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CHAPTERS LI, LIIArguments against Original Sin, with Replies

CHAP. LII — Before dealing with objections, we must premise that there are apparent in mankind certain probable signs of original sin, as we can argue fault from penalty. Now the human race generally suffers various penalties, corporal and spiritual. Among corporal penalties the chief is death, to which all the others lead up, as hunger, thirst, and the like. Among spiritual penalties the chief is the weak hold that reason takes of man, so that man with difficulty arrives at the knowledge of truth, easily falls into error, and cannot altogether surmount his bestial appetites, but often has his mind clouded by them. Some one may say that these defects, corporal and spiritual, are not penal, but natural. But looking at the thing rightly, and supposing divine providence, which to all varieties of perfection has adapted subjects apt to take up each variety,959959Or for every form has prepared matter apt to receive that form. we may form a fairly probable conjecture that God, in uniting the higher nature of the soul to the lower nature of the body, had the intention that the former should control the latter; and further intended to remove, by His special and supernatural providence, any impediment to such control arising out of any defect of nature. Thus, as the rational soul is of a higher nature than the body, it might be supposed that such would be the terms of the union of the soul with the body, that nothing could possibly be in the body contrary to the soul whereby the body lives; and in like manner, as reason in man is associated with sensitive appetite and other sensitive powers, it might be expected that reason would not be hampered by those sensitive powers, but rather would rule them. In accordance with these natural anticipations, we lay it down, according to the doctrine of faith, that the original constitution of man was such that, so long as his reason was subject to God, his lower faculties served him without demur, and no bodily impediment could stand in the way of his body obeying him, God and His grace supplying whatever was wanting in nature to the achievement of this result. But when his reason turned away from God, his lower powers revolted from reason; and his body became subject to passions contrary to the [rational] life that is by the soul. Thus then, though it may be admitted that these defects are natural, if we look at human nature on its lower side; nevertheless, if we consider divine providence and the dignity of the higher portion of human nature, we have a fairly probable ground for arguing that these defects are penal. Thus we 381may gather the inference [a priori] that the human race must have been infected with some sin from its first origin. Now we may answer the arguments to the contrary.

Arg. 1. The son shall not bear the iniquity of his father (Ezech. xviii, 20).

Reply 1. There is a difference between what affects one individual and what affects the nature of a whole species: for by partaking in the species many men are as one man, as Porphyry says. The sin then that belongs to one individual is not imputable to another individual, unless he sins too, because the one is personally distinct from the other. But any sin touching the specific nature itself may without difficulty be propagated from one to another, as the specific nature is imparted by one to others [by generation].960960All this would be clearer if Averroes’s theory were tenable, of one common human mind, or soul, one common psychic stock, as it were, sprouting out into various branches, or personalities, something like an aquatic plant, with many heads showing above water, and these distinct, but all meeting in one root under water. Then we might argue that the common stock remained infected with original sin, though individuals were cleansed. The theory is, I suppose, utterly untenable; or, if there is any truth in it, it is a truth that no man hitherto has been able to formulate without grave and dangerous error. We cannot impute such a notion to the great opponent of Averroism. But St Thomas’s distinction between nature and person in this connexion would be plainer, and his whole argument more telling, on Averroistic principles. See his own remark on Averroism in Chap. XLI. Since sin is an evil of rational nature, and evil is a privation of good, we must consider of what good the privation is, in order to decide whether the sin in question belongs to our common nature, or is the particular sin of a private individual. The actual sins then, that are commonly committed by men, take away some good from the person of the sinner, such as grace and the due order of the parts of his soul: hence they are personal, and not imputable to a second party beyond the one person of the sinner. But the first sin of the first man not only robbed the sinner of his private and personal good, namely, grace and the due order of his soul, but also took away a good that belonged to the common nature of mankind. According to the original constitution of this nature, the lower powers were perfectly subject to reason, reason to God, and the body to the soul, God supplying by grace what was wanting to this perfection by nature. This benefit, which by some is called ‘original justice,’961961Here is a definition carefully to note. ‘Original justice,’ according to St Thomas, is the perfect subjection of man’s lower powers to his reason, of his reason to God, and of his body to his soul.’ He marks off ‘grace,’ i.e., sanctifying grace, from ‘original justice.’ ‘ Original justice then implies freedom from concupiscence, from folly, and from bodily weakness and incapacity of all sorts. A man in original justice would have no difficulty in banishing from his mind thoughts that he recognised as foolish and undesirable. He would have absolute control over his emotions and passions. was conferred on the first man in such sort that it should be propagated by him to posterity along with human nature. But when by the sin of the first man reason withdrew from its subjection to God, the consequence was a loss of the perfect subjection of the lower powers to reason, and of the body to the soul, — and that not only in the first sinner, but the same common defect has come down to posterity, to whom original justice would otherwise have descended. Thus then the sin of the first man, from whom, according to the doctrine of faith, all other men are descended, was at once a personal sin, inasmuch as it deprived that first man of his own private good, and also a sin of nature (peccatum naturale), inasmuch as it took away from that man, and consequently from his posterity, a benefit conferred upon the whole of human nature.962962From the context it is apparent that this ‘benefit ‘ is the ‘benefit,’ above mentioned, of ‘original justice.’ This defect, entailed upon other men by their first parent, has in those other men the character of a fault, inasmuch as all men are counted one man hy participation in a common nature. This 382sin is voluntary by the will of our first parent, as the action of the hand has the character of a fault from the will of the prime mover, reason. In a sin of nature different men are counted parts of a common nature, like the different parts of one man in a personal sin.963963   The difficulty of this interesting passage is its seeming to place original sin in the privation of original justice, as above defined: whereas baptism, cleansing as it does from original sin, does not impart original justice, but sanctifying grace. Original sin is the privation of sanctifying grace, under the explanations given in note, p. 379. God’s sentence upon Adam has worked like an attainder upon a nobleman guilty of treason. The title is taken away from the family. We are by nature and birth a family of commoners, and worse than commoners, for we ought to be noble, and are not, because of the brand of treason resting upon our race. So we are τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς (Eph. ii, 3): we are born in disgrace with God. Our nobility comes with our baptism, and consists in the sanctifying grace given in that Sacrament; not in ‘original justice,’ which shall not be restored to our race till the day of the resurrection of the just.
   There is no difficulty in the text of Ezechiel, which refers to the sins of the people to whom the prophet was sent; and describes the providence of God, not over Adam, but over his posterity.

