The Divine Life in Man


DIVINE GRACE GIVES MAN a share in the life of God. It is the Divine life in man. Life and action go together. The life of grace then must be active in man. It is active through the virtues---the theological and moral virtues.

MOREOVER, IN THIS WORLD grace is only the beginning of the Divine life in man. Like all life it is intended to grow in maturity and bear the fruit of eternal happiness. Grace is "a fountain of, springing up into life everlasting." (John IV, 14) The maturity of grace is realized in the next world, where the Saints enjoy the vision of God. But in this world grace must grow into maturity as the child grows into manhood. And this growth takes place through the exercise of the
theological and moral virtues.

THE STORY OF THE BEGINNING and the growth of happiness in man in this world is the story of the life of virtues in man. It is a wonderful story because it is a story of success---of man's successful pursuit of God. It is an instructive story---instructive because, in showing man how he can reach God, it also shows him how he can lose God. St. Thomas tells us the story in this part of his great summary of theology.

SINCE IT IS THE STORY of man's pursuit of God, and since the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity have God for their object, we shall consider these virtues first. The moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance deal with the things that lead men to God. Hence we shall consider the moral virtues last.

THE VIRTUES ARE PRINCIPLES OR SOURCES OF ACTION. Now all truly human action is rational, intelligent action. Hence the first of the theological virtues to be considered is the virtue of faith. Faith is an intellectual virtue. It perfects man's mind. It gives man a knowledge of God as He is in Himself and in His action in the world for man's good. It proposes to man's will the great goal of the will---God Himself. It is, as it were, the intellectual principle of all the supernatural actions by which man reaches out to the vision of God.

THE OBJECT OF FAITH IS GOD HIMSELF. Through faith man comes to know God as God knows Himself. Human reason can discover for itself that God exists. It can even discover some of God's attributes or perfections. It can learn that God is good, that He is true, that He is omnipotent, and so on. But human reason can never discover what God is in Himself. It can never penetrate by itself into the mysteries of God's inner life. If man is to know the deep mysteries of the life of God, then God must reveal them to man and man must accept these truths in faith. But God has revealed these mysteries of His Own ineffable life to men. And through faith men grasp God in His mysteries.

GOD IS THE OBJECT OF FAITH IN TWO WAYS. In faith God is both the object that the mind of man knows and He is the light by which man knows God. When the human eye sees the greenness of a yew tree in daylight, the greenness is what it sees and the sunshine is the light by which it sees it. When a man assents in faith to the Divine revelation that God is Three Persons in one nature, the Trinity is what He believes and God's word is the light by which he believes it.
FAITH IS CONCERNED WITH TRUTH not naturally accessible to the mind of man. However it is a fact that God has also revealed some truths that human reason could discover, such as the existence of God, the immortality of the human soul, and the like. God has done this because He knows that many men, through lack of talent or opportunity, or even through laziness, might never come to the knowledge of these important truths. Whenever men cannot discover these truths for themselves, it is possible for them to learn these truths through faith in God's word. But primarily faith is concerned with the mysteries of God in Himself and in His actions in the world which men could never discover for themselves.
FAITH IS THEN AN ENLARGEMENT of the horizons of the human mind. It lifts the mind of man above the world of nature and sets it free in the limitless world of the Divine Being. It introduces man to that great mystery of the Divine Life, the Trinity. It makes man aware of God's stupendous entrance into human life through the Incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus Christ. It informs man of the Divine generosity in making the vision of God possible for men. It gives man a knowledge of the supernatural means by which he can attain the vision of God. Faith does not impose limitations on the mind of man. It removes them. Through faith the mind of man is no longer subject to the imperfections of the senses or of human reason. Through faith man is given a share in the infinite perfection of God's own knowledge. If man's ultimate goal is the vision of God, then faith, which gives man some knowledge, even though an obscure knowledge, of God as He is in Himself, is a beginning of happiness in human life. It puts man on the road to ultimate

GOD, THE OBJECT OF FAITH, is in Himself absolutely simple. But the simple things are often the hardest to understand or explain. A lever is a simple thing. But how many words, sentences, or even paragraphs may be necessary to explain its power to lift great weights. So it is with God. Because He is absolutely simple, the human mind, which understands things bit by bit, cannot grasp the Divine Being simply. It must, as it were, go round God slowly, viewing Him now from this angle and now from another angle. It will express each of these different views of the one simple object---God---in a separate judgment or proposition. In revealing Himself to man God has taken, account of this weakness of the human mind. He has revealed Himself to man bit by bit, sentence after sentence.

