WE CONTINUE OUR SERIES ON THE GOLDEN RULE in the Medieval Church by turning now toward Hugh of St. Victor and his great work Dialogus de sacramentis legis naturalis et scriptae. After reviewing the mention of the Golden Rule in that work, we will turn to John of Salisbury's Polycraticus.
Hugh of St. Victor's reference to the Golden Rule (in both its positive and negative formulations) is found in his discussion on the natural law in Chapter 4 of Part 12 of his First Book. It is a preliminary to his discussion of the sacraments of the Mosaic law. In the discussion of the natural law and the natural sacraments, Hugh of St. Victor notes that the law has three characteristics: precept, sacrament, and promise. In Hugh of St. Victor's view, the precepts of the natural law could be distilled to essentially two, the negative and positive formulations of the Golden Rule.
The law has three notes: precept, sacrament, and promise. In the precept is merit, in the promise is the goal, in the sacrament is aid. Through precept one moves towards the promise. Because man was in himself ill, there came to be needed the bridge of the sacraments, which lies in between precept and promise, to help [the link between] these two, and [to help] in the carrying out and and preservation of the precepts. Under the promises of the natural law the sacraments were few; on the other hand, under the written law these were multiplied, and with the sacraments equally the precepts [were multiplied]. For the First and Great Physician God sought to cure weakened man, in all parts where the good had moved out, where disease had taken habitation. That good placed in the body of man at its creation offered few antidotes, and few members, that is, few persons [had ability] to reduce the disease and increase well-being. Thereafter, under the written law, there were brought together many remedies, and many things were repaired. Under the natural law there were two precepts and three sacraments. The two precepts: "That which you do not want done unto you, do not do unto others." (Tobit, 4). And that which you wont others to do to you, the same you do unto them (Matthew, 7). There were three sacraments: tithes, oblations, and sacrifices. Tithes in proportion, oblations in things, and sacrifices of animals. Under the written law, there were many precepts and many sacraments . . .Lex seripta tria continet: Praecepta, sacramenta, promissa. In praeceptis est meritum, in promissis est praemium, in sacramentis est adiutorium. Per praecepta eundum fuerat ad promissa. Sed quia homo per se infirmus erat, venerunt sacramenta media, inter praecepta et promissa quae illum adjuvarent, et ad praecepta perficienda et ad obtinenda. Sub promissa lege naturali pauca erant sacramenta, sub lege scripta utraque multiplicata sunt, et pracepta scilicet et sacramenta. Nam cum primum medicus Deus ad homine aegrotum curandum accessisset, totum occupaverat morbus, quem totum reliquerat salus. Et apposuit in corpore generis humani in primis pauca antidota, et paucis membris, id est paucis personis, ut paulatim morbus deficeret et salus cresceret. Postea sub lege scripta, remedia plura contulit, et plures reparavit. Duo praecepta fuerent sub lege naturali et tria sacramenta. Due praecepta: "Quod tibi non vis fieri, alii ne feceris." [Tob. IV]. Et quaecunque vultis ut vobis faciant homines, eadem et vos facit illis." [Matt. VII]. Tria sacramenta: decimae, obliationes, et sacrificia. Decimae in proportionibus, obligationes in rebus, sacrificia in animalibus. Sub lege scripta multa fuerunt praecepta, et multa sacramenta. . . .
Hugh of St. Victor, De Sac., I.12.3, 176 PL 351.
John of Salisbury invokes the Golden Rule as part of the natural law in his discussion in Chapter VII of Book IV, in distinguishing between the positive law of the King, and the natural law. He equates the natural law with the Golden Rule in both its positive and negative formulations. The Golden Rule, therefore, has a perpetual necessity, a perpetuam necessitatem.
Yet there are certain precepts which have a perpetual necessity, ones which are lawful among all peoples and which cannot be broken at all with impunity. "Before the law, under the law, under grace," [St. Augustine, De doctrina Christiana, 2.16.25] one law is binding upon all: "What you would not have done to yourself, do not do to others"; and "What you would have done to yourself, this do to others."Sunt autem praecepta quaedam, perpetuam habentia necessitatem, apud omnes gentes legitima, et quae omnine impune solve non possunt. Ante legem sub lege, sub gratia, omnes lux una constringit: "Quod tibi non vis fieri, alii ne feceris (Tob. IV); et quod tibi vis fieri faciendum, hoc facias aliis.
(Cary J. Nederman, trans. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 47); 199 PL 527.