Conscience and Remoteness from God

Sec. IV.

The systematic treatment of a scientific matter has the great advantage, that isolated thoughts, which had previously been entertained upon questions associated therewith, being brought within a closer and more many-sided connection, have to undergo an examination which, for the most part, leads to their adjustment, their definition, or their completion; and the historical method which we have chosen benefits us, besides, by relieving us of the associated prejudice derived from deceptive self-observation, and teaching us to recognise their true nature in the first beginnings of psychologic facts, with at least far less risk of delusion. Thus it is with the question, What is the conscience? and of what kind was the intercourse of God with the first man, before and after the fall? On both questions not a few fallacious views are prevalent, which, because they are not absolutely without truth, are liable to corrupt the truth, and to be absorbed into almost traditional formulas. It will be manifest how false they are, when we compare them with the judgments that we have previously come to,, and with the inexhaustibly instructive records of primitive history contained in the first pages of the Bible.

Nothing is more commonly read, than that conscience is a voice of God within us. Surely, literally and logically regarded, this is wrong. For conscience (conscience, from con = cum, avv) is strictly related to the Greek avvelSniri<; (con

scientia), and is thus a subjective idea, and indeed a purely , subjective, and not a correlative idea, as v. Schubert defines it in his History of the Soul, after v. Baader's example: "Privity of the soul with the omnipresent, omniscient God." The av v is not that of fellowship or intercommunion, but avveiSrjaK imports (keeping in view the distinction between the / as the knowing and the knowledge, vid. 1 Cor. iv. 4) the knowledge dwelling in the person of man; and indeed, as an ethical conception, the knowledge proceeding from man's consciousness of God, i.e. from his inalienable knowledge about his conditional nature through God, as it were inalienable knowledge about his moral reciprocal relation to God—briefly, his moral-religious consciousness. It must therefore be said, conscience is the moral-religious consciousness, adapted to man by virtue of an inner self-evidence of God. But, moreover, this is not true, if it is meant thereby that there are continually repeated self-evidences of God, of which conscience is the echo, and of which man stands in need in order to have a conscience at all. Scripture nowhere speaks thus of the conscience. It speaks of it everywhere as of something belonging to the most special nature of man. The Old Testament, in which this conception is not yet impressed—as VJD, Eccles. x. 20 (LXX. iv avveiS^aei aov), indicates only the quiet inward consciousness— expresses it as 3!> (33^)-1 Conscience appears there as a knowledge of the heart (1 Kings ii. 44); the rebuke and punishment of conscience, which man experiences as *nn and nan of his heart (Job xxvii. 6, comp. LXX.; 1 Sam. xxiv. 6; 2 Sam.

xxiv. 10); reproaches of conscience, or shocks of conscience (irpoaKOfifiara, comp. Acts xxiv. 16), as 3? ^iEOD, 1 Sam.

xxv. 31. The New Testament Scripture also ascribes to the heart the functions of conscience (Rom. ii. 15; Heb. x. 22; 1 John iii. 19): moreover, it has at the same time attained in avvelhjaK a clear conception and expression for the fact of the testimony of conscience; and has assigned to it, under this name, its distinctive place henceforth in the spiritual nature of man.'' If we ask about the nature of the conscience, it is

1 Luther translates, accordingly, Josh. xiv. 7, Job xxvii. 6, conscience, but elsewhere heart.

1 See von Zezschwitz, Profangracitat nnd biblischer Sprachgeist, pp. 52-57. The whole of Grecian antiquity knows the fact of the testimony of

everywhere found that it is not God who gives witness to the conscience, but the conscience that gives witness to man (2 Cor. i. 12): avfifiaprvpeiv is not said of the conscience, in the sense that it bears witness with God who witnesseth, but in the sense that it testifies with, or in man, Rom. ii. 15, ix. 1 (comp. avfifiaprvpeiv in a similar sense, of an inwardly occurring and indwelling attestation, Rom. viii. 16). Therefore also in 1 Pet. ii. 19 (comp. Rom. xiii. 5), crvvet$rjai<; Qeov is not the conscience as God dwelling in him, and bearing testimony to the consciousness, but as consciousness of God, namely, of His will and pleasure. The view is not well established in Scripture, that the conscience is the reflex of an immediate self-evidencing of God in man, still less that it is this selfevidencing itself. Moreover, supposing that man had dwelling in him, from creation downwards, God's Spirit as the foundation and support of his life,—a view to which we must on the surface deny that conformity to Scripture, that it claims on the strength of a few texts that may easily be differently understood,—conscience would still not require to be defined as the self-attestation of this spirit.1

If we look into primitive history, the erroneousness of this view is confirmed. When, in the presence of the serpent, the woman shows herself aware of the rigid divine prohibition, and expresses herself accordingly, that which she so utters is the testimony of her conscience. And when she and Adam, never

conscience, says the author, but its wavering expression betrayed the deficient apprehension of its nature. And " even the Old Testament was no favourable ground on which to build up this conception. The positive law took its significance from the natural moral consciousness." We observe thereupon, that the Grecian antiquity nevertheless very much anticipated the Israelitish, in the impression of the idea of conscience. For Periander is said to have replied to the question, Ti Utih fatvDvpttt, by the words dyttH avntiwif. It is plain here, moreover, that Christianity has melted together the Old Testament truth with the elements of Hellenic truth; and it is consistent with this, that (except in the section of the woman taken in adultery, John viii. 9); docs not occur in the Gospels.

1 It must at least be said, as Thomasius, i. 1C7: There occurs a constant inner living intercourse of God with man, and the Result of this communion is that which we call conscience. For assuredly the conscience is an impulse of the human spirit, but this impulse is Established by the Divine Spirit testifying itself in it.

theless, transgress the divine prohibition, it is the result of their having declined from God's love to sensual lust, and having crushed the warning witness of their conscience. But when the sin is committed, and is manifest to them in its consequences, the restrained conscience breaks forth again. Looking upon their nakedness, they are seized with shame; perceiving God's nearness, they are seized with fear. The two would not have been possible, if their conscience had not reminded them of the divine prohibition, and represented to them the guilt of its transgression. Let it now be considered that an immediate selfattestation of God to Adam preceded the transaction between the serpent and the woman, scil. the prohibition of the tree of knowledge.; and an immediate self-attestation of God follows it, scil. the conviction and the sentence; and the narrative could not give us more plainly to understand that the conscience is not itself even /the reflex of an inward immediate self-evidencing of God, to say nothing of its being itself such a self-evidence.1 The apostle tells us, however, in Rom. ii. 15, precisely that the conscience, in regard of the objective factor of its nature, is not the echo of a divine self-evidence always immediate, but

1 Nevertheless v. Hofmann says (Schriftbeweis, i. 572) : "Both shame and fear were announcements Of the conscience. But the conscience is, according to its nature, not a something in man, nor an effect produced in him, that he could ascribe it to himself, but an immediate self-evidencing of God in him, to perceive which, is neither a sign of a right relation to God, nor serves to restore such a relation." Then further on it is said, p. 573: "Men, because sinful, in those experiences of shame and fear neither recognised announcements of conscience, nor consequences of their sin; but there was needed an expressive word of God before they acknowledged in themselves and confessed to themselves that they, only in consequence of their sin, were ashamed before one another, and afraid before God." Marvellous I The conscience is no knowledge, but only an actus directus of divine self-attestation to men which causes shame and fear, but—no knowledge. For this definition of conscience there is no reference to a scriptural word, as it upsets the subjective idea; but to v. Harless' Ethik, p. 59, where we read, "Conscience to me is generally so far identical with the human spirit, as it is not spirit in the spirit, not the divine in the created, and generally not anything." What then? It is actual reciprocal relation of God with the human spirit, and the reverse. "It is, according to its nature, an ever operative assurance of God to our spirit, and the like." We cannot appreciate all this, and we must hold every definition of the idea h priori as a failure, which does not start from the fact that conscience—mmilwif, as the rationale of the word implies—is a species of knowledge.

