Obrazy na stronie

now prefer the virtue, we must also prefer the instrument. The case is this; Don Antonio Licente, of Portugal, according to the Portuguese and Spanish vanity, loved to see his wife painted; and one evening commanded her to appear with him so disguised at a mask: she having notice that a young gentleman, who was passionately in love with her, would be there, and knowing that it would inflame his passion if she were so adorned, inquires of her confessor, by what means she should restrain the folly of that inamorato, and receives this amongst other advices; that, at no hand, she should appear before him with any artificial handsomeness if she obeys her husband's humour at that meeting, she does hurt to a soul, and gives fuel to an impure flame, which already is too big: if she does not obey him in that instance, her husband will lose the pleasure of his fancy. But because she finds there is no other evil will be consequent to her omission, but that her husband shall want a little fantastic pleasure; and the consequence of her obeying him would be, for aught she knew, that God might lose a soul, she chose to do an act ministering to spiritual charity, and the chastity of her brother, rather than an act that could be instrumental to nothing but the airy pleasure of her husband; though otherwise she had been bound to signify her obedience to him by any thing that had been lawful.

4. But in this there is some variety, and ought to be some caution for although the principal virtue is to be preferred not only in itself, or in its proper and elicit acts, but also in its imperate and instrumental; yet this is to be understood to be true, when the instruments are in equal order to their respective virtues, or when there is no considerable differFor if the action in question ministering to the less principal virtue do very much promote it, and the other, which is instrumental to the more principal, do it but an inconsiderable advantage;-the ministry of the less principal is, in that case, to be preferred: the reason is, because, by this omission of an inconsiderable instrument, the present duty is not hindered; but the service of God is advantaged in the other; because it is able to effect something, that is considerable towards the service of God, which the other is not. The case is this; I knew a brave man, who, by a con

spiracy of evil persons, was condemned to die. He having, of a long time, used to fast till the morning office was completed, because he found fasting to be practised by antiquity, and by holy persons in their more solemn offices, and thinking it might or did him some advantage in order to the bettering of his prayer, did think to do so in the morning before his execution. But then, on the other side, he considered, that if he fasted, he should suffer a great diminution of spirits, and possibly might be suspected of pusillanimity, if he did suffer a natural lipothymy; and therefore could not tell what he should do. He was sure that to acquit himself before God in his duty was much to be. preferred before the other, of appearing brave and hardy before men; and therefore that his private prayers were more to be regarded than his public confidence; and therefore was choosing to fast: but then he reflected again on the instrumental actions, and considered that his abstinence from a little meat would bring but a very little and inconsiderable advantage to his prayers, but his eating would very much strengthen his heart, and do him a very considerable. advantage that way, he chose this;-because the other: could easily be supplied by the intenseness of his spirit, his zeal, and his present necessity, but this could not but by natural supplies and supportations of the strengths of the body.

5. But, in the like cases, prudence and the conduct of a good guide is the best security to him, that inquires with an honest heart and pure intention; and then the deterinination is best, and the conscience is safest, when both can be reconciled; but when they cannot, the former measures are to be observed.

6. (3.) Those actions which can only signify or serve the interest of virtue by way of collateral advantage and indirect ministry, must ever give place, when they hinder the proper acts of any virtue whatsoever. Fasting must never be used, when to fast is against charity; because charity is directly commanded, but fasting is relative to something else, and is not commanded for itself. Now in those things which are of a disparate nature, a principal is ever to be preferred before an instrument, and an act of duty before an act of prudence, and necessity before convenience.

7. (4.) But in things subordinate, that is, when the outward act is an elicit act of virtue, and truly subordinate to the internal, there can be no contradiction of one to the other; but the outward act and the inward must be both performed; that is, neither of them must be pretended in objection to the other; for they cannot hinder each other; but the outward can be hindered only by something from without, but the inward by nothing. So that in order to conscience, the rule is this; "He that does an inward and elicit act of virtue, will certainly, if it be in his power, do the outward elicit act :" that is, the hand will move at the command of the will, and the foot will go if it be commanded,—— and if the soul be charitable, the hand will be apt to minister. For it is not well within, unless it be well without; that is, unless the virtue express itself in outward action, where it can. And on the other side; an outward elicit act of virtue can never go alone; unless it be the product of a good heart and of an inward elicit act, it is the imperate act of pride, or ambition, or a vicious fear, or covetousness, or something criminal; but neither the imperate nor the elicit act of any virtue whatsoever.

