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I am resolved, by the grace of God, never to set my hand, my head, or my heart, about any thing but what I verily believe is good in itself, and will be esteemed so by God.
WITHOUT faith, the apostle tells me, it is impossible to please God.’189189 Heb. xi. 6. ‘For whatsoever is not of 176 faith, is sin.’190190 Rom. xiv. 23. Where, by faith, we are not to understand that saving faith, whereby I believe that my person is justified through Christ; but that, whereby I believe that my works shall be accepted by God: for faith here is opposed to doubting; and that, not about Christ’s dying for me, or my living in him, but about the particular actions of my life. ‘He that doubteth,’ saith the apostle, ‘is damned if he eats;’ that is, He that eateth that which he doubteth whether it may be lawfully eat or no, is damned, because he sins in doing it, and therefore may be damned for it. But why so? because ‘he eateth not of faith;’ because he doth that which he knows not whether he may do or no, not believing it to be really good in itself, or acceptable unto God. And, though the apostle here instances only in that particular action of eating, yet what he says with relation to that, is properly applicable to all the other actions of life: for he afterwards subjoins, ‘Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin:’ whatsoever it is, good or bad, if not done by faith, it is sin.
And truly, this particular will be of great use through my whole life for the avoiding of many sins, and for the doing of much good: for, many things which are good in themselves, may, for want of faith, become quite otherwise to me; my heart not believing what I do is good, my hand can never make it so. Or, if I think what I do is bad, though it be not so in itself, yet my very thinking it so, will make it so to me.
And this is what we call doing a thing with a good conscience, or keeping, as St. Paul did, ‘our 177conscience void of offence.’ And to go contrary to the dictates of my conscience in this particular, is to transgress the commands of God. For in this, conscience is as God’s vicegerent in my soul; what conscience commands, God commands; what conscience forbids, God forbids; that is, I am as really under the power of conscience, as the commands of God, in such a case. So that, if I do not obey the former, it is impossible for me to obey the latter. But how much then doth it behove me to see, that my conscience be rightly informed in every thing? For as if a judge be misinformed, it is impossible he should pass righteous judgment; so, if conscience be misinformed, it is impossible I should do a righteous act. And, what a miserable case shall I then be in? If I do what is in itself sinful, though my conscience tell me it is good, yet I sin, because the act in itself is sinful; and if I do what in itself is good, and my conscience tells me it is bad, because my conscience tells me it is bad, I sin because my conscience tells me it is so: so that as my conscience is, so will my actions be.
For this reason, I resolve, in the presence of my great Creator, never to do any thing, till I have first informed my conscience from the word of God, whether it be lawful for me to do it, or no; or in case it be not determined there, to make a strict search and inquiry into each circumstance of it, considering with myself what good or evil may issue from it, and so what good or evil there is in it; and according as my conscience, upon the hearing of the argument on both sides, shall decide the matter, I shall do, or not do it; never undertaking 178any thing upon mere surmises, because it may be good, but upon a real and thorough persuasion that it is so.
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