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power over me, could not promise but with a tacit condition; and though he were guilty of temerity and an interpretative breach of promise, yet if the other fails, he is directly and properly guilty. This is still more evident if a father promises his daughter to Titius before witnesses, presuming that his daughter, who is a widow, will yet be ruled by him, though she be at her own dispose; but his daughter hath solemnly sworn and contracted herself to Sempronius. The daughter must be more careful not to break her oath and contract, than, by verifying her father's promise, keep him from a lie; and this was the case of Acontius and Cydippe in Ovida,
Promisit pater hanc: hæc adjuravit amanti.
Ille homines, hæc est testificata Deam.
Num dubites, hic sit major, an ille metus?
This case may be varied by accidents intervening, as if the daughter be under her father's power, she hath none of her own to contract or swear: but in an equal power and circumstances, the greater care must be to avoid the greater crime.
These cautions are all which I think necessary for the conducting of a doubting conscience (that is, a conscience undetermined) in its danger and infirmity: but concerning the matter of doubts, that is, indeed, all cases of conscience, they are to be handled under their proper matter. Concerning interpretation of doubts to the better part, obedience to superiors in a doubtful matter, favourable and easy interpretation of laws for the deposition of a doubt, though I was tempted to have given accounts in this place, yet I have chosen to refer them to their own places, where by the method and rules of art they ought to stand, and where the reader will expect them. But concerning the cure of a doubting conscience, this is all that I am to add to the foregoing rules :
A doubtful conscience is no guide of human actions, but a disease; and is to be cured by prayer and prudent advices, and the proper instruments of resolution and reasonable determinations; but for those things which are called doubts, and the resolution of which is the best way to cure the infirmity of conscience, they must be derived from their several heads and categories. For these discourses or advices of conscience in general, are intended but as directions how to take our physic, and what order to observe in diebus custodiæ ;' but the determining of the several doubts, is like preparing and administering the medicines, which consist of very many ingredients.
a Heroid. ep. xx. 159. Mitscherl. vol. i. p. 114.
OF THE SCRUPULOUS CONSCIENCE.
A Scruple is a great Trouble of Mind proceeding from a little
Motive, and a great Indisposition, by which the Conscience, though sufficiently determined by proper Arguments, dares not proceed to Action,-or if it do, it cannot rest.
6 Qui nimis emungit, elicit sanguinem,” said Solomon a; “ Too violent blowing draws blood from the nose;" that is, an inquiry after determination, and searching into little corners, and measuring actions by atoms and unnatural measures, and being over righteous, is the way not to govern, but to disorder our conscience.
That it is a great trouble, is a daily experiment and a sad sight: some persons dare not eat for fear of gluttony, they fear that they shall sleep too much, and that keeps them waking, and troubles their heads more, and then their scruples increase. If they be single persons, they fear that every temptation is a trupwors, that burning' which the apostle so carefully would have us to avoid, and then that it is better to marry than to suffer it; and if they think to marry, they dare not for fear they be accounted neglecters of the glory of God, which, they think, is better promoted by not touching a woman. When they are married they are afraid to do their duty, for fear it be secretly an indulgence
a Prov. xxviii.
to the flesh, and be suspected of carnality; and yet they dare not omit it, for fear they should be unjust, and yet they fear that the very fearing it to be unclean should be a sin, and suspect that if they do not fear so, it is too great a sign they adhere to nature more than to the Spirit. They repent when they have not sinned, and accuse themselves without form or matter; their virtues make them tremble, and in their innocence they are afraid; they at no hand would sin, and know not on which hand to avoid it: and if they venture in, as the flying Persians over the river Strymon, the ice will not bear them, or they cannot stand for slipping, and think every step a danger, and every progression a crime, and believe themselves drowned when they are yet ashore.
