Jacques Maritain Center

Specimen Pages from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas

In the foregoing chapter an attempt was made to give a general view of the Summa of St. Thomas. The broad outlines of this great monument of human genius were pointed out in a hurried description; we did not pause to consider the many beautiful details of the grand structure. We passed along the street as it were and cast a glance of admiration at the vast cathedral which adorned it; we had no time to enter in order to see the beauty of the sacred edifice from within its hallowed walls. We beheld from afar the magnificent proportions of a gigantic structure; we did not approach in order to inspect more closely the everlasting work of the immortal builder. Coming face to face with the monument erected by a great genius we were filled with admiration and astonishment; recovering from those first impressions we now wish to gratify the laudable curiosity which prompts us to examine more closely the edifice which for more than six hundred years has excited the admiration of all who love the grand, the good, the beautiful and the true. However strongly we may covet the honor of being reputed a good cicerone, we find it necessary at the very beginning of this pilgrimage to the cathedral erected by St. Thomas, to make a declaration which is never made by the professional guide.

The Cicerone's Humble Declaration. -- I cannot promise to point out and explain every object of interest in the edifice. To appreciate the beauties of the Summa one must spend not only an hour or a day, but weeks and months, yes, years, in contemplating the grandeur of the general plan and the perfection of the details of this remarkable production of the great architect of theology. We must, of necessity, content ourselves with the selection of a few specimens of singular strength and beauty which will serve to give us an insight into the mind of the architect. In other words -- and here we lay aside the metaphor -- it is our intention to give in this article some specimens of St. Thomas' doctrine and method, choosing from different parts of the Summa principles which will show that faith does not hamper reason, but that reason in a Christian philosopher, enlightened and guided by faith, may soar to the summit of intelligent research, good sense and sound judgment. The Summa represents the perfection of reason applied to the truths of faith in the manner in which it should be used, viz., as the servant of the higher truth which God deigned to reveal to men. For that very reason the Angelic Doctor is the greatest of Christian philosophers and the Prince of Theologians; he is the giant beside whom other philosophers and theologians appear as mere striplings, great and useful though they may be and are in their own sphere; thus it will be instructive as well as interesting to know something of his method in treating questions of philosophy and theology.

Difficulty of Choosing Specimens. -- We are well aware that any one attempting to give what might be called illustrations from the Summa must contend with two serious difficulties. First, he meets with what the French so aptly term l'embarras du choix; when there are so many excellencies it is difficult to choose one or a few as the objects of our special study and admiration. In the second place, St. Thomas' works were written in Latin, and in a style which was peculiarly his own; for lucidity, brevity and expressiveness nothing like it has ever been known. It is our firm conviction that all the great professors of Yale, Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge could never reproduce in English a page of St. Thomas which would do justice to the original. The mere mention of these two difficulties will be equivalent to a request that the reader kindly bear in mind, first, that the specimens given are only a few out of many that might have been chosen to illustrate St. Thomas' doctrine; secondly, that expositions of his doctrine given in English fall short of the beauty, strength, accuracy and completeness of the Latin in which St. Thomas expressed, with the greatest ease and apparently without effort, the sublimest doctrines of theology.

Division of the Summa Recalled. -- Let us begin this investigation by recalling the grand division of the "Summa Theologica" in its three parts. The first treats of God -- of God in Himself, one nature in three persons; of God as the Author and Ruler of the universe. The second treats of the tendency of the rational creature to God; in other words, of God as the end of man, and of human acts in general (1a 2ae) and in particular (2a 2ae). The third treats of Christ, who as man is the way by which we tend to God: in other words, of God as Redeemer, of the sacraments, and of the eternal life to which Christ conducts men. This division is recalled because we intend, in choosing specimens of St. Thomas' doctrine to follow the order of the Summa.

Principles of Pedagogy. -- Yielding to an inclination which is entirely in accordance with the fitness of things, we shall select for the first specimen St. Thomas' principles on teaching. In his commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, St. Thomas has sketched the character of an ideal Christian Doctor, of one who teaches the truths of religion. The perfect Doctor, he says, is one whose life as well as whose doctrine is light. Three things are necessary to him: stability, that he may never deviate from the truth; clearness, that he may teach without obscurity; and purity of intention, that he may seek God's glory and not his own (in cap. v. Matt). In the Prologue to the Summa and in several articles in the body of the work he lays down principles concerning teachers in general. The few words which he wrote by way of introduction to the Summa, giving his reasons for composing a manual of theology, are a mine of information concerning his principles on pedagogy, or the art of teaching the young.

