Jeremy Taylor.

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

. (page 7 of 61)
Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 7 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to put it. Whatsoever he propounded to us under the sanc-
tion of love, and by the invitation of a great reward, that is
so to be understood, as that it may not become a snare, by
being supposed in all cases, and to all persons, to be a law.
For laws are established by fear and love too, that is, by pro-
mises and threatenings; and nothing is to be esteemed a law
of Christ, but such things which if we do not observe, we
shall die, or incur the Divine displeasure in any instance or
degree. But there are some things in the sermons of Christ,
which are recommended to the diligence and love of men ;

o *

such things whither men must tend and grow. Thus it is
required, that we should love God with all our heart ; which
is indeed a commandment, and the first and the chiefest; but
because it hath an infinite sense, and is capable of degrees,
beyond all the actualities of any man whatsoever, therefore
it is encouraged and invited further by a reward that will be
greater than all the work that any man can do. But yet
there is also the ' minimum morale' in it, that is, that degree
of love and duty, less than which is by interpretation no
love, no duty at all ; and that is, that we so love God, that
1. We love nothing against him; 2. That we love nothing
more than him ; 3. That we love nothing equal to him ;
4. That we love nothing disparately and distinctly from him,
but in subordination to him ; that is, so as to be apt to yield


and submit to his love, and comply with our duty. Now
then, here must this law begin : it is a commandment
to all persons, and at all times, to do thus much ; and this
being a general law, of which all other laws are but instances
and specifications, the same thing is in all the particular
laws, which is in the general : there is in every one of them
a ' minimum morale,' a legal sense of duty, which if we pre-
varicate or go less than it, we are transgressors : but then
there is also a latitude of duty, or a sense of love and evan-
gelical increase, which is a further pursuance of the duty of
the commandment ; but is not directly the law, but the love ;
to which God hath appointed no measures of greatness, but
hath invited as forward as the man can go.

2. For it is considerable, that since negative precepts
include their affirmatives, and affirmatives also do infer the
negatives (as I have already discoursed), and yet they have
differing measures and proportions ; and that the form of
words and signs, negative or affirmative, is not the sufficient
indication of the precepts, we can best be instructed by this
measure : There is in every commandment a negative part
and an affirmative : the negative is the first, the least, and
the lowest, sense of the law and the degree of duty ; and this
is obligatory to all persons, and cannot be lessened by ex-
cuse, or hindered by disability, or excused by ignorance ;
neither is it to stay its time, nor to wait for circumstances ;
but obliges all men indifferently. I do not say that this is
always expressed by negative forms of law or language, but
is by interpretation negative ; it operates or obliges as does
the negative. For when we are commanded to love our
neighbour as ourself ; the least measure of this law, the legal
or negative part of it, is, that we should not do him injury ;
that we shall not do to him, what we would not have done to
ourselves. He that does not, in this sense, love his neigh-
bour as himself, hath broken the commandment ; he hath
done that which he should not do ; he hath done that which
he cannot justify; he hath done that which was forbidden:
for every going less than the first sense of the law, than the
lowest sense of duty, is the commission of a sin, a doing
against a prohibition.

3. But then there are further degrees of duty than the
first and lowest; which are the affirmative measures, that is,


a doing excellent actions and instances of the command-
ments, a doing the commandment with love and excellence,
a progression in the exercise and methods of that piety ; the
degrees of which, because they are affirmative, therefore they
oblige but in certain circumstances ; and are under no law
absolutely, but they grow in the face of the sun, and pass on
to perfection by heat and light, by love and zeal, by hope
and by reward.

