Jeremy Taylor.

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

. (page 36 of 50)
Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 36 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


e Rom. i. 28. d Ephes. iv. 23. e Rom. xii. 2.



376 THE RULE OF

to believe, how to distinguish truth from errors ; so is the
conscience instructed to distinguish good and evil, how to
please God, how to do justice and charity to our neighbour,
and how to treat ourselves ; so that when the revelations
of Christ and the commandments of God are fully recorded
in our minds, then we are ' perfectly instructed to every
good work.'

Governed by a Rule.

11. St. Bernard f comparing the conscience to a house,
says it stands upon seven pillars. 1. Good will. 2. Memory
of God's benefits. 3. A clean heart. 4. A free spirit.
5. A right soul. 6. A devout mind. 7. An enlightened
reason. These indeed are, some of them, the fruits and
effects, some of them are the annexes and appendages of
a good conscience, but not the foundations or pillars upon
which conscience is built. For as for

1. Good Will

12. Conscience relies not at all upon the will directly.
For though a conscience is good or bad, pure or impure;
and so the doctors of mystic theology divide and handle it ;
yet a conscience is not made so by the will, formally, but by
the understanding. For that is a good conscience, which is
rightly taught in the word of life ; that is impure and denied
which hath entertained evil and ungodly principles ; such
is theirs, who follow false lights, evil teachers, men of cor-
rupt minds. For the conscience is a judge and a guide, a
monitor and a witness, which are the offices of the knowing,
not of the choosing faculty. " Spiritum, correctorern, et
paedagogum animae," so Origen 8 calls it; " the instructor of
the soul, the spirit, the corrector." " Naturale judicatorium,"
or " naturalis vis judicandi," so St. Basil ; " the natural
power of judging or nature's judgment-seat." " Lucem
intellectus nostri," so Damascen calls it, " the light of our
understanding." The conscience does accuse or excuse a
man before God, which the will cannot. If it could, we
should all stand upright at doomsday, or at least those
would be acquitted, who fain would do well, but miss, who
do the things they love not, and love those they do not ;
that is, ** they who strive to enter in, but shall not be able."

1 De Interior. Dorao, c. vii. t Ubi supra, in Psal. xlviii.



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 377

But to accuse or excuse is the office of a faculty which can
neither will nor choose, that is, of the conscience, which is
properly a record, a hook, and a judgment-seat.

13. But I said, conscience relies not upon the will di-
rectly ; yet it cannot be denied, but the will hath force upon
the conscience collaterally and indirectly. For the evil will
perverts the understanding, and makes it believe false prin-
ciples ; " deceiving and being deceived " is the lot of false
prophets ; and they that are " given over to believe a lie,"
will live in a lie, and do actions relative to that false doc-
trine, which evil manners first persuaded and introduced.
For although it cannot be, that heretics should sin in the ar-
ticle against the actual light of their consciences, because he
that wittingly and willingly sins against a known truth, is
not properly a heretic but a blasphemer, and sins against
the Holy Ghost ; and he that sees a heretic run to the stake
or to the gallows, or the Donatist kill himself, or the Cir-
cumcellian break his own neck with as much confidence to
bear witness to his heresy, as any of the blessed martyrs to
give testimony to Christianity itself, cannot but think he
heartily believes what so willingly he dies for ; yet either
heretics do sin voluntarily, and so distinguish from simple
errors ; or else they are the same thing, and either every
simple error is damnable, or no heresy. It must therefore
be observed, that

14. The will of man is the cause of its actions either
mediately or immediately. Some are the next products of
our will ; such are pride, ambition, prejudice; and these blind
the understanding, and make an evil and a corrupted con-
science, making it an incompetent judge of truth and error,
good and evil. So that the corruption of conscience in a heretic
is voluntary in the principle, but miserable and involuntary
in the product ; it may proceed from the will efficiently, but
it is formally a depravation of the understanding.

15. And therefore our wills also must be humble, and
apt, and desirous to learn, and willing to obey. ' Obedite et
intelligetis ; by humility and obedience we shall be best
instructed.' Not that by this means the conscience shall re-
ceive direct aids, but because by this means it will be left in
its own aptnesses and dispositions, and when it is not hindered,
.the word of God will enter and dwell upon the conscience.



