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And although he may command fond things, being abused by flatterers, or misinformation, yet the commandment issues from a just authority, and therefore equally passes into a law; so it is in conscience. If error or passion dictates, the king is misinformed, but the inferiors are bound to obey and we may no more disobey our conscience commanding of evil things, than we may disobey our king enjoining things imprudent and inconvenient. But therefore this rule gives caution to observe the information and inducement, and if we can discern the abuse, then the evil is avoided. For this governor conscience' is tied to laws, as kings are to the laws of God and nations, to justice and charity; and a man's conscience cannot be malicious: his will may; but if the error be discovered, the conscience, that is, the practical understanding, cannot. For it is impossible for a man to believe what himself finds to be an error: and when we perceive our conscience to be misguided, the deception is at an end. And therefore to make up this rule complete, we ought to be strict and united to our rule: for by that only we can be guided, and by the proportions to it we can discern right and wrong, when we walk safely, and when we walk by false fires. Concerning which, besides the direct survey of the rule and action, and the comparing each other, we may, in cases of doubt and suspicion, be helped by the following
Advices for the Practice of the former Rule.
3. (1.) We are to suspect our conscience to be misinformed, when we are not willing to inquire into the particulars. He that searches, desires to find, and so far takes the right course for truth can never hurt a man, though it may prejudice his vice, and his affected folly. In the inquiries after truth, every man should have a traveller's indifferency, wholly careless whether this or that be the right way, so he may find it. For we are not to choose the way because it looks fair, but because it leads surely. And to this purpose, the most hearty and particular inquest is most prudent and effective. But we are afraid of truth when we will not inquire, that is, when the truth is against our interest or passion, our lust or folly, that is, seemingly against us, in the present indisposition of our affairs.
4. (2.) He that resolves upon the conclusion before the premises, inquiring into particulars to confirm his opinion at a venture, not to shake it if it be false, or to establish it only in case it be true, unless he be defended by chance, is sure to mistake, or at least can never be sure whether he does or no.
This is to be understood in all cases to be so, unless the particular unknown be secured by a general that is known. He that believes Christ's advocation and intercession for us, in heaven upon the stock of Scripture, cannot be prejudiced by this rule, although, in the inquiries of probation and arguments of the doctrine, he resolve to believe nothing that shall make against his conclusion; because he is ascertained. by a proposition that cannot fail him. The reason of this exception is this, because in all discourses which are not perfectly demonstrative, there is one lame supporter, which must be helped out by the better leg; and the weaker part does its office well enough, if it can bring us to a place where we may rest ourselves and rely. He that cannot choose for himself, hath chosen well enough, if he can choose one that can choose for him; and when he hath, he may prudently rely upon such a person in all particulars, where he himself cannot judge, and the other can, or he thinks he can, and cannot well know the contrary. It is easier to judge of the general lines of duty, than of minutes and particulars and travellers that are not well skilled in all the little turnings of the ways, may confidently rely upon a guide whom they choose out of the natives of the place; and if he understands the coast of the country, he may well harden his face against any vile person, that goes about wittily to persuade him he must go the contrary way, though he cannot answer his arguments to the contrary. A man may prudently and piously hold a conclusion, which he cannot defend against a witty adversary, if he have one strong hold upon which he may rely for the whole question; because he derives his conclusion from the best ground he hath, and takes the wisest course he can, and uses the best means he can get, and chooses the safest ways that are in his power. No man is bound to do better than his best.
5. (3.) Illusion cannot be distinguished from conscience, if, in our search, we take a wrong course and use incompetent
He that will choose to follow the multitude which easily errs, rather than the wise guides of souls; and a man that is his partner in the question, rather than him that is disinterested; and them that speak by chance, rather than them who have studied the question: and a man of another profession, rather than him whose office and employment it is to answer,-hath no reason to be confident he shall be well instructed. John Niders tells an apologue well enough to this purpose:-Two brethren travelling together, whereof one was esteemed wise, and the other little better than a fool, came to a place where the way parted. The foolish brother espying one of them to be fair and pleasant, and the other dirty and uneven, would needs go that way, though his wiser brother told him, that in all reason that must needs be the wrong way; but he followedhis own eyes, not his brother's reason and his brother being more kind than wise, though against his reason, followed his foolish brother; they went on till they fell into the hands of thieves, who robbed them and imprisoned them, till they could redeem themselves with a sum of money. These brothers accuse each other before the king as author of each other's evil. The wiser complained that his brother would not obey him, though he was known to be wiser, and spake reason. The other complained of him for following him that was a fool, affirming, that he would have returned back, if he had seen his wise' brother confident, and to have followed his own reason. The king condemned them both; the fool, because he did not follow the direction of the wise, and the wise, because he did follow the wilfulness of the fool.-So will God deal with us at the day of judgment in the scrutinies of conscience. If appetite refuses to follow reason, and reason does not refuse to follow appetite, they have both of them taken incompetent courses, and shall perish together. It was wisely said of Brutus to Cicero, "Malo tuum judicium, quam ex altera parte omnium istorum. Tu enim à certo sensu et vero judicas de nobis ; quod isti ne faciant, summa malevolentia et livore impediuntur:" "I prefer thy judgment singly, before all theirs, because thou judgest by intuition of the thing; they cannot do that, being hindered by envy and ill-will."— The particulars of reducing this advice to practice in all special cases, I shall afterward enumerate; for the present I
g In Lavacro Conscient.