Prologue to the Summa. -- "We have considered that beginners in this sacred science find many impediments in those things which have been written by various authors; partly, on account of the multiplication of useless questions, articles and arguments; partly, because those things which are necessary for the education of novices [i. e., beginners] are not treated systematically, but as the exposition of certain books or the occasion of disputation demanded; and partly because the frequent repetitions beget confusion and disgust in the minds of learners."

Hints to Teachers. Avoid Useless Questions. -- Do not overload the mind of the beginner with a multitude of useless questions; choose those that are primary and fundamental; give the student a clear knowledge of them, bearing in mind the capacity of the pupil; establish them by a few good, strong arguments, if proofs are necessary, and then pass on to something more particular, without consuming valuable time in dealing with hair-splitting arguments which the beginner cannot understand, and in the study of which there is little profit and much annoyance. These remarks of St. Thomas were a quiet criticism of a Scholasticism which was carried to excess, but they express a general rule which should be observed in all institutions of learning, from the highest university down to the lowest primary school. Neglect of this rule often resulted in thrusting upon the community a class of so-called graduates, with a smattering of everything and a real knowledge of nothing -- graduates who made our fathers sigh, sometimes not without reason, for the old- time schoolhouses and the days of "the three Rs."

Order. -- In the next place, books for beginners should be written with due regard for scientific order, which is conducive to clearness and perception and helpful to the memory. The importance of this canon will be readily admitted by all who have ever attempted to "straighten out" the ideas of one who was not from the beginning of his education trained to think and study with order. Theology was a confused mass of dogmas, disputes and objections until St. Thomas introduced order into the chaos. As it was with theology so has it been, so shall it be, with other branches of knowledge, if due attention is not given to the scientific distribution of the subjects treated. By paying attention to this rule St. Thomas made it possible to take in at one glance the whole field of Catholic Theology.

Avoid Repetitions. -- Thirdly, avoid repetitions which, if they be frequent and unnecessary, excite disgust and cause confusion. For those who are very young it is necessary to repeat the same thing frequently in order that it may be indelibly impressed on their minds; but there is a limit to this necessity. Many a boy has left school in disgust because he was not allowed to advance, but was held back, waiting perhaps for dull or lazy classmates, and had to listen for weeks or months to the same old story. But, we must not enter into the details of school or college life; we merely wished to call attention to a principle which guided St. Thomas when he wrote the Summa. The three rules which have been mentioned he followed to the letter, writing "with brevity and clearness" on those things which pertain to sacred doctrine, and that is one of the reasons why his Summa is still regarded as the model manual of theology. The advanced student can find in it material for deep and mature thought, and beginners who have read its pages are unanimous in declaring that it is the most satisfactory and the clearest of all theologies.

Teaching and Learning. -- In the first article, 117th question of the first part, St. Thomas asks the question; Can one man teach another? After rejecting the theories of Averroes and Plato -- opinions which were founded on their false systems with regard to the union of soul and body -- the Angelic Doctor gives his own answer to the question. One man can teach another, and the teacher can be truly said to impart knowledge to the mind of the pupil by causing him actually to know that which before he had only the capacity to know. Of the effects produced by an external agent, some are caused by an external agent alone, some are caused by an external agent and also by a cause operating from within. Thus a house contributes nothing to its own erection; the work is all done by an external agent, the builder. But health is caused in a sick person sometimes by the medicine which he takes and sometimes by the recuperative powers of nature itself. When two causes cooperate in the production of such effects it must be remembered that the principal cause is not the external agent, but the internal one; the external agent is the assistant, furnishing means and aid which the internal agent makes use of to produce the desired effect. The physician does not produce health; health is produced by nature aided by the physician and his remedies.

