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conducted than in the other, where every wise man can
better be a guide in the little intrigues, and every child can
walk in the plain way.

2. But our first inquiry is, Whether the conscience be
obliged or no? For if conscience be not, then nothing is
concerned but prudence, and care that a man be safe from
the rods and axes : but then the world would quickly find
that fear would be but a weak defence to her laws ; which
force, or wit, or custom, or riches, would so much enervate,
or so often evacuate. And therefore the greatest case of
conscience in this whole matter is, ' Whether it be a matter
of conscience as well as of prudence and security to obey the
laws of man?' And this question is so dubious and unre-
solved, that Cajetan and Henricus de Gandavo did suppose
it fit to be determined by the pope * in cathedra,' as thinking
it otherwise to be indeterminable. The reasons of doubting
are these :

3. (1.) Because God only is Lord of consciences, he only
can discern the secret that is there, and he only can punish
there ; and therefore to suppose any band upon conscience
from human laws, would be to divest God of his royalty :
none but he who is Kasdioyvuxfrr,:, * thejSearcher of the heart '
and mind of man, can give laws to it ; for none else can take
cognizance, or give a compulsory.

4. (2.) The conscience is seated in the understanding, as
I have already 3 proved: but that is an imperious faculty that
acknowledges no superior but God ; because he only being

* Lib. i. rule 1.


infallible, he only can instruct and inform it rightly, none
else can have power over it. For the understanding hath a
proper way of being ruled. The will is ruled by empire, but
the understanding by doctrine ; that is governed by com-
mand, this by argument ; the will by power, the understand-
ing by truth : now because God only is truth, and every man
a liar, God only can rule the understanding, which is the
court of conscience.

5. (3.) To submit the conscience to any law or power of
man, is to betray our Christian liberty : for Christ having set
us free from all the bondage even of that law which God
himself made and gave to Moses, he having alleviated the
burden of rites and ceremonies, and left the Jews at liberty
to be governed as they pleased themselves, would not take
off the laws of God to impose upon us the laws of men ; and
there is no such thing as Christian liberty, but a freedom
from the law of Moses, and the law of carnal ordinances,
and the laws of men : for that which the preachers speak of,
a liberty from sin, and from hell, and the grave ; 1. This is
rather a deliverance than a liberty, a rescue from an evil of
another nature, not a state of freedom and ease. 2. As many
men have ordered their theology, we are so far from having
a liberty from sin, that they have left us nothing else but a
liberty to sin ; and indeed we have no liberty or freedom
from sin as long as we are alive, but we are always in war
and contention, which is worse than death ; and so many
men are always captive under sin, and all men do so often
obey it (and " his servants we are, to whom we do obey"),
that we have little reason to boast of Christian liberty in that
sense. 3. St. Paul using the word * liberty/ and speaking
of the advantages of Christians in this, instances it only in
being freed from those ordinances of Moses, and the impo-
sitions which some philosophers or some sects of men would
bring upon the conscience. 4. Liberty from sin, or Christian
liberty, in this sense, is nothing but a tropical expression, a
metaphor and similitude; and therefore is not that real
privilege by which we were materially advantaged upon the
publication of the Gospel of Christ. The result of which
considerations is, that all Christians are free men, servants
of Christ, and of none else, it being an express command-
ment, and that strengthened with a reason, " Ye are bought


with a price, be ye not the servants of men ;" b which at
least must be understood of conscience, and the mind of

6. (4.) For granting it to be lawful for men to make laws,
yet that these laws cannot bind the conscience, it appears
plainly in this ; that whatever laws of the Church are made
concerning any rite or ceremony, let it be never so necessary
or fitting that they be obeyed, yet the things do not become
intrinsically necessary, and therefore are not to be thought
so, lest, expressly against the commandment of our blessed
Saviour, we " teach for doctrines the commandments of
men." To keep holydays maybe very good so that we ob-
serve them to the Lord ; but he that thinks it necessary and
a direct duty wrongs his own conscience: which demon-
strates that conscience is free, when every thing else is bound.
You may fast when you are commanded by your superior,
but you must not think that fasting is a part of the Divine
service ; that is, though man commands fasting, yet God
does not ; and then if man of himself does bind the con-
science, he hath a power equal to God, and can make Divine
commandment : but if a man cannot do so, then the con-
science is free, and not tied by human laws.

