13. From this it follows that there is nothing to be called evil if there is nothing good. A good that wholly lacks an evil aspect is entirely good. Where there is some evil in a thing, its good is defective or defectible. Thus there can be no evil where there is no good. This leads us to a surprising conclusion: that, since every being, in so far as it is a being, is good, if we then say that a defective thing is bad, it would seem to mean that we are saying that what is evil is good, that only what is good is ever evil and that there is no evil apart from something good. This is because every actual entity is good [omnis natura bonum est.] Nothing evil exists in itself, but only as an evil aspect of some actual entity. Therefore, there can be nothing evil except something good. Absurd as this sounds, nevertheless the logical connections of the argument compel us to it as inevitable. At the same time, we must take warning lest we incur the prophetic judgment which reads: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil: who call darkness light and light darkness; who call the bitter sweet and the sweet bitter." Moreover the Lord himself saith: "An evil man brings forth evil out of the evil treasure of his heart." What, then, is an evil man but an evil entity [natura mala], since man is an entity? Now, if a man is something good because he is an entity, what, then, is a bad man except an evil good? When, however, we distinguish between these two concepts, we find that the bad man is not bad because he is a man, nor is he good because he is wicked. Rather, he is a good entity in so far as he is a man, evil in so far as he is wicked. Therefore, if anyone says that simply to be a man is evil, or that to be a wicked man is good, he rightly falls under the prophetic judgment: "Woe to him who calls evil good and good evil." For this amounts to finding fault with God's work, because man is an entity of God's creation. It also means that we are praising the defects in this particular man because he is a wicked person. Thus, every entity, even if it is a defective one, in so far as it is an entity, is good. In so far as it is defective, it is evil.
14. Actually, then, in these two contraries we call evil and good, the rule of the logicians fails to apply. No weather is both dark and bright at the same time; no food or drink is both sweet and sour at the same time; no body is, at the same time and place, both white and black, nor deformed and well-formed at the same time. This principle is found to apply in almost all disjunctions: two contraries cannot coexist in a single thing. Nevertheless, while no one maintains that good and evil are not contraries, they can not only coexist, but the evil cannot exist at all without the good, or in a thing that is not a good. On the other hand, the good can exist without evil. For a man or an angel could exist and yet not be wicked, whereas there cannot be wickedness except in a man or an angel. It is good to be a man, good to be an angel; but evil to be wicked. These two contraries are thus coexistent, so that if there were no good in what is evil, then the evil simply could not be, since it can have no mode in which to exist, nor any source from which corruption springs, unless it be something corruptible. Unless this something is good, it cannot be corrupted, because corruption is nothing more than the deprivation of the good. Evils, therefore, have their source in the good, and unless they are parasitic on something good, they are not anything at all. There is no other source whence an evil thing can come to be. If this is the case, then, in so far as a thing is an entity, it is unquestionably good. If it is an incorruptible entity, it is a great good. But even if it is a corruptible entity, it still has no mode of existence except as an aspect of something that is good. Only by corrupting something good can corruption inflict injury.
15. But when we say that evil has its source in the good, do not suppose that this denies our Lord's judgment: "A good tree cannot bear evil fruit." This cannot be, even as the Truth himself declareth: "Men do not gather grapes from thorns," since thorns cannot bear grapes. Nevertheless, from good soil we can see both vines and thorns spring up. Likewise, just as a bad tree does not grow good fruit, so also an evil will does not produce good deeds. From a human nature, which is good in itself, there can spring forth either a good or an evil will. There was no other place from whence evil could have arisen in the first place except from the nature--good in itself--of an angel or a man. This is what our Lord himself most clearly shows in the passage about the trees and the fruits, for he said: "Make the tree good and the fruits will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruits will be bad." This is warning enough that bad fruit cannot grow on a good tree nor good fruit on a bad one. Yet from that same earth to which he was referring, both sorts of trees can grow.
23. With this much said, within the necessary brevity of this kind of treatise, as to what we need to know about the causes of good and evil--enough to lead us in the way toward the Kingdom, where there will be life without death, truth without error, happiness without anxiety--we ought not to doubt in any way that the cause of everything pertaining to our good is nothing other than the bountiful goodness of God himself. The cause of evil is the defection of the will of a being who is mutably good from the Good which is immutable. This happened first in the case of the angels and, afterward, that of man.
24. This was the primal lapse of the rational creature, that is, his first privation of the good. In train of this there crept in, even without his willing it, ignorance of the right things to do and also an appetite for noxious things. And these brought along with them, as their companions, error and misery. When these two evils are felt to be imminent, the soul's motion in flight from them is called fear. Moreover, as the soul's appetites are satisfied by things harmful or at least inane--and as it fails to recognize the error of its ways--it falls victim to unwholesome pleasures or may even be exhilarated by vain joys. From these tainted springs of action--moved by the lash of appetite rather than a feeling of plenty--there flows out every kind of misery which is now the lot of rational natures.
25. Yet such a nature, even in its evil state, could not lose its appetite for blessedness. There are the evils that both men and angels have in common, for whose wickedness God hath condemned them in simple justice. But man has a unique penalty as well: he is also punished by the death of the body. God had indeed threatened man with death as penalty if he should sin. He endowed him with freedom of the will in order that he might rule him by rational command and deter him by the threat of death. He even placed him in the happiness of paradise in a sheltered nook of life [in umbra vitae] where, by being a good steward of righteousness, he would rise to better things.
26. From this state, after he had sinned, man was banished, and through his sin he subjected his descendants to the punishment of sin and damnation, for he had radically corrupted them, in himself, by his sinning. As a consequence of this, all those descended from him and his wife (who had prompted him to sin and who was condemned along with him at the same time)--all those born through carnal lust, on whom the same penalty is visited as for disobedience--all these entered into the inheritance of original sin. Through this involvement they were led, through divers errors and sufferings (along with the rebel angels, their corruptors and possessors and companions), to that final stage of punishment without end. "Thus by one man, sin entered into the world and death through sin; and thus death came upon all men, since all men have sinned." By "the world" in this passage the apostle is, of course, referring to the whole human race.
27. This, then, was the situation: the whole mass of the human race stood condemned, lying ruined and wallowing in evil, being plunged from evil into evil and, having joined causes with the angels who had sinned, it was paying the fully deserved penalty for impious desertion. Certainly the anger of God rests, in full justice, on the deeds that the wicked do freely in blind and unbridled lust; and it is manifest in whatever penalties they are called on to suffer, both openly and secretly. Yet the Creator's goodness does not cease to sustain life and vitality even in the evil angels, for were this sustenance withdrawn, they would simply cease to exist. As for mankind, although born of a corrupted and condemned stock, he still retains the power to form and animate his seed, to direct his members in their temporal order, to enliven his senses in their spatial relations, and to provide bodily nourishment. For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist. And if he had willed that there should be no reformation in the case of men, as there is none for the wicked angels, would it not have been just if the nature that deserted God and, through the evil use of his powers, trampled and transgressed the precepts of his Creator, which could have been easily kept--the same creature who stubbornly turned away from His Light and violated the image of the Creator in himself, who had in the evil use of his free will broken away from the wholesome discipline of God's law--would it not have been just if such a being had been abandoned by God wholly and forever and laid under the everlasting punishment which he deserved? Clearly God would have done this if he were only just and not also merciful and if he had not willed to show far more striking evidence of his mercy by pardoning some who were unworthy of it.
30. But now, can that part of the human race to whom God hath promised deliverance and a place in the eternal Kingdom be restored through the merits of their own works? Of course not! For what good works could a lost soul do except as he had been rescued from his lostness? Could he do this by the determination of his free will? Of course not! For it was in the evil use of his free will that man destroyed himself and his will at the same time. For as a man who kills himself is still alive when he kills himself, but having killed himself is then no longer alive and cannot resuscitate himself after he has destroyed his own life--so also sin which arises from the action of the free will turns out to be victor over the will and the free will is destroyed. "By whom a man is overcome, to this one he then is bound as slave." This is clearly the judgment of the apostle Peter. And since it is true, I ask you what kind of liberty can one have who is bound as a slave except the liberty that loves to sin?
