VIII. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEALING WITH THE SPIRIT AND DEALING WITH THE CONSCIENCE
Dealing with the conscience and dealing with the spirit are very delicate dealings within us and are seemingly difficult to distinguish. However, when we compare them carefully, we realize that the objects of their dealings differ. Dealing with the spirit emphasizes dealing with the impure intentions, motives, and other mixtures within us; while dealing with the conscience emphasizes dealing with the feeling of the conscience toward all the mixtures.
For example, consider a sister who relates a certain matter to others. While she is speaking, there is a bad motive hidden within her. Afterwards, her conscience condemns her, causing her to feel that it was not right to speak with a bad motive. She confesses the matter before God and deals with it before others. At this point, she has dealt with the matter of speaking thus to others with a bad motive, and she has peace in her conscience. Yet she has not dealt with the bad motive itself. Hence, that element, that mixture still remains within her, though it will not be manifested as long as she keeps quiet and does not release her spirit. However, as soon as she mentions the same subject, her spirit being released, that particular motive, that mixture will automatically be brought forth. Later when she is enlightened and sees what a base motive she has had and that it should no longer remain within her, she deals with that bad motive through the power of the Holy Spirit. At this time, she has not only dealt with her improper, outward behavior, but also with the mixture itself within her. In dealing with the outward behavior, as far as the behavior is concerned, it is dealing with sin; as far as the feeling of the conscience toward the behavior is concerned, it is dealing with the conscience; while dealing with the inward mixture is dealing with the spirit.
Consider another example. A brother is very dissatisfied with another brother and has many feelings of criticism and complaint. Although these feelings have not been expressed, yet within his conscience he realizes that this is not right; therefore, he confesses this as sin before God. This is his dealing with his own conscience. Nevertheless, he is not willing to abandon these dissatisfied feelings and deal with these mixtures. Therefore, whenever he is reminded of this brother or mentions the brother, his spirit still contains these mixtures and is still a dissatisfied spirit, full of criticism. Up to this point he has only dealt with the feeling of the conscience, but not the mixtures in his spirit. He has only the experience of dealing with the conscience, but not the experience of dealing with the spirit. Therefore, he may have peace in his conscience, but the mixtures in his spirit have still not been eliminated. Not until he receives mercy again and abandons the dissatisfaction hidden deep within him, so that there is no more such mixture in his spirit, will he have once learned the lesson of dealing with the spirit.
In conclusion, dealing with the conscience is only a matter of dealing with the feeling. We need to deal with the spirit in order to deal with the nature within. It is only when the nature is dealt with that the root of the matter is treated. Therefore, dealing with the spirit is deeper and more severe than dealing with the conscience. Dealing with the conscience is but a lesson in the second stage of the spiritual experience of life whereas dealing with the spirit can only be experienced at the end of the third stage.
(The Experience of Life, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)