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man of Parma, being in love with Maria de Rupe, being moved with great interests of his person, and a great necessity, consummates his marriage before publication, they both of them being persuaded that it is lawful.
He afterwards changes his opinion, thinks it a sin, and repents and begs pardon; but being also in doubt whether he ought to tell his wife of it, was advised to the contrary, upon this, amongst many other concurrent reasons, because what was innocently done, cannot be condemned in that in which it was innocent: for the man himself ought to be sorrowful for his being deceived (if he thinks he was), but he cannot be tied to repent of the act, which, supposing his then present persuasion, was lawful, because done according to a probable conscience : and, therefore, much less ought he to disturb the peace of his wife, whose persuasion remains the same as at first. What was not a sin at first, cannot, in that individual act, become a sin afterwards.
2. This is also to be understood, when the act leaves no evil effect, or hath done no hurt to a third person; but if it do, then my péace is not to be bought at the expense of another's evil. No man is to be made better or left so, by another's detriment; and, therefore, if a child were begotten in that unripe and hasty consummation, and that child should be declared bastard, then the peace is to be disturbed, and the inquiry on all hands to be curious and busy, because in all such cases there is something of duty for the future concerned in it; sometimes restitution, but always repentance in particular.
3. This is also true when the fact that is past, is not introductive of more and new instances; for if it was the wrong side of the probability which was chosen, and the same kind of action is to return often, there the conscience, though heartily persuaded, must be awakened from its security by him that believes it to be a sin that was done, and then the interested party must inquire: the reason of this is, because this concerns the future, and all the world when they enter upon action, must inquire anew, when they have reason to doubt anew, and they may be called upon, and must be better informed by them, that can and are concerned. For the honour of God and the interest of his service is in this case concerned, which in the other is not, when it only relates to a single and a past action, which was then lawful, and, therefore, will not afterwards be imputed.
4. When the person interested does of himself doubt, whether the past act was lawful or not, and desires to be satisfied, and that there will be no evil effect in the alteration of his persuasion, then it is fit he be complied with in that, which he judges to be for the interest of his soul, for this is certainly the better; the other way of concealing and not inquiring being only permitted in some cases, and with so many cautions and reservations as are before expressed.
In Doubts the safer Part is to be chosen.
WHEN the conscience is doubtful, neither part can be chosen till the doubt be laid down ; but to choose the safer part is an extrinsical means instrumental to the deposition of the doubt, and changing the conscience from doubtful to probable. This rule, therefore, does properly belong to the probable conscience : for that the conscience is positively doubtful is but accidental to the question and appendant to
For the reasons on either side make the conscience probable, unless fear, or some other accident, make the man not able to rest on either side. For in matters of conscience, it is as hard to find a case so equally probable that a man shall find nothing without or within to determine him, as it is to find that which the philosophers call • temperamentum ad pondus,' “a constitution so equal that no part shall excel the other.' For if there were nothing in the things to distinguish them, yet in the man there is a natural propensity, which will make him love one sort of arguments more than another. What can be more indifferent than to see two dogs fight? and yet no man sees their cruelty, but he wishes better to one than to another : and although no opinions are so very even, yet if they were, the man hath an acquisite, or else a natural bias, or something of contingency that will determine him : and if the conscience remains undetermined, so that he may not, or dare not, venture upon
either part, it is certainly a disease, or a direct infirmity. And because such persons can do nothing at all, till their doubtful is changed into a probable conscience, this discourse must relate to that conscience that is probable, though, in compliance with the usual ways of speaking, I have placed it here.
1. The rule, therefore, is to be understood to be good advice, but not necessary in all cases.
For when the contrary opinion is the more probable, and this the more safe, to do this is a prudent compliance, either with a timorous or with an ignorant conscience; it is always an effect of piety, and a strong will to good, but very often an effect of a weak understanding; that is, such an one which is inclined to scruple, and dares not trust the truth of his proposition, or God with his soul in the pursuance of it. And, indeed, sometimes there is in this some little suspicion of the event of things, which must needs reflect upon the goodness of God, under whom we fancy we cannot be so safe by pursuing that rule and guide that he hath given us, that is, the best reason, and the fairest inducement, as we may be by relying upon the sureness of the matter. Indeed, we ourselves are so wholly immerged in matter that we are conducted by it, and its relations, in very many things : but we may as well rely upon formalities and spiritual securities (if we understood them) as upon the material; and it is as safe to rely upon the surer side of reason as upon the surer side of the thing. Now that which is the more probable, hath the same advantage in constituting a conscience formally safe, as the other less probable but surer side hath for the making the conscience safe materially.
