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De Cive

by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter XIV.

Of Lawes and Trespasses

I. They who lesse seriously consider the force of words, doe sometimes confound Law with Counsell, sometimes with Covenant, sometimes with Right. They confound Law with Counsell, who think, that it is the duty of Monarchs not onely to give ear to their Counsellours, but also to obey them, as though it were in vaine to take Counsell, unlesse it were also followed. We must fetch the distinction between Counsell, and Law, from the difference between Counsell, and Command. Now COUNSELL is a precept in which the reason of my obeying it, is taken from the thing it self which is advised; but COMMAND is a precept in which the cause of my obedience depends on the will of the Commander. For it is not properly said, Thus I will, and thus I Command, except the will stand for a Reason. Now when obedience is yielded to the Lawes, not for the thing it self, but by reason of the advisers will, the Law is not a Counsell, but a Command, and is defined thus, LAW is the command of that Person (whether Man, or Court) whose precept containes in it the reason of obedience; as the Precepts of God in regard of Men, of Magistrates in respect of their Subjects, and universally of all the powerfull in respect of them who cannot resist, may be termed their Lawes. Law and Counsell therefore differ many ways; Law belongs to him who hath power over them whom he adviseth, Counsell to them who have no power. To follow what is prescribed by Law, is duty, what by Counsell, is free-will. Counsell is directed to his end that receives it; Law, to his that gives it. Counsell is given to none but the willing; Law even to the unwilling. To conclude, the right of the Counsellour is made void by the will of him to whom he gives Counsell, the right of the Law-giver is not abrogated at the pleasure of him who hath a Law imposed.

II. They confound Law, and Covenant, who conceive the Lawes to be nothing else but certain omologemata or forms of living, determined by the common consent of men: Amongst whom is Aristotle, who defines Law on this manner, Nomos esti logos orismenos kath omologian koinen poleos, minuon pos dei prattein ekasta, that is to say, Law is a speech, limited according to the common consent of the City, declaring every thing that we ought to doe. Which definition is not simply of Law, but of the Civill Law; for it is manifest that the Divine Lawes sprang not from the consent of men, nor yet the Lawes of Nature; for if they had their originall from the consent of men, they might also by the same consent be abrogated; but they are unchangeable. But indeed that's no right definition of a Civill Law; for in that place a City is taken either for one civill person, having one will, or for a multitude of men who have each of them the liberty of their private wills. If for one person, those words, common consent, are ill placed here, for one person hath no common consent; neither ought he to have said, (declaring what was needfull to be done) but commanding; for what the City declares, it commands its Subjects. He therefore by a City understood a multitude of men declaring by common consent (imagine it a writing confirm'd by Votes) some certain formes of living; but these are nothing else but some mutuall contracts which oblige not any man (and therefore are no Lawes) before that a Supreme Power being constituted which can compell, have sufficient remedy against the rest, who otherwise are not likely to keep them. Lawes therefore, according to this definition of Aristotle, are nothing else, but naked, and weak contracts, which then at length, when there is one who by right doth exercise the Supreme Power, shall either become Lawes, or no Lawes, at his will and pleasure: Wherefore he confounds Contracts with Lawes, which he ought not to have done; for Contract is a promise, Law a command. In Contracts we say, I will do this; In Lawes, Doe this. Contracts oblige us, 1 Lawes tie us fast, being obliged. A Contract obligeth of it self, The Law holds the party obliged by vertue of the universall Contract of yeelding obedience; Therefore in Contract its first determined what is to be done, before we are obliged to doe it; But in Law we are first obliged to performe, and what is to be done, is determined afterwards. Aristotle therefore ought to have defined a civill law thus, A civill law is a speech limited by the will of the City, commanding every thing behoofefull to be done, which is the same with that we have given above in the 6. Chap. art. 9. to wit, that the civill lawes are the command of him (whether man, or Court of men) who is endued with supreme Power in the city, concerning the future actions of his Subjects.

