CHAPTER III: QUESTION 1—THE FITNESS OF THE INCARNATION (cont)
Fourth Article: Whether God Became Incarnate In Order To Take Away Actual Sin, Rather Than To Take Away Original Sin?
The reply is in the affirmative.
Scriptural proof. We read in the Gospel: "Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world," that is, as St. Bede says, the sin that is common to the whole human race. St. John wrote "the sin of the world."
But the principal text is quoted in the body of the article, in which we read: "For judgment indeed was by one[i. e., by Adam] unto condemnation... as by the offense of one, unto all men to condemnation: so also by the justice of one [i. e., of Christ], unto all men to justification of life."
This purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God is likewise expressly affirmed in a provincial council and also to some extent in the Council of Trent.
Theological proof. It includes two conclusions.
1) Christ came to take away all sins, because He came to save men, and all sins are an obstacle to salvation.
2) St. Thomas proves that Christ came first of all to take away original sin, since this sin is absolutely greater extensively, inasmuch as it extends to the whole human race, by which the race is infected; although actual sin is greater intensively, because it has more of the nature of voluntary.
Hence in virtue of the present decree, it is probable that Christ came also only to take away original sin, but not solely for the taking away of actual sins; because, if there had been no original sin, this would eliminate the more important reason for the Incarnation. Moreover, in virtue of the present decree, Christ came in passible and mortal flesh; but, if there had been no original sin, His flesh would have been neither passible nor mortal.
Fifth Article: Whether It Was Fitting That God Should Become Incarnate In The Beginning Of The Human Race?
The answer is in the negative. But He came "in the fullness of time" as St. Paul says.
For it was not fitting that God become incarnate before sin, since the Incarnation is for the redemption of the human race; nor was the Incarnation fitting immediately after sin, and this for three reasons.
1) That man, being humbled, would more readily acknowledge the seriousness of the disease and the necessity of Redemption, and so would cry out for it.
2) That the human race might gradually be led from imperfection to perfection by means of the natural law, the Mosaic law, and the Gospel.
3) Because it befitted the dignity of the Word incarnate that His coming be announced by the prophets.
Sixth Article: Whether The Incarnation Ought To Have Been Put Off Till The End Of The World?
St. Thomas denies this, but says it was fitting for the Incarnation to take place "in the fullness of time," as stated by St. Paul, or morally speaking "in the midst of the years."
Three reasons are given.
1) Because it is not fitting that the efficient cause of perfection be put off so long a time.
2) Because at the end of the world there would have been almost no knowledge of God among men.
3) Because it was fitting that the salvation of the human race be effected by faith in the Savior, not only by faith in some future thing but also by faith in something present and past.
Thus the question of the fitness of the Incarnation has been sufficiently examined both as to its relative necessity for the reparation of the human race, and its absolute necessity as regards condign reparation. The proximate motive of the Incarnation has also been considered, which was formally the motive of mercy, namely, the alleviation of the human race from its misery, or "for our salvation," as the Nicene Creed says.
Having discussed the fact of the Incarnation, we now come to consider its nature.