2. If the conscience be probable, and so evenly weighed that the determination on either side is difficult, then the safer side is ordinarily to be chosen, because that helps to outweigh and determine the scale; that is, when reason and the proper motives of the question are not sufficient to determine it, let auxiliaries be taken from without; and if the conscience be not made securer by its rule, let it be made safe by the material. It is just as the building of a house. If the architect be not wise and knowing how to secure the fabric by rules of art, and advantages of complication, and the contexture of parts, let him support it with pillars great and massy; for if the other be wanting, these will sustain the roof sure enough, but with some rudeness in the thing, and imperfection in the whole.
3. If to that, which is the surer side, there be a great inconvenience consequent, the avoiding of that inconvenience, being laid on the opposite even part, will outweigh the consideration of the safety. Quintus Milo commands his servant Aufidius, whom he had taken for the teaching grammar and rhetoric to his children, that he would learn the trade of a shoemaker. Aufidius doubts whether his master, Quintus Milo, hath power to command him to do that which was no part of the employment for which he was entertained, and yet because the thing is of itself lawful and honest, he considers it is the safest course for him to obey, for, certainly, in so doing he sins not; and thus far he is bound, and was in the right. But if to learn that mean trade will dishonour and disable him, make him a fool and contemptible, and ruin his hopes and his interests when he leaves the service of Milo, the servant is not tied to follow that which is more safe, but that which is more charitable and prudent: “In dubiis juris tutior pars sequenda est, et obedire teneor, si commode possim," was the rule: because the reason, abstractedly considered, makes the question safe on either side, as the determination happens; and the avoiding an intolerable inconvenience is as considerable as the accidental security, and in many cases more complying with charity; because in a question, in which the conscience is probable, there is a great safety without taking in the advantage of a safe matter, by the proper efficacy and influence of the reason making a probable and an honest conscience; but then when the safety is provided for fairly otherways, and for the most part sufficiently, and the inconvenience on the other side is not provided for; in all such cases we must leave that, which is materially sure, for the choice of that, which, in its formality, is equally sure, and, in its matter, more charitable. A little child came to my door for alms, of whom I was told he was run from his mother's house, and his own honest employment; but in his wandering he was almost starved : I found that, if I relieved him, he would return to his mother; if I did not relieve him, he would not be able. I considered, that indeed his soul's interest were
more to be regarded and secured than his body, and his sin rather to be prevented than his sickness, and, therefore, not to relieve him seemed at first the greater charity. But when I weighed against these considerations, that his sin is uneertain, and future, and arbitrary, but his need is certain, and present, and natural; that he may choose whether he will sin or no, but cannot, in the present case, choose whether he will perish or no; that if he be not relieved, he dies in his sin, but many things may intervene to reform his vicious inclination; that the natural necessity is extreme, but that he will sin is no way necessary, and hath in it no degrees of unavoidable necessity; and above all, that if he abuses my relief to evil purposes, which I intended not, it is his fault; not mine, but the question being concerning my duty, not his, and that to relieve him is my duty, and not his, and that, therefore, if I do not relieve him, the sin is also mine, and not his; and that, by bidding of him to do his duty, I acquit myself on one side, but by bidding him to be warm and fed, I cannot be acquitted on the other; I took that side, which was at least equally sure, and certainly more charitable.
This also happens in the matter of justice very often. It is the surer side in many cases to restore, and is a testimony of an honest mind, that, to secure its eternal interest, will quit the temporal. But if to restore will undo a man, and the case is indifferent, or at least probable that he is not bound, then it is not necessary to restore, though to restore be the surer side; and if the interest of a third person, as of wife, or children, be also involved in the question, then the inquiring person is bound not to restore. Because in the present case there is a certain uncharitableness, and but an uncertain justice, that is, a duty certainly omitted, for the securing of another that is not certain.
4. When the more probable is also the more safe, there is no question but the safer is to be chosen. For so the conscience is made the more sure both materially and formally; that is, by the better reason, and the more advantageous matter; and he that does otherwise, exposes himself to an evident danger of sinning, having nothing to outbalance either the direct reason, or the accidental safety.
5. Sometimes it happens, that what is safe in one regard