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lieveth] that he may eat all things ; another, who is [weak,] eateth herbs. Where observe, that he who believeth is opposed to him who is weak. Now by faith here is not meant that act or quality by which a man is justified, but signifies the same with knowledge. As 1 Cor. viii. 10. If any man see thee which hast [knowledge] sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to do so too? And in ver. 7, Howbeit there is not in every man that [knowledge:] for some with conscience of the idol eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being[weak] is defiled. So that, as in that chapter to the Romans weakness of conscience is opposed to faith, here, in this chapter to the Corinthians, the same weakness is opposed to knowledge; which, from the identity of the case treated of in both places, together with other circumstances, evidently demonstrate faith and knowledge to be here taken for the same thing. In short therefore, the faith here spoken of is a clear knowledge of what is unlawful, and what only indifferent, together with a firm persuasion of the lawful use of such indifferent things, all circumstances being duly observed in the using of them. And therefore, on the other side, the weak conscience is such an one as judges otherwise of the nature of things than indeed it is, supposing that to be unlawful in itself which really is not so, and thereupon abstaining from the use of it, as of a thing unlawful.
From whence it follows, that weakness of conscience implies in it these three things:
First, An ignorance of the lawfulness of some certain thing or action.
Secondly, A suspicion ensuing thereupon of its unlawfulness.
Thirdly, A religious fear to use or practise it, grounded upon that ignorance or suspicion.
And first, for the first of these ingredients, ignorance; which is indeed the chief and principal of all the three, as being the original of the other two. Concerning this we must (as the groundwork of all) observe, that it ought by all means to be such an ignorance as may, in propriety of speech and sense, bear the denomination of weakness; which it is certain that every sort of ignorance neither does nor can. For since weakness is properly the privation or absence of power, that ignorance only can receive this name, which is not founded upon any vicious action or omission of the will. I say action or omission : for a man may either positively design and will the ignorance of a thing, by studiously avoiding all means to inform himself of it; much like the shutting of one's eyes against the light, or refusing to come to church: or it may be founded upon some omission; as when the will, though it does not designedly avoid and put from it the means of knowledge, yet neglects to look after them. Now the ignorance which is occasioned either of these ways is willing, and consequently sinful: though usually, for distinction sake, the former is with more emphasis termed, not only willing, but wilful; as being the direct object of an act of volition, and upon that account stamped with an higher aggravation.
That ignorance therefore that renders and denominates the conscience weak, must be such an one as is not willing; which is evident upon a double account :
First, Because it must be such an one as renders it in some degree excusable ; but, so far as any defect is resolved into the will, it is in that degree inexcusable.
Secondly, Because it must be such an ignorance as renders the person having it the object of pity and compassion. But no man pities another for any evil lying upon him which he would not help, but which he could not. One is his burden, the other his choice; virtually at least, since he might have chosen its prevention. So that it must be such an ignorance as is not (all circumstances considered) under the present power of a man's will to remedy. And consequently it must be resolved into one of these two causes :
First, The natural weakness of the understanding faculty.
Secondly, The want of opportunities or means of knowledge.
Either of which makes ignorance necessary; as it is impossible for him to see who wants eyes, and equally impossible for him who wants light; the former being the organ, the other the means of seeing. But as touching the natural weakness or disability of the understanding faculty, we must observe, that this may be either total, as in case of idiotism, phrensy, or the like, which wholly deprives a man of the use of his reason : but persons in this condition fall not under the present consideration. Or secondly, this disability of the understanding may be only in part, and as to a certain degree of its exercise. From whence it is, that one
man apprehends the same thing under the same advantages of proposal much more slowly and difficultly than another. Which defect being in no man's power to prevent, but coming with him into the world, all that ignorance which is inevitably caused by it, neither can nor ever shall be charged upon the will. But then withal, as this defect does not wholly deprive a man of the power of knowing, but only of the readiness, easiness, and quickness of it; (upon which account knowledge becomes more difficult to him in the acquisition ;) so this weakness, dulness, or slowness of a man's intellectual powers, can never totally excuse him for being ignorant of what it was his duty to know; since it was in the power of his will by labour and industry to have supplied, and, as it were, to have pieced up these failures in his apprehension ; and so at length to have acquired the knowledge of that by study and pains, which he could not by the slowness of his understanding take in at first.
But then this must be also confessed, that, by reason of this diversity in the quickness or slowness of men's understandings, one man may be sooner inexcusable for his ignorance of the same thing than another. For God will allow a man of slower parts to be ignorant of a thing longer than a person endued with more quick and pregnant sense. pects from men only according to the proportions of his giving to them ; still making an equality and commensuration between a man's obligations and his powers. And thus much for the first and grand ingredient of weakness of conscience, which is igno
Secondly, The second is a suspicion of the unlaw
fulness of any thing or action : and this is manifestly something more than a bare ignorance of its lawfulness. Though indeed such an ignorance is of itself enough to make the forbearance of any thing or action necessary : forasmuch as nothing ought to be done but in faith; that is, in a full persuasion of the lawfulness of what we do; which he can be no more said to do, who is ignorant of the lawfulness of what he goes about, than he who suspects it to be unlawful. Howbeit this suspicion adds to the guilt of the action, in case it be done during its continuance; because all suspicion is grounded upon some arguments, which leave not the opinion of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of a thing equal, as in case of mere ignorance, but rather incline us to a belief that it is unlawful. For it is one thing not to know whether a thing be lawful, another to doubt, and shrewdly to suspect that it is not so. Now this indeed is the usual concomitant of weakness of conscience, as being the natural product of ignorance, which seldom stops in itself: men in the dark being generally fearful, and apt to suspect the worst. But yet this suspicion is not essentially requisite to make a conscience weak; though where it is so, it makes that weakness greater, and more troublesome. For ignorance is properly that in which this weakness consists : ignorance makes the sore, suspicion inflames it.
Thirdly, The third and last thing that goes to the making up of this weakness of conscience, is a religious abstinence from the use of that thing, of the lawfulness whereof it is thus ignorant or suspicious. It brings a man to that condition in the 2d of Coloss. and the 21st verse, of touch not, taste not,