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to Pallas in the apologue, when he kissed her cheek for
choosing the fruitful olive.

Nisi utile est, quod facimus, stulta est gloria.*

Unless it does good and makes us better, it is not worth
the using : and therefore it hath been no small part of my
labour not only to do what was necessary, but to lay aside
what was useless and unfit, at least what I thought so.

In this manner by the Divine assistance I have described
a rule of conscience : in the performance of which I shall
make no excuses for my own infirmities, or to guard myself
from the censure of the curious or the scorners. I have with
all humility and simplicity desired to serve God, and to
minister to his church, and I hope he will accept me : and for
the rest, I have laid it all at his most holy feet, and therefore
will take no further care concerning myself in it. Only I am
desirous that now I have attempted to describe a general
rule, they who find it defective would be pleased to make

e Phsedrus, iii. 17. Schwabe, vol. ii. p. 132.



9 THE PREFACE. 365

this more perfect by adding their own symbol ; which is
much easier than to erect that building, which needs but some
addition to make it useful to all its purposes and intentions.
But if any man, like a bird sitting upon a tree, shall foul the
fruit and dishonour it, that it may be unfit for food, I shall
be sorrowful for him that does so, and troubled, that the
good which I intended to every one, should be lost to any
one. But I shall have the prophet's f comfort, if I have done
my duty in righteousness and humility : " Though I labour in
vain and spend my strength for naught, yet surely my judg-
ment is with the Lord, and my work is with my God."

I know not whether I shall live to add matter to this
form, that is, to write a particular explication of all the pre-
cepts of Christian religion ; which will be a full design of all
special cases and questions of conscience measurable by
this general rule. If I do not, I hope God will excite some
other to do it ; but whoever does it, he will do it with so
much the more profit, by how much he does dispute the less :
and I remember that Socrates and Sozomen tell, that -^Elius
the heretic was counted an atheist " propter eristicum lo-
quendi et disputandi modum," because he taught no part of
religion, but he minced it into questions and chopped it into
Aristotle's logic. The simple and rational way of teaching
God's commandments, as it is most easy, so is it most useful ;
and all the cases that will occur, will the most easily be an-
swered by him that considers and tells in what cases they
bind, and in what they bind not : which is the duty of him
that explicates, and may be delivered by way of plain rule
and easy commentary.

But this I shall advertise ; that the preachers may retrench
infinite number of cases of conscience, if they will more ear-
nestly preach and exhort to simplicity and love ; for the want
of these is the great multiplier of cases. Men do not serve God
with honesty and heartiness, and they do not love him greatly ;
but stand upon terms with him, and study how much is law-
ful, how far they may go, and which is their utmost step of
lawful, being afraid to do more for God and for their souls
than is simply and indispensably necessary ; and oftentimes
they tie religion and their own lusts together, and the one en-

1 Isa. xlix. K



366 THE PREFACE.

tangles the other, and both are made less discernible, and less
practicable. But the good man understands the things of
God ; not only because God's Spirit, by secret immissions of
light, does properly instruct him ; but because he hath a way
of determining his cases of conscience which will never fail
him. For if the question be put to him whether it be fit for
him to give a shilling to the poor ; he answers that it is not
only fit, but necessary to do so much at least, and to make it
sure, he will give two : and in matter of duty he takes to him-
self the greater share ; in privileges and divisions of right,
he is content with the least : and in questions of priority and
dignity he always prevails by cession, and ever is superior by
sitting lowest, and gets his will, first by choosing what God
wills, and then what his neighbour imposes or desires. But
when men have no love to God, and desire but just to save
their souls, and weigh grains and scruples, and give to God
no more than they must needs, they shall multiply cases of
consciences to a number which no books will contain, and
to a difficulty that no learning can answer.

The multiplication also of laws and ceremonies of reli-
gion does exceedingly multiply questions of practice ; and
there were among the Jews, by reason of their numerous rites,
many more than there were at first among the Christians.
For we find the apostles only exhorting to humility, to piety
towards parents, to obedience to magistrates, to charity and
justice ; and the Christians who meant well understood well,
and needed no books of conscience but the rule, and the
commandment. But when error crept in, truth became dif-
ficult and hard to be understood : and when the rituals of the
Church and her laws became numerous, then religion was
hard to be practised : and when men set up new interests,
then the laws of conscience were so many, that as the laws of
the old Romans,

Verba minantia fixo



legebantur-



which at first were nailed in a brass plate upon a wall, be-
came at last so numerous and filled so many volumes, that
their very compendium made a large digest ; so are these too
many to be considered, or perfectly to be understood; and
therefore either they must be cut off by simplicity, and an
honest heart, and contempt of the world, and our duty must



THE PREFACE. 367

look for no measures but love and the lines of the easy com-
mandment, or else we can have no peace and no security.
But with these there is not only collateral security, but very
often a direct wisdom. Because he that endeavours to keep
a good conscience and hath an honest mind, besides that he
will inquire after his duty sufficiently, he will be able to tell
very much of it himself; for God will assist him, and cause
that " his own mind shall tell him more than seven watch-
men that sit in a tower ;" and if he miss, he is next to an ex-
cuse, and God is ready to pardon him ; and therefore in what
sect of Christianity soever any man is engaged, if he have an
honest heart and a good conscience, though he be in dark-
ness, he will find his way out, or grope his way within ; he
shall be guided, or he shall be pardoned ; God will pity
him, and find some way for his remedy ; and, if it be neces-
sary, will bring him out.

But however it come to pass, yet now that the inquiries
of conscience are so extremely numerous, men may be pleased
to observe that theology is not every man's trade ; and that
it requires more wisdom and ability to take care of souls,
than those men, who nowadays run under the formidable
burden of the preacher's office, can bring from the places of
their education and first employment. Which thing I do not
observe, that by it I might bring reputation to the office of
the clergy ; for God is their portion and lot, and as he hath
given them work enough, so he hath given them honour
enough, though the world despise them : but I speak it for
their sakes who do what they ought not, and undertake what
they cannot perform ; and consequently do more hurt to
themselves and others than possibly they imagine ; which it
were better they should amend, than be put to answer for it
before him, who loves souls better than he loved his life, and
therefore would not intrust them to the conduct of such per-
sons, who have need to be taught the plain things of salva-
tion, and learn to do justice and' charity, and the proper
things of a holy religion.

Concerning myself I shall make no request to my reader,
but that he will charitably believe I mean well, and have done
my best. If any man be troubled that he hath expected this
nothing so long ; I cannot make him other answer, but that
I am afraid it is now too soon : and I bless God that I had



368 THE PREFACE.

abilities of health and leisure now at last to finish it: but I
should have been much longer, if God had not, by the piety
of one of his servants, provided for me a comfortable retire-
ment and opportunity of leisure ; which if I have improved
to God's glory, or to the comfort and institution of any one,
he and I both have our ends, and God will have his glory ;
and that is a good conclusion, and to that I humbly dedicate
my book.

From my study in Portmore in Kilultagh,
Octobers, 1659.



THE



RULE OF CONSCIENCE.



BOOK I.

OF CONSCIENCE, THE KINDS OF IT, AND THE GENERAL RULES
OF CONDUCTING THEM.

CHAPTER I.

THE RULE OF CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL.



RULE I.

Conscience is the Mind of a Man governed by a Rule, and
measured by the Proportions of Good and Evil, in Order
to Practice : viz. to conduct all our Relations, and all our
Intercourse, between God, our Neighbours, and ourselves :
that is, in all moral Actions.

1. GOD governs the world by several attributes and emana-
tions from himself. The nature of things is supported by his
power, the events of things are ordered by his providence,
and the actions of reasonable creatures are governed by laws,
and these laws are put into a man's soul or mind as into a
treasury or repository : some in his very nature, some by
after-actions, by education and positive sanction, by learning
and custom ; so that it was well said of St. Bernard ; g ' Con-
scientia candor est lucis aeternse, et speculum sine macula
Dei Majestatis, et imago bonitatis illius ; Conscience is the
brightness and splendour of the eternal light, a spotless
mirror of the Divine Majesty, and the image of the goodness
of God.' It is higher which Tatianus said of conscience;
Mo'von wai guvsi^etv Gtbv, ' Conscience is God unto us ;* which
saying he had from. Menander,

Bjaro/V Sfcc<ri ffvvitinfis Bief,

and it had in it this truth, that God, who is every where in

* Lib. de Interior. Domo.
VOL. XI. B B



370 THE RULE OF

several manners, hath the appellative of his own attributes
and effects in the several manners of his presence.

Jupiter est quodcunque vides, quocunque moveris.* 1

2. That providence which governs all the world, is nothing
else but God present by his providence : and God is in our
hearts by his laws : he rules in us by his substitute, our con-
science. God sits there and gives us laws ; and as God said
to Moses/ " I have made thee a god to Pharaoh," that is, to
give him laws, and to minister in the execution of those laws,
and to inflict angry sentences upon him ; so hath God done
to us. He hath given us conscience to be in God's stead to
us, to give us laws, and to exact obedience to those laws,
to punish them that prevaricate, and to reward the obedi-
ent. And therefore conscience is called olxifo; <pfaa,%, ivoixog
eb$, sTirotfos daipuv, ' the household guardian,' * the domes-
tic god,' 'the spirit or angel of the place:' and when we
call God to witness, we only mean, that our conscience is
right, and that God and God's vicar, our conscience, knows
it. So Lactantius : k ' Meminerit Deum se habere testem,
id est, ut ego arbitror, mentem suarn, qua nihil homini dedit
Deus ipse divinius ; Let him remember that he hath God
for his witness, that is, as I suppose, his mind; than which
God hath given to man nothing that is more divine.' In sum,
it is the image of God: and as in the mysterious Trinity, we
adore the will, memory, and understanding, and theology
contemplates three persons in the analogies, proportions,
and correspondences, of them ; so in this also we see plainly
that conscience is that likeness of God, in which he was
pleased to make man. For although conscience be primarily
founded in the understanding, as it is the lawgiver and
dictator : and the rule and dominion of conscience ' funda-
tur in intellectu, is established in the understanding part ; '
yet it is also memory, when it accuses or excuses, when it
makes joyful and sorrowful; and there is in it some mixture
of will, as I shall discourse in the sequel; so that conscience
is a result of all, of understanding, will, and memory.

3. But these high and great expressions are better in the
spirit than in the letter ; they have in them something of

h Lucan, ix. 580. Oudendorp. p. 720. ' Exod. vii. 1.

k Lib. vi. de Vero Cultu, c. 24.



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 371

institution, and something of design, they tell us that con-
science is a guard and a guide, a rule and a law set over us
by God, and they are spoken to make us afraid to sin against
our conscience, because by so doing we sin against God ;
he having put a double bridle upon us, society and solitude,
that is, company and ourselves, or rather God and man ; it
being now impossible for us to sin in any circumstances, but
we shall have a reprover : 'ivy, /^n /j,6vu<tig sirsytigri as irfa
rb (Lr\ vg'c<7rov, fi^ri xoivuvia, ua<7oXoy?jrov doi ffoiqar] ryv atf&agriav,
as Hierocles 1 said well; that neither company may give
countenance nor excuse to sin, or solitariness may give
confidence or warranty ; for as we are ashamed to sin in com-
pany, so we ought to fear our conscience, which is God's
watchman and intelligencer.

4. To which purpose it was soberly spoken of Tertullian,
' Conscientia optima testis Divinitatis, Our conscience is
the best argument in the world to prove there is a God :' for
conscience is God's deputy ; and the inferior must suppose
a superior ; and God and our conscience are like relative
terms, it not being imaginable why some persons in some
cases should be amazed and troubled in their minds for their
having done a secret turpitude or cruelty ; but that con-
science is present with a message from God, and the men
feel inward causes of fear, when they are secure from with-
out : that is, they are forced to fear God, when they are safe
from men. And it is impossible that any man should be an
atheist, if he have any conscience : and for this reason it is,
there have been so few atheists in the world, because it is so
hard for men to lose their conscience wholly.

5. Quest. Some dispute whether it be possible or no for
any man to be totally without conscience. Tertulliau's sen-
tence in this article is this : ' Potest oburnbrari, quia non est
Deus : extingui non potest, quia a Deo est ; It is not God,
and therefore may be clouded : but it is from God, and there-
fore cannot be destroyed.' But I know a man may wholly
lose the use of his reason ; some men are mad, and some are
natural fools, and some are sots, and stupid ; such men as
these lose their conscience, as they lose their reason : and as
some madmen may have a fancy that there is no sun, so
some fools may say there is no God : and as they can believe

1 Needham, p. 62, at the bottom. m Lib. de Testimon. Auimae.



372 THE RULE OF

that, so they can lose their conscience, and believe this.
But as he that hath reason or his eyes, cannot deny but there
is such a thing as the sun, so neither can he that hath con-
science, deny there is a God. For as the sun is present by his
light which we see daily, so is God by our conscience which
we feel continually : we feel one as certainly as the other.

