SIGNPOSTS OF HAPPINESS
(Q. 95-108)We have come a long way in our investigation of human happiness. Perhaps the last few miles will seem hard and long, as they usually do; but a glance over our shoulder at the long, long road already covered will give us new vigour for the last effort of these final chapters. So far we have seen just two things: the goal or end of man in whose attainment happiness consists; and the means or steps by which man can reach that goal — his own human actions. In fact we have not quite seen all of his human actions. We have analyzed these actions in themselves, looked at their intrinsic principles the passions and the habits, both good and bad, which we have called sins and virtues. There still remain to be examined the two extrinsic principles of human actions: law by which we are instructed and grace by which we are helped. We have seen something of Natural Moral Law, above all its intrinsic character; in this chapter we will examine that law which is extrinsic to man. In the final chapter of Thomistic exposition we will study grace.
For years people have been standing before the cages in the zoo and remarking of this or that animal; “How very human it is.” Today the trend seems to be to invert that remark and say: “How very animal we are”, and to take the remark so seriously as to end up by saying; “How exactly and wholly animal we are.” Of course we are also animals. But people used to notice that while there were always signs on the cages instructing us what we should or should not feed the animals, forbidding us to tease them or get too familiar with them, there were no directions at all telling the animals how they should treat us. All the signs face just one way — towards a human mind.
Positive law and man: A privilege of his perfection.
That fact is significant of the gap that stretches between the spiritual and the material. We can place an animal under a physical necessity of following orders by cracking a whip or the equivalent of a whip; actually it follows not the orders but its own instinct driving it away from the evil or driving it to the good. Only when we reach the level of spirituality, where intellectual knowledge makes free choice possible, can there be a question of a necessity which is not physical but moral, a necessity that leaves the appetite free to obey or disobey. Only when we come to the spiritual level can there be any question of law and its obligation.
A necessity of his insufficiency
Law (of course we are speaking of moral law) belongs to us because we stand at the peak of creation, above the level of the brutes though touching on it. Yet at the same time law is a necessity for us because we are still engaged in the work of developing, perfecting ourselves; we are still on the road to ultimate perfection, to happiness, and we need the direction and instruction offered by law until such a time as we arrive at that goal. Positive law is a necessity for us because we stand on the lowest rung of the ladder of intellectuality. We must hobble down, on the crutches of rational thought, from the height of principles to the lower levels of conclusions; as we come down, the chances of falling, of taking the wrong road, increase as we get farther and farther from the clear bright atmosphere of the heights. Natural Moral Law with its principles is not enough for us, as it is for the angels; there are gaps to be filled in, further determinations to be made, because we do not rush in one magnificent plunge to all that a principle contains, but rather stumble slowly along, more puzzled, more confused as we get closer to the concrete details of action.
- Division of positive law: Human and divine positive law
- Their common ground — essence of law
Thc difference of the authority which fills in those gaps of the Natural Moral Law gives us the fundamental division of all positive law, for that authority is either human or divine. Positive law is either divine or human, but whether it comes directly from God or from lawfully constituted human authority, always it must answer to the essential notion of law: a dictate of practical reason for the common good, by him who has care of the community, and promulgated. In other words, both human and divine positive laws are laws in the strictest sense of the term. It is on this common ground of law that we shall examine both of them in this chapter.
Human positive law: Its utility.
A momentary consideration of what happened some years ago in Boston during a police strike or, more recently, what has happened in some Spanish cities when a mob usurped the power of the government, will immediately bring this discussion of the necessity and utility of human law down to the level of the vividly real. There are always some men who can appreciate no force but physical force. They can understand the threat of a jail sentence, a noose or an electric chair, but they have no regard for an obligation in conscience. The work of government is to give peace, to give its subjects a chance to lead individual lives of fuller and fuller perfection; and its proper act is law. These evil men must be curbed, for the others must have peace if the state is to have any reason for existence.
Actually the curbing of criminals by the force of law does more than guarantee peace to orderly citizens. A child often starts off in life brushing its teeth, practicing on the piano and eating spinach simply because there is no escape from these things. What it learned under duress, later on in life it does voluntarily, even eagerly. Not infrequently, the same thing is true of the lawbreaker. After all, what the law demands of the criminal is most fully in accord with his nature, i.e. action for his end, movement towards instead of away from his goal; and what is natural to man has in itself a mighty appeal.
Still, granted the utility of law, there seems to be an alternative. Why could not the government select some wise, prudent men, equip them with means of transportation and turn them loose on the community with instructions to use their common sense and guide the citizens to that peace and life of virtue which are the ends of the state? Well, in the first place, it is not too easy to find enough wise, prudent men to judge every single case solely by their own wisdom. In fact it is quite impossible. On the other hand it is comparatively easy to gather the few prudent men necessary to frame laws to be universally applied to the community. Then, too, it is one thing to attempt the settlement of a case that has risen suddenly and must be disposed of here and now, and quite another leisurely to consider all possible angles with a view to solving future cases of one type. Even a judge would find it hard to mete out impartial justice solely on his own reasoning after a bad night’s sleep, a week or two of poor fare) or on a day that leaves him hot, dusty, irritated. All in all, concludes St. Thomas, it is a good thing to leave few things to the judgment of men.
Its general characteristics: Rational — derived from natural law
We simply must have human law if we are to move surely to the goal of reason. Of course, as we saw in the last chapter, if this human law is to be law at all it must be derived from the Natural Moral Law; in fact its whole purpose is to supplement that law, fill in its gaps, make further determinations of it. Over and above this fundamental character of human law, what are its other qualities ? How can we recognize a real human law when we see one? What are its family characteristics?
In harmony with religion — divine law
These characteristics have been recorded in some detail from the earliest days of Roman Law. Their very detail often leads to confusion though really there is no need of our being confused in this matter. If we are looking for the family characteristics of law, we have simply to look back to the family tree of law, to trace it back step by step through its progenitors — the community, nature and God. This order we are trying to identify must have the qualities demanded from such a lineage. We can put this in another way by saying briefly that human law must be in harmony with religion, with discipline or order, and contribute to welfare; or, even more simply, it must be in harmony with divine law, with the Natural Moral Law, and be to the common good.
In harmony with discipline — natural law
In reference to the first of these, the identification of law is absurdly easy. A human law which flatly contradicts divine law is no law at all because it cuts itself off from the first source of all law and aims at goals opposed to the goal of all law. From the point of view of nature, human law will be reasonable and the reasonable thing in the material of human law is the just thing. It will be within the powers of the subjects and fitting to the time, place and customs of the country for which it is framed. All that is no more than saying it will be reasonable from the side of the matter, the subject and the circumstances; a demand for harmony with man’s nature is always a demand for the reasonable. An unreasonable human law has the same place in the family of laws as an unreasonable action of man has in the family of human acts; the legislator should feel the same way about it that the pipe-smoker feels about throwing his pipe out of the window and putting the match in his mouth. It is not something to be defended, insisted on or gloated over; but rather something to cause embarrassment, mild astonishment, confusion and even shame. It is out of its class.
Contributing to welfare — common good
Serving the common good, a human law will serve the ends of necessity in acting for the removal of evil, the ends of utility in moving to the attainment of good, and the ends of caution in forestalling any injury from the law itself. In other words, it will be proportionate to human utility. Otherwise it will be as malicious in its own order as an Alpine guide with a homicidal mania.
