QUESTION 24: OF THE SUBJECT OF CHARITY
We must now consider charity in relation to its subject, under which
head there are twelve points of inquiry:
(1) Whether charity is in the will as its subject?
(2) Whether charity is caused in man by preceding acts or by a Divine
(3) Whether it is infused according to the capacity of our natural gifts?
(4) Whether it increases in the person who has it?
(5) Whether it increases by addition?
(6) Whether it increases by every act?
(7) Whether it increases indefinitely?
(8) Whether the charity of a wayfarer can be perfect?
(9) Of the various degrees of charity;
(10) Whether charity can diminish?
(11) Whether charity can be lost after it has been possessed?
(12) Whether it is lost through one mortal sin?
Article 1: Whether the will is the subject of charity?
Objection 1: It would seem that the will is not the subject of charity. For
charity is a kind of love. Now, according to the Philosopher (Topic. ii,
3) love is in the concupiscible part. Therefore charity is also in the
concupiscible and not in the will.
Objection 2: Further, charity is the foremost of the virtues, as stated above
(Question , Article ). But the reason is the subject of virtue. Therefore it
seems that charity is in the reason and not in the will.
Objection 3: Further, charity extends to all human acts, according to 1 Cor.
16:14: "Let all your things be done in charity." Now the principle of
human acts is the free-will. Therefore it seems that charity is chiefly
in the free-will as its subject and not in the will.
On the contrary, The object of charity is the good, which is also the
object of the will. Therefore charity is in the will as its subject.
I answer that, Since, as stated in the FP, Question , Article , the appetite is
twofold, namely the sensitive, and the intellective which is called the
will, the object of each is the good, but in different ways: for the
object of the sensitive appetite is a good apprehended by sense, whereas
the object of the intellective appetite or will is good under the
universal aspect of good, according as it can be apprehended by the
intellect. Now the object of charity is not a sensible good, but the
Divine good which is known by the intellect alone. Therefore the subject
of charity is not the sensitive, but the intellective appetite, i.e. the
Reply to Objection 1: The concupiscible is a part of the sensitive, not of the
intellective appetite, as proved in the FP, Question , Article : wherefore the
love which is in the concupiscible, is the love of sensible good: nor can
the concupiscible reach to the Divine good which is an intelligible good;
the will alone can. Consequently the concupiscible cannot be the subject
Reply to Objection 2: According to the Philosopher (De Anima iii, 9), the will
also is in the reason: wherefore charity is not excluded from the reason
through being in the will. Yet charity is regulated, not by the reason,
as human virtues are, but by God's wisdom, and transcends the rule of
human reason, according to Eph. 3:19: "The charity of Christ, which
surpasseth all knowledge." Hence it is not in the reason, either as its
subject, like prudence is, or as its rule, like justice and temperance
are, but only by a certain kinship of the will to the reason.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated in the FP, Question , Article , the free-will is not a distinct power from the will. Yet charity is not in the will considered as free-will, the act of which is to choose. For choice is of things directed to the end, whereas the will is of the end itself (Ethic. iii, 2). Hence charity, whose object is the last end, should be described as residing in the will rather than in the free-will.
Article 2: Whether charity is caused in us by infusion?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not caused in us by infusion. For
that which is common to all creatures, is in man naturally. Now,
according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. iv), the "Divine good", which is the
object of charity, "is for all an object of dilection and love."
Therefore charity is in us naturally, and not by infusion.
Objection 2: Further, the more lovable a thing is the easier it is to love it.
Now God is supremely lovable, since He is supremely good. Therefore it is
easier to love Him than other things. But we need no infused habit in
order to love other things. Neither, therefore, do we need one in order
to love God.
Objection 3: Further, the Apostle says (1 Tim. 1:5): "The end of the
commandment is charity from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an
unfeigned faith." Now these three have reference to human acts. Therefore
charity is caused in us from preceding acts, and not from infusion.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rm. 5:5): "The charity of God is
poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, Who is given to us."
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ), charity is a friendship of
man for God, founded upon the fellowship of everlasting happiness. Now
this fellowship is in respect, not of natural, but of gratuitous gifts,
for, according to Rm. 6:23, "the grace of God is life everlasting":
wherefore charity itself surpasses our natural facilities. Now that which
surpasses the faculty of nature, cannot be natural or acquired by the
natural powers, since a natural effect does not transcend its cause.
Therefore charity can be in us neither naturally, nor through
acquisition by the natural powers, but by the infusion of the Holy Ghost,
Who is the love of the Father and the Son, and the participation of Whom
in us is created charity, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 1: Dionysius is speaking of the love of God, which is founded
on the fellowship of natural goods, wherefore it is in all naturally. On
the other hand, charity is founded on a supernatural fellowship, so the
Reply to Objection 2: Just as God is supremely knowable in Himself yet not to us, on account of a defect in our knowledge which depends on sensible things, so too, God is supremely lovable in Himself, in as much as He is the object of happiness. But He is not supremely lovable to us in this way, on account of the inclination of our appetite towards visible goods. Hence it is evident that for us to love God above all things in this way, it is necessary that charity be infused into our hearts.
Reply to Objection 3: When it is said that in us charity proceeds from "a pure
heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith," this must be
referred to the act of charity which is aroused by these things. Or
again, this is said because the aforesaid acts dispose man to receive the
infusion of charity. The same remark applies to the saying of Augustine
(Tract. ix in prim. canon. Joan.): "Fear leads to charity," and of a
gloss on Mt. 1:2: "Faith begets hope, and hope charity."
