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chapter 10: Of the Consent of Nations - 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 Consent of Nations
 Though Natures law be principally proclaim’d by the voyce of Reason; though it be sufficiently discover’d by the Candle of the Lord; yet there is also a secondary and additional way, which contributes no small light to the manifestation of it: I mean the harmony & joynt consent of Nations, who though there be no κοινωνία nor συνθήκη,1 no communion, nor commerce, nor compact between them, yet they do tacitly and spontaneously conspire in a dutiful observation of the most radical and fundamental Lawes of Nature.
So that by this pleasant consort of theirs you may know that the same Nature did tune them all. When you see the same prints and impressions upon so many several Nations, you easily perceive that they were stampt eodem communi Sigillo, with the same publique Seal. When you see the very same seeds thrown in such different soyles, yet all encreasing and multiplying, budding and blossoming, branching out and enlarging themselves into some fruitful expressions; you know then that ’twas Natures hand, her bountiful & successful hand that scatter’d such Seminal Principles amongst them; you presently know that ’tis no enclosed way, ’tis a Via Regia[king’s highway], in which you meet with so many Travellers, such a concourse and confluence of People.
Amongst many others, the learned Grotius is ful and expresse for searching out the Law of Nature in this manner.
You shal hear his own words which he speaks in that excellent work of his, De jure Belli & Pacis: Esse aliquid juris Naturalis probari solet tum ab eo quod Prius est, tum ab eo quod Posterius; quarum probandi Rationum illa subtilior est, haec popularior. A Priori, si ostendatur Rei alicujus convenientia aut disconvenientia Necessaria cum Natura Rationali ac Sociali. A posteriori vero, si non certissima fide, certe probabiliter admodum juris Naturalis esse colligitur id, quod apud gentes omnes, aut moraliores omnes tale esse creditur[It is usual to prove that something is according to the law of nature either a priori or a posteriori; of these methods of proof the former is more subtle, the latter more popular. The proof is a priori if it is shown that anything necessarily agrees or disagrees with a rational and social nature; it is a posteriori if it is concluded, not with absolute certainty, but very probably, that that accords with natural law which all nations, or at least the more civilized nations, believe accords with it]. And he does annex this  reason of it; Universalis effectus, Universalem requirit causam2 [a universal effect requires a universal cause]. When you see such fresh springs and streams of Justice watering several Kingdoms and Nations, you know that they are participations of some rich Fountain, of a vast Ocean. When you see so many Rayes of the same light, shooting themselves into the several corners of the world, you presently look up to the Sun; as the glorious original of them all.
Let me then a little vary that place in the Acts of the Apostles:3 you may hear every man in his own Language, in his own Dialect, and Idiom speaking the same works of Nature; Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia; in Pontus, in Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jewes and Proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, you may hear them speak in their Tongues the wonderful works of God and Nature.
For whatsoever is Natural and Essential is also universal in order to such a Species. The Philosopher speaks to this very pertinently; Τὸμῃνφύσειἀκίνητον, καὶπανταχου̑τὴναὐτὴνἜχειδύναμιν, ὥσπερτὸπυ̑ρκαὶἐνθάδεκαὶἐνΠέρσαιςκαίει;4 That is, whatsoever is Natural is immovable, and in the same manner perpetually energetical; as fire does not put on one colour amongst the Grecians, and paint its face otherwise amongst the Persians: but it has alwayes the same ruddinesse and purity, the same zeal and vehemency.
As Nature shews choice variety and Needle-work in this, in that she works every Individuum with several flourishes, with some singular and distinguishing notes: So likewise she plainly aspires to concord and unity, whilst she knits altogether in a common and specifical identity. Not only in the faces of men, but in their beings also, there is much of Identity, and yet much of variety.
You do not doubt, but that in all Nations there is an exact likenesse and agreement in the fabrick and composure of mens bodies in respect of integrals, excepting a few Monsters and Heteroclites in Nature; nor can you doubt but that there is the very same frame and constitution of mens spirits in respect of Intrinsecals, unlesse in some prodigious ones, that in the Philosophers language are Ἁμαρτήματατη̑ςφύσεως5 [sports of nature]. As face answers face, so does the heart of one man the heart of another, even the heart of an Athenian, the heart of an Indian.
