QUESTION 107: OF THE NEW LAW AS COMPARED WITH THE OLD
We must now consider the New Law as compared with the Old: under which
head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the New Law is distinct from the Old Law?
(2) Whether the New Law fulfils the Old?
(3) Whether the New Law is contained in the Old?
(4) Which is the more burdensome, the New or the Old Law?
Article 1: Whether the New Law is distinct from the Old Law?
Objection 1: It would seem that the New Law is not distinct from the Old.
Because both these laws were given to those who believe in God: since
"without faith it is impossible to please God," according to Heb. 11:6.
But the faith of olden times and of nowadays is the same, as the gloss
says on Mt. 21:9. Therefore the law is the same also.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (Contra Adamant. Manich. discip. xvii)
that "there is little difference between the Law and Gospel" [*The
'little difference' refers to the Latin words 'timor' and 'amor']---"fear
and love." But the New and Old Laws cannot be differentiated in respect
of these two things: since even the Old Law comprised precepts of
charity: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor" (Lev. 19:18), and: "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God" (Dt. 6:5). In like manner neither can they differ
according to the other difference which Augustine assigns (Contra Faust.
iv, 2), viz. that "the Old Testament contained temporal promises, whereas
the New Testament contains spiritual and eternal promises": since even
the New Testament contains temporal promises, according to Mk. 10:30: He
shall receive "a hundred times as much . . . in this time, houses and
brethren," etc.: while in the Old Testament they hoped in promises
spiritual and eternal, according to Heb. 11:16: "But now they desire a
better, that is to say, a heavenly country," which is said of the
patriarchs. Therefore it seems that the New Law is not distinct from the
Objection 3: Further, the Apostle seems to distinguish both laws by calling
the Old Law "a law of works," and the New Law "a law of faith" (Rm. 3:27). But the Old Law was also a law of faith, according to Heb. 11:39:
"All were [Vulg.: 'All these being'] approved by the testimony of faith,"
which he says of the fathers of the Old Testament. In like manner the New
Law is a law of works: since it is written (Mt. 5:44): "Do good to them
that hate you"; and (Lk. 22:19): "Do this for a commemoration of Me."
Therefore the New Law is not distinct from the Old.
On the contrary, the Apostle says (Heb. 7:12): "The priesthood being
translated it is necessary that a translation also be made of the Law."
But the priesthood of the New Testament is distinct from that of the Old,
as the Apostle shows in the same place. Therefore the Law is also
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ), every law
ordains human conduct to some end. Now things ordained to an end may be
divided in two ways, considered from the point of view of the end. First,
through being ordained to different ends: and this difference will be
specific, especially if such ends are proximate. Secondly, by reason of
being closely or remotely connected with the end. Thus it is clear that
movements differ in species through being directed to different terms:
while according as one part of a movement is nearer to the term than
another part, the difference of perfect and imperfect movement is
Accordingly then two laws may be distinguished from one another in two
ways. First, through being altogether diverse, from the fact that they
are ordained to diverse ends: thus a state-law ordained to democratic
government, would differ specifically from a law ordained to government
by the aristocracy. Secondly, two laws may be distinguished from one
another, through one of them being more closely connected with the end,
and the other more remotely: thus in one and the same state there is one
law enjoined on men of mature age, who can forthwith accomplish that
which pertains to the common good; and another law regulating the
education of children who need to be taught how they are to achieve manly
deeds later on.
We must therefore say that, according to the first way, the New Law is
not distinct from the Old Law: because they both have the same end,
namely, man's subjection to God; and there is but one God of the New and
of the Old Testament, according to Rm. 3:30: "It is one God that
justifieth circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith."
According to the second way, the New Law is distinct from the Old Law:
because the Old Law is like a pedagogue of children, as the Apostle says
(Gal. 3:24), whereas the New Law is the law of perfection, since it is
the law of charity, of which the Apostle says (Col. 3:14) that it is "the
bond of perfection."
Reply to Objection 1: The unity of faith under both Testaments witnesses to the
unity of end: for it has been stated above (Question , Article ) that the object
of the theological virtues, among which is faith, is the last end. Yet
faith had a different state in the Old and in the New Law: since what
they believed as future, we believe as fact.