Article 3: Whether charity is infused according to the capacity of our natural gifts?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is infused according to the capacity
of our natural gifts. For it is written (Mt. 25:15) that "He gave to
every one according to his own virtue [Douay: 'proper ability']." Now, in
man, none but natural virtue precedes charity, since there is no virtue
without charity, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore God infuses
charity into man according to the measure of his natural virtue.
Objection 2: Further, among things ordained towards one another, the second is
proportionate to the first: thus we find in natural things that the form
is proportionate to the matter, and in gratuitous gifts, that glory is
proportionate to grace. Now, since charity is a perfection of nature, it
is compared to the capacity of nature as second to first. Therefore it
seems that charity is infused according to the capacity of nature.
Objection 3: Further, men and angels partake of happiness according to the
same measure, since happiness is alike in both, according to Mt. 22:30
and Lk. 20:36. Now charity and other gratuitous gifts are bestowed on the
angels, according to their natural capacity, as the Master teaches (Sent.
ii, D, 3). Therefore the same apparently applies to man.
On the contrary, It is written (Jn. 3:8): "The Spirit breatheth where He
will," and (1 Cor. 12:11): "All these things one and the same Spirit
worketh, dividing to every one according as He will." Therefore charity
is given, not according to our natural capacity, but according as the
Spirit wills to distribute His gifts.
I answer that, The quantity of a thing depends on the proper cause of that thing, since the more universal cause produces a greater effect. Now, since charity surpasses the proportion of human nature, as stated above (Article ) it depends, not on any natural virtue, but on the sole grace of the Holy Ghost Who infuses charity. Wherefore the quantity of charity depends neither on the condition of nature nor on the capacity of natural virtue, but only on the will of the Holy Ghost Who "divides" His gifts "according as He will." Hence the Apostle says (Eph. 4:7): "To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the giving of Christ."
Reply to Objection 1: The virtue in accordance with which God gives His gifts to
each one, is a disposition or previous preparation or effort of the one
who receives grace. But the Holy Ghost forestalls even this disposition
or effort, by moving man's mind either more or less, according as He
will. Wherefore the Apostle says (Col. 1:12): "Who hath made us worthy to
be partakers of the lot of the saints in light."
Reply to Objection 2: The form does not surpass the proportion of the matter. In
like manner grace and glory are referred to the same genus, for grace is
nothing else than a beginning of glory in us. But charity and nature do
not belong to the same genus, so that the comparison fails.
Reply to Objection 3: The angel's is an intellectual nature, and it is consistent
with his condition that he should be borne wholly whithersoever he is
borne, as stated in the FP, Question , Article . Hence there was a greater effort
in the higher angels, both for good in those who persevered, and for evil
in those who fell, and consequently those of the higher angels who
remained steadfast became better than the others, and those who fell
became worse. But man's is a rational nature, with which it is consistent
to be sometimes in potentiality and sometimes in act: so that it is not
necessarily borne wholly whithersoever it is borne, and where there are
greater natural gifts there may be less effort, and vice versa. Thus the
Article 4: Whether charity can increase?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity cannot increase. For nothing increases
save what has quantity. Now quantity is twofold, namely dimensive and
virtual. The former does not befit charity which is a spiritual
perfection, while virtual quantity regards the objects in respect of
which charity does not increase, since the slightest charity loves all
that is to be loved out of charity. Therefore charity does not increase.
Objection 2: Further, that which consists in something extreme receives no
increase. But charity consists in something extreme, being the greatest
of the virtues, and the supreme love of the greatest good. Therefore
charity cannot increase.
Objection 3: Further, increase is a kind of movement. Therefore wherever there
is increase there is movement, and if there be increase of essence there
is movement of essence. Now there is no movement of essence save either
by corruption or generation. Therefore charity cannot increase
essentially, unless it happen to be generated anew or corrupted, which is
On the contrary, Augustine says (Tract. lxxiv in Joan.) [*Cf. Ep. clxxxv.] that "charity merits increase that by increase it may merit perfection."
I answer that, The charity of a wayfarer can increase. For we are called
wayfarers by reason of our being on the way to God, Who is the last end
of our happiness. In this way we advance as we get nigh to God, Who is
approached, "not by steps of the body but by the affections of the soul"
[*St. Augustine, Tract. in Joan. xxxii]: and this approach is the result
of charity, since it unites man's mind to God. Consequently it is
essential to the charity of a wayfarer that it can increase, for if it
could not, all further advance along the way would cease. Hence the
Apostle calls charity the way, when he says (1 Cor. 12:31): "I show unto
you yet a more excellent way."
Reply to Objection 1: Charity is not subject to dimensive, but only to virtual
quantity: and the latter depends not only on the number of objects,
namely whether they be in greater number or of greater excellence, but
also on the intensity of the act, namely whether a thing is loved more,
or less; it is in this way that the virtual quantity of charity increases.
Reply to Objection 2: Charity consists in an extreme with regard to its object,
in so far as its object is the Supreme Good, and from this it follows
that charity is the most excellent of the virtues. Yet not every charity
consists in an extreme, as regards the intensity of the act.