7. (5.) If human laws do bind the conscience, then it is
put into the power of man to save or damn his brother ; not
directly, but upon the consequence of his obedience or dis-
obedience, which is all that is done by the laws of God ;
and men shall have power to make more ways to the devil,
to make the strait way to heaven yet straiter ; and the way to
hell, which is already broad enough, yet wider and more
receptive of miserable and perishing souls.

8. (6.) Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, and
so of every grace : that is, he only can give it, and he only
can take it away. Since, therefore, that which makes a sin
destroys the grace, no human authority can make an action
to be a sin ; because no human power can dispose of grace
or take it away.

9. (7.) In the instance of civil power and civil laws the
case is more certain, for this reason ; because the civil power
cannot remit sins, therefore neither can they bind to sin :
and from hence it will follow, that supposing ecclesiastical

b 1 Cor. vii. 23.


laws clo bind the conscience, yet the civil cannot. But then
as for the ecclesiastical power and laws, they also are as in-
valid upon another account, because the Church, having no
external compulsory, can only bind in those things where
God hath already bound ; and therefore can make no laws
of her own, but what are already made by a higher power,
and consequently cannot bind to sin, but there where the
conscience is already bound by God. And if the Church
should inflict her censures for any thing that were not, of
itself, a sin against God, as, for not paying the fees of the
spiritual court, for a poor man's working for his living upon
a holyday, the world would cry out of her; which shews
that where God hath not bound the conscience, neither the
ecclesiastical nor the civil power can.

(8.) If human laws do directly bind the conscience, then it
is as great a sin to trangress a law of man, as to break a
law of God ; with our bare foot to touch the ground within
the octaves of Easter, as to call our brother fool ; to eat flesh
on Friday, as great as to commit fornication : which conse-
quent because it is intolerable, so also is the opinion that
infers it. The conclusion is, in Christ Jesus there is neither
high nor low ; that is, Christian religion hath no hand in this
heraldry of * secundum, sub, et supra ;' but whatsoever dif-
ference of person, of order and of government, is amongst us,
is by agreement ; it is, as St. Peter calls it, avdouxfari xr/V/g,
" the ordinance of man ;" and for man's sake it is to be
obeyed : but the conscience is still at liberty where only the
commandment of man does intervene.

10. This opinion is taught by Fernando Vasquez, a
Spaniard, and he affirms that all the gentlemen and common
people of Spain, the scholars only excepted, are of this opi-
nion : it was also taught by some of the scholars of Calvin,
and some Lutherans, by all the Anabaptists of Germany of late,
and that upon the strength of the first, the third, and fourth
arguments ; and formerly by Jacobus Almain, and John Ger-
son, by Felinus, Cajetan, and Navarre (but they mean only
the civil laws of princes), upon the confidence of the sixth
and something of the seventh argument ; all which I have
thrust forward as far as the nature of the question would
bear, and added some more ; which I have done, not that
these arguments ought to prevail, but that by the examina-


tion of them this great question may have right done it,
by being rightly stated and fully cleared.

11. First, therefore, to the main inquiry ; it is certain as
an article of faith, as necessary as any other rule of manners,
that every subject is bound to obey the just laws of his law-
ful superior, not only under fear of punishment from man,
but under pain of the Divine displeasure. 1. Because the
power by which men make laws, is the power of God ; " By
me kings reign, and the lawgivers decree justice," says the
Wisdom of God ; c that is, the Son of God, the Wisdom of the
Father, to whom he hath given all power in heaven and earth ;
he it is by whom, that is, by whose power and wisdom, kings
reign. For this is the wisdom, yv Qsb; exrri<rt UK fy'/JnSi
" which God possessed from the beginning." The LXX.
read it SXTKK, " creavit," "which God created from the be-
ginning; "and this word the Arians make use of to their evil
purposes, but very weakly and against the faith of the origi-
nal, where it is ]3p * kanan, possedit.' This eternal Son of
"God, and the Wisdom of the Father, the King of kings and
the Lord of lords, is the original of all human power, and
this is nothing but a derivative from him. " For power is
given you of the Lord, and sovereignty from the Highest ;
and ye are ministers of his kingdom." 41 And St. Paul 6 ex-
pressly and dogmatically affirms, " There is no power but
from God : the powers that be are ordained of God : what-
soever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance
of God." So that the legislative or supreme power is not
the servant of the people, but the minister, the trustee and
representative, of God. 2. The power of the sword is only
from God ; for since no man is lord of his own life, no man
hath power to kill himself, neither hath he power to warrant
any man else to do it ; for what he may not do himself
he cannot commission and empower any one else to do.
" Vindicta mea," saith God ; " Vengeance is mine, I will re-
pay :" and it is God's sword with which the magistrate
strikes ; and therefore kings and potentates are QsoU Xsiroug-
yoi, and &y didxovoi, txdixct 11$ o^/r,v, " God's deputies and
ministering officials, in his name to be the avengers of his
wrath :" and as Christ f said to Pilate, " Thou couldest have

