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importunity or force, by interest or fear: and whatever the ingredient be, yet when it does act, it acts with fear, because it reflects upon itself, and considers it hath no warrant, and therefore whatever it does, becomes a sin. This is the calamity of a doubting conscience. This doubting does not always proceed from the equality of the parts of the question, but sometimes wholly from want of knowing any thing of it; as if we were put to declare whether there were more men or women in the world? Whether the number of the stars were even or odd? Sometimes from inconsideration, sometimes from surprise, sometimes from confusion and disease; but from what principle soever it be, there is always some fear in it. This conscience can neither be a good guide, nor a good judge; we cannot do any thing by its conduct, nor be judged by it; for all that can be done before or after it, is not by it, but by the suppletories of the perfect con
11. (5.) A less degree of this evil, is that which by the masters of moral theology is called the scrupulous conscience, which is not a distinct kind of conscience, as is usually supposed, but differs from the doubting conscience only in the degrees of the evil. The doubt is less, and the fear is not so violent as to make it unlawful to do any thing; something of the doubt is taken off, and the man can proceed to action without sin, but not without trouble; he is uneasy and timorous, even when he is most innocent; and the causes of this are not only portions of the same weaknesses which cause the doubting conscience; but some, times superstition, and melancholy, and pusillanimity, and mean opinions of God, are ingredients into this imperfect assent: and in such cases, although the scrupulous man may act without sin, and produce his part of the determination, yet his scruple is not innocent, but sometimes criminal, but always calamitous. This is like a mote in the eye, but a doubt is like a beam.
12. This conscience may be a right guide, but dares not be a judge: it is like a guide in the dark, that knows the but fears every bush; and because he may err, thinks he does. The effect of this imperfection is nothing but a heartless and uncomfortable proceeding in our duty, and what else the devil can make of it, by heightening the evil.
and abusing the man, who sits upon a sure foundation, but dares not trust it; he cannot rely upon that, which yet he cannot disbelieve,
13. (6.) There are some other affections of conscience, and accidental appendages: but because they do not vary the manner of its being affected with its proper object, they cannot diversify conscience into several kinds, as it is a guide and judge of human actions. But because they have no direct influence upon our souls, and relate not to duty, but are to be conducted by rules of the other kinds, I shall here only enumerate their kinds, and permit to preachers to discourse of their natures, and collateral obligations to duty, of their remedies and assistances, their advantages and disadvantages respectively. These also are five; 1. The tender conscience. 2. The hardened or obdurate. 3. The quiet. 4. The restless or disturbed. 5. And lastly, The perverse conscience. Concerning which, I shall at present say this only: that the two first are seated principally in the will, but have a mixture of conscience, as docibility hath of understanding. The two next are seated in the fancy, or the affections, and are not properly placed in the conscience, any more than love or desire; but yet from conscience they have their birth. And for the last, it is a heap of irregular principles, and irregular defects, and is the same in conscience, as deformity is in the body, or peevishness in the affections.
OF THE RIGHT OR SURE CONSCIENCE.
A right Conscience is that which guides our Actions by right and proportioned Means, to a right End.
THE end is, God's glory, or any honest purpose of justice or religion, charity or civil conversation. Whatsoever is good for us or our neighbour, in any sense perfective of our being as God purposed it, all that is our end. The means ought to be such as are apt instruments to procure it. If a
man intends to live a severe life, and to attend religion, his end is just and fair, and so far his conscience is right: but if his conscience suggest to him, that he to obtain his end should erect colleges of women; and in the midst of feasts, and songs, and society, he should preach the melancholy lectures of the cross, it is not right; because the end is reached at by a contrary hand. But when it tells him, that to obtain continence he must fast and pray, watch diligently, and observe prudently, labour and read, and deny his appetite in its daily attempts upon him, then it is a right conscience. For a right conscience is nothing but right reason reduced to practice, and conducting moral actions. Now all that right reason can be defined by, is the propounding a good end, and good means to that end.
In a right Conscience, the practical Judgment, that is, the last Determination to an Action, ought to be sure and evident. 1. THIS is plain in all the great lines of duty, in actions determinable by the prime principles of natural reason, or divine revelation; but it is true also in all actions conducted by a right and perfect conscience. This relies upon all that account on which it is forbidden to do actions of danger, or doubt, lest we perish in the danger :-which are to be handled in their proper place. But for the present we are to observe, that in the question of actions, whose rule is not notorious and primely evident, there is or may be a double judgment.
