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A Theologico-Political Treatise, by Benedict de Spinoza, [1883], at



[Endnote 26]. (1) "No one can honestly promise to forego the right which he has over all things." (2) In the state of social life, where general right determines what is good or evil, stratagem is rightly distinguished as of two kinds, good and evil. (3) But in the state of Nature, where every man is his own judge, possessing the absolute right to lay down laws for himself, to interpret them as he pleases, or to abrogate them if he thinks it convenient, it is not conceivable that stratagem should be evil.

[Endnote 27]. (1) "Every member of it may, if he will, be free." (2) Whatever be the social state a man finds; himself in, he may be free. (3) For certainly a man is free, in so far as he is led by reason. (4) Now reason (though Hobbes thinks otherwise) is always on the side of peace, which cannot be attained unless the general laws of the state be respected. (5) Therefore the more he is free, the more constantly will he respect the laws of his country, and obey the commands of the sovereign power to which he is subject.

[Endnote 28]. (1) "No one knows by nature that he owes any obedience to God." (2) When Paul says that men have in themselves no refuge, he speaks as a man: for in the ninth chapter of the same epistle he expressly teaches that God has mercy on whom He will, and that men are without excuse, only because they are in God's power like clay in the hands of a potter, who out of the same lump makes vessels, some for honour and some for dishonour, not because they have been forewarned. (3) As regards the Divine natural law whereof the chief commandment is, as we have said, to love God, I have called it a law in the same sense, as philosophers style laws those general rules of nature, according to which everything happens. (4) For the love of God is not a state of obedience: it is a virtue which necessarily exists in a man who knows God rightly. (5) Obedience has regard to the will of a ruler, not to necessity and truth. (6) Now as we are ignorant of the nature of God's will, and on the other hand know that everything happens solely by God's power, we cannot, except through revelation, know whether God wishes in any way to be honoured as a sovereign.

(7) Again; we have shown that the Divine rights appear to us in the light of rights or commands, only so long as we are ignorant of their cause: as soon as their cause is known, they cease to be rights, and we embrace them no longer as rights but as eternal truths; in other words, obedience passes into love of God, which emanates from true knowledge as necessarily as light emanates from the sun. (8) Reason then leads us to love God, but cannot lead us to obey Him; for we cannot embrace the commands of God as Divine, while we are in ignorance of their cause, neither can we rationally conceive God as a sovereign laying down laws as a sovereign.


[Endnote 29]. (1) "If men could lose their natural rights so as to be absolutely unable for the future to oppose the will of the sovereign" (2) Two common soldiers undertook to change the Roman dominion, and did change it. (Tacitus, Hist. i:7.)

[Endnote 30]. (1) See Numbers xi. 28. In this passage it is written that two men prophesied in the camp, and that Joshua wished to punish them. (2) This he would not have done, if it had been lawful for anyone to deliver the Divine oracles to the people without the consent of Moses. (3) But Moses thought good to pardon the two men, and rebuked Joshua for exhorting him to use his royal prerogative, at a time when he was so weary of reigning, that he preferred death to holding undivided sway (Numb. xi:14). (4) For he made answer to Joshua, "Enviest thou for my sake? (5) Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His spirit upon them." (6) That is to say, would God that the right of taking counsel of God were general, and the power were in the hands of the people. (7) Thus Joshua was not mistaken as to the right, but only as to the time for using it, for which he was rebuked by Moses, in the same way as Abishai was rebuked by David for counselling that Shimei, who had undoubtedly been guilty of treason, should be put to death. (8) See 2 Sam. xix:22, 23.

[Endnote 31]. (1) See Numbers xxvii:21. (2) The translators of the Bible have rendered incorrectly verses 19 and 23 of this chapter. (3) The passage does not mean that Moses gave precepts or advice to Joshua, but that he made or established him chief of the Hebrews. (4) The phrase is very freguent in Scripture (see Exodus, xviii:23; 1 Sam. xiii:15; Joshua i:9; 1 Sam. xxv:80).

[Endnote 32] (1) "There was no judge over each of the captains save God." (2) The Rabbis and some Christians equally foolish pretend that the Sanhedrin, called "the great" was instituted by Moses. (3) As a matter of fact, Moses chose seventy colleagues to assist him in governing, because he was not able to bear alone the burden of the whole people; but he never passed any law for forming a college of seventy members; on the contrary he ordered every tribe to appoint for itself, in the cities which God had given it, judges to settle disputes according to the laws which he himself had laid down. (4) In cases where the opinions of the judges differed as to the interpretation of these laws, Moses bade them take counsel of the High Priest (who was the chief interpreter of the law), or of the chief judge, to whom they were then subordinate (who had the right of consulting the High Priest), and to decide the dispute in accordance with the answer obtained. (5) If any subordinate judge should assert, that he was not bound by the decision of the High Priest, received either directly or through the chief of his state, such an one was to be put to death (Deut. xvii:9) by the chief judge, whoever he might be, to whom he was a subordinate. (6) This chief judge would either be Joshua, the supreme captain of the whole people, or one of the tribal chiefs who had been entrusted, after the division of the tribes, with the right of consulting the high priest concerning the affairs of his tribe, of deciding on peace or war, of fortifying towns, of appointing inferior judges, &c. (7) Or, again, it might be the king, in whom all or some of the tribes had vested their rights.(8) I could cite many instances in confirmation of what I here advance. (9) I will confine myself to one, which appears to me the most important of all. (10) When the Shilomitish prophet anointed Jeroboam king, he, in so doing, gave him the right of consulting the high priest, of appointing judges, &c. (11) In fact he endowed him with all the rights over the ten tribes, which Rehoboam retained over the two tribes. (12) Consequently Jeroboam could set up a supreme council in his court with as much right as Jehoshaphat could at Jerusalem (2 Chron. xix:8). (13) For it is plain that neither Jeroboam, who was king by God's command, nor Jeroboam's subjects, were bound by the Law of Moses to accept the judgments of Rehoboam, who was not their king. (14) Still less were they under the jurisdiction of the judge, whom Rehoboam had set up in Jerusalem as subordinate to himself. (15) According, therefore, as the Hebrew dominion was divided, so was a supreme council setup in each division. (16) Those who neglect the variations in the constitution of the Hebrew States, and confuse them all together in one, fall into numerous difficulties.


[Endnote 33]. (1) I must here bespeak special attention for what was said in Chap. XVI. concerning rights.