Arg. 5. What is natural is no sin, as it is not the mole’s fault for being blind.

Reply 5. The defects above mentioned are transmitted by natural origin, inasmuch as nature is destitute of the aid of grace, which had been conferred upon nature in our first parent, and was meant to pass from him to posterity along with nature; and, inasmuch as this destitution has arisen from a voluntary sin, the defect so consequent comes to bear the character of a fault. Thus these defects are at once culpable, as referred to their first principle, which is the sin of Adam; and natural, as referred to a nature now destitute [of original justice].

Arg. 6. A defect in a work of nature happens only through defect of some natural principle.

Reply 6. There is a defect of principle, namely, of the gratuitous gift bestowed on human nature in its first creation; which gift was in a manner ‘natural,’ not that it was caused by the principles of nature, but because it was given to man to be propagated along with his nature.

Arg. 9. The good of nature is not taken away by sin: hence even in devils their natural excellences remain. Therefore the origin of human generation, which is an act of nature, cannot have been vitiated by sin.

Reply 9. By sin there is not taken away from man the good of nature which belongs to his natural species, but a good of nature which was superadded by grace.964964An axiom of the first importance in arguing with a Calvinist or a Jansenist, or any other who will maintain that ‘human nature is desperately wicked,’ or that ‘all the virtues of philosophers are vices,’ or that there is no virtue which is not supernatural.

10. The gift, not belonging to the essence of the species, was nevertheless bestowed by God gratuitously on the first man, that from him it might pass to the entire species: in like manner the sin, which is the privation of that gift, passes to the entire species.

11. Though by the sacraments of grace one is so cleansed from original sin that it is not imputed to him as a fault, — and this is what is meant by saying that he is personally delivered from that sin, — yet he is not altogether healed;965965   Non tamen totaliter sanatur. Though there is nothing in this passage of St Thomas inconsistent with the Council of Trent, Sess. 5, Can. 5, still I scarcely think that the Saint would have written this phrase had that canon been framed in his time. The Council insists on the axiom that there is nothing in the baptised that God hates (in renatis nihil odit Deus).
   But waiving the question of language and formularies, St Thomas here stands on two affirmations which every Catholic must affirm with him: (1) that the baptised Christian, though cleansed from original sin, is not endowed with ‘original justice,’ as above defined: (2) that the children of baptised parents are conceived and born in original sin.
and therefore by the act of nature [i.e., of generation] original sin is transmitted to his posterity. Thus then in the human procreant, considered 383as a person, there is no original sin; and there may very well be no actual sin in the act of procreation: still, inasmuch as the procreant is a natural principle of procreation, the infection of original sin, as regards the nature, remains in him and in his procreative act.966966The above is a summary of the scholastic theology of original sin. If I mention biblical criticism of the historic value of the early chapters of Genesis; evolutionist views of the gradual development of man from bestial ancestors; the observations of the anthropologist on what he calls ‘primitive man,’ a being far removed from ‘original justice,’ and only innocent inasmuch as he lived without law (Rom. vii, 9); I do so by way of recognition of the many sciences that now claim the attention of the ecclesiastical student over and above scholastic theology. The leisurely hours of the seventeenth century were occupied with discussions as to the number of days that Adam spent in Paradise, and whether original justice consists of one ‘form ’ or many. That leisure is gone: σχολή (whence scholastic) has passed into ἀσχολία. Still, to be deep, one must specialise; and one field of specialisation is scholastic theology. Only let the modern scholastic specialist never take his eyes off the thought of the century in which he lives. St Thomas is brimful of the speculations that were rife in his own University of Paris. So is Suarez replete with the best contemporary thought of Spain, and was not neglectful even of England. A great theologian is never behind the times.

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