Jeremy Taylor.

The whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) online

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which, because I have made some attempt, if the pro-
duction be not unworthy, I am sure it is not impro-
per to lay it at the feet of your Majesty. For your
Majesty being by God appointed " custos utriusque

, xx. 14.


tabulae," since, like Moses, you are from God de-
scended to us with the two tables of the law in your
hand, and that you will best govern by the arguments
and compulsory of conscience, and this alone is the
greatest firmament of obedience ; whatsoever can be
the measure of conscience " est res fisci," is part of
your own propriety, and enters into the exchequer.

Be pleased, therefore, gracious Sir, to accept this
instance of my duty to God, to your Majesty, and to
your great charge, the Church of England. There
are in it many things intended for the service, but
nothing to disserve any of these great interests.
Those cases that concern the power and offices of
ecclesiastical superiors and supreme, were (though
in another manner) long since done by the incompa-
rable Mr. Hooker/ and the learned Archbishop of
Spalato : e but their labours were unhappily lost,
and never saw the light. And though I cannot attain to
the strength of these champions of David and guard-
ians of the temple ; yet since their portion of work
is fallen into my hand, I have heartily endeavoured
to supply that loss ; though with no other event, but
as charitable passengers by their little but well-mean-
ing alms repair the breaches of his fortune, who was
greatly undone by the war or fire. But therefore I
humbly beg your Majesty's pardon in all things, where
my weaknesses make me to despair of your more

d Lib. vii. viii. of Eccles. Polity. e Lib. viii. de Rep. Eccles.


gracious acceptance : and here I am therefore to be
confident, because your mercy is, as your Majesty,
this day in her exaltation, felt by all your subjects ;
and therefore humbly to be hoped for by,

Great Sir,

Your Majesty's
Most dutiful and most obedient Subject,




THE reformation of religion in the western churches hath
been so violently, so laboriously, so universally, opposed by
evil spirits and evil men, by wilfulness and ignorance, by pre-
judice and interest, by error and partiality ; and itself also
hath been done so imperfectly in some places, and so un-
skilfully in some others, because the thick and long incum-
bent darkness had made it impossible to behold the whole
light in all its splendour ; that it was found to be work enough
for the ministers of religion to convince the gainsayers, to
oppose their witty arts by the advantageous representnient
of wise truths, so to keep the people from their temptations.
But since there were not found many able to do this but
such which had other cures to attend, the conduct of souls
in their public and private charges, and the consequent ne-
cessity of preaching and catechizing, visiting the sick, and
their public daily offices ; it was the less wonder that in the
reformed churches there hath been so great a scarcity of
books of conscience : though it was not to be denied but the
careless and needless neglect of receiving private confessions
hath been too great a cause of our not providing materials
apt for so pious and useful a ministration. But besides this
it is certain that there was a necessity of labouring to other
purposes than formerly : and this necessity was present and
urgent ; and the hearts and heads of men ran to quench that
fire, and left the government of the house more loosely, till
they could discern whether the house would be burnt or no
by the flames of contention which then brake out : only this
duty was supplied by excellent preachings, by private confer-
ences, by admonitions and answers given when some more
pious and religious persons came to confessions, and as they
were upon particular occasions required and invited. But
for any public provisions of books of casuistical theology,


we were almost wholly unprovided ; and, like the children
of Israel in the days of Saul and Jonathan, we were forced
to go down to the forges of the Philistines to sharpen every
man his share and his coulter, his axe and his mattock. We
had swords and spears of our own, enough for defence, and
more than enough for disputation : but in this more necessary
part of the conduct of consciences, we did receive our answers
from abroad, till we found that our old needs were sometimes
very ill supplied, and new necessities did every day arise.
Some of the Lutherans have indeed done something- in


this kind which is well ; Balduinus, Bidenbachius, Dedeka-
nus, Konig, and the abbreviator of Gerard : some essays also
have been made by others ; Alstedius, Amesius, Perkins,
and the late eloquent and reverend bishop of Norwich. But yet
our needs remain; and we cannot be well supplied out of the
Roman storehouses : for though there the staple is, and very
many excellent things exposed to view ; yet we have found the
merchants to be deceivers, and the wares too often falsified.

