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issue of the question :

36. It is not intended that a man should every time
weep when he thinks of his sins ; sometimes he must give
thanks to God for his escape, and rejoice in the memory of
the Divine mercies, and please himself in the promises of
pardon, and do acts of eucharist and holy festivity. But


even these acts of spiritual joy, if they endear our duty, they
destroy our sin ; if they make us to love God, they make us
to hate sin ; if they be acts of piety, they are acts of repent-
ance. So that when it is said, at every thought of your sin
you must do something of repentance, if you do any act at
all, this is nothing else but a calling upon us for the particu-
lars, and to pursue the methods of a good life. For repent-
ance is the conversion of the whole man, an entire aversation
from evil, and a full return to God ; and every action of
amendment, every prayer for pardon, and every mortification
of our desires, every observation and caution against danger,
all actions of a holy fear, and every act of hope, even our
' alms and mercy to the poor, is a breaking off our sins,'" and
therefore an action of repentance. So that if there can be
any time of our life in which a sinner may not serve God and
yet be innocent, then it will be allowed at some time to think
of our sin and consider it, and yet not to do an act of repent-
ance ; but in no case else can it be allowed.

37. So that by this discourse we have obtained all the
significations of ' hodie, to-day,' and they all relate to re-
pentance. For though it signifies the present time as to the
beginning of this duty, yet it signifies our whole life after
that beginning, that is our ' hodie, to-day,' we must begin
now and continue to do the same work all our days. Our
repentance must begin this day by the computations of time,
and it must not be put off one day, yet it must go on by the
measures of eternity. As soon as ever and as long as ever
we can say * Hodie,' it is 'To-day,' so soon and so long we
must repent. This is as certain in divinity as a demonstra-
tion in mathematics.

38. The sum is this : If by repentance we mean nothing
but sorrow, then it hath its season, and does not bind always
to all times. But if by repentance we understand a change
of life, to which sorrow is only instrumental and prepara-
tory, then it is our duty always to repent. That is, if you
do any thing at all it must be good : even to abide in good-
ness, to resolve not to sin, to love not to sin, to proceed
or to abide in innocence by choice and by delight, by custom
and resolution, are actions of a habitual repentance ; but
repentance is never safe till it be habitual ; but then also it

n Dan. iy.


is so much the more perfect, by how much it is the more

39. To conclude this inquiry, we must pray often, but
we must repent always : and it is in these affirmative pre-
cepts as it is in the matter of life and eating ; we must eat at
certain times and definite seasons, but we must live continu-
ally. Repentance is the new life of a Christian ; and there-
fore we must no more ask when we are bound to repent, than
when we are by nature required to breathe. The motion
must return speedily, or we die with strangling.


Because the Laws of Jesus Christ were delivered in Sermons
to a single Person, or a definite Number of Hearers, we
are curiously to inquire and wisely to understand, when
those Persons were only personally concerned, and when
they were Representatives of the whole Church.

1. THIS rule I learn from St. Austin ; a " Erit igitur hoc in
observationibus intelligendarum Scripturarum, ut sciamus
alia omnibus communiter preecipi, alia singulis quibusque
generibus personarum : ut non solum ad universum statum
valetudinis, sed etiam ad suam cujusque membri propriam
infirmitatem medicina pertineat ; Some things are given, to
all, others but to a few ; and some commands were to single
persons and single states: God having regard to the well-
being of societies, and to the health even of every single
Christian." That there is a necessity of making a distinc-
tion is certain ; but how this distinction is to be made is very
uncertain, and no measures have yet been described, and we
are very much to seek for a certain path in this intricacy.
If we do not distinguish precept from precept, and persons
from states of life, and states of life from communities of
men, it will be very easy for witty men to bind burdens upon
other men's shoulders with which they ought not to be
pressed ; and it will be very ready for scrupulous persons to
take loads upon themselves which appertain not to them,

a Lib. iii. de Doctrina Christiana, c. 17.