Wherefore the Votes and Suffrages of Nature are no contemptible things. Φήμηδ̕οὔτιςπάμπανἀπόλλυταιἥντιναλαοὶπολλοὶφημίζουσι6 [no tradition which many nations spread is ever wholly destroyed]; as the Poet sings. This was the minde of that grave Moralist Seneca, as appears by that speech of his; Apud nos veritatis argumentum est aliquid omnibus videri7 [among us the fact that something seems so to all is evidence for its truth]. But the Oratour is  higher and fuller in his expression; Omni autem in re, Consensio omnium Gentium Lex Naturae putanda est8 [but in all things the consensus of all nations ought to be considered evidence of a law of nature]. And that other Oratour Quintilian does not much differ from him in this; Pro certis habemus ea, in quae communi opinione concessum est9 [we regard as certain those things about which common opinion has agreed]. Or if the judgement of a Philosopher be more potent and prevalent with you, you may hear Aristotle telling you, ΚράτιστονπάνταςἈνθρώπουςφαίνεσθαισυνομολογου̑νταςτοι̑ςῥηθησομένοις10 [it is best that all men should appear unanimous about what shall be said]. You may hear Heraclitus determining that ὁλόγοςξυνὸς[general opinion] is an excellent κριτήριον[criterion] of Truth; and therefore he was wont to lay down this for a Maxime, τὰκοινη̑φαινόμεναπιστὰ11 [common beliefs are trustworthy], which may be rendred Vox Populi, Vox Dei[the voice of the people is the voice of God]; yet upon this condition, that it be took with its due restraints and limitations: If you would have a sacred Author set his seal to all this, Tertullian has done it; Quod apud multos unum invenitur, non est erratum sed traditum12 [that which is found agreed upon by many is not an error but the inherited truth].
Surely that must needs be a clear convincing light that can command respect and adoration from all beholders; it must be an orient Pearl indeed, if none will trample upon it.13 It must be a conquering and triumphant truth, that can stop the mouths of gain-sayers, and passe the world without contradiction. Surely that’s pure gold that has been examin’d by so many several Touch-stones, and has had approbation from them all; certainly ’tis some transcendent beauty that so many Nations are enamour’d withall. ’Tis some powerful musick that sets the whole world a dancing. ’Tis some pure and delicious relish, that can content and satisfie every palate. ’Tis some accurate piece that passes so many Criticks without any Animadversions, without any Variae lectiones[variant readings]. ’Tis an Elegant Picture, that neither the eye of an Artist, nor yet a Popular eye can finde fault withall. Think but upon the several tempers and dispositions of men; how curious are some? how censorious are others? how envious and malicious are some? how various and mutable are others? how do some love to be singular? others to be contentious? how doubtful and wavering is one? how jealous and suspicious is another? and then tell me whether it must not be some Authentical and unquestionable Truth, that can at all times have a Certificate and Commendamus from them all?
Then look upon the diversities of Nations & there you will see a rough and barbarous Scythian, a wild American, an unpolisht Indian, a superstitious Egyptian, a subtile Ethiopian, a cunning Arabian, a luxurious Persian, a treacherous Carthaginian, a lying Cretian, an elegant Athenian, a wanton Corinthian, a desperate Italian, a fighting German, & many other heaps of  Nations, whose titles I shall now spare, and tell me whether it must not be some admirable and efficacious Truth, that shall so over-power them all, as to passe currant amongst them, and be own’d and acknowledg’d by them.
Yet notwithstanding, as we told you before, that the obligation of Natures Law did not spring from Reason, so much lesse does it arise from the consent of Nations. That Law indeed which is peculiarly term’d Νόμιμονἐθνικὸν, Jus Gentium[the law of nations], has its vigor and validity from those mutual and reciprocal compacts, which they have made amongst themselves: but the meeting of several Nations in the observation of Natures Law, has no binding or engaging virtue in it any otherwise then in an exemplary way; but yet it has a confirming and evidencing power, that shews that they were all obliged to this by some supreme Authority, which had such an ample influence upon them all. Thus you know the sweetnesse of Honey, both by your own taste, and by the consent of Palates too: yet neither the one, nor the other does drop any sweetnesse or lusciousnesse into the Honey-comb.14 Thus you see the beauty and glory of light, and you may call most men in the world to be eye-witnesses of it, yet those several eyes adde no glosse or lustre to it, but only take notice of it.
