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they are " given over to believe a lie," they are delivered " to
a reprobate mind." And this often happens, and particu-
larly in those cases wherein one sin is inferred by another
naturally, or morally, or by withdrawing of the Divine grace.

5. (4.) Wherever the superior or the ruling part of con-
science is an imperfect rule, in the same cases the inferior
is an evil judge, that is, acquits the criminal, or condemns
the innocent, calling good evil, and evil good ; which is to be
understood when the persuasion of the erring conscience is
permanent and hearty, not sudden, and by the rapid violence
of a passion; for in this case the conscience condemns as
soon as that is acted, to which, before the action, it was
cozened and betrayed : but it proceeds only in abiding and
lasting errors. And this is the cause why so many orders of

m In Rule 1, numb. 5, et seq. Rom. i. 28.


persons continue in a course of sin with delight, and unin-
terrupted pleasure, thinking rebellion to be a just defence,
sacrilege a lawful title ; while other men, that are otherwise
and justly persuaded, wonder at their peace, and hate their
practices. Our blessed Lord foretold concerning the perse-
cutors of the Church, that they should ' think they did God
good service.' But such men have an evil portion, they sing
in the fire, and go dancing to their graves, and sleep on till
they be awakened in hell. And, on the other side, tbis is
because of superstition, and scruples, and sometimes of de-
spairing and unreasonable fears, when the conscience is
abused by thinking that to be sin which is none.


All Consciences are to walk by the same Rule ; and that which
is just to one is so to all, in the like Circumstances.

1. IF all men were governed by the same laws, and had the
same interest, and the same degrees of understanding, they
would perceive the truth of this conclusion. But men are
infinitely differenced by their own acts and relations, by their
understandings and proper economy, by their superinduced
differences and orders, by interest and mistake, by ignorance
and malice, by sects and deceptions. And this makes that
two men may be damned for doing two contradictories : as
a Jew may perish for not keeping of his sabbath, and a
Christian for keeping it ; an iconoclast for breaking images,
and another for worshipping them ; for eating, and for not
eating ; for receiving the holy communion, and for not
receiving it ; for coming to church, or staying at home.

2. But this variety is not directly of God's making, but
of man's. God commands us to walk by the same rule, and
to this end, rb avrb <poovt?v, " to be of the san.e mind ; " and
this is azcilSiia mvudriaius, " the exactness of our conscience ;"
which precept were impossible to be observed, if there
were not one rule, and this rule also very easy. For some
men have but a small portion of reason and discretion,
and they cannot help it ; and yet the precept is incumbent
upon them all alike; and therefore as the rule is one, so it
is plain and easy, and written in every man's heart ; and as


every man's reason is the same thing, so is every man's
conscience : and this comes to be altered, just as that.

3. Neither is the unity of the rule prejudiced by the
infinite difference of cases. For as a river, springing from
the mountains of the East, is tempted by the levels of the
ground and the uneasiness of its passage, to make some turns
backward towards its head, even while it intends westward,
so are the cases of conscience branched out into instances,
sometimes of contrary proceedings, which are to be de-
termined to cross effects, but still upon the same account.
For in all things of the world the obligation is uniform, and
it is of the same persuasion.

The case is this :

4. Autolycus robbed the gardens of Trebonius, and asked
him forgiveness, and had it. But when Trebonius was chosen
consul, and Autolycus robbed him agaia, and was taken by
others, and as a thief brought before him, he asked forgive-
ness again ; but Trebonius condemned him to the galleys :
for he who bemg a private man was bound to forgive a
repenting trespasser, being a magistrate was bound not to
forgive him ; and both these were upon the same account.
A man may forgive an injury done to himself, because it is
his own right, ftnd he may alone meddle in it; but an
injury done to the commonwealth, she only could forgive,
not her minister. So,

5. He that fasted upon a Saturday in Ionia or Smyrna,
was a schismatic ; and so was he who did not fast at Milan,
or Rome, upon the same day ; both upon the same reason ;

Cum fueris Romas, Romano vivilo more;
Cum fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi ;

because he was to conform to the custom of Smyrna, as well
as to that of Milan, in the respective diocesses.