and 1 very many will dispute themselves out of their duty, and
say, 'Quid ad me? lam not concerned here;' and the
conscience shall be unguided and undetermined, while the
laws of order shall themselves lie undistinguished and undis-
cerned in confusion and indiscrimination. There must be
care taken of this ; or else cases of conscience will extremely
multiply to no purposes but those of danger and restless
scruple. The best measures that I know are these :

2. (1.) There are some precepts which are, by all men,
confessed to be general, and some are everywhere known to
be merely personal ; and by proportion to these we can be
helped to take account of others. When Abraham, as a
trial of his obedience, was commanded to sacrifice his son,
this was alone a commandment given to that man concern-
ing that child, at that time, and to that purpose. So when
he was commanded to forsake his country and go to Canaan,
this was personal, and could not be drawn into example :
and no man could think that if he should kill his son, or
leave his country, he should be rewarded for his obedience.
For the commandments given to persons are individuated as
the persons themselves are, by time, and place, and circum-
stances, and a singular nature, a particular soul : so is the
commandment also ; it is made circumstantiate by all that
is in and about it : and the reason of a man and his observa-
tion are the competent and final judge of these things ; and
no man is further required to look after significations of that
which is notorious. Others also are as certainly and con-
fessedly general; such as were the Ten Commandments to
the children of Israel ; they were given to all the people, pro-
claimed to the whole nation, expressly spoken to them all,
exacted of them all, and under the same reason, and upon
the same conditions. Now here are some proportions, by
which we may guess at others.

3. (2.) For whatsoever related wholly to a person, or was
determined by a circumstance, or was the relative of time,
that passes no obligation beyond the limits and definitions
of those circumstances. Upon this account, all the ceremo-
nial and judicial laws of the Jews have lost their obligation.
The service that related to a temple that is now destroyed,
and was to be performed by a priesthood that is expired,
can no longer be a law of conscience. Thus the command


which Christ gave, that his brethren should follow him into
Galilee after the resurrection, was wholly personal. The
apostles were commanded to untie another man's ass, and
without asking leave to bring him to Christ; the command
was wholly relating to that occasion, and gives no man war-
rant to take another man's goods for pious uses without his
leave. Circumstances are to actions like hedges to the
grounds, they divide, and defend, and assign every man's
portion. And, in these cases, ordinary prudence is a sufficient

4. (3.) Whatsoever precept was given to many, if it was
succeeded to by another that is inconsistent, or of a quite
differing nature and circumstance, the former is, by the
latter, declared to have been personal, relative, temporary,
and expired ; and nothing of it can be drawn into direct
obligation. When our blessed Saviour sent out the seventy-
two disciples by two and two, he commanded them to go
without sword, or shoes, or bag, and that they should not go
into the way of the Gentiles. That these commandments
were temporary and relative to that mission, appears by the
following mission after Christ's resurrection ; by which they
received command, that they should go into the way of the
Gentiles, that they should ' teach all nations.' Therefore,
besides the special and named permissions in this second
legation, as that they might now wear a sword, that they might
converse with heathens, it is certain that those other clauses
of command, which were not expressly revoked, are not
obligatory by virtue of the first sanction and commandment.
And therefore if any man shall argue, ' Christ, when he sent
forth his disciples to preach, commanded that they should
not go from house to house, but where they did first enter,
there to abide till the time of their permitted departure,
therefore it is not lawful to change from one church to an-
other, from a less to a greater, from a poorer to a richer,' will
argue very incompetently and inartificially ; for all the com-
mandments then given were relative to that mission : and if
any thing were inserted of a universal or perpetual obli-
gation, it is to be attended to upon some other account, not
upon the stock of this mission and its relative precepts.

