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CHAPTER XLIVThat the Variety of Creatures has not arisen from Variety of Merits and Demerits

ORIGEN in his book περὶ ἀρχῶν says that God out of mere bounty in His first production of creatures made them all equal, all spiritual and rational, and they by free will behaved in various ways, some adhering to God more or less, and others receding from Him more or less; and thus by order of divine justice various grades ensued among spiritual substances, some appearing as angels of various orders, some as human souls also of various states and conditions, some again as demons in various states. He also said that it was through this variety of rational creatures that God instituted a variety also of material creatures, so that the nobler spiritual substances should be united to the nobler bodies, and that in divers other ways the material creation might serve to express the variety of spiritual substances. According to Origen, man, sun, and stars are composed of rational substances united with corresponding bodies. Now all this opinion can be shown to be manifestly false.

1. The better a thing is, the higher place does it hold in the intention of the agent who produces it. But the best thing in creation is the perfection 107of the universe, which consists in the orderly variety of things:271271A salient thought and favourite principle with St Thomas. It comes out remarkably in his speculations on grace. The final end for which God made mankind, according to St Thomas and his school, is not the salvation of this and that individual soul, taken as isolated units: it is a social construction, an organic whole, in which each soul and every man has his proper place divinely allotted, — not of course irrespective of the efforts of his will to secure it, — and places vary in quality and honour. But of them all no place is a bad place as God designed it. If any man’s career ends in final woe, he must, by some wilfulness of his own, have traversed and defeated God’s special and particular purpose on his behalf. The axiom, De minimis non curat praetor, does not hold of God’s dealings with His creatures (B. III, Chap. LXXVI), least of all with His rational creatures (B. III, Chap. CXIII). The humblest place that God’s special providence has prepared for any spirit or human soul created by Him, is a good place, good with a twofold goodness, good for the order and beauty of the universe, and good in view of the particular end of that individual, which is happiness. Only in consequence of a man’s own sin (B. III, Chap. CLXIII) undoing the special providence that made for his peace (Luke xix, 42), does the man fall under another order of providence, which still secures the general good, but no longer his gain. for in all things the perfection of the whole is preferable to the perfection of parts and details. Therefore the diversity of creatures does not arise from diversity of merits, but was primarily intended by the prime agent.

2. If all rational creatures were created equal from the beginning, we should have to allow that they do not depend for their activity one on another. What arises by the concurrence of divers causes working independently of one another is matter of chance; and thus the diversity and order of creation comes by chance, which is impossible.272272Impossible, because the world is an organic whole, one part subservient to another. Such an organic body, such a cosmos, could never be the result of unconcerted actions, and situations assigned in reward commensurate with such actions.

12. Since a spiritual creature, or angel, does not deserve to be degraded except for sin, — and it is degraded from its high, invisible estate, by being united with a visible body, — it seems that visible bodies have been added to these spiritual creatures because of sin; which comes near to the error of the Manicheans, who laid it down that the visible creation proceeded from an evil principle.

Origen seems not to have given sufficient weight to the consideration that, when we give, not in discharge of any debt, but out of liberality, it is not contrary to justice if we give in unequal measure: but God brought things into being under no debt, but of sheer liberality (Chap. XXVIII): therefore the variety of creatures does not presuppose variety of merits.


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