QUESTION 69: OF THE BEATITUDES
We must now consider the beatitudes: under which head there are four
points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the beatitudes differ from the gifts and virtues?
(2) Of the rewards of the beatitudes: whether they refer to this life?
(3) Of the number of the beatitudes;
(4) Of the fittingness of the rewards ascribed to the beatitudes.
Article 1: Whether the beatitudes differ from the virtues and gifts?
Objection 1: It would seem that the beatitudes do not differ from the virtues
and gifts. For Augustine (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 4) assigns the
beatitudes recited by Matthew (v 3, seqq.) to the gifts of the Holy
Ghost; and Ambrose in his commentary on Luke 6:20, seqq., ascribes the
beatitudes mentioned there, to the four cardinal virtues. Therefore the
beatitudes do not differ from the virtues and gifts.
Objection 2: Further, there are but two rules of the human will: the reason
and the eternal law, as stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ). Now the
virtues perfect man in relation to reason; while the gifts perfect him in
relation to the eternal law of the Holy Ghost, as is clear from what has
been said (Question , Articles ,3, seqq.). Therefore there cannot be anything
else pertaining to the rectitude of the human will, besides the virtues
and gifts. Therefore the beatitudes do not differ from them.
Objection 3: Further, among the beatitudes are included meekness, justice, and
mercy, which are said to be virtues. Therefore the beatitudes do not
differ from the virtues and gifts.
On the contrary, Certain things are included among the beatitudes, that
are neither virtues nor gifts, e.g. poverty, mourning, and peace.
Therefore the beatitudes differ from the virtues and gifts.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ), happiness is
the last end of human life. Now one is said to possess the end already,
when one hopes to possess it; wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. i,
9) that "children are said to be happy because they are full of hope";
and the Apostle says (Rm. 8:24): "We are saved by hope." Again, we hope
to obtain an end, because we are suitably moved towards that end, and
approach thereto; and this implies some action. And a man is moved
towards, and approaches the happy end by works of virtue, and above all
by the works of the gifts, if we speak of eternal happiness, for which
our reason is not sufficient, since we need to be moved by the Holy
Ghost, and to be perfected with His gifts that we may obey and follow
him. Consequently the beatitudes differ from the virtues and gifts, not
as habit, but as act from habit.
Reply to Objection 1: Augustine and Ambrose assign the beatitudes to the gifts
and virtues, as acts are ascribed to habits. But the gifts are more
excellent than the cardinal virtues, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Wherefore Ambrose, in explaining the beatitudes propounded to the throng,
assigns them to the cardinal virtues, whereas Augustine, who is
explaining the beatitudes delivered to the disciples on the mountain, and
so to those who were more perfect, ascribes them to the gifts of the Holy
Reply to Objection 2: This argument proves that no other habits, besides the
virtues and gifts, rectify human conduct.
Reply to Objection 3: Meekness is to be taken as denoting the act of meekness:
and the same applies to justice and mercy. And though these might seem to
be virtues, they are nevertheless ascribed to gifts, because the gifts
perfect man in all matters wherein the virtues perfect him, as stated
above (Question , Article ).
Article 2: Whether the rewards assigned to the beatitudes refer to this life?
Objection 1: It would seem that the rewards assigned to the beatitudes do not
refer to this life. Because some are said to be happy because they hope
for a reward, as stated above (Article ). Now the object of hope is future
happiness. Therefore these rewards refer to the life to come.
Objection 2: Further, certain punishments are set down in opposition to the
beatitudes, Lk. 6:25, where we read: "Woe to you that are filled; for you
shall hunger. Woe to you that now laugh, for you shall mourn and weep."
Now these punishments do not refer to this life, because frequently men
are not punished in this life, according to Job 21:13: "They spend their
days in wealth." Therefore neither do the rewards of the beatitudes refer
to this life.
