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OR SURE CONSCIENCE. 481

34. But because the heart of man is so intricate, trifling,
and various, in most cases it must be sufficient for us to know,
that if the mixture be innocent, the whole deliberation is
secured in the kind of it, and for degrees we must do as well
as we can.

35. But, on the other side, if the secular end mixed with
the spiritual and religious, the just and the honest, be un-
lawful, and yet intended, though in a less degree, though
but accidentally and by an after-consent, the conscience is
neither sure nor right, but is dishonoured and defiled; for the
whole deliberation is made criminal by mingling with for-
bidden purposes. He that takes up arms under his prince
in a just war, and at the same time intends revenge against
his private enemy, casually engaged on the adverse party,
loses the reward of his obedience, and changes it for the
devilish pleasures of revenge.

Concerning the measure and conduct of our intentions,
there are some other things to be said, but because
they are extrinsical to the chief purpose of this rule,
they are properly to be considered under their own
head.



RULE VI.

An Argument not sufficient nor competent, though it do persuade
us to a Thing in itself good, is not the Ground of a Right ^
nor a sufficient Warrant for a sure Conscience.

1. HE that goes to public prayers because it is the custom,
or communicates at Easter to avoid a censure, hath done an
act in itself good, but his motive was neither competent nor
sufficient to make the action religious, or to manifest and
declare the conscience to be sure and right. For conscience
is the repository of practical reasons ; and as in civil actions,
we count him a fool who wears clothes only because they
cost him nothing, or walks because he would see his shadow
move upon the wall ; so it is in moral. When the reason is
incompetent, the action is by chance, neither prudent nor
chosen, alterable by a trifle, tending to a cheap end, proceed-
ing by a regardless motion ; and conscience might as well

VOL. XI. I I



482 OF THE RIGHT

be seated in the fancy, or in the foot, as in the understand-
ing, if its nature and proper design were not to be conducted
with reasons proportionable to such actions, which tend to an
end perfective of man, and productive of felicity.

2. This rule is so to be understood, that it be not required
of all men to have reasons equally good for the same de-
terminations, but sufficient and reasonable in themselves,
and apt to lead them in their proper capacities and disposi-
tions : that is, reasons proportionable to that kind of things
in which the determination is instanced, viz. a religious rea-
son for an action of religion ; a prudent reason for a civil
action ; but if it be in its proper kind, it is sufficient if it be
probable, provided always, that it makes a sure mind and a
full persuasion.

3. He that believes Christian religion, because the men
are charitable and chaste, and so taught to be, and com-
manded by the religion, is brought into a good place by a
single taper; but he came in by no false light, and he is
there where he ought to be. He did not see the way in so
brightly as St. Paul did, who was conducted in by an angel
from heaven, with a bright flame in his hand ; but he made
shift to see his way in ; and. because the light that guided
him came from heaven, his conscience was rightly instructed,
and if it persuaded him heartily, his conscience is as sure as
it is right.

4. Quest. Upon the account and consequence of this rule
it is proper to inquire, Whether it be lawf'ul and ingenuous
to go about to persuade a man to the belief of a true propo-
sition, by arguments with which himself is not persuaded,
and which he believes are not sufficient ? The case is this:

5. Girolami, a learned priest of Ferrara, finds that many
of his parishioners are infected with Judaism, by reason of
their conversation with the Jewish merchants. He studies
the Jewish books to discover the weakness of their argu-
ments, and to convince them upon their own grounds. But
finding his parishioners moved only by popular arguments,
and not capable of understanding the secrets of the old pro-
phets, the synchronisms, nor the computation of Daniel's
weeks, the infinite heaps of reasons by which Christianity
stands firm in defiance of all pretensions to the contrary ;
sees it necessary to persuade them by things as easy as those



OR SURE CONSCIENCE. 483

are by which they were abused. But then he considers ;
if they were by error led into error, it is not fit that by error
also they should be led out of it into truth, for God needs not
to be served with a lie, and evil must not be done that good
may be thence procured. But if I go by a false argument
to cozen them into truth, I tell a lie to recover them from a
lie, and it is a disparagement to the cause of God, that it
must be supported by the devil. But having discoursed thus
far, he considers further : every argument which I am able
to answer, I know cannot conclude in the question ; for if it
be to be answered, it is at most but a specious outside of
reason ; and he that knows this, or believes it so, either must
not use that instrument of persuasion, or, if he does, he must
resolve to abuse the man's understanding before he can set
it right: and this he believes to be against the honour of
truth, and the rules of charity, and the simplicity and inge-
nuity of the spirit of a Christian.