This is what takes place when one man teaches another. Knowledge in the pupil must result from the activity of his own mind. Sometimes, without the aid of a teacher, he can acquire knowledge by his own exertions, applying the native force of his mind by which he naturally knows the first principles of all knowledge. Sometimes he is taught by another, but even then the mind of the pupil is the principal cause, the teacher is only the assistant, stating universal propositions from which others follow, or giving examples and similitudes which readily bring to the mind things of which the pupil had not thought, or showing the connexion between principles and conclusions which the pupil would not have noticed if the master had not called his attention to them.

This, according to St. Thomas, is how a master causes a pupil to know things. It is not like the process of pouring water into a vessel. He is not simply the receiver of good things from without; he is a living agent, and all the teachers in the world can do him no good unless they adopt methods which will stimulate the activity of his mind. No one can know for another, each one must know for himself; teachers are only intended to excite the latent energies of our minds and to help us in knowing. It is not well to make things too easy for learners; if the mind of the pupil is not called upon to digest and assimilate the food administered by the teacher, the knowledge communicated, often with great pains on the part of the teacher, will be -- to use a common expression -- like water poured into a sieve. If you wish to know a good teacher, and if you wish to know a well-written book intended to stimulate healthy activity in the minds of students, read the Summa of St. Thomas.

St. Thomas and the Necessity of Revelation. -- From the prologue let us pass to the first article of the Summa, where St. Thomas treats of the necessity of revelation for the knowledge of natural truths. Because all men by the light of reason can know some things, Rationalists and infidels say that men can know all things without the aid of revelation. Catholic theologians were not slow to answer that men, as they have been and as they are, cannot without revelation have a perfect knowledge even of those truths which come within the scope of their natural capacity for knowing. In their zeal for the defence of God's teaching some theologians went so far as to assert that without the aid of revelation, which had been handed down by tradition in the human family, men cannot have a certain and perfect knowledge of any supersensible truth. This was an exaggeration, and Traditionalism has been condemned by the Vicar of Christ on earth. (Greg. XVI, Sept. 8, 1840. See Denzinger, Enchir., n. 1622).

St. Thomas pointed out the medium between Rationalism and Traditionalism. In the 88th question of the first part of the Summa he proves that man can know supersensible and immaterial things, and even God Himself. But that knowledge would not suffice for the human race in its present condition in order that all might have a perfect knowledge of natural truths, especially of truths that pertain to God. The reader's attention may here be called to the fact that the Fathers of the Vatican Council in defining the necessity of revelation, used almost the same words employed by St. Thomas in the first article of the "Summa Theologica," and in the fourth chapter, first book, of the "Summa Contra Gentiles." The Vatican Council says that the revelation of natural truths is necessary in order that they may be known "by all men, without delay, with certitude and without admixture of error." St. Thomas had written in the "Summa Theologica": without revelation these truths could be known "only by a few, after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors." These words are a repetition of what he wrote in the "Summa Contra Gentiles," where he says that God in His goodness proposed those natural truths to be believed by men that thus "all might easily have the knowledge of God without doubt and without error." Now, how does he prove his thesis? Without revelation the truths of natural religion would have been known only by a few for three reasons: first, some men are unfit for study: hence they could never attain to the summit of knowledge which consists in knowing God. Again, some are too much occupied with temporal affairs; hence they would not have the time to acquire knowledge of the sublimest truths. Lastly, some men are lazy, and although God has implanted in them a natural desire to know Him, they would never undergo the labor which is the price that must be paid for the knowledge of metaphysical truths.

Even those few would acquire this knowledge only after a long time, because (a) the truths of which we are speaking are profound truths, and (b) a long preparation is necessary before men can understand them, and (c) whilst men are young the passions prevent the attentive consideration of sublime truths. But even after long preparation and study those few would still be in doubt and be subject to error. We are all liable to err. Knowing this and knowing that the greatest philosophers dispute about important question, and often mix in with the truth things that are false or doubtful or only half proved, where are we to find amongst men that freedom from error and doubt without which our knowledge even of natural truths will be very imperfect and unsatisfactory? Consequently, revelation is necessary in order that those truths may be known by all, without delay, with certainty and without error. Comments would destroy the beauty and the force of those words. I simply ask: Where can we find anything to equal the conciseness and the completeness of that article?

