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may be a greater reason than that is, by which himself did choose his own opinion and part of the probability; and he may have reason to think meanly of himself, and he may remember sad stories of his frequent deception, and be conscious of his own unaptness to pass an honest unbiassed sentence, and hath no reason to trust himself in matters of proper interest or relation.
This rule hath no other variety in it but that it be managed by these cautions.
1. That the man upon whom we rely, be neither ignorant nor vicious, so far as we can judge, and so far as relates to the present question, that is, that he be a person fit to be a guide of others.
2. That relying on others proceed not out of idleness, and impatience to inquire ourselves.
3. That the opinion of the other be not chosen because it better serves my ends or humour, but upon the preceding grounds of humility and mean opinion of myself, and great opinion of the other.
4. That it be only against his own probable persuasion so known, so considered, not against a sure conscience; that is, that it be in such a matter, in which the assent is but imperfect, and relying upon unsure inducements. For then he may as honestly trust the other's prudence as his own weakness, the other's leisure and consideration, as his own want of time and aptness to consider : and since the actions of most men in the world are conducted by the wit of others in very many things, and of all men in some things, it cannot be imprudence to take a guide to direct the conscience in what it is not sufficiently instructed by its own provisions.
If the intercourse happen between the superior and the inferior, the liberty of changing our part of the probability is confirmed by a want of liberty to dissent. The subject may change his opinion, because he must obey wherever it is possible that he should; and that is in this case: in which it is not only true that the opinion is probable in itself, but that it and its contrary be both apprehended as probably true, and safely practicable. For then there is no excuse to the man, and the conscience of the article cannot be pretended against the conscience of obedience; and if it be lawful to obey, it is necessary to obey. “ Hoc amo quod possum qualibet ire via;” every man loves his liberty, but this liberty does engage our obedience; we might not obey our superior if God, had engaged us in the contrary; but we may, when we are persuaded that the contrary opinion is probable, that is, conformable to reason, and fit enough to guide him that is not finally determined in his conscience to the contrary. For if it could be otherwise, then there were nothing to be given to authority; for in equal probabilities, it is likely, if I choose one part, I am determined by a little thing, by a trifle, by a chance, by a humour; and if I be weighed down by never such a trifle, yet I am determined to the choice of one side, and it will be but an evil portion to authority, if it cannot be permitted to outweigh a humour, and a chance; an ignorant confidence, or a vain presumption ; and although it will be hard sometimes for a man to be convinced of the vanity of his argument, yet, when his opinion is not only speculatively but practically probable, that is, when it is considered only as probable, and the contrary altogether, or almost as well thought of, the arguments of the present persuasion are confessed to be but little, because they neither persuade, nor abuse beyond a probability; and, therefore, in this case, to outface authority is without pretence, as much as it is without warrant. And this is affirmed by St. Austin a in the case of soldiers under a king, taking pay in a cause which either is just, or that they are not sure it is unjust. vir justus, si forte etiam sub rege, homine sacrilego, militet, recte potest, illo jubente, bellare, si quod sibi jubetur, vel non esse contra Dei præceptum certum est, vel utrum sit, certum non est."
But if the intercourse happen between a physician and a patient, it is made to differ. For, 1. A physician may not leave a certain way, and take an uncertain in the question of life or health. In matters of mere opinion, the very persuasion and probability of assent is warrant enough for the man, and the effect is innocent; but when so great an interest is engaged, the man becomes faster bound by the stricter ties of charity. It was a complaint that Pliny made of physicians in his time, “ Discunt periculis nostris, et experientiam per
• Lib. xxii. contra Faustum, car. 74. et habetur cap. Quid culpatur, 23.
mortes agunt, medicoque tantum occidisse impunitas summa est.” It is hard that a physician should grow wiser at no cheaper rate than the deaths of many patients. Now to do the thing directly is intolerable, but to do that which is not our best, and which is not safe, when we have by us that which is safe, and which we know is useful,—is directly against charity, and justice, and prudence, and the faithfulness of a good man.
But 2. When a physician hath no better, he may take that course which is probable, for that is his best; he cannot be required to more, and he is excused, because he is required to minister. And this is yet more certain, if the sick person shall die without physic: but it is a venture whether the medicament may prevail for his cure or no. For then all the hazard is on the favourable side, and if it fails, the event is no worse; and it is charity to offer at a cure that is uncertainly good, but is certainly not evil.
