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CHAPTER LXVIThat nothing gives Being except in as much as it acts in the Power of God

NOTHING gives being except in so much as it is an actual being. But God preserves things in actuality.

5. The order of effects is according to the order of causes. But among all effects the first is being: all other things, as they proceed from their cause, are determinations of being. Therefore being is the proper effect of the prime agent, and all other things act inasmuch as they act in the power of the prime agent. Secondary agents, which are in a manner particular determinants of the action of the prime agent, have for the proper effects of their action other perfections determinant of being.639639Thus e.g. that this painting is a portrait rather than a landscape is attributable, under God, to the will of the painter: but that this painting is at all, is the singular effect of divine action.

6. What is essentially of a certain nature, is properly the cause of that which comes to have that nature only by participation.640640This is a bit of Platonism that has passed through Aristotle to St Thomas. St Thomas gives the example of fire being the cause of all things fiery. But there is no essential element of fire, any more than there is any essential beauty, outside of God. There is no actual essential nature anywhere in creation. Thus there is no actual essential humanity, by participation in which all men are men. Aristotle’s doctrine of the four elements, fire being essentially hot, air essentially cold, earth essentially dry, and water essentially moist, is really a scheme of Platonic Ideas operating as physical causes. For all his protests against the Ideas, Aristotle never became quite emancipated from their control. But God alone is being by essence, all others are beings by participation. Therefore the being of everything that exists is an effect properly due to God; so that anything that brings anything else into being does so insomuch as it acts in the power of God.

Hence it is said: God created all things to be (Wisd. i, 14).

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