Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter 8: How the Law of Nature Is Discovered? Not by Tradition - An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature
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chapter 8: How the Law of Nature Is Discovered? Not by Tradition - 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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How the Law of Nature Is Discovered? Not by Tradition
 GOD having contrived such an admirable and harmonious Law for the guiding and governing of his Creature, you cannot doubt but that he will also provide sufficient means for the discovery and publishing of it; Promulgation being pre-requir’d as a necessary condition before a Law can be valid and vigorous. To this end therefore he has set up an Intellectual Lamp in the soul, by the light of which it can read this νόμοςγραπτὸς1 [written law], and can follow the commands of its Creatour.
The Schoolmen with full and general consent understand that place of the Psalmist of this Lumen Naturale2 [natural light], and many other Authors follow them in this too securely. Nay, some Critical writers3 quote them, and yet never chide them for it. The words are these, נםה עלינו אור פנידEleva super nos lumen vultus tui4 [lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us]: but yet they, very ignorantly, though very confidently render them, Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui5 [the light of thy countenance is imprinted upon us]: and they do as erroneously interpret it of the light of Reason, which (say they) is Signaculum quoddam, & impressio increatae lucis in Anima6 [a certain seal and stamp of uncreated light in the soul]. So much indeed is true, but it is far from being an Exposition of this place. Yet perhaps the Septuagint misled them, who thus translate it; Ἐσημειώθηἐφ̕ἡμα̑ςτὸφω̑ςτου̑προσώπουσου̑[the light of thy countenance is marked upon us]; but Aquila, that had a quicker eye here, renders it Ἔπαρον[lift up], and Symmachusἐπίσημονποίησον7 [mark].
The words are plainly put up in the forme of a Petition to heaven, for some smiles of love, for some propitious and favourable glances, for Gods gracious presence and acceptance. And they amount to this sense; If one Sun do but shine upon me, I shall have more joy, then worldlings have, when all their Stars appear.8
But to let these passe with the Errours of their vulgar Latin; I meet with one more remarkable and of larger influence; I mean that of the Jewes, who (as that worthy Author of our own in his learned book De Jure Naturali secundum Hebraeos makes the report) do imagine and suppose that the light of Nature shines only upon themselves originally and principally, and upon the Gentiles only by way of Participation and dependance upon them: They all must light  their candles at the Jewish Lamp. Thus they strive as much as they can to engrosse and monopolize this natural light to themselves; only it may be sometimes out of their great liberality they will distribute some broken beams of it to the Gentiles. As if these מצוה בני נוח these Praecepta Noachidarum9 [precepts of the children of Noah] had been lockt up and cabinetted in Noahs Ark, and afterwards kept from the prophane touch of a Gentile: as if they had been part of that bread, which our Saviour said was not to be cast unto dogs; and therefore they would make them be glad to eate of the crumbs that fall from their masters table. As if they only enjoyed a Goshen of Natural light, and all the rest of the world were benighted in most palpable and unavoidable darknesse; as if this Sun shin’d only upon Canaan; as if Canaan onely flow’d with this milk and honey; as if no drops of heaven could fall upon a Wildernesse, unlesse an Israelite be there; As if they had the whole impression of Natures Law; as if God had not dealt thus with every Nation; as if the Heathen also had not the knowledge of this Law. ’Tis true, they had the first beauty of the rising Sun, the first peepings out of the day, the first dawnings of natural light; for there were no other that it could then shine upon: but do they mean to check the Sun in its motion, to stop this Giant in his race, to hinder him from scattering rayes of light in the world? Do they think that Natures Fountain is enclos’d, that her Well is seal’d up, that a Jew must only drink of it, and a Gentile must die for thirst? O but they tell you they are עם מנלהΛάοςπεριούσιος, a Darling, and peculiar Nation.10
We shall fully acknowledge with the Hebrew of Hebrews, Πολὺτὸπερισσὸντου̑Ἰουδαίου11 [the advantage of the Jew is great], though not in respect of natural light, which doubtlesse is planted by Nature in the heart both of Jew and Gentile, and shines upon both with an equal and impartial beam. And yet this must not be denied, that the Jewes had even these Natural notions much clarified & refin’d from those clouds and mists which יצר הרע12 Original sin had brought upon them, and this by means of that pure and powerful beam of heavenly truth which shined more peculiarly upon them; those Lawes which Nature had engraven ἐνδέλτοιςφρενω̑ν upon the tables of their hearts,13 sin like a moth had eaten and defaced (as in all other men it had done) but in them those fugitive letters were call’d home again, and those many Lacunae were supplyed and made good again by comparing it with that other Copy (of Gods own writing too) which Moses received in the Mount; and besides, they had a great number of revealed truths discovered to them, which were engraffed indeed upon the stock of Nature, but would never have grown out of it: so that this second Edition was Auctior[expanded] also, as well as Emendatior[corrected]; but yet for all this they have no greater a portion of the light of Nature then all men have. Thus Christians also are עם מנלה14 [a peculiar  people], and yet in respect of their natural condition, have no more then others.
