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CHAPTER LXXVII: THAT THE EXECUTION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE IS CARRIED OUT BY SECONDARY CAUSES
IT must be observed that two things are required for providence, the order and the execution of the order. The first is the work of the cognitive power, wherefore those that are more perfect in knowledge, are said to order others: for it belongs to the wise man to order. The second is the work of the operative power. Now these two are in inverse proportion to each other. For the ordering is the more perfect according as it extends to the smallest things: whereas the execution of the least things belongs to the lower power proportionate to the effect. In God we find the highest perfection as to both: since in Him is the most perfect wisdom in ordering, and the most perfect power for operation. Consequently, He it is who by His wisdom disposes all things even the very least in their order; and who executes the least or lowest things by means of other inferior powers, through which He operates, as a universal and higher power through an inferior and particular power. It is fitting therefore that there should be inferior active powers to execute divine providence.
Again. It was proved above that the divine operation does not exclude the operations of secondary causes. And whatever is effected by the operations of secondary causes, is subject to divine providence, since God directs all individual things by Himself, as was proved above. Therefore secondary causes execute divine providence.
Besides. The stronger the power of an agent, the further does its operation extend: thus the greater the fire, the more distant things does it heat. But this is not the case with an agent that does not act through an intermediary, because everything on which it acts is close to it. Since then the power of divine providence is supreme, it must bring its operation to bear on the most distant things through certain intermediaries.
Further. It belongs to the dignity of a ruler to have many ministers and various executors of his rule: because the greater the number of his subordinates of various degrees, the more complete and extensive is his dominion shown to be. But no government can compare with the divine in point of dignity. Therefore it is fitting that the execution of divine providence be committed to agents of various degrees.
Moreover. Suitable order is a proof of perfect providence, for order is the proper effect of providence. Now suitable order implies that nothing be allowed to be out of order. Consequently the perfection of divine providence requires that it should reduce the excess of certain things over others, to a suitable order. And this is done by allowing those who have less to benefit from the superabundance of others. Since then the perfection of the universe requires that some share more abundantly in the divine goodness, as we proved above, the perfection of divine providence demands that the execution of the divine government be fulfilled by those things which have the larger share of divine goodness.
Again. The order of causes excels the order of effects even as the cause excels the effect: consequently it is a greater proof of the perfection of providence. Now if there were no intermediary causes to execute divine providence, there would be no order of causes in the world, but of effects only. Therefore the perfection of divine providence requires intermediary causes for its fulfilment. Hence it is written (Ps. cii. 21): Bless the Lord, all ye His hosts: you ministers of His who do His will; and (Ps. cxlviii. 8): Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy winds, which fulfil His word.
|Source: St. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Contra Gentiles, trans. by The English Dominican Fathers from the latest Leonine Edition, Benzinger Brothers: New York, 1924.|