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his brother if he durst, or at least did secretly wish him dead, that he might openly have his living. In this there is no great difficulty to make the separation. God strikes a man with blindness, and gives him a good memory; he sighs for that, and rejoices for this. A little metaphysics makes this abstraction.
2. But concerning the act, when it is discovered to have been evil, he is to have no other complacency, but because he did it ignorantly. He that suffers nocturnal pollution, if he finds a remedy by it, is to rejoice that himself suffered it involuntarily, that is, he may rejoice that he did not sin; and of the innocence of the joy he can have no other testimony but by his hating the act in all cases in which it is a sin, and refusing to do it. But the French woman, whom my Lord Montaigne speaks of, who having suffered a rape by divers soldiers, gave God thanks, that, without sin, she had enjoyed pleasure, had a criminal joy, and delighted in the action, for the voluntary entertainment of which she only wanted an excuse.
3. If we consider the whole conjunction of things together, the evil act with the advantageous effect, we are to be indifferent to joy and sorrow, that is, to do neither directly, but to look on it as an effect of the Divine providence bringing good out of evil, and to fear lest a joy in the whole should entitle us too nearly to the sin by the relation of an after-act and approbation; or lest we be so greedy of the effect, that we be too ready to entertain the like upon terms equally evil, but less fortunate.
4. This is also to be understood only in such cases in which we are not obliged to restitution; for if we rejoice in that effect which we ought to destroy, we recall the sin from the transient action, and make it dwell with the possession, and then the first involuntary error becomes a chosen rapine.
5. If the action was only materially, and therefore innocently, an error against a human law, and turns to our secular advantage, we are more at liberty to rejoice and please ourselves in the advantage; because human laws make no action intrinsically and essentially evil, but only relatively and extrinsically. And therefore the danger is not so great of polluting the conscience by the contract and
mingling of the affections with the forbidden action. He that eats flesh in Lent in those places and circumstances where it is forbidden, and did not remember it was Lent, or did not know it, and by so doing refreshes himself well, and does advantage to his health,--may not be accused easily, if he delights in the whole action, as it joins the error and the advantage. For, besides the former reason, this also is considerable; that human laws, not being so wise and excellent as Divine laws, do bend more easily and readily, that they may comply with the ends of charity and gentleness, and have in them a more apt dispensation, and almost offer themselves to go away, when a greater good comes in their room. But of this in its due place.
6. In actions materially evil against the Divine laws, if the event cannot be clearly separated from the irregularity, the first innocent error is, by the after-pleasure, turned into a direct sin. Cneius Carbo lay with Lælia unwittingly, supposing her to be his wife Posthumia; but afterwards, having discovered the error, was pleased in the mistake, because he, by the arts of fancy, did, by an after-thought, represent to himself the change and the variety, and then he was adulterous. For to be pleased in the mistake which brings no advantage separable from the sin, is directly to choose the sin for the advantage' sake; and this was Carbo's
An innocent, or invincibly erring Conscience, is to be obeyed
even against the known Commandment of our Superiors.
Against this St. Bernarda seems to argue earnestly: tantopere vitanda sunt scandala parvulorum, quanto amplius prælatorum, quos sibi Deus coæquare quodammodo in utroque dignatur, dum sibimet imputat et illorum reverentiam et contemptum ?” &c. “ If with so great caution we must be careful, that we do not offend any of God's little ones, how much more must we be curious to avoid giving offence to great ones, to our superiors, whom God seems, in some manner, to
a Lib. de præcept. et dispens.
make equal to himself, while the reverence, or the contempt that is done to them, he takes unto himself; saying, “ He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth me.' But if you say, that men may be deceived in their inquest after the will of God, and may deceive others in reporting it; what is that to thee, who knowest not that they are deceived ? especially since from Scriptures thou art taught, • That the lips of the priest shall preserve knowledge, and they shall require the law at his mouth, because he is the angel of the Lord of Hosts.” To which discourse of St. Bernard, the following considerations may add some moment; and the discussing them, may give light to the inquiry.
2. For in things indifferent the command of the superior must needs be accounted the will of God; for although our superiors are executioners of the Divine laws, yet because they have also a legislative power, they who can alter nothing in things commanded or forbidden by God, must have a power to command or to forbid respectively in things indifferent, or not at all: and, therefore, in such things our conscience is bound to obey.
3. And if conscience be pretended against it, it is an error, and ought to be laid down; for to follow this erring conscience, engages us in sin all the way.
