Tho. Grigg, R. in Christo P. ac Domino, Domino Humfr. Episc. Lond. à Sacris.

[Page] TWO CASES OF Conscience: RESOLVED By the Right Reverend Father in GOD Robert Sanderson Late Lord Bishop of LINCOLN.

LONDON; Printed by E. C. for C. Wilkinson at the Black-Boy over against St. Dunstans Church in Fleetstreet, 1668.

The Case of the ENGAGEMENT.


I Have hitherto been very sparing in delivering my opinion, concerning the point, now most in agitation, viz. Of the lawfulness, or unlaw­fulness, of Subscribing the En­gagement: considering the mis­chiefs that must needs have fol­lowed, if it should be once noised abroad, that I had given forth any determination, in so tickle a point. I could not but foresee on the one side, if I [Page 2] should condemn it as utterly unlawful, how I should be looked upon, by those that have all power in their hands, not as a refuser only; but a dis­swader also of what they have thought fit to require: And on the other side, if I should allow it in any case Lawful, what ill use would certainly be made thereof by multitudes of people, apt to be so far scandalized thereby, as either to swallow it whole without chewing, (that is, resting themselves upon the general determination of the Lawfulness, to take it hand over head, without due consi­deration, either of the true mea­ning of it, or of other requisite cautions, and circumstances) [Page 3] or else to conceive themselves by so engaging, to be for ever discharged from the bond of their former Allegiance.

Yet since by your Letter, and by sending your Servant there­with on purpose, so many dayes journey, through unknown wayes, and at this season of the year (especially as the weather hath proved, since his coming forth) scarce passable, you have shewn your earnest desire to understand what my opinion is in this point; so great, both for difficulty and concernment; I could not think it fit, nor con­sistent with that civility which is to be used, especially towards Strangers, to send back your messenger, without the return [Page 4] of some kinde of answer: Wherein, albeit I shall not come up to the sull, of what your Letter declareth to be your desire, viz. In giving a particular Judgment, and esti­mate of the Eight several Ar­guments, therein proposed, and the additional Quaere in the Postscript: yet you shall find something, tending towards your satisfaction therein, by touching upon those points (so farr as the straits of time would suffer) wherein the difficulty of the whole business, seemeth chiefly to consist.

First then, it is to be consi­dered, that Allegiance is a duty that Every Subject, under what [Page 5] form of Government soever, by the Law of Nature, oweth to his Countrey, and consequent­ly to the Soveraign Power thereof. For the very same Law (which we may call the Law of Nature, at least in a large ac­ceptation) which inclineth par­ticular men, to grow into one civil body of a Common-wealth, must necessarily with­all, imprint a sense, and tacite acknowledgement of such a du­ty of Allegiance, in every in­ferior member of the body, un­to the Caput Communitatis, or Soveraign Power, by which that Common-wealth is gover­ned, as is necessary for the pre­servation of the whole body. So that the bond of Allegiance, [Page 6] doth not arise originally from the Oath of Allegiance; as if those that had not taken the Oath, had a greater liberty, to act contrary to the Allegiance, [...]cified in the Oath, then those that have taken it, have: or as if, in case the Oath should be quite laid aside, there should be no Allegiance due. But it is so intrinsecal, proper, and essen­tial a duty, and (as it were) fundamental, to the relation of a Subject, quâ talis, as that the very name of a Subject, doth after a sort, import it; In so much, that it hath thereupon gained, in common usage of speech, the style of Natural Al­legiance: Whence all these in­ferences will follow.

[Page 7] 1. That the bond of Allegi­ance, (whether sworn or not sworn) is in the nature of it perpetual and indispensable.

2. That it is so inseparable, from the relation of a subje [...] that although the exercise of it, may be suspended by reason of a prevailing force, whilest the Subject is under such force, (viz. where it cannot be ima­gined, how the endeavor of exercising it▪ can be effectu­ally serviceable to restore the Soveraign Power to the right owner, for the establishment of that Publick Justice and Peace, wherein the happiness of Common-wealths consisteth) yet no outward force can so absolutely take it away, or re­move [Page 8] it, but that still it remain­eth vertually in the Subject, and obligeth to an endeavour (so soon as the force that hin­dered it is over) of actually exercising of it, for the ad­vantage of the party, to whom of right it is due, and the ad­vancement of the common good thereby, upon all fit oc­casions.

3. That no Subject of Eng­land, that either hath, by taking the Oathes of Supremacy or Allegiance, acknowledged; or that not having taken either Oath, yet otherwise know­eth, or believeth, that the Soveraign Power in England, to whom his Natural Allegi­ance is due, is the King, his [Page 9] Heirs, and lawful Successors, can without sinning against his Conscience, enter into any Covenant, Promise, or Engage­ment, or do any other Act, or Acts whatsoever, whereby ei­ther to transferr his Allegiance to any other party, to whom it is not of right due, or to put himself into an incapacity of performing the duties of his bounden Allegiance, to his law­ful Soveraign, when it may ap­pear to be useful, and service­able to him.

4. That therefore the taking of the late Solemn League and Covenant, by any Subject of England (notwithstanding the Protestation in the Preface, that therein he had the Honour [Page 10] of the King before his eyes; and that express clause in one of the Articles of it, wherein he swore, The Preservation of the Kings Person and Honour) was an act as clear contrary to the Oath of Allegiance, and the Natural Du­ty of every Subject of England; as the Assisting of the King to the utmost of ones power (which is a branch of the Oaths) and the assisting a­gainst any person whatsoever, with his utmost power, those that were actually in Armes against the King (which was the very end for which that Covenant was set on foot) are contrary the one unto the other.