III. They confound Lawes with Right, who continue still to doe what is permitted by divine Right, notwithstanding it be forbidden by the civill Law: That which is prohibited by the divine Law, cannot bee permitted by the civill, neither can that which is commanded by the divine Law, be prohibited by the civill. Notwithstanding that which is permitted by the divine Right, that is to say, that which may be done by divine Right, doth no whit hinder why the same may not be forbidden by the civill Lawes; for inferiour Lawes may restrain the liberty allowed by the superiour, although they cannot enlarge them. Now naturall liberty is a Right not constituted, but allowed by the Lawes. For the Lawes being removed, our liberty is absolute; This is first restrained by the naturall, and divine Lawes, the residue is bounded by the civill Law, and what remains may again be restrained by the constitutions of particular Towns, and Societies. There is great difference therefore between Law, and Right; For Law is a fetter, Right is freedome, and they differ like contraries.

IV. All Law may be divided, first according to the diversity of its Authors into Divine and humane. The Divine, according to the two wayes whereby God hath made known his will unto men, is twofold, naturall (or morall) and positive; naturall is that which God hath declared to all men by his eternall word borne with them, to wit, their naturall Reason; and this is that Law which in this whole book I have endeavoured to unfold. Positive is that, which God hath revealed to us by the word of Prophesie, wherein he hath spoken unto men as a man: Such are the Lawes which he gave to the Jewes concerning their government, and divine worship, and they may be termed the Divine civill Lawes, because they were peculiar to the civill government of the Jewes, his peculiar people. Again, the naturall Law may be divided into that of Men, which alone hath obtained the title of the Law of nature, and that of Cities, which may be called that of Nations, but vulgarly it is termed the Right of Nations. The precepts of both are alike, but because Cities once instituted doe put on the personall proprieties of men, that Law, which speaking of the duty of single men, we call naturall, being applyed to whole Cities, and Nations, is called the Right of Nations. And the same Elements of naturall law, and Right, which have hitherto been spoken of, being transferred to whole Cities and Nations, may be taken for the Elements of the lawes, and Right of Nations.

V. All humane law is civill. For the state of men considered out of civill society, is hostile, in which, because one is not subject to another, there are no other Lawes, beside the dictates of naturall reason, which is the divine Law. But in civill government the City onely, that is to say, that man, or Court, to whom the supreme power of the City is committed, is the Legislator, and the Lawes of the City are civill. The civill Lawes may be divided according to the diversity of their subject matter, into sacred, or secular; sacred are those which pertain to Religion, that is to say, to the ceremonies, and worship of God (to wit what Persons, things, places, are to be consecrated, and in what fashion, what opinions concerning the Deity are to be taught publiquely, and with what words, and in what order supplications are to be made, and the like) and are not determined by any divine positive Law. For the civill sacred Lawes are the humane Lawes (which are also called Ecclesiasticall) concerning things sacred; but the secular under a generall notion, are usually called the civill Lawes.

VI. Again, the civill Law (according to the two offices of the Legislator, whereof one is to judge; the other to constrain men to acquiesce to his judgements) hath two parts; the one distributive, the other vindicative, or penall. By the distributive it is, that every man hath his proper Right, that is to say, it sets forth Rules for all things, whereby we may know what is properly ours, what another mans; so as others may not hinder us from the free use and enjoyment of our own; and we may not interrupt others in the quiet possession of theirs; and what is lawfull for every man to doe or omit, and what is not lawfull. Vindicative is that whereby it is defined what punishment shall be inflicted on them who break the Law.

VII. Now distributive, and vindicative, are not two severall Species of the Lawes, but two parts of the same Law. For if the Law should say no more, but (for example) whatsoever you take with your net in the Sea, be it yours, its in vain; For although another should take that away from you which you have caught, it hinders not, but that it still remains yours; for in the state of nature where all things are common to all, yours, and others, are all one, insomuch as what the Law defines to be yours, was yours even before the Law, and after the Law ceases not to bee yours, although in another mans possession. Wherefore the Law doth nothing, unlesse it bee understood to bee so yours, as all other men be forbidden to interrupt your free use, and secure enjoyment of it at all times, according to your own will, and pleasure. For this is that which is required to a propriety of goods, not that a man may be able to use them, but to use them alone, which is done by prohibiting others to be an hinderance to him. But in vain doe they also prohibit any men, who doe not withall strike a fear of punishment into them; in vain therefore is the Law, unlesse it contain both parts, that which forbids injuries to be done, and that which punisheth the doers of them. The first of them which is called distributive, is Prohibitory, and speaks to all; the second which is styled vindicative, or paenary, is mandatory, and onely speaks to publique Ministers.

