The law of na­ture and the law of rev­e­la­tion

The Standard Journal - - COMMENTARY - By DR. NEL­SON PRICE Con­trib­u­tor The Rev. Nel­son Price is pas­tor emer­i­tus of Roswell Street Bap-tist Church in Ma­ri­etta and a for­mer chair­man of the Shorter Univer­sity board of trustees.

The Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence was in­tended not only to show from whom the colonies were declar­ing in­de­pen­dence, but the prin­ci­ples to which they were com­mit­ted. The first para­graph of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence de­clared the in­tended in­de­pen­dence from Eng­land and the in­dis­pens­able re­liance on the laws of God the Cre­ator with these words: “the Laws of Na­ture and Na­ture’s God.”

Later re­flect­ing on this con­cept Pres­i­dent John Quincy Adams, writ­ing in 1839, re­al­ized the mean­ing of “the Laws of Na­ture and Na­ture’s God” and ob­served the Amer­i­can peo-ple’s “char­ac­ter was the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence. Their rights, the nat­u­ral rights of all mankind. Their gov­ern­ment, such as should be in­sti­tuted by the peo­ple, un­der the solemn mu­tual pledges of per­pet­ual union, founded on the self-ev­i­dent truths pro­claimed in the Dec­la­ra­tion.”

Though the Dec­la­ra­tion is not law, un­like the Con­sti­tu­tion, it de­clares what should be the ba­sis of all law for the emerg-ing na­tion. The con­cept of free­dom ap­proved was that God’s law was supreme. The code of law to be de­vel­oped was to be “en­dowed by their Cre­ator” based on an eval­u­a­tion of God’s cre­ation, the Bi­ble, and rea­son.

In the present day many laws reg­u­lat­ing air pol­lu­tion and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion are ad­mirably in ac­cord with the Laws of Na­ture. They were cre­ated pure and clean, so rea­son­able laws in­tended to achieve that end are com­mend­able.

There are moral laws con­cern­ing con­duct that were in-tended to be based on “the Laws of Na­ture and Na­ture’s God,” found in the Bi­ble.

Our cul­ture is see­ing in­creas­ing num­bers of laws where the civil laws of man and the “Laws of Na­ture’s God” con­flict. This the founders sought to avoid.

An im­por­tant di­gres­sion is ap­pro­pri­ate at this point. Cur­rently some call at­ten­tion to cer­tain Old Tes­ta­ment laws and say some peo­ple presently want those strin­gent laws en­forced to­day. Not so.

There are three types of laws in the Old Tes­ta­ment. One is cer­e­mo­nial law in­tended to reg­u­late wor­ship in that era only. Since the com­ing of the events of the New Tes­ta­ment era those laws have no longer been in ef­fect. Lambs are no longer sac­ri­ficed on al­tars.

There were moral laws such as are em­bod­ied in the Ten Com­mand­ments. They are still ap­pli­ca­ble.

There were civil laws de­signed for an­cient Is­rael only that are not ap­pli­ca­ble to­day. No longer are peo­ple stoned, etc.

The prin­ci­ple of “the Laws of Na­ture and Na­ture’s God” did not come to be with­out fore­thought. The con­cept was well thought out and de­bated be­fore be­ing af­firmed. Thomas Jef-fer­son, re­flect­ing on the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, writ-ing in 1825, said the es­sen­tial point was “not to find out new prin­ci­ples, or new ar­gu­ments, never be­fore thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said be­fore; but to place be­fore mankind the com­mon sense of the sub­ject.” Us-ing their com­mon sense they re­sorted to “the Laws of Na­ture, and Na­ture’s God.”

Sir Wil­liam Blackstone, the em­i­nent English le­gal au­thor-ity widely fol­lowed by the founders main­tained law had its ba­sis in the laws of God. He con­cluded “upon two founda-tions, the law of na­ture and the law of rev­e­la­tion, de­pend all hu­man laws, that is to say, no hu­man laws should be suf­fered to con­tra­dict these.” Where did we go wrong? Now you know why pan­elists re­spon­si­ble for in­ter­view­ing po­ten­tial Supreme Ju­rists are so in­ter­ested in a can­di­date’s opin­ion re­gard­ing “the Laws of Na­ture and Na­ture’s God.”

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