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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
On the Production of Living Things
By Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
 
From the ‘Quæstiones Disputatæ’

ACCORDING to Augustine, the passage “Let the earth bring forth the green herb” means, not that plants were then actually produced in their proper nature, but that a germinative power was given the earth to produce plants by the work of propagation; so that the earth is then said to have brought forth the green herb and the fruit-yielding tree, inasmuch as it received the power of producing them. This position is strengthened by the authority of Scripture (Gen. ii. 4):—“These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the heaven and the earth, and every plant in the field before it sprang up in the earth, and every herb in the ground before it grew.” From this text we infer, first, that all the works of the six days were created in the day that God made heaven and earth and every plant of the field; and consequently that all plants, which are said to have been created on the third day, were produced at the same time that God created heaven and earth. The second inference is that plants were then produced not actually, but only according to causal virtues, in that the power to produce them was given to the earth. And this is meant when it is said that He produced every plant of the field before it actually arose upon the earth by His dispositive action, and every herb of the earth before it actually grew. Hence, before they came forth in reality, they were made causally in the earth.  1
  This view, moreover, is supported by reason. For in those first days God made the creature either in its cause, or in its origin, or in its actuality, by the work from which He afterward rested; He nevertheless works even till now in the administration of things created by the work of propagation. To this latter process belongs the actual production of plants from the earth, because all that is needed to bring them forth is the energy of the heavenly bodies as their father, so to say, and the power of the earth in place of a mother. Plants, therefore, were produced on the third day, not actually, but causally. After the six days, however, they were actually brought forth, according to their proper species and in their proper nature, by the work of administration.  2
 
 
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