Reply to Objection 3: Some have said that charity does not increase in its
essence, but only as to its radication in its subject, or according to
But these people did not know what they were talking about. For since
charity is an accident, its being is to be in something. So that an
essential increase of charity means nothing else but that it is yet more
in its subject, which implies a greater radication in its subject.
Furthermore, charity is essentially a virtue ordained to act, so that an
essential increase of charity implies ability to produce an act of more
fervent love. Hence charity increases essentially, not by beginning anew,
or ceasing to be in its subject, as the objection imagines, but by
beginning to be more and more in its subject.
Article 5: Whether charity increases by addition?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity increases by addition. For just as
increase may be in respect of bodily quantity, so may it be according to
virtual quantity. Now increase in bodily quantity results from addition;
for the Philosopher says (De Gener. i, 5) that "increase is addition to
pre-existing magnitude." Therefore the increase of charity which is
according to virtual quantity is by addition.
Objection 2: Further, charity is a kind of spiritual light in the soul,
according to 1 Jn. 2:10: "He that loveth his brother abideth in the
light." Now light increases in the air by addition; thus the light in a
house increases when another candle is lit. Therefore charity also
increases in the soul by addition.
Objection 3: Further, the increase of charity is God's work, even as the
causing of it, according to 2 Cor. 9:10: "He will increase the growth of
the fruits of your justice." Now when God first infuses charity, He puts
something in the soul that was not there before. Therefore also, when He
increases charity, He puts something there which was not there before.
Therefore charity increases by addition.
On the contrary, Charity is a simple form. Now nothing greater results
from the addition of one simple thing to another, as proved in Phys. iii,
text. 59, and Metaph. ii, 4. Therefore charity does not increase by
I answer that, Every addition is of something to something else: so that
in every addition we must at least presuppose that the things added
together are distinct before the addition. Consequently if charity be
added to charity, the added charity must be presupposed as distinct from
charity to which it is added, not necessarily by a distinction of
reality, but at least by a distinction of thought. For God is able to
increase a bodily quantity by adding a magnitude which did not exist
before, but was created at that very moment; which magnitude, though not
pre-existent in reality, is nevertheless capable of being distinguished
from the quantity to which it is added. Wherefore if charity be added to
charity we must presuppose the distinction, at least logical, of the one
charity from the other.
Now distinction among forms is twofold: specific and numeric. Specific
distinction of habits follows diversity of objects, while numeric
distinction follows distinction of subjects. Consequently a habit may
receive increase through extending to objects to which it did not extend
before: thus the science of geometry increases in one who acquires
knowledge of geometrical matters which he ignored hitherto. But this
cannot be said of charity, for even the slightest charity extends to all
that we have to love by charity. Hence the addition which causes an
increase of charity cannot be understood, as though the added charity
were presupposed to be distinct specifically from that to which it is
It follows therefore that if charity be added to charity, we must
presuppose a numerical distinction between them, which follows a
distinction of subjects: thus whiteness receives an increase when one
white thing is added to another, although such an increase does not make
a thing whiter. This, however, does not apply to the case in point, since
the subject of charity is none other than the rational mind, so that such
like an increase of charity could only take place by one rational mind
being added to another; which is impossible. Moreover, even if it were
possible, the result would be a greater lover, but not a more loving one.
It follows, therefore, that charity can by no means increase by addition
of charity to charity, as some have held to be the case.
Accordingly charity increases only by its subject partaking of charity
more and more subject thereto. For this is the proper mode of increase in
a form that is intensified, since the being of such a form consists
wholly in its adhering to its subject. Consequently, since the magnitude
of a thing follows on its being, to say that a form is greater is the
same as to say that it is more in its subject, and not that another form
is added to it: for this would be the case if the form, of itself, had
any quantity, and not in comparison with its subject. Therefore charity
increases by being intensified in its subject, and this is for charity to
increase in its essence; and not by charity being added to charity.
Reply to Objection 1: Bodily quantity has something as quantity, and something
else, in so far as it is an accidental form. As quantity, it is
distinguishable in respect of position or number, and in this way we have
the increase of magnitude by addition, as may be seen in animals. But in
so far as it is an accidental form, it is distinguishable only in respect
of its subject, and in this way it has its proper increase, like other
accidental forms, by way of intensity in its subject, for instance in
things subject to rarefaction, as is proved in Phys. iv, 9. In like
manner science, as a habit, has its quantity from its objects, and
accordingly it increases by addition, when a man knows more things; and
again, as an accidental form, it has a certain quantity through being in
its subject, and in this way it increase in a man who knows the same
scientific truths with greater certainty now than before. In the same way
charity has a twofold quantity; but with regard to that which it has from
its object, it does not increase, as stated above: hence it follows that
it increases solely by being intensified.
Reply to Objection 2: The addition of light to light can be understood through
the light being intensified in the air on account of there being several
luminaries giving light: but this distinction does not apply to the case
in point, since there is but one luminary shedding forth the light of
Reply to Objection 3: The infusion of charity denotes a change to the state of
"having" charity from the state of "not having it," so that something
must needs come which was not there before. On the other hand, the
increase of charity denotes a change to "more having" from "less having,"
so that there is need, not for anything to be there that was not there
before, but for something to be more there that previously was less
there. This is what God does when He increases charity, that is He makes
it to have a greater hold on the soul, and the likeness of the Holy Ghost
to be more perfectly participated by the soul.
Article 6: Whether charity increases through every act of charity?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity increases through every act of
charity. For that which can do what is more, can do what is less. But
every act of charity can merit everlasting life; and this is more than a
simple addition of charity, since it includes the perfection of charity.
