- from "Toleration" by John Bigelow
CHAPTER II - Part 3
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It is the instinct, born within us, which lets us know how we should treat others by leaving us never in ignorance of the way we wish to be treated under like circumstances ourselves, that constitutes what is technically described as Conscience, and differentiates its lessons from those derived exclusively from the Bible or Divine Revelation. It was clearly the Golden Rule to which Paul referred when in his letter to the Romans he wrote:
"For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified, for when Gentiles which have no law, do by nature the things of the law, these, having no law, are a law unto themselves in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts; their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts, one with another, accusing or else excusing them, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel by Jesus Christ."
Here Paul uses the word conscience as a witness of the law written in the hearts of the Gentiles; that is, of the people to whom the religion of the Bible had not been revealed; who have no law, and do by nature the things of the law. It was that conscience also that Paul found among the Athenians, and to which he refers in his famous address in the Areopagus at Athens, when he says,
"Ye men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are somewhat religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, To the unknown God. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this set I forth unto you."
Manifestly it was not superstitions that Paul proposed to set forth and commend to them, but what they worshipped in ignorance. They had the Golden Rule, but they had not, nor did any of the Gentiles have, what Paul proceeded to expound to them; any
"knowledge of the one God that made the world and all things therein, he being Lord of heaven and earth; who, unlike the images they worshipped for God, did not dwell in temples made with hands, nor was served by men's hands as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; that made of one blood every nation that they should seek God if haply they might feel after him and find him; that he is not far from each one of us, on the contrary that in him we live and move and have our being. For we are also his off spring, and being the off spring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver, or stone graven by art and device of man."
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