This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
The following is a notable instance of The Power of Conscience.
It is a saying, that no man ever offended his own conscience, but first or last it was revenged upon him. The power of conscience indeed has been remarked in all ages, and the examples of it upon record are numerous and striking.- The following is related by Mr. Fordyce, in his Dialogues on Education, (vol. ii. p. 501.) as a real occurrence, which happened in a neighbouring state not many years ago. A jeweller, a man of good character and considerable wealth, having occasion, in the way of his business, to travel to some distance from the place of his abode, took along with him a servant, in order to take care of his portmanteau. He had with him some of his best jewels, and a large sum of money, to which his servant was likewise privy. The master having occasion to dismount on the road, the servant watching his opportunity, took a pistol from his master's saddle, and shot him dead on the spot; then rifled him of his jewels and money, and, hanging a large stone to his neck, threw him into the nearest canal. With his booty he made off to a distant part of the country, where he had reason to believe that neither he nor his master were known. There he began to trade in a very low way at first, that his obscurity might screen him from observation, and in the course of a good many years seemed to rise, by the natural progress of business, into wealth and consideration; so that his good fortune appeared at once the effect and reward of industry and virtue. Of these he counterfeited the appearance so well, that he grew into great credit, married into a good family, and by laying out his sudden stores discreetly, as he saw occasion, and joining to all an universal affability, he was admitted to a share of the government of the town, and rose from one post to another, till at length he was chosen chief magistrate. In this office he maintained a fair character, and continued to fill it with no small applause, both as a governor and a judge; till one day, as he sat on the bench, with some of his brethren, a criminal was brought before him, who was accused of murdering his master. The evidence came out full, the jury brought in their verdict that the prisoner was guilty, and the whole assembly waited the sentence of the president of the court (which he happened to be that day) with great suspense. Meanwhile he appeared to be in unusual disorder and agitation of mind, and his colour changed often; at length he rose from his seat, and coming down from the bench, placed himself by the unfortunate man at the bar. "You see before you (said he, addressing himself to those who had sat on the bench with him,) a striking instance of the just awards of heaven, which, this day, after 30 years' concealment, presents to you a greater criminal than the man just now found guilty." Then he made an ample confession of his guilt, and of all the aggravations : "Nor can I feel (continued he) any relief from the agonies of an awakened conscience, but by requiring that justice be forthwith done against me in the most public and solemn manner."We may easily suppose the amazement of all the assembly, and especially of his fellow judges. However, they proceeded, upon this confession, to pass sentence upon him, and he died with all the symptoms of a penitent mind, Let it be our constant aim to keep a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards man; being assured that,
One self-approving hour whole years outweighs
Of stupid starers, and of loud huzzas. Popt.