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spiritual things, then reason can do all its intentions.

57. To the second I answer, that therefore humility and
piety are the best dispositions to the understanding the
secrets of the Gospel.

(1.) Because these do remove those prejudices and
obstructions which are bars and fetters to reason ; and
the humble man does best understand, because the proud
man will not inquire, or he will not labour, or he will not
understand any proposition that makes it necessary for him
to lay aside his employment or his vanity, his interest or his

(2.) These are indeed excellent dispositions to understand-
ing, the best moral instruments, but not the best natural :
if you are to dispute against a heathen, a good reason will
sooner convince him than an humble thought ; if you be to
convert a Jew, an argument from the old prophets is better
to him than three or four acts of a gracious comportment.

(3.) Sometimes by way of blessing and reward, God gives
understanding to good persons, which to the evil he denies ;
but this which effects any thing by way of Divine blessing,
is not to be supposed the best natural instrument. Thus the
divines say, that the fire of hell shall torment souls, " tanquam
instrumentum divinae voluntatis," as the instrument in the
hand of a voluntary and almighty agent, but not as a thing
apportioned properly to such an event, for the worm of
conscience is more apt to that purpose.

(4.) And when we compare man with man, so it is true that
the pious man should be sooner instructed than the impious,
' caeteris paribus ;' but if we compare discourse and piety,
reason and humility, they excel each other in their several
kinds, as wool is better than a diamond, and yet a diamond is
to be preferred before a bag of wool ; they operate to the same
purpose of understanding in several manners : and whereas it
is said in the argument, that " the doctrine of the cross was
foolishness to the Greeks," it is true, but nothing to the
present question. For therefore it was foolishness to them,
because they had not been taught in the secrets of God, they


were not instructed how God would, by a way so contrary
to flesh and blood, cause the spirits of just men to be made
perfect. And they who were wise by Plato's philosophy,
and only well skilled in Aristotle, could do nothing in the
schools of Jesus, because they were not instructed in those
truths by which such proceedings were to be measured ; but
still, reason is the great wheel, though, according as the
motion was intended, new weights must be proportioned

58. The third objection presses upon the point of duty,
and ' because the Scripture requires obedience of understand-
ing, and submitting our most imperious faculties, therefore
reason is to be excluded :' to this I answer, that we must
submit our understanding to God, is very true, but that is
only when God speaks. But because we heard him not, and
are only told that God did speak, our reason must examine
whether it be fit to believe them that tell us so ; for some
men have spoken falsely, and we have great reason to believe
God, when all the reason in the world commands us to sus-

,pect the offerings of some men ; and although we ought, for
the greatest reasons, submit to God, yet we must judge and
discern the sayings of God, from the pretences of men; and
how that can be done without using our reason in the in-
quiries of religion, is not yet discovered : but for the obedience
of understanding, it consists in these particulars :

The Particulars in which Obedience of Understanding consists.

59. (1.) That we submit to God only and not to man;
that is, to God wherever it appears reasonable to be believed
that he hath spoken, but never to man, unless he hath
authority from reason or religion to command our conformity.

60. (2.) That those things which, by the abuse and
pretence of reason, are passed into a fictitious and usurped
authority, make no part of our religion ; for because we are
commanded to submit our understanding to God, therefore
we must " call no man master upon earth ;" therefore it is
certain that we must not believe the reports or opinions of
men against a revelation of God. He that communicates
with holy bread only, and gives not the chalice to all God's
people that require the holy communion, does openly adhere


to a fond custom and authority of abused men, and leaves
the express, clearest, undeniable institution of God.

61. (3.) When reason and revelation seem to disagree,
let us so order ourselves, that so long as we believe this to
be a revelation, no pretence or reason may change our
belief from it : if right or sufficient reason can persuade us
that this is not a revelation, well and good; but if reason
leaves us in the actual persuasion that it is so, we must force
our reason to comply with this, since no reason does force
us to quit this wholly ; and if we cannot quit our reason or
satisfy it, let us carry ourselves with modesty, and confess
the revelation, though with profession of our ignorance and
unskilfulness to reconcile the two litigants.

62. (4.) That whatsoever is clearly and plainly told us,
we obey it, and rest in it, and not measure it by the rules of
folly and weak philosophy, or the sayings of men, in which
error may be ingredient; but when things are unequal, that
is, when we can doubt concerning our reason, and cannot
doubt concerning the revelation, we make no question, but
prefer this before that.

63. (5.) That in particular inquiries, we so order our-
selves as to make this the general measure, that we never do
violence to the word of God, or suspect that, but resolve
rather to call ourselves liars, than that religion should receive
detriment; and rather quit our arguments than hazard an
article ; that is, that when all things are equal, we rather
prefer the pretence of revelation, than the pretences of
reason, for the reverence of that and the suspicion of this.
Beyond this we can do no more.

64. To the fourth I answer, that it is true, reason is falli-
ble ; or rather, to speak properly, ratiocination, or the using
of reason, is subject to abuse and deception; for reason itself
is not fallible ; but if reason, that is, reasonings, be fallible,
so are the pretences of revelation subject to abuse; and what
are we now the nearer ? Some reasons are but probable, and
some are certain and confessed, and so it is in the sense of
scriptures ; some are plain and need no interpreter, no dis-
course, no art, no reasonings, to draw out their sense ; but
many are intricate and obscure, secret and mysterious ; and
to use a fallible reasoning to draw out an obscure and un-
certain sense of Scripture, is sometimes the best way we


have, and then we must make the best of it we can : but the
use of reasoning is not only to find out truth the best we can,
but sometimes we are as sure of it as of light; but then and
always our reason (such as it is) must lead us into such pro-
portions of faith as they can : according as our reason or
motives are, so ordinarily is the degree of our faith.

65. To the fifth I need give no other answer but this,
that it confesses the main question ; for if this be the greatest
reason in the world, 'God hath said it, therefore it is true,' it
follows, that all our faith relies upon this one reason ; but be-
cause this reason is of no use to us till the minor proposition
be reproved, and that it appear that God hath said it, and
that in the inquiry after that, we are to use all our reason;
the consequent is, that in the first and last, reason lends legs
to faith, and nothing can be wisely believed, but what can,
by some rational inducement, be proved. As for the last pro-
position in the objection, 'This is against Scripture, therefore
it is absurd and unreasonable,' I have already made it appear
to be an imprudent and useless affirmative.

66. The sixth objection complains of them that by weak
reasonings lose their religion, but this is nothing against
right reasoning: for because mountebanks and old women
kill men by vile physic, therefore is it true, that the wise dis-
courses of physicians cannot minister to health? Half-witted
people talk against God, and make objections against reli-
gion, and themselves have not wit or will enough to answer
them, and they intending to make reason to be the positive
and affirmative measure of religion, are wholly mistaken,
and abuse themselves and others. 2. We are not to exact
every thing in religion according to our weak reasonings;
but whatsoever is certain in reason, religion cannot contra-
dict that; but what is uncertain or imperfect, religion often-
times does instruct and amend it. But there are many
mysteries of religion contrary to reason, corrupted with evil
manners; and many are contrary to reason, corrupted with
false propositions; now these men make objections, which
upon their own principles they can never answer : but that
which seems impossible to vicious persons, is reason to good
men; and that which children and fools cannot answer,
amongst wise men hath no difficulty ; and ' the ignorant and
the unstable wrest some scriptures to their own damnation :'


but concerning the new atheists that pretend to wit, it is not
their reason, but their want of reason, that makes them such ;
for if either they had more learning, or did believe themselves
to have less, they could never be atheists.

67. To the last I answer, (1.) that it is reason we should
hear reason wherever we find it, if there be no greater evil
brought by the teacher than he can bring good; but if a
heretic preaches good things, it is not always lawful to hear
them, unless when we are out of danger of his abuses also.
And thus truth from the devil may be heard, if we were out
of his danger; but because he tells truth to evil purposes,
and makes wise sayings to become craft, it is not safe to
hear him. (2.) But besides this, although it is lawful to
believe a truth which the devil tells us, yet it is not lawful to
go to school to the devil, or to make inquiries of him; because
he that does so, makes him his master, and gives something
of God's portion to God's enemy. As for judicial astrology
and genethliacal predictions, for my part I therefore reprove
them, not because their reason is against religion, for cer-
tainly it cannot be ; but because I think they have not
reason enough in what they say; they go upon weak princi-
ples which they cannot prove ; they reduce them to practice
by impossible mediums ; they draw conclusions with artless
and unskilful heads ; they argue about things with which
they have little conversation ; they cannot make scientifical
progress in their profession, but out of greediness to do
something; they usually, at least are justly suspected to,
take in auxiliaries from the spirits of darkness ; they have
always spoken uncertainly, and most part falsely; and have
always lived scandalously in their profession : they have by
all religions been cried down, trusted by none but fools and
superstitious people ; and therefore, although the art may be
very lawful, if the stars were upon the earth, or the men
were in heaven, if they had skill in what they profess, and
reason in all their pretences, and after all that their prin-
ciples were certain, and that the stars did really signify
future events, and that those events were not overruled by
every thing in heaven and in earth, by God, and by our own
will and wisdom, yet because here is so little reason, and
less certainty, and nothing but confidence and illusion,
therefore it is that religion permits them not ; and it is not


the reason in this art, that is against religion, but the folly
or the knavery of it, and the dangerous and horrid conse-
quents, which they feel, that run a-whoring after such idols
of imagination. /


A Judgment of Nature, or Inclination, is not sufficient to
make a sure Conscience.

1. BECAUSE this rule is of good use, not only for making
judgment concerning the states of some men, but also iu
order to many practices, it will not be lost labour to consider
that there are three degrees of practical judgment.

2. The first is called an inclination, or the first natural con-
sonancy between the faculty or disposition of man, and some
certain actions. All men are naturally pitiful in some degree,
unless their nature be lame and imperfect : as we say, all
men naturally can see, and it is true, if they have good eyes :
so all men naturally are pitiful, unless they have no bowels;
but some more, some less. And therefore there is in their
natures a convenience, or agreeing between their dispositions
and acts of charity. 1. In the lowest sort there is an apt-
ness to it. 2. In the sweeter and better natures there is a
virtual charity. 3. But in those that consider, and choose,
and observe the commandment, or the proportions of right
reason, there is in these only a formal, deliberative, com-
pound, or practical judgment.

3. Now concerning the first sort, that is, the natural dis-
position or first propensity, it is but a remote disposition
towards a right conscience and a practical judgment ; because
it may be rescinded, or diverted by a thousand accidents,
and is nothing else but a relic of the shipwreck which Adam
and all the world hare made, and may pass into nothing as
suddenly as it came. He that sees two cocks fight, though
he have no interest in either, will assist one of them at least
by an ineffective pity and desire : but this passes no further
than to natural effects, or the changes or affections of a load-
stone ; it may produce something in nature, but nothing in



4. Concerning the second, that is, a virtual judgment,
that is, a natural inclination passing forth into habit or cus-
tom, and delight in the actions of some virtues; it is certain
that it is one part of the grace of God, and a more promoted
and immediate disposition to the virtue of its kind than the
former. Some men are naturally very merciful, and some
are abstemious, and some are continent : and these in the
course of their life take in every argument and accidental
motive, and the disposition swells, and the nature is confirmed.
But still it is but nature. The man, it may be, is chaste,
because he hates the immodesty of those addresses which
prepare to uncleanness ; or he loves his quiet, or fears the
accidents of his enemy-crime ; or there was a terror infused
into him by the sight of a sad spectacle, the evil reward of an
adulterous person :

Quosdam moechos dura mugilis intrat (Juo. x. 317.)

