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In the Gates

Priority One

The Rule of Law: Government of the Conscience (1)

Here is the governing value of the soul.


And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” Deuteronomy 10.12, 13

The rule of God over His people is for their “good,” that is, that they might know and enjoy their lives within the context of God’s promised blessings, according to His eternal design and desire for His creatures. In a fallen world, where sin still exerts great strength, the Law of God, in the hand of the Spirit of God, provides a check against sin (Rom.7.7) and a guide for good works (Eph. 2.10; Rom.7.12) and the good life God intends for His people.

The rule of God begins within, in the soul or the spirit of each person. God’s Law teaches us how to discipline our affections, so that we learn to desire that which God desires. This, in turn, provides a bridle and guide for all the affections of the heart. The Law also is designed to govern what and how we think, so that our minds will, increasingly, take on the character of the mind of Christ, which we possess by faith (1 Cor. 2.16).

The final component or facet of the soul is the conscience, which functions as the keeper of priorities and values. In the conscience, or the will, if you like, we locate the guiding defaults which shape heart and mind into agreement over particular courses of action. And in the conscience, as we see in God’s Law, the governing value must be fear and love of God. This is what the Lord requires of us. It is not merely that we should fear and love the Lord as the guiding affections of our heart. Rather, we must cherish, guard, preserve, nurture, and strengthen fear and love of the Lord so that these values, these priorities, will give shape to all our feeling, thinking, being, and doing.

Anything which seeks to supplant fear and love of God as the commanding value of our wills – such as love of things or love of self – must be identified, anticipated, prepared for, and staunchly resisted so that the conscience, which arbitrates between the affections of the heart and the thoughts and plans of the mind, may serve its proper function in keeping our souls aligned with the purposes of God for our good.

We will not walk in God’s way if we do not know His way. The Law teaches our mind the way of the Lord. We will not walk in God’s way if we do not desire His way. The Law shapes our hearts accordingly. And we will not walk in God’s ways fear of Him and love for Him are not the commanding rule of our wills. Thus the Law teaches us to discipline our consciences so that we may know and enjoy the good life for which He has redeemed us.

For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the life of faith, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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