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4. It is in this as is usually taught concerning the Divine
knowledge of things contingent; which although they are
in their own nature fallible and contingent, yet are known
certainly and infallibly by God, and according to the nature
of the things, even beyond what they are in their natural,
proper, and next causes : and there is a rare and secret ex-
pression of Christ's incarnation used by St. Paul, "in whom
dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," that is, the
manner is contrary to the thing ; the Godhead that is wholly
incorporeal dwells in him corporally. After the like manner
of signification is the present certainty I speak of. If it be
not certain in the object, it must be certain in the faculty,
that is, at least it must be a certain persuasion, though of an
uncertain article : and we must be certain and fully persuaded,
that the thing may be done by us lawfully, though whether
the thing itself be lawful, is at most but highly probable.

5. So that in effect it comes but to this ; The knowledge
that is here required, is but the fulness of persuasion, which
is and ought to be in a right conscience : oTSa xa/ mmis/j>a,i'
" I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus :" so St. Paul.''
Our knowledge here, which is but in part, must yet be a full

P Aristot. Ethic, lib. rL c. 6. Wilkinson, p. 240.
i Rom. xiv. 14.


confidence for the matters of duty. The conclusions then are
these :

1. There must be a certainty of adherence in the actions
of a right conscience.

2. It must also, for the matter of it too, at least be on the
right side of the probability.

The conscience must be confident, and it must also have
reason enough so to be ; or at least, so much as can secure
the confidence from illusion ; although possibly the confi-
dence may be greater than the evidence, and the conclusion
bigger than the premises. Thus the good simple man, that,
about the time of the Nicene Council, confuted the stubborn
and subtle philosopher by a confident saying-over his creed :
and the holy and innocent idiot, or plain easy people of the
laity, that cannot prove Christianity by any demonstrations,
but by that of a holy life, and obedience unto death ; they be-
lieve it so, that they put all their hopes upon it, and will most
willingly prove it again by dying for it, if God shall call
them. This is one of the excellences of faith : and in all cases
where the mercies of God have conducted the man into the
right, it is not subject to illusion. But for that particular,
I mean, that we be in the right, we are to take all that care
which God hath put into our power : of which I have already
said something, and shall give fuller accounts in its proper


The practicalJudgment of a right Conscience is always agree-
able to the speculative Determination of the Understanding.

1. THIS rule is intended against those whose understand-


ing is right in the proposition, and yet declines in the appli-
cation ; it is true in ' thesi,' but not in * hypothesi ;' it is not
true when it comes to be their case : and so it is in all that
sin against their conscience, and use little arts to evade the
clamour of the sin. They are right in the rule, and crooked
in the measuring ; whose folly is apparent in this, because
they deny in particular what they affirm in the general ; and
it is true in all, but not in some. David was redargued wittily


by Nathan upon this account ; he laid the case in a remote
scene : Titius, or Sempronius, a certain rich man, I know
not who, somebody or other, robbed the poor man of his ewe
lamb. Therefore, said David, ' He shall die, whoever he be.'
'Yea, but you are the man :' what then? shall he die still?
this is a new arrest; it could not be denied, his own mouth
had already given the sentence.

'2. And this is a usual but a most effective art to make
the conscience right in the particular, by propounding the
case separate from its own circumstances ; and then to re-
move it to its own place is no hard matter. It was an inge-
nious device of Erasistratus the physician, of which Appian
tells:' When young Antiochus almost died for love of
Stratonica, his father Seleucus's wife, the physician told the
passionate and indulgent father, that his son was sick of a
disease, which he had indeed discovered, but found it also
to be incurable. Seleucus with sorrow asking what it was,
Erasistratus answered, ' He loves my wife.' But then the old
king's hopes began to revive, and he turned wooer in the
behalf of his son, begging of the physician, who was his
counsellor and his friend, for pity's sake, for friendship and
humanity, to give his wife in exchange or redemption for the
young king's life. Erasistratus replied, ' Sir, you ask a thing
too unreasonable and great ; and though you are his father,
yourself would not do it, if it were your own case ; and
therefore why should I ?' when Seleucus swore by all his
country gods that he would do it as willingly as he would
live ; Erasistratus drew the curtain of the device, and applied
it to him, by telling, that the cure of his son depended upon
his giving the queen Stratonica to him, which he did ; and
afterward made it as lawful as he could, by a law postnate
to that insolent example, and confirmed it by military suf-

3. In all cases we are to consider the rule, not the rela-
tion ; the law, not the person : for if it be one thing in the
proposition, and another in the assumption, it must be false
in one place or the other ; and then the conscience is but an
ill guide, and an ill judge.

