by Thomas Aquinas
Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Treatise On The Cardinal Virtues
Question 90 – Of the Taking of God’s Name by Way of Adjuration (Three Articles)
We must now consider the taking of God’s name by way of adjuration: under which head there are three points of inquiry:
(1) Whether it is lawful to adjure a man?
(2) Whether it is lawful to adjure the demons?
(3) Whether it is lawful to adjure irrational creatures?
Art. 1 – Whether it is lawful to adjure a man?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not lawful to adjure a man. Origen says (Tract. xxxv super Matth.): “I deem that a man who wishes to live according to the Gospel should not adjure another man. For if, according to the Gospel mandate of Christ, it be unlawful to swear, it is evident that neither is it lawful to adjure: and consequently it is manifest that the high-priest unlawfully adjured Jesus by the living God.”
Objection 2: Further, whoever adjures a man, compels him after a fashion. But it is unlawful to compel a man against his will. Therefore seemingly it is also unlawful to adjure a man.
Objection 3: Further, to adjure is to induce a person to swear. Now it belongs to man’s superior to induce him to swear, for the superior imposes an oath on his subject. Therefore subjects cannot adjure their superiors.
On the contrary, Even when we pray God we implore Him by certain holy things: and the Apostle too besought the faithful “by the mercy of God” (Rom. 12:1): and this seems to be a kind of adjuration. Therefore it is lawful to adjure.
I answer that, A man who utters a promissory oath, swearing by his reverence for the Divine name, which he invokes in confirmation of his promise, binds himself to do what he has undertaken, and so orders himself unchangeably to do a certain thing. Now just as a man can order himself to do a certain thing, so too can he order others, by beseeching his superiors, or by commanding his inferiors, as stated above (Q, A). Accordingly when either of these orderings is confirmed by something Divine it is an adjuration. Yet there is this difference between them, that man is master of his own actions but not of those of others; wherefore he can put himself under an obligation by invoking the Divine name, whereas he cannot put others under such an obligation unless they be his subjects, whom he can compel on the strength of the oath they have taken.
Therefore, if a man by invoking the name of God, or any holy thing, intends by this adjuration to put one who is not his subject under an obligation to do a certain thing, in the same way as he would bind himself by oath, such an adjuration is unlawful, because he usurps over another a power which he has not. But superiors may bind their inferiors by this kind of adjuration, if there be need for it.
If, however, he merely intend, through reverence of the Divine name or of some holy thing, to obtain something from the other man without putting him under any obligation, such an adjuration may be lawfully employed in respect of anyone.
Reply to Objection 1: Origen is speaking of an adjuration whereby a man intends to put another under an obligation, in the same way as he would bind himself by oath: for thus did the high-priest presume to adjure our Lord Jesus Christ [*Mat. 26:63].
Reply to Objection 2: This argument considers the adjuration which imposes an obligation.
Reply to Objection 3: To adjure is not to induce a man to swear, but to employ terms resembling an oath in order to provoke another to do a certain thing.
Moreover, we adjure God in one way and man in another; because when we adjure a man we intend to alter his will by appealing to his reverence for a holy thing: and we cannot have such an intention in respect of God Whose will is immutable. If we obtain something from God through His eternal will, it is due, not to our merits, but to His goodness.
Art. 1 – Whether it is lawful to adjure the demons?
Objection 1: It would seem unlawful to adjure the demons. Origen says (Tract. xxxv, super Matth.): “To adjure the demons is not accordance with the power given by our Saviour: for this is a Jewish practice.” Now rather than imitate the rites of the Jews, we should use the power given by Christ. Therefore it is not lawful to adjure the demons.
Objection 2: Further, many make use of necromantic incantations when invoking the demons by something Divine: and this is an adjuration. Therefore, if it be lawful to adjure the demons, it is lawful to make use of necromantic incantations, which is evidently false. Therefore the antecedent is false also.
Objection 3: Further, whoever adjures a person, by that very fact associates himself with him. Now it is not lawful to have fellowship with the demons, according to 1 Cor. 10:20, “I would not that you should be made partakers with devils.” Therefore it is not lawful to adjure the demons.
On the contrary, It is written (Mk. 16:17): “In My name they shall cast out devils.” Now to induce anyone to do a certain thing for the sake of God’s name is to adjure. Therefore it is lawful to adjure the demons.
