Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XCI.: OF THE VARIETY OF LAWS. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION XCI.: OF THE VARIETY OF LAWS. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF THE VARIETY OF LAWS.
Article I.—Is there any Eternal Law?
R. A law is nothing else than the dictate of practical reason in the sovereign who governs a perfect community. Now it is manifest, supposing that the world is ruled by Divine Providence, that the whole community of the universe is governed by Divine Reason. And therefore the plan of government of things, as it is in God the Sovereign of the universe, bears the character of a law. And because the Divine Reason conceives nothing according to time, but has an eternal concept, therefore it is that this manner of law must be called eternal.
§ 1. To the objection that there was no subject from eternity on whom a law could be imposed, it is to be said that the things that are not in themselves exist with God, as being known and pre-ordained by Him, according to the text: “Who calleth those things that are not, as those that are.”1
Article II.—Is there in us any natural law?
R. Law being a rule and measure, may be in a thing in two ways: in one way as in one ruling and measuring, in another way as in one that is ruled and measured. Hence since all things subject to Divine Providence are ruled and measured by the Eternal Law, it is manifest that they all participate to some extent in the Eternal Law, inasmuch by the stamp of that law upon them they have their inclinations to their several acts and ends. But among the rest the rational creature is subject to Divine Providence in a more excellent way, being itself a partaker in Providence, providing for itself and others. Hence there is in it a participation of the Eternal Law, whereby it has a natural inclination to a due act and end: such participation in the Eternal Law in the rational creature is called the natural law. Hence when the Psalmist had said:1 “Offer up the sacrifice of justice,” as if in answer to some inquiry what the works of justice are, he adds: “Many say, Who showeth us good things?” Answering this question, he says: “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us,” signifying that the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what evil, which is the effect of the natural law, is nothing else than an impression of the divine light upon us. Hence it is clear that the natural law is nothing else than a participation of the Eternal Law in the rational creature.2
§ 3. Even irrational animals share in the Eternal Law in their own way, as also does the rational creature. But because the rational creature shares in it intellectually and rationally, therefore the participation of the Eternal Law in the rational creature is properly called a law; for law is a function of reason: but in the irrational creature it is not shared rationally; hence it cannot be called a law except by a similitude.
Article IV.—Was it necessary that there should be any divine law?1
R. Besides the natural law and human law it was necessary for the guidance of human life to have a divine law. And this for four reasons: First, because it is by law that man is guided to the performance of proper acts in view of his last end. And if indeed man were ordained to an end that did not exceed the measure of the natural faculties of man, there would be no need of man’s having any guidance on the part of reason beyond that of the natural law, and human law which is derived from it. But because man is ordained to an end of eternal blessedness, which exceeds the measure of the natural human faculties, therefore it was necessary that, over and above natural law and human law, he should be further guided to his end by a law given from God. Secondly, because of the uncertainty of human judgment, especially on contingent and particular matters, whence it is that different men come to form different judgments on human acts; whence also different and contrary laws arise. In order then that man might know without a doubt what to do and what to avoid, it was necessary for him to be guided in his acts by a law given from God, which can be relied upon for certain not to err. Thirdly, because man can make a law only upon matters of which he can be a judge. Now the judgment of man cannot pass upon interior acts, which are hidden, but only upon exterior movements which appear: and yet for the perfection of virtue rectitude in both sorts of acts is necessary. And therefore human law could not sufficiently restrain and direct interior acts: but to this end it was necessary for a divine law to supervene. Fourthly, because human law cannot punish or prevent all evil doings; for in the wish to take away all evils many good things would be taken away, and the profit of the public good would be impeded, which is necessary for the preservation of society. In order then that no evil might go unforbidden and unpunished, the supervening of the divine law was necessary, whereby all sins are prohibited. And these four causes are touched upon in the Psalm, where it is said: “The law of the Lord is unspotted,”1 allowing no turpitude of sin: “converting souls,” because it directs not only exterior but also interior acts: “the testimony of the Lord is faithful,” for the certain knowledge of truth and right: “giving wisdom to little ones,” in that it directs man to an end supernatural and divine.
§ 1. By the natural law the Eternal Law is sufficiently shared in according to the measure of the capacity of human nature. But to his supernatural last end man needs to be directed in some higher way. And therefore there is given by God an additional law, which is a higher participation of the Eternal Law.
[1 ]Romans iv. 17.
[1 ]Psalm iv. 6.
[2 ]Ethics and Natural Law, pp. 133, 134. (Trl.)
[1 ]What St. Thomas calls the divine law, is the Eternal Law as known by revelation and as applied to the state of the Christian. (Trl.)
[1 ]Psalm xviii. 8.