the knowledge of a divine law which every man—even he who does not know the positive revelation of the law—bears in his heart. The final destiny of a man (this is the connection of the thoughts) is decided not according to the possession of the law as such, but according to his moral conduct (ver. 12); "for not the hearers of the Jaw are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (ver. 13). The heathen furnish the proof for it, for they have, it is true, no law that they could hear (no law historically revealed).; but if the heathen, who are still without law, do by nature works that the law prescribes to them, they are, in spite of their being without law, a law unto themselves, and prove thereby that a godly conversation is possible even without the possession of a law, i.e. a positive law. They are, moreover, not absolutely without law; but, doing by nature (cpvaei) what the revealed law claims, they bear actual witness to the fact that a knowledge of what is right before God is established in the <f>vai<;, ij. in the creatively ordained constitution of man: they have, as they prove by such conduct according to law as is possible to them, To epyov Tov vofiov ypairrbv ev T<u? Kap$(cu<; ainwv; i.e. the deed by which God's law is performed, of whatever kind this doing is, stands as an objective pattern, written with ineradicable traces in their heart, as it stands for Israel on the stone tables and the document of the Thora. Wherefore in Isa. xxiv. 5 it may justly be said of all the dwellers in the earth, in relation to the final judgment, " They have transgressed (God's) laws, changed the ordinance" (LXX. iraprjkdoaav Tov vofiov Kox rfK\a%av ra irpoaTar/fioTa). When the apostle adds, avfifiaprvpouenj< ; avrwv T?}? £Twet8?7aeco?, he places conscience in a relation to that inner law, which resembles that of prophecy to the Thora. As prophecy (which has been strikingly called the conscience -of the Israelitish state) testifies to the Thora, and places the circumstances and conduct of Israel from time to time in the light of the Thora,—thus conscience gives witness to that inner law in man in his own sight (avfifiaprvpeT), impels and directs man to act according to that law (the so-called precedent conscience), judges his doings according to this law, and reflects his actions and his circumstances in the light of this law (the subsequent conscience): not as though the conscience were a special spiritual activity associated with the will, the thought (judgment), and feeling; but it is the effectual power in the spiritual forms of activity concerned in those internal experiences.1 From the side of this critically judging and condemning activity, the conscience is conceived of in reference to one's own doing (Heb. x. 2), and in reference to the doings of others (1 Cor. x. 29; 2 Cor. iv. 2, v. 11). The conscience, therefore, is the natural consciousness to man, as such, of the law in his heart; the religious moral determination of his self-consciousness dwelling in the human spirit, and effectuating itself even against the will in all the forms of life of man; the ethical side of the general sense of truth (sensus communis), which remained in man even after his fall; the knowledge concerning what God will and will not have,2 manifesting itself progressively in the form of impulse, and judgment, and feeling. Inasmuch, then, as the conscience gives witness to the inward law, there appear in some degree before a man, and there arise in him—whether it be that he reflects on his own individual conduct, or upon his entire condition—thoughts called forth by the testimony of conscience, on the one side accusing, on the other side excusing, which

1 In substance thus Giider, Die Lehre, vom Gewissen, in Stud. a. Kritiken, 1857, pp. 265-270; and Schenkel, art. "Gewissen," in Herzog's lieal-Encyklopiiilie, v. 138. But while the former teaches that conscience is an activity which is effected by a co-operation of the various capacities of the spirit, scil. the form of manifestation of the consciousness of God immanent in the consciousness of self, practically certifying itself to the self-activity; the latter teaches that in its nature it is no activity, but a determination of the self-consciousness, which, however, as such, regulates the activities of the spirit in which the self-consciousness expresses itself, scil. the thinking, feeling, and willing. The two views, as is frequently the case, contradict one another only logically, not substantially. Conscience, after its nature, is no activity, but a determination, although an effective one; and according to its expression it is an activity, but no contingent one: for, as even Giider says, to the consciousness of God is appropriate the practical tendency to bring on the conditionality of the free personality corresponding to him; and what is conscience other than, in all forms of spiritual life, this self-effectuating knowledge of man about God, as the morally determining absolute will?

