The law of nature and the law of revelation
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.”