To this Question I answer by several Propositions.

6. (1.) It is not lawful to tell a lie for God and for truth ;
because God will not be served by that which he hates, and
there are no defects in truth which need such violent reme-
dies. Therefore Girolami might not, to persuade his Juda-
izing parishioners, tell them a tale of a vision, or pretend a
tradition which is not, or falsify a record ; because these are
direct arts of the devil, this is a doing evil for a good end :
and every single lie is equally hated by God, and where
there is a difference, it is made by complication, or the mix-
ing of something else with a lie ; and because God hath cre-
ated and communicated to mankind, not only sufficient but
abundant justifications of whatsoever he hath commanded
us to believe, therefore he hates infinitely to have his glorious
economy of faith and truth to be 'disordered and discom-
posed by the productions of hell. For every lie is of the
devil.

7. (2.) It is lawful to use an argument l cui potest sub-
esse falsum,' such which I know is not certain, but yet I ac-
tually believe it to be true. That is, though the argument
be not demonstrative, but probable only, yet I may safely use
it, if I believe myself to be on the right side of the proba-
bility : for a real truth and a supposed truth are all one as to



484 OF THE RIGHT

the innocence of my purposes. And he that knows how little
certainty there is in human discourses, and how " we know
in part, and prophesy in part," and that of every thing where-
of we know a little, we are ignorant in much more, must
either be content with such proportions as the things will bear,
or as himself can get, or else he must never seek to alter or
to persuade any man to be of his opinion. For the greatest
part of discourses that is in the whole world, is nothing
but a heap of probable inducements, plausibilities, and witty
entertainments : and the throng of notices is not unlike the
accidents of a battle, in which every man tells a new tale,
something that he saw, mingled with a great many things
which he saw not ; his eyes and his fear joining together
equally in the instruction and the illusion, these make up the
stories. And in the observation of things, there is infinitely
more variety than in faces, and in the contingencies of the
world. Let ten thousand men read the same books, and they
shall all make several uses, draw several notes, and under-
stand them to several effects and purposes. Knowledge is
infinite, and out of this infinity every one snatches some
things real, and some images of things ; and there are so
many cognoscitive faculties above and below, and powers
ministering to knowledge, and all these have so many ways of
being abused, or hindered, and of being imperfect ; and the
degrees of imperfection, positive, and privative, and nega-
tive, are also themselves absolutely so infinite, that to arrive
at probabilities in most things is no small progression. But
we must be content to make use of that, both for ourselves
and others.

8. Upon this account, we may quote Scriptures to those
senses which they can well serve in a question, and in which
they are used by learned men, though we suppose the prin-
cipal intention be of a different thing, so it be not contrary.
For all learned men know, that in Scripture many sayings
are full of potential significations, besides what are on the
face of the words, or in the heart of the design ; and there-
fore, although we may not allege Scriptures in a sense con-
trary to what we believe it meant; yet' to any thing beside
its first meaning, we may, if the analogy will bear it ; and if
by learned men it be so used, that is in effect, because for
aught we know it may be so indeed.



OR SURE CONSCIENCE. 485

9. (3.) If a man suppose his arguments sufficient and
competent to persuade, though they be neither fitting to per-
suade, nor at all sufficient, he may yet lawfully use them.
For in this case, though himself be deceived, yet because it is
upon the strength of those arguments he relies, he can be tied
to use no better than he hath : and since his conscience is
heartily persuaded, though it be in error, yet that which
follows that persuasion is innocent (if it be not mingled with
design) though, it may be, that which went before was not so.

