Only this doctrine, that conscience does not discover law, can explain on the one hand the fact that men are bound to follow their consciences, and on the other hand the fact that their consciences so greatly differ as to what is right or wrong in particular cases. The truth is, that conscience is uniform and infallible, in the sense that it always decides rightly according to the law given it. Men?s decisions vary only because the moral reason has presented to the conscience different standards by which to judge.

Conscience can be educated only in the sense of acquiring greater facility and quickness in making its decisions. Education has its chief effect, not upon the conscience but upon the moral reason in rectifying its erroneous or imperfect standards of judgment. Give conscience a right law by which to judge, and its decisions will be uniform, and absolutely as well as relatively just. We are bound, not only to ?follow our conscience,? but also to have a right conscience to follow and to follow it, not as one follows the beast he drives but as the soldier follows his commander. Robert J. Burdette: Following conscience as a guide is like following one?s nose. It is important to get the nose pointed right before it is safe to follow it. A man can keep the approval of his own conscience in very much the same way that he can keep directly behind his nose and go wrong all the time.?

Conscience is the con knowing of a particular act or state, as coming under the law accepted by the reason as to right and wrong and the judgment of conscience subsumes this act or state under that general standard. Conscience cannot include the law and cannot itself be the law because reason only knows, never con-knows. Reason says scio ; only judgment says conscio.

This view enables us to reconcile the intuitive theories and the empirical theories of morals. Each has its element of truth. The original sense of right and wrong is intuitive for no education could over impart the idea of the difference between right and wrong to one who had it not. But what classes of things are right or wrong, we learn by the exercise of our logical intelligence, in connection with experiences of utility, influences of society and tradition, and positive divine revelation. Thus our moral reason, through a combination of intuition and education, of internal and external information as to general principles of right and wrong, furnishes the standard according to which conscience may judge the particular cases, which come before it.

This moral reason may become depraved by sin, so that the light becomes darkness ( <400622>Matthew 6:22, 23) and conscience has only a perverse

<- Previous Table of Contents Next ->

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment