Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION II.: OF THE ACT OF FAITH. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION II.: OF THE ACT OF FAITH. - St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1) 
Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas. A Translation of the Principal Portions of the Second part of the Summa Theologica, with Notes by Joseph Rickaby, S.J. (London: Burns and Oates, 1892).
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OF THE ACT OF FAITH.
Article I.—Is it to believe to think with assent?
R. By thinking in the more proper sense of the word we mean an intellectual study, attended with inquiry, prior to arriving at a perfect understanding by certitude of vision; or, a movement of the mind deliberating, and not yet made perfect by a full vision of the truth. If thinking be taken in this sense, we thereby come to understand the whole rationale of the act of believing. For of the acts belonging to the intellect some have a firm assent without such thinking; as when a man reflects on what he knows or understands. Again, some acts of the intellect involve thinking without firm assent, whether without inclining to either side, as in doubt; or inclining rather to one side, but on slight indication, as in surmise; or adhering to one side, but with dread of the other, as in opinion. But the act of believing means a firm assent to one side; and in that respect he who believes is like the man who knows and understands; and yet his knowledge is not made perfect by manifest vision; and to this extent he is like the other man who doubts, surmises, and opines. Thus it is proper to the believer to think with assent. And thus the act of believing is marked off from all other acts of the intellect about truth or falsehood.
§ 3. To the objection that belief is an act of the understanding, its object being truth; but assent, like consent, seems to be an act, not of understanding, but of will—it is to be said that the intellect of the believer is not finally determined by reason, but by the will; and therefore assent here is taken for an act of the intellect as determined by the will.
Article III.—Is it necessary to salvation to believe anything above natural reason?
R. The final happiness of man consists in a supernatural vision of God. To this vision man cannot arrive except by way of going to school to God as his Teacher, according to that saying: “Every one that hath heard of the Father and hath learned, cometh to me.”1 Of this schooling a man gets the benefit, not all at once, but in successive stages, according to the capacity of his nature. But every such learner must believe in order to arrive at perfect knowledge: as the Philosopher says, “The learner must believe.” Hence, for man to arrive at the vision of perfect happiness, it is a previous requisite that he should believe God, as a scholar believes the master who teaches him.
Article IV.—Is it necessary to receive on faith things that can be proved by natural reason?
R. It is necessary for man to receive by the way of faith, not only truths that are above reason, but also those that can be known by reason, and this on three grounds. First, that man may arrive more quickly to the knowledge of divine truth. For the science to which it belongs to prove the existence of God and other truths concerning Him, is the last of all sciences proposed to man to study, many other sciences being preliminary to it; and thus it is only when much of life was already past that man would arrive at the knowledge of God. Secondly, that the knowledge of God may be more common. For many cannot advance in the study of science, either on account of the dulness of their intellect, or otherwise through the occupations and necessities of this temporal life, or again through slothfulness to learn. These people would be altogether robbed of the knowledge of God, were not the things of God proposed to them by the way of faith. Thirdly, for certainty sake. For human reason is very much to seek in the things of God, as is shown by the errors and mutual contradictions of philosophers. In order then that a knowledge of God, certain and beyond doubt, might obtain amongst men, it was proper that divine truths should be delivered to them by the way of faith, as utterances of God, who cannot lie.
Article IX.—Is faith meritorious?
R. Our acts are meritorious, inasmuch as they proceed from free-will, moved by the grace of God. Hence every human act that is under the control of free-will may be meritorious, if it is referred to God. Now to believe is an act of the intellect, assenting to divine truth by command of the will, moved by God’s grace; and thus is under the control of free-will in reference to God. Hence the act of faith may be meritorious.
§ 3. To the objection that he who pays the assent of faith, either has a sufficient motive to induce him to believe, or he has not: if he has, it cannot be meritorious in him to believe, because he is no longer free not to believe: if he has not, his belief is a piece of light-mindedness, according to the text: “He that is hasty to give credit is light of heart;”1 and so it seems it is not meritorious—the answer is that the believer has sufficient inducement to believe, that inducement being the authority of divine teaching confirmed by miracles, and what is more, the interior impulse of God inviting him: hence he does not believe lightly. Yet he has not sufficient inducement to know, and therefore the character of merit is not taken away.
Article X.—Does reason, leading up to conclusions that are of faith, lessen the merit of faith?
R. Human reasoning alleged in support of the articles of faith may be something antecedent to the will of the believer, in this sense, that but for the said human reasoning he would have either no will at all, or not a prompt will, to believe. At that rate human reasoning diminishes the merit of faith; as also passion antecedent to election in moral virtues diminishes the merit of the virtuous act. For as a man ought to exercise the acts of the moral virtues on the judgment of reason, not on the impulse of passion, so he ought to believe articles of faith, not on the strength of human reasoning, but on the authority of God. Again, human reasoning may be consequent upon the will of the believer. For when a man has a prompt will to believe, he loves the truth believed, and thinks it over, and embraces any arguments that he can find in its favour; and in this respect human reasoning does not exclude the merit of faith, but is a sign of greater merit. So also in the moral virtues, a passion consequent is a sign of greater promptitude of will.1
§ 1. When Gregory says, “That faith has no merit, to which human reasoning lends experience,” he speaks of the case of a man having no mind to believe articles of faith except for the reason alleged in evidence of them. But when a man has a will to believe articles of faith on the sole authority of God, the merit of his faith is not taken away or diminished, even though he has a demonstrative reason for some of those articles, for instance, for the existence of God.
§ 3. What makes against the faith, either as a consideration in the mind of the believer, or in the way of exterior persecution, augments the merit of faith, so far forth as it reveals a will more prompt and firm in the faith. Therefore also the martyrs had greater merit of faith, not receding from the faith for persecutions; and likewise men of learning have greater merit of faith, not receding from the faith for the reasons of philosophers or heretics alleged against it.
[1 ]St. John vi. 45.
[1 ]Ecclus. xix 4.
[1 ]For passion antecedent and consequent, see I-II. q 77. art. 6. (Trl.)