Ontologism and Kantism. -- St. Thomas is scarcely less admirable in his refutation of Ontologism. This name has been given to a system which teaches that the first idea formed in the human mind is a direct knowledge of God. Without that idea we can have no scientific knowledge; with that idea we can have a certain and infallible knowledge of all things. We do not see the essence of God as He is in Himself, but we see that essence as it represents all things, which were first conceived in the mind of God and were then created in accordance with the idea of the Divine Architect of the world.

This system was taught by Malebranche in the seventeenth century, and afterwards, with various modifications unnecessary to explain, by Gioberti and others, notably in our own times by Professor Ubaghs, a great light of the University of Louvain.

It cannot be denied that if the propositions of the Ontologists could be admitted we should have a ready answer to the objections made by sceptics against the scientific value of metaphysical knowledge. We have knowledge, it could be answered, of truths that are universal, immutable, necessary and eternal, because we see them in the eternal and immutable Author of all things and all truth. Kant and his disciples could no longer claim that our metaphysical knowledge is destitute of a scientific basis. Although the senses do not manifest the eternal, necessary and immutable truth of first principles, e.g., of the principle of contradiction; a thing cannot be and not be at the same time, or the whole is greater than its part, nevertheless we see these truths in God when He is seen by our minds. Such a defence of metaphysics, however, is based upon an exaggeration of the truth, and Ontologism was condemned by a decree of the Inquisition dated Sept. 18th, 1861. Verily there is nothing new under the sun. St. Thomas had refuted Ontologism six hundred years before the date of the decree. In the 11th article, question 12 of the first part of the Summa, he proves that no one can see the essence of God in this life; this vision is reserved for the blessed who always see Him face to face. In the 5th article, question 84 of the same part, he shows that there is no necessity of saying that we see all things in God as in a mirror; because we have our intellects, which are rays emanating from the Divine Light, distinct from God and caused by Him. What the intellect manifests is truth, and we know it to be the truth because of the evidence and light which accompany the manifestation in our minds (vide 1 P., qq. 16 and 17). We know the truths: two and two make four; the whole is greater than its part; there is no effect without a cause, etc., because we see them. There is no more necessity of proving these truths than there is of proving the reality of the stone or brick falling on one's head. If you analyze and apply those principles, they will reveal the Source of all truth, as rays make known the sun from which they emanate, but they are not God, they are participations of the eternal Truth which enlightens all men. St. Thomas goes farther, and in the 2a 2ae, question 173, first article, he anticipates an answer which the Ontologists might make, and explodes the distinction on which it is based. In the time of St. Thomas some writers thought to explain the gift of prophecy by saying that prophets see God to whom the past, present and future are one. When they are asked, as we ask the Ontologists: In what then do they differ from the blessed in heaven? the answer was: They see God not as He is in Himself, but in as much as He contains representations of future events. Worthless distinction, says St. Thomas. You cannot see things as they are represented in the essence of God without seeing the essence of God. The representations or ideas of things (rationes rerum) in God are the essence of God as it represents things, past, present or future. If God were composed of parts we might see one part without seeing the other, but whoever is looking directly at a thing that is simple sees either all of it or nothing. The participations of the one great Truth are manifold; hence we can see one without seeing the other or without seeing the source; but whoever sees these truths in the essence sees also the source, unless words have lost all meaning. Outside of these principles, which St. Thomas proposed as calmly as if he were writing the first page of an ABC book, there is no solid refutation of many of the high-sounding isms which make life burdensome to students of philosophy in our days.

