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natural law is of itself preceptive, or merely indicative of what is intrinsically right or wrong, or, in other words, whether God, as to this law, is a legislator, he holds this middle line with Aquinas and most theologians (as he says); contending that natural law does not merely indicate right and wrong, but commands the one and prohibits the other on divine authority; though this will of God is not the whole ground of the moral good and evil which belongs to the observance or transgression of natural law, inasmuch as it presupposes a certain intrinsic right and wrong in the actions themselves, to which it superadds the special obligation of a divine law. God therefore may be truly called a legislator in respect of natural law."

23. He next comes to a profound but important inquiry, closely connected with the last, Whether God could whether have permitted by his own law actions against God could natural reason? Ockham and Gerson had resolved this in the affirmative, Aquinas the contrary way. Suarez assents to the latter, and thus determines that the law is strictly immutable. It must follow of course that the pope cannot alter or dispense with the law of nature, and he might have spared the fourteenth chapter, wherein he controverts the doctrine of Sanchez and some casuists who had maintained so extraordinary a prerogative. This, however, is rather episodical. In the fifteenth chapter he treats more at length the question, Whether God can dispense with the law of nature? which is not, perhaps, decided in denying his power to repeal it. He begins by distinguishing three classes of moral laws. The first are the most general, such as that good is to be done rather than evil; and with these it is agreed that God cannot dispense. The second is of such as the precepts of the decalogue, where the chief difficulty had arisen. Ockham, Peter d'Ailly, Gerson, and others, incline to say that he can dispense with all these, inasmuch as they are only prohibitions which he has himself imposed. This tenet, Suarez observes, is rejected by all other theo

Hæc Dei voluntas, prohibitio aut præceptio non est tota ratio bonitatis et malitiæ quæ est in observatione vel transgressione legis naturalis, sed supponit in ipsis actubus necessariam quandam honestatem vel turpitudinem, et illis adjungit specialem legis divinæ obli

commend wrong actions?

gationem. c. 6, § 11.

Nulla potestas humana, etiamsi pontificia sit, potest proprium aliquod præceptum legis naturalis abrogare, nec illud proprie et in se minuere, neque in ipso dispensare. § 8.


logians as false and absurd. He decidedly holds that there
is an intrinsic goodness or malignity in actions independent
of the command of God. Scotus had been of opinion that
God might dispense with the commandments of the second
table, but not those of the first. Durand seems to have
thought the fifth commandment (our sixth) more dis-
pensable than the rest, probably on account of the case of
Abraham. But Aquinas, Cajetan, Soto, with many more,
deny absolutely the dispensability of the decalogue in any
part. The Gordian knot about the sacrifice of Isaac is
cut by a distinction, that God did not act here as a legis-
lator, but in another capacity, as lord of life and death, so
that he only used Abraham as an instrument for that which
he might have done himself. The third class of moral
precepts is of those not contained in the decalogue, as to
which he decides also, that God cannot dispense with
them, though he may change the circumstances upon
which their obligation rests, as when he releases a vow.
24. The Protestant churches were not generally atten-
tive to casuistical divinity, which smelt too much
Cars of the opposite system. Eichhorn observes that
the first book of that class, published among the
Lutherans, was by a certain Baldwin of Wittenberg, in
1628. A few books of casuistry were published in Eng-
land during this period, though nothing, as well as I re-
member, that can be reckoned a system, or even a treatise,
of moral philosophy. Perkins, an eminent Calvinistic
divine of the reign of Elizabeth, is the first of these in point
of time. His Cases of Conscience appeared in 1606. Of
this book I can say nothing from personal knowledge. In
the works of Bishop Hall several particular questions of
this kind are treated, but not with much ability. His dis-
tinctions are more than usually feeble. Thus usury is a
deadly sin, but it is very difficult to commit it unless we
love the sin for its own sake; for almost every possible
case of lending money will be found by his limitations of
the rule to justify the taking a profit for the loan.' His
casuistry about selling goods is of the same description: a
man must take no advantage of the scarcity of the com-
modity, unless there should be just reason to raise the
price, which he admits to be often the case in a scarcity.


h Vol. vi. part i. p. 346.

Hall's Works (edit. Pratt), vol. viii. p. 375.

He concludes by observing that, in this, as in other wellordered nations, it would be a happy thing to have a regulation of prices. He decides, as all the old casuists did, that a promise extorted by a robber is binding. Sanderson was the most celebrated of the English casuists. His treatise, De Juramenti Obligatione, appeared in 1647.

De Jure

juxta He

25. Though no proper treatise of moral philosophy came from any English writer in this period, we have Selden, one which must be placed in this class, strangely Naturali as the subject has been handled by its distinguished braos. author. Selden published in 1640 his learned work, De Jure Naturali et Gentium juxta Disciplinam Ebræorum.* The object of the author was to trace the opinions of the Jews on the law of nature and nations, or of moral obligation, as distinct from the Mosaic law; the former being a law to which they held all mankind to be bound. This theme had been of course untouched by the Greek and Roman philosophers, nor was much to be found upon it in modern writers. His purpose is therefore rather historical than argumentative; but he seems so generally to adopt the Jewish theory of natural law that we may consider him the disciple of the rabbis as much as their historian.


natural law.