5. (4.) It is not enough to prove a precept to be perpetual
and general, that it is joined with a body of precepts that are


so, though there be no external mark of difference. Thus we
find, in the ten words of Moses, one commandment for rest-
ing upon the seventh day from the creation : it is there
equally prescribed, but fortified with reasons and authority,
more laboriously pressed, and without all external sign of
difference to distinguish the temporary obligation of this
from the perpetuity of the other ; and yet all the Christian
Church esteem themselves bound by the other, but at liberty
for this day. But then we understand our liberty by no
external mark appendant to the sanction, but by the natural
signature of the thing. The nature of the precept was cere-
monial and typical ; and though to serve God be moral and
eternal duty, yet to serve him by resting upon that day, or
upon any day, is not moral ; and it was not enjoined in that
commandment at all that we should spend that day in the
immediate service of God and offices of religion: and it was


declared by St. Paul to be 'a shadow of good things to come ;'
and by our blessed Lord it was declared to be of a yielding
nature, and intended to give place to charity and other moral
duties, even to religion itself, or the immediate service of God.
For though the commandment was a precept merely of rest,
and doing no labour was the sanctification of the day, yet,
that the priests in the temple might worship God according
to the rites of their religion, they were permitted to work,
viz. to kill the beasts of sacrifice, which Christ called pro-
faning of the Sabbath, and in so doing he affirms them to
have been blameless. From thence, that is, from the natural
signature of the thing commanded, and from other collateral
notices, we come to understand that in the heap of moral and
eternal precepts, a temporary, transient, and relative did lie :
and the reason why there was no difference made, or distinc-
tive mark given in the decalogue, is because there was no
difference to be made by that nation to whom they were
given ; but as soon as that dispensation and period was to
determine, then God gave us those marks and notes of dis-
tinction which I have enumerated, and which were sufficient
to give us witness. So that if a whole body of command-
ments be published, and it be apparent that most of them are
general and eternal, we must conclude all to be so, until we
have a mark of difference, directly or collaterally, in the
nature of the thing, or in our notices from God ; but when


we have any such sign, we are to follow it ; and the placing
of the precept in other company is not a sufficient mark to
conclude them all alike. Thus it was also in the first mission
of the disciples (above spoken of), in which the body of pre-
cepts was temporary and relative ; but yet when our blessed
Lord had inserted that clause, " Freely ye have received, freely
give," we are not to conclude it to be temporary and only relat-
ing to that mission, because it is placed in a body of relative
commandments: for there is in it something that is spiritual,
and of an eternal decency, rectitude, and proportion ; and we
are taught to separate this from the other by the reproof
which fell upon Simon Magus, by the separate nature of spi-
ritual things, by the analogy of the Gospel, by the provisions
which upon other accounts are made for the clergy and the
whole state ecclesiastical, upon the stock of such propositions
which provide so fully that they cannot be tempted by neces-
sity to suppose God left them to be supplied by simoniacal
intercourses. If there be nothing in the sanction of the com-
mandments, or any where else, that can distinguish them,
we must conclude them alike ; but if there be any thing
there or any where else that makes an indubitable or suffi-
cient separation, the unity of place does not make an equal

6. (5.) When any thing is spoken by Christ to a single
person, or a definite number of persons, which concerns a
moral duty, or a perpetual rite of universal concernment, that
single person, or that little congregation, are the representa-
tives of the whole Church. Of this there can be no question ;
1. Because as to all moral precepts they are agreeing to the
nature of man, and perfective of him in all his capacities ;
and therefore such precepts must needs be as universal as
the nature, and therefore to be extended beyond the persons
of those few men. Now if it be inquired how we shall dis-
cern what is moral in the laws of God from what is not moral,
we may be assisted in the inquiry by the proper measures of
it, which I have already described." 6 Those concern the
matter of the commandment ; here we inquire concerning the
different relation of the commandment, when the sanction is
the same with these which are of particular concernment;
that is, here we inquire by what other distinction, besides the
matter and nature of the thing, we are to separate general

b Lib. ii. c. 2, rule 5, num. 65.


precepts from personal, perpetual from temporal, moral from
relative. And thus to inquire is necessary in the interpreta-
tion of the laws of Jesus Christ; because there are some
precepts moral and eternal, which, nevertheless, are relative
to particular states under the Gospel.

