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by any man else, neither can I myself imagine, or understand. Here are the general propositions, which are the form, and make the honesty and the justice of all the particular laws of nature; and what is not there provided for by special provision, or by general reason and analogy, is wholly permitted to human laws and contracts, or to liberty and indifferency, that is, where the laws of nature cease, there the rights of nature return.
2. But secondly, to the objection I answer, that it will be but weakness, to think that all the instances of the law of nature must be as prime as nature herself: for they neither are so prime, nor so lasting, but are alterable by God and by men, and
may be made more, or fewer, or other. This may seem new, and indeed is unusual in the manner of speaking: but the case is evident and empirically certain. For when God commanded Abraham to kill his son; the Israelites to rob the Egyptians and to run away with their goods; he gave them a commandment to break an instance of the natural law; and he made it necessary that Cain should marry with his sister: and all those laws of nature which did suppose liberty and indistinction of possessions, are wholly altered when dominion, and servitude, and propriety, came into the world: and the laws of nature which are in peace, are not obligatory to other persons in the time
For the laws of nature are, in many instances, relative to certain states; and, therefore, in their instances and particulars, are as alterable as the states themselves : but the reasons indeed on which they do rely (supposing the same or equal circumstances and the matter unchanged), are eternal and unalterable as the constitution of nature. But, therefore, it was unwarily said of the learned Hugo Grotius, and of divers others before him, that “ God cannot change the law of nature.”—For, as St. Paul said of the priesthood, “ it being changed, there must of necessity be a change also of the law,” so it is in the law of nature; the matter of it being changed, there must of necessity also be a change in the law: for although the essential reason may be the same in changed instances, yet that hinders not but the law may justly be affirmed to be alterable; just as the law was under the several priesthoods, in both which the obligation is the same, and so is the relation to God, and the natural religion. Thus when rivers are common, it is lawful for any man to fish, and unlawful for my neighbour to forbid me; but when rivers are inclosed and made proper, it is unlawful for me to fish, and lawful for the proprietary to forbid me; before the inclosure it was just to do that thing, which afterward is unjust; and this is as much a change of a particular law as can be imagined. If it be meant, that while the propriety remains or the state, the law introduced upon that state is unalterable: then there is no more said of the law of nature than of any positive law of God, or the wise law of any prince; which are not to be altered as long as the same case and the same necessity remains; and it would be to no purpose to affirm so of the law of nature; for the sense of it would be, that while things remain as God established them, they are unalterable. But if God can disannul the obligation, by taking away the matter of the law, or the necessity, or the reasonableness, or the obligation (and all this he can do one way or other), it is not safe nor true to say, 66 God cannot alter the law of nature.” He changed the matter in suffering liberty to pass into servitude; he made necessity in one instance, I mean in the matter of incest in the case of Cain, and afterwards took it away: he took away the reasonableness of the sanction by changing the case in the subduction or mutation of the matter, and he took off the obligation in the case of Abraham and of the Israelites robbing their neighbours.
And, therefore, the Christian laws superinducing some excellencies and perfections upon human nature, and laying restraint upon the first natural laws, that is, upon such which before this last period of the world were laws of nature, is no hard thing to be understood. God in it used but his own right. And I suppose it will be found to be unreasonable to expound the precepts of the religion by the former measures of nature, while she was less perfect, less instructed: but this rather; the former instances of the natural law are passed into the Christian precepts, and the natural instance is changed, and the law altered in its material part; the formality of it remaining upon the supposition of a greater reason. Thus to repel force by force is a right of nature; and afterwards it was passed into a law that men might do it; that is, God expressly gave them leave; and although it be not properly a law which neither forbids nor commands, but only gives a leave,—yet, when God hath forbidden men to do violence, and to establish this law the rather, gave leave, to any man that could, to punish his unjust enemy that attempted to do him mischief, it may be called a law, in the lesser sense, that is, a decree of the court of heaven by which this became lawful. Though this was passed into a law in the manner now explicated, yet it was with some restraints; which yet were not so great, but they left a great liberty, which was sufficient security against violence. The restraint which God superinduced upon this right of nature, was but “ moderamen inculpatæ tutelæ ;” it left men defended sufficiently against injuries, though it permitted us to be tied in some lesser instances and unavoidable accidents. But now although Christianity hath proceeded in the first method of God, and restrained it yet more, and forbids us to strike him that strikes us, we are not to force this precept into a sense consisting with the former liberty which we call the law of nature; but was at first only a right of nature or a permissive law, but not obligatory; and afterwards suffered some restraints: for that which suffered some, may suffer more: and as the right of nature was, for its being restrained, recompensed in the provisions of laws, and by the hands of justice, taking it from the private into the public hand: so may this right of nature, when it is wholly taken from us, be recompensed by God's taking the xdixnois, or the power of avenging' our quarrels, into his hands.
