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Of God and His Creatures
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CHAPTER LXXVThat the Providence of God is exercised over Individual and Contingent Things

IF God has no care of these individual things, that is either because He does not know them, or because He has no power over them, or because He has no will to take care of them. But it has been shown above (B. I, Chap. LXV) that God has knowledge of individual things. Nor can it be said that He has no power to take care of them, seeing that His power is infinite (B. II, Chap. XXII). Nor again that God has no wilt to govern them, seeing that the object of His will is universally all good (B. I, Chap. LXXVIII).

3. This common attribute is found in productive causes, that they have a care of the things that they produce, as animals naturally nourish their young. God thereof has care of the things of which He is the cause. But He is the cause even of these particular things (B. II, Chap. XV), and therefore He has care of them.661661The tree holds on to its fruit, so far as it can, and only sheds it spontaneously when it is ripe. Dumb animals care for their young till they are old enough to shift for themselves. Human love and solicitude for children endure as long as life lasts, — and not only for children, but for artistic creations of hand and mind. But God is of all living things the best, according to the Aristotelian definition (Metaph. XII, vii). He may be expected therefore to be more careful of His creatures than the tree of its fruit, than the animal of its young, than parent of child, than artist of his work.

5. It would be a foolish providence not to take care of those things without which the objects of one’s care could not exist. But certainly, if all particulars were to fail, universals could not remain. If then God has care of the universal only, and neglects the individual altogether, His providence must be foolish and imperfect. But if it is said that God has care of individuals so far as to see that they are maintained in being, but no further, that answer cannot stand. For all that befalls individuals has some bearing on their preservation or destruction. If therefore God has care of individuals so far as to see to their preservation, He must have care of all that befalls them.

7. This is the difference between speculative and practical knowledge, that speculative knowledge and all that concerns such knowledge is wrought out in generalities, whereas the sphere of practical knowledge is the particular. For the end of practical knowledge is truth, which consists primarily and ordinarily in the immaterial and universal, while the end of practical knowledge is action, which deals with particular facts. Hence the physician does not attend man in general, but this man; and to the care of the individual man the whole science of medicine is directed. But providence, being directive of things to their end, must be a department of practical knowledge. Thus the providence of God would be very imperfect, if it stopped short at the universal, and did not reach individual cases.

8. The perfection of speculative knowledge lies in the universal rather than in the particular: universals are better known than particulars; and therefore the knowledge of the most general principles is common to all. Still, even in speculative science, he is more perfect who has not a mere general but a concrete (propriam) knowledge of things. For he who knows in the general only, knows a thing only potentially. Thus the scholar is reduced from a general knowledge of principles to a concrete knowledge of conclusions by his master, who has both knowledges, — as a being is reduced from potentiality to actuality by another being, already in actuality. Much more in practical science is he more perfect, who disposes things for actuality not merely in the universal but in the particular. God’s most perfect providence therefore extends even to individuals.

9. Since God is the cause of being, as such (B. II, Chap. XV), He must also be the provider of being, as such. Whatever then in any way is, falls under His providence. But singular things are beings, and indeed more so than universals, because universals do not subsist by themselves, but are only in singulars.662662The universal exists in the singular, not as a universal, but as something selectable and universalisable by the mind. Divine providence therefore has care also of singulars.

Hence it is said: Two sparrows are sold for a farthing; and not one of them falls to the ground without your Father (Matt. x, 29); and, [Wisdom] reaches from end to end strongly (Wisd. viii, 1), that is, from the highest creatures to the lowest. Also their opinion is condemned who said: The Lord hath abandoned the earth, the Lord doth not see (Ezech. ix, 9): He walketh about the poles of heaven, and doth not consider our things (Job xxii, 14).


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