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Article Seven

Whether Hope precedes Faith

We proceed to the seventh article thus:

1. It seems that hope precedes faith. For the gloss on Ps. 37:3, “Trust in the Lord, and do good,” says that “hope is the entrance to faith, and the beginning of salvation.” But salvation is through faith, by which we are justified. Hence hope precedes faith.

2. Again, what is used in the definition of anything ought to be prior to it, and better known. Now hope is used in the definition of faith which is given in Heb. 11:1: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” It is therefore prior to faith.

3. Again, hope precedes a meritorious act. For the apostle says in I Cor. 9:10: “he that ploweth should plow in hope.” Now the act of faith is meritorious. Hence hope precedes faith.

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On the other hand: it is said in Matt. 1:2: “Abraham begat Isaac,” that is, “faith begat hope,” as the gloss says.

I answer: in the absolute sense, faith precedes hope. The object of hope is a future good which is arduous yet possible to obtain. It is therefore necessary that the object of hope should be proposed to a man as something which is possible, in order that he may hope. Now as we said in the preceding article, the object of hope is in one way eternal blessedness, while in another way it is the divine help. These things are both proposed to us through faith, which enables us to know that it is possible to attain eternal life, and to know also that divine help has been prepared for us to this end, according to Heb. 11:6: “he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This makes it clear that faith precedes hope.

On the first point: as the gloss says also, hope is said to be the “entrance to faith” in the sense that it is the entrance to the thing believed, since by hope we enter in to see what it is that we believe.

On the second point: the definition of faith makes use of “things hoped for” because the proper object of faith is not seen in itself. For this reason it was necessary to make use of a circumlocution, in terms of a consequence of faith.

On the third point: hope does not precede every meritorious act. It is enough if it accompanies such an act, or follows it.

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