CHAPTER 13, LAW: THE ROAD-MAP OF HAPPINESS
LAW IS A ROAD-MAP to happiness. It maps out the direction human acts must take if they are to reach their proper goal. But maps are the products or minds. They are a work of intelligence, a work of reason. Before a map can exist there must be a mind capable of recognizing destinations and the road or roads that lead to them. So it is with the map of human life. There must be a mind capable of recognizing the true goals of human life and the roads that lead to those goals. Law then is always a command or a direction of reason ordering a human act to its proper goal.
THE GOAL OF ALL HUMAN ACTS is happiness. In this life the happiness of the individual man consists in the pursuit of truth and goodness. In the next life individual happiness consists principally in the vision of God, Who is all Truth and all Goodness. But man as we know him does not work for happiness simply as an individual. Man is a social being. He seeks his happiness in and through society. Man works with and through his fellow-men to achieve the goals of human life. It is the function of society---or the union of men working together to achieve happiness---to provide the conditions of life in which men can work successfully to attain true happiness. Society is concerned with the common good of all the members of society. Society---whether it be the family, the nation, or the state---provides the means of life to all, the employment, the food and shelter, the education, the laws and government which make social life and endeavor possible. We might say briefly that society provides the peace and the harmony which enable men to work together to attain the common good of all men. Since the happiness of the individual is possible, in practice, only through the pursuit of the common good of the whole community, law will be concerned always with the common good of all the members of the community.
IT FOLLOWS THEREFORE that the making of laws is a right of the members of the community. They may entrust this right to a king or to an elected legislature. But in that case the rulers or government are only exercising the right which society or the community has given them.
AGAIN, A LAW IS A DIRECTION for human activity. As such it is useless unless it is obeyed. But men must know it, if they are to obey it. Lawmakers must make the laws known to those who are to obey the law. To make a law known to those who must keep it is to promulgate the law. Promulgation is not a part of the essence of a law, but is a necessary condition for the effectiveness of a law.
WE CAN DEFINE A LAW then as a rule or direction of reason for the common good made by the one who has charge of the community, and promulgated to the subjects of the law.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS of law directing human activity to the goal of happiness. There is the Eternal Law in the Mind of God, the Natural Law of reason, Divine Positive Law, and Human Positive Law.
AS WE HAVE ALREADY SEEN, the whole world is ruled by the Providence of God. It is God Who has made every creature and shaped it to the purpose for which He created it. It is the Divine Mind which directs all the activities and movements of all creatures to the purpose for which God made the world. But this direction of all things is eternal in the mind of God. In God then there is an Eternal Law directing the affairs of the whole world.
EVERYTHING THAT TAKES PLACE in the world is subject to this Eternal Law. The movements of electrons and protons in the atom, the majestic courses of stars in space, the growth of plants, the behavior of animals, the actions of men, all these come under the Eternal Law in the Mind of God. It is clear that only God Himself, Who is infinitely knowing, comprehends this Eternal Law perfectly. The Saints in Heaven, who are already in possession of the vision of God, can see this Eternal Law directly, although not perfectly. But here on earth we can only observe the effects of this Law. We cannot see it directly.
BUT SINCE it is the Divine Mind which has determined the goals of all creatures and the roads to these goals, it follows that all other laws will be based on the Eternal Law in the Mind of God.
THE NATURAL LAW OF REASON is man's participation in the Eternal Law of God. It is the Eternal Law of God which imprints in creatures their inclinations to their proper goals. But man is a rational creature. His reason can recognize his own proper goal and the road that leads to it. Through his reason then man shares in the Mind of God. Man's share in the Eternal Law of God is called the Natural Law of reason.
THE NATURAL LAW IS BASED on man's recognition of the fact that the natural inclination of every creature is an inclination to good. Recognizing this, human reason sees the first precept of law, that good is to be done and evil to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based on this first precept of the Natural Law. All other laws are intended to achieve the goal of this first law---the attainment of good and t the avoidance of evil.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, as they are called, are secondary or derived principles of the Natural Law. They are basic principles regulating human behaviour in relation to God and to men.
BECAUSE HUMAN NATURE is the same in all men, the basic principles of the natural law are the same for all men. But law deals with the details of human action. Hence the general principles of the natural law must be applied to particular actions. In the majority of cases they may be applied exactly. But in particular cases the concrete conditions of human action may change the application of the law. Ordinarily, property should be given or restored to its rightful owner. But it would be foolish to restore a gun to a man who intended to kill you with it.
THE NATURAL LAW IS FOUND in all men. All men recognize the force of the first precept of Natural Law---do good and avoid evil. Some of the secondary precepts of the Natural Law may not be recognized by all men. Ignorance or passion may prevent men from applying the law in particular actions. But the basic precepts of the Natural Law are recognized by all.
THE LIFE OF MEN IN SOCIETY is a complicated process. The almost infinite number of human actions, the bewildering conflict of human desires and ambitions, the various tasks necessary to attain the common good of all, in a word, the complexity of social life demands a law to regulate the actions of men and direct them to the common good of society as a whole. The laws which men make to direct the conduct of the members of human society constitute human positive law.
HUMAN POSITIVE LAW is derived from the Natural Law. The precept "Thou shalt not steal" is a general principle for human behaviour. But the concrete conditions in which property is acquired, retained, or transferred are so complex that men must make more particular determinations of law to regulate, for example, the making of contracts, the payment of debts, the arrangements of bankruptcy proceedings and so forth. Human positive law is a particular determination of the Natural Law to regulate the concrete conditions of human acts in society.
IT IS THEREFORE A MEANS to achieve the goal of Natural Law, which is the attainment of true happiness. It must foster religion, which unites man to God. It must establish peace and discipline in society. It must provide for the common welfare of society.
SINCE HUMAN POSITIVE LAW has for its own proper goal the common welfare of the members of society, human laws should be made for the benefit of all, and not just for the benefit of private individuals. As a consequence, whereas Natural Law forbids all vices and sins, human positive law will forbid only those vices which disturb the common good of society. Similarly human law will command only those virtues which work for the common good of all.
WHEN HUMAN LAWS ARE JUST, they bind men in conscience. A human law is just if it fulfills the following conditions: it is directed to the common good, it does not exceed the power of the lawmaker, and the burdens that it imposes on the citizens are distributed with proportionate equality.
SINCE THE PURPOSE OF ALL LAW is the direction of human actions to their proper goals. it is clear that law may be subject to change. It is important though to know what laws are subject to change. The basic precepts of the Natural Law are based on man's recognition of the essential purpose of human life, namely, the pursuit of good or happiness. These basic principles of law can never be changed. They are as unchangeable as human nature itself. The Eternal Law in the Mind of God is eternal and unchangeable. But positive law, whether human or Divine, can be subject to change. Such changes may take place when the old law no longer provides for the common good of all or when an old law might prove to be injurious to society. The laws, for example, regulating automobile traffic should be changed according to traffic conditions, the capabilities of automobiles and their drivers, and so forth. In short, the Eternal Law of God and the primary principles of the Natural Law can never be changed because they are based on the unchangeable natures of man and God. But the positive laws that are concerned with the changing conditions of human life can be changed to meet the actual conditions of life.
SINCE ALL OF MAN'S NATURAL ACTIONS are directed either by Natural Law or human positive law, it might seem that these laws would provide man with sufficient guidance in all human activity. But God has called man to a goal which is beyond the power of purely natural activity. Man is called to enjoy the vision of God. It was necessary for God to reveal to man the law which would direct human activity to this supernatural goal. This revealed law is the Divine positive law.
GOD REVEALED THIS LAW to man gradually. He gave it to men in two stages. Through Moses God gave what is called the "Old Law" to the Jews. Lastly, through Christ, He gave to all men the "New Law" or the "Law of the Gospel."
GOD GAVE THE OLD LAW to the Jews to prepare the world for the coming of Christ, the Redeemer of mankind. The Old Law then was a preparatory law. It was not intended to be permanent in .all its prescriptions. It was meant to be fulfilled by the New Law which Christ would bring to men.
THE OLD LAW CONTAINED moral, ceremonial" and judicial precepts. The moral precepts of the Old Law were chiefly the Ten Commandments of God. These ten commandments are really the secondary precepts of the Natural Law. But God gave them to men by way of revelation to make sure that men would not forget them or remain in ignorance of them. As precepts of the Natural Law as well as of Divine positive law they are binding on all men in all times.
THE CEREMONIAL PRECEPTS of the Old Law were intended to regulate the actions of men in the worship of God. Because man is not just a spirit, but also a bodily or corporeal being, and because man is a social being, he must worship God in and by external. actions. His external actions must express suitably his internal acts of Divine worship. The ceremonial precepts provided for suitable acts of Divine worship.
THE JUDICIAL PRECEPTS of the Old Law were particular determinations of the general precepts of the justice to be observed by men in their dealings with one another. The judicial precepts thus included directions to be observed in the relations between the rulers and the citizens of the Jewish nation, in the relations between the members of the Jewish nation, in the relations between Jews and those who were not Jews, and lastly, in the relations between the members of the same household.
THE OLD LAW THEN, like all law, directed the actions of men in relation to God, themselves and their fellow-men. But, most importantly, the Old Law was, in God's plan, a preparation for the coming of Christ, the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world. Its moral precepts were to last forever, because they were dictates of the Natural Law. But its ceremonial and judicial precepts were only a preparation for the New Law to be given men by Christ, God incarnate among men.
THE NEW LAW GIVEN THE WORLD by Christ is God's final law for all men. It is the road-map to the vision of God. It is then the perfect law, for it will bring men to their true goal, happiness. The efficiency of the New Law in leading men to the vision of God is derived from the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given men through faith in Christ. It is this supernatural gift of grace which puts man on the road to the blessed vision of God. What this grace is and how it is to be attained will be considered later. Now it is sufficient to note that the grace of the Holy Spirit enables man to reach God through human activity. It is true that the New Law of Christ contains precepts just as all law does. It reaffirms the moral precepts of the Old Law and of the Natural Law. It imposes the precepts relating to Divine worship through the seven Sacraments. But all these precepts derive their efficiency in leading men to God from the grace of the Holy Spirit. Hence this New Law is also called the Law of Grace. For it is grace which makes men's actions equal to the attainment of the vision of God. With the New Law man can rise above the world of nature to the throne of the God who created nature.
THE BENEFIT OF ALL LAW in human life should be easy to see. In the bewildering complexity of human life man needs intelligent direction in his human activities. Law gives him this direction. The natural law and human positive law enable man to direct his activity to the attainment of the natural good of the individual and of society. The New Law of Christ enables men to direct their actions to the attainment of the vision of God.
LAW IS NOT, THEN, a ball and chain dragging at the eager footsteps of human liberty. It is a light enabling men to step forward surely and easily on the right road to happiness. Without law man is a weary, uncertain traveler, halting at each cross-road of life, then stumbling on in twilight or darkness over roads not familiar to his feet nor clearly seen by his vision. Without law man is a slave to the whims, fancies or fears that afflict those who travel in darkness over unknown roads. But with law man is a sure traveler, moving forward in the daylight of human reason and the Divine Mind over a road that is clearly marked to a destination to which he really wants to go. Law gives freedom to human action---the only freedom that really matters, the freedom to seek happiness and to be happy.
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