QUESTION 23: OF CHARITY, CONSIDERED IN ITSELF
In proper sequence, we must consider charity; and (1) charity itself;
(2) the corresponding gift of wisdom. The first consideration will be
fivefold: (1) Charity itself; (2) The object of charity; (3) Its acts;
(4) The opposite vices; (5) The precepts relating thereto.
The first of these considerations will be twofold: (1) Charity,
considered as regards itself; (2) Charity, considered in its relation to
its subject. Under the first head there are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Whether charity is friendship?
(2) Whether it is something created in the soul?
(3) Whether it is a virtue?
(4) Whether it is a special virtue?
(5) Whether it is one virtue?
(6) Whether it is the greatest of the virtues?
(7) Whether any true virtue is possible without it?
(8) Whether it is the form of the virtues?
Article 1: Whether charity is friendship?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not friendship. For nothing is so appropriate to friendship as to dwell with one's friend, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 5). Now charity is of man towards God and the angels, "whose dwelling [Douay: 'conversation'] is not with men" (Dan. 2:11). Therefore charity is not friendship.
Objection 2: Further, there is no friendship without return of love (Ethic.
viii, 2). But charity extends even to one's enemies, according to Mt.
5:44: "Love your enemies." Therefore charity is not friendship.
Objection 3: Further, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 3) there are
three kinds of friendship, directed respectively towards the delightful,
the useful, or the virtuous. Now charity is not the friendship for the
useful or delightful; for Jerome says in his letter to Paulinus which is
to be found at the beginning of the Bible: "True friendship cemented by
Christ, is where men are drawn together, not by household interests, not
by mere bodily presence, not by crafty and cajoling flattery, but by the
fear of God, and the study of the Divine Scriptures." No more is it
friendship for the virtuous, since by charity we love even sinners,
whereas friendship based on the virtuous is only for virtuous men (Ethic.
viii). Therefore charity is not friendship.
On the contrary, It is written (Jn. 15:15): "I will not now call you
servants . . . but My friends." Now this was said to them by reason of
nothing else than charity. Therefore charity is friendship.
I answer that, According to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 2,3) not every
love has the character of friendship, but that love which is together
with benevolence, when, to wit, we love someone so as to wish good to
him. If, however, we do not wish good to what we love, but wish its good
for ourselves, (thus we are said to love wine, or a horse, or the like),
it is love not of friendship, but of a kind of concupiscence. For it
would be absurd to speak of having friendship for wine or for a horse.
Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain
mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend:
and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication.
Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God,
inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship
must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written (1
Cor. 1:9): "God is faithful: by Whom you are called unto the fellowship
of His Son." The love which is based on this communication, is charity:
wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God.
Reply to Objection 1: Man's life is twofold. There is his outward life in respect
of his sensitive and corporeal nature: and with regard to this life there
is no communication or fellowship between us and God or the angels. The
other is man's spiritual life in respect of his mind, and with regard to
this life there is fellowship between us and both God and the angels,
imperfectly indeed in this present state of life, wherefore it is written
(Phil. 3:20): "Our conversation is in heaven." But this "conversation"
will be perfected in heaven, when "His servants shall serve Him, and they
shall see His face" (Apoc. 22:3,4). Therefore charity is imperfect here,
but will be perfected in heaven.
Reply to Objection 2: Friendship extends to a person in two ways: first in
respect of himself, and in this way friendship never extends but to one's
friends: secondly, it extends to someone in respect of another, as, when
a man has friendship for a certain person, for his sake he loves all
belonging to him, be they children, servants, or connected with him in
any way. Indeed so much do we love our friends, that for their sake we
love all who belong to them, even if they hurt or hate us; so that, in
this way, the friendship of charity extends even to our enemies, whom we
love out of charity in relation to God, to Whom the friendship of charity
is chiefly directed.
Reply to Objection 3: The friendship that is based on the virtuous is directed to
none but a virtuous man as the principal person, but for his sake we love
those who belong to him, even though they be not virtuous: in this way
charity, which above all is friendship based on the virtuous, extends to
sinners, whom, out of charity, we love for God's sake.
Article 2: Whether charity is something created in the soul?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not something created in the soul.
For Augustine says (De Trin. viii, 7): "He that loveth his neighbor,
consequently, loveth love itself." Now God is love. Therefore it follows
that he loves God in the first place. Again he says (De Trin. xv, 17):
"It was said: God is Charity, even as it was said: God is a Spirit."