He serves freely who freely does the will of his master. Accordingly he who is slave to sin is free to sin. But thereafter he will not be free to do right unless he is delivered from the bondage of sin and begins to be the servant of righteousness. This, then, is true liberty: the joy that comes in doing what is right. At the same time, it is also devoted service in obedience to righteous precept.
But how would a man, bound and sold, get back his liberty to do good, unless he could regain it from Him whose voice saith, "If the Son shall make you free, then you will be free indeed"? But before this process begins in man, could anyone glory in his good works as if they were acts of his free will, when he is not yet free to act rightly? He could do this only if, puffed up in proud vanity, he were merely boasting. This attitude is what the apostle was reproving when he said, "By grace you have been saved by faith."
31. And lest men should arrogate to themselves saving faith as their own work and not understand it as a divine gift, the same apostle who says somewhere else that he had "obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy" makes here an additional comment: "And this is not of yourselves, rather it is a gift of God--not because of works either, lest any man should boast." But then, lest it be supposed that the faithful are lacking in good works, he added further, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God hath prepared beforehand for us to walk in them."
We are then truly free when God ordereth our lives, that is, formeth and createth us not as men--this he hath already done--but also as good men, which he is now doing by his grace, that we may indeed be new creatures in Christ Jesus. Accordingly, the prayer: "Create in me a clean heart, O God." This does not mean, as far as the natural human heart is concerned, that God hath not already created this.
32. Once again, lest anyone glory, if not in his own works, at least in the determination of his free will, as if some merit had originated from him and as if the freedom to do good works had been bestowed on him as a kind of reward, let him hear the same herald of grace, announcing: "For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do according to his good will." And, in another place: "It is not therefore a matter of man's willing, or of his running, but of God's showing mercy." Still, it is obvious that a man who is old enough to exercise his reason cannot believe, hope, or love unless he wills it, nor could he run for the prize of his high calling in God without a decision of his will. In what sense, therefore, is it "not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," unless it be that "the will itself is prepared by the Lord," even as it is written? This saying, therefore, that "it is not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," means that the action is from both, that is to say, from the will of man and from the mercy of God. Thus we accept the dictum, "It is not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," as if it meant, "The will of man is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the mercy of God." By the same token, the mercy of God is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the will of man. But if we say rightly that "it is not a matter of human willing or running but of God's showing mercy," because the will of man alone is not enough, why, then, is not the contrary rightly said, "It is not a matter of God's showing mercy but of a man's willing," since the mercy of God by itself alone is not enough? Now, actually, no Christian would dare to say, "It is not a matter of God's showing mercy but of man's willing," lest he explicitly contradict the apostle. The conclusion remains, therefore, that this saying: "Not man's willing or running but God's showing mercy," is to be understood to mean that the whole process is credited to God, who both prepareth the will to receive divine aid and aideth the will which has been thus prepared.
For a man's good will comes before many other gifts from God, but not all of them. One of the gifts it does not antedate is--just itself! Thus in the Sacred Eloquence we read both, "His mercy goes before me," and also, "His mercy shall follow me." It predisposes a man before he wills, to prompt his willing. It follows the act of willing, lest one's will be frustrated. Otherwise, why are we admonished to pray for our enemies, who are plainly not now willing to live piously, unless it be that God is even now at work in them and in their wills? Or again, why are we admonished to ask in order to receive, unless it be that He who grants us what we will is he through whom it comes to pass that we will? We pray for enemies, therefore, that the mercy of God should go before them, as it goes before us; we pray for ourselves that his mercy shall follow us.