5. And that also for the same reason, no Subject of [Page 11] England, that hath taken the Oaths, and understandeth them, or is perswaded that the Sove­raignty of this, Realm, doth of right belong to the King, his Heirs, and lawful Succes­sors, can without sinning in like manner against his Con­science, take the Engagement now offered: if he so under­stand the words, wherein it is expressed as if they did contain in them, and require of the Promiser, an acknowledgment that the Supream Power of this Realm, whereunto the Subjects ow their bounden Allegiance, is rightly rested in those persons that now exercise it; or as if they did import, an utter abjuration, or renouncing of [Page 12] that Allegiance, which was formerly held due to the King.

II. This being cleared, the next enquiry must be, Whether or no the words of the Engagement, will rea­sonably bear such a constructi­on, as to the understanding of a rational and conscientious Man, may seem consistent with his bounden duty and Allegiance to his lawful So­veraign? Whereof (I think) there need be no great questi­on made, if it be well consi­dered.

1. That all expressions by words, are subject to such ambiguities, that scarce any [Page 13] thing can be said or expres­sed in any words, how cau­telously soever chosen, which will not render the whole speech capable of more con­structions than one.

2. That very many men, known to be well affected to the King and his party, and reputed otherwayes both learn­ed and conscientious (not to mention the Presbyterians, most of whom, truly for my own part, when we speak of learning and conscience, I hold to be very little considerable) have subscribed the Engage­ment; who in the judgment of Charity we are to presume, would not so have done, if they had not been perswaded [Page 14] the words might be understood in some such qualified sense, as might stand with the duty of Allegiance to the King.

3. That (as you write) it is strongly reported and be­lieved, that the King hath given way to the taking of the Engagement, rather than that his good Subjects, should loose their Estates for refusing the same. Which as it is a clear evidence, that the King and they who are about him, to advise him, do not so con­ceive of the words of this En­gagement, as if they did ne­cessarily import an abando­ning of the Allegiance due to him▪ so 'tis (if true) a mat­ter of great confideration to­wards [Page 15] the satisfaction of so many, as out of that fear only, have scrupled the taking of it. For the doing of that, cannot be reasonably thought to destroy the Subjects Alle­giance; which the King, who expecteth Allegiance from all his Subjects, advisedly and upon mature deliberation al­loweth them to do.

III. But all this being gran­ted, that the words of the En­gagement, are capable of such construction; yet is not the Conscience thereby fufficiently secured, from justly scrupling at the taking thereof, unless it may yet further appear, that the Subject hath the liberty to [Page 16] make use of such a constructi­on; which is in effect the Quaere contained in your Post­script, viz. Whether upon supposition, that the words of the Engagement, will bear more constructions then one, the subscriber may take it in his own sense, or is bound to take it in the imposers sense? or, Whether it be necessary, or expedient before he sub­scribe, to ask those that re­quire his subscription, in what sense they require him to sub­scribe it? Upon the resoluti­on of which Quaere, since (as I conceive) the last resolution of the Judgment, wherein the Conscience is to acquiesce, doth principally depend; I [Page 17] shall endeavor to give you my thoughts therein, (wherein I acknowledge to have received much light and satisfaction, from a discourse written by a very Learned, Judicious and Pi­ous friend, whereof I lately had the perusal, but for some rea­sons, not thought fit to be pub­lished) as distinctly, and clear­ly, as the time I have to do it in, will suffer.

1. First then, for a man that is required of another to give faith by some Oath, Pro­mise, or other Engagement, to take it in a sense of his own, manifestly different (even in his own apprehension) from the others meaning, sufficient­ly expressed by words, accor­ding [Page 18] to the common custom of speech, and the nature of the bu­siness which it concerneth, is so gross a conceit; that had not the impudence of the Jesuits, in maintaining the lawfulness of their Equivocations, and the sad experience of these late times, (wherein thousands have chea­ted themselves in perjury, by thinking to avoid it) evidenced the contrary, it n [...]ght well have been thought a thing incredible, that any man of common un­derstanding, should suffer his reason to be so infatuated by his affections, as to be deceived thereby. For if such latitude of construction, should be admit­ted in Promises, and other Ob­ligations of that nature, inten­ded [Page 19] for the preservation of faith amongst mankind, there would not remain any possi­ble means, whereby for men to have assurance of one a­nother meanings. Wherefore I take that for a clear truth, That all Promises, and Assu­rances wherein Faith is re­quired to be given to another, ought to be understood, ad mentem imponentis, according to the mind and meaning of him, to whom the faith is to be given; so far forth as the meaning may reasonably ap­pear, by the nature of the matter about which it is con­versant, and such signification of the words, whereby it is expressed, as according to the [Page 20] ordinary use of speech amongst men, agreeth best thereunto. The reason whereof is, be­cause the faith so required to be given, is intended to the behoof, and for the interest of him that requireth it; namely, to the end he may have the better assurance from him that giveth the faith, that what is promised shall be ac­cordingly performed: which assurance he cannot have, if after his meaning, sufficiently declared by the words, it should yet be at the liberty of the promiser, to reserve ano­ther secret meaning in his own breast, differing there­from.

[Page 21] 2. But Secondly, what if the intention of the Imposer, be not so fully declared by the words, and the nature of the business; but that the same words may in fair con­struction, be still capable of a double meaning, so as ta­ken in one sense, they shall bind to More, and in another to Less? I conceive in such cafe it is not necessary, nor al­wayes expedient (but rather for the most part otherwise) for the Promiser, before he give faith, to demand of the Imposer, whether of the two is his meaning. But he may by the rule of Prudence, and [Page 22] that (for ought I see) with­out the violation of any Law of Conscience, make his just advantage of that ambiguity, and take it in the same sense which shall bind to the Less. And this I ground upon the very same reason as before; For sith the Faith to be gi­ven, is intended to the be­hoof of him, to whom it is given, it concerneth him to take care that his meaning be expressed in such words, as will sufficiently manifest the same to the understanding of a reasonable man. Which if he neglect to do, no Law of Equity or Prudence, bin­deth the Promiser, by an [Page 23] overscrupulous diligence, to make it out, whereby to lay a greater obligation upon himself, than he needed to doe.

