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CHAPTER XCVIIThat God is Living

IT has been shown that God is intelligent and willing: but to understand and will are functions of a living being only.

2. Life is attributed to beings inasmuch as they appear to move of themselves, and not to be moved by another. Therefore things that seem to move of themselves, the moving powers of which the vulgar do not perceive, are figuratively said to live, as we speak of the ‘living’ (running) water of a flowing stream, but not so of a cistern or stagnant pool; and we call ‘quicksilver’ that which seems to have a motion of its own. This is mere popular speech, for properly those things alone move of themselves, which do so by virtue of their composition of a moving force and matter moved, as things with souls; hence these alone are properly said to live:190190It must be remembered that the schoolmen assign some sort of soul, an anima vegetativa, to plants. Others have thought that soul goes no further than consciousness. all other things are moved by some external force, a generating force, or a force removing an obstacle, or a force of impact.191191A ‘generating force’ was St Thomas’s notion of the forces of chemistry. The fall of a stone he put down to removens prohibens, the support being removed, and the stone left free to gratify its natural appetite for rest on earth. The motion of the heavenly bodies he attributed, not without hesitation, to their being animated by a soul (Book II, Chap. LXX). Had he followed out the idea, here obscurely expressed, of the inertia of matter, he might have been led to divine the force of gravitation. And because sensible activities are attended with movement, by a further step everything that determines itself to its own modes of activity, even though unattended with movement, is said to live; hence to understand and desire and feel are vital actions. But God, of all beings, is determined to activity by none other than Himself, as He is prime agent and first cause; to Him therefore, of all beings, does it belong to live.

3. The divine being contains the perfection of all being (Chap. XXVIII). But living is perfect being; hence animate things in the scale of being take precedence of inanimate. With God then to be is to live.

This too is confirmed by authority of divine Scripture: I will raise to heaven my hand, and swear by my right hand, and say: I live for ever (Deut. xxxii, 40): My heart and my flesh) have rejoiced in the living God (Ps. lxxiii, 3).


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