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William Blackstone
Commentaries on the Laws of England

See Comment below by E. Fox

From the back cover of Volume I:

Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-69) stands as the first great effort to reduce the English common law to a unified and rational system.  Blackstone demonstrated that the English law as a system of justice was comparable to Roman law and the civil law of the Continent.  Clearly and elegantly written, the work achieved immediate renown and exerted a powerful influence on legal education in England and in America which was to last into the late nineteenth century.  The book is regarded not only as a legal classic, but as a literary masterpiece. 

Blackstone had a powerful influence in American law, notably on the thinking of Supreme Court justice Joseph Story, who, though over shadowed by Chief Justice John Marshall, was the greater thinker of the two. 

[Comment] It should be said also that Blackstone was widely read, and had a profound influence on the American founding fathers at the time of the Revolution, long before Joseph Story.   It is tragic that Story and others did not develop the Biblical foundations begun in Blackstone's work, so that it would be clear that our American form of government was given to us by God, not to exalt America, but to keep America a servant of God, and to be a shining light on a hill for every other country in the world likewise to become servants of God. 

When the Chinese students were demonstrating in Tienenman Square in Beijing in the late 1980's, some of them were waving our own American Declaration of Independence.  These Chinese students and others were discovering something of which America has lost sight -- that our freedoms come from God, or they do not come with stability at all.  What government gives, it can, and will, take away.  Only rights and freedoms given by God are inalienable by any government at all. 

The following quotes come from Volume I - "Section the second - Of the Nature of Laws in General".  [More comments below.]

Law, in it's most general and comprehensive sense, signifies a rule of action; and is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action....   And it is that rule of action, which is prescribed by some superior, and which the inferior is bound to obey. 

Thus when the supreme being formed the universe, and created matter out of nothing, he impressed certain principles upon that matter, from which it can never depart, and without which it would cease to be.... 

If we farther advance, from mere inactive matter to vegetable and animal life we shall find them still governed by laws; more numerous indeed, but equally fixed and invariable.... 

This then is the general signification of law, a rule of action dictated by some superior being; and in those creatures that have neither the power to think, nor to will, such laws must be invariably obeyed, so long as the creature itself subsists, for it's existence depends on that obedience.  But laws, in their more confined sense, and in which it is our present business to consider them, denote the rules, not of action in general, but of human action or conduct:  that is, the precepts by which man, the noblest of all sublunary beings, a creature endowed with both reason and freewill, is commanded to make use of those faculties in the general regulation of his behavior. 

Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being.  A being, independent of any other, has no rule to pursue, but such as he prescribes to himself;  but a state of dependence will inevitably oblige the inferior to take the will of him, on whom he depends, as the rule of his conduct:  not indeed in every particular, but in all those points wherein his dependence consists....  And consequently as man depends absolutely upon his maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker's will. 

This will of his maker is called the law of nature.  For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws. 

Considering the creator only as a being of infinite power, he was able unquestionably to have prescribed whatever laws he pleased to his creature, man, however unjust or severe.  But as he is also a being of infinite wisdom, he has laid down only such laws as were founded in those relations of justice, that existed in the nature of things antecedent to any positive precept.  These are eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions.  Such, among others, are these principles: that we should live honestly, should hurt nobody and should render to every one it's due; to which three general precepts Justinian has reduced the whole doctrine of law.... 

....

This law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other.  It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times:  no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original. 

Further Comment

Obedience to the law of God was a standard understanding of Americans until the mid 1800's when "positivist law" began to take over, denying the reality of God. 

 Charles Finney, evangelist, died AUGUST 16, 1875.  An attorney, he saw so many Scripture references in Blackstone's Law Commentaries that he bought a Bible and came to faith.  

The Biblical worldview tells us that the creator of all things owns them.  That worldview is the cosmological/moral foundation upon which almost all Western law was built as Christendom emerged.  Thus, the same authorship that we honor with limited patent and copyright laws regarding objects we invent or compose, the creator of heaven and earth has as an eternal patent/copyright, not a limited one, on all things whatsoever.  Because He created them, as a logical fact, God, and God alone, is able to define the reason for existence of all things.  That is the message of the Preamble to the Declaration.  These are not obscure or unAmerican teachings, they are the mainstream foundation of America and of our political freedom. 

See Law & Grace in Imago Dei (especially Part I, "Defining 'Oughtness' & 'Love'") which explains the sense in which God is "superior" --  creating the notion of "authority" by which He governs His creation.  God is not superior because He is bigger and stronger than us (which is, of course, true).  That would create only bigger and better power struggle.  He is superior because He is the creator and thus can define our purpose for existence.  As a logical fact, no one else can do that.  And that alone satisfies the need (in the explanation of morality) for both freewill and the objectivity of a moral standard.

Law is the expression of our reason for existence, summed up in the two Great Commandments, to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor just like we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37).   We exist to love and enjoy God and one another for eternity.  Those are the moral principles by which all nations, all governments, are to conduct themselves.  No exceptions.  Why?  Because God owns them all.

This was the common assumption of all of the founding fathers of America.  As Jefferson said on the subject of slavery (and as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, our alleged deists, would have stoutly agreed), "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"  Our liberties are a gift from God, an opinion Jefferson assigns not only to himself but to the people.   

America was founded legally on these assumptions, not on secular law, not on the hope of building a secular America.  The constitutional history of America continued on in that vein (though steadily waning because Christians lost their verve...) up into the 1940's when the first cracks began to openly appear, leading to the ax falling on religion, Biblical religion in particular, with the 1962 Engel vs. Vitale Supreme Court decision, for the first time in our history, outlawing prayer in government-run schools. 

See David Barton's book, Original Intent, or his video, America's Godly Heritage (at www.wallbuilders.com ), for the astonishing details of that bit of treason by the highest court in the land, with the bland compliance of we the people.  The Court betrayed their oath to support and defend the Constitution, effectively gutting our Constitution of its legal power, and took over the God-role for itself.  Without a shot being fired -- because Christians had so badly compromised their own intellectual, moral, and spiritual integrity.  They (we) could no longer stand up in public and proclaim that "Jesus is Lord..." 

So we have fallen prey to the wrong half of the choice which confronts the whole human race:  Either we acknowledge that "Jesus is Lord...", or we by default live by "civil government is lord...."   Only as we change our choice to proclaim, truthfully and gracefully, "Jesus as Lord", will we again reclaim our status as a free people with a message of not only personal salvation and freedom, but corporate and political freedom as well.  Helping to make a return to that intellectual, moral, and spiritual credibility and integrity is the task of the Road to Emmaus. 

Get on board.... 

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