3. But then Thirdly, if it shall happen (as often it cometh to pass, when we have to deal with cunning men, and may possible be the Case now, and undoubtedly was so in the business of the Protestation, when the time was) That he that requireth the faith to be given, do of purpose so contrive the words, that there may be left an am­biguity and latitude of sense therein; yea, and that it be [Page 24] very probable, and in a man­ner apparent, (upon the con­sideration of the point of in­terest, or other strong pre­sumptions, arising from cir­cumstances or otherwise) even to the apprehension of the promiser himself, that he hath some farther reach in requi­ring that promise from him, some more remote and secret intention, then he is willing to discover. In that case, What is to be done? I an­swer, That the Promiser in such case, is no wayes ob­liged in giving his Faith, to take notice of any secret in­tention; but is at liberty to make use of that Latitude of [Page 25] sense, which the other, did rather chuse to leave unde­termined, then to restrain, and so to turn the others cun­ning dealing to his own best advantage, by taking it in the more favourable constru­ction; and that which bin­deth to lefs. For it is the declared intention only, (viz. That which the words, ac­cording to the common use of speech, do in relation to the nature of the subject, most naturally and properly represent, to the understan­ding of reasonable men, when they hear them) and not to the remote, secret, and re­served intent, which the Pro­miser [Page 26] is obliged unto. The reason whereof is manifest; Because he that requireth Faith to be given from ano­ther, by words of his own contriving, is ever presumed so to have determined the sense thereof, in the contri­vance of the words, as may sufficiently declare, what he intendeth the Promiser should assure him to perform. If therefore he have not so de­termined the words, as to signifie the More; it is in all reason to be presumed, that he intended to oblige him but to the Less. For being at li­berty to make his own choice of words, whereby to express [Page 27] his own meaning; who can think otherwise, but that he would make the choice with respect to his own Interest? And therefore though he might have a secret desire, which he is loath to discover, that the Promiser should be bound to the More, and would be marvellously well pleased, that he should so understand the words, as if they intended to bind him to the More: Yet since it had been so easie a matter for him, by adding or altering a few words, to have declared that intent, if he had thought it conducible to his own ends, It will be presu­med also, that it was out of [Page 28] respect of self interest, that he forbare so to do, and chose rather to leave his meaning, in such general words, as will not exclude the sense, which bindeth but to the Less; and consequently that his declared intent obligeth to no more but to the Less only.

IV. To bring the matter yet closer, and to put it up to the present Cases, there are yet two things more to be done.

First, To shew what the dif­ferent constructions (the highest, I mean, and the lowest) the words of the Engagement are fairly capable of.

[Page 29] And Secondly, to find as well as we can, Whether of the two is more probably the meaning intended by the Im­posers, to be declared by the words.

The words are these:

I do promise to be true and faithful to the Common-wealth of England, as it is now established without King or Lords.

Wherein there are sundry am­biguities.

1. First, In the words true and faithful; by which may be intended, either the promise [Page 30] of that Fidelity and Allegiance (which was formerly acknow­ledged to be due to the King, &c.) to be now performed to those that are presently possessed of the Supreme Pow­er, as their right and due. Or else that promise of such a kind of fidelity, as Captives taken in the Warr promise to their Enemies, when they fall under their power; viz. to remain true Prisoners of warr, and so long as they are in their power, not to attempt any thing to their destructi­on.

2. Secondly, In the word Common-wealth, by which may [Page 31] either be meant, those per­sons who are the prevalent party in this Kingdom, and now are possessed of, and do exercise the Supreme Power therein, as if the right of So­veraignty were vested in them: Or else, the whole intire body of the English Nation, as it is a Civil Society or State within it self, distinguished from all other Foraign Estates. Taken in the former sense, the fidelity promised to the Common-wealth, relateth di­rectly to the upholding of that party who are the present Governors de facto, and im­ports subjection to them as de jure: But taken in the [Page 32] latter, it relateth to the safety of the Nation, and importeth no more, as to the present Go­vernors, but to live peaceably under them de facto, and to yield obedience to them in things absolutely necessary, for the upholding Civil Soci­ety within the Realm; such as are the defence of the Na­tion against Foraigners, the furtherance of Publick Ju­stice, and the maintenance of Trade.

3. In the words as it is now established, &c. which may be understood either by way of approbation, of what hath been done by [Page 33] way of abolishing Kingly Government, and the House of Peers, and placing all Authority and Power with­in the Realm, in the House of Commons. Or else [...] only, as a clause simply and barely reciting what man­ner of Government it is, that this Nation de facto, is now under; viz. a Government by the Commons only, with­out either King or House of Lords.

‘Which Ambiguities considered; The highest construction that can be reasonably made of the words, is to this effect. I [Page 34] acknowledge the Soveraign Power of this Nation, whereunto I ow Aliegiance and Subjection, to be rightly stated in the House of Com­mons, wherein neither King nor Lords (as such) have, or henceforth ought to have, any share; And I promise, that I will perform all Al­legiance, and subjection thereunto, and maintain the same with my fortunes and life, to the utmost of my power.’

And the lowest construction that can be reasonably made of the same words, is to this effect: ‘Whereas for the pre­sent the Supreme Power in [Page 35] England, under which Pow­er I now am, is actually possessed and exercised by the House of Commons, without either King or Lords; I promise that so long as I live under their power and protection, I will not con­trive or attempt any act of hostility against them: but living quietly and peaceably under them, will endeavor my self faithfully in my place and calling, to do what every good member of a Common-wealth ought to do, for the safety of my Countrey, and preservation of Civill Society there­in.’

