On the conscience.


It is a fruitless verbal debate, whether conscience be a faculty or a habit. When all is examined, conscience will be found to be no other than the mind of a man, under the notion of a particular reference to himself and his own actions.


What conscience is, and that it is the ground and antecedent of human (or self-) consciousness, and not any modification of the latter, I have shown at large in a work announced for the press, and described in the chapter following. I have selected the preceding extract as an exercise for reflection; and because I think that in too closely following Thomas a Kempis, the Archbishop has strayed from his own judgment. The definition, for instance, seems to say all, and in fact says nothing; for if I asked. How do you define the human mind? the answer must at least contain, if not consist of, the words, "a mind capable of conscience." For conscience is no synonyme of consciousness, nor any mere expression of the same as modified by the particular object. On the contrary, a consciousness properly human, (that is, self-consciousness,) with the sense of moral responsibility, pre-supposes the conscience as its antecedent condition and ground. Lastly, the sentence, "It is a fruitless verbal debate," is an assertion of the same complexion with the contemptuous sneers at verbal criticism by the contemporaries of Bentley. In questions of philosophy or divinity that have occupied the learned and been the subjects of many successive controversies, 90 for one instance of mere logomachy I could bring ten instances of logodaedaly, or verbal legerdemain, which have perilously confirmed prejudices, and withstood the advancement of truth, in consequence of the neglect of verbal debate, that is, strict discussion of terms. In whatever sense, however, the term conscience may be used, the following aphorism is equally true and important. It is worth noticing, likewise, that Leighton himself in a following page, (vol. ii, p. 97), tells us, that a good conscience is the root of a good conversation: and then quotes from St. Paul a text, Titus 1, 15, in which the mind and the conscience are expressly distinguished.

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