Aquinas, St Thomas
Aquinas, St. Thomas called the Angelical Doctor, the most conspicuous of the theological philosophers of the Middle Age, was born at Aquino, in the kingdom of Naples, in 1224 or 1226, of a noble family. (In Roman Catholic writers, and generally on the continent of Europe, his name appears as St. Thomas; but as the name Aquinas is more commonly used by English writers, we place this article under that title.) His parents sent him, when only five years old, to be educated in the monastery of Monte Cassino. In 1241 he took the habit of the Dominicans in the monastery of the order at Naples without the knowledge of his parents. "His mother, distressed by this act, set ,out in search of him, seized him on the road, and had him closely confined in the castle of Rocca-sicca. Here he entirely devoted himself to the study of Holy Scripture, and neither tears, nor entreaties, nor threats could persuade him to renounce the step he had taken. In this state of confinement he was kept for two years, when he escaped through a window and fled to Naples, and thence to Rome. In 1244 he went to Cologne, and placed himself under Albert the Great, whom he followed to Paris, and finished his studies under him. In 1248 he taught philosophy, the Holy Scriptures, and the Master of the Sentences at Cologne; in 1252 he taught at Paris, and in 1255 was made Doctor of Theology in that university, on the same day with Bonaventura." He subsequently taught in most of the Italian universities, and at last took up his abode at Naples, where he received a pension from King Charles, and spent the remainder of his life in teaching; entirely indifferent about worldly cares and honors, he declined many ecclesiastical dignities, and, among others, the archbishopric of Naples, which was offered to him by Clement IV. "As rector of the university, during a very active life, and often travelling, he wrote in twenty years the greater part of his works, which treat of a vast variety of subjects. It is said of him that he could dictate compositions on different subjects at the same time. It characterizes his theological speculations that he read daily some edifying books, for, as he expressed it, we should take care that nothing one-sided arise in our speculations. He used to begin his lectures and writings with prayer; and when in any inquiry he could find no solution, he would fall on his knees and pray for illumination. While the originality and deep philosophy of his lectures brought a great multitude of hearers to him at Paris and Naples, his sermons were so simple that the most uneducated could understand them. King Louis IX of France used to ask his advice in affairs of state. On one occasion he invited him against his will to dinner, when he was occupied with a very difficult inquiry. During the meal he became quite abstracted, and all at once cried out, 'Now at last I have found it!' His prior reminded him that he was seated at the king's table; but the king immediately allowed a secretary to come and write down his thoughts. Aquinas was distinguished among the schoolmen for clearness of development, and the harmony between his thoughts and their expression" (Neander, Hist. of Dogmas, 2, 543). "In the year 1274 Pope Gregory X called him to attend the Council of Lyons, in order that he might read to the assembly the book which he had composed, at the command of Pope Urban, against the claims of the Greek Church; but he was taken ill and died on the way, near Terracina, March 7, 1274. He was canonized in 1323 by John XXII, and the rank of fifth DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH was assigned to him. His writings at once assumed, and have continued to maintain, an immense authority; the popes have repeatedly declared his works to be perfect, without any error (Landon, Eccl. Dict. 1:475).
