Herein is set forth the Question, concerning the Two Divine Permissions which God justly allows, namely, that the Devil, the Author or all Evil, should Sin, and that our First Parents should Fall, from which Origins the Works of Witches are justly suffered to take place.
The second question and proposition is that God justly permitted certain Angels to sin in deed, which He could not have allowed unless they were capable of sin; and that in like manner He preserved certain creatures through grace, without their having previously suffered temptation; and that He justly allows man both to be tempted and to sin. And all this is clearly shown as follows. For it is a part of Divine providence that each single thing should be left to its own nature, and not be altogether impeded in its natural works. For, as Dionysius says (de Diuin. Nom., IV), Providence is not a destroyer, but a preserver of nature. This being so, it is manifest that, just as the good of the race is better than the good of the individual (Aristotle, Ethics, I), so also the good of the universe takes precedence over the good of any particular creature. Therefore we must add that, if men were prevented from sinning, many steps to perfection would be removed. For that nature would be removed which has it in its power to sin or not to sin; but it has already been shown that this is a natural property of man’s nature.
And let it be answered that, if there had been no sin, but immediate confirmation, then there would never have appeared what debt of grace in good works is due to God, and what the power of sin has been able to effect, and many other things without which the universe would suffer great loss. For it behoved that Satan should sin, not through some outside suggestion, but that he should find in himself the occasion of sin. And this he did when he wished to be equal to God. Now this is to be understood neither simply and directly, nor indirectly, but only with a reservation; and this is declared according to the authority of Esaias xiv: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. For it must not be understood simply and directly, because in that case he would have had a limited and erring understanding, in seeking something which was impossible for him. For he knew that he was a creature created by God, and therefore he knew that it was impossible for him to become equal to his Creator. Neither, again, must it be understood indirectly; for since the whole transparence of the air consists in its subjection to the sun’s rays; therefore nothing which would be contrary to the good of its nature could be sought for by an Angel. But he sought for equality with God, not absolutely, but with a reservation, which was as follows. The nature of God has two qualities, that of blessedness and goodness, and the fact that all the blessedness and goodness of His creatures issues from Him. Therefore the Angel, seeing that the dignity of his own nature transcended that of the other creatures, wished and asked that the blessedness and goodness of all the inferior creatures should be derived from him. And he sought this in his own natural capacity, that just as he was the first to be endowed in nature with those qualities, so the other creatures should receive them from the nobility of his nature. And he sought this of God, in perfect willingness to remain subject to God so long as he had that power granted to him. Therefore he did not wish to be made equal with God absolutely, but only with a reservation.
It is further to be noted that, wishing to bring his desire to the point of action, he suddenly made it known to others; and the understanding of the other Angels of his desire, and their perverse consenting to it, was also sudden. Therefore the sin of the First Angel exceeded and preceded the sins of the others in respect of the magnitude of his guilt and causality, but not in respect of duration. See Apocalypse xii. The dragon falling from heaven drew with him the third part of the stars. And he lives in the form of Leviathan, and is king over all the children or pride. And, according to Aristotle (Metaph., V), he is called king of princes, inasmuch as he moves those who are subject to him according to his will and command. Therefore his sin was the occasion of sin in others, since he first, not having been tempted from outside, was the external temptation of others.
And that all these things happened instantaneously may be exemplified by physical things; for the ignition of a gas, the sight of the flame, and the impression formed by that sight all happen at one and the same time.
I have put this matter at some length; for in the consideration of that stupendous Divine permission in the case of the most noble creatures with regard to the one sin of ambition, it will be easier to admit particular permissions in the case of the works of witches, which are in some certain circumstances even greater sins. For in certain circumstances the sins of witches are greater than that of the Angel or of our first parents, as will be shown in the Second Part.
Now the fact that the providence of God permitted the first man to be tempted and to sin is sufficiently clear from what has been said concerning the transgression of the Angels. For both man and the Angel were created to the same end, and left with free-will, in order that they might receive the reward of blessedness not without merit. Therefore, just as the Angel was not preserved from his fall, in order that the power of sin on the one side and the power of the confirmation of grace on the other side might work together for the glory of the universe, so also ought it to be considered in the case of man.
