“A Good Conscience” –
The Scriptures tell us plainly that the conscience of fallen man is “an evil conscience” from which we must be cleansed by the blood of Christ (Heb. ). The consciences of lost religious men are “defiled” (Tit. ), so defiled that they may, in a sense, have a good conscience” while performing abominable things (John 16:2; Acts 23:1; 26:9; Rom. 9:1). The Apostle Paul, writing by divine inspiration, tells us that when he was persecuting the church, wishing himself accursed from Christ, his conscience was bearing him witness. He was fully convinced that he was doing the right thing. Some are so hardened by free will, works religion or by ungodly behavior, often by both, that they live with a “seared” conscience (1 Tim. 4:1-2).
Some men and women, and even children have consciences which are so cauterized and hardened that they are past feeling. They have no regard for the rightness or wrongness of what they say or do. They have no conscience of anything. “Under a cloak of sanctity they commit the most shocking impieties” (John Gill). If a person works at it, if he holds down the truth of God (Rom. ) long enough and persistently enough, he can cauterize his conscience. You can so sear your conscience, so harden yourself, that your conscience will excuse your wickedness.
Still, everyone wants to have a good conscience, a quiet, peaceful conscience. What would you not give to have a good conscience? -- A conscience which would let you sleep at night? -- A conscience that would enable you draw near to God with full assurance? -- A conscience which would give you ease, real ease and peace of heart and mind in the prospect of death, judgment, and eternity?
All the religion and religious practices, ceremonies, and sacrifices in the world cannot obtain a good conscience. All the gifts, works of charity and philanthropy imaginable cannot buy a good conscience. Good works of moral reformation and religious devotion, no matter how earnest and sincere, can never earn you a good conscience.
Our consciences demand what we cannot give. Your conscience and mine demands and can only be satisfied with perfection. The conscience echoes God’s holy law. Echoing the law, the conscience demands the same thing God’s law demands. The conscience demand perfection. It demands and will only accept perfect atonement for sin. It demands and will only accept perfect righteousness. That perfect atonement and perfect righteousness is found only in Christ’s obedience and death as our Substitute (Heb. 10:1-22).
Horatius Bonar was exactly right when he wrote, “In another's righteousness we stand, and by another's righteousness we are justified. All accusations against us, founded upon our unrighteousness, we answer by pointing to the perfection of the righteousness which covers us from head to foot, in virtue of which we are unassailable by law as well as shielded from wrath.
Thy work alone, 0 Christ, Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, 0 Lamb of God, Can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, 0 God, Not mine, 0 Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.”