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in this article and given leave to some to consecrate in bread
only, and particularly to the Norwegians a dispensation was
given by Innocent VIII., as I have already noted out of

8. There are some learned men amongst them who speak
in this question with less scandal, but almost with the same
intentions and effects. Some of their divines, particularly
the bishop d of the Canaries, says that "the pope hath not
power to dispense in the whole, or in all the laws of God, but
in some only;" namely, where the observation of the law is
' impeditiva majoris boni, a hinderance or obstruction to a
greater spiritual good; 1 as it may happen in oaths and vows:
and (Sanchez adds) in the consecration of the blessed sacra-
ment in both kinds : in these, say they, the pope can dis-
pense ; but where the observation of the laws in the particu-
lar brings no evil or inconvenience, and does never hinder a
greater good, there the laws are indispensable; such as are
' confessions, baptism, using a set form of words in the mi-
nistration of the sacraments.' So that the meaning is, the
pope never wants a power to do it, if there be not wanting an
excuse to colour it; and then, in effect, the divines agree
with the lawyers; for since the power of dispensing is given
in words indefinite and without specification of particulars, if
it be given at all ; the authority must be unlimited as to the
person, and can be limited only by the incapacity of the mat-
ter; and if there could be any inconvenience in any law,
there might be a dispensation in it : so that the divines and
the lawyers differ only in the instances; which if we should
consider, or if any great interest could be served by any,
there can be no doubt but it would be found a sufficient

* Canus Relect. de Poenitent. p. 5. ad finem.


cause of dispensation. So that this is but to cozen mankind
with a distinction to no purpose; and to affirm that the pope
cannot dispense in such things which yield no man any good
or profit : such as is the using a set form of words in bap-
tism, or the like ; and they may at an easy rate pretend the
pope's power to be limited, when they only restrain him from
violating a Divine law, when either the observation of it is
for his own advantage, as in confession (meaning to a priest),
or when it serves the interest of no man to have it changed,
as in the forms of sacraments.

9. But then, that I may speak to the other part ; to say
that ' the pope may dispense in a Divine law, when the par-
ticular observation does hinder a greater spiritual good, and
that this is a sufficient cause,' is a proposition in all things
false, and, in some cases, even in those where they instance,
very dangerous. It is false, because if a man can by his own
act be obliged to do a thing which yet is impeditive of a
greater temporal good, then God can by his law oblige his
obedience, though accidentally it hinder a greater spiritual
good. Now if a man have promised, he must " keep it though
it were to his own hinderance," said David; 6 and a man may
not break his oath, though the keeping of it hinder him from
any spiritual comforts and advantages; nay, a man may
neglect a spiritual advantage for a temporal necessity ;
and in the Bohemian wars, the king had better been at the
head of his troops, than at a sermon, when Prague was taken.

But I consider (for that is also very material) that it is
dangerous. For when men, to justify a pretence, or verify an
action, or to usurp a power, shall pretend that there is on the
other side a greater spiritual good, they may very easily de-
ceive others, because either voluntarily or involuntarily they
deceive themselves ; for when God hath given a commandment,
who can say that to let it alone can do more good to a man's
soul than to keep it? I instance in a particular which is of great
interest with them. If a man have vowed to a woman to
marry her, and contracted himself to her 'per verba de prae-
senti;' she, according to her duty, loves him passionately,
hath married her very soul to him, and her heart is bound up
in his : but he changes his mind, and enters into religion ;
but stops at the very gate, and asks who shall warrant him

Psalm xv.


for the breach of his faith and vows to his spouse? The pope
answers he will; and though by the law of God he be tied
to that woman, yet because the keeping of that vow would
hinder him from doing God better service in religion, this
is a sufficient cause for him to dispense with his vow. This
then is the case concerning which I inquire : 1. How does it
appear that to enter into a monastery is absolutely a greater
spiritual good than to live chastely with the wife of his love
and vows? 2. I inquire, whether to break a man's vow be not
of itself (abstracting from all extrinsical pretensions and colla-
teral inducements) a very great sin? and if there were not a
great good to follow the breach of it, I demand whether could
the pope dispense or give leave to any man to do it? If he could,
then it is plain he can give leave to a man to do a very great evil ;
for without the accidentally consequent good, it is confessed
to be very evil to break our lawful vows : but if he cannot
dispense with his vow, unless some great good were to follow
upon the breach of it, then it is clear he can give leave to
a man to do evil, that good may come of it : for if without
such a reason, or such a consequent good, the pope could
not dispense, then the consequent good does legitimate the
dispensation ; and either an evil act done for a good end is
lawful and becomes good, or else the pope plainly gives him
leave to do that which is still remaining evil, for a good end :
either of which is intolerable, and equally against the apo-
stle's rule, which is also a rule of natural religion and reason :
No man must do evil fora good end. But then, 3. Who can
assure me, that an act of religion is better than an act of jus-
tice? or that God will be served by doing my wife an injury? or
that he will accept of me a new vow, which is perfectly a break-
ing off an old? or that, by our vows to our wives, we are not as
much obliged to God as by monastical vows before our abbot?
or that marriage is not as great an act of religion, if wisely and
holily undertaken (as it ought to be), as the taking the habit
of St. Francis? or that I can be capable of giving myself to re-
ligion, when I have given the right and power of myself away
to another ? or that I may not as well steal from a man to
give alms to the poor, as wrong my wife to give myself to a
cloister? or that he can ever give himself to religion, who
breaks the religion of vows and promises, of justice and
honour, of faith and the sacramental mystery, that he may go


into religion ? or that my retirement in a cloister, and doing
all that there is intended, can make recompense for making
my wife miserable, and, it may be, desperate and calamitous
all her lifetime ? Can God be delighted with my prayers which
I offer to him in a cloister, when, it may be, at the same time
my injured spouse is praying to God to do her justice and to
avenge my perjuries upon my guilty head, and, it may be,
cries aloud to God, and weeps and curses night and day ? who
can tell which is better, or which is worse ? for marriage and
single life, of themselves, are indifferent to piety or impiety :
they may be used well, or abused to evil purposes ; but if
they take their estimate by the event, no man can beforehand
tell which would have been the greater spiritual good. But
suppose it as you list, yet,

11. I consider, that when God says that "obedience is
better than sacrifice," he hath plainly told us, that no pre-
tence of religion, or of a greater spiritual good, can legitimate
vow-breach, or disobedience to a Divine commandment: and
therefore, either the pope must dispense in all laws of Christ,
and without all reason ; that is, by his absolute authority
and supereminency over the law and the power that esta-
blished it, or else he cannot dispense at all ; for there is no
reason that can legitimate our disobedience.

12. But then, if we consider the authority itself, the con-
siderations will be very material. No man pretends to a
power of dispensing in the law of God but the pope only ;
and he only upon pretence of the words spoken to St. Peter,
" Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in
heaven. " f Now did ever any of the apostles or apostolical
men suppose, that St. Peter could, in any case, dispense
with vow-breach, or the violation of a lawful oath ? Was not
all that power, which was then promised to him, wholly
relative to the matter of fraternal correption? and was it not
equally given to the apostles ? for either it was never per-
formed to St. Peter, or else it was alike promised and per-
formed to all the apostles in the donation of the Spirit, and
of the power of binding, and the words of Christ 8 to them
before and after his resurrection; so that, by certain conse-
quence of this, either all the successors of the apostles have
the same power, or none of the successors of St. Peter. Or