Wherefore S. Thomas (II, 23, art. 2) says: That by which God is glorified ought not to be hindered from within. But God is glorified in sin, when He pardons in mercy and when He punishes in justice; therefore it behoves Him not to hinder sin. Let us, then, return to a brief recapitulation of our proposition, namely, that by the just providence of God man is permitted to sin for many reasons. First, that the power of God may be shown, Who alone is unchanging while every creature is variable. Secondly, that the wisdom of God may be declared, Who can bring good out of evil, which could not be unless God had allowed the creature to sin. Thirdly, that the mercy of God may be made manifest, by which Christ through His death liberated man who was lost. Fourthly, that the justice of God may be shown, which not only rewards the good, but also punishes the wicked. Fifthly, that the condition of man may not be worse than that of other creatures, all of whom God so governs that He allows them to act after their own nature; wherefore it behoved Him to leave man to his own judgement. Sixthly, for the glory of men; that is, the glory of the just man who could transgress but has not. And seventhly, for the adorning of the universe; for as there is a threefold evil in sin, namely, guilty, pain, and loss, so is the universe adorned by the corresponding threefold good, namely, righteousness, pleasure, and usefulness. For righteousness is adorned by guilt, pleasure by pain, and all usefullness by loss. And by this the answer to the arguments is made plain.
Solutions to the Arguments.
According to the first argument it is heretical to maintain that the devil is allowed power to injure men. But the opposite appears rather to be true; for it is heretical to assert that God does not permit man, of his own free-will, to sin when he wishes. And God permits much sin, by reason of His power to hurt men in the punishment of the wicked for the adorning of the universe. For it is said by S. Augustine in his Book of Soliloques: Thou, Lord, hast commanded, and it is so, that the shame of guilt should never be without the glory of punishment.
And that is not a valid proof of the argument which is taken from the wise ruler who keeps away all defect and evil as far as he can. For it is quite different with God, Who has an universal care, from one who has only a particular care. For God, Whose care is universal, can bring good out of evil, as is shown by what has been said.
For the second argument, it is clear that God’s power as well as His goodness and justice are manifest in His permission of sin. So when it is argued that God either can or cannot prevent evil, the answer is that He can prevent it, but that for the reasons already shown it does not behove Him to do so.
Neither is it valid to object that He therefore wishes evil to be; since He can prevent it but will not; for, as has been shown in the arguments for the truth, God cannot wish evil to be. He neither wishes nor does not wish it, but He permits it for the perfecting of the universe.
In the third argument S. Augustine and Aristotle are quoted on the subject of human knowledge, saying that it is better for a man not to have knowledge of that which is evil and vile for two reasons: first, that then he will have less opportunity to think of evil, since we cannot understand many things at the same time. And secondly, because knowledge of evil sometimes perverts the will towards evil. But these arguments do not concern God, Who without and detriment understands all the deeds of men and of witches.
For the fourth argument: S. Paul excepts the care of God from oxen, to show that a rational creature has through free-will command over its actions, as has been said. Therefore God has a special providence over him, that either blame or merit may be imputed to him, and he may receive either punishment or reward; but that God does not in this way care for the irrational beasts.
But to argue from that authority that the individuals of irrational creation have no part in Divine providence would be heretical; for it would be to maintain that all things are not subject to Divine providence, and would be contrary to the praise which is spoken in Holy Scripture concerning the Divine wisdom, which stretches mightily from end to end and disposes all things well; and it would be the error of the Rabbi Moses as was shown in the arguments for the truth.
For the fifth argument, man did not institute nature, but puts the works of nature to the greatest use known to his skill and strength. Therefore human providence does not extend to the inevitable phenomena of nature, as that the sun will rise to-morrow. But God’s providence does extend to these things, since He is Himself the author of nature. Wherefore also defects in nature, even if they arise out of the natural course of things, are subject to Divine providence. And therefore Democritus and the other natural philosophers were in error when they ascribed whatever happened to the inferior creation to the mere chance of matter.
For the last argument: although every punishment is inflicted by God for sin, yet the greatest sinners are not always afflicted with witchcraft. And this may be because the devil does not wish to afflict and tempt those whom he sees to belong to him by just title, or because he does not wish them to be turned back to God. As it is said: Their plagues were multiplied, and they turned them to God, etc. And that all punishment is inflicted by God for sin is shown by what follows; for according to S. Jerome: Whatever we suffer, we deserve for our sins.
Now it is declared that the sins of witches are more grievous than those of the bad angels and our first parents. Wherefore, just as the innocent are punished for the sins of their fathers, so are many blameless people damned and bewitched for the sins of witches.