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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Two Whether Charity is Something Created in the Soul

Whether Charity is Something Created in the Soul

We proceed to the second article thus:

1. It seems that charity is not something created in the soul. Augustine says (8 De Trin.8): |he who loves his neighbour loves love itself in consequence.| Now God is love. It is therefore God whom such a one principally loves in consequence. He says also (15 De Trin.17): |we say God is love' in the same way as we say God is a Spirit.' It follows that charity is God himself, not anything created in the soul.|

2. Again, according to Deut.30:20: |He is thy life,| God is spiritually the life of the soul, just as the soul is the life of the body. Now the soul enlivens the body through itself. Therefore God enlivens the soul through himself. But he enlivens the soul through charity, according to I John 3:14: |We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.| Hence God is charity itself.

3. Again, nothing created has infinite power. Rather is every created thing vanity. Now charity is not vanity, but repels vanity. Charity, also, has infinite power, since it leads a man's soul to infinite good. Hence it is not anything created in the soul.

On the other hand: Augustine says (3 De Doctr. Christ.10): |What I call charity is the movement of the soul towards the enjoyment of God for his own sake.| This movement is something created in the soul. Charity is therefore something created in the soul.

I answer: the Master examines this question thoroughly in 1 Sent., Dist.17, and decides that charity is not something created in the soul, but the Holy Spirit dwelling in the mind. He does not mean that the movement of love by which we love God is itself the Holy Spirit. He means to say that the Holy Spirit causes this movement of love without any habit serving as a medium, as do the habits of faith and of hope, for example, or the habit of some other virtue, when it moves us to other virtuous actions. He said this because of the excellence of charity.

If we consider the matter aright, however, this is detrimental to charity rather than the reverse. For the movement of charity does not arise from the mind being moved by the Holy Spirit merely as a body is moved by an external mover, without being in any way the principle of its movement. This would be contrary to the nature of voluntary action, which must have its beginning within oneself, as we said in 12ae, Q.6, Art.1. It would mean that love is not voluntary, which is a contradiction, since the very nature of love implies that it is an action of the will. Nor can we say that the Holy Spirit moves the will to the act of love as one moves an instrument. An instrument may be a principle of action, but it does not decide to act or not to act. This, again, would take away the nature of voluntary action. It would also exclude merit, and we have already said that it is especially by the love of charity that merit is acquired (12ae, Q.114, Art.4). If the will is moved to love by the Holy Spirit, it must itself perform the act of love.

Now no action is perfectly produced by an active power, unless it is made connatural to that power by means of some form which is the principle of action. For this reason God, who moves all things to their proper end, has provided individual things with forms which incline them to the ends which he has assigned to them. In this way he |disposes all things sweetly,| as Wisdom 8:1 says. Now it is obvious that charity, as an action, exceeds the nature of the power of the will. Hence unless the will were inclined to charity by some form added to our natural power, this action would be more imperfect than its natural actions, and more imperfect than the actions of the other powers of the soul. Nor would it be performed easily and joyfully. But this is false, since no power inclines so readily to its proper action, nor performs it so joyfully, as charity. It is especially necessary for charity, therefore, that there should be in us some habitual form superadded to our natural power, inclining it to act with charity, and causing it to do so readily and joyfully.

On the first point: the divine essence itself is charity, just as it is also wisdom and goodness. The charity by which formally we love our neighbours is then a certain participation in the divine charity, in the same sense in which we are said to be good with the goodness which is God, or wise with the wisdom which is God (the goodness by which formally we are good being a kind of participation in divine goodness, and the wisdom by which formally we are wise being a kind of participation in divine wisdom). This manner of speaking is common among the Platonists with whose teaching Augustine was imbued, and his words have been a source of error to those who did not know this.

On the second point: God is the efficient cause both of life in the soul through charity and of life in the body through the soul. But charity is formally the life of the soul, just as the soul is formally the life of the body. We may therefore conclude that charity is directly united with the soul, just as the soul is directly united with the body.

On the third point: formally, charity is efficacious. But the efficacy of a form reflects the power of the agent who provides it. It is obvious that charity is not vanity. What it reveals, by its infinite effect of justifying the soul and thereby uniting it with God, is the infinite divine power which is its source.

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