THESE TRUTHS OR JUDGMENTS ABOUT GOD, which God has revealed, make up the content of
faith. They are many and they were revealed to man over a long period of time, from Adam to Christ and His Apostles. Because God is absolutely one and absolutely simple, some of these truths are contained implicitly in others. From the point of view of the human mind which accepts these truths in faith, we may reduce all the revealed truths about God to the mysteries of the Trinity---God as He is in Himself---and the Incarnation---God as He enters the world supernaturally to accomplish the salvation of men.
SINCE THESE TRUTHS are many and mysterious, and since faith is necessary for those who seek the vision of God, it is both convenient and necessary to summarize these truths in a creed or symbol of the faith. The authority to draw up a summary of the faith belongs to the Church of Christ under the leadership of the Pope. Hence Christ said to Peter, whom He made the first Pope of the Church, "I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not, and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren." (Luke XXII, 32.) Through the creed or summary of the content of faith, the truths of the faith are made accessible to all men.

THE INDIVIDUAL MAN LAYS HOLD of the truths of faith by the act of faith or belief. To believe is to think with assent. Belief is a special type of intellectual act. To understand it properly we must compare it with other acts of the human intellect. When a man understands a self-evident truth---such as the truth that a whole is greater than a part---or when he has scientifically demonstrated a conclusion from its evident principles---such as the demonstration that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles---he no longer needs to think about the evidence for the truths of these judgments. He simply gives a firm assent to these truths. But sometimes a man doubts the truth of a proposition. He lacks sufficient evidence either to affirm or to deny the proposition. Sometimes he has some slight evidence for the truth of a proposition and so he is said to suspect its truth. Or he has enough evidence to think the proposition is true, but he fears that it may not be true. In this case he is said to have an opinion about it. Now faith or belief is like science and understanding in that it assents firmly to he proposition that is believed. Yet the believer has no clear insight into the truth of the statement which he believes.
BECAUSE A MAN DOES NOT COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND the things he believes, there is always some obscurity in the act of faith. This is not surprising. The principal truths of the faith are mysteries God beyond human understanding in this life. Even those natural truths which God has revealed are in fact beyond the present understanding of those who have not yet discovered them naturally. But man needs the truths of the faith if he is to achieve the vision of God. In order to attain the vision of God man must first of all believe God, as a disciple believes the master who is teaching him.

GOD HIMSELF HAS SAID that belief is necessary if man is to attain the vision of God. As St. Paul says, "But without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God must believe that He is: and is a rewarder to them that seek Him." (Heb. XI, 6)

BELIEF IN GOD'S WORD is a necessary preliminary to the vision of God. As St. Paul says this belief must be at least an explicit or conscious belief in the existence of God and in the fact that God rewards those who seek Him. St. Thomas adds that the object of faith also includes the means to happiness. But the Incarnation is the means to man's happiness. Therefore an explicit belief in the Incarnation is necessary also. Since the Incarnation cannot be believed in explicitly without believing in the Trinity---for how can a man believe the Second Person of the Trinity became man unless he believes in the mystery of the Trinity---it follows that belief in the Trinity is also required for the attainment of the vision of God. By accepting these truths in faith man begins to learn to know God as He really is.

SINCE FAITH MEANS THE ACCEPTANCE of truths which man cannot fully understand, faith is a test of man's good will. Reason is not compelled to accept what God reveals about Himself. In faith reason must be moved by man's will to accept truth, not on evidence clearly seen, but on God's word. Hence the act of belief can be meritorious. When man's will, under the influence of grace and the love of God, moves man's reason to accept God's revelation in faith, the act of belief is meritorious in God's sight.
NATURALLY A MAN'S INNER ACCEPTANCE of God's truth in faith will sometimes find outward expression in his speech or actions. The believer will express his faith publicly. This does not mean that those who believe in God must shout their faith from the housetops on any and all occasions. But there will be times when the believer in God must openly acknowledge his belief. Charity---the love of God and our neighbor---demands that we respect both God's honor and our neighbor's good. Whenever a man's silence about his inner faith would injure God's honor in the world or scandalize men, then the believer must profess his faith openly.
THIS OBLIGATION TO PROFESS one's faith publicly presupposes of course that faith is not just one act, nor even just a series of acts. It implies that behind the act of faith there is a permanent disposition to believe truth on God's word. Faith then is a habitual disposition of mind, and, when perfect, it is a virtue.