Objection 3: Further, the kingdom of heaven which is set down as the reward of
poverty is the happiness of heaven, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xix)
[*Cf. De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 1]. Again, abundant fullness is not to be
had save in the life to come, according to Ps. 16:15: "I shall be filled
[Douay: 'satisfied'] when Thy glory shall appear." Again, it is only in
the future life that we shall see God, and that our Divine sonship will
be made manifest, according to 1 Jn. 3:2: "We are now the sons of God;
and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that, when He
shall appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He
is." Therefore these rewards refer to the future life.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 4): "These
promises can be fulfilled in this life, as we believe them to have been
fulfilled in the apostles. For no words can express that complete change
into the likeness even of an angel, which is promised to us after this
I answer that, Expounders of Holy Writ are not agreed in speaking of
these rewards. For some, with Ambrose (Super Luc. v), hold that all
these rewards refer to the life to come; while Augustine (De Serm. Dom.
in Monte i, 4) holds them to refer to the present life; and Chrysostom in
his homilies (In Matth. xv) says that some refer to the future, and some
to the present life.
In order to make the matter clear we must take note that hope of future
happiness may be in us for two reasons. First, by reason of our having a
preparation for, or a disposition to future happiness; and this is by way
of merit; secondly, by a kind of imperfect inchoation of future happiness
in holy men, even in this life. For it is one thing to hope that the tree
will bear fruit, when the leaves begin to appear, and another, when we
see the first signs of the fruit.
Accordingly, those things which are set down as merits in the
beatitudes, are a kind of preparation for, or disposition to happiness,
either perfect or inchoate: while those that are assigned as rewards, may
be either perfect happiness, so as to refer to the future life, or some
beginning of happiness, such as is found in those who have attained
perfection, in which case they refer to the present life. Because when a
man begins to make progress in the acts of the virtues and gifts, it is
to be hoped that he will arrive at perfection, both as a wayfarer, and as
a citizen of the heavenly kingdom.
Reply to Objection 1: Hope regards future happiness as the last end: yet it may
also regard the assistance of grace as that which leads to that end,
according to Ps. 27:7: "In Him hath my heart hoped, and I have been
Reply to Objection 2: Although sometimes the wicked do not undergo temporal
punishment in this life, yet they suffer spiritual punishment. Hence
Augustine says (Confess. i): "Thou hast decreed, and it is so,
Lord---that the disordered mind should be its own punishment." The
Philosopher, too, says of the wicked (Ethic. ix, 4) that "their soul is
divided against itself . . . one part pulls this way, another that"; and
afterwards he concludes, saying: "If wickedness makes a man so miserable,
he should strain every nerve to avoid vice." In like manner, although, on
the other hand, the good sometimes do not receive material rewards in
this life, yet they never lack spiritual rewards, even in this life,
according to Mt. 19:29, and Mk. 10:30: "Ye shall receive a hundred times
as much" even "in this time."
Reply to Objection 3: All these rewards will be fully consummated in the life to
come: but meanwhile they are, in a manner, begun, even in this life.
Because the "kingdom of heaven," as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xiv; *Cf.
De Serm. Dom. in Monte, i, 1), can denote the beginning of perfect
wisdom, in so far as "the spirit" begins to reign in men. The
"possession" of the land denotes the well-ordered affections of the soul
that rests, by its desire, on the solid foundation of the eternal
inheritance, signified by "the land." They are "comforted" in this life,
by receiving the Holy Ghost, Who is called the "Paraclete," i.e. the
Comforter. They "have their fill," even in this life, of that food of
which Our Lord said (Jn. 4:34): "My meat is to do the will of Him that
sent Me." Again, in this life, men "obtain" God's "Mercy." Again, the eye
being cleansed by the gift of understanding, we can, so to speak, "see
God." Likewise, in this life, those who are the "peacemakers" of their
own movements, approach to likeness to God, and are called "the children
of God." Nevertheless these things will be more perfectly fulfilled in
Article 3: Whether the beatitudes are suitably enumerated?
Objection 1: It would seem that the beatitudes are unsuitably enumerated. For
the beatitudes are assigned to the gifts, as stated above (Article , ad 1).
Now some of the gifts, viz. wisdom and understanding, belong to the
contemplative life: yet no beatitude is assigned to the act of
contemplation, for all are assigned to matters connected with the active
life. Therefore the beatitudes are insufficiently enumerated.
