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Oliver Chase Quick

Chapter VIII


There is another point of view from which the whole operation of the Holy Spirit may be regarded.  His works are not only works of witness, but also works of sanctification.  By sanctification we mean essentially the setting apart and the adaptation of something to be the dwelling place of God’s Presence and the instrument for His use.  The work of the Spirit is to hallow human instruments and vessels for God’s service.  As therefore the work of witness is naturally connected in our minds with the Incarnation, since it is that wherein God’s revelation through Christ is interpreted and fulfilled; so the work of sanctification is connected with the Atonement, since it is that wherein God’s redemption through Christ is continued and completed.  The two aspects of the Spirit’s operation thus correspond to the two aspects of the Person of our Lord.

The Atonement, as we saw, achieves the forgiveness, or, in St. Paul’s language, the justification, of every man whose faith accepts the gift.  The Atonement makes possible for the sinner a fresh start on the road to heaven, and the Christian life on earth must start and restart continually from the forgiveness or justification of God.  But for ultimate attainment of the goal, something more than a start or series of starts is required.  There must be also progress.  It is this actual growth of the entire man towards perfection which the word “sanctification” denotes.  The development is throughout the work of the same God Who wrought the original forgiveness which enabled the process to begin.

Looking therefore at the twofold operation of the Spirit from the human side, it is in a sense true to say that while the operation of witness has its fruit in Christian faith, the operation of sanctification has its fruit in Christian action.  At the same time St. Paul’s whole doctrine of justification by faith issuing in sanctification, is a protest against the error of understanding the term “action” in any narrow sense.  Faith is the initial assent of our whole personality, whereby we recognise and reach towards God in Christ as the goal and guide of our whole personal activity, and accept Christ’s atoning death as restoring our means of access to God in Him.  This faith is wrought through the witness of the Spirit to Christ's revelation.  It is moved thereby to accept His message of redemption, and it must issue in the process of sanctification, wherein we progress in the Power of the Spirit towards the actual attainment of the end which faith has made ours.  It will follow therefore that the action in which we are sanctified, is not a mere matter of outward acts or “works” alone.  We do not become better Christians or make actual progress towards the attainment of the Christian ideal simply by doing outward acts.  We become better Christians in so far as our whole personalities, mind, heart and body are consecrated and used in the service of Christ.  This process of sanctification is shown as much in thoughts and feelings as in outward acts.  Holy thoughts, holy desires, holy feelings, holy acts are alike parts of the whole action of life in which we are sanctified.  They all spring from the faith which starts and directs them towards their end.  The whole action of Christian life which they constitute is the process, whether inward or outward, which faith sets in motion.  Christian works or outward acts only have meaning and value as parts of the wider process in which the whole man is sanctified.  Faith is the earnest that the process will one day achieve its end, and God accepts this earnest, justifies us, treats us already as His children, and gives us His Spirit to bring the process of our growth to fulfilment.  The sanctification of the Spirit therefore works the whole actual progress in holiness which the faith wrought by His witness initiates.  At the same time the faith wrought by the Spirit’s witness may be regarded as the first step in sanctification, and the process of sanctification as it advances will in its turn become a witness to confirm the faith.  Witness and sanctification are therefore, as we have already said, two aspects rather than two departments of the Spirit’s operation, and faith and action two aspects rather than two departments of man’s religious life.

The doctrine of sanctification thus enables us to see practical problems of conduct in their true perspective, and provides us with an ethical principle which moral philosophers have often sought in vain.  Let us see what light it has to throw on the dark places in the theory of ethics.

