The Power of a Bad Conscience

J.C. Ryle, commenting on Herod’s anxiety in Luke 9:7-9:

Let us mark, in this passage, the power of a bad conscience. We are told that “when Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by our Lord, he was perplexed.” He said, “John have I beheaded, but who is this?” Great and powerful as Herod was, the tidings of our Lord’s ministry called his sins to remembrance, and disturbed him even in his royal palace. Surrounded as he was by everything which is considered to make life enjoyable, the report of another preacher of righteousness filled him with alarm. The recollection of his own wickedness in killing John the Baptist flashed on his mind. He knew he had done wrong. He felt guilty, self-condemned, and self-dissatisfied. Faithful and true is that saying of Solomon’s, “The way of transgressors is hard.” (Prov. 13:15.) Herod’s sin had found him out. The prison and the sword had silenced John the Baptist’s tongue, but they could not silence the voice of Herod’s inward man. God’s truth can neither be silenced, nor bound, nor killed. Conscience is a most powerful part of our natural constitution. It cannot save our souls. It never leads a man to Christ. It is often blind, and ignorant, and misdirected. Yet conscience often raises a mighty testimony against sin in the sinner’s heart, and makes him feel that “it is an evil and a bitter thing” to depart from God. Young people ought especially to remember this, and, remembering it, to take heed to their ways. Let them not flatter themselves that all is right, when their sins are past, and done, and forgotten by the world. Let them know that conscience can bring up each sin before the eyes of their minds, and make it bite like a serpent. Millions will testify at the last day that Herod’s experience was their own. Conscience called old sins from their graves, and made them walk up and down in their hearts. In the midst of seeming happiness and prosperity they were inwardly miserable and distressed. Happy are they who have found the only cure for a bad conscience! Nothing will ever heal it but the blood of Christ.

© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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