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CHAPTER CIIThat the Happiness of God is most perfect, and exceeds all other happiness

WHERE there is greater love, there is greater delight in the attainment of the object loved. But every being, other things being equal, loves itself more than it loves anything else: a sign of which is that, the nearer anything is to oneself, the more it is naturally loved. God therefore takes greater delight in His happiness, which is Himself, than other blessed ones in their happiness, which is not what they are.

3. What is by essence, ranks above what is by participation. But God is happy by His essence, a prerogative that can belong to no other: for nothing else but God can be the sovereign good; and thus whatever else is happy must be happy by participation from Him. The divine happiness therefore exceeds all other happiness.

4. Perfect happiness consists in an act of the understanding. But no other act of understanding can compare with God’s act: as is clear, not only from this that it is a subsistent act,196196That is to say, an act which has all the permanence and self-containedness of substance. but also because by this one act God perfectly 75understands Himself as He is, and all things that are and are not, good and evil; whereas in all other intellectual beings the act of understanding is not itself subsistent, but is the act of a subsistent subject. Nor can any one understand God, the supreme object of understanding, so perfectly as He is perfect, because the being of none is so perfect as the divine being, nor can any act ever be more perfect than the substance of which it is the act.197197It would follow from this, that a man cannot perfectly comprehend an angel, nor even another man vastly superior to himself. The saint then, on some points of his character, is not amenable to the judgement of the ordinary man of common sense; nor the philosopher, or theologian, or man of science, to the unrevised verdict of the plain man; nor the statesman, or hero, to the man in the street. Nor is there any other understanding that knows even all that God can do: for if it did, it would comprehend the divine power. Lastly, even what another understanding does know, it does not know all with one and the same act. God therefore is incomparably happy above all other beings.

5. The more a thing is brought to unity, the more perfect is its power and excellence. But an activity that works in succession, is divided by different divisions of time: in no way then can its perfection be compared to the perfection of an activity that is without succession, all present together, especially if it does not pass in an instant but abides to eternity. Now the divine act of understanding is without succession, existing all together for eternity: whereas our act of understanding is in succession by the accidental attachment to it of continuity and time. Therefore the divine happiness infinitely exceeds human happiness, as the duration of eternity exceeds the ‘now in flux’ of time (nunc temporis fluens).

6. The fatigue and various occupations whereby our contemplation in this life is necessarily interrupted, — in which contemplation whatever happiness there is for man in this life chiefly consists, — and the errors and doubts and various mishaps to which the present life is subject, show that human happiness, in this life particularly, can in no way compare with the happiness of God.

7. The perfection of the divine happiness may be gathered from this, that it embraces all happinesses according to the most perfect mode of each. By way of contemplative happiness, it has a perfect and perpetual view of God Himself and of other beings. By way of active life, it has the government, not of one man, or of one house, or of one city, or of one kingdom, but of the whole universe. Truly, the false happiness of earth is but a shadow of that perfect happiness. For it consists, according to Boethius, in five things, in pleasure, riches, power, dignity and fame. God then has a most excellent delight of Himself, and a universal joy of all good things, without admixture of contrary element. For riches, He has absolute self-sufficiency of all good. For power, He has infinite might. For dignity, He has primacy and rule over all beings. For fame, He has the admiration of every understanding that in any sort knows Him.

To Him then, who is singularly blessed, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen.198198The interest of all this to us is that the heaven, which is the term of the labours of a Christian man, is a participation in the perfect and transcendent happiness here shadowed forth. I will anticipate and quote the conclusion of B. III, Chap. LI. — “By this vision we are made like to God, and become partakers of His happiness. For God Himself by His essence understands His substance, and that is His happiness. Hence it is said: When he appeareth, he shall be like unto him, because he shall see him as he is (1 John iii, 2). And the Lord said: I dispose unto you, as my Father hath disposed unto me, a kingdom, that ye eat and drink at my table in my kingdom (Luke xxii, 29). This cannot be understood of corporal meat or drink, but must be spoken of that food which is taken at the table of Wisdom, whereof Wisdom herself says: Eat my bread, and drink the wine that I have mingled for you (Prov. ix, 5). They then eat and drink at the table of God, who enjoy the same happiness wherewith God is happy, seeing Him in the way in which He sees Himself."

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