The first step in moral philosophy is to assume the existence of a law of action which enjoins certain acts as right and forbids certain others as wrong.  The Mosaic commandments are a general type of all such moral laws.  But having taken this first step, we are immediately confronted by a difficulty.  For reflection shows the impossibility of saying definitely that certain specific outward acts are in themselves always right and others always wrong.  We may say in general terms that killing and stealing are wrong actions and almsgiving a right one.  These precepts are broadly stated in the Mosaic Law.  But if killing, stealing, and almsgiving denote mere outward acts – i.e., the taking away of life and property and the giving of money to the poor the former cannot always be forbidden, nor the latter always enjoined.  There are multitudes of cases in which the taking of life and property is generally held to be right, and the giving of money to the poor generally held to be wrong.  You cannot decide the legitimacy of war by quoting the Sixth Commandment, or the legitimacy of the Welsh Disestablishment Bill by quoting the Eighth, nor can you solve the problems of the Charity Organisation Society merely by affirming the duty and privilege of giving alms.  No doubt it is natural and justifiable to save the precepts in question by retorting that where taking of life is legitimate, it is no murder; where taking of property is legitimate, it is not theft; and where the giving of money to the poor is not legitimate, it is no true charity.  But then the questions are immediately raised, What is murder?  What is theft ?  What is true charity?  And so long as we consider the outward actions only, no answer can be given and no criterion found.  We cannot give any simple rule of outward action which will apply to all cases.  We are led to the conclusion that in order to differentiate the legitimate taking of life from murder, the legitimate taking of property from theft, true charity from pauperisation, we have to consider much more than the bare actions themselves.  We have to take into account the purpose and motive with which the action is performed, and the result which it is likely to produce.  Obviously an act which is simply accidental has no moral significance at all.  A man may kill another by accident, but only the most primitive of legal codes will attribute to him the guilt of murder.  But apart from the question of accident there are various purposes which the law of states and the conscience of men regard as in greater or less degree justifications for taking life, as, e.g., self‑defence, the protection of another, or even the saving of the person killed from a more dreadful fate otherwise inevitable.  At least these purposes and motives alter the whole character of the act.  Again the moral value of an act is modified not only by its purpose but by its result, so far as it is foreseeable.  Good intentions do not constitute a sufficient excuse for doing actions which the doer of them ought to have recognised as on the whole likely to be harmful in their consequences.  The giving of sixpence to a beggar may spring from a charitable motive; it is none the less foolish and wrong, if the result is plainly to harm the man himself and the community by encouraging a class of dishonest professional mendicants.

All codes of law which regulate human action, whether their sanction be secular or religious, recognise for practical purposes considerations of this kind, but it is not within their province or capacity to formulate any theory or general principle as to the difference between right and wrong action in their essential natures.  All such codes of law are therefore inadequate to interpret to us the underlying principles which should govern our action as a whole; they point towards such principles in recognising that the moral character of outward acts must depend on considerations outside the acts themselves, but they do not provide the true standard of discrimination, and their judgements are always of a more or less rough and ready kind.

Ultimately, as we have seen, the rightness or wrongness of any act is determined by the purpose with which it is done and the consequences to which it may reasonably be thought to lead.  In other words, the problem of conduct is a problem of adapting the best means to a right end.  The doing of a really right action must depend on a right purpose to achieve a good end, and in a wise judgement as to the means to achieve the result.  Right conduct thus involves the whole activity of life.  The question: How shall we find a principle of discrimination between right action and wrong? leads at once to the further question: What is the whole end or purpose to which the activity of life ought to be directed?  It is only when we have reached a clear conception of the ultimate purpose which life is meant to achieve, that we are in a position to adapt and to discriminate the right means for attaining it through outward action.

So far we are following the footsteps of many moral philosophers, who own no allegiance to the Christian faith.  Many of them have made answer that the ultimate end of all action must be, or ought to be, the attainment of happiness, whether the happiness be that of the individual himself or of the community to which he belongs.  At first sight this answer seems to provide the criterion of which we are in search.  The end of happiness does seem to be capable of including the whole activity of life, and right outward action will be simply part of the means whereby the end is achieved.  Those acts will be right which tend on the whole to produce the greatest amount of happiness, those which lead to unhappiness will be wrong.  The best supporters of this theory have been much concerned to show that it is not really as selfish as it sounds.  They have been eager to insist that only through self‑sacrifice can true happiness be won, and certainly no Christian would deny that in God’s Presence is joy, and at His right Hand there is pleasure for evermore.  But reflection shows that by making mere happiness the end, we have not really found any criterion capable of discriminating right action from wrong.  For the question at once becomes insistent: What kinds of happiness ought we to aim at?  It cannot be any kind of happiness, however complete or intense we may suppose it to be.  There is a sense in which a sow wallowing in the mire presents one of the most complete pictures of happiness which earth affords.  Yet even if such happiness were conceived as everlasting, we could not regard this type of happiness as constituting the supreme end of life.  As Mr. F. H. Bradley and others have long ago pointed out, all theories which make mere happiness the end come to shipwreck on this difficulty.  In order to retain a high ideal of moral goodness they are compelled to admit a distinction between higher and lower forms of happiness.  The distinction is not one of degree or quantity, but of quality and kind.  They are forced to take the highest kind of happiness alone as the real goal of human effort.  But in so doing they have ceased to make mere happiness the end.  In other words, right happiness is the happiness to be sought, and the question, What is right? still remains unanswered.  We have failed to find in happiness as the end a real criterion whereby human actions may be judged.