I answer that, As stated in the preceding article, there are two ways of adjuring: one by way of prayer or inducement through reverence of some holy thing: the other by way of compulsion. In the first way it is not lawful to adjure the demons because such a way seems to savor of benevolence or friendship, which it is unlawful to bear towards the demons. As to the second kind of adjuration, which is by compulsion, we may lawfully use it for some purposes, and not for others. For during the course of this life the demons are our adversaries: and their actions are not subject to our disposal but to that of God and the holy angels, because, as Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 4), “the rebel spirit is ruled by the just spirit.” Accordingly we may repulse the demons, as being our enemies, by adjuring them through the power of God’s name, lest they do us harm of soul or body, in accord with the Divine power given by Christ, as recorded by Lk. 10:19: “Behold, I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall hurt you.”
It is not, however, lawful to adjure them for the purpose of learning something from them, or of obtaining something through them, for this would amount to holding fellowship with them: except perhaps when certain holy men, by special instinct or Divine revelation, make use of the demons’ actions in order to obtain certain results: thus we read of the Blessed James [*the Greater; cf. Apocrypha, N.T., Hist. Certam. Apost. vi, 19] that he caused Hermogenes to be brought to him, by the instrumentality of the demons.
Reply to Objection 1: Origen is speaking of adjuration made, not authoritatively by way of compulsion, but rather by way of a friendly appeal.
Reply to Objection 2: Necromancers adjure and invoke the demons in order to obtain or learn something from them: and this is unlawful, as stated above. Wherefore Chrysostom, commenting on our Lord’s words to the unclean spirit (Mk. 1:25), “Speak no more, and go out of the man,” says: “A salutary teaching is given us here, lest we believe the demons, however much they speak the truth.”
Reply to Objection 3: This argument considers the adjuration whereby the demon’s help is besought in doing or learning something: for this savors of fellowship with them. On the other hand, to repulse the demons by adjuring them, is to sever oneself from their fellowship.
Art. 2 – Whether it is lawful to adjure an irrational creature?
Objection 1: It would seem unlawful to adjure an irrational creature. An adjuration consists of spoken words. But it is useless to speak to one that understands not, such as an irrational creature. Therefore it is vain and unlawful to adjure an irrational creature.
Objection 2: Further, seemingly wherever adjuration is admissible, swearing is also admissible. But swearing is not consistent with an irrational creature. Therefore it would seem unlawful to employ adjuration towards one.
Objection 3: Further, there are two ways of adjuring, as explained above (AA,2). One is by way of appeal; and this cannot be employed towards irrational creatures, since they are not masters of their own actions. The other kind of adjuration is by way of compulsion: and, seemingly, neither is it lawful to use this towards them, because we have not the power to command irrational creatures, but only He of Whom it was said (Mat. 8:27): “For the winds and the sea obey Him.” Therefore in no way, apparently, is it lawful to adjure irrational creatures.
On the contrary, Simon and Jude are related to have adjured dragons and to have commanded them to withdraw into the desert. [*From the apocryphal Historiae Certam. Apost. vi. 19.]
I answer that, Irrational creatures are directed to their own actions by some other agent. Now the action of what is directed and moved is also the action of the director and mover: thus the movement of the arrow is an operation of the archer. Wherefore the operation of the irrational creature is ascribed not only to it, but also and chiefly to God, Who disposes the movements of all things. It is also ascribed to the devil, who, by God’s permission, makes use of irrational creatures in order to inflict harm on man.
Accordingly the adjuration of an irrational creature may be of two kinds. First, so that the adjuration is referred to the irrational creature in itself: and in this way it would be vain to adjure an irrational creature. Secondly, so that it be referred to the director and mover of the irrational creature, and in this sense a creature of this kind may be adjured in two ways. First, by way of appeal made to God, and this relates to those who work miracles by calling on God: secondly, by way of compulsion, which relates to the devil, who uses the irrational creature for our harm. This is the kind of adjuration used in the exorcisms of the Church, whereby the power of the demons is expelled from an irrational creature. But it is not lawful to adjure the demons by beseeching them to help us.
This suffices for the Replies to the Objections.
Question 91 – Of Taking the Divine Name for the Purpose of Invoking it by Means of Praise (Two Articles)
We must now consider the taking of the Divine name for the purpose of invoking it by prayer or praise. Of prayer we have already spoken (Q ). Wherefore we must speak now of praise. Under this head there are two points of inquiry:
(1) Whether God should be praised with the lips?
