QUESTION 183: OF MAN'S VARIOUS DUTIES AND STATES IN GENERAL
We must next consider man's various states and duties. We shall consider
(1) man's duties and states in general; (2) the state of the perfect in
Under the first head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) What constitutes a state among men?
(2) Whether among men there should be various states and duties?
(3) Of the diversity of duties;
(4) Of the diversity of states.
Article 1: Whether the notion of a state denotes a condition of freedom or servitude?
Objection 1: It would seem that the notion of a state does not denote a
condition of freedom or servitude. For "state" takes its name from
"standing." Now a person is said to stand on account of his being
upright; and Gregory says (Moral. vii, 17): "To fall by speaking harmful
words is to forfeit entirely the state of righteousness." But a man
acquires spiritual uprightness by submitting his will to God; wherefore a
gloss on Ps. 32:1, "Praise becometh the upright," says: "The upright are
those who direct their heart according to God's will." Therefore it would
seem that obedience to the Divine commandments suffices alone for the
notion of a state.
Objection 2: Further, the word "state" seems to denote immobility according to
1 Cor. 15:48, "Be ye steadfast [stabiles] and immovable"; wherefore
Gregory says (Hom. xxi in Ezech.): "The stone is foursquare, and is
stable on all sides, if no disturbance will make it fall." Now it is
virtue that enables us "to act with immobility," according to Ethic. ii,
4. Therefore it would seem that a state is acquired by every virtuous
Objection 3: Further, the word "state" seems to indicate height of a kind;
because to stand is to be raised upwards. Now one man is made higher than
another by various duties; and in like manner men are raised upwards in
various ways by various grades and orders. Therefore the mere difference
of grades, orders, or duties suffices for a difference of states.
On the contrary, It is thus laid down in the Decretals (II, qu. vi, can.
Si Quando): "Whenever anyone intervene in a cause where life or state is
at stake he must do so, not by a proxy, but in his own person"; and
"state" here has reference to freedom or servitude. Therefore it would
seem that nothing differentiates a man's state, except that which refers
to freedom or servitude.
I answer that, "State," properly speaking, denotes a kind of position,
whereby a thing is disposed with a certain immobility in a manner
according with its nature. For it is natural to man that his head should
be directed upwards, his feet set firmly on the ground, and his other
intermediate members disposed in becoming order; and this is not the case
if he lie down, sit, or recline, but only when he stands upright: nor
again is he said to stand, if he move, but only when he is still. Hence
it is again that even in human acts, a matter is said to have stability
[statum] in reference to its own disposition in the point of a certain
immobility or restfulness. Consequently matters which easily change and
are extrinsic to them do not constitute a state among men, for instance
that a man be rich or poor, of high or low rank, and so forth. Wherefore
in the civil law [*Dig. I, IX, De Senatoribus] (Lib. Cassius ff. De
Senatoribus) it is said that if a man be removed from the senate, he is
deprived of his dignity rather than of his state. But that alone
seemingly pertains to a man's state, which regards an obligation binding
his person, in so far, to wit, as a man is his own master or subject to
another, not indeed from any slight or unstable cause, but from one that
is firmly established; and this is something pertaining to the nature of
freedom or servitude. Therefore state properly regards freedom or
servitude whether in spiritual or in civil matters.
Reply to Objection 1: Uprightness as such does not pertain to the notion of
state, except in so far as it is connatural to man with the addition of a
certain restfulness. Hence other animals are said to stand without its
being required that they should be upright; nor again are men said to
stand, however upright their position be, unless they be still.
Reply to Objection 2: Immobility does not suffice for the notion of state; since
even one who sits or lies down is still, and yet he is not said to stand.
Reply to Objection 3: Duty implies relation to act; while grades denote an order
of superiority and inferiority. But state requires immobility in that
which regards a condition of the person himself.
Article 2: Whether there should be different duties or states in the Church?
Objection 1: It would seem that there should not be different duties or states
in the Church. For distinction is opposed to unity. Now the faithful of
Christ are called to unity according to Jn. 17:21,22: "That they . . .
may be one in Us . . . as We also are one." Therefore there should not be
a distinction of duties and states in the Church.
Objection 2: Further, nature does not employ many means where one suffices.
But the working of grace is much more orderly than the working of nature.
Therefore it were more fitting for things pertaining to the operations of
grace to be administered by the same persons, so that there would not be
a distinction of duties and states in the Church.
Objection 3: Further, the good of the Church seemingly consists chiefly in
peace, according to Ps. 147:3, "Who hath placed peace in thy borders,"
and 2 Cor. 13:11, "Have peace, and the God of peace . . . shall be with
you." Now distinction is a hindrance to peace, for peace would seem to
result from likeness, according to Ecclus. 13:19, "Every beast loveth its
like," while the Philosopher says (Polit. vii, 5) that "a little
difference causes dissension in a state." Therefore it would seem that
there ought not to be a distinction of states and duties in the Church.
On the contrary, It is written in praise of the Church (Ps. 44:10) that
she is "surrounded with variety": and a gloss on these words says that
"the Queen," namely the Church, "is bedecked with the teaching of the
apostles, the confession of martyrs, the purity of virgins, the
sorrowings of penitents."
I answer that, The difference of states and duties in the Church regards
three things. In the first place it regards the perfection of the Church.
For even as in the order of natural things, perfection, which in God is
simple and uniform, is not to be found in the created universe except in
a multiform and manifold manner, so too, the fulness of grace, which is
centered in Christ as head, flows forth to His members in various ways,
for the perfecting of the body of the Church. This is the meaning of the
Apostle's words (Eph. 4:11,12): "He gave some apostles, and some
prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors
for the perfecting of the saints." Secondly, it regards the need of those
actions which are necessary in the Church. For a diversity of actions
requires a diversity of men appointed to them, in order that all things
may be accomplished without delay or confusion; and this is indicated by
the Apostle (Rm. 12:4,5), "As in one body we have many members, but all
the members have not the same office, so we being many are one body in
Christ." Thirdly, this belongs to the dignity and beauty of the Church,
which consist in a certain order; wherefore it is written (3 Kgs. 10:4,5)
that "when the queen of Saba saw all the wisdom of Solomon . . . and the
apartments of his servants, and the order of his ministers . . . she had
no longer any spirit in her." Hence the Apostle says (2 Tim. 2:20) that
"in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also
of wood and of earth."
Reply to Objection 1: The distinction of states and duties is not an obstacle to
the unity of the Church, for this results from the unity of faith,
charity, and mutual service, according to the saying of the Apostle (Eph. 4:16): "From whom the whole body being compacted," namely by faith, "and
fitly joined together," namely by charity, "by what every joint
supplieth," namely by one man serving another.
Reply to Objection 2: Just as nature does not employ many means where one
suffices, so neither does it confine itself to one where many are
required, according to the saying of the Apostle (1 Cor. 12:17), "If the
whole body were the eye, where would be the hearing?" Hence there was
need in the Church, which is Christ's body, for the members to be
differentiated by various duties, states, and grades.
Reply to Objection 3: Just as in the natural body the various members are held
together in unity by the power of the quickening spirit, and are
dissociated from one another as soon as that spirit departs, so too in
the Church's body the peace of the various members is preserved by the
power of the Holy Spirit, Who quickens the body of the Church, as stated
in Jn. 6:64. Hence the Apostle says (Eph. 4:3): "Careful to keep the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Now a man departs from this
unity of spirit when he seeks his own; just as in an earthly kingdom
peace ceases when the citizens seek each man his own. Besides, the peace
both of mind and of an earthly commonwealth is the better preserved by a
distinction of duties and states, since thereby the greater number have a
share in public actions. Wherefore the Apostle says (1 Cor. 12:24,25)
that "God hath tempered [the body] together that there might be no schism
in the body, but the members might be mutually careful one for another."
Article 3: Whether duties differ according to their actions?
Objection 1: It would seem that duties do not differ according to their
actions. For there are infinite varieties of human acts both in
spirituals and in temporals. Now there can be no certain distinction
among things that are infinite in number. Therefore human duties cannot
be differentiated according to a difference of acts.
Objection 2: Further, the active and the contemplative life differ according
to their acts, as stated above (Question , Article ). But the distinction of
duties seems to be other than the distinction of lives. Therefore duties
do not differ according to their acts.
Objection 3: Further, even ecclesiastical orders, states, and grades seemingly
differ according to their acts. If, then, duties differ according to
their acts it would seem that duties, grades, and states differ in the
same way. Yet this is not true, since they are divided into their
respective parts in different ways. Therefore duties do not differ
according to their acts.
On the contrary, Isidore says (Etym. vi, 19) that "officium [duty] takes
its name from 'efficere' [to effect], as though it were instead of
'efficium,' by the change of one letter for the sake of the sound." But
effecting pertains to action. Therefore duties differ according to their
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), difference among the members of
the Church is directed to three things: perfection, action, and beauty;
and according to these three we may distinguish a threefold distinction
among the faithful. One, with regard to perfection, and thus we have the
difference of states, in reference to which some persons are more perfect
than others. Another distinction regards action and this is the
distinction of duties: for persons are said to have various duties when
they are appointed to various actions. A third distinction regards the
order of ecclesiastical beauty: and thus we distinguish various grades
according as in the same state or duty one person is above another. Hence
according to a variant text [*The Septuagint] it is written (Ps. 47:4):
"In her grades shall God be known."
Reply to Objection 1: The material diversity of human acts is infinite. It is not
thus that duties differ, but by their formal diversity which results from
diverse species of acts, and in this way human acts are not infinite.
Reply to Objection 2: Life is predicated of a thing absolutely: wherefore
diversity of acts which are becoming to man considered in himself. But
efficiency, whence we have the word "office" (as stated above), denotes
action tending to something else according to Metaph. ix, text. 16 [*Ed.
Did. viii, 8]. Hence offices differ properly in respect of acts that are
referred to other persons; thus a teacher is said to have an office, and
so is a judge, and so forth. Wherefore Isidore says (Etym. vi, 19) that
"to have an office is to be officious," i.e. harmful "to no one, but to
be useful to all."
Reply to Objection 3: Differences of state, offices and grades are taken from
different things, as stated above (Article , ad 3). Yet these three things
may concur in the same subject: thus when a person is appointed to a
higher action, he attains thereby both office and grade, and sometimes,
besides this, a state of perfection, on account of the sublimity of the
act, as in the case of a bishop. The ecclesiastical orders are
particularly distinct according to divine offices. For Isidore says
(Etym. vi): "There are various kinds of offices; but the foremost is that
which relates to sacred and Divine things."
Article 4: Whether the difference of states applies to those who are beginning, progressing, or perfect?
Objection 1: It would seem that the difference of states does not apply to
those who are beginning, progressing, or perfect. For "diverse genera
have diverse species and differences" [*Aristotle, Categ. ii]. Now this
difference of beginning, progress, and perfection is applied to the
degrees of charity, as stated above (Question , Article ), where we were treating
of charity. Therefore it would seem that the differences of states should
not be assigned in this manner.
Objection 2: Further, as stated above (Article ), state regards a condition of
servitude or freedom, which apparently has no connection with the
aforesaid difference of beginning, progress, and perfection. Therefore it
is unfitting to divide state in this way.
Objection 3: Further, the distinction of beginning, progress, and perfection
seems to refer to "more" and "less," and this seemingly implies the
notion of grades. But the distinction of grades differs from that of
states, as we have said above (Articles ,3). Therefore state is unfittingly
divided according to beginning, progress, and perfection.
On the contrary, Gregory says (Moral. xxiv, 11): "There are three states
of the converted, the beginning, the middle, and the perfection"; and
(Hom. xv in Ezech.): "Other is the beginning of virtue, other its
progress, and other still its perfection."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ) state regards freedom or servitude. Now in spiritual things there is a twofold servitude and a twofold freedom: for there is the servitude of sin and the servitude of justice; and there is likewise a twofold freedom, from sin, and from justice, as appears from the words of the Apostle (Rm. 6:20,22), "When you were the servants of sin, you were free men to justice . . . but now being made free from sin," you are . . . "become servants to God."
Now the servitude of sin or justice consists in being inclined to evil
by a habit of sin, or inclined to good by a habit of justice: and in like
manner freedom from sin is not to be overcome by the inclination to sin,
and freedom from justice is not to be held back from evil for the love of
justice. Nevertheless, since man, by his natural reason, is inclined to
justice, while sin is contrary to natural reason, it follows that freedom
from sin is true freedom which is united to the servitude of justice,
since they both incline man to that which is becoming to him. In like
manner true servitude is the servitude of sin, which is connected with
freedom from justice, because man is thereby hindered from attaining that
which is proper to him. That a man become the servant of justice or sin
results from his efforts, as the Apostle declares (Rm. 6:16): "To whom
you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you
obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto justice." Now
in every human effort we can distinguish a beginning, a middle, and a
term; and consequently the state of spiritual servitude and freedom is
differentiated according to these things, namely, the beginning---to
which pertains the state of beginners---the middle, to which pertains the
state of the proficient---and the term, to which belongs the state of the
Reply to Objection 1: Freedom from sin results from charity which "is poured
forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Who is given to us" (Rm. 5:5).
Hence it is written (2 Cor. 3:17): "Where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is liberty." Wherefore the same division applies to charity as to
the state of those who enjoy spiritual freedom.
Reply to Objection 2: Men are said to be beginners, proficient, and perfect (so
far as these terms indicate different states), not in relation to any
occupation whatever, but in relation to such occupations as pertain to
spiritual freedom or servitude, as stated above (Article ).
Reply to Objection 3: As already observed (Article , ad 3), nothing hinders grade and
state from concurring in the same subject. For even in earthly affairs
those who are free, not only belong to a different state from those who
are in service, but are also of a different grade.