precept

(Latin: praecipere, to command)

A certain command given directly, not to a community, but to individuals. Precept is used in many different senses. Sometimes it designates a common generic concept of two specific terms, law and mere precept. Law is in a certain sense a precept, as for example when we say: "The natural law has many precepts each one of which properly and formally partakes of the nature of law." Again by precept something is meant foreign to the comprehension of law. Law proceeds from a public official. The father of a family may impose precepts on his children, but since he is not a public official, he cannot make a law. Law and precept although frequently used to designate the same thing are different. Precept is often confused with counsel. Precept implies necessity. Counsel is optional. Good as referred to divine goodness, is of varying standards. Certain kinds of good are necessary to the attainment of divine goodness and hence are of the nature of a precept; others are conducive to greater perfection and are of the nature of counsel. The evangelical counsels are so called because they are especially recommended in the Gospel. Poverty, chastity, and obedience dispose one to perfection.

New Catholic Dictionary

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