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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 ἐφαρ μόζειν 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 estimate 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 forward 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 interested 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 discourse.
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.
-Conscience by its several Habitudes and Relations or Tendencies towards its proper Object, is divided into several Kinds.
1. CONSCIENCE in respect of its information, or as it relates to its object, taken materially, and in the nature of the thing, is either true or false, right or wrong; true when it is rightly informed, and proceeds justly; false when it is deceived. Between these as participating of either extreme, stands the probable conscience; which if we consider as it relates to its object, is sometimes right, and sometimes wrong, and so may be reduced to either, according as it is in the event of things. For in two contradictories which are both probable, as if one be, both are; if one part be true, the other is false; and the conscience of the several men holding the opposite parts, must be so too, that is, right and wrong, deceived and not deceived, respectively. The division then of conscience, in respect of its object, is tripartite.
2. For in all questions, if notice can be certainly had, he that gets the notice, hath a true conscience: he that misses it, hath a false or erring conscience. But if the notices that can be had, be uncertain, imperfectly revealed, or weakly transmitted, or understood by halves, or not well represented; because the understanding cannot be sure, the conscience can be but probable. But according as the understanding is fortunate, or the man wise and diligent, and honest enough to take the right side of the probability, so the conscience takes its place in the extreme, and is reduced to right or wrong accordingly.
3. But to be right or wrong, is wholly extrinsical to the formal obligation of conscience, as it is a judge and a guide, and to the consequent duty of the man. For an erring conscience binds as much as the right conscience, directly and immediately, and collaterally more; that is, the man who hath an erring conscience, is tied to more and other duties, than he that is in the right. The conscience binds because it is heartily persuaded, not because it is truly informed; not because it is right, but because it thinks so.
4. It does indeed concern the duty of conscience, and its felicity, to see that it be rightly instructed, but as to the
consequence of the action, it is all one: this must follow whatsoever goes before. And therefore, although it concerns the man, as much as his felicity and all his hopes come to, to take care that his conscience be not abused in the matter of duty; yet a right and a wrong conscience are not made distinct guides and different judges. Since therefore we are to consider and treat of conscience, as it is the guide of our actions, and judge of our persons, we are to take it in other aspects, than by a direct face towards its object; the relation to which alone, cannot diversify its kind, so much as to become a universal rule to us in all cases and emergencies.
5. Now because intellectual habits, employed about the same general object, have no way to make them of different natures, but by their formal tendencies, and different manners of being affected with the same object; we are in order to the perfect division and assignation of the kinds of conscience, to consider the right conscience, either as it is sure, or as it is only confident, but not sure. For an erring conscience and the unerring are the same judge, and the same guide, as to the authority and persuasion and as to the effect upon the person: but yet they differ infinitely in their rule; and the persons under their conduct differ as much in their state and condition. But our conscience is not a good guide unless we be truly informed, and know it. For if we be truly informed, and know it not, it is an uncertain and an imperfect guide. But if we be confident and yet deceived, the uncertainty and hesitation are taken off, but we are still very miserable. For we are like an erring traveller, who being out of the way, and thinking himself right, spurs his horse and runs full speed: he that comes behind, is nearer to his journey's end.
6. That therefore is the first kind of conscience, the right sure conscience; and this alone is fit to be our guide; but this alone is not our judge.
7. (2.) Opposite to this is the confident or erring conscience; that is, such which indeed is misinformed, but yet assents to its objects with the same confidence as does the right and sure; but yet upon differing grounds, motives, and inducements: which because they are always criminal, although the assent is peremptory and confident, yet the de
ception is voluntary and vicious in its cause; and therefore the present confidence cannot warrant the action, it only makes the sinner bold. So that these two differ in their manner of entering into the assent; the one entering by the door, the other by the breaches of the wall: good will and bad, virtue and vice, duty and sin, keeping the several keys of the persuasion and consent.
8. This erring conscience I therefore affirm to be always voluntary and vicious in its principle, because all God's laws are plain in all matter of necessary duty: and when all men are to be guided, learned and unlearned, the rule is plain and easy, because it is necessary it should be so. But therefore if there happen any invincible ignorance, or involuntary deception, it is there where the rule is not plain; and then the matter is but probable, and then the conscience is according. And this makes the third kind of conscience, in respect of the different manner of being affected with the object.
9. (3.) The probable conscience is made by that manner of assent to the object, which is indeed without fear, but not without imperfection. The thing itself is of that nature, that it cannot properly make faith or certainty of adherence; and the understanding considers it as it is represented without any prejudice or prepossession; and then the thing must be believed as it deserves, and no more: but because it does not deserve a full assent, it hath but an imperfect one; but it is perfect enough in its kind, that is, it is as much as it ought to be, as much as the thing deserves. These are all the kinds of conscience that are perfect.
10. (4.) But sometimes the state and acts of conscience are imperfect; as the vision of an evil eye, or the motion of a broken arm, or the act of an imperfect or abused understanding so the conscience in some cases is carried to its object but with an imperfect assent, and operates with a lame and deficient principle: and the causes of it are the vicious or abused affections, accidents or incidents to the conscience. Sometimes it happens, that the arguments of both the sides in a question seem so indifferent, that the conscience being affrighted and abused by fear and weakness, dares not determine and consequently dares not do any thing; and if it be constrained to act, it is determined from without, not by itself, but by accidents and persuasion, by