Objection 1. It would seem that the New Law should not prescribe or prohibit any external acts. For the New Law is the Gospel of the kingdom, according to Matthew 24:14: "This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world." But the kingdom of God consists not in exterior, but only in interior acts, according to Luke 17:21: "The kingdom of God is within you"; and Romans 14:17: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Therefore the New Law should not prescribe or forbid any external acts.
Objection 2. Further, the New Law is "the law of the Spirit" (Romans 8:2). But "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Now there is no liberty when man is bound to do or avoid certain external acts. Therefore the New Law does not prescribe or forbid any external acts.
Objection 3. Further, all external acts are understood as referable to the hand, just as interior acts belong to the mind. But this is assigned as the difference between the New and Old Laws that the "Old Law restrains the hand, whereas the New Law curbs the will" [Peter Lombard, Sent. iii, D, 40. Therefore the New Law should not contain prohibitions and commands about exterior deeds, but only about interior acts.
On the contrary, Through the New Law, men are made "children of light": wherefore it is written (John 12:36): "Believe in the light that you may be the children of light." Now it is becoming that children of the light should do deeds of light and cast aside deeds of darkness, according to Ephesians 5:8: "You were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk . . . as children of the light." Therefore the New Law had to forbid certain external acts and prescribe others.
I answer that, As stated above (106, 1,2), the New Law consists chiefly in the grace of the Holy Ghost, which is shown forth by faith that worketh through love. Now men become receivers of this grace through God's Son made man, Whose humanity grace filled first, and thence flowed forth to us. Hence it is written (John 1:14): "The Word was made flesh," and afterwards: "full of grace and truth"; and further on: "Of His fulness we all have received, and grace for grace." Hence it is added that "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Consequently it was becoming that the grace flows from the incarnate Word should be given to us by means of certain external sensible objects; and that from this inward grace, whereby the flesh is subjected to the Spirit, certain external works should ensue.
Accordingly external acts may have a twofold connection with grace. In the first place, as leading in some way to grace. Such are the sacramental acts which are instituted in the New Law, e.g. Baptism, the Eucharist, and the like.
In the second place there are those external acts which ensue from the promptings of grace: and herein we must observe a difference. For there are some which are necessarily in keeping with, or in opposition to inward grace consisting in faith that worketh through love. Such external works are prescribed or forbidden in the New Law; thus confession of faith is prescribed, and denial of faith is forbidden; for it is written (Matthew 10:32-33) "(Every one) that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father . . . But he that shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father." On the other hand, there are works which are not necessarily opposed to, or in keeping with faith that worketh through love. Such works are not prescribed or forbidden in the New Law, by virtue of its primitive institution; but have been left by the Lawgiver, i.e. Christ, to the discretion of each individual. And so to each one it is free to decide what he should do or avoid; and to each superior, to direct his subjects in such matters as regards what they must do or avoid. Wherefore also in this respect the Gospel is called the "law of liberty" [Cf. Reply to Objection 2]: since the Old Law decided many points and left few to man to decide as he chose.
Reply to Objection 1. The kingdom of God consists chiefly in internal acts: but as a consequence all things that are essential to internal acts belong also to the kingdom of God. Thus if the kingdom of God is internal righteousness, peace, and spiritual joy, all external acts that are incompatible with righteousness, peace, and spiritual joy, are in opposition to the kingdom of God; and consequently should be forbidden in the Gospel of the kingdom. On the other hand, those things that are indifferent as regards the aforesaid, for instance, to eat of this or that food, are not part of the kingdom of God; wherefore the Apostle says before the words quoted: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink."
Reply to Objection 2. According to the Philosopher (Metaph. i, 2), what is "free is cause of itself." Therefore he acts freely, who acts of his own accord. Now man does of his own accord that which he does from a habit that is suitable to his nature: since a habit inclines one as a second nature. If, however, a habit be in opposition to nature, man would not act according to his nature, but according to some corruption affecting that nature. Since then the grace of the Holy Ghost is like an interior habit bestowed on us and inclining us to act aright, it makes us do freely those things that are becoming to grace, and shun what is opposed to it.
