Conscience is the reason, employed in questions of right and wrong. It is that within a man which approves or condemns his actions.
A simple illustration of conscience ruling and protecting the character is contained in the story of the boy who, when asked why he did not pocket some pears, for nobody was there to see, replied, “Yes, there was: I was there to see myself; and I don’t intend ever to see myself do a dishonest thing.”
Conscience is a principle without which a man falls easily into temptation; and every temptation succumbed to means degradation of his best instincts.
He feels that he is no longer the same, but something weaker, something polluted, and the secret uneasiness and self-reproach which pursue him are the biting of conscience.
Conscientious men, considering, as they do, the right or wrong of every action they perform, are eagerly sought after by masters all over the world. A man engaging a domestic servant invariably prefers one with a certificate testifying to his conscientiousness, to one who is reputed only to be clever.
The clever servant may be idle, dissolute, dishonest and intemperate, using his cleverness to hide his sloth and deceive his master. The conscientious servant is none of these things. He works as well as in his master’s absence as when he is present.
He scorns a lie in word or deed, and makes a rigid distinction between his own property and that of his master. He has not only his master’s to please, but his own conscience, and will act in his master’s interests even when a fault is certain to pass undetected.
When Cromwell asked the Parliament for soldiers, instead of the decayed serving-men and tapsters who filled the Common-wealth’s army, he required that they should be men “who made some conscience of what they did”; and such were the men of which his celebrated regiment of “Ironsides” was composed.
It has been said that conscience is a principle. Therefore a man of good conscience is a man of good principle. There are some whose ideas of right and wrong, justice and injustice, are so perverted that even the most wicked actions bring no remorse and at times even win their approval.
Principles are not born in a man, but are the result of training and association. It should be the endeavour of all who are connected in any way with children to see that good moral ideas are inculcated, and that they are taught to look upon evil with abhorrence, so that when temptation comes they may not fall, but resist it, and with every victory strengthen their character until they grow into noble, firm and self-reliant men.
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