Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIII.: THE PERFECT REASONABLENESS OF THE CHRISTIAN CONSTITUTION AND CODE OF JUDICIAL LAW. - The Triumph of the Cross
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CHAPTER XIII.: THE PERFECT REASONABLENESS OF THE CHRISTIAN CONSTITUTION AND CODE OF JUDICIAL LAW. - Girolamo Savonarola, The Triumph of the Cross 
The Triumph of the Cross, trans. from the Italian, edited, with an Introduction by the Very Rev. Father John Procter, S.T.L. With a frontispiece portrait of the author (London: Sands & Co., 1901).
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THE PERFECT REASONABLENESS OF THE CHRISTIAN CONSTITUTION AND CODE OF JUDICIAL LAW.
The Christian judicial system, furthermore, can be proved to be highly reasonable. For, as in every process there is some principle, which is the measure of other things, there must be in law some principle or standard which is the Eternal Law, or certain rule of Divine Wisdom, governing all the operations and motions of creatures. From this law all other laws take their rise; for the power of the first motor is felt by all inferior motors. This rule and standard exists in God, as in the Supreme Ruler, and in creatures as in things governed and set in motion by Him, subject to His Providence, and impressed with the character of His law, which inclines them to their proper end.
Rational creatures, being subject, in a peculiar manner, to Divine Providence, are also, in a special way, governed by this law; and their obedience to this Divine law renders it necessary that they should be ruled, likewise, by a certain natural law. Now, the origin of this natural law is the light of reason, impressed by God on man, making clear to him certain principles, both in practical and in speculative matters. These principles are known as first or natural laws. From these first laws all other laws are deduced. And they are deduced in one of two ways, viz., as conclusions drawn from manifest principles, (as is generally the case in speculative science); or as axioms laid down and approved by prudent men, as is the case with artists who formulate general rules, to be applied in particular cases. Thus, an architect, in erecting an individual building, will follow certain principles, universally observed in all architecture. In matters concerning morals, law is administered by means either of conclusions drawn from universal natural laws: e.g., murder is forbidden; to poison another is to murder him; therefore, giving poison to others is forbidden. Or else, the law is applied by means of certain definite rules, laid down by legislators, applying the universal natural law to particular cases. For instance there is a general law declaring that crime must be punished; but the particular penalty to be inflicted for a particular crime must be determined by the judgment of prudent men, and for the common good. Such laws must, evidently, vary according to circumstances. These are called positive, or human, laws. We see, at once, that all men are not governed by these differing positive laws; whereas the natural laws are invariable and binding on all races. They are binding, not merely in so far as they are general principles, but likewise in the case of the particular laws deduced from these general principles. For true principles cannot give rise to false conclusions.
But, as natural law would not suffice for the government of human life, the assistance of the Divine law is also necessary; and this for several reasons.
First, because, by law man is directed to the attainment of his last end; but, as his last end is supernatural, natural law would not suffice to guide him to it.
Secondly, our understanding is so feeble, that, the more we descend to particulars, the greater difficulty we experience in judging aright. The Divine law is therefore necessary, to enable us to arrive at just conclusions in particular cases.
Thirdly, human law does not punish or forbid everything that is criminal; it allows many lesser evils in order to ward off greater ones. Therefore, a law was necessary, which should show man that guilt, unpunished by human law, would be avenged by Divine law.
Fourthly, human law judges not the hidden things of the heart, but only exterior actions. Therefore, in order to teach us that we must be perfect both interiorly and exteriorly, the Divine law, which punishes the sins of the heart, was necessary.
This Divine law may be called a compendium of the Divine commandments, and it proceeds from the light of Faith. We, therefore, speak of it as being essentially the grace of the Holy Spirit, from which spring all the commandments of which we have spoken. And from these universal precepts are deduced, (either by conclusion or by specially formulated axioms), all particular laws. The particular laws, derived from the Divine law, are called canonical laws. Those deduced from natural law are termed civil laws. The laity are governed by civil, and the clergy by canonical law.
There is no opposition between the Divine and the natural law. But, as grace perfects nature, the Divine law perfects the natural law; and all that pertains to the natural law pertains, likewise, to the Divine law. The moral teaching of our natural reason is said to belong to the natural law. The duties imposed on us by the light of grace are called the precepts of the Divine law. We must not, however, imagine that everything that is contained in the Divine law belongs to the natural law; for the Sacraments and the truths of Faith pertain, solely, to the Divine, and not to the natural law.
The Christian religion, then, is organised by the Divine law. It excludes nothing which is in accordance with truth or morality; it admits nothing contrary to them. Therefore, as Christians, we do not despise the good and reasonable laws, of either uncivilised nations, or of heathen philosophers. On the contrary, we select from those laws all that is true and virtuous, and ascribe it to God, who, for the sake of His elect, has created all truth and all goodness. On the other hand, our religion is so averse to all fables or falsehood, that it will not authorise even such books as have been written to glorify the Faith and the deeds of the Saints, unless the author be reliable, and the truth of his writing manifest. And, if, in the government of the Church, some unjust law exist, it exists, not through the fault of the Christian religion, but, by reason of the impiety of some tyrant, whom the Church condemns and execrates. Thus, we see, that the Christian religion is most reasonably administered, by means both of civil and of Divine laws.