When God created man He set a conscience within his soul so
that he may be governed by it as by a rule, and so that he may be guided in
what to do and what to avoid. Conscience is nothing other than natural or
innate law, which is why it also agrees with the written Law of God. For
whatever the Law of God teaches, conscience teaches also.
The Law of God commands us to know the one God;
conscience teaches the same. Wherefore even pagans, convinced by conscience,
acknowledged one God.
The Law of God commands us to reverence God above
all creatures and to render supreme honor to God alone; conscience teaches the
same. The Law of God teaches us not to hold anything equal to God; conscience
teaches the same. The Law of God commands us to show submissiveness,
subordination and obedience to God as the supreme authority; conscience teaches
the same. The Law of God commands us to fear God as the most righteous Judge;
we hear the same from conscience. The Law of God commands us to punish those
that blaspheme the name of God; our conscience cannot endure it either. The Law
of God teaches us to listen to God more than to man; conscience teaches the
same. The Law of God demands that we love God above all things; conscience
demands the same. For God is the most exalted and supreme good and the source
of all good, therefore we must love Him above all created good things.
The Law of God teaches us to thank God for all
things; conscience teaches us the same, for conscience itself convinces us to
be thankful to our Benefactor.
The Law of God commands us to put all our hope in
God; conscience commands the same. For God alone is able to do all things as
Almighty. Every created thing is powerless without God and apart from God,
therefore hope in them is inconstant and infirm. The Law of God commands us to
submit and give honor to parents and all authorities sent by God; we hear the
same thing from our conscience.
The Law of God forbids us to harm a man and to
deprive him of life; conscience forbids the same thing. The Law of God commands
us to help a man in misfortune and need; conscience commands the same. The Law
of God forbids adultery and fornication; a man hears the same from his
conscience, and it thunders within him not to defile himself with
The Law of God forbids us to lay hold of the goods
of others without the consent of the proprietor; conscience cries out the same.
The Law of God forbids lying, flattery, and deceit; conscience forbids it too.
The Law of God commands us not to desire anything that belongs to another;
conscience commands it too. Thus the Law of God and conscience mutually agree
and are appointed for the same end, that is our blessedness, whence even the
pagans, enlightened by philosophical teaching wrote many useful precepts. This
comes from nothing other than conscience or natural law illumined by much labor
Therefore everyone who sins against conscience
also sins against the Law of God and against the Lawgiver Himself, God. Whoever
does not listen to his conscience listens neither to the Law of God nor to God
Himself. Whoever does not obey his conscience obeys neither the Law of God nor
God Himself. Whoever offends his own conscience also offends God Himself.
Those Christians who sin against their conscience
do not truly worship God, but are hypocrites, for it is impossible to worship
God without a clean conscience. A true Christian does not wish to, and keeps
himself from sinning against his conscience, and so break the Law of God. He
would rather suffer than sin. Faith rests in such a conscience and makes a man
joyful; for where there is a clean conscience, there is faith and joy. Just as
the Law of God accuses a man of sin, so likewise conscience accuses him also.
So it is that when a word of reproof is spoken in general, then sinners are
wounded in conscience and troubled.
Thus the profligate are troubled when profligacy
is spoken of; thieves and robbers are troubled when thievery and robbery are
spoken of; flatterers and liars are troubled when deceit and lies are spoken
of; they are troubled and even show some outward signs. This is the accusation
of conscience working in them.
Just as the Law of God puts the fear of God's
judgement into a sinner, so likewise conscience puts fear into him and cries
within the sinner, "Man, it shall go miserably for you." Just as the
effect of the Law of God and of conscience are the same, so shall they be the
same at the Judgement of Christ. There the Law of God which he violated will
accuse the sinner; the conscience offended by his sins will also accuse him.
There, these two, conscience and the Law of God,
will be the witnesses and the accusers against every sinner. It happens that an
evil conscience is as though asleep; but when it awakens and begins to accuse
the sinner, then cruel torment will come upon him through his conscience, whence
it is that many kill themselves, not enduring the pangs of conscience.
For just as there is no better repose than from a
pure conscience, so likewise there is no greater disquiet and torment than from
a wicked conscience. If conscience torments so much here, how shall it torment
a sinner in the age to come when all his sins shall stand before him and it
accuses him of them and torments him?
O sinners, why do we sleep? Let us awaken and
repent and cleanse our sins by repentance and contrition of heart, and let us
correct ourselves and cease from sinning and offending our conscience, lest we
appear before the Judgement of Christ with an evil conscience blackened with
sins, when the books of the conscience shall be opened and each shall receive
according to his works.
Do not do what conscience forbids you to do, for
an unerring conscience forbids what the Law of God also forbids. For a good
conscience is in agreement with the Law of God. The Law of God says, "Thou
shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal" (Ex. 20:13,15), and so on. You
also hear the same within your conscience, and it tells you the same thing.
Avoid, then, doing what conscience forbids, lest having wounded your conscience
you wound your soul.
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