Objection 2: Further, not only do the executive gifts belong to the active
life, but also some of the directive gifts, e.g. knowledge and counsel:
yet none of the beatitudes seems to be directly connected with the acts
of knowledge or counsel. Therefore the beatitudes are insufficiently
Objection 3: Further, among the executive gifts connected with the active
life, fear is said to be connected with poverty, while piety seems to
correspond to the beatitude of mercy: yet nothing is included directly
connected with justice. Therefore the beatitudes are insufficiently
Objection 4: Further, many other beatitudes are mentioned in Holy Writ. Thus,
it is written (Job 5:17): "Blessed is the man whom God correcteth"; and
(Ps. i, 1): "Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the
ungodly"; and (Prov. 3:13): "Blessed is the man that findeth wisdom."
Therefore the beatitudes are insufficiently enumerated.
Objection 5: On the other hand, it seems that too many are mentioned. For
there are seven gifts of the Holy Ghost: whereas eight beatitudes are
Objection 6: Further, only four beatitudes are indicated in the sixth chapter
of Luke. Therefore the seven or eight mentioned in Matthew 5 are too many.
I answer that, These beatitudes are most suitably enumerated. To make
this evident it must be observed that beatitude has been held to consist
in one of three things: for some have ascribed it to a sensual life,
some, to an active life, and some, to a contemplative life [*See Question ].
Now these three kinds of happiness stand in different relations to future
beatitude, by hoping for which we are said to be happy. Because sensual
happiness, being false and contrary to reason, is an obstacle to future
beatitude; while happiness of the active life is a disposition of future
beatitude; and contemplative happiness, if perfect, is the very essence
of future beatitude, and, if imperfect, is a beginning thereof.
And so Our Lord, in the first place, indicated certain beatitudes as
removing the obstacle of sensual happiness. For a life of pleasure
consists of two things. First, in the affluence of external goods,
whether riches or honors; from which man is withdrawn---by a virtue so
that he uses them in moderation---and by a gift, in a more excellent way,
so that he despises them altogether. Hence the first beatitude is:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit," which may refer either to the contempt
of riches, or to the contempt of honors, which results from humility.
Secondly, the sensual life consists in following the bent of one's
passions, whether irascible or concupiscible. From following the
irascible passions man is withdrawn---by a virtue, so that they are kept
within the bounds appointed by the ruling of reason---and by a gift, in a
more excellent manner, so that man, according to God's will, is
altogether undisturbed by them: hence the second beatitude is: "Blessed
are the meek." From following the concupiscible passions, man is
withdrawn---by a virtue, so that man uses these passions in
moderation---and by gift, so that, if necessary, he casts them aside
altogether; nay more, so that, if need be, he makes a deliberate choice
of sorrow [*Cf. Question , Article ]; hence the third beatitude is: "Blessed are
they that mourn."
Active life consists chiefly in man's relations with his neighbor,
either by way of duty or by way of spontaneous gratuity. To the former we
are disposed---by a virtue, so that we do not refuse to do our duty to
our neighbor, which pertains to justice---and by a gift, so that we do
the same much more heartily, by accomplishing works of justice with an
ardent desire, even as a hungry and thirsty man eats and drinks with
eager appetite. Hence the fourth beatitude is: "Blessed are they that
hunger and thirst after justice." With regard to spontaneous favors we
are perfected---by a virtue, so that we give where reason dictates we
should give, e.g. to our friends or others united to us; which pertains
to the virtue of liberality--and by a gift, so that, through reverence
for God, we consider only the needs of those on whom we bestow our
gratuitous bounty: hence it is written (Lk. 14:12,13): "When thou makest
a dinner or supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren," etc . . .
"but . . . call the poor, the maimed," etc.; which, properly, is to have
mercy: hence the fifth beatitude is: "Blessed are the merciful."
Those things which concern the contemplative life, are either final
beatitude itself, or some beginning thereof: wherefore they are included
in the beatitudes, not as merits, but as rewards. Yet the effects of the
active life, which dispose man for the contemplative life, are included
in the beatitudes. Now the effect of the active life, as regards those
virtues and gifts whereby man is perfected in himself, is the cleansing
of man's heart, so that it is not defiled by the passions: hence the
sixth beatitude is: "Blessed are the clean of heart." But as regards the
virtues and gifts whereby man is perfected in relation to his neighbor,
the effect of the active life is peace, according to Is. 32:17: "The work
of justice shall be peace": hence the seventh beatitude is "Blessed are
Reply to Objection 1: The acts of the gifts which belong to the active life are
indicated in the merits: but the acts of the gifts pertaining to the
contemplative life are indicated in the rewards, for the reason given
above. Because to "see God" corresponds to the gift of understanding; and
to be like God by being adoptive "children of God," corresponds to the
gift of wisdom.
