Locke’s Second Treatise of Government was instrumental and encapsulated into the formation of the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution. In fact, a signer of the Declaration of the Independence, Richard Henry Lee is quoted as saying that that the Declaration itself was “copied from Locke's Treatise on Government.” Joseph Carrig, Ph.D. who specializes in American political theory and government and is well versed in John Locke wrote in the introduction to the Barnes and Nobel Library edition. He writes emphatically, “The Second Treatise should be read by the citizens of any liberal democracy as a reminder of the principles upon which their government is based and the reason for which they believe it is preferable to any other.” John Locke refers to Scripture 157 times in this work. In his previous work the First Treatise he cites Scripture over a thousand times! He also frequently cites theologian Richard Hooker in his Second Treatise. To quote Locke from the Second Treatise:
- “[T]he Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must . . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e., to the will of God.”
- “[L]aws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.”
- “[B]ut this I am sure, they [the governing authorities] owe subjection to the laws of God and Nature. Nobody, no power can exempt them from the obligations of the eternal law.”
- “Men being the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker.”
Locke addresses what it means for those who forfeit their rights by breaking the laws of nature and entering into what he terms a state of war with a person or people. He opines that those who enter this state of war are subject then to the enforcement of the law put in place by consent of the governed which could lead to their imprisonment and loss of freedom. Even still, he argues that they must be treated fairly and justly and that their punishment cannot carry over to their family and future generations. He also elaborates on what constitutes a just war between nations and what the parameters ought to be for the conquered nation that adheres to their value as fellow humans with respect to their rights and liberties.
Locke eloquently illustrates the ideals of a government by the people and for the people under the sovereignty of an infinitely wise God who made us as free people with respect to our fallen nature and need for limited government.