Even the pagan philosophers understood the value of a good conscience, and the torment of a guilty one

January 15, 2022 • 2 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 170
By Venerable Louis of Granada

The ancient philosophers, as we have seen, though deprived of the light of faith, knew the torments of a guilty conscience.

Nor were they ignorant of the joy of a good conscience, as we learn from Cicero, who, in his “Tusculan Questions,” says: “A life spent in noble and honorable deeds brings such consolations with it that just men are either insensible to the trials of life or feel them very little.”

The same author adds elsewhere that virtue has no more brilliant, no more honorable theatre than that in which the applause of conscience is heard.

Socrates, being asked who could live free from passion, answered: “He who lives virtuously.”

And Bias, another celebrated philosopher, gave almost the same reply to a similar question. “Who,” he was asked, “can live without fear?” “He who has the testimony of a good conscience,” he replied.

Seneca, in one of his epistles, wrote: “A wise man is always cheerful, and his cheerfulness comes from a good conscience.”

If pagan philosophers, knowing nothing of future rewards, so justly esteemed the peace of a good conscience, how dearly should a Christian prize it!

This testimony of a good conscience does not, however, exclude that salutary fear with which we must work out our salvation [Philippians 2:12]; but such a fear, so far from discouraging us, inspires us with marvellous courage in the fulfilment of our duties. We feel, in the depth of our hearts, that our confidence is better founded when moderated by this holy fear, without which it would be only a false security and a vain presumption.

It was of this privilege that the Apostle spoke when he said: “Our glory is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity of heart and sincerity of God, and not in carnal wisdom, but in the grace of God, we have conversed in this world.” [2 Cor. i. 12.]

We have endeavored to explain this privilege of virtue, but, despite all that could be said, there is nothing save experience that can give us a keen realization of it.

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