Reply to Objection 2: All the differences assigned between the Old and New Laws
are gathered from their relative perfection and imperfection. For the
precepts of every law prescribe acts of virtue. Now the imperfect, who as
yet are not possessed of a virtuous habit, are directed in one way to
perform virtuous acts, while those who are perfected by the possession of
virtuous habits are directed in another way. For those who as yet are not
endowed with virtuous habits, are directed to the performance of virtuous
acts by reason of some outward cause: for instance, by the threat of
punishment, or the promise of some extrinsic rewards, such as honor,
riches, or the like. Hence the Old Law, which was given to men who were
imperfect, that is, who had not yet received spiritual grace, was called
the "law of fear," inasmuch as it induced men to observe its commandments
by threatening them with penalties; and is spoken of as containing
temporal promises. On the other hand, those who are possessed of virtue,
are inclined to do virtuous deeds through love of virtue, not on account
of some extrinsic punishment or reward. Hence the New Law which derives
its pre-eminence from the spiritual grace instilled into our hearts, is
called the "Law of love": and it is described as containing spiritual and
eternal promises, which are objects of the virtues, chiefly of charity.
Accordingly such persons are inclined of themselves to those objects, not
as to something foreign but as to something of their own. For this
reason, too, the Old Law is described as "restraining the hand, not the
will" [*Peter Lombard, Sent. iii, D, 40]; since when a man refrains from
some sins through fear of being punished, his will does not shrink simply
from sin, as does the will of a man who refrains from sin through love of
righteousness: and hence the New Law, which is the Law of love, is said
to restrain the will.
Nevertheless there were some in the state of the Old Testament who,
having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to
spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the
New Law. In like manner in the New Testament there are some carnal men
who have not yet attained to the perfection of the New Law; and these it
was necessary, even under the New Testament, to lead to virtuous action
by the fear of punishment and by temporal promises.
But although the Old Law contained precepts of charity, nevertheless it
did not confer the Holy Ghost by Whom "charity . . . is spread abroad in
our hearts" (Rm. 5:5).
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Question , Articles ,2), the New Law is called
the law of faith, in so far as its pre-eminence is derived from that very
grace which is given inwardly to believers, and for this reason is called
the grace of faith. Nevertheless it consists secondarily in certain
deeds, moral and sacramental: but the New Law does not consist chiefly
in these latter things, as did the Old Law. As to those under the Old
Testament who through faith were acceptable to God, in this respect they
belonged to the New Testament: for they were not justified except through
faith in Christ, Who is the Author of the New Testament. Hence of Moses
the Apostle says (Heb. 11:26) that he esteemed "the reproach of Christ
greater riches than the treasure of the Egyptians."
Article 2: Whether the New Law fulfils the Old?
Objection 1: It would seem that the New Law does not fulfil the Old. Because
to fulfil and to void are contrary. But the New Law voids or excludes the
observances of the Old Law: for the Apostle says (Gal. 5:2): "If you be
circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." Therefore the New Law is
not a fulfilment of the Old.
Objection 2: Further, one contrary is not the fulfilment of another. But Our
Lord propounded in the New Law precepts that were contrary to precepts of
the Old Law. For we read (Mt. 5:27-32): You have heard that it was said
to them of old: . . . "Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give
her a bill of divorce. But I say to you that whosoever shall put away his
wife . . . maketh her to commit adultery." Furthermore, the same
evidently applies to the prohibition against swearing, against
retaliation, and against hating one's enemies. In like manner Our Lord
seems to have done away with the precepts of the Old Law relating to the
different kinds of foods (Mt. 15:11): "Not that which goeth into the
mouth defileth the man: but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a
man." Therefore the New Law is not a fulfilment of the Old.
Objection 3: Further, whoever acts against a law does not fulfil the law. But
Christ in certain cases acted against the Law. For He touched the leper
(Mt. 8:3), which was contrary to the Law. Likewise He seems to have
frequently broken the sabbath; since the Jews used to say of Him (Jn. 9:16): "This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath." Therefore
Christ did not fulfil the Law: and so the New Law given by Christ is not
a fulfilment of the Old.
Objection 4: Further, the Old Law contained precepts, moral, ceremonial, and
judicial, as stated above (Question , Article ). But Our Lord (Mt. 5) fulfilled
the Law in some respects, but without mentioning the judicial and
ceremonial precepts. Therefore it seems that the New Law is not a
complete fulfilment of the Old.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), the New Law is compared to the Old as the perfect to the imperfect. Now everything perfect fulfils that which is lacking in the imperfect. And accordingly the New Law fulfils the Old by supplying that which was lacking in the Old Law.
Now two things of every law is to make men righteous and virtuous, as
was stated above (Question , Article ): and consequently the end of the Old Law
was the justification of men. The Law, however, could not accomplish
this: but foreshadowed it by certain ceremonial actions, and promised it
in words. And in this respect, the New Law fulfils the Old by justifying
men through the power of Christ's Passion. This is what the Apostle says
(Rm. 8:3,4): "What the Law could not do . . . God sending His own Son in
the likeness of sinful flesh . . . hath condemned sin in the flesh, that
the justification of the Law might be fulfilled in us." And in this
respect, the New Law gives what the Old Law promised, according to 2 Cor.
1:20: "Whatever are the promises of God, in Him," i.e. in Christ, "they
are 'Yea'." [*The Douay version reads thus: "All the promises of God are
in Him, 'It is'."] Again, in this respect, it also fulfils what the Old
Law foreshadowed. Hence it is written (Col. 2:17) concerning the
ceremonial precepts that they were "a shadow of things to come, but the
body is of Christ"; in other words, the reality is found in Christ.
Wherefore the New Law is called the law of reality; whereas the Old Law
is called the law of shadow or of figure.
Now Christ fulfilled the precepts of the Old Law both in His works and
in His doctrine. In His works, because He was willing to be circumcised
and to fulfil the other legal observances, which were binding for the
time being; according to Gal. 4:4: "Made under the Law." In His doctrine
He fulfilled the precepts of the Law in three ways. First, by explaining
the true sense of the Law. This is clear in the case of murder and
adultery, the prohibition of which the Scribes and Pharisees thought to
refer only to the exterior act: wherefore Our Lord fulfilled the Law by
showing that the prohibition extended also to the interior acts of sins.
Secondly, Our Lord fulfilled the precepts of the Law by prescribing the
safest way of complying with the statutes of the Old Law. Thus the Old
Law forbade perjury: and this is more safely avoided, by abstaining
altogether from swearing, save in cases of urgency. Thirdly, Our Lord
fulfilled the precepts of the Law, by adding some counsels of perfection:
this is clearly seen in Mt. 19:21, where Our Lord said to the man who
affirmed that he had kept all the precepts of the Old Law: "One thing is
wanting to thee: If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell whatsoever thou hast,"
etc. [*St. Thomas combines Mt. 19:21 with Mk. 10:21].
Reply to Objection 1: The New Law does not void observance of the Old Law except in the point of ceremonial precepts, as stated above (Question , Articles ,4). Now the latter were figurative of something to come. Wherefore from the very fact that the ceremonial precepts were fulfilled when those things were accomplished which they foreshadowed, it follows that they are no longer to be observed: for it they were to be observed, this would mean that something is still to be accomplished and is not yet fulfilled. Thus the promise of a future gift holds no longer when it has been fulfilled by the presentation of the gift. In this way the legal ceremonies are abolished by being fulfilled.
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine says (Contra Faust. xix, 26), those precepts
of Our Lord are not contrary to the precepts of the Old Law. For what Our
Lord commanded about a man not putting away his wife, is not contrary to
what the Law prescribed. "For the Law did not say: 'Let him that wills,
put his wife away': the contrary of which would be not to put her away.
On the contrary, the Law was unwilling that a man should put away his
wife, since it prescribed a delay, so that excessive eagerness for
divorce might cease through being weakened during the writing of the
bill. Hence Our Lord, in order to impress the fact that a wife ought not
easily to be put away, allowed no exception save in the case of
fornication." The same applies to the prohibition about swearing, as
stated above. The same is also clear with respect to the prohibition of
retaliation. For the Law fixed a limit to revenge, by forbidding men to
seek vengeance unreasonably: whereas Our Lord deprived them of vengeance
more completely by commanding them to abstain from it altogether. With
regard to the hatred of one's enemies, He dispelled the false
interpretation of the Pharisees, by admonishing us to hate, not the
person, but his sin. As to discriminating between various foods, which
was a ceremonial matter, Our Lord did not forbid this to be observed: but
He showed that no foods are naturally unclean, but only in token of
something else, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 1).