6. To kill a man, in some cases, defiles a land ; in others,
it cleanses it, and puts away blood from the people ; and it
was plain in the case of circumcision. St. Paul did it, and
did it not ; both because he ought, and because he ought
not ; and all upon the same account and law of charity.
And therefore all inquiries, and all contentions and ques-
tions, should be relations to the rule, and be tried by nothing
but a plain measure of justice and religion, and not stand or


fall by relations to separate propositions and distinct regards.
For that is one and easy ; these are infinite, uncertain,
and contradictory. TOUT' EOT/ rb ainov avdouvoig vavruv ruv
ri> ras -rgoXjj-^s/j ras xoivu$ /ATI dvvua^ai stpapftofyiv raT$
;' " It is a very great cause of mischief not to be
able to deduce general propositions, and fit them to par-
ticular cases," said Arrianus. But because all men cannot,
therefore there will be an eternal necessity of spiritual guides,
whose employment, and the business of their life, must be
to make themselves able ' respondere de jure, to answer
in matters of law,' and they also must be truly informed in
the matters of fact.


In Conscience, that which is first is truest, easiest, and
most useful.

1. THERE are some practices, which at the first sight, and by
the very name and nature of the things themselves, seem as
directly unreasonable and against a commandment, as any
other thing of the foulest reproach ; and yet, object the sin
to the owners, and they will tell so many fine stories, and
struggle, and distinguish, and state the question in a new-
manner, and chop it into fragments, and disguise the whole
affair, that they do not only content and believe themselves,
but also lessen the confidence of the adversary, and make a
plain rule an uneasy lesson. I instance in the question of
images, the making of some of which, and the worshipping
of any, does at the first sight as plainly dash against the
second commandment, as adultery does against the sixth.
But if you examine the practice of the Roman Church, and
estimate them by the more wary determination of the article
in Trent, and weigh it by the distinctions and laborious
devices of its patrons, and believe their pretences and shows,
it must needs be that you will abate something of the re-
proof; and yet all the while the worship of images goes for-
ward : and if you lay the commandment over-against the
devices and distinctions, it will not be easy to tell what the
commandment does mean ; and yet because it was given to

In Epictet. lib. iii. c. 26.


the meanest understandings, and was fitted for them, either
the conscience is left without a clear rule, or that sense is
to be followed which stands nearest the light, that which is
next to the natural and proper sense of the words. For it is
certain God puts no disguises upon his own commandments,
and the words are meant plainly and heartily : and the further
you remove from their first sense, the more you have lost
the purpose of your rule. In matters of conscience, that is
the best sense, which every wise man takes in, before he
hath sullied his understanding with the disguises of sophis-
ters and interested persons ; for then they speak without
prejudice and art, that is, so as they should speak, who intend
to guide wise men, and all men.

2. But this is to be understood otherwise, when the first
sense of the words hath, in its letter, a prejudice open and
easy to be seen ; such as is that of ' putting out the right
eye,' or * cutting off the hand.' The face is a vizor and a
metaphor, and the heart of it only is the commandment, and
that is to be understood by the measures of this rule ; that is,
the prime and most natural signification is the best, that
which is of nearest correspondence to the metaphor and the
design of the speaker, and the occasion and matter of

3. But in all things where the precept is given in the pro-
per style of laws, and the vail is off, and the words are plain,
he that takes the first sense is the likeliest to be well guided.
If a war be commenced between a king and his people, he
that is willing to read his duty, may see it in the words of
Christ and of three apostles, and it is easy to know our duty;
but when we are engaged against our prince, it is certain we
are hugely put to it to make it lawful ; and when our con-
science must struggle for its rule, it is not so well as when it
takes that which lies easy before us. Truth is easy, error is
intricate and hard. If none but witty men could understand
their duty, the ignorant and idiot could not be saved ; but
in the event of things it will be found that this man's con-
science was better guided while simplicity held the taper,
than by all the false fires of art, and witty distinctions. " Qui
ambulat simpliciter, ambulat confidenter," saith Solomon.
It is safer to walk on plain ground, than with tricks and
devices to dance upon the ropes.



