QUESTION 27: OF THE PRINCIPLE ACT OF CHARITY, WHICH IS TO LOVE
We must now consider the act of charity, and (1) the principal act of
charity, which is to love, (2) the other acts or effects which follow
from that act.
Under the first head there are eight points of inquiry:
(1) Which is the more proper to charity, to love or to be loved?
(2) Whether to love considered as an act of charity is the same as
(3) Whether God should be loved for His own sake?
(4) Whether God can be loved immediately in this life?
(5) Whether God can be loved wholly?
(6) Whether the love of God is according to measure?
(7) Which is the better, to love one's friend, or one's enemy? (8) Which
is the better, to love God, or one's neighbor?
Article 1: Whether to be loved is more proper to charity than to love?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is more proper to charity to be loved than
to love. For the better charity is to be found in those who are
themselves better. But those who are better should be more loved.
Therefore to be loved is more proper to charity.
Objection 2: Further, that which is to be found in more subjects seems to be
more in keeping with nature, and, for that reason, better. Now, as the
Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 8), "many would rather be loved than love,
and lovers of flattery always abound." Therefore it is better to be loved
than to love, and consequently it is more in keeping with charity.
Objection 3: Further, "the cause of anything being such is yet more so." Now
men love because they are loved, for Augustine says (De Catech. Rud. iv)
that "nothing incites another more to love you than that you love him
first." Therefore charity consists in being loved rather than in loving.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 8) that friendship
consists in loving rather than in being loved. Now charity is a kind of
friendship. Therefore it consists in loving rather than in being loved.
I answer that, To love belongs to charity as charity. For, since charity
is a virtue, by its very essence it has an inclination to its proper act.
Now to be loved is not the act of the charity of the person loved; for
this act is to love: and to be loved is competent to him as coming under
the common notion of good, in so far as another tends towards his good by
an act of charity. Hence it is clear that to love is more proper to
charity than to be loved: for that which befits a thing by reason of
itself and its essence is more competent to it than that which is
befitting to it by reason of something else. This can be exemplified in
two ways. First, in the fact that friends are more commended for loving
than for being loved, indeed, if they be loved and yet love not, they are
blamed. Secondly, because a mother, whose love is the greatest, seeks
rather to love than to be loved: for "some women," as the Philosopher
observes (Ethic. viii, 8) "entrust their children to a nurse; they do
love them indeed, yet seek not to be loved in return, if they happen not
to be loved."
Reply to Objection 1: A better man, through being better, is more lovable; but
through having more perfect charity, loves more. He loves more, however,
in proportion to the person he loves. For a better man does not love that
which is beneath him less than it ought to be loved: whereas he who is
less good fails to love one who is better, as much as he ought to be
Reply to Objection 2: As the Philosopher says (Ethic. viii, 8), "men wish to be
loved in as much as they wish to be honored." For just as honor is
bestowed on a man in order to bear witness to the good which is in him,
so by being loved a man is shown to have some good, since good alone is
lovable. Accordingly men seek to be loved and to be honored, for the sake
of something else, viz. to make known the good which is in the person
loved. On the other hand, those who have charity seek to love for the
sake of loving, as though this were itself the good of charity, even as
the act of any virtue is that virtue's good. Hence it is more proper to
charity to wish to love than to wish to be loved.
Reply to Objection 3: Some love on account of being loved, not so that to be
loved is the end of their loving, but because it is a kind of way leading
a man to love.
Article 2: Whether to love considered as an act of charity is the same as goodwill?
Objection 1: It would seem that to love, considered as an act of charity, is
nothing else than goodwill. For the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 4) that
"to love is to wish a person well"; and this is goodwill. Therefore the
act of charity is nothing but goodwill.
Objection 2: Further, the act belongs to the same subject as the habit. Now
the habit of charity is in the power of the will, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore the act of charity is also an act of the will. But it
tends to good only, and this is goodwill. Therefore the act of charity is
nothing else than goodwill.
Objection 3: Further, the Philosopher reckons five things pertaining to
friendship (Ethic. ix, 4), the first of which is that a man should wish
his friend well; the second, that he should wish him to be and to live;
the third, that he should take pleasure in his company; the fourth, that
he should make choice of the same things; the fifth, that he should
grieve and rejoice with him. Now the first two pertain to goodwill.
Therefore goodwill is the first act of charity.
On the contrary, The Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 5) that "goodwill is
neither friendship nor love, but the beginning of friendship." Now
charity is friendship, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore goodwill
is not the same as to love considered as an act of charity.
I answer that, Goodwill properly speaking is that act of the will
whereby we wish well to another. Now this act of the will differs from
actual love, considered not only as being in the sensitive appetite but
also as being in the intellective appetite or will. For the love which is
in the sensitive appetite is a passion. Now every passion seeks its
object with a certain eagerness. And the passion of love is not aroused
suddenly, but is born of an earnest consideration of the object loved;
wherefore the Philosopher, showing the difference between goodwill and
the love which is a passion, says (Ethic. ix, 5) that goodwill does not
imply impetuosity or desire, that is to say, has not an eager
inclination, because it is by the sole judgment of his reason that one
man wishes another well. Again such like love arises from previous
acquaintance, whereas goodwill sometimes arises suddenly, as happens to
us if we look on at a boxing-match, and we wish one of the boxers to win.
But the love, which is in the intellective appetite, also differs from
goodwill, because it denotes a certain union of affections between the
lover and the beloved, in as much as the lover deems the beloved as
somewhat united to him, or belonging to him, and so tends towards him. On
the other hand, goodwill is a simple act of the will, whereby we wish a
person well, even without presupposing the aforesaid union of the
affections with him. Accordingly, to love, considered as an act of
charity, includes goodwill, but such dilection or love adds union of
affections, wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 5) that "goodwill
is a beginning of friendship."
Reply to Objection 1: The Philosopher, by thus defining "to love," does not
describe it fully, but mentions only that part of its definition in which
the act of love is chiefly manifested.
Reply to Objection 2: To love is indeed an act of the will tending to the good,
but it adds a certain union with the beloved, which union is not denoted
Reply to Objection 3: These things mentioned by the Philosopher belong to
friendship because they arise from a man's love for himself, as he says
in the same passage, in so far as a man does all these things in respect
of his friend, even as he does them to himself: and this belongs to the
aforesaid union of the affections.
Article 3: Whether out of charity God ought to be loved for Himself?
Objection 1: It would seem that God is loved out of charity, not for Himself
but for the sake of something else. For Gregory says in a homily (In
Evang. xi): "The soul learns from the things it knows, to love those it
knows not," where by things unknown he means the intelligible and the
Divine, and by things known he indicates the objects of the senses.
Therefore God is to be loved for the sake of something else.
Objection 2: Further, love follows knowledge. But God is known through something else, according to Rm. 1:20: "The invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." Therefore He is also loved on account of something else and not for Himself.
Objection 3: Further, "hope begets charity" as a gloss says on Mt. 1:1, and
"fear leads to charity," according to Augustine in his commentary on the
First Canonical Epistle of John (In prim. canon. Joan. Tract. ix). Now
hope looks forward to obtain something from God, while fear shuns
something which can be inflicted by God. Therefore it seems that God is
to be loved on account of some good we hope for, or some evil to be
feared. Therefore He is not to be loved for Himself.
On the contrary, According to Augustine (De Doctr. Christ. i), to enjoy
is to cleave to something for its own sake. Now "God is to be enjoyed" as
he says in the same book. Therefore God is to be loved for Himself.
I answer that, The preposition "for" denotes a relation of causality.