Man being ζω̑ονπολιτικὸν and ζω̑ονἥμερον as the Philosopher styles him,15 a sociable and peaceable Creature; Ἀγελαστικὸνκαὶσυγγνω̑μονζω̑ον, as that sacred Oratour16 termes him, a congregating Creature that loves to keep company, he must needs take much delight and complacency in that, in which he sees the whole Tribe and Species of mankinde agreeing with him.
Why then do the Jews look upon the נוים17 [heathen peoples] with such a disdaining and scornful eye, as if all the Nations in comparison of them, were no more then what the Prophet saies, they are in respect of God, as the drop of a bucket, as the dust of the Ballance,18 that cannot encline them one way or other.
Do but hear a while how that learned and much honoured Author of our own, does represent their minde unto you. Gentium (saies he) sive omnium, sive complurium opiniones, mores, constitutiones, mensurae apud Hebraeos, in eo decernendo quod jus esse velint Naturale, seu universale, locum habent nullum[the opinions, customs, constitutions and measures of all, or at least many other nations carry no weight with the Hebrews in their decisions about the nature of natural or universal law]. These are the Contents of that Chapter which he begins thus; Quemadmodum ex aliorum animantium actibus aut usu, jus aliquod naturale disci, aut designari nolunt Ebraei; ita neque ex aliarum, sive omnium sive plurimarum Gentium usu ac moribus de Jure Naturali, seu hominum universali decerni volunt19 [as the Hebrews do not believe that any natural law is exemplified or designated by the acts or custom of other animated beings, so they will not consider, in determining the natural or universal law of man, the practice and habits of either all or most other nations]. It seems the Jews look upon the Gentiles, as if  they differ’d specifically from them: as they do not search for the Law of Nature amongst Sensitive Beings, so neither amongst other Nations.
But I had thought that the Jewish Writers had promis’d the Heathens an Angel, an Intelligence, to irradiate & illuminate them, and does he shine upon them no clearer? does he performe his office no better? The Jews told us that they themselves were to enforme them and instruct them, and have they taught them their lessons no better? they mention’d a voice that came to Adam and to Noah, and have they whisper’d it only in one anothers eare? Why have they not proclaim’d it to the rest of the world?
How sad were the condition of the Gentiles, if they were to live upon the Jews courtesie and benevolence, that would strip them of Nature, plunder them of their essences, rob them of their first Principals and Common Notions? But God has not left them like Orphans to such unmerciful Guardians. He himself has took care of them, and has made better provision for them.
Now these several Nations are to be consider’d either in the common bulk and heap of them, or else in the major part of them, or in the noblest & most refined sort amongst them, either οἱπάντες and οἱπολλοὶ or οἱεὐγενέστεροι and φρονιμώτεροι.
If we take them in the fullest universality of them, then that worthy Author of our own saies truly, Nec olim, nec hactenus, aut qualesnam, aut quot sint, fuerintve, est ab aliquo satis exploratum20 [the nature and number of these have not been satisfactorily established by anyone either in ancient times or recently]. Nor indeed is it at all material in respect of this, whether we know them or no; but having the formal consent of so many, and knowing that there is Par Ratio Reliquorum[the same faculty of reason in the rest], being that they have the same natural engagements and obligations upon them, we cannot justly distrust, but that if there should new Nations, nay if there should new worlds appear, that every Rational Nature amongst them, would comply with and embrace the several Branches of this Law: and as they would not differ in those things that are so intrinsecal to Sense; so neither in those that are essential to the Understanding. As their corporal eye would be able to distinguish between beauty and deformity, so their Intellectual eye would as easily discerne some goodnesse from some kinde of wickednesse.
But are there not many Nations of them that live in the perpetual violation of Natures Law? If you speak of the more capital letters of this Νόμοςγραπτὸς21 [written law], you finde no Nation so barbarous but that it can read them and observe them. I never heard of a Nation apostatizing from common Notions, from these first Principles. But if you mean the whole context and coherence of Natures Law, if you speak of those Demonstrations that may be built upon these fundamental Principles, of those kindly derivations and conclusions that flow  from these fountain-Notions: then this indeed must be granted, that ’tis the condemning sin of the Heathen, That so many of them imprison this natural light, and extinguish this Candle of the Lord.
