“Keep the Conscience Clean” [Horatius Bonar]

There are some authors who I cannot get enough of; Horatius Bonar is one of them. Follow the Lamb is a small 21 page booklet on the Christian life. Bonar skillfully balances Law and Gospel in the believer’s life, how to apply both, and gives proper emphasis to both justification and sanctification. Overall, it’s a great little booklet. If you want to read more of his writing, after the excerpt there will be some links to the materials I’ve found.


Keep the Conscience Clean

When you first saw the cross , and understood the meaning of the blood , you got

your conscience `purged from dead works’ (Heb 9:14); and it was this cleansing

of the conscience that gave you peace. It was not that you ceased to be a

sinner, or lost the consciousness of being one, but you had found something

which pacified your conscience in a righteous way, and made you feel towards the

law and the Lawgiver just as if you had never been guilty.

It is by keeping constantly before your eyes this blood of propitiation that you

will keep your conscience clean and your soul at peace. It is this blood alone

that can wipe off the continual sins that are coming across your conscience, and

which, if not wiped off immediately , will effectually stain it, and cloud your

peace. You know how the steel of the finest sword may be rusted by a drop of

water. Yet if the water is not allowed to remain, but is wiped away as soon as

it falls, it harms not the steel, and no rust ensues. If, however, through

neglect or otherwise, the water is allowed to remain, rust will follow,

destroying both the edge and brightness of the weapon. So it is with sin. The

moment it falls upon the conscience, the blood must be applied; else dimness and

doubting will be the consequence. Remember it is the blood , the blood alone ;

that can remove these.

If, when you sin, you do not go at once to this and be washed and pardoned, but

betake yourself to anything else first, you will only make bad worse. If you

shrink from going directly to Christ and His blood; if you try to slip gradually

near in some roundabout way, as if you hoped, by the time you reach the

fountain, to get quit of part of the sin, so as not to be quite so bad as at the

moment when you committed it, you will not cleanse the conscience, but leave the

burden and the stain just where they were. If you say, `But I am so ruffled with

the sin, so cast down and ashamed at the thought of what I have done, that I

dare not go at once to the blood; I must pray or read myself into a better

frame, and then I will go and be washed’; you are denying God’s method of

purging the conscience; you are undervaluing the blood; you are reverting to

your old ways of self-righteousness; and you are preventing the restoration of

lost peace; for you are putting something between your conscience and the blood.

Keep, then, the conscience clean by continual application to the blood; and you

will find that this, instead of encouraging you to sin, will make you more

ashamed and afraid of it, than if you had got quit of it in some self-righteous

way of your own. What more likely to make you fear and hate it than being

compelled to go with it constantly to God, and deal with Him directly about its


Cultivate a tender conscience ; but beware of a diseased and morbid one. The

former takes an honest, straightforward view of truth or duty, and acts

accordingly. The latter, overlooking what is broad and great, is always on the

hunt for trifles, quibbling and questioning about things of no importance. Thus

a stiff Christianity is produced, an artificial religion, very unlike the erect

but easy walk of one who possesses the liberty of Christ. Be natural, be simple,

be easy in word and manner, lest you seem as one acting a part. Cherish a free

spirit, a large heart, and a clear conscience, like the apostle, who, though he

pitied the `weaker brethren’ (1 Cor 8:9-13), refused to allow his liberty in

Christ to be narrowed by another man’s morbid conscience. Certainly beware of

little sins; but be sure that they are sins. Omit no little duties; but see that

they are duties. A tender and tranquil conscience does not make a man crotchety

or troublesome, far less morose and supercilious; it makes him frank, cheerful,

brotherly, and obliging, in the family, in the shop, in the congregation, in the

market-place, whether he be poor or rich; so that others cannot help seeing how

pleasantly he goes out and comes in, `eating his meat with gladness and

singleness of heart’ (Acts 2:46), and so `adorning the doctrine of God his

Saviour in all things’ (Titus 2:10).
(Follow the Lamb, p. 3)

Works by Horatius Bonar Online

The Everlasting Righteousness (Justification)

How Shall I Go to God? (Salvation)

Follow the Lamb (Christian Living)

God’s Way of Holiness (Sanctification)

God’s Way of Peace (Salvation)

More Tracts and booklets


3 thoughts on ““Keep the Conscience Clean” [Horatius Bonar]

  1. Heather says:

    Cultivate a tender conscience ; but beware of a diseased and morbid one.

    So often I confuse the two, end up opting for the latter state and then obsessing over whether nearly every choice or activity is actually sin. In my own mind, the motivation is “holiness”, until the realization hits that if I were indeed aligned with God’s will, I would feel the peace that comes from obedience rather than constant torment and fear over not being good enough.

    This statement: ” But I am so ruffled with the sin, … for you are putting something between your conscience and the blood. is both convicting and liberating as it highlights the danger of wallowing in (glorifying?) my failure as somehow uniquely sinful and unforgivable unless *I* can augment the effectiveness of Christ’s blood with my own fig-leaf covering.

    Anyway, this is an excellent post and offers some much needed insight into a personal struggle I’ve been having with regard to identifying sin and maintaining a clean conscience.


  2. Hiram says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Heather :)

    When I picked this booklet up a few days ago, I was in the slough of despondency over the fact that I wrestle with the same sins over and over. And you’re right, it’s extremely convicting to know that my wallowing in self-pity and despair is really a mark of self-righteousness; but at the same time, it is the Gospel truth contained therein that is just so liberating! It is for freedom Christ set us free, therefore do not be entangled again with a yoke of slavery.

    I’d encourage you to read the whole booklet if you have the time.



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