6. (1.) But it is to be observed, that conscience is some-
times taken for the practical intellective faculty ; so we say,
The law of nature, and the fear of God, are written in the
conscience of every man.

(2.) Sometimes it is taken for the habitual persuasion and
belief of the principles written there ; so we say, He is a good
man, and makes conscience of his ways. And thus we also
say, and it is true, that a wicked person is of a profligate and
* lost conscience ;' he * hath no conscience' in him. That is,
he hath lost the habit, or that usual persuasion and recourse
to conscience, by which good men govern their actions.

(3.) Or the word conscience is used effectively, for any
single operation and action of conscience : so we speak of
particulars, ' I make a conscience of taking up arms in this
cause.' Of the first and last acception of the word ' conscience'
there is no doubt. ; for the last may, and the first can never,
be lost : but for the second, it may be lost more or less, as
any other habit can : though this with more difficulty than
any thing else, because it is founded so immediately in nature,
and is so exercised in all the actions and intercourses of our
life, and is so assisted by the grace of God, that it is next to
impossible to lose the habit entirely ; and that faculty that
shall to eternal ages do the offices which are the last, and
such as suppose some preceding actions, I mean, to torment
and affiict them for not having obeyed the former act of
dictate and command, cannot be supposed to die in the
principle, when it shall be eternal in the emanation ; for the
worm shall never die.

For, that men do things against their conscience, is
no otherwise than as they do things against their reason ;
but a man may as well cease to be a man, as to be wholly
without conscience. For the drunkard will be sober, and his
conscience will be awake next morning : this is a perpetual
pulse, and though it may be interrupted, yet if the man be
alive, it will beat before he dies ; and so long as we believe



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 373

a God, so long our conscience will at least teach us, if it does
not also smite us : but as God sometimes lets a man go on in
sin and does not punish him, so does conscience ; but in
this case, unless the man be smitten and awakened before he
dies, both God and the conscience reserve their wrath to be
inflicted in hell. It is one and the same thing, God's wrath
and an evil guilty conscience ; for by the same hand by
which God gives his law, by the same he punishes them that
transgress the law. God gave the old law by the ministry of
angels ; and when the people broke it, ' he sent evil angels
among them ;'" now God gives us a law in our consciences,
and there he hath established the penalty ; this is the ' worm
that never dies ;' let it be trod upon never so much here,
it will turn again. It cannot die here, and it shall be alive
for ever.

But by explicating the parts of the rule, we shall the
best understand the nature, use, and offices, of conscience.

Conscience is the Mind of a Man.

7. When God sent the blessed Jesus into the world to
perfect all righteousness, and to teach the world all his
Father's will, it was said, and done, " I will give my laws
in your hearts, and in your minds will I write them ;" that is,
' you shall be governed by the law of natural and essential
equity and reason, by that law which is put into every man's
nature ; and besides this, whatsoever else shall be superin-
duced, shall be written in your minds by the Spirit, who shall
write all the laws of Christianity in the tables of your con-
sciences. He shall make you to understand them, to per-
ceive their relish, to remember them because you love them,
and because you need them, and cannot be happy without
them : he shall call them to your mind, and inspire new
arguments and inducements to their observation, and make
it all as natural to us, as what we were born with.'

8. Our mind being thus furnished with a holy rule, and
conducted by a Divine guide, is called " conscience ;" and is
the same thing which in Scripture is sometimes called " the
heart ;" there being in the Hebrew tongue, no proper word
for conscience, but instead of it they use the word ^b * the

" Psalm IxxviiL 49. Heb. x. 16. Jer. xxxi. 33.