But secondly : there are some precepts which are not
moral, but yet they are perpetual and eternal, and concern
every man and woman in the Christian pale, according to
their proportion : I mean, the precepts concerning the sacra-
ments and other rituals of Christianity. In order therefore
to these evangelical concerns it is to be noted, that whatso-
ever concerns every one by the nature of the thing, though it
was at first directed personally, yet it is of universal obliga-
tion. Thus we understand all Christians that have the use of
reason, that is, which are capable of laws, and have capaci-
ties to do an act of memory and symbolical represent-
ment, to be obliged to receive the holy communion ; because
although the precept of " Do this," and " Drink this," was
personally directed to the apostles, yet there is nothing in the
nature of the communion that appropriates the rite to eccle-
siastics ; but the apostle explicates it as obliging all Christ-
ians ; and it was never so understood, and practised accord-
ingly : all are equally concerned in the death of Christ, and
therefore in the commemoration of it and thanksgiving for
it. Now thus far is easy. But there are some interests that
pretend some of the words to be proper to ecclesiastics, others
common to the whole Church. 1 have already given account
of the unreasonableness of the pretension in this chapter. 6
But for the present I shall observe, that there being in this
whole institution the greatest simplicity and unity of design
that can be, the same form of words, a single sacrament, the
same address, no difference in the sanction, no variety or
signs of variety in the appendages, in the parallel places, or
in any discourse concerning it, to suppose here a difference,
will so intricate this whole affair, that either men may ima-
gine and dream of varieties when they please, and be or not
be obliged as they list: or else, if there be a difference in-
tended in it by our lawgiver, it will be as good as none at all,
he having left no mark of the distinction, no shadow of dif-
ferent commandments under several representations. If the
apostles were only representatives of the ecclesiastical state

Rule 9. num: 7-9.


when Christ said, " Drink ye all of this," then so they were
when Christ said, "This do in remembrance of me:" the
consequent is this, that either all are bound to receive the
chalice, or none but the clergy are tied to eat the holy bread :
for there is no difference in the manner of the commandment ;
and the precept hath not the head of a man, and the arm of
a tree, and the foot of a mountain, but it is univocal, and
simple, and proper ; and if there be any difference, it must
be discovered by some clear light from without ; for there is
nothing within of difference, and yet without we have nothing
but a bold affirmative.

7. (6.) When the universal Church does suppose herself
bound by any preceptive words, though they were directed
to particular persons, yet they are to be understood to be of
universal concernment. Now this relies not only upon the
stock of proper probability, viz. that such a multitude is the
most competent interpreter of the difficulties in every com-
mandment ; but there is in the Church a public and a holy
Spirit, assisting her to guide, and warranting us to follow, the
measures of holiness by which she finds herself obliged. For,
besides that the questions of general practice are sooner un-
derstood, as being like corn sown upon the furrow, whereas
questions of speculation are like metals in the heart of the
earth, hard to be found out, and harder to be drawn forth ;
besides this, no interest but that of heaven and the love of
God can incline the catholic Church to take upon herself the
burden of a commandment. If it were to decline a burden,
there might be the more suspicion, though the weight of
so great authority were sufficient to outweigh any contrary
probability ; but when she takes upon her the burden, and
esteems herself obliged by a commandment given to the
apostles or to the pharisees, or to any single person among
them, it is great necessity that enforces her, or great charity
that invites her, or great prudence and caution for security
that determine her, and therefore she is certainly to be fol-
lowed. Upon this account we are determined in the fore-
going instance ; and because the primitive catholic Church
did suppose herself bound by the words of institution of
the chalice in the blessed sacrament, therefore we can safely
conclude the apostles to be representatives of the whole
Church. " Ad bibendum onmes exhortantur, qui volunt