Scruple' sometimes signifies all manner of vexation of the mind; so Cicero 5 uses it, “ Hunc mihi scrupulum ex animo evelle, qui me dies noctesque stimulat ac pungit :" “ Take this scruple out of my mind which pricks and goads me night and day.” So also in St. Jerome's Bible C; “ Non erit tibi in singultum et scrupulum cordis, quod effuderis sanguinem innoxium :” “ It shall not be to thee a cause of grief and scruple of heart, that thou hast shed innocent blood."-But in the present discourse it hath a more limited signification, and according to the use of divines and canonists, means an unquietness and restlessness of mind in things done or to be done, after the doubts of conscience are determined and ended. “ Intolerabilem perturbationem,” Seneca calls it; a fear of doing every thing that is innocent, and an aptness to do every thing that can be suggested:
nuda ac tremebunda cruentis Erepet genibus. Si candida jusserit Io, Ibit, &c, d
Scruple is a little stone in the foot; if
the ground, it hurts you; if you hold it up, you cannot go forward; it is a trouble where the trouble is over, a doubt when doubts are resolved; it is a little party behind a hedge, when the main army is broken and the field cleared : and when the conscience is instructed in its way, and girt for action, a light trifling reason, or an absurd fear, hinders it from beginning the journey, or proceeding in the way, or resting at the journey's end.
you set it
b Pro Roscio, c. 2. Beck, vol. i. p. 42. d Juven. vi. 525. Ruperti.
c Reg. 25.
Very often it hath no reason at all for its inducement, but proceeds from indisposition of body, pusillanimity, melancholy, a troubled head, sleepless nights, the society of the timorous, from solitariness, ignorance, or unseasoned imprudent notices of things, indigested learning, strong fancy and weak judgment; from any thing that may abuse the reason into irresolution and restlessness. It is indeed a direct walking in the dark, where we see nothing to affright us, but we fancy many things,-and the fantasms produced in the lower regions of fancy, and nursed by folly, and borne upon the arms of fear, do trouble us.
But if reason be its parent, then it is born in the twilight, and the mother is so little that the daughter is a fly with a short head and a long sting, enough to trouble a wise man, but not enough to satisfy the appetite of a little bird. The reason of a scruple is ever as obscure as the light of a glow-worm, not fit to govern any action, and yet is suffered to stand in the midst of all its enemies, and like the flies of Egypt vex and trouble the whole army.
This disease is most frequent in women, and monastic persons, in the sickly and timorous, and is often procured by excess in religious exercises, in austerities and disciplines, indiscreet fastings and pernoctations in prayer, multitude of human laws, variety of opinions, the impertinent talk and writings of men that are busily idle: the enemy of mankind by the weaknesses of the body and understanding enervating the strengths of the spirit, and making religion strike itself upon the face by the palsies and weak tremblings of its own fingers.
William of Oseney was a devout man, and read two or three books of religion and devotion very often; and being pleased with the entertainment of his time, resolved to spend so many hours every day in reading them, as he had read over those books several times; that is, three hours every day. In a short time he had read over the books three times more, and began to think that his resolution might be expounded to signify in a current sense, and that it was to be extended to the future times of his reading, and that now he was to spend six hours every day in reading those books, because he had now read them over six times. He presently considered, that in half so long time more by the proportion of this seruple he must be tied to twelve hours every day, and therefore that this scruple was unreasonable; that he intended no such thing, when he made his resolution, and therefore that he could not be tied : he knew that a resolution does not bind a man's self in things whose reason does vary, and where our liberty is entire, and where no interest of a third person is concerned. He was sure, that this scruple would make that sense of the resolution be impossible at last, and all the way vexatious and intolerable ; he had no leisure to actuate this sense of the words, and by higher obligations he was faster tied to other duties : he remembered also that now the profit of those good books was received already and grew less, and now became changed into a trouble and an inconvenience, and he was sure he could employ his time better; and yet after all this heap of prudent and religious considerations, his thoughts revolved in a restless circle, and made him fear he knew not what. He was sure he was not obliged, and yet durst not trust it; he knew his rule, and had light enough to walk by it, but was as fearful to walk in the day as children are in the night. Well ! being weary of his trouble, he tells his story, receives advice to proceed according to the sense of his reason, not to the murmurs of his scruple; he applies himself accordingly. But then he enters into new fears; for he rests in this that he is not obliged to multiply his readings, but begins to think that he must do some equal good thing in commutation of the duty, for though that particular instance become intolerable and impossible, yet he tied himself to perform that which he believed to be a good thing, and though he was deceived in the particular, yet he was right in the general, and therefore that for the particular he must make an exchange. He does so; but as he is doing it, he starts, and begins to think that every commutation being intended for ease, is in some sense or other a lessening of his duty, a diminution of his spiritual interest, and a note of