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that principle, and makes the man not to consider his rule; and there he omits to worship and honour this God in many particulars to which the principle is applicable. But this discourse is coincident with that question, whether conscience may be totally lost? of which I have already given accounts". That and this will give light to each other.
4. (3.) But further, there are also some principles which are indeed naturally known, that is, by principles of natural reason: but because they are not the immediate principles of our creation and proper being, they have the same truth; and the same seat, and the same certainty; but not the same prime evidence, and connaturality to the soul; and therefore these may be lost, or obscured to all purposes of usefulness, and their contradictories may be admitted into the rule of conscience. Of this nature, I reckon, that fornication, violent and crafty contracts, with many arts of deception, and overreaching our brother, theft, incest in some kinds, drunkenness, and the like, are to be avoided. For concerning these, it is certain that some whole nations have so abused their conscience by evil manners, that the law in their mind hath been cancelled, and these things have passed for lawful. And to this day, that duels may be fought by private persons, and authority, is a thing so practised by a whole sort of men, that it is believed: and the practice, and the belief of the lawfulness of it, are interchangeably daughter and mother to each other. These are such of whom the Apostle speaks", they are " given over to believe a lie," they are delivered “to a reprobate mind." And this often happens, and particularly in those cases wherein one sin is inferred by another naturally, or morally, or by withdrawing of the divine grace.
5. (4.) Wherever the superior or the ruling part of conscience is an imperfect rule; in the same cases the inferior is an evil judge, that is, acquits the criminal, or condemns the innocent, calling good evil, and evil good: which is to be understood when the persuasion of the erring conscience is permanent and hearty, not sudden, and by the rapid violence of a passion; for in this case the conscience condemns as soon as that is acted, to which, before the action, it was cozened and betrayed: but it proceeds only in abiding and lasting errors. And this is the cause why so many orders of
In rule 1. numb. 5. et seq.
. Rom. i. 28.
persons continue in a course of sin with delight, and uninterrupted pleasure, thinking rebellion to be a just defence, sacrilege a lawful title; while other men, that are otherwise and justly persuaded, wonder at their peace, and hate their practices. Our blessed Lord foretold concerning the prosecutors of the church, that they should think they did God good service.' But such men have an evil portion, they sing in the fire, and go dancing to their graves, and sleep on till they be awakened in hell. And on the other side, this is because of superstition, and scruples, and sometimes of despairing and unreasonable fears, when the conscience is abused by thinking that to be sin, which is none.
All Consciences are to walk by the same Rule; and that which is just to one, is so to all, in the like Circumstances.
1. If all men were governed by the same laws, and had the same interest, and the same degrees of understanding, they would perceive the truth of this conclusion. But men are infinitely differenced by their own acts and relations, by their understandings and proper economy, by their superinduced differences and orders, by interest and mistake, by ignorance and malice, by sects and deceptions. And this makes that two men may be damned for doing two contradictories: as a Jew may perish for not keeping of his sabbath, and a Christian for keeping it; an Iconoclast for breaking images, and another for worshipping them: for eating, and for not eating; for receiving the holy communion, and for not receiving it; for coming to church, or staying at home.
2. But this variety is not directly of God's making, but of man's. God commands us to walk by the same rule, and to this end, to avrò poovev, "to be of the same mind ;" and φρονεῖν, this is ἀκρίβεια συνειδήσεως, “ the exactness of our conscience;" which precept were impossible to be observed, if there were not one rule, and this rule also very easy. For some men have but a small portion of reason and discretion, and they cannot help it; and yet the precept is incumbent upon them all alike; and therefore as the rule is one, so it is plain and easy, and written in every man's heart; and as
every man's reason is the same thing, so is every man's conscience; and this comes to be altered, just as that.
3. Neither is the unity of the rule prejudiced by the infinite difference of cases. For as a river, springing from the mountains of the east, is tempted by the levels of the ground and the uneasiness of its passage, to make some turns backward towards its head, even while it intends westward; so are the cases of conscience branched out into instances, sometimes of contrary proceedings, which are to be determined to cross effects, but still upon the same account. For in all things of the world the obligation is uniform, and it is of the same persuasion.
