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The Power of Conscience


John 7:53-8:11


      We learn, for one thing, the power of conscience. We read of the woman’s accusers that, when they heard our Lord’s appeal, ‘being convicted by their own conscience, they went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last’. Wicked and hardened as they were, they had something within which made them cowards. Fallen as human nature is, God has taken care to leave within every man a witness that will be heard.

Conscience is a most important part of our inward man and plays a most prominent part in our spiritual history. It cannot save us. It never yet led anyone to Christ. It is blind and liable to be misled. It is lame and powerless and cannot guide us to heaven. Yet conscience is not to be despised.

Happy is he who never stifles his conscience, but strives to keep it tender! Still happier is he who prays to have it enlightened by the Holy Ghost and sprinkled with Christ’s blood.

We learn, for another thing, the nature of true repentance. When our Lord had said to the sinful woman, ‘Neither do I condemn thee,’ he dismissed her with the solemn words: ‘Go and sin no more.’ He did not merely say, ‘Go home and repent.’ He pointed out the chief thing which her case required — the necessity of immediate breaking off from her sin.

Let us never forget this lesson. It is the very essence of genuine repentance, as the church catechism well teaches, to ‘forsake sin’. That repentance which consists in nothing more than feeling, talking, professing, wishing, meaning, hoping and resolving is worthless in God’s sight. Action is the very life of ‘repentance unto salvation not to be repented of’. Till a man ceases to do evil and turns from his sins, he does not really repent.





For meditation:                   Only the blood of Christ can cleanse the conscience; only it is adequate to deal with the guilt of sin.


Suggested further reading: 2 Samuel 12>1-15


J. C. Ryle

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