Reply to Objection 2: In things pertaining to the active life, knowledge is not
sought for its own sake, but for the sake of operation, as even the
Philosopher states (Ethic. ii, 2). And therefore, since beatitude implies
something ultimate, the beatitudes do not include the acts of those gifts
which direct man in the active life, such acts, to wit, as are elicited
by those gifts, as, e.g. to counsel is the act of counsel, and to judge,
the act of knowledge: but, on the other hand, they include those
operative acts of which the gifts have the direction, as, e.g. mourning
in respect of knowledge, and mercy in respect of counsel.
Reply to Objection 3: In applying the beatitudes to the gifts we may consider two
things. One is likeness of matter. In this way all the first five
beatitudes may be assigned to knowledge and counsel as to their directing
principles: whereas they must be distributed among the executive gifts:
so that, to wit, hunger and thirst for justice, and mercy too, correspond
to piety, which perfects man in his relations to others; meekness to
fortitude, for Ambrose says on Lk. 6:22: "It is the business of fortitude
to conquer anger, and to curb indignation," fortitude being about the
irascible passions: poverty and mourning to the gift of fear, whereby man
withdraws from the lusts and pleasures of the world.
Secondly, we may consider the motives of the beatitudes: and, in this
way, some of them will have to be assigned differently. Because the
principal motive for meekness is reverence for God, which belongs to
piety. The chief motive for mourning is knowledge, whereby man knows his
failings and those of worldly things, according to Eccles. 1:18: "He that
addeth knowledge, addeth also sorrow [Vulg: labor]." The principal motive
for hungering after the works of justice is fortitude of the soul: and
the chief motive for being merciful is God's counsel, according to Dan.
4:24: "Let my counsel be acceptable to the king [Vulg: to thee, O king]:
and redeem thou thy sins with alms, and thy iniquities with works of
mercy to the poor." It is thus that Augustine assigns them (De Serm. Dom.
in Monte i, 4).
Reply to Objection 4: All the beatitudes mentioned in Holy Writ must be reduced
to these, either as to the merits or as to the rewards: because they must
all belong either to the active or to the contemplative life.
Accordingly, when we read, "Blessed is the man whom the Lord correcteth,"
we must refer this to the beatitude of mourning: when we read, "Blessed
is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly," we must
refer it to cleanness of heart: and when we read, "Blessed is the man
that findeth wisdom," this must be referred to the reward of the seventh
beatitude. The same applies to all others that can be adduced.
Reply to Objection 5: The eighth beatitude is a confirmation and declaration of
all those that precede. Because from the very fact that a man is
confirmed in poverty of spirit, meekness, and the rest, it follows that
no persecution will induce him to renounce them. Hence the eighth
beatitude corresponds, in a way, to all the preceding seven.
Reply to Objection 6: Luke relates Our Lord's sermon as addressed to the
multitude (Lk. 6:17). Hence he sets down the beatitudes according to the
capacity of the multitude, who know no other happiness than pleasure,
temporal and earthly: wherefore by these four beatitudes Our Lord
excludes four things which seem to belong to such happiness. The first of
these is abundance of external goods, which he sets aside by saying:
"Blessed are ye poor." The second is that man be well off as to his body,
in food and drink, and so forth; this he excludes by saying in the second
place: "Blessed are ye that hunger." The third is that it should be well
with man as to joyfulness of heart, and this he puts aside by saying:
"Blessed are ye that weep now." The fourth is the outward favor of man;
and this he excludes, saying, fourthly: "Blessed shall you be, when men
shall hate you." And as Ambrose says on Lk. 6:20, "poverty corresponds to
temperance, which is unmoved by delights; hunger, to justice, since who
hungers is compassionate and, through compassion gives; mourning, to
prudence, which deplores perishable things; endurance of men's hatred
belongs to fortitude."
Article 4: Whether the rewards of the beatitudes are suitably enumerated?
