Jeremy Taylor.

The whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) online

. (page 23 of 61)
Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 23 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

consecrated into the highest mystery ; retaining apparent
footsteps, or rather bodies, of their government and discipline
ecclesiastical. And this proceeding we find owned and jus-
tified by St. Austin against Faustus the Manichee, and St.
Jerome against Vigilantius, and Ephraim Syrus of old ; and
of later times by Alcuinus, q Amalarius/ and by Gratian: 8
and who please to see it more largely pleaded for, may read
Mutius Pansa's ' Osculum Christianas et Ethnicae Philoso-
phise,' and Nicolaus Mont-Georgius * de Mosaico Jure Enu-
cleando :' and that it may be reasonable from the services of
such men, from whom we justly abhor, to borrow some
usages, is excellently discoursed of by Mr. Hooker, in his
fourth book of ' Ecclesiastical Polity.'

14. But however this might fit the necessities and cir-
cumstances of the infant ages of the Church, yet they ought
not to be done easily, but ever with very great caution. For
though it served a present turn, yet it made Christian religion

<> De Dim. Offic. r De Offic. Eccles. De Consecrat.


less simple and less pure ; but by becoming a miscellany it
became worse and worse. It was or might be at the first a
" complying with the infirmities of the weak," a pursuance of
St. Paul's advice so to do ; but when these weak persons are
sufficiently instructed in the religion, and that to dissent is
not infirmity, but peevishness and pride, or wilfulness, all
compliance and condescension are no longer charity, but give
confidence to their error. For when the reasonable discourses
of the religion will not satisfy the supposed weak brother, he
that complies with him, confesses his the better way ; and
when learned men follow the ignorant to superstition, they
will no longer call it compliance and condescension, but duty
and necessity and approbation. A good man will go a little out
of his road to reduce the wandering traveller ; but if he will
not return, it will be an unreasonable compliance to go along
with him to the end of his wandering. And where there is
any such danger (as in most cases it is), we have the example
of God himself, and his commandment' expressly given to
the children of Israel, that they should abstain from all com-
munion with the Gentiles, their neighbours, even in things
indifferent ; and that they should destroy the very monuments
and rituals, and the very materials, of their religion, lest, by
such a little compliance, they be too far tempted. And thus
also they did sometime in the Primitive Church ; for Ter-
tullian," because the Gentiles used in the services of their
idols to sit down immediately after they had prayed, would
not have the Christians do so, though the ceremony of itself
was wholly indifferent. And when many Christian churches
had taken some Gentile ceremonies into their Christmas so-
lemnity, being occasioned by the circumcision of Christ fall-
ing on the calends of January, or the new-year's-day, they
were not only forbidden in the Council of Auxerre, * but the
Church did particularly appoint private litanies, processions,
and austerities, to be used for three days with the twelve of
Christmas, " ad calcandain Gentilium consuetudinem, to
destroy and countermine the superstitious customs of the
heathen," which, by the compliance and fondness of some
Christians, had dishonoured the excellence and innocence of
the Christmas festivity ; as we find noted by the fathers of

1 Deut. vii. 5 ; xii.4. De Orat. c. xii.

* Concil. Autisiodor. c. i.


the synod y of Turon. Sometimes there had been reason to
retain these things : but when, in the days of persecution,
some weak-hearted Christians did shelter themselves under
the cover of such symbolical ceremonies, and escaped the
confession of Christianity by doing some things of like
custom, or when the folly and levity of Christianity, by
these instruments, passed on to vanity or superstition, then
the Church with care did forbid the retaining of heathenish
customs, which had been innocent but for such accidents.
In these things the Church may use her liberty, so that " all
things be done to edification."