2 The scholastics distinguish synteresis or synderesis (avrrvpveii) as the habitual knowledge of the divine will in general, which is considered as the scintilla spiritus remaining in man, and conscientia as the actual synderesis, i.e. as the operation of conscience administering that general knowledge normally or judicially. The synteresis seems to them, in the syllogismus conscientise, aspropositio major; comp. Schenkel, I.e. p. 135.

occur as in a law-suit, in controversy with one another (fiera%v aWifXwi/). With this law written on his heart, with this continuous attestation of it by conscience, with these thoughts of self-accusation, or moreover of self-justification, called forth by the testimony of conscience,—the heathen, as says the apostle to the heathens, comes to stand eventually before the judgment of God, which He executes by Jesus Christ, the Saviour not only of man, but of humanity.1

Conscience is thus not the echo or the abode of an immediate divine self-evidence, but an actual consciousness of a divine law established in man's heart; for all self-consciousness of created natures capable of self-consciousness, is naturally at once a consciousness of their dependence on God, and a consciousness of their duty to allow themselves to be determined by the will of God, and consciousness of the general purport of that will. That which is said by ancients and moderns of the conscience as God's voice in us, has in it this truth, that the testimony of conscience certainly rests on a divine foundation woven in our natural condition, scil. on a divine law in him, ordained with the created constitution of man, the existence of which, its claims and judgments, are removed from his subjective Control. If a man know his doing to be in harmony with this law, his conscience is ayadr j (Acts xxiii. 1; 1 Pet. iii. 16, 21; 1 Tim. i. 5, 19), KaKrj (Heb. xiii. 18), Kadapd (1 Tim. iii. 9; 2 Tim. i. 3), uirp6aKoiro<; (Acts xxiv. 16). If his deed be evil, so also is his conscience, inasmuch as it is consciousness

1 "If a heathen,"—thus v. Hofmann fills up the meaning of v. 14 in the Zeitschr.f. Protest. 1860, p. 69,—" if a heathen do what is claimed by the revealed law, he is in nowise ashamed before God that he has not the law: he is to himself what the Jew has in his law, in that he, by his doing, proves that its contents is the desire of his heart testified by conscience, and accompanied by the interchange of thoughts accusing, or—in the day when God through Jesus Christ judges the hidden heart's-ground of men, in the spirit of the gospel message appointed even for the heathen world— moreover excusing him." This linking of the it iyi'Pf with the clause ij ««i duoKvyovfiiiuv I do not approve, as appears from what has been said above; but the thought that, in that day in which God exercises His judgment through Jesus Christ the Mediator of grace, even heathens may be accepted to grace, is without doubt in the meaning of the apostle. We remember the expression of Jesus on the men of Nineveh and the queen of the south (Matt. xii. 41). Compare also Hebart, Die Natiirliche 7'heologie del Ap. Paulus, 1861.

of such evil (irovrjpd, Heb. X. 22) : it is fiefiiaafievrj (Tit. i. 15; 1 Cor. viii. 7), so far as the evil deeds shadow themselves in it like blots or KeKavrrjpiaaixevri (1 Tim. iv. 2), so far as it bears them in itself ineradicably and indelibly like brands. All these characteristics prevail in the so-called subsequent conscience. In respect of the so-called precedent conscience, prevails in Scripture generally the fundamental position that man is to act in proportion to himself, i.e. according to the measure of his conviction and his faith (Rom. xiv. 23; comp. Ecclus. xxxvii. 13, xxxv. 13), without thereby exalting the conscience to an infallible oracle. The precedent conscience may be right or wrong, weak or strong (acrOevr)s, aaOevovaa, 1 Cor. viii. 7,12); it may err and waver in that which is right before God; but in all cases it remains the norm, or law, for the occurrent doings of man. For action without conscience is, as such, absolutely blameable, although action according to conscience is not absolutely on that account right before God. For man, even on account of the confusions and perversions of his conscience, is responsible to God; and the weakness of conscience, which depends on deficiency of right knowledge (1 Cor. viii. 7), and is to be spared (1 Cor. viii. 9), may, in its exercise of judgment npon the freedom of conscience of another (1 Cor. x. 29), result in a self-induration and vain-gloriousness most perilous to the soul.