St. Thomas and Interpretation of Scripture. -- Another manifestation of St. Thomas' good judgment is to be found in those passages where he lays down rules for the interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures. These rules are explained at some length in the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the study of the Scriptures, and a glance at the document will show that they are taken in great part from the writings of St. Thomas. In the course of the document the learned Pontiff frequently refers to his favorite theologian by the use of such expressions as, "St. Thomas being our guide," -- "St. Thomas here holds the first place" -- "St. Thomas teaches" -- "This course was pursued by that great theologian Thomas Aquinas," etc. In thus quoting and following St. Thomas the Pope does not neglect other guides and other rules; they are, as it were, embodied in St. Thomas, because he may be regarded as the personification of the wisdom of preceding times, being in a special manner filled with reverence for the authority of the Church and for the writings of the Fathers, the two tribunals to which disputes on the Scriptures must be referred. It is not to be expected that we should make a complete list of the rules laid down by St. Thomas for the study of the Scriptures, but we take pleasure in calling attention to a few principles which he proposed for the guidance of interpreters in cases of difficulty and doubt. The importance of these principles is very strongly urged in the Pope's Encyclical, and although they are very plain and simple, it must be confessed that they have not always been observed by those who should have applied them. Attacks made at different times by so-called scientists against the first chapter of Genesis havae called forth many able books in defence of the revealed truth, but the defenders did not always observe that moderation and calmness which would have ensured uniformity of method in the defence, and which would have precluded the necessity of changing with the variations of science. St. Thomas treated those very questions and found it necessary to discuss many theories offered in explanation of the words of Genesis. He was not in the least disturbed by any of them and would not have been disturbed if the systems proposed had been twenty times as numerous as they were, because he was alway as guided by a good rule found in St. Augustine, based upon strong faith and good common sense. In such questions, he wrote (1 P., q. 68, art. 1), two things are to be borne in mind: first, that the Scriptures teach nothing but the truth. Secondly, since passages of Scriptures can sometimes be explained in different ways, let no one hold one explanation so tenaciously that he would not be prepared to give it up if a better explanation were offered. The first part of this rule -- about the truth of the Scriptures -- had it been known and observed, would have prevented many cases of scriptural heart disease which at times afflicted certain timorous believers who foolishly became excited by reason of the discovery of some scientist. Let scientific men continue their investigations and excavations. When they are prepared to tell us just what science teaches, not what so- called scientists say, then we shall be prepared to meet them and to revise, if necesary, not the Scriptures -- because there can be no opposition between true science and the words of the Holy Ghost -- but our interpretation of Scripture. Necessity for such revisions will not be very frequent, because it has happened and will happen again, that what was flashed over the wires as a new discovery of science was simply the hastily concocted theory of some unbeliever, who was over- anxious to prove that there was no God and no hell. There may be apparent contradictions between science and Genesis; but the Catholic Church is to last until the end of time, and she can wait until science has determined what is certain before deciding what interpretations of Genesis are to be abandoned.

The second part of St. Thomas' rule -- about various interpretations -- had it been known and observed, would have prevented two grave evils: first, the disappointment and vexation of those who see their pet theories overturned; secondly, the scoffing of unbelievers, when they see theologians offering first one explanation and then another in defending the faith. St. Thomas lays down as a general rule that the defence of faith should not be based upon the reasons or theories advanced by different schools of theology. To outsiders what the Church teaches and what a theologian of the Church teaches are one and the same thing; and if they overthrow the theologian they think they have overthrown the faith and the Church. We who are of the faith know that theologians may make mistakes, whilst the Holy Ghost cannot teach error; even St. Thomas might fall, but the Church built upon the rock shall stand forever. St. Thomas, true to his principles, allowed the greatest latitude in interpreting the first chapter of Genesis, and any other part of Scripture, when the sense of the words had not been determined by the authority of the Church. He favors the system which says that the days of creation are to be taken in the ordinary sense of the words, but he proposes his theory simply as an opinion, and does not reject the system of St. Augustine, who said that by the morning was meant the knowledge of things which the Angels have in the Word, i.e., in the beatific vision, and by the evening the knowledge of things which the Angels have outside of the Word, i.e., through infused ideas. He also mentions various theories about the light, the firmament, the condition of plants, trees and animals, when they were created, etc., but he had too much foresight and theological balance to tie himself down to any one theory; and thus the truth of the Scriptures remained intact whilst men and their theories appeared for a while on the scene and then passed away.

The specimens of St. Thomas' doctrine thus far given were taken from the first part of the Summa. We must now pass on to inspect other parts of his great work.

In the first place it may be remarked in a general way that the in 1a 2ae and 2a 2ae of St. Thomas there is more genuine moral theology, as a scientific knowledge of men and of their acts, than can be found in the hundreds of manuals or compendiums which have been written since the sixteenth century, and which can claim little merit except in so far as they apply to ever-changing times and circumstances the principles proposed by St. Thomas or by other great Scholastics.