64. The angels are in concord with us even now, when our sins are forgiven. Therefore, in the order of the Creed, after the reference to "holy Church" is placed the reference to "forgiveness of sins." For it is by this that the part of the Church on earth stands; it is by this that "what was lost and is found again" is not lost again. Of course, the gift of baptism is an exception. It is an antidote given us against original sin, so that what is contracted by birth is removed by the new birth--though it also takes away actual sins as well, whether of heart, word, or deed. But except for this great remission--the beginning point of a man's renewal, in which all guilt, inherited and acquired, is washed away--the rest of life, from the age of accountability (and no matter how vigorously we progress in righteousness), is not without the need for the forgiveness of sins. This is the case because the sons of God, as long as they live this mortal life, are in a conflict with death. And although it is truly said of them, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God," yet even as they are being led by the Spirit of God and, as sons of God, advance toward God, they are also being led by their own spirits so that, weighed down by the corruptible body and influenced by certain human feelings, they thus fall away from themselves and commit sin. But it matters how much. Although every crime is a sin, not every sin is a crime. Thus we can say of the life of holy men even while they live in this mortality, that they are found without crime. "But if we say that we have no sin," as the great apostle says, "we deceive even ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
65. Nevertheless, no matter how great our crimes, their forgiveness should never be despaired of in holy Church for those who truly repent, each according to the measure of his sin. And, in the act of repentance, where a crime has been committed of such gravity as also to cut off the sinner from the body of Christ, we should not consider the measure of time as much as the measure of sorrow. For, "a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise."
Still, since the sorrow of one heart is mostly hid from another, and does not come to notice through words and other such signs--even when it is plain to Him of whom it is said, "My groaning is not hid from thee"--times of repentance have been rightly established by those set over the churches, that satisfaction may also be made in the Church, in which the sins are forgiven. For, of course, outside her they are not forgiven. For she alone has received the pledge of the Holy Spirit, without whom there is no forgiveness of sins. Those forgiven thus obtain life everlasting.
66. Now the remission of sins has chiefly to do with the future judgment. In this life the Scripture saying holds true: "A heavy yoke is on the sons of Adam, from the day they come forth from their mother's womb till the day of their burial in the mother of us all." Thus we see even infants, after the washing of regeneration, tortured by divers evil afflictions. This helps us to understand that the whole import of the sacraments of salvation has to do more with the hope of future goods than with the retaining or attaining of present goods.
Indeed, many sins seem to be ignored and go unpunished; but their punishment is reserved for the future. It is not in vain that the day when the Judge of the living and the dead shall come is rightly called the Day of Judgment. Just so, on the other hand, some sins are punished here, and, if they are forgiven, will certainly bring no harm upon us in the future age. Hence, referring to certain temporal punishments, which are visited upon sinners in this life, the apostle, speaking to those whose sins are blotted out and not reserved to the end, says: "For if we judge ourselves truly we should not be judged by the Lord. But when we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we may not be condemned along with this world."
67. There are some, indeed, who believe that those who do not abandon the name of Christ, and who are baptized in his laver in the Church, who are not cut off from it by schism or heresy, who may then live in sins however great, not washing them away by repentance, nor redeeming them by alms--and who obstinately persevere in them to life's last day--even these will still be saved, "though as by fire." They believe that such people will be punished by fire, prolonged in proportion to their sins, but still not eternal.
But those who believe thus, and still are Catholics, are deceived, as it seems to me, by a kind of merely human benevolence. For the divine Scripture, when consulted, answers differently. Moreover, I have written a book about this question, entitled Faith and Works,142 in which, with God's help, I have shown as best I could that, according to Holy Scripture, the faith that saves is the faith that the apostle Paul adequately describes when he says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but the faith which works through love." But if faith works evil and not good, then without doubt, according to the apostle James "it is dead in itself." He then goes on to say, "If a man says he has faith, yet has not works, can his faith be enough to save him?"