Objection 1: It would seem that the rewards of the beatitudes are unsuitably
enumerated. Because the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life,
contains all good things. Therefore, once given the kingdom of heaven, no
other rewards should be mentioned.
Objection 2: Further, the kingdom of heaven is assigned as the reward, both of
the first and of the eighth beatitude. Therefore, on the same ground it
should have been assigned to all.
Objection 3: Further, the beatitudes are arranged in the ascending order, as
Augustine remarks (De Serm. Dom. in Monte i, 4): whereas the rewards seem
to be placed in the descending order, since to "possess the land" is less
than to possess "the kingdom of heaven." Therefore these rewards are
On the contrary, stands the authority of Our Lord Who propounded these
I answer that, These rewards are most suitably assigned, considering the
nature of the beatitudes in relation to the three kinds of happiness
indicated above (Article ). For the first three beatitudes concerned the
withdrawal of man from those things in which sensual happiness consists:
which happiness man desires by seeking the object of his natural desire,
not where he should seek it, viz. in God, but in temporal and perishable
things. Wherefore the rewards of the first three beatitudes correspond to
these things which some men seek to find in earthly happiness. For men
seek in external things, viz. riches and honors, a certain excellence and
abundance, both of which are implied in the kingdom of heaven, whereby
man attains to excellence and abundance of good things in God. Hence Our
Lord promised the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit. Again, cruel
and pitiless men seek by wrangling and fighting to destroy their enemies
so as to gain security for themselves. Hence Our Lord promised the meek a
secure and peaceful possession of the land of the living, whereby the
solid reality of eternal goods is denoted. Again, men seek consolation
for the toils of the present life, in the lusts and pleasures of the
world. Hence Our Lord promises comfort to those that mourn.
Two other beatitudes belong to the works of active happiness, which are
the works of virtues directing man in his relations to his neighbor: from
which operations some men withdraw through inordinate love of their own
good. Hence Our Lord assigns to these beatitudes rewards in
correspondence with the motives for which men recede from them. For there
are some who recede from acts of justice, and instead of rendering what
is due, lay hands on what is not theirs, that they may abound in temporal
goods. Wherefore Our Lord promised those who hunger after justice, that
they shall have their fill. Some, again, recede from works of mercy, lest
they be busied with other people's misery. Hence Our Lord promised the
merciful that they should obtain mercy, and be delivered from all misery.
The last two beatitudes belong to contemplative happiness or beatitude:
hence the rewards are assigned in correspondence with the dispositions
included in the merit. For cleanness of the eye disposes one to see
clearly: hence the clean of heart are promised that they shall see God.
Again, to make peace either in oneself or among others, shows a man to be
a follower of God, Who is the God of unity and peace. Hence, as a reward,
he is promised the glory of the Divine sonship, consisting in perfect
union with God through consummate wisdom.
Reply to Objection 1: As Chrysostom says (Hom. xv in Matth.), all these rewards
are one in reality, viz. eternal happiness, which the human intellect
cannot grasp. Hence it was necessary to describe it by means of various
boons known to us, while observing due proportion to the merits to which
those rewards are assigned.
Reply to Objection 2: Just as the eighth beatitude is a confirmation of all the
beatitudes, so it deserves all the rewards of the beatitudes. Hence it
returns to the first, that we may understand all the other rewards to be
attributed to it in consequence. Or else, according to Ambrose (Super
Luc. v), the kingdom of heaven is promised to the poor in spirit, as
regards the glory of the soul; but to those who suffer persecution in
their bodies, it is promised as regards the glory of the body.
Reply to Objection 3: The rewards are also arranged in ascending order. For it is
more to possess the land of the heavenly kingdom than simply to have it:
since we have many things without possessing them firmly and peacefully.
Again, it is more to be comforted in the kingdom than to have and possess
it, for there are many things the possession of which is accompanied by
sorrow. Again, it is more to have one's fill than simply to be comforted,
because fulness implies abundance of comfort. And mercy surpasses
satiety, for thereby man receives more than he merited or was able to
desire. And yet more is it to see God, even as he is a greater man who
not only dines at court, but also sees the king's countenance. Lastly,
the highest place in the royal palace belongs to the king's son.