‘Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.’
Having discoursed on the office of a bishop, St. Paul next proceeds to speak of the qualifications of a clergyman—for the reference cannot be limited to the deacon—and it is significant that he puts a conscientious faith high upon his list.
I. Faith and a pure conscience go hand in hand.—Both are necessary, and there is no need to decide the limits of their respective domains. St. Paul had united them together in his direct charge to Timothy himself. He now unites them again in stating his qualifications for the first step in the ministry. A good conscience is the natural element in which a sound faith exists. Therefore the man who deliberately thrusts away from him the former renders himself incapable of holding the latter, or at least places himself in great danger of making shipwreck of it. A true faith cannot live in an impure heart, though it may be there dormant and inactive.
II. Purity of conscience is an important element in determining our belief upon such doctrines as the Incarnation and the Atonement. The same may be said of any conception of God which includes the idea of holiness as a part of His character. It is true that all our ideas of holiness are relative and imperfect, as are the teachings of conscience itself; but what idea of beauty, and excellence, and holiness can be formed by one whose own heart and conscience are defiled, or how can such an one form any conception of the holiness of Him Who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity?