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THE father has care of the child, not only in his relations with other men, as the king has care of him, but also in his individual concerns, as has been shown above of God (Chap. XCIII). And this with good reason, for a parent is like God in giving natural origin to a human being. Hence divine and paternal government extend to the individual, not merely as a member of society, but as a person subsisting in his own nature by himself. The two governments differ however in this, that paternal government can extend only to the things that appear in man externally, but divine government reaches also to interior acts and dispositions. For no man can take cognisance of things hidden from him: the secrets of hearts are hidden from men, though open to God (B. I, Chap. LIX). God therefore takes account of man not only as to his exterior behaviour, but also as to his inward affections, what he means to do, and what he intends to gain by doing it. Of such points man takes no cognisance, except so far as by outward acts the inward disposition is shown.781781St Thomas’s words exactly define what is called in English law an ‘overt act.’ Overt acts apart, the maxim holds, De aeternis non judicat praetor. A godless morality relieves a man of responsibility for all the secret workings of his will, — not that it declares them all right, but it removes them from the province of law and legal sanction.
Every one has care of things according as they belong to him: for solicitude about things that are no affair of yours is blamed as meddlesomeness. But one man belongs to another’s charge otherwise than as he belongs to God. One man belongs to another either by natural origin and bodily descent, or by some combination in external works. But man belongs to God inasmuch as he has his origin from Him, which origin means a certain likeness to God: for every being acts to the production of its own likeness. Now man has more of the likeness of God in his soul than in his body, and most of all in his mind.782782The intellectual part of the soul, spoken of by Aristotle as ‘divine,’ is in the natural order the most godlike thing in man; and of that St Thomas here speaks. Clearly therefore, in the origin of man as coming from God, the main thing intended is the mind, and for the mind’s sake the other (sentient) parts of the soul are produced by God; and for the soul the body is produced: so God’s principal care is for the mind of man, — first, for the mind; then for the other parts of the soul, and after them for the body. Hence it is by the mind that man attains his last end, which is human happiness (Chap. XXXVII). Other things in man serve as instruments for the securing of happiness. Hence we may observe that human government takes cognisance of interior acts so far as they are directed to external conduct and are thereby unfolded to view:783783Pratical and Moral Essays, p. 57, 145, on the question how far the State teaches virtue. but God contrariwise takes cognisance of external conduct so far as it points to interior dispositions, particularly in regard of the mind, whereby man is capable of happiness, — human happiness consisting, as has been said, in the fruition of God. The whole care therefore that God has of man is in view of preparing his mind for the fruition of God, whereunto the mind is prepared by faith, hope and charity:784784In other words, man lives under a supernatural providence; or, as St Augustine was fond of repeating to his people at Hippo: “Not for this world are you a Christian.” Not that the interests of this world are to be disregarded, but they are to be kept subordinate. A momentous utterance, indicative of the whole policy of the Christian Church, and of the Church’s abiding quarrel with secularism, utilitarianism, greed of markets, and other aberrations from the eternal goal, and even from the true notion of happiness on earth, as that consists in content of mind and heart and social charity; in lieu of which we have taken in exchange our ever growing armaments, our thousands of unemployed, the degradation of our poor, our inanities and frivolities, our mental unrest and unsatisfied soul-hunger. for by faith man’s mind is disposed to recognise God as a Being above himself: by hope it is strengthened to reach out to Him and see in Him man’s true good: by charity it fixes upon Him so as immovably to adhere to Him. All things that God requires of man in this life are referable to these three virtues.
Hence it is said: And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God ask of thee, except that thou fear the Lord thy God and walk in his ways? (Deut. x, 12.) Now there remain faith, hope and charity, these three (1 Cor. xiii, 13).
