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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Eight Whether Charity is Prior to Hope

Whether Charity is Prior to Hope

We proceed to the eighth article thus:

1. It seems that charity is prior to hope. For on Luke 17:6, |If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed . . .,| the gloss by Ambrose says: |From faith issues charity, and from charity issues hope.| But faith is prior to charity. Hence charity is prior to hope.

2. Again, Augustine says (14 De Civ. Dei.9): |good movements and affections are derived from love, and from holy charity.| Now to hope, as an act of hope, is a good movement of the soul. It is therefore derived from charity.

3. Again, the Master says that hope proceeds from merits, which not only precede the thing hoped for, but precede hope itself; also that charity precedes hope in the order of nature (3 Sent., Dist.26). Hence charity is prior to hope.

On the other hand: the apostle says (I Tim.1:5): |Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience,| that is, as the gloss says, |and of hope.| Hope is therefore prior to charity.

I answer: there are two kinds of order. There is the order of generation and of nature, according to which the imperfect is prior to the perfect. There is also the order of perfection and of form, according to which the perfect is naturally prior to the imperfect. According to the first of these orders, hope is prior to charity. This is obvious, since hope and every appetitive movement is derived from love, as we said in 12ae, Q.55, Arts.1 and 2, when speaking of the passions.

But love may be either perfect or imperfect. Perfect love is that wherewith a thing is loved for its own sake, as for example when one wills good for someone for his own sake, as a man loves a friend. Imperfect love, on the other hand, is love wherewith one loves a thing not for its own sake, but in order that one may have the good of it for oneself, as a man loves a thing which he covets. Now perfect love pertains to charity, which adheres to God for his own sake. But imperfect love pertains to hope, since one who hopes intends to obtain something for himself.

Thus according to the order of generation, hope is prior to charity. For just as a man is led to love God through desisting from sin for fear of being punished by him (Tract.9 in Joan.), so also does hope engender charity, since one who hopes to be rewarded by God may come to love God and to obey his commandments. But charity is naturally prior according to the order of perfection. For this reason, hope is made more perfect by the presence of charity. Thus we hope supremely when we hope on behalf of our friends. It is in this way that |hope issues from charity,| as Ambrose says.

The answer to the first point is thus obvious.

On the second point: hope and every appetitive movement of the soul is derived from love of some kind, since one loves the good for which one hopes. Not every hope, however, is derived from charity, but only the movement of hope that is formed, whereby one hopes for some good from God as a friend.

On the third point: the Master is speaking of hope that is formed, which is naturally preceded by charity, and also by the merits which result from charity.

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