Of his theological writings, the most famous is his "Summa Theologiae" (best ed. Antwerp, 1675, 3 vols. 4to), which is still a favorite authority in the Catholic Church. The Summa Theologie is one of the grandest attempts at a complete science of theology ever planned by a human intellect; and, as such, it deserves here a brief analysis, which we give from Hardwick (Ch. Hist. of the Middle Age, 1853, 8vo). The Summa is divided into three great parts: (1) the Natural, (2) the Moral, (3) the Sacramental. In the first of these the writer ascertains the nature and the limits of theology, which he esteems a proper science, based upon a supernatural revelation, the contents of which, though far transcending all the powers of human thought, are, when communicated, subjects for devout inquiry, and admit of argumentative defense. Accordingly, the writer next discusses the existence and the attributes of God, endeavoring to elucidate the nature of his will, his providence, the ground of his predestination, and the constitution of the blessed Trinity in unity — a doctrine which, although he deems it incapable of a priori demonstration, finds an echo and a counterpart in man. Descending from the cause to the effects, he analyzes the constituent parts of the creation, angels, the material world, and men, enlarging more especially upon the functions of the human soul, its close relation to the body, and the state of both before the fall. The second part is subdivided into the Prima Secundae and the Secunda Secundve. The former carries on the general subject, viewing men'no longer from the heavenly, but the earthly side, as moral and responsible agents gifted with a vast complexity of passions, sentiments, and faculties. The way in which these powers would naturally operate, if acting by themselves, is first considered, and the author then proceeds to show how they are modified by supernatural agencies or coexistent gifts of grace. This leads him to compare the state or position of mankind in reference to the systems (or economies) in grace and nature, and, as the immediate consequence, to treat of our original righteousness, free-will, original sin, justification, and the original rules of life. In the Secunda Secundae, the several virtues are discussed in turn, as they exist under the operation of divine grace, or that of nature only. They are seven in number. Three of them are "theological," or supernaturally infused and nourished — viz., faith, hope, and love — while the remainder are the four cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance, and are "ethical," or purely human. The discussion of these virtues forms an admirable work on Christian morals. The third part of the Summa is devoted to an exposition of the mysteries of the Incarnation, and the efficacy of the sacraments — a class of topics which, according to the principles of all the mediaeval writers, are essentially akin. Aquinas traces every supernatural influence to the Person of the Word made flesh, who, by the union of our nature with the Godhead, has become the Reconstructor of humanity and the Dispenser of new life. This life, together with the aliment by which it is sustained, descends to man through certain outward media, or the sacramental ordinances of the church; their number being seven, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penitence, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction. In the last division of the work, which develops "the complex philosophy of expiation, under the representations of it contained in the doctrines and ritual of the Church of Rome," and in which the Aristotelian philosophy is made to justify all the traditional teachings of that church, we find the grounds of the mighty influence of Aquinas in determining the scientific form of certain doctrines which afterward threatened to obtain complete ascendency in all the Western churches. But with all the learning, the piety, and the dialectic skill of Aquinas, he did not avoid the puerilities of the so-called scholastic spirit. Some of the questions treated in the Summa are trifling, others scandalous; e.g. Quare Christus non assumpsit fmineum sexum, and others even worse.
The following summary of the doctrines of Aquinas is chiefly condensed from Neander, History of Dogmas, vol. 2.
1 As to the necessity of revelation, Aquinas inferred it from the super- terrestrial destiny of man, which goes beyond the limits of human reason. He denied any contradiction between philosophical and theological truth; the truths of natural reason cannot be at variance with those given by revelation, since God is also the author of reason. What opposes reason cannot proceed from God. If we admit such a contradiction, it would follow that something false might be the object of faith, which would be an absurdity. In his inquiries respecting the relation of faith to knowledge, he says: A faith of authority resting on human opinion is the weakest of all things; but it is otherwise with divine revelation. Yet theology makes use of human reason, not, indeed, to prove the truths of revelation, but to deduce other truths from it. As other sciences obtain their principles from other sources, and then draw inferences from them, so theology proceeds from those which are made known by a higher light. But since grace does not nullify nature, but perfects it, and as the natural inclinations of the will serve the divine principle of the Christian life, so also will reason serve the truths of faith.
2 As to the knowledge of God, he asserts that it is, in a certain confused manner, implanted in all men (sub quadam confusione est nobis naturaliter insertum). Since man is so created that he finds in God his highest good, so, in striving after happiness, striving after God is at the foundation; but all men do not attain to this consciousness. The fool can say in his heart that there is no God.