(2) Whether God should be praised with song?
Art. 1 – Whether God should be praised with the lips?
Objection 1: It would seem that God should not be praised with the lips. The Philosopher says (Ethic. 1,12): “The best of men ere accorded not praise, but something greater.” But God transcends the very best of all things. Therefore God ought to be given, not praise, but something greater than praise: wherefore He is said (Ecclus. 43:33) to be “above all praise.”
Objection 2: Further, divine praise is part of divine worship, for it is an act of religion. Now God is worshiped with the mind rather than with the lips: wherefore our Lord quoted against certain ones the words of Is. 29:13, “This people . . . honors [Vulg.: ‘glorifies’] Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” Therefore the praise of God lies in the heart rather than on the lips.
Objection 3: Further, men are praised with the lips that they may be encouraged to do better: since just as being praised makes the wicked proud, so does it incite the good to better things. Wherefore it is written (Prov. 27:21): “As silver is tried in the fining-pot . . . so a man is tried by the mouth of him that praiseth.” But God is not incited to better things by man’s words, both because He is unchangeable, and because He is supremely good, and it is not possible for Him to grow better. Therefore God should not be praised with the lips.
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 62:6): “My mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips.”
I answer that, We use words, in speaking to God, for one reason, and in speaking to man, for another reason. For when speaking to man we use words in order to tell him our thoughts which are unknown to him. Wherefore we praise a man with our lips, in order that he or others may learn that we have a good opinion of him: so that in consequence we may incite him to yet better things; and that we may induce others, who hear him praised, to think well of him, to reverence him, and to imitate him. On the other hand we employ words, in speaking to God, not indeed to make known our thoughts to Him Who is the searcher of hearts, but that we may bring ourselves and our hearers to reverence Him.
Consequently we need to praise God with our lips, not indeed for His sake, but for our own sake; since by praising Him our devotion is aroused towards Him, according to Ps. 49:23: “The sacrifice of praise shall glorify Me, and there is the way by which I will show him the salvation of God.” And forasmuch as man, by praising God, ascends in his affections to God, by so much is he withdrawn from things opposed to God, according to Is. 48:9, “For My praise I will bridle thee lest thou shouldst perish.” The praise of the lips is also profitable to others by inciting their affections towards God, wherefore it is written (Ps. 33:2): “His praise shall always be in my mouth,” and farther on: “Let the meek hear and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me.”
Reply to Objection 1: We may speak of God in two ways. First, with regard to His essence; and thus, since He is incomprehensible and ineffable, He is above all praise. In this respect we owe Him reverence and the honor of latria; wherefore Ps. 64:2 is rendered by Jerome in his Psalter [*Translated from the Hebrew]: “Praise to Thee is speechless, O God,” as regards the first, and as to the second, “A vow shall be paid to Thee.” Secondly, we may speak of God as to His effects which are ordained for our good. In this respect we owe Him praise; wherefore it is written (Is. 63:7): “I will remember the tender mercies of the Lord, the praise of the Lord for all the things that the Lord hath bestowed upon us.” Again, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. 1): “Thou wilt find that all the sacred hymns,” i.e. divine praises “of the sacred writers, are directed respectively to the Blessed Processions of the Thearchy,” i.e. of the Godhead, “showing forth and praising the names of God.”
Reply to Objection 2: It profits one nothing to praise with the lips if one praise not with the heart. For the heart speaks God’s praises when it fervently recalls “the glorious things of His works” [*Cf. Ecclus. 17:7,8]. Yet the outward praise of the lips avails to arouse the inward fervor of those who praise, and to incite others to praise God, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 3: We praise God, not for His benefit, but for ours as stated.
Art. 2 – Whether God should be praised with song?
Objection 1: It would seem that God should not be praised with song. For the Apostle says (Col. 3:16): “Teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles.” Now we should employ nothing in the divine worship, save what is delivered to us on the authority of Scripture. Therefore it would seem that, in praising God, we should employ, not corporal but spiritual canticles.
Objection 2: Further, Jerome in his commentary on Eph. 5:19, “Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord,” says: “Listen, young men whose duty it is to recite the office in church: God is to be sung not with the voice but with the heart. Nor should you, like play-actors, ease your throat and jaws with medicaments, and make the church resound with theatrical measures and airs.” Therefore God should not be praised with song.
Objection 3: Further, the praise of God is competent to little and great, according to Apoc. 14, “Give praise to our God, all ye His servants; and you that fear Him, little and great.” But the great, who are in the church, ought not to sing: for Gregory says (Regist. iv, ep. 44): “I hereby ordain that in this See the ministers of the sacred altar must not sing” (Cf. Decret., dist. xcii., cap. In sancta Romana Ecclesia). Therefore singing is unsuitable to the divine praises.
Objection 4: Further, in the Old Law God was praised with musical instruments and human song, according to Ps. 32:2,3: “Give praise to the Lord on the harp, sing to Him with the psaltery, the instrument of ten strings. Sing to Him a new canticle.” But the Church does not make use of musical instruments such as harps and psalteries, in the divine praises, for fear of seeming to imitate the Jews. Therefore in like manner neither should song be used in the divine praises.
Objection 5: Further, the praise of the heart is more important than the praise of the lips. But the praise of the heart is hindered by singing, both because the attention of the singers is distracted from the consideration of what they are singing, so long as they give all their attention to the chant, and because others are less able to understand the thing that are sung than if they were recited without chant. Therefore chants should not be employed in the divine praises.
On the contrary, Blessed Ambrose established singing in the Church of Milan, a Augustine relates (Confess. ix).
I answer that, As stated above (A), the praise of the voice is necessary in order to arouse man’s devotion towards God. Wherefore whatever is useful in conducing to this result is becomingly adopted in the divine praises. Now it is evident that the human soul is moved in various ways according to various melodies of sound, as the Philosopher state (Polit. viii, 5), and also Boethius (De Musica, prologue). Hence the use of music in the divine praises is a salutary institution, that the souls of the faint-hearted may be the more incited to devotion. Wherefore Augustine say (Confess. x, 33): “I am inclined to approve of the usage of singing in the church, that so by the delight of the ears the faint-hearted may rise to the feeling of devotion”: and he says of himself (Confess. ix, 6): “I wept in Thy hymns and canticles, touched to the quick by the voices of Thy sweet-attuned Church.”
Reply to Objection 1: The name of spiritual canticle may be given not only to those that are sung inwardly in spirit, but also to those that are sung outwardly with the lips, inasmuch as such like canticles arouse spiritual devotion.
Reply to Objection 2: Jerome does not absolutely condemn singing, but reproves those who sing theatrically in church not in order to arouse devotion, but in order to show off, or to provoke pleasure. Hence Augustine says (Confess. x, 33): “When it befalls me to be more moved by the voice than by the words sung, I confess to have sinned penally, and then had rather not hear the singer.”
Reply to Objection 3: To arouse men to devotion by teaching and preaching is a more excellent way than by singing. Wherefore deacons and prelates, whom it becomes to incite men’s minds towards God by means of preaching and teaching, ought not to be instant in singing, lest thereby they be withdrawn from greater things. Hence Gregory says (Regist. iv, ep. 44): “It is a most discreditable custom for those who have been raised to the diaconate to serve as choristers, for it behooves them to give their whole time to the duty of preaching and to taking charge of the alms.”
Reply to Objection 4: As the Philosopher says (Polit. viii, 6), “Teaching should not be accompanied with a flute or any artificial instrument such as the harp or anything else of this kind: but only with such things as make good hearers.” For such like musical instruments move the soul to pleasure rather than create a good disposition within it. In the Old Testament instruments of this description were employed, both because the people were more coarse and carnal—so that they needed to be aroused by such instruments as also by earthly promises—and because these material instruments were figures of something else.
Reply to Objection 5: The soul is distracted from that which is sung by a chant that is employed for the purpose of giving pleasure. But if the singer chant for the sake of devotion, he pays more attention to what he says, both because he lingers more thereon, and because, as Augustine remarks (Confess. x, 33), “each affection of our spirit, according to its variety, has its own appropriate measure in the voice, and singing, by some hidden correspondence wherewith it is stirred.” The same applies to the hearers, for even if some of them understand not what is sung, yet they understand why it is sung, namely, for God’s glory: and this is enough to arouse their devotion.
Question 94 – Of Idolatry (Four Articles)
Art. 1 – Whether idolatry is rightly reckoned a species of superstition?
Objection 1: It would seem that idolatry is not rightly reckoned a species of superstition. Just as heretics are unbelievers, so are idolaters. But heresy is a species of unbelief, as stated above (Q, A). Therefore idolatry is also a species of unbelief and not of superstition.