4. But as he that submits his understanding to the obedience of Jesus, pleases God most, even when he does it in defiance of all arguments and temptations to the contrary, which though he cannot answer, yet he resolves to follow Christ; so he does best, who, though his conscience pretend reasons against it, will yet lay aside those reasons, that he may submit to his superiors.
5. For it is a great crime by rebelling against, or slighting, the command of our rulers, to give offence to whole societies of men; and there can be no greater contempt done to them, than by undervaluing their judgment to prefer our own; and therefore the prophet pronounces woe to them, who “ are wise in their own eyes."
6. But let a subject be ever so wise, he ought not to judge his superior, or to condemn his sentence; and therefore he must be judged by it, and not by his own erring conscience.
7. For as he, who hath made a vow of obedience, hath divested himself of all pretences of contradicting what shall be imposed; and if his conscience shall check him in the instance, he ought to look upon it as a temptation, and use it accordingly: so must it be also in every subject, who by the laws of God is as much tied to obey his superior, as he can be by any law which he puts upon himself. The effect of these suggestions is this, that in things where the law of God hath not declared positively, an erring conscience is not to be attended to; but the law of the superior, and his sentence, must be the guide of his conscience.
To this discourse I answer in short, that it is all very true; that the lawful superiors are God's vicegerents, appointed over us in things pertaining to God, so as to be executioners of the Divine laws; and besides this, to make laws in things indifferent and pertaining to men; that all contempt done to them is done to God; that it is scandalous to refuse obedience to them; that he is a proud man who says he is wiser than his superiors; and he is intolerable that prefers his private folly before the public wisdom; and therefore it is well inferred, that the error of an abused conscience ought to be laid down; and though he cannot in particular answer the arguments which trouble him, yet, if he have reason to believe that though the arguments be too hard for him, the superior's command is innocent; it were well if he would lay aside those arguments and adhere to authority. Yet all this touches not the secret of the question; for,
He that compares the law of conscience with the law of the superior, compares the law of God and the law of man; and the question is not, whether a man should follow his superior or follow himself? but, whether God or man be to be obeyed, whether the superior or the supreme be to be attended to? The reason of this is, because the conscience stands bound by the supposed law of God, which being superior to all the law of man, must rather be obeyed; and therefore, although the arguments conclude rightly that an erring conscience, disobeying his superior's lawful command, does sin greatly; yet they cannot conclude, that he avoids sin by obeying against his conscience; for his condition is indeed perplexed, and he can no way avoid sin, but by laying his error aside first, and then obeying. And since he sins, whether he obeys his superior's just command or the unjust command of his conscience, the inquiry is, in this sad conjunction of things, by what hand he must be smitten, on which side he must fall, that he may fall the easier ? To this the rule answers, that his erring conscience must be obeyed rather, because he is persuaded that God speaks there, and is not persuaded that God speaks by his superior. Now, though in this he be deceived, yet he, that will not go there, where he thinks God is, and leave that where he thinks God is not,-does uncertainly go towards God, but does certainly forsake him, as much as lies in him. For,
It is to the conscience all one as if the law of God were really upon it, if it be thought it is. “ Idem est esse et apparere" in this case; and therefore the erring conscience is to be attended to, because the will and the affections are for God, though the judgment hath mistaken a glow-worm for the sun. But this is to be understood only when the conscience errs innocently and unavoidably, which it can never do in the precepts of nature, and brightest revelation.
But if the conscience does err vincibly, that is, with an actual fault, and an imperfect, artificial resolution, such a one, as a good man will not, and a wise man need not have, this present persuasion excuses him not from a double sin, for breaking a double duty; for he is bound to correct his error, and to perform the precepts of his superior; and if he does not, his sin is more than that which was in the vicious cause of his mispersuasion, as I showed in the explication of the former rules.
But according as the ignorance and error approaches towards pity, lessening or excusing, so the sin also declines. He that thinks it is not lawful at all to take up arms at the command of his prince, in an unjust or a dubious cause, sins if he does what he thinks so unlawful, and he commits no sin in disobeying, that only excepted which entered into his mispersuasion, which is greater or less, or next to none at all, according as was the cause of his error, which in the whole constitution of affairs he could not well avoid. But he that is foolishly persuaded that all government is unlawful and antichristian, is bound to lay his error down; and besides the vicious cause of his error, he sins in the evil effect of it, though his imperfect,