habere vitam," saith St. Austin ; d "All are called upon to
drink of the chalice, if they mean to have life eternal." For
" indignum dicit esse Domino, qui aliter mysterium celebrat,
quam ab eo traditum est," saith St. Ambrose : e "As Christ
delivered it to the apostles, so it must be observed by all : "
and therefore Durandus f affirms that " all who were present,
did every day communicate of the cup, because all the apo-
stles did so, our Lord saying, ' Drink ye all of this.'" For
the apostles were representatives, not of the clergy conse-
crating (for they did not consecrate but communicate), but of
all that should be present. " JNam quae Domini sunt, non
sunt hujus servi, non alterius, sed omnibus communia,"
saith St. Chrysostom : g "The precept of our Lord belonged
not to this servant, nor to another, but to all." Now things
that are of this nature, and thus represented, and thus ac-
cepted, become laws even by the very acceptation : and as
St. Paul said of the Gentiles, that " they having not the law,
become a law unto themselves;" and our conscience is some-
times, by mere opinion, a strict and a severe lawgiver : when
the Church accepts any precepts as intended to her, if not
directly, yet collaterally and by reflection, it passes an obli-
gation ; and then it will be scandalous to disagree in manners
from the custom and severe sentence of the Christians, and
to dissent will be of evil report, and therefore at no hand to
be done.

8. (7.) When a precept is addressed to particular persons,
and yet hath a more full, useful, and illustrious understanding,
if extended to the whole Church, there it is to be presumed it
was so intended ; and those particular persons are represent-
atives of the Church. St. Austin extends this rule beyond
precepts, even to privileges and favours ; " Quaedam dicuntur,
quae ad apostoluna Petruni proprie pertinere videantur ; nee
tamen habent illustrem intellectum, nisi cum referuntur ad
ecclesiam, cujus ille agnoscitur in figura gestasse personam,
propter primatum quern in discipulis habuit; Some things
are spoken which seem to relate particularly to the apostle
Peter, but yet they are better understood when they are ap-
plied to the whole Church." But this must needs be true in
commandments; for where nothing hinders it, the command?

d In Levit. qu.57. e In 1 Cor. xi.

f Ration le Divin. lib. iii. c. 1. t In 1 Cor. xi. homil. 24.


ment is supposed to be incumbent upon us ; and therefore
when the commandment is better understood, and hath a
more noble and illusti'ious sense, that is, promotes the inter-
est of any grace remarkably, there the particular address
must mean a general obligation.

9. (8.) When any command is personally addressed, and
yet is enforced with the threatening of death eternal, that
commandment is of universal obligation. The reason is, be-
cause the covenant of life and death is the same with all men ;
and God is no respecter of persons, and therefore deals alike
with all : and upon this account, the words which our blessed
Saviour spake to some few of the Jews upon occasion of the
Galilean massacre, and the ruin of the tower of Siloam, had
been a sufficient warning and commandment to all men,
though, besides those words, there had been in all the Scrip-
tures of the New Testament no commandment of repentance.
" Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," does mean,
that all the world should repent for the avoiding of the final
and severest judgments of God.

10. But this rule is to be understood only in command-
ments that are not relative to the differing states of men, but
are of an absolute and indefinite nature. For where the com-
mandment is relative, and yet personally addressed or repre-
sented, there that person is the representative, not of all
mankind, but of that whole state and order. Thus when St.
Paul said, " There is a necessity laid upon me, and wo is un-
to me, if I do not preach the Gospel," he was a representative
of the whole order of the curates of souls. But when he said,
" I press forward to the mark of the prize of the high calling,"
" if, by any means, I may comprehend," here he spake,
of his own person, what is the duty incumbent upon all
Christians ; and he was a representative of the whole Church.

1 1 . (9.) When any good action is personally recommended
upon the proposition of reward, it does not always signify
a universal commandment ; but according as it was intended
personally, so it signifies universally : that is, if it was a
counsel to the person in the first address, it is a counsel to
all men in the same circumstances ; if it was a command-
ment to one, it was a commandment to all. Thus when Christ
said to the young man in the Gospel, " Go and sell what thou
hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in



heaven;" here the precept or the counsel is propounded
under a promise : but because there is no threatening so much

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 21 of 61)