Moreover, there are serious objections to making even a specific form of happiness the universal end of right conduct.  As we have seen, a mere law of outward actions expressed in the form “Thou shalt do this” and “Thou shalt not do that,” is an inadequate criterion of right and wrong, because the difference between the two does not lie in the outward acts themselves considered apart from their purpose and result.  But such a law nevertheless makes a powerful appeal to the conscience, precisely because it enjoins the doing of right from no ulterior motive whatsoever.  We cannot but recognise the moral force of a purely disinterested desire to do right simply because it is right.  “Because right is right to follow right were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.”  And if we make any form of happiness the supreme end of action this appeal seems to be dangerously weakened.  True, the highest act of self‑sacrifice may or must in the end lead to the noblest happiness, but it loses its moral meaning and value if it be done for that reason.  If any form of happiness be itself the end aimed at, then the purpose of the action loses its disinterested character, and its moral value is impaired.  No form of hedonism or utilitarianism can fairly be made to fit in with the best conscience of mankind.

How then are we to define the universal aim of human action in such a way as to obtain a criterion which will discriminate right from wrong?  The aim, as we have seen, must be an aim for the whole personal life.  We cannot really isolate outward action or practice as a separate department which can be treated apart from thought and feeling.  Action is really all life viewed as the process of an effort towards the attainment of a supreme purpose; and the claim of utilitarianism to provide a definition of this purpose has been shown to be delusive.

The Christian answers that the end of action is perfect sanctification by the Spirit of Christ, and that it is His sanctifying power which works through all actions rightly directed to that end.  In all good human activity the Holy Spirit is consecrating human life to live in communion with God as the instrument of His use and as the object of His love.  Right actions are those which help and subserve the Spirit’s work; wrong actions are those which mar and hinder it.

Let us try to apply this doctrine, first to the general problems which we have raised as to the end and motive of action as a whole, and then to the specific difficulties of Christian conduct in outward act, which are rightly viewed as part of those wider problems.

Clearly in the idea of sanctification we have an end of action which is truly universal.  All human activity, whether of thought, feeling, desire, or bodily act, can be conceived as playing its part in attaining the sanctification of the whole.  For in all these forms of activity the striving after perfection may be present, and perfection is to be perfectly consecrated in the service of God.  At the same time the idea of sanctification as the end enables us to find an answer to objections fatal to those theories which seek to put happiness in that position.  Sanctification provides us with a definite purpose which lies beyond all particular acts, and in so doing presents a real standard whereby they may be judged and discriminated as good and evil, right and wrong.  If we know in Christ the character and purpose of God, we are able to say that this act is right, inasmuch as it brings us nearer to consecration in His service, and that act wrong, because it hinders and spoils that consecration.  Yet in providing an external standard for action, the idea of sanctification saves us nevertheless from the suspicion that we are making right action depend on purposes which are ulterior or interested in any bad sense.  We are enabled to clear ourselves from any such imputation, because the conception of sanctification as the end places the final object and the inspiring cause of all action outside and beyond the mere human person who acts.  Sanctification essentially means being made meet for the use and the presence of a Good Being who is other than that which is sanctified.  And if the character of that Being be pure righteousness and love, no act which truly aims at consecration to Him can be tainted with any breath of self‑interest.  For self‑interest is the one quality above all others which the sanctifying influence of God’s righteous and loving will must destroy.  Again, our consecration to such a Being will and must include both the doing of right for right’s sake and the joy of being indwelt by love.  Both are taken up and harmonised in the idea of sanctification.  For if God Who sanctifies us be righteous and loving, we cannot do right without becoming the vessel of His love, nor can we love truly without becoming the obedient instrument of His righteous will.[1]