Concerning this kind of virtual judgment, or confirmed
nature, I have two things to say '

5. (1.) That this virtual judgment can produce love or
hatred to certain objects, ineffective complacences or dis-
relishes respectively, proper antipathies and aversations from

" a whole kind of objects ; such as was that hatred that Tamer-
lane had to Zercon, or some men to cats. And thus much
we cannot deny to be produced by the operation and simple
apprehension of our senses by pictures and all impressions
of fancy : " Cum opinamur difficile aliquid aut terribile, sta-
tim compatimur: secundum imaginem autem similiter nos
habemus." k We find effects and impresses according to the
very images of things we see, and by their prime apprehen-
sions ; and therefore much rather may these ' actus imperati,'
or more natural and proper effects and affections of will, be
entertained or produced respectively. Men at first sight fall

Jn love with women, and that against their reason, and reso-
lution, and counsel, and interest, and they cannot help it ;
and so they may do with some actions of virtue. And as in
the first case they are rather miserable than vicious, so in
this they are rather fortunate than virtuous : and they may
be commended, as we praise a fair face, or a strong arm, an
athletic health, or a good constitution; and it is indeed a

k Vide Aristot. de Anima, lib. ii. text. 154.


very good disposition and a facilitation of a virtuous choice.

6. (2.) This virtual judgment, which is nothing but na-
ture confirmed by accidents, is not a state of good by which
a man is acceptable to God. Neither is it a sufficient prin-
ciple of a good life, nor indeed of the actions of its own kind.
Not of good life, because it may be in a single instance ; and
it can never be in all. The man that is good-natured, that
is naturally meek and loving, goes the furthest upon this
account ; but without the conjunction of other virtues, it is a
great way off from that good state, whither naturally it can
but tend and incline : and we see some good things are made
to serve some evil ; and by temperance, and a moderate diet,
some preserve their health that they may not preserve their
chastity : arid they may be habitually proud because they
are naturally chaste ; and then this chastity is no virtue, but
a disposition and an aptness only. In this sense that of
St. James may be affirmed ; " He that offends in one is guilty of
all;" that is, if his inclinations, and his accidentally acquired
habits, be such as to admit a mixture, they are not genuine
and gracious : such are these that are the effects of a nature
fitted towards a particular virtue. It must be a higher prin-
ciple that makes an entire piety ; nature and the habits grow-
ing upon her stock cannot do it. Alexander was a continent
prince, and the captive beauties of Persia were secured by it
in their honours ; but by rage he destroyed his friend, and
by drunkenness he destroyed himself.

But neither is this virtual judgment a sufficient prin-
ciple of the actions of its own kind ; for this natural strength
is nothing but an uneasiness and unaptness to suffer by
common temptations ; but place the man where he can be
tempted, and this good disposition secures him not, because
there may be something in nature bigger than it.

7. It remains then, that to the constitution of a right and
sure conscience, there is required a formal judgment, that is,
a deliberation of the understanding, and a choice of the will,
that being instructed, and this inclined by the grace of God :
" Tantoque laudabilior munificentia nostra fore videbatur,
quod ad illam non impetu quodam, sed consilio trahebamur,"
paid Secundus : ' then it is right and good, then when it is not

1 Lib. i. ep. 8. sect. ix. Gierig. vol. i. p. 33.


violent, necessary, or natural, but when it is chosen. This
makes a right and sure conscience, because the grace of God
hath a universal influence into all the course of our actions.
" For he that said, Do not kill, said also, Do not steal :" and
if he obeys in one instance, for that reason must obey in all,
or be condemned by himself, and then the conscience is right
in the principle and fountain, though defiled in the issue and
emanation. For he that is condemned by his own conscience
hath the law written, and the characters still fair, legible, and
read ; but then the fault is in something else ; the will is
corrupted. The sum is this :

8. It is not enough that the conscience be taught by
nature, but it must be taught by God, conducted by reason,
made operative by discourse, assisted by choice, instructed
by laws and sober principles ; and then it is right, and it
may be sure.


