The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

Of the Law Eternal

LIKE as there is in every artificer a reason of such like things as are to be made by his craft: so likewise it behoveth that in every governor there be reason and a foresight in the governing of such things as shall be ordered and done by him to them that he hath the governance of. And forasmuch as Almighty God is the creator and maker of all creatures, to which he is compared as a workman to his works, and is also the governor of all deeds and movings that be found in any creature: therefore as the reason of the wisdom of God (inasmuch as creatures be created by him) is the reason and foresight of all crafts and works that have been or shall be; so the reason of the wisdom of God, moving all things by wisdom made to a good end, obtaineth the name and reason of a law, and that is called the law eternal.

And this law eternal is called the first law: and it is well called the first, for it was before all other laws, and all other laws be derived of it. Whereupon St. Augustine saith, in his first book of free arbitrement, that in temporal laws nothing is righteous ne lawful, but that the people have derived to them out of the law eternal. Wherefore every man hath right and title to have that he hath righteously, and of right wise judgment of the first reason, which is the law eternal.

Stud. But how may this law eternal be known? For, as the apostle writeth in the second chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, quae sunt Dei nemo scit, nisi Spiritus Dei; that is to say, no man knoweth what is in God but the Spirit of God; wherefore it seemeth that he openeth his mouth against heaven, that attempteth to know it.

Doct. This law eternal no man may know, as it is in itself, but only blessed souls that see God face to face. But Almighty God of his goodness sheweth of it as much to his creatures as is necessary for them, for else God should bind his creatures to a thing impossible; which may in no wise be thought in him. Therefore it is to be understood that three manner of ways Almighty God maketh this law eternal known to his creatures reasonable. First, by the light of natural reason; secondly, by heavenly revelation thirdly, by the order of a prince, or any other secondary governor that hath power to bind his subjects to a law.

And when the law eternal or the will of God is known to his creatures reasonable by the light of natural under-standing, or by the light of natural reason, that is called the law of reason: and when it is shewed by heavenly revelation in such manner as hereafter shall appear, then it is called the law of God: and when it is shewed unto him by the order of a prince, or of any other secondary governor that hath a power to set a law upon his subjects, then it is called the law of man, though originally it be made of God. For laws made by man that hath received thereto power of God, be made by God. Therefore the said three laws, that is to say the law of reason, the law of God, and the law of man, the which hath several names after the manner as they be shewed to man, be called in God one law eternal.

And this is, the law of which it is written proverbiorum octavo, where it is said, per me reges regnant and legume conditores justa discernunt; that is to say, by me kings reign, and makers of law discern the truth. And this sufficeth for this time for the law eternal.