In the light of this discussion let us turn to the specific problem of outward action in the narrow sense.  Our problem is to relate outward acts as particular means towards the great end of the whole personal life.  Mere laws of outward action (of which the Mosaic Law is the type) fail because they do not express this relation.  But as our Lord taught, the Law is not invalidated but completed and fulfilled when the relation of outward to inward is made clear.  Many quite superfluous difficulties have been raised concerning the ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount as the guide to Christian conduct.  These difficulties are based on the quite obviously false supposition that our Lord was intending to supersede one outward command, e.g., “Do not kill,” by another outward command, e.g., “Turn the other cheek” or “Resist not evil.”  This assumption surely betrays what can only be called a perverse misunderstanding of the whole trend of our Lord’s ethical discourses.  One has only to study passages like our Lord’s summary of the law or His treatment of the Sixth Commandment, in order to understand that the purpose of His teaching is to show that outward acts only have moral value as the expressions of a spiritual attitude.  No outward rule of action can be absolute and universal; such rules are only rough indications of what should be the purpose and motive working through the whole activity of life.  It is only on this principle that our Lord’s whole treatment of Mosaic law becomes intelligible at all.  The law, “Thou shalt not kill,” only has force as expressing the spiritual truth that it is wrong to hate one’s brother.  The whole law is included in the saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.”  If that is so, outward action is only important as a means whereby a spiritual attitude or disposition is embodied.  That is why the whole principle of retributive justice, on which the Mosaic Law was based, is in need of revision.  The theory of retribution presupposes that one outward act can be paid for or balanced by another; or, in other words, it is assumed that such acts have in themselves a definite and more or less constant value.  It is just this assumption which our Lord shows to be fundamentally untrue.  Love rejects the principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” because it refuses to enter into such impossible calculations.  If a man smites you on the one cheek, there is in that fact no basis at all for calculating what amount of retribution the act may merit.  It all depends on the total circumstances and context of the act, and God alone can know what they are – it is not for man to judge.  But the principle of love comes to our rescue and shows us that the reckoning of the retribution merited is not only impossible but irrelevant.  As far as any need for retribution goes, the Christian will be quite ready simply to turn the other cheek.  But even that act itself is only good as indicating an inward and spiritual purpose of love, and it by no means follows that the outward act of non‑resistance is in all cases the best possible means for achieving that purpose.  The whole aim of our Lord’s teaching with its paradoxical illustrations is clearly to demonstrate that outward acts are in themselves of quite secondary and derivative importance.  Have a right spiritual attitude, think and mean obedience to God and the good of men, and then take the best means in your power to show forth and fulfil your intention.  That is what it means to be the child of the Heavenly Father, Who maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  In other words, our Lord substitutes the principle of the sanctification of all life from within for the law which imposes from without certain definite prohibitions and injunctions.  The doctrine of sanctification merely makes explicit as a theory the whole foundation on which our Lord’s teaching rests.

Reflection on the practical bearings of this doctrine makes it clear that, while it allows the freest possible scope for action, it is nevertheless more exacting in its demands than the most rigorous of legal formulae.  For sanctification embraces the whole man; no mere act or series of acts, however painfully and assiduously practised, can ever satisfy such a standard.  Every act which is truly sanctified by the Spirit must be the outcome of right intention, wise judgement and pure feeling, all directed towards Christlike life.  Nothing less than the consecration of the whole through every smallest part is the demand of the Spirit of God.  “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Yet it will follow at the same time that the highest right in outward action can only be achieved as part of the wider perfection of the whole man.  And here we gain the right line of approach to the most vexed problems of modern ethics, of which we may take the legitimacy of fighting as a typical and crucial instance.  Those who say that the Christian must be wrong in bearing arms, never really face the argument that we cannot achieve Christian perfection in outward act apart from Christian perfection in the inward graces of the Spirit.  To ask what Jesus Christ Himself would have done if he had been invited to respond to the call to arms which has come to His followers today, is to ask a question which is probably in the strict sense unanswerable.  But even if the question admitted of a definite and certain reply, that reply would not have the immediate relevance to the problem which many people suppose that it would.  It is argued as apparently self‑evident that we cannot be sincere Christians unless we do what Christ would have done  in similar circumstances.  It is forgotten that on the same showing it is equally self‑evident that we cannot be sincere Christians unless we think what Christ would have thought, and feel what Christ would have felt, unless, that is, our whole spiritual and mental attainment is on a level with that of Christ’s own manhood.  This assertion, however, has only to be made explicit in order to appear self‑evidently false.  Manifestly our attainment in mind and spirit is on an infinitely lower plane than that of the manhood of our Lord.  But we are not therefore insincere in professing ourselves to be Christians, for we do not acquiesce in remaining on that lower plane.  We are striving upward to the level of Christ by the sanctifying power of His Spirit, and the attempt cannot be called utterly idle or fraudulent, because the consequences of our imperfections prevent us from rising the whole way at a single bound.