Human Acts, Virtues and Vices, Original Sin, Law, Grace. -- His explanation of human acts and of those things which affect human acts; his definition and classification of the virtues and vices; his most sensible and most satisfactory explanation of original sin; the depth and accuracy of his treatise on laws; the sublimity and acumen of his tract on grace, have made the prima secundae the source and fountain-head from which flow the principles that should guide all those who wish to point out the true doctrine of the tendency of the rational creature to God.

Best Form of Government. -- In the 1a 2ae, question 105, article first, we find St. Thomas' opinion on the best form of government. If we consider merely the words he uses it would be said that he pronounces in favor of a limited monarchy; but if we go below the words and consider the principles on which his conclusion is based, it will appear that the Angelic Doctor was not averse to a republic, and I believe that if he were living to-day he would be an ardent supporter of our form of government. "One of the principal things to be considered," he wrote, "with regard to the good establishment of princes [rulers] is that all should have some part in the government; for in this way peace is preserved amongst the people, and all are pleased with such a disposition of things and maintain it. The next thing to be considered is the form of government, of which there are principally two kinds: a Kingdom, in which one rules, and an Aristocracy, in which a few exercise the authority. The best form is that in which one rules over all, and under him there are others having authority, but the government pertains to all, because those who exercise authority can be chosen from all and are chosen by all. . . . Hence the best government is a mixture of a Kingdom, of Aristocracy and of Democracy, i.e., of the power of the people, inasmuch as the rulers can be chosen from the people, and the election of the rulers belongs to the people." There is a vast amount of good republicanism and of sound democracy in these words. First, by the kind or monarch St. Thomas means nothing more than some one is to represent the governing authority. Secondly, the aristocracy means those who exercise a salutary restraint on the power of the head of the government; because if there were no restraint the power of the king, says St. Thomas (ad 2um), would easily degenerate into a tyranny. Congressmen and senators, for instance, would supply the demand for an aristocracy. Lastly, St. Thomas says that neither kingdom nor an aristocracy will form a stable government unless the element of democracy is introduced by permitting the choice of the rulers from the people and by the people, that thus all may have some part in the government. These words lead us to believe that if St. Thomas were living to-day he would be a republican or a democrat.

Infallibilty of the Pope. -- In the Secunda Secundae, question 1, article 10, on Faith, St. Thomas teaches the infallibility of the Pope, "to whose authority it pertains to determine finally the things that are of faith, that they should be held by all with unwavering assent." Hence, he adds, it has been the custom of the Church to refer to the Pope all the grave and difficult questions which arise; and our Lord said to St. Peter whom he appointed supreme Pontiff: "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and thou being once converted confirm thy brethren" (Luke, xxii, 32). He then gives the following theological reason for his conclusion: "There should be one faith in the Church, according to the words of St. Paul (1 Cor., I, 10): 'That you all speak the same things, and that there be no schisms among you.' This will not be possible unless questions of faith that arise can be determined by the one who presides over the whole Church, so that his determination should be held by the whole Church." Three hundred years before Protestantism was known, and six hundred years before the Vatican Council was celebrated, St. Thomas proclaimed and proved Papal Infallibility.

Infidels Not to Be Forced to Believe. -- In the tenth question, seventh article, of the same treatise, St. Thomas teaches that unbelievers cannot be compelled to accept the Christian faith; because to believe is an act of the will and the will cannot be forced. Those who have accepted the faith can be punished if they fail to keep the promises which they made; unbelievers can lawfully be prevented from persecuting Christians, from blaspheming Christianity, or from carrying on a wicked proselytism; hence Christian nations have at times waged war against infidels. But, even when unbelievers have been conquered and captured they must be left free to believe or not to believe.

These things do not suprise us, being so reasonable, so natural and so well known. There are, however, in the world to-day -- some of them are in our own country -- men, who need the consoling assurance that the greatest of medieval theologians would not approve of a papal invasion for the purpose of compelling outsiders to accept the Roman Catholic faith.

Children of Jews and Infidels. -- St. Thomas will not allow the children of jews or other unbelievers to be baptised without the consent of their parents (2a 2ae, q. x, art. 12; 3 P., q 68, art 10). According to the natural law, a child, before he arrives at the use of reason, is under the care of his father (i.e., of his parents); hence it would be against natural justice if a child, before it acquires the use of reason, were withdrawn from the care of its parents, or if anything were done with it against the wish of the parents.

