One ought not to decide by divine laws what should be deci­ded by human laws, nor deter­mine by human laws what should be deter­mi­ned by divine laws.

These two sorts of laws dif­fer in their ori­gin, their object and their nature.

Everyone agrees that human laws are of a dif­fe­rent nature from the laws of reli­gion, and that is a great prin­ci­ple ; but this prin­ci­ple is itself sub­ject to others, which we must iden­tify.

1st The nature of human laws is to be sub­ject to all the acci­dents that occur, and to vary as men’s desi­res change ; the nature of the laws of reli­gion, on the contrary, is never to vary. Human laws decide on the good, reli­gion on the best ; the good can have a dif­fe­rent object, because there are seve­ral kinds of good, but the best is but one, so it can­not change. The laws can of course be chan­ged, because they are only sup­po­sed to be good ; but the ins­ti­tu­tions of reli­gion are always assu­med to be the best.

2nd There are sta­tes where the laws are nothing, or are nothing but a capri­cious and tran­sient desire of the sove­reign. If in these sta­tes the laws of reli­gion were of the nature of the human laws, the laws of reli­gion would be nothing either ; yet it is neces­sary to society for there to be some­thing fixed, and it is this reli­gion which is some­thing fixed.

3rd The force of reli­gion lies in its being belie­ved ; the force of human laws lies in their being fea­red. Antiquity suits reli­gion, because we often believe things more as they have fur­ther rece­ded ; for we do not have in our heads the acces­sory notions taken from those times that could contra­dict them. Human laws on the contrary bene­fit from their novelty, which indi­ca­tes a par­ti­cu­lar and pre­sent atten­tion of the legis­la­tor to see that they are obser­ved.