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Metaphysical Thoughts: Part 2, Chapter 1.
Concerning the Eternity of God.

    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.

Duration is not assignable to God.
    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.

Why some authors attribute duration to God.
    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 objects.

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.

What eternity is.
    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.

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