ST. THOMAS DEFINES FAITH as a habit of mind whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the intellect assent to truths that are not apparent. This definition, he points out, is equivalent to St. Paul's statement that "Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not." (Heb. XI, 1) Faith, as a habit of mind inclining man to assent to truths which are not apparent to the mind, is the "evidence of things that appear not." And since it is a habit whereby eternal life is begun in us, it is "the substance of things to be hoped for." Through faith man hopes to attain the vision of God, the object of faith.

SINCE FAITH PUTS A MAN in possession of truth, of the First Truth which is God, faith is a habit which perfects man's reason or intellect. It is essentially an intellectual habit. But, as we have seen, in faith the intellect is moved to assent by the will. But the principle that moves the will itself to act is the goal, that is, the good. Now the will is moved or tends to God as its supernatural goal through the virtue of charity. As a consequence the act of faith is truly alive in the supernatural order only when it functions under the impulse of a will moved by charity or the love of God.

IT FOLLOWS THEN that the habit of faith is a virtue only when it is moved to act by the impulse of charity in the will. It is the function of a virtue to make human acts good or perfect. But when faith acts without charity the human intellect is made perfect, because it tends to its goal, which is truth, but the human will is not made perfect because it is not tending properly to its own goal, which is God as He is in Himself. Therefore faith without charitY does not make man perfect simply as man. Hence such faith cannot be perfect virtue. But when faith is moved by charity, then the act of faith is perfect both in the intellect and in the will, and faith is a virtue. The act of faith is meritorious in God's eyes and it enables man to advance in the knowledge of God and to merit ultimately the reward of eternal life. When faith acts under the impulse of charity, then man gives to God a loving obedience of the intellect and will. On God's part it is grace which makes man a son of God. But on man's part it is man's free acceptance of God through faith and charity which sets man in motion in the world as the son of God. And it is man as the son of God, that is, man believing God in love, who will inherit the vision of God.
FAITH IS AN ACCEPTANCE of truth on God's word. But God is Truth itself and He cannot lie to men. The man who believes God must believe everything that God says. Human reason can make mistakes. It is possible therefore to accept some things that men say, and to reject others. But God cannot be mistaken. A man must believe everything that God says to him or believe nothing on God's word. A man cannot pick and choose among the truths which he knows God has revealed. Either he has complete faith in God or he has no faith at all. If he rejects any truth which he knows God has revealed, then he rejects all the truths that God has revealed. If he claims to accept any of them it is not because he really accepts them on God's word. He accepts them on the authority of hs own mind or because they please him.

WHEN A MAN ACCEPTS TRUTH on God's word, he is certain of the truth. His certainty is founded on the authority of the Divine Mind which is all knowing and all truthful. From this point of view the certitude of faith is more certain than the certitude man gains through the natural intellectual virtues of wisdom, science and understanding. For the Divine Knowledge on which faith is based is more perfect than human reason on which the certitude of the intellectual virtues is based.
FAITH THEN IS AN ABSOLUTE CERTITUDE about truths which are beyond the natural reach of the human mind. It must therefore be a gift of God. In the first place, since the truths of faith are beyond the reach of the human mind, they must be revealed by God before man can believe them. And in the second place since these truths raise man above the limitation of the human mind, he needs a supernatural principle moving him inwardly to accept these truths without doubt. This supernatural principle is God moving man by grace through the infused habit of faith.