4. Now concerning these degrees it is that I affirm, that
every thing is to be placed in that order of things where
Christ left it : and he that measures other men by his own
stature, and exacts of children the wisdom of old men, and
requires of babes in Christ the strengths and degrees of ex-
perienced prelates, he adds to the laws of Christ; that is, he
ties where Christ hath not tied ; he condemns where Christ
does not condemn. It is not a law that every man should,
in all the stages of his progression, be equally perfect : the
nature of things hath several stages, and passes by steps to
the varieties of glory. For so laws and counsels differ, as
first and last, as beginning and perfection, as reward and
punishment, as that which is simply necessary, and that
which is highly advantageous : they differ not in their whole
kind ; for they are only the differing degrees of the same
duty. He that does a counsel evangelical, does not do more
than his duty, but does his duty better : he that does it in a
less degree, shall have a less reward ; but he shall not perish,
if he does obey the just and prime or least measures of the

5. Let no man, therefore, impose upon his brother the
heights and summities of perfection, under pain of damna-
tion or any fearful evangelical threatening ; because these
are to be invited only by love and reward, and by promises
only are bound upon us, not by threatenings. The want of
the observing of this hath caused impertinent disputes and
animosities in men, and great misunderstandings in this
question. For it is a great error to think that every thing
spoken in Christ's sermons is a law, or that all the progres-
sions and degrees of Christian duty are bound upon us by
penalties as all laws are. The commandments are made
laws to us wholly by threatenings ; for when we shall receive
a crown of righteousness in heaven, that is by way of gift,


merely gratuitous, but the pains of the damned are due to
them by their merit and by the measures of justice : and
therefore it is remarkable that our blessed Saviour said,
" When ye have done all that ye are commanded, ye are
unprofitable servants ;" that is, the strict measures of the
laws or the commandments given to you are such, which if
ye do not observe, ye shall die according to the sentence of
the law ; but if ye do, ' ye are yet unprofitable ;' ye have not
deserved the good things that are laid up for loving souls :
but therefore towards that we must superadd the degrees of
progression and growth in grace, the emanations of love and
zeal, the methods of perfection and imitation of Christ. JFor
by the first measures we escape hell ; but by the progressions
of love only, and the increase of duty, through the mercies
of God in Christ, we arrive at heaven. Not that he that
escapes hell may, in any case, fail of heaven ; but that
whatsoever does obey the commandment in the first and
least sense, will, in his proportion, grow on towards perfec-
tion. For he fails in the first, and does not that worthily,
who, if he have time, does not go on to the second.

6. But yet neither are these counsels of perfection left
wholly to our liberty, so as that they have nothing of the
law in them ; for they are pursuances of the law ; and of the
same nature, though not directly of the same necessity ; but
collaterally and accidentally they are. For although God
follows the course and nature of things, and therefore does
not disallow any state of duty that is within his own mea-
sures ; because there must be a first before there can be a
second, and the beginning must be esteemed good, or else
we ought not to pursue it and make it more in the same
kind ; yet because God is pleased to observe the order of
nature in his graciousness, we must do so too in the mea-
sures of our duty ; nature must be^in imperfectly, and God
is pleased with it, because himself hath so ordered it ; but
the nature of things, that begin and are not perfect, cannot
sland still. God is pleased well enough with the least or
the negative measure of the law ; because that is the first or
the beginning of all ; but we must not always be beginning,
but pass on to perfection, and it is perfection all the way,
because it is the proper and the natural method of the grace
to be growing: every degree of growth is not the perfection


of glory; but neither is it the absolute perfection of grace,
but it is the relative perfection of it : just as corn and flowers
are perfectly what they ought to be, when in their several
months they are arrived to their proper stages : but if they
do not still grow till they be fit for harvest, they wither and
die, and are good for nothing: he that does not go from
strength to strength, from virtue to virtue, from one degree
of grace to another, he is not at all in the methods of life,
but enters into the portions of thorns, and withered flowers,
fit for excision and burning.

7. Therefore, (1.) No man must, in the keeping the com-
mandments of Christ, set himself a limit of duty; ' Hither
will I come, and no further :' for the tree that does not grow,
is not alive, unless it already have all the growth it can have :
and there is in these things thus much of a law: evangelical

O c?

counsels are thus far necessary, and although in them, that
is, in the degrees of duty, there are no certain measures
described, yet we are obliged to proceed from beginnings to

8. (2.) Although every man must impose upon himself
this care, that he so do his duty, that he do add new degrees
to every grace; yet he is not to be prejudiced by any man
else, nor sentenced by determined measures of another man's
appointment: God hath named none, but intends all; and
therefore we cannot give certain sentence upon our brother,
since God hath described no measures; but intends 'that
all,' whither no man can perfectly arrive here; and therefore
it is supplied by God hereafter.