4. This rule is not to extend to the exception of particu-
lar cases ; nor to take away privileges, pardons, equity. For

r De Bellis Syriacis.


that which is fast in the proposition, may become loose in
the particular by many intervening causes, of which I am to
give account in its due place. For the present, this is cer-
tain, that whatsoever particular is of the same account with
the general, not separate, or let loose by that hand which
first bound it, is to be estimated as the general. But this
rule is to go further also.

5. For hitherto, I have called the act of particular con-
science directing to a single and circumstantiate action, by
the name of practical judgment : and the general dictate of
the ffuvrrjeriffi;, or phylactery, or upper conscience, teaching
the kinds of good actions, by the name of ' speculative judg-
ment.' But the rule also is true, and so to be understood,
when practical and speculative are taken in their first and
proper sense. If in philosophy we discourse that the true
God, being a spirit without shape or figure, cannot be repre-
sented by an image ; although this be only a speculation,
and demonstrable in natural philosophy, and no rule of con-
science ; yet when conscience is to make a judgment con-
cerning the picturing of God the Father, it must not deter-
mine practically against that speculation. "That an idol is
nothing," is demonstrable in metaphysics; and therefore
that we are to make nothing of it, is a practical truth : and
although the first proposition be not directly placed in the
upper region of conscience, but is one of the prime metaphy-
sical propositions, not properly theological, according to
those words of St. Paul, 5 " Concerning things sacrificed to
idols, we know Sri vavrtg yvSigivs^ofiiv, 'that we all^have know-
ledge ;' and we know that an idol is nothing in the world ;"
meaning, that this knowledge needs no revelation to attest it ;
we by our own reason and principles of demonstration know
that ; yet, the lower, or particular practical conscience, must
never determine against that extrinsical, and therefore, as to
conscience, accidental measure.

6. For whatsoever is true in one science, is true also in
another ; and when we have wisely speculated concerning
the dimensions of bodies, their circumscriptions, the acts of
sense, the certainty of their healthful perceptions, the corn-
mensuration of a place and a body ; we must not esteem
these to be unconcerniug propositions, if ever we come to use

1 Cor. viii. 1, 4.


them in divinity : and therefore we must not worship that
which our senses tell us to be a thing below worship : nor
believe that infinite which we see measured ; nor esteem that
greater than the heavens, which, I see and feel, goes into my
mouth. If philosophy gives a skin, divinity does not flay it
off: and truth cannot be contrary to truth : and God would
not in nature teach us any thing to misguide us in the regions
of grace.

7. The caution for conducting this proposition is only
this : that we be as sure of our speculation, as of any other
rule which we ordinarily follow ; and that we do not take
vain philosophy for true speculations. He that guides his
conscience by a principle of Zeno's philosophy, because he
hath been bred in the Stoical sect, and resolves to understand
his religion to the sense of his master's theorems, does ill.
The Christian religion suffered much prejudice at first by the
weak disputings of the Greeks ; and they would not admit
a religion against the academy, or the cynics, or the Athe-
nian schools ; and the Christian schools drew some of their
articles through the limbecs of Plato's philosophy, and to
this day the relish remains upon some of them. And Baro-
nius* complains of Origen, that, " In paganorum commentis
enutritus, eaque propagare in animo habens, Divinas se utique
Scripturas interpretari simulavit: ut hoc modo nefariam doc-
trinam suam sacrarum literarum monumentis maligne admis-
cens, Paganicum et Manichaicum errorem suum atque Arri-
anam vesaniam induceret." He mingled the Gentile philo-
sophy with Christian religion, and by analogy to that, ex-
pounded this; and how many disciples he had, all the world
knows. Nay, not only from the doctrine, but from the prac-
tices and rites of the pagan religion, many Christians did
derive their rites, and they in time gave authority and birth
to some doctrines. " Vigilias anniversarias habes apud
Suetouium. Lustralem aquam, aspersionem sepulcrorum,
lamina in iisdein parare, Sabbato lucernam accendere, ce-
reos in populum distribuere."" The staff, the ring, the mitre,
and many other customs, some good, some only tolerable,
the Christians took from the Gentiles ; and what effect it
might have, and what influence it hath had, in some doctrines,
is too notorious to dissemble. Thomas Aquinas did a little

