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for it is not enough that we do the outward works, but the
M'ill must be, of itself, obedient. "Whatsoever ye do, do it
heartily," sx. -4/u%Sjs J^ya^ffSe, "do it from your very soul ;"
that is, cheerfully, willingly, without murmuring : us r$
Kt^/V, xai oux a^dkro/j, "for ye do it not to men, but to
the Lord." 3

36. (3.) The Divine laws are lasting and perpetual ; but
human laws cease to bind the conscience, by desuetude, by
contraition, by contrary reason, by intolerable inconvenience,
by dispensation, and lastly by abrogation.

37. (4.) Divine laws oblige the conscience not only to an
active obedience, but to activity and earnestness to do them,
to seek opportunities, to omit none to do them presently.

Col. iii. 23.


Human laws oblige to an active obedience, but not to a
spontaneous offer, and ultroneous seeking of opportunities.
It may be a sin, it is always an infirmity, to seek for excuses
and dispensations in Divine laws : but it is lawful, by all fair
means, to seek to be freed from the band of any human law,
that is not of public concernment, and is of private incom-
modity. A man may decline a burden of the law, or seek a
privilege and exemption. The citizens of Rome were tied to
keep guards in course, and do other duties ; but he that had
three children, had a right of exemption; and he that hath
none, may lawfully desire and petition for the privilege. The
burden of a human law may be thrust upon another, if it
be done by just and charitable means ; but in the laws of
God every man must bear his own burden choosingly and

38. (5.) Human laws only consider the outward action,
not the secret opinion ; you must obey man, when, at the
same time, without sin, you may believe the law to be impru-
dent or imperfect, or fit to be annulled. But in the laws of
God, we must submit our most secret thoughts, and we must
be sure so to obey human laws, as we keep for God the pre-
rogative of his : but though to God we must give account of
our thoughts, yet human laws meddle not with them at all.
" Cogitationis pcenam nemo meretur," saith the law. b

39. (6.) Human laws oblige only that they be not despised,
that is, that they be not transgressed without a reasonable
cause : but the laws of God must be obeyed in all cases ;
and there is no cause to break them, and there can be no
necessity upon us to commit a sin. In the obedience to hu-
man laws, we may suppose there was a weakness in the sanc-
tion, they could not foresee the evil that was future, the
inconveniences upon some men, the impossibilities of many,
the intolerable burden upon others : arid therefore although
a reason is always to be had, when we do not obey, and that
a good one ; yet the reason and the goodness of it are not to
be the greatest and the best, or to be exacted according to
the strictest measure of necessity alone. For though the
laws of God bind to obedience without dispute, without di-
minution, without excuse, and in all necessities and accidents
that can supervene ; yet beyond that which is good, that

b Ff. de Poenia.


which is equal, and probable, and profitable, human laws do
not bind : but of this in the sequel.

40. (7.) He that despises the law of God, dies for it; and
he that neglects it, is accounted to despise it : the not doing
it is, by interpretation, a contempt of God's law. He that
despises human laws, is also guilty before God : but he only
is accounted to despise it, that voluntarily and without reason
disobeys. But he that out of the multitude of other affairs,
or an incuriousness of spirit, unknowingly or ignorantly
neglects it, by not thinking of it, is in most cases innocent
before God ; but is tied to submit to the punishment if he
be required and deprehended. This only is to be added, that
a great and a dissolute negligence, even in human laws, is so
far from excusing the breach of the law, that it doubles the
guilt; " Dissoluta negligentia prope dolum est," saith the
law ; c " A great negligence is accounted malice."

41. (8.) Ignorance of the laws of God excuses no man,
because they are sufficiently revealed to every man ; and he
is not only bound to inquire much, if there should be need,
but there is also so clear a communication of them, that a
little inquiry will serve the turn, and therefore no man is here
excused by ignorance. But in the laws of man, ignorance
is easier pleaded, and does more excuse, and does unavoid-
ably happen to many men in very many cases ; and they are
less bound to inquire, and a less matter makes the ignorance
probable and quit from malice ; of all which a prudent and
a good man is to be the judge.

