« Prev Chapter CXII. That Rational Creatures are… Next »

CHAPTER CXIIThat Rational Creatures are governed by Providence for their own sakes, and other Creatures in reference to them734734The general proposition, that matter serve mind, will hardly be denied by any one. There are the starry heavens, vast and superhuman: but there are also angels, besides astronomers.

THE very condition of intellectual nature, whereby it is mistress of its own acts, requires the care of Providence, providing for it for its own sake: while the condition of other creatures, that have no dominion over their own act, indicates that care is taken of them not for themselves, but for their subordination to other beings. For what is worked by another is in the rank of an instrument: while what works by itself is in the rank of a prime agent. Now an instrument is not sought for its own sake, but for the use of the prime agent: hence all diligence of workmanship applied to instruments must have its end and final point of reference in the prime agent. On the other hand all care taken about a prime agent, as such, is for its own sake.

2. What has dominion over its own act, is free in acting. For he is free, who is a cause to himself of what he does: whereas a power driven by another under necessity to work is subject to slavery. Thus the intellectual nature alone is free, while every other creature is naturally subject to slavery. But under every government the freemen are provided for for their own sakes, while of slaves this care is taken that they have being for the use of the free.

3. In a system making for an end, any parts of the system that cannot gain the end of themselves must be subordinate to other parts that do gain the end and stand in immediate relation to it. Thus the end of an army is victory, which the soldiers gain by their proper act of fighting: the soldiers alone are in request in the army for their own sakes; all others in other employments in the army, such as grooms or armourers, are in request for the sake of the soldiers. But the final end of the universe being God, the intellectual nature alone attains Him in Himself by knowing Him and loving Him (Chap. XXV). Intelligent nature therefore alone in the universe is in 274request for its own sake, while all other creatures are in request for the sake of it.735735Still in face of such texts as, The heavens are telling the glory of God (Ps. xviii): Praise ye him, O sun and moon: praise ye him, all ye stars and light (Ps. cxlviii): it is hard to deny that God might have chosen to erect a monument to His glory in the shape of a world of irrational creatures, and even of inanimate nature alone. Such creatures would have been, in Aristotelian and Thomist phrase, ‘natural slaves,’ paying their service immediately to God; and of them the text would have been verified: The Lord shall rejoice in his works (Ps. ciii).

6. Everything is naturally made to behave as it actually does behave in the course of nature. Now we find in the actual course of nature that an intelligent subsistent being converts all other things to his own use, either to the perfection of his intellect, by contemplating truth in them, or to the execution of works of his power and development of his science, as an artist develops the conception of his art in bodily material; or again to the sustenance of his body, united as that is to an intellectual soul.

Nor is it contrary to the conclusion of the aforesaid reasons, that all the parts of the universe are subordinate to the perfection of the whole. For that subordination means that one serves another: thus there is no inconsistency in saying that unintelligent natures serve the intelligent, and at the same time serve the perfection of the universe: for if those things were wanting which subsistent intelligence requires for its perfection, the universe would not be complete.

By saying that subsistent intelligences are guided by divine providence for their own sakes, we do not mean to deny that they are further referable to God and to the perfection of the universe. They are cared for for their own sakes, and other things for their sake, in this sense, that the good things which are given them by divine providence are not given them for the profit of any other creature:736736Thus the strength of the labourer is given him to till the earth, not for the profit of the earth, but for the profit of human society. while the gifts given to other creatures by divine ordinance make for the use of intellectual creatures.

Hence it is said: Look not on sun and moon and stars besides, to be led astray with delusion and to worship what the Lord thy God hath created for the service of all nations under heaven (Deut. iv, 19): Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, sheep and all oxen and the beasts of the field (Ps. viii, 8).

Hereby is excluded the error of those who lay it down that it is a sin for man to kill dumb animals: for by the natural order of divine providence they are referred to the use of man: hence without injustice man uses them either by killing them or in any other way: wherefore God said to Noe: As green herbs have I given you all flesh (Gen. ix, 3). Wherever in Holy Scripture there are found prohibitions of cruelty to dumb animals, as in the prohibition of killing the mother-bird with the young (Deut. xxii, 6, 7), the object of such prohibition is either to turn man’s mind away from practising cruelty on his fellow-men, lest from practising cruelties on dumb animals one should go on further to do the like to men, or because harm done to animals turns to the temporal loss of man, either of the author of the harm or of some other; or for some ulterior meaning, as the Apostle (1 Cor. ix, 9) expounds the precept of not muzzling the treading ox.

« Prev Chapter CXII. That Rational Creatures are… Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |