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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Four Whether Faith can be Greater in One Than in Another

Whether Faith can be Greater in One Than in Another

We proceed to the fourth article thus:

1. It seems that faith cannot be greater in one than in another, since the quantity of a habit is determined by reference to its object. Anyone who has faith has faith in all that the faith contains, since he who disbelieves in a single point is altogether without faith, as was said in the preceding article. Hence it seems that faith cannot be greater in one than in another.

2. Again, that which depends on what is greatest does not admit of more and less. Now faith depends on what is greatest, since it demands that a man adhere to the first truth before all things. It follows that faith does not admit of more and less.

3. Again, it was said in £h 1, Art.7, that the articles of faith are the first principles of the knowledge which is of grace. In the knowledge which is of grace, therefore, faith has the same relative status as has the understanding of principles in natural knowledge. Now the understanding of principles occurs equally in all men. Hence faith likewise occurs equally in all who believe.

On the other hand: wherever there is little and great, there is greater and less. Now there is little and great in faith. For the Lord said to Peter, |O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?| (Matt.14:31), and to the woman, |O woman, great is thy faith| (Matt.15:28). Thus faith can be greater in one than in another.

I answer: as we said in 12ae, Q.52, Arts.1 and 2, and Q.112, Art.4, the magnitude of a habit may be considered in two ways; in respect of its object, and in respect of the subject who possesses it. Faith may be considered in two ways in respect of its object, which includes what we mean by the formal object of faith, and also things materially proposed for belief. It cannot be different in different persons in respect of its formal object, since this is one and indivisible, as we said in Q.1, Art. i. In this respect, faith is the same in all men, as we said in Q.4, Art.6. But the things which are materially proposed for belief are many, and can be accepted either more or less explicitly. Hence one man can believe explicitly more things than another. Faith may therefore be greater in one man than in another, in as much as it may be more explicit.

In respect of the person who possesses it, faith may again be considered in two ways, since the act of faith proceeds from the intellect and also from the will, as we said in Q.2, Arts.1 and 2, and in Q.4, Art.2. Faith may accordingly be said to be greater in one man than in another either when there is greater certainty and firmness on the part of the intellect, or when there is greater readiness, devotion, or confidence on the part of the will.

On the first point: he who persistently disbelieves any one of the things contained in the faith does not possess the habit of faith. But he who does not believe all things explicitly, yet is prepared to believe all of them, does possess the habit of faith. In respect of the object of faith, therefore, one man can have greater faith than another, in as much as he believes more things explicitly, as we have said.

On the second point: it belongs to the very nature of faith to put the first truth before all other things. Yet some of those who put it before all other things submit to it with greater assurance and devotion than others. In this way, faith is greater in one than in another.

On the third point: the understanding of principles is due to human nature itself, which occurs in all men equally. But faith is due to the gift of grace, which is not given to all men equally, as we said in 12ae, Q.112, Art.4. We cannot then argue about them in the same way. Moreover, one man may know the truth of principles better than another, if he has more intelligence.

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