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of a man is taught by the Spirit of God in Scripture, what to believe, how to distinguish truth from errors; so is the conscience instructed to distinguish good and evil, how to please God, how to do justice and charity to our neighbour, and how to treat ourselves; so that when the revelations of Christ and the commandments of God are fully recorded in our minds, then we are perfectly instructed to every good work.'
Governed by a Rule.
11. St. Bernard comparing the conscience to a house, says it stands upon seven pillars. 1. Good will. 2. Memory of God's benefits. 3. A clean heart. 4. A free spirit. 5. A right soul. 6. A devout mind. 7. An enlightened reason. These indeed are, some of them, the fruits and effects, some of them are the annexes and appendages, of a good conscience, but not the foundations or pillars upon which conscience is built. For as for
1. Good Will,—
12. Conscience relies not at all upon the will directly. For though a conscience is good or bad, pure or impure; and so the doctors of mystic theology divide and handle it; yet a conscience is not made so by the will, formally, but by the understanding. For that is a good conscience, which is rightly taught in the word of life; that is impure and defiled, which hath entertained evil and ungodly principles; such is theirs, who follow false lights, evil teachers, men of corrupt minds. For the conscience is a judge and a guide, a monitor and a witness, which are the offices of the knowing, not of the choosing faculty. "Spiritum, correctorem, et pædagogum animæ," so Origen calls it; "the instructor of the soul, the spirit, the corrector."-" Naturale judicatorium," or "naturalis vis judicandi," so St. Basil.-"The natural power of judging or nature's judgment-seat.”—“ Lucem intellectus nostri," so Damascen calls it, "the light of our understanding." The conscience does accuse or excuse a man before God, which the will cannot. If it could, we should all stand upright at doomsday, or at least those would be acquitted, who fain would do well, but miss, who do the things they love not, and love those they do not; that is," they who strive to enter in, but shall not be able.' e De Interior. Domo, cap. 7. f Ubi supra. In Psal. xlviii.
But to accuse or excuse is the office of a faculty which can neither will nor choose, that is, of the conscience, which is properly a record, a book, and a judgment-seat.
13. But I said, conscience relies not upon the will directly; yet it cannot be denied, but the will hath force upon the conscience collaterally and indirectly. For the evil will perverts the understanding, and makes it believe false principles: "deceiving and being deceived" is the lot of false prophets; and they that are "given over to believe a lie,' will live in a lie, and do actions relative to that false doctrine, which evil manners first persuaded and introduced. For although it cannot be, that heretics should sin in the article against the actual light of their consciences, because he that wittingly and willingly sins against a known truth, is not properly a heretic but a blasphemer, and sins against the Holy Ghost; and he that sees a heretic run to the stake or to the gallows, or the Donatist kill himself, or the Circumcellian break his own neck with as much confidence to bear witness to his heresy, as any of the blessed martyrs to give testimony to Christianity itself, cannot but think he heartily believes, what so willingly he dies for; yet either heretics do sin voluntarily, and so distinguish from simple errors; or else they are the same thing, and either every simple error is damnable, or no heresy. It must therefore be observed, that
14. The will of man is the cause of its actions either mediately or immediately. Some are the next products of our will; such are pride, ambition, prejudice, and these blind the understanding, and make an evil and a corrupted conscience, making it an incompetent judge of truth and error, good and evil. So that the corruption of conscience in a heretic is voluntary in the principle, but miserable and involuntary in the product; it may proceed from the will efficiently, but it is formally a depravation of the understanding.
15. And therefore our wills also must be humble, and apt, and desirous to learn, and willing to obey. Obedite et intelligetis;' By humility and obedience we shall be best instructed. Not that by this means the conscience shall receive direct aids, but because by this means it will be left in its own aptnesses and dispositions, and when it is not hindered, the word of God will enter and dwell upon the conscience.
And in this sense it is that some say that' Conscience is the inclination and propension of the will corresponding to practical knowledge.' Will and conscience are like the 'cognati sensus,' the touch and the taste; or the teeth and the ears, affected and assisted by some common objects, whose effect is united in matter and some real events, and distinguished by their formalities, or metaphysical beings.
2. Memory of God's Benefits,
16. Is indeed a good engagement to make us dutiful, and incline the will: but it hath no other force upon the conscience but that it reminds us of a special obligation to thankfulness, which is a new and proper tie of duty: but it works only by a principle that is already in the conscience, viz., that we are specially obliged to our gracious lords; and the obedience that is due to God as our Lord, doubles upon us by love and zeal, when we remember him to be our bountiful patron, and our gracious Father.