VIII. From hence also we may understand, that every civill Law hath a penalty annexed to it, either explicitly, or implicitly; For where the penalty is not defined, neither by any writing, nor by example of any one who hath suffered the punishment of the transgressed Law there the penalty is understood to be arbitrary, namely, to depend on the will of the Legislator, that is to say, of the supreme Commander. For in vain is that Law which may be broken without punishment.

IX. Now because it comes from the civill Lawes, both that every man have his proper Right, and distinguisht from anothers, and also that he is forbidden to invade anothers Rights, it followes, that these Precepts (Thou shalt not refuse to give the honour defin'd by the Lawes unto thy Parents: Thou shalt not kill the man whom the Lawes forbid thee to kill: Thou shalt avoid all copulation forbidden by the Laws: Thou shalt not take away anothers goods against the Lords will: Thou shalt not frustrate the Laws and Judgements by false testimony) are Civill Lawes. The naturall Lawes command the same things but implicitly. For the law of nature (as hath been said in the 3. Chap. Art. 2.) commands us to keep contracts, and therefore also to performe obedience when we have covenanted obedience, and to abstaine from anothers goods when it is determin'd by the civill Law what belongs to another. But all Subjects (by the 13. Art. of the 6. Chap.) do covenant to obey his commands who hath the supreme power, that is to say the civill Lawes, in the very constitution of government, even before it is possible to break them. For the Law of nature did oblige in the state of nature, where first (because nature hath given all things to all men) nothing did properly belong to another, and therefore it was not possible to invade anothers right; next, where all things were common, and therefore all carnall copulations lawfull; Thirdly, where was the state of Warre, and therefore lawfull to kill; Fourthly, where all things were determined by every mans own judgement, and therefore paternall respects also: Lastly, where there were no publique judgements, and therefore no use of bearing witnesse, either true, or false.

X. Seeing therefore our obligation to observe those Laws is more ancient than the promulgation of the Laws themselves, as being contained in the very constitution of the City, by the vertue of the naturall Law which forbids breach of Covenant, the Law of nature commands us to keep all the civill Laws; for where we are tyed to obedience, before we know what will be commanded us, there we are universally tyed to obey in all things. Whence it followes, that no civil Law whatsoever, which tends not to a reproach of the Deity (in respect of whom, Cities themselves have no right of their own, and cannot be said to make Lawes) can possibly be against the Law of nature; for though the Law of nature forbid theft, adultery, &c. yet if the civill Law command us to invade any thing, that invasion is not theft, adultery, &c. For when the Lacedemonians of old permitted their youths by a certaine Law, to take away other mens goods, they commanded that these goods should not bee accounted other mens, but their own who took them; and therefore such surreptions were no thefts. In like manner, copulations of heathen Sexes, according to their Lawes, were lawfull marriages.

XI. Its necessary to the essence of a Law, that the Subjects be acquainted with two things, First, what man or Court hath the supreme power, that is to say, the Right of making Lawes. Secondly, what the Law it self sayes; for he that neither knew either to whom or what he is tyed to, cannot obey, and by consequence is in such a condition, as if he were not tyed at all. I say not that it is necessary to the essence of a Law, that either one, or the other be perpetually known, but onely that it be once knowne; and if the Subject afterward forget either the Right he hath who made the Law, or the Law it self, that makes him no lesse tyed to obey, since he might have remembred it, had he had a will to obey.

