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The Law of God and our Conscience

The wisdom of God is seen in suiting his laws to the consciences, as well as the interest of all mankind. ‘The Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires’ (Romans 2:14), so great an affinity there is between the wise law and the reason of man. There is a natural beauty emerging from them, and darting upon the reasons and consciences of men, which dictates to them that this law is worthy to be observed in itself. 

The two main principles of the law, the love and worship of God, and doing as we would be done by, have an indelible impression in the consciences of all men in regard of the principle, though they are not suitably expressed in the practice. 

Were there no law outwardly published, yet every man’s conscience would dictate to him that God was to be acknowledged, worshipped, loved, as naturally as his reason would acquaint him that there was such a being as God.  This suitableness of them to the consciences of men is manifest, in that the laws of the best governed nations among the heathen have had an agreement with them. Nothing can be more exactly composed, according to the rules of right and exact reason, than this; no man but approves of something in it, yea, of the whole, when he exercises that dim reason which he has. 

Suppose any man, not an absolute atheist, he cannot but acknowledge the reasonableness of worshipping God. Grant him to be a Spirit, and it will presently appear absurd to represent him by any corporeal image, and derogate from his excellency by so mean a resemblance. With the same easiness he will grant a reverence due to the name of God, that we must not serve our turn of him by calling him to witness to a lie in a solemn oath; that as worship is due to him, so some stated time is a circumstance necessary to the performance of that worship. 

And as to the second table [of the law], will any man in his right reason quarrel with that command that engages his inferiors to honour him, that secures his being from a violent murder, and his goods from unjust rapine? And though, by the fury of his lusts, he break the laws of wedlock himself, yet he cannot but approve of that law, as it prohibits every man from doing him the like injury and disgrace. 

The suitableness of the law to the consciences of men, is further evidenced by those furious reflections and strong alarms of conscience upon a transgression of it, and that in all parts of the world, more or less in all men; so exactly has divine wisdom fitted the law to the reason and consciences of men, as one tally to another. Indeed, without such an agreement, no man’s conscience could have any ground for a hue and cry, nor need any man be startled with the records of it. 

This manifests the wisdom of God in framing his law so, that the reasons and consciences of all men do one time or other subscribe to it. What governor in the world is able to make any law, distinct from this revealed by God, that shall reach all places, all persons, all hearts?

STEPHEN CHARNOCK

(Source: Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume II)

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