Conscience and Light
Caroline Stephen, 1891
FAITHFULNESS TO THE LIGHT is the watchword of all who hunger and thirst after righteousness-of all seekers after the kingdom of heaven. Is this merely an equivalent for the more commonplace expression "obedience to conscience"?
Surely not. Conscience, as we all know, is liable to perversion, to morbid exaggerations, to partial insensibility, to twists and crochets of all sorts, and itself needs correction by various external standards. Conscience, therefore, can never be our supreme and absolute guide. Whether it can ever be right to disobey it, must depend on the precise meaning we attach to the words "conscience" and "right," and into this puzzle I have to intention of entering. In a broad and practical sense, we know that if there were nothing above conscience, conscience would assuredly lead many of us into the ditch; nay, that, for want of enlightenment from above, it actually has led many there.
The light by which our consciences must be enlightened, the light in obedience to which is our supreme good, must be something purer than this fallible faculty itself. It must be that power within us, if any such power there be, which is one with "the eternal will towards all goodness." It must be a power as all-pervading and immanent in the spirit of man as is the power of gravity (or whatever yet more elementary force gravity may be resolved into) in the out world he inhabits. it must be the power in which we live and move and have our being the power and presence of God.