So heinous are the crimes of witches that they even exceed the sins and the fall of the bad Angels; and if this is true as to their guilt, how should it not also be true of their punishments in hell? And it is not difficult to prove this by various arguments with regard to their guilt. And first, although the sin of Satan is unpardonable, this is not on account of the greatness of his crime, having regard to the nature of the Angels, with particular attention to the opinion of those who say that the Angels were created only in a state of nature, and never in a state of grace. And since the good of grace exceeds the good of nature, therefore the sins of those who fall from a state of grace, as do the witches by denying the faith which they received in baptism, exceed the sins of the Angels. And even if we say that the Angels were created, but not confirmed, in grace; so also witches, though they are not created in grace, have yet of their own will fallen from grace; just as Satan sinned of his own will.
Secondly, it is granted that Satan's sin is unpardonable for various other reasons. For S. Augustine saus that he sinned at the instigation of none, therefore his sin is justly remediable by none. And S. John Damascene says that he sinned in his understanding against the character of God; and that his sin was the greater by reason of the nobility of his understanding. For the servant who knows the will of his master, etc. The same authority says that, since Satan is incapable of repentance, therefore he is incapable of pardon; and this is due to his very nature, which, being spiritual, could only be changed once, when he changed it for ever; but this is not so with men, in whom the flesh is always warring against the spirit. Or because he sinned in the high places of heaven, whereas man sins in the earth.
But notwithstanding all this, his sin is in many respects small in comparison with the crimes of witches. First, as S. Anselm showed in one of his Sermons, he sinned in his pride while there was yet no punishment for sin. But witches continue to sin after great punishments have been often inflicted upon many other witches, and after the punishments which the Church teaches them have been inflicted by reason of the devil and his fall; and they make light of all these, and hasten to commit, not the least deadly of sins, as do other sinners who sin through infirmity or wickedness yet not from habitual malice, but rather the most horrible crimes from the deep malice of their hearts.
Secondly, although the Bad Angel fell from innocence to guilt, and thence to misery and punishment; yet he fell from innocence once only, in such a way that he was never restored. But the sinner who is restored to innocence by baptism, and again falls from it, falls very deep. And this is especially true of witches, as is proved by their crimes.
Thirdly, he sinned against the Creator; but we, and especially witches, sin against the Creator and the Redeemer.
Fourthly, he forsook God, who permitted him to sin but accorded him no pity; whereas we, and witches above all, withdraw ourselves from God by our sins, while, in spite of his permission of our sins, He continually pities us and prevents us with His countless benefits.
Fifthly, when he sinned, God rejected him without showing him and grace; whereas we wretches run into sin although God is continually calling us back.
Sixthly, he keeps his heart hardened against a punisher; but we against a merciful persuader. Both sin against God; but he against a commanding God, and we against One who dies for us, Whom, as we have said, wicked witches offend above all.
The Solutions of the Arguments again Declare the Truth by Comparison.
To the arguments. The answer to the first is clear from what was said in the beginning of this whole question. It was submitted that one sin ought to be thought heavier than another; and that the sins of witches are heavier than all others in respect of guilt, but not in respect of the penalties that they entail. To this it must be said that the punishment of Adam, just as his guilt, may be considered two ways; either as touching him personally, or as touching the whole of nature, that is, the posterity whcih came after him. As to the first, greater sins have been committed after Adam; for he sinned only in doing that which was evil, not in itself, but because it was forbidden. Therefore such sins deserve the heavier punishment.
As to the second, it is true that the greatest punishment resulted from the first sin; but this is only indirectly true, in that through Adam all posterity was infected with original sin, and he was the first father of all those for whom the Only Son of God was able to atone by the power which was ordained. Moreover, Adam in his own person, with the mediation of Divine grace, repented, and was afterwards saved through the Sacrifice of Christ. But the sins of witches are incomparably greater, since they are not content with their own sins and perdition, but ever draw countless others after them.
And thirdly, it follows from what has been said that it was by accident that Adam's sin involved the greater injury. For he found nature uncorrupted, and it was inevitable, and not of his own will, that he left it defiled; therefore it does not follow that his sin was intrinsically greater than others. And again, posterity would have committed the same sin if it had found nature in the same state. Similarly, he who has not found grace does not commit so deadly a sin as he who has found it and lost it. This is the solution of S. Thomas (II, 21, art. 2), in his solution of the second argument. And if anyone wishes fully to understand this solution, he must consider that even if Adam had kept his original innocence, he would not have passed it down to all posterity; for, as S. Anselm says, anyone coming after him could still have sinned. See also S. Thomas, dist. 20, where he considers whether new-born children would have been confirmed in grace; and in dist. 101, whether men who are now saved would have been saved if Adam had not sinned.
This chapter was transcribed by Wicasta Lovelace.
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