Of law there are different kinds. All, however, may be arranged in two different classes. 1. Divine. 2. Human laws. The descriptive epithets employed denote, that the former have God, the latter, man, for their author.
The laws of God may be divided into the following species.
I. That law, the book of which we are neither able nor worthy to open. Of this law, the author and observer is God. He is a law to himself, as well as to all created things. This law we may name the "law eternal."
II. That law, which is made for angels and the spirits of the just made perfect. This may be called the "law celestial." This law, and the glorious state for which it is adapted, we see, at present, but darkly and as through a glass: but hereafter we shall see even as we are seen; and shall know even as we are known. From the wisdom and the goodness of the adorable Author and Preserver of the universe, we are justified in concluding, that the celestial and perfect state is governed, as all other things are, by his established laws. What those laws are, it is not yet given us to know; but on one truth we may rely with sure and certain confidence ? those laws are wise and good. For another truth we have infallible authority ? those laws are strictly obeyed: "In heaven his will is done."
III. That law, by which the irrational and inanimate parts of the creation are governed. The great Creator of all things has established general and fixed rules, according to which all the phenomena of the material universe are produced and regulated. These rules are usually denominated laws of nature. The science, which has those laws for its object, is distinguished by the name of natural philosophy. It is sometimes called, the philosophy of body. Of this science, there are numerous branches.
IV. That law, which God has made for man in his present state; that law, which is communicated to us by reason and conscience, the divine monitors within us, and by the sacred oracles, the divine monitors without us. This law has undergone several subdivisions, and has been known by distinct appellations, according to the different ways in which it has been promulgated, and the different objects which it respects. As promulgated by reason and the moral sense, it has been called natural; as promulgated by the holy scriptures, it has been called revealed law.
As addressed to men, it has been denominated the law of nature; as addressed to political societies, it has beep denominated the law of nations.
But it should always be remembered, that this law, natural or revealed, made for men or for nations, flows from the same divine source: it is the law of God.
Nature, or, to speak more properly, the Author of nature, has done much for us; but it is his gracious appointment and will, that we should also do much for ourselves. What we do, indeed, must be founded on what he has done; and the deficiencies of our laws must be supplied by the perfections of his. Human law must rest its authority, ultimately, upon the authority of that law, which is divine.
Of that law, the following are maxims ? that no injury should be done ? that a lawful engagement, voluntarily made, should be faithfully fulfilled. We now see the deep and the solid foundations of human law.
It is of two species. 1. That which a political society makes for itself. This is municipal law. 2. That which two or more political societies make for themselves. This is the voluntary law of nations.
In all these species of law ? the law eternal ? the law celestial ? the law natural ? the divine law, as it respects men and nations ? the human law, as it also respects men and nations ? man is deeply and intimately concerned. Of all these species of law, therefore, the knowledge must be most important to man.
Those parts of natural philosophy, which more immediately relate to the human body, are appropriated to the profession of physick.
The law eternal, the law celestial, and the law divine, as they are disclosed by that revelation, which has brought life and immortality to light, are the more peculiar objects of the profession of divinity.
The law of nature, the law of nations, and the municipal law form the objects of the profession of law.
From this short, but plain and, I hope, just statement of things, we perceive a principle of connexion between all the learned professions; but especially between the two last mentioned. Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. The divine law, as discovered by reason and the moral sense, forms an essential part of both.
From this statement of things, we also perceive how important and dignified the profession of the law is, when traced to its sources, and viewed in its just extent.
The immediate objects of our attention are, the law of nature, the law of nations, and the municipal law of the United States, and of the several states which compose the Union. It will not be forgotten, that the constitutions of the United States, and of the individual states, form a capital part of their municipal law. On the two first of these three great heads, I shall be very general. On the last, especially on those parts of it, which comprehend the constitutions and publick law, I shall be more particular and minute.