Much more, therefore, does every act of charity increase charity.
Objection 2: Further, just as the habits of acquired virtue are engendered by
acts, so too an increase of charity is caused by an act of charity. Now
each virtuous act conduces to the engendering of virtue. Therefore also
each virtuous act of charity conduces to the increase of charity.
Objection 3: Further, Gregory [*St. Bernard, Serm. ii in Festo Purif.] says
that "to stand still in the way to God is to go back." Now no man goes
back when he is moved by an act of charity. Therefore whoever is moved by
an act of charity goes forward in the way to God. Therefore charity
increases through every act of charity.
On the contrary, The effect does not surpass the power of its cause. But
an act of charity is sometimes done with tepidity or slackness. Therefore
it does not conduce to a more excellent charity, rather does it dispose
one to a lower degree.
I answer that, The spiritual increase of charity is somewhat like the
increase of a body. Now bodily increase in animals and plants is not a
continuous movement, so that, to wit, if a thing increase so much in so
much time, it need to increase proportionally in each part of that time,
as happens in local movement; but for a certain space of time nature
works by disposing for the increase, without causing any actual increase,
and afterwards brings into effect that to which it had disposed, by
giving the animal or plant an actual increase. In like manner charity
does not actually increase through every act of charity, but each act of
charity disposes to an increase of charity, in so far as one act of
charity makes man more ready to act again according to charity, and this
readiness increasing, man breaks out into an act of more fervent love,
and strives to advance in charity, and then his charity increases
Reply to Objection 1: Every act of charity merits everlasting life, which,
however, is not to be bestowed then and there, but at its proper time. In
like manner every act of charity merits an increase of charity; yet this
increase does not take place at once, but when we strive for that
Reply to Objection 2: Even when an acquired virtue is being engendered, each act
does not complete the formation of the virtue, but conduces towards that
effect by disposing to it, while the last act, which is the most perfect,
and acts in virtue of all those that preceded it, reduces the virtue into
act, just as when many drops hollow out a stone.
Reply to Objection 3: Man advances in the way to God, not merely by actual
increase of charity, but also by being disposed to that increase.
Article 7: Whether charity increases indefinitely?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity does not increase indefinitely. For
every movement is towards some end and term, as stated in Metaph. ii,
text. 8,9. But the increase of charity is a movement. Therefore it tends
to an end and term. Therefore charity does not increase indefinitely.
Objection 2: Further, no form surpasses the capacity of its subject. But the
capacity of the rational creature who is the subject of charity is
finite. Therefore charity cannot increase indefinitely.
Objection 3: Further, every finite thing can, by continual increase, attain to
the quantity of another finite thing however much greater, unless the
amount of its increase be ever less and less. Thus the Philosopher states
(Phys. iii, 6) that if we divide a line into an indefinite number of
parts, and take these parts away and add them indefinitely to another
line, we shall never arrive at any definite quantity resulting from those
two lines, viz. the one from which we subtracted and the one to which we
added what was subtracted. But this does not occur in the case in point:
because there is no need for the second increase of charity to be less
than the first, since rather is it probable that it would be equal or
greater. As, therefore, the charity of the blessed is something finite,
if the charity of the wayfarer can increase indefinitely, it would follow
that the charity of the way can equal the charity of heaven; which is
absurd. Therefore the wayfarer's charity cannot increase indefinitely.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Phil. 3:12): "Not as though I had
already attained, or were already perfect; but I follow after, if I may,
by any means apprehend," on which words a gloss says: "Even if he has
made great progress, let none of the faithful say: 'Enough.' For
whosoever says this, leaves the road before coming to his destination."
Therefore the wayfarer's charity can ever increase more and more.
I answer that, A term to the increase of a form may be fixed in three
ways: first by reason of the form itself having a fixed measure, and when
this has been reached it is no longer possible to go any further in that
form, but if any further advance is made, another form is attained. And
example of this is paleness, the bounds of which may, by continual
alteration, be passed, either so that whiteness ensues, or so that
blackness results. Secondly, on the part of the agent, whose power does
not extend to a further increase of the form in its subject. Thirdly, on
the part of the subject, which is not capable of ulterior perfection.
Now, in none of these ways, is a limit imposed to the increase of man's
charity, while he is in the state of the wayfarer. For charity itself
considered as such has no limit to its increase, since it is a
participation of the infinite charity which is the Holy Ghost. In like
manner the cause of the increase of charity, viz. God, is possessed of
infinite power. Furthermore, on the part of its subject, no limit to this
increase can be determined, because whenever charity increases, there is
a corresponding increased ability to receive a further increase. It is
therefore evident that it is not possible to fix any limits to the
increase of charity in this life.
Reply to Objection 1: The increase of charity is directed to an end, which is not
in this, but in a future life.
