Imágenes de páginas

injurious but by a violence that is greater but more just; and because the interests of men are complicated and difficult, defended by customs, preserved in records, secured by sentences of judges, and yet admit variety by so many accidents, circumstances, and considerations, as will require the attendance of one whole sort of men, and, of all men in the world, divines are the least fit to be employed in such troubles and contracts, such violences and oppositions, and yet they are so necessary, that without them the government of the world would be infinitely disordered, it is requisite that these should be permitted to a distinct profession. In particular matters of justice, ordinarily, and regularly, lawyers are the most competent judges: in matters of religion and sobriety, the office of divines is so wholly or principally employed, that it ought to be chosen for our guide.

2. In matters of justice, which are to be conducted by general rules, theology is the best conductress; and the lawyers' skill is but subservient and ministering. The reason for both is the same, because all the general measures of justice are the laws of God, and therefore cognizable by the ministers of religion ; but because these general measures, like a great river into little streams, are deduced into little rivulets and particularities by the laws and customs, by the sentences and agreements of men, therefore they must slip from the hands of the spiritual man to the prudent and secular. The divine can condemn all injustice, murder, incest, injurious dealing; but whether all homicide be murder, all marriage of kindred be incest, or taking that which another man possesses, be injustice,-must be determined by laws, and the learned in them; and though divines may rule all these cases as well as any of the long robe, yet it is by their prudence and skill in law, not by the proper notices of theology.

3. But justice is like a knife, and hath a back and an edge, and there is a letter and a spirit in all laws, and justice itself is to be conducted with piety, and there are modalities, and measures, and manners of doing or suffering in human intercourses, and many things are just which are not necessary, and there are excesses and rigours in justice which are to be moderated, and there are evil and entangling circumstances which make several instances to justle one an

other; and one must be served first, and another must stay its season; and in paying money there is an ordo ad animam,' and justice is to be done for God's sake, and at some times, and in some circumstances for charity's sake; and the law compels to pay him first that requires first; but in conscience, justice is oftentimes to be administered with other measures: so that as prudence sometimes must be called to counsel in the conduct of piety, so must piety oftentimes lead in justice, and justice itself must be sanctified by the word of God and prayer, and will then go on towards heaven, when both robes, like paranymphs attending a virgin in the solemnities of her marriage, helped to lead and to adorn her,

4. Sometimes human laws and Divine stand face to face and oppose each other, not only in the direct sanction (which does not often happen), but very often in the execution. Sometimes obedience to a human law will destroy charity, sometimes justice is against piety, sometimes piety seems less consistent with religion. The church is poor, our parents are necessitous, the fabrics of the houses of prayer are ruinous, and we are not able to make supplies to all these; here what is just, and what is duty--not the law, but theology will determine. I owe Sempronius a small sum of money ; it happens that he comes to demand it when the gatherers of gabels are present to demand an equal sum for taxes; here I am to ask my confessor, not my lawyer, whether of the two must be served, since I cannot pay both: and in this case the ministers of religion are the guards and defensatives of her interest; concerning which, for the present, I only insert this caution; that when religion and justice are in contest, the ministers of religion are not always bound to give sentence on the side of religion, but to consider which is the more necessary, and where the present duty stands; for sometimes it is absolutely necessary to do justice, and actions of particular religion must attend their season.

But then even justice turns into religion, and when it does so, theology must conduct her into action.

5. When the question concerns an interest, relative to either faculty, it is hard choosing the authority on either part, for one judges for itself, the other against his adversary; that is, in effect they are both judges in their own cause. It is notorious in the church of Rome, where the canonists say, that a canon lawyer is to be preferred before a divine in elections to bishoprics ; but you must think, the divines say that themselves are far the fitter. The canonists say that predial tithes are due by Divine right. The divines say they are only due by positive constitution. The secret of that is, because most of the divines that write books, are monks and friars, and such which are no friends to parishes, that the pope may be allowed to have power to take tithes from the parish priests, and give them to the monasteries; which he could not do, if by Divine right they were annexed to their proper cures. Amongst us the tables are turned, and the lawyers take the friars' part, and the divines generally affirm the Divine right of tithes. Concerning which it is to be considered, that though the authority of either part is not of itself sufficient to determine a doubting person, and where interest is apparent, the person persuading loses much of his authority, yet the proposition itself ought not to lose any thing. The interest appearing is no more warrant to disbelieve the proposition, than it is to believe it. In this case there is interest on both sides, and, therefore, as to that the case is indifferent. The way to proceed is to consider the proper instruments of persuasion, and because a truth is not the worse for serving his ends that teaches it, I am to attend to his arguments without any prejudice. But if I am not able to judge of the reasons, but must be led by authority, the presumption lies for the divines : I am to believe them rather than the lawyers in such questions, because there is some religion in doing so, and a relation to God, for whose sake it is, that I choose to obey their proposition.

