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Holy Living

by Jeremy Taylor





Of Provision, or that part of Justice which is due from Superiors to Inferiors.


As God hath imprinted his authority in several parts upon several estates of men, as princes, parents, spiritual guides; so he hath also delegated and committed parts of his care and providence unto them, that they may be instrumental in the conveying such blessings which God knows we need, and which he intends should be the effects of government. For since God governs all the world as a king, provides for us a father, and is the great guide and conductor of our spirits as the head of the church, and the great shepherd and the bishop of our souls, they who have portions of these dignities have also their share of the administration: the sum of all which is usually signified in these two words, governing and feeding, and is particularly recited in these following rules:


Duties of Kings, and all the Supreme Power, as Lawgivers.

1. Princes of the people, and all that have legislative power, must provide useful and good laws for the defence of property, for the encouragement of labour, for the safeguard of their persons, for determining controversies, for reward of noble actions and excellent arts and rare inventions, for promoting trade, and enriching their people.

2. In the making laws, princes must have regard to the public dispositions, to the affections and disaffections of the people, and must not introduce a law with public scandal and displeasure; but consider the public benefit, and the present capacity of affairs, and general inclinations of men’s minds.[159] For he that enforces a law upon a people against their first and public apprehensions, tempts them to disobedience, and makes laws to become snares and hooks to catch the people, and to enrich the treasury with the spoil and tears and cures of the commonalty, and to multiply their mutiny and their sin.

3. Princes must provide, that the laws be duly executed, for a good law without execution is like an unperformed promise: and therefore they must be severe exactors of accounts from their delegates and ministers of justice.

4. The severity of laws must be tempered with dispensations, pardons, and remissions, according as the case shall alter, and new necessities be introduced, or some singular accident shall happen, in which the law would be unreasonable or intolerable, as to that particular. And thus the people, with their importunity, prevailed against Saul in the case of Jonathan, and obtained his pardon for breaking the law which his father made, because his necessity forced him to taste honey; and his breaking the law, in that case, did promote that service whose promotion was intended by the law.

5. Princes must be fathers of the people, and provide such instances of gentleness, ease, wealth, and advantages, as may make mutual confidence between them; and must fix their security under God in the love of the people; which, therefore, they must, with all arts of sweetness, remission, popularity, nobleness, and sincerity, endeavour to secure to themselves.

6. Princes must not multiply public oaths without great, eminent, and violent necessity; lest the security of the king become a snare to the people, and they become false, when they see themselves suspected; or impatient, when they are violently held fast: but the greater and more useful caution is upon things than upon persons; and if security of kings can be obtained otherwise, it is better that oaths should be the last refuge, and when nothing else can be sufficient.

7. Let not the people be tempted with arguments or disobey, by the imposition of great and unnecessary taxes: for that lost to the son of Solomon the dominion of the ten tribes of Israel.

8. Princes must, in a special manner, be guardians of pupils and widows, not suffering then persons to be oppressed, or their estates imbeciled, or in any sense be exposed to the rapine of covetous persons; but be provided for by just laws, and provident judges, and good guardians, ever having an ear ready open to their just complaints, and a heart full of pity, and one hand to support them, and the other to avenge them.

9. Princes must provide, that the laws may be so administered that they be truly and really an ease to the people, not an instrument of vexation: and therefore must be careful, that the shortest and most equal ways of trials be appointed, fees moderated, and intricacies and windings as much cut off as may be, lest injured persons be forced to perish under the oppression, or under the law, in the injury, or in the suit. Laws are like princes, those best and most beloved who are most easy of access.

10. Places of judicature ought, at no hand, to be sold by pious princes, who remember themselves to be fathers of the people. For they that buy the office will sell the act;[160] and they that, at any rate, will be judges, will not, at any easy rate, do justice; and their bribery is less punishable, when bribery opened the door by which they entered.

11. Ancient privileges, favours, customs, and acts of grace, indulged by former kings to their people, must not, without high reason and great necessities, be revoked by their successors, nor forfeitures be exacted violently, nor penal laws urged rigorously, nor in light cases; nor laws be multiplied without great need; nor vicious persons, which are publicly and deservedly hated, be kept in defiance of popular desires; nor anything that may unnecessarily make the yoke heavy and the affection light, that may increase murmurs and lessen charity; always remembering, that the interest of the prince and the people is so enfolded in a mutual embrace, that they cannot be untwisted without pulling a limb off, or dissolving the bands and conjunction of the whole body.

12. All princes must esteem themselves as much bound by their word, by their grants, and by their promises, as the meanest of their subjects are by the restraint and penalty of laws;[161] and although they are superior to the people, yet they are not superior to their own voluntary concessions and engagements, their promises and oaths, when once they are passed from them.


The Duty of Superiors as they are Judges.

1. Princes in judgment and their delegate judges must judge the causes of all persons uprightly and impartially, without any personal consideration of the power of the mighty, or the bribe of the rich, or the needs of the poor. For although the poor must fare no worse for his poverty, yet, in justice, be must fare no better for it; and although the rich must be no more regarded, yet he must not be less. And to this purpose the tutor of Cyrus instructed him, when in a controversy, where a great boy would have taken a large coat from a little boy, because his own was too little for him, and the other’s was too big, he adjudged the great coat to the great boy: his tutor answered, “Sir, if you were made to judge of decency or fitness, you had judged well in giving the biggest to the biggest; but when you are appointed judge, not whom the coat did fit, but whose it was, you should have considered the title and the possession, who did the violence, and who made it, or who bought it.” And so it must be in judgments between the rich and the poor: it is not to be considered what the poor man needs, but what is his own.

2. A prince may not, much less may inferior judges, deny justice, when it is legally and competently demanded: and if the prince will use his prerogative in pardoning an offender, against whom justice is required, he must be careful to give satisfaction to the injured person, or his relatives, by some other instrument; and be watchful to take away the scandal, that is, lest such indulgence might make persons more bold to do injury: and if he spares the life, let him change the punishment into that which may make the offender, if not suffer justice, yet do justice, and more real advantage to the injured person.

These rules concern princes and their delegates in the making or administering laws, in the appointing rules of justice, and doing acts of judgment. The duty of parents to their children and nephews is briefly described by St. Paul.


The Duty of Parents to their Children.

1. ‘Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath:’[162] that is, be tender-bowelled, pitiful, and gentle, complying with all the infirmities of the children, and, in their several ages, proportioning to them several usages, according to their needs and their capacities.

2. ‘Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord:’ that is, secure their religion; season their younger years with prudent and pious principles; make them in love with virtue; and make them habitually so, before they come to choose or to discern good from evil, that their choice or to discern good from evil, that their choice may be with less difficulty and danger. For while they are under discipline, they suck in all that they are first taught, and believe it infinitely. Provide for them wise, learned, and virtuous tutors, and good company and discipline, seasonable baptism, catechism, and confirmation.[163] For it is great folly to heap up much wealth for our children, and not to take care concerning the children for whom we get it: it is as if a man should take more care about his shoe than about his foot.

3. Parents must show piety at home;[164] that is, they must give good example and reverend deportment in the face of their children; and all those instances of charity, which usually endear each other - sweetness of conversation, affability, frequent admonitions, all significations of love and tenderness, care and watchfulness - must be expressed towards children, that they may look upon their parents as their friends and patrons, their defence and sanctuary, their treasuer and their guide. Hither is to be reduced the nursing of children, which is the first and most natural and necessary instance of piety which mothers can show to their babes; a duty from which nothing will excuse, but a disability, sickness, danger, or public necessity.

4. Parents must provide for their own, according to their condition, education and employment: called by St. Paul, ‘a laying up for the children;’[165] that is, an enabling them, by competent portions, or good trades, arts, or learning, to defend themselves against the chances of the world, that they may not be exposed to temptation, to beggary, or unworthy arts. And although this must be done without covetousness, without impatient and greedy desires of making them rich; yet it must be done with much care and great affection, with all reasonable provision, and according to our power: and if we can, without sin, improve our estates for them, that also is part of the duty we owe to God for them. And this rule is to extend to all that descend from us, although we have been overtaken in a fault, and have unlawful issue; they also become part of our care, yet so as not to injure the production of the lawful bed.