But because the human mind is naturally more imperfect than other intellectual natures; and the more perfect a thing is, the more energy it shows in tending to its end; it appears that the human mind is naturally weaker in tending to God, the end of all, than are the higher minds of the angels. This weakness shows itself on two points. First, in the deficiency of intellectual power in the human soul, as compared with higher intelligences, so that it cannot go straight to intellectual truth as it is in itself (Chapp. XLI, CXIX). Secondly, in the obstacles that keep it back from throwing itself with all its force upon God; obstacles on the part of the body, which claims care for sustenance and repose; and again obstacles on the part of the lower powers of the soul, inasmuch as the excitements of phantasy and the perturbations of passion trouble that interior peace, which is so necessary for the mind freely to throw itself upon God. These obstacles cannot be wholly removed by man from his path, so long as he lives in this mortal body: for he has to attend to the things necessary for this mortal life, and is thereby hindered from always actually tending to God. But the aforesaid hindrances should be so far got under that there should be in man’s mind an intention at least, directed to God without interruption;785785Such an uninterrupted intention will not be actual but virtual; that is to say, once made, it will continue to motive conduct without further express advertence, as the consideration of wages motives a workman’s toil. From intention St Thomas distinguishes attention. Actual attention can no more be continous than actual intention; and attention is nothing, if it is not actual; there is no virtual attention. Thus in no way can attention to God be continuous under ordinary conditions of humanity. We have to be satisfied with the virtual continuity of our intention to please God. and the more the mind can be even actually fixed on God, the more perfect will man’s life be, as keeping nearer to its last end. And this actual fixing of the mind upon God will go to strengthen the intention directed towards Him, which intention must needs come to naught unless at times the mind be fixed upon Him actually. All the precepts and counsels therefore of the divine law go to furnish man with aids for fixing his mind on God and removing obstacles to such attention.
For both these purposes man needs to live at peace and concord with his fellow-men. For man needs to be aided by man, as well to the preservation of life and limb, as also to the end that one man may inflame and incite and instruct another to yearn after God. In the absence of peace and concord, man’s mind must be disquieted by contentions and fighting, and hindered from aspiring to God. And therefore the divine law has made provision for the preservation of peace and concord amongst men by the practice of justice. It commands that to every man be rendered his due, as honour to parents: that none be harmed or hindered in the enjoyment of the good that belongs to him, whether by word, — hence the prohibition of false witness, — or by deed touching his own person, — hence the prohibition of murder, — or by deed touching a person allied to him, — hence the prohibition of adultery, or by deed touching his property, — hence the prohibition of theft. And because God takes cognisance not only of the public but also of the domestic behaviour of men, the divine law has forbidden neglect of wife, servants, etc., which is no concern of human law.
But it is not enough for peace and concord to be preserved among men by precepts of justice, unless there be a further consolidation of mutual love. Justice provides for men to the extent that one shall not get in the way of another, but not to the extent of one helping another in his need. One may happen to need another’s aid in cases in which none is bound to him by any debt of justice, or where the person so bound does not render any aid. Thus there came to be need of an additional precept of mutual love amongst men, so that one should aid another even beyond his obligations in justice.
Hence it is said: His commandment we have received, that whoever loveth God should also love his brother (1 John iv, 21): This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you (John xv, 12).
It is evident that love suffices for the fulfilment of the works of justice. Hence it is said: Love is the fulfilment of the law (Rom. xiii, 10): to commend which fulfilment there are given us precepts and counsels of God concerning works of mercy, love and succour of enemies, and the like deeds of kindness, which overflow and run over the measures of justice.
But because the aforesaid precepts of justice require their completion in the love of one’s neighbour, and that depends on the love of God; and when love is gone, and faith and charity are also gone, the human mind cannot duly tend to God; it follows that the observance of the precepts of the aforesaid virtues is necessarily required of man, and by the neglect of them man is entirely thrown out of his subordination to God. Now human life takes its denomination from the end to which it is directed. They who constitute their last end in pleasures are said to lead a life of pleasure. They who constitute their last end in the contemplation of truth are said to lead a contemplative life: hence whosoever constitute their last end in the enjoyment of God, their life is an adherence to God, which is absolutely the life of man, for to that end man is naturally ordained (Chap. XXXVII). On other ends man’s life is dependent only in a qualified sense, inasmuch as such ends are not imposed on man by nature, but by his own choice.786786There is a usual Aristotelian distinction between what a man is ‘by nature,’ i.e. in the ordinary course of his development, and what he ‘chooses’ to make himself, more or less arbitrarily and eccentrically. Death then being the opposite of life, it is a sort of death to a man to drop out of the order which has its last term in God.787787Man is made for God as a watch is made to keep time. Estranged from God, man is like a watch with the main-spring broken, which is a sort of dead watch. Hence the sins whereby a man breaks away from such order are called ‘mortal,’ or ‘deadly’ sins; and those instructions of the law whereby men are held to their engagements of justice, charity, hope, and faith, are called ‘commandments,’ or ‘prohibitions,’ because they are to be of necessity observed.