42. (9.) When Divine and human laws are opposed, these
must always yield to those ; and, without dispute, God is to
be obeyed rather than man ; and although we must obey man
for God, we must never obey man against God : and there-
fore it was excellently counselled by Ben Sirach, " Let not
the reverence of any man cause thee to sin."

43. (10.) As a consequent to the former, all the ministers
of justice are bound to be more severe in exacting obedience
to God's laws than to their own, in an equal or like matter ;
they must be easy in the matter of their own laws, and zeal-
ous for God : and this also does prove that where the effect
and the appendages and circumstances do not alter it, it is, in
the whole, a less sin to break a human law, than to break a

c Ff. Mandati, lib. Fidejussor, et ff. de Action, et Obligat, lib. i. sect. Is quoque.


Divine; that is, although both are sins, yet in the nature of
the action it is of a less degree of crime to break the law of
our superior than of our supreme, of man than of God.

44. (1 1.) Divine laws are imposed upon the people ; but
human laws are imposed indeed, but commonly by their con-
sent, explicit or implicit, formal or interpretative, and with-
out acceptation in a sweet regiment may indeed, but are not
usually passed into the sanction and sacredness of laws. d
For the civil government is not absolute, and mere, and
supreme ; but in some senses, and to some purposes, and in
some degrees, limited, conditional, precarious, and mixed,
full of need, and supported by them who are to be ruled,
who therefore are to be regarded.

12. Some add this : The Divine laws bind both in public
and in private, the human in public only ; that is, because
human laws take no cognizance of what is secret, therefore
neither do they, of themselves, bind in secret. But this
although in speculation it hath some truth, yet, when it is
reduced to practice, the consideration is different. For
though man's laws know not what is in secret, and therefore
cannot judge, yet God, that binds human laws upon our
consciences, knows the most secret breach of laws, and he
judges and discerns. But this hath some difficulties in it,
and many very material considerations, and therefore is to
be distinctly handled in some of the following pages. This
only for the present. When in private we can be excused or
innocent before God, in that private, and in those circum-
stances, human laws oblige not.' But God's laws equally
oblige both in public and private, respectively to the subject-
matter. Of themselves, human laws have nothing to do with
private actions ; that is, neither with the obligation nor the

45. There are many other material differences between
the laws of God and man, as to their obligation upon con-
science ; which I shall afterward explicate upon the occa-
sion of particular rules. The great sum of all is this, so far
as relates to conscience : The law of God binds stronger, and
in more cases, than human laws. A breach of a human law
is not so great a sin, nor is it so often a sin, as a breach of
the Divine ; the advantage both in the extension and the

* Vide rule vi. of this chapter, ' Rule iv. of this chapter.


intension being (as there is all reason it should) on the part
of God ; that God, who is in all, may be above all.

46. Thus they differ ; but in order to the verification of
the rule, it is to be remembered that, in the main obligation
of conscience, they do agree. The Divine law places things
in the order of virtue and vice ; and the sacraments are there-
fore good, because they are appointed by Christ, our great
lawgiver ; and in the old law the eating of swine's flesh was
therefore evil, because it was forbidden by the law of God.
For all the goodness of man's will consists in a conformity
to the will of God, which is the great rule and measure of
human actions. And just so it is in human laws, according
to their proportion and degree : when the law of the Church
commands fasting, to do so then is an act of temperance as
well as of obedience, and to disobey is gluttony ; and to wear
cloth of gold is luxury, when the law commands us to wear
plain broadcloth. To give great gifts at marriages and
feasts may be magnificence ; but if the law limits to a certain
sum, to go beyond is pride and prodigality. This is the work
of God, though by the hands of Moses and Aaron : for it
matters not by what means he effects his own purposes ; by
himself, or by his power administered by second causes.
The sum is this, which 1 represent in the words of St. Gre-
gory IVazianzen ; f " Submittamus nos turn Deo, turn aliis,
turn iis qui imperium in terra gerunt : Deo quidem omnibus
de causis ; alii autem aliis propter caritatis foedus; principi-
bus denique propter ordinem,publicseque disciplines rationem:
Let us submit ourselves to God, to one another, and to
princes: to God, for all the reason in the world; to one
another, for charity's sake ; to princes, for order's sake, and
the account of public government." But if we refuse to obey
men, God will punish us ; and if we refuse to obey God, even
the prince ought to punish us ; and both promote the interests
of the same kingdom. K.o\d?s<ftat de rov; M a.xo\o{j&a; ro?g
.6iv aurou /3/ouKraj, \fyofjt,'evov$ Si povov XeiffTiccwjg, xa.)
fyovptv, saith Justin Martyr; 5 " We pray you, O
kings and princes, to punish them who are Christians only
in name, and do not live according to the decrees of our
great Master :" and then for* their own interest this is his
account ; Qtbv p,&v povov vpoffxvvovpiv, v,u,?v & 9005 T
1 Orat. xvii. 8 Apolog. ii. pro Christ.


