Sir William Blackstone & Divine Law
April 26, 2005
Most of us have heard of Sir William Blackstone, and are aware that he is referred to as The Father of American Jurisprudence. (law) But few of us have actually read his writings, or are aware of his impact on the philosophical beliefs of our founding fathers. He wrote a great deal on Natural Law and Divine Law and the inter-relationship between God, the Creator and man, the creation. His books are called Blackstone's Commentaries. They were at the center of law school teachings in this country for over a hundred years.
Last year I was visiting the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and was wonderfully astounded by what I saw inside. There were 16 panels of art created in the early 1900's to depict the giving of various laws. (These are large panels of artwork that cover most of the interior of the courtroom). These panels form an early history of our laws.
The first panel that I noticed was Moses receiving the Decalogue (the 10 Commandments). The Commandments were listed in full, and the caption above the panel described them as the Hebrew Idea of Revealed law. Next to the 10 Commandments were the Beatitudes, again stated in full....as the Christian Idea of Revealed Law. (For those who may not know, the Beatitudes are found in the fifth chapter of Matthew...Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, etc.) Justinian's Law of Reason was next, followed by two panels of Blackstone's writings, the first on Natural Law and the second on Divine Law. A large painting of Blackstone instructing legal scholars resided between these last two panels.
It was the Divine Law panel that drew my attention and my admiration. It quotes Blackstone on the inter-relationship between the Law of Nature and Divine Law.
"This Law of Nature, dictated by God Himself, is superior to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority mediately or immediately from this original. Upon these two foundations, the Law of Nature and the Law of Revelation, depend all human laws. Human laws are only Declaratory of and act in Subordination to DIVINE LAW."
Wow! How wonderfully exciting to see Blackstone's writings on the wall of a state's Supreme Court! No human laws are of any validity if contrary to God's Law.....What a contrast to the false illusions that today's federal judiciary would try to have us believe! I left that courtroom wondering how intelligent Jurists could get their legal history and philosophy so twisted. Only when I realized that the current situation has nothing to do with "misunderstanding" legal history could I put the proper face on it. Intentional alterations are never the result of "mistake".
After seeing this artwork last year, I did some research to find the original writings. Listed below are some exerpts from them.
"Thus, when the Supreme Being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, He impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be".
"This then is the general signification of law, a rule of action dictated by some Superior Being...."
"Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator...."
"This will of his Maker is called the law of nature. For as God,...when He created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, He laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws."
"Considering the Creator only as a being of infinite power, He was able unquestionably to have prescribed whatever laws He pleased to His creature, man, however unjust or severe. But as He is also a being of infinite wisdom, He has laid down only such laws as were founded in those relations of justice, that existed in the nature of things antecedent to any positive precept. These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all His dispensations conforms; and which He has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody, and should render to every one his due...."
Law schools used to teach this to lawyers???? What a country this would be if we ALL went back to teaching, believing and PRACTICING this!
Be Good! Live Wisely & Finish Well!
Judge Paul Enlow
Home • Life and Family • Judicial Philosophy • Professional • Editorials • Endorsements • Photo Gallery • Links