We have said above that in Nature nothing is given except substance
and modes. Therefore it will not be expected
that we shall say here anything about substantial forms,
or real qualities; for these terms, as well as other similar
ones, are plainly inapt. We divide substance into two general heads,
namely, Extension and Thought. Thought is
either created, the human mind, or uncreated, i.e., God.
God's existence we have above demonstrated a posteriori,
that is, from the idea which we have of God, and a priori,
or from His essence as the cause of His being. But,
although we have already briefly considered His attributes, as
the dignity of the argument requires, we will here
repeat these and explain them more fully, and at the same time
endeavor to answer certain questions bearing upon the subject.
The chief attribute, the one to be considered before all others,
is the Eternity of God. This term we employ to explain
His duration. Or, rather, as we cannot predicate duration of God,
we say He is eternal. For, as we noted in the first
part of this discussion, duration is an affect of existence not of
the essence of things. And since God's existence is
His essence, we cannot say that duration belongs to Him.
For whoever predicates duration as one of God's attributes
differentiates between His existence and His essence. Nevertheless,
there are those who ask if God has not existed
longer than from the time of Adam, and this seems to them to be
perfectly evident since they believe that duration in no
way is derived from God. But these persons beg the question; for
they assume that God's essence is to be
distinguished from His existence. They demand to know whether God,
who existed before the creation of Adam, has
not existed for a longer time than from the creation to the present.
They attribute, therefore, a longer duration to God
than to individual objects, as if they suppose that He is
continually created by Himself. Did they not distinguish
between God's essence and His existence, they would never attribute
duration to God, since duration does not
correspond to the essence of things. No one would say that the
essence of a circle or a triangle, so far as it is
eternal truth, has endured for a longer time than from the
creation of Adam. Further, since duration is constantly
conceived of as greater or less, or as consisting of parts,
it clearly follows duration cannot be attributed to God. For
as His being is eternal, i.e., there is no past or future to
His nature, when we find that we cannot attribute duration
to Him we have shown that our concept of God is true. If we
attribute duration to God, we separate into parts what is
infinite by nature and cannot be conceived except as infinite.
The reason some authors attribute duration to God, is:
1. Because they attempt to explain eternity without
considering the nature of God; as if eternity could be understood
apart from the divine essence, or, indeed, as if it
was anything except this. This error
arose from the fact that because of a defective terminology,
we have been accustomed to attribute eternity to things
whose essence is different from their existence. As, for example,
when we say that the world has existed from
eternity, although this is not implied; and also that the
essence of things is eternal, although we do not think of the
things as even existing.
2. Because they do not attribute duration to things except
so far as they are conceived to be under continual change,
and not as we do, only so far as their essence is to be distinguished
from their existence.
3. Finally, because they distinguish between God's essence and
His existence just as in the case of created
These mistakes are at the basis of their error.
The first error was a misapprehension of the nature of
eternity, which was thought to be some form of duration.
In the second, they could not easily distinguish between
the duration of created objects and the eternity of God.
Lastly, they distinguished between God's essence and His
existence, and attributed duration to God, as we have said,
as though it were an affect of existence.
In order to better understand what eternity really is and
why it cannot be conceived apart from the
essence of God, we should remember what has already been said, viz.,
that all created objects or all things except
God Himself exist by the power and essence of God, not by virtue
of their own essence. Hence the present existence of objects
is not the cause of their future existence, but rather the
immutability of God. So when we say that God has created an
object we are compelled to believe that He will conserve it or
continue His act of creation. From this we conclude:
1. That created objects are said to exist because existence
is not a part of their essence. We cannot affirm existence of God,
for the existence of God is God Himself. So, also; concerning
His essence. Hence, while created objects have duration,
God does not.
2. Created objects, while they have a present duration and existence,
do not have in themselves a future duration or existence,
for this must be continually given to them.
This, however, is not true of the essence of created objects.
Indeed, since His existence and His essence are one, we cannot
attribute a future existence to God. For we must attribute to Him now
what He has always had. Or, to speak more properly, an infinite existence
pertains to God in the same way as an infinite intelligence.
This infinite existence I call eternity. This can be
attributed to God alone, not to created objects, even though they
have no end. So much concerning eternity. I shall
say nothing of the necessity of God's being, for after we have
demonstrated His existence from His essence this
would be useless. Hence we proceed to unity.