Therefore charity is not something created in the soul, but is God
Objection 2: Further, God is the life of the soul spiritually just as the soul
is the life of the body, according to Dt. 30:20: "He is thy life." Now
the soul by itself quickens the body. Therefore God quickens the soul by
Himself. But He quickens it by charity, according to 1 Jn. 3:14: "We know
that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren."
Therefore God is charity itself.
Objection 3: Further, no created thing is of infinite power; on the contrary
every creature is vanity. But charity is not vanity, indeed it is opposed
to vanity; and it is of infinite power, since it brings the human soul to
the infinite good. Therefore charity is not something created in the soul.
On the charity, Augustine says (De Doctr. Christ. iii, 10): "By charity
I mean the movement of the soul towards the enjoyment of God for His own
sake." But a movement of the soul is something created in the soul.
Therefore charity is something created in the soul.
I answer that, The Master looks thoroughly into this question in Question 
of the First Book, and concludes that charity is not something created
in the soul, but is the Holy Ghost Himself dwelling in the mind. Nor does
he mean to say that this movement of love whereby we love God is the Holy
Ghost Himself, but that this movement is from the Holy Ghost without any
intermediary habit, whereas other virtuous acts are from the Holy Ghost
by means of the habits of other virtues, for instance the habit of faith
or hope or of some other virtue: and this he said on account of the
excellence of charity.
But if we consider the matter aright, this would be, on the contrary,
detrimental to charity. For when the Holy Ghost moves the human mind the
movement of charity does not proceed from this motion in such a way that
the human mind be merely moved, without being the principle of this
movement, as when a body is moved by some extrinsic motive power. For
this is contrary to the nature of a voluntary act, whose principle needs
to be in itself, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ): so that it would
follow that to love is not a voluntary act, which involves a
contradiction, since love, of its very nature, implies an act of the will.
Likewise, neither can it be said that the Holy Ghost moves the will in
such a way to the act of loving, as though the will were an instrument,
for an instrument, though it be a principle of action, nevertheless has
not the power to act or not to act, for then again the act would cease to
be voluntary and meritorious, whereas it has been stated above (FS,
Question , Article ) that the love of charity is the root of merit: and, given
that the will is moved by the Holy Ghost to the act of love, it is
necessary that the will also should be the efficient cause of that act.
Now no act is perfectly produced by an active power, unless it be
connatural to that power of reason of some form which is the principle of
that action. Wherefore God, Who moves all things to their due ends,
bestowed on each thing the form whereby it is inclined to the end
appointed to it by Him; and in this way He "ordereth all things sweetly"
(Wis. 8:1). But it is evident that the act of charity surpasses the
nature of the power of the will, so that, therefore, unless some form be
superadded to the natural power, inclining it to the act of love, this
same act would be less perfect than the natural acts and the acts of the
other powers; nor would it be easy and pleasurable to perform. And this
is evidently untrue, since no virtue has such a strong inclination to its
act as charity has, nor does any virtue perform its act with so great
pleasure. Therefore it is most necessary that, for us to perform the act
of charity, there should be in us some habitual form superadded to the
natural power, inclining that power to the act of charity, and causing it
to act with ease and pleasure.
Reply to Objection 1: The Divine Essence Itself is charity, even as It is wisdom
and goodness. Wherefore just as we are said to be good with the goodness
which is God, and wise with the wisdom which is God (since the goodness
whereby we are formally good is a participation of Divine goodness, and
the wisdom whereby we are formally wise, is a share of Divine wisdom), so
too, the charity whereby formally we love our neighbor is a participation
of Divine charity. For this manner of speaking is common among the
Platonists, with whose doctrines Augustine was imbued; and the lack of
adverting to this has been to some an occasion of error.
Reply to Objection 2: God is effectively the life both of the soul by charity,
and of the body by the soul: but formally charity is the life of the
soul, even as the soul is the life of the body. Consequently we may
conclude from this that just as the soul is immediately united to the
body, so is charity to the soul.
Reply to Objection 3: Charity works formally. Now the efficacy of a form depends
on the power of the agent, who instills the form, wherefore it is evident
that charity is not vanity. But because it produces an infinite effect,
since, by justifying the soul, it unites it to God, this proves the
infinity of the Divine power, which is the author of charity.
