By light and evidence derived from every accessible source – from revelation, from reason, from experience, our own and that of others – we determine the objective right . . . In many cases there is no hesitation; the decision is immediate and infallible. In others we find room for doubt, and liability to error. But when the balance of probabilities is settled, then conscience endorses the probable course. And in this the conscience is right. We ought to follow our best judgment in outward duty. If not, what guide remains?
. . . But is the person virtuous who thus follows their conscience and an erroneous judgment? Certainly they are; it is the only virtue possible for us. . . . the intuitive perceptions of people forever contradict the doctrine that there is sin, blameworthiness, in an honest, conscientious error. . . .
It is not the objective right that determines duty, but the right as apprehended. . . . The truly conscientious person is the one who takes, as their end of life, that which reason approves as the good; thus they meets all real obligation, become benevolent, and necessarily adopt such courses of outward conduct as approve themselves to their judgment. Such a person alone follows conscience. . . .
Two persons equally conscientious may differ much in their outward conduct. They are alike in their subjective state, act upon the same great principles, are equally virtuous and worthy of approbation; but they differ in the light they have, and hence in their judgment of outward duty. There is ground for mutual confidence ; they can trust each other’s hearts while they distrust the judgment.
James Harris Fairchild, Moral Science