9. (3.) But the rule is to be understood in great instances
as well as in great degrees of duty; for there are in the ser-
mons of Christ some instances of duties, which although
they are pursuances of laws and duty, yet in their own ma-
terial natural being are not laws, but both in the degree
implied, and in the instance expressed, are counsels evange-
lical ; to which we are invited by great rewards, but not
obliged to them under the proper penalties of the law. Such
are making ourselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven,
selling all, and giving it to the poor. The duties and Jaws
here signified are chastity, charity, contempt of the world,
zeal for the propagation of the Gospel : the virtues themselves
are direct duties, and under laws and punishment ; but that


we be charitable to the degree of giving all away, or that we
act our chastity by a perpetual celibate, are not laws ; but
for the outward expression we are wholly at our liberty ;
and for the degree of the inward grace, we are to be still
pressing forwards towards it : we being obliged to do so by
the nature of the thing, by the excellence of the reward, by
the exhortations of the Gospel, by the example of good men ;
by our love to God, by our desires of happiness, and by the
degrees of glory. Thus St. Paul took no wages of the Co-
rinthian churches ; it was an act of an excellent prudence,
and great charity, but it was not by the force of a general
law; for no man else was bound to it, neither was he ; for he
did not do so to other Churches ; but he pursued two or
three graces to excellent measures and degrees: he became
exemplary to others, useful to that Church, and did advantage
the affairs of religion: and though possibly he might, and
so may we, by some concurring circumstances, be pointed
out to this very instance and signification of his duty, yet
this very instance, and all of the same nature, are counsels
evangelical ; that is, not imposed upon us by a law, and
under a threatening; but left to our liberty, that we may ex-
press freely what we are necessarily obliged to do in the
kind, and to pursue forwards to degrees, of perfection.

10. These, therefore, are the characteristic notes and
measures to distinguish a counsel evangelical from the laws
and commandments of Jesus Christ.

The Notes of Difference between Counsels and Commandments

1 . Where there is no negative expressed or involved, there
it cannot be a law ; but it is a counsel evangelical. For in
every law there is a degree of duty so necessary, that every
thing less than it is a direct act or state of sin : and therefore,
if the law be affirmative, the negative is included, and is the
sanction of the main duty. " Honour thy father and mother,''
that is a law: for the lowest step of the duty there enjoined
is bound upon us by this negative, " Thou shalt not curse
thy father or mother ;" or, ' Thou shalt not deny to give them
maintenance ; Thou shalt not dishonour them, not slight,
not undervalue, not reproach, not upbraid, not be rude or
disobedient to them :' whenever such a negative is included,


that is the indication of a law. But in counsels evangelical,
there is nothing but what is affirmative. There are some who
make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven : that
is the intimation of a religious act or state : but the sanction
of it is nothing that is negative, but this only ; " He that hath
ears to hear, let him hear :" and " Qui potest capere, capiat ;
He that can receive it, let him receive it :" and " He that
hath power over his will, and hath so decreed in his heart,
does well." In commandments it is, ' He that does the duty,
does well ; he that does not, does ill :' but in counsels it is,
* He that does not, may do well : but he that does, does bet-
ter:' as St. Paul discourses in the question of marriage; 3
in which instance it is observable, that the comparison of
celibate and marriage is not in the question of chastity, but
in the question of religion ; one is not a better chastity than
the other. Marriage is xo/Yj uplavros, ' an undefiled state ;'
and nothing can be cleaner than that which is not at all un-
clean ; but the advantages of celibate above marriage, as they
are accidental and contingent, so they are relative to times,
and persons, and states, and external ministries : for to be
made a ' eunuch for the kingdom of heaven,' is the same
that St. Paul means by ' the unmarried careth for the things
of the Lord ;' that is, in these times of trouble and persecu-
tion, they who are not entangled in the affairs of a household
can better travel from place to place in the ministries of the
Gospel ; they can better attend to the present necessities of
the Church, which are called * the things of the Lord ;' or ' the
affairs of the kingdom of heaven :' but at no hand does it
mean, that the state of single life is, of itself, a counsel evan-
gelical, or a further degree of chastity, but of an advantageous
ministry to the propagation of the Gospel. But be it so, or
be it otherwise ; yet it is a counsel and no law, because it
hath no negative part in its constitution, or next appendage.
11. (2.) When the action or state is propounded to us
only upon the account of reward, and there is no penalty
annexed, then it is a counsel and no law : for there is no legis-
lative power where there is no coercitive : and it is but a
precarious government, where the lawgiver cannot make the
subject either do good or suffer evil : and therefore the 'jus
gladii' and the ' merum imperium' are all one : and he that