378 THE RULE OF

And in this sense it is that some say that ' Conscience is the
inclination and propension of the will corresponding to prac-
tical knowledge.' Will and conscience are like the ' cognati
sensus,' the touch and the taste ; or the teeth and the ears,
affected and assisted by some common ohjects, whose effect
is united in matter and some real events, and distinguished
by their formalities, or metaphysical beings.

2. Memory of God's Benefits,

16. Is indeed a good engagement to make us dutiful, and
so may incline the will ; but it hath no other force upon the
conscience but that it reminds us of a special obligation to
thankfulness, which is a new and proper tie of duty ; but it
works only by a principle that is already in the conscience,
viz. that we are specially obliged to our gracious lords ; and
the obedience that is due to God as our Lord, doubles upon
us by love and zeal, when we remember him to be our boun-
tiful patron, and our gracious Father.

3. A clean Heart,

17. May be an effect and emanation from a holy con-
science; but conscience in itself may be either good or bad,
or it may be good when the heart is not clean, as it is in all
the worst men who actually sin against conscience, doing
that which conscience forbids them. In these men the prin-
ciples are holy, the instruction perfect, the law remaining,
the persuasions uncancelled ; but against all this torrent
there is a whirlwind of passions, and filthy resolutions, and
wilfulness, which corrupt the heart, while as yet the head is
uncorrupted in the direct rules of conscience. But yet some-
times a clean conscience and a clean heart are the same ;
and a good conscience is taken for holiness : so St. Paul h uses
the word, " holding faith and a good conscience, which some
having put away have made shipwreck ;" on -ri\v Sicidiv fixov-
<rav guvei8ri<fiv aff/or/a xoirtftiyvav, so Clemens Alexandrinus
explicates the place, " they have by infidelity polluted their
Divine and holy conscience :" but St. Paul seems to argue
otherwise, and that they, laying aside a good conscience, fell
into infidelity ; their hearts and conscience were first cor-
rupted, and then they turned heretics. But this sense of a
good conscience is that which in mystic divinity is more

h 1 Tim. i. 5, 19.



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 379

properly handled, in which sense also it is sometimes used in
law. " Idem est conscientiaquod vir bonus intrinsece," said
Ungarellus 1 out of Bald us ;J and from thence Aretine k
gathered this conclusion, that " if any thing be committed to
the conscience of any one, they must stand to his determi-
nation, ' et ab ea appellari non potest ; there lies no appeal,'
' Quia vir bonus, pro quo sumitur conscientia, non potest men-
tiri et falsum dicere vel judicare ; A good man, for whom
the word conscience is used, cannot lie, or give a false judg-
ment or testimony." Of this sort of conscience it is said by
Ben Sirach, 1 " Bonam substantiam habet, cui non est pecca-
tum in conscientia ; It is a man's wealth to have no sin in
our conscience." But in our present and future discourses,
the word conscience is understood in the philosophical sense,
not in the mystical, that is, not for the conscience as it is
invested with the accidents of good or bad, but as it abstracts
from both, but is capable of either.

4. A free Spirit,

18. Is the blessing and effect of an obedient will to a well-
instructed conscience, and more properly and peculiarly to
the grace of chastity, to honesty and simplicity; a slavish,
timorous, a childish and trifling spirit, being the punishment
inflicted upon David, before he repented of his fact with
Bathsheba. But there is also a freedom which is properly
the privilege, or the affection, of conscience, and is of great
usefulness to all its nobler operations; and that is, a being
clear from prejudice and prepossession, a pursuing of truths
with holy purposes, and inquiring after them with a single
eye, not infected with any sickness or unreasonableness.
This is the same thing with that which he distinctly calls, 5.
'a right soul.' To this is appendant also, that the conscience
cannot be constrained, it is of itself ' a free spirit,' and is sub-
ject to no commands, but those of reason and religion. God
only is the Lord of our conscience, and the conscience is not
to subject itself any more to the empire of sin, to the law of
Moses, to a servile spirit, but to the laws of God alone,
and the obedience of Jesus, willingly, cheerfully, and in all

' Verb. Conscientia. J In c. cum. Causa de Testi.

k In sect. Sed iste. Inst. t. de Act Gl. in c. Statut. sect. Assess. Detent.
1 Ecclus. xiii. 30, alias 24.



380 THE RULE OF

instances, whether the commandment be conveyed by the Holy
Jesus, or by his vicegerents. But of this I shall afterward
give particular accounts.

