“The Fountain of Law” American Sentinel 11, 15, pp. 116, 117.

“THERE is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” 630 That which is in the truest sense entitled to be termed law, can from its very nature have but one Author.

The idea that law, as a rule of just conduct for individuals, can be manufactured by legislatures, is altogether erroneous. Neither law nor rights can be manufactured by any human power. The Declaration of Independence asserts that it is a self-evident truth that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” This being true, as it certainly is, it follows that the law of those rights must lie equally without the sphere of human enactments. The law must be co-existent with the rights. The author of the one must of necessity have been the author of the other.

But, as the immortal Declaration asserts, governments are instituted among men to preserve these rights. They are instituted to see that the law of these rights is enforced, or is observed by individuals. That is the civil law,—the law of civility, or respect for human rights. Of course, it must devolve upon sovereign power in a community or State to define the law for the common guidance of all; but obviously, this is not creating law. It is but discovering that which was already in existence.

“Our human laws,” says Froude, 631 “are but the copies, more or less imperfect, of the eternal laws so far as we can read them; and either succeed and promote our welfare, or fail and bring confusion and disaster, according as the legislator’s insight has detected the true principles, or has been distorted by ignorance or selfishness.”

Law is a science; and of the principles of science man is the discoverer, not the maker. The laws of logic, or of mathematics, are [117] discovered and laid down in text-books for our guidance; but no man manufactured them. And so with respect to civil law.

An unjust “law” is therefore no more binding upon any person than is an incorrect “rule” of logic. No person can be rightfully bound by injustice; nor can any person under any circumstances throw off the claims of justice. This is not saying that private opinion is superior to legislative enactments, and that an individual may disregard such enactments on no higher authority than his own. The standard of justice is set up among men by the Author of human rights, and to that standard, more or less clearly visible to every mind, he may appeal. It has to this natural sense of justice implanted in man by the Creator, that our forefathers appealed when they sent forth to the world the Declaration of Independence. It was to this standard that Abraham Lincoln and his co-workers appealed when they publicly dissented from the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Cout.

But in the case of Sunday “laws,” we may appeal not only to the natural sense of justice which men possess, but to the most explicit declaration of God’s word. That word commands us to sanctify—set apart—the seventh day. We cannot make the seventh day distinct from other days, and at the same time make the first day also distinct in the same way; the one distinction breaks down the other. We are bound by the law of God, and there can be no real law, civil or otherwise, which conflicts with that. The sphere of the law of natural rights—the civil law—is altogether separate from the sphere of our obligations to God, and from the law by which those obligations are defined.

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