Lib. 11. Famil. Epist. 10. Cortius, p. 570.
say this only, that a man may consent to an evil authority, and rest in a false persuasion, and be conducted by an abused conscience, so long as the legislative reason is not conjoined to the judge conscience, that is, while by unapt instruments we suffer our persuasions to be determined.
6. (4.) That determination is to be suspected, that does apparently serve an interest, and but obscurely serve a pious end:
Utile quod nobis, do tibi consilium':
When that appears, and nothing else appears, the resolution or counsel is to be considered warily before it be pursued. It is a great allay to the confidence of the bold talkers in the church of Rome, and hinders their gain and market of proselytes from among the wise and pious very much,—that most of their propositions, for which they contend so earnestly against the other parts of Christendom, do evidently serve the ends of covetousness and ambition, of power and riches, and therefore stand vehemently suspected of design and art, rather than of piety or truth of the article, or designs upon heaven. I instance in the pope's power over princes and all the world; his power of dispensation; the exemption of the clergy from jurisdiction of secular princes; the doctrine of purgatory and indulgences, by which once the friars were set a work to raise a portion for a lady, the niece of Pope Leo X.; the doctrine of transubstantiation, by the effects and consequence of which, the priests are made greater than angels, and next to God; and so is also that heap of doctrines, by the particulars of which the ecclesiastical power is far advanced beyond the authority of any warrant from Scripture, and is made highly instrumental for procuring absolute obedience to the Papacy. In these things every man with half an eye can see the temporal advantage; but how piety and truth shall thrive in the meanwhile, no eye hath yet been so illuminate as to perceive. It was the advice of Ben Sirach," Consult not with a woman touching her of whom she is jealous; neither with a coward in matters of war; nor with a merchant concerning exchange; nor with a buyer, of selling; nor with an envious man of thankfulness; nor with an unmerciful man touching kindness; nor with the slothful for any work; nor with the hireling, for a year of
i Martial. 5, 20. 18.
k Ecclus. xxxvii. 11.
finishing work; nor with an idle servant, of much business; hearken not unto these in any matter of counsel." These will counsel by their interest, not for thy advantage.
But it is possible that both truth and interest may be conjoined; and when a priest preaches to the people the necessity of paying tithes, where they are by law appointed, or when a poor man pleads for charity, or a man in debt urges the excellency of forgetfulness; the truth which they discourse of, cannot be prejudiced by their proper concernments. For if the proposition serves the ends in religion, in providing for their personal necessities, their need makes the instances still the more religious, and the things may otherwise be proved. But when the end of piety is obscure, or the truth of the proposition is uncertain, then observe the bias; and if the man's zeal be bigger than the certainty of the proposition, it is to be estimated by the interest, and to be used accordingly.
But this is not to prejudice him that gives the counsel; for although the counsel is to be suspected, yet the man is not, unless by some other indications he betray himself. For he may be heartily and innocently persuaded of the thing he counsels, and the more easily and aptly believe that, against which himself did less watch, because he quickly perceived it could not be against himself,
Add to this, the counsel is the less to be suspected, if it be asked, then if it be offered. But this is a consideration of prudence, not of conscience directly.
7, (5.) If the proposition serve or maintain a vice, or lessen a virtue, it is certainly not conscience, but error and abuse; because no truth of God can serve God's enemy directly, or by its own force and persuasion. But this is to be understood only in case the answer does directly minister to sin, not if it does so only accidentally. Q. Furius is married to Valeria; but she being fierce and imperious, quarrelsome and loud, and he peevish and fretful, turns her away that he might have peace and live in patience. But being admonished by Hortensius the orator, to take her again, he asked counsel of the priests, and they advise him to receive her. He answers, that then he cannot live innocently, but in a perpetual state of temptation, in which he daily falls. The priest replies, that it is his own fault; let him learn patience, and