3 In anthropology, Aquinas held that man was created with pure natural powers, which, from their very destiny, turned toward God, and thus man acquired the grace of justitia originalis. This is the Romish doctrine of superadded grace, as necessary to the original perfection of human nature. As to original sin, he combated the view of the Traducians, according to which sin was transferred by propagation, for this would not explain the participation in guilt. Mankind must be regarded as an ethical person, and so far Adam's sin was the sin of all men. In original sin Aquinas recognized two elements, one privative, the other positive. The first was the loss of the harmony of original righteousness; the second consisted in an inordinata dispositio, a discordance which took place between reason and sensuousness, and in a languor naturae. He maintained, in opposition to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, that the Virgin Mary was not without original sin, inasmuch as she, as well as other mortals, needed redemption and salvation through Christ (Summa, p. 111, q. 27, art. 1).
4 As to redemption, he could see proof of its relative, but not of its absolute necessity. Since redemption proceeded from the free will of God, it suffices to prove that this method was not impossible, and that it was suitable. Supposing that man had been redeemed by an angel, his perfect restoration could not have been effected, for man would have remained dependent on a creature. The visible appearance of God was necessary, in order that man might be led from the visible to the knowledge and love of the invisible. Setting out from the contemplation of the divine Omnipotence, other possible modes of redemption might be imagined, but this method must have ever been the most suitable. On the other hand, it regard be had to man's stand-point, no other method was possible than that which was chosen by God, since man by himself alone could render no satisfaction. If the relations to God and man are combined, it must be allowed that another method of redemption was possible, but none so suitable as this. The union of God with man must give man the strongest assurance of attaining the highest happiness, which consists in immediate union with God. But, since redemption has been effected, men have acquired a new consciousness of the dignity of their nature. — In these ends Aquinas found the importance of the work of redemption. As he here joins his own ideas with those of Anselm, he agrees also with him in the opinion that the satisfaction rendered by Christ furnished what was .requisite from its intrinsic worth. Like Anselm, he proceeds on the principle that for an injury something must be given which the injured party would value as high as, or higher than what had been lost by the injury. Christ's satisfaction is not only sufficiens, but superabundans. Aquinas was perhaps the first to raise the question "afterward so earnestly discussed in the Calvinistic and Arminian controversies of the 17th century — the question, namely, whether Christ did not earn for the believer a title to eternal life, as of freedom from condemnation to eternal death. Aquinas answers this question in the affirmative, and makes the technical distinction between the satisfaction which Christ made by his sufferings to justice, and the merit of his obedience to the law, by virtue of which the redeemed are entitled to the rewards of eternity. In other words, we find in the theory of Aquinas an anticipation of the later distinction between the 'active' and 'passive' righteousness of Christ" (Shedd, History of Doctrines, 2, 310). If we find elsewhere the various instrumentalities of grace scattered, such as the offices of Lawgiver, Priest, and King, all these are united in Christ, the fountain of all grace. He is the Mediator between God and men, as far as he communicates what is divine to them, intercedes for them, and makes satisfaction for their sins. Christ is the mystical head of the members which belong to him, inasmuch as what he has done is for their benefit (unio mystica).
5 As to justification, the Schoolmen, after Augustin, conceived of it not as objective, but a subjective sanctification, of which faith is the instrument, and which is realized in love. Aquinas thought the infusio gratiae justificantis (infusion of justifying grace) necessary for the forgiveness of sins on the part of God, and allowed successive steps in justification: first of all the communication of grace, then the tendency of the free will to God then that by which it departs from sin, and upon this the forgiveness of sins. He thus confounds, to a certain extent, justification with sanctification, as all the later Romanists do. In the act of faith is contained the admission that man is made righteous by the redemption of Christ. As to the relation of faith to justification, he admitted it, but vitiated it by adopting the scholastic distinction between condgnum and congruum, or merit from desert and merit from fitness. This distinction is thus defined by Aquinas, with his usual .acuteness and clearness: "A meritorious work of man may be considered in two aspects; first, as proceeding from the free will of man, and, secondly, as proceeding from the grace of the Holy Spirit. If it be considered from the first point of view, there can be in it no merit of condignity or absolute desert, because of the inequality between man and God, whereby it is impossible for the creature to bring the Creator under absolute obligation. But if it be considered from the second point of view as proceeding from the influence of the Holy Spirit, the work of man may have the merit of congruity or fitness, because it is fitting that God should reward his own grace as a thing excellent in itself" (Shedd, History of Doctrines, 2, 330).