1 Matt. xvi. 19. Matt, xviii. 18. John, xx. 23.


if the successors of St. Peter only, why not his successors at
Antioch, as well as his successors at Rome ? since it is certain
that he was at Antioch ; but it is not so certain that he was
at all at Rome : for those things, that Ulricus Velenus says
against it in a tractate on purpose on that subject, and pub-
lished by Goldastus in his third tome, are not inconsider-
able allegations and arguments for the negative. And sup-
pose he was, yet it is as likely, that is, as certain as the
other, that, after the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul,
there were two bishops or popes of Rome ; as it is conjec-
tured by the different catalogues of the first successions, and
by their differing presidencies or episcopacies ; one being
over the circumcision, and the other over the uncircumcision
(if, I say, they were at all, concerning which I have no occa-
sion to interpose my sentence). But if either this gift was
given in common to all the apostles, or if it was given per-
sonally to St. Peter, or if it means only the power of disci-
pline over sinners arid penitent persons, or if it does not
mean to destroy all justice and human contracts, to rescind
all the laws of God and man, to make Christ's laws subject
to Christ's minister, and Christ's kingdom to be the pope's
inheritance and possession, " in alto Dominio," if those
words of Christ to St. Peter are so to be understood as that
his subjects and servants shall still be left in those rights
which he hath given, and confirmed, and sanctified, then it
follows undeniably that St. Peter's power of the keys is not
to be a picklock of the laws of his Master, but to bind men
to the performance of them, or to the punishment of breaking
them ; and if by those words of " Whatsoever thou shalt
loose," it be permitted to loose and untie the band of oaths
and vows, then they may also mean a power of loosing any
man's life, or any man's right, or any man's word, or any
man's oath, or any man's obligation, solemn or unsolemn,
when he hath really an interest or reason so to do, of which
reason himself only can be the warrantable judge : which
things, because they are insufferably unreasonable, that pre-
tence which infers such evils and such impieties must be
also insufferable and impossible.

13. I conclude, therefore, with this distinction: There is
a proper dispensation, that is, such a dispensation as supposes
the obligation remaining upon that person, who is to be


dispensed with : but no man or society of men can, in this
sense, dispense with any law of Christ. But there is a dis-
pensation improperly so called, which does not suppose a
remanent obligation, and therefore pretends not to take away
any, but supposes only a doubt remaining, whether the law
does, by God's intention, oblige or no. He that hath skill,
and authority, and reason, to declare, that, in such special
cases, God intended not to oblige the conscience, hath taken
away the doubt, and made that to become lawful, which,
without such a declaration, by reason of the remaining doubt,
was not so. This is properly an interpretation : but because
it hath the same effect upon the man, which the other hath
directly upon the law, therefore by divines and lawyers it is
sometimes also called a dispensation, but improperly.

14. But the other consequent arising from the first ob-
servations which I made upon this rule, is this, that as
there is no necessity that there should be any dispensation in
the laws of Jesus Christ, so in those cases where there may
be an improper dispensation, that is, an interpretation or de-
claration that the law in this case does not bind at all, no
man must, by way of equity or condescension and expedient,
appoint any thing that the law permits not, or declare that a
part of the law may be used, when the whole is in the in-
stitution. For example : The Norwegians complained, that
they could very seldom get any wine into their country,
and, when it did come, it was almost vinegar or vappe : he
who had reason and authority might then certainly have
declared, that the precept of consecrating did not oblige,
when they had not matter with which they were to do it ;
because no good law obliges to impossibilities : but then no
man of his own head might interpose an expedient, and say,
* Though you have no wine to consecrate and celebrate withal,
yet you may do it in ale or meath;' nor yet might he warrant
an imperfect consecration, and allow that the priests should
celebrate with bread only. The reason is, because all insti-
tutions sacramental, and positive laws, depend not upon the
nature of the things themselves, according to the extension
or diminution of which our obedience might be measured ;
but they depend wholly on the will of the lawgiver, and
the will of the supreme, being actually limited to this spe-
cification, this manner, this matter, this institution; whatso-


