[i] And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.[/i] Joh 8:9
From a prolonged form of G4894; [i]co-perception[/i], that is, moral [i]consciousness[/i]: - conscience.
From G4862 and G1492; to [i]see completely[/i]; used (like its primary) only in two past tenses, respectively meaning to [i]understand[/i] or [i]become aware[/i], and to be [i]conscious[/i] or (clandestinely) [i]informed of[/i]: - consider, know, be privy, be ware of.
This word has stood out predominantly of late as applicable to many of the recent conversations; Tattoo's, music, dress, wine and similar. A larger treatise and reply on hearing the Lord's 'voice' that I feared was apt to cause doubting and therefore needed more address, could be misconstrued and got bogged down by too many examples, ultimately it also came back around to this matter of conscience.
[i] For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) [/i] Rom 2:14,15
While I think there is a proper distinction to be made for those of a renewed mind and that is the direction of this, first the appeal to the 'Gentiles' as it were;
[b]Rom 2:15 -
Which show -[/b] Who thus evince or show.
[b]The work of the law[/b] - The design, purpose, or object which is contemplated by the revealed Law; that is, to make known to man his duty, and to enforce the obligation to perform it. This does not mean, by any means, that they had all the knowledge which the Law would impart, for then there would have been no need of a revelation, but that, as far as it went, as far as they had a knowledge of right and wrong, they coincided with the revealed will of God. In other words, the will of God, whether made known by reason or revelation, will be the same so far as reason goes. The difference is that revelation goes further than reason; sheds light on new duties and doctrines; as the information given by the naked eye and the telescope is the same, except, that the telescope carries the sight forward, and reveals new worlds to the sight of man.
[b]Written in their hearts[/b] - The revealed Law of God was written on tables of stone, and then recorded in the books of the Old Testament. This law the Gentiles did not possess, but, to a certain extent, the same requirements were written on their hearts. Though not revealed to them as to the Jews, yet they had obtained the knowledge of them by the light of nature. The word hearts here denotes the mind itself, as it does also frequently in the Sacred Scriptures; not the heart, as the seat of the affections. It does not mean that they loved or even approved of the Law, but that they had knowledge of it; and that that knowledge was deeply engraved on their minds.
[b]Their conscience[/b] - This word properly means the judgment of the mind respecting right and wrong; or the judgment which the mind passes on the morality or immorality of its own actions, when it instantly approves or condemns them. It has usually been termed the moral sense, and is a very important principle in a moral government. Its design is to answer the purposes of an ever attendant witness of a mans conduct; to compel him to pronounce on his own doings, and thus to excite him to virtuous deeds, to give comfort and peace when he does right, to deter from evil actions by making him, whether he will or no, his own executioner: see Joh_8:9; Act_23:1; Act_24:16; Rom_9:1; 1Ti_1:5. By nature every man thus approves or condemns his own acts; and there is not a profounder principle of the divine administration, than thus compelling every man to pronounce on the moral character of his own conduct. Conscience may be enlightened or unenlightened; and its use may be greatly perverted by false opinions. Its province is not to communicate any new truth, it is simply to express judgment, and to impart pleasure or inflict pain for a mans own good or evil conduct. The apostles argument, does not require him to say that conscience revealed any truth, or any knowledge of duty, to the Gentiles, but that its actual exercise proved that they had a knowledge of the Law of God. Thus, it was a witness simply of that fact.
[b]Bearing witness[/b] - To bear witness is to furnish testimony, or proof. And the exercise of the conscience here showed or proved that they had a knowledge of the Law. The expression does not mean that the exercise of their conscience bore witness of anything to them, but that its exercise may be alleged as a proof that they were not without some knowledge of the Law.
[b]And their thoughts[/b] - The word thoughts (λογισμῶν logismōn) means properly reasonings, or opinions, sentiments, etc. Its meaning here may be expressed by the word reflections. Their reflections on their own conduct would be attended with pain or pleasure. It differs from conscience, inasmuch as the decisions of conscience are instantaneous, and without any process of reasoning. This supposes subsequent reflection, and it means that such reflections would only deepen and confirm the decisions of conscience.
[b]The mean while[/b] - Margin, Between themselves. The rendering in the margin is more in accordance with the Greek. The expression sometimes means, in the mean time, or at the same time; and sometimes afterward, or subsequently. The Syriac and Latin Vulgate render this mutually. They seem to have understood this as affirming that the pagan among themselves, by their writings, accused or acquitted one another.
[b]Accusing[/b] - If the actions were evil.
[b]Excusing[/b] - That is, if their actions were good.
[b]One another[/b] - The margin renders this expression in connection with the adverb, translated in the mean while, between themselves. This view is also taken by many commentators, and this is its probable meaning. If so, it denotes the fact that in their reflections, or their reasonings, or discussions, they accused each other of crime, or acquitted one another; they showed that they had a law; that they acted on the supposition that they had. To show this was the design of the apostle; and there was no further proof of it needed than what he here adduced.
(1) They had a conscience, pronouncing on their own acts; and,
(2) Their reasonings, based on the supposition of some such common and acknowledged standard of accusing or acquitting, supposed the same thing. If, therefore, they condemned or acquitted themselves; if in these reasonings and reflections, they proceeded on the principle that they had some rule of right and wrong, then the proposition of the apostle was made out that it was right for God to judge them, and to destroy them; Rom_2:8-12.
"[i]The difference is that revelation goes further than reason[/i]". Profound statement! What does come instantly to remembrance is [i]"Such were some of you[/i] if the distinction is made too sharp. Maybe the distinction I am after is ours, the regenerated, is more demanding as we already well know. Our conscience is enlightened and stripped bare, exposed to Him who knows all things, the difference is that we now know and [i]Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.[/i] (Joh 16:30)
[i] I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, [/i] Rom 9:1
What a preparatory expression Paul is appealing to, his appeal is not strictly of himself but to that authority that governs him; "I say the truth [i]in[/i] Christ ... [i]in[/i] the Holy Ghost." And all this is held together by the glue of his conscience, this, I propose is also hearing the Lord's voice and very well is the means by which we do in fact 'hear'. It would seem that an objection could be made that we are able to have a clear conscience and still be wrong but I am hoping to delve much further into this matter of conscience get to this root of 'knowing' that is so difficult to express when we are talking about;
[i] He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself:[/i] 1Jn 5:10
Just scratching the surface ...