Article 3: Whether charity is a virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not a virtue. For charity is a kind
of friendship. Now philosophers do not reckon friendship a virtue, as may
be gathered from Ethic. viii, 1; nor is it numbered among the virtues
whether moral or intellectual. Neither, therefore, is charity a virtue.
Objection 2: Further, "virtue is the ultimate limit of power" (De Coelo et
Mundo i, 11). But charity is not something ultimate, this applies rather
to joy and peace. Therefore it seems that charity is not a virtue, and
that this should be said rather of joy and peace.
Objection 3: Further, every virtue is an accidental habit. But charity is not
an accidental habit, since it is a more excellent thing than the soul
itself: whereas no accident is more excellent than its subject. Therefore
charity is not a virtue.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Moribus Eccl. xi): "Charity is a
virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to
God, for by it we love Him."
I answer that, Human acts are good according as they are regulated by
their due rule and measure. Wherefore human virtue which is the principle
of all man's good acts consists in following the rule of human acts,
which is twofold, as stated above (Question , Article ), viz. human reason and
Consequently just as moral virtue is defined as being "in accord with
right reason," as stated in Ethic. ii, 6, so too, the nature of virtue
consists in attaining God, as also stated above with regard to faith,
(Question , Article ) and hope (Question , Article ). Wherefore, it follows that charity
is a virtue, for, since charity attains God, it unites us to God, as
evidenced by the authority of Augustine quoted above.
Reply to Objection 1: The Philosopher (Ethic. viii) does not deny that friendship
is a virtue, but affirms that it is "either a virtue or with a virtue."
For we might say that it is a moral virtue about works done in respect of
another person, but under a different aspect from justice. For justice is
about works done in respect of another person, under the aspect of the
legal due, whereas friendship considers the aspect of a friendly and
moral duty, or rather that of a gratuitous favor, as the Philosopher
explains (Ethic. viii, 13). Nevertheless it may be admitted that it is
not a virtue distinct of itself from the other virtues. For its
praiseworthiness and virtuousness are derived merely from its object, in
so far, to wit, as it is based on the moral goodness of the virtues. This
is evident from the fact that not every friendship is praiseworthy and
virtuous, as in the case of friendship based on pleasure or utility.
Wherefore friendship for the virtuous is something consequent to virtue
rather than a virtue. Moreover there is no comparison with charity since
it is not founded principally on the virtue of a man, but on the goodness
Reply to Objection 2: It belongs to the same virtue to love a man and to rejoice about him, since joy results from love, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ) in the treatise on the passions: wherefore love is reckoned a virtue, rather than joy, which is an effect of love. And when virtue is described as being something ultimate, we mean that it is last, not in the order of effect, but in the order of excess, just as one hundred pounds exceed sixty.
Reply to Objection 3: Every accident is inferior to substance if we consider its
being, since substance has being in itself, while an accident has its
being in another: but considered as to its species, an accident which
results from the principles of its subject is inferior to its subject,
even as an effect is inferior to its cause; whereas an accident that
results from a participation of some higher nature is superior to its
subject, in so far as it is a likeness of that higher nature, even as
light is superior to the diaphanous body. In this way charity is superior
to the soul, in as much as it is a participation of the Holy Ghost.
Article 4: Whether charity is a special virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not a special virtue. For Jerome
says: "Let me briefly define all virtue as the charity whereby we love
God" [*The reference should be to Augustine, Ep. clxvii]: and Augustine
says (De Moribus Eccl. xv) [*De Civ. Dei xv, 22] that "virtue is the
order of love." Now no special virtue is included in the definition of
virtue in general. Therefore charity is not a special virtue.
Objection 2: Further, that which extends to all works of virtue, cannot be a
special virtue. But charity extends to all works of virtue, according to
1 Cor. 13:4: "Charity is patient, is kind," etc.; indeed it extends to
all human actions, according to 1 Cor. 16:14: "Let all your things be
done in charity." Therefore charity is not a special virtue.
Objection 3: Further, the precepts of the Law refer to acts of virtue. Now
Augustine says (De Perfect. Human. Justit. v) that, "Thou shalt love" is
"a general commandment," and "Thou shalt not covet," "a general
prohibition." Therefore charity is a general virtue.
