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sider whether it was done with or without choice and consent. It is equally plain that accountability is conditional on knowledge. Innocence and guilt are determined, not by a uniform standard for all men, not by the perfect law of righteousness, but by the varying degrees of light they enjoy. The obligation to obey conscience is universal, and this means that every man should obey his own conscience, be it rudimentary or developed, dark or enlightened, uncultivated or refined; he ought, in other words, to do what he believes right. There may be hesitation in admitting this broadly-stated position, but we may press the question, Ought he ever to disobey conscience to do what he believes wrong under the circumstances?

It may be said that not conscience, but the word of God, is the rule to be followed. This, however, is irrelevant. We are not discussing the sources of our knowledge of duty. Whether that knowledge be intuitive, or reached by a process of inductive or deductive reasoning, or gathered from the Holy Scriptures, the question arises, Are we not bound to obey our convictions of duty ? It is true, that the ultimate authority or foundation of right does not dwell in conscience, nor in any other power of the human soul; just as the authority or basis of all rational principles is not in the reason by which they are known, but in the truths apprehended. The authority of the civil law is not in the judge, not in the supreme court; it would be false to affirm that the constitution or equity is whatever the court thinks; yet its decisions must be accepted at the time as the correct interpretation of the law. So at any instant the moral law to a person is practically what his conscience sees to be binding, and truth to him is practically what his judgment sees to be true.

Abundant testimony in favor of this position is furnished by the Scriptures. We quote only a few verses: “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin : but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” “For as many as have sinned without law"-sinned against the law written in the heart without possessing the light of revelation—“shall also perish without law,” perish because condemned by the light of nature, not because condemned by the law of Moses or of Christ, of which they had never heard. This passage establishes the responsibility of the heathen, and disproves the no

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tion that they are not obnoxious to punishment. They have light, though not the full, bright light of the Gospel, and are justly punishable for offenses against law in their minds. The extent of their guilt and penalty is known not to us, but to the righteous Judge of all the earth. “But sin is not imputed where there is no law." “ Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” “ Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

Some will grant that whoever conforms to the law of rectitude so far as known to him must be acquitted, though he come short of complete righteousness through defect of information; that pagans should not be judged by the law of Moses, nor the Jews who lived before Christ by the Gospel; and yet they will shrink from admitting that one can be held clear in doing a positive wrong, though he believed it his duty. But how can this inference be escaped, since conscientiousness is always obligatory, and conscientiousness consists in following closely one's own conscience ?

We reach the conclusion, therefore, that sincerity does justify; that we cannot be justly held to more than living up to our own light. But what is this sincerity that should be accepted as a ground of acquittal by man and God? It is a quality far deeper and higher than what commonly passes under the name. Sincerity exists in widely different degrees, from a comparatively common virtue to the highest spiritual excellence, to that singleness of eye which fills the whole body with light. A sincere person is one who loves light, not merely for the gratification of curiosity, not merely for the sake of speculative wisdom, but that he may be guided in the path of duty; who seeks the truth with all his heart wherever he may hope to find it; who is not biased by custom, self-interest, willfulness, or the voice of prejudice, pride, and passion, but with purity of intention desires to learn his whole duty, that may

do it at all cost and hazard: who does the will of God in all points so far as he knows it, and presses on after fuller knowledge. This thorough-going, perfect sincerity justifies, and this alone, and it is a rare virtue.


The insufficiency of the common plea of sincerity may be illustrated by a few hypothetical cases. You spread an evil report about your neighbor, and when charged with slander defend yourself by saying that you believed it true. Granted, but did you know it to be true? Had you taken pains to examine what foundation there was for it? Did you not accept mere rummor as proof, or magnify matter of suspicion into evidence of guilt? Did not the love of gossip, a personal grudge, or some prejudice, move you to catch hastily at this report, and to believe it without sufficient proof? If the accused had been your brother, would you not have flamed with indignation against any who, on such testimony, spoke of him even as probably guilty? Sincerity of belief, in order to justify you, must include the spirit of justice and charity in forming and uttering the belief. The verdict of the jury expressed their sincere opinion of the guilt of the prisoner. They are too honest to find a man guilty of felony and send him to the penitentiary or gallows if they believe him innocent. The heat of their indignation against him was a sign of their belief in his crime. Nevertheless, the trial was not fair; the testimony against him was manifestly prejudiced, confused, inconsistent, and wavering; the jurors seized eagerly on whatever tended to convict, and were impatient of evidence and argument in his favor; they were blinded and swayed by the preconceptions and passions which prevailed through the whole community against the religious or political creed, the family or the social class, of the accused. Can they be credited with thorough sincerity? or excused by their partial sincerity ?