6. A devout Mind,

12. May procure more light to the conscience, and
assistances from the Spirit of wisdom, in cases of difficulty,
and is a good remedy against a doubting and a scrupulous
conscience ; but this is but indirect, and by the intermission
of other more immediate and proper intercourses.

But the last is perfectly the foundation of conscience.

7. An enlightened Reason.

20. To which if we add what St. Bernard before calls a 'right
soul,' that is, an honest heart, full of simplicity and hearty
attention, and ready assent, we have all that by which the
conscience is informed and reformed, instructed and preserved,
in its just measures, strengths, and relations. For the rule
of conscience is all that notice of things and rules, by which
God would have good and evil to be measured, that is, the
will of God, communicated to us by any means, by reason,
and by enlightening, that is, natural and instructed. So
that conscience is vou$ <pv<tixb$, and Stobldaxroc, it is principled
by creation, and it is instructed or illuminated in the rege-
neration. For God being the fountain of all good, and good
being nothing but a conformity to him or to his will, what
measures he makes are to limit us. No man can make mea-
sures of good and evil, any more than he can make the good
itself. Men sometimes give the instance in which the good
is measured ; but the measure itself is the will of God. For
therefore it is good to obey human laws, because it is God's
will we should ; and although the man makes the law to
which we are to give obedience, yet that is not the rule.
The rule is the commandment of God, for by it obedience is
made a duty.

Measured by the Proportions of Good and Evil.

21. That is, of that which God hath declared to be good or
evil respectively, the conscience is to be informed. God hath
taken care that his laws shall be published to all his subjects,
he hath written them where they must needs read them, not
in tables of stone or phylacteries on the forehead, but in a



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 381

secret table ; the conscience or mind of a man is the <p uXax-
rrjPiov, the preserver of the court-rolls of heaven. But I
added this clause to the former of ' a rule,' because the
express line of God's rule is not the adequate measure of
conscience : but there are analogies and proportions, and
commensurations of things with things, which make the
measure full and equal. For he does not always keep a
good conscience who keeps only the words of a Divine law,
but the proportions also and the reasons of it, the similitudes
and correspondences in like instances, are the measures of
conscience.

22. The whole measure and rule of conscience is, the law
of God, or God's will, signified to us by nature, or revela-
tion ; and by the several manners, and times, and parts of its
communication it hath obtained several names : the law of
nature, the consent of nations, right reason, the deca-
logue, the sermon of Christ, the canons of the apostles,
the laws ecclesiastical and civil of princes and governors,
fame, or the public reputation of things, expressed by pro-
verbs and other instances and measures of public honesty.
This is

OTSv <r y' ttiir%gov, XKKOVI rou xa.\ou paduv.

So Euripides" 1 calls it, all the rule that teaches us good or
evil. These being the full measures of right and wrong, of
lawful and unlawful, will be the rule of conscience, and the
subject of the present books.

In order to Practice.

23. In this conscience differs from knowledge, which is
in order to speculation, and ineffective notices. And it differs
from faith, because although faith is also in order to prac-
tice, yet not directly and immediately : it is a collection of
propositions, the belief of which makes it necessary to live
well, and reasonable, and chosen. But before the proposi-
tions of faith pass into action, they must be transmitted
through another principle, and that is conscience. That
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and our Lord, and our Mas-
ter, is a proposition of faith, and from thence, if we pass on
to practice, we first take in another proposition ; ' If he be
our Lord, where is his fear?' and this is a sentence, or vir-
tual proposition, of conscience. And from hence we may

m Hecub. 600. Priestley's edition of Euripides, vol. i. p. 87.



382 THE RULE OF

understand the full meaning of the word l conscience.
~2uvt/()r,ffig, and ' conscientia,' and so our English word con-
science, have in them science or knowledge : the seat of it is
the understanding, the act of it is knowing, but there must
be a knowing of more together.

24. Hugo de St. Victore says, that " conscientia est cor-
dis scientia, conscience is the knowledge of the heart."
It is so, but certainly this was not the erj/tov and ' original'
of the word. But there is truth in the following period.
" Cor noscit et alia. Quando autem se noscit, appellatur
conscientia ; quando, praeter se, alia noscit, appellatur scien-
tia ; Knowledge hath for its object any thing without ;
but when the heart knows itself, then it is conscience." So
it is used in authors sacred and profane. " Nihil mihi con-
scius sum," saith St. Paul ; " I know nothing by myself;"
" ut alios lateas ; tute tibi conscius eris :" and

Hie murus abeneus esto,

Nil conscire sibi.

