A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to John B. Colvin, September 20, 1810.—The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 9, p. 279 (1898). Retrieved from http://www.bartleby.com/73/1009.html.
This reminds me of Jesus’ attitude toward the Law in Matthew 12:1-14, Mark 2:23-3:6, and Luke 6:1-11. Within these passages the key verses are:
- “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”
- “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath”
- “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
All of these pertain to Jefferson’s point that laws serve to promote the good. Any law, even God’s Law, is not an end in itself.