Compendium of Theology
Primo ponitur intentio operis
First, the intention of the work is set down
Aeterni Patris Verbum sua immensitate universa comprehendens, ut hominem per peccata minoratum in celsitudinem divinae gloriae revocaret, breve fieri voluit nostra brevitate assumpta, non sua deposita maiestate. Et ut a caelestis Verbi capessenda doctrina nullus excusabilis redderetur, quod propter studiosos diffuse et dilucide per diversa Sacrae Scripturae volumina tradiderat, propter occupatos sub brevi summa humanae salutis doctrinam conclusit.
The Word of the eternal Father, containing all things by his immensity, willed to become small in order to recall man, laid low by sin, to the height of divine glory. This he did not by putting aside his majesty, but by taking to himself our littleness. Lest anyone be excused from grasping the teaching of the heavenly Word, which he handed down clearly and at great length through the various volumes of Sacred Scripture for those who have leisure to study, he has compressed his teaching about human salvation into a brief summary for those who have little time.
Consistit enim humana salus in veritatis cognitione, ne per diversos errores intellectus obscuretur humanus; in debiti finis intentione, ne indebitos fines sectando a vera felicitate deficiat; in iustitiae observatione, ne per vitia diversa sordescat.
Man’s salvation consists in knowing the truth, so that the human mind may not be confused by various errors; in aiming for the right goal, so that man may not fall away from true happiness by pursuing the wrong ends; and in carrying out the law of justice, so that he may not besmirch himself with various vices.
Cognitionem autem veritatis humanae saluti necessariam in brevibus et paucis fidei articulis comprehendit; hinc est quod Apostolus ad Romanos dicit: Verbum abbreviatum faciet Dominus super terram, et Hoc quidem est verbum fidei quod praedicamus. Intentionem humanam brevi oratione rectificavit, in quo dum orare nos docuit, quo nostra intentio et spes tendere debeat ostendit. Humanam iustitiam quae in legis observatione consistit, uno praecepto caritatis consummavit: plenitudo enim legis est dilectio.
He encompassed the knowledge of the truth necessary for man’s salvation within a few brief articles of faith. This is what the Apostle says in Romans 9:28: The Lord shall make a shortened word upon the earth; and later he adds: This is the word of faith, which we preach (Rom 10:8). He straightened out man’s aim with a short prayer in which, while he taught us to pray, he showed us where our aim and hope should point. In a single precept of charity he summed up that human justice which consists in observing the law: Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom 13:10).
Unde Apostolus ad Corinthios in fide, spe et caritate, quasi in quibusdam salutis nostrae compendiosis capitulis, totam praesentis vitae perfectionem consistere docuit, dicens: Nunc autem manent fides, spes et caritas. Unde haec tria sunt, ut beatus Augustinus dicit, quibus colitur Deus.
Hence the Apostle, in 1 Corinthians 13:13, taught that the whole perfection of this present life consists in faith, hope, and charity, as in certain brief headings outlining our salvation: so faith, hope, and charity abide. These are the three virtues, as St. Augustine says, by which God is worshiped.
Ut igitur tibi, fili carissime Reginalde, compendiosam doctrinam de Christiana religione tradam, quam semper prae oculis possis habere, circa haec tria in praesenti opere tota nostra versatur intentio. Ac primum de fide, secundo de spe, tertio vero de caritate agemus; hoc enim et Apostolicus ordo habet, et ratio recta requirit. Non enim amor rectus esse potest nisi primo debitus finis spei statuatur, nec hoc esse potest si veritatis cognitio desit. Primo igitur necessaria est fides, per quam veritatem cognoscas; secundo spes, per quam in debito fine tua intentio collocetur; tertio necessaria est caritas, per quam tuus affectus totaliter ordinetur.
Wherefore, my dearest son Reginald, so that I may hand on to you a compendious teaching about the Christian religion, which you can keep continually before your eyes, my entire aim in the present work revolves around these three virtues. I shall treat first of faith, then of hope, and lastly of charity, both because the Apostle’s order has this sequence and because right reason demands it. Love cannot be rightly ordered unless the proper goal of our hope is established; nor can this happen if knowledge of the truth is lacking. Therefore, the first thing necessary is faith, by which you may come to a knowledge of the truth. Second, hope, that your aim may be fixed on the right end. Third, love is necessary, that your affections may be perfectly put in order.
Ordo dicendorum circa fidem
Order of topics concerning faith
Fides autem praelibatio quaedam est illius cognitionis quae nos in futuro beatos faciet. Unde et Apostolus dicit quod est substantia sperandarum rerum, quasi iam in nobis res sperandas, id est futuram beatitudinem, per modum cuiusdam inchoationis subsistere faciens. Illam autem beatificantem cognitionem circa duo cognita Dominus consistere docuit, scilicet circa divinitatem Trinitatis et humanitatem Christi; unde ad Patrem loquens dicit: Haec est vita aeterna ut cognoscant te verum Deum, etc.
Faith is a certain foretaste of that knowledge which is to make us happy in the life to come. The Apostle says, in Hebrews 11:1, that faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, as though implying that faith is already, in some preliminary way, making in us the things that are to be hoped for (which is future beatitude). Our Lord has taught us that this beatific knowledge has to do with two truths: namely, the divinity of the Trinity and the humanity of Christ. That is why, addressing the Father, he says: This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent (John 17:3).
Circa haec ergo duo tota fidei cognitio versatur, scilicet circa divinitatem Trinitatis et circa humanitatem Christi: nec mirum, quia Christi humanitas via est qua ad divinitatem pervenitur. Oportet igitur et in via viam cognoscere per quam possit pervenire ad finem; et in patria Deo gratiarum actio sufficiens non esset, nisi viae per quam salvati sunt cognitionem haberent. Hinc est quod Dominus discipulis dixit: Et quo ego vado scitis, et viam scitis.
All the knowledge imparted by faith revolves around these two points, the divinity of the Trinity and the humanity of Christ. This should cause us no surprise, for the humanity of Christ is the way by which we come to the divinity. Therefore, while we are still wayfarers, we ought to know the way leading to our goal. In the heavenly fatherland adequate thanks would not be rendered to God if men had no knowledge of the way by which they are saved. This is the meaning of our Lord’s words to his disciples: Where I am going you know, and the way you know (John 14:4).
Circa divinitatem vero tria cognosci oportet, primo quidem essentiae unitatem, secundo personarum Trinitatem, tertio divinitatis effectus.
Now three truths must be known about the divinity: first, the unity of the divine essence; second, the Trinity of persons; third, the effects wrought by the divinity.
The divine nature
Quod Deus sit
That God exists
Circa essentiae quidem divinae unitatem, primo quidem tenendum est Deum esse; quod ratione conspicuum est. Videmus enim omnia quae moventur ab aliis moveri: inferiora quidem per superiora, sicut elementa per corpora caelestia; et in elementis quod fortius est movet id quod debilius est; et in corporibus etiam caelestibus inferiora a superiori aguntur. Hoc in infinitum procedere impossibile est. Cum enim omne quod movetur ab aliquo sit quasi instrumentum quoddam primi moventis, si primum movens non sit, quaecumque movent instrumenta erunt. Oportet autem, si in infinitum procedatur in moventibus et motis, primum movens non esse; omnia igitur infinita moventia et mota erunt instrumenta. Ridiculum est autem, etiam apud indoctos, ponere instrumenta moveri, nisi ab aliquo principali agente: simile enim est hoc ac si aliquis circa constitutionem arcae vel lecti ponat serram vel securim absque carpentario operante. Oportet igitur primum movens esse quod sit omnibus supremum; et hoc dicimus Deum.
Regarding the unity of the divine essence, we must first believe that God exists. This is a truth clearly known by reason. For we observe that all things that move are moved by other things. Lower things are moved by higher things, as the elements are moved by heavenly bodies; and among the elements themselves, the stronger moves the weaker; and even among the heavenly bodies, the lower are driven by the higher. This cannot go on to infinity. For since everything that is moved by another is a sort of instrument of the first mover, if a first mover is lacking, then all things that move will be instruments. Now if one goes on to infinity with movers and things moved, there can be no first mover. In such a case, these infinitely many movers and moved things will all be instruments. But even the unlearned perceive how ridiculous it is to suppose that instruments are moved without some principal agent. This would be like fancying that, when a chest or a bed is being built, the saw or the hatchet performs its functions without the carpenter. Accordingly, there must be a first mover that is above everything else; and this we call God.
Quod Deus est immobilis
That God is immovable
Ex hoc autem apparet quod necesse est Deum omnino immobilem esse. Cum enim sit primum movens, si moveretur, necesse esset se ipsum vel a se ipso vel ab alio moveri. Ab alio quidem moveri non potest: oporteret enim esse aliud movens prius eo, quod est contra rationem primi moventis.
From this it is clear that God must be immovable. For, since he is the first mover, if he were moved he would have to be moved either by himself or by another. He cannot indeed be moved by another, for then there would have to be another mover prior to him, which is against the very idea of a first mover.
A se ipso autem si movetur, hoc potest esse dupliciter: aut quod secundum idem sit movens et motum, aut ita quod secundum aliquid sui sit movens et secundum aliquid motum. Horum quidem primum esse non potest. Cum enim omne quod movetur, inquantum huiusmodi, sit in potentia, quod autem movet sit in actu, si secundum idem esset movens et motum, oporteret quod secundum idem esset in potentia et actu: quod est impossibile. Secundum etiam esse non potest. Si enim esset aliud movens et alterum motum, non esset ipsum secundum se primum movens, sed ratione partis quae movet. Quod autem est per se, est prius eo quod non est secundum se; non potest igitur esse primum movens, si ratione suae partis hoc ei conveniat. Oportet igitur primum movens omnino immobile esse.