c Prov. viii. 15. d Wisdom, vi. 3, 4.

e Rom. xiii. 1, 2. ' John, xix. 11.


no power, unless it were given thee from above," may be said
to all human powers, It is given them from above, not from
beneath; from God, not from the people. The consequent
of which is this, If it be God that strikes and pays vengeance
by the hand of the magistrate, then it is God who is offended
when the law of the magistrate is violated ; for whoever
strikes is the party injured ; and the magistrate being God's
minister, as he is the less principal in the justice done, so
also in the injustice suffered. " Dixit Deus quia dii estis,
It is God who hath said to the magistrates, that they are
gods ;" that is, in the place of God ; by his authority they
strike, and he is the injured person : and therefore he who is
so smitten by the sword of God, is a sinner against God, for
he punishes none else. " Patet culpa, ubi non latet poena." If
God punishes, it is certain man hath sinned, said St. Austin, g
and St. Prosper. 11 The one is the indication of the other.

But the thing is expressly affirmed by the Scripture ; for
having dogmatically and fully signified that all human just
power is rov sou duva/i/s, did TO\J sou, anb rou sou, and
virb rou sou, they being the several expressions of Solomon,
according to the LXX., and of St. Paul in his own words, it is
not content to leave us to find out the consequences of these,
but literally affirms the main articles. So St. Peter,' " Be ye
subject to every ordinance of man, did rbv Kvgiov, for the
Lord's sake;" which St. Paul- 1 speaks yet more explicitly;
" Wherefore it is necessary that ye be subject, not only for
wrath, but also for conscience sake ; ' sicut Christo, as to
Christ,' so be obedient to your masters, or temporal lords ;"
so the same apostle : that is, by the same necessity, for the
same reason to avoid the same punishment, to have the same
reward, and by the force of the same religion, and that you
may not prevaricate the laws of God, or do violence to your
conscience. Nothing can add light to these so clear words,
they are bright as the sun, certain as an article of faith, clear,
easy, and intelligible, according to the nature of universal
Divine commandments. St. Chrysostom and Theodoret k
urging these precepts, say, that we are not to obey out of
courtesy, but of duty ; not out of liberality, but necessity ;

B Lib. ii. Retract, c. 9 ; at ep. 105. nd Sixtum.

h Cap. 20. lib. cont. Collatorem. 4 1 Pet. ii. 13.

J Rom. xiii. 5. k In Rom. xiii.


that is, according to St. Ambrose 1 and St. Austin, 1 " the fearful
pains of hell and eternal damnation attend them that disobey.

And this whole matter is infinitely demonstrated in this
one consideration : the laws of man do so certainly bind the
conscience that they have a power of limiting and declaring,
and making the particulars to become the laws of God. For
though the Divine law forbids murder, yet the law of man
declares concerning the particular, that it is, or it is not,
murder, and by such declaration, by such leave or prohibi-
tion respectively, makes it so. In Spain, if a wronged hus-
band or father killed the deprehended adulteress, it is no mur-
der ; in England r it is. For, in Spain the husband or father is
permitted to be executioner, where notoriety is declared to
be sufficient conviction : here they are not trusted with it ;
and the judge and the executioner are persons vastly removed.
If a law" forbids me to take my goods from a thief, it is theft
to do it ; but it is no theft if the law permits. It is incest
for the uncle to marry with his niece : it is so where the laws
have made it so, but it is not so of itself, for it was not so
always. Since, therefore, human laws can constitute an action
in the habitude of a Divine law, it is beyond all question, it
does oblige the conscience.

