Part II, and part last, of the rebuttals of the objections against the incarnation. This chapter is what we of a mathematical mind call long.
1 Now, then, the points opposed to this doctrine above are disposed of easily.
2 It is not contrary to the order of things for God to become man, as the first argument proceeded. This is the case because, although the divine nature exceeds the human nature to infinity, man in the order of his nature has God Himself for end and has been born to be united to God by his intellect And this union had as example and testimony of a sort the union of God to man in person; nonetheless, what was proper to each nature was preserved, so that nothing of the excellence of the divine nature was lost, nor was there an exaltation which drew the human nature beyond the bounds of its species.
3 There is the following to be considered, also. By reason of the perfection and immobility of the divine goodness, God loses no dignity no matter how closely a creature draws near to Him, although this makes the creature grow in dignity. For He communicates His goodness to creatures in such wise that He Himself suffers no loss.
4 In like fashion, too, one grants that God’s will suffices for doing all things; nevertheless, the divine wisdom requires that provision be made for the various classes of things in harmony with themselves, for He has suitably established the proper causes of various things. Be it granted, accordingly, that God was able by His will alone to effect in the human race every useful good which we are saying came from God’s Incarnation, as the second argument was proposing; nevertheless, it was in harmony with human nature to bring about these useful goods through God made man, just as the arguments giving make apparent to some extent.
5 The answer to the third argument is also plain. For, since man is constituted of a spiritual and of a bodily nature, and stands, so to say, on the boundary of each nature, that appears to belong to the whole of creaturehood which is done for the salvation of man. For the lesser bodily creatures seem to yield to man’s use and are in some way subject to him. But the superior spiritual, namely the angelic, creature has the achievement of the ultimate end in common with man (this is plain from the foregoing). Thus, it seems suitable that the universal cause of all things assume that creature into unity of person in which the cause shares more with other creatures.
6 This fact should be considered, also: To act of itself belongs only to the rational creature, for irrational creatures are more acted upon by a rational force than they are acting of themselves. Hence, they are rather in the order of instrumental causes than bearing themselves as principal agents. But the assumption of a creature by God had to be of the kind which could act of itself as a principal agent. For whatever acts as an instrument acts as moved into action, but a principal agent acts of itself. If, then, something was to be done divinely by an irrational creature, it sufficed, the creature’s condition considered, that it merely be moved by God. But it would not be assumed in person for the person to act, since its natural condition was not susceptible of this, it was only the condition. of the rational nature which was so susceptible. Therefore, for God to assume an irrational creature was not suitable, whereas to assume a rational one, whether human or angelic, was.
7 And, although one finds in the angelic nature natural properties making it more excellent than the human nature, as the fourth argument was proposing, the human nature was nevertheless assumed with greater fitness. First, indeed, this is because in man sin is subject to expiation; and this is so because his choice is not unchangeably fixed on something, but can be perverted from good to evil, and from evil restored to good.
In man’s reason, also, this happens: Since it gathers the truth from sensible things and certain signs, the way lies open to contradictory positions.
But an angel, just as he has an unchangeable grasp of truth because he knows by simple understanding, so also he has an unchangeable choice. Accordingly, he is either not fixed upon evil at all, or, if he is fixed on evil, is fixed so immutably. Hence, his sin is not subject to expiation.
Since, then, the chief cause of the divine incarnation appears to be the expiation of sin, as divine Scripture teaches us, it was more fitting that God assume a human than an angelic nature. Second, the assumption of the creature by God is in person, not in nature, as the foregoing makes clear. It was, therefore, more suitable to assume the human than the angelic nature because in man the nature is other than the person, for man is composite of matter and form; but this is not so in the angel, who is immaterial.
Third, the angel, in what is proper to his nature, is closer to the knowledge of God than man is whose knowledge arises from the senses. Therefore, it was sufficient for the angel to be intelligibly instructed by God regarding divine truth. But the condition of man required that God instruct man sensibly about Himself as Man. This was done by the Incarnation.
Then, again, the very distance of man from God seemed more repugnant to the divine enjoyment. Therefore, man needed to be assumed by God more than an angel did, that man’s hope for beatitude be stimulated. Lastly, man, since he is the term of creatures, presupposing, so to say, all other creatures in the natural order of generation, is suitably united to the first principle of things to finish a kind of cycle in the perfection of things.
8 But the fact that God assumed human nature gives no occasion of error, as the fifth argument was trying to show. For the assumption of humanity, as already said, took place in a unity of person, not in a unity of nature, which might result in our agreement with those who held that God is not exalted above all things, and said that God was the soul of the universe, or something of the sort.
9 We grant, of course, that respecting God’s Incarnation certain errors have arisen, as the sixth argument objected; nevertheless, it is manifest that after the Incarnation many more errors were removed. For, just as in the creation of things which proceeded from the divine goodness some evils followed, and this was proportionate to the condition of creatures which are able to fail, so also in the manifestation of divine truth it is not astonishing that some errors have arisen from the failure of human minds. And these errors, for all that, exercised the talents of the faithful toward a more diligent penetration and understanding of divine truth, just as the evils which occur in creatures are ordered by God to some good.
10 Although, of course, every created good turns out to be negligible in comparison to the divine good, nevertheless, because in things created nothing can be greater than the salvation of the rational creature (which consists in the enjoyment of the divine goodness itself), since human salvation has followed upon the divine Incarnation it was no small usefulness which the Incarnation mentioned brought to the universe (so the seventh argument was proceeding).
And it need not follow on this that all men should be saved, but only those who adhere to the Incarnation mentioned by faith and the sacraments of the faith. To be sure, the power of the divine Incarnation is equal to the salvation ‘of all men, but the fact that some are not saved thereby comes from their indisposition: they are unwilling to take unto themselves the fruit of the Incarnation; they do not cleave to the incarnate God by faith and love. For men were not intended to lose that freedom of choice by which they are able to cleave or not to cleave to the incarnate God, lest the good of man be produced by coercion, a good without merit and without praise.
Notes Free will exists.
11 There have also been sufficient indications to make this Incarnation of God manifest to men. For there is no more suitable way to manifest divinity than by things which are God’s very own. But this is God’s very own: the power to change the laws of nature by doing something above that nature whose very author He is.
Most suitably, then, is something proved divine by doing works above the laws of nature, to enlighten the blind, for instance, or to cleanse lepers, or to raise the dead. Works of this kind are what Christ did. Accordingly, when He was asked: “Are you He that is to come or look we for another?” by these works He Himself indicated His divinity in His reply: “The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear” (Mat. 11:15, 5), And so forth.
But to create another world was not necessary; and this was not consonant either with the divine wisdom or with the nature of things. One may, of course, say, as the eighth argument was proposing, that we read of others also performing miracles of this kind, but it must be borne in mind that Christ performed them very differently and more divinely. For we read of others doing these things by praying; Christ did them by commanding by His very own power, so to say.
And He not only did these things Himself, but even granted to others the power to do the same, and greater; and the latter used to do them by the mere invocation of the name of Christ. And not merely bodily miracles were worked through Christ, but spiritual ones as well, and these are much greater: namely, by Christ and at the invocation of His name the Holy Spirit is received, and so hearts are inflamed by the affection of divine charity; and minds suddenly are instructed in the knowledge of things divine; and the tongues of the unlettered are rendered skilled for setting divine truth forth to men.
But works of this sort are express indications of the divinity of Christ; they are things so pare man was able to do. Hence, the Apostle says that the salvation of men “which, having begun to be declared by the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him, God also bearing them witness by signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and distributions of the Holy Spirit” (Heb. 2:3-4).
12 Granted, of course, that God’s Incarnation was necessary for the entire human race, it was not for all that, necessary that God be incarnate from the beginning of the world, as the ninth objection ran.
Now first: by the incarnate God a remedy against sin had to be brought to men, as was shown above. But no one receives a suitable remedy against sin unless first he acknowledges his failure, so that man in his lowliness, not relying on himself, may put his ‘hope in God, by whom alone sin can be healed, as was said above. Man’s presumption was possible, of course, both in regard to knowledge and in regard to virtue. He had, then, to be left to himself for a while to discover that he was not equal to his own salvation: not equal by natural knowledge, for before the time of the written law man transgressed the law of nature; nor equal by his own virtue, for, when he was given knowledge of sin through the law, he still sinned out of weakness.
Thus necessarily, man, presuming neither on his knowledge nor on his virtue, could at last be given efficacious help against sin by Christ’s Incarnation; namely, the grace of Christ by which he was not only to be instructed in doubtful matters lest he be deficient in knowledge, but also to be strengthened against the assaults of temptation lest he be deficient through frailty. And so it happened that there were three states of the human race: the first, before the Law; the second, under the Law; the third, under grace.