[Page 36] V. Now cometh in to be considered in the last place, the great Question, whether of the two constructions it is, (That which bindeth to the Most, or This which obligeth to the Least, the words can well bear) that the formers of the Engagement, did ra­ther intend to declare by these words? They that think the former, want not probability of reason to ground their per­swasions upon. For they con­sider, that those who are pre­sently possessed of the Su­preme Power, are not minded to part with it if they can hold it. And that the likeliest way [Page 37] to hold it is, if they can pos­sibly bring the whole people of England, or at the least the far greatest part thereof, to acknowledge that they are rightly possessed of it, and to promise Subjection and Alle­giance to them as such. And that therefore the Engage­ment, being purposely devi­sed and set on foot, as the fittest engine to expedite that work, must in all reason in­tend to oblige so farr. Which being so contrary to their Judg­ment and perswasion, con­cerning the duty and Oath of Allegiance, I cannot blame those that so understand the words of the Engagement, if [Page 38] they abominate the very thought of taking it.

But there wanteth not great probability of Reason, on the other side, to induce us to be­lieve that the latter and lower sense, is rather to be deemed the immediate, and declared intent of the Imposers, what­soever cause of suspition there may be, that the former mea­ning, may be more agreeable to their secret, reserved and ultimate intent; between which two, if there be any difference (as it is not impossible but there may be) the Engager is not concerned in it, or not yet: the Equivocation, if there be any in that, must be put upon the [Page 39] Imposers, not on the Promisers score. For thus believing, there are amongst others these Pro­babilities.

1. That many prudent and conscientious men of the Royal Party, as well Divines and Lawyers, as others, have thus understood it: who we pre­sume would not for any out­ward respect in the world, have taken it, if they had con­ceived any more to have been intended in it.

2. That it hath often been affirmed, both publickly and privately, in several parts of the Kingdom (if we may believe either common fame, or the reports of sundry credible par­ticular [Page 40] persons) by those that have perswaded or pressed o­thers to subscribe; that the same is the very true intent and meaning of it, and no o­ther.

3. That if the Imposers had been minded to have declared an intent of binding to More, they might easily have framed the words so, as not to be capable of a construction bin­ding to Less.

4. That (as is also credibly reported) whilst the form of words was under debate, the opinion of those that would have had it set higher, was not followed, as held unseaso­nable; and the vote carryed, [Page 41] for the more moderate expres­sion wherein it now stand­eth.

5. That the Imposers, in­tending by the Engagement to secure themselves, especially against the designs and at­tempts of those men, who they knew (well enough) held them for no other then Usurpers, must be in reason supposed to require no more assurance of them by the Engagement, then such as may and is usually gi­ven to Usurpers; which is, not an acknowledgment of their title, and a promise of Allegiance, but meerly a pro­mise of living quietly, so long as they are under their power, [Page 42] and enjoy their protection.

6. That it is a received Maxim of Political prudence, for all new Governors, (especi­ally those that either introduce a new form of Government, or come in upon a questiona­ble title) to abstain from all harsh procedings, even against those whom they know to be evil affected to their Power, and not so much as to exaspe­rate them (though it be in the power of their hands to destroy them) especially in the begin­ning of their Government: but rather to sweeten them in­to a better opinion of their persons, and to win upon them by Acts of Grace and [Page 43] Oblivion (for Remissi­ùs Senec. 1. De. Clem. 24. imperanti meliùs paretur.) So as they may have but any tolerable kind of assurance from them in the mean time, of living quietly and peaceably under them. We have no reason therefore to believe that the Imposers of this Engagement, who have acted the parts of the greatest Politicians, so perfectly and succesfully hi­therto, as to possess them­selves so fully os the Supreme Power of so great and flouri­shing a Kingdom, in so few years, would be so impolitick as not to proceed by the same rules, that all wise and suc­cesful [Page 44] persons have ever pra­ctised in the managing, and for the establishing of an acquired power.

VI. Out of all these pre­mises together (waying my Positive conclusion, either Af­firmative or Negative, touching the Lawfulness or Unlawful­ness of subscribing in universa­li) I shall declare my opinion only in these few following particulars.

1. That it is not lawful for any man to take the Engage­ment with a resolution to break it.

2. That therefore whoso­ever thinketh the words of the [Page 45] Engagement do contain a pro­mise of any thing which it is not lawful for him to perform, cannot take it with a good conscience.

3. That whosoever so un­derstandeth the words of the Engagement, as if they did ob­lige him to any thing contrary to his Allegiance, or render him unable to act according there­unto, upon any seasonable emerging occasion, cannot with a good conscience take it.

4. That if any man for any temporal benefit, or avoiding any temporal dammage, shall take the Engagement with a doubting conscience (that is [Page 46] before he be perswaded in his Judgment, upon some probable ground of reason, that it is law­ful for him so to do) he sinneth therein.

5. That if any man after a serious desire of informing himself as rightly as he can, what are the duties of his Al­legiance on the one side, and what is most probably the meaning intended by the words of the Engagement on the o­ther side; shall find himself well satisfied in this perswasion, that the performance in the mean time of what is requi­red by the Engagement so un­derstood, is no way contrary (for any thing he can discern [Page 47] for the present) to his boun­den Allegiance, so long as he is under such a force, as that he cannot exercise it; and like­wise that whensoever that force is so removed from him, or he from under it, as that he hath power to act according to his Allegiance, the Obligation of the Engagement of it self de­termineth and expireth: and out of these considerations, rather then suffer extreme pre­judice, in his person, estate, or necessary relations, shall subscribe the Engagement; Since his own heart con­demneth him not, neither will I.