So Cicero n to Marcus Rutilius uses it ; " Cum et mihi conscius
essem, quanti te facerem ; When I myself was conscious to
myself, how much I did value thee." But this acception of
the word conscience is true, but not full and adequate ; for it
only signifies conscience as it is a witness, not as a guide.
Therefore it is more reasonable which Aquinas and the
schoolmen generally use: that conscience is a conjunction of
the universal practical law with the particular moral action :
and so it is * scientia cum rebus facti,' and then it takes in
that which is called <svvrqgr,eis, or the general ' repository'
of moral principles or measures of good, and the particular
cases as reduced to practice. Such as was the case of St.
Peter, when he denied his Lord : he knew that he ought not
to have done it, and his conscience being sufficiently taught
his duty to his Lord, he also knew that he had done it, and
then there followed a remorse, a biting, or gnawing of his
spirit, grief, and shame, and a consequent weeping : when all
these acts meet together, it is the full process of conscience.

(1 .) The evvrrigviffis, or the first act of conscience, St. Jerome
calls ' scintillam conscientise/ 'the spark' or fire put into
the heart of man.

(2.) The tvviidqgig, which is specifically called ' conscience'
of the deed done, is the bringing fuel to this fire.

Ad Divers, xiii. 8. Cortii, p. 674.



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 383

(3.) And when they are thus laid together, they will either
shine or burn, acquit or condemn. But this complication of
acts is conscience. The first is science, practical science :
but annex the second ; or it and the third, and then it is con-
science. When David's heart smote him, that is, upon his
adultery and murder, his conscience thus discoursed : ' Adul-
tery and murder are high violations of the Divine law, they
provoke God to anger, without whom I cannot live, whose
anger is worse than death.' This is practical knowledge, or
the principles of conscience ; but the following acts made it
up into conscience. For he remembered that he had betrayed
Uriah and humbled Bathsheba, and then he begs of God for
pardon ; standing condemned in his own breast, he hopes to
be forgiven by God's sentence. But the whole process of
conscience is in two practical syllogisms, in which the method
is ever this. The o-ufr^tf/j, or 'repository' of practical prin-
ciples begins, and where that leaves, the conscience or the
witness and judge of moral actions begins, like Jacob laying
hold upon his elder brother's heel. The first is this :

Whatsoever is injurious ought not to be done :

But to commit adultery is injurious:

Therefore it ought not to be done :

This is the rule of conscience, or the first act of conscience
as it is a rule and a guide, and is taken for the rfuvr^sjjtf/f, or
practical ' repository.' But when an action is done or about
to be done, conscience takes the conclusion of the former
syllogism, and applies it to her particular case.

Adultery ought not to be done :

This action I go about, or which I have done, is adultery :

Therefore it ought not to be done, or to have been done.
This is the full proceeding of this court ; after which many
consequent solemnities and actions do pass, of sentence, and
preparatory torments and execution.

25. But this I am to admonish, that although this which
I have thus defined, is the proper and full sense of the word
' conscience' according to art and proper acceptation, yet in
Scripture it is used indifferently for an act of conscience, or
any of its parts, and does not always signify in its latitude
and integrity, but yet it all tends to the same signification ;
and though the name be given to the faculty, to the habit, to

Acts, xxiii. 1 ; xxiv. 16. Rom. xiii. 5. 1 Cor. viii. 10. 1 Tim. i. 5, 19;
iii. 19. 2 Tim. i. 3. Titus, i. 15. 1 Pet. ii. 19 ; iii. 16. Heb. xiii. 18.



384 THE RULE OF

the act, to the object, to the effect, to every emanation from
the mind in things practical, yet still it supposes the same
thing : viz. that conscience is the guide of all our moral
actions ; and by giving the name to so many acts, and parts,
and effluxes from it, it warrants the definition of it, when it
is united in its own proper and integral constitution.

To conduct all our Relations and Intercourses between God, our
Neighbours, and ourselves : that is, in all moral Actions.