Conscience by its several Habitudes and Relations, or Tendencies
towards its proper Object, is divided into several Kinds.

1. CONSCIENCE in respect of its information, or as it relates
to its object, taken materially, and in the nature of the thing,
is either true or false, right or wrong ; true when it is rightly
informed, and proceeds justly; false when it is deceived.
Between these, as participating of either extreme, stands the
probable conscience ; which if we consider as it relates to
its object, is sometimes right and sometimes wrong, and so
may be reduced to either, according as it is in the event of
things. For in two contradictories which are both probable,
as if one be, both are ; if one part be true, the other is false ;
and the conscience of the several men holding the opposite
parts, must be so too, that is, right and wrong, deceived and
not deceived, respectively. The division then of conscience,
in respect of its object, is tripartite.

2. For in all questions, if notice can be certainly had, he
that gets the notice, hath a true conscience: he that misses
it, hath a false or erring conscience. But if the notices that
can be had, be uncertain, imperfectly revealed, or weakly
transmitted, or understood by halves, or not well represented ;
because the understanding cannot be sure, the conscience can
be but probable. But according as the understanding is for-
tunate, or the man wise and diligent, and honest enough to
take the right side of the probability, so the conscience
takes its place in the extreme, and is reduced to right or
wrong accordingly.

3. But to be right or wrong is wholly extrinsical to the
formal obligation of conscience, as it is a judge and a guide,
and to the consequent duty of the man. For an erring con-
science binds as much as the right conscience, directly and
immediately, and collaterally more ; that is, the man who
hath an erring conscience, is tied to more and other duties
than he that is in the right. The conscience binds because
it is heartily persuaded, not because it is truly informed ;
not because it is right, but because it thinks so.

4. It does indeed concern the duty of conscience, and
its felicity, to see that it be rightly instructed, but as to the


consequence of the action, it is all one : this must follow
whatsoever goes before. And therefore, although it con-
cerns the man, as much as his felicity and all his hopes
come to, to take care that his conscience be not abused in
the matter of duty ; yet a right and a wrong conscience
are not made distinct guides and different judges. Since,
therefore, we are to consider and treat of conscience as it
is the guide of our actions, and judge of our persons, we are
to take it in other aspects than by a direct face towards its
object ; the relation to which alone cannot diversify its
kind, so much as to become a universal rule to us in all
cases and emergencies.

5. Now because intellectual habits, employed about the
same general object, have no way to make them of different
natures, but by their formal tendencies, and different man-
ners of being affected with the same object; we are, in
order to the perfect division and assignation of the kinds of
conscience, to consider the right conscience, either as it
is sure, or as it is only confident, but not sure. For an
erring conscience and the unerring are the same judge, and
the same guide, as to the authority and persuasion, and as
to the effect upon the person : but yet they differ infinitely
in their rule ; and the persons under their conduct differ as
much in their state and condition. But our conscience is
not a good guide unless we be truly informed, and know it.
For if we be truly informed and know 'it not, it is an uncer-
tain and an imperfect guide. But if we be confident and
yet deceived, the uncertainty and hesitation are taken off,
but we are still very miserable. For we are like an erring
traveller, who being out of the way, and thinking himself
right, spurs his horse and runs full speed : he that comes
behind, is nearer to his journey's end.

6. That therefore is the first kind of conscience, the right
sure conscience ; and this alone is fit to be our guide ; but
this alone is riot our judge.

7. (2.) Opposite to this is the confident or erring con-
science ; that is, such which indeed is misinformed, but yet
assents to its objects with the same confidence as does the
right and sure ; but yet upon differing grounds, motives, and
inducements : which because they are always criminal,
although the assent is peremptory and confident, yet the


deception is voluntary and vicious in its cause ; and therefore
the present confidencecannot warrant the action, it only makes
the sinner bold. So that these two differ in their manner of
entering into the assent ; the one entering by the door, the
other by the breaches of the wall : good will and bad, virtue
and vice, duty and sin, keeping the several keys of the per-
suasion and consent.

