Sir William Blackstone wrote Commentaries on the Laws of England, volumes published from 1765-1769. They became the standard for understanding how English laws were to be applied. The timing of these volumes was opportune for the American colonists, as they also looked to Blackstone for their basis in law.
The preface, or introduction, to these volumes lays out the foundational beliefs that were supposed to govern English laws. They were as follows:
- The Law of Nature=The Will of God;
- Man’s reason is given to discover the Law of Nature;
- Happiness is based only on observing God’s laws; there is no true happiness outside of His laws;
- God’s law is higher than man’s law;
- Corrupt reason needs Revealed Law (Scripture) to understand God and His ways;
- Revealed law is a fuller and more accurate explanation of the Law of Nature;
- All human laws must rest upon the Law of Nature and Revealed Law.
Notice how different this is from how we explain law today. How many legislatures and judges take into account the necessity of ensuring that human laws are in accordance with God’s law? We not only ignore what God has said, but we don’t even follow our own written cornerstone of law—the Constitution.
The American colonists, as they approached the dispute with Britain’s government, took Blackstone seriously. All of their arguments were based on the twin foundations of God’s law and the human laws that had been written in agreement with God’s law.
One organization in America today, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has set up a Blackstone Fellowship Program for law students who seek to adhere to this understanding of law. In the vast field of all those innumerable law schools that have no fidelity to this original concept of law, this program helps place law students in internships with cooperating lawyers who seek to restore the idea that God’s law comes first, and that all human laws must be in accord with His.
This approach is now in the minority, but there are scattered voices continuing to promote a more Biblical orientation in law. Blackstone is a good place to start in grasping why the American colonies took a stand at that time in our history.