13. (2.) This obligation is passed upon the conscience,
and there is this necessity of obeying : not only in case hu-
man laws be first given by God ' in thesi,' or ' in hypothesi,'
that is, in words or in sense, in direct affirmation or just con-
sequence, in substance or in analogy ; but though the matter
of the law be in its own nature wholly indifferent before the
sanction and constitution. The first conclusion I intended
against the Anabaptists, and this second against Gerson, Al-
main, and the dissenting sectaries : and of the truth of it we
have an instance in the person of St. Paul, who, by his apo-
stolical authority, gave an injunction,! 3 which hath ever since
been an ecclesiastical canon ; and yet he alone and not the
Lord gave the word, " that a believing wife or husband should
not depart from their unbelieving" correlative, if he or she
respectively desired to stay. It was a matter in which Christ

1 In Rom. xiii. m Ep. 54. ad Maced. Vide etiam S. Hieron. in c. iii. ad Titum.
D Cap. Placuit. 16. q. 6. et in lib. extat. ff. quod Metus Causa.
Gl. in c. Jus Gentium, dist. 2. Verbo Sedium, c. 1, 2. 23. q. 2. lib. Ait
Praetor, sect Si Debitorem. ff. De his quae in Fraud. Creditorum.
P 1 Cor. vii. 12.


had not at all interposed, but St. Paul made it a law to the
Christian churches ; and whoever shall prevaricate it, shall
bear his burden. And indeed it were a vain thing to suppose
that all human laws were derived from the law of nature, or
the Divine positive ; or that those which were not so derived ,
could not be good and reasonable, and that the authority
binding them were incompetent. For whatsoever is derived
from the law of God, cannot, by men, admit variety, nor suf-
fer diminution, or go into desuetude, or be extinguished by
abrogation : and then it would follow, that no king could
command any thing but what was necessary before he com-
manded it ; and nothing could be a law to the Persians, but
what also did oblige the Greeks ; and nothing could bind in
the one hundred and twenty-fifth Olympiad, but what was
decreed before the days of Semiramis ; and there were no
laws but those of the Medes and Persians ; and there could
be no provisions made for new necessities, and the govern-
ment of commonwealths could never be improved by expe-
rience, and all lawgivers were as wise at first as ever they
could be. All which are such foolish consequences, that
it must be granted, that whatever human power can justly
ordain, or prudently, or necessarily, or probably, all that is
bound upon the conscience of the subject certainly and to
all events as the laws of God himself. And therefore Plato
said well, " that before the law is made, men may judge of
it ; but after the sanction, not at all :" that is, it is so indiffer-
ent in its nature, that it is fit to be considered and disputed ;
but when it is made a law, there remains nothing but a neces-
sary obedience. And to the same purpose Aristotle q largely
discourses ; for when he had divided the civil law, coXmxov
dixaiov into pvaixbv xai vo/i/xiv, the * natural,' and the * con-
stituted,' he says, vo/juxbv be, o t% f%J /*" ovdsv dtapsesi
WTUS 15 aXXo>, oran 8s Swvra/, 8ia<ptgei. The law that is not
natural, but decreed by man, " in the beginning it matters
not, whether it be made or no ; but after it is made, it is a
great matter whether it be kept or no." But this whole affair
is put beyond all scruple by the words of the apostle ; " Obey
your masters, not only the good and gentle, but the morose
and harsh ;" that is, not only if what he commands be in
itself good and fitting, but if it be troublesome, and uneasy,

i Lit. v. Ethic, c. 7. Wilkinson, p. 208.


and unnecessary ; any thing, so it be not unlawful : for
every thing that God hath not forbidden, can be bound upon
conscience by a lawful superior. Either, therefore, all human
laws are nothing else but commentaries on Scripture or the
natural law, or else are wholly unnecessary, as being nothing
but repetitions of the Divine laws : and there can be no new
law made; or if there can, it must bind the conscience: for
all other things bind the conscience by themselves, and with-
out human constitution. If, therefore, any human constitu-
tion, as such, can bind the conscience, it must be of such in-
stances, which either are derivatives from the law of nature,
or of things which, before the law, did not bind at all, that
is, of things which, in their own nature, are indifferent.

