Now we come to the sixth experience of life, which is dealing with the conscience. After we consecrate ourselves, we need to deal not only with sins and the world but also with the conscience. Sins and the world are outward matters, but the conscience is something within us. Therefore, dealing with sins and the world is dealing outwardly with our circumference, whereas dealing with our conscience is dealing with the central part of our being. We have said that dealing with sin is like removing dirty spots from our apparel. Dealing with the world is like removing the colorful, printed pattern in the apparel, and dealing with the conscience can be likened to the thorough removal of all the bacteria from the apparel. Then the apparel is totally clean. Therefore, dealing with the conscience is also of great importance in the growth of our Christian life. We need to know and experience this thoroughly.
Let us look first at the origin of the human conscience. When did it first exist, and how did it come into being? Although we find no definite record of this in the Bible, according to the whole truth of the Bible and also according to our experience, the conscience was created in man when God created man. In other words, the organ of the conscience came into being at the same time man was created. However, it was not until after man partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that the function of the conscience was made manifest.
According to the biblical record, man before the fall was in a primeval state, like a newborn babe. At that time he was not ashamed of his nakedness. This proves that within man there was no concept of good and evil, right and wrong, which means that there was neither the feeling nor the function of the conscience. After man fell by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he felt ashamed of his nakedness. This shameful feeling was due to the conscience being activated to function, thus producing a certain consciousness. Therefore, the feeling of the conscience, that is, the function of the conscience, was manifested after the fall.
Although the function of the conscience was not made manifest before the fall, the conscience itself already existed. Since the conscience is an organ within man, it must have been created when man was created. We cannot say that before the fall there was not such an organ as the conscience and that it was not until after the fall that God created a conscience for man. Such a concept is illogical. Logically speaking, the conscience itself must have been created by God in the beginning, and its function must have been activated and revealed after the fall. We may liken this to an infant who is born with the organ of the brain but who later unfolds the brain’s function by education. The more education it receives, the more the function of the brain is revealed. Likewise, the organ of the conscience existed when man was created, but since he had no problem with good and evil, there was no need for his conscience to function. Not until after the fall did the concept of good and evil enter into man, and thereby the function of his conscience was manifested. From that time the conscience began to bear the responsibility of refusing evil and accepting good. This is the origin of the conscience.
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