Now if the Jewes have so many priviledges, why are not they content, why do not they rest satisfied with them? Why will they thus be claiming and arrogating more then their due?
Are they the first-born, and have they a double portion, and do they envy their younger brethren, their birth and being? Have they a bright and eminent Sun-shine, and do they envy a Gentile the Candle of the Lord?
No (as that learned Author tells us) they will grant that the Gentiles had their Candle, and their Torch, but it was lighted at the Jewes Sun. They may have some bottles of water to quench their thirst, but they must be fill’d at their streams, ἐκτω̑νἙβραικω̑νναμάτων, ex fluentis Hebraicis15 [from the streams of the Hebrews].
But truly, if they were at their disposing, there be some that will question, whether they would let them sip at their fountain or no; whether they would let them light a Candle with them or no. Yes (may some say) Pythagoras lighted his Candle there, and Plato lighted his Candle at theirs.16
But what did they borrow common Notions of them? did they borrow any Copies of Natures Law from them? was this Νόμοςγραπτὸς17 [written law], only some Jewish Manu-script, which they translated into Greek? Can Pythagoras know nothing, unlesse by a present μετεμψύχωσις[metempsychosis] a Jews soul come and enforme him? That Pythagoras should be circumcis’d by the perswasion of the Jews is not impossible; but that he could not know how to forbid Blasphemy, without the Jews teachings, deserves a good argument to prove it.
If they will but attend to Pythagoras himself, they shall hear him resolving these first Notions of his and others, into Natures bounty, and not into the Jews courtesie; for thus he sings;—Θει̑ονγένοςἐστὶβροτοι̑σι, οἱ̑ςἱερὰπροφέρουσαφύσιςδείκνυσινἕκαστα18 [the race of man is divine; for him nature brings forth and reveals every sacred thing]. And Hierocles in his Comment (which is as golden as Pythagoras his Verses) does thus paraphrase upon his meaning, ΠάντεςἀφορμὰςἜχοντεςἐνσυμφύτοιςπρὸςἐπὶγνωσιντη̑ςἑαυτω̑νοὐσίας[all men have among their innate principles the resources for knowing their own natures]. And these Principles which he does call here τὰσύμφυτα[innate], he does not long after stile τὰςφυσικὰςἐννοίας19 [natural notions].
Then as for Plato, to be sure he’ll tell them, that he has connate Species of his own, for which he was never beholding to the Jews. He’ll tell them, that he has many Spermatical Notions, that were never of their sowing; Many vigilant sparks that were never of their striking or kindling. He’ll but set his Reminiscence awork, and will visit his old acquaintance, recal many ancient truths, that are now slipt out of his memory, and have been too long absent.
 And surely Aristotle never thought that his Rasa Tabula, could have nothing printed upon it, till a Jew gave it an Imprimatur, he little imagin’d that the Motion of his Soul depended upon these Oriental Intelligences.