XII. The knowledge of the Legislator depends on the Subject himselfe; for the right of making Lawes could not be conferr'd on any man without his owne consent, and covenant, either exprest, or suppos'd; exprest, when from the beginning the Citizens doe themselves constitute a forme of governing the City, or when by promise they submit themselves to the Dominion of any one; or suppos'd at least, as when they make use of the benefit of the Realme, and Lawes, for their protection and conservation against others. For to whose Dominion we require our fellow Subjects to yeeld obedience for our good, his Dominion we acknowledge to be legitimate by that very request. And therefore ignorance of the power of making Lawes, can never be a sufficient excuse; for every man knowes what he hath done himselfe.

XIII. The knowledge of the lawes depends on the Legislator, who must publish them, for otherwise they are not Lawes; for Law is the command of the Law-maker, and his command is the Declaration of his Will; it is not therefore a Law, except the will of the Law-maker be declar'd, which is done by promulgation. Now in promulgation two things must be manifest, whereof one is, that he or they who publish a Law, either have a right themselves to make Lawes, or that they doe it by authority deriv'd from him or them who have it; the other is the sense of the Law it selfe. Now, that the first, namely publisht Lawes proceed from him who hath the supreme command, cannot be manifest (speaking exactly and philosophically) to any, but them who have received them from the mouth of the Commander; the rest beleeve, but the reasons of their beliefe are so many, that it is scarce possible they should not believe. And truly in a Democratical City where every one may be present at the making of Laws if he will, he that shall be absent, must beleeve those that were present; but in monarchies and Aristocraties, because its granted but to few to be present, and openly to heare the commands of the monarch or the Nobles, it was necessary to bestow a power on those few of publishing them to the rest. And thus we beleeve those to be the Edicts and Decrees of Princes, which are propounded to us for such, either by the writings, or voices of them, whose office it is to publish them. But yet when we have these causes of beliefe, that we have seen the Prince, or supreme Councell constantly use such Counsellors, Secretaries, Publishers, and Seales, and the like arguments for the declaring of his will; that he never took any authority from them; that they have bin punisht who not giving credit to such like promulgations have transgrest the Law; not onely he who thus believing shall not obey the Edicts and Decrees set forth by them is every where accus'd, but he that not believing, shall not yield obedience, is punisht. For the constant permission of these things is a manifest signe enough, and evident declaration of the Commanders will; provided there be nothing contain'd in the Law, Edict or Decree, derogatory from his supreme power: For it is not to be imagin'd that he would have ought taken from his power by any of his Officers as long as he retaines a will to governe. Now the sense of the law, when there is any doubt made of it, is to be taken from them to whom the supreme authority hath committed the knowledge of causes, or Judgements; for to judge is nothing else than by interpretation to apply the lawes to particular cases. Now we may know who they are that have this Office granted them, in the same manner, as we know who they be that have authority given them to publish Laws.

XIV. Againe the civill law according to its two fold manner of publishing, is of two sorts, written & unwritten; By written, I understand that which wants a voice, or some other signe of the will of the Legislator that it may become a Law. For all kind of Laws are of the same age with mankinde, both in nature, and time, and therefore of more antiquity than the invention of letters, and the Art of writing. Wherefore not a writing, but a voice is necessary for a written law; this alone is requisite to the being, that to the Remembrance of a Law; for we reade, that before letters were found out for the help of memory, that Lawes contracted into Meetre, were wont to be sung. The unwritten is that which wants no other publishing than the voice of nature, or naturall reason; such are the lawes of nature. For the naturall Law although it be distinguisht from the civill, for as much as it commands the Will, yet so farre forth as it relates to our actions it is civill; for example, this same, Thou shalt not covet, which onely appertaines to the minde, is a naturall Law, onely; but this, Thou shalt not invade, is both naturall and civill. For seeing it is impossible to prescribe such universall Rules, whereby all future contentions which perhaps are infinite, may be determined, its to be understood that in all cases not mentioned by the written lawes, the law of naturall equity is to be followed, which commands us to distribute equally to equals; and this by the vertue of the civill law, which also punisheth those who knowingly and willingly doe actually transgresse the lawes of nature.