15. (2.) But if the customs and rites be such as are
founded upon any point of doctrine, whatsoever it be that
derives from pagan customs must also be imputed to their
doctrines ; and then to follow their customs, will be also to
mingle the religions, to blend light and darkness, and to join
Christ with Belial. It had been a material objection, which
Faustus the Manichee made against the catholics, that they
did remove the worship from idols, and gave it to saints and
martyrs. St. Austin, who was to answer the objection, could
not justify, but did deny the fact, as to that instance and
some few others : for the custom of the nations, in such
cases, was no argument, but an objection. From these pre-
mises it will appear to be but a weak pretence to say, that
' if many nations and religions agree in such a ceremony, or
such an opinion, it will be supposed to come from the light
of nature.' For there are not many propositions, in all which
nature can teach ; and we should know but a very few things,
if we did not go to school to God, to tutors, to experience,
and to necessity. This pretence would not only establish
purgatory, but the worship of images, and the multitude of
gods, and idololatrical services, and very many superstitions,
and trifling observances, and confidence in dreams, and the
sacrifice of beasts, and many things more than can well
become or combine with Christianity. When not only some
nations, but all, agree in a proposition, it is a good corrobo-
rative, a good second to our persuasions, but not a principal ;
it gives advantage, but not establishment; ornament, but not
foundation, to a truth : which thing if it had been better
observed by the Christians, who, from the schools of Plato,

i Concil. Turon. ii. can. 13.


Chrysippus, Aristotle, and Epicurus, came into the schools of
Christ, or from the temples of Jupiter and Apollo into the
services of the Church, Christianity had been more pure and
unmingled than at this day we find it. The ceremony of sprink-
ling holy water was a heathenish rite, used in the sanctifica-
tions and lustrations of the Capitol, as Alexander ab Alex-
andro relates : but because this is not a ceremony of order
or circumstance, but pretends to some real effect, and derives
not from Christ or his apostles, but from the Gentiles, and
relies upon the doctrine of the effect of such ceremonies, it
is not justifiable. Burning candles by dead bodies was inno-
cent, and useful to them that attended in the vigils before
interment ; but when they took this from the custom of the
heathens, who thought those lights useful to the departed
souls, they gave a demonstration by the event of things that
they did not do well : for the Christians also derived a super-
stitious opinion along with the ceremony, and began to
think that those lights did entertain the souls in those ceme-
teries : and this produced the decree of the Council of Elibe-
ris, z that wax-candles should not be burnt in the daytime,
" lest the spirits of the dead be disturbed." Now when any
false principle is in the entry of the ceremony, or attends
upon it, or any superstition be in the progress or in the end
of it, any scandal, or any clanger, such customs are not at
all to be followed, such rituals are not to be imitated or
transcribed : that is, no custom is a warranty for any evil.


The Measure of Perfection and Obedience expectedof Christians,
is greater than that of the Jews, even in Moral Duties
common to them and us.

1 . IT matters not, whether Christ's law have in it more pre-
cepts than were in the law of Moses : our work is set before
us, and we are not concerned how much they had to do ; and
in most of the instances which are, or are said to be, new
commandments, it may also be said of them as it was by the
apostle concerning charity, " This is a new commandment,"
and " This is an old commandment ;" there being, at least in

* Can. 34.


most instances, an obligation upon them to do what was of
itself good and perfective of human nature, and an imitation
of the eternal law of God, a conformity to the Divine perfec-
tions. This is true as to the material part : but then because
that which was an old commandment, is also made a new
commandment, and established upon better promises, and
endeared by new instances of an infinite love ; and we our-
selves are enabled by more excellent graces, and the promise
of the Holy Spirit is made to all that ask him ; it is infinitely
reasonable to think, that because this new commandment su-
peradds nothing new in the matter, it must introduce some-
thing new at least in the manner, or measure of our obedience.

2. They and we are both of us to pray ; but we are com-
manded to pray ' fervently,' frequently, * continually.' They
were to be charitable, and so are we : but they were tied to
be so to their friends and to their neighbours, but we to our
enemies ; and though in some instances they were tied to be
so, yet we are bound in more ; more men are our neighbours,
and more are our brethren, and more is our duty. They were
to do them no hurt ; but we must do them good. They were
to forgive upon submission and repentance ; but we must in-
vite them to repentance, and we must offer pardon. They
were to give bread to their needy brother ; but we are in some
cases to give our lives. They were to love God "with all
their soul and with all their strength :" and though we cannot
do more than this, yet we can do more than they did ; for our
strengths are more, our understandings are better instructed,
our shield is stronger, and our breastplate broader, and our
armour of righteousness is of more proof than theirs was.
Dares and En tell us a did both contend with all their strength ;
but because Entellus had much more than the other, he was
the better champion.

3. (1.) This rule does principally concern Christian
churches and communities of men : that their laws be more
holy ; that the condition of the subjects be more tolerable ;
that wars be not so easily commenced ; that they be with
more gentleness acted ; that the laws of Christ be enforced ;
that malefactors be not permitted ; that vice be more discou-
raged ; that nothing dishonourable to religion be permitted ;
that the kingdom of Christ in all capacities be advanced ; that

jn. 5.


his ministers be honoured and maintained according to the


excellence^of the present ministry and the relation to Christ's
priesthood ; that the public and honorary monuments of
it be preserved, and virtue properly encouraged ; and great
public care taken for the advantageous ministry of souls,
which are the proper purchase of our Redeemer, that in all
things Christ may be honoured by us more than Moses was
by them, and that God, through Jesus Christ, be more glo-
rified than he was in the Levitical government.

4. (2.) This also concerns single persons ; that they cer-
tainly abstain from all those imperfections of duty which
were either permitted in the law, or introduced by the com-
mentaries of their doctors, or inferred by the general decli-
nation of their first piety, and the corruption of manners.
The Jews would not take usury of a needy Jew, but of a
needy stranger they would : but we must consider them with
a more equal eye ; we must be charitable to all : for to a
Christian, no man that needs and asks him is a stranger.
The Jews had great liberty of divorces indulged to them ; a
Christian hath not the same : but in that in which he is per-
mitted he is not to be too forward.

5. (3.) In matters of duty, a Christian is to expound his obli-
gation to the advantage of piety, to security of obedience, to the
ease of his brother, and the pressing upon himself: that what-
ever be the event of his temporal affairs, he secure his spiritual
interest, and secure justice though to the loss of his money,
and in all doubts determine for duty rather than for interest :
the Jews went not beyond the letter of the commandment.

6. (4.) In the interior acts of virtue, a Christian is to be
more zealous, forward, operative and busy, frequent and
fervent: he must converse with God by a more renewed
intercourse, give himself no limits, always striving to go
forward, designing to himself no measure but infinite in the
imitation of the perfections of God, and the excellences of
his most holy Son.

7. (5.) In the exterior acts of virtue, Christians must,
according to their proportion, be ashamed to be outdone by
Jews, not only in what they did in obedience, but also in
what they, in good and prudent zeal for the law of Moses, did
expend or act : I say, what they did act in good and prudent
zeal for their law. That they adorned their temple, freely

VOL. xm. Q


gave contributions for its support and ornament, loved all of
their persuasion, endeavoured to get proselytes ; and therefore
are in these things not only to be imitated, but to be outdone,
because all this was a prudent and zealous prosecution of
their duty. But when in zeal they did not only love their
own sect, but hate, and persecute, and were uncivil to all of
another persuasion, this was zeal indeed ; but it was folly
too and a work of the flesh, and therefore not to be imitated
by Christians, who are the servants of the Spirit.

8. (6.) Where Christians are left to their liberty in those
instances in which the Jews were bound, Christians ought
freely to do as much as they did by constraint and by neces-
sity: for then properly we do more than they, when we
voluntarily choose what was imposed on them : it is not more
work, but it is more love. Thus the Jews were bound to pay
tithes to the Levites : we are commanded to maintain them
honourably : but because tithes is not in the commandment
to us, we ought to supply the want of a command by the
abundance of love; and in this there is no abatement to
be made but by what did concern the nation in some special
relation, necessity, or propriety. God was pleased to make
the more ample provision for the tribe of Levi, because
they had no inheritance amongst their brethren; they had
no portion in the division of the land. Now because the
Christian clergy had a capacity of lands and other provisions,
there is not all the same reason in the quantity of their
appartiment as was in the assignation of the Levitical portion.
Now when any such thing can intervene and enter into con-
sideration, it must be allowed for in the proportions of
increase which are demanded of the Christian. The Jews
gave great contribution to the temple ; but it was but one ;
and therefore it is not to be expected that every Christian
church in such a multitude should be adorned and rich like
the temple of Jerusalem.

