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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Three Whether a Man can Love God above All Things by His Natural Powers alone, without Grace

Whether a Man can Love God above All Things by His Natural Powers alone, without Grace

We proceed to the third article thus:

1. It seems that a man cannot love God above all things by his natural powers alone, without grace. To love God above all things is the proper and principal act of charity, and a man cannot have charity of himself, since |the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us| (Rom.5:5). It follows that a man cannot love God above all things by his natural powers alone.

2. Again, no nature can rise above itself. But to love God more than oneself is to tend to what is above oneself. Hence no created nature can love God more than itself, without the help of grace.

3. Again, since God is the greatest good, we ought to give him the greatest love, which is to love him above all things. But without grace a man is not fit to give to God the greatest love, which we ought to give him, since it would be useless to add grace if he were so. It follows that a man cannot love God by his natural powers alone, without grace.

On the other hand: as some maintain, the first man was made with natural powers only, and it is obvious that in this state he loved God to some extent. But he loved God neither equally with himself nor less than himself, since he would have sinned in either case. He therefore loved God more than himself. It follows that man can love God more than himself and above all things by his natural powers alone.

I answer: as we said when we stated the various opinions about the natural love of angels (Pt. I, Q.60, Art.5), man in the state of pure nature could do such good as was natural to him by means of his natural power, without any superadded gift of grace, though not without the help of God moving him. To love God above all things is natural to man, and indeed to every creature, irrational as well as rational, and even to inanimate things, according to the manner of love of which each creature is capable. The reason for this is that it is natural for each thing to desire and to love something, according to what it is made fit to love, just as each thing acts as it is made fit to act, as is said in 2 Physics, text 78. Now it is clear that the good of the part is for the sake of the good of the whole. It follows that every particular thing, by its own natural desire or love, loves its own peculiar good for the sake of the common good of the whole universe, which is God. As Dionysius says, |God directs everything to love himself| (4 Div. Nom., lect.11). In the state of pure nature, accordingly, man subordinated his love of himself, and of all other things also, to love of God as its end. Thus he loved God more than himself, and above all things. But in the state of corrupt nature he falls short of this in the desire of his rational will, which through corruption seeks its own private good, unless it is healed by the grace of God.

We must say, accordingly, that in the state of pure nature man did not need a gift of grace added to his natural power, in order to love God above all things, although he did need the help of God moving him to do so. But in the state of corrupt nature he needs further help of grace, that his nature may be healed.

On the first point: charity loves God above all things more eminently than does nature. Nature loves God above all things because he is the beginning and the end of the good of nature. Charity loves God because he is the object of beatitude, and because man has spiritual fellowship with him. Moreover, charity adds an immediate willingness and joy to the natural love of God, just as the habit of virtue adds something to a good action which springs solely from the natural reason of a man who lacks the habit of virtue.

On the second point: when it is said that no nature can rise above itself, we must not understand that it cannot be drawn to what is above itself. For it is evident that the intellect can know, by natural knowledge, some things above itself, as it manifestly does in the natural knowledge of God. What we must understand is that a nature cannot be incited to an action which exceeds the proportion of its power. But to love God above all things is not such an action. This is natural to every created nature, as we have said.

On the third point: love is said to be greatest, not only on the ground of the degree of its affection, but also on the ground of the reason for it and the quality of it. On such grounds, the greatest love is the love with which charity loves God as him who leads us to beatitude, as we have said.

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