Ad Annum 538, sect. 3-1. A. D. 44, n. 88.



change the scene, and blended Aristotle so with school-
divinity, that something of the purity was lost, while much
of our religion was exacted and conducted by the rules of a
mistaken philosophy. But if their speculations had been
right, Christianity would at first have entered without re -
proof, as being the most reasonable religion of the world,
and most consonant to the wisest and most sublime specu-
lations ; and it would also have continued pure, if it had
been still drawn from the fountains of our Saviour, through
the limbecs of the evangelists and apostles, without the
mixture of the salt waters of that philosophy, which every
physician and witty man nowadays thinks he hath reason
and observation enough easily to reprove. But men have
resolved to verify their sect rather than the truth ; but if of
this particular we be careful, we must then also verify every
speculation in all things, where it can relate to practice, and
is not altered by circumstances.

8. As an appendage, and for the fuller explication of this
rule, it is a worthy inquiry which is by some men made, con-
cerning the use of our reason in our religion. For some men,
finding reason to be that guide which God hath given us,
and concreated with us, know that religion which is super-
induced, and comes after it, cannot prejudice that noblest
part of this creation. But then, because some articles which
are said to be of faith, cannot be made to appear consonant
to their reason, they stick to this, and let that go. Here is a
just cause of complaint. But therefore others say, that reason
is a good guide in things reasonable and human, but our rea-
son is blind in things Divine, and therefore is of little or no
use in religion. Here we are to believe, not to dispute.
There are on both sides fair pretences, which when we have
examined, we may find what part of truth each side aims at,
and join them both in practice. They that speak against
reason, speak thus.

9. (1.) There is to every state and to every part of man
given a proportionable light to guide him in that way where
he ought and is appointed to walk. In the darknesses of
this world, and in the actions of common life, the sun and
moon in their proper seasons are to give us light : in the ac-
tions of human intercourse, and the notions tending to it,
reason is our eye, and to it are notices proportioned, drawn


from nature and experience, even from all the principles with
which our rational faculties usually do converse. But be-
cause a man is designed to the knowledge of God, and of
things spiritual, there must spring a new light from heaven,
and he must have new capacities, and new illuminations ;
that is, new eyes, and a new light : for here the eye of reason
is too weak, and the natural man is not capable of the things
of the Spirit, because they are spiritually discerned. Faith
is the eye, and the Holy Spirit gives the light, and the word
of God is the lantern, and the spiritual not the rational man
can perceive the things of God. " Secreta Dei, Deo meo,
et filiis domus ejus ; God and God's secret ones only know
God's secrets."

10. (2.) And therefore we find in Holy Scripture that to
obey God, and to love him, is the way to understand the
mysteries of the kingdom. " Obedite et intelligetis, If
ye will obey, then shall ye understand :" and it was a rare say-
ing of our blessed Saviour, and is of great use and confidence
to all who inquire after the truth of God, in the midst of
these sad divisions of Christendom, " If any man will do his
will, he shall know whether the doctrine be of God or no." x
It is not fineness of discourse, nor the sharpness of argu-
ments, or the witty rencounters of disputing men, that can
penetrate into the mysteries of faith: the poor humble man
that prays, and inquires simply, and listens attentively, and
sucks in greedily, and obeys diligently, he is the man that
shall know the mind of the Spirit; and therefore St. Paul ob-
serves that the sermons of the cross were " foolishness to the
Greeks; 5 ' and consequently, by way of upbraiding, he in-
quires,* " Where is the wise man, where is the scribe, where
is the disputer of the world? God hath made the wisdom
of the world foolishness ;" that is, ' God hath confounded
reason, that faith may come in her place.'