9. (7.) Where the Jews and Christians are equally left to
their liberty, it is infinitely reasonable and agreeable to the
excellence of the religion, that Christians should exceed the
Jews. Thus we find, that, at the erecting of the tabernacle,
the Jews brought silver and gold and other materials, till they
had too much, and the people were commanded to cease and
bring no more. Now when an occasion, as great in itself


and more proportionable to the religion, calls upon us for
an offering and voluntary contribution, if the instance be in
a matter as proportionable to the Gospel as that was to the
law of Moses, the excellency of the religion, and the dignity
of the work, and the degree of our grace and love, require of
us to be more ready and more liberal in equal proportions.

10. (8.) In those graces which are proper to the Gospel,
that is, such which are the peculiar of Christians, literally
and plainly exacted of us, and but obscurely insinuated, or
collaterally and by the consequence of something else re-
quired of them, it cannot be but that the obedience which we
owe should be more ready, the actions more frequent, the
degrees more intense ; because every advantage in the com-
mandment hath no other end but to be an advance of our
duty ; and what was obscurely commanded, can be but dully
paid, while the Christian's duty must be brisk, and potent,
and voluntary, and early, and forward, and intense, in pro-
portion to greater mercies received, to a better law, to a more
determined conscience, to a clearer revelation, to more
terrible threatenings, and to the better promises of the
Gospel ; all which are so many conjugations of aid, and
instances of a mighty grace. And, therefore, Christians are
to be more humble, more patient, more charitable, more
bountiful, greater despisers of the world, greater lords over
all their passions, than the Jews were obliged to be by the
consequences of their law.

11. (9.) When this conies to be reduced to practice in
any particular inquiry of conscience, every Christian is not
to measure his actions by proportion to the best and the rare
persons under the Mosaic law, in their best and heroic
actions. For who can do more than David did, after he had
procured the waters of Bethlehem to cool his intolerable
thirst, but to deny his appetite, and refuse to drink the price
of blood ? who can do more than he did, and would have
done towards the building of the temple? who can give better
testimony of duty to his prince than he did to Saul? who
can with more valour and confidence fisrht the battles of the


Lord ? who can with more care provide for the service of God,
and the beauty and orderly ministries of the tabernacle? who
can with more devotion compose and sing hymns to the
honour of God? in these and such as these David was


exemplary ; and so was Moses for meekness, and Job for pa-
tience, and Manasses for repentance, and Abraham for faith,
and Jacob for simplicity and ingenuity, and Enoch for devo-
tion : these, in their several periods, before and under the law,
were the great lights of their ages, and set in eminent places
to invite forward the remiss piety of others, alluring them by
the beauty of their flames to walk in their light and by their
example. And it is well if Christians would do as well as
these rare personages in their several instances. But as some
women are wiser than some men, and yet men are the more
understanding sex, and have the prerogative of reason and
of government ; so though some persons of the old religions
were better than many of the new (of the religion of Jesus
Christ), yet the advantage and the increase must be in the
Christian Church, which must produce some persons as exem-
plary in many graces as any of these hath been in any one.

12. (10.) But then as to single persons: 1. Every man
rnust observe those increases of duty which our blessed
Saviour, either by way of new sanction or new interpretation,
superadded to the old, in the sermon upon the mount.

2. Every man must do in proportion to all the aids of the
Spirit, which the Gospel ministers, all that he can do : which
proportion if he observes, it will of itself amount to more
than the usual rate of Moses's law, because he hath more aids.