a 1 Cor. vii.


makes a law and does not compel the involuntary, does but
petition the subject to obey, and must be content he shall do
it when he hath a mind to it. But therefore as soon as men
made laws, and lived in communities, they made swords to
coerce the private, and wars to restrain the public, irregulari-
ties of the world.

- Debinc absistere bello,

Oppida coeperunt munire : et ponere leges,
Ne quis fur esset, neu latro, neu quis adulter. b

For it was impossible to preserve justice, or to defend the
innocent, or to make obedience to laws, if the consuls lay
aside their rods and axes : and so it is in the Divine laws ;
the Divine power and the Divine wisdom make the Divine
laws, and fear is the first sanction of them : it is the begin-
ning of all our wisdom, and all human power being an imi-
tation of and emanation from the Divine power, is in the
sum of affairs nothing but this : " Habere potestatem gladii
ad animadvertendum in facinorosos homines ;" and therefore
we conclude it to be no law, to the breaking of which no
penalty is annexed : and therefore it was free to St. Paul to
take or not to take wages of the Corinthian Church ; for if
he had taken it, it had been nothing but the making of his
glorying void : that is, he could not have had the pleasure of
obliging them by an uncommanded instance and act of kind-
ness. Hope and reward are the endearment of counsels ; fear
and punishment are the ligatures of laws.

12. (3.) In counsels sometimes the contrary is very evil :
Thus to be industrious and holy, zealous and prudent, in
the offices ecclesiastical, and to take holy orders in the days
of persecution and discouragement, is an instance of love, I
doubt not, very pleasing and acceptable to God ; and yet he
that suffers himself to be discouraged from that particular
employment, and to divert to some other instance in which
he may well serve God, may remain very innocent or excus-
able : but those in the Primitive Church, who so feared the
persecution or the employment, that they cut off their thumbs
or ears to make themselves canonically incapable, were highly
culpable ; because he that does an act contrary to the design
of a counsel evangelical, is an enemy to the virtue and the

Hor. S. i. 3, 105. Gesner.


grace of the intendment : he that only lets it alone, does not
indeed venture for the greater reward ; but he may pursue
the same virtue in another instance or in a less degree, but
yet so as may be accepted. He that is diverted by his fear
and danger, and dares not venture, hath a pitiable, but, in
many cases, an innocent infirmity ; but he that does against
it, hath an inexcusable passion ; and is so much more blam-
able than the other, by how much a fierce enemy is worse
than a cold friend, or a neuter more tolerable than he that
stands in open hostility and defiance. But in laws, not only
the contrary, but even the privative, is also criminal : for not
only he that oppresses the poor, is guilty of the breach of cha-
rity, but he that does not relieve them ; because there is in
laws an affirmative and a negative part ; and both of them
have obligation ; so that in laws both omissions and commis-
sions are sins; but where nothing is faulty but a contrariety
or hostility, and that the omission is innocent, there it is only
a counsel.

