Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 7: The Extent of the Law of Nature - An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature
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chapter 7: The Extent of the Law of Nature - 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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The Extent of the Law of Nature
 There are stampt and printed upon the being of man, some cleare and undelible Principles, some first and Alphabetical Notions; by putting together of which it can spell out the Law of Nature.
There’s scatter’d in the Soul of Man some seeds of light, which fill it with a vigorous pregnancy, with a multiplying fruitfulnesse, so that it brings forth a numerous and sparkling posterity of secondary Notions, which make for the crowning and encompassing of the Soul with happinesse.
All the fresh springs of Common and Fountain-Notions are in the Soul of Man, for the watering of his Essence, for the refreshing of this heavenly Plant, this Arbor inversa1 [inverted tree], this enclosed being, this Garden of God.
And though the wickednesse of man may stop the pleasant motion, the clear and Crystalline progresse of the Fountain, yet they cannot hinder the first risings, the bubling endeavours of it. They may pull off Natures leaves, and pluck off her fruit, and chop off her branches, but yet the root of it is eternal, the foundation of it is inviolable.
Now these first and Radical Principles are wound up in some such short bottomes as these: Bonum est appetendum, malum est fugiendum; Beatitudo est quaerenda; Quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris2 [good is to be sought, evil avoided; happiness is to be striven for; do not do to others, what you do not wish to have done to yourself]. And Reason thus ᾠοτόκησετὸννόμον, incubando super haec ova, by warming and brooding upon these first and oval Principles of her own laying, it being it self quicken’d with an heavenly vigour, does thus hatch the Law of Nature.
For you must not, nor cannot think that Natures Law is confin’d and contracted within the compasse of two or three common Notions, but Reason as with one foot it fixes a Centre, so with the other it measures and spreads out a circumference, it drawes several conclusions, which do all meet and croud into these first, and Central Principles. As in those Noble Mathematical Sciences there are, not only some first αἰτήματα[postulates], which are granted as soone as they are askt, if not before, but there are also whole heaps of firme and immovable Demonstrations, that are built upon them. In the very same manner, Nature has some Postulata, some προλήψεις[preconceptions], (which Seneca renders praesumptiones, which others call Anticipationes Animi,)3 which she knows a Rational being will presently and willingly yeeld unto; and therefore by vertue of these it does engage and oblige it, to all such commands as shall by just result, by genuine production, by kindly and evident derivation flow from these.
For men must not only look upon the capital letters of this Νόμοςγραπτὸς4 [written law], but they must reade the whole context, and coherence of it; they must look to every jot and Apex of it, for heaven and earth shall sooner passe away, then one jot or title of this Law shall vanish.5
They must not only gaze upon two or three Principles of the first Magnitude, but they must take notice of the lesser Celestial Sporades,6 for these also have their light and influence.
They must not only skim off the Creame of first Principles, but whatsoever sweetnesse comes streaming from the Dugge of Nature, they must feed upon it, they may be nourisht with it.
Reason does not only crop off the tops of first Notions,7 but does so gather all the flowers in Natures Garden, as that it can binde them together in a pleasant posie, for the refreshment of it self and others.
Thus as a noble Author of our own does well observe, Tota fere Ethica est Notitia communis:8 All Morality is nothing but a collection and bundling up of natural Precepts. The Moralists did but πλατύνεινφυλακτήρια[make broad their phylacteries], enlarge the fringes of Natures garment;9 they are so many Commentators and Expositors upon Natures Law. This was his meaning that stil’d Moral Philosophy, ἡπερὶτὰἀνθρώπιναφιλοσοφία,10 that Philosophy which is for the maintaining and edifying of humane nature. Thus Natures Law is frequently call’d the Moral Law. But the School-men in their rougher language make these several ranks and distributions of natural Precepts, Τὰπρω̑τακατὰφύσιν.11 First, there come in the front Principia Generalia, (as some call them) per se Nota; ut Honestum est faciendum; Pravum vitandum[general principles known naturally as, we must do good, and avoid evil]. Then follow next Principia Particularia, & magis determinata; ut justitia est servanda; Deus est colendus; vivendum est Temperate12 [particular and more defined principles; as, we must maintain justice, we must worship God, we must live temperately]. At length come up in the reare, conclusiones evidenter illatae, quae tamen cognosci nequeunt nisi per discursum; ut Mendacium, furtum, & similia prava esse13 [conclusions clearly inferences which, however, cannot be known without intellectual effort; as that lying, theft and the like are wicked].
These, though they may seeme somewhat more remote, yet being fetcht from clear and unquestionable premisses, they have Natures Seal upon them; and are thus farre sacred, so as to have the usual priviledge of a Conclusion, to be untoucht and undeniable.
 For though that learned Author, whom I mention’d not long before, do justly take notice of this,14 that discourse is the usual in-let to Errour, and too often gives an open admission, and courteous entertainment to such falsities as come disguis’d in a Syllogistical forme, which by their Sequacious windings and Gradual insinuations, twine about some weak understandings: yet in the nature of the thing it self, ’tis as impossible to collect an Errour out of a Truth, as ’tis to gather the blackest night out of the fairest Sun-shine, or the foulest wickednesse out of the purest goodnesse. A Conclusion therefore that’s built upon the Sand, you may very well expect its fall, but that which is built upon the Rock is impregnable and immovable; for if the Law of Nature should not extend it self so farre, as to oblige men to an accurate observation of that, which is a remoov or two distant from first Principles, ’twould then prove extremely defective in some such Precepts as do most intimately and intensely conduce to the welfare and advantage of an Intellectual being.
And these first Notions would be most barren inefficacious speculations, unlesse they did thus encrease and multiply, and bring forth fruit with the blessing of heaven upon them.
So that there is a necessary connexion, and concatenation between first Principles, and such Conclusions. For as Suarez has it, Veritas Principii continetur in conclusione15 [the truth of the principle is contained in the conclusion]: so that he that questions the Conclusion, must needs also strike at the Principle. Nay, if we look to the notion of a Law, there is more of that to be seen in these more particular determinations, then in those more Universal notions; for Lex est proxima Regula operationum[law is the proximate rule of operation]. But now particulars are neerer to existence and operation then universals: and in this respect do more immediately steere and direct the motions of such a being. The one is the bending of the bowe, but the other is the shooting of the Arrow.
Suarez does fully determine this in such words as these, Haec omnia Praecepta (he means both Principles and Conclusions) prodeunt a Deo Auctore Naturae, & tendunt ad eundem finem, nimirum ad debitam conservationem, & Naturalem perfectionem, seu foelicitatem Humanae Naturae[All these precepts proceed from God the Author of nature, and tend to the same end, which is clearly the due preservation and natural perfection, or happiness of human nature].
This Law of Nature as it is thus brancht forth, does binde in foro Conscientiae16 [in the court of conscience]; for as that noble Author, (whom I more then once commended before) speaks very well in this; Natural Conscience ’tis Centrum Notitiarum Communium[the centre of general knowledge], and ’tis a kinde of Sensus Communis[common sense] in respect of the inward faculties, as that other is in respect of the outward Senses.17 ’Tis a competent Judge of this Law of Nature:’tis the Natural Pulse of the Soul, by the beating and motion of which  the state and temper of men is discernable. The Apostle Paul thus felt the Heathens pulse, and found their consciences sometimes accusing them, sometimes making Apology for them. Yet there’s a great deale of difference between Natural Conscience, and the Law of Nature; for (as the School-men speak) Conscience, ’tis Dictamen Practicum in Particulari18 [a practical dictate about particulars]; ’tis a prosecution and application of this Natural Law, as Providence is of that Eternal Law.
Nay, Conscience sometimes does embrace only the shadow of a Law, and does engage men though erroneously to the observation of that which was never dictated by any just Legislative power. Nor is it content to glance only at what’s to come, but Janus-like it has a double aspect, and so looks back to what’s past, as to call men to a strict accompt for every violation of this Law.
Which Law is so accurate as to oblige men not only Ad Actum[to the act], but ad modum[to the mode] also:19 it looks as well to the inward forme and manner, as to the materiality and bulk of outward actions: for every being owes thus much kindnesse and courtesie to it self, not only to put forth such acts as are essential and intrinsecal to its own welfare; but also to delight in them, and to fulfil them with all possible freenesse and alacrity, with the greatest intensnesse and complacency. Self-love alone might easily constraine men to this natural obedience. Humane Lawes indeed rest satisfi’d with a visible and external obedience; but Natures Law darts it self into the most intimate Essentials, and looks for entertainment there.
You know that amongst the Moralists only such acts are esteem’d Actus Humani[human acts] that are Actus Voluntarii[voluntary acts]. When Nature has tuned a Rational Being, she expects that every string, every faculty should spontaneously and cheerfully sound forth his praise.
And the God of Nature, that has not chain’d, nor fetter’d, nor enslav’d such a Creature, but has given it a competent liberty and enlargement; the free diffusion and amplification of its own Essence; he looks withal that it should willingly consent to its own happinesse, and to all such means as are necessary for the accomplishment of its choicest end: and that it should totally abhorre whatsoever is destructive and prejudicial to its own being; which if it do, ’twill presently embrace the Law of Nature, if it either love its God or it self; the command of its God, or the welfare of it self.
Nay, the precepts of this natural Law are so potent and triumphant, as that some acts which rebel against it, become not only Illiciti[illegal], but Irriti20 [ineffectual], as both the Schoolmen and the Lawyers observe: they are not only irregularities, but meere nullities: and that either ob defectum Potestatis & Incapacitatem Materiae21 [from lack of power and physical impossibility], as if one should go about to give the same thing to two several Persons, the second  Donation is a Moral Non-entity: or else Propter Perpetuam rei indecentiam, & Turpitudinem Durantem22 [because of the perpetual indecency and lasting infamy of the thing], as in some Anomalous and incestuous marriages. And this Law of Nature is so exact, as that ’tis not capable of an Ἐπιεικεία[mitigation], which the Lawyers call Emendatio Legis23 [the emendation of the law]: but there is no mending of Essences, nor of Essential Lawes, both which consist in Puncto, in indivisibili[in an indivisible atom], and so cannot Recipere magis & minus[admit more or less]: nor is there any need of it, for in this Law there’s no rigour at all, ’tis pure equity, and so nothing is to be abated of it. Neither does it depend only a mente Legis-latoris[on the intention of the legislator], which is the usual Rise of Mitigation; but ’tis conversant about such acts as are Per se tales[in themselves such], most intrinsecally and inseparably.24
Yet notwithstanding this Law does not refuse an Interpretation, but Nature her self does glosse upon her own Law, as in what circumstances such an Act is to be esteem’d murder, and when not; and so in many other branches of Natures Law, if there be any appearance of Intricacy, any seeming knot and difficulty, Nature has given edge enough to cut it asunder.
There is another Law bordering upon this Law of Nature, Jus Gentium, Juri Naturali Propinquum & consanguineum[the law of nations, bordering on and related to the law of nature]; and ’tis Medium quoddam, inter Jus Naturale & Jus Civile25 [as it were, a mean between natural and civil law]. Now this Jus Gentium[the law of nations] is either per similitudinem & concomitantiam[through similarity and agreement], when several Nations in their distinct conditions have yet some of the same positive Lawes: or else (which indeed is most properly Νομιμὸνἐθνικὸν[the law of nations]) Per communicationem & Societatem,26 which, as the learned Grotius describes, Ab omnium, vel multarum gentium voluntate vim obligandi accepit:27 that is, when all or many of the most refined Nations bunching and clustering together, do binde themselves by general compact, to the observation of such Lawes, as they judge to be for the good of them all. As the honourable entertainment of an Embassadour, or such like.
So that ’tis Jus humanum, non scriptum28 [human law, unwritten]. ’Tis εὕρημαβίου, καὶχρόνου29 [a discovery of life and time]. For as Justinian tells us, Usu exigente, & Humanis necessitatibus, Gentes humanae quaedam sibi jura constituerunt30 [As a result of necessary practice and human needs, the nations of men have established certain laws for themselves]. Whereas other humane Lawes have a narrower sphere and compasse, and are limited to such a state, which the Oratour stiles, Leges populares31 [laws of the people], the Hebrews call their positive Lawes חקים[statutes], sometimes משפטים[judgments], though the one do more properly point at Ceremonials, the other at Judicials;32 The Septuagint render them ἐντολαὶ[commandments], some others call them τὰτη̑ςδευτερώσεως33 [secondary laws], as they call natural Lawes מעוח34 [commandments], which the Hellenists render δικαιώματα35 [ordinances]. But according to the Greek Idiom, these are tearmed τὰἐνφύσει[natural], and the others τὰἐντάξει36 [ordered].
Now, though the formality of humane Lawes do flow immediately from the power of some particular men; yet the strength and sinew of these Lawes is founded in the Law of Nature: for Nature does permissively give them leave to make such Lawes as are for their greater convenience; and when they are made, and whilest they are in their force and vigour, it does oblige and command them not to break or violate them: for they are to esteem their own consent as a Sacred thing; they are not to contradict their own Acts, nor to oppose such commands, as ex Pacto[by agreement] were fram’d and constituted by themselves.
Thus much for the Law of Nature in general. We must look in the next place, to that Lumen Naturae[light of nature], that Candle of the Lord by which this Law of Nature is manifested and discovered.