Accordingly the New Law is called the law of liberty in two respects. First, because it does not bind us to do or avoid certain things, except such as are of themselves necessary or opposed to salvation, and come under the prescription or prohibition of the law. Secondly, because it also makes us comply freely with these precepts and prohibitions, inasmuch as we do so through the promptings of grace. It is for these two reasons that the New Law is called "the law of perfect liberty" (James 1:25).
Objection 1. It would seem that the New Law made insufficient ordinations about external acts. Because faith that worketh through charity seems chiefly to belong to the New Law, according to Galatians 5:6: "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh through charity." But the New Law declared explicitly certain points of faith which were not set forth explicitly in the Old Law; for instance, belief in the Trinity. Therefore it should also have added certain outward moral deeds, which were not fixed in the Old Law.
Objection 2. Further, in the Old Law not only were sacraments instituted, but also certain sacred things, as stated above (101, 4; 102, 4). But in the New Law, although certain sacraments are instituted by Our Lord; for instance, pertaining either to the sanctification of a temple or of the vessels, or to the celebration of some particular feast. Therefore the New Law made insufficient ordinations about external matters.
Objection 3. Further, in the Old Law, just as there were certain observances pertaining to God's ministers, so also were there certain observances pertaining to the people: as was stated above when we were treating of the ceremonial of the Old Law (101, 4; 102, 6). Now in the New Law certain observances seem to have been prescribed to the ministers of God; as may be gathered from Matthew 10:9: "Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses," nor other things which are mentioned here and Luke 9 and 10. Therefore certain observances pertaining to the faithful should also have been instituted in the New Law.
Objection 4. Further, in the Old Law, besides moral and ceremonial precepts, there were certain judicial precepts. But in the New Law there are no judicial precepts. Therefore the New Law made insufficient ordinations about external works.
On the contrary, Our Lord said (Matthew 7:24): "Every one . . . that heareth these My words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock." But a wise builder leaves out nothing that is necessary to the building. Therefore Christ's words contain all things necessary for man's salvation.
I answer that, as stated above (Article 1), the New Law had to make such prescriptions or prohibitions alone as are essential for the reception or right use of grace. And since we cannot of ourselves obtain grace, but through Christ alone, hence Christ of Himself instituted the sacraments whereby we obtain grace: viz. Baptism, Eucharist, Orders of the ministers of the New Law, by the institution of the apostles and seventy-two disciples, Penance, and indissoluble Matrimony. He promised Confirmation through the sending of the Holy Ghost: and we read that by His institution the apostles healed the sick by anointing them with oil (Mark 6:13). These are the sacraments of the New Law.
The right use of grace is by means of works of charity. These, in so far as they are essential to virtue, pertain to the moral precepts, which also formed part of the Old Law. Hence, in this respect, the New Law had nothing to add as regards external action. The determination of these works in their relation to the divine worship, belongs to the ceremonial precepts of the Law; and, in relation to our neighbor, to the judicial precepts, as stated above (Question 99, Article 4). And therefore, since these determinations are not in themselves necessarily connected with inward grace wherein the Law consists, they do not come under a precept of the New Law, but are left to the decision of man; some relating to inferiors--as when a precept is given to an individual; others, relating to superiors, temporal or spiritual, referring, namely, to the common good.
Accordingly the New Law had no other external works to determine, by prescribing or forbidding, except the sacraments, and those moral precepts which have a necessary connection with virtue, for instance, that one must not kill, or steal, and so forth.
Reply to Objection 1. Matters of faith are above human reason, and so we cannot attain to them except through grace. Consequently, when grace came to be bestowed more abundantly, the result was an increase in the number of explicit points of faith. On the other hand, it is through human reason that we are directed to works of virtue, for it is the rule of human action, as stated above (19, 3; 63, 2). Wherefore in such matters as these there was no need for any precepts to be given besides the moral precepts of the Law, which proceed from the dictate of reason.
