Law is correctly called a rule, to distinguish it from advice or counsel. The latter we are at liberty
to follow or not, as we may judge proper. But the former depends not upon our consent or approbation;
but upon the will of the law-giver. Counsel is simply a matter of persuasion, law is decidedly a matter of injunction. Counsel
acts upon the willing, law upon the unwilling as well as the willing.
As a rule, law is also distinguished from a compact or agreement. A compact is a promise proceeding from us. Law is a command directed to
us. The language of a compact is, "I will, or I will not do this." The language of a law is, "thou shalt, or thou shalt not do it." In compacts we ourselves
determine and promise what shall be done, before we are obliged to do it. In laws we are obliged to act, whether we determine and promise or not.
[See Blackstone's Com. Introd. 2.]
- Consilium dare dicitur, qui significat, quid sibi vidcatur, ut fiat. Suadere dicitur, qui significat,
quid fieri velit in alterius tamen arbitrio relinquens, quid facre velit. Jubere dicitur, qui significat, quid fieri velit, in alterius
arbitrio non relinquens, quid facere velit. [Philosophicae WOLFIANAE Theol. naturalis pars. 1. cap. 6. 983.]
Laws are of different kinds. The highest and most authoritative is the LAW OF GOD. Possessed
of infinite wisdom, goodness and power, he can enact and enforce the best laws; and as he is the great
source of all existences, and all things depend upon him for their being and support, he has a right to fix
the standard of conduct for intelligent creatures, and to command what they shall and what they shall not
do. This he has done; and all his laws are holy, just and good; all are sanctioned with the highest possible
authority; and none may be controverted or disobeyed with impunity.
The Law of God is an authoritative rule of conduct and regulates the manners of men. Every divine
precept may therefore be said to be a moral law, agreeably to the etymology of the term, which
is derived from mores or moralis. - But a distinction