5. This duty is to extend to a provision of conditions and an estate of life.[166] Parents must, according to their power and reason, provide husbands or wives for their children.[167] In which they must secure piety and religion,[168] and the affection and love of the interested persons; and after these let them make what provisions they can for other conveniences or advantages; ever remembering that they can do no injury more afflictive to the children than to join them with cords of a disagreeing affection; it is like tying a wolf and a lamb, or planting a vine in a garden of coleworts. Let them be persuaded with reasonable inducements to make them willing, and to choose according to the parent’s wish; but at no hand let them be forced. Better to sit up all night than to go to bed with a dragon.


Rules for Married Persons.

1. Husbands must give to their wives love,[169] maintenance, duty, and the sweetnesses of conversation; and wives must pay to them all they have or can, with the interest of obedience and reverence: and they must be complicated in affections and interest, that there must be no distinction between them of mine and thine. And if the title be the man’s or the woman’s, yet the use is to be common; only the wisdom of the man is a regulate all extravagances and indiscretions. In other things no question is to be made; and their goods should be as their children, not to be divided, but of one possession and provision: whatsoever is otherwise is not marriage but merchandise. And upon this ground I suppose it was, that St. Basil commended that woman who took part of her husband’s good to do good works withal:[170] for supposing him to be unwilling, and that the work was his duty or here alone, or both theirs in conjunction, or of great advantage to either of their souls, and no violence to the support of their families, she had right to all that: and Abigail, of her own right, made a costly present to David when her husband Nabal had refused it. The husband must[171] rule over his wife, as the soul does over the body, obnoxious to the same sufferings, and bound by the same affections, and doing or suffering by the permissions and interest of each other: that (as the old philosopher said) as the humours of the body are mingled with each other in the whole substances, so marriage may be a mixture of interests, of bodies, of minds, of friends, a conjunction[172] of the whole life, and the noblest of friendships. But if, after all the fair deportments and innocent chaste compliances, the husband be morose and ungentle, let the wife discourse thus: “If while I do my duty, my husband neglects me, what will he do if I neglect him?” And if she things to be separated by reason of her husband’s unchaste life, let her consider, that then the man will be incurable ruined, and her rivals could wish nothing more than that they might possess him alone.


The Duty of Masters of Families.

1. The same care is to extend to all of our family, in their proportions, as to our children: for as, by St. Paul’s economy, the heir differs nothing from a servant, while he is in minority, so a servant should differ nothing from a child, in the substantial part of the care; and the difference is only in degrees. Servants and masters are of the same kindred, of the same nature, and heirs of the same promises, and therefore, 1. must be provided of necessaries, for their support and maintenance. 2. They must be used with mercy. 3. Their work must be tolerable and merciful. 4. Their restraints must be reasonable. 5. Their recreations fitting and healthful. 6. Their religion and the interest of souls taken care of. 7. And masters must correct their servants with gentleness, prudence, and mercy; not for every slight fault, not always, not with upbraiding and disgraceful language, but with such only as may express and reprove the fault, and amend the person. But in all these things measures are to be taken by the contract made, by the laws and customs of the place, by the sentence of prudent and merciful men, and by the cautions and remembrances given us by God; such as is that written by St. Paul, ‘as knowing that we also have a Master in heaven.’ The master must not be a lion in his house, lest his power be obeyed, and his person hated; his eye be waited on, and his business be neglected in secret. No servant will do his duty, unless he make a conscience, or love his master: if he does it not for God’s sake or his master’s, he will not need to do it always for his own.


The Duty of Guardians or Tutors.

Tutors and guardians are in the place of parents; and what they are in fiction of law, they must remember as an argument to engage them do do in reality of duty. They must do all the duty of parents, excepting those obligations which are merely natural.

*The duty of ministers and spiritual guides to the people is of so great burden, so various rules, so intricate and busy caution, that it requires a distinct tractate by itself.




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