Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION XIV - A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations
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SECTION XIV - Johann Gottlieb Heineccius, A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations 
A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations, with Supplements and a Discourse by George Turnbull. Translated from the Latin by George Turnbull, edited with an Introduction by Thomas Albert and Peter Schröder (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Another proof of this, from the moral sense natural to us.’Tis true, we are not merely intellectual beings; we have senses and sensitive appetites, as well as moral capacities and social affections (§6): But it hath appeared, that we are made to govern all our appetites and affections by our reason; that our sensitive appetites ought to be under its command, and not to be allowed to obscure it, far less to triumph over it, and trample it under foot; and that our sensitive appetites are so far from engrossing or making the whole of our constitution, that we have other affections, the regular exercises of which, under the presidence and direction of reason, are our highest and noblest enjoyments. This hath been fully proved. And therefore, let it be now observed, that kind nature hath not only placed our happiness in the virtuous exercises which have been described, but hath so constituted and framed us, that the ideas of the presidence of reason, and of benevolence, can no sooner be presented to our minds than we must necessarily assent to and approve those two general rules of life, “That reason ought to hold the reins of government in our minds.” And, “That benevolence, or regard to public good, ought to be the reigning affection in them.” None can reflect upon these two rules without per-ceiving their fitness, and that immediately without making any calculations about their consequences. And therefore we may justly say with an excellent author (Domat in his treatise of laws) “That the first principles of morality or laws, have a character of truth, which touches and persuades more than that of the principles of other human sciences;Of our moral sense.that whereas the principles of other sciences, and the particular truths which depend upon them, are only the objects of the mind, and not of the heart, and that they do not even enter into the minds of all persons; the first principles of morals or laws, and the particular rules essential to these principles, have a character of truth which every body is capable of knowing, and which affects the mind and the heart alike. The whole man is penetrated by them, and more strongly convinced of them, than of the truths of all the other human sciences.”25 Or with another admirable moralist (Hutcheson in his Enquiry, &c.) “The Author of nature has much better furnished us for virtuous conduct, than many philosophers seem to imagine, or at least are willing to grant, by almost as quick and powerful instructions as we have for the preservation of our bodies. He has given us strong affections to be the springs of each virtuous action, and made virtue a lovely form, that we might easily distinguish it from its contrary, and be made happy by the pursuit of it. As the Author of nature has determined us to receive by our outward senses, pleasant or disagreeable ideas of objects, according as they are useful or hurtful to our bodies, and to receive from uniform objects the pleasures of beauty and harmony, to excite us to the pursuit of knowledge, and to reward us for it; in the same manner, he has given us a moral sense to direct our actions, and to give us still nobler pleasures; so that while we are only intending the good of others, we undesignedly promote our own greatest private good.”26 But having else where handled this subject at great length,27 it will be sufficient to remark here, 1. That in consequence of the sense of beauty in outward forms, and of the sense of beauty in affections, actions and characters, with which the human mind is endued, all the pleasures which man is intended by nature to pursue, may properly be comprized under the general notion of order or beauty: For they have all this general or common character, that they proceed from well disciplined and regulated affections, and they all tend to produce order within and without the mind. What is the presidence of reason, but reason maintaining order and harmony; and what do the regular exercises of benevolence which have been described produce, but inward and outward harmony? What makes the pleasure of contemplation and knowledge, besides the views of regularity, order and harmony? What is it that charms the imagination in any of the imitative arts? Or what hath what is called good taste for its object and scope, besides order and harmony in composition? And how gross and contemptible are all the pleasures of sense, when we abstract from them all elegance, all symmetry, proportion and order? Man therefore, may in general be said to be framed by nature to pursue order and harmony. And this is indeed the pursuit of the Author of nature himself, universal order and harmony, or, which is the same, universal good.By this moral sense we are led to conceive the virtues above described as commanded by God the Author of nature. But, 2. As the presidence of reason over all our appetites and affections, and the prevalence of benevolence in our temper, cannot be considered by us without being perceived, or rather felt to be our most reasonable and becoming part, nor the opposite character be reflected upon, without being disapproved and condemned by us; so we cannot consider the Author of nature, without immediately perceiving, that he deserves our highest adoration and love; and that benevolence, and the rational government of our affections, can alone render us like him, or recom-mend us to his favour, upon whom all our interests depend. We must of necessity own an universal cause, by which all things are made, and are upheld in being and governed. And our moral sense of what is the best, the most perfect disposition of mind, naturally leads us at once to ascribe perfect reason and benevolence to the first cause of all things, our Creator: And to apprehend it, 1. “To be his will, that we should act a rational and benevolent part in all our conduct.” And, 2. “That according to the constitution of things in his universal government, such conduct must be the only road to true happiness in the sum of things; so that whatever difficulties and trials may be necessary to the first state of rational agents, for their improvement in moral perfection, yet upon the whole, sincere virtue shall make happy, and confirmed vice shall render miserable.” These truths are obvious necessary consequences, from the idea of an all-perfect Maker and Governor of the universe. But these truths being fixed, then are we under obligation to benevolence and rational government, in this strict and proper sense of obligation, “That the Author and Governor of the Universe, our Lord and Creator, wills or commands us to exert our reason, as the Governor of our affections, and to pursue in all our conduct the good of our kind.” The virtues for which we have found man to be furnished and intended, do, when considered in this light, take the character of laws in a sense applicable to them only, i.e. of universal unalterable commands laid upon us by the Author of nature, the Sovereign disposer of all our interests.And consequently to be enjoined by moral laws properly so called.The connexions observed by nature in the production of physical effects, are very properly called laws of matter and motion, or laws by which the Author of nature has willed that matter should operate, or more properly be operated upon; and they are of necessity laws to human arts, since human art cannot accomplish any end but by acting in conformity to them. But the connexions relative to our moral powers, our reason, our social affections, and the subordinacy of all our appetites and affections to reason, in consequence of which certain rules must be observed by us in order to private and public happiness, are not only laws to us in this respect, that we can only attain to our best enjoyments by acting conformably to them; they are also laws to us in this sense, that acting conformably to them is agreeable to our Creator; and it is his will that we should conform our conduct to them. So that they are not merely moral laws, as they are laws of nature respecting moral ends; but they are moral laws in this respect, that they are rules for the conduct of our life and manners, which cannot be transgressed or departed from without incurring guilt in the sight of God, without offending against his will and authority, and rendering ourselves obnoxious to all the consequences of his regard to virtue or moral perfection, and his disapprobation or detestation of vice. They are rules which he hath necessarily determined our minds to approve, and to conceive as his commands, as often as we consider them, and take a view of the perfections which must belong to the Divine Mind. And therefore, they are laws that come up to this definition of a law, viz. “The will of a superior who hath a just title to command, and sufficient power to enforce conformity to his commands.” And indeed it is when prudence, temperance, fortitude, benevolence, and all the other virtues are considered in this light, that they alone can have their full force. For in this light only are they fully and perfectly considered; or till we conceive of them in this view, we have not an adequate notion of all the obligations to conform our practice to them, which essentially belong to them. It will be readily acknowledged, that two motives must needs have more force than one. But this is not all: No view that can be ta-ken of the virtues above described, can have so much power to influence mankind as the conception of them under the notion of the divine will or law, not commanding arbitrarily or without reason, but for the good of rational agents; since what is thus apprehended or considered, must work upon us in various manners; excite our emulation to be like the most perfect of Beings, and agreeable to him; stir up our gratitude to engage us to act the part he approves and commands; influence our hope with high expectations of great advantages from his love and favour; and raise our fear of offending him to a due pitch of reverence towards his authority.Regard to the divine law is religion.Now, regard to virtue, influenced by these considerations, is properly called religion. And that man is made for religion, as well as for virtue, is evident, since we cannot reason at all about the nature of things, without being led to apprehend a first Supreme Cause: nor can we represent to ourselves the perfections of an eternal all-sufficient Mind, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, without being filled with the highest veneration towards him, and his will with relation to our conduct. And meditation upon the divine perfections, is in reality the noblest source of delight to the human mind, and an exercise that hath the sweetest, the benignest influence upon the temper. But not to insist at present upon the pleasures which a just sense of God and divine providence afford to the mind; if the being of a God be owned, it must certainly be true, that we are under religious obligation to that rational government of our affections, and to the benevolence, for which we have been found to be so excellently furnished and fitted by nature, i.e. under obligation to this conduct, in order to approve ourselves to God; under obligation to it, as the conduct he commands, and will reward. And this being true, this conduct is our duty. And in every sense are we obliged to be virtuous. We shall therefore only add, 1. That the sacred writings give us a very just view of the whole of our duties, arising from our nature, and our relation to our Creator, the Author and Ruler of the universe, when they are reduced there into two commandments, the first of which is to love God, and the other to love mankind; or when it is there asserted that love is the fulfilment of the law of God. And there is no other law which commands every one to love himself, because no one can love himself better than by keeping the law which enjoins love to God and love to our fellow-creatures. Self-love is not so properly a law, as it is a principle inseparable from all beings capable of that reflection, without which they would be incapable of governing their actions, distinguishing rules for their conduct, or pursuing ends. And for this reason the sacred writings do not mention self-love as a law; but they suppose this general desire of happiness as a principle necessarily inherent in us, which is to be directed by reason, i.e. by such rules or laws as reason is able to discover, by due attention to the relations and connexions of things. And these rules it justly reduces sometimes to two, the love of God, and the love of mankind; and sometimes to one general law, love. 2. Yet it may very justly be said, that the whole of our duty consists in well regulated self-love, or in the pursuit of our true happiness. For our greatest happiness consists, by our constitution, in such government of our affections by reason as hath been described, in the exercises of devotion towards God, and the approbation of our moral sense or conscience. As our duties cannot be inferred but from the internal principles of action implanted by the Author of nature in our minds, and the connexions relative to them; so indeed no commands repugnant to our internal principle, and the connexions relative to them,The harmony of this account of our nature and duties with the scripture doctrine. repugnant to what the Author of nature hath placed our happiness and perfection in, can come from the Author of nature. Now, the two great commands which revelation tells us are the whole of human duty, the whole of religion and virtue, love to God, and love to mankind, are the very laws which our constitution prescribes, or makes necessary to be observed by us in all our conduct, in order to attain to the greatest happiness our nature is capable of. They are indicated or pointed out to us by nature with so much clearness, that we may see plainly, that if any man is ignorant of them, it is only because he does not know himself, or does not reflect upon the frame of his mind, and turn his eyes inward to consider the internal principles of action with which he is endued; and therefore nothing is more astonishing than the blindness that hinders any one from seeing them. 3. Tho’ many disputes have been raised about the meaning of, as, in the divine commandment, to love our neighbour as ourself,28 by those who like jangling; yet it plainly means the same with that other precept, to do as we would be done by; the equity of which is so plain, that it hath been acknowledged in all ages and countries of the world as a most perfect summary of all the duties we can owe one to another, and to be a directory, which cannot be applied in any case, without immediately perceiving, or rather feeling what we ought to do. This Grotius, Puffendorf, and Barbeyrac, have fully proved. 4. These two commands have a most strict and intimate alliance. One cannot love God without loving mankind; nor love mankind, and having an idea of an infinitely good supreme Being, the Creator of all things, and the common Father of mankind, not love this all-perfect Being. And the best security men can have for their living together in harmony and love, is from the prevalence of true religion, or of a just notion of a supreme Being, and due regard to his will and authority, among them. It is, in its nature or tendency, the strongest bond of society. And from experience, or the history of mankind, there is reason to say with Cicero, “I know not, but that upon taking away religion and piety, all faith and society of human kind, and even the most excellent of virtues, justice, would soon leave the world.”29
Upon the whole therefore, when we proceed from considering the constitution of the human mind, and the connexions and relations of things respecting man, to the contemplation of the supreme Author of mankind and of these connexions, and of the whole frame of things, we have good ground to conclude, with the same antient, in a passage of his books de republica, preserved to us by Lactantius. “There is indeed a law agreeable to nature, and founded in it, which is no other than right reason, made known to all men, constant and immutable, that calls us to duty by commands, and deters us from fraud and villany by threats; neither are its commands and threats in vain to the good, tho’ they may make but little impression upon the wicked and corrupt. This law we can neither disannul nor diminish; nor is it possible that it should be totally reversed; the senate or the people cannot free us from its authority. Nor do we need any explainer of it besides our own consciences. It will not be different at Rome and at Athens, now or hereafter, but will eternally and unchangeably bind all persons in all places; God himself, the universal Master and King, being its Founder and Author. ’Tis He who is the Establisher, the Enactor, the Interpreter of this law; which, whosoever refuses to obey, shall be afraid to look into his own mind, or converse with himself, because he contemns and vilifies his nature; and shall thus undergo the severest penalties, tho’ he should escape every thing else which falls under our common name and notion of punishment.”30 And thus I am naturally led to consider the origine and design of civil laws.
[25 ] Jean Domat (1625–96), Les loix civiles dans leur ordre naturel. Turnbull quotes (with near accuracy) from the English translation: The Civil Law in Its Natural Order: Together with the Publick Law, page ii (in both eds.).
[26 ] Francis Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (London, 1725; 3rd ed. 1729; 4th ed. 1738), pp.9 and 99. Turnbull spliced together two separate passages and also inserted a few words of his own. He used either the third or the fourth edition.
[27 ] In his Principles of Moral Philosophy of 1740.
[28 ] For the golden rule, see Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.
[29 ] “Atque haud scio an pietate adversus deos sublata fides etiam et societas generis humani et una excellentissima virtus iustitia tollatur” (Cicero, De natura deorum, I, 4).
[30 ] This is from Cicero’s De re publica (see Cicero, De re publica, xxii, 33). Until a major part was found in 1819, this work of Cicero was known only in the form of few and brief quotations, especially by patristic authors such as Lactantius.