When two Motives concur to the Determination of an Action,
whereof one is virtuous, and the other secular, a right
Conscience is not prejudiced by that Mixture.

1. HE that fasts to punish himself for his sins, and at the
same time intends his health, though it will be very often
impossible for him to tell himself which was the final and
prevailing motive and ingredient into the persuasion, yet it
is no detriment to his conscience ; the religious motive alone
did suffice to make it to be an act of a good conscience ; and
if the mixture of the other could change this, it could not be
lawful to use, or in any degree to be persuaded by, the pro-
mises of those temporal blessings which are recorded in both
Testaments, and to which there is a natural desire, and proper
inclination. But this also is with some difference.

2. If the secular ingredient be the stronger, it is, in the
same degree as it prevails over the virtuous or religious, a
diminution of the worthiness of the action ; but if it be a
secular blessing under a promise, it does not alter the whole
kind of the action. The reason is this : Because whatever


God hath promised is therefore desirable and good, because
he hath promised it, or he hath promised it because it is of
itself good and useful to us ; and, therefore, whatever we
may innocently desire we may innocently intend : but if it be
mingled with a religious and spiritual interest, it ought not
to sit down in the highest place, because a more worthy is
there present, lest we be found to be passionate for the things
of this life, and indifferent for God and for religion.

3. If the secular or temporal ingredient be not under a
promise, and yet be the prime and chief motive, the whole
case is altered : the conscience is not right ; it is natural in-
clination, not conscience ; it is sense of interest, not duty.
He that gives alms with a purpose to please his prince, who
is charitable and religious, although his purpose be innocent,
yet because it is an end which God hath not encouraged by
propounding it as a reward of charity, the whole deliberation
is turned to be a secular action, and passes without reward.
Our blessed Saviour hath, by an instance of his own, deter-
mined this case. " When thou makest a feast, call not
the rich, who can make thee recompense, but call the poor,
and thou shalt have reward in heaven." To call the rich to
a feast is no sin ; but to call them is to lose the reward of
charity, by changing the whole nature of the action from
charity to civility, from religion to prudence.

4. And this hath no other exception or variety in it, but
when the mixture is of a thing that is so purely natural, that
it is also necessary : thus to eat upon a festival-day to satisfy
a long hunger, to be honestly employed to get a living, do
not cease to be religious, though that which is temporal be
the first and the greatest cause of the action or undertaking.
But the reason of this difference, if any be apprehended, is
because this natural end is also a duty, and tacitly under a

5. Quest. It is usually required that all that enter into
the holy offices of the ministry should so primely and prin-
cipally design the glory of God, that all other consider-
ations should scarce be ingredients into the resolution : and
yet if it be inquired how far this is obligatory, and observe
how little it is attended to in the first preparations to the
order, the very needs of most men will make the question


But I answer to the question in proportion to the sense
of the present rule.

6. (1.) Wherever a religious act by God's appointment
may serve a temporal and a spiritual, to attend either is law-
ful ; but it is still more excellent by how much preference
and greater zeal we more serve the more excellent. There-
fore, although it be better to undertake the sacred function
wholly for ends spiritual, yet it is lawful to enter into it with
an actual design to make that calling the means of our natu-


ral and necessary support. The reason is,

7. Because it is lawful to intend what God hath offered
and propounded. The end which God hath made cannot be
evil, and, therefore, it cannot be evil to choose that instru-
ment to that end, which by God's appointment is to minister
to that end. Now, since " God hath ordained that they who
preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel," it cannot be
unlawful to design that in order to this.

8. (2.) If our temporal support and maintenance be the
first and immediate design, it makes not the whole under-
taking to be unlawful. For all callings, and all states, and
all actions, are to be directed or done to the glory of God ;
according to that saying of St. Paul, " Whether ye eat or
drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God:"
and that one calling should be more for God's glory than
another, is by reason of the matter and employment ; but in
every one, for its portion still, God's glory must be the prin-
cipal ; and yet no man questions but it is lawful for any man
to bring his son up to the most gainful trade, if in other

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 44 of 50)