In order that we may rightly understand this attribute of the life of God,
it is necessary that we explain in general what is meant by this term.
Here we may examine first the opinion of the Peripatetics.
They understood by life the continuance of support to the soul by
means of heat (Vid. Aristotle, Bk. 1., de Respirat. 8). And,
because they had three classes of minds,
viz., vegetative, sensative and intellectual, which they attribute
to plants, animals and men respectively, it follows
that they assume that other objects do not have life. But they did
not dare to say that minds and God do not possess life. They feared
perhaps lest if they denied life to them they must also deny death
as well. Therefore, Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. II., chap. 7,
gives another definition of life peculiar to minds, namely:
"Life is the operation of the intellect." In this sense he
attributes life to God who is a cognitive being and is pure activity. We
will not be delayed long to refute these conceptions, for what
pertains to these three kinds of life which they attribute to plants
and animals and men, we have already shown to be mere fiction.
For we showed that there is nothing in matter except mechanical form
and action. Moreover, what pertains to the life of God relates no more
to an act of the understanding than to an act of will or any other
faculty. But since I expect no response to what I have said, I pass
on and endeavor to explain what life really is.
Although this term life, by a transference of meaning, is often taken to
signify the customs of a people or of an individual, we shall briefly
explain its correct philosophical use. It should be
noted that if life is attributed to corporeal things, then nothing
is void of life; but if only to those objects where spirit is
united to body, then only to men or perhaps also to the lower animals,
but not to minds or to God. In truth, since the term is a broad one,
it should doubtlessly be attributed to corporeal objects,
to minds united to, and to minds separated from corporeal body.
Therefore we will understand by this term life, the power through
which an object preserves its own being.
And although that power in different objects is very different, we
still very properly say that those objects have life. Moreover,
the power by which God preserves His being is nothing
else than His essence. Therefore they speak most truly, who say that
God is Life. Nor are there wanting theologians
who believe that it was for this very reason that the Jews when
they made a vow swore by living Jehovah, not by the
life of Jehovah, as did Joseph when he swore by the
life of Pharaoh and said the "life of Pharaoh."