There are many wilde and Anomalous Individuums amongst them οἱπόῤῥωβάρβαροι, θηριώδεις, ἀλόγιστοι[remote barbarians, savage and irrational], as Aristotle calls them;22 οἱδιεφθαρμένοι[ruined men], as others terme them; but are there not such also even amongst Jews? nay amongst such as call themselvs Christians, that are lapst and fallen below themselves? many natural precepts are violated even amongst them; have you weeds, & bryers, & thornes in a garden? no wonder then that you meet with more in a wildernesse. Are there some prodigies in Europe? you may very well look for more Monsters in Africa. Do Christians blur and blot the Law of Nature? no wonder then that an American seeks quite to rase it out. Does an Israelite put Truth sometimes in Prison? no wonder then that an Egyptian puts it in a Dungeon. Yet notwithstanding amongst all those that have had so much Culture and Morality as to knit, and embody, and compact themselves into a Common-wealth; to become τοι̑ςνόμοιςὑποκείμενοι, to be regulated by a legal government, you will scarce finde any Nation that did generally and expressely and for long continuance, either violate or countenance the violation of any precept clearly Natural.
This is that in which the learned Grotius satisfies himself, that Omnes Gentes Moraliores & Illustriores23 [all the more civilized and illustrious nations], gave due obedience and conformity to Natures Law, so that all Testimonies fetcht from them, are to have an high price and esteem put upon them.
But the famous Salmasius in his late Tractate De Coma goes a far different way; and tells us that he had rather search for Natures Law in a naked Indian, then in a spruce Athenian, in a rude American, rather then in a gallant Roman; in a meer Pagan, rather then in a Jew or Christian. His words are these, Quanto magis Barbari, tanto felicius, faciliusque Naturam Ducem sequi putantur: Eam detorquent, aut ab ea magis recedunt politiores gentes24 [the more barbarous nations are, the more happily and easily they are to be thought to follow nature’s guidance; the more cultivated nations distort her or recede from her].
Those Nations that have more of Art and emprovement amongst them, have so painted Natures face, have hung so many Jewels in her eare; have put so many Bracelets upon her hand; they have cloth’d her in such soft and silken rayment, as that you cannot guesse at her so well, as you might have done, if she had nothing but her own simple and neglected beauty: you cannot taste the Wine so well, because they have put Sugar into it, and have brib’d your palate.
So that the learned Salmasius will scarce go about to fetch the Law of Nature from the Jews principally; you see he chooses to fetch it rather from a Scythian, from a Barbarian; there he shall see it without any glosses, without any Super-structures, without any carving and gilding, a Νόμοςγραπτὸς25 [written law] plainly written, without any flourishes & amplifications. Yet the Author, whom I but now commended, (Salmasius I mean) neither could nor would go about to vindicate all those Nations from some Notorious Rebellions against Natures Law, but he would rather choose, (as much as he could) to abstract their Intellectuals from their Practicals, and would look to their opinions and Lawes, rather then to their life and conversation.
Indeed Aristotle tells us, πόλλατω̑νἐθνω̑νπρὸςτὸκτείνεινκαὶἀνθρωποφαγίανεὐχερω̑ςἜχει26 [many nations have a tendency to murder and cannibalism]. That same phrase εὐχερω̑ςἜχει[to have a tendency], does only speak a propensity and inclination in their vile affections to such wickednesses as these were; which sometimes also they acted in a most violent and impetuous manner. Though to be sure they could not be long a Nation if they did thus kill and eat up and devoure one another.
But let us suppose that they dealt thus with their enemies, yet can it be shewn us that they establisht Anthropophagy by a Law? that their Natural Conscience did not check them for it? or if their reason did connive at them; yet how comes it to passe that their Angel did not jog them all this while, that their Intellectus Agens did not restraine them?
But out of what Antiquity doth it appear that any Nation did favour Atheisme by a Law? that any Kingdome did licence Blasphemy by a statute, or countenance Murder by a Law? Out of what Author can they shew us a Nation that ever did allow the breaches of solemne compacts, the dishonouring of Parents, that ever made a Law for this, that there should be no Law or Justice amongst them?
Till all this can appear, let the Testimonies of Gentiles be esteem’d somewhat more then the barking of dogs. Me thinks if they were meere Cyphers, yet the Jews going before them, they might amount to somewhat. Let the prints of Nature in them be accounted sacred: a Pearle in the head of a Heathen, some Jewels hid in the rubbish of Nations, let them be esteem’d precious. Whatsoever remains of Gods image upon them, let it be lov’d and acknowledg’d. Their darknesse and misery is great enough, let not us aggravate it, and make it more. To mix the light of their Candle, with that light which comes shining from the Candle of an Heathen, is no disparagement to Jew nor Christian.