Reply to Objection 2: The capacity of the rational creature is increased by
charity, because the heart is enlarged thereby, according to 2 Cor. 6:11:
"Our heart is enlarged"; so that it still remains capable of receiving a
Reply to Objection 3: This argument holds good in those things which have the
same kind of quantity, but not in those which have different kinds: thus
however much a line may increase it does not reach the quantity of a
superficies. Now the quantity of a wayfarer's charity which follows the
knowledge of faith is not of the same kind as the quantity of the charity
of the blessed, which follows open vision. Hence the argument does not
Article 8: Whether charity can be perfect in this life?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity cannot be perfect in this life. For
this would have been the case with the apostles before all others. Yet it
was not so, since the Apostle says (Phil. 3:12): "Not as though I had
already attained, or were already perfect." Therefore charity cannot be
perfect in this life.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (Qq. lxxxiii, qu. 36) that "whatever
kindles charity quenches cupidity, but where charity is perfect, cupidity
is done away altogether." But this cannot be in this world, wherein it is
impossible to live without sin, according to 1 Jn. 1:8: "If we say that
we have no sin, we deceive ourselves." Now all sin arises from some
inordinate cupidity. Therefore charity cannot be perfect in this life.
Objection 3: Further, what is already perfect cannot be perfected any more.
But in this life charity can always increase, as stated above (Article ).
Therefore charity cannot be perfect in this life.
On the contrary, Augustine says (In prim. canon. Joan. Tract. v)
"Charity is perfected by being strengthened; and when it has been brought
to perfection, it exclaims, 'I desire to be dissolved and to be with
Christ.'" Now this is possible in this life, as in the case of Paul.
Therefore charity can be perfect in this life.
I answer that, The perfection of charity may be understood in two ways:
first with regard to the object loved, secondly with regard to the person
who loves. With regard to the object loved, charity is perfect, if the
object be loved as much as it is lovable. Now God is as lovable as He is
good, and His goodness is infinite, wherefore He is infinitely lovable.
But no creature can love Him infinitely since all created power is
finite. Consequently no creature's charity can be perfect in this way;
the charity of God alone can, whereby He loves Himself.
On the part of the person who loves, charity is perfect, when he loves
as much as he can. This happens in three ways. First, so that a man's
whole heart is always actually borne towards God: this is the perfection
of the charity of heaven, and is not possible in this life, wherein, by
reason of the weakness of human life, it is impossible to think always
actually of God, and to be moved by love towards Him. Secondly, so that
man makes an earnest endeavor to give his time to God and Divine things,
while scorning other things except in so far as the needs of the present
life demand. This is the perfection of charity that is possible to a
wayfarer; but is not common to all who have charity. Thirdly, so that a
man gives his whole heart to God habitually, viz. by neither thinking nor
desiring anything contrary to the love of God; and this perfection is
common to all who have charity.
Reply to Objection 1: The Apostle denies that he has the perfection of heaven,
wherefore a gloss on the same passage says that "he was a perfect
wayfarer, but had not yet achieved the perfection to which the way leads."
Reply to Objection 2: This is said on account of venial sins, which are contrary,
not to the habit, but to the act of charity: hence they are incompatible,
not with the perfection of the way, but with that of heaven.
Reply to Objection 3: The perfection of the way is not perfection simply,
wherefore it can always increase.
Article 9: Whether charity is rightly distinguished into three degrees, beginning, progress, and perfection?
Objection 1: It would seem unfitting to distinguish three degrees of charity,
beginning, progress, and perfection. For there are many degrees between
the beginning of charity and its ultimate perfection. Therefore it is not
right to put only one.
Objection 2: Further, charity begins to progress as soon as it begins to be.
Therefore we ought not to distinguish between charity as progressing and
Objection 3: Further, in this world, however perfect a man's charity may be,
it can increase, as stated above (Article ). Now for charity to increase is
to progress. Therefore perfect charity ought not to be distinguished from
progressing charity: and so the aforesaid degrees are unsuitably
assigned to charity.
On the contrary, Augustine says (In prim. canon. Joan. Tract. v) "As
soon as charity is born it takes food," which refers to beginners, "after
taking food, it waxes strong," which refers to those who are progressing,
"and when it has become strong it is perfected," which refers to the
perfect. Therefore there are three degrees of charity.
I answer that, The spiritual increase of charity may be considered in
respect of a certain likeness to the growth of the human body. For
although this latter growth may be divided into many parts, yet it has
certain fixed divisions according to those particular actions or pursuits
to which man is brought by this same growth. Thus we speak of a man being
an infant until he has the use of reason, after which we distinguish
another state of man wherein he begins to speak and to use his reason,
while there is again a third state, that of puberty when he begins to
acquire the power of generation, and so on until he arrives at perfection.
In like manner the divers degrees of charity are distinguished according
to the different pursuits to which man is brought by the increase of
charity. For at first it is incumbent on man to occupy himself chiefly
with avoiding sin and resisting his concupiscences, which move him in
opposition to charity: this concerns beginners, in whom charity has to be
fed or fostered lest it be destroyed: in the second place man's chief
pursuit is to aim at progress in good, and this is the pursuit of the
proficient, whose chief aim is to strengthen their charity by adding to
it: while man's third pursuit is to aim chiefly at union with and
enjoyment of God: this belongs to the perfect who "desire to be dissolved
and to be with Christ."
In like manner we observe in local motion that at first there is
withdrawal from one term, then approach to the other term, and thirdly,
rest in this term.
Reply to Objection 1: All these distinct degrees which can be discerned in the
increase of charity, are comprised in the aforesaid three, even as every
division of continuous things is included in these three---the beginning,
the middle, and the end, as the Philosopher states (De Coelo i, 1).
Reply to Objection 2: Although those who are beginners in charity may progress,
yet the chief care that besets them is to resist the sins which disturb
them by their onslaught. Afterwards, however, when they come to feel this
onslaught less, they begin to tend to perfection with greater security;
yet with one hand doing the work, and with the other holding the sword as
related in 2 Esdr 4:17 about those who built up Jerusalem.