If man, indeed, were not fallen, the conscience would be. the always truthful and assured witness to itself of the will of God to us, and the blessed consciousness of the unity of our will with the divine; or must there have needed no appeal to conscience before the fall of man ?" So long," say many,1 "as man lived in immediate fellowship with God not yet interrupted by sin, he had no conscience, i.e. his self-consciousness harmonized immediately with his divine consciousness: there could as yet arise no distinction of the two, as of natures essentially diverse from one another, or forms of consciousness contradicting one another." But self-conseiousness, worldconsciousness, consciousness of God, are still quite three several sides and tendencies of the personal life of the spirit; and

1 Thus, for example, Schenkel, art. "Conscience" in Herzog's RealEncyklop. v. 132; comp. K, v< Raumer, Geschichte der Padagogik, ii. 212, where conscience U called the correlative of original sin.

man's will and God's will are always two, if not different, still several, wills; and God's will was, and is, and remains our law, as surely as the sense of absolute dependence on God—to which even the seraphim give utterance—will not leave us even in a blessed eternity.1 Why, then, might not man's knowledge about his relation to God from the first beginning be called conscience, especially as, even to those who were first created, the will of God, having in view the confirmation of their freedom, was made known in the form of a positive law? Conscience in its primitive form was exactly knowledge knowing itself in God, and knowing itself not otherwise than conformed to God's wilL But, in consequence of the fall, it not only became a painful consciousness of disunion of the two, and thus a consciousness of guilt, of which man, although for a time he may hush it up, can never wholly get rid;2 but, moreover, in its claims, which it urges upon human conduct, it has fallen into the corruptions of eclipse and stupefaction. It is no longer the perfectly true mirror of God's law in us. This law itself, however, subsists in man as the ineradicable dowry of his divinely constituted nature. 'Even in man fallen is written, that abiding in the divine love is the truth and the peace of his nature; that his conduct must be so ordered as to be conformed to the divine love; and that, if it be otherwise ordered, it incurs the divine anger. The powers of the spirit and of the soul themselves are as the decalogue of this creative Thora established in us. Only the prophecy of conscience, although inextricably related to this objective law of God, was subjected to the consequences of the fall; and after man had fallen from God's love, there needed a re-establishment into this holy sphere (comp. Rom. ix. 1), that the conscience should testify to him just as truly and surely of the will of the divine love as of the incurred divine wrath.

1 We cannot therefore agree with Harless (JSthih, p. 84), who refuses to conscience, considered according to its nature, the form of the law; because he regards consciousness of the divine will as law, and dissent of the human will from the divine, as inseparable.

1 Objectively represented by heathenism in the Furies, the personified terrores conscientise, as is acknowledged by heathendom itself, as soon as the spell of the mythology is broken. See the expressions of Cicero, Juvenal, and others, in Thomasius, Grundlinien z. Religions- Unterricht, sec. xL (ed. 3, 1858), and Harless, Ethik, p. 26.

For as it is wrong to name conscience the voice of God, so it is also wrong to name conscience, as such, the voice of God the Redeemer. Since Giinther and Pabst, it is a much received view that conscience is not a psychologic fact appertaining to the creation, but to redemption. No; conscience is inseparable from the personal nature of man, and comes into being contemporaneously therewith; for the self-conscious man is, as such, conscious to himself also of his conditionality in respect of God and his duty, that he may allow himself continually to be conditioned in his self-determination by the will of God. The existence of conscience, therefore, reaches beyond the fall, and has, in its manifestation of itself, run through a changeful history: it was one thing in its original position; it is another in its position under sin; it becomes another in its position under grace, through which it becomes renewed, together with our likeness to God. While it testifies to man of his separation from God, and creates the longing after harmony and peace with God, it assuredly helps to prepare the way for redemption; but it is so little a gift of redeeming grace, that rather it needs itself not only purification through grace (Heb. ix. 14, comp. ix. 9, x. 2), but correction, establishment, sharpening (comp. 1 Cor. iv. 4) through grace. Thus, moreover, what has often been maintained, after Giinther's example, is unsound, that the call of God, n3'K, is the origin and essence of conscience, and that this latter is therefore the beginning of the grace that seeks the sinner.1 When Eve, in the presence of the serpent, showed herself conscious of the divine prohibition and of its rigid obligation; when shame and fear laid hold upon the fallen ones, it was God's law (established in the first man, as in all men,) of the obedience of thankful love due to God, which law made itself then manifest. The call of Jehovah-Elohim, Where art thou? was thus not the first beginning of conscience, and conscience was not the continued echo of that call. Men had a conscience which testified to them of God's loving will, even in the relation of nearness to God, in which they stood before the fall: they had a conscience which placed them in shame and remorse, in the relation of remoteness from God in which they stood after the fall; and it is nothing else than the struggle of

