Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 5: Of the Eternal Law - An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature
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chapter 5: Of the Eternal Law - Nathaniel Culverwell, An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature 
An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature, ed. Robert A. Greene and Hugh MacCallum, foreword by Robert A. Greene (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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Of the Eternal Law
 Having thus lookt upon the being of a Law in general, we now come to the spring and original of all Lawes, to the eternal Law, that fountain of Law, out of which you may see the Law of Nature bubbling and flowing forth to the sons of men. For, as Aquinas does very well tell us, the Law of Nature is nothing but participatio Legis aeternae in Rationali creatura,1 the copying out of the eternal Law, and the imprinting of it upon the breast of a Rational being, that eternal Law was in a manner incarnated in the Law of Nature.
Now this eternal Law it is not really distinguished from God himself. For Nil est ab aeterno nisi ipse Deus2 [nothing exists eternally except God himself], so that ’tis much of the same nature with those decrees of his, and that Providence which was awake from everlasting. For as God from all eternity by the hand of infinite wisdome did draw the several faces and lineaments of being, which he meant to shew in time: So he did then also contrive their several frames with such limits and compasse as he meant to set them; and said to every thing, Hither shalt thou go, and no farther.3
This the Platonists4 would call ἰδέαντω̑ννόμων[the ideal of laws], and would willingly heap such honourable titles as these upon it, ὁνόμοςἀρχηγὸς, πρωτουργὸς, αὐτοδίκαιος, αὐτόκαλος, αὐτοάγαθος, ὁὄντωςνόμος, ὁνόμοςσπερματικός[the archetypal law, primary, intrinsically just, beautiful and good, the essential law, the seminal law]. And the greatest happinesse the other Lawes can arrive unto, is this, that they be Νόμοιδουλεύοντες, καὶὑπηρετου̑ντες, ministring and subservient Lawes; waiting upon this their Royal Law. Σκιαὶνόμων; Or as they would choose to stile them, Νομοειδει̑ς, some shadows & appearances of this bright and glorious Law, or at the best, they would be esteemed by them but Νόμοιἔκγονοι, the noble off-spring and progeny of Lawes; blessing this womb that bare them, and this breast that gave them suck.5
And thus the Law of Nature would have a double portion as being Lex primogenita, the first-born of this eternal Law, and the beginning of its strength.6 Now as God himself shews somewhat of his face in the glasse of creatures, so the beauty of this Law gives some representations of it self in those pure derivations of inferiour Lawes that stream from it. And as we ascend to the first and  supreme being, by the steps of second causes; so we may climb up to a sight of this eternal Law, by those fruitful branches of secondary Lawes, which seem to have their root in earth, when as indeed it is in heaven; and that I may vary a little that of the Apostle to the Romanes, The invisible Law of God long before the creation of the world, is now clearly seen being understood by those Lawes which do appear;7 so that τὸγνωστὸντου̑νόμου[the knowledge of the law] is manifested in them, God having shown it to them. Thus, as the Schoolmen say very well, Omnis lex participata supponit legem per essentiam8 [every derivative law supposes a self-existent law], every impression supposes a seal from whence it came; every ray of light puts you in minde of a Sun from which it shines. Wisdome and power, these are the chief ingredients into a Law; now where does Wisdome dwell, but in the head of a Deity? and where does power triumph, but in the arme of Omnipotency?
A Law is borne ex cerebro Jovis[from the brain of Jove], and it is not brachium seculare[a worldly arm], but Coeleste[a heavenly one] that must maintain it, even humane Lawes have their vertue radicaliter, & remote[fundamentally and ultimately] (as the Schooles speak) from this eternal Law. Thus that famous and most renowned Orator and Patriot (Tully I mean) does most admirably expresse the lineage and descent of Lawes in this golden manner. Hanc video sapientissimorum fuisse sententiam, Legem neque hominum ingeniis excogitatam, neque scitum aliquod esse Populorum, sed aeternum quiddam quod universum mundum regeret, imperandi prohibendique sapientia. Ita principem illam Legem & ultimam mentem dicebant omnia ratione aut cogentis, aut vetantis Dei.9 Which I shall thus render, Wise men did ever look upon a Law, not as on a spark struck from humane intellectuals, not blown up or kindled with popular breath, but they thought it an eternal light shining from God himself irradiating, guiding and ruling the whole Universe; most sweetly and powerfully discovering what wayes were to be chosen, and what to be refused. And the minde of God himself is the centre of Lawes, from which they were drawn, and into which they must return.
Thus also that florid Moralist Plutarch resolves all Law and Justice into that Primitive and eternal Law, even God himself, for even thus he tells us. Justice (saies he) does not only sit like a Queen at the right hand of Jupiter when he is upon his throne, but she is alwayes in his bosome, and one with himself; and he closes it up with this, that God himself is τω̑ννόμωνπρεσβύτατος, καὶτελειότατος.10 As he is the most ancient of dayes,11 so also is he the most ancient of lawes; as he is the perfection of beings, so is he also the rule of operations.
Nor must I let slip that passage of Plato, where he calls a law Ζη̑νοςσκη̑πτρον,12 the golden Scepter by which God himself rules and commands;  for as all true Government has a bright stamp of divine Sovereignty, so every true Law has a plain superscription of his Justice. Lawes are anoynted by God himself, and most precious oile drops down upon them to the skirts of a Nation; and the Law of Nature had the oile of gladnesse poured out upon it above its fellowes.13
So then, that there is such a prime and supreme Law is clear, and unquestionable; but who is worthy to unseal and open this Law? and who can sufficiently display the glory of it? we had need of a Moses that could ascend up into the Mount, and converse with God himself, and yet when he came down he would be faine to put a veile upon his face, and upon his expressions too, lest otherwise he might too much dazzle inferiour understandings;14 but if the Schoolmen will satisfie you, (and you know some of them are stiled Angelical, and Seraphical)15 you shall hear, if you will, what they’l say to it.
Now this Law according to them is Aeterna quaedam ratio practica totius dispositionis, & gubernationis Universi.16 ’Tis an eternal Ordinance made in the depth of Gods infinite wisdome and councel for regulating and governing of the whole world, which yet had not its binding vertue in respect of God himself, who has alwayes the full and unrestrained liberty of his own essence,17 which is so infinite, as that it cannot binde it self, and which needs no Law, all goodness and perfection being so intrinsecal and essential to it: but it was a binding determination in reference to the creature, which yet in respect of all irrational beings, did only fortiter inclinare[strongly incline], but in respect of Rationals, it does formaliter obligare18 [formally bind].
By this great and glorious Law every good action was commanded, and all evill was discountenanc’d, and forbidden from everlasting. According to this righteous Law all rewards and punishments were distributed in the eternal thoughts of God. At the command of this Law all created beings took their several ranks and stations, and put themselves in such operations as were best agreeable and conformable to their beings. By this Law all essences were ordained to their ends by most happy and convenient means. The life and vigour of this Law sprang from the will of God himself; from the voluntary decree of that eternal Law-giver, minding the publike welfare of being; who when there were heaps of varieties and possibilities in his own most glorious thoughts, when he could have made such or such worlds in this or that manner, in this or that time, with such & such species, that should have had more or fewer individuals, as he pleased, with such operations as he would allow unto them; he did then select and pitch upon this way and method in which we see things now constituted; and did binde all things according to their several capacities to an exact and accurate observation of it.
So that by this you see how those eternal ideas in the minde of God, and this  eternal Law do differ. I speak now of Ideas not in a Platonical sence, but in a Scholastical, (unlesse they both agree, as some would have them.) For Idea est possibilium, Lex tantum futurorum[an idea relates to the possible, a law only to the future], God had before him the picture of every possibility, yet he did not intend to binde a possibility, but only a futurity. Besides, Ideas they were situated only in the understanding of God; whereas a Law has force and efficacy from his will; according to that much commended saying, In Coelesti & Angelica curia voluntas Dei Lex est19 [in the heavenly and angelic court the will of God is law]. And then an Idea does magis respicere artificem[relate more to the author], it stayes there where first it was; but a Law does potius respicere subditum[relate more to an inferior], it calls for the obedience of another, as Suarez does very well difference them.20
Neither yet is this eternal Law the same with the providence of God, though that be eternal also. But as Aquinas speaks, Lex se habet ad providentiam, sicut principium generale ad particulares conclusiones[the law has the same relation to providence, as a general principle to particular conclusions]; or, if you will, Sicut principia prima practica ad prudentiam21 [as practical first principles to prudence]; his meaning is this, that Providence is a more punctual and particular application of this binding rule, and is not the Law it self but the superintending power, which looks to the execution and accomplishment of it; or as the most acute Suarez has it, Lex dicit jus in communi constitutum, providentia dicit curam quae de singulis actibus haberi debet22 [law refers to a rule of right established in common, providence to the care which should be exercised about individual acts].
Besides, a Law in its strict and peculiar notion, does only reach to rational beings; whereas Providence does extend and spread it self over all. But that which vexes the Schoolmen most, is this, that they having required promulgation as a necessary condition to the existence of a Law, yet they cannot very easily shew how this eternal Law, should be publisht from everlasting.23 But the most satisfactory account that can be given to that, is this, that other Law-givers being very voluble and mutable before their minde and will be fully and openly declared, they may have a purpose indeed, but it cannot be esteem’d a Law. But in God there being no variablenes nor shadow of turning,24 this his Law has a binding vertue as soon as it has a being, yet so as that it does not actually and formally oblige a creature till it be made known unto it: either by some revelation from God himself which is possible only, and extraordinary; or else by the mediation of some other Law, of the Law of Nature, which is the usual and constant way that God takes for the promulgation of this his eternal Law. For that νόμοςγραπτὸς,25 that sacred Manuscript, which is writ by the finger of God himself in the heart of man, is a plain transcript of this original Law, so far  as it concerns mans welfare. And this you see does most directly bring me to search out the Law of Nature.