Now, if the wicked man were to be saved by fire on account of his faith only, and if this is the way the statement of the blessed Paul should be understood--"But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire"--then faith without works would be sufficient to salvation. But then what the apostle James said would be false. And also false would be another statement of the same Paul himself: "Do not err," he says; "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the unmanly, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God." Now, if those who persist in such crimes as these are nevertheless saved by their faith in Christ, would they not then be in the Kingdom of God?
68. But, since these fully plain and most pertinent apostolic testimonies cannot be false, that one obscure saying about those who build on "the foundation, which is Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay, and stubble"--for it is about these it is said that they will be saved as by fire, not perishing on account of the saving worth of their foundation--such a statement must be interpreted so that it does not contradict these fully plain testimonies.
In fact, wood and hay and stubble may be understood, without absurdity, to signify such an attachment to those worldly things--albeit legitimate in themselves--that one cannot suffer their loss without anguish in the soul. Now, when such anguish "burns," and Christ still holds his place as foundation in the heart--that is, if nothing is preferred to him and if the man whose anguish "burns" would still prefer to suffer loss of the things he greatly loves than to lose Christ--then one is saved, "by fire." But if, in time of testing, he should prefer to hold onto these temporal and worldly goods rather than to Christ, he does not have him as foundation--because he has put "things" in the first place--whereas in a building nothing comes before the foundations.
Now, this fire, of which the apostle speaks, should be understood as one through which both kinds of men must pass: that is, the man who builds with gold, silver, and precious stones on this foundation and also the man who builds with wood, hay, and stubble. For, when he had spoken of this, he added: "The fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abides which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burns up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Therefore the fire will test the work, not only of the one, but of both.
The fire is a sort of trial of affliction, concerning which it is clearly written elsewhere: "The furnace tries the potter's vessels and the trial of affliction tests righteous men." This kind of fire works in the span of this life, just as the apostle said, as it affects the two different kinds of faithful men. There is, for example, the man who "thinks of the things of God, how he may please God." Such a man builds on Christ the foundation, with gold, silver, and precious stones. The other man "thinks about the things of the world, how he may please his wife"; that is, he builds upon the same foundation with wood, hay, and stubble. The work of the former is not burned up, since he has not loved those things whose loss brings anguish. But the work of the latter is burned up, since things are not lost without anguish when they have been loved with a possessive love. But because, in this second situation, he prefers to suffer the loss of these things rather than losing Christ, and does not desert Christ from fear of losing such things--even though he may grieve over his loss--"he is saved," indeed, "yet so as by fire." He "burns" with grief, for the things he has loved and lost, but this does not subvert nor consume him, secured as he is by the stability and the indestructibility of his foundation.
69. It is not incredible that something like this should occur after this life, whether or not it is a matter for fruitful inquiry. It may be discovered or remain hidden whether some of the faithful are sooner or later to be saved by a sort of purgatorial fire, in proportion as they have loved the goods that perish, and in proportion to their attachment to them. However, this does not apply to those of whom it was said, "They shall not possess the Kingdom of God," unless their crimes are remitted through due repentance. I say "due repentance" to signify that they must not be barren of almsgiving, on which divine Scripture lays so much stress that our Lord tells us in advance that, on the bare basis of fruitfulness in alms, he will impute merit to those on his right hand; and, on the same basis of unfruitfulness, demerit to those on his left--when he shall say to the former, "Come, blessed of my Father, receive the Kingdom," but to the latter, "Depart into everlasting fire."
104. Consequently, God would have willed to preserve even the first man in that state of salvation in which he was created and would have brought him in due season, after the begetting of children, to a better state without the intervention of death--where he not only would have been unable to sin, but would not have had even the will to sin--if he had foreknown that man would have had a steadfast will to continue without sin, as he had been created to do. But since he did foreknow that man would make bad use of his free will--that is, that he would sin--God prearranged his own purpose so that he could do good to man, even in man's doing evil, and so that the good will of the Omnipotent should be nullified by the bad will of men, but should nonetheless be fulfilled.
105. Thus it was fitting that man should be created, in the first place, so that he could will both good and evil--not without reward, if he willed the good; not without punishment, if he willed the evil. But in the future life he will not have the power to will evil; and yet this will not thereby restrict his free will. Indeed, his will will be much freer, because he will then have no power whatever to serve sin. For we surely ought not to find fault with such a will, nor say it is no will, or that it is not rightly called free, when we so desire happiness that we not only are unwilling to be miserable, but have no power whatsoever to will it.
And, just as in our present state, our soul is unable to will unhappiness for ourselves, so then it will be forever unable to will iniquity. But the ordered course of God's plan was not to be passed by, wherein he willed to show how good the rational creature is that is able not to sin, although one unable to sin is better. So, too, it was an inferior order of immortality--but yet it was immortality--in which man was capable of not dying, even if the higher order which is to be is one in which man will be incapable of dying.
106. Human nature lost the former kind of immortality through the misuse of free will. It is to receive the latter through grace--though it was to have obtained it through merit, if it had not sinned. Not even then, however, could there have been any merit without grace. For although sin had its origin in free will alone, still free will would not have been sufficient to maintain justice, save as divine aid had been afforded man, in the gift of participation in the immutable good. Thus, for example, the power to die when he wills it is in a man's own hands--since there is no one who could not kill himself by not eating (not to mention other means). But the bare will is not sufficient for maintaining life, if the aids of food and other means of preservation are lacking.
Similarly, man in paradise was capable of self-destruction by abandoning justice by an act of will; yet if the life of justice was to be maintained, his will alone would not have sufficed, unless He who made him had given him aid. But, after the Fall, God's mercy was even more abundant, for then the will itself had to be freed from the bondage in which sin and death are the masters. There is no way at all by which it can be freed by itself, but only through God's grace, which is made effectual in the faith of Christ. Thus, as it is written, even the will by which "the will itself is prepared by the Lord" so that we may receive the other gifts of God through which we come to the Gift eternal--this too comes from God.
107. Accordingly, even the life eternal, which is surely the wages of good works, is called a gift of God by the apostle. "For the wages of sin," he says, "is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Now, wages for military service are paid as a just debit, not as a gift. Hence, he said "the wages of sin is death," to show that death was not an unmerited pun ishment for sin but a just debit. But a gift, unless it be gratuitous, is not grace. We are, therefore, to understand that even man's merited goods are gifts from God, and when life eternal is given through them, what else do we have but "grace upon grace returned"?
Man was, therefore, made upright, and in such a fashion that he could either continue in that uprightness--though not without divine aid--or become perverted by his own choice. Whichever of these two man had chosen, God's will would be done, either by man or at least concerning him. Wherefore, since man chose to do his own will instead of God's, God's will concerning him was done; for, from the same mass of perdition that flowed out of that common source, God maketh "one vessel for honorable, another for ignoble use"; the ones for honorable use through his mercy, the ones for ignoble use through his judgment; lest anyone glory in man, or--what is the same thing--in himself.
108. Now, we could not be redeemed, even through "the one Mediator between God and man, Man himself, Christ Jesus," if he were not also God. For when Adam was made--being made an upright man--there was no need for a mediator. Once sin, however, had widely separated the human race from God, it was necessary for a mediator, who alone was born, lived, and was put to death without sin, to reconcile us to God, and provide even for our bodies a resurrection to life eternal--and all this in order that man's pride might be exposed and healed through God's humility. Thus it might be shown man how far he had departed from God, when by the incarnate God he is recalled to God; that man in his contumacy might be furnished an example of obedience by the God-Man; that the fount of grace might be opened up; that even the resurrection of the body--itself promised to the redeemed--might be previewed in the resurrection of the Redeemer himself; that the devil might be vanquished by that very nature he was rejoicing over having deceived--all this, however, without giving man ground for glory in himself, lest pride spring up anew. And if there are other advantages accruing from so great a mystery of the Mediator, which those who profit from them can see or testify--even if they cannot be described--let them be added to this list.