Reply to Objection 3: It was forbidden by the Law to touch a leper; because by
doing so, man incurred a certain uncleanness of irregularity, as also by
touching the dead, as stated above (Question , Article , ad 4). But Our Lord,
Who healed the leper, could not contract an uncleanness. By those things
which He did on the sabbath, He did not break the sabbath in reality, as
the Master Himself shows in the Gospel: both because He worked miracles
by His Divine power, which is ever active among things; and because He
worked miracles by His Divine power, which is ever active among things;
and because His works were concerned with the salvation of man, while the
Pharisees were concerned for the well-being of animals even on the
sabbath; and again because on account of urgency He excused His disciples
for gathering the ears of corn on the sabbath. But He did seem to break
the sabbath according to the superstitious interpretation of the
Pharisees, who thought that man ought to abstain from doing even works of
kindness on the sabbath; which was contrary to the intention of the Law.
Reply to Objection 4: The reason why the ceremonial precepts of the Law are not
mentioned in Mt. 5 is because, as stated above (ad 1), their observance
was abolished by their fulfilment. But of the judicial precepts He
mentioned that of retaliation: so that what He said about it should refer
to all the others. With regard to this precept, He taught that the
intention of the Law was that retaliation should be sought out of love of
justice, and not as a punishment out of revengeful spite, which He
forbade, admonishing man to be ready to suffer yet greater insults; and
this remains still in the New Law.
Article 3: Whether the New Law is contained in the Old?
Objection 1: It would seem that the New Law is not contained in the Old.
Because the New Law consists chiefly in faith: wherefore it is called the
"law of faith" (Rm. 3:27). But many points of faith are set forth in the
New Law, which are not contained in the Old. Therefore the New Law is not
contained in the Old.
Objection 2: Further, a gloss says on Mt. 5:19, "He that shall break one of
these least commandments," that the lesser commandments are those of the
Law, and the greater commandments, those contained in the Gospel. Now the
greater cannot be contained in the lesser. Therefore the New Law is not
contained in the Old.
Objection 3: Further, who holds the container holds the contents. If,
therefore, the New Law is contained in the Old, it follows that whoever
had the Old Law had the New: so that it was superfluous to give men a New
Law when once they had the Old. Therefore the New Law is not contained in
On the contrary, As expressed in Ezech. 1:16, there was "a wheel in the
midst of a wheel," i.e. "the New Testament within the Old," according to
I answer that, One thing may be contained in another in two ways. First,
actually; as a located thing is in a place. Secondly, virtually; as an
effect in its cause, or as the complement in that which is incomplete;
thus a genus contains its species, and a seed contains the whole tree,
virtually. It is in this way that the New Law is contained in the Old:
for it has been stated (Article ) that the New Law is compared to the Old as
perfect to imperfect. Hence Chrysostom, expounding Mk. 4:28, "The earth
of itself bringeth forth fruit, first the blade, then the ear, afterwards
the full corn in the ear," expresses himself as follows: "He brought
forth first the blade, i.e. the Law of Nature; then the ear, i.e. the Law
of Moses; lastly, the full corn, i.e. the Law of the Gospel." Hence then
the New Law is in the Old as the corn in the ear.
Reply to Objection 1: Whatsoever is set down in the New Testament explicitly and
openly as a point of faith, is contained in the Old Testament as a matter
of belief, but implicitly, under a figure. And accordingly, even as to
those things which we are bound to believe, the New Law is contained in
Reply to Objection 2: The precepts of the New Law are said to be greater than
those of the Old Law, in the point of their being set forth explicitly.
But as to the substance itself of the precepts of the New Testament, they
are all contained in the Old. Hence Augustine says (Contra Faust. xix,
23,28) that "nearly all Our Lord's admonitions or precepts, where He
expressed Himself by saying: 'But I say unto you,' are to be found also
in those ancient books. Yet, since they thought that murder was only the
slaying of the human body, Our Lord declared to them that every wicked
impulse to hurt our brother is to be looked on as a kind of murder." And
it is in the point of declarations of this kind that the precepts of the
New Law are said to be greater than those of the Old. Nothing, however,
prevents the greater from being contained in the lesser virtually; just
as a tree is contained in the seed.