3. He must be infinitely removed from those sins, to
which they were propense, and which made God to remove
them out of his sight ; such as were, idolatry, the admit-
ting of strange gods, infidelity, obstinacy, hypocrisy^ and
sensual low appetites : because these vwgre the crimes of an
ignorant, uninstructed people in respect of what the Christian
is ; and for a Christian to be an idolater, or easily divorced,
or incredulous, as they were, is therefore t|ie more intolerable,
because it is almost removed from his possibilities ; he can
scarce be tempted to such things who knows any thing of the
doctrine of the Gospel.

4. There is no other positive measures of his duty, but
that which can have no measure itself, and that is love ; and
a Christian must therefore exceed the righteousness of the sub-
jects of Moses's law, because they must do all their works in
faith and love ; in faith to make them accepted, though they
be imperfect ; in love, to make them as perfect as they can


be. Now he that loves, will think every thing too little :
and he that thinks so, will endeavour to do more, and to do
it better: and Christians, that have greater experience of
God, and understand the nature of charity, and do all of them,
explicitly and articulately, long after the glories of an eternal
love, and know that all increase of grace is a proceeding to-
wards glory, need no other argument to enforce the duty,
and no other measure to describe the duty of this rule, but
to reflect upon the state of his religion, the commandments,
the endearments, the aids, the example, the means : all
which are well summed up by St. John ; b " Beloved, we are
the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be ;
but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him ;
for we shall see him as he is : and every man that hath this
hope, purifieth himself as God is pure : " that is, we are for
the present children of God by adoption, sealed with his
Spirit, renewed by regeneration, justified by his grace, and
invited forward by most glorious promises, greater than we
understand. Now he that considers this state of things,
and hopes for that state of blessings, will proceed in duty
and love towards the perfections of God, never giving over till
he partake of the purities of God and his utmost glories.

I add no more but this, that, in the measures of the prac-
tice of this rule, there is no difficulty but what is made by the
careless lives of Christians and their lazy and unholy princi-
ples. At the rate as Christians usually do live, it is hard to
know how, and in what instances, and in what degrees, our
obedience ought to be more humble and more diligent than
that of Moses's disciples. But they that love will do the thing,
and so understand the rule. " Obedite, et intelligetis ;
Obey, and ye shall understand."

Concerning the interpretation of the laws of the most
holy Jesus, I know of no other material consideration
here to be inserted. Only there are several pretences
of exterior and accidental means of understanding the
laws of Christ, which, because they are derived from
the authority, or from the discourses of men, they are
more properly to be considered in the rules concerning
human laws, which is the subject of the next book,
where the reader may expect them.

b 1 John, iii. 2, 3.











The Conscience is properly and directly , actively and passively,
under Pains of Sin and Punishment, obliged to obey the
Laws of Men.

1. THAT the laws of God and man are the great measures
of right and wrong, of good and evil, of that which is to be
followed and what is to be avoided in manners of men, and
the intercourses of societies, is infinitely certain and univer-
sally confessed. Since, therefore, human laws are one moiety
of the rule and measure of conscience, and that we are bound
to obey our lawful superiors in what they command, it is
naturally consequent to this, that we acknowledge the con-
science bound, and that, in human laws as well as in Divine,
though, according to their several proportions, the conscience
ought to be instructed. And, indeed, there is more need of
preachers in the matter of Divine laws, and more need of


wise and prudent guides in the matter of human laws. For
the laws of God are wiser and plainer, few and lasting,
general and natural, perceived by necessity, and understood
by the easiest notices of things ; and therefore men have more
need to be called upon to obey, than taught how ; and there-
fore here the preacher's office is most necessary and most
required. But human laws are sometimes intricate by weak-
ness, sometimes by design, sometimes by an unavoidable
necessity : they are contingent, and removed far from the
experiences of most men ; they are many and particular, diffi-
cult and transient, various in their provisions, and alterable
by many parts and many ways : and yet because the con-
science is all the way obliged, she hath greater need of being

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 23 of 61)