For, 1. If we consider what heaps of prodigious proposi-
tions and rules of conscience their doctors have given us, we
shall soon perceive that there are so many boxes of poison
in their repositories under the same paintings and specious
titles, that as it will be impossible for every man to distin-
guish their ministries of Jiealth from the methods of death ;
so it will be unsafe for any man to venture indiscriminately.
For who can safely trust that guide that teaches him that
" it is no deadly sin to steal, or privately against his will and
without his knowledge to take a thing from him who is ready
to give it if he were asked, but will not endure to have it
taken without asking:" 8 that " it is no theft privately to
take a thing that is not great, from our father :" b " that he
who sees an innocent punished for what himself hath done,
he in the meantime who did it, holding his peace, is not
bound to restitution :" c that "he who falls into fornication,
if he goes to confession, may, the same day in which he did
fornicate, receive the communion ; that communion is man-
ducation, and therefore requires not attention :" d "that he,
who, being indeadly sin, receives the holy communion, com-
mits but one sin, viz. that against the dignity of the sacra-

Eman. Sa, Aphor. 5. Furtum. b Prov. xxviii. 24.

c Idem 5. Restitutio. d Diana deEucliar. in compend.n. 30-32.


ment ; and that the omission of confession is no distinct sin,
meaning, amongst them who believe confession to be of
Divine institution ?" As bad or worse are those affirmatives
and doctrines of repentance : " A dying man is not tied to
be contrite for his sins ; but confession and attrition are suf-
ficient ;" dd and that we may know what is meant by attrition,
we are told " it is a sorrow for temporal evil, disgrace, or
loss of health, sent by God as a punishment, or feared to be
sent :" e this alone is enough for salvation, if the dying man
do but confess to the priest, though he have lived wickedly
all his lifetime. And that we need not think the matter of
confession to be too great a burden, we are told, " He that
examines his conscience before confession, sins if he be too
diligent and careful." But as for the precept of having a con-
trite and a broken heart, " it binds not but in the article or
danger of death : nor then, but when we cannot have the
sacrament of penance ." f To these may be added those
contradictions of severity for the securing of a holy life ; that
" if a man purpose at the present to sin no more, though at
the same time he believes he shall sin again (that is, he will
break his purpose), yet that purpose is good enough : that
it is not very certain whether he that hath attrition, does
receive grace, though he does not formally resolve to sin no
more : " g meaning, that it is probable, that it is not necessary
to make any such resolution of leaving their sin ; they are not
certain it is so, nor certain that it is otherwise ; that is, they
find no commandment for these things ; it may be they are
counselled and advised in Scripture, but that is no great
matter ; h for " it is no sin not to correspond with the Divine
inspirations exhorting us to counsels." Add to these, that
" to detract from our neighbour's fame before a conscientious,
silent, and a good man, is no deadly sin : to dispense with our
vows in a year of jubilee is valid, though the condition of
obtaining that jubilee be not performed."' Thus men
amongst them have leave to sin, and they may live in it,
as long as their life lasts, without repentance : and that
repentance in the sum of affairs is nothing but to call to the
priest to absolve them ; provided you be sorrowful for the evil

** Idem de Pcenit. n. 3, 7. * Num. 11, 17, 18.

f Num. 18. e Num. 19.

h Id. Verb. Detractio, num. 5. ' Dispensatio, num. 11.


you feel or fear God will send on you : but contrition or sor-
row proceeding from the love of God, is not at all necessary ;
" neither is it necessary that our sorrow be thought to be
contrition ; k neither is it necessary that attrition should go
before confession, but will serve if it be some time after ; and
if you confess none but venial sins, it is sufficient if you be
sorrowful for one of them ; and the case is the same for
mortal sins formerly confessed." 1 But I am ashamed of this
heap of sad stories : if I should amass together what them-
selves have collected in their books, it would look like a libel :
but who is pleased with variety of such sores, may enter into
the hospitals themselves, and walk and look till he be weary.