Reply to Objection 2. In the sacraments of the New Law grace is bestowed, which cannot be received except through Christ: consequently they had to be instituted by Him. But in the sacred things no grace is given: for instance, in the consecration of a temple, an altar or the like, or, again, in the celebration of feasts. Wherefore Our Lord left the institution of such things to the discretion of the faithful, since they have not of themselves any necessary connection with inward grace.
Reply to Objection 3. Our Lord gave the apostles those precepts not as ceremonial observances, but as moral statutes: and they can be understood in two ways. First, following Augustine (De Consensu Evang. 30), as being not commands but permissions. For He permitted them to set forth to preach without scrip or stick, and so on, since they were empowered to accept their livelihood from those to whom they preached: wherefore He goes on to say: "For the laborer is worthy of his hire." Nor is it a sin, but a work of supererogation for a preacher to take means of livelihood with him, without accepting supplies from those to whom he preaches; as Paul did (1 Corinthians 9:4, seqq.).
Secondly, according to the explanation of other holy men, they may be considered as temporal commands laid upon the apostles for the time during which they were sent to preach in Judea before Christ's Passion. For the disciples, being yet as little children under Christ's care, needed to receive some special commands from Christ, such as all subjects receive from their superiors: and especially so, since they were to be accustomed little by little to renounce the care of temporalities, so as to become fitted for the preaching of the Gospel throughout the whole world. Nor must we wonder if He established certain fixed modes of life, as long as the state of the Old Law endured and the people had not as yet achieved the perfect liberty of the Spirit. These statutes He abolished shortly before His Passion, as though the disciples had by their means become sufficiently practiced. Hence He said (Luke 22:35-36) "When I sent you without purse and scrip and shoes, did you want anything? But they said: Nothing. Then said He unto them: But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip." Because the time of perfect liberty was already at hand, when they would be left entirely to their own judgment in matters not necessarily connected with virtue.
Reply to Objection 4. Judicial precepts also, are not essential to virtue in respect of any particular determination, but only in regard to the common notion of justice. Consequently Our Lord left the judicial precepts to the discretion of those who were to have spiritual or temporal charge of others. But as regards the judicial precepts of the Old Law, some of them He explained, because they were misunderstood by the Pharisees, as we shall state later on (3, ad 2).
Objection 1. It would seem that the New Law directed man insufficiently as regards interior actions. For there are ten commandments of the decalogue directing man to God and his neighbor. But Our Lord partly fulfilled only three of them: as regards, namely, the prohibition of murder, of adultery, and of perjury. Therefore it seems that, by omitting to fulfil the other precepts, He directed man insufficiently.
Objection 2. Further, as regards the judicial precepts, Our Lord ordained nothing in the Gospel, except in the matter of divorcing of wife, of punishment by retaliation, and of persecuting one's enemies. But there are many other judicial precepts of the Old Law, as stated above (104, 4; 105). Therefore, in this respect, He directed human life insufficiently.
Objection 4. Further, in order that the mind be inwardly well disposed, man should do no good deed for any temporal whatever. But there are many other temporal goods besides the favor of man: and there are many other good works besides fasting, alms-deeds, and prayer. Therefore Our Lord unbecomingly taught that only in respect of these three works, and of no other earthly goods ought we to shun the glory of human favor.
Objection 5. Further, solicitude for the necessary means of livelihood is by nature instilled into man, and this solicitude even other animals share with man: wherefore it is written (Proverbs 6:6-8): "Go to the ant, O sluggard, and consider her ways . . . she provideth her meat for herself in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." But every command issued against the inclination of nature is an unjust command, forasmuch as it is contrary to the law of nature. Therefore it seems that Our Lord unbecomingly forbade solicitude about food and raiment.
Objection 6. Further, no act of virtue should be the subject of a prohibition. Now judgment is an act of justice, according to Psalm 18:15: "Until justice be turned into judgment." Therefore it seems that Our Lord unbecomingly forbade judgment: and consequently that the New Law directed man insufficiently in the matter of interior acts.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 1): We should take note that, when He said: "'He that heareth these My words,' He indicates clearly that this sermon of the Lord is replete with all the precepts whereby a Christian's life is formed."
