Vol II No. 5
Daily Thought

William Law: Address to the Clergy: I, vi, vii, viii.

by William J. Martin


[Addr-6] All possible Goodness that either can be named, or is nameless, was in God from all Eternity, and must to all Eternity be inseparable from him; it can be nowhere but where God is. As therefore before God created anything, it was certainly true that there was but one that was good, so it is just the same Truth, after God has created innumerable Hosts of blessed and holy and heavenly Beings, that there is but one that is good, and that is God.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that ‘Goodness and Being’ are really the same, and differ only in idea.’ He goes on to explain that ‘Goodness’ is something that is to be desired or longed after. He quotes Aristotle, who says that ‘Goodness is what all desire’(Nic. Eth. I). Now this is true of any want, desire, or appetite in man. It is also true of what other creatures tend towards naturally or instinctively. What men want, they desire because of some goodness attached to it. What they desire then is the fullness, completeness, or perfection of an object. This is another way of saying that they desire its goodness. All men desire both that the object they seek should be perfect and also that in their possession or consumption of it, they might be perfected by it. Of course most men desire only limited and finite forms of goodness. Nevertheless in their desire of it they seek its most perfect expression. If it is not as perfect as it can be, a man is let down or disappointed by the object of his appetite. That man desires perfection on any level is a sign that he seeks for a reality that has generated this desire. But a thing can be perfect only in so far as it is actual or actualized. This means that Goodness is synonymous with Being or existing. Goodness ‘is the aspect desired’, while Being is its actuality. Now for anything to be good and existing it must derive its essence and existence from what always Is or Exists as Perfect Goodness. Otherwise it is absurd to speak about goodness as becoming-being at all. So goodness and being that come to be and pass away derive their Goodness and Being from God. God alone then is that Goodness and Being who actualizes goodness and being in creatures who imitate His perfection. (Summary: S.T.A.: S.T. I, v, 1)

[Addr-7] All that can be called Goodness, Holiness, Divine Tempers, heavenly Affections, &c., in the Creatures, are no more their own, or the Growth of their created Powers, than they were their own before they were created. But all that is called Divine Goodness and Virtue in the Creature is nothing else, but the one Goodness of God manifesting a Birth and Discovery of itself in the Creature, according as its created Nature is fitted to receive it. This is the unalterable State between God and the Creature. Goodness for ever and ever can only belong to God, as essential to him and inseparable from him, as his own Unity.

The substantial being of any creature is its actualization by God’s Goodness and Being. God then lends His Goodness and Being to creatures as their potential form and matter are actualized in a substance that is perfected. Of course, creatures are perfected only imperfectly since their perfection comes to be and passes away. Even man, whose soul is made to live forever endures a period of division while he awaits reunion with His body that will come with the General Resurrection. If his imperfect perfection of body and soul is judged reconcilable to God, he shall be welcomed into the presence of God’s perfect Goodness and Being forever. If his imperfect perfection of body and soul is judged alien to God’s Goodness and Being, he shall live at a distance from God forever beholding the Goodness and Being that he rejected. ‘God’s Absolute Goodness is Complete Actuality.’ Every man is said ‘to be’ and ‘will be forever’. But every man is not said ‘to be good’ unless ‘the superadded actuality of knowledge and virtue’ makes him one with God. Thus it is imperative that a man should seek out and embrace that Goodness of God’s Being which ‘is essential to and inseparable from Him.’

[Addr-8] God could not make the Creature to be great and glorious in itself; this is as impossible, as for God to create Beings into a State of Independence on himself. “The Heavens,” saith David, “declare the Glory of God”; and no Creature, any more than the Heavens, can declare any other Glory but that of God.

God’s Goodness and Being make all other things. Thus all things derive from God, depend upon God, and hang upon the mercy of God for their being and goodness. The Glory that is revealed in and to the creature is God’s Glory. There is no independent being, goodness, or glory that is peculiar to the creature. The creature can reveal only what has been put into it by its Maker. Thus any notion of being, goodness, and glory that is divorced from God is better called non-being, evil, and obloquy. Created being is becoming-being and derives from God’s Pure Being alone. Created being’s perfection is actualized by the Goodness of God. Some creatures’ being is perfected by God’s Goodness naturally or instinctively. Other creatures’ being is perfected by God’s Goodness through knowledge and an act of will. Men and angels comprise the latter category of Being, and thus the known Goodness of God’s Being must be embraced by an act of will that desires to be perfected. The desire for perfection derives from God’s Good Being as what is made to return to Him by being made good because what is known is willed and completed.