8. This erring conscience I therefore affirm to be always
voluntary and vicious in its principle, because all God's laws
are plain in all matter of necessary duty ; and when all men
are to be guided, learned and unlearned, the rule is plain and
easy, because it is necessary it should be so. But therefore
if there happen any invincible ignorance, or involuntary de-
ception, it is there where the rule is not plain ; and then the
matter is but probable, and then the conscience is accord-
ing. And this makes the third kind of conscience, in respect
of the different manner of being affected with the object.

9. (3.) The probable conscience is made by that manner
of assent to the object, which is indeed without fear, but
not without imperfection. The thing itself is of that nature,
that it cannot properly make faith or certainty of adherence ;
and the understanding considers it as it is represented with-
out any prejudice or prepossession ; and then the thing
must be believed as it deserves, and no more : but because it
does not deserve a full assent, it hath but an imperfect one ;
but it is perfect enough in its kind, that is, it is as much as
it ought to be, as much as the thing deserves. These are
all the kinds of conscience that are perfect.

10. (4.) But sometimes the state and acts of conscience
are imperfect ; as the vision of an evil eye, or the motion of
a broken arm, or the act of an imperfect or abused under-
standing : so the conscience in some cases is carried to its
object but with an imperfect assent, and operates with a
lame and deficient principle : and the causes of it are the
vicious or abused affections, accidents or incidents to the con-
science. Sometimes it happens, that the arguments of both
the sides in a question seem so indifferent, that the con-
science being affrighted and abused by fear and weakness,
dares not determine, and consequently dares not do any
thing ; and if it be constrained to act, it is determined from
without, not by itself, but by accidents and persuasion, by


importunity or force, by interest or fear ; and whatever the
ingredient be, yet when it does act, it acts with fear, be-
cause it reflects upon itself, and considers it hath no war-
rant ; and therefore whatever it does, becomes a sin. This is
the calamity of a doubting conscience. This doubting does
not always proceed from the equality of the parts of the ques-
tion, but sometimes wholly from want of knowing any thing
of it : as, if we were put to declare whether there were more
men or women in the world ? Whether the number of the
stars were even or odd? Sometimes from inconsideration,
sometimes from surprise, sometimes from confusion and
disease ; but from what principle soever it be, there is al-
ways some fear in it. This conscience can neither be a good
guide, nor a good judge : we cannot do any thing by its con-
duct, nor be judged by it ; for all that can be done before or
after it, is not by it, but by the suppletories of the perfect

11. (5.) A less degree of this evil, is that which by the
masters of moral theology is called the scrupulous con-
science, which is not a distinct kind of conscience, as is
usually supposed, but differs from the doubting conscience
only in the degrees of the evil. The doubt is less, and the
fear is not so violent as to make it unlawful to do any thing :
something of the doubt is taken off, and the man can pro-
ceed to action without sin, but not without trouble ; he is
uneasy and timorous, even when he is most innocent ; and
the causes of this are not only portions of the same weak-
nesses which cause the doubting conscience ; but some-
times superstition, and melancholy, and pusillanimity, and
mean opinions of God, are ingredients into this imperfect as-
sent : and in such cases, although the scrupulous man may
act without sin, and produce his part of the determination,
yet his scruple is not innocent, but sometimes criminal, but
always calamitous. This is like a mote in the eye, but a
doubt is like a beam.

12. This conscience may be a right guide, but dares not
be a judge: it is like a guide in the dark, that knows the
way, but fears every bush ; and because he may err, thinks
he does. The effect of this imperfection is nothing but a
heartless and uncomfortable proceeding in our duty, and
what else the devil can make of it, by heightening the evil


and abusing the man, who sits upon a sure foundation, but
dares not trust it : he cannot rely upon that which yet he
cannot disbelieve.