26. The origin of natural law was not drawn by the Jews, as some of the jurists imagined it ought to be, from the habits and instincts of all animated theory of beings, quod natura omnia animalia docuit, according to the definition of the Pandects. Nor did they deem, as many have done, the consent of mankind and common customs of nations to be a sufficient basis for so permanent and invariable a standard. Upon the discrepancy of moral sentiments and practices among mankind Selden enlarges in the tone which Sextus Empiricus had taught scholars, and which the world had learned from Montaigne. Nor did unassisted reason seem equal to determine moral questions, both from its natural feebleness, and because reason alone does not create an obligation,

Juxta for secundum, we need hardly say, is bad Latin: it was, however, very common, and is even used by Joseph

Scaliger, as Vossius mentions in his treatise, De Vitiis Sermonis.

which depends wholly on the command of a superior.TM But God, as the ruler of the universe, has partly implanted in our minds, partly made known to us by exterior revelation, his own will, which is our law. These positions he illustrates with a superb display of erudition, especially Oriental, and certainly with more prolixity, and less regard to opposite reasonings, than we should desire.

Seven pre

sons of

27. The Jewish writers concur in maintaining that certain short precepts of moral duty were orally encepts of the joined by God on the parent of mankind, and Noah. afterwards on the sons of Noah. Whether these were simply preserved by tradition, or whether, by an innate moral faculty, mankind had the power of constantly discerning them, seems to have been an unsettled point. The principal of these divine rules are called, for distinction, The Seven Precepts of the Sons of Noah. There is, however, some variance in the lists, as Selden has given them from the ancient writers. That most received consists of seven prohibitions; namely, of idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, theft, rebellion, and cutting a limb from a living animal. The last of these, the sense of which, however, is controverted, as well as the third, but no other, are indicated in the ninth chapter of Genesis. 28. Selden pours forth his unparalleled stores of erudition on all these subjects, and upon those which are suggested in the course of his explanations. These digressions are by no means the least useful part of his long treatise. They elucidate some obscure passages of Scripture. But the whole work belongs far more to theological than to philosophical investigation; and I have placed it here chiefly out of conformity to usage; for undoubtedly Selden, though a man of very strong reasoning faculties, had not greatly turned them to the principles of natural law. His reliance on the testimony of Jewish writers, many of them by no means ancient, for those primæval traditions as to the sons of Noah, was in the character of his times, but it will scarcely suit the more rigid criticism of our own. His book, however, is

Character of Selden's work.

Selden says, in his Table Talk, that he can understand no law of nature but a law of God. He might mean this in

the sense of Suarez, without denying an intrinsic distinction of right and wrong.

excellent for its proper purpose, that of representing Jewish opinion, and is among the greatest achievements in erudition that any English writer has performed.

29. The moral theories of Grotius and Hobbes are so much interwoven with other parts of their phi- Grotius and losophy, in the treatise De Jure Belli and in the Hobbes. Leviathan, that it would be dissecting those works too much, were we to separate what is merely ethical from what falls within the provinces of politics and jurisprudence. The whole must therefore be reserved for the ensuing sections of this chapter. Nor is there much in the writings of Bacon or of Descartes which falls, in the sense we have hitherto been considering it, under the class of moral philosophy. We may, therefore, proceed to another description of books, relative to the passions and manners of mankind, rather than, in a strict sense, to their duties, though of course there will frequently be some intermixture of subjects so intimately allied.

Charron on

30. In the year 1601, Peter Charron, a French ecclesiastic, published his treatise on Wisdom. The reputation of this work has been considerable; his Wisdom. countrymen are apt to name him with Montaigne; and Pope has given him the epithet of "more wise" than his predecessor, on account, as Warburton expresses it, of his "moderating everywhere the extravagant Pyrrhonism of his friend." It is admitted that he has copied freely from the Essays of Montaigne; in fact, a very large portion of the treatise on Wisdom, not less, I should conjecture, than one fourth, is extracted from them with scarce any verbal alteration. It is not the case that he moderates the sceptical tone which he found there; on the contrary, the most remarkable passages of that kind have been transcribed; but we must do Charron the justice to say, that he has retrenched the indecencies, the egotism, and the superfluities. Charron does not dissemble his debts. "This,” he says in his preface, "is the collection of a part of my studies; the form and method are my own. What I have taken from others, I have put in their words, not being able to say it better than they have done." In the political part he has borrowed copiously from Lipsius and Bodin, and he is said to have obligations to Duvair."

Biogr. Universelle.

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