The case is this:
4. Autolycus robbed the gardens of Trebonius, and asked him forgiveness, and had it. But when Trebonius was chosen consul, and Autolycus robbed him again, and was taken by others, and as a thief brought before him, he asked forgiveness again but Trebonius condemned him to the galleys: for he who being a private man was bound to forgive a repenting trespasser, being a magistrate was bound not to forgive him; and both these were upon the same account. A man may forgive an injury done to himself, because it is his own right, and he may alone meddle in it; but an injury done to the commonwealth, she only could forgive, not her minister. So,
5. He that fasted upon a Saturday in Ionia or Smyrna, was a schismatic; and so was he who did not fast at Milan or Rome upon the same day, both upon the same reason;
Cum fueris Romæ, Romano vivito more;
because he was to conform to the custom of Smyrna, as well as to that of Milan, in the respective diocesses.
6. To kill a man, in some cases, defiles a land ; in others, it cleanses it, and puts away blood from the people; and it was plain in the case of circumcision. St. Paul did it, and did it not; both because he ought, and because he ought not; and all upon the same account and law of charity. And therefore all inquiries, and all contentions, and questions, should be relations to the rule, and be tried by nothing but a plain measure of justice and religion, and not stand or
fall by relations to separate propositions and distinct regards. For that is one and easy; these are infinite, uncertain, and contradictory. Τοῦτ ̓ ἔστι τὸ αἴτιον ἀνθρώποις πάντων τῶν κακῶν τὸ τὰς προλήψεις τὰς κοινὰς μὴ δύνασθαι ἐφαρμόζειν ταῖς ἐπὶ μέρους. “ It is a very great cause of mischief not to be able to deduce general propositions, and fit them to particular cases," said Arrianus °. But because all men cannot, therefore there will be an eternal necessity of spiritual guides, whose employment, and the business of their life, must be to make themselves able respondere de jure,'' to answer in matters of law,' and they also must be truly informed in the matters of fact.
In Conscience, that which is first, is truest, easiest, and
1. THERE are some practices, which, at the first sight, and by the very name and nature of the things themselves, seem as directly unreasonable and against a commandment, as any other thing of the foulest reproach; and yet, object the sin to the owners, and they will tell so many fine stories, and struggle, and distinguish, and state the question in a new manner, and chop it into fragments, and disguise the whole affair, that they do not only content and believe themselves, but also lessen the confidence of the adversary, and make a plain rule an uneasy lesson. I instance in the question of images, the making of some of which, and the worshipping of any, does at the first sight as plainly dash against the second commandment, as adultery does against the sixth. But if you examine the practice of the Roman church, and es timate them by the more wary determination of the article in Trent, and weigh it by the distinctions and laborious devices of its patrons, and believe their pretences and shows, it must needs be that you will abate something of the reproof; and yet all the while the worship of images goes ward: and if you lay the commandment over-against the devices and distinctions, it will not be easy to tell what the commandment does mean; and yet because it was given to In Epictet. lib. 3. c. 26.
the meanest understandings, and was fitted for them, either the conscience is left without a clear rule, or that sense is to be followed which stands nearest the light, that which is next to the natural and proper sense of the words. For it is certain God puts no disguises upon his own commandments, and the words are meant plainly and heartily; and the further you remove from their first sense, the more you have lost the purpose of your rule. In matters of conscience, that is the best sense, which every wise man takes in, before he hath sullied his understanding with the disguises of sophisters, and interessed persons; for then they speak without prejudice and art, that is, so as they should speak, who intend to guide wise men, and all men.
2. But this is to be understood otherwise, when the first sense of the words hath, in its letter, a prejudice open and easy to be seen; such as is that of 'putting out the right eye,' or cutting off the hand." The face is a vizor and a metaphor, and the heart of it only is the commandment, and that is to be understood by the measures of this rule; that is, the prime and most natural signification is the best, that which is of nearest correspondency to the metaphor and the design of the speaker, and the occasion and matter of dis
3. But in all things where the precept is given in the proper style of laws, and the vail is off, and the words are plain, he that takes the first sense is the likeliest to be well guided. If a war be commenced between a king and his people, he that is willing to read his duty, may see it in the words of Christ and of three apostles, and it is easy to know our duty; but when we are engaged against our prince, it is certain we are hugely put to it to make it lawful, and when our conscience must struggle for its rule, it is not so well as when it takes that which lies easy before us. Truth is easy, error is intricate and hard. If none but witty men could understand their duty, the ignorant and idiot could not be saved; but in the event of things it will be found that this man's conscience was better guided while simplicity held the taper, than by all the false fires of art, and witty distinctions. “Qui ambulat simpliciter, ambulat confidenter," saith Solomon. It is safer to walk on plain ground, than with tricks and devices to dance upon the ropes.