The Making of a Nation eBook

Charles Foster Kent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 125 pages of information about The Making of a Nation.

Through his fear of the unknown, stimulated by the terrible vindications of nature’s laws, when poison and pestilence and storms and floods do their deadly work, the savage feels the presence of unknown forces that he calls gods, and he thus gives to his rules of action the sanction of divinity.  And as society develops through the pastoral, agricultural and industrial stages into the tribe and state, with the development of religion and the growing sense of right and of responsibility to one’s fellow men, this religious sanction of the law still abides.  In the earlier days the sanction was due to fear of the vengeance of the gods.  In later society it is the sense of right and justice and love for one’s fellow men, springing from the firm belief in the divine creation and direction of the universe and in God’s care for men.

But as this sense of fear or right or justice or love, associated with a Being felt to be divine, is not universal, inasmuch as many members of society are found ready to act selfishly, taking the law into their own hands, force is needed in all stages of society to put the rules and laws into effect.  With every law, as Austin says, must go a penalty.  But as society grows more and more humane the sense of obligation of each individual for the welfare of his fellows grows, until in the best society laws are made and obeyed by most citizens, not from a sense of fear of punishment, but mainly out of goodwill to others.  A sense of justice prevails and the sanction of law becomes not so much fear of the penalty imposed, as the moral and religious sense of the individual and of society.  Why, for example, do you obey the law against stealing?

IV.

MOSES’ RELATION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT LAWS.

The Hebrew laws given in the Old Testament are generally known as the laws of Moses, and the assumption of many readers in earlier years has been that the different codes were practically formulated by Moses himself.  The subsequent study of the Old Testament long ago suggested to many that this view may be mistaken.  The oldest records of his work and the fact that, as creator of the Hebrew nation after the Exodus and as leader and prophet be rendered important judicial decisions, have well justified the belief that he was the real founder of what is called the Mosaic Law.  As stated in Exodus 18, he did actually formulate the principles by which decisions were made by the rulers whom he appointed over thousands and over hundreds, fifties and tens.  He may have even put into form the principles found in the earliest decalogues.  Moreover, as the Israelites in their later history were led to formulate new rules of action, they based these upon the principles of justice, religion and civil equality found in the earlier decalogues.  While the specific rules of living must have changed materially, as the Israelites changed their habits of living from those of wanderers in the wilderness

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The Making of a Nation from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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