[Page 48] Sir, I have now two requests to you, which I doubt not but you will think reasonable. The one, that whatsoever use you shall please to make of these papers, or any thing therein contained, for your own or any friends satisfaction; yet you would not deliver any Copies abroad, least they should come to be printed, as some other papers of mine, written in this manner have been, without my knowledge. This I desire, both in respect of the danger I might incur from the dis­pleasure of the Potent Party, if any such thing should come abroad; as also least upon the consideration of some things [Page 49] here hinted, they might think the words of the Engagement too light, and might thence take occasion to lay some heavier Obligation upon us, in words that should oblige to More. The other request is, that since I have not any other perfect copy of what I now send you, you would procure it to be transcribed for me; and either the copy so transcri­bed, or these very papers rather, when you have transcribed them, transmit enclosed in a Letter, or by some Friend that will be sure to deliver them safe, with his own hands, to my Son—in Lon­don, to whom I shall write [Page 50] shortly that he may expect them.

Sir, I desire that my best re­spects may be presented, &c.—God endue us all with grace and wisdom fit for these evil times; to whose mercy and blessing commend us all, I rest,

Your loving Friend and Servant.

The Case of a RASH VOW Deliberately Iterated.
The Case.

A Gentleman of good Estate, hath Issue one only Daugh­ter, who placing her affections upon a person much below her rank, intendeth Mariage with him: The Father hearing of it, in great displeasure Voweth, and confirmeth it with an Oath, that if she Marry him he will [Page 52] never give her a farthing of his Estate. The Daughter notwith­standing Marryeth him: After which the Father sundry times iterateth and reneweth his said former Vow, and that in a seri­ous and deliberate manner; ad­ding further, That he would ne­ver give her or any of hers any part of his Estate.

QUAERE: Whether the Father's Vow so made, and so confirmed and ite­rated as abovesaid, be Obliga­tory or not?

The Resolution. My opinion is, That the Vow was Rash, and is not at all Ob­ligatory.

[Page 53] 1. The Question here pro­posed is concerning the Obliga­tion only; yet I deem it expe­dient to declare my opinion concerning the Rashness also: and that for two reasons. First, Because there seemeth in the proposal of the Case, to be some weight laid upon the after iterations, which were more deliberate, as if they added to the Obligation. And Secondly, Because I think it needful that the Vower should as well be convinced of the greatness of his sin in making such a Vow, for the time past, as satisfied concerning the present and fu­ture invalidity of it.

2. It is easie to believe; that the Gentleman when he first [Page 54] made the Vow, was possessed with a very great indignation against his Daughter, for her high and inexcusable disobedi­ence to him in so very weighty a business. And truly it must be confessed, he had need to be a man of a very rare command over his own Spirit, and such as are scarce to be found one of a thousand, that could so contain himself within the bounds of reason upon so just a provocation from an only child (possibly some other ag­gravating circumstances con­curring) as not to be transpor­ted with the violence of that passion, into some thoughts and resolutions, not exactly agree­able with the dictates of right [Page 55] reason. It can therefore be little doubted, but the Vow made whilst the Reason was held un­der the force of so strong a perturbation, was a rash and irrational Vow.

3. Nor will these after-acts in confirmation of the first Vow, though having more of deliberation in them, be suffici­ent to redeem either it or them­selves from the imputation of Rashness: understanding rash­ness in that latitude as the Ca­suists do, when they treat de Voto temerario, under the no­tion whereof they comprehend all such Vows as happen per de­fectum plenae & dis [...]ussae delibe­rationi, as they express it; For it is to be considered, that when [Page 56] an injury, disobedience, or o­ther affront is strongly resen­ted, it many times taketh a very deep impression in the soul, which though after the first impetus have a little spent it self, it begin somewhat to abate, yet it doth so by such slow and insensible degrees, that the same perturbation, which first discomposed the mind, may have a strong influence into all succeeding deliberations for a long time after. Even as after an acute Feaver, when the sharpest paroxysmes are over, and the malignity of the disease well spent, although the party begin to recover some degrees of strength; yet there may re­main for a good while after [Page 57] such a debility in the parties, as that they cannot exercise their proper functions, but with some weakness more or less, till the party be perfectly recovered. Sith therefore the after-iterati­ons of the first Vow in the pre­sent case, did proceed apparant­ly from the rancor and malig­nity remaining in the mind, as the dregs and reliques of the same perturbation, from which the first Vow also proceeded: they must upon the same ac­count (to wit, per defectum plenae deliberationis) undergo the same censure of Rashness with the first Vow. The same I say for the kind; some diffe­rence I grant there is for the degree: but Magis & Minus [Page 58] non variant speciem, we know. And the consideration of that difference is only thus farr use­ful in the present Case, that the more deliberate those after-acts were, the more culpable they are, and the less capable either of Excuse, or Extenuation; and consequently doe oblige the party to so much the more se­rious, solemn, and lasting Re­pentance.

4. But concerning rash Vowes (in as much as the knot of the Question lyeth not there) it shall suffice to note these few points. First, That every Rash Vow is a sin; and that upon its own score, and pre [...]isely as it is rash, although it should not be any other way [Page 59] peccant. All acts of Religious worship (by the importance of the third Commandment) are to be performed with al due sobri­ety, attention, and advisedness: how much more than a Vow? which is one of the highest acts of worship, as being a sacred contract, whereunto God him­self is a party. See Eccl. 5. 1, &c. Secondly, That Rash Vows are for the most part, (besides the Rashness peccant in their matter also; For they are com­monly made in passion, and all passions are evil Counsellors, and Anger as bad as the worst. The wrath of Man seldom worketh the righteousness of God. Thirdly, That a Rash Vow, (though to be repented of for [Page 60] the Rashness) may yet in some cases bind. As for ex­ample; A man finding himself ill used by a Shop-keeper, of whom he had formerly been accustomed to buy, voweth in a rage, that he will never buy of him again: This is a Rash Vow; yet it bindeth, because if the party had never made any such Vow at all, it had nei­ther been unjust or unchari­table, (nor so much as impru­dent) in him for to have done the same thing, which by his Vow he hath now bound him­self to do. So if a man impati­ent of his ill luck at Cards, should Vow in a heat never to play at Cards any more; he were in this case also bound to [Page 61] keep his Vow: because there neither is any sin in keeping it, nor can be any great necessity why he should break it. That therefore Fourthly, if at any time a Rash Vow bind not; the invalidity thereof proceedeth not meerly (nor indeed at all) from the Rashness (which yet is a very common error a­mongst men) but from the faultiness of it otherwise, in respect of the matter, or thing Vowed to be done; when that which is so Vowed, is either so evil in it self, or by reason of circumstances, becometh so e­vil, that it cannot be performed without sin.

