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an essay by William McEwen

THE happy soul, in whose heart this peace of God hath erected her throne, has firmly resolved with Job, that holy sufferer, that his heart shall not reproach him, with any approven guile, so long as he lives. He goes not about to patch up a fatal peace betwixt his conscience and his lusts; (a very common dreadful mistake;) but if iniquity be in his hand, he puts it far away. He loves the divine law with the most ardent affection;--hearkens unto its commandments;--walks according to its unerring rule;--and walking in his uprightness, he enters into peace-- Being pleasingly conscious of the integrity of his heart, he has this inward testimony for his rejoicing, though he should hear the slanders of many. His conscience, like the wisdom that comes down from above, is first pure, then peaceable. For, if even the imperfect morality of the Gentiles was attended with much serenity and peace; much more shall righteousness and peace kiss each other in his renewed and spiritual mind; whose conscience is purged from dead works, to serve the living God.

But is his own defective righteousness the only rock on which he builds his peace? Then it were of all things the most precarious and uncertain. Alas! he cannot but be conscious, how small a claim he has to the character of innocence; and how he richly deserves, that the Almighty should write bitter things against him. His conscience is not seared as with a hot iron; but is endued with the most lively feeling of sin, and its desert. Full often he has the sentence of death in himself; and war ariseth against him.--What does he, but betake himself unto that blood of sprinkling that speaketh better, and more peaceful things than that of Abel. When thus his heart is spoken to, in these most gentle accents, he knows that ravishing delight which an apostle styles, the answer of a good conscience. He beholds the crucified Redeemer, as making peace by the blood of his cross, when the chastisement of our peace was upon him. Blessed with this noble view, he sits down with great delight under the shadow of his righteousness imputed: the place where he makes his flocks to rest at noon.--And on the dovelike wings of faith, he flies far away from the windy storm and tempest of an enraged conscience: and finds a quiet sanctuary, and safe retreat in the clefts of the rock of ages.

O happy man, whose heart is thus sprinkled from an evil conscience! From what a dreadful inmate is he delivered! infinitely worse than a contentious woman in a wide house. Whilst those miserable wretches, that are haunted by this most awful fury, may fitly be compared, even in their jovial hours, and best estate, to those stately persons, adorned in the front with all the decorations of the palace. You go in, and behold the abodes of misery, and the dismal dungeons of chained malefactors. He whose conscience thus speaks peace, has something within that renders him superior to all adversity; that charms all fear and sorrow. Even his cottage outvies the palace. His coarse attire outshines embroidered purple. An houseful of sacrifices, where strife of conscience is, may not compare with his most homely food, though it should be no better than a dinner of green herbs. To him the sun shines with a more pleasing light, the birds sing with more melodious notes. Also he lies down and his sleep shall be sweet. He is not afraid of terror by night; of the pestilence, that walks in darkness; or of destruction, that wasteth at noon-day. Though he, like good Josiah, should fall by the stroke of hostile sword in the battle; yet still his latter end is peace. Even the decisive hour of judgment needs not appal his heart; because he shall be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.

"On Peace of Conscience" is reprinted from Select Essays Doctrinal & Practical on a Variety of the Most Important and Interesting Subjects in Divinity. William McEwen. Salem: J. Stevenson, Jr., 1814.


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