Why should not this reasoning, so obvious in its application to what is inward and spiritual, apply also to outward actions as well?  It may be that our Lord, if He had been incarnate today, would not have gone forth to the trenches to kill His country’s enemies.  In that case He would have refrained, because His perfect consecration would have enabled Him to take better and more effectual means of defending the right and casting down the wrong.  Perhaps He would not have needed to use force.  Perhaps a word or a look from Him would have changed utterly the course of the whole miserable story.  We cannot say exactly all the means of action open to a perfect humanity, but obviously its possibilities are very much greater than ours.  The force of this argument has been missed by many, because they commit the error of regarding mere abstention as a form of action, and thus endow a mere negative with a positive force.  “Christ,” they say, “would have abstained from fighting and so can we; and therefore if we abstain we shall so far be acting like Christ.”  But the one thing quite certain is that Christ would not merely have abstained from fighting.  If He abstained, He would have abstained because He had better means of expressing the righteousness of God.  And if those means are beyond our reach, we cannot be said to be acting like Christ at all, if our imitation of Him extends no further than not doing what He would not have done.  Christ did not tell a sick man to go to a doctor, because He healed him Himself.  It does not follow that if we cannot heal a sick man, we shall be imitating Christ by not telling the sick man to go to a doctor.  We have to use the best means open to us of achieving what we believe to have been Christ’s purpose.  The imitation of Christ means a gradual sanctification of our whole personal life by His Spirit.  An imperfect vessel cannot be put to perfect use, but none the less it may be in process of being perfected.  To decline to allow the Holy Spirit to perfect His work in us because the consequences of our sin prevent Him from doing so immediately, is the fruit not of humble sincerity, but of petulant pride.  Granted that the obligation of the Christian to fight is due to sin, still fighting may be the only way in which his imperfect sanctification can express itself, and by so doing become more perfect.  To stand aside is not necessarily the expression of a higher consecration, it may be the rejection of the means by which consecration is to be made more complete.  We do not acquiesce in any standard of conduct lower than that of Christ, because we cannot always do exactly what we believe Christ would have done.  Through imperfect thoughts, feelings and actions, we press forward to the goal of the highest calling of which humanity is capable.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father Which is in heaven is perfect.”  That is the only standard we admit, but we do not approach it more nearly by disdaining to take the first step, because it is a short one.

The one essential principle to grasp is that the outward act is, considered by itself, of secondary importance; it has value only as the expression of a spiritual attitude, only as a means taken to achieve an end.  The one essential duty to perform is that we should allow the sanctifying spirit to put us to the best use of which we are capable.  This way of solving the problem is highly dangerous, but truth is seldom very safe.  It leaves much to our own judgement, but the revelation of Christ was not meant to save us the trouble of thinking for ourselves, but to guide and educate the effort of our thought into progressive fruitfulness.[2]  Our powers of action, like our other powers, are talents given us to be used for a purpose.  The exact means to be employed is a matter for our own judgement, and since our judgement, however earnestly we pray for the Spirit’s guidance, remains the judgement of sinful and fallible humanity, it will often be at fault.  But even a hazardous speculation is better than the moral cowardice which buries the talent of action in an obstinate passivity.  The judgement of God will not fall hardly on him who faces the ordeal of battle, if thereby he may strike a blow for God’s cause, nor again on him who submits to the obloquy of his fellows, believing that Christian duty impels him to give his sacrifice another form than that which the world applauds.  Each may in certain cases be wrong, but there are worse things in the world than mistakes, the results of which God is well able to overrule for good.  The Divine condemnation will fall on those who find in conscience a pretext for avoiding what is unpleasant, and in patriotism a justification for indulging what is uncharitable.  It is the inward aim of the spirit which determines the fundamental character of the act, and the supreme aim of all action is to achieve through many doubts and struggles that perfect sanctification which will fit us at last for eternal communion with God in heaven.





