Conscience Sermon Illustrations

Conscience Sermon Illustrations

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Here is a man on the deck of a palatial Atlantic liner. He has planned and carried out a long-cherished trip to the sites and nurseries of ancient and modern civilization. He has stood before the colossal monuments of Egypt and has marveled at the broken grace of the Parthenon. He has wandered at moonlight amid the solitudes of the Colosseum, and from the towers of the Alhambra has seen the sun set on the Sierras. He has breathed the light air of Paris and heard the central roar of London. Yet enjoyment and satisfaction of mind have escaped him. He did not have it at home, and he could not find its dwelling place abroad. Wherever he went, he was confronted by his own shadow. Wherever he went, he found himself there in advance. However eloquently spoke the voice of ancient castle or venerated field of battle, or priceless sculpture or painting, his own self-accusing voice spoke with a louder and more penetrating accent. Something was not right within, and that something trailed him with unsleeping persistence and unbribable determination. Almost anything in the world he could have. He could get passports to other lands, but not a passport to the land of happiness and peace of mind; he could buy tickets and food, drink and raiment, and what the world calls pleasures; but he could not buy a good conscience. A good conscience can­not be purchased—even though a man offers all he possesses for it.

When, in that play within the play, the assassin poured the poison into the sleeper's ear, the guilty king rose up in terror; for he saw just what Hamlet intended he should see—he saw his own crime.

There is no grave deep enough permanently to bury evil. It must have its resurrection. The man who has done wrong has a serpent hibernating in his heart. For months, for years, it will show no sign of life; but one day it will lift its head and strike. The evil deed has been hidden, the sin buried, for years; but suddenly it will have a fearful resurrection.

"Angels hear the throb of the heart and God counts the thoughts of the mind." The smallest trifle will suffice to call the sin out of its grave—the stirring of a leaf, the murmur of water, the sound of a voice, the sight of a face, the pronunciation of a name or a number—and lo! the graves are opened, and the ghosts of our former transgressions come forth to accuse us to our faces!

In that great tale of conscience, Toilers of the Sea, Victor Hugo says: "You can no more keep thought from returning to past transgression than keep the sea from returning to the shore after it has gone out. In the sea we call it the tide; but the guilty man calls it conscience. Conscience heaves the soul as the tide does the ocean."

It is impossible for an evildoer to get safely by the judgment seat of conscience. Some of you may have seen grim Alcatras Island, now the federal prison in San Francisco Bay. One day a group of prisoners was being taken into the prison enclosure. They had all been searched at the receiving station. Then, one by one, and with considerable distance between them, they were marched past the little guardhouse and through the gates into the prison. Several had passed; but as one prisoner was walking in, an order rang out—"Halt!" The guards took the man into the guardhouse, and after careful search they drew out of his ear a minute saw. In the guardhouse was a powerful magnet which by its vibrations disclosed the presence of any bit of metal on a prisoner who passed through the gates. The prisoner could not escape the magnet. So it is impossible for the evildoer to pass successfully by the deep scrutiny of conscience.

Dangerous Familiarity

A colored man had applied for a job as teamster. "Are you familiar with mules?" asked the employer. "No, sah!" replied the applicant, "for Ah knows mules too well to get familiar wid 'em." There is great danger of our getting used to sinful practices because of their commonness. Let us insist on keeping a conscience which will not grow dull to sin because it is prevalent. We should have convictions and follow them.—Alliance Full Gospel Quarterly.

Korean Boy Christians

Some boys in a mission school in Korea, when told by the Mayor that they must do obeisance before the shrines, replied: "Mr. Mayor, we do not understand just what kind of people you think we are. We have heard all your arguments before, but apart from that, do you think that after listening for two hours to what you may say we could forget the teachings we have received for the last five years? We cannot go to the shrine." Exasperated by their reply, the Mayor said, "Does not your Bible tell you to obey the laws of your country?" "Yes, your honor." was the reply, "but when our Lord Himself was faced with a question of this kind He said, `Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. and to God the things that are God's,' and that is what we are trying to do now." They were thereupon sent to the police station where they were kept for twenty days and were treated as common criminals. They were told that anyone who refused to do obeisance at the shrine would not be regarded as a Japanese subject. Sunday School Times.

A God-Given Monitor

An Oriental story of a ring that a great magician presented to his prince sets forth beautifully the manner in which conscience works. The gift was of inestimable value, not only for the diamonds and rubies and pearls that gemmed it, but for a rare and mystic property in the metal. It sat easily enough on the finger in ordinary circumstances; but as soon as its wearer formed a bad thought, designed or committed a bad action, the ring became a monitor. Suddenly contracting, it pressed painfully on his finger, warning him of sin.

Such a ring, thank God, is not the peculiar property of kings. The poorest of us, those that wear none other, may possess and wear this inestimable jewel; for the ring of the fable is just that conscience which is the voice of God within us, that is, His law, engravers by the finger of God, not on Sinai's graven tables, but on the fleshly tablets of the heart, which enthroned as a sovereign in our bosom, commends us when we do right, and condemns us when we do wrong. Therefore, exhorted the psalmist, "harden not your heart, as in the provoca­tion, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness," but rather allow Christ to enter today.—Thomas Guthrie.


Dr. David James Burrell once told this story to illustrate conscience: An Indian had bought a package of supplies at a trading post and on opening it found a silver coin inside. Something troubled him. He came back to the trading post and handed the coin to the trader. The trader laughed at his scruples, but the Indian insisted, saying: "I got a good man and a bad man in my heart. The good man say, `It is not yours'; the bad man say, 'Nobody will know'; the good man say, 'Take it back'; the bad man say, `Never mind'; so I think I go asleep, but the good man and the bad man talk all night and trouble me." The distressed Indian had developed a conscience. Perhaps some missionary had taught him an ideal of honesty, and his conscience sensitized his ideal so that he was compelled to return the coin in order to have peace of mind. This is what conscience accomplishes; it brings peace of mind.—Westminster Teacher.

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