2. The first judges the thing probable by reason of the differing opinions of men wise and pious; but in this there is a fear or suspicion of the contrary, and therefore in the direct act nothing is certain. But there is also, secondly, a reflex act of judgment; which upon consideration that it is certain that a probable action may lawfully be done; or else, that that which is but probable in the nature of the thing (so far as we perceive it) may yet, by the superadding of some circumstances, and prudential considerations, or by equity or necessity, become more than probable in the particular; although, I say, the conscience be uncertain in the
direct act, yet it may be certain, right, and determined, in the reflex and second act of judgment; and if it be, it is innocent and safe, it is that which we call the right-sure conscience.
3. For in moral things there cannot ordinarily be a demonstrative or mathematical certainty and in morality we call that certain, that is a thing to be followed and chosen, which oftentimes is but very highly probable; and many things do not attain that degree; and therefore because it is very often impossible, it is certainly not necessary that the direct judgment should be sure and evident in all cases. Τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἐπιστητὸν, ἀποδεικτόν· τέχνη δὲ καὶ φρόνησις τυγχάνουσιν οὖσαι περὶ τὰ ἐνδεχόμενα ἄλλως ἔχειν, “ Science is of those things which can be demonstrated; but prudence [and conscience], of things which are thus, or may be otherwise P."But if it be not supplied in the reflex and second act of judgment, so that the conscience be either certain in the object, or in the act, the whole progress is a danger, and the product is criminal; the conscience is doubtful, and the action is a sin.
4. It is in this as is usually taught concerning the divine knowledge of things contingent; which although they are in their own nature fallible and contingent, yet are known certainly and infallibly by God, and according to the nature of the things, even beyond what they are in their natural, proper, and next causes: and there is a rare and secret expression of Christ's incarnation used by St. Paul," in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," that is, the manner is contrary to the thing; the Godhead that is wholly incorporeal dwells in him corporally. After the like manner of signification is the present certainty I speak of. If it be not certain in the object, it must be certain in the faculty, that is, at least it must be a certain persuasion, though of an uncertain article: and we must be certain and fully persuaded, that the thing may be done by us lawfully, though whether the thing itself be lawful, is at most but highly probable.
5. So that in effect it comes but to this; The knowledge that is here required, is but the fulness of persuasion, which is and ought to be in a right conscience: Οἶδα καὶ πέπεισμαι. "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus :" so St. Paul.Our knowledge here, which is but in part, must yet be a full Aristot. Ethic. lib. 6. cap. 6. Wilkinson, p. 240. 4 Rom. xiv. 14.
confidence for the matters of duty. The conclusions then are these:
1. There must be a certainty of adherence in the actions of a right conscience.
2. It must also, for the matter of it too, at least be on the right side of the probability.
The conscience must be confident, and it must also have reason enough so to be; or at least, so much as can secure the confidence from illusion; although possibly the confidence may be greater than the evidence, and the conclusion. bigger than the premises. Thus the good simple man, that, about the time of the Nicene council, confuted the stubborn and subtle philosopher by a confident saying-over his creed: and the holy and innocent idiot, or plain easy people of the laity, that cannot prove Christianity by any demonstrations, but by that of a holy life, and obedience unto death; they believe it so, that they put all their hopes upon it, and will most willingly prove it again by dying for it, if God shall call them. This is one of the excellences of faith; and in all cases where the mercies of God have conducted the man into the right, it is not subject to illusion. But for that particular, I mean, that we be in the right, we are to take all that care which God hath put into our power:—of which I have already said something, and shall give fuller accounts in its proper place.
The practical Judgment of a right Conscience is always agreeable to the speculative Determination of the Understanding.
1. THIS rule is intended against those whose understanding is right in the proposition, and yet declines in the application; it is true in thesi,' but not in hypothesi; it is not true when it comes to be their case: and so it is in all that sin against their conscience, and use little arts to evade the clamour of the sin. They are right in the rule, and crooked in the measuring; whose folly is apparent in this, because they deny in particular, what they affirm in the general; and it is true in all, but not in some. David was redargued wit