I answer that, As is evident from Augustine's words just quoted, the sermon, contains the whole process of forming the life of a Christian. Therein man's interior movements are ordered. Because after declaring that his end is Beatitude; and after commending the authority of the apostles, through whom the teaching of the Gospel was to be promulgated, He orders man's interior movements, first in regard to man himself, secondly in regard to his neighbor.
This he does in regard to man himself, in two ways, corresponding to man's two interior movements in respect of any prospective action, viz. volition of what has to be done, and intention of the end. Wherefore, in the first place, He directs man's will in respect of the various precepts of the Law: by prescribing that man should refrain not merely from those external works that are evil in themselves, but also from internal acts, and from the occasions of evil deeds. In the second place He directs man's intention, by teaching that in our good works, we should seek neither human praise, nor worldly riches, which is to lay up treasures on earth.
Afterwards He directs man's interior movement in respect of his neighbor, by forbidding us, on the one hand, to judge him rashly, unjustly, or presumptuously; and, on the other, to entrust him too readily with sacred things if he be unworthy.
Lastly, He teaches us how to fulfil the teaching of the Gospel; viz. by imploring the help of God; by striving to enter by the narrow door of perfect virtue; and by being wary lest we be led astray by evil influences. Moreover, He declares that we must observe His commandments, and that it is not enough to make profession of faith, or to work miracles, or merely to hear His words.
Reply to Objection 1. Our Lord explained the manner of fulfilling those precepts which the Scribes and Pharisees did not rightly understand: and this affected chiefly those precepts of the decalogue. For they thought that the prohibition of adultery and murder covered the external act only, and not the internal desire. And they held this opinion about murder and adultery rather than about theft and false witness, because the movement of anger tending to murder, and the movement of desire tending to adultery, seem to be in us from nature somewhat, but not the desire of stealing or bearing false witness. They held a false opinion about perjury, for they thought that perjury indeed was a sin; but that oaths were of themselves to be desired and to be taken frequently, since they seem to proceed from reverence to God. Hence Our Lord shows that an oath is not desirable as a good thing; and that it is better to speak without oaths, unless necessity forces us to have recourse to them.
Reply to Objection 2. The Scribes and Pharisees erred about the judicial precepts in two ways. First, because they considered certain matters contained in the Law of Moses by way of permission, to be right in themselves: namely, divorce of a wife, and the taking of usury from strangers. Wherefore Our Lord forbade a man to divorce his wife (Matthew 5:32); and to receive usury (Luke 6:35), when He said: "Lend, hoping for nothing thereby."
In another way they erred by thinking that certain things which the Old Law commanded to be done for justice's sake, should be done out of desire for revenge, or out of lust for temporal goods, or out of hatred of one's enemies; and this in respect of three precepts. For they thought that desire for revenge was lawful, on account of the precept concerning punishment by retaliation: whereas this precept was given that justice might be safeguarded, not that man might seek revenge. Wherefore, in order to do away with this, Our Lord teaches that man should be prepared in his mind to suffer yet more if necessary. They thought that movements of covetousness were lawful on account of those judicial precepts which prescribed restitution of what had been purloined, together with something added thereto, as stated above (105, 2, ad 9); whereas the Law commanded this to be done in order to safeguard justice, not to encourage covetousness. Wherefore Our Lord teaches that we should not demand our goods from motives of cupidity, and that we should be ready to give yet more if necessary. They thought that the movement of hatred was lawful, on account of the commandments of the Law about the slaying of one's enemies: whereas the Law ordered this for the fulfilment of justice, as stated above (105, 3, ad 4), not to satisfy hatred. Wherefore Our Lord teaches us that we ought to love our enemies, and to be ready to do good to them if necessary. For these precepts are to be taken as binding "the mind to be prepared to fulfil them," as Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 19).