xa aa^ovrag

" We worship God alone ; but in other things we gladly
serve and obey you, confessing you to be the kings and
princes of the people." I conclude this in the words of St.
Bernard : h "Sive Deus, sive homo mandatum quodcunque
tradiderit, pari profecto obsequendum est cura, pari reveren-
tia deferendum ; A law, whether given by God or by man,
is to be observed by a like care, and a like reverence ;" alike
in the kind, but not in the degree. 1


Human Laws do not oblige the Conscience to an active Obe-
dience, when there is an imminent Danger of Death, or an
intolerable or very grievous Evil in the Obedience.

1. THIS rule is to be understood to be true regularly and
ordinarily, and in laws purely human ; that is, such which
are not commentaries or defensatives of a natural and a
Divine law. For if the forbidden action have in it any thing
that is intrinsically evil, then the action must not be done,
though to save our lives ; for no sin ought to be the price of
our life, and we ought not to exchange an eternal life for a
temporal. Here our blessed Saviour's words are plain, " Fear
not them which can kill the body ;" and, " What profit have
you, if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?"
and " It is better to go into life maimed and blind, than
having two feet or two eyes, to go into hell-fire ;" and " God
is to be obeyed rather than man ;" and, " He that would save
his life, shall lose it ;" and divers others to the same purpose.
Now when any thing of this nature is the subject-matter of
a human law directly, or if the violation of any thing of a
Divine commandment be the consequent of the breach of a
human law, then the human law binds to its observation
though with the loss of our lives.

2. But the question here is concerning mere human laws
established in an indifferent matter ; and in this it is that

h Lib. i. de Pnecept. et Dispens.c. 11, 12.

1 Videat Lector Latomi librum, de Ecclesia et Legis Humans Obligatione:
etClaudium Carninum, de Vi et Potestate Legum Humanarum ; Cajetanum verb.
Pneceptum, Navarrum, Card. Toletum de Lac Materia in Libello de 7 Peccatis


the rule affirms, that human laws do not bind to their obser-
vation with the danger of life. The reasons are these :

3. (1.) Because the end of such laws is only the good
and convenience of the lives of the citizens. " Nemini
parere animus bene ti natura informatus velit, nisi utili-
tatis causa et legitime imperanti," said Cicero ; k 'Nature
herself teaches all wise men to obey princes that govern
by laws, and for the good of their subjects.' They, there-
fore, being wholly made to minister to the circumstances
of life, must not, by our lives, be ministered unto ; nothing
being more unnatural and unreasonable, than that a man
should be tied to part with his life for his convenience only.
It is not worth it; it is like burning a man's house to roast
his eggs.

4. (2.) " Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth, and all that a
man hath he will give for his life." It is indeed the voice
of nature and of this world, there is no capacity to receive
any good when our life is gone ; and therefore nothing of
this world can make a man recompense for his life. That
law, therefore, that pretends to do advantages to our life, if
it shall also require our life for the securing such advantages,
takes away more good than it pretends to give, and makes
the substance less principal than the accessory.

5. (3.) If human laws do admit of equity, as it is con-
fessed by all men, there is no case so favourable as that of
saving of our life : either then we are to suppose the laws to
be made of a rock, and to yield to nothing, but for ever to
be a killing letter, and an instrument of the hardest bond-
age ; or else, at least to be so compliant as to yield to her
citizens in the case of life and death.