Reply to Objection 3: What is set forth implicitly needs to be declared
explicitly. Hence after the publishing of the Old Law, a New Law also had
to be given.
Article 4: Whether the New Law is more burdensome than the Old?
Objection 1: It would seem that the New Law is more burdensome than the Old.
For Chrysostom (Opus Imp. in Matth., Hom. x [*The work of an unknown
author]) say: "The commandments given to Moses are easy to obey: Thou
shalt not kill; Thou shalt not commit adultery: but the commandments of
Christ are difficult to accomplish, for instance: Thou shalt not give way
to anger, or to lust." Therefore the New Law is more burdensome than the
Objection 2: Further, it is easier to make use of earthly prosperity than to
suffer tribulations. But in the Old Testament observance of the Law was
followed by temporal prosperity, as may be gathered from Dt. 28:1-14;
whereas many kinds of trouble ensue to those who observe the New Law, as
stated in 2 Cor. 6:4-10: "Let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of
God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distresses,"
etc. Therefore the New Law is more burdensome than the Old.
Objection 3: The more one has to do, the more difficult it is. But the New Law
is something added to the Old. For the Old Law forbade perjury, while the
New Law proscribed even swearing: the Old Law forbade a man to cast off
his wife without a bill of divorce, while the New Law forbade divorce
altogether; as is clearly stated in Mt. 5:31, seqq., according to
Augustine's expounding. Therefore the New Law is more burdensome than the
On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 11:28): "Come to Me, all you that
labor and are burdened": which words are expounded by Hilary thus: "He
calls to Himself all those that labor under the difficulty of observing
the Law, and are burdened with the sins of this world." And further on He
says of the yoke of the Gospel: "For My yoke is sweet and My burden
light." Therefore the New Law is a lighter burden than the Old.
I answer that, A twofold difficult may attach to works of virtue with
which the precepts of the Law are concerned. One is on the part of the
outward works, which of themselves are, in a way, difficult and
burdensome. And in this respect the Old Law is a much heavier burden than
the New: since the Old Law by its numerous ceremonies prescribed many
more outward acts than the New Law, which, in the teaching of Christ and
the apostles, added very few precepts to those of the natural law;
although afterwards some were added, through being instituted by the
holy Fathers. Even in these Augustine says that moderation should be
observed, lest good conduct should become a burden to the faithful. For
he says in reply to the queries of Januarius (Ep. lv) that, "whereas God
in His mercy wished religion to be a free service rendered by the public
solemnization of a small number of most manifest sacraments, certain
persons make it a slave's burden; so much so that the state of the Jews
who were subject to the sacraments of the Law, and not to the
presumptuous devices of man, was more tolerable."
The other difficulty attaches to works of virtue as to interior acts:
for instance, that a virtuous deed be done with promptitude and pleasure.
It is this difficulty that virtue solves: because to act thus is
difficult for a man without virtue: but through virtue it becomes easy
for him. In this respect the precepts of the New Law are more burdensome
than those of the Old; because the New Law prohibits certain interior
movements of the soul, which were not expressly forbidden in the Old Law
in all cases, although they were forbidden in some, without, however, any
punishment being attached to the prohibition. Now this is very difficult
to a man without virtue: thus even the Philosopher states (Ethic. v, 9)
that it is easy to do what a righteous man does; but that to do it in the
same way, viz. with pleasure and promptitude, is difficult to a man who
is not righteous. Accordingly we read also (1 Jn. 5:3) that "His
commandments are not heavy": which words Augustine expounds by saying
that "they are not heavy to the man that loveth; whereas they are a
burden to him that loveth not."
Reply to Objection 1: The passage quoted speaks expressly of the difficulty of
the New Law as to the deliberate curbing of interior movements.
Reply to Objection 2: The tribulations suffered by those who observe the New Law
are not imposed by the Law itself. Moreover they are easily borne, on
account of the love in which the same Law consists: since, as Augustine
says (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxx), "love makes light and nothing of things
that seem arduous and beyond our power."
Reply to Objection 3: The object of these additions to the precepts of the Old
Law was to render it easier to do what it prescribed, as Augustine states
[*De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 17,21; xix, 23,26]. Accordingly this does not
prove that the New Law is more burdensome, but rather that it is a