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doubts, hath neither good nor bad faith, is expressed by the gloss b.
The consequent of which is this, that because that he who so doubts, is not abonæ fidei possessor,” therefore he cannot from thence begin to prescribe or to acquire a just title, because of the rule of the law, “Quod ab initio non valuit, progressu temporis valere non debet;" and it cannot by time get strength to walk, which enters into the world without feet; now the doubting conscience is but a lame supporter. But yet because such a conscience, which only hath this speculative doubt, is not “malæ fidei possessor," therefore he may lawfully still retain the possession, till the contrary be evicted.
There is this only to be added, that although prescription or other ways of just title cannot begin with a doubting conscience, yet if it entered with a thoroughly persuaded conscience, it may go on, though it be disquieted by a supervening doubt. The reason is, because it having lawful
parents of its birth and first production, cannot be killed and destroyed by a suit at law; it began well, and therefore had just principles of its progression; and whatsoever hath the first advantage of just and reasonable, is always to be so presumed till the contrary be proved; a doubt, therefore, may make the man unquiet, and tie him to inquire, but cannot interrupt the possession or the beginning and growing title. Besides the reason, this sentence is confirmed by the concurring testimonies of Bartolus, Imola, Sylvester, Felinus, Balbus, and Johannes Hannibal, under their titles, “de præscriptionibus et usucaptionibus."
There are some accidental hardnesses to the conscience which are innocent, and because, besides the even measures of good and evil by lawful and unlawful, there are some paths chalked out to us by necessities, by conveniences, by presumptions, by securities, and other indefinite aims at things, which can sometimes weigh down the best of our imperfect conjectures in some obscure cases, we may as well walk by the light of the stars, and better too, than to walk
6 In lib. i. C. de acq. poss. gl. in lib. ii. ff. pro solut. et gl. in lib. iü. sect. generaliter ff. de acq. poss.
quite in the dark: and not only the sun is appointed to rule the day, but there are the moon and the stars to govern the night: plain and easy rules make a sure conscience, but the doubtful and the dark must be content with a less light.
For, unlearned men are oftentimes beset with the arguments of a talking man, which they cannot answer, but create a speculative doubt, and such as destroys all the certainty of evidence which they had; but if they should not stick to their own conclusion in despite of all the objections, by a certainty of adhesion, they might be disturbed in every thing, and confident in nothing, and might, if they met with a heretic, be fooled out of their religion, and quit the most material parts of their belief. And even the learned have, in many articles, a presumptive assent to their propositions ; and if they be made to doubt in their understanding by the opposition of an adversary, they are not instantly to change their practice, but to inquire further. For if after every such doubting, their practice must be insecure or criminal, they might be forced to a lightness greater than that of Egyptian priests: and some men can believe well and dispute ill, but yet their faith must not change at the argument of every sophister. In these cases the practice is made secure by a collateral light, and he is defended from change by reputation and custom, by fear of scandal and the tie of laws, and by many other indirect instruments of determination, which although they cannot outwit the contrary arguments, yet they ought to outweigh the doubt, and guide the will, and rule the conscience in such cases.
There is nothing but a weak man may doubt of; but if he be well, he must not change his foot, till it be made certain to him that he is deceived; let him consider what he please, and determine at leisure; let him be swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slower yet in declaring, by his action and changed course, that his doubt hath prevailed upon him. I knew a scholar once, who was a man of a quick apprehension, and easy to receive an objection; who when he read the Roman doctors, was very much of their opinion, and as much against them when he read their adversaries, but kept himself to the religion of his country, concerning which at all times he remembered that there were rare arguments and answers respectively, though he could not then think upon
them. There are temptations of faith and opinion, and they are to be resisted sometimes by indirect ways of proceeding, and artifices of the spirit; and sometimes men in sickness are afflicted with doubting and trembling consciences, but yet are supported only with general remembrances; they consider that there are comforts, and excellent promises, and instruments of hope, and wise and holy sayings by which they were nursed up to that height of strength, that they are now able to fight in the dark: if the speculative doubting conscience should always prevail in practice, the ignorant might be abused and miserable in all things, and the learned in most.
Every Dictate and Judgment of the Conscience, though it be
little and less material, is sufficient and may be made use of for the Deposition of a Doubt.