Then, again, by the incarnate God precepts and perfect testimonies were to be given to men. Now, the condition of human nature requires that it be not led immediately to the perfect, but that it be led by the hand through the imperfect so as to arrive at perfection. We see this in the instruction of children. They are first instructed minimally; for they cannot grasp perfect things in the beginning. In the same way, also, if to some multitude things unheard of were proposed as great, the multitude would not grasp them immediately unless it became accustomed to these things by something less great. Thus, then, was it suitable that from the beginning the human race be instructed in the matter of its salvation by some light and lesser testimonies through the Patriarchs, and the Law, and the Prophets; and that at last, at the consummate time, the perfect teaching of Christ be set forth on earth. Thus, the Apostle says: “When the fullness of the time was come “sent His Son” into the world. And we read in the same place: “The law was our pedagogue in Christ. But we are no longer under a pedagogue” (Gal. 4:4; 3:24-2-5).
One must also consider this: as the coming of a great king must be preceded by a number of envoys to prepare his subjects to receive him more reverently, so many things had to precede the coming of God to the earth: to prepare men for the reception of the incarnate God. Indeed, this did take place when, because of the promises and testimonies that had gone before, the minds of men were disposed the more readily to believe Him who had had envoys before Him, and the more eagerly to receive Him because of the previous promises.
Notes And this makes you wonder what we are to make of the signs of the times now.
13 One may also grant that the coming of the incarnate God was extremely necessary for human salvation; nevertheless, it was not necessary for human salvation that He converse with men even unto the end of the world, as the tenth argument was proposing. For this would have worked against the reverence which men ought to show to the incarnate God, so long as, seeing Him clothed in flesh similar to other men, they esteemed Him nothing beyond other men. But He, after the wondrous things which He did upon the earth, withdrew His presence from men, and they began to revere Him the more. For this reason He did not even give His disciples the fullness of the Holy Spirit so long as He conversed with them, as though by His absence their souls were more prepared for spiritual gifts. Hence, He Himself said to them: “If I go not the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
14 It was not right for God to take flesh incapable of suffering and death, as the eleventh argument was proposing, but, rather, capable of suffering and death. First, indeed, because it was necessary for men to know the beneficence of the Incarnation so as to be thereby inflamed in the divine love. But to manifest the truth of the Incarnation He had to same flesh like that of other men; namely, capable of suffering and death. For, if He had taken flesh incapable of suffering and death, it would have seemed to men who did not know such flesh that it was a phantom and not the reality of flesh.
Second, because it was necessary that God assume flesh to satisfy for the sin of the human race. It happens, of course, that one does satisfy for another (as was shown in Book III) in such wise, however, that the penalty for sin due to the second, and not due to the first, the first voluntarily assumes. But the penalty consequent on the sin of the human race is death and the other capacities for suffering of the present life, as was said above. Hence, the Apostle says: “By one man sin entered this world and by sin death” (Rom. 5:17.). Therefore, God had to assume without sin flesh capable of suffering and death, so that by suffering and dying He would satisfy for us and take away sin. And this is what the Apostle says, that “God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3), that is, having flesh like that of sinners, namely, capable of suffering and death; and the Apostle adds “that of sin He might condemn sin in the flesh,” that is, in order that by the penalty which He sustained in the flesh for our sin He might take sin away from us.
Third, because by having flesh capable of suffering and death He gave us examples of virtue more effectively by overcoming bravely the sufferings of the flesh, and making virtuous use of them.
Fourth, because we are by this the more strengthened in the hope of immortality: that He from a state of flesh capable of suffering and death was changed into a state of flesh incapable of suffering and death; and this we can hope for ourselves, we who bear a flesh capable of suffering and death. But if from the beginning He had assumed flesh incapable of suffering and death, no occasion to hope for immortality would be given those who experience in themselves mortality and corruptibility. This, also, was required by His mission as mediator: that, while He had in common with us flesh capable of suffering and death, but in common with God power and glory, He should take away from us what He had in common with us—namely, suffering and death—in order to lead us to that which was common to Him and to God. For He was the mediator for uniting us to God.
15 In like fashion, also, it was not expedient that the incarnate God live in this world a life of riches, and one excelling in honors or dignities, as the twelfth argument was concluding. First, to be sure, because He had come to draw the minds of men, devoted to earthly things, away from earthly things and to lift them up to things divine. Hence, that His example might lead men to a contempt of riches and the other things which the worldly desire, He had to lead a needy and private life in this world. Second, because, if He had abounded in wealth and been established in some great dignity, what He did divinely would have been attributed more to secular power than to the virtue of the divinity. Hence, the most efficacious argument for His divinity has been this: Without the support of the secular power He has changed the whole world for the better.