3. When the opinions are on both sides probable, he may take that which is in any sense safer, or in any degree, or by any means more probable, that is, for the community of the opinion, or the advantage it hath by the learning and reputation of them that held it: so that he may leave his own opinion which is overcome by the greater argument, or the greater authority of another, though both the authority be less than that which binds, and the argument less than that which is certain.
He that inquires of several Doctors until he find one answering
according to his Mind, cannot by that Inquiry make his Conscience safe ; but according to the Subject-matter, and other Circumstances, he may.
Saint Paul remarks the folly of such men who “heap up teachers of their own," that is, such who preach what they desire, and declare things lawful which God never made so; and he that hath entertained an opinion, and is in love with it, and will seek out for a kind and an indulgent nurse for it,
cannot ordinarily be the more secure for the opinion of his guide, because the intrinsic motive of his assent is not his guide, but his own purposes and predisposing thoughts and resolutions; and the getting of a learned man to say so, is but an artifice to quiet the spirit, and make it rest in the deception, if it so happens to be. This determination from without may, possibly, add a fantastic peace, but no moment to the honesty of the persuasion or conscience; because the conscience was not ready to rely upon the authority, but resolved to go somewhere else for an authority, if here it could not be had : and therefore the conscience could not be made probable by the authority, because the resolution of the conscience was antecedent to it.
This it true ordinarily and regularly, and there are usually many appendant deceptions; as an impatient desire to have that true which I desire, a willingness to be deceived, a resolution to bring our ends about, a consequent using means of being pleased and cozened, a concealing some circumstances and a false stating of the question, which is an infallible sign of an evil conscience, and a mind resolved upon the conclusion, desirous of a security or sleepy quietness, and incurious of truth. But yet there are some cases in which this changing of guides and inquiries is not only innocent, but an instrument of a just confidence.
1. When the inquirer hath very probable inducements for his opinion, and remains really unsatisfied in the answers and accounts of the first doctors.
2. When he hath an indifferency to any part that may appear true, but it falls out that nothing does seem true to him, but what he hath already entertained.
3. When the assent to our proposition is determined, so as to avoid a real doubt or perplexity, but a scruple remains, that is, some little degrees of confidence are wanting, which cannot be better supplied than by an extrinsical argument, the authority of a wise man.
4. When the inquiring person is under a weakness and temptation, and wants some to apply his own notices to him, and to make them operative and persuasive upon his spirit; as it happens to very many men always, and to all men sometimes.
5. When the case is favourable and apt for pity and relief, as in the dangers of despair; then the inquirer may, and ought to, go, till he find a person that can speak comfort to him upon true grounds of Scripture and revelation.
6. When the purpose of the inquirer is to be landed upon any virtue, and pious state of life or design, he may receive his encouragement and final determination from him, whom he chooses for his opinion's sake, and conformity to his own pious intentions.
The reason of these exceptions is this: Because the matter being just, favourable, and innocent, the man goes right and by being confirmed in his way, receives no detriment to his soul or his duty; and because they are tendencies to duty, it is to be presumed that the inquirer intends honestly and piously: and now since the way is secure, and the person well intending, if the instrument of establishing this good course were very incompetent, it might be an imperfection in nature, but not in morality.
He that is asked concerning a Case that is on either side probable,
may answer against his owon Opinion, if the contrary be pro. bable and more safe, or more expedient and
The reason is, because he that holds an opinion which himself believes only to be probable, knows also there is no necessity in counselling it to another than follow it himself, because himself is already determined, which the other is not, but is indifferent.
But why he should rather do so than counsel his opinion, there is no reason in the thing, but something relating to the person inquiring; as if the opinion which he maintains not, be more agreeable with the other circumstances and necessities. Codrus inquires if he be tied to restitution of all the fruits of a field, which he held in a dubious title. The curate thinks it to be a probable opinion, that he is bound; but because Codrus iş poor, or apt to break the bridle of religioni if it holds him too hard, he may counsel him according to the opinion of them, that affirm that he is not bound to restitution.