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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Three Whether Weakness, Ignorance, Malice, and Desire are Rightly Named as the Wounds of Nature Due to Sin

Whether Weakness, Ignorance, Malice, and Desire are Rightly Named as the Wounds of Nature Due to Sin

We proceed to the third article thus:

1. Weakness, ignorance, malice, and desire do not seem to be rightly named as the wounds of nature due to sin. For they are clearly named as causes of sin in Q.76, Art.1, Q.77, Arts.3, 5, and Q.78, and the same thing is not both cause and effect of the same thing. They should not therefore be named as effects of sin.

2. Again, malice is called a sin. It should not therefore be named as one of the effects of sin.

3. Again, desire is natural, since it is the act of the power of concupiscence. But what is natural should not be named as a wound of nature. Therefore desire should not be named as a wound of nature.

4. Again, it was said in Q.77 that to sin from weakness is the same thing as to sin from passion. Now desire is a passion. It should not then be distinguished from weakness.

5. Again, Augustine says that the sinner's soul suffers two penalties, namely |ignorance| and |difficulty,| and that |error| and |vexation| arise out of them (De Nat. et Grat.67; 1 Retract.9). But these do not coincide with the four wounds named. Either the one list or the other is therefore inadequate.

On the other hand: this is said by Bede. (Reference unknown.)

I answer: there was a time when original justice enabled reason to have complete control over the powers of the soul, and when reason itself was subject to God and made perfect by him. But original justice was lost through the sin of our first parent, as we said in Q.81, Art.2. In consequence, all powers of the soul have been left to some extent destitute of their proper order, by which they are naturally inclined to virtue. It is this destitution that we call |a wound of nature.| Now there are four powers of the soul which can be the subject of virtue. There is reason, the virtue of which is prudence; will, the virtue of which is justice; the irascible power, the virtue of which is fortitude; and desire, the virtue of which is temperance. In so far as reason has lost the way to truth, there is the wound of ignorance. In so far as the will has lost its inclination to good, there is the wound of malice. In so far as the irascible power has lost its aggressiveness towards the difficult, there is the wound of weakness. Finally, in so far as desire is no longer directed to the delectable under the restraint of reason, there is the wound of desire.

These four, then, are the wounds inflicted on the whole of human nature by the sin of our first parent. But all four are also caused by other sins, since actual sin diminishes the inclination to virtue in every one of us, as we said in Arts.1 and 2. Reason is darkened by sin, especially in practical matters. The will is hardened against the good. To act well becomes more difficult. Desire becomes more impulsive.

On the first point: there is no reason why the effect of one sin should not be the cause of another. Indeed, the derangement caused by a previous sin inclines the soul to sin more readily.

On the second point: |malice| does not here mean the sin. It means that proneness of the will to evil which is mentioned in Gen.8:21: |the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.|

On the third point: as we said in Q.82, Art.3, desire is natural to man in so far as it is subject to reason, but is contrary to his nature if it exceeds the bounds of reason.

On the fourth point: every passion may be called a weakness in a general sense, since it saps the soul's strength and hinders reason. Bede, however, means weakness in the strict sense in which it is opposed to fortitude, which is a character of the irascible power.

On the fifth point: the |difficulty| of which Augustine speaks includes the three wounds which affect the appetitive power, namely malice, weakness, and desire. One does not readily tend to good if these are present. Error and vexation are consequential wounds. A man grieves because he lacks the strength for what he desires.

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