6. Where, by the favour of princes or commonwealths, any matters of justice are reserved to ecclesiastical cognizance, in those affairs the authority of divines is to be preferred before that of lawyers, because the personal capacities of the men being equal in all things, the divines are exercised in the same matters, and, therefore, are both concerned and able, instructed and engaged, and though the lawyers are to be supposed honest, and just, and wise, yet all that also is to be supposed in divines, with some advantages of religion, and tenderness which is bred in them by their perpetual conversation with the things of God. But in all things he

comes the nearest to a sure way of being guided, who does his best and with greatest honesty of heart and simplicity of pious desires to be truly informed. It was well said of Socrates, “ An placeant Deo, quæ feci, nescio; hoc certo scio, me sedulo hoc egisse ut placerent:" “ The things which I have done, whether they please God or no, I know not; but this I know assuredly, that I did earnestly desire, and diligently take care that they might please him.”

If the question be concerning other divisions of men, as of schoolmen and casuists, critics or preachers, the answer can be no other, but that in all faculties relating to any parts of religion, as there are very wise men, and very weak men, so there are some to be preferred in each faculty, if we could find out who they are : but this prelation is relative to the men, not to the faculty, if they were rightly handled. For the several faculties are nothing but the proper portion of matter assigned to the consideration of an order of men, in a proper method : but the great end is the same, only the means of persuading the same truth is different. But in the church of Rome they are made several trades, and have distinct principles, and serve special and disunited ends and interests; and, therefore, which of them is to be preferred, as to the making a probable opinion, is just to be answered, as if we should ask which is best of feathers or wool; they both of them have their excellencies in order to warmth, and yet if you offer to swallow them down, they will infallibly choke you.


He that hath given Assent to one Part of a probable Opinion,

may lawfully depose that Conscience and that Opinion upon Confidence of the Sentence of another.

The curate of St. Martin being sent for to do his last offices to a dying man, finds him speechless, but yet giving signs of his penitence, as beating his breasts, weeping and groaning, holding up his hands, and looking pitifully, and in a penitent posture: the curate having read it disputed whether such a person may be absolved, concerning whose repentance he can have no other testimony but mute signs, which may be produced by other causes, and finding arguments on both sides, consents to the negative as probable; and yet finding learned persons there who are of another opinion, lays aside the practices of his own opinion, and in compliance with the other, absolves the sick man. One that was present, and understood the whole process, inquires whether he did well or no, as supposing that to do against his own opinion is to do against his conscience; and a man's own conscience " is more to him than ten watchmen that keep a city.”

In answer to this, it is to be considered there is a double consent to a proposition, the one is direct, the other a reflex; the first is directly terminated upon the honesty or dishonesty of the object, the other upon the manner of it, and modality. For instance, the curate does not directly consent to that part of the question which he hath chosen, as that which he will finally rely upon, but he consents to it only as a thing that is probable. If he were fully persuaded of the article as a thing certain, or as necessary (though of itself it be not so),-or if he thinks it is not to be altered, then to do against his opinion were to do against his conscience, because the opinion were passed the region of speculation and ineffective notion, and is become a rule and immediate measure of action. But because he believes it only probable, that is, such, in which he is not certain, but may be deceived, and may use liberty,-he may as well choose that part of the probability which derives from the reputation and abilities of other men, as that which proceeds from considerations of those little intrinsic arguments which moved his assent lightly like a breath upon the waters, or the smile of an undiscerning infant. His own opinion is well enough concerning the honesty of the object; but yet he that chooses the other part, may make an honest election; for his own opinion reflecting upon itself, not going beyond the stage of uncertainty and probability, does openly challenge its own right of choosing another part: the conscience is no ways entangled and determined, but so chooses that it may choose again, if she sees cause for it,-a cause in the particular case, which she espied not in the abstracted question.

For he may prudently suppose, that in what he is not certainly persuaded, another may be wiser and know more, and can judge surer: and if he have reason to think SO, it

« AnteriorContinuar »