1 1 . (3.) For there are some things in our religion so mys-
terious, that they are above all our reason ; and well may we
admire, but cannot understand them : and therefore the Spi-
rit of God is sent into the world to bring our understanding
into the obedience of Christ ; we must obey and not inquire,
and every proud thought 2 must be submitted to him, who is

* John, vii. 17. y 1 Cor. i. 20.

2 Cor. x. 5.


the wisdom of the Father, who hath, in the Holy Scriptures,
taught us all his Father's will.

12. (4.) And therefore, as to this, nothing can be added
from the stock of nature or principles of natural reason, so
if it did need a supply, reason could ill do it. For the ob-
ject of our faith must be certain and infallible; but no man's
reason is so ; and therefore to put new wine into broken bot-
tles is no gain, or real advantage; and although right reason
is not to be gainsayed, yet what is right reason is so uncertain,
that in the midst of all disputes, every man pretends to it,
but who hath it no man can tell, and therefore it cannot be
a guide or measure of faith.

13. (5.) But above all, if we will pretend to reason in re-
ligion, we have but one great reason that we can be obliged
to ; and that is, to believe that whatsoever God hath said is
true : so that our biggest reason in religion is, to submit our
reason, that is, not to use our reason in particular inquiries,
but to captivate it in the whole. And if there be any parti-
cular inquiries, let them seem what they will to my reason,
it matters not; I am to follow God, not man; I may be de-
ceived by myself, but never by God. It is therefore sufficient
to me that it is in the Scriptures. 1 will inquire no further.
This therefore is a concluding argument ; This is in the Scrip-
ture, therefore this is true : and this is against Scripture,
therefore it is absurd, and unreasonable.

14. (6.) After all, experience is our competent guide and
warning to us : for we see when witty men use their reason
against God that gave it, they in pursuit of reason go beyond
religion ; and when by reason they look for God, they miss
him ; for he is not to be found but by faith, which when
they dispute for, they find not ; because she is built and per-
suaded by other mediums than all schools of philosophy to
this day have taught. And it was because of reason, that the
religion of Jesus was so long opposed and hindered to pos-
sess the world. The philosophers would use their reason,
and their reason would not admit this new religion : and
therefore St. Paul being to remove every stone that hin-
dered, bade them to beware of " vain philosophy;" which
does not distinguish one kind of philosophy from another,
but marks all philosophy. It is all vain, when the inquiries
are into religious mysteries.


15. (7.) For is it not certain that some principles of rea-
son are against some principles of faith and Scripture? and
it is but reason, that we should hear reason wherever we find
it ; and yet we are to have no intercourse with devils, though
we were sure they would tell us of hidden treasures, or secrets
of philosophy : and upon this account it is that all genethli-
acal predictions and judicial astrology are decried by all reli-
gious persons ; for though there be great pretensions of rea-
son and art, yet they being against religion and revelation
are intolerable. In these and the like cases, reason must put
on her muffler, and we must be wholly conducted by reve-

16. These are the pretences against the use of reason in
questions of religion ; concerning which the same account
may be given, as by the Pyrrhonians and sceptics concern-
ing their arguments against the certainty of sciences. These
reasons are like physic, which if it uncertainly purges out
the humour, it most certainly purges out itself: and these
arguments either cannot prevail against the use of reason in
religion, or if they do, they prevail against themselves : for
either it is against religion to rely upon reason in religion,
or it is not : if it be not, then reason may without danger to
religion be safely relied upon in all such inquiries. But if it
be against religion to rely upon reason, then certainly these
reasons intended to prove it so, are not to be relied upon ; or
else this is no question of religion. For if this be a question
of religion, why are so many reasons used in it? If it be no
question of religion, then we may, for all these reasons to the
contrary, still use our reason in religion without prejudice to
it. And if these reasons conclude right, then we may, for
these reasons' sake, trust the proposition which says, that in
religion reason is to be used ; but if these reasons do not
conclude right, then there is no danger, but that reason
may still be used, these arguments to the contrary notwith-