Now there are four kinds of cause, viz., final, formal, efficient, and
material, to which a material disposition also is to be reduced, though
it is not a cause simply but relatively. According to these four
different causes one thing is said to be loved for another. In respect of
the final cause, we love medicine, for instance, for health; in respect
of the formal cause, we love a man for his virtue, because, to wit, by
his virtue he is formally good and therefore lovable; in respect of the
efficient cause, we love certain men because, for instance, they are the
sons of such and such a father; and in respect of the disposition which
is reducible to the genus of a material cause, we speak of loving
something for that which disposed us to love it, e.g. we love a man for
the favors received from him, although after we have begun to love our
friend, we no longer love him for his favors, but for his virtue.
Accordingly, as regards the first three ways, we love God, not for
anything else, but for Himself. For He is not directed to anything else
as to an end, but is Himself the last end of all things; nor does He
require to receive any form in order to be good, for His very substance
is His goodness, which is itself the exemplar of all other good things;
nor again does goodness accrue to Him from aught else, but from Him to
all other things. In the fourth way, however, He can be loved for
something else, because we are disposed by certain things to advance in
His love, for instance, by favors bestowed by Him, by the rewards we hope
to receive from Him, or even by the punishments which we are minded to
avoid through Him.
Reply to Objection 1: From the things it knows the soul learns to love what it
knows not, not as though the things it knows were the reason for its
loving things it knows not, through being the formal, final, or efficient
cause of this love, but because this knowledge disposes man to love the
Reply to Objection 2: Knowledge of God is indeed acquired through other things, but after He is known, He is no longer known through them, but through Himself, according to Jn. 4:42: "We now believe, not for thy saying: for we ourselves have heard Him, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world."
Article 4: Whether God can be loved immediately in this life?
Objection 1: It would seem that God cannot be loved immediately in this life.
For the "unknown cannot be loved" as Augustine says (De Trin. x, 1). Now
we do not know God immediately in this life, since "we see now through a
glass, in a dark manner" (1 Cor. 13:12). Neither, therefore, do we love
Objection 2: Further, he who cannot do what is less, cannot do what is more.
Now it is more to love God than to know Him, since "he who is joined" to
God by love, is "one spirit with Him" (1 Cor. 6:17). But man cannot know
God immediately. Therefore much less can he love Him immediately.
Objection 3: Further, man is severed from God by sin, according to Is. 59:2:
"Your iniquities have divided between you and your God." Now sin is in
the will rather than in the intellect. Therefore man is less able to love
God immediately than to know Him immediately.
On the contrary, Knowledge of God, through being mediate, is said to be "enigmatic," and "falls away" in heaven, as stated in 1 Cor. 13:12. But charity "does not fall away" as stated in the same passage (1 Cor. 13:12). Therefore the charity of the way adheres to God immediately.
I answer that, As stated above (FP, Question , Article ; Question , Article ), the act
of a cognitive power is completed by the thing known being in the knower,
whereas the act of an appetitive power consists in the appetite being
inclined towards the thing in itself. Hence it follows that the movement
of the appetitive power is towards things in respect of their own
condition, whereas the act of a cognitive power follows the mode of the
Now in itself the very order of things is such, that God is knowable and
lovable for Himself, since He is essentially truth and goodness itself,
whereby other things are known and loved: but with regard to us, since
our knowledge is derived through the senses, those things are knowable
first which are nearer to our senses, and the last term of knowledge is
that which is most remote from our senses.
Accordingly, we must assert that to love which is an act of the appetitive power, even in this state of life, tends to God first, and flows on from Him to other things, and in this sense charity loves God immediately, and other things through God. On the other hand, with regard to knowledge, it is the reverse, since we know God through other things, either as a cause through its effects, or by way of pre-eminence or negation as Dionysius states (Div. Nom. i; cf. FP, Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 1: Although the unknown cannot be loved, it does not follow
that the order of knowledge is the same as the order of love, since love
is the term of knowledge, and consequently, love can begin at once where
knowledge ends, namely in the thing itself which is known through another
Reply to Objection 2: Since to love God is something greater than to know Him,
especially in this state of life, it follows that love of God presupposes
knowledge of God. And because this knowledge does not rest in creatures,
but, through them, tends to something else, love begins there, and thence
goes on to other things by a circular movement so to speak; for knowledge
begins from creatures, tends to God, and love begins with God as the last
end, and passes on to creatures.