14. (3.) That human laws bind the conscience, does not
depend upon the intention of the lawgiver ; for when the
arrow is shot out of the bow, it will hit or miss by its own
force and order, not by the intention of the archer : and no
lawgiver can make a law with a purpose not to oblige the
conscience. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth this question was
much talked of, and little understood ; and some discontented
recusants, under the government of the Church of England,
had so talked the laws themselves out of countenance, that
the legislative power durst scarce own the proper obligation
of an ecclesiastical, or of a law relating to any thing of reli-
gion ; insomuch that when the wisdom of the state thought
fit to confirm the ancient laws of ecclesiastical fasts, they su-
peradded this proviso, that if any one should affirm that these
laws were intended to bind the conscience, he should be
punished like the spreaders of false news : and the " jeju-
nium Cecilianum," the " Wednesday-fast," was made with-
out such obligation. Now this is plainly, to them that under-
stand it, a direct artifice to evacuate the whole law : for a
law, that is made without intention to bind the conscience,
is no law at all ; for besides that it is a plain giving leave to
any man to break it that can do it without observation, or
can bribe the officers, or is bigger than the informers, or not
easy to be punished, or that dwells alone, or that is himself
a minister of the law ; besides this, I say, it is directly no
law at all. For all human power being derived from God,
and bound upon our consciences by his power, not by man,
he that says * It shall not bind the conscience,' says, ' It shall


be no law,' it shall have no authority from God ; and then it
hath none at all : and if it be not tied upon the conscience,
then to break it is no sin, and then to keep it is no duty : so
that a law without such an intention is a contradiction ; it
is a law which binds only if we please, and we may obey
when we have a mind to it ; and to so much we were tied be-
fore the constitution. But then, if, by such a declaration, it
was meant that to keep such fasting-days was no part of a
direct commandment of God, that is, God had not required
them by himself immediately, and so it was (abstracting from
that law) no 'duty evangelical, it had been below the wisdom
of the contrivers of it ; for no man pretends it, no man says
it, no man thinks it : and they might as well have declared
that that law was none of the ten commandments.

15. (4.) Though human laws do not bind the conscience
by the intention of the lawgiver, but by the command of God,
yet God does bind the law upon the conscience according to
the intention of the power that decrees it. For though a father
cannot command his son to do a lawful and fitting service,
and by his intention make that an obedient son shall' not sin
against God, because he cannot make disobedience to be no
sin ; yet by intending less obligation in the law, he makes
the crime imputable in a less degree ; that is, the authority
is the less despised, there is less evil consequent, the mischief
is small, the inconvenience little. And therefore the doctors
of the canon law do, to very little purpose, trouble this ques-
tion with inquiries after signs, when the intention of the law-
giver is to bind to mortal, when to venial sins. For besides
that the distinction itself is trifling, according to their under-
standing of it (of which I have given r a large account in a
discourse on purpose) ; and besides that the commands of
heathen parents, and masters, and princes, who knew nothing
of that distinction (if it had been right), did nevertheless
bind their subjects to obedience under pain of sin ; besides
these, I say, the lawgiver does not at all make it a sin, or no
sin : he only intends it should be kept, and to that purpose
binds it with penalties, and consequently and indirectly
binds the conscience : but God binds the conscience properly
and directly ; for the law is Divine in respect of the power
and authority, but human in respect of the matter and the

r Unum Necessarium, c. iii.


instance ; and that is the meaning of these words put into
the rule. The conscience of man is by God's law properly and
directly bound to obey the laws of men ; not indirectly and
by the consequence of some other duty, but by a command-
ment and the purposed solemn declaration of his will in this
affair. But this I shall more fully explicate in my answer
to the opposite arguments. Now because although the law-
giver's intention does not directly make the disobedience to
be sin or no sin, yet because, indirectly, it hath influence
upon the action and the conscience of the subject, it is use-
ful that I set down the rules and measures of the difference ;
and how we may guess (for it can be no more) at the distinct
obligations, which, from the diversities of human laws, are
passed upon the conscience.

Rules of Distinction, or the Measures by which we shall pru-
dently conjecture at the Gravity or Lessening of the Sin of

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