17. But there is more in it than so : This foregoing dis-
course, or to the like purpose, is used by two sorts of per-
sons ; the one is by those who, in destitution of particular
arguments, make their last recourse unto authority of men.
For by how much more they press their own peremptory
affirmative, by so much the less will they endure your


reasons and arguments for the negative. But to these men
I shall only say, ' Let God be true, and every man a liar :' and
therefore if we trust men concerning God, we do not trust
God concerning men ; that is, if we speak of God as men
please, we do not think of men as God hath taught us ; viz.
that they are weak, and that they are liars : and they who
have, by artifices and little devices, acquired to themselves a
reputation, take the less care for proving what they say, by
how much the greater credulity that is, by which men have
given themselves up to be possessed by others. And if I
would have my saying to prevail whether it be right or wrong,
I shall the less endure that any man should use his own rea-
son against me. And this is one of the great evils for which
the Church of Rome hath given Christendom a great cause
to complain of her, who not only presses men to believe or
to submit to what she says upon her own authority, without
enduring them to examine whether she says true or no, but
also requires as great an assent to what she cannot prove, as
to what she can ; requiring an adherence not less than the
greatest, even to those things which she only pretends to be
able to prove by prudential motives. Indeed in these cases
if they can obtain of men to bring their faith, they are safe ;
but to come accompanied with their reason too, that is dan-

18. The other sort of men, is of those who do the same
thing under another cover ; for they not having obtained the
advantages of union or government, cannot pretend to a pri-
vileged authority : but resolving to obtrude their fancies up-
on the world, and yet not being able to prove what they say,
pretend the Spirit of God to be the author of all their theo-
rems. If they could prove him to be their author, the thing
were at an end, and all the world were bound to lay their
necks under that pleasant yoke ; but because they cannot
prove any thing, therefore it is that they pretend the Spirit
for every thing : and if the noise of so sacred a name will
persuade you, you are within the snare ; if it will not, you
are within their hatred. But it is impossible that these men
can prevail, because there are so many of them ; it is as if it
were twenty mountebanks in the piazza, and all saying they
had the only antidote in the world for poison ; and that what
was not theirs, was not at all, and yet all pretend severally.


For all men cannot have the Spirit, unless all men speak the
same thing : it were possible that even in union they might
be deceivers: but in division they cannot be right; and
therefore, since all these men pretend the Spirit, and yet all
speak several things and contradictory, they do well to desire
of us not to use our reason ; for if we do, they can never hope
to prevail ; if we do not, they may persuade, as they meet
with fools, that were not possessed before.

19. Between these two there is a third that pretends to
no authority on one hand, nor enthusiasm on the other; but
offers to prove what he says, but desires not his arguments
to be examined by reason, upon pretence that he urges
Scripture ; that is, in effect, he must interpret it ; but your
reason shall not be judge whether he says right or wrong:
for if you judge his interpretation, he says you judge of his
argument, and make reason umpire in questions of faith : and
thus his sect is continued, and the systems of divinity rely
upon a certain number of propositions from generation to
generation, and the scholar shall be no wiser than his master
for ever ; because he is taught to examine the doctrines of
his master by his master's arguments, and by no other. In
effect, they all agree in this, they would rule all the world
by religion, and they would have nobody wiser than them-
selves, but be fools and slaves, till their turn come to use
others as bad as they have been used themselves : and there-
fore, as the wolves offered peace to the sheep upon condition
they would put away their dogs ; so do these men allow us
to be Christians and disciples, if we will lay aside our reason,
which is that guard of our souls, whereby alone we can be
defended against their tyrannies and pretensions.

20. That I may therefore speak close to the inquiry, I
premise these considerations :

(1.) It is a weak and a trifling principle, which supposes
faith and reason to be opposite : for faith is but one way by

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 41 of 50)