6. (4.) All human power is given to man for his good,
not for his hurt ; for edification, not for destruction. But it
very often happens, and it is so in most laws that are merely
human, that the good of the particular law is not so great
as the saving the life of one man ; and if such laws should
not yield to the preservation of so precious a life, it were a
law made for evil and not for good, a snare and no defence,
an enemy and no guardian or friend.

7. (5.) Necessity is the band, and necessity is the solution
of a law. " Necessitas facit licitum quod alias licitum non

k De Offic. i. 4, 6. Heusinger. p. 58.


est," saith Alexander. 1 To the same purpose is that of Se-
neca : " INecessitas, magnum hurnanee imbecillitatis patro-
cinium, quicquid cogit, excusat; Necessity makes every
thing lawful, to which it does compel." But of all neces-
sities that is the greatest, which is the safety of our lives, and
a rescue from death : this case therefore is greater than the
band of human laws.

8. (6.) The laws of God, in precepts purely affirmative,
do not oblige to an actual obedience in the danger of death.
This is in such positive laws of God, which do not involve a
negative, of an intrinsic malice against a law of nature or of
prime rectitude, the laws of God intend not to oblige, when
death shall be the reward of him that does obey. Thus the
Maccabees brake the rest of the Sabbath to defend them-
selves against their enemies ; and the priests for the uses of
religion, and the disciples of Christ to satisfy their hunger;
and Christ was their advocate. Thus David and his follow-
ers did eat the shewbread expressly against the command-
ment, but it was in his great need ; and Christ also was his
advocate, and defended the fact : and if a probable necessity,
that is a great charity and relief, which is but the avenue
and the address of an extreme necessity, be a sufficient ex-
cuse from the actual observation of a law of God, positive
and affirmative, much more shall an extreme necessity ex-
cuse from such a law ; and therefore yet more strongly does
it conclude against the pressure of a human law, in such
cases. And therefore the Church" 1 hath declared that the
ecclesiastical laws of fasting do not oblige in case of sick-
ness or old age, or journey and great lassitude ; and thus
also no man is bound to go to church on a festival to hear
Divine service, when an enemy lies in wait to kill him : that
is, the laws of the Church were intended for the good of the
soul, and therefore not suffered to do hurt to the body; and
as God affirms he will have mercy and not sacrifice, and
therefore himself makes his own laws, that can yield at all,
to yield to the occasions and calls of mercy, so does the
Church in the imitation of God, whose laws and gentleness are
our best measure ; not that every little excuse and trifling
pretence can excuse, but the danger of death, or sickness, or

1 Ad lib. Si ex toto, ff. de Legibus.

m Cap. Consilium de Observatione Jejunii.


some very great evil reasonably feared ; of which I shall, by
and by, give an account.

9. Although the rule, thus understood, be certain and
evident for these reasons, yet there are some * adversaria' or
seeming oppositions very fit to be considered ; because al-
though they do not evacuate the intent of the rule, yet they
give limit and further explication to it.

10. (1.) Cajetan affirms, ' Every law that binds under pain
of mortal sin, does also bind to obedience, though death at-
tend it ;' and his reason is, because we must rather die than
commit a sin : and therefore let the instance be what it will,
if it ties to obedience by obliging the conscience, it is a sin
to disobey, and rather than sin, we must choose to die.
(2.) And that no man should question the power of the supe-
rior in obliging to suffer death, we find by the practice and
consent of all the world, that princes can call their subjects
to battle, and command their officers upon dangerous ser-
vices, and the soldiers are bound not to desert their station ;
and the master of the ship was obliged to put to sea in a
storm when Caesar bade him. (3.) For since the law is in-
tended for a public good, the private interest (be it ever so
great) is not to be put in balance against it. And therefore
as it is in the laws of God, and in the confession of faith,
the brave sons of Eleazar did suffer death with torments ra-
ther than eat swine's flesh, and the martyrs gave their lives
in a willing sacrifice rather than deny their faith : so in their
proportion it must be in the laws of men, they must be kept
up, though we die for it. " Melius est ut unus quarn unitas ;
It is expedient that one man die for the people," one mem-
ber for the whole body, " rather one than the unity" be dis-
solved, and the community ruined.