XV. These things being understood, it appeares first, That the Lawes of Nature, although they were describ'd in the Books of some Philosophers, are not for that reason to be termed Written lawes: and that the Writings of the Interpreters of the Lawes, were no Lawes, for want of the Supreme Authority; nor yet those orations of the Wise, (that is to say) Judges, but so farre forth as by the consent of the Supreme power they part into custome; and that then they are to be received among the Written lawes, not for the Customes sake (which by its own force doth not constitute a Law) but for the Will of the Supreme Commander, which appeares in this, that he hath suffer'd his Sentence, whether equall, or unequall, to passe into custome.

XVI. Sinne, in its largest signification, comprehends every deed, word and thought, against right reason. For every man by reasoning seeks out the meanes to the end which he propounds to himselfe. If therefore he reason right (that is to say, beginning from most evident principles, he makes a discourse out of consequences continually necessary,) he will proceede in a most direct way; otherwise hee'l goe astray, that is to say, he will either doe, say, or endeavour, somewhat against his proper end: which when he hath done, he will indeed in reasoning be said to have erred, but in action and will to have sinned; for sin followes errour, just as the Will doth the understanding: And this is the most generall acception of the word, under which is contain'd every imprudent action, whether against the Law, as to overthrow another mans house, or not against the Law, as to build his owne upon the Sand.

XVII. But when we speak of the Lawes, the word Sinne is taken in a more strict sense, and signifies not every thing done against right reason, but that onely which is blameable, and therefore is call'd malum culpae, the evill of fault; but yet if any thing be culpable it is not presently to be term'd a sinne, or fault, but onely if it be blameable with reason. We must therefore enquire what is to be blameable with reason, what against reason. Such is the nature of man, that every one calls that good which he desires, and evill which he eschewes; and therefore through the diversity of our affections, it happens that one counts that good, which another counts evill; and the same man what now he esteem'd for good, he immediately looks on as evill; and the same thing which he calls good in himselfe, he tearmes evill in another. For we all measure good and evill by the pleasure or paine we either feele at present, or expect hereafter. Now seeing the prosperous actions of enemies (because they increase their honours, goods, and power) and of equalls, (by reason of that strife of honours which is among them) both seeme and are irkesome, and therefore evill to all; and men use to repute those evill, that is to say, to lay some fault to their charge from whom they receive evill; its impossible to be determined by the consent of single men whom the same things doe not please and displease, what actions are, and what not to be blam'd. They may agree indeed in some certaine generall things, as that theft, adultery, and the like are sinnes, as if they should say that all men account those things evill to which they have given names which are usually taken in an evill sense; but we demand not whether theft be a Sinne, but what is to be term'd theft, and so concerning other in like manner. For as much therefore as in so great a diversity of censurers, what is by reason blameable, is not to bee measur'd by the reason of one man more than another, because of the equality of humane nature, and there are no other reasons in being, but onely those of particular men, and that of the City, it followes, that the City is to determine what with reason is culpable: So as a fault, that is to say, a SINNE, is that, which a man do's, omits, sayes, or wills, against the reason of the City, that is, contrary to the Lawes.

XVIII. But a man may doe somewhat against the Lawes through humane infirmity, although he desire to fulfill them, and yet his action as being against the Lawes, is rightly blam'd, and call'd a Sinne. But there are some, who neglect the Lawes, and as oft as any hope of gain and impunity doth appear to them, no conscience of contracts and betrothed faith can withhold them from their violation. Not only the deeds, but even the mindes of these men are against the Lawes. They who sinne onely through infirmity, are good men even when they sinne; but these even when they doe not sin, are wicked. For though both the action, and the mind be repugnant to the Lawes, yet those repugnancies are distinguisht by different appellations, for the irregularity of the action is called adikema, unjust deed; that of the mind adikia, and kakia, injustice, and malice; that is, the infirmity of a disturbed soule, this the pravity of a sober mind.