13. (6.) There are some other affections of conscience, and
accidental appendages ; but because they do not vary the
manner of its being affected with its proper object, they can-
not diversify conscience into several kinds, as it is a guide
and judge of human actions. But because they have no
direct influence upon our souls, and relate not to duty, but
are to be conducted by rules of the other kinds, I shall here
only enumerate their kinds, and permit to preachers to dis-
course of their natures, and collateral obligations to duty, of
their remedies and assistances, their advantages and disad-
vantages respectively. These also are five : 1. The tender
conscience. 2. The hardened or obdurate. 3. The quiet.
4. The restless or disturbed. 5. And lastly, The perverse con-
science. Concerning which, I shall at present say this only :
that the two first are seated principally in the will, but have
a mixture of conscience, as docibility hath of understanding.
The two next are seated in the fancy, or the affections, and
are not properly placed in the conscience, any more than love
or desire : but yet from conscience they have their birth.
And for the last, it is a heap of irregular principles, and irre-
gular defects, and is the same in conscience, as deformity is
in the body, or peevishness in the affections.




A right Conscience is that which guides our Actions, by right
and proportioned Means, to a right End.

THE end is, God's glory, or any honest purpose of justice
or religion, charity or civil conversation. Whatsoever is
good for us or our neighbour, in any sense perfective of our
being as God purposed it, all that is our end. The means
ought to be such as are apt instruments to procure it. If a


man intends to live a severe life, and to attend religion, his
end is just and fair, and so far his conscience is right; but if
his conscience suggest to him, that he to obtain his end
should erect colleges of women ; and in the midst of feasts,
and songs, and society, he should preach the melancholy
lectures of the cross, it is not right ; because the end is
reached at by a contrary hand. But when it tells him, that
to obtain continence he must fast and pray, watch diligently,
and observe prudently, labour and read, and deny his appetite
in its daily attempts upon him, then it is a right conscience.
For a right conscience is nothing but right reason reduced
to practice, and conducting moral actions. Now all that
right reason can be defined by, is the propounding a good
end, and good means to that end.


In a right Conscience, the practical Judgment, that is, the last
Determination to an Action, ought to be sure and evident.

1. THIS is plain in all the great lines of duty, in actions
determinable by the prime principles of natural reason, or
Divine revelation ; but it is true also in all actions conducted
by a right and perfect conscience. This relies upon all that
account on which it is forbidden to do actions of danger, or
doubt, lest we perish in the danger ; which are to be handled
in their proper place. But for the present we are to observe,
that in the question of actions whose rule is not notorious
and primely evident, there is or may be a double judgment.

2. The first judges the thing probable by reason of
the differing opinions of men wise and pious ; but in this
there is a fear or suspicion of the contrary, and therefore in
the direct act nothing is certain. But there is also, secondly,
a reflex act of judgment : which upon consideration that
it is certain that a probable action may lawfully be done ;
or else, that that which is but probable in the nature of the
thing (so far as we perceive it) may yet, by the superadding
of some circumstances, and prudential considerations, or by
equity or necessity, become more than probable in the par-
ticular : although, I say, the conscience be uncertain in the


direct act, yet it may be certain, right, and determined, in the
reflex and second act of judgment ; and if it be, it is innocent
and safe, it is that which we call the right-sure conscience.

3. For in moral things there cannot ordinarily be a de-
monstrative or mathematical certainty : and in morality we
call that certain, that is a thing to be followed and chosen,
which oftentimes is but very highly probable ; and many
things do not attain that degree ; and therefore because it is
very often impossible, it is certainly not necessary that the
direct judgment should be sure and evident in all cases. To

rov' rs%vr) fit xai (poovqffis r\jy^a.vou(ltv
a>.Xs f%,tiv' " Science is of those
things which can be demonstrated ; but prudence [and con-
science], of things which are thus, or may be otherwise. " p
But if it be not supplied in the reflex and second act of judg-
ment, so that the conscience be either certain in the object
or in the act, the whole progress is a danger, and the product
is criminal ; the conscience is doubtful, and the action is a sin.

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 40 of 50)