16 Accordingly, the solution is open to what was said in the thirteenth objection.
17 It is not, of course, far from true to say that the incarnate Son of God bore His death in obedience to a command of His Father, according to the Apostle’s teaching (Phil. 2:8). For God’s commandment to men deals with the works of virtue; and the more perfectly one carries out an act of virtue, the more is he obedient to God. Among the other virtues, charity is the outstanding one to which all the other are referred. Christ then, when He fulfilled the act of charity most perfectly was most obedient to God. For there is no act of charity more perfect than the one by which a man bears even death for another; as our Lord Himself says: “Greater love than this no man has that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Therefore, one finds that Christ bearing death for the salvation of men and for the glory of God the Father was extremely obedient to God and carried out a perfect act of charity. Nor is this repugnant to His divinity, as the fourteenth argument ran. For the union in person took place in such wise that what was proper to each of the natures remained, namely to the divine and to the human, as was explained above. Therefore, even when Christ suffered death and other things proper to humanity, the divinity remained incapable of suffering, although by the unity of person we say that God suffered and died. And somewhat of an instance of this appears in us because, although the flesh dies, the soul remains immortal.
Notes I.e. the rational soul; our intellect and will.
18 This, too, should be understood: Although the will of God is not for the death of men, as the fifteenth argument” set down, the will of God is for virtue by which a man bears death bravely, and in charity exposes himself to the dangers of death. Thus, the will of God was for the death of Christ, in that Christ undertook that death in charity and bore it bravely.
19 Hence, clearly, it was neither impiety nor cruelty that God the Father willed Christ to die, as the sixteenth argument was concluding, for He did not coerce one who was unwilling but was pleased with that will in whose charity Christ undertook His death. And God even wrought this charity in the soul of Christ.
20 In the same way, too, there is no awkwardness in saying that Christ willed the death on the cross as a demonstration of humility. To be sure, the humility does not touch God, as the seventeenth argument was proposing. Truly, the virtue of humility consists in this, that one keep himself within his own limits; he does not stretch himself to what is above him, but he subjects himself to his superior.
Hence, clearly, God can have no proportionate humility, for He has no superior; He Himself exists above all things. But, if a man at times subjects himself in humility to an equal or inferior, this is because the one who is his equal or inferior simply is held by the man as his superior in a certain respect.
Therefore, although the virtue of humility was not fitting to Christ in His divine nature, it was fitting to Him in His human nature, and His humility was tendered the more praiseworthy by His divinity. For the dignity of the person contributes to the praise humility deserves; for example, when out of some necessity a great man has to suffer something lowly. But there can he no dignity of man so great as this: that he be God.
Hence, the humility of the God-man was praiseworthy in the extreme when He bore those abject things which He was called on to suffer for the salvation of men. For men were by reason of pride lovers of worldly glory. Therefore, to change the spirits of men over from love of worldly glory to love of divine glory He willed to bear death; not just any sort of death, but a death abject in the extreme. For there are some who, although they do not fear death, abhor an abject death. And even to the contempt of such a death did our Lord inspire men by the example of His death.
21 One grants also that men instructed by the divine lessons were able to be informed about humility, as the eighteenth argument was proposing. For all that, deeds are more provocative of action than words; and deeds move the more effectively, the more certain is the opinion of the goodness of him who performs such deeds. Hence, although many examples of humility of other men are discoverable, it was most expeditious to arouse men to humility by the example of the God-man. He clearly could not make a mistake, and His humility is the more wondrous as His majesty is the more sublime.
22 This, too, is clear from what has been said: Christ had to suffer death not only to give an example of holding death in contempt out of love of the truth, but also to wash away the sins of others. This indeed took place when He who was without sin willed to suffer the penalty due to sin that He might take on Himself the penalty due to others, and make satisfaction for others. And although the grace of God suffices by itself for the remission of sins, as the nineteenth argument was proposing, nonetheless in the remission of sin something is required on the part of him whose sin is remitted: namely, that he satisfy the one offended. And since other men were unable to do this for themselves, Christ did this for all by suffering a voluntary death out of charity.