ever comes besides, it hath no foundation in the will of the
legislator, and therefore can have no warrant or authority.
That it be obeyed or not obeyed, is all the question and all
the variety. If it can be obeyed, it must ; if it cannot, it
must be let alone. The right mother, that appeared before
Solomon, demanded her child ; half her own was offered ;
but that was not it which would do her good, neither would
she have been pleased with a whole bolster of goat's hair, or
with a perfect image of her child, or with a living lamb; it
was her own child which she demanded : so it is in the
Divine institution ; whatsoever God wills, that we must
attend to : and therefore, whatsoever depends upon a Divine
law or institution, whatsoever is appointed instrumental to
the signification of a mystery, or to the collation of a grace
or a power, he that does any thing of his own head, either
must be a despiser of God's will, or must suppose himself
the author of a grace, or else to do nothing at all in what he
does, because all his obedience, and all the blessing of his
obedience, depend upon the will of God, which ought always
to be obeyed when it can ; and when it cannot, nothing can
supply it; because the reason of it cannot be understood; for
who can tell why God would have the death of his Son cele-
brated by bread and wine? why by both the symbols? why
by such ? and therefore no proportions can be made ; and if
they could, yet they cannot be warranted.

15. This rule is not only to be understood concerning the
express positive laws and institutions of our blessed Law-
giver, but even those which are included within those laws,
or are necessary appendages to those institutions, are to be
obeyed, and can never be dispensed withal, nor diverted by
any suppletory or expedient. Thus to the law of representing
and commemorating the death of our dearest Lord by the
celebration of his last supper, it is necessarily appendant and
included that we should come worthily prepared, lest that
which is holy be given to the dogs, and holy things be
handled unholily. In this case, there can be no dispensa-
tion ; and although the curates of souls, having the key of
knowledge and understanding to divide the word of God
rightly, have power and warrant to tell what measures and
degrees of preparation are just and holy; yet they cannot
give any dispensation in any just and required degree, nor, by


their sentence, effect that a less degree than God requires in
the appendant law can be sufficient to any man, neither
can any human authority commute a duty that God requires;
and, when he demands repentance, no man can dispense with
him that is to communicate, or give him leave to give alms,
instead of repentance. But if, in the duty of preparation,
God had involved the duty of confession to a priest, this
might have, in some cases, been wholly let alone : that is,
in case there were no priest to be had but one, who were to
consecrate and who could not attend to hear my confessions :
and the reason is, because in case of the destitution of any
material or necessary constituent part of the duty, there is no
need of equity or interpretation : because the subject-matter
of degrees of heightenings and diminutions being taken
away, there can be no consideration of the manner or the
degrees superstructed. When any condition, intrinsically
and in the nature of the thing included in an affirmative
precept, is destituent or wanting, the duty itself falls without

16. Lastly, This rule is to be understood also much more
concerning the negative precepts of the religion : because
there can be no hinderance to the duties of a negative pre-
cept ; every man can let any thing alone ; and he cannot be
forced from his silence or his omission ; for he can sit still
and die ; violence can hinder an action, but cannot effect it
or express it : and therefore here is no place for interpreta-
tion, much less for dispensation : neither can it be supplied
by any action or by any omission whatsoever.

But upon the matter of this second consequent remarked
above, 11 it is to be inquired, whether in no case a supply of
duty is to be made ? or whether or no it is not better in some
cases, that is, when we are hindered from doing the duty
commanded, to do something when we cannot do all ; or are
we tied to do nothing, when we are innocently hindered from,
doing of the whole duty ?

When we may be admitted to do Part of our Duty, and when
to supply it by something else.

17. (1.) Negative precepts have no parts of duty, no de-
grees of obedience, but consist in a mathematical point ; or

k Numb. 14.


rather in that which is not so much ; for it consists in that
which can neither be numbered nor weighed. No man can
go a step from the severest measure of a negative command-
ment; if a man do but in his thought go against it, or in one
single instance do what is forbidden, or but begin to do it,
he is entirely guilty. " He that breaks one, is guilty of all,"
said St. James : it is meant of negative precepts ; and then
it is true in every sense relating to every single precept, and
to the whole body of the negative commandments. He that
breaks one, hath broken the band of all ; and he that does
sin, in any instance or imaginary degree, against a negative,
hath done the whole sin, that is, in that commandment