Before going into the wide range of human law it might be well here to set to one side a type of law that, while human, is not framed by any government nor dependent on the sanction of any state. This law has been known for thousands of years as “the law of nations” (jus gentium). It is not international law, but rather a law common to all men; it is not natural law, for it is dependent upon a set of contingent facts, it does not spring immediately from man’s nature. It is rather a determination of the Natural Moral Law made by human reason without the intervention of any institution whatever. An example of it is the necessity of private property. Starting from a principle of Natural Moral Law — social life demands that in their use of external goods men avoid confusion, neglect and discord — it comes upon the contingent fact that men, not as they could be or should be, but as they are, are not industrious, orderly and peaceful in their use of external goods commonly owned; and so concludes to the necessity of private property. A universal principle of Natural Moral Law, placed by human reason beside a universal but contingent fact, forces reason immediately to conclude to a dictate of “the law of nations”.
Powers of human law: Universal, not particular
To get back to human positive law in its ordinary sense, I think most of us have felt, at one time or another, unsatisfied with law. The root of that dissatisfaction is that law never seems to fit the individual case perfectly. The man who has just purchased a ready-made suit, having once known the perfection of the tailor-made product, has a taste of much the same dissatisfaction. The manufacturer of the ready-made suit does not know, cannot know, all the individual eccentricities — stoop-shoulders, hollow chests, short arms — of everyone who will buy his suits. He strikes a fair average that enables any tailor to bring the suit down to individual requirements. The legislator also strikes an average so accurate that an ordinary judge can bring the law down to the individual case. It would be more pleasant if everyone could have tailor-made suits. But it would be an impossible situation if everyone could have tailor-made laws. Law must be universal, not particular. It is made for many persons, in feet for the whole community, for many different periods, for many different circumstances, for many different actions. In feet it is made for succeeding generations of citizens, it is intended to be perpetual and of course cannot be tailored to any one individual.
Not extending to all vices nor to all virtues
Up to this time the majority of citizens of any state have not been saints; probably they never will be. This fact gives us the clue to the proper interpretation of the universality of law. That universality does not mean that human law should prohibit all vices nor that it should command all virtues; it is framed for the whole community and should be suited to the ordinary condition of its subjects. Some vices it must forbid, certainly those that threaten the very survival of society; some virtues it must command, certainly those which either directly or indirectly can be ordained by human means to the common good. But its aim is not to make men saints but to give them peace and a chance to work out their own individual perfection, their individual sanctity. Sanctity will always remain an individual affair.
Obliging in conscience: Just laws
This does not mean, of course, that human law is divorced from morality. In fact its chief efficacy lies precisely in the moral obligation, an obligation in conscience, which it imposes. Indeed it must impose such an obligation to live up to the essential notion of law, to be law at all. As we saw in the preceding chapter, law as the command or dictate of practical reason necessarily implies an obligation, a connection of some necessity between the act commanded and the end for which that act is commanded The same truth is brought out when we remember that human law is derived from Natural Moral Law, or that it is derived from Eternal Law; either way it is traced back to the essential order of things and ultimately to the mind of God as the supreme source of truth and law. From St. Thomas’s point of view, a law that does not oblige in conscience is, strictly speaking, not a law.
The obligation of human law is of its very nature limited to laws that are really laws, that is, to just laws. Since obligation follows from the very essence of law, a statute lacking that legal essence has no basis for obliging the citizens of a state. When is a law just? Well, really there is no other kind that deserves the name of law. Consequently a just law is one that answers to St. Thomas’s definition of law as a dictate of reason for the common good by him who has care of the community.
Unjust laws — contrary to human and divine good
In more detail, a just law is one that is framed for the common good by legitimate authority and which imposes burdens on the citizens in proportion both to the powers of the different citizens and the needs of the common good. This will perhaps be clearer if viewed from the other side. A law is unjust when it is contrary to human or divine good. Again, contrariety to the divine good is easy to see and immediately precludes any possibility of ever complying with the particular law. A law is contrary to human good because of its end, its author or its form; that is, because it is ordained to the cupidity or glory of the ruler instead of to the common good, because it exceeds the powers of the legislator, or because its distribution of burdens is unequal, not proportionate either to the citizens or to the common good. It is possible for such a law, contrary to human good, to oblige in conscience, not because of its innate character as law, but because of some accidental consequence of its disobedience, like scandal or rioting. More simply, even our disobedience as citizens must be ordained to the common good of the community.
Subjects and letter of the law
It has long been recognized that disrespect for law is a serious threat to government. What is not recognized today is that disrespect for law is a serious threat to freedom. If the citizen feels that his will is being coerced by just laws, then there is something the matter with his will. If he thinks that just laws are a threat to his liberty, he has forgotten what liberty is. His will, if it is good, should be moving towards precisely the ends of just laws; the whole purpose of just laws is to give the individual citizen an opportunity to exercise his liberty in the perfection of himself. A burglar or a murderer is right in thinking of law as a coercive power directed against his operations; it is and it should be . Even the stupidest of burglars would hardly make the mistake of basing his defence on a plea of justice and liberty. It is only the criminals who are subject to law in the sense of being coerced by law; the rest of the citizens are really free of law in this sense, for the demands of law are demands that are in accord with their wills.
Its immutability: Custom and law
While law and good will are in harmony, law has much greater stability about it than has the individual will. There is a comfort in stability which is not found in change. I remember once seeing a burly individual aggressively approach a swinging door. It struck me watching him that someone had done excellent work cleaning the glass panel of that door to give it such crystal clearness and transparency. As he reached the door he sketched out his arm to give it that insolent sort of shove which seems to expect a door to jump off its hinges and stand to one side at attention. He pushed right at the glass but there was no glass there; as he hung half in and half out the door, like a sack of flour thrown over a horse’s back, I am sure he was disconcerted. We expect things to be as they are. Imagine someone enjoying a siesta under a shady tree only to have the tree turn around and bite or walk off and leave the sleeper under the sun’s glare. There are things we expect to find always the same, things like God, nature and the goals of humanity. Because law has its roots in God and nature and its hopes in the goals of man, there is an immutable character to all law.
Not that law is absolutely unchangeable. It seems evident that the laws regulating the hitching of horses along Twenty-third Street in New York half a century ago would not be of much help in handling modern New York traffic. It is as least conceivable that a better system of traffic regulation will be devised in the future. Conditions can and do change, better laws can be framed; for these two reasons law can be changed.
But a change in law is something to be gone about slowly, cautiously, almost regretfully, for there is always a real loss in a change of law, a loss of the force of custom behind that law. Law is not to be changed every time something better comes up, but only on condition that the good effect obtained by the change of law sufficiently compensates the common good for the loss incurred by the change of law. It is possible that, considered in the abstract, the English way of having traffic move on the left is superior to ours; but if the English “look right” were painted on all the streets tomorrow as warning that the superior system had been installed, half the pedestrians of New York would be dead by noontime.
Custom is a mighty force. It can obtain the full force of law, can abolish and interpret laws. After all, the right reason of a community can be as effectively declared by actions as by words. That basic source of the power of custom — the declaration of right reason by the community — brings out clearly the difference between the power of custom among different people. In a free people custom and consent of the people actually have more power than the ruler or his words, for the ruler’s power is really only a vicarious power of the people. In a people who are not free, custom has the power of law in so far as its toleration is an implicit approval on the part of the ruler; and of course there must have been considerable toleration for a practice to develop the full strength of custom.
However, we will make a mistake if we think of custom and law as opponents glaring at each other across the ring. Often custom precedes law and law is really its crystallization. Usually custom is not against law but rather over and above it, supplying the deficiencies of law, or, in a case of real opposition, showing the uselessness of that law. If, as a matter of fact, the reason for the law still exists and it is therefore still useful for the common good, a contrary custom springing up does not conquer the law but is rather conquered by it; unless, of course, the custom is of such long standing that the law is de facto useless, because unenforceable in the face of the custom of the country. It is not an easy thing to change the customs of a people. Indeed it is so drastic a task that only the greatest necessity justifies the attempt, like a curfew or regulations on the showing of lights in time of war.
Running all through this discussion of law, its nature, its extent and obligation, there has been a fundamental consideration for the common good. Granted the legitimacy of the legislator, that will always be the prime consideration. So it is not surprising to find St. Thomas agreeing that when the letter of the law here and now would militate against the common good, the law is not to be followed, for that would be to act against the intention of the legislator. However, unless the emergency has arisen so suddenly and must be settled so quickly that recourse is impossible, the interpretation or absolution from the law in this particular case must be made by the legislator himself. Not only has he the power to declare in the name of the common good that this law does not bind in this case, he can when the common good does not suffer, dispense in a particular case from a law. It is quite possible that a law which in general works to the good of the people, in this particular case works a hardship on the individual; if there is good reason for the dispensation and the common good does not suffer, then he who framed the law can dispense from it.
Divine positive law of the Old Testament
So much for human positive law. When we come to the divine positive law, we find it clearly divided into the New and the Old Law, the preparation and the fulfilment, the imperfect and the perfect. The Old Law was exactly a preparation of one race for the coming of Christ; imperfect, like all preparations, doing the work of divine law in drawing men to the friendship of God, but not doing the whole work because sanctification, as St. Paul insisted, was not by the law but by faith in the coming Redeemer.
Its purpose, origin and subjects
While the New Law was given directly by the son of God Himself, the Old Law came to men through the ministry of angels and men, following the universal order of divine providence by which the inferiors are led to perfection by their superiors. Unlike the New Law, the Old Law was not given to all men nor for all men; it was given to a single race, the Jews, for their special sanctification. Nor was this a case of favouritism on the part of God. Favouritism implies an injury to justice, an overlooking of merit; and this whole law was gratuitously given. Merit did not enter into the question. It was given to the Jews, for they above all other peoples needed sanctification, since it was from them that the Son of God was to be born. Consequently the Old Law, except in so far as it contained precepts of the Natural Moral Law, did not oblige any other people but the Jews themselves. It was, strictly speaking, their law, and theirs alone.
Its precepts: moral, ceremonial and judicial
The law governing a whole people has always been a complex affair. It has to be for so great a task. The Old Law was no exception to this general rule. If we glance hastily through the first five books of the Bible we will get something like the same sense of bewilderment that settles upon the layman who has wandered by mistake into the legal section of a modern library. The Old Law is not to be summed up in terms of the ten commandments; those commandments are only one part of the law, the moral part. Actually the law was divided into three classes of precepts: moral, ceremonial and judicial.
As a general description of these three we might say that the moral precepts were merely a restatement of the secondary precepts of the Natural Moral Law; the ceremonial precepts, proceeding from the Natural Moral Law’s command to worship God, made further determinations as to the time, place and manner of this worship; the judicial precepts, proceeding from the natural precept of justice, made further determinations as to how this justice was to be observed among men.
Its promises and threats
All three types of precepts were enforced by temporal threats and temporal promises — a long life, peace, many children, the blotting of the family name from the earth, and so on. This is just another mark of the imperfection of the Old Law. The perfection of man is the spurning of temporal things to cling to the spiritual; the imperfection, to desire the temporal in preference to the spiritual; the perversion, to desire the temporal above all others. The Old Law led men by the imperfect way, inducing them by temporal promises and threats to start the practice of virtue to the end that they might continue and perfect that practice for the ends of virtue itself, much as we might start a child on a good habit with a promise of toys, sure that long after the toys are forgotten the habit will endure.