6 As to the sacraments, he taught that they are the necessary media of the application of Christ's merits to men. He endeavors to prove the necessity of the seven sacraments on the principle that the whole life should be consecrated to God's grace; its gradual development from birth to death was surrounded by the sacraments.
i The birth of the spiritual life takes place in baptism;
ii the growth to maturity is through confirmation;
iii the nourishment of the spiritual life is through the Lord's Supper. If man were bodily and spiritually sound throughout, he needs nothing more; but for the healing of his sickly state he requires
v the promotion of his recovery by certain means is signified by extreme unction.
7 As to the future state of man, he goes into details on the resurrection body. According to quest. 81 (Summa, pt. 3), those who are raised from the dead will be in the cetas juvenilis, quae inter decrementum et incrementurm instituitur. The difference of sexes will continue to exist, but without sensual appetites. All the organs of sense will still be active, with the exception of the sense of taste. It is however possible that even the latter may be rendered more perfect, and fitted for adequate functions and enjoyments. Hair and nails are one of the ornaments of man, and are therefore quite as necessary as blood and other fluids. The resurrection bodies will be exceedingly fine, and be delivered from the heavy weight which is now so burdensome to them; nevertheless they will be tangible, as the body of Christ could be touched after his resurrection. But this is true only in reference to the bodies of the blessed. The bodies of the damned are ugly and deformed; they are incorruptible, but capable of suffering, which is not the case with the bodies of the saints" (Hagenbach, History, of Doctrines, § 204).
The scholastic philosophy reached its culmination in Aquinas. He rendered real service to the Aristotelian philosophy by the pains he took to effect a translation of the works in which it was contained, and by his commentaries on them. He was a Realist, inasmuch as he maintained that the ideas of things after the pattern of which the world was made pre- existed eternally in the Divine mind (although not independent of God), and regarded them as the proper objects of knowledge, and as the forms which determine the nature and properties of all things. This system he endeavored to place on a firmer basis by extending the theory of thought propounded by Aristotle, to which he superadded some ideas of the system of Plato and of the Alexandrians. With this is connected his explanation of the conceptions of matter and form, as elements of compound substances, as also his explanation of the principle of individuation. The rational soul, the nature of which he discusses after Aristotle's system, is the substantial form of man, immaterial and indestructible. The aim of Aquinas, as a Christian philosopher, was to prove the reasonableness of Christianity, which he attempted to accomplish by showing, 1st, that it contains a portion of truth; 2d, that it falls under the cognizance of reason; and, 3d, that it contains nothing contradictory to reason. In connection with the latter argument he starts from the assumption that the truths of reason are essentially one with Divine truth, because reason is derived from God. Philosophy consists, according to him, in science searching for truth with the instrument of human reason; but he maintains that it was necessary for the salvation of man that Divine revelation should disclose to him certain things transcending the grasp of human reason. He regarded theology, therefore, as the offspring of the union of philosophy and religion (Tennemann, Hist. of Philosophy).
The Dominican monks, especially, naturally proud of their greatest doctor, have always maintained Thomism, as the doctrines of Aquinas have been named. The Franciscans, on the other hand, have always opposed Thomism; one of their greatest doctors, Bonaventura (q.v., doctor seraphicus, † 1274), opposed Aquinas on mystical grounds, and Duns Scotus (q.v., doctor subtills, † 1308) on dialectical grounds: they were enrolled in solid body against it. The Thomists were Aristotelians, generally Realists; followed Augustine as to sin, grace, etc.; opposed the immaculate conception, and held that the sacraments convey grace physically. The Scotists were Nominalists, were opposed to Augustine's doctrines of grace and predestination, maintained the immaculate conception, and held that the sacraments produce grace as moral causes, not as physical. The Roman see naturally inclined to favor the doctrines of the Scotists, but the prestige of Aquinas was so great that the Thomists, to a great extent, ruled the theology of the church up to the time of the controversy between the Molinists (q.v.) and the Jansenists, when the views of the Scotists substantially prevailed.