18. (2.) All positive precepts that depend upon the mere
will of the lawgiver (as I have already discoursed), admit no
degrees, nor suppletory and commutation : because in such
laws we see nothing beyond the words of the law, and the
first meaning and the named instance; and therefore it is
that ' in individuo' which God points at ; it is that in which
he will make the trial of our obedience ; it is that in which
he will so perfectly be obeyed, that he will not be disputed
with, or inquired of, why and how, but just according to the
measures there set down : so, and no more, and no less, and
no otherwise. For when the will of the lawgiver is all the
reason, the first instance of the law is all the measures ; and
there can be no product but what is just set down. No parity
of reason can infer any thing else, because there is no reason
but the will of God, to which nothing can be equal, because
his will can be but one. If any man should argue thus :
' Christ hath commanded us to celebrate his death by bless-
ing and communicating in bread and wine ; this being plainly
his purpose, and I, finding it impossible to get wine, consider
that water came out of his side as well as blood, and there-
fore water will represent his death as well as wine ; for wine
is but like blood, and water is more like itself; and therefore
I obey him better, when in the letter I cannot obey him :'
he, I say, that should argue thus, takes wrong measures; for
it is not here to be inquired, which is most agreeable to our
reason, but which complies with God's will ; for that is all
the reason we are to inquire after.

19. (3.) In natural laws and obligations depending upon


true and proper reason drawn from the nature of things,
there we must do what we can ; and if we cannot do all that
is at first intended, yet it is secondarily intended that we
should do what we can. The reason is, because there is a
natural cause of the duty, which, like the light of the sun,
is communicated in several degrees, according as it can be
received ; and therefore whatever partakes of that reason, is
also a duty of that commandment. Thus it is a duty of na-
tural and essential religion, that we should worship God with
all the faculties of the soul, with all the actions of the body,
with all the degrees of intension, with all the instances and
parts of extension : for God is the Lord of all ; he expects
all, and he deserves all, and will reward all; and every thing
is designed in order to his service and glorification : and there-
fore, every part of -all this is equally commanded, equally
required ; and is symbolical to the whole ; and therefore, in
the impossibility of the performance of any one, the whole
commandment is equally promoted by another; and when
we cannot bow the knee, yet we can incline the head ; and
when we cannot give, we can forgive ; and if we have not
silver and gold, we can pay them with prayers and blessings;
and if we cannot go with our brother two miles, we can, it
may be, go one, or one half; let us go as far as we can, and
do all that is in our power and in our circumstances. For
since our duty here can grow, and every instance does ac-
cording to its portion do in its own time, and measures the
whole work of the commandment, and God accepts us in
every step of the progression, that is, in all degrees; for
he breaks not the bruised reed, and he quenches not the
smoking flax ; it follows, that though we are not tied to do
all, even that which is beyond our powers, yet we must do
what we can towards it; even a part of the commandment
may, in such cases, be accepted for our whole duty.

20. (4.) In external actions which are instances of a na-
tural or moral duty, if there be any variety, one may supply
the other ; if there be but one, it can be supplied by the in-
ternal only and spiritual. But the internal can never be hin-
dered, and can never be changed or supplied by any thing
else ; it is capable of no suppletory, but of degrees it is : and
if we cannot love God as well as Mary Magdalene loved
him, let us love him so as to obey him always, and so as tc


superadd degrees of increment to our love, and to our obedi-
ence ; but for this or that expression it must be as it can, and
when it can, it must be this or another ; but if it can be nei-
ther upon the hand, it must be all that is intended upon the
heart ; and as the body helps the soul in the ministries of
her duty ; so the soul supplies the body in the essentialities
of it and indispensable obedience.


Not every Thing, that is in the Sermons and Doctrine of Jesus
Christ, was intended to bind as a Law or Commandment.

1 . EVERY thing that is spoken by our blessed Saviour is to
be placed in that order of things where himself was pleased

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 6 of 61)