10. (4.) In the persuasion of a truth, it is lawful to use
such arguments whose strength is wholly made prevailing by
the weakness of him that is to be persuaded. Such as are
arguments ' ad hominem,' that is, proportionable to the doc-
trines, customs, usages, belief, and credulity of the man. The
reasons are these :

1 . Because ignorant persons are not capable of such argu-
ments as may demonstrate the question ; and he that goes
about to draw a child to him, may pull him by the long sleeve
of his coat, and need not to hire a yoke of oxen.

2. That which will demonstrate a truth to one person,
possibly will never move another. Because our reason does
not consist in a mathematical point : and the heart of reason,
that vital and most sensible part, in which only it can be
conquered fairly, is an ambulatory essence, and not fixed ;
it wanders up and down like a floating island, or like that
which we call the life-blood ; and it is not often very easy to
hit that white, by which only our reason is brought to perfect
assent : and this needs no other proof but our daily experi-
ence, and common notices of things. That which at one
time is not regarded, at another time is a prevailing mo-
tive ; and I have observed that a discourse at one time hath
been lightly regarded, or been only pleasing to the ear,
which, a year or two after, hath made great impressions of
piety upon the spirit of the hearers. And therefore, that I
can answer the argument, it is not enough to make me think
it necessary to lay it aside or to despise it ; there may be
something in him that hears me, that can make the argument
to become perfect and effectual ; and the want of that, it may
be, in me, makes me apt to slight it. And besides that some
pretended answers are illusions rather than solutions, it may
be, that beyond my answer, a wiser man may make a reply,



486 OF THE RIGHT

and confirm the argument so as I know not : and therefore
if it be truth you persuade, it were altogether as good, and
I am sure much more easy, to let the man you persuade enter
at the first and broadest gate of the true proposition, than
after having passed through a great many turnings and laby-
rinths, at last come but to the same place where he might
first have entered. There are some witty men that can an-
swer any thing ; but suppose they could not, yet it would be
impossible that men should be tied in all cases to speak
nothing but demonstrations.

3. Some men are to be wrought upon not by direct argu-
ment, but by artifices and back-blows ; they are easy enough
to believe the truth, if they could ; and therefore you must,
to persuade them, remove their prejudices and preposses-
sions ; and to this purpose, it will not be necessary to bring
those things which are proper to the question, but things
accidental and extrinsical. They who were prejudiced at our
blessed Saviour because he was of Galilee, needed no other
argument to make them to believe in him, but to confute that
foolish proverb, "Out of Galilee cornes no good:" and yet
he that from thence thinks the question of his being the
Messias sufficiently concluded, is very far from understand-
ing the effect and powers of argument.

4. The hinderances of belief are seated in several faculties,
in our fancy, in our will, in our appetite : now in these cases
there is no way to persuade, but by arguing so as to prevail
with that faculty. If any man should say that our blessed
Saviour is not yet come in the flesh, upon a foolish fancy
that he believes not that God would honour such a wicked
nation with so great a glory, as that the Saviour of the world
should be born of them ; he needs no argument to persuade
him to be a Christian, but by having it proved to him, that
it was not only likely, but really so, and necessary it should
be so, not only for the verification of the prophecies of him,
but for divers congruities in the nature and circumstances of
things. Here the argument is to confute the fancy only, not
the reason.

5. Sometimes the judgment is right, but the affections
are perverse ; and then, not demonstrations, but popular
arguments, are not only lawful, but useful and sufficient. For
reasons of abstracted speculation move not the lower man.



OR SURE CONSCIENCE. 487

Make the people in love with your proposition, and cause
them to hate the contrary, and you have done all that they are
capable of. When some divines in Germany were forced for
their own defence to gain the people to their party, they dis-
puted against the absolute decree of reprobation, by telling
them that their adversaries' doctrine did teach that God did
drag the pretty children from their mothers' breasts, and
throw many of them into the eternal portion of devils : this
moved the women, who follow reason as far as they can be
made in love with it, and their understanding is oftentimes
more in their heart than in their head. And there are thou-
sands of people, men and women, who believe upon no other
account than this, neither can they be taught otherwise.
When St. Paul would persuade the Jews to reason, and from
laying violent hands upon him ; he was not to attempt it by
offering undeniably to prove that he did well by going to the
Gentiles, since God had rejected the Jews, excepting a rem-
nant only : but he persuaded them by telling them he did
nothing against the law of Moses and the temple.

6. There are some fondnesses and strange adherences
to trifles in most people, humours of the nation, love of the
advantage of their families, relations to sects or dignities,
natural sympathies and antipathies, in a correspondence to
which, all those arguments which are dressed are like to
prevail, and cannot otherwise do it. For when a man's
understanding is mingled with interest, his arguments must
have something of this, or else they will never stir that : and
therefore all our arguments cannot be freed from such allays.

7. In all the discourses of men, not only orators, but
philosophers, and even in their severest discourses, all the
good and all the wise men of the world heap together many
arguments, who yet cannot suppose them all certain; but
yet they therefore innocently use them, because, as there are
several capacities of men to be dealt withal, so there are
several notices of things ; and that may be highly concluding,
which, it maybe, is not well represented, and therefore not
fancied or observed by him that uses it ; and to another it
becomes effective because he does.

8. The Holy Spirit of God himself, in his intercourses with
men, is pleased to descend to our capacities, and to use argu-
ments taken from our own principles, and which prevail



488 OF THE RIGHT

more by silencing us, rather than demonstrating the thing.
Thus St. Paul in his arguments for the resurrection uses this ;
" If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your
faith is also vain." x There are some, even too many now-
adays, and many more then, who would have granted both
the antecedent and the consequent ; but because the Co-
rinthians disavowed the consequent, they were forced to
admit the antecedent. And at last, thousands of persons
could never be drawn from their error, if we might not make
use of arguments, weak like their capacities, and more pro-
portionable to their understanding than to the question.

There are two cautions to be added to make the rule
perfect :

1. That if the disciple, relying upon his master's authority
more than his own ability to judge, ask the doctor, whether
upon his knowledge and faith that argument does evict the
question ; if the doctor himself does not believe it, he must
then put no more force upon it by his affirmation and autho-
rity, than he thinks it does in nature bear ; but must give
prudent accounts of the whole question in compliance to the
present necessity of the demander.

Of the same consideration it is, when a question being
disputed between two parties, the standers-by expect the
truest and most proper account of things. In this case, all
openness and ingenuity is to be used according to our own
sense of things, not according to what may comply with any
man's weakness ; and the not doing so is want of ingenuity,
and the worthiness of Christian charity, and a perfect deceiv-
ing them who expect and desire such things as ought to be
finally relied upon.

2. In all arguments which are to prevail by the weak-
ness or advantages taken from the man, he that goes about
to persuade, must not say any thing that he knows to be
false ; but he must comply and twist about the man's weak-
ness, so as to be innocent all the way. Let him. take him that
is weak and wrap him in swaddling-clothes, but not encom-
pass him with snakes: but yet this hath one loose and per-
mission that may be used.

11. (3.) It is lawful for a man, in persuading another to a
truth, to make use of a false proposition, which he that is to

* i Cor. xv. 14.



OR SURE CONSCIENCE. 489

be persuaded, already doth believe : that is, a man may
justly dispute upon the supposition, not upon the concession
and granting of an error. Thus St. Paul disputed with the
Corinthians, and to induce them into a belief of the resur-
rection, made use of a foolish custom among them in use, of
being baptized for the dead. For the Christian Church hath
but two sacraments, baptism, and the Lord's supper; at the
beginning some of the Christians used baptism, and in suc-
ceeding ages they used to celebrate the Lord's supper for
the dead, and do to this day in the Church of Rome. Upon
this fond custom of theirs, St. Paul thus argues : ' If there be
no resurrection, then it is to no purpose that you are bap-
tized for the dead ; but that is to purpose (as you suppose),
therefore there is a resurrection.' Thus prayer for the dead,
and invocation of saints, according to the principles taught
in the Primitive Church, might have been made use of against
each other. If all men are imperfect till the day of judg-
ment, and till then enter not into heaven, then you cannot
with confidence make prayers for them, who, for aught you
know, need your help more : but if all that die well, that is,
if all that die in the Lord, do instantly enjoy the beatifical
vision, and so are in a condition to be prayed to, then they
need not be prayed for. As for the middle place, they in
those ages knew no such thing, as men have since dreamed
of. As God in such cases makes use of a prepared wicked-
ness, though he infers none, much less does he make any to
be necessary and unavoidable ; so may good men and wise
make use of a prepared error, a falsehood already believed ;
but they must neither teach nor betray any one into it.

