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righteousness and merit of our great Redeemer. But this I say and testify to you, that the most satisfactory evidence you can possess, of having an interest in the Redeemer's merits, and being finally accepted through him, must arise from the testimony of a conscience, which you have studied to keep void of offence towards God and towards men. This will be the best proof of your belonging to the number of the sons of God. It will be the witness of the Divine Spirit within you: the day-star arising in your hearts, and preparing the approach of a more perfect day.--Without the study of attaining a good conscience be assured that all other grounds of hope will prove fallacious : not the most fervent zeal, nor the highest pretences to intercourse with God, will be of any avail. They will have no more stability than the house built on the sand, which, in the day of trial, falls to the ground. He only whose conscience bears witness to his faithfulness, his integrity, and sincerity, in discharging all the duties of life, can with a steady mind, and a firm but humble trust in his Saviour, look forward to all that awaits him in a future unknown world.
In the next place, while the conscience void of offence thus delivers us, in a great degree, from the terrors of a future life, it keeps us free, at the same time, from innumerable disquietudes in this life. All the offences for which conscience condemns us, become, in one way or other, sources of vexation. Never did any man long forsake the straight and upright path, without having cause to repent of it. Whether it be pleasure, or interest, or ambition, that leads him astray, he is always made to pay dear for any supposed advantage he gains. Warily and cautiously he may at first set out, and lay many restraints on himself against proceeding too far. But having once forsaken conscience as his guide, his passions and inclinations soon take the lead of his conduct, and push him forward rashly. One bad .step betrays him into another; till, in the end, he is overtaken, if not by poverty and disease, at least by dishonour and shame, by the loss of friends, and the forfeiture of general esteem. He who walketh uprightly, has been always found to walk surely: while in the dark and crooked paths of fraud, dishonesty, or ignoble pleasure, a thousand forms of trouble and disaster arise to meet us. In the mean time to a bad man, conscience will be always an uneasy companion. In the midst of his amusements, it will frequently break in upon him with reproach. At night, when he would go to rest, holding up to him the deeds of the former day, putting him in mind of what he has lost and what he has incurred, it will make him often ashamed, often afraid. — Cowardice and baseness of mind are never-failing concomitants of a guilty conscience. He who is haunted by it, dares never stand forth to the world, and appear in his own character. He is reduced to be constantly studying concealment and living in disguise. He must put on the smiling and open look, when dark designs are brooding in his mind. Conscious of his own bad purposes, he looks with distrust on all who are around him, and shrinks from the scrutiny of every piercing eye. or fancies that he sees, suspicion in many a countenance; and reads upbraidings in looks where no upbraiding was meant. Often he is in great fear, where no fear is. Very different from this, is the state of the man
whose conscience is void of offence. He is manly and intrepid in every situation. He has never seduced the innocent by guilty arts. He has deluded no one with false promises. He has ensnared no man to trust him by a deceitful account of his affairs ; nor taken any advantages of the distresses of others to enrich himself. Without uneasiness he can look every man boldly in the face; and say with the good Prophet Samuel; Behold here I am; witness against
Whose ox have I taken? or, whose ass have I taken? or, whom have I defrauded? Whom have 1 oppressed? Of whose hand have I received any bribe? Declare, and I will restore it to you.* He who can thus take God and the world to witness for his integrity, may despise popular accusation or reproach. Those censures and rumours which are constantly disquieting the man of guilty conscience, pass by him unheeded. His witness is in heaven; and his record is on high. Innocence and uprightness form a tenfold shield, against which the darts of the world are aimed in vain. Of neither God as his Judge, nor of men as his companions, is such a man afraid. With no unquiet nor terrifying slumbers will his couch be haunted. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for the Lord maketh me dwell in safety.
Let those considerations which have been now briefly suggested, contribute to render the character in the Text, of a conscience void of offence towards God and man, amiable and estimable in our eyes. If in its fullest extent we cannot attain to it, let us at least endeavour to approach to it, and herein with
* i Samuel, xii. 3.
the great Apostle exercise ourselves. We may rest assured, that the more we partake of this character, the happier and more honourable shall our life be on earth, and the nearer shall it bring us to heaven. Conscious of our innumerable frailties, let it be our daily prayer to God, that by his powerful Spirit he would rectify what is corrupted in our nature; would guard us by his grace against the temptations that surround us; keep us from the path of the destroyer, and lead us in his way everlasting.
On the ASCENSION of CHRIST.
[Preached in the Evening after the Celebration of the Sacrament
of the Lord's Supper.]
LUKE, xxiv. 50, 51. And he led them out as far as to Bethany ; and he lift up his hands and blessed them ; And it came to pass
2 while he blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven.
complete rule of life, but give weight and authority to the precepts they deliver, by the information they communicate of certain great and important facts, in which all the human race have a deep concern. Of those facts, one of the most illustrious is the ascension of our Saviour to heaven, after having completed the work of our redemption. This is a subject on which it is at all times pleasing to a Christian to meditate; but especially after the celebration of that solemn ordinance in which we were this day engaged. We there renewed the memorial of our Saviour suffering and dying in the cause of mankind. Let us now take part in his
... succeeding triumphs. Let us with pleasure behold him rising from the grave, as the conqueror of death and hell, and ascending into heaven, there to reign