Reply to Objection 3. The moral precepts necessarily retained their force under the New Law, because they are of themselves essential to virtue: whereas the judicial precepts did not necessarily continue to bind in exactly the same way as had been fixed by the Law: this was left to man to decide in one way or another. Hence Our Lord directed us becomingly with regard to these two kinds of precepts. On the other hand, the observance of the ceremonial precepts was totally abolished by the advent of the reality; wherefore in regard to these precepts He commanded nothing on this occasion when He was giving the general points of His doctrine. Elsewhere, however, He makes it clear that the entire bodily worship which was fixed by the Law, was to be changed into spiritual worship: as is evident from John 4:21-23, where He says: "The hour cometh when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem adore the Father . . . but . . . the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth."
Reply to Objection 4. All worldly goods may be reduced to three--honors, riches, and pleasures; according to 1 John 2:16: "All that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh," which refers to pleasures of the flesh, "and the concupiscence of the eyes," which refers to riches, "and the pride of life," which refers to ambition for renown and honor. Now the Law did not promise an abundance of carnal pleasures; on the contrary, it forbade them. But it did promise exalted honors and abundant riches; for it is written in reference to the former (Deuteronomy 28:1): "If thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God . . . He will make thee higher than all the nations"; and in reference to the latter, we read a little further on (Deuteronomy 28:11): "He will make thee abound with all goods." But the Jews so distorted the true meaning of these promises, as to think that we ought to serve God, with these things as the end in view. Wherefore Our Lord set this aside by teaching, first of all, that works of virtue should not be done for human glory. And He mentions three works, to which all others may be reduced: since whatever a man does in order to curb his desires, comes under the head of fasting; and whatever a man does for the love of his neighbor, comes under the head of alms-deeds; and whatever a man does for the worship of God, comes under the head of prayer. And He mentions these three specifically, as they hold the principal place, and are most often used by men in order to gain glory. In the second place He taught us that we must not place our end in riches, when He said: "Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth" (Matthew 6:19).
Reply to Objection 5. Our Lord forbade, not necessary, but inordinate solicitude. Now there is a fourfold solicitude to be avoided in temporal matters. First, we must not place our end in them, nor serve God for the sake of the necessities of food and raiment. Wherefore He says: "Lay not up for yourselves," etc. Secondly, we must not be so anxious about temporal things, as to despair of God's help: wherefore Our Lord says (Matthew 6:32): "Your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things." Thirdly, we must not add presumption to our solicitude; in other words, we must not be confident of getting the necessaries of life by our own efforts without God's help: such solicitude Our Lord sets aside by saying that a man cannot add anything to his stature (Matthew 6:27). We must not anticipate the time for anxiety; namely, by being solicitous now, for the needs, not of the present, but of a future time: wherefore He says (Matthew 6:34): "Be not . . . solicitous for tomorrow."
Objection 1. It would seem that certain definite counsels are not fittingly proposed in the New Law. For counsels are given about that which is expedient for an end, as we stated above, when treating of counsel (14, 2). But the same things are not expedient for all. Therefore certain definite counsels should not be proposed to all.
Objection 3. Further, counsels pertain to the life of perfection. But obedience pertains to the life of perfection. Therefore it was unfitting that no counsel of obedience should be contained in the Gospel.
Objection 4. Further, many matters pertaining to the life of perfection are found among the commandments, as, for instance, "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44), and those precepts which Our Lord gave His apostles (Matthew 10). Therefore the counsels are unfittingly given in the New Law: both because they are not all mentioned; and because they are not distinguished from the commandments.
On the contrary, The counsels of a wise friend are of great use, according to Proverbs 27:9: "Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart: and the good counsels of a friend rejoice the soul." But Christ is our wisest and greatest friend. Therefore His counsels are supremely useful and becoming.