This right of nature being now almost wholly taken from us, part of it is taken up to God, and part of it is deposited in the hands of the civil power, but we have none of it; only by Christ's laws and graces our nature is more perfect, and morality is set forward, and justice and all our rights are secured; but yet the law is changed. The like may be said in divers other instances, as I shall discourse in their several places: here it is sufficient to have given the first hint of it, and demonstrated the certainty and reasonableness of it, which (as appears by the instances) although it be especially and frequently true in the “jus naturæ' or the “permissive law of nature, and in those not only God, but men
may make an alteration; yet even in those laws which are directly obligatory, the power of God who made them, cannot be denied to be equal in the alteration : and indeed he that can annul nature, can also at least alter her laws, which are consequent to nature, and intended only for her preservation.
The case seems to be the same with eating and drinking, which God hath made necessary for our life, as justice is to societies: but as he can take away the necessity from this person at this time to eat, and can supply it otherwise,-so he can also conserve human society in the mutation of cases and extraordinary contingencies as well as in the ordinary effects of justice. Indeed God cannot do an unjust thing ; because whatsoever he wills or does, is therefore just because he wills and does it; but his will being the measure of justice, and his providence the disposer of those eỹents and states of things, to which the instances of justice can relate,when he wills an extraordinary case and hath changed the term of the relation, then he hath made that instance, which before was unjust, now to become just; and so hath not changed justice into injustice, but the denomination of the whole action, concerning which the law was made, is altered from unjust to just, or on the contrary.
It is not to be supposed, that the whole law of nature can be altered, as long as our nature is the same; any more than the fashion of our garments can be generally altered as long as our body is of this shape: and, therefore, it is not to be thought, that he that makes a doublet, shall ever make three sleeves, unless a man have three arms,—or a glove with six fingers for him that hath but five; but many particular laws of nature suffer variety and alteration, according to the changes that are in our nature and in our necessities, or by any measure of man .or men which God shall superinduce.
Duo cum idem faciunt, sæpe ut possis dicere,
The rule of nature is always the same; yet one may do what another may not; and sometimes that is lawful which
p Terent. Adelph. act. 5. sc. 1. Mattaire, p. 198.
at another is criminal; not because the measure is changeable, but the thing measured suffers variety.”-So that in effect, the sense and extent of truth in this question is this; that although as long as this world lasts and men in it, the law of nature cannot be abrogated, because it is that law which is framed proportionable to man's nature; yet it may be derogated, that is, lessened, or enlarged in instances, changed in the integrity of many of its particulars, made relative to several states and new necessities; and this is that which, in true speaking, does affirm that the laws of nature may be changed. For although there are some propositions and decrees so general, that they are in their nature applicable to all variety of things, and therefore cannot be changed ;-yet they are rather the foundation of laws than laws themselves : because a law must be mixed with a mam terial part, it must be a direction of actions, and a bond upon persons, which does suppose many things that can be changed: and, therefore, although the propositions, upon which the reasonableness and justice of the law does depend, serve to the contrary instances by analogy, and common influence,-yet the law, being material, does not, and therefore is alterable. But of this I shall give a fuller account in the ninth and tenth rules of this chapter. For the present, I observe,
The want of considering this, hath made difficulty in this question and errors in many. Every natural proposition is not a law: but those antecedent propositions, by the proportions of which laws stand or fall, are the measures of laws. They are rules, not laws: and indeed the rules of nature are eternal and unalterable: that is, all those natural and reasonable propositions which are dictates of prime reason, and abstract from all persons, and all states, and all relations : such as are God is to be honoured :'-Justice is to be done:'Contracts are to be affirmed:'- Reason is to be obeyed:'— Good is to be followed: -Evil to be eschewed.'—
These are the common measures of all laws, and all actions : but these are made laws when they are prescribed to persons, and applied to matter : and when they are, because that matter can have variety, the law also can, though the rule cannot.