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Christianity, or of constant, indispensable necessity; and duties which are alterable, and belong only to some persons, times and places; also between the various consequents of omissions. And I conceive that ordinarily a man may promise for the saving of his life, that he will forbear a particular, alterable duty or relation; as to read such a commentary, to speak with such a minister, to be a magistrate or a minister, &c., in case we have not before bound ourselves never to give over our calling till death. And in case that the good which will follow our forbearance, is likely (to a judicious person) to be greater than the evil. But no man may promise to omit such a duty as God hath made necessary during life; as not to love God, or fear, or trust him: not to worship him, and call upon him, and praise him: nor to do good to men's souls or bodies in the general : or, not to preach or pray while I am a minister of Christ: or not at all to govern while you are a governor : for all these contradict some former or greater promises or duties. Nor may you omit the smallest duty to save your life, at such a time when your death is like to do more good, than your life would do without that one duty. Apply this to the present case. Quest. X111. ‘If another man deceive me into a promise or covenant against my good, am I bound to perform it when I have discovered the deceit 7” Answ. Yes, 1. In case that the law of the land, or other reasons for the public good require it. 2. Or in case that you were faulty by negligence, heedlessness, or otherwise guilty of your own deceit, in any considerable or avoidable degree. Otherwise, in that measure that he deceived you, and in those respects you are not obliged. Quest. xiv. ‘If the contracting parties do neither of them understand the other, is it a covenant? Or if it be, whose sense must carry it?’ Answ. If they understand not each other in the essentials of the contract, it is no contractin point of conscience; except where the laws for the public safety do annex the obligation to bare external act. But if they understand not one another in some circumstances, and be equally culpable or innocent, they must come to a new agreement in those particulars: but if one party only be guilty of the
misunderstanding, he must bear the loss, if the other insist on it. Quest. xv. ‘Am I bound to stand to the bargains which my friend, or trustee, or servant maketh for me, when it proveth much to my injury and loss?’ ...Answ. Yes; 1. If they exceed not the bounds of that commission or trust which they received from you. 2. Or if they do, yet if by your former trusting and using them, or by any other sign you have given the other party sufficient cause to suppose them intrusted by you to do what they do, so that he is deceived by your fault, you are bound at least to see that he be no loser by you; though you are not bound to make him a gainer, unless you truly signified that you authorized them to make the contract. For if it be merely your friend’s or servant's error, without your fault, it doth not bind you to a third person. But how far you may be bound to pardon that error to your friend or servant, is another question; and how far you are bound to save them harmless. And that must be determined by laying together all other obligations between them and you. Quest. xv.1. ‘If I say I will give such or such a one this or that, am I bound thereby to do it?’ Answ. It is one thing to express your present mind and resolution, without giving away the liberty of changing it; and it is another thing to intend the obliging of yourself to do the thing mentioned. And that obligation is either intended to man, or to God only; and that is either in point of rendition and use, or in point of veracity, or the performance of that moral duty of speaking truth. If you meant no more in saying, “I will do it,” or ‘I will give it,” but that this is your present will, and purpose, and resolution, yea, though it add the confident persuasion that your will shall not change; yet this no further obligeth you than you are obliged to continue in that will; and as a man's confident resolutions may be lawfully changed upon sufficient cause. But if you intended to alienate the title to another, or to give him present right, or to oblige yourself for the future to him by that promise ; or to oblige yourself to God to do it by way of peremptory assertion, as one that will be guilty of a lie if you perform it not; or if you dedicate the thing to God by those words as a vow, then you are obliged to do accordingly (supposing nothing else to prohibit it). Quest. xv.11. “Doth an inward promise of the mind not expressed, oblige 3' Answ. In a vow to God it doth : and if you intend it as an assertion obliging you in point of veracity, it doth so oblige you that you must lie. But it is no contract, nor giveth any man a title to what you tacitly thought of. Quest. xviii. ‘May I promise an unlawful thing (simply so) without an intention of performing it, to save my life from a thief or persecutor?’ Answ. No : because it is a lie, when the tongue agreeth not with the heart. Indeed those that think a lie is no sin when it hurteth not another, may justify this, if that would hold good; but I have before confuted it, Part i., in the chapter against Lying. Quest. x 1x. ‘May any thing otherwise unlawful become a duty upon a promise to do it?’ Answ. This is answered before Part i., chapter of Perjuries and Vows: a thing unlawful will be so still, notwithstanding a vow or promise; and some so of that also which is unlawful antecedently but by accident; as e. g. It is not simply unlawful to cast away a cup of wine or a piece of silver; (for it is lawful upon a sufficient cause). But it is unlawful to do it without any suffcient cause. Now suppose I should contract with another that I will do it; am I bound by such a contract? Many say no, because the matter is unlawful though but by accident; and the contract cannot make it lawful. I rather think that I am bound in such a case; but yet that my obligation doth not exclude me wholly from sin; it was a sin before I promised (or vowed it) to cast away a farthing causelessly. And if I causelessly promised it, I sinned in that promise: but yet there may be cause for the performance : and if I have entangled myself in a necessity of sinning whether I do it or not, I must choose the lesser sin; for that is then my duty. (Though I should have chosen neither as long as I could avoid it.) In a great and hurtful sin I may be obliged rather to break my covenant than to commit it, yet it is hard to say so of every accidental evil : my reasons are, 1. Because the promise or covenant is now an accident to be put
into the balance; and may weigh down a lighter accident on the other side: (but I know that the great difficulty is to discern which is indeed the preponderating accident).