1 See the chief passage from the school of speculative theology that preceded Giinther, in Thomasius, Dogm. i. 354.

thoughts of self-accusation and of self-exculpation in the court of conscience, to which Jehovah-Elohim puts an end by bringing the testimony of conscience concerning their guilt to a certainty.1 But when God approaches them as a Judge, he at the same time approaches them as a Redeemer. This advance of Jehovah-Elohim in the garden is the first historical movement of God to the work, of redemption—the first historical step to the incarnation. For that this mode of intercourse of God with men was the primitive mode, is a prejudice that rests upon no demonstration. The intercourse that till then had subsisted, took another form in consequence of the fall. The life of men, while still unfallen, was a life in God, and in His love. If they addressed themselves to themselves, they communed with God in the spirit; and if they turned to the outer world, they communed with God in His works. But when they swerved from God's love, they became strange to God, and God became remote from them. But, according to His eternal counsel of love, He would not remain remote from them. He approached them again, but now in a manner that corresponded to their materialization and alienation. He gives to Himself a manifestation limited by the sensuous perceptions of men, and probably human. This is no childish representation or mythologic investment of the narrative. Certainly the being of man, even

1 We refer here to F. Weber, Die Lehre vom Gewissen mit hes. Absehen auj Hire Bed. far die Kirchliche Praxis, in the Zeitsclir. f. Protest. 1860, pp. 65-89. This appendix is a commentary supplementary in many ways, and well considered, to this paragraph of my biblical psychology. Compare also the opinions of Glider, in agreement with the above, disputing of the falsely making-objective of the idea of conscience, in his Lehre vom Gewissen, I.e.: "The conscience is in nowise a transcendent approval of God in the subject." Gb'schel, Der Mensch diesseits und jenseits, p. 50; Philippi, Glaubenslehre, iii. 13, "Knowledge of the human spirit about the divine law implanted in it;" Fronmiiller, art. "Gewissen" in the Zellersd. Bihl. Worterbuch; v. Zezschwitz, I.e.; v. Rudloff, p. 142; Riehm, Lehrbegriffdes Hebraerbr., p. 675, whero is well and briefly given, by way of definition, "2i/»f/3»i>j/f is the knowledge of man about himself concerning his relation to God." Schenkel, art. "Gewissen" in Ilerzog's R.E.: "It is not accurate to define conscience as an existence, or a voice of God in man. In the conscience God is not the subject, but man is the subject; while, on the other hand, God is the object. Man has God objectively in the conscience; God is objectively to man in the conscience." My Elberfeld critic, following Baader, defines: "Conscience is the knowledge of our being known.'"

after the fall, is a being in God (Acts xvii. 28); or, what is the same thing, God the omnipresent is in man also after his fall.1 But because man is no longer m God's love, it is true equally that he is out of God, and God out of man. The relation of love is severed. It is this which now becomes historically manifest. How distant God has become from men, is plain from the fact that He now advances to them from without; and how strange men have become to God, is plain from the fact that they hide themselves from His presence. The breach of the relation of love, however, becomes manifest in so historical a manner, because a new restoration of men in the course of the history is the loving purpose of God. The preparatory form of this restoration is this, that on the part of God, the promise, and on the part of man, faith, passes through the separating wall of partition,—a psychological event of the profoundest significance to the history of redemption.