On the contrary, Nothing general is enumerated together with what is
special. But charity is enumerated together with special virtues, viz.
hope and faith, according to 1 Cor. 13:13: "And now there remain faith,
hope, charity, these three." Therefore charity is a special virtue.
I answer that, Acts and habits are specified by their objects, as shown
above (FS, Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article ). Now the proper object of love
is the good, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ), so that wherever there is
a special aspect of good, there is a special kind of love. But the Divine
good, inasmuch as it is the object of happiness, has a special aspect of
good, wherefore the love of charity, which is the love of that good, is a
special kind of love. Therefore charity is a special virtue.
Reply to Objection 1: Charity is included in the definition of every virtue, not
as being essentially every virtue, but because every virtue depends on it
in a way, as we shall state further on (Articles ,8). In this way prudence
is included in the definition of the moral virtues, as explained in
Ethic. ii, vi, from the fact that they depend on prudence.
Reply to Objection 2: The virtue or art which is concerned about the last end,
commands the virtues or arts which are concerned about other ends which
are secondary, thus the military art commands the art of horse-riding
(Ethic. i). Accordingly since charity has for its object the last end of
human life, viz. everlasting happiness, it follows that it extends to the
acts of a man's whole life, by commanding them, not by eliciting
immediately all acts of virtue.
Reply to Objection 3: The precept of love is said to be a general command,
because all other precepts are reduced thereto as to their end, according
to 1 Tim. 1:5: "The end of the commandment is charity."
Article 5: Whether charity is one virtue?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not one virtue. For habits are
distinct according to their objects. Now there are two objects of
charity---God and our neighbor---which are infinitely distant from one
another. Therefore charity is not one virtue.
Objection 2: Further, different aspects of the object diversify a habit, even
though that object be one in reality, as shown above (Question , Article ; FS,
Question , Article , ad 1). Now there are many aspects under which God is an
object of love, because we are debtors to His love by reason of each one
of His favors. Therefore charity is not one virtue.
Objection 3: Further, charity comprises friendship for our neighbor. But the
Philosopher reckons several species of friendship (Ethic. viii, 3,11,12).
Therefore charity is not one virtue, but is divided into a number of
On the contrary, Just as God is the object of faith, so is He the object
of charity. Now faith is one virtue by reason of the unity of the Divine
truth, according to Eph. 4:5: "One faith." Therefore charity also is one
virtue by reason of the unity of the Divine goodness.
I answer that, Charity, as stated above (Article ) is a kind of friendship of man for God. Now the different species of friendship are differentiated, first of all, in respect of a diversity of end, and in this way there are three species of friendship, namely friendship for the useful, for the delightful, and for the virtuous; secondly, in respect of the different kinds of communion on which friendships are based; thus there is one species of friendship between kinsmen, and another between fellow citizens or fellow travellers, the former being based on natural communion, the latter on civil communion or on the comradeship of the road, as the Philosopher explains (Ethic. viii, 12).
Now charity cannot be differentiated in either of these ways: for its
end is one, namely, the goodness of God; and the fellowship of
everlasting happiness, on which this friendship is based, is also one.
Hence it follows that charity is simply one virtue, and not divided into
Reply to Objection 1: This argument would hold, if God and our neighbor were
equally objects of charity. But this is not true: for God is the
principal object of charity, while our neighbor is loved out of charity
for God's sake.
Reply to Objection 2: God is loved by charity for His own sake: wherefore charity
regards principally but one aspect of lovableness, namely God's goodness,
which is His substance, according to Ps. 105:1: "Give glory to the Lord
for He is good." Other reasons that inspire us with love for Him, or
which make it our duty to love Him, are secondary and result from the
Reply to Objection 3: Human friendship of which the Philosopher treats has
various ends and various forms of fellowship. This does not apply to
charity, as stated above: wherefore the comparison fails.
Article 6: Whether charity is the most excellent of the virtues?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not the most excellent of the
virtues. Because the higher power has the higher virtue even as it has a
higher operation. Now the intellect is higher than the will, since it
directs the will. Therefore, faith, which is in the intellect, is more
excellent than charity which is in the will.
Objection 2: Further, the thing by which another works seems the less
excellent of the two, even as a servant, by whom his master works, is
beneath his master. Now "faith . . . worketh by charity," according to
Gal. 5:6. Therefore faith is more excellent than charity.
