It was the great privilege of Israel of old and soe was acknowledged by them, Nehemiah the 9th and 10th, that God gave them right judgments and true Lawes; for God, being the God of order and not of confusion, has commanded his word and put man into a capacity in some measure to observe and be guided by good and wholsome laws, which are so far good and wholsome as by how much they are derived from and agreeable to the ancient platform of God's laws; for although sundry particulars in the judicial law which was of old enjoyed to the Jews did more especially, at least in some circumstances, befit their pedagogy, yet they are for the mayne so exemplary, being grounded on principles of moral equite, as that all Christians especially ought to have an eye thereunto in the framing of their political constitutions; and although several of the heathen nations who were ignorant of the time God and of his law have been famous in their times for the enacting and execution of such laws as have proved profitable for the government of their commonwealths in the times wherein they lived: notwithstanding, their excellency appeared so far as they were founded upon grounds of moral equity which has its original from the law of God. And accordingly we who have been actors in the framing of this small body of the laws, together with other useful instruments who are gone to their rest, can safely say both for ourselves and them that we have had an eye primarily and principally to be the aforesaid platform, and secondly to the right improvement of the liberties granted to us by our superiors, the state of England, at the first beginning of this infant plantation, which was to to enact such laws as should most befit a state in the nonage thereof, not rejecting or omitting to observe such of the laws of our native country as would conduce to the good and growth of so weak a beginning as ours in this wilderness, as any impartial eye not forestalled with prejudice many easily discern in the perusal of this small book of the laws of our colony, the premises duly considered might work every conscientious spirit to faithful obedience. And although we hold and do affirm that both courts of justice and magistrates, who are the ministers of the law, are essentially civil, notwithstanding, we conceive that as the magistrate has his power from God so undoubtedly he is to improve it for the honor of God; and that in the upholding of his worship and service and against the contrary, with due respect also to be had to those that are really conscientious, though differing and dissenting in some smaller matters. But if any really or in pretence of conscience shall profess that which eminently tends to the inundation of civil state and violation of natural bonds, or the overthrow of the churches of God or of his worship, that here prodence is to be improved in the enacting and execution of laws.
It has been our endeavor in the framing of our laws that nothing should be found among them but what will fall under the same particulars. We have likewise reduced them to such order as they may most conduce to our utility and profit. Possibly it may be that weakness may appear in the composure of sundry of them for want of such plenty of able instruments as others are furnished withal. However, let this suffice the gentle reader that our ends are, to the utmost of our power in these our endeavors, to promote the common good both of the church and state both at present and for future, and, therefore, so far as we have aimed at the glory of God and common good and acted according to God, be not found a resister but obedient, lest thereby you resist the ordinance of God and so incur the displeasure of God into damnation. Rom. 13.2
By Order of the General Court,
Nathaniel Morton, clerk.