Whether God Always Loves Better Things the More
We proceed to the fourth article thus:
1. It seems that God does not always love better things the more. It is obvious that Christ is better than the entire human race. Yet according to Rom.8:32 God loved the human race more than he loved Christ. |He that spared not his only Son, but delivered him up for us all . . .| Thus God does not always love better things the more.
2. Again, an angel is better than a man, according to Ps.8:5: |Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.| Yet God loved a man more than an angel, according to what is said in Heb.2:16: |For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.| Thus God does not always love better things the more.
3. Again, Peter was better than John, since he had a greater love for Christ. Christ knew this when he asked of Peter, |Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?| Nevertheless, Christ loved John more than Peter. In his commentary on John 20:2, |. . . the disciple whom Jesus loved,| Augustine says: |John is distinguished from the other disciples by this very sign, not that Christ loved him alone, but that he loved him more than the rest.| Thus God's love is not always greater towards the better.
4. Again, an innocent is better than a penitent. For in his commentary on Isa.3:9, |they declare their sin as Sodom,| Hieronymus says that penitence is like a shipwreck. But God loves a penitent more than an innocent man, since he rejoices in him the more. For it is said in Luke 15:7: |I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentence.| Thus God does not always love more that which is better.
5. Again, a just man foreknown is better than a sinner who is predestined. Now God has a greater love for the sinner who is predestined, since he wills a greater good for him, namely, eternal life. Hence God does not always love more that which is better.
On the other hand: |everything loves what is like itself,| as is clear from Ecclesiasticus 13:19: |every beast loves what is like itself.| Now the better anything is, the more is it like God. God therefore loves better things the more.
I answer: what we have already said compels us to say that God loves better things the more. We said in Arts.2 and 3 that for God to love something more just means that he wills a greater good for it, and also that God's will is the cause of the goodness in things. It is therefore because God wills a greater good for them that some things are better. It follows that God has a greater love for things which are better.
On the first point: God loves Christ not only more than the entire human race, but more than the whole universe of creatures. For he willed a greater good for Christ, and gave him the name that is above every name, as true God. Nor did it in any way diminish his excellence, that God should deliver him up to die for the salvation of the human race. On the contrary, he thereby became a glorious conqueror, in keeping with Isa.9:6: |the government shall be upon his shoulder.|
On the second point: It accords with what we have said on the first point, that God should love the human nature assumed by his Word in the person of Christ more than all the angels. For this nature is better than the angels, in consequence of this union. But if we are speaking of common human nature, and comparing it in grace and glory with that of an angel, we find that they are equal. For according to Rev.21:17 the measure of a man and the measure of an angel are the same, although some angels may be better in respect of it than some men, and some men better than some angels. Yet the natural condition of an angel is better than that of a man. Hence it was not because he loved man more that God assumed the nature of a man, but because man needed him more. A good master of a house gives something costly to a sick servant which he does not give to a healthy son.
On the third point: this puzzle about Peter and John may be solved in several ways. Augustine, in his commentary, regards this passage as mystical, and explains that the active life signified by Peter is greater in love to God than the contemplative life signified by John, since it is more alive to the sufferings of this present life, and desires more fervently to be set free and to draw near to God; but that God loves the contemplative life the more, since he preserves it longer, for it does not end with the life of the body, as does the life of action. Others say that Peter had a greater love for Christ in his members, and that he was consequently the more loved of Christ, who for this reason commended the Church to his care; or that John had a greater love for Christ in himself, and that he was consequently the more loved of Christ, who for this reason commended his mother to his care. Others again say that it is doubtful which of them loved Christ the more with the love of charity, and doubtful which of them was destined by God's love to the greater glory of eternal life. But it is said that Peter loved the more spontaneously and with the greater fervour, and that John was the more loved, on the evidence of the signs of familiarity which Christ accorded to him and not to others, on account of his youth and purity. Others again say that Christ loved Peter the more for his more excellent gift of charity, and John the more for his greater gift of intellect. If so, Peter was the better, and was the more loved, in an absolute sense, while John was the more loved conditionally. But it seems presumptuous to judge of this matter, since it is said in Prov.16:2: |the Lord weigheth the spirits,| and none other than the Lord.
On the fourth point: penitents are related to innocents as the exceeding to the exceeded. For those who have the more grace are better, and are loved the more, whether they be innocents or penitents. But innocence is more worthy than penitence, other things being equal. The reason why God is said to rejoice in a penitent more than in an innocent man is that penitents often arise more cautious, more humble, and more fervent. Thus Gregory says, in his comments on this passage, |the leader in a battle rejoices more in one who turns from flight to press hard upon the enemy than in one who has neither fled nor fought bravely at any time.| We may also say that a gift of grace is greater when bestowed on a penitent who deserves punishment than when bestowed on an innocent man who does not. A hundred marks is a greater gift when given to a pauper than when given to a king.
On the fifth point: since God is the cause of the goodness in things, we must take into account the time at which God in his benevolence intends to bestow good on one whom he loves. At the time when God in his benevolence will bestow upon him the greater good of eternal life, the predestined penitent is better than the other. But at any other time he is worse. There is also a time when he is neither good nor bad.