Objection 2: Further, latria pertains to the virtue of religion to which superstition is opposed. But latria, apparently, is univocally applied to idolatry and to that which belongs to the true religion. For just as we speak univocally of the desire of false happiness, and of the desire of true happiness, so too, seemingly, we speak univocally of the worship of false gods, which is called idolatry, and of the worship of the true God, which is the latria of true religion. Therefore idolatry is not a species of superstition.
Objection 3: Further, that which is nothing cannot be the species of any genus. But idolatry, apparently, is nothing: for the Apostle says (1 Cor. 8:4): “We know that an idol is nothing in the world,” and further on (1 Cor. 10:19): “What then? Do I say that what is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? Or that the idol is anything?” implying an answer in the negative. Now offering things to idols belongs properly to idolatry. Therefore since idolatry is like to nothing, it cannot be a species of superstition.
Objection 4: Further, it belongs to superstition to give divine honor to whom that honor is not due. Now divine honor is undue to idols, just as it is undue to other creatures, wherefore certain people are reproached (Rom. 1:25) for that they “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Therefore this species of superstition is unfittingly called idolatry, and should rather be named “worship of creatures.”
On the contrary, It is related (Acts 17:16) that when Paul awaited Silas and Timothy at Athens, “his spirit was stirred within him seeing the whole city given to idolatry,” and further on (Acts 17:22) he says: “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious.” Therefore idolatry belongs to superstition.
I answer that, As stated above (Q, A), it belongs to superstition to exceed the due mode of divine worship, and this is done chiefly when divine worship is given to whom it should not be given. Now it should be given to the most high uncreated God alone, as stated above (Q, A) when we were treating of religion. Therefore it is superstition to give worship to any creature whatsoever.
Now just as this divine worship was given to sensible creatures by means of sensible signs, such as sacrifices, games, and the like, so too was it given to a creature represented by some sensible form or shape, which is called an “idol.” Yet divine worship was given to idols in various ways. For some, by means of a nefarious art, constructed images which produced certain effects by the power of the demons: wherefore they deemed that the images themselves contained something God-like, and consequently that divine worship was due to them. This was the opinion of Hermes Trismegistus [*De Natura Deorum, ad Asclep], as Augustine states (De Civ. Dei viii, 23): while others gave divine worship not to the images, but to the creatures represented thereby. The Apostle alludes to both of these (Rom. 1:23, 25). For, as regards the former, he says: “They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things,” and of the latter he says: “Who worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
These latter were of three ways of thinking. For some deemed certain men to have been gods, whom they worshipped in the images of those men: for instance, Jupiter, Mercury, and so forth. Others again deemed the whole world to be one god, not by reason of its material substance, but by reason of its soul, which they believed to be God, for they held God to be nothing else than a soul governing the world by movement and reason: even as a man is said to be wise in respect not of his body but of his soul. Hence they thought that divine worship ought to be given to the whole world and to all its parts, heaven, air, water, and to all such things: and to these they referred the names of their gods, as Varro asserted, and Augustine relates (De Civ. Dei vii, 5). Lastly, others, namely, the Platonists, said that there is one supreme god, the cause of all things. After him they placed certain spiritual substances created by the supreme god. These they called “gods,” on account of their having a share of the godhead; but we call them “angels.” After these they placed the souls of the heavenly bodies, and beneath these the demons which they stated to be certain animal denizens of the air, and beneath these again they placed human souls, which they believed to be taken up into the fellowship of the gods or of the demons by reason of the merit of their virtue. To all these they gave divine worship, as Augustine relates (De Civ . . Dei xviii, 14).
The last two opinions were held to belong to “natural theology” which the philosophers gathered from their study of the world and taught in the schools: while the other, relating to the worship of men, was said to belong to “mythical theology” which was wont to be represented on the stage according to the fancies of poets. The remaining opinion relating to images was held to belong to “civil theology,” which was celebrated by the pontiffs in the temples [*De Civ. Dei vi, 5].
Now all these come under the head of the superstition of idolatry. Wherefore Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. ii, 20): “Anything invented by man for making and worshipping idols, or for giving Divine worship to a creature or any part of a creature, is superstitious.”
Reply to Objection 1: Just as religion is not faith, but a confession of faith by outward signs, so superstition is a confession of unbelief by external worship. Such a confession is signified by the term idolatry, but not by the term heresy, which only means a false opinion. Therefore heresy is a species of unbelief, but idolatry is a species of superstition.
Reply to Objection 2: The term latria may be taken in two senses. In one sense it may denote a human act pertaining to the worship of God: and then its signification remains the same, to whomsoever it be shown, because, in this sense, the thing to which it is shown is not included in its definition. Taken thus latria is applied univocally, whether to true religion or to idolatry, just as the payment of a tax is univocally the same, whether it is paid to the true or to a false king. In another sense latria denotes the same as religion, and then, since it is a virtue, it is essential thereto that divine worship be given to whom it ought to be given; and in this way latria is applied equivocally to the latria of true religion, and to idolatry: just as prudence is applied equivocally to the prudence that is a virtue, and to that which is carnal.
Reply to Objection 3: The saying of the Apostle that “an idol is nothing in the world” means that those images which were called idols, were not animated, or possessed of a divine power, as Hermes maintained, as though they were composed of spirit and body. In the same sense we must understand the saying that “what is offered in sacrifice to idols is not anything,” because by being thus sacrificed the sacrificial flesh acquired neither sanctification, as the Gentiles thought, nor uncleanness, as the Jews held.
Reply to Objection 4: It was owing to the general custom among the Gentiles of worshipping any kind of creature under the form of images that the term “idolatry” was used to signify any worship of a creature, even without the use of images.
Art. 2 – Whether idolatry is a sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that idolatry is not a sin. Nothing is a sin that the true faith employs in worshipping God. Now the true faith employs images for the divine worship: since both in the Tabernacle were there images of the cherubim, as related in Ex. 25, and in the Church are images set up which the faithful worship. Therefore idolatry, whereby idols are worshipped, is not a sin.
Objection 2: Further, reverence should be paid to every superior. But the angels and the souls of the blessed are our superiors. Therefore it will be no sin to pay them reverence by worship, of sacrifices or the like.
Objection 3: Further, the most high God should be honored with an inward worship, according to Jn. 4:24, “God . . . they must adore . . . in spirit and in truth”: and Augustine says (Enchiridion iii), that “God is worshipped by faith, hope and charity.” Now a man may happen to worship idols outwardly, and yet not wander from the true faith inwardly. Therefore it seems that we may worship idols outwardly without prejudice to the divine worship.
On the contrary, It is written (Ex. 20:5): “Thou shalt not adore them,” i.e. outwardly, “nor serve them,” i.e. inwardly, as a gloss explains it: and it is a question of graven things and images. Therefore it is a sin to worship idols whether outwardly or inwardly.
I answer that, There has been a twofold error in this matter. For some [*The School of Plato] have thought that to offer sacrifices and other things pertaining to latria, not only to God but also to the others aforesaid, is due and good in itself, since they held that divine honor should be paid to every superior nature, as being nearer to God. But this is unreasonable. For though we ought to revere all superiors, yet the same reverence is not due to them all: and something special is due to the most high God Who excels all in a singular manner: and this is the worship of latria.
Nor can it be said, as some have maintained, that “these visible sacrifices are fitting with regard to other gods, and that to the most high God, as being better than those others, better sacrifices, namely, the service of a pure mind, should be offered” [*Augustine, as quoted below]. The reason is that, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei x, 19), “external sacrifices are signs of internal, just as audible words are signs of things. Wherefore, just as by prayer and praise we utter significant words to Him, and offer to Him in our hearts the things they signify, so too in our sacrifices we ought to realize that we should offer a visible sacrifice to no other than to Him Whose invisible sacrifice we ourselves should be in our hearts.”
Others held that the outward worship of latria should be given to idols, not as though it were something good or fitting in itself, but as being in harmony with the general custom. Thus Augustine (De Civ. Dei vi, 10) quotes Seneca as saying: “We shall adore,” says he, “in such a way as to remember that our worship ss in accordance with custom rather than with the reality”: and (De Vera Relig. v) Augustine says that “we must not seek religion from the philosophers, who accepted the same things for sacred, as did the people; and gave utterance in the schools to various and contrary opinions about the nature of their gods, and the sovereign good.” This error was embraced also by certain heretics [*The Helcesaitae], who affirmed that it is not wrong for one who is seized in time of persecution to worship idols outwardly so long as he keeps the faith in his heart.