In particular: moral precepts and natural law
Examining the moral precepts more closely we see many things commanded that are not immediately evident from the Natural Moral Law itself; a more accurate way of stating these precepts would be to say that they are all reducible to the ten commandments or to the secondary precepts of the Natural Moral Law. There is, for example, such a precept as that commanding reverence for the old — a precept that, while following immediately from the Natural Moral Law as a conclusion from a principle, nevertheless demands wise consideration and study before its connection with the Natural Moral Law is seen. There are others which demanded divine instruction for the knowledge of their connection with the secondary precepts of Natural Moral Law, for example, the prohibition of sculpture to a people completely surrounded by the unnatural practice of idolatry. In these latter precepts the divine character of this positive law shines out clearly; human positive law proposes only those precepts that deal with justice, the divine goes beyond that to the material of other virtues, commanding under the obligation of precept those things without which the order of reason (not the social order) cannot be maintained, advocating under the admonishment of counsel those things that pertain to the perfection of reason and virtue.
In this treatise on the ten commandments, St. Thomas handles the Decalogue as a connoisseur would handle a very rare, very precious jewel. He turns it slowly in his hands, looking at it now from this angle, now from that; he holds it up to the light, puts it against rich, dark backgrounds, savouring its full beauty and exquisite perfection.
For example: of these ten commandments, three deal with God, seven with our neighbour; the first three against pride of life that would puff us up above God, two against the concupiscence of the flesh, defending the sanctity of marriage, the rest against the concupiscence of the eyes — dealing with the things of others. Or considering them from the viewpoint of social life with its two essentials of ruler and subjects, we find the first three commandments regulating harmonious relationship with the ruler by demanding fidelity, reverence and properly restrained familiarity; the other seven, regulating relations between fellow citizens, demand rendering of what is due to parents as having the supreme claim, and the avoiding of injury to all citizens in their persons or possessions by thought, word or work. Or, again, putting the ten commandments against the more sombre background of moral gravity, we find that the very order in which they are stated is the order of gravity — most easily and immediately seen by men: first, the three commandments driving men’s minds to God their goal, the three whose contraries are the gravest of evils; then the seven commandments dealing with our neighbour, first in reference to parents to whom we have greater obligation and, following this in quick logical order, the commands forbidding offence by deed, word or thought with most emphasis on offences in actual deed where a cloak of protection is thrown around life, the family and external possessions by the prohibition of murder, adultery and theft.
Before passing on to the New Law, it might be well here to note that, with. the exception of the element of Natural Moral Law it contained, the Old Law ceased with Christ. St. Augustine, speaking of the ceremonial precepts, puts this pithily when he distinguishes three stages: the first before the passion of Christ in which these precepts were neither dead nor deadly; the second from the passion of Christ until the spreading of the gospel when they were dead but not deadly; the third,. after the spread of the gospel, when they were both dead and deadly. The judicial precepts died with Christ also, but since in themselves they were not figurative or prophetic of the future coming of Christ, their observance after Christ did not contain that same element of propagation of error.
Divine positive law of the New Testament: In itself.
With Christ the Old Law died and the New Law was born; or, better, the Old Law was fulfilled by this New Law which was not merely a written law but a law written in the hearts of the faithful. It was necessary by word and writing to instruct men about the things to be believed and the things to be done, but over and above that was the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the followers of Christ. It was this internal element of the New Law which did what the Old Law could never do, justify men. This is indeed a divine law, divine in the depths of our nature which it touches, divine in its endurance to the end of time and divine in the wisdom of its coming which gave men plenty of time to realize how badly they needed the grace of God for the living of human life.
In comparison with the Old Law
The Old Law was really a teacher of fundamentals for children; the New, a teacher of perfection. So the multitude of commands necessary for children are done away with in the New Law. As far as exterior observances go, this New Law is much lighter, much easier; but because it is no longer for children, the internal demands it makes are much harder, as hard, indeed, as perfection. Or putting this in another way, the external work to be done is easier in the New Law, but the way in which it must be done is much harder, the way, namely, of charity.
Its contents: External acts
Yet for all the limitation of externals, the New Law is not sketchy and unsatisfactory in this regard. Evidently some external acts had to be commanded, specifically those whose contraries opposed the constitution of internal grace and its proper use. All else was left to the determination of superiors and individuals as befits a law of liberty. In other words, the New Law had to insist upon the sacraments and the moral precepts; and these two were sufficient, for by them, grace is established and properly used.