23 Be it granted, also, that in the punishment of sins he who sinned ought to be punished, as the twenties argument was proposing, for all that, in the matter of satisfaction one can bear another’s penalty. For, when penalty is inflicted for sin, we weigh his iniquity who is punished; in satisfaction, however, when to placate the one offended, some other voluntarily assumes the penalty, we consider the charity and benevolence of him who makes satisfaction, and this most especially appears when one assumes the penalty of another. And, therefore, God does receive from one satisfaction for another, as was shown in Book III.
24 But to satisfy for the whole human race (this was shown previously) was beyond the power of any mere man; neither was an angel equal to this, as the twenty-first argument was proceeding. For, granted an angel in some natural properties has a power beyond man, nonetheless in the sharing of beatitude (and by the satisfaction man was to be restored to this) the angel is man’s equal. And again, there would be no full restoration of man’s dignity if man were rendered obnoxious to the angel satisfying for man.
25 One should, of course, know that the death of Christ had its satisfying power from His charity in which He bore death voluntarily, and not from the iniquity of His killers who sinned in killing Him; because sin is not wiped out by sin, as the twenty-second argument proposed.
26 And although the death of Christ was satisfactory for sin, it was unnecessary for Him to die just as many times as men sinned, as the twenty-third argument was concluding. The death of Christ was sufficient for the expiation of all sins; and this by reason of the extraordinary charity in which He bore death, as well as by reason of the dignity of the satisfying person who was God and man. But even in human affairs it is clear that by as much as the person is higher, by so much is the penalty he bears reckoned for more, whether reckoned by the humility and charity of the one suffering or by the fault of the one incurring the penalty.
27 Of course, for the satisfaction of the sin of the entire human race the death of Christ was sufficient. For, although He died only in His human nature, as the twenty-fourth argument was proposing, the dignity of the person suffering, and this is the Person of the Son of God, renders His death precious. For, as was said above, just as it is a greater crime to commit an injury to a person who stands out more in dignity, so it is more virtuous and proceeds from greater charity that the greater person submit Himself voluntarily to suffering for others.
28 But, although Christ has by His death satisfied sufficiently for original sin, there is nothing awkward in this: that the penalties consequent on original sin still remain in all, even in those who are given a share in Christ’s redemption, as the twenty-fifth argument was proceeding. For it was both fitting and useful to have the penalty remain even when the fault was taken away.
First, indeed, to achieve conformity of the faithful to Christ as members to the head; hence, just as Christ first bore many sufferings, and thus arrived at the glory of immortality, it also was becoming to His faithful first to undergo sufferings and so to arrive at immortality, bearing in themselves, so to say, the marks of the passion of Christ, in order to achieve a likeness to His glory. So the Apostle says: “Heirs, indeed of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:17).
Second, because, if men coming to Jesus were forthwith to achieve immortality and impassibility, many men would approach Christ more for these bodily benefits than for spiritual goods.
And this is against the intention of Christ who came into the world to change men from love of bodily things to love of spiritual things. Third, because, if those who come to Christ were forthwith rendered incapable of suffering and death, this would somehow compel men to accept faith in Christ. And thus the merit of faith would be diminished.
29 Granted, of course, that Christ has sufficiently satisfied for the sins of the human race by His death, as the twenty-sixth argument proposed, every single one, for all that, must seek the remedies of his own salvation. For the death of Christ is, so to say, a kind of universal cause of salvation, as the sin of the first man was a kind of universal cause of damnation. But a universal cause must be applied specially to each one, that he may receive the effect of the universal cause. The effect then, of the sin of the first parent comes to each one in the origin of the flesh, but the effect of the death of Christ comes to each one in a spiritual regeneration in which the man is somehow conjoined with Christ arid incorporated into Him. And for this reason each must seek to be regenerated through Christ, and must himself undertake to do those things in which ,the power of Christ’s death operates.
30 From this it is clear that the flow of salvation from Christ to men is not through a natural propagation, but through the zeal of good will in which a man cleaves to Christ. Hence, that which each accomplishes by Christ is a personal good. Wherefore, it is not passed on to descendants, as is the sin of the first parent, which is produced with the propagation of the nature. Accordingly, although the parents are cleansed of original sin by Christ, there is nothing awkward about the birth of their children in original sin, requiring the sacraments of salvation, as the twenty-seventh argument was concluding.
31 Thus, then, from what has been set down it is to some extent clear that what the Catholic faith preaches about the Incarnation contains nothing impossible and nothing inharmonious.