8. (5.) Though the words of art here used be not common, yet the practice of these rules in the questions of conscience will not be difficult, if we shall, but with some diligence, observe the difference of external actions, and be able to discern what outward actions are the elicit or proper, and which are the imperate and instrumental acts of virtue; because these being to give place to other acts by the events. and constitution of their own nature, and the other never but when they are hindered from without, our duty will be easy, when we once understand of what nature the outward action is. The rule, therefore, for the direction of our conscience in this affair, is this;-" Those actions, which either are commanded by name and in particular, or by direct and proper consequence from the general, they are the elicit and proper actions of a virtue." Thus to give alms is a proper and elicit act of charity to condemn the criminal is a proper act of justice: to speak well of all men behind their backs, so far as we can with truth, is an elicit act of equity. But whatever is of that nature that it can be done innocently, and yet not be an act of virtue properly, that only is instru

mental to a virtue, and is an imperate action. Thus to invite rich men to a feast may be done prudently and without scruple; but he that does so and no more, shall have no reward in heaven for it: but yet to invite rich men to a banquet may minister to friendships or peace, or it may obtain relief to a poor oppressed brother; and then it may be a good instrument of that virtue, to which, by accident or the personal intention of the man (not the natural order or intention of the thing), it does minister. By the serious observation of this difference of acts we may be guided in many cases of conscience, and in the interpretation of some of the laws of our religion.


When any Thing is forbidden by the Laws of Christ, all those Things also, by which we come to that Sin, are understood to be forbidden by the same Law.

1. In this, there is one great difference between positive and negative laws. When any thing is commanded or enjoined, to take or use any instrument to it is left to our choice, and is matter of prudence and not duty: as when we are commanded to mortify the lusts of the body: we are not commanded to lie upon the ground, or to masticate rhubarb, or to go barefoot, or to put on St. Francis's girdle upon the bare body as we find these actions aptly instrumental to the duty, and fitted to the person, so we may use them: but if the fear of hell, or the hopes of heaven, can mortify us sufficiently to all the purposes of the Spirit,-or if he who is married, be not tempted,-or he who is unmarried, be by nature abstinent, or by disease and imperfection,—these instruments are out of use, as to these purposes. For here nothing is under command but the duty itself; and if, by any good instrument it be done, it is all one as to the law. But in negative precepts, the case is otherwise: for the crime is not only to be abstained from, but every instrument of it, every path that leads to it, whatsoever can begin or promote it and the reason is, because all these things are of the same nature with the sin; and therefore although every thing

that is or may be good, is not commanded, yet every evil is forbidden. "One fly can spoil a pot of ointment." But this we are plainly taught by our blessed Saviour's sermon on the mount; where he expounded the precepts of the ancients, not only to signify the outward act, but the inward desire and in this our blessed Master's law is much more perfect than the digest of Moses; for although there also God forbade concupiscence, yet it was only instanced in the matter of covetousness; and was not extended to the other instances of duty; but in Christ's law, non concupisces' is the apex juris;' it is the conservatory and the last duty of every commandment.

[ocr errors]

Nam scelus intra se tacitum qui cogitat ullum,
Facti crimen habet.

He that thinks a lustful thought, hath broken a commandment; and if the eye be full of adultery, or the mouth be impure, or the hand be unclean,-the whole man is polluted before God, and stands guilty of the breach of the main law. "Exercetur, atque aperitur opere nequitia, non incipit." The deed tells the heart, and opens the shop of crimes; but they begin in the heart, and end in the outward work.

2. But in this there is no difficulty: for God being lord of all our faculties, and the searcher of hearts, and the judge of our thoughts, he must be served by all; and he searches, that he may judge all,—and judges, that he may punish or reward all. But the rule is only thus to be limited; that in those sins, whose being criminal is wholly relative to persons with whom we converse,-every thought is not a sin, unless that thought also be relative. As he sins not that thinks a lie, if he resolves not to abuse any body with it,—and a man may love to please himself with false news, and put on a fantastic confidence and persuasion of the truth of what he would fain have to be true; though to his reason it seem improbable. In this there is some folly, but no malice but to lie is a relative action; and if he have but a thought or purpose to abuse the credulity of any one, then that thought or purpose is a lie; that is, it is of the same nature with a lie; and, therefore, of the same condemnation. The case is the same in all things, which are forbidden only, because they

b Juv. 15. 209.

« PoprzedniaDalej »