Reply to Objection 3: Even the perfect make progress in charity: yet this is not
their chief care, but their aim is principally directed towards union
with God. And though both the beginner and the proficient seek this, yet
their solicitude is chiefly about other things, with the beginner, about
avoiding sin, with the proficient, about progressing in virtue.
Article 10: Whether charity can decrease?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity can decrease. For contraries by their
nature affect the same subject. Now increase and decrease are contraries.
Since then charity increases, as stated above (Article ), it seems that it
can also decrease.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine, speaking to God, says (Confess. x) "He loves
Thee less, who loves aught besides Thee": and (Qq. lxxxiii, qu. 36) he
says that "what kindles charity quenches cupidity." For this it seems to
follow that, on the contrary, what arouses cupidity quenches charity. But
cupidity, whereby a man loves something besides God, can increase in man.
Therefore charity can decrease.
Objection 3: Further, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. viii, 12) "God makes the
just man, by justifying him, but in such a way, that if the man turns
away from God, he no longer retains the effect of the Divine operation."
From this we may gather that when God preserves charity in man, He works
in the same way as when He first infuses charity into him. Now at the
first infusion of charity God infuses less charity into him that prepares
himself less. Therefore also in preserving charity, He preserves less
charity in him that prepares himself less. Therefore charity can decrease.
On the contrary, In Scripture, charity is compared to fire, according to
Cant 8:6: "The lamps thereof," i.e. of charity, "are fire and flames."
Now fire ever mounts upward so long as it lasts. Therefore as long as
charity endures, it can ascend, but cannot descend, i.e. decrease.
I answer that, The quantity which charity has in comparison with its
proper object, cannot decrease, even as neither can it increase, as
stated above (Article , ad 2).
Since, however, it increases in that quantity which it has in comparison
with its subject, here is the place to consider whether it can decrease
in this way. Now, if it decrease, this must needs be either through an
act, or by the mere cessation from act. It is true that virtues acquired
through acts decrease and sometimes cease altogether through cessation
from act, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Wherefore the Philosopher
says, in reference to friendship (Ethic. viii, 5) "that want of
intercourse," i.e. the neglect to call upon or speak with one's friends,
"has destroyed many a friendship." Now this is because the safe-keeping
of a thing depends on its cause, and the cause of human virtue is a human
act, so that when human acts cease, the virtue acquired thereby decreases
and at last ceases altogether. Yet this does not occur to charity,
because it is not the result of human acts, but is caused by God alone,
as stated above (Article ). Hence it follows that even when its act ceases,
it does not for this reason decrease, or cease altogether, unless the
cessation involves a sin.
The consequence is that a decrease of charity cannot be caused except
either by God or by some sinful act. Now no defect is caused in us by
God, except by way of punishment, in so far as He withdraws His grace in
punishment of sin. Hence He does not diminish charity except by way of
punishment: and this punishment is due on account of sin.
It follows, therefore, that if charity decrease, the cause of this
decrease must be sin either effectively or by way of merit. But mortal
sin does not diminish charity, in either of these ways, but destroys it
entirely, both effectively, because every mortal sin is contrary to
charity, as we shall state further on (Article ), and by way of merit, since
when, by sinning mortally, a man acts against charity, he deserves that
God should withdraw charity from him.
In like manner, neither can venial sin diminish charity either
effectively or by way of merit. Not effectively, because it does not
touch charity, since charity is about the last end, whereas venial sin is
a disorder about things directed to the end: and a man's love for the end
is none the less through his committing an inordinate act as regards the
things directed to the end. Thus sick people sometimes, though they love
health much, are irregular in keeping to their diet: and thus again, in
speculative sciences, the false opinions that are derived from the
principles, do not diminish the certitude of the principles. So too,
venial sin does not merit diminution of charity; for when a man offends
in a small matter he does not deserve to be mulcted in a great matter.
For God does not turn away from man, more than man turns away from Him:
wherefore he that is out of order in respect of things directed to the
end, does not deserve to be mulcted in charity whereby he is ordered to
the last end.
The consequence is that charity can by no means be diminished, if we
speak of direct causality, yet whatever disposes to its corruption may be
said to conduce indirectly to its diminution, and such are venial sins,
or even the cessation from the practice of works of charity.
Reply to Objection 1: Contraries affect the same subject when that subject stands
in equal relation to both. But charity does not stand in equal relation
to increase and decrease. For it can have a cause of increase, but not of
decrease, as stated above. Hence the argument does not prove.
Reply to Objection 2: Cupidity is twofold, one whereby man places his end in
creatures, and this kills charity altogether, since it is its poison, as
Augustine states (Confess. x). This makes us love God less (i.e. less
than we ought to love Him by charity), not indeed by diminishing charity
but by destroying it altogether. It is thus that we must understand the
saying: "He loves Thee less, who loves aught beside Thee," for he adds
these words, "which he loveth not for Thee." This does not apply to
venial sin, but only to mortal sin: since that which we love in venial
sin, is loved for God's sake habitually though not actually. There is
another cupidity, that of venial sin, which is always diminished by
charity: and yet this cupidity cannot diminish charity, for the reason
Reply to Objection 3: A movement of the free-will is requisite in the infusion of
charity, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Wherefore that which
diminishes the intensity of the free-will conduces dispositively to a
diminution in the charity to be infused. On the other hand, no movement
of the free-will is required for the safe-keeping of charity, else it
would not remain inn us while we sleep. Hence charity does not decrease
on account of an obstacle on the part of the intensity of the free-will's
Article 11: Whether we can lose charity when once we have it?
