Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

yard and tear him, is so improbable and unreasonable, that it is therefore not to be done, lest the authority, and the counsel, and the threatening, become ridiculous: but we have warrant to threaten him with diseases, and sharp sicknesses, and temporal death; and the warrant is derived from a precedent in Scripture, God's dealing with the Corinthian communicants 2.

2. He who thus intends to dissuade, must in prudence be careful that he be not too decretory and determinate in the particular; but either wholly instance in general threatenings, or with exceptive and cautious terms in the particular; as, Take heed lest such an evil happen:' or, 'It is likely it may,' and 'We have no security for a minute against it;' and So God hath done to others.'

[ocr errors]

3. Let these be only threatenings, not prophecies, lest the whole dispensation become contemptible; and therefore let all such threatenings be understood with a provision, that if such things do not happen, the man hath not escaped God's anger, but is reserved for worse. God walketh upon the face of the waters, and his footsteps are not seen; but however, evil is the portion of the sinner.

16. (3.) In all those threatenings which are according to the analogy of the Gospel, or the state of things and persons with which we have intercourse, we may take all that liberty that can by apt instruments concur to the work of God: dressing them with circumstances of terror and affrightment, and representing spiritual events by metaphors, apologues, and instances of nature. Thus our blessed Lord, expressing the torments of hell, signifies the greatness of them by such things which in nature are most terrible; as "brimstone and fire, the worm of conscience, weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." But this, I say, must ever be kept within the limits of analogy to what is revealed, and must not make excursions to extraregular and ridiculous significations. Such as is the fancy of some divines in the Roman church, and particularly of Cornelius à Lapide, that the souls of the damned shall be rolled up in bundles like a heap and involved circles of snakes, and in hell shall sink down like a stone into the bottomless pit, falling still downward for ever and ever. This is not well; but let the expres

[blocks in formation]

sions be according to the proportions of what is revealed. The divines in several ages have taken great liberty in this affair, which I know no reason to reprove, if some of their tragical expressions did not, or were not apt to, pass into dogmatical affirmatives and opinions of reality in such inventions.

17. (4.) If any extraregular example hath ever happened, that may be made use of to affright men from the same or the like sins, and so pass into a regular warning. Thus, though it but once happened, that God punished rebellion by causing the earth to open and swallow up the rebels against their prince and priest, Moses and Aaron, that is, it is but once recorded in Holy Scripture; yet God hath the same power now, and the same anger against rebellion; and as he can, so we are not sure that he will not, oftentimes do the same. Whatsoever hath happened and can happen, we ought to fear lest in the like cases it should happen. And therefore this is a proper instrument of a just fear, and apt rightly to minister to a sure and a right conscience.

18. (5.) If any prodigy of accident and judgment hath happened, though it be possible it may be done for the manifestation of the divine glory, yet because it is ten thousand to one, but it is because of sin too; this may be made use of to affright sinners, although there be no indication for what sin that judgment happened. Thus the ruin of the Greek monarchy finished upon the day of Pentecost: the fearful and prodigious swallowing up the cities of the Colossians and Laodiceans; the burning towns and villages by eruption of fire from mountains; the sudden cataracts of water breaking from the Indian hills; the sudden death and madness of many people; the horrible ruin and desolation. of families and kingdoms, may be indifferently used and propounded to all sorts of persons, where there is need of such violent courses and provided that they be charitably and prudently applied, may effect fear and caution in some sinners, who otherwise would be too ready for gaieties and unsafe liberties.

19. (6.) To children and fools, and all those whose understanding is but a little better, it hath been in all ages practised, that they be affrighted with mormoes and bugbears, that they may be cozened into good. But this is

therefore permitted, because other things which are real, certain, or probable, cannot be understood or perceived by them and therefore these things are not to be permitted, where it can well be otherwise. If it cannot, it is fit that their understandings should be conducted thither where they ought to go, and by such instruments as can be useful.

RULE VII.

A Conscience determined by the Counsel of wise Men, even against its own Inclinations, may be sure and right. FOR in many cases the counsel of wise men is the best argument; and if the conscience was first inclined by a weaker, every change to a better is a degree of certainty. In this case, to persist in the first inclination of conscience, is obstinacy, not constancy: but on the other side, to change our first persuasion when it is well built, for the counsel of men of another persuasion, though wiser than ourselves, is levity, not humility. This rule is practicable only in such cases where the conscience observes the weakness of its first inducement, or justly suspects it, and hath not reason so much to suspect the sentence of wiser men. How it is further to be reduced to practice, is more properly to be considered in the third chapter, and thither I refer it.

