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by Dr. John Thomas
No doubts and fears oppressed them then.
But mark the change that after-wards came over them.
When they lost their good conscience, terror seized upon them at the voice of God, and shame possessed their souls; and they sought to get out of His sight, and to remove as far from Him as possible.
Now, what was the cause of this?
There is but one answer that can be given, and that is -- SIN Sin, then, takes away "the answer of a good conscience towards God," and converts it into an evil conscience; which may be certainly known to exist, when the subject of it is ashamed of the truth, and harassed by "doubts and fears".
They are ashamed of the truth, who, being enlightened, feel themselves condemned; or, being ignorant, apprehend it.
Such, on account of unbelief, or of "a dead faith," may well be ashamed and afraid; for to be ashamed of God's truth is to be ashamed of His wisdom and power.
People of this description proscribe all conversation about the truth as unfashionable, and vulgar; or as calculated to disturb the peace of the family circle; others, again, make a great outcry against controversy as dangerous to religion; as though God's truth could be planted in the hearts of men, already prepossessed by God's enemy, without controversy: others subjected to the timidity of sin, reduce everything to opinion, and inculcate "charity"; not that they are more liberal and kind than other people; but that they fear lest their own nakedness may be discovered, and "men see their shame"; while another class of bashful professors cry out, "Disturb not that which is quiet," which is a capital maxim for a rotten cause, especially where its subversion would break up all "vested interests," and pecuniary, emoluments.
So it is; while "the righteous are bold as a lion, the wicked flee when no man pursueth".
Sinners, however "pious" they may be reputed to be, are invariably cowards; they are ashamed of a bold stand for their own profession; and afraid of an independent and impartial examination of the law and testimony of God.
Understanding then, that sin, or the transgression of God's law, evinced by doubts, fears, and shamefacedness, is the morbid principle of an evil conscience, what is the obvious indication to be fulfilled in its removal?
The answer is, blot out the sin, and the conscience of the patient will be cured.
The morbid phenomena will disappear, and "the answer of a good conscience towards God" remain.
From the nature of things, it is obvious that the sinner cannot cure himself; though superstition has taught him to attempt it by fastings, and penances, and all "the voluntary humility and vain deceit," inculcated by "the blind".
Adam and Eve vainly imagined they could cover their own sin, and efface it from divine scrutiny; but the very clumsy device they contrived, betrayed the defilement of their consciences.
Their posterity have not learned wisdom by the failure of their endeavour; but, to this day, they are as industriously engaged in inventing cloaks for their evil consciences, as were their first parents, when stitching figleaves together to cover their shame.
So true is it that, though God made man upright, he hath sought out many inventions.
But after all the patching and altering, and scouring, they are but like "the filthy garments" taken from the high priest, Joshua; to which all the iniquity laid upon him adhered with the inveteracy of a leprous plague.
Men have not yet learned the lesson, that all they are called upon by God to do is to believe His word and obey His laws.
He requires nothing more at their hands than this.
If they neither believe nor do, or believe but do not obey, they are evil doers, and at enmity with Him.
He asks men for actions, not words; for He will judge them "according to their works" in the light of His law, and not according to their supposititious feelings and traditions.
The reason why He will not permit men to prescribe for their own moral evils is because He is the physician, they the lepers; He their sovereign, they the rebels against His law.