“He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” This insidious, wide-spread leaven vitiates the plea of sincerity which we are so ready to offer, and in which we place so much trust. Few will confess, or even suspect, that they are tainted with the odious vice of hypocrisy, or even in serious danger of such contamination. All admire sincerity and despise a hypocrite. But then many have very narrow and superficial views of the beautiful virtue of sincerity and of the loathsome vice of insincerity. Hypocrisy in its grossest, extreme form is not general—the hypocrisy of the false friend who, like Joab, asks after the health of his brother, and takes him by the beard pur

to kiss him, but holds a sword concealed in his hands, and smites him therewith in the fifth rib; or, like Judas, betrays his Master with a kiss for silver; of the crafty politician who advocates before the people one set of measures with the pose of carrying out the opposite policy as soon as he is in power; of the professed Christian who in public makes a great show of zeal for the faith, and of strict sanctity, in order to get money, reputation, office, or power, or overthrow virtue, while in secret he ridicules religion and indulges every lust. Nevertheless, hypocrisy, acting a part, appearing to be other and better than we are, claiming purer and loftier motives and aims than the reality, abounds in general society and in the Church; and these deceivers are also self-deceived. Let no man easily take it for granted that Jesus Christ would not say to him, Thou hypocrite! If we convince our readers not merely of the possibility, but of the real danger, of what we may call unconscious and yet guilty hypocrisy, we shall do them a service.

Lack of sincerity is shown by a comparison of the judgments we pass on ourselves and on other men. If honest, we would try ourselves by a standard not less strict than that by which we try our fellows; and our condemnation and abhorrence of our own sins in them. It is hypocrisy to condemn in another what we allow in ourselves; and what we call honest indignation against wrong is often proved to be selfish and uncharitable, because we are guilty of like or equal wrong with little shame and compunction. Esau had a deadly hatred against Jacob, the supplanter who by subtlety took away his blessing; but he forgot that he had sworn away his birthright to his brother for a consideration. Jacob was sharp and hard at a bargain; but what a hypocrite was Laban, his father-in-law, who deceived him in the promise of Rachel, changed his wages ten times, and pretended to be sorely hurt in his parental affections because he had stolen off secretly, and not suffered him to kiss his sons and daughters, and send them away with mirth and songs, with tabret and harp! That chiding between father-in-law and son-in-law is an impressive illustration of human insincerity, each presenting his own cause with plausible exaggeration, and painting in darkest colors his own grievances; and such quarrels between two self-seeking and crafty men, each of whom tries to get the advantage and is thrown into a passion of indignation if he himself be outwitted and overreached, are not rare in any age. “Bring her forth and let her be burned,” said stern Judah against Tamar, who had played the harlot; but soon he was forced to acknowledge, “She hath been more righteous than I,” and then he did not see any necessity that either should perish by fire. “As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Well spoken, royal David, faithful protector of thy flock, and avenger of evil deeds, though done by the rich and great! What tenderness of conscience, what generous zeal against meanness, what generous pity for a poor oppressed subject, this just sentence displays! But alas ! the king had taken from brave and loyal Uriah, not a pet lamb, the only one of the house, but a beautiful and beloved wife, his only love, though David had many wives; and to this outrage he had added the murder of the injured man. “Thou hypocrite!” But are we not hypocrites, too? Are we not more lenient to our own offenses than to those of others ? “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”

The zeal of propagandism has often a large alloy of unconscious hypocrisy. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Love for Jehovah and truth was their professed inspiration ; but if this had been their real spirit, instead of being content with gaining converts, they would have led them on to purity of heart and life by example and precept. Are our Churches and Sunday-schools as enthusiastic in promoting virtue and saving souls as in swelling their own number and power? Doubtless there is much pure zeal, but the motive of proselytism in not a few cases is composed two thirds, if not three, of love of party and desire for its domination. Nor

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