Reply to Objection 3: Aversion from God, which is brought about by sin, is
removed by charity, but not by knowledge alone: hence charity, by loving
God, unites the soul immediately to Him with a chain of spiritual union.
Article 5: Whether God can be loved wholly? [*Cf. Question , Article ]
Objection 1: It would seem that God cannot be loved wholly. For love follows
knowledge. Now God cannot be wholly known by us, since this would imply
comprehension of Him. Therefore He cannot be wholly loved by us.
Objection 2: Further, love is a kind of union, as Dionysius shows (Div. Nom.
iv). But the heart of man cannot be wholly united to God, because "God is
greater than our heart" (1 Jn. 3:20). Therefore God cannot be loved
Objection 3: Further, God loves Himself wholly. If therefore He be loved
wholly by another, this one will love Him as much as God loves Himself.
But this is unreasonable. Therefore God cannot be wholly loved by a
On the contrary, It is written (Dt. 6:5): "Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with thy whole heart."
I answer that, Since love may be considered as something between lover
and beloved, when we ask whether God can be wholly loved, the question
may be understood in three ways, first so that the qualification "wholly"
be referred to the thing loved, and thus God is to be loved wholly, since
man should love all that pertains to God.
Secondly, it may be understood as though "wholly" qualified the lover: and thus again God ought to be loved wholly, since man ought to love God with all his might, and to refer all he has to the love of God, according to Dt. 6:5: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart."
Thirdly, it may be understood by way of comparison of the lover to the
thing loved, so that the mode of the lover equal the mode of the thing
loved. This is impossible: for, since a thing is lovable in proportion to
its goodness, God is infinitely lovable, since His goodness is infinite.
Now no creature can love God infinitely, because all power of creatures,
whether it be natural or infused, is finite.
This suffices for the Replies to the Objections, because the first three
objections consider the question in this third sense, while the last
takes it in the second sense.
Article 6: Whether in loving God we ought to observe any mode?
Objection 1: It would seem that we ought to observe some mode in loving God.
For the notion of good consists in mode, species and order, as Augustine
states (De Nat. Boni iii, iv). Now the love of God is the best thing in
man, according to Col. 3:14: "Above all . . . things, have charity."
Therefore there ought to be a mode of the love of God.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (De Morib. Eccl. viii): "Prithee, tell me
which is the mode of love. For I fear lest I burn with the desire and
love of my Lord, more or less than I ought." But it would be useless to
seek the mode of the Divine love, unless there were one. Therefore there
is a mode of the love of God.
Objection 3: Further, as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. iv, 3), "the measure
which nature appoints to a thing, is its mode." Now the measure of the
human will, as also of external action, is the reason. Therefore just as
it is necessary for the reason to appoint a mode to the exterior effect
of charity, according to Rm. 12:1: "Your reasonable service," so also the
interior love of God requires a mode.
On the contrary, Bernard says (De Dilig. Deum 1) that "God is the cause
of our loving God; the measure is to love Him without measure."
I answer that, As appears from the words of Augustine quoted above (OBJ
3) mode signifies a determination of measure; which determination is to
be found both in the measure and in the thing measured, but not in the
same way. For it is found in the measure essentially, because a measure
is of itself the determining and modifying rule of other things; whereas
in the things measured, it is found relatively, that is in so far as they
attain to the measure. Hence there can be nothing unmodified in the
measure whereas the thing measured is unmodified if it fails to attain to
the measure, whether by deficiency or by excess.
Now in all matters of appetite and action the measure is the end,
because the proper reason for all that we desire or do should be taken
from the end, as the Philosopher proves (Phys. ii, 9). Therefore the end
has a mode by itself, while the means take their mode from being
proportionate to the end. Hence, according to the Philosopher (Polit. i,
3), "in every art, the desire for the end is endless and unlimited,"
whereas there is a limit to the means: thus the physician does not put
limits to health, but makes it as perfect as he possibly can; but he puts
a limit to medicine, for he does not give as much medicine as he can, but
according as health demands so that if he give too much or too little,
the medicine would be immoderate.
Again, the end of all human actions and affections is the love of God,
whereby principally we attain to our last end, as stated above (Question , Article ), wherefore the mode in the love of God, must not be taken as in a
thing measured where we find too much or too little, but as in the
measure itself, where there cannot be excess, and where the more the rule
is attained the better it is, so that the more we love God the better our
Reply to Objection 1: That which is so by its essence takes precedence of that
which is so through another, wherefore the goodness of the measure which
has the mode essentially, takes precedence of the goodness of the thing
measured, which has its mode through something else; and so too, charity,
which has a mode as a measure has, stands before the other virtues, which
have a mode through being measured .
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine adds in the same passage, "the measure of our
love for God is to love Him with our whole heart," that is to love Him as
much as He can be loved, and this belongs to the mode which is proper to
Reply to Objection 3: An affection, whose object is subject to reason's judgment,
should be measured by reason. But the object of the Divine love which is
God surpasses the judgment of reason, wherefore it is not measured by
reason but transcends it. Nor is there parity between the interior act
and external acts of charity. For the interior act of charity has the
character of an end, since man's ultimate good consists in his soul
cleaving to God, according to Ps. 72:28: "It is good for me to adhere to
my God"; whereas the exterior acts are as means to the end, and so have
to be measured both according to charity and according to reason.
Article 7: Whether it is more meritorious to love an enemy than to love a friend?
Objection 1: It would seem more meritorious to love an enemy than to love a friend. For it is written (Mt. 5:46): "If you love them that love you, what reward shall you have?" Therefore it is not deserving of reward to love one's friend: whereas, as the same passage proves, to love one's enemy is deserving of a reward. Therefore it is more meritorious to love one's enemy than to love one's friend.
Objection 2: Further, an act is the more meritorious through proceeding from a
greater charity. But it belongs to the perfect children of God to love
their enemies, whereas those also who have imperfect charity love their
friends. Therefore it is more meritorious to love one's enemy than to
love one's friend.
Objection 3: Further, where there is more effort for good, there seems to be
more merit, since "every man shall receive his own reward according to
his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:8). Now a man has to make a greater effort to
love his enemy than to love his friend, because it is more difficult.
Therefore it seems more meritorious to love one's enemy than to love
On the contrary, The better an action is, the more meritorious it is.
Now it is better to love one's friend, since it is better to love a
better man, and the friend who loves you is better than the enemy who
hates you. Therefore it is more meritorious to love one's friend than to
love one's enemy.
I answer that, God is the reason for our loving our neighbor out of
charity, as stated above (Question , Article ). When therefore it is asked which
is better or more meritorious, to love one's friend or one's enemy, these
two loves may be compared in two ways, first, on the part of our neighbor
whom we love, secondly, on the part of the reason for which we love him.
In the first way, love of one's friend surpasses love of one's enemy,
because a friend is both better and more closely united to us, so that he
is a more suitable matter of love and consequently the act of love that
passes over this matter, is better, and therefore its opposite is worse,
for it is worse to hate a friend than an enemy.
In the second way, however, it is better to love one's enemy than one's
friend, and this for two reasons. First, because it is possible to love
one's friend for another reason than God, whereas God is the only reason
for loving one's enemy. Secondly, because if we suppose that both are
loved for God, our love for God is proved to be all the stronger through
carrying a man's affections to things which are furthest from him,
namely, to the love of his enemies, even as the power of a furnace is
proved to be the stronger, according as it throws its heat to more
distant objects. Hence our love for God is proved to be so much the
stronger, as the more difficult are the things we accomplish for its
sake, just as the power of fire is so much the stronger, as it is able to
set fire to a less inflammable matter.