RULE VIII.

He that sins against a right and sure Conscience, whatever the Instance be, commits a great Sin, but not a double one.

1. His sin is indeed the greater, because it is less excusable and more bold. For the more light there is in a regular understanding, the more malice there is in an irregular will. "If I had not come to them (said Christ), they had not had sin; but now have they no cover for their sin:" that is, because they are sufficiently taught their duty. It is not an aggravation of sin, barely to say, It was done against our b Jolin, xv. 22.

conscience' for all sins are so, either directly or indirectly, mediately or immediately, in the principle or in the emanation. But thus; the more sure and confident the conscience is, the sin receives the greater degree. It is an aggravation of it, that it was done against a clear light, and a full understanding, and a perfect, contrary, determination.

[ocr errors]

2. But even then it does not make it to be a distinct sin. "Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin," said the Apostle; but he did not say it was two. It is a transcendent passing upon every sinful action, that it is against a known law, and a contrary reason and persuasion; but if this could make the act to be doubly irregular, by the same reason, every substance must be two, viz., by having a being, and a substantial being. And the proper reason of this is, because the conscience obliges and ties us by the band of the commandment, the same individual band, and no other. The conscience is therefore against the act, because the commandment is against it; the conscience being God's remembrancer, the record, and the register of the law. A thief does not sin against the law and the judge severally; neither does the magistrate punish him one way, and the law another. The conscience hath no law of its own, but the law of God is the rule of it. Therefore, where there is but one obligation to the duty, there can be but one deformity in the prevarication. But,

3. In sins where there is a double formality, there, indeed, in one action there may be two sins, because there is a double law as he that kills his father, sins twice, he is impious and unjust; he breaks the laws of piety and justice; he sins against the fifth and the sixth commandments at once; he is a murderer, and he is ungrateful, and he is impious. But in sins of a single nature, there is but a single relation. For the conscience and the law, is the rule and the parchment; and he that sins against the one, therefore also sins against the other, because they both terminate but one relation.

4. But although he does not commit two sins, yet he commits one great one,-there being nothing that can render an action culpable or imputable in the measures of justice, but its being a deviation from, or a contradiction to, the rule. It is against my conscience, that is, against my illuminated and instructed reason, therefore it is a sin: this is a demonstration, because it is against God, and against myself;

against my reason, and his illumination; that is, against all bands, divine and human.

5. Quest. But then what shall a judge do, who knows the witnesses in a criminal cause to have sworn falsely? The case is this: Conopus, a Spartan judge, walking abroad near the gardens of Onesicritus, espies him killing of his slave Asotus; who, to palliate the fact, himself accuses another of his servants, Orgilus, and compelled some to swear it as he affirmed. The process was made, advocates entertained by Onesicritus, and the poor Orgilus convict by testimony and legal proof. Conopus, the judge, knows the whole process to be injurious, but knows not what to do, because he remembers that he is bound to judge according to allegation and proof, and yet to do justice and judgment, which, in this case, is impossible. He therefore inquires for an expedient, or a peremptory resolution on either hand: since he offends against the laws of Sparta, the order of law, and his own life, if he acquits one who is legally convicted; and yet, if he condemns him whom he knows to be innocent, he sins against God and nature, and against his own conscience.

6. That a judge not only may, but is obliged to, proceed according to the process of law, and not to his own private conscience, is confidently affirmed by Aquinas, by his master, and by his scholars, and, of late, defended earnestly by Didacus Covaruvias, a learned man indeed and a great lawyer; and they do it upon this account:

7. (1.) For there is a double person or capacity in a judge; he is a private person, and hath special obligations and duties incumbent upon him in that capacity: and his conscience hath a proper information, and gives him laws, and hath no superior but God: and as he is such a one, he must proceed upon the notices and persuasions of his conscience, guided by its own measures. But as he is a judge, he is to do the office of a judge, and to receive information by witnesses and solemnities of law, and is not to bring his own private conscience to become the public measure. Not Attilius Regulus, but the consul, must give sentence: and since he is bound to receive his information from witnesses, as they prove, so the law presumes; whose minister because he is, if there be any fault, it is in the law, not in the judge; and in

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »