One of the most beautiful gifts the Lord God granted to undeserving man, the creature which was formed in His own image and likeness, is a sound conscience. With that necessary tool, one can comprehend if something is right, that is morally beneficial for all involved persons in a given situation, or wrong, that is morally degrading for all. Even though one still must look to the Holy Spirit for His useful gift of spiritual discernment, the conscience is nevertheless a vital gift. For that, among a plethora of other reasons, I offer exultations of praise to the Lord who reigns over all creation. Although I sincerely and lovingly offer these phrases of praise to He whom I cleave onto, I have on at least one recent occasion betrayed my conscience. Were not for the great mercy of our Lord, I would not know what to do, other than mull the realistic possibility of spending an eternity not in Paradise, but rather in the fiery and corrupted abyss that is hell. Having sought his compassion, I believe I am ready to commit that particular account of the defiance of my conscience to writing, that I may muse upon my errors in a later time without a shred of guilt to be found in my being. Even now, what I offer to my Lord is that which this verse of the Holy Scriptures entails:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise" (Psalms 51.17).
For the moment, I offer to my Maker ‘a broken and a contrite heart,’ that very heart upon which the law is written (cf. Hebrews 8.10). In time, I shall fully grasp that godly sorrow which ‘...produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted’ (II Corinthians 7.10a). At this time, I merely recount that which has attempted to overtake my portion of the Holy Spirit, which dwells in the temple within me (cf. I Corinthians 6.19-20).
In the past few days, something legitimately dangerous and trying has played with me. That conniving lady, Lust, has attempted to seduce me, to play the harlot with me. Her aesthetically-pleasing looks, along with her sultry voice, were enough for her to have a bit of success in luring me to dishonour and defile the Lord, whom I truly love. But how could I possibly allow myself to even contemplate the idea of compromising my conscience in the name of a fleeting and an ultimately trivial moment of pleasure? How could I possibly allow myself to turn the focus of my wretched and scarred face from His magnificent appearance? Such thoughts have haunted me. Ah, but that serpent of old greatly desires that I would be in such a moral and spiritual predicament. His scheme is all too simple, yet disgusting, to one who calls himself a Christian: To become addicted to the wiles of his deceptively intimidating agent of iniquity, and consequently be judged unworthy of entrance into Paradise by the Lord of all creation. In other words, that snake wants nothing else but to see myself ruthlessly destroyed. I believe that he covets my desolation not because he despises me for myself, but due to his envy of our Lord. Since He crafted all that exists, including myself, that serpent shall unceasingly work to see the demise of everything which He lovingly created and said ‘was good’ (cf. Genesis 1).
But the Lord God reminded me of precedent. His people, Israel, once played the harlot against their God. The prophet Hosea explicitly relays how the relationship between the Lord and Israel, that being a covenantal sealant, pictured as a marriage contract, was ruined once Israel was lured to the wicked reverence of the Canaanite fertility deity, Baal, and its related cult (cf. Hosea 2). Israel, through punishment by the Lord, would ultimately realize that relying to temporal means of ‘success’ and ‘stability’ is futile, and would decide to turn back to its God as if captured by the secure and comforting embrace of love the first time.
I will hedge up your way with thorns,
And wall her in,
So that she cannot find her paths.
She will chase her lovers,
But not overtake them;
Yes, she will seek them, but not find them.
Then she will say,
‘ I will go and return to my first husband,
For then it was better for me than now'" (Hosea 2.6-7).
From her decision to turn back to Her husband, the Lord is able to proclaim this beautiful statement regarding the renewal of the ‘marriage contract’ between the two parties, by the lips of Hosea:
“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD" (Hosea 2.19-20).
Through the compassion of the Lord, there is the realistic possibility of the refreshing of the heart, provided one is ready and willing to accept such a renewing of the heart. Through the mercy of the Lord, there is true freedom from spiritual bondage.
“The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
A refuge in times of trouble” (Psalms 9.9).
Through the Lord, who is ‘my stronghold... the rock of my refuge’ (cf. Psalms 94.22), I have the confidence and courage to proclaim
“The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalms 27.1).
He is the strongest of strongholds. By His might, by His encouragement, the brothers and I have the necessary means to fight the wiles of the spiritual smiths and wizards, and the righteous state of mind needed to boldly confront such ladies of iniquity as Lust. Indeed, that serpent of old, along with his agents of darkness, have already been defeated by He who chose to give His life up on the tree of Calvary out of merciful love, and take it back up again three days later, just as He said He could do to His disciples (cf. John 10.17-18).
Honestly, it is a relief to my healing soul that Bréanninn believes it to be best that we finally leave this isle within the next few days. We have had an extended time to minister to the Lord God on dry land, he has said. Now, we must once again face the flows and ebbs of the trials, the waves, of life, in the name of our Lord. The brothers and I have sworn not only chastity and continence, but also a wholehearted effort to honour the Lord God by this adventure through the vast unknown that is this sea, which shall become a mere pond of grace should we fulfill our goal of completing this mission for His sake with clean hearts. May our Lord see the successful end of our laborious, yet enriching nautical trek, provided that be His will.
Conscience is instinct bred in the house,
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it out doors,
Into the moors.
I love a life whose plot is simple,
And does not thicken with every pimple,
A soul so sound no sickly conscience binds it,
That makes the universe no worse than 't finds it.
I love an earnest soul,
Whose mighty joy and sorrow
Are not drowned in a bowl,
And brought to life to-morrow;
That lives one tragedy,
And not seventy;
A conscience worth keeping;
Laughing not weeping;
A conscience wise and steady,
And forever ready;
Not changing with events,
Dealing in compliments;
A conscience exercised about
Large things, where one may doubt.
I love a soul not all of wood,
Predestinated to be good,
But true to the backbone
Unto itself alone,
And false to none;
Born to its own affairs,
Its own joys and own cares;
By whom the work which God begun
Is finished, and not undone;
Taken up where he left off,
Whether to worship or to scoff;
If not good, why then evil,
If not good god, good devil.
Goodness! you hypocrite, come out of that,
Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
I have no patience towards
Such conscientious cowards.
Give me simple laboring folk,
Who love their work,
Whose virtue is song
To cheer God along
- Henry David Thoreau, ‘Conscience’ (1841-2).*