It is perfectly true that the end justifies the means; for if it be impossible to distinguish outward acts as right and wrong in themselves, it is the end alone which can determine their moral value.  If it be ever right to kill a man or to refuse alms to a beggar, then it is the end of the action which must justify it.  But the plea that “the end justifies the means” commonly disguises the substitution of a lower end for the highest, or a confusion between the true end and what is properly only a means towards it.  Thus Jesuits used once to argue that it is justifiable to lie to a man or to torture him in order to bring about his conversion to the Catholic faith.  In this case if the end were really true conversion, it would not justify but condemn the means employed.  Christ’s Kingdom of truth and love cannot possibly be advanced by such methods.  Means of action more like His own can and clearly ought to be chosen by His followers.  The Jesuits confused conversion with reception into outward membership of the Church.  Outward membership of the Church is no ultimate end of action at all; it has value only in so far as it is a means to the inner conversion which brings a man into the spiritual fellowship of Christ.  This true end is utterly defeated by the means which the Jesuits often permitted themselves and others to employ.

The true doctrine of right conduct as means to an end is clearly illustrated by the parable of the Unjust Steward.  The unjust steward had a low end in view, viz., provision for his merely physical livelihood, but he showed admirable wisdom in devising the best means to achieve it.  Our Lord laments the fact that the children of light, who have the highest end in view, do not show an equal wisdom in adapting their whole conduct towards achieving it.  The unjust steward gave away his master’s money, in order to provide himself with the means of subsistence.  Will not the Christian use his own money for the good of others, in order to reach the blessedness of communion with God?  The unselfish use of outward things is the only means of reaching eternal life.  “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail (or, it fails) they may receive you into everlasting tabernacles.”  The whole parable is a study in Christian utilitarianism.  Its moral is derived from the profound paradox that, though men will use the utmost care to achieve the lower purposes of this world, they refuse to take the trouble to think out and carry out the means whereby alone they may reach the eternal end of all life.


[1]It is a great pity that an utterly false theology should seem to receive high sanction in St. Francis Xavier’s well‑known hymn, “My God, I love Thee, not because I hope for heaven thereby, nor yet because who love Thee not are lost eternally.”  Heaven for the Christian cannot possibly mean anything but the full communion of the love of God.  To love God in any degree is so far to desire heaven.  To love God without hoping for heaven must therefore be nonsense, for heaven is simply the fulfilment of God’s loving purpose for His children.  To suppose that God’s purpose for them that love Him could conceivably be anything else than to bring them to the joy of that heaven, would be simply to deny God’s own love – which, in plain terms, is to blaspheme.  On the other hand, to desire heaven without desiring to love God in the purest, fullest sense, is to desire a heathen Elysium or Valhalla, which is simply non-existent.  The antithesis between “loving God” and “hoping for heaven” is an utterly false one.  To suppose that it could have any truth is to destroy the whole foundation of Christian morality.  The hymn referred to can itself be defended by placing strong emphasis on the word “because.”  It is true that the Christian ought to hope for heaven because he loves God, rather than love God because he hopes for heaven.  If we do not put this emphasis on the word “because,” we should place the word “heaven” in inverted commas to show that it refers only to the myth of pagan superstition.  But the verse in its present form is open to disastrous misunderstanding.

[2]The individual man is to some extent safeguarded from the eccentricities of his private judgement by the existence of external authority.  It is one function of the official authorities of the Church to represent and to declare the highest conscience of the whole society in matters of conduct, and if we believe that the Holy Spirit is the guide of the society, we must attach the very greatest weight to the authoritative counsel which its representatives give us.  Nevertheless no man is entitled to act contrary to his own conscience, and the ultimate responsibility for his conduct must rest with him.  Yet in saying this we must be careful what we mean by “conscience.”  We must not think of conscience as a sort of heaven‑sent instinct which enables us to settle off‑hand all questions of right and wrong in conduct.  This is an error popular in England, because it enables people to plead conscientious motive as an excuse for failure to think out the consequences of their acts.  What people call their “conscience” is very often no more than the prejudice produced by the circumstances of their heredity and training.  True conscience is the reasoned and reflective moral judgement of the individual, and this conscience must necessarily take account of the authority of the church as one of its most important data.


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