Objection 3: Further, that which is by way of addition to another seems to be
the more perfect of the two. Now hope seems to be something additional to
charity: for the object of charity is good, whereas the object of hope is
an arduous good. Therefore hope is more excellent than charity.
On the contrary, It is written (1 Cor. 13:13): "The greater of these is
I answer that, Since good, in human acts, depends on their being
regulated by the due rule, it must needs be that human virtue, which is a
principle of good acts, consists in attaining the rule of human acts. Now
the rule of human acts is twofold, as stated above (Article ), namely, human
reason and God: yet God is the first rule, whereby, even human reason
must be regulated. Consequently the theological virtues, which consist in
attaining this first rule, since their object is God, are more excellent
than the moral, or the intellectual virtues, which consist in attaining
human reason: and it follows that among the theological virtues
themselves, the first place belongs to that which attains God most.
Now that which is of itself always ranks before that which is by
another. But faith and hope attain God indeed in so far as we derive from
Him the knowledge of truth or the acquisition of good, whereas charity
attains God Himself that it may rest in Him, but not that something may
accrue to us from Him. Hence charity is more excellent than faith or
hope, and, consequently, than all the other virtues, just as prudence,
which by itself attains reason, is more excellent than the other moral
virtues, which attain reason in so far as it appoints the mean in human
operations or passions.
Reply to Objection 1: The operation of the intellect is completed by the thing
understood being in the intellectual subject, so that the excellence of
the intellectual operation is assessed according to the measure of the
intellect. On the other hand, the operation of the will and of every
appetitive power is completed in the tendency of the appetite towards a
thing as its term, wherefore the excellence of the appetitive operation
is gauged according to the thing which is the object of the operation.
Now those things which are beneath the soul are more excellent in the
soul than they are in themselves, because a thing is contained according
to the mode of the container (De Causis xii). On the other hand, things
that are above the soul, are more excellent in themselves than they are
in the soul. Consequently it is better to know than to love the things
that are beneath us; for which reason the Philosopher gave the preference
to the intellectual virtues over the moral virtues (Ethic. x, 7,8):
whereas the love of the things that are above us, especially of God,
ranks before the knowledge of such things. Therefore charity is more
excellent than faith.
Reply to Objection 2: Faith works by love, not instrumentally, as a master by his
servant, but as by its proper form: hence the argument does not prove.
Reply to Objection 3: The same good is the object of charity and of hope: but
charity implies union with that good, whereas hope implies distance
therefrom. Hence charity does not regard that good as being arduous, as
hope does, since what is already united has not the character of arduous:
and this shows that charity is more perfect than hope.
Article 7: Whether any true virtue is possible without charity?
Objection 1: It would seem that there can be true virtue without charity. For
it is proper to virtue to produce a good act. Now those who have not
charity, do some good actions, as when they clothe the naked, or feed the
hungry and so forth. Therefore true virtue is possible without charity.
Objection 2: Further, charity is not possible without faith, since it comes of
"an unfeigned faith," as the Apostle says (1 Tim. 1:5). Now, in
unbelievers, there can be true chastity, if they curb their
concupiscences, and true justice, if they judge rightly. Therefore true
virtue is possible without charity.
Objection 3: Further, science and art are virtues, according to Ethic. vi. But
they are to be found in sinners who lack charity. Therefore true virtue
can be without charity.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (1 Cor. 13:3): "If I should distribute
all my goods to the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned,
and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." And yet true virtue is
very profitable, according to Wis. 8:7: "She teacheth temperance, and
prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can
have nothing more profitable in life." Therefore no true virtue is
possible without charity.
I answer that, Virtue is ordered to the good, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Now the good is chiefly an end, for things directed to the end
are not said to be good except in relation to the end. Accordingly, just
as the end is twofold, the last end, and the proximate end, so also, is
good twofold, one, the ultimate and universal good, the other proximate
and particular. The ultimate and principal good of man is the enjoyment
of God, according to Ps. 72:28: "It is good for me to adhere to God," and
to this good man is ordered by charity. Man's secondary and, as it were,
particular good may be twofold: one is truly good, because, considered in
itself, it can be directed to the principal good, which is the last end;
while the other is good apparently and not truly, because it leads us
away from the final good. Accordingly it is evident that simply true
virtue is that which is directed to man's principal good; thus also the
Philosopher says (Phys. vii, text. 17) that "virtue is the disposition of
a perfect thing to that which is best": and in this way no true virtue is
possible without charity.
