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Our first parents before the Fall had a happiness almost equal to that of the angels when first created. Hence the Psalmist says of man, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps. viii. 6). Heathen nations have legends of the happiness of the first man; they termed it the golden age. Hesiod says that men lived then like gods, in perfect happiness.
1. Our first parents were created in the grace of God, and there fore possessed singular perfections of soul and body.
“Adam was created,” says the Council of Trent, “in justice and holiness; he was a partaker of the divine nature.” This justice and holiness he did not have of himself, but God gave it to him; just as the eye does not possess light from within, but absorbs it from with out.
The special privileges granted to the soul of man at his first creation were as follows: An enlightened understanding, a will free from all weakness, and the possession of sanctifying grace. Through means of these he was the child of God, the heir of heaven, and well-pleasing in the sight of God.
“God filled them with wisdom and the knowledge of understand ing,” says the Wise Man (Ecclus. xvii. 5, 6). He gave Adam an in sight into the inner nature of things, so that he was able to give appropriate names to all the animals. He also knew by inspiration the indissolubility of marriage. The will of man was weakened by no sensual desires. Adam and Eve were naked, but felt no shame, because in them there was no rebellion of the flesh against the spirit, no struggle necessary to avoid sin. They also had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, and His sanctifying grace; they were like to God, full of love for Him, and children of God; and because children, also heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.
The special perfections of their bodies were that they were immortal, and free from all liability to sickness and disease; they were in paradise, and had dominion over all the creatures around them.
God created man immortal (Wisd. ii. 23). Death only came in as the punishment of disobedience (Gen. ii. 17). The death threatened was bodily as well as spiritual death, for the punishment of their sin was “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” (Gen. iii. 19). Man had indeed to work in paradise, but this work was part of his happiness, and caused him no fatigue. He had no sickness, for sickness is the forerunner of death. Paradise was a lovely garden, full of noble trees and lovely flowers, and the fairest fruits; many beautiful animals were there, who were perfectly obedient to his behests. There was also a river in paradise divided into four branches. In the midst of the garden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and close by it the tree of life, the fruits of which were a protection against disease and death. Paradise is said to have been situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Man had also a complete dominion over all the wild beasts. Not that their nature was then different from now, but the grace and dignity of man rendered them submissive to his will, and made them fear and obey him (Ecclus. xvii. 4). Something of this power still remains to man; it is said that no wild beast can look a man steadily in the face. We see the same thing in the natural order now, in the wild beast tamers; and in the supernatural in the power that many of the saints possessed over the wild beasts, e.g., St. Francis of Assisi, and many of the martyrs before whose feet the fiercest of the animals in the Roman amphitheater lay down in prostrate homage. This was due to their great purity and freedom from sin.
2. These special perfections of our first parents we call supernatural gifts, because they are something altogether beyond, and were added to, human nature.
Thus a rich man out of compassion provides a poor orphan with food, clothing, lodging, instruction in a trade. These would cor respond to the natural gifts given by God to man. But the rich man in his bounty goes further; he adopts the orphan, clothes him as if he were his own son, gives him a room in his own house, and the education of a gentleman. These would correspond in some way to the supernatural gifts given by God to man. The first of natural gifts bestow upon the orphan a sort of likeness to the giver, but the second impart to him a far closer likeness. So the supernatural gifts of God to man impart to him a far closer likeness to God than the natural. Or to take another illustration; a painter can trace the portrait of a man with a few strokes in black and white. But if he takes his brush and colors the drawing, if he paints the eyes blue, the cheeks red, the hair brown, etc., the likeness becomes more beautiful and corresponds more closely to the original. So it is with the natural and the supernatural gifts of God. When God at man’s creation said, “Let us make man in our image and likeness,” the image refers to the natural, the likeness to the supernatural gifts of God.
This article, 11. THE SUPERNATURAL ENDOWMENTS OF MAN is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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