MAN'S FREE ACCEPTANCE of the truths of faith sets man on the road to God. More than this, faith, so to speak, establishes the conditions or mood necessary for the successful completion of the journey. If a man were to set out for Washington to ask a favor of the President of the United States, two attitudes of mind would be necessary for success in his mission. First of all he would need to respect the President. If he had no respect for the President, at least for the powers possessed by the President, his behaviour would antagonize the President and make the mission a failure. Secondly he would need to have his mind clear so that he could present his case clearly and forcefully. If his mind is distracted so that he cannot judge properly either the reasons for his own request or the motives which might move the President to grant it, then he will be unable to present his case successfully. Now when man seeks God, his mind must respect God and be clear in its estimate of the goal he seeks and the means to attain it. Faith gives man both of these qualities of mind in man's search for God. Through faith man recognizes the insignificance of man in the face of the magnificence of God. So it instills in man not only a respect for God, but even a wholesome fear of God. In the sinner whose faith is not moved by charity, this fear is servile fear, the fear of being punished by God for sins against God. This servile fear is good because it can move man to repentance for sin and so turn man back to God. In the good man, whose faith is moved by charity, this fear is filial fear, the fear of losing the supreme good which is God. Filial fear---the fear a son has for a father whom he loves---moves man to avoid anything which would cause him to lose God's love. This loving fear or awe of God is good for man because it makes him humble. He realizes the perilousness of his journey and the need of God's help. He relies not so much on his own strength for the journey as on God's goodness and power to lead him safely to eternal life.
SECONDLY FAITH GIVES MAN the clarity of mind necessary for the successful prosecution of his journey to God. Men, as we know them, are inclined to debase their nobler powers and aspirations by seeking happiness in things below them, in food, drink, clothing, illicit sexual gratifications, and so on. These things clutter up the mind of man. They beget in man's mind a confusion of conflicting desires and ambitions. But faith lifts a man's mind up to God and proposes to him the true goal of his existence---the vision of God. In this way faith begins the purification of man's mind from the errors and conflicting desires which would cause him to lose God. It puts him on the right road to happiness.

BY FAITH MAN ACCEPTS TRUTH FROM GOD, in fact he accepts God, Who is Truth. If this were the only intellectual gift that God gave man, it would still be a magnificent testimonial to God's generosity. It is good for a child to learn from its parents that it should not drink from the iodine bottle in the medicine cabinet. But the child's mind is more perfect when it learns for itself that iodine is a poison and that poisons destroy human life. So too it is good for man to accept the truths which God reveals to him. But it is better when man gains some understanding of the meaning of these truths.
AND ONCE AGAIN, THE DIVINE GENEROSITY has not been lacking. God has given man through grace two gifts of the Holy Spirit which enable the believer to think out, as it were, the meaning of God's revelation of Himself. The first of these gifts is the gift of understanding. Through this gift God moves the mind of man to penetrate into the inner meaning of revealed truth. Through this gift man begins to understand the truths he accepts by faith.

THE SECOND GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT which perfects faith is the gift of knowledge. Through this gift God moves the believer to judge rightly and with certainty about the true relationship between creatures and God. It enables man to see creatures in their proper perspective. The value of this gift in successful living is almost incalculable. Man is inclined to turn from God to creatures because he is attracted by the beauty and the goodness of creatures and the happiness they seem to promise. But in turning to creatures instead of turning to God man loses his only real happiness. Through the gift of knowledge God moves man to see creatures in their real place in the universe, to see them as pale reflections of the beauty and the goodness which is God, to see that they are to be used when they lead to God and avoided when they take man away from God.

THIS SKETCH OF THE NATURE and function of faith and the intellectual gifts of the Holy Spirit which perfect the action of faith shows the importance of faith in human life. Through faith man accepts God as his goal. Through the gift of understanding man begins to understand God and God's action in the world of men. Through the gift of knowledge man begins to see the world properly in its true relationship to himself and to God. With faith, understanding and knowledge man is intellectually equipped to seek his happiness in the vision of God. In fact, happiness is already partly his. For in the faith which is moved by the love of God, God is already present in the mind of man. Faith is the beginning of happiness in the mind of man.
IF FAITH IS THE BEGINNING of happiness, then infidelity, or the lack of faith, is the beginning of unhappiness. If a man does not believe God and God's message, then he does not know the true goal of human life. If he does not know the goal of life, he cannot attain the goal. But unbelief or infidelity means that a man does not know that God is his goal. It can lead then only to unhappiness.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF INFIDELITY. First of all it is conceivable that a man might never come to know that God has spoken to man by way of Divine revelation. In this case he simply does not accept God's message in faith because he is
ignorant of the message. This kind of unbelief is called negative infidelity. Secondly there is positive infidelity. This occurs when a man knowingly rejects the faith. This can occur in a number of ways. First of all there is the pagan or heathen who rejects the faith when it is preached to him. Secondly there are those, who have accepted the revelation which God made through the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets, but have rejected the revelation made in and through Jesus Christ. Lastly there are those men who once accepted the totality of God's revelation but have since rejected one or another of the revealed truths---which is the sin of heresy---or have given up the faith entirely---which is the sin of apostasy.