374 THE RULE OF

heart ;'P "Oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth," that
is, thy conscience knoweth, " that thou thyself hast cursed
others:" so in the New Testament; " Beloved, if our hearts
condemn us not, then have we peace towards God," q viz. if
in our own consciences we are not condemned. Sometimes
it is called ' spirit,' 1 " the third ingredient of the constitution
of a Christian ; the spirit, distinct from soul and body. For
as our body shall be spiritual in the resurrection, therefore
because all its offices shall entirely minister to the spirit,
and converse with spirits, so may that part of the soul,
which is wholly furnished, taught, and conducted by the
Spirit of grace, and whose work it is wholly to serve the
spirit, by a just proportion of reason be called the spirit.
This is that which is affirmed by St. Paul; " The word of God
is sharper than a two-edged sword, dividing the soul and the
spirit;" 5 that is, the soul is the spirit separated by the word
of God, instructed by it, and, by relation to it, is called the
spirit. And this is the sense of Origen;* " Testimonio sane
conscientiae uti apostolus dicit eos, qui descriptam continent
in cordibus legem," &c. " The apostle says, that they use the
testimony of conscience, who have the law written in their
hearts. Hence it is necessary to inquire what that is which
the apostle calls conscience, whether it be any other sub-
stance than the heart or soul. For of this it is otherwhere
said that it reprehends, but is not reprehended, and that it
judges a man, but itself is judged of no man : as John saith,
* If our conscience condemn us not, then have we confidence
towards God.' And again, St. Paul himself saith in another
place, ' Our glorying is this, even the testimony of our consci-
ence ;' because therefore I see so great a liberty of it, that in
good things it is always glad and rejoices, but in evil things
it is not reproved, but reproves and corrects the soul itself
to which it does adhere; I do suppose that this is the very
spirit, which by the apostle is said to be with the soul, as a
pedagogue and social governor, that it may admonish the soul
of better things, and chastise her for her faults, and reprove
her : because ' no man knows the things of a man but the

P Eccles. vii. 22. Apud Syros conscientia dicitur xixn ii radice ixn
formavit, depinxit, descripsit; quia scilicet conscientia notat et pingit actiones
nostras in tabula cordis.

i 1 Jobn, iii. 21. r Prov. xviii. 14.

Heb. iv. 12. In Epist. ad Rom. c. ii. lib. ii.



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 375

spirit of a man which is in him ;' and that is the spirit of
our conscience, concerning which, he saith, that spirit gives
testimony to our spirit." So far Origen.

9. Thus, conscience is the mind, and God " writing his
laws in our minds," is, informing our conscience, and fur-
nishing it with laws, and rules, and measures, and it is called
by St. Paul, vo>os roD 1*005, ' the law of the mind;'" and though
it is once made a distinct thing from the mind (as in those
words," " their minds and consciences are defiled,") yet it,
happens in this word as in divers others, that it is sometimes
taken largely, sometimes specifically and more determinately:
the mind is all the whole understanding part, it is the me-
mory ; so Peter ' called to mind' the word that Jesus spake, y
that is, he remembered it. It is, the signification or mean-
ing, the purpose or resolution. " No man knoweth the mind
of the Spirit, but the Spirit." 2 It is the discursive or reasoning
part; " Mary cast in her mind what manner of salutation
this should be." a It is the assenting and determining part ;
" Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind :" b and
it is also taken for conscience, or that treasure of rules which
are in order to practice. And therefore, when St. Paul
intended to express the anger of God punishing evil men
with evil consciences and false persuasions, in order to crimi-
nal actions, and evil worshippings, he said, " God gave them
over, t!$ vow adox.i/Aov, to a reprobate mind," c that is, to aeon-
science evil persuaded, furnished with false practical prin-
ciples ; but the return to holiness, and the improvement of a
holy conscience, is called, " a being renewed in the spirit of
our mind," d ai/ax.a/i/wff/s TO\J voo, " the renovation of the mind."'

10. Now there are two ways by which God reigns in the
mind of a man, 1. Faith; and, 2. Conscience. Faith con-
tains all the treasures of Divine knowledge and speculation,
conscience is the treasury of Divine commandments and rules
in practical things. Faith tells us why ; conscience tells us
what we are to do. Faith is the measure of our persuasions;
conscience is the measure of our actions. And as faith is a
gift of God, so is conscience ; that is, as the understanding
of a man is taught by the Spirit of God in Scripture, what

n Rom. vii. 23. * Titus, i. 15. 1 Mark, xiv. 72.

1 1 Cor. ii. 11. a Luke, i. 29. b Rom. xiv. 5.



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