Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Failure of Conscience

"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death."
- Revelation 2:10-11

In his commentary on the suffering and death of Christ, Rev. Robert Rollock, a Scottish Presbyterian minister in the 1590's, used Pilate as an example of a man with only a natural conscience, i.e., one not subject to the Word of God, buttressed by the Holy Spirit, and cleansed through redemption in Christ. "Let never any man again, after Pilate, trust to a natural conscience, except he find the conscience propped up by faith, and with better things, and higher things than the things of this world: and if this conscience be backed with the hope of that life, it will be a wonder to see how a man will stand to the end. No crown but to him who stands to the end." Rollock explains that a man with no thought beyond this life will find his conscience pushed to that limit: "Do this, or die." Pilate faced that choice when the Jewish leaders threatened to accuse him of treason for attempting to release a self-proclaimed King of the Jews, in violation of the exclusive claims of Pilate's superior, the Emperor of Rome. With no hope beyond his material comforts, Pilate finally gave in to their schemes, and crucified a man that he himself had declared innocent. Tradition says that Pilate later committed suicide, because his conscience couldn't bear the responsibility for that moral surrender.

This is a theme in both testaments of the Bible. Revelation 2:10-11 is quoted above. Psalm 1:1-2, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night."

And again in Psalm 84:10-12, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Blessed is the one who trusts in You!"

Rollock gives the key: "No crown but to him who stands to the end."

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