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formed no part of his deliberation, nor was he put upon asking this question by any thing which he felt within him. This state of complete depravity is the effect of a totally neglected education, and of being at the same time thrown, when very young, amongst profligate examples.
Neither of these causes is sufficient to produce the effect by itself; but both causes, acting in conjunction, may produce it. If good principles have been early instilled by means of a virtuous, or any thing like a virtuous education, there will be some conscience left, there will be a conscience perceived, let the person so brought up fall into what society or amongst what examples he may. His conscience may not carry him safe through these dangers, may not have preserved him from vice and wickedness (that is a different question); but a conscience will be there, will be felt.
Again: Let the education, that is, any precise and particular instruction, have been ever so much or so culpably neglected, yet let even that rude uninstructed mind come amongst examples of goodness, or even keep clear of dissolute and profligate examples, and conscience will be heard. Examples themselves are education ; good and virtuous examples the best of all education ; even innocent and harmless society will produce (or, however, suffer) the natural growth and production of conscience in minds the most ignorant. But when a mind, perfectly ignorant, uninstructed, and uneducated, falls at first into debauched and profligate society, then it is possible that conscience may never spring up; its influence over the heart may never have a commencement. This cruel case can never happen but in the instance of parents who are wicked themselves, and undesignedly perhaps, but very effectually, communicate their wickedness betimes to their children, or in the instance of children deprived from the beginning of a parent's care, and not only so, but from the beginning also thrown into bad hands, and into bad society. It is of these instances we were speaking, when we said that there are many unhappy persons in the world, who never remember the time when they were sensible of any feeling or compunction of conscience within them, of any distinction indeed between 'right
. But, secondly, I will now suppose a more general, and a more natural state, that of a conscience really formed in the breast, and, in some degree at least, performing its office. This once living conscience may, by various means, be reduced back to a state of death and insensibility; nay, it often is so. Almost any course of sin will do it, as to that sin. Men always enter upon sinful courses under strong temptation : they may go on in them afterwards under less; but the temptation which first seduces them into vice is usually strong. There is a conscience at first repelling, remonstrating, rebuking ; but then there is a violent temptation to be opposed. Conscience is overcome: it resists afterwards with
less force, and is again overcome: its remonstrances are now weaker—they are not heard ; being heard, they are set aside. This takes place repeatedly and frequently, with a constant abatement and diminution of strength and force on the part of conscience. The sin, after this, is committed, and conscience is silent. This is the regular effect of any course of sin, as to that sin. Let
habitual sinner compare himself at one time with himself at another time; his former sensations, his remorse, his uneasiness, his scruples, his fears, when he first entered upon a course of sin, with his sensations, or rather, with his want of sensations, now that he has for some time been confirmed in it—let him make this compari
whether the case be not with him as we have described it.
.But the misfortune goes farther : any course of sin whatever weakens the power of conscience not only as to that sin, but as to all. Either the
reflects that it is to no purpose to guard against other sins, whilst he knowingly, constantly, and wilfully goes on in this; or else the principle itself of conscience, by being so often overpowered and beaten back in this instance, has lost its spring and energy in all instances. Almost all, even the greatest sinners, have begun with some particular vice. The first encroachment upon innocence and upon conscience was made by some single species of offence to which they were tempted; but the rottenness spread. A general and complete depravity of character may
grow, and often does grow, out of one species of transgression ; because conscience, which has been put to silence, not by one or two oppositions, but by a course of opposition to its remonstrances, ceases to execute its office within that man's breast; so that a conscience which was once alive may be reduced to a state of death and insensibility.
There are passages of Scripture which expressly relate to this state, and to a recovery and restoration from it, and which ought therefore to be remembered; and in the first place our text, and what follows it : “ And you hath he quickened, who were DEAD in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among
whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” Eph. ii. 1. And the same idea is repeated, Col. iii. 3.
There is also another remarkable text in the same epistle, v. 14. which has relation to the same subject, “ wherefore he saith, awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” The place in which this text is found, and the subject concerning which St. Paul is in that place discoursing, show sufficiently that the sleep here meant was the sleep of the conscience. Awake thou that sleepest ; rouse thyself from that state of moral and religious insensibility in which thou liest, “arise from the dead,” from being dead in sin and trespasses; so deeply sunk in evil courses as to have become altogether without perception or consciousness of their guilt or danger, which is being dead in this respect.
Speaking of a particular case in his epistle to Timothy, St. Paul saith, “she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth ;" that is to say, is going on without taking heed to that living principle of conscience which forms our spiritual life. This is very true; and it is more general than St. Paul here has occasion to state it. He that liveth in pleasure, engrossed and taken up with the thoughts and pursuits of pleasure, is dead whilst he liveth ; has no time, no inclination, no disposition for listening to any dictates of religion or of conscience. With respect to these, therefore, he is dead ; his conscience is dead within him ; his neglected, opposed, unavailing, rejected conscience, speaks no more, no more renews efforts which have now been long and totally disregarded. It is silent, and it is the silence of death.
Now this is a state of the soul, which of all others, perhaps, most requires the assistance of God's Holy Spirit. This, in some measure, is intimated by the very term, and metaphor, and comparison which are