XIX. But seeing there is no sin which is not against some Law, and that there is no Law which is not the command of him who hath the supreme power, and that no man hath a supreme power which is not bestowed on him by our own consent; in what manner will he be said to sinne, who either denies that there is a God, or that he governs the world, or casts any other reproach upon him? For he will say, that he never submitted his will to Gods will, not conceiving him so much as to have any being. And granting that his opinion were erroneous, and therefore also a sin, yet were it to be numbred among those of imprudence or ignorance, which by right cannot be punished. This speech seems so farre forth to be admitted, that though this kind of sin be the greatest and most hurtful, yet is it to be refer'd to sins of imprudence; 2 but that it should be excused by imprudence or ignorance, is absurd. For the Atheist is punisht either immediately by God himselfe, or by Kings constituted under God; not as a Subject is punished by a King, because he keeps not the Lawes, but as one enemy by another, because he would not accept of the Lawes; that is to say, by the Right of warre, as the Giants warring against God: For whosoever are not subject either to some common Lord, or one to another, are enemies among themselves.

XX. Seeing that from the vertue of the Covenant whereby each Subject is tyed to the other to perform absolute and universall obedience (such as is defined above Chap. 6. art. 13.) to the City, that is to say, to the Soveraign power, whether that be one man or Councel, there is an obligation derived to observe each one of the civill Lawes, so that that Covenant contains in it self all the Laws at once; it is manifest that the subject who shall renounce the generall Covenant of obedience, doth at once renounce all the Lawes. Which trespasse is so much worse than any other one sinne, by how much to sinne alwayes, is worse than to sinne once. And this is that sin which is called TREASON; and it is a word or deed whereby the Citizen, or Subject, declares that he will no longer obey that man or Court to whom the supreme power of the City is entrusted. And the Subject declares this same will of his by deed, when he either doth, or endeavours to do violence to the Soveraigns Person, or to them who execute his commands; of which sort are Traytors, Regicides, and such as take up armes against the City, or during a warre, flye to the enemies side. And they shew the same will in word, who flatly deny that themselves or other subjects are tyed to any such kind of obedience, either in the whole, as he who should say that wee must not obey him (keeping the obedience which we owe to God intire) simply, absolutely, and universally; or in part, as he who should say, that he had no Right to wage warre at his own will, to make Peace, list souldiers, levie monies, electing Magistrates, and publique Ministers, enacting Lawes, deciding controversies, setting penalties, or doing ought else, without which the State cannot stand. And these and the like words and deeds are Treason by the naturall, not the civill Law. But it may so happen, that some action which before the civill Law was made, was not Treason, yet will become such, if it be done afterwards. As if it be declared by the Law, that it shall be accounted for a sign of renouncing publique obedience (that is to say for Treason) if any man shall coyn monies, or forge the Privie Seale, he that after that Declaration shall doe this, will be no lesse guilty of Treason than the other. Yet he sinnes lesse, because he breakes not all the Laws at once, but one Law only; for the Law by calling that Treason which by nature is not so, doth indeed by Right set a more odious name, and perhaps a more grievous punishment on the guilty persons, but it makes not the sinne it selfe more grievous.

XXI. But that sinne which by the Law of nature is Treason, is a Transgression of the naturall, not the civill Law. For since our obligation to civill obedience, by vertue whereof the civill Lawes are valid, is before all civill Law, and the sin of Treason is naturally nothing else but the breach of that obligation; it followes that by the sin of Treason, that Law is broken which preceded the civill Law, to wit, the naturall, which forbids us to violate Covenants, and betrothed faith. But if some Soveraign Prince should set forth a Law on this manner, Thou shalt not rebell, he would effect just nothing: For except Subjects were before obliged to obedience, that is to say, not to rebell, all Law is of no force; now the obligation which obligeth to what we were before obliged to, is superfluous.

XXII. Hence it followes, that Rebels, Traytors, and all others convicted of Treason, are punisht not by civill, but naturall Right; that is to say, not as civill Subjects, but as Enemies to the Government, not by the Right of Soveraignty, and Dominion, but by the Right of Warre.

