And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offense toward God, and toward men.
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND BY "A CONSCIENCE VOID OF OFFENCE"?
1. Not that it is void of offence merely because it does not accuse. There are many so immersed in cares or pleasures, that they never reflect on the state of their souls (Hosea 7:2); and, if at any time their conscience be alarmed, they instantly endeavour to check its clamour and restore its tranquillity. Others persuade themselves that they have no cause for fear, and that they shall have peace, notwithstanding all their sins (Jeremiah 8:11; Deuteronomy 29:19). Others have, by resisting, quenched the light within them; and thus have reduced themselves to a state of awful obduracy (1 Timothy 4:2). Such persons have no other than an evil conscience.
2. Nor is a conscience necessarily void of offence even though it should approve. Many propose to themselves a false standard of right and wrong: by conforming to their own principles, they may gain the approbation of their own minds; but it does not, therefore, follow that they are innocent. Error may extenuate, but cannot remove their guilt (cf. Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1, with 1 Corinthians 15:9, and 1 Timothy 1:13, 15).
3. To be truly void of offence, conscience must have a clear discovery of the rule of duty. The rule of duty is concise and plain (Matthew 22:37-40).
4. It should be able also to testify, upon good grounds, that there is a correspondence between that rule and our actions. It should be able to appeal to God for the truth of its testimony; that, after the strictest search, it can find no sin habitually indulged, or duty allowedly neglected.
II. THAT EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN LABOURS TO MAINTAIN IT.
1. This is certainly the character of one who feareth God. The Christian maketh but little account of man's judgment (1 Corinthians 4:3). He knoweth that the eye of God is upon his heart (Hebrews 4:13), he therefore studies to approve himself to God. He hath respect to every part of his duty, toward God and man (James 3:17), and this, not at certain seasons only, but always. Nor will he be deterred by any regard to ease, or interest, or fear; inquiring only, "What is duty?" (Acts 21:39).
2. Nor can anyone be a true Christian who hath not attained it. Every pardoned sinner is supposed to be without guilt (Psalm 32:2). All in the primitive Church are spoken of in this light (Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). St. Paul did not hesitate to affirm that this was his character (Acts 23:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12); and the same is ascribed to one who was far inferior to him (John 1:47). Nor is anyone in a state of salvation who hath not attained it. Many things may conspire to rob a Christian of the comfort of such a conscience; but a just ground for such a conscience he cannot but possess. This is expressly asserted by David (Psalm 66:18) and St. John (1 John 3:8-10).
Parallel VersesKJV: And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.