If, however, we take virtue as being ordered to some particular end, then we speak of virtue being where there is no charity, in so far as it is directed to some particular good. But if this particular good is not a true, but an apparent good, it is not a true virtue that is ordered to such a good, but a counterfeit virtue. Even so, as Augustine says (Contra Julian. iv, 3), "the prudence of the miser, whereby he devises various roads to gain, is no true virtue; nor the miser's justice, whereby he scorns the property of another through fear of severe punishment; nor the miser's temperance, whereby he curbs his desire for expensive pleasures; nor the miser's fortitude, whereby as Horace, says, 'he braves the sea, he crosses mountains, he goes through fire, in order to avoid poverty'" (Epis. lib, 1; Ep. i, 45). If, on the other hand, this particular good be a true good, for instance the welfare of the state, or the like, it will indeed be a true virtue, imperfect, however, unless it be referred to the final and perfect good. Accordingly no strictly true virtue is possible without charity.
Reply to Objection 1: The act of one lacking charity may be of two kinds; one is
in accordance with his lack of charity, as when he does something that is
referred to that whereby he lacks charity. Such an act is always evil:
thus Augustine says (Contra Julian. iv, 3) that the actions which an
unbeliever performs as an unbeliever, are always sinful, even when he
clothes the naked, or does any like thing, and directs it to his unbelief
There is, however, another act of one lacking charity, not in accordance
with his lack of charity, but in accordance with his possession of some
other gift of God, whether faith, or hope, or even his natural good,
which is not completely taken away by sin, as stated above (Question , Article ; FS, Question , Article ). In this way it is possible for an act, without charity,
to be generically good, but not perfectly good, because it lacks its due
order to the last end.
Reply to Objection 2: Since the end is in practical matters, what the principle
is in speculative matters, just as there can be no strictly true science,
if a right estimate of the first indemonstrable principle be lacking, so,
there can be no strictly true justice, or chastity, without that due
ordering to the end, which is effected by charity, however rightly a man
may be affected about other matters.
Reply to Objection 3: Science and art of their very nature imply a relation to some particular good, and not to the ultimate good of human life, as do the moral virtues, which make man good simply, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Hence the comparison fails.
Article 8: Whether charity is the form of the virtues?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not the true form of the virtues.
Because the form of a thing is either exemplar or essential. Now charity
is not the exemplar form of the other virtues, since it would follow that
the other virtues are of the same species as charity: nor is it the
essential form of the other virtues, since then it would not be distinct
from them. Therefore it is in no way the form of the virtues.
Objection 2: Further, charity is compared to the other virtues as their root
and foundation, according to Eph. 3:17: "Rooted and founded in charity."
Now a root or foundation is not the form, but rather the matter of a
thing, since it is the first part in the making. Therefore charity is not
the form of the virtues.
Objection 3: Further, formal, final, and efficient causes do not coincide with
one another (Phys. ii, 7). Now charity is called the end and the mother
of the virtues. Therefore it should not be called their form.
On the contrary, Ambrose [*Lombard, Sent. iii, D, 23] says that charity is the form of the virtues.
I answer that, In morals the form of an act is taken chiefly from the
end. The reason of this is that the principal of moral acts is the will,
whose object and form, so to speak, are the end. Now the form of an act
always follows from a form of the agent. Consequently, in morals, that
which gives an act its order to the end, must needs give the act its
form. Now it is evident, in accordance with what has been said (Article ),
that it is charity which directs the acts of all other virtues to the
last end, and which, consequently, also gives the form to all other acts
of virtue: and it is precisely in this sense that charity is called the
form of the virtues, for these are called virtues in relation to
Reply to Objection 1: Charity is called the form of the other virtues not as
being their exemplar or their essential form, but rather by way of
efficient cause, in so far as it sets the form on all, in the aforesaid
Reply to Objection 2: Charity is compared to the foundation or root in so far as
all other virtues draw their sustenance and nourishment therefrom, and
not in the sense that the foundation and root have the character of a
Reply to Objection 3: Charity is said to be the end of other virtues, because it
directs all other virtues to its own end. And since a mother is one who
conceives within herself and by another, charity is called the mother of
the other virtues, because, by commanding them, it conceives the acts of
the other virtues, by the desire of the last end.