The objections mentioned in the state of this question,
are already answered in the stating the propositions.

But now arises another question, and the solution will
follow upon the same grounds.

12. Quest. Whether it be lawful, for a good end, for
preachers to affright men with panic terrors, and to create
fears that have no ground ; as to tell them, if they be liars,
their faces will be deformed ; if they be perjured, the devil
will haunt them in visible shapes ; if they be sacrilegious,
they shall have the leprosy ; or any thing whereby weak
and ignorant people can be most wrought upon ?

I answer briefly :



490 OF THE RIGHT

13. There are terrors enough in the New Testament to
affright any man from his sins, who can be wrought upon
by fear : and if all that Moses and the prophets say, and all
that Christ and his apostles published, be not sufficient, then
nothing can be. For I am sure nothing can be a greater or
more formidable evil than hell ; and no terrors can bring
greater affrightment than those which are the proper portion
of the damned. But the measures of the permission and
liberty that can be used, are these :

14. (1.) A preacher or governor may affright those that
are under him, and deter them from sin, by threatening them
with any thing which probably may happen. So he may
denounce a curse upon the estate of sacrilegious persons,
robbers of churches, oppressors of priests, and widows, and
orphans ; and particularly, whatsoever the widow or orphan
in the bitterness of their souls do pray, may happen upon
such evil persons ; or what the Church in the instruments of
donation have expressed : as, to die childless ; to be afflicted
with the gout ; to have an ambulatory life, the fortune of a
penny, since for that he forsakes God and his religion ; a
distracted mind or fancy, or any thing of this nature. For
since the curses of this life and of the other are indefinitely
threatened to all sinners, and some particularly to certain
sins, as want is to the detainers of tithes, a wandering fortune
to church-robbers ; y it is not unreasonable, and therefore it
is lawful to make use of such particulars as are most likely
to be effective upon the consciences of sinners.

15. (2.) It is lawful to affright men with the threatening
of any thing that is possible to happen in the ordinary effects
of Providence. For every sin is against an infinite God, and
his anger is sometimes the greatest, and can produce what
evil he please ; and he uses to arm all his creatures against
sinners, and sometimes strikes a stroke with his own hand,
and creates a prodigy of example to perpetuate a fear upon
men to all ages.

But this is to be admitted with these cautions :

1. It must be done so as to be limited within those ways,

which need not suppose a miracle to have them effected.

Thus to threaten a sinner in England, that if he profanes the

holy sacrament, a tiger shall meet him in the churchyard,

J Malacbi, iii. 8, &c. Psalm Ixxiiii. 13.



OR SURE CONSCIENCE. 491

and tear hirn, is so improbable and unreasonable, that it
is therefore not to be done, lest the authority, and the
counsel, and the threatening:, become ridiculous : but we
have warrant to threaten him with diseases, and sharp
sicknesses, and temporal death ; and the warrant is derived
from a precedent in Scripture, God's dealing with the
Corinthian communicants. 2

2. He who thus intends to dissuade, must in prudence
be careful that he be not too decretory and determinate in
the particular; but either wholly instance in general threat-
enings, or with exceptive and cautious terms in the particular ;
as, ' Take heed lest such an evil happen ;' or, ' It is likely it
may ;' and ' We have no security for a minute against it;'
and * So God hath done to others.'

3. Let these be only threatenings, not prophecies, lest the
whole dispensation become contemptible ; and therefore let
all such threatenings be understood with a provision, that if
such things do not happen, the man hath not escaped God's
anger, but is reserved for worse. God walketh upon the
face of the waters, and his footsteps are not seen ; but,



Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 11) → online text (page 46 of 50)