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Article Five

Whether Charity is a Single Virtue

We proceed to the fifth article thus:

1. It seems that charity is not a single virtue. For habits are different if their objects are different, and charity has two objects which are infinitely apart, namely, God and one’s neighbour. It follows that charity is not a single virtue.

2. Again, it was shown in Q. 17, Art. 6, and in 12ae, Q. 54, Art. 2, that a habit is diverse if its object has several aspects, even though its object is fundamentally one. Now there are many aspects of love to God, since we ought to love God in return for each benefit received. It follows that charity is not a single virtue.

3. Again, charity includes friendship towards one’s neighbour, and there are several kinds of friendship named by the philosopher in 8 Ethics 11 and 12. It follows that charity is not a single virtue, but a virtue of several different kinds.

On the other hand: as God is the object of faith, so is he the object of charity. Now according to Eph. 4:5: “One faith,” faith is a single virtue because of the unity of divine truth. Charity is therefore a single virtue because of the unity of divine goodness.

I answer: charity is friendship of man with God. Now 350we may distinguish between friendships according to their different ends, and say that there are three kinds of friendship, founded on the useful, on the pleasant, and on the good. We may also distinguish between them as does the philosopher in 8 Ethics 11 and 12, according to the different types of communion on which they are founded, and say there are friendships between relatives, between fellow-citizens, and between travellers, founded on natural relationship, on civil community, and on the companionship of the road. But we cannot divide charity in either of these ways. For the end of charity is one, since it is the divine goodness, and the communion of eternal beatitude on which its friendship is based is likewise one. It remains that charity is simply a single virtue, and not a virtue of several kinds.

On the first point: this reasoning would be valid if God and one’s neighbour were objects of charity equally. But they are not so. God is the principal object of charity, whereas one’s neighbour is loved for God’s sake.

On the second point: by charity we love God for his own sake. The love of charity is therefore of one single kind. According to Ps. 106:1 it is love for God’s goodness, which is his substance: “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good.” Other reasons for which we love God, or ought to love him, are secondary and consequential.

On the third point: the philosopher is speaking of human friendship, in which there are diverse ends and diverse kinds of communion. But there is no such diversity in charity, as we have said, so that the two are not the same.

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