If he is moved by himself, this can be conceived in two ways: either that he is mover and moved according to the same respect, or that he is a mover according to one aspect of him and is moved according to another aspect. Now the first of these alternatives is impossible. For since everything that is moved is, to that extent, in potency, and whatever moves is in act, if God were both mover and moved according to the same respect then he would have to be in potency and in act according to the same respect, which is impossible. The second alternative is also impossible. If one part were moving and another were moved, he would not be the first mover essentially, but by reason of that part of him which moves. But what is essential is prior to that which is not essential. Hence there cannot be a first mover at all, if being the first mover belongs to him by reason of one of his parts. Accordingly, the first mover must be altogether immovable.
Ex his etiam quae moventur et movent hoc ipsum considerari potest. Omnis enim motus videtur ab aliquo immobili procedere, quod scilicet non movetur secundum illam speciem motus: sicut videmus quod alterationes et generationes et corruptiones, quae sunt in istis inferioribus, reducuntur sicut in primum movens in corpus caeleste, quod secundum hanc speciem motus omnino non movetur, cum sit ingenerabile et incorruptibile et inalterabile. Illud ergo quod est primum principium omnis motus, oportet esse immobile.
The same thing can be investigated based on things that move and are moved. For every motion is observed to proceed from something immobile, namely, from something that is not moved according to that species of motion. Thus we see that alterations and generations and corruptions occurring in lower bodies are traced back (as to a first mover) to a heavenly body that is in no way moved according to this species of motion, since it is incapable of being generated, corrupted, or altered. Therefore, the first principle of all motion must be immoveable.
Quod Deus est aeternus
That God is eternal
Ex hoc autem apparet ulterius Deum esse aeternum. Omne enim quod incipit esse vel desinit, per motum vel per mutationem hoc patitur; ostensum est autem quod Deus est omnino immobilis: est ergo aeternus.
From this, it is furthermore evident that God is eternal. For everything that begins to be or that ceases to be undergoes this through motion or change. But we have just shown that God is absolutely immoveable. Therefore, he is eternal.
Quod Deum esse per se est necessarium
That God’s existence is necessary in itself
Per hoc autem ostenditur quod Deum esse est necessarium. Omne enim quod possibile est esse et non esse, est mutabile; sed Deus est omnino immutabilis, ut ostensum est: ergo Deum non est possibile esse et non esse. Omne autem quod est, et non est possibile ipsum non esse, necesse est ipsum esse, quia necesse esse et non possibile non esse idem significant: ergo Deum esse est necesse.
The same line of reasoning shows that it is necessary for God to exist. For everything that has the possibility of existing and not existing is mutable. But God is absolutely immutable, as has been demonstrated. Therefore, God does not have the possibility of existing and not existing. But anything that exists, and does not have the possibility of not existing, exists necessarily, since to exist necessarily and to be unable not to exist mean the same thing. Therefore, it is necessary for God to exist.
Item, omne quod est possibile esse et non esse, indiget aliquo alio quod faciat ipsum esse, quia quantum est in se, se habet ad utrumque. Quod autem facit aliquid esse, est prius eo; omni igitur eo quod est possibile esse et non esse, est aliquid prius. Deo autem non est aliquid prius; ergo non est possibile ipsum esse et non esse, sed necesse est eum esse. Et quia aliqua necessaria sunt quae suae necessitatis causam habent, quam oportet eis esse priorem, Deus qui est omnium primum non habet causam suae necessitatis; unde Deum esse per se ipsum est necesse.
Moreover, everything that has the possibility of existing and of not existing needs something else to make it exist, for in itself it stands indifferently toward either alternative. But that which causes another thing to exist is prior to that thing. Hence there is something prior to anything that has the possibility of existing and of not existing. However, nothing is prior to God. Therefore, he does not have the possibility of existing and of not existing, but he must necessarily exist. And since there are some necessary things that have a cause of their necessity, which cause must be prior to them, God, who is the first of all, has no cause of his own necessity. Hence God’s existence is necessary by his very nature.
Quod Deus semper est
That God always is
Ex his autem manifestum est quod Deus est semper. Omne enim quod est necesse esse, est semper, quia quod non possibile est non esse impossibile est non esse, et ita numquam non est; sed necesse est Deum esse, ut ostensum est: ergo Deus semper est.
From all this it is evident that God exists always. For whatever necessarily exists, always exists, because it is impossible for a thing that has no possibility of not being, not to be. Hence it never does not exist. But it is necessary for God to exist, as has been shown. Therefore, God exists always.
Adhuc, nihil incipit esse aut desinit nisi per motum vel mutationem; Deus autem est omnino immutabilis, ut probatum est: impossibile est igitur quod esse inceperit vel quod esse desinat.
Again, nothing begins to be or ceases to be except through motion or change. But God is entirely immutable, as has been proved. Therefore, it is impossible for him ever to have begun to be or to cease to be.