Front Page Titles (by Subject) QUESTION XLIV.: OF THE PRECEPTS OF CHARITY. [St. Matt. xxii. 36—40.] - Aquinas Ethicus: or, the Moral Teaching of St. Thomas, vol. 1 (Summa Theologica - Prima Secundae, Secunda Secundae Pt.1)
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QUESTION XLIV.: OF THE PRECEPTS OF CHARITY. [St. Matt. xxii. 36—40.] - 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 PRECEPTS OF CHARITY.
Article I.—Ought any precept to be given about charity?
R. A thing falls under precept inasmuch as it has the character of being something due. Now a thing is due in two ways, for its own sake and for the sake of something else. What is due for its own sake in every undertaking is the end in view; for that has the character of something good in itself. What is due for the sake of something else is the means to the end. Now the end of spiritual life is the union of man with God by charity: to this end all the other elements of spiritual life are directed as means. Hence the Apostle says: “The end of the commandment is charity from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith.”1 For all the virtues, the acts of which are matter of precept, are directed either to the purifying of the heart from the rolling vapours of passion,2 or to the keeping of a good conscience, as the virtues that deal with outward acts,3 or to the keeping of a right faith, as the virtues that concern the worship of God. And these three classes of virtues are requisite for loving God. For an impure heart is withdrawn from the love of God by the passion that inclines it to earthly things. Again, a bad conscience makes us have a horror of the divine justice for fear of punishment: while a feigned faith draws the affection to that which is feigned about God, and separates it from the truth of God. But in every department that which is for its own sake and in its own ordinary right, takes precedence of that which is for the sake of something else; and therefore the greatest commandment is that of charity.1
§ 2. The obligation of a commandment is not opposed to liberty except in him whose mind is averse to what is commanded, as appears in those who keep the commandments from fear alone. But the precept of charity cannot be fulfilled except of one’s own will, and therefore is not out of keeping with liberty.
§ 3. All the commandments of the decalogue are directed to the love of God and of our neighbour; and therefore the precepts of charity needed not to be enumerated among the commandments of the decalogue, but are included in them all.
Article II.—Was it needful to give two precepts of charity?
R. Precepts in a law are like the propositions in speculative sciences, where the conclusions are virtually contained in the first principles. Hence whoever perfectly knows the principles in the whole of their virtual extension, can have no need of the conclusions being severally proposed to him. But because not all who know the principles are competent to consider all that is virtually contained in those principles, for their sakes in the sciences conclusions must be drawn out of the principles. But in matters of practice, in which the precepts of law are our guide, the end in view stands for a principle. And the love of God is the end to which the love of our neighbour is directed. And therefore precepts must be given, not only of the love of God, but also of the love of our neighbour, for the benefit of less capable minds, that do not easily observe how the one of these precepts is contained in the other.
Article IV.—Is that insertion proper in the precept, that God should be loved “with our whole heart”?
R. An act falls under precept inasmuch as it is an act of virtue. Now it is requisite to an act of virtue, that it should be not only incident on due matter, but also be clothed in due circumstances, rendering it proportionate to the matter. But God is to be loved as the last end, to which everything is to be referred. And therefore entireness was to be specified in laying down the precept of the love of God.
§ 2. There are two ways of loving God with our whole heart. One way is in act, so that the whole heart and desire of man should ever be actually going out towards God; and that is the perfection that obtains in our heavenly home. Another way is that the whole heart of man should go out towards God habitually, in such fashion that the man’s heart admits nothing contrary to the love of God. This is the perfection proper on the way to heaven. Nor is it defeated by venial sin; because that does not take away the habit of charity, as it does not tend to an opposite object, but only hinders the exercise of charity.1
§ 3. The perfection of charity at which the evangelical counsels aim, lies half-way between the two degrees of perfection above mentioned. It consists in man withdrawing, so far as is possible, even from lawful temporal things, that occupy the mind and hinder the actual movement of the heart to God.
Article VI.—Can the precept of the love of God be fulfilled in this world?
R. A precept may be fulfilled perfectly or imperfectly. A precept is perfectly fulfilled, when the end intended by the author of the precept is attained. A precept is fulfilled, but imperfectly, when though the end of the author of the precept is not attained, still there is no swerving from the line of direction to that end. Thus if a general orders his soldiers to fight, that soldier fulfils the precept perfectly, who fights and overcomes the enemy, according to the intention of his commander. He also fulfils it, though imperfectly, whose fighting does not lead to victory, provided that he does nothing that is a downright breach of military discipline. Now God intends by this precept that man should be entirely united to Him, which will be accomplished in our heavenly home, when God shall be “all in all.”1 And therefore it is in our heavenly home that this precept shall be fully and perfectly fulfilled; and yet in this world of passage one man fulfils it more perfectly than another, the nearer he approaches to the likeness of the perfection that is in heaven.
Article VII.—Is the precept of the love of our neighbour fitly and properly given?
R. This precept is laid down properly; for it touches at once upon the reason and on the measure of love. The reason of love is touched upon in the mention of our neighbour: for on this account we ought to love others in charity, because they are nigh unto us, as well in respect of the natural image of God as of capacity for heavenly glory. Nor does it matter whether he be called our neighbour, or our brother,2 or our friend,3 because by all these names the same connection is denoted. The measure of love is indicated when it is said as thyself: which is not to be understood as though you were to love your neighbour equally with yourself, but like yourself, and that in three ways. First, in respect of the end, that you should love your neighbour for God, as he ought to love himself for God,—that thus your love of your neighbour may be a holy love. Secondly, in respect of the regulation of the love, that you should not condescend to your neighbour in any evil thing, but only in good things, as a man ought to satisfy his own will only in good things,—that thus your love of your neighbour may be a just love. Thirdly, in respect of the reason of the love, that you should not love your neighbour for the sake of any profit or enjoyment, but for the reason that you wish your neighbour’s good as he wishes his own good,—that thus your love of your neighbour may be a true love. For when one loves his neighbour for his own profit or enjoyment, he does not truly love his neighbour, but himself.
[1 ]1 Timothy i. 5.
[2 ]Fortitude and temperance. (Trl.)
[3 ]Justice and the parts thereof. (Trl.)
[1 ]St. Matt. xxii.
[1 ]Cf. I-II. q. 88. art. 1. § 1. (Trl.)
[1 ]1 Cor. xv. 28.
[2 ]1 St. John iv. 21.
[3 ]Levit. xix. 18.