We find the same brief sufficiency and strong emphasis in the New Law’s regulation of the internal life of man. St. Augustine says this is sufficiently shown forth in the Sermon on the Mount where our Lord handled briefly man’s own internal life, his relations with his neighbours and the manner of fulfilling both classes of works. For his own regulation man is ordered to avoid evil not merely in its external manifestations, but in his own thoughts and desires, even to avoid the occasions from which evil springs; and at the same time to do good not for human glory, not for human riches, but to the end that he might be perfect, might one day be with God. In his dealings with his neighbours even his judgments must not be rash nor smack of injustice. This New Law that is given to him is not merely to be heard, he is not merely to confess the faith, but he is to ask the divine help he needs, then very humbly and courageously set about the work of keeping the ten commandments.
Over and above that which is strictly necessary for the successful living of life, for the bare attainment of the goal which will spell eternal happiness, there is the rich material of perfection which is the subject-matter of the counsels given by Christ. Man is in the middle between things of the spirit and things of the world. The more he holds to one, the more he must recede from the other. His calamitous failure consists in embracing temporal things and receding entirely from the spiritual; he meets the bare requirements of success by adhering to temporal things, using them, but always in view of the spiritual goal for which he was made; but he reaches that same goal more expeditiously, lives his life more fully, participates more heartily in that perfection of God by totally receding from temporal things. It is to this supreme peak of human perfection that the New Law points, not harshly, not threateningly, but with that gracious respect for the freedom of man shown by the counsels — “qui potest capere, capiat”.
Conclusion: The beginnings of law
Perhaps the best summary of these chapters on law could be made by pointing to the beginnings of law. Law takes its rise from the eternal mind of God Himself, from the imprint of that Eternal Law on and in nature itself, from the intrinsic principles of man’s own nature. Always law has something of that stability of God and nature and human nature about it, always it has the force of a direction that comes from nature, transmuted into that delicately respectful moral force as the movement of God passes through the moral nature of man. As it progresses law comes closer and closer to individual lives, to individual actions, determining the sweepingly universal dictates of nature to fit the exact circumstances of everyday life. It comes down from the absolutely essential to the less necessary, to the fitting and finally, in that complete perfection of divine law, to the heroic details which make a man as perfect as he can well be in this life.
The progress of law
It was part of God’s great tact and respect for human nature that made of Natural Moral Law an utterly intrinsic thing, that made man in a very real sense his own legislator. It was that same divine thoughtfulness and generosity which gave to human institutions a part in the government of the world, leaving to the state the further determinations of Natural Moral Law necessary for the living of human life. But because the whole direction of life which is law is so completely from God, it is not surprising that God should step in with explicit directions where the mind and institutions of men had fallen short or begun to fail. It is not surprising that God, Who had offered His only begotten Son for men, should specially prepare the people from whom that Son was to be born; not surprising that God, Whose whole purpose in framing law was to bring men to Himself, should take upon Himself the office of Lawgiver of positive law that men might reach Him more surely, more expeditiously, more perfectly.
The ends of law
God, nature, human nature — these are the sources of law. Their ends are the ends of law. Law exists that it might guide men, not in any direction, not to any goal, but to the right goal, to the goal whose attainment means happiness for man. Eternal Law, Natural Moral Law, divine positive law, all aim directly at this goal of human life, For all are directly from God and God is the goal of life. Human positive law, because it is of man, approaches that goal more humbly, stopping somewhat short of the goal, feeling that it is treading on holy ground. It is satisfied to give to men peace and an opportunity to world their individual way to that supreme goal of human life, to give them the means by which they can live “the life of virtue”. Law is intimately linked up with human life. Man alone needs law, for man alone can fail. Man alone, of all the creatures on earth, can have law, for only man can succeed, for only man has for a goal attainable by his own actions, the eternal vision of God.