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CHAPTER LVIOf the Need of Sacraments

THE death of Christ is the universal cause of man’s salvation: but a universal cause has to be applied to particular effects. Thus it was found necessary for certain remedies to be administered to men by way of bringing Christ’s death into proximate connexion with them. Such remedies are the Sacraments of the Church. And these remedies had to be administered with certain visible signs: — first, because God provides for man, as for other beings, according to his condition; and it is the condition of man’s nature to be led through sensible things to things spiritual and intelligible: secondly, because instruments must be proportioned to the prime cause; and the prime and universal cause of man’s salvation is the Word Incarnate: it was convenient therefore that the remedies, through which that universal cause reaches men, should resemble the cause in this, that divine power works invisibly through visible signs.

Hereby is excluded the error of certain heretics, who wish all visible sacramental signs swept away; and no wonder, for they take all visible things to be of their own nature evil, and the work of an evil author (B. III, Chap. XV).967967Manicheism, as represented by the Cathari and Albigenses, was a strong power in St Thomas’s time. After a prevalence of more than a thousand years, it is entirely dead in the West. As the plague takes the place of other sicknesses, so Materialism has killed Manicheism. In old times, Matter baffled Mind; and Mind was tempted to pronounce Matter evil. Now the empire of Mind over Matter is consolidated and daily spreading; and Mind is apt to fall in love with its creature, Matter, to identify itself with it, and finally to worship it. There is a strand of Manicheism in those two lost causes, Calvinism and Puritanism.

These visible sacramental signs are the instruments of a God Incarnate and Crucified (instrumenta Dei incarnati et passi).


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