But this is evidently false. For since outward worship is a sign of the inward worship, just as it is a wicked lie to affirm the contrary of what one holds inwardly of the true faith so too is it a wicked falsehood to pay outward worship to anything counter to the sentiments of one’s heart. Wherefore Augustine condemns Seneca (De Civ. Dei vi, 10) in that “his worship of idols was so much the more infamous forasmuch as the things he did dishonestly were so done by him that the people believed him to act honestly.”
Reply to Objection 1: Neither in the Tabernacle or Temple of the Old Law, nor again now in the Church are images set up that the worship of latria may be paid to them, but for the purpose of signification, in order that belief in the excellence of angels and saints may be impressed and confirmed in the mind of man. It is different with the image of Christ, to which latria is due on account of His Divinity, as we shall state in the TP, Q, A.
The Replies to the Second and Third Objections are evident from what has been said above.
Art. 3 – Whether idolatry is the gravest of sins?
Objection 1: It would seem that idolatry is not the gravest of sins. The worst is opposed to the best (Ethic. viii, 10). But interior worship, which consists of faith, hope and charity, is better than external worship. Therefore unbelief, despair and hatred of God, which are opposed to internal worship, are graver sins than idolatry, which is opposed to external worship.
Objection 2: Further, the more a sin is against God the more grievous it is. Now, seemingly, a man acts more directly against God by blaspheming, or denying the faith, than by giving God’s worship to another, which pertains to idolatry. Therefore blasphemy and denial of the faith are more grievous sins than idolatry.
Objection 3: Further, it seems that lesser evils are punished with greater evils. But the sin of idolatry was punished with the sin against nature, as stated in Rom. 1:26. Therefore the sin against nature is a graver sin than idolatry.
Objection 4: Further, Augustine says (Contra Faust. xx, 5): “Neither do we say that you,” viz. the Manichees, “are pagans, or a sect of pagans, but that you bear a certain likeness to them since you worship many gods: and yet you are much worse than they are, for they worship things that exist, but should not be worshiped as gods, whereas you worship things that exist not at all.” Therefore the vice of heretical depravity is more grievous than idolatry.
Objection 5: Further, a gloss of Jerome on Gal. 4:9, “How turn you again to the weak and needy elements?” says: “The observance of the Law, to which they were then addicted, was a sin almost equal to the worship of idols, to which they had been given before their conversion.” Therefore idolatry is not the most grievous sin.
On the contrary, A gloss on the saying of Lev. 15:25, about the uncleanness of a woman suffering from an issue of blood, says: “Every sin is an uncleanness of the soul, but especially idolatry.”
I answer that, The gravity of a sin may be considered in two ways. First, on the part of the sin itself, and thus idolatry is the most grievous sin. For just as the most heinous crime in an earthly commonwealth would seem to be for a man to give royal honor to another than the true king, since, so far as he is concerned, he disturbs the whole order of the commonwealth, so, in sins that are committed against God, which indeed are the greater sins, the greatest of all seems to be for a man to give God’s honor to a creature, since, so far as he is concerned, he sets up another God in the world, and lessens the divine sovereignty. Secondly, the gravity of a sin may be considered on the part of the sinner. Thus the sin of one that sins knowingly is said to be graver than the sin of one that sins through ignorance: and in this way nothing hinders heretics, if they knowingly corrupt the faith which they have received, from sinning more grievously than idolaters who sin through ignorance. Furthermore other sins may be more grievous on account of greater contempt on the part of the sinner.
Reply to Objection 1: Idolatry presupposes internal unbelief, and to this it adds undue worship. But in a case of external idolatry without internal unbelief, there is an additional sin of falsehood, as stated above (A).
Reply to Objection 2: Idolatry includes a grievous blasphemy, inasmuch as it deprives God of the singleness of His dominion and denies the faith by deeds.
Reply to Objection 3: Since it is essential to punishment that it be against the will, a sin whereby another sin is punished needs to be more manifest, in order that it may make the man more hateful to himself and to others; but it need not be a more grievous sin: and in this way the sin against nature is less grievous than the sin of idolatry. But since it is more manifest, it is assigned as a fitting punishment of the sin of idolatry, in order that, as by idolatry man abuses the order of the divine honor, so by the sin against nature he may suffer confusion from the abuse of his own nature.
Reply to Objection 4: Even as to the genus of the sin, the Manichean heresy is more grievous than the sin of other idolaters, because it is more derogatory to the divine honor, since they set up two gods in opposition to one another, and hold many vain and fabulous fancies about God. It is different with other heretics, who confess their belief in one God and worship Him alone.
Reply to Objection 5: The observance of the Law during the time of grace is not quite equal to idolatry as to the genus of the sin, but almost equal, because both are species of pestiferous superstition.
Art. 4 – Whether the cause of idolatry was on the part of man?
Objection 1: It would seem that the cause of idolatry was not on the part of man. In man there is nothing but either nature, virtue, or guilt. But the cause of idolatry could not be on the part of man’s nature, since rather does man’s natural reason dictate that there is one God, and that divine worship should not be paid to the dead or to inanimate beings. Likewise, neither could idolatry have its cause in man on the part of virtue, since “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,” according to Mat. 7:18: nor again could it be on the part of guilt, because, according to Wis. 14:27, “the worship of abominable idols is the cause and the beginning and end of all evil.” Therefore idolatry has no cause on the part of man.
Objection 2: Further, those things which have a cause in man are found among men at all times. Now idolatry was not always, but is stated [*Peter Comestor, Hist. Genes. xxxvii, xl] to have been originated either by Nimrod, who is related to have forced men to worship fire, or by Ninus, who caused the statue of his father Bel to be worshiped. Among the Greeks, as related by Isidore (Etym. viii, 11), Prometheus was the first to set up statues of men: and the Jews say that Ismael was the first to make idols of clay. Moreover, idolatry ceased to a great extent in the sixth age. Therefore idolatry had no cause on the part of man.
Objection 3: Further, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxi, 6): “It was not possible to learn, for the first time, except from their” (i.e. the demons’) “teaching, what each of them desired or disliked, and by what name to invite or compel him: so as to give birth to the magic arts and their professors”: and the same observation seems to apply to idolatry. Therefore idolatry had no cause on the part of man.
On the contrary, It is written (Wis. 14:14): “By the vanity of men they,” i.e. idols, “came into the world.”
I answer that, Idolatry had a twofold cause. One was a dispositive cause; this was on the part of man, and in three ways. First, on account of his inordinate affections, forasmuch as he gave other men divine honor, through either loving or revering them too much. This cause is assigned (Wis. 14:15): “A father being afflicted with bitter grief, made to himself the image of his son, who was quickly taken away: and him who then had died as a man he began to worship as a god.” The same passage goes on to say (Wis. 14:21) that “men serving either their affection, or their kings, gave the incommunicable name [Vulg.: ‘names’],” i.e. of the Godhead, “to stones and wood.” Secondly, because man takes a natural pleasure in representations, as the Philosopher observes (Poet. iv), wherefore as soon as the uncultured man saw human images skillfully fashioned by the diligence of the craftsman, he gave them divine worship; hence it is written (Wis. 13:11-17): “If an artist, a carpenter, hath cut down a tree, proper for his use, in the wood . . . and by the skill of his art fashioneth it, and maketh it like the image of a man . . . and then maketh prayer to it, inquiring concerning his substance, and his children, or his marriage.” Thirdly, on account of their ignorance of the true God, inasmuch as through failing to consider His excellence men gave divine worship to certain creatures, on account of their beauty or power, wherefore it is written (Wis. 13:1,2): “All men . . . neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman, but have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and the moon, to be the gods that rule the world.”
The other cause of idolatry was completive, and this was on the part of the demons, who offered themselves to be worshipped by men, by giving answers in the idols, and doing things which to men seemed marvelous. Hence it is written (Ps. 95:5): “All the gods of the Gentiles are devils.”
Reply to Objection 1: The dispositive cause of idolatry was, on the part of man, a defect of nature, either through ignorance in his intellect, or disorder in his affections, as stated above; and this pertains to guilt. Again, idolatry is stated to be the cause, beginning and end of all sin, because there is no kind of sin that idolatry does not produce at some time, either through leading expressly to that sin by causing it, or through being an occasion thereof, either as a beginning or as an end, in so far as certain sins were employed in the worship of idols; such as homicides, mutilations, and so forth. Nevertheless certain sins may precede idolatry and dispose man thereto.
Reply to Objection 2: There was no idolatry in the first age, owing to the recent remembrance of the creation of the world, so that man still retained in his mind the knowledge of one God. In the sixth age idolatry was banished by the doctrine and power of Christ, who triumphed over the devil.
Reply to Objection 3: This argument considers the consummative cause of idolatry.