1 1 . To these things I answer, first, that the proposition
of Cajetan is not true in its latitude. For whatever binds to
obedience under pain of sin, does not intend to bind to obe-
dience with the loss of our life under sin. It is true that we
must rather die than sin ; but we do not sin in not obeying,
when he that obeys shall die for it ; and that being the ques-
tion ought not to be presumed by any opponent, in prejudice
of truth or probability. Human laws bind to obedience, and
God's law annexes the penalty of sin ; but then God's law
coming in to second man's laws, seconds it but in what it


would oblige. But human laws do not intend, regularly and
in all cases, to be obeyed with the loss of life or limb ; and
when the law does not sufficiently express such intention,
we are to presume for liberty and mercy. Now that which
follows, is true in some sense ; the public is to be preferred
before the private, and the supreme power can oblige the
subjects to suffer death, or to venture their lives : but this
cannot be in all cases. For if in all, then is the magistrate
the lord of life and death, which is God's peculiar ; but if he
could in no case, then he were not the minister of life and
death, which is communicated to the magistrate. The in-
quiry therefore now is, Since regularly he cannot, and yet
extraordinarily the supreme power can tie on his laws upon
our shoulders with the cords of death, in what cases this is
true, and in what it fails.

12. (1.) When a law is decreed by man with the appen-
dage of a penalty of death for its sanction, it can bind to
obedience though death be in it. For since the matter of
the law is, by the legislative power, valued at the price of
our lives, and by accident the very keeping of it as well as
the breaking is set at no less price, the evils of either side
being equal, the presumption and advantage must be on the
part of justice and the law, not for injustice, tyranny, and
disobedience. And so much the rather, because that the
obedience should cause death is but rare and accidental, not
foreseen, but seldom happening; but the law, threatening
death to the disobedient, is a regular, constant, observed,
and declared provision : and therefore that which is for good,
and regularly is established by the fear of death, is not to be
put out of countenance by a contingent, rare, and extraor-
dinary fear, and which also is intended for evil ; for which,
in this case, there could be no provision, and therefore there
ought to be no regard. But this holds only in case that
death, on either side, be equally certain ; for if it be certain
the obedient man shall die by the hand of a tyrant, or an
accident that is prepared, and it be likely he may escape
from the hands of the law by concealment, or by the relief of
equity or charity, then the natural right of self-preservation
will be his apology ; this man despises not the law, but ex-
tricates himself as well as he can, arid for a reason which, of
all considerations merely human, is the greatest.


13. (2.) When the tyrant power threatens death to obe-
dient subjects, for no other end but that the subject should
contemn the law, then the superior can oblige us to obe-
dience, though we die for it. For it is in this as in those
positive and affirmative laws of God, which although they
yield to save the subject's life, yet they will never yield in the
corruption of the subject's manners : that is, they yield in
charity, but not to serve a tyrant's lust. And thus we un-
derstand the reason of the difference between the cession of
the law of the Sabbath in the case of the Maccabees, and the
not cession of the prohibition of swine's flesh in the case of
the Jewish subjects. For the fear of death was equal to
them both : if the princes did not fight upon the Sabbath,
they should be cut in pieces ; and if the subjects did not eat
swine's flesh, they should die with torments. But they pre-
served themselves, and these did not, and both were inno-
cent. The reason of the difference is plainly this ; they that
offered swine's flesh to these, did it as enemies of religion :

O *

they that fought with those upon the Sabbath, did it as ene-
mies of the nation, only they would take advantages by the
prohibitions of the religion. Now when death is threatened
by the enemies of the religion, it is with purpose to affront
it, or destroy it ; and therefore if the mother and her seven
sons had complied, it had been a renouncing of their faith
and their religion, and a contempt of their law, which
could not be supposed in the other case of the princes, not
only because both the princes and the army could not be
supposed to be despisers of the law, but also because that
very breaking of the law was with fighting in the de-
fence of the law and the whole nation. And so it is in hu-
man laws : the sacredness of the authority may be establish-
ed with our life; and because to contemn them is always a
sin, we must rather die than do it, though the matter of
itself be less and do not require it. But this is also to be
limited. For it is true that we must rather die than contemn
the laws ; but yet he that breaks them for no other reason
than to save his life, is not a contemner of the law, for he
hath greater reason, and a great necessity : and therefore it
is not contempt, but it is to be presumed the contrary ;

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