« VorigeDoorgaan »
RULE OF CONSCIENCE.
BOOK II. CHAP. III.- Continued.
OF THE INTERPRETATION AND OBLIGATION OF THE
LAWS OF JESUS CHRIST.
The imperate Acts or outward Erpressions of the Virtue of one
Commandment, must not contradict the elicit Acts of another. 1. By • imperate acts' I mean such, which are commanded to be done by the interest of any virtue whatsoever, not proper to the virtue, but such as may minister to it, or signify it. Thus to deny the impure solicitations of an unchaste person, is a proper, an elicit act of the virtue of chastity ; but to lie upon the ground, -to wear a hairen shirt,—to use disciplines,-to roll our naked body upon thorns,-to sleep in snows, are imperate acts; that is, such, which the virtue may choose and exercise for its own advantage and interest; but such, which are not necessary to any man in particular, nor to most men in the general : useful, indeed, in some cases, but not necessary in any. To eat and drink sparingly, and so as may minister to health and religion, is directly, that is, a proper and elicit act of temperance; but if a man spares to eat, that he may have wherewithal to pay his debts, it is an imperate act of justice; if to make himself healthful and strong to war, it is an act of fortitude. The terms being so explicated, the measures of the rule are these following particulars :
2. (1.) The elicit acts of several virtues can never be contrary to each other: as an act of religion is never against an act of
charity; chastity is never against justice; temperance is never against piety. The effect of which proposition is this,—that one ought not to be pretended against another; and no piety to parents can engage us to be drunk for their sakes; no pretence of religion can make it lawful to neglect the care of our children: and to this purpose was that excellent precept of the son of Sirach ; " Let not the reverence of any man cause thee to sin ;' it is no good manners to comply with our superiors against our supreme, and there is a time and a place for every virtue: but no time nor place, no cause or opportunity of doing against any. It may so happen, that the external actions of several virtues cannot consist: as sometimes I cannot pay the gabel to the prince, and the offering to the priest; I cannot feed my child and the poor that begs; I cannot, at some times, tell truth, and yet preserve the life of my brother. Now when the two external elicit acts of virtue are inconsistent, the one must, of necessity, give place : the rules of which are to be given more properly in another place a: but that which, for the present, I am to say, is this,-that although the outward act cannot, at all times, be exercised, and so must, in certain cases, be omitted, --yet, in no case, can it be lawful for the interest of one virtue to do against another.
3. (2.) The imperate acts of one virtue may contradict the imperate or instrumental and ministering acts of another: --as fasting, when it is commanded by religion, may be against the advice of our physician, whom to observe it is sometimes a precept of prudence, sometimes of charity. Religion commands us sometimes to feast; and, at the same time, our charity bids us save our expense, that the poor may be fed the more plentifully. The reason of this is, because all the imperate acts of virtue are external, and must depend upon something from without: which because it can unavoidably be hindered, it must needs also be, that it may inculpably be omitted. But then the rule is this; Because all imperate acts of virtue are nothing in themselves, but wholly in relation to the virtue,—that imperate act, which ministers to that virtue which is then to be preferred, must also be preferred. The reason is plain : the accessory must follow the nature of the principal: and therefore, if we must
i Lib. S.
pow prefer the virtue, we must also prefer the instrumenta The case is this ; Don Antonio Licente, of Portugal, accord, ing 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 pas: sion 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 handsome, ness : 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 conse. quent 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 eaution: 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 difference, For 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 person's, 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 determination 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 eliçit 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