13. (4.) In internal actions there is properly and directly
no counsel, but a law only: counsels of perfections are
commonly the great and more advantageous prosecutions of
an internal grace or virtue : but the inward cannot be hin-
dered by any thing from without, and therefore is capable of
all increase and all instances only upon the account of love ;
the greatest degree of which is not greater than the com-
mandment : and yet the least degree, if it be sincere, is even
with the commandment : because it is according to the capa-
city and greatness of the man. But the inward grace, in all
its degrees, is under a law or commandment, not that the
highest is necessary at all times, and to every person ; but
that we put no positive bars or periods to it at any time, but
love as much as we can to-day, and as much as we can to-
morrow, and still the duty and the words to have a current
sense : and ' as much as we can' must signify ' still more and
more ;' now the using of direct and indirect ministries for the
increasing of the inward grace, this I say, because it hath in
it materiality and an external part, and is directly subjicible
to the proper empire of the will, this may be the matter of
counsel in the more eminent and zealous instances, but the
inward grace directly is not. To be just consists in an indi-
visible point, and therefore it is always a law ; but if to signify


and act our justice we give that which is due, and a great
deal more to make it quite sure, this is the matter of counsel ;
for it is the external prosecution of the inward grace, and
although this hath no degrees, yet that hath ; and therefore
that hath liberty and choice, whereas in this there is nothing
but duty and necessity.


Some Things may be used in the Service of God which are not
commanded in arty Law, nor explicitly commended in any
Doctrine of Jesus Christ.

1. THIS rule is intended to regulate the conscience in all
those questions, which scrupulous and superstitious people
make in their inquiries for warranties from Scripture in every
action they do, and in the use of such actions in the ser-
vice of God ; for which particulars because they have no word,
they think they have no warrant, and that the actions are
superstitious. The inquiry then hath two parts :

1. Whether we are to require from Scripture a warrant
for every action we do, in common life ?

2. Whether we may not do or use any thing in religion,
concerning which we have no express word in Scripture, and
no commandment at all ?

1. Concerning the first the inquiry is "but short, because
there is no difficulty in it, but what is made by ignorance
and jealousy ; and it can be answered and made evident by
common sense, and the perpetual experience and the natural
necessity of things. For the laws of Jesus Christ were in-
tended to regulate human actions in the great lines of religion,
justice, and sobriety, in which as there are infinite particulars
which are to be conducted by reason and by analogy to the
laws and rules given by Jesus Christ ; so it is certain that as
the general lines and rules are to be understood by reason
how far they do oblige, so by the same we can know where
they do. But we shall quickly come to issue in this affair.
For if for every thing there is a law or an advice, let them
that think so find it out and follow it. If there be not for


every thing such provision, their own needs will yet become
their lawgiver, and force them to do it without a law. Whe-
ther a man shall speak French or English ; whether baptized
persons are to be dipped all over the body, or will it suffice that
the head be plunged ; whether thrice or once ; whether in
water of the spring, or the water of the pool ; whether a man
shall marry, or abstain ; whether eat flesh or herbs ; choose
Titius or Caius for my friend ; be a scholar or a merchant ;
a physician or a lawyer ; drink wine or ale ; take physic for
prevention, or let it alone; give to his servant a great pen-
sion, or a competent ; what can the Holy Scriptures have to
do with any thing of these, or any thing of like nature and
indifference ?

2. For by nature all things are indulged to our use and
liberty ; and they so remain till God, by a supervening law,
hath made restraints in some instances to become matter of
obedience to him, and of order and usefulness to the world;
but therefore where the law does not restrain, we are still
free as the elements, and may move as freely and indifferently
as the atoms in the eye of the sun. And there is infinite dif-
ference between law and lawful ; indeed there is nothing
that is a law to our consciences but what is bound upon us
by God, and consigned in Holy Scripture (as I shall in the
next rule demonstrate); but therefore every thing else is per-
mitted or lawful, that is, not by law restrained : liberty is
before restraint ; and till the fetters are put upon us, we are
under no law and no necessity, but what is natural. But if
there can be any natural necessities, we cannot choose but
obey them, and for these there needs no law or warrant from

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 7 of 61)