SINCE FAITH IS NECESSARY for the attainment of the vision of God, all infidelity, objectively speaking, causes men to lose God. We say "objectively speaking," because men lose God through sin, and it is not possible for men to judge accurately when infidelity is sinful in a particular person. It is possible that a man may reject the faith without sin because he personally does not know that a particular truth or all the truths of faith have been revealed by God. In the case of negative infidelity, St. Thomas is inclined to believe that such infidelity is impossible in fact. He thinks that, if necessary, God would make a special revelation of the necessary truths of faith to any man who had not previously heard of them. In that case such a man would have the free choice of accepting or rejecting the faith, and so he would have the free choice of accepting or rejecting God as his happiness. In the case of positive infidelity it seems clear that original unbelievers or heretics knowingly reject the faith which is preached to them or which they once accepted. Hence their lack of faith is sinful and if they persevere in infidelity they will lose God. In the case of their children or descendants it seems possible that they may be misled by their parents or leaders or be so poorly instructed that they do not recognize God's word in the world. If this is their real situation then their infidelity is not formally sinful.
AS EVERYONE KNOWS lack of faith in Christ's teaching is widespread in the world. This constitutes a double danger for men. It is dangerous for the unbelievers themselves because they run the risk of losing God. It is dangerous even for those who have the faith because unbelievers fight against the faith. Believers, especially if they are not too well educated or instructed in the truths of the faith, run the risk of losing their faith in the face of the bad example, false arguments or persecutions with which unbelievers attack the faith.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, which He founded to propagate and safeguard the faith in the world, must face these two dangers. She strives to overcome the danger to unbelievers by sending missionaries to preach the Gospel to them. She strives to overcome the danger to believers in a number of ways. She counters the bad example of unbelievers with the good example of believing, practicing Christians. She answers the false arguments of infidels with the true arguments proposed by trained theologians and apologists. She resists persecution by asserting the right of believers to be undisturbed in their faith and by consoling and strengthening her children through good example, preaching, the Sacraments and the Mass. She advises her children to avoid contact with infidels when such contact might cause them to lose their faith.
BUT IN ALL HER STRUGGLE with infidelity in the world the Church never loses sight of the fact that the act of faith is a free act. She never seeks to compel infidels to accept the faith against their will. She will not even compel the children of infidels to be Baptized into the faith against the will of their parents. Obviously if her own children lose their faith she can and will impose penalties upon them. She may expel them from membership in the Church and so cut them off from all the spiritual benefits to be obtained within the Church. Since they have voluntarily rejected God and His Church by their unbelief this action of the Church is fair and just.

THOUGH UNBELIEF IS ONE of the greatest of sins because it separates a man from his God, until a man dies it is always possible, through the grace of God, for a man to gain or regain the faith. The Church is as merciful as God. If an unbeliever wishes to enter the Church through faith, the Church, like a loving mother will receive him into her arms.
BLASPHEMY IS ALSO A SIN AGAINST FAITH. In blasphemy a man denies the goodness or perfections of God or reviles God. Since man is obliged to love and reverence God, blasphemy which shows that he despises or hates God is by its nature a mortal sin. It is significant that the devils and the lost human souls in Hell detest the Divine justice and so are guilty of blasphemy. This shows that blasphemy is closely related to real unhappiness.
MANY MEN SIN AGAINST FAITH in an even more subtle way through the sins against the Holy Spirit, namely, the sins of despair, presumption, impenitence, obstinacy, resisting the known truth and envy of someone