3. A clean Heart,
17. May be an effect and emanation from a holy conscience; but conscience in itself may be either good or bad, or it may be good when the heart is not clean, as it is in all the worst men who actually sin against conscience, doing that which conscience forbids them. In these men the principles are holy, the instruction perfect, the law remaining, the persuasions uncancelled; but against all this torrent, there is a whirlwind of passions, and filthy resolutions, and wilfulness, which corrupt the heart, while as yet the head is uncorrupted in the direct rules of conscience. But yet sometimes a clean conscience and a clean heart are the same; and a good conscience is taken for holiness: so St. Paul' uses the word, "holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away have made shipwreck ;” ὅτι τὴν θεόθεν ἥκου· σαν συνείδησιν ἀπιστίᾳ κατεμίηναν,---so Clemens Alexandrinus explicates the place," they have by infidelity polluted their divine and holy conscience:" but St. Paul seems to argue otherwise, and that they, laying aside a good conscience, fell into infidelity: their hearts and conscience were first corrupted, and then they turned heretics. But this sense of a good conscience is that, which in mystic divinity is more pro
1 Tim. i. 5. 19
perly handled, in which sense also it is sometimes used in law. "Idem est conscientia quod vir bonus intrinsece," said Ungarellus out of Baldus'; and from thence Aretine * thered this conclusion, that "if any thing be committed to the conscience of any one, they must stand to his determination, et ab ea appellari non potest;' there lies no appeal,' • Quia vir bonus, pro quo sumitur conscientia, non potest mentiri et falsum dicere vel judicare;' A good man, for whom the word conscience is used, cannot lie, or give a false judgment or testimony." Of this sort of conscience it is said by Ben Sirach'," Bonam substantiam habet, cui non est peccatum in conscientia:" "It is a man's wealth to have no sin in our conscience."-But in our present and future discourses, the word conscience is understood in the philosophical sense, not in the mystical, that is, not for the conscience as it is invested with the accidents of good or bad, but as it abstracts from both, but is capable of either,
4. A free Spirit,
18. Is the blessing an effect of an obedient will to a wellinstructed conscience, and more properly and peculiarly to the grace of chastity, to honesty and simplicity; a slavish, timorous, a childish and trifling spirit, being the punishment inflicted upon David, before he repented of his fact with Bathsheba. But there is also a freedom which is properly the privilege, or the affection, of conscience, and is of great usefulness to all its nobler operations; and that is, a being clear from prejudice and prepossession, a pursuing of truths with holy purposes, and inquiring after them with a single eye, not infected with any sickness or unreasonableness. This is the same thing with that which he distinctly calls, 5. a right soul.' To this is appendant also, that the conscience cannot be constrained, it is of itself' a free spirit,' and is subject to no commands, but those of reason and religion. God only is the Lord of our conscience, and the conscience is not to subject itself any more to the empire of sin, to the law of Moses, to a servile spirit, but to the laws of God alone, and the obedience of Jesus, willingly, cheerfully, and in all in
h Verb. Conscientia.
i In c. Cum. Causa de Testi.
* In sect. Sed iste. Inst. t. de Act. Gl. in c. Statut. sect. Assess. Detent, Ecclus. xiii. 30. alias 24.
stances, whether the commandment be conveyed by the Holy Jesus, or by his vicegerents. But of this I shall afterward give particular accounts.
6. A devout Mind,
19. May procure more light to the conscience, and assistances from the Spirit of wisdom, in cases of difficulty, and is a good remedy against a doubting and a scrupulous conscience; but this is but indirect, and by the intermission of other more immediate and proper intercourses.
But the last is perfectly the foundation of conscience.
7. An enlightened Reason.
20. To which if we add what St. Bernard before calls a right soul,' that is, an honest heart, full of simplicity and hearty attention, and ready assent, we have all that by which the conscience is informed and reformed, instructed and preserved, in its just measures, strengths, and relations. For the rule of conscience is all that notice of things and rules, by which God would have good and evil to be measured, that is, the will of God communicated to us by any means, by reason, and by enlightening, that is, natural and instructed. So that conscience is νοῦς φυσικός, and θεοδίδακτος, it is principled by creation, and it is instructed or illuminated in the regeneration. For God being the fountain of all good, and good being nothing but a conformity to him or to his will, what measures he makes, are to limit us. No man can make measures of good and evil, any more than he can make the good itself. Men sometimes give the instance in which the good is measured; but the measure itself is the will of God. For therefore it is good to obey human laws, because it is God's will we should; and although the man makes the law to which we are to give obedience, yet that is not the rule. The rule is the commandment of God, for by it obedience is made a duty.
Measured by the Proportions of Good and Evil.
21. That is, of that which God hath declared to be good or evil respectively, the conscience is to be informed. God hath taken care that his laws shall be published to all his subjects, he hath written them where they must needs read them, not in tables of stone or phylacteries on the forehead, but in a