Yet just as the same fire acts with greater force on what is near than
on what is distant, so too, charity loves with greater fervor those who
are united to us than those who are far removed; and in this respect the
love of friends, considered in itself, is more ardent and better than the
love of one's enemy.
Reply to Objection 1: The words of Our Lord must be taken in their strict sense:
because the love of one's friends is not meritorious in God's sight when
we love them merely because they are our friends: and this would seem to
be the case when we love our friends in such a way that we love not our
enemies. On the other hand the love of our friends is meritorious, if we
love them for God's sake, and not merely because they are our friends.
The Reply to the other Objections is evident from what has been said in
the article, because the two arguments that follow consider the reason
for loving, while the last considers the question on the part of those
who are loved.
Article 8: Whether it is more meritorious to love one's neighbor than to love God?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is more meritorious to love one's neighbor
than to love God. For the more meritorious thing would seem to be what
the Apostle preferred. Now the Apostle preferred the love of our neighbor
to the love of God, according to Rm. 9:3: "I wished myself to be an
anathema from Christ for my brethren." Therefore it is more meritorious
to love one's neighbor than to love God.
Objection 2: Further, in a certain sense it seems to be less meritorious to
love one's friend, as stated above (Article ). Now God is our chief friend,
since "He hath first loved us" (1 Jn. 4:10). Therefore it seems less
meritorious to love God.
Objection 3: Further, whatever is more difficult seems to be more virtuous and
meritorious since "virtue is about that which is difficult and good"
(Ethic. ii, 3). Now it is easier to love God than to love one's neighbor,
both because all things love God naturally, and because there is nothing
unlovable in God, and this cannot be said of one's neighbor. Therefore it
is more meritorious to love one's neighbor than to love God.
On the contrary, That on account of which a thing is such, is yet more
so. Now the love of one's neighbor is not meritorious, except by reason
of his being loved for God's sake. Therefore the love of God is more
meritorious than the love of our neighbor.
I answer that, This comparison may be taken in two ways. First, by
considering both loves separately: and then, without doubt, the love of
God is the more meritorious, because a reward is due to it for its own
sake, since the ultimate reward is the enjoyment of God, to Whom the
movement of the Divine love tends: hence a reward is promised to him that
loves God (Jn. 14:21): "He that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father,
and I will . . . manifest Myself to him." Secondly, the comparison may be
understood to be between the love of God alone on the one side, and the
love of one's neighbor for God's sake, on the other. In this way love of
our neighbor includes love of God, while love of God does not include
love of our neighbor. Hence the comparison will be between perfect love
of God, extending also to our neighbor, and inadequate and imperfect love
of God, for "this commandment we have from God, that he, who loveth God,
love also his brother" (1 Jn. 4:21).
Reply to Objection 1: According to one gloss, the Apostle did not desire this,
viz. to be severed from Christ for his brethren, when he was in a state
of grace, but had formerly desired it when he was in a state of unbelief,
so that we should not imitate him in this respect.
We may also reply, with Chrysostom (De Compunct. i, 8) [*Hom. xvi in Ep.
ad Rom.] that this does not prove the Apostle to have loved his neighbor
more than God, but that he loved God more than himself. For he wished to
be deprived for a time of the Divine fruition which pertains to love of
one self, in order that God might be honored in his neighbor, which
pertains to the love of God.
Reply to Objection 2: A man's love for his friends is sometimes less meritorious
in so far as he loves them for their sake, so as to fall short of the
true reason for the friendship of charity, which is God. Hence that God
be loved for His own sake does not diminish the merit, but is the entire
reason for merit.
Reply to Objection 3: The "good" has, more than the "difficult," to do with the
reason of merit and virtue. Therefore it does not follow that whatever is
more difficult is more meritorious, but only what is more difficult, and
at the same time better.