The Elements of Law/Part I/Chapter 18

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The Elements of Law
by Thomas Hobbes
Part I, Chapter 18

Chapter 18: A Confirmation of the Same Out of The Word of God[edit]

1. The laws mentioned in the former chapters, as they are called the laws of nature, for that they are the dictates of natural reason; and also moral laws, because they concern men's manners and conversation one towards another; so are they also divine laws in respect of the author thereof, God Almighty; and ought therefore to agree, or at least, not to be repugnant to the word of God revealed in Holy Scripture. In this chapter therefore I shall produce such places of Scripture as appear to be most consonant to the said laws.

2. And first the word of God seemeth to place the divine law in reason; by all such texts as ascribe the same to the heart and understanding; as Psalm 40, 8: Thy law is in my heart. Heb. 8, 10: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws in their mind; and Heb. 10, 16, the same. Psalm 37, 31, speaking of the righteous man, he saith, The law of God is in his heart. Psalm 19, 7, 8: The law of God is perfect, converting the soul. It giveth wisdom to the simple, and light unto the eyes. Jer. 31, 33: I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. And John I, the lawgiver himself, God Almighty, is called by the name of Logos, which is also called: verse 4, The light of men: and verse 9, The light which lighteth every man, which cometh into the world: all which are descriptions of natural reason.

3. And that the law divine, for so much as is moral, are those precepts that tend to peace, seemeth to be much confirmed by such places of Scripture as these: Rom. 3, 17, righteousness which is the fulfilling of the law, is called the way of peace. And Psalm 85, 10: Righteousness and peace shall kiss each other. And Matth. 5, 9: Blessed are the peacemakers. And Heb. 7, 2, Melchisedec king of Salem is interpreted king of righteousness, and king of peace. And, verse 21, our Saviour Christ is said to be a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec; out of which may be inferred: that the doctrine of our Saviour Christ annexeth the fulfilling of the law to peace.

4. That the law of nature is unalterable, is intimated by this, that the priesthood of Melchisedec is everlasting; and by the words of our Saviour, Matth. 5, 18: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle of the law shall not pass till all things be fulfilled.

5. That men ought to stand to their covenants, is taught Psalm 15, where the question being asked, verse 1, Lord who shall dwell in thy tabernacle, &c., it is answered, verse 4, He that sweareth to his own hindrance, and yet changeth not. And that men ought to be grateful, where no covenant passeth, Deut. 25, 4: Thou shalt not muzzle the Ox that treadeth out the corn, which St. Paul (1 Cor. 9, 9) interpreteth not of oxen, but of men.

6. That men content themselves with equality, as it is the foundation of natural law, so also is it of the second table of the divine law, Matth. 22, 39, 4o: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two laws depend the whole law and the prophets; which is not so to be understood, as that a man should study so much his neighbour's profit as his own, or that he should divide his goods amongst his neighbours; but that he should esteem his neighbour worthy all rights and privileges that he himself enjoyeth; and attribute unto him, whatsoever he looketh should be attributed unto himself; which is no more but that he should be humble, meek, and contented with equality.

7. And that in distributing of right amongst equals, that distribution is to be made according to the proportions of the numbers, which is the giving of aequalia aequalibus, and proportionalia proportionalibus; we have Numb. 26, 53, 54, the commandment of God to Moses: Thous shalt divide the land according to the number of names; to many thou shalt give more, to few thou shalt give less, to every one according to his number. That decision by lot is a means of peace, Prov. 18, 18: The lot causeth contention to cease, and maketh partition among the mighty.

8. That the accommodation and forgiveness of one another, which have before been put for laws of nature, are also law divine, there is no question. For they are the essence of charity, which is the scope of the whole law. That we ought not to reproach, or reprehend each other, is the doctrine of our Saviour, Matth. 7, 1: Judge not, that ye be not judged; (verse 3): Why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, and seest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Also the law that forbiddeth us to press our counsel upon others further than they admit, is a divine law. For after our charity and desire to rectify one another is rejected, to press it further, is to reprehend him, and condemn him, which is forbidden in the text last recited; as also Rom. 14, 12, 13: Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more, but use your judgment rather in this, that no man put an occasion to fall, or a stumbling block before his brother.

9. Further, the rule of men concerning the law of nature, Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris, is confirmed by the like, Matth. 7, 12: Whatsoever therefore you would have men do unto you, that do you unto them: for this is the law and the prophets. And Rom. 2, 1: In that thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, &c.

10. It is also manifest by the Scriptures, that these laws concern only the tribunal of our conscience; and that the actions contrary to them, shall be no farther punished by God Almighty, than as they proceed from negligence and contempt. And first, that these laws are made to the conscience, appeareth, Matth. 5, 20: For I say unto you, except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now the Pharisees were the most exact amongst the Jews in the external performance; they therefore must want the sincerity of conscience; else could not our Saviour have required a greater righteousness than. theirs. For the same reason our Saviour Christ saith: The publican departed from the temple justified, rather than the Pharisee. And Christ saith: His yoke is easy, and his burthen light; which proceeded from this, that Christ required no more than our best endeavour. And Rom. 14, 23: He that doubteth, is condemned, if he eat. And in innumerable places both in the Old and New Testament, God Almighty declareth, that he taketh the will for the deed, both in good and evil actions. By all which it plainly appears, that the divine law is dictated to the conscience. On the other side it is no less plain: that how many and how heinous actions soever a man commit through infirmity, he shall nevertheless, whensoever he shall condemn the same in his own conscience, be freed from the punishments that to such actions otherwise belong. For, At what time soever a sinner doth repent him of his sins from the bottom of his heart, I will put all his iniquities out of my remembrance, saith the Lord.

11. Concerning revenge which by the law of nature ought not to aim, as I have said chapter XVI, section 10, at present delight, but at future profit, there is some difficulty made, as if the same accorded not with the law divine, by such as object the continuance of punishment after the day of judgment, when there shall be no place, neither for amendment, nor for example. This objection had been of some force, if such punishment had been ordained after all sins were past; but considering the punishment was instituted before sin, it serveth to the benefit of mankind, because it keepeth men in peaceable and virtuous conversation by the terror; and therefore such revenge was directed to the future only.

12. Finally, there is no law of natural reason, that can be against the law divine; for God Almighty hath given reason. to a man to be a light unto him. And I hope it is no. impiety to think, that God Almighty will require a strict account thereof, at the day of judgment, as of the instructions which we were to follow in our peregrination here; notwithstanding the opposition and affronts of supernaturalists now-a-days, to rational and moral conversation.