SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map : Christian Books : Article One Whether Hope is a Virtue

Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article One Whether Hope is a Virtue

Whether Hope is a Virtue

We proceed to the first article thus:

1. It seems that hope is not a virtue. No one makes bad use of a virtue, as Augustine says (2 De Lib. Arb.18). But one can make bad use of hope, since the passion of hope has extremes as well as a mean, just like other passions. It follows that hope is not a virtue.

2. Again, no virtue is the result of merits, since Augustine says that |God works virtue in us without ourselves| (on Ps.119, Feci Iudicium; and De Grat. et Lib. Arb.17). But the Master says that hope is the result of grace and of merits (3 Sent., Dist.26). It follows that hope is not a virtue.

3. Again, it is said in 7 Physics, texts 17 and 18 that |virtue is the disposition of the perfect.| But hope is the disposition of the imperfect, namely, of him who lacks what he hopes for. It follows that hope is not a virtue.

On the other hand: Gregory says (1 Moral.12, olim 28) that the three daughters of Job signify these three virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Hope is therefore a virtue.

I answer: as the philosopher says in 2 Ethics 6, |the virtue of each thing is that which makes its subject good, and its work good.| Wherever a man's action is found to be good, therefore, it must correspond to some human virtue. Now with all things subject to rule and measure, a thing is called good because it attains its own proper rule. Thus we say that a garment is good when it neither exceeds nor falls short of its due measure. But there is a twofold measure of human actions, as we said in Q.8, Art.3. One is proximate and homogeneous, namely, reason. The other is supreme and transcendent, namely, God. Hence every human action which attains to reason, or to God himself, is good. The act of hope of which we are speaking attains to God. As we said when dealing with the passion of hope in 12ae, Q.40, Art.1, the object of hope is a future good which is difficult to obtain, yet possible. But there are two ways in which a thing may be possible for us. It may be possible through ourselves alone, or possible through others, as is said in 3 Ethics 3. When we hope for something which is possible for us through divine help, our hope attains to God, on whose help it relies. Hope is therefore clearly a virtue, since it makes a man's action good, and causes it to attain its due rule.

On the first point: in regard to the passions, the mean of virtue consists in attaining right reason. It is indeed in this that the essence of virtue consists. In regard to hope also, therefore, the good of virtue consists in a man's attaining his right rule, which is God, by way of hoping. Now no man can make bad use of the hope which attains God, any more than he can make bad use of a moral virtue which attains reason, since so to attain is itself a good use of virtue. But in any case the hope of which we are speaking is a habit of mind, not a passion, as we shall show in Q.18, Art.1.

On the second point: it is in respect of the thing hoped for that hope is said to be the result of merits, in the sense that one hopes to attain blessedness through grace and merits. Or this may be said of hope that is formed. But the habit of hope whereby one hopes for blessedness is not caused by merits. It is entirely the result of grace.

On the third point: he who hopes is indeed imperfect in respect of that which he hopes to obtain but does not yet possess. But he is perfect in that he already attains his proper rule, that is, God, on whose help he relies.

<<  Contents  >>

Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Affiliate Disclosure | Privacy Policy