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Power. These are natural tendencies independent of all creeds, forms, notions, and modes of worship, And so far the existence of this Law may be safely affirmed.
But it is a very different thing to affirm that the variable moral maxims so received in different countries, are the dictates of the pure infallible principle of Truth itself; or, on the other hand, to contend that these variable moral maxims disprove the existence of such a principle altogether. I apprehend that neither of these conclusions can be drawn from a fair statement of the argument. It is, unquestionably, true, that the name of Conscience has been abused and applied to sanction some frightful enormities; and also true, that the purest principle of the soulthe light of life-the secret guide and unerring witness, may be slighted, resisted, despitefully treated, and, as it were, trampled under foot. But, admitting that this rightful Governor and King may at times seem to be absolutely dethroned, as in the complete anarchy of vice; or to be innocently drawn (as a royal prince surrounded from the cradle with crafty attendants) to give his sanction to many absurd usages; or to be laid asleep as the mind is given up to natural indolence and outward ease; or to be treated with studied neglect and despised, so that his voice is no longer heeded; or to be seduced to compliance with established forms, because practiced by near kindred and those to whom reverence is naturally due; or to be roused to acts of cruelty by the rage
of bigotry and fanaticism, or to acts of wild enthusiasm by mistaken zeal for the cause of religion:— though all these things may be done, and, some of them, under pretence of being done for Conscience' sake; they surely do not afford any good ground for supposing that the legitimate Sovereign is really dispossessed, or that the mind, in which so much moral disorder prevails, is all this while actually without a supremely wise Director and unerring Judge, provided the state of anarchy would admit its lawful interference.
Now it is not a little strange, that, because this principle does not first discover itself in every human being with a regular series of what are called practical principles or moral maxims, commanding implicit assent, and forbidding any deviation, its existence should be denied, and no other source of moral obligation admitted, than Reason, Education, or Scripture. It is strange that the only true basis on which Conscience can found its right to exercise dominion and prescribe the path of duty, as soon as ever the infant mind shall require its controul,-the basis of an inherent delegated power in the mind should be overlooked if not discarded; and that it should be allowed to claim no other importance than what attaches to the promulgator of some casual, local, ephemeral, notions of duty; nor entitled to any other authority than what belongs to such a secondary and dependent station. It is strange that the latter, the only point which is weak, variable, and uncertain, in
the nature of Conscience, when it is really defiled with other principles, as I shall next explain, should be fixed upon as that which substantially characterizes it. Yet by these means of treating it, have some attempted to fritter away its inherent rights, and to leave it nothing but the mere shadow of authority.
The definitions I am now to notice, will, however, point out more clearly the grounds of the second signification of Conscience to which I have alluded ;a signification that has been already anticipated in some degree by the preceding remarks.
Dr. Fleming considers Conscience to be nothing more than a Modification of Memory. In a late work on the "Philosophy of Zoology," he remarks, that "By the help of memory we acquire an astonishing quickness of perceiving whether we act conformably or oppositely to the standard of duty"-and that "to the operations of memory in such cases, theologians apply the term Conscience, and others the Moral Sense." In coincidence with this notion he states that "the discovery of duty is an intellectual process," and yet that "the question, what is duty? in reference to its rules or standard, is one which unassisted reason cannot resolve,” Hence, he concludes, "arises the necessity of a Revelation"-and "the Christian religion supplies this moral want."
Doctor Fleming here admits the principle for which we are arguing, that the question of Duty is one which unassisted Reason cannot resolve; and yet he
states that the discovery of Duty, is an intellectual process; placing Reason and intellectual process nearly in opposition.
He also admits the principle for which we are arguing, that Revelation is necessary to supply the moral deficiency in our rational nature: and yet it is plain that by inference he confines this revelation to the outward knowledge of Scripture.
The standard of duty, when it is sought to be discovered by an intellectual process, must of necessity vary with degrees of intellect, with notions of expediency, and with local institutions. But, it can hardly be supposed that any well-disposed mind is without a principle which is able to bring these changeable things into order a still small voice which speaks to man in the meek and tranquil state of the soul, to comfort and direct the good, and often in the voice of thunder to alarm the guilty. Hence, it is only when Conscience is perplexed with the grand sophisticator, human Reason, or blinded by Passion, or opposed by the many impediments of Sense liable to be thrown in its way, that its light becomes obscure, and its rules uncertain and difficult to be ascertained. For, notwithstanding all the varieties of moral notions among men, there are still fundamental principles acknowledged by all, and which have been accounted as sacred, though men practice the contrary, from the foundation of the world.
When Barclay represented "the Conscience to be the seat and throne of God in the soul," and that it
was accountable to Him only, it seems probable that he included in the term the notion of the Spirit of Truth itself. But when he stated the proposition that "Conscience followeth the Judgment, doth not inform it," he was contrasting it as a natural power with this spirit or supernatural emanation, and considering the variableness of outward creeds and modes of worship.
Now, in this, there is less inconsistency than may appear. For, as it is said, that in the Conscience the voice of Truth is heard, Conscience as the seat is put by metonymy for the power. And further, if Conscience be simply the knowledge or inward testimony of the mind as to the rectitude and pravity of its own thoughts or actions, and consequent Judgment upon them according to some previous rule of duty (in whatever way this rule may be acquired); it is plain that this testimony or judgment may vary according to the degree of light and knowledge received: and thus Conscience may follow the judgment or opinion.
This it must be allowed is the common meaning of the word in Scripture: because the Scripture recognizes only one divine operative principle in man— the spirit of God the light of Truth-the measure of Grace the immediate revelation of the Divine will, &c. If Conscience, therefore, does not include this scripture principle, it simply means the testimony of the mind as above stated; or if these two meanings be discarded (as when the word Conscience is used by those called Moral Writers, in the comprehensive