and personal state, and whether in it, he be accepted of God, or not. And surely, a great good work of God it is, that he hath created, and set such an overseer as this conscience is, in the soul of man, by which, if he do anything amiss, he is checked in secret, that so by repentance he may find mercy at God's hands.* And how good is it, saith one, that this worm should be felt, whilst it may be killed; and gnaw for a time, that it may be choked for ever.† As, on the contrary, if a man do the thing which good is, the conscience gives testimony of God's acceptance, and therewith boldness before him, 1 John iii. 20, 21; making him cheerful even in the sorrows of the world, quiet in its turmoil, and happy in all extremity of torments; and withal satisfying him with the testimony from within himself, against men's unjust accusations.‡ This conscience makes a man either a conqueror over the whole world, or a craven;§ and ready, specially in danger, and being wakened, to thrust his head in a hole.
But now the comforts are not greater in having this good conscience, than are the dangers in mistaking it. Many do craftily pretend it without cause, merely for their credits before men, whose hearts condemn them before God; and whom “God, who is greater, will condemn” much more. 1 John iii. 20. Many more are securely presumptuous; and being ready to believe that, which they wish true, are bold upon their good conscience so deemed; not because they know, and try themselves, and their ways before the Lord, by his Word, as they ought, but because they know not, nor will know and examine them. And this is the vulgar conscience of ignorant persons, that are free from those grosser sins, which the light of nature condemns: and of some others also not without understanding, being of bold spirits, and stout hearts, and which will not easily be in fault, either before the world, or God himself. There are besides these, whose “consciences are benumbed, and seared with an hot iron,” 1 Tim. iv. 2; who by practising at first, and continuing after, in sins against their natural conscience, have obtained from the Lord this miserable privilege, and seal of their condemnation, that their minds should be void of understanding, and hearts of sense and feeling, even of heinous sins, in time. “Better,” said the godly martyr, “sit in the stocks of this world, than of an ill, or accusing conscience.”* And, yet, better a conscience accusing, if not desperately, than benumbed, and without feeling. The dead flesh must be eaten out of the wound, and soreness come before soundness: so must a benumbed conscience become accusing, before it can become excusing aright.
The larger conscience the better, if rightly informed. To know that to be lawful for me, which indeed is lawful, is the perfection of understanding, and strength of faith: as, on the other side, to be ignorant of it, is to be weak both “in knowledge, and faith.” Rom. xiv. 1. But we must here put a difference between the conscience itself, and the use of it: for the largest use of conscience is not always best, though the judgment be. Some things are so commanded, as they absolutely bind conscience, as to love God and our neighbour, &c. Some things again are so commanded in the general, as for example, the obedience of the magistrate, keeping peace with all men, and the like; as, yet, they have this particular exception, if we can without sinning on our parts: for we must not do evil that we may do good. But yet in these cases we are to be as large as we can, and to go as far as possibly we can see it lawful, in conscience of the commandment of God. Other things are in their kind indifferent, and such as we perform for our profit, pleasure, credit, or other worldly commodity. In these we are to use less liberty of conscience, and to take heed that we give not the devil advantage, by some blast of temptation, or other, to blow us into the ditch, if we go too near the side of it. And in observing this difference, we have a conscionable use of our conscience.
It is a great question, whether an erroneous conscience be to be followed, or no: and as ill resolved by many affirmatively, after much dispute. Not to follow it is evil, and to do, or leave undone that, wherein, the man so doing, or not doing, condemns himself, and, therein, hath God also condemning him: to follow it, is for the blind to follow the blind, the blind person his blind conscience, into the ditch, and to have God condemning him in his Word, though he justify himself. Besides then the violation of the conscience, which is always evil, and a by-path on the left hand; and the following it, in evil, as a by-path on the right, which is sometimes worse, than the former, as in sins against the light of nature; there is a third, and middle way, safe and good; and that is, the informing of the conscience better by God's Word, and following it accordingly, unto which also every person is bound, for the duties of his general and special calling. It is the first duty of a man to inform his conscience aright; and then to follow the direction which it gives.
A good conscience is as the ship, in which faith saileth to heaven; and which, they that put away, “make shipwreck of faith.” 1 Tim. i. 19. We must therefore, first get a good “conscience by the sprinkling of the heart,” Heb. x. 22; with the blood of Christ from the guilt of sin, and with his Spirit from the filth thereof: and having got it, must keep the same with all care, and tenderness, specially by eschewing “presumptuous sins, in which is much transgression,” Psa. xix. 13, and by which the consciences wasted and consumed, as iron by the rust. We offend too much, alas, through ignorance, and infirmity: let us not add to provoke the Lord by sins against conscience; in which we sin against a double voice of God, first speaking in his law, and, secondly, in our own hearts. Where this is, no marvel though the voice of faith, and witness of God's Spirit cease; and that the conscience so violated excuse not, but accuse.