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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Two Whether Eternal Blessedness is the Proper Object of Hope

Whether Eternal Blessedness is the Proper Object of Hope

We proceed to the second article thus:

1. It seems that eternal blessedness is not the proper object of hope. A man does not hope for that which is beyond every movement of his soul, since the action of hope is itself a movement of the soul. Now eternal blessedness is beyond every movement of the human soul, since the apostle says in I Cor.2:9: |neither have entered into the heart of man . . .| It follows that blessedness is not the proper object of hope.

2. Again, petition is an expression of hope, since it is said in Ps.37:5: |Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.| But it is plain from the Lord's Prayer that one may lawfully pray to God not only for eternal blessedness, but also for the good things of this present life, both spiritual and temporal, and for deliverance from evils which will have no place in eternal blessedness. It follows that eternal blessedness is not the proper object of hope.

3. Again, the object of hope is the arduous. But many other things are arduous for man, besides eternal blessedness. It follows that eternal blessedness is not the proper object of hope.

On the other hand: the apostle says in Heb.6:19: |we have hope . . . which entereth,| that is, which causes us to enter, |into that within the veil,| that is, into heavenly blessedness, as the gloss says. The object of hope is therefore eternal blessedness.

I answer: as we said in the preceding article, the hope of which we are speaking attains to God, depending on his help in order to obtain the good for which it hopes. Now an effect must be proportionate to its cause. The good which we should properly and principally hope to receive from God is therefore the infinite good which is proportionate to the power of God who helps us, since it is proper to infinite power to lead to infinite good. This good is eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of God. We ought indeed to hope for nothing less than himself from God, since the goodness by which he bestows good things on a creature is nothing less than his essence. The proper and principal object of hope is therefore eternal blessedness.

On the first point: eternal blessedness does not enter into the heart of man perfectly, in such a way that the wayfarer may know what it is, or of what kind it is. But a man can apprehend it under the universal idea of perfect good, and in this way the movement of hope arises. It is therefore with point that the apostle says in Heb.6:19: |we have hope . . . which entereth into that within the veil,| since what we hope for is yet veiled, as it were.

On the second point: we ought not to pray to God for any other good things unless they relate to eternal blessedness. Hope is therefore concerned principally with eternal blessedness, and secondarily with other things which are sought of Gtod for the sake of it, just as faith also is concerned principally with such things as relate to God, as we said in Q.1, Art.1.

On the third point: all other things seem small to one who sets his heart on something great. To one who hopes for eternal life, therefore, nothing else appears arduous in comparison with this hope. But some other things can yet be arduous in relation to the capacity of him who hopes. There can accordingly be hope in regard to them, as things subservient to the principal object of hope.

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