5. That therefore concern­ing the Vow in the present case, [Page 62] I declared my Opinion that it is not at all obligatory; it is done upon this ground (which is a most certain truth and con­sented to by all) That Rei illi­citae nulla obligatio. If a man shall Vow any thing that is con­trary to Piety; as if having ta­ken offence at some indiscreet passage in a Sermon of his own Minister, he should vow that he would never come to the Church, or hear him Preach again: Or that is contrary to Justice; as to take away the life of an innocent person, as those 40 persons that had vowed they would neither eat nor drink till they had slain Paul: Or never to make re­stitution to one whom he knew [Page 63] he had wronged: Or contrary to Charity; as to be revenged of, or never to be friends with, one that had done him wrong: Or that is contrary to Mercy; as if having lost some money by lending to his friend, or having smarted by suretiship, he should vow never to lend any man money, or become surety for any man again. Let such a vow, I say, as any of these, or any of the like nature, be made either rashly, or deliberately, and strengthened with Oaths and Imprecations, in the most direful and solemn manner that can be devised to tye it on the faster; yet it is altogether null and invalid as to the effect of Obligation. Whence those [Page 64] common sayings, In mālè pro­miss is rescinde fidem; Ne sit juramentum vinculum iniquita­tis, &c. And we have a good president for it in David, after he had in a rage vowed the de­struction of Nabal, and all that belonged to him; which vow upon better consideration, he not only did not perform, but he blessed God also, for so pro­videntially preventing the per­formance of it, by the discreet demeanor, and intervention of Abigail.

6. Now the reason why such vowes are not binding, is very cogent and clear; Even because the party at such time as he is supposed to have made such Vow, as aforesaid, lay under [Page 65] another (a former and there­fore a stronger) obligation to the contrary. And it is agree­able to all the reason in the world, that he who either by his own voluntary act, hath bound himself (where lawfully he might so do) or by the command of his lawful Supe­rior (that hath a right to his service, and may exact obedi­ence from him) is already bound to do or not to do this or that; should not have power [...]o disoblige himself therefrom, at his own pleasure, or to su­perinduce upon himself a new Obligation contrary thereun­ [...]o: Obligatio prior praejudicat [...]osteriori. As in the case of Marriage, a precontract with [Page 66] one party, avoideth all after-contracts with any other: And if a man convey Lands to seve­ral persons, by deeds of several date, the first conveyance standeth good, and all the rest are void; and so in all cases o [...] like nature. The Obligatory power therefore that is i [...] Vows, Oaths, Promises, &c. i [...] rightly said by some, to be [...] constructive, not a destructiv [...] power. The meaning is tha [...] such acts may create a new Obligation, where was non before, or confirm an old one but it cannot destroy an ol [...] one, or substitute another contrary thereunto, in the plac [...] thereof.

[Page 67] 7. And the reason of this reason also, is yet farther evi­dent; for that Quisquis obliga­tur, alteri obligatur. When a man is obliged by-any act, it is alwayes supposed, that the ob­ligation is made to some other party: to whom also it is sup­posed some right to accrue, by vertue of the said act ob­ligatory; and that that other party is by the said act suffi­ciently vested in that said right, Of which right he cannot be again devested and deprived by the meer act of him, who instated him therein, and is obliged to perform it to him (unless himself give consent thereunto) without the grea­test injustice in the World. [Page 68] Now God having a perfect right to our obedience, by his own obliging Precept, both for the not doing hurt to any man, and for the doing good to every man, upon all fit op­portunities: and this right also confirmed, and ratified by our own obligatory act in a solemn manner, before many witnesses at our Baptism, when we vow­ed to keep all Gods Com­mandments: it were unreason­able to think that it should be in our power, by any after-act of ours to disoblige our selves from both, or either of those obligations. For then we might by the same reason free our selves from the obligation of that latter Act also (suppose an [Page 69] Oath, or Vow) by another subsequent Oath, or Vow; and from that again by another: and so play fast and loose, make Vows and break them in infini­tum. Evident it is therefore, that every vow requiring any thing to be done, which is re­pugnant to any office of Piety, Justice, Charity, or Mercy, which we owe either to God or man, is void, and bindeth not; because it findeth us under the power of a former contrary obligation, and hath not it self power sufficient to free or dis­charge us from the same.

8. The general rule thus cleared, it remaineth to exa­mine concerning the particular Vow, now in question, whether [Page 70] it be void upon this account or no? It will be found hard I believe to free this Vow, from being repugnant to the rules of Justice, but impossible I am sure, to reconcile it with the perfect Evangelical Law of Charity and Mercy. First, Civil and Political Justice, requireth that every man should obey the wholesome Laws of his Coun­trey, and submit himself to be ordered thereby. Now put the case (which is possible enough) that the Daughters Husband should for lack of support from his Father-in-law, or otherwise▪ live and dye in great want, lea­ving his Wife, and many small Children behind him, destitut [...] of all means for their necessar [...] [Page 71] sustenance. The Law would (as I suppose) in that case, upon complaint of the Parish, and for their ease, send the Daugh­ter and her Children to the Fa­ther, and compel him to main­tain them out of his Estate. Which order he ought to obey, nor can refuse so to do, with­out the high contempt of pub­lick Authority, and manifest violation of the Civil Justice, notwithstanding his Vow to the contrary: The Law must be obeyed whatsoever becometh of the Vow; in that case therefore it is evident the Vow bindeth not.

