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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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The doctrine and science of conscience and its cases, with the rules and principles of resolving the same; drawn partly from natural reason or equity, and partly from the authority of Scripture, the canon law, councils, fathers, &c. To casuistry belongs the decision of all difficulties arising about what a man may lawfully do or not do; what is sin or not sin; what things a man is obliged to do in order to discharge his duty, and what he may let alone without breach of it. Some suppose that all books of casuistry are as useless as they are tiresome. One who is really anxious to do his duty must be very weak, it said, if he can imagine that he has much occasion for them; and with regard to one who is negligent of it, the style of those writings is not such as is likely to awaken him to more attention. The frivolous accuracy which casuists attempt to introduce into subjects which do not admit of it, almost necessarily betray them into dangerous errors; and at the same time render their works dry and disagreeable, abounding in abstruse and metaphysical distinctions, but incapable of exciting in the heart any of those emotions which it is the principal use of books of morality to produce.

On the other hand, I think it may be observed, that, though these remarks may apply to some, they cannot apply to all books of casuistry. It must be acknowledged that nice distinctions, metaphysical reasonings, and abstruse terms, cannot be of much service to the generality, because there are so few who can enter into them; yet, when we consider how much light is thrown upon a subject by the force of good reasoning, by viewing a case in all its bearings, by properly considering all the objections that may be made to it, and by examining it in every point of view; if we consider also how little some men are accustomed to think, and yet at the same time possess that tenderness of conscience which makes them fearful of doing wrong; we must conclude that such works as these, when properly executed, may certainly be of considerable advantage. The reader may consult Ames's Power and Cases of Conscience; Bishop Taylor's Cuctor Dubitantium; Dr. Saunderson's De Obligatione Conscienteae; Pike and Hayward's Cases; and Saurin's Christian Casuistry, in 4th vol. of his Sermons, p. 265, English edition.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Casuistry'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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