Every little reason is not sufficient to guide the will, or to make an honest or a probable conscience, as I have proved in the foregoing chapter a; but in a doubting conscience, that is, where there are seemingly great reasons of either side, and the conscience not able to determine between them, but hangs like a needle between two loadstones, and can go to neither, because it equally inclines to both; there it is, that
little dictate, that can come on one side and turn the scale, is to be admitted to counsel and to action; for a doubt is a disease in conscience, like an irresolution in action, and is therefore to be removed at any just rate, and any excuse taken rather than have it permitted. For even to wash in Jordan may cure a leprosy, and a glass of wine may ease the infirmities of the stomach; and he is too ceremonious in the matter of life and death, that stands upon punctilios with nature, and will not be cured but by rich medicines. For in a doubting conscience the immediate cure is not to choose right, that is the remedy in an erring conscience; but when the disease or evil is doubting or suspension, the remedy is determination; and to effect this, whatsoever is sufficient may be chosen and used.
a Rule 7.
Every conscience that proceeds probably, proceeds honestly, unless by a greater probability it be engaged against the less ; now to make a conscience that is probable, yet even more probable, a little advantage is sufficient; which is to be understood with these cautions :
1. When the doubt is equal and the danger alike on either side, then a smaller superfetation of argument will do the work, that is, cure the doubting; for though a little argument is not alone a ground for the action of a wise man, yet a little overplus of reason will take off this calamity of irresolution and trepidation; it is not enough to outweigh any danger, but it can, with the portion of the equal measures which stand on its own side, by its little weight cast the balance,
2. This is not so easily to be admitted when the judgment of the man is discernibly and perceivably little and not to be trusted, for then the superaddition that is made by him to any part of the doubt, may be as wholly inconsiderable as the doubt itself is troublesome; and though this may make the doubt to be laid aside, as it will also determine such a man in the whole traverse of the question, yet it is the worst remedy of the doubt, and an insufficient introduction of the probability. In this case the doubt is to be laid aside by the advice and authority of some person fit to lead him, rather than by the confidence of his own little superadded impertinency. For indeed it is not good to have the sacredness of a conscience governed by weakness and contingency.
3. When the doubting person is inconstant, let him not speedily act what he lightly determines by the sudden intervening humour; for he that changes quickly, judges lightly, but fancies strongly, and acts passionately, and repents speedily and often; therefore let such a man when he perceives his own infirmity stop at the gates of action, lest the laying down one doubt multiply many, and he become more miserable in his remedy than in his sickness.
In pursuance of this rule it is to be taken care of, that fear be not mistaken for doubt; for there is oftentimes a doubt nowhere but in the will, and the more slender and weak the judgment is, oftentimes the fear is greater; and sometimes they fear because they fear, and not because they have reason; when therefore the doubt does not rely upon such a reason as can be formed into an argument and discourse, but is an unreasonable trouble, and an infinite nothing; the doubt ought directly to be laid aside, for it is no way considerable, but only that it is a considerable trouble.
When two Precepts contrary to each other meet together about
the same Question, that is to be preferred which binds most.
This rule we learn from the eighth council of Toledo”; “ Ubi periculi necessitas compulerit, id debemus resolvere, quod minori nexu noscitur obligari. Quid autem ex his levius, quidve sit gravius, pietatis acumine investigemus.” The council instances in the keeping wicked oaths and promises ; where though the instance be mistaken, and that in the matter of wicked promises the case is not perplexed, and it is no sin to break them, but a sin to keep them; yet upon supposition that the conscience is doubtful whether it be lawful to break them, and whether it be lawful to keep them, and fears a sin on either side, the council hath given a right answer; the evil that is least, is to be chosen. « Etenim dum perjurare compellimur, creatorem quidem offendimus, sed nos tantummodo maculamus. Cum vero noxia promissa complemus, et Dei jussa superbe contemnimus, et proximis impia crudelitate nocemus, et nos ipsos crudeliori gladio trucidamus:" “He that having sworn to do an evil turn, breaks his oath, offends God by putting his name to a lie and a villany, and he pollutes his own soul: but he that keeps his oath when he hath so sworn, despises the commandments of God, and hurts his neighbour with an impious cruelty, and destroys himself with a worse.” On this side, therefore, there being the more and worse evils than on the other, we must decline furthest from this. For if all evil is to be avoided, then all degrees of evil are; and when we cannot avoid as much as we should, we must avoid as much as we
a Condl. Tolet. 8. Can. 2. tenp. Martini P.