2. But not only with the evil matter of their propositions ;
but we have reason to be offended with the strange manner
of their answerings. I shall not need to instance in that kind
of argument which is but too frequent among those who pre-
vail more by their authority than their reason, of proving
propositions by similitudes and analogies. I remember that
Gregory Sayr m says, that all precepts of the moral law are
to be reduced to the decalogue ; because as all natural
things are reduced to ten predicaments, so it is expedient
that all kinds of virtue and vice be reduced to the ten com-
mandments. And Bessseus infers seven sacraments from the
number of the planets, and the seven ears of full corn in Egypt,
and seven waterpots changed into wine (though they were
but six), because as the wine filled six waterpots, so the sacra-
ment of the eucharist fills the other six, and itself makes
the seventh ; and that therefore peradventure the sacraments
are called vessels of grace. But this I look upon as a want
of better arguments in a weak cause, managed by careless
and confident persons ; and note it only as a fault, that the
guides of consciences should speak many things, when they
can prove but few.

3. That which I suppose to be of greatest consideration
is, that the casuists of the Roman Church take these things
for resolution and answer to questions of conscience, which
are spoken by an authority that is not sufficient ; and they
admit of canons, and the epistles of popes, for authentic
warranties, which are suspicious, whether ever they were

k Concil. Trid. sess. xiv. c. 4. ' Dian. Compend. de Poenit. Sacram. n. 8.
m Clavis Regia, lib. iv. c. 2, n. 5.


written by them to whose authority only they do pretend ;
and they quote sayings of the old doctors, which are contra-
dicted by others of equal learning and reputation, and all
cited in their own canon law ; and have not any sufficient
means to ascertain themselves what is binding in very many
cases argued in their canons, and decretal epistles, and bulls
of popes. Nay, they must needs be at a loss in their conduct
of consciences, especially in all inquiries and articles of faith,
when they choose such foundations, which themselves know
to be weak and tottering ; and yet lay the greatest load upon
such foundations, and tie the conscience with the hardest liga-
ture, where it is certain they can give no security. For it
is not agreed in the Church of Rome, neither can they tell
upon whose authority they may finally rely : they cannot tell
who is the visible head of the Church : for they are not sure
the pope is, because a council may be superior to him ; and
whether it be or no, it is not resolved : and therefore either
they must change their principle, and rely only upon scriptures
and right reason, and universal testimonies, or give no an-
swer to the conscience in very many cases of the greatest
concernment ; for by all other measures their questions are
indeterminable. But the authority of man they make to be
their foundation : and yet if their allegations were allowed
to be good argument, it would serve them but to very few
purposes, since the doctors, whose affirmative is the decision
of the case, are so infinitely divided.

4. This to me, and to very many wise men, looks like a
very great objection : but I find that they who are most con-
cerned in it, account it none ; for the Roman casuists profess
it ; and yet do not suppose that the consequent of this should
be, that the case is difficult, and the men not to be relied
upon, and the conscience to be otherwise informed, and that
we ought to walk the more warily, but therefore the con-
science is at liberty, and the question in order to practice hath
no difficulty ; hard in the case, but easy in the action : for
by this means they entertain all interests, and comply with
all persuasions, and send none away unsatisfied. For uncer-
tain answers make with them no uncertain resolution ; for
they teach us, that in such cases we may follow either part :
and therefore they studiously keep up this academical or
rather sceptic theology, "alii aiunt, alii negant; utrumque


probabile." n And upon this account, although with greatest
severity they bind on men's persuasions the doctrines of
meats and carnal ordinances, yet they have left them loose
enough when it comes to the conscience, so loose that the
precept is become ridiculous : for what can it be otherwise,
when they teach, that " the fast is not broken by drinking
of water or wine, nay, though we eat something that our
drink may not hurt us ; nor the usual collation at night if it
be taken in the morning ; nor if the butler or the cook lick
his fingers : nor if we eat eggs or milk-meats, so it be not in
the holy time of Lent ; nor if after dinner awhile you eat
something at the entreaty of a friend ; nor if you upon a rea-
sonable cause eat before your time : in all these cases you
eat and fast at the same time." All these things are deri-
vatives from the contrary opinions of some easy, gentle doc-
tors ; and the effect of this stratagem is seen in things of
greater consequence. For " we are free from our vow, or
from a commandment, if it be a probable opinion of the doc-
tors that we are free ;"P and it is probable, if it be the opi-
nion of one grave doctor : that is, in effect, plainly, if it be
probable in the doctrine, it is certain in practice ; and it is
probable, if any one of their doctors says it.

5^ And the mischief of this is further yet discernible, if
we consider that they determine their greatest and most mys-
terious cases oftentimes by no other argument but the say-
ing of some few of their writers. I shall give but one instance
of it ; but it shall be something remarkable. The question
was, 'Whether the pope can dispense in the law of God?' q
The inquiry is not concerning a dish of whey, but of a con-
siderable affair; upon which the right or the wrong of many
thousand consciences amongst them do depend. It is answered
*' that one opinion of the catholics says, that the pope can
dispense in all things of the law of God, excepting the articles
of faith." " The proof is-this, so Panormitan speaks, ' in cap.
Proposuit. de Concess. Praebend. n. 20,' citing Innocentius
* in cap. cum ad Monasterium, de Statu Monachorum,' where
he says, that without cause the pope cannot dispense in
things of Divine right ; intimating that with cause he may.
And the same is the opinion of Felinus * in cap. Quae in

n Sa Apbor. verb. Jejun. n. 11. Ibid. n. 8.

f Idem, verb. Dubium. i Suarez, lib. x. de Leg. c. 6, n. 3.


Eccles. de Const, n. 19 et 20,' where, amongst other things, he
saith, that the pope when he hath cause, can change the
usual form of baptism, and make it lawful to baptize in the
name of the Trinity, which he reports out of Innocentius, ' c. i.
de Baptis. in fine, num. 11.' Yea, the same Felinus is bold
to affirm ' in cap. i. de Const, n. 23,' that the pope with one
word can create a priest, without any other solemnity, say-
ing, Be thou a priest ; which he reports out of Innocentius ' in
cap. i. Sacra Unct.' The same Felinus adds further, that the
pope with his word alone can make a bishop ; and he cites
' Angelus, in lib. ii. cap. de Grim. Sacrilegii ; et in lib. i. cap.
de Sententiam passis.' The same is held by Decius, ' consil.
112, n. 3, in fine : et in diet. cap. Quse in Eccles. n. 25, et
seq. alias n. 44 et 45, in ]\ovis. Allegantur etiam alii
Juristse in cap ii. de Translat. Episcopi ; et in lib. Manumis-
siones, ff. de Just, et Jure; et in lib. ii. cap. de Servit.'" &c.
Here is a rare way of probation : for these allegations are
not only a testimonial that these catholic authors are of that
opinion ; but it is intended to represent that this opinion is
not against the catholic faith ; that popes and great lawyers
are of it ; and therefore that it is safe, and it may be followed,
or be let alone : but yet this is sufficient to determine the
doubting conscience of a subject, or to be propounded to him
as that on which he may with security and indemnity rely.
The thing is affirmed by Felinus, and for this he quotes
Innocentius ; and the same is the opinion of Decius, and for
this opinion divers other lawyers are alleged. Now when this
or the like happens to be in a question of so great concern-
ment as this, it is such a dry story, such an improbable proof,
so unsatisfying an answer to the conscience, that the great
determination of all those questions and practices, which
can depend upon so universal an article as this, and a war-
ranty to do actions which, their adversaries say, are abhorrent
from the law of nature and common honesty, shall, in
their final resort, rest upon the saying of one or two persons,
who, having boldly spoken a foolish thing, have passed
without condemnation by those superiors, for whose interest
they have been bold to tell so great a lie.

In conclusion, the effect of these uncertain principles
and unsteady conduct of questions is this ; that though by
violence and force they have constrained and thrust their


churches into a union of faith, like beasts into a pound, yet
they have made their cases of conscience and the actions of
their lives unstable as the face of the waters, and immeasur-
able as the dimensions of the moon ; by which means their
confessors shall be enabled to answer according to every
man's humour, and no man shall depart sad from their peni-
tential chairs, and themselves shall take or give leave to any
thing ; concerning which I refer the reader to the books and
letters written by their parties of Port Royal, and to their
own weak answers and vindications.

If I were willing, by accusing others, to get reputation
to my own, or the undertakings of any of our persuasion
or communion, I could give very many instances of their
injustice and partialities in determining matters and questions
of justice, which concern the Church and their ecclesiastical
persons ; as if what was just amongst the reprobates of the
laity were hard measure if done to an ecclesiastic, and that
there were two sorts of justice, the one for seculars and the
other for churchmen ; of which their own books r give but
too many instances. I could also remark th;:t the monks
and friars are ' iniquiores in matrimonium,' and make
inquiries into matrimonial causes with an impure curiosity,
and make answers sometimes with spite and envy, sometimes
with licentiousness ; that their distinction of sins mortal and
venial hath intricated and confounded almost all the cer-
tainty and answers of moral theology ; but nothing of this
is fitted to my intention, which is only to make it evident
that it was necessary that cases of conscience should be
written over anew, and established upon better principles,
and proceed in more sober and satisfying methods : nothing
being more requisite than that we should all " be instructed,
and thoroughly prepared to every good work ; " that we should
" have a conscience void of offence both towards God and
towards man :" that we should be able " to separate the vile
from the precious," and know what to choose and what
to avoid : that " we may have our senses exercised to discern
between good and evil," that we may not " call good evil, or
evil good." For since obedience is the love of God, and to
do well is the life of religion, and the end of faith is the

r Vide Summas Cas. Consc. in verbis, Immunitas, Ecclesia, Hospitale,
rrivilegium, Clericus, Monasterium, &c.


death of sin and the life of righteousness ; nothing- is more
necessary than that we be rightly informed in all moral
notices ; because in these things an error leads on to evil
actions, to the choice of sin, and the express displeasure of
God ; otherwise than it happens in speculation and ineffective
notices and school-questions.

And, indeed, upon this consideration I was always confi-
dent, that though the questions of the school were nice and
subtile, difficult, and very often good for nothing ; yet that in
moral theology I should have found so perfect an accord, so
easy determination of questions, that it would have been
harder to find out questions than answers ; and the great
difficulty in books of this subject would be to put the great
number of inquiries into order and method, t was not de-
ceived in the ground and reason of my conjecture ; because
I knew that " in promptu et facili est aeternitas ;" God had
made the way to heaven plain and simple ; and what was
necessary did lie open, and the lines of duty were to be read
by every eye, or heard and learned by all understandings ;
and therefore it is certain that all practical truths are to be
found out without much contention and dispute, because
justice and obedience to God in all moral conversation are
natural to us, just as logic and discourse are. But when I came
to look a little nearer, I found that men were willing enough
to be tied up to believe the inactive propositions of the
doctors, but would keep a liberty of pleasing themselves in
matters of life and conversation : in the former they would
easily be governed by leading men ; but in the latter they
would not obey God himself, and without great regret would
not be confined to strictness and severity in their cases of
conscience. Some would ; but many would not. They that
would, gave laws unto themselves, and they could easily be
governed ; but they that would not, were ready to trample
upon their yoke, if it were not made gentle and easy for their
neck. But this was the least part of the evil.

For besides this, moral theology was made a trade for
the house, and an art of the schools ; and as nothing is more
easy than natural logic, and yet nothing harder than sophist-
ical, so it is in moral theology ; what God had made plain,
men have intricated ; and the easy commandment is wrap-
ped up in uneasy learning ; and by the new methods, a simple



and uncrafty man cannot be * wise unto salvation ;' which
is but small comfort to him that stands in the place of the
idiot and unlearned. Sometimes a severe commandment is
expounded by the sense of ease and liberty, and the liberty
is established in rule ; but because the rule is not true in
some hundreds of cases, a conscientious man does not know
how to make use of it ; and if the commandment be kept
close to the sense of strictness and severity, there are so
many outlets and escapes found out, that few men think
themselves obliged. Thus in the rule, " Spoliatum ante omnia
restituendum," which is an excellent measure of conscience
in many cases, and certainly can have no direct abatement
in the duty, and the party obliged can only be relieved
by equity in the manner of doing it ; yet of this plain and
easy rule, Gabrielius brings no less than threescore and ten

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 33 of 50)