Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XXIII.: OF CHARITY IN ITSELF. - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
Return to Title Page for Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
QUESTION XXIII.: OF CHARITY IN ITSELF. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
OF CHARITY IN ITSELF.
Article I.—Is charity a friendship?
R. Not every love has the character of friendship, but only that love which is attended with good-will. But if we do not wish any good to the objects that we love, but rather wish ourselves the good that is in them, in the way that we are said to love wine, or a horse, or anything of that nature,—that is not the love of friendship, but of desire.1 But neither is good-will sufficient for the being of friendship, but there is required a mutual affection, because a friend is a friend to a friend. This mutual good-will is founded on something shared in common. Now there is a something that man shares with God, inasmuch as God makes us partakers of His happiness. Of which partnership it is said: “God is faithful, by whom you are called to the fellowship of his Son.”2 Upon this partnership, then, some friendship must be founded; and the friendship that is founded thereon is charity. Hence it is manifest that charity is a friendship of man with God.
§ 1. There is a twofold life of man: one exterior, lived in our sensible and bodily nature; and in this we have no communion or converse with God and the Angels. Another life is spiritual, lived in the mind; and according thereto we have converse with God and the Angels; imperfectly in our present state, but the intercourse will be made perfect in our heavenly country.
Article IV.—Is charity a special virtue?
R. The divine goodness possesses a special character of goodness, as being the object of happiness; and therefore the love of charity, which is the love of this goodness, is a special love, and charity is a special virtue.
§ 2. The virtue or art to which the final end appertains, commands the virtues or arts to which other secondary ends belong, as the art of war commands the art of horsemanship. And therefore, because charity has for its object the ultimate end of human life, namely, eternal happiness, it extends to the acts of the whole of human life by way of command, not as immediately eliciting all acts of all virtues.1
Article V.—Is charity the most excellent of virtues?
R. The standard of human acts is twofold, namely, human reason and God; but God is the first standard, by which even human reason is to be regulated. And therefore the theological virtues, which consist in attaining that first standard—seeing that their object is God—are more excellent than the moral or intellectual virtues, which consist in attaining to human reason. Therefore, even among theological virtues themselves, that one must be preferable which attains more to God. Now that which has being of itself, is always greater than that which derives its being through another. Faith then and hope attain to God, inasmuch as the knowledge of truth, or the obtaining of good, comes to us of Him: but charity attains to God Himself, to rest in Him, not that anything may accrue to us of Him. And therefore charity is more excellent than faith or hope, and consequently than all other virtues: as also prudence, which attains to reason in itself, is more excellent than the other moral virtues, which attain to reason inasmuch as the mean is fixed by reason for human acts or passions.
Article VII.—Can there be any true virtue without charity?
R. Virtue aims at good. Now the chief good is the end in view: for the means to the end are not called good except in order to the end. As the end is twofold, one ultimate and one proximate end, so there is also a twofold good, one ultimate and general good, and another good proximate and particular. The ultimate and principal good of man is the enjoyment of God, according to the text: “It is good for me to adhere to my God;”1 and to this end man is adapted by charity. The secondary and particular good of man is again twofold. There is one variety of it that is truly good, and capable, so far as it goes, of subordination to the principal good, or last end. The other variety is apparent and not true good,—not true, because it leads away from final good.
It is clear then that true virtue, absolutely so called, is that which aims at the principal good of man: as the Philosopher also says that “virtue is a disposition of the perfect to the best.” And in that way no true virtue can be without charity. But if we consider virtue in reference to some particular end, we may then allow of something in the absence of charity being called virtue, inasmuch as it aims at some particular good. But if that particular good be not true good, but only apparent, then also the virtue that aims at that good will not be true virtue, but a false appearance of virtue. Thus the prudence of the covetous is not true prudence, which devises various ways and means of making money; and the same of the justice of the covetous, which scorns to touch others’ possessions for fear of losing heavily thereby; and the same of the temperance of the covetous, by which they abstain from luxury as being an expensive taste; and the same of the fortitude of the covetous, with which, as Horace says, “they cross the sea, over the rocks and through the fire, to escape poverty.” But if the particular good that is sought be true good, as the preservation of the State, or something of that sort, the virtue that seeks it will be true virtue, but imperfect, unless it be referred to the formal and perfect good.
§ 1. In a man without charity two sorts of acts are possible. One act is in keeping with his lack of charity, when he does something in view of that which is precisely the reason why charity is wanting to him; and such an act is always evil: as Augustine says that the act of an unbeliever, inasmuch as he is an unbeliever, is always a sin, even though he clothe the naked, or do anything of that nature, directing it to the purpose of his unbelief. There is another act possible in him that has not charity, not in point of the lack of charity in him, but in point of some other gift of God that he has, be that gift faith, or hope, or again some natural goodness: for that is not taken away by sin. Thus without charity there may be an act good of its kind, yet not perfectly good, because the due reference to the last end is wanting.
[1 ]Cf. I-II. q. 26. art. 4. (Trl.)
[2 ]1 Cor. i. 9.
[1 ]For the technical sense of eliciting and commanding see above, II-II. q. 10. art. 2. (Trl.)
[1 ]Psalm lxxii. 28.