9. But say▪ that should not happen to be the case (which yet is more then any man can [Page 72] positively say before-hand:) the Parent is nevertheless in Moral Justice bound to provide due maintenance for his Chil­dren and Grand-Children if he be able. St. Paul saith that Fa­thers ought to lay up for the Children. True it is, he speak­eth it but upon the by, and by way of Illustration, in the handling of another argument, very distant from this business: but that doth not at all lessen the importance of it, such illu­strations being ever taken à no­tiori, and from such common notions as are granted, and con­sented unto by all reasonable men. The same Apostle ha­ving amongst other sins of the Gentiles, mentioned disobedi­ence [Page 73] to Parents in one verse, in the very next verse, mention­eth also want of natural affecti­on in Parents. And the diso­bedience in the Childe can no more discharge the Parent from the obligation of that duty he oweth to the Childe, of affe­ction, and maintenance, then the unnaturalness of the Pa­rent, can the Childe from the duty he oweth to the Parent, of Honour and Obedience. For the several duties, that by Gods ordinance, are to be perfor­med by persons that stand in mutual relation either to other, are not pactional and condition­al; as are the Leagues and Agreements made between Princes (where the breach in [Page 74] one part, dissolveth the obliga­tion on the other) but are abso­lute and independent; wherein each person is to look to him­self, and the performance of the duty that lyeth upon him, though the other party should fail in the performance of his.

10. Something I foresee, may be objected in this point, concerning the lawfulness of the Parents withdrawing main­tenance from the Childe (ei­ther in whole, or at least in part) in the case of disobedi­ence. Which how far forth it may, or may not be done; as it would be too long to exa­mine, so it would be of little avail to the present business. For it is one thing to with-hold [Page 75] maintenance from a disobedi­ent Childe for the present, and to resolve so to continue till he shall see cause to the contrary. And another thing to binde himself by Vow or Oath, never to allow him any for the future, whatsoever should happen. Let be granted whatsoever can be supposed pleadable on the Fa­thers behalf, in the present case: yet there will still remain two particulars in this Vow, not easily to be cleared from being unjust. First, let the Daughters disobedience de­serve all this uttermost of pu­nishment, from the offended Father; yet how can it be just, that for the Mothers fault, the poor innocent (perhaps yet un­born) [Page 76] Children, should be ut­terly, and irrecoverably exclu­ded, from all possibility of re­lief from their Grand-Father? Secondly, It is (if not unjust, yet what differeth very little there-from) the extremity of rigid Justice; that any offen­der much less a Son or Daugh­ter) should for any offence, not deserving death, be by a kinde of fatal peremptory decree, put into an incapacity of receiving relief from such persons, as o­therwise ought to have relieved the said offender, without any reservation either of the case of extreme necessity, or of the case of serious repentance.

11. However it be for the point of Justice; yet so appa­rent [Page 77] is the repugnancy of the matter of this Vow, with the precepts of Christian Charity and Mercy; that if all I have hitherto said were of no force, this repugnancy alone were enough (without other evid­ence) to prove the unlawfulness, and consequently, the invalidi­ty, or inobligability thereof. It is (not an Evangelical Coun­sel, but) the express perem­ptory precept of Christ, that we should be merciful, even as our heavenly Father is merciful. And inasmuch as, not in that passage only, but for the most part wheresoever else the duty of mercy is pressed upon us in the Gospel from the example of God: God is represented [Page 78] to us by the name, and under the notion of a Father, al­though I may not lay much weight upon it, as a demon­strative proof; yet I conceive I may commend it as rational To­pick, for all that are Fathers to consider of, whether it do not import, that mercy is to be ex­pected from a Father as much as (if not rather much more then) from any other man; and that the want of mercy in a Fa­ther, is more unkindy, more unseemly, more unnatural then in another man: But this by the way. From that precept of Christ, we learn that as there is in God a two-fold mercy, (a giving mercy, in doing us good, though we deserve it not, and [Page 79] a forgiving mercy, in pardoning us when we have done amiss:) so there ought to be in every good Christian man, a readi­ness (after the example of God) to shew forth the fruits of mer­cy to others, in both kindes up­on all proper, and meet occa­sions. So that if any person, of what quality or condition so­ever, shall upon any provoca­tion whatsoever vow that he will never do any thing for such or such a man; or that he will never forgive such or such a man: every such Vow, being contra bonos mores, and contra officium hominis Christiani, is unlawful, and bindeth not.

12. The offices of mercy in the former of those two bran­ches, [Page 80] viz. of doing good, and affording relief to those that are in necessity, are themselves of so great necessity (as the case may be) that common hu­manity would exact the perfor­mance of them from the hand, not of a stranger only, but even of an enemy. If a stran­ger, or an enemies Beast lie weltering in a Ditch, a helping hand must be lent to draw it out. The Samaritans compassi­on to the wounded Traveller, in the Parable, Luke 10. (There being a feud, and that grounded upon Religion, which com­monly of all others, is the most deadly feud between the two Nations) is commended to our example, to the great reproach [Page 81] of the Priest, and Levite, for their want of Bowels to their poor Brother, of the same Na­tion, and Religion with them­selves; For the nearer the Re­lation is between the Parties, the stronger is the obligation of shewing mercy either to other. And there is scarce any relati­on nearer, and more obliging, then that of Parents and Chil­dren.

Our Saviour, who in Matth. 15. sharply reproved such vows, (though made with an intenti­on to advance the Service of God, by inriching his treasury) as hindred Children from re­lieving their Parents, will not certainly approve of such vows (made without anyother inten­tion, [Page 82] then to gratifie rage, and impatience) as hinder Parents from relieving their Children.

