Declaration of Independence --- Intro - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
Lesson 5

Answer: Blackstone said the "Laws of Nature" are the "eternal immutable principles of good and evil" to which God Himself conforms. Blackstone next explains what the "Laws of Nature's God" and the right to the "Pursuit of Happiness" are. Read On!

The Laws of Nature's God

Blackstone explained how God equipped man to discover and obey the law of nature. First, God gave man reason, the ability, we might say, to determine causes and effects. So, for example, we might observe that acts like murder and theft produce bad consequences, and so conclude that these acts are bad. Second, Blackstone said, God made man in such a way that man cannot be truly happy unless he follows God's law. Thus, our own self-interest, our own desire to be happy, tends to make us do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong. This inner drive to obtain happiness by doing what is right both stimulates our logical reasoning to discover what is right and depends on our ability to employ logic to determine the right path in any given situation.

But, Blackstone said, our ability to reason logically is not "as in our first ancestor before his transgression, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, unclouded by prejudice, [or] unimpaired by disease or intemperance . . . ." Because man's "reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error," Blackstone observed that God had not left the discovery of His natural law to man's reasoning powers alone. Rather, "in compassion to the frailty, the imperfection, and the blindness of human reason," God has been pleased, "to discover and enforce [His] laws by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures." So the second pillar on which the Founders based our freedom and independence - "the Laws of Nature's God" - is the Bible.

"Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation," Blackstone said, "depend all human laws." Blackstone explained that the natural law discovered by man's reason and the Bible were one and the same thing, but the Bible was "of infinitely more authenticity than that moral system which is framed by ethical writers," because the Bible is "expressly declared . . . by God himself; the other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, we imagine to be that law."

The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness

The simplest statement of God's laws of right and wrong are the Ten Commandments. And it's easy to understand how these rules protect our God-given rights. For example, the right to life is protected by the commandment against murder. The right to property is protected by the commandments against theft and covetousness. In fact, each of the last six commandments, which tell us how to treat others, reflect what Jesus taught was the second greatest commandment, that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Matthew 22:39. (The greatest commandment, Jesus said, was to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Matthew 22:37. All ten of the commandments fall into one of these two categories, how to love God and love our neighbor.)

If God's laws exist to protect man's rights, and obeying these "eternal immutable principles of good and evil" is what leads to our "own true and substantial happiness," as Blackstone said, can you see what the right to the Pursuit of Happiness must mean? When our founders echoed Blackstone by declaring that man is created with an unalienable right to the Pursuit of Happiness, they claimed the right to be free from a government that forbids us from doing what God commands or just allows, and from a government that commands or even just allows what God forbids. If government stopped us from obeying God's laws, it would block our path to happiness. Likewise, if government forced or even allowed us to disobey God's laws, someone else's rights would get violated by our disobedience.

Blackstone's reasoning leads to a fundamental truth our Founders understood but which we have mostly forgotten today. What we call "rights" arise from the prohibitions of moral rules. The Declaration establishes that the true source of human rights are God's moral rules.

The Ten Commandments - Exodus 20:3-17

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbors.

Note - The 10th commandment refering to servants does not condone slavery, nor did Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration. The original draft contained a 28th complaint stating that slavery violated the most sacred rights of life and liberty.

John Locke
Secular Enlightenment Deist?

The 18th century is known as "The Enlightenment" or "Age of Reason" because of its many advances in science and philosophy. But Enlightenment thinkers fell into two camps. The first believed that man's reason was pure and was leading him toward perfection. Because this group rejected God, either completely or in part, they were called "secular." Secular philosophers who did believe there was a God believed that, after God created the world, He took no part in the affairs of men. These were the Deists, and while they believed there was a God, they rejected the idea that he had spoken to man through the Bible.

Today, those who wish to lead America away from God's rules try to hide any knowledge of Blackstone. Instead, they claim the Declaration is based solely on Locke, and that Locke was a Deist.

In fact, Jefferson's use of the right to the "Pursuit of Happiness" establishes conclusively that Blackstone, not Locke, is the immediate authority for the Declaration's ideas.

Even so, Locke's writings place him squarely with Blackstone in the second camp of Enlightenment thinkers, those who believed the Bible and recognized that there were two sides to what man called "reason." The good side was like a candle, placed in man by God to illuminate man's sense of right and wrong, and give man an inherent knowledge of the existence of God. The bad side was man's intellectual capacity to employ logic, which also came from God, but like man's other faculties, was corrupted when man rejected God and fell into sin. Locke expressly quoted the Bible as the authority for his views. And while he was alive, Locke rejected attempts by Deists to include him in their number.

For a thorough discussion of how Locke's philosophy originates in the Bible and relates to the Declaration, read Gary T, Amos' book "Defending The Declaration."

Question: The philosophy of freedom in the Declaration says that God gives us rights, and God's rules exist to protect our rights. These two principles, then, tell us what the purpose of government must be - to enforce God's rules so that our rights are protected - and this purpose is captured in the "Right to the Pursuit of Happiness." Can you state what this right means?

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