XXIII. There are some who think that those acts which are done against the Law, when the punishment is determined by the Law it selfe, are expiated, if the punished willingly undergoe the punishment; and that they are not guilty before God of breaking the naturall Law (although by breaking the civill Lawes, we break the naturall too, which command us to keep the civill) who have suffered the punishment which the Law required; as if by the Law, the fact were not prohibited, but a punishment were set instead of a price, whereby a licence might be bought of doing what the Law forbids. By the same reason they might inferre too, that no transgression of the Law were a sin, but that every man might enjoy the liberty which he hath bought by his own perill. But we must know that the words of the Law may be understood in a twofold sense, the one as containing two parts (as hath been declared above in the seventh Art.) namely that of absolutely prohibiting, as, Thou shalt not doe this; and revenging, as, he that doth this, shall be punisht; The other, as containing a condition, for example, Thou shalt not doe this thing, unlesse thou wilt suffer punishment; and thus, the Law forbids not simply, but conditionally. If it be understood in the first sense, he that doth it, sins, because he doth what the Law forbids to be done; if in the second, he sins not, because he cannot be said to doe what is forbidden him, that performs the condition; For in the first sense, all men are forbidden to doe it; in the second, they only who keep themselves from the punishment. In the first sense, the vindicative part of the Law obligeth not the guilty, but the Magistrate to require punishment; in the second, he himselfe that owes the punishment is obliged to exact it, to the payment whereof, if it be capitall, or otherwise grievous, he cannot be obliged. But in what sense the Law is to be taken, depends on the will of him who hath the Soveraignty. When there is therefore any doubt of the meaning of the Law, since we are sure they sinne not who doe it not, it will be sin if we doe it, howsoever the Law may afterward be explained; for so to doe that which a man doubts whether it be a sin or not, when he hath freedome to forbear it, is a contempt of the Lawes, and therefore by the 28. Art. of the third Chapter, a sin against the Law of nature. Vain therefore is that same distinction of obedience into Active and Passive, as if that could be expiated by penalties constituted by humane decrees, which is a sinne against the Law of nature, which is the Law of God; or as though they sinned not, who sinne at their own perill.


1. Contracts oblige us. To be obliged, and to be tyed being obliged, seems to some men to be one, and the same thing, and that therefore here seems to be some distinction in words, but none indeed. More cleerly therefore, I say thus, That a man is obliged by his contracts, that is, that he ought to performe for his promise sake; but that the Law tyes him being obliged, that is to say, it compells him to make good his promise, for fear of the punishment appointed by the Law.

2. Yet is it to be referred to sins of imprudence. Many find fault that I have referr'd Atheisme to imprudence, and not to injustice; yea by some it is taken so, as if I had not declared my selfe an enemy bitter enough against Atheists: They object farther, that since I had elsewhere said that it might be knowne there is a God, by naturall reason, I ought to have acknowledged that they sin at least against the Law of nature, and therefore are not only guilty of imprudence, but injustice too. But I am so much an enemy to Atheists, that I have both diligently sought for, and vehemently desired to find some Law whereby I might condemne them of injustice; but when I found none, I enquired next what name God himselfe did give to men so detested by him. Now God speaks thus of the Atheist: The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. Wherefore I placed their sinne in that rank which God himselfe referres to; next, I shew them to be enemies of God. But I conceive the name of an enemy to be sometimes somewhat sharper, than that of an unjust man. Lastly, I affirme that they may under that notion be justly punisht both by God, and supreme Magistrates, and therefore by no meanes excuse or extenuate this sinne. Now that I have said that it might be known by naturall reason that there is a God, is so to be understood, not as if I had meant that all men might know this, except they think that because Archimedes by naturall reason found out what proportion the circle hath to the square, it followes thence, that every one of the vulgar could have found out as much. I say therefore, that although it may be knowne to some by the light of reason that there is a God, yet men that are continually engaged in pleasures, or seeking of riches and honour, also men that are not wont to reason aright, or cannot do it, or care not to doe it, lastly, fools, in which number are Atheists, cannot know this.


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