The collected writings of St. Thomas fill twenty-three folio volumes. The following is the list of them, as given by Cave:
1. Expositio in Aristotelis libros, etc. (Venice, 1496): — 2. Comment. in 4 lib. Sent. P. Lombardi (Basle, 1492; and often): — 3. Quaestiones disputatx. 10, de Potentia Dei; 16, De Malo, etc.; 29, De Veritate: — 4. Quaestiones Quodlibeticae:12 (Cologne, 1471, 1491, etc.): — 5. Summa Catholicae fidei contra Gentiles (Rome, 1476; Venice, 1480, fol., with notes by Fran. de Sylvestris; Lyons, 1566, fol., with comm. by Franciscus Ferrariensis, Paris, 1642, 2 vols. fol.): — 6. Expositio in lib. B. D 'onysii de divinis Nominibus: —
7. Summa Theologiae (Cologne, 1604; Douai. 1614; Antwerp, 1624; Paris, 1638; Bologna, with comm. of Cajetan, 1514; with that of Caponus, Cajetan, and Javellus, Venice, 1596, 5 vols. fol.): —
8. Expasitio in Lib. B. Jobi: — 9. -Epositao in Imam Psalmrum Davidis (Lyons, 1520, 8vo): — 10. Expositio in Canticum Canticorum (1545, 8vo; Paris, 1634, 4to): — 11. Expositio in Esaiam Proph.: -
12. Erposito in Jeremina Proph. (Lyons, 1531, 8vo): -
13. Expositio in Threnos Jeremice (attributed by some to Thomas, an Englishman). The last three published together in fol. at Venice in 1527: —
14. Expositio in Evang. S. Johannis: —
15. Catena Aureae in 4 Evanqg. (Lyons, 1530, 8vo; Antwerp, 1578): —
16. Expositio in Pauli Epistolas (Basle, 1475; with comm. of Cajetan, Bologna, 1481, fol.): — 17. Sermones (Rome, 1571, 8vo): 18. Opuscula 73. Of these, many are doubtful. All the above were collected and published at Rome, 1568 and 1570, in 17 vols.; Venice, 1587 and 1594; Douai, 1608; Antwerp, 1612; Paris, 1634, 1655, 1660, in 23 vols. In some of the later of these editions another vol. was added, containing,
19. Comment. in Genesim ' —
20. Comment. in Lib. Maccab.: —
21. Comment. in omnes Epistolas Canonicas: — 22. Comment. in Apocalypsen: — 23. Comment. in Dinielem Proph.: —
24. Comment. in Bothii libros de Consolatione Philosophic.
The chief part of the six works last mentioned are, according to Cave, to be attributed to Thomas Anglus (Cave, Hist. Lit. 2, 308, cited by Landon, 2, 477). The best edition of the works of Aquinas is the editio Veneti altera, containing his life by Echard, and commentaries by Rubeis (28 vols. 4to, Venet. 1775). Of his most important work, the Summa Theologie, many editions have been printed. His Catena Aurea, translated into English, was published at Oxford, 1845 (7 parts 8vo). The best recent books on Aquinas are Werner, Thomas von Aquino (Ratisbon, 1858-60, 3 vols.); Kling, Descriptio Summae T. Aquinatis (Bonn, 1846); Rietter, Moral d. heiligen Thomas (Munich, 1858, 2 vols.); Goudin, Philos. juxta Thomce dogmata (Par. 1861); Jourdain, La Philos. de St. Thomas d'Aquin (Par. 1858, 2 vols.); Hampden, Life of Thomas Aquinas (Lond. 1848). See also Haureau, Phlos. Scolast. vol. 2, cap. 20; Neander, Ch. Hist. 4, 421; Mozley, On Predestination, p. 260 sq.; Tennemann, Manual Hist. Philippians § 266; Cave, Hist. Lit. anno 1255; Neander, Hist. of Dogmas, 2, 542 et al.; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctr.; Shedd, Hist. of Doctr.; Herzog, Real-Encykl. 16, 60; Dupin, Eccl. Writers, cent. 13.