Are the acts of law correctly
enumerated when one says that the acts
of law are to command, to forbid, to
permit, and to punish?
It seems that the acts of law are not
correctly enumerated when one says that the acts of law
are to command, to forbid, to permit, and to punish:
Objection 1: As the Jurist [Gratian]
says [in Decretum 3], law consists in all the
general precepts. But to command is the same as to issue
a precept. Therefore, the other three acts are
As was explained above (a. 1), the effect of law is to
lead its subjects to the good. But a counsel concerns a
better good than a precept does. Therefore, law has more
to do with giving counsel than with issuing precepts.
Just as a man is spurred on toward the good by punishments,
so too he is spurred on toward the good by rewards.
Therefore, just as punishing is counted as an effect
of law, so rewarding should be counted as well.
As was explained above (a. 1), the lawmaker’s intention
is to make men good. But one who obeys
the law solely out of fear of punishment is not a good
man; for as Augustine says, “Even if one does something
good out of servile fear, i.e., the fear of punishment,
he still has not done anything well.” Therefore,
to punish does not seem to be a property of law.
But contrary to this:
In Etymologia 5 Isidore says, “Every law either
permits something (e.g., that a brave man may seek a
reward), or it prohibits something (e.g., that no
one is permitted to seek marriage with a consecrated
virgin), or it punishes something (e.g., someone
who has committed murder shall be put to death).”
Just as a spoken proposition (enunciatio) is
a dictate of reason in the mode of asserting
(enuntiandi), so too a law is a dictate of reason
in the mode of issuing a precept (praecipiendi).
Now it is proper to reason to go from one thing to another.
Hence, in the case of the demonstrative sciences, reason
induces assent to the conclusion by means of certain
principles; in the same way, it induces assent to a
precept of the law by means of something. Now
as was explained above (q. 90, a. 1), the precepts
of the law concern human acts, which the law directs,
and there are three different kinds of human acts:
As was explained above (q. 18, a. 8), some acts, viz.,
the acts of the virtues, are good because of their
genus, and the act of law that is posited with respect
to such acts is to command or to issue a precept.
For as Ethics 5 says, law commands all the acts
of the virtues.
By contrast, some acts, such as the acts of the vices,
are evil because of their genus, and it is characteristic
of law to forbid these acts.
On the other hand, some acts are indifferent because
of their genus, and it is characteristic of law
to permit to these acts. In addition, all
acts that have either just a little goodness or just
a little badness can likewise be called indifferent.
it is through fear of punishment that the law
induces obedience to itself, and in this regard to
punish is counted as an effect of law.
Reply to objection 1:
Just as ceasing to do evil has a certain type of goodness,
so too a prohibition is a certain type of precept.
Accordingly, if ‘precept’ is taken broadly, a law may in
general be called a ‘precept’.
Reply to objection 2:
To give counsel is not an act proper to law, but can also
be the act of a private person who does not have the role
of making law. Hence, in 1 Corinthians 7:12, when he is
giving a certain counsel, even the Apostle says, “It is I
speaking, and not the Lord.” This is why giving counsel
is not posited among the effects of law.
Reply to objection 3:
Once again, to reward can be the role of anyone, whereas
to punish pertains only to a minister of the law, by whose
authority the punishment is inflicted. And this is why
only punishing, and not rewarding, is counted as an act of
Reply to objection 4:
Given that someone begins to be accustomed to avoiding
evil and doing good because of his fear of punishment, he
is sometimes led to enjoy doing good and to do it by his
own will. Accordingly, it is even by punishing that the
law results in men being good.