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Article Two

Whether All Things are under Divine Providence

We proceed to the second article thus:

1. It seems that not all things are under divine providence. 95For nothing that is ordained happens contingently, and if all things were provided by God, nothing would happen contingently. There would then be no such thing as chance or fortune. But this is contrary to common opinion.

2. Again, every wise provider, so far as he is able, preserves those in his care from defect and from evil. But we see many evils in things. Hence either God cannot prevent evil, and is not omnipotent, or not all things are under his care.

3. Again, that which happens by necessity does not require providence, or prudence. As the philosopher says (6 Ethics 4, 9, 11): “prudence is right reason applied to contingencies, which demand deliberation and choice.” Now many things happen by necessity. Not all things, therefore, are ruled by providence.

4. Again, he who is left to himself is not under the providence of any governor. Now God leaves men to themselves, according to Ecclesiasticus 15:14: “God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hands of his own counsel,” especially so the wicked, according to Ps. 81:12: “So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust.” Not all things, therefore, are under divine providence.

5. Again, the apostle says in 1 Cor. 9:9: “Doth God take care for oxen?”—or, we may say, for any irrational creature. Not all things, therefore, are under divine providence.

On the other hand: Wisdom 8:1 says of the wisdom of God: “It extends from end to end with power, and disposes all things sweetly.”

I answer: Democritus and the Epicureans, and others also, denied any such thing as providence, maintaining that the world was made by chance. Others again have held that incorruptible things are under the care of providence, but that only the incorruptible species of corruptible things are so, not the corruptible individuals. The voice in Job 22:14 speaks their views: “Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.” Rabbi Moses, also, excluded men from the class of corruptible things on account of their surpassing intelligence, but followed the opinion of the others concerning things which pass away.

But we are bound to say that all things are under divine providence, individually as well as collectively. We prove this as follows. Every agent acts for the sake of an end. The effects of a first agent will therefore serve his end to the extent to which his causality extends. This means that the works of an agent 96may contain something which results from some cause other than his own intention, and which does not serve his end. But God’s causality extends to all being, since God is the first of all agents. It extends to the principles of individuals as well as of species, and to the principles of corruptibles as well as of in-corruptibles. Everything which has any kind of being is therefore bound to be ordained by God to some end. As the apostle says in Rom. 13:1: “the powers that be are ordained of God.”1919Migne: “The things which are of God are ordained.” Now we said in the previous article that God’s providence is nothing other than the reason why things are ordained to an end. It follows that all things which have any kind of being must be under the rule of divine providence. We also said that God knows all things, whether universal or particular, and that his knowledge is related to things as the knowledge of an art to the things which it makes (Q. 14, Arts. 6, 11). It follows from this that all things are under the ordinance of God, just as the creations of an art are under the ordinance of the art.

On the first point: there is a difference between a universal cause and a particular cause. A thing may avoid being determined by a particular cause, but it cannot avoid being determined by a universal cause. It can avoid determination by one particular cause only through the intervention of another, as wood is prevented from burning by the action of water. It is therefore impossible for any effect to escape determination by the universal cause to which all particular causes are subordinate. Now in so far as an effect escapes determination by one particular cause, it is said to occur by chance, or to be contingent so far as that particular cause is concerned. But it is still said to be provided by the universal cause whose ordinance it cannot escape. For example, the meeting of two slaves may be due to chance so far as they are concerned, but it has nevertheless been arranged by the master who wittingly sent them to the same place, without either of them knowing about the other.

On the second point: there is a difference between a universal provider and one who cares for a particular thing. One who is entrusted with the care of a particular thing guards it from defect so far as he can. But a universal provider allows some defect to occur in some things, lest the good of the whole should be impaired. Corruptions and defects in natural things are said to be contrary to their particular natures, but to be nevertheless in harmony with universal nature, in as much as 97the defect of one issues in the good of another, even of the whole universe. The passing away of one individual is the generation of another, and the species is preserved by means of it. Now God is the universal provider of all that is. It is therefore fitting that his providence should permit certain defects in particular things, lest the perfect good of the universe should be impaired. The universe would lack many good things, if all evils were excluded. There would not be the life of a lion, if there were no slaying of animals. There would not be the endurance of martyrs, if there were no persecution by tyrants. Thus Augustine says: “God omnipotent would not allow any evil thing to exist in his works, were he not able by his omnipotence and goodness to bring good out of evil” (Enchirid. 2). Those who have believed that corruptible things subject to chance and to evil are outside the care of divine providence seem to have been influenced by these two objections which we have answered.

On the third point: man uses nature when he practises the arts and the virtues. But he did not make nature, and for this reason man’s providence does not extend to what nature determines by necessity. But God’s providence does so extend, since God is the author of nature. It was, apparently, this objection that induced Democritus and other ancient naturalists to think that the course of natural things was outside the scope of divine providence, and due to a material necessity.

On the fourth point: the saying that man is left to himself does not mean that he is altogether cut off from God’s providence. It means that the power which works determinately towards a single end is not extended to him as it is even to natural things, which act for an end only through the direction of something else, and do not direct themselves to it like rational creatures, who deliberate and choose by free will. The words “in the hands of his own counsel” are therefore significant. Yet the activity of man’s free will still derives from God as its cause, so that whatever he does by means of it is still under the rule of God’s providence. Even man’s own providence remains under God’s providence, as a particular cause under a universal cause. Nevertheless, God’s providence cares for the just in a more excellent way than it cares for the ungodly, since he allows nothing to happen to the just which might finally prevent their salvation. As Rom. 8:28 says: “all things work together for good to them that love God.” When it is said that God leaves the ungodly to themselves, this means that he does not restrain them from the evil of guilt, not that they are 98altogether excluded from his providence. They would indeed fall away into nothing, if his providence did not preserve them in being. When Tullius said that the matters concerning which men take counsel were outside the scope of divine providence, he seems to have been influenced by this objection.

On the fifth point: as we said in Q. 19, Art. 10, a rational creature is master of its own actions, since it possesses a freewill. But it is under divine providence in a special way as the recipient of blame or praise, and of punishment or reward. It is this aspect of God’s care which the apostle denies to oxen. He does not say that God’s providence has no regard for irrational creatures, as Rabbi Moses thought.


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