The Incarnation. -- In the third part of the Summa, St. Thomas treats of the Incarnation, of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and of eternal life. We read in the life of St. Thomas that on three different occasions Christ spoke to His servant, saying: "Bene scripsisti de me, Thoma -- Thou has written well of Me, Thomas." This approbation of our Lord should be understood as applying in a special manner to the third part of the Summa. It is impossible to find anything more scientific and more sublime than St. Thomas' treatise on the Incarnation. Starting out with the Scriptures in his hand, and with this one truth accepted on faith; Jesus was both God and man, he constructs a most remarkable treatise on the natures and person of Christ, on the acts and sufferings of God incarnate. The tract contains fifty-nine questions, with an average of five or six articles to a question. The Old and New Testaments, the councils, the decrees of the Popes, the writings of the Fathers, are all called upon to glorify Jesus Christ, the corner-stone on which our faith is built. The treatise is a most extraordinary combination of deep faith and piety, of theological learning and good sense. What we know from good authority St. Thomas affirms with certainty, and no theologian can equal him when there is a question of determining the conclusions which can be drawn from the truths made known by faith. On questions that depend on the will of God alone, if that will has not been made known to us, he wisely abstains from useless speculations. In this he differs from writers of less renown who seem to be afraid of saying: There are some things which we do not know and cannot know until God speaks on the subject.

Baptism. -- He applies the same rule in his treatise on the sacraments. In his treatise, for instance, on the necessity of Baptism he first calls attention to the law of salvation laid down by our Savior Himself. "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John, iii, 5). After that, when the question arises: What, then is to become of children who die without having an opportunity to receive baptism? St. Thomas answers: As far as we know, men can do nothing for them; they are in the hands of God, who is all-powerful and just (3 P., q. 68, art. 11 and 1m). Men may write for weeks and months; they may fill the pages of reviews and may publish books on this subject, but, since God has not deigned to make any special revelation concerning these children, they can give us no more satisfaction than that which is afforded by St. Thomas' short declaration: Those children are in the hands of God; he will deal with them in justice and mercy.

The Eucharist. -- His treatise on the Eucharist is one that would not disappoint those who expect something grand from the author of the Office of the Blessed Sacrament. For St. Thomas the Eucharist, as a sacrament and as a sacrifice, was truly the center of the Christian religion. Towards our Lord under the sacramental species he had a profound devotion and a tender piety; hence he threw his whole soul into his tract on this sacrament of love. The bread of the angels made the Angelic Doctor more angelic; the extraordinary perspicacity of his penetrating mind is nowhere more strikingly manifested than in the articles of this treatise where he develops the conclusions which flow from the dogmas of the Real Presence and of Transubstantiation, or where he answers the objections which had been made or could be made against this important doctrine of the Catholic Church. Christ, in His sacred person and in the Eucharist, was the central object of St. Thomas' life and the center towards which all his theological treatises were directed.

For other specimens of St. Thomas' doctrine the reader is referred to that golden book, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which was taken almost bodily from the "Summa Theologica," and was composed by three men who had spent their lives studying the works of the Angelic Doctor. Cardinal Newman was in love with this book, and always spoke of it in terms of the highest praise.

St. Thomas and the Encyclicals of Leo XIII. -- We would also recommend most earnestly to those who wish to know St. Thomas the study of the dogmatic Encyclicals of the late Pope Leo XIII. Knowing the Pope to be an enthusiastic admirer of the Angelic Doctor our readers will not be suprised to learn that his dogmatic Encyclicals are to a great extent nothing more than development of principles laid down by St. Thomas. This is in a special manner true of the Encyclicals on Scholastic Philosophy, the Christian Constitution of States, the Condition of Workingmen, the Study of the Scriptures, and Devotion to the Holy Ghost. The Holy Father believed firmly that the principles of the Angelic Doctor would bring light and order into the darkness and confusion of the nineteenth century as they did in the thirteenth century. We should feel very happy and fully repaid for the time spent on this volume if we could think that it might be the means of exciting a desire to know and to follow the words of advice addressed to the children of this troubled age, by the wise, learned and saintly Pope Leo XIII.

<< ======= >>