As one necessary condition for the flight of the mind to God is peace with neighbours, with whom man has to live in society and be aided by them, so another necessary condition is peace and good order of the elements within man himself. We observe that there are two ways in which the free flight of the mind to God may be hindered. One way is by the intensification of the acts of the lower powers. When one power comes vigorously into action, it draws to itself the interest of man, which cannot be scattered over many objects simultaneously: hence another power must be either stopped from acting or have its activity diminished. By the lower powers I mean the sentient powers, as well apprehensive, namely, the external and internal senses, the phantasy and other attendant powers,788788The “other attendant powers” are the cogitative faculty (B. II, Chap. LX) and the memory. as also appetitive, as the irascible and concupiscible faculties.789789The θυμός and ἐπιθυμητικόν of Plato’s Republic. Hence when there is strong delight in sense, or much excitement of phantasy, or an inclination of the concupiscible or of the irascible faculty to their several objects, the mind must necessarily be impeded in its act of ascent to God.
In another way the movement of the mind to God may be hindered on the part of the mind itself, by its occupation with other things: for one power cannot be in perfect activity over several objects simultaneously.
But since the mind at times uses the inferior powers as obedient instruments, and can occupy itself with several objects, when they all bear upon one and all help to apprehend that one, we must understand that the mind is then only hindered from its flight to God by the lower powers, or by its own occupation with other objects, when those powers or those objects bear not at all on the mind’s movement to God: otherwise, far from being hindrances, they may be positive helps to the free flight of man’s mind to his Creator.790790Thus good church music is an aid to prayer.
Indeed man cannot altogether avoid occupying his mind about other things, by the fact that he must be solicitous about the necessaries of his bodily life. There are however among men various degrees of this solicitude. The first degree of solicitude extends just so far as the common measure of human life requires. It involves the providing of necessaries for self, wife, children, and other persons belonging to oneself according to one’s state. This degree of solicitude is lawful, and may be said to be connatural to man.791791What of the solicitude ‘Writ large’ in advertisements, the eagerness to outstrip rivals and to make a fortune, the “endless money-making” rebuked by Aristotle and St Thomas (Aquinas Ethicus, II, 96, 97), now become the mainspring of human society? Such solicitude is not wrong in itself, but sin finds an easy passage under cover of it, as St Thomas goes on to say, with St Paul, 1 Tim. vi, 9, 10; cf. Luke viii, 14.
The second degree is reached when a man is more solicitous about the aforesaid things of the body than the common measure of human life requires according to his state, without however this solicitude going so far as to withdraw him from his subordination to God, or making him transgress the commandments of justice and charity. There is evidently sin in this, since the man exceeds his proper measure; yet not mortal sin, since he undertakes nothing contrary to the precepts of justice and charity. His sin is called ‘venial,’ as being readily ‘pardonable,’ — as well because, for one who keeps his face set towards his last end, any error that he may make is easily put straight, — thus in speculative sciences any one who has a true conception of principles may thereby easily correct such errors as he may fall into in drawing conclusions; and the end in view in the things of action is like the first principle in things of speculation, — as also because to one steady in friendship any delinquency is readily forgiven, — as also because it is no easy matter absolutely to observe due measure and exceed in nothing. Hence whoever does not cast away from his heart the rule of reason, which is laid down by the end in view, even though he does not altogether observe rectitude in the things which have to be regulated by that rule, is not over-much to be blamed, but deserves pardon.792792A venial sin must always be some particular act. Now it is not easy to specify and put one’s finger on the particular act, whereby a man, once poor, but now making money fast and eagerly, “exceeds his proper measure,” as St Thomas puts it. Like every thing else in the Middle Ages, differences of class, marked by differences of dress, were more fixed and immutable than with us. Sumptuary laws restrained the low-born from donning the habiliments proper to the nobility. Sumptuary laws are not yet quite dead. A University would take it in ill part for a Commoner to go about in a Master’s gown. A civilian would not be received in society, who persisted in wearing the uniform of a field-marshal. St Thomas would apparently take such uppishness and assumption for a venial sin.
The third degree is when the solicitude for temporals grows so great as to withdraw the soul from subordination to God, and bring it to transgress the commandments of justice and charity, faith and hope, without which man’s mind cannot remain in due relation with God; and this is manifest mortal sin.
The fourth degree is when contrariwise man’s solicitude for worldly things stops short of the common measure of human life. If this is owing to remissness and flabbiness of mind, or to any undue eagerness,793793E.g., in the miser. it is to be held for a base proceeding: for the transgression of the golden mean in either direction is blameworthy. But if lower things are neglected that better things may be attended to, to wit, that the mind may take a free flight to the things of God, this is a virtue more perfect than human. To teach man such perfection, there have not been given him commandments, but rather counsels to draw him forth and incite him.794794The ruin of a lower happiness may be sheer ruin and waste. Or it may be the building up of a higher.
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