13. If to avoid the force of this argument, it shall be al­ledged, that the Daughters disobedience, in a business of so high concernment, might justly deserve to be thus severely pu­nished, and that it were but equal that she, who had so lit­tle regard to her Father, when the time was, should be as lit­tle regarded by him afterwards: All this granted, cometh not yet up to the point of shewing Mercy according to the example of God. No Childes disobedi­ence can be so great to an earthly Parent, as ours is to our heavenly Father: Yet doth he [Page 83] notwithstanding all our ill de­servings continually do us good, communicating to our necessities, and causing his Sun to shine, and his Rain to fall, and infinite benefits in all kinds to descend upon mankinde, not excluding the most thankless, and disobedient, and rebellious, from having a share therein.

14. And as for that other branch of Mercy in pardoning offences, God giveth a rich ex­ample to all men, of their du­ty in that kinde, (and to Fathers particularly) by his great readi­ness to pardon the greatest of­fenders, if they sincerely seek to him for it. If the Father in the Parable, Luke 15. had pro­ceeded with such severity [Page 84] against his riotous Son, as to have vowed never to have re­ceived him again; he had been a very improper exemplar, whereby to shadow out the mercy of God to repentant sinners. Concerning the great importance of this duty, which is so frequently inculcated by Christ, and his Apostles, and so peremptorily enjoyned, as not any other duty more. See Mat. 6. 4, 15. Mat. 18. 21.—35. Eph, 4. 32. Col. 3. 13. James 2. 13. See also Sirac. 28. 1, &c.] I shall not need to say much: only as to the present Case, it would be considered, how perverse a course it is, and contradictory to it self, for a man to think himself obliged, [Page 85] by one inconsiderate act, never to forgive his Daughter; when as yet he cannot beg pardon of his own sins, at the hands of God, (as he ought in his daily prayer to do) without an ex­press condition of forgiving every body, and an implicit imprecation upon himself, if he do not.

15. But shall the Daughter that hath thus grieved the spirit of her Father, thus escape un­punished, and be in as good a condition, as if she had never offended? And will not others be incouraged by her impunity, to despise their Parents after her example? There is much reason in this objection; and therefore what I have hitherto [Page 86] written, ought not to be under­stood, as if thereby were inten­ded such a plenary indulgence for the Daughter, as should re­store her in integrum, but only that she should be made capable of receiving such relief from her Father, from time to time, as in relation to her necessities, and after carriage, from time to time, should seem reasonable; and that his Vow ought not to hinder him from affording her such relief. But by what de­grees, and in what proportion. the Father should thus receive his Daughter, into his fatherly affection, and relieve her, must be left to discretion, and the exigence of circumstances. On­lyl should advise (in order to [Page 87] the objection, viz. for examples sake, and that the Daughter might be made, even to her dy­ing day, and kept, sensible of her great and sinful disobedi­ence to her Father) that the Fa­ther should cut off from his Daughter, and her Posterity, some meet portion of his E­state, (as perhaps a fifth part at the least; or if a fourth, or a whole third part, I should like it the better:) and by a solemn deliberate vow, dedicate the same to be yearly imployed in some pious and charitable uses. These times will afford him choice of objects, if God shall move his heart so to do; and by so doing, he may, First, in some sort redeem and make a kinde [Page 88] of satisfaction for his former Rashness, (not Popishly under­stood, and in regard of the Ju­stice of God, but) in a moral sense, and in regard of the world, and his own Conscience. Secondly, it may be a good means to keep the Daughter in a continual fresh remembrance of her fault, that she may not, after a short and slight repen­tance (as in such cases too often it happeneth) forget the same; whereof she ought to have some remorse all the dayes of her life. Thirdly, he shall there­by after a sort, perform his first vow; I mean according to the general intention thereof, and the rational part, (which was to make his Daughter repent her [Page 89] folly, and to smart for it:) the over-plus more then this, being but the fruit of rancor and per­turbation. Lastly, he shall in so doing, doubly imitate God, our heavenly Father. First, when a rash, or sinful act is made an oc­casion of a pious, or charitable work; it beareth some resem­blance of, or rather is indeed it self a gracious effect of that goodness and wisdom in God, whereby he bringeth light out of darkness, and good out of evil. Secondly, God himself when he graciously pardoneth a high presumptuous sin, as he did Davids great sin, in the mat­ter of Uriah, commonly layeth some lasting affliction upon the offender; as he did upon Da­vid, [Page 90] who after the sealing his pardon for that sin by Nathan, scarce ever had a quiet day all his life long. The reason where­of seemeth to be double, part­ly for admonition to others, that none presume to provoke God in like manner, lest they smart for it also in like manner: and partly for the good of the of­fender, that he may by the smart be brought to the deeper sense of his error, and be eft-soons reminded of it, lest he should too soon forget it.

Thus have I with very much ado, (in that weak condition I have been in, ever since the que­stion came to my hands, and wherein I yet continue) decla­red [Page 91] my opinion fully concerning the whole business as far as I understand it. More largely I confess then I intended, or per­haps was needful: and with greater severity, then (it may be) the parties will well like of. But truly I desired to do the part of a faithful Confessor, and the sores on both parts seemed to be such as were not to be touched, with too gentle a hand: In the Daughter, an act of high diso­bedience, transported by the pas­sion of inordinate love; and in the Father an act of great Rash­ness, transported by the passion of inordinate anger: both beyond the bounds of right Reason, and Religion; and both to be deeply repented of. Howsoever, I cannot [Page 92] be suspected to have written any thing, either out of favour for, or prejudice against either party; not having the least conjecture, who the persons are that are con­cerned in the business: nor so much as in what part of the Na­tion they live. I shall pray that God would direct them both, to do that which may best serve to his glory, and bring the soundest comfort to their own souls. Amen.


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