Therefore if they please they may spare that pretty story of theirs, which that learned Author, whom I have so often commended, does acquaint us with, but yet withall esteems it fabulous of Simeon the just, the High Priest reading of Lectures to Aristotle a little before his death, of the immortality of the soul, and the reward and punishment which are reserved for another life: and that so powerfully, as that he convinced him, and converted him.20
But certainly that brave Philosopher could easily spy out immortality stampt upon his own soul, though such a Monitor had been absent, and did know long before that time by the improvement of his own intellectuals, that he must give an account of his being and operations to his ὌνὌντων21 [Being of beings].
What means then that voice of the Oracle;
[The Chaldeans alone have obtained wisdom, together with the Hebrews, who reverence a self-existent king as their sacred God.]
Truly the Oracle here is not so obscure, but that you may easily perceive that by Σοφία[wisdom], it did not mean Intelligentia, which is ἡγνω̑σιςτω̑νπρώτωνστοιχείων[the knowledge of first principles], but only Sapientia, which is ἡγνω̑σιςτω̑ντιμιωτάτων[the knowledge of what is most valuable]. Now why they had more of this, the Apostle will give you the best account of it; ὅτιἐπιστεύθησαντὰλόγιατου̑θεου̑23 [because that unto them were committed the oracles of God], because they had a better Oracle to consult withal, then this was.
Yet surely neither Jew nor Gentile need go to an Oracle to enquire of common Notions. But in respect of these that Anonymous Author of the life of Pythagoras speaks an unquestionable truth; οὐκἐπείσακτος, ὡςεἰπει̑ν, ἡπαιδείαἐνται̑ςἈθήναις, ἀλλ̕ἐκφύσεωςὑπάρχουσα;24 that is the Athenians had not an Adventitious and Precarious kinde of knowledge; but that Nature which gave them a Being, gave them Education also; As her womb bare them, so her breasts gave them suck; As they were Αὐτόχθονες[born by nature], so likewise Αὐτοδίδακτοι25 [taught by nature].
But you shall hear a bragging and doting Egyptian telling you, Ἕλληναςἀεὶπαι̑δαςεἰ̑ναι.26 The Greeks were alwayes boys in knowledge. Grant that they were children; yet cannot they suck at Natures dug? Cannot they reade Natures Alphabet, unlesse a Jew come with his fescue and teach them?
 Howere, the Egyptian has little Reason to triumph, for to be sure, if there be any light in Egypt more then this of Nature, they may thank Israelites for it: if there be any corne in Egypt, they may thank a Joseph for providing of it. These, if any, lighted their Candles at the Israelites, and receiv’d more precious jewels from them, then ever they were robb’d of by them.
This indeed must be granted that the whole generality of the Heathen went a gleaning in the Jewish fields. They had some of their grapes, some eares of corne that dropt from them. Pythagoras and Plato especially were such notable gleaners, as that they stole out of the very sheaves, out of those truths that are bound up in the sacred volume. Yet all this while they nere stole first Principles, nor demonstrations; but they had them οἼκοθεν27 [at home], and needed not to take such a long journey for them.
Give then unto the Jew the things of the Jews, and to the Gentile, the things that are the Gentiles, and that which God has made common, call not thou peculiar. The Apostle Pauls question is here very seasonable, ἢἸουδαίωνὁθεὸςμόνον; οὐχὶδῃκαὶἐθνω̑ν; ναὶκαὶἐθνω̑ν28 [Is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also].
There was never any partition-wall between the Essence of Jew and Gentile. Now the Law of Nature’tis founded in Essentials. And that which is disconvenient to that Rational Nature which is in a Jew, is as opposite and disagreeable to the same Nature in a Gentile; as that good which is suitable and proportionable to a Jew in his Rational being, is every way as intrinsecal to the welfare of a Gentile, that does not differ essentially from him. So likewise for the Promulgation of this Law, being it does equally concerne them both, and equally oblige them both; it is also by Nature equally publisht and manifested to them both. So that what the Apostle speaks in respect of the freenesse of Evangelical light, we may say the very same in respect of the commonnesse of natural light: οὐκἜνιἝλληνκαὶἸουδαι̑ος, περιτομὴκαὶἀκροβυστία, βάρβαρος, Σκύθης, δου̑λος, ἐλεύθερος29 [where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bound nor free], but all these are one in respect of Nature, and natures Law, and natures Light.