Objection 1: It would seem that we cannot lose charity when once we have it.
For if we lose it, this can only be through sin. Now he who has charity
cannot sin, for it is written (1 Jn. 3:9): "Whosoever is born of God,
committeth not sin; for His seed abideth in him, and he cannot sin,
because he is born of God." But none save the children of God have
charity, for it is this which distinguishes "the children of God from the
children of perdition," as Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 17). Therefore he
that has charity cannot lose it.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (De Trin. viii, 7) that "if love be not
true, it should not be called love." Now, as he says again in a letter to
Count Julian, "charity which can fail was never true." [*The quotation is
from De Salutaribus Documentis ad quemdam comitem, vii., among the works
of Paul of Friuli, more commonly known as Paul the Deacon, a monk of
Monte Cassino.] Therefore it was no charity at all. Therefore, when once
we have charity, we cannot lose it.
Objection 3: Further, Gregory says in a homily for Pentecost (In Evang. xxx)
that "God's love works great things where it is; if it ceases to work it
is not charity." Now no man loses charity by doing great things.
Therefore if charity be there, it cannot be lost.
Objection 4: Further, the free-will is not inclined to sin unless by some
motive for sinning. Now charity excludes all motives for sinning, both
self-love and cupidity, and all such things. Therefore charity cannot be
On the contrary, It is written (Apoc. 2:4): "I have somewhat against
thee, because thou hast left thy first charity."
I answer that, The Holy Ghost dwells in us by charity, as shown above
(Article ; Questions ,24). We can, accordingly, consider charity in three ways:
first on the part of the Holy Ghost, Who moves the soul to love God, and
in this respect charity is incompatible with sin through the power of the
Holy Ghost, Who does unfailingly whatever He wills to do. Hence it is
impossible for these two things to be true at the same time---that the
Holy Ghost should will to move a certain man to an act of charity, and
that this man, by sinning, should lose charity. For the gift of
perseverance is reckoned among the blessings of God whereby "whoever is
delivered, is most certainly delivered," as Augustine says in his book on
the Predestination of the saints (De Dono Persev. xiv).
Secondly, charity may be considered as such, and thus it is incapable of
anything that is against its nature. Wherefore charity cannot sin at all,
even as neither can heat cool, nor unrighteousness do good, as Augustine
says (De Serm. Dom. in Monte ii, 24).
Thirdly, charity can be considered on the part of its subject, which is
changeable on account of the free-will. Moreover charity may be compared
with this subject, both from the general point of view of form in
comparison with matter, and from the specific point of view of habit as
compared with power. Now it is natural for a form to be in its subject in
such a way that it can be lost, when it does not entirely fill the
potentiality of matter: this is evident in the forms of things generated
and corrupted, because the matter of such things receives one form in
such a way, that it retains the potentiality to another form, as though
its potentiality were not completely satisfied with the one form. Hence
the one form may be lost by the other being received. On the other hand
the form of a celestial body which entirely fills the potentiality of its
matter, so that the latter does not retain the potentiality to another
form, is in its subject inseparably. Accordingly the charity of the
blessed, because it entirely fills the potentiality of the rational mind,
since every actual movement of that mind is directed to God, is possessed
by its subject inseparably: whereas the charity of the wayfarer does not
so fill the potentiality of its subject, because the latter is not always
actually directed to God: so that when it is not actually directed to
God, something may occur whereby charity is lost.
It is proper to a habit to incline a power to act, and this belongs to a habit, in so far as it makes whatever is suitable to it, to seem good, and whatever is unsuitable, to seem evil. For as the taste judges of savors according to its disposition, even so does the human mind judge of things to be done, according to its habitual disposition. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii, 5) that "such as a man is, so does the end appear to him." Accordingly charity is inseparable from its possessor, where that which pertains to charity cannot appear otherwise than good, and that is in heaven, where God is seen in His Essence, which is the very essence of goodness. Therefore the charity of heaven cannot be lost, whereas the charity of the way can, because in this state God is not seen in His Essence, which is the essence of goodness.
Reply to Objection 1: The passage quoted speaks from the point of view of the
power of the Holy Ghost, by Whose safeguarding, those whom He wills to
move are rendered immune from sin, as much as He wills.
Reply to Objection 2: The charity which can fail by reason of itself is no true
charity; for this would be the case, were its love given only for a time,
and afterwards were to cease, which would be inconsistent with true love.
If, however, charity be lost through the changeableness of the subject,
and against the purpose of charity included in its act, this is not
contrary to true charity.
Reply to Objection 3: The love of God ever works great things in its purpose,
which is essential to charity; but it does not always work great things
in its act, on account of the condition of its subject.
Reply to Objection 4: Charity by reason of its act excludes every motive for
sinning. But it happens sometimes that charity is not acting actually,
and then it is possible for a motive to intervene for sinning, and if we
consent to this motive, we lose charity.
Article 12: Whether charity is lost through one mortal sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that charity is not lost through one mortal sin.
For Origen says (Peri Archon i): "When a man who has mounted to the stage
of perfection, is satiated, I do not think that he will become empty or
fall away suddenly; but he must needs do so gradually and by little and
little." But man falls away by losing charity. Therefore charity is not
lost through only one mortal sin.
Objection 2: Further, Pope Leo in a sermon on the Passion (60) addresses Peter
thus: "Our Lord saw in thee not a conquered faith, not an averted love,
but constancy shaken. Tears abounded where love never failed, and the
words uttered in trepidation were washed away by the fount of charity."
From this Bernard [*William of St. Thierry, De Nat. et Dig. Amoris. vi.]
drew his assertion that "charity in Peter was not quenched, but cooled."
But Peter sinned mortally in denying Christ. Therefore charity is not
lost through one mortal sin.
Objection 3: Further, charity is stronger than an acquired virtue. Now a habit
of acquired virtue is not destroyed by one contrary sinful act. Much
less, therefore, is charity destroyed by one contrary mortal sin.
Objection 4: Further, charity denotes love of God and our neighbor. Now,
seemingly, one may commit a mortal sin, and yet retain the love of God
and one's neighbor; because an inordinate affection for things directed
to the end, does not remove the love for the end, as stated above (Article ). Therefore charity towards God can endure, though there be a mortal sin
through an inordinate affection for some temporal good.
Objection 5: Further, the object of a theological virtue is the last end. Now
the other theological virtues, namely faith and hope, are not done away
by one mortal sin, in fact they remain though lifeless. Therefore charity
can remain without a form, even when a mortal sin has been committed.
On the contrary, By mortal sin man becomes deserving of eternal death,
according to Rm. 6:23: "The wages of sin is death." On the other hand
whoever has charity is deserving of eternal life, for it is written (Jn. 14:21): "He that loveth Me, shall be loved by My Father: and I will love
Him, and will manifest Myself to him," in which manifestation everlasting
life consists, according to Jn. 17:3: "This is eternal life; that they
may know Thee the . . . true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent."
Now no man can be worthy, at the same time, of eternal life and of
eternal death. Therefore it is impossible for a man to have charity with
a mortal sin. Therefore charity is destroyed by one mortal sin.
I answer that, That one contrary is removed by the other contrary
supervening. Now every mortal sin is contrary to charity by its very
nature, which consists in man's loving God above all things, and
subjecting himself to Him entirely, by referring all that is his to God.
It is therefore essential to charity that man should so love God as to
wish to submit to Him in all things, and always to follow the rule of His
commandments; since whatever is contrary to His commandments is
manifestly contrary to charity, and therefore by its very nature is
capable of destroying charity.
If indeed charity were an acquired habit dependent on the power of its
subject, it would not necessarily be removed by one mortal sin, for act
is directly contrary, not to habit but to act. Now the endurance of a
habit in its subject does not require the endurance of its act, so that
when a contrary act supervenes the acquired habit is not at once done
away. But charity, being an infused habit, depends on the action of God
Who infuses it, Who stands in relation to the infusion and safekeeping of
charity, as the sun does to the diffusion of light in the air, as stated
above (Article , OBJ 3). Consequently, just as the light would cease at once
in the air, were an obstacle placed to its being lit up by the sun, even
so charity ceases at once to be in the soul through the placing of an
obstacle to the outpouring of charity by God into the soul.
Now it is evident that through every mortal sin which is contrary to God's commandments, an obstacle is placed to the outpouring of charity, since from the very fact that a man chooses to prefer sin to God's friendship, which requires that we should obey His will, it follows that the habit of charity is lost at once through one mortal sin. Hence Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. viii, 12) that "man is enlightened by God's presence, but he is darkened at once by God's absence, because distance from Him is effected not by change of place but by aversion of the will."
Reply to Objection 1: This saying of Origen may be understood, in one way, that a
man who is in the state of perfection, does not suddenly go so far as to
commit a mortal sin, but is disposed thereto by some previous negligence,
for which reason venial sins are said to be dispositions to mortal sin,
as stated above (FS, Question , Article ). Nevertheless he falls, and loses
charity through the one mortal sin if he commits it.
Since, however, he adds: "If some slight slip should occur, and he
recover himself quickly he does not appear to fall altogether," we may
reply in another way, that when he speaks of a man being emptied and
falling away altogether, he means one who falls so as to sin through
malice; and this does not occur in a perfect man all at once.
Reply to Objection 2: Charity may be lost in two ways; first, directly, by actual
contempt, and, in this way, Peter did not lose charity. Secondly,
indirectly, when a sin is committed against charity, through some passion
of desire or fear; it was by sinning against charity in this way, that
Peter lost charity; yet he soon recovered it.
The Reply to the Third Objection is evident from what has been said.
Reply to Objection 4: Not every inordinate affection for things directed to the
end, i.e., for created goods, constitutes a mortal sin, but only such as
is directly contrary to the Divine will; and then the inordinate
affection is contrary to charity, as stated.
Reply to Objection 5: Charity denotes union with God, whereas faith and hope do
not. Now every mortal sin consists in aversion from God, as stated above
(Gen. ad lit. viii, 12). Consequently every moral sin is contrary to
charity, but not to faith and hope, but only certain determinate sins,
which destroy the habit of faith or of hope, even as charity is destroyed
by every moral sin. Hence it is evident that charity cannot remain
lifeless, since it is itself the ultimate form regarding God under the
aspect of last end as stated above (Question , Article ).