I answer that, The difference between a counsel and a commandment is that a commandment implies obligation, whereas a counsel is left to the option of the one to whom it is given. Consequently in the New Law, which is the law of liberty, counsels are added to the commandments, and not in the Old Law, which is the law of bondage. We must therefore understand the commandments of the New Law to have been given about matters that are necessary to gain the end of eternal bliss, to which end the New Law brings us forthwith: but that the counsels are about matters that render the gaining of this end more assured and expeditious.
Now man is placed between the things of this world, and spiritual goods wherein eternal happiness consists: so that the more he cleaves to the one, the more he withdraws from the other, and conversely. Wherefore he that cleaves wholly to the things of this world, so as to make them his end, and to look upon them as the reason and rule of all he does, falls away altogether from spiritual goods. Hence this disorder is removed by the commandments. Nevertheless, for man to gain the end aforesaid, he does not need to renounce the things of the world altogether: since he can, while using the things of this world, attain to eternal happiness, provided he does not place his end in them: but he will attain more speedily thereto by giving up the goods of this world entirely: wherefore the evangelical counsels are given for this purpose.
Now the goods of this world which come into use in human life, consist in three things: viz. in external wealth pertaining to the "concupiscence of the eyes"; carnal pleasures pertaining to the "concupiscence of the flesh"; and honors, which pertain to the "pride of life," according to 1 John 2:16: and it is in renouncing these altogether, as far as possible, that the evangelical counsels consist. Moreover, every form of the religious life that professes the state of perfection is based on these three: since riches are renounced by poverty; carnal pleasures by perpetual chastity; and the pride of life by the bondage of obedience.
Now if a man observe these absolutely, this is in accordance with the counsels as they stand. But if a man observe any one of them in a particular case, this is taking that counsel in a restricted sense, namely, as applying to that particular case. For instance, when anyone gives an alms to a poor man, not being bound so to do, he follows the counsels in that particular case. In like manner, when a man for some fixed time refrains from carnal pleasures that he may give himself to prayer, he follows the counsel for that particular time. And again, when a man follows not his will as to some deed which he might do lawfully, he follows the counsel in that particular case: for instance, if he do good to his enemies when he is not bound to, or if he forgive an injury of which he might justly seek to be avenged. In this way, too, all particular counsels may be reduced to these three general and perfect counsels.
Reply to Objection 1. The aforesaid counsels, considered in themselves, are expedient to all; but owing to some people being ill-disposed, it happens that some of them are inexpedient, because their disposition is not inclined to such things. Hence Our Lord, in proposing the evangelical counsels, always makes mention of man's fitness for observing the counsels. For in giving the counsel of perpetual poverty (Matthew 19:21), He begins with the words: "If thou wilt be perfect," and then He adds: "Go, sell all [Vulgate: 'what'] thou hast." In like manner when He gave the counsel of perpetual chastity, saying (Matthew 19:12): "There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven," He adds straightway: "He that can take, let him take it." And again, the Apostle (1 Corinthians 7:35), after giving the counsel of virginity, says: "And this I speak for your profit; not to cast a snare upon you."
Reply to Objection 2. The greater goods are not definitely fixed in the individual; but those which are simply and absolutely the greater good in general are fixed: and to these all the above particular goods may be reduced, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 3. Even the counsel of obedience is understood to have been given by Our Lord in the words: "And [let him] follow Me." For we follow Him not only by imitating His works, but also by obeying His commandments, according to John 10:27: "My sheep hear My voice . . . and they follow Me."
Reply to Objection 4. Those things which Our Lord prescribed about the true love of our enemies, and other similar sayings (Matthew 5; Luke 6), may be referred to the preparation of the mind, and then they are necessary for salvation; for instance, that man be prepared to do good to his enemies, and other similar actions, when there is need. Hence these things are placed among the precepts. But that anyone should actually and promptly behave thus towards an enemy when there is no special need, is to be referred to the particular counsels, as stated above. As to those matters which are set down in Matthew 10 and Luke 9 and 10, they were either disciplinary commands for that particular time, or concessions, as stated above (2, ad 3). Hence they are not set down among the counsels.
The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas
Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Online Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.
Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.
Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L.
Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ
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