26. This is the final cause of conscience : and by this it
is distinguished from prudence, which is also a practical
knowledge, and reduced to particular and circumstantiate
actions. But, 1 . Prudence consists in the things of the world,
or relative to the world : conscience in the things of God, or
relating to him. 2. Prudence is about affairs as they are of
advantage or disadvantage : conscience is employed about
them, as they are honest or dishonest. 3. Prudence regards
the circumstances of actions, whether moral or civil : con-
science only regards moral actions in their substance or es-
sential proprieties. 4. Prudence intends to do actions dex-
terously and prosperously : conscience is to conduct them
justly and according to the commandment. 5. There are
many actions in which prudence is not at all concerned, as
being wholly indifferent to this or that for matter of advan-
tage ; but there is no action but must pass under the file and
censure of conscience ; for if we can suppose any action in
all its circumstances to be wholly indifferent to good or bad ;
yet none is so to lawful or unlawful, the very indifferent being
therefore lawful because it is indifferent, and therefore to
be considered by conscience, either actually or habitually :
for in this sense even our natural actions, in their time and
place, are also moral ; and where they are not primarily
moral, yet they come under conscience, as being permitted,
and innocent; but wherever they are relative to another
person, they put on some degrees of morality, and are of
proper cognizance in this court.

Qui didicit, patriae quid debeat, et quid amicis;
Quo sit amore parens, quo frater amandus et hospes ;
Quod sit conscripti, quod judicis officium ; quae
Partes in bellum missi ducis : ille profecto
Reddere personae scit convenientia cuique.P

P Herat, de Arte Poet. 315. Schelle, p. 44.



CONSCIENCE IN GENERAL. 385

That is the full effect of conscience, to conduct all our
relations, all our moral actions.



RULE II.

The Duty and Offices of Conscience are to dictate, and to testify
or bear Witness ; to accuse or excuse ; to loose or bind.

1. THE first and last are the direct acts and offices of con-
science : the other are reflex or consequent actions, but direct
offices. The first act, which is

To dictate,

Is that which divines call the avvryowig, or the * phylac-
tery,' the keeper of the records of the laws, as by it we are
taught our duty : God having written it in our hearts by
nature and by the Spirit, leaves it there, ever placed before
the eye of conscience, as St. Bernard calls it, to be read and
used for directions in all cases of dispute of question or action :
this is that which St. Paul?* 1 calls " the work of the law written
in our hearts ;" and therefore it is, that to sin against our
conscience is so totally inexcusable, and according to the
degree of that violence which is done against the conscience,
puts on degrees. For conscience dictates whatsoever it is
persuaded of, and will not suffer a man to do otherwise than
it suggests and tells us :

A? ya.(> -rut uvran fit ftttaf xai Svfits atlln
"flft avreTttfmof&itov xoiec 't^ftttai'

said Achilles q of Hector when he was violently angry with
him ; " I would my conscience would give me leave to eat
thy very flesh."

2. Its universal dictates are ever the most certain, and
those are the first principles of justice and religion; and
whatsoever else can be infallibly and immediately inferred
from thence, are her dictates also, but not primely and
directly, but transmitted by the hands of reason. The same
reason also there is in clear revelation. For whatsoever is
put into the conscience immediately by God, is placed there

PP Rom. ii. 15. > Iliad. x . 346.

VOL. XI. C C



386 THE RULE OF

to the same purpose, and with the same efficiency and per-
suasion, as is all that which is natural. And the conscience
properly dictates nothing else, but prime natural reason, and
immediate revelation ; whatsoever comes after these two, is
reached forth to us by two hands, one whereof alone is
ministered by conscience. The reason is this : because all
that law by which God governs us, is written in our hearts,
put there by God immediately, that is antecedently to all
our actions ; because it is that by which all our actions are
to be guided, even our discoursings and arguings are to be
guided by conscience, if the argument be moral. Now the
ways by which God speaks to us immediately, are only nature
and the Spirit : nature is that principle which taught all
men from the beginning until now ; all that prime practical
reason which is perfective of human nature, and in which all
mankind agrees. Either the perfections, or the renovations,
or the superadditions, to this are taught us by the Holy Spirit,
and all this being written in the conscience by the finger
of God, is brought forth upon all occasions of action ; and
whatsoever is done against any thing so placed, is directly
and violently against the conscience ; but when from thence
reason spins a longer thread, and draws it out from the clue
of natural principles or express revelation, that also returns
upon the conscience, and is placed there as light upon a wall,
but not as the stones that are there : but yet whatever is
done against that light, is also against conscience, but not so



Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 36 of 50)