2. I think if a magistrate command me to do any thing which by a small accident is evil (as to spend an hour in vain, to give a penny in vain, to speak a word, which antecedently, was vain) that I must do it; and that then it is not vain because it manifesteth my obedience : (otherwise obedience would be greatly straitened). Therefore my own contract may make it my duty; because I am able to oblige myself as well as a magistrate is. 3. Because covenantbreaking (and perjury) is really a greater sin than speaking a vain word; and my error doth not make it no sin, but only entangles me in a necessity of sinning which way soever I
take. Quest. xx. ‘If a man make a contract to promote the
sin of another for a reward (as a corrupt judge or lawyer, officer or clerk to promote injustice; or a resetter to help a thief; or a bawd or whore, for the price of fornication), may he take the reward, when the sin is committed, (suppose it repented of)?’ Answ. The offender that promised the reward, hath forfeited his title to the money; therefore you may receive it of him (and ought, except he will rightly dispose of it himself); but withal to confess the sin and persuade him also to repent : but you may not take any of that money as your own; (for no man can purchase true propriety by iniquity). But either give it to the party injured (to whom you are bound to make satisfaction), or to the magistrate or the poor, according as the case particularly requireth. Quest. xx 1. ‘If I contract, or bargain, or promise to another, between us two, without any legal form or witness, doth it bind me to the performance 2' Answ. Yes, ‘in foro conscientiae,’ supposing the thing lawful; but if the thing be unlawful ‘in foro Dei,' and such as the law of the land only would lay hold of you about, or force you to, if it had been witnessed, then the law of the land may well be avoided, by the want of legal forms and . Witnesses. Quest. xx11. ‘May I buy an office for money in a court of justice 2'
Answ. Some offices you may buy, (where the law alloweth it, and it tendeth not to injustice;) but other offices you may not; the difference the lawyers may tell you better than I, and it would be tedious to pursue instances. Quest. xxiii. ‘May one buy a place of magistracy or judicature for money? Answ. Not when your own honour or commodity is your end; because the common good is the end of government; and to a faithful governor, it is a place of great labour and suffering, and requireth much self-denial and patience. Therefore they that purchase it as a place of honour, gain or pleasure, either know not what they undertake, or have carnal ends; else they would rather purchase their liberty and avoid it. But if a king or a judge, or other magistrate, see that a bad man (more unfit to govern) is like to be put in, if he be put by, it is lawful for him to purchase the people's deliverance at a very dear rate; (even by a lawful war which is more than money, when the sovereign's power is in such danger :) but the heart must be watched, that it pretend not the common good, and intend your own commodity and honour; and the probable consequents must be weighed; and the laws of the land must be consulted also ; for if they absolutely prohibit the buying of a place of judicature, they must be obeyed". And ill effects may make it sinful. Quest. xxiv. ‘May one sell a church-benefice, or rectory, or orders?” Answ. If the benefice be originally of your own gift, it is at first in your power to give part or all; to take some deductions out of it or not : but if it be really given to the church, and you have but the patronage or choice of the incumbent, it is sacrilege to sell it for any commodity of your own : but whether you may take somewhat out of a great benefice, to give to another church which is poorer, dependeth partly on the law of the land, and partly upon the probable consequents. If the law absolutely forbid it (supposing that unlawful contracts cannot be avoided unless some lawful ones be restrained), it must be obeyed for the common good : and if the consequent of a lawful contract be
a whether the consequent be good or hurt is like to be greater, must be well