Изображения страниц

less practicable. But the good man understands the things of God; not only because God's Spirit, by secret immissions of light, does properly instruct him; but because he hath a way of determining his cases of conscience which will never fail him. For if the question be put to him whether it be fit for him to give a shilling to the poor; he answers that it is not only fit, but necessary to do so much at least, and to make it sure, he will give two: and in matter of duty he takes to himself the greater share; in privileges and divisions of right, he is content with the least: and in questions of priority and dignity he always prevails by cession, and ever is superior by sitting lowest, and gets his will, first by choosing what God wills, and then what his neighbour imposes or desires. But when men have no love to God, and desire but just to save their souls, and weigh grains and scruples, and give to God no more than they must needs, they shall multiply cases of consciences to a number which no books will contain, and to a difficulty that no learning can answer.

The multiplication also of laws and ceremonies of religion does exceedingly multiply questions of practice; and there were among the Jews, by reason of their numerous rites, many more than there were at first among the Christians. For we find the apostles only exhorting to humility, to piety towards parents, to obedience to magistrates, to charity and justice; and the Christians who meant well understood well, and needed no books of conscience but the rule, and the commandment. But when error crept in, truth became difficult and hard to be understood: and when the rituals of the church and her laws became numerous, then religion was hard to be practised: and when men set up new interests, then the laws of conscience were so many, that as the laws of the old Romans,

verba minantia fixo Ære legebantur

which at first were nailed in a brass plate upon a wall, became at last so numerous and filled so many volumes, that their very compendium made a large digest; so are these too many to be considered, or perfectly to be understood; and therefore either they must be cut off by simplicity and an honest heart, and contempt of the world, and our duty must

look for no measures but love and the lines of the easy commandment, or else we can have no peace and no security. But with these there is not only collateral security, but very often a direct wisdom. Because he that endeavours to keep a good conscience and hath an honest mind, besides that he will inquire after his duty sufficiently, he will be able to tell very much of it himself; for God will assist him, and cause that "his own mind shall tell him more than seven watchmen that sit in a tower;" and if he miss, he is next to an excuse, and God is ready to pardon him: and therefore in what sect of Christianity soever any man is engaged, if he have an honest heart, and a good conscience, though he be in darkness, he will find his way out, or grope his way within; he shall be guided, or he shall be pardoned; God will pity him, and find some way for his remedy; and if it be necessary, will bring him out.

But however it come to pass, yet now that the inquiries of conscience are so extremely numerous, men may be pleased to observe that theology is not every man's trade; and that it requires more wisdom and ability to take care of souls, than those men, who now-a-days run under the formidable burden of the preacher's office, can bring from the places of their education and first employment. Which thing I do not observe, that by it I might bring reputation to the office of the clergy; for God is their portion and lot, and as he hath given them work enough, so he hath given them honour enough, though the world despise them: but I speak it for their sakes who do what they ought not, and undertake what they cannot perform; and consequently do more hurt to themselves and others than possibly they imagine; which it were better they should amend, than be put to answer for it before him, who loves souls better than he loved his life, and therefore would not intrust them to the conduct of such persons, who have need to be taught the plain things of salvation, and learn to do justice and charity, and the proper things of a holy religion.

Concerning myself I shall make no request to my reader, but that he will charitably believe I mean well, and have done my best. If any man be troubled that he hath expected this nothing so long; I cannot make him other answer, but that I am afraid it is now too soon: and I bless God that I had

abilities of health and leisure now at last to finish it: but I should have been much longer, if God had not, by the piety of one of his servants, provided for me a comfortable retirement and opportunity of leisure: which if I have improved to God's glory, or to the comfort and institution of any one, he and I both have our ends, and God will have his glory; and that is a good conclusion, and to that I humbly dedicate my book.

From my study in Portmore in Kilultagh,

October 5, 1659.








Conscience is the Mind of a Man governed by a Rule, and measured by the Proportions of Good and Evil, in Order to Practice; viz., to conduct all our Relations, and all our Intercourse, between God, our Neighbours, and ourselves: that is, in all moral Actions.

1. GOD governs the world by several attributes and emanations from himself. The nature of things is supported by his power, the events of things are ordered by his providence, and the actions of reasonable creatures are governed by laws, and these laws are put into a man's soul or mind as into a treasury or repository: some in his very nature, some by after-actions, by education and positive sanction, by learning and custom; so that it was well said of St. Bernards; Conscientia candor est lucis æternæ, et speculum sine macula Dei Majestatis, et imago bonitatis illius:''Conscience is the brightness and splendour of the eternal light, a spotless mirror of the Divine Majesty, and the image of the goodness of God." It is higher which Tatianus said of conscience; Móvay va Ovvεídnowy Edv, Conscience is God unto us;' which saying he had from Menander,


Βροτοῖς ἅπασι συνείδησις Θεὸς,

and it had in it this truth, that God, who is every where in


g Lib. de Interior. Domo.

2 B

several manners, hath the appellative of his own attributes and effects in the several manners of his presence.

to us.

Jupiter est quodcunque vides, quocunque moverish.

[ocr errors]


2. That providence which governs all the world, is nothing else but God present by his providence: and God is in our hearts by his laws: he rules in us by his substitute, our conscience. God sits there and gives us laws; and as God said to Moses'," I have made thee a god to Pharaoh," that is, to give him laws, and to minister in the execution of those laws, and to inflict angry sentences upon him; so hath God done He hath given us conscience to be in God's stead to us, to give us laws, and to exact obedience to those laws, to punish them that prevaricate, and to reward the obedient. And therefore conscience is called οἰκεῖος φύλαξ, ἔνοικος OEòs, EniτOTOS daiuwv, the household guardian,'' the domestic god,'' the spirit or angel of the place:' and when we call God to witness, we only mean, that our conscience is right, and that God and God's vicar, our conscience, knows it. So Lactantius; Meminerit Deum se habere testem, id est, ut ego arbitror, mentem suam, qua nihil homini dedit Deus ipse divinius: Let him remember that he hath God for his witness, that is, as I suppose, his mind; than which God hath given to man nothing that is more divine.'—In sum, it is the image of God: and as in the mysterious Trinity, we adore the will, memory, and understanding, and theology contemplates three persons in the analogies, proportions, and correspondences, of them: so in this also we see plainly that conscience is that likeness of God, in which he was pleased to make man. For although conscience be primarily founded in the understanding, as it is the lawgiver, and dictator: and the rule and dominion of conscience fundatur in intellectu,' is established in the understanding part;' yet it is also memory, when it accuses or excuses, when it makes joyful and sorrowful; and there is in it some mixture of will, as I shall discourse in the sequel; so that conscience is a result of all, of understanding, will, and memory.

3. But these high and great expressions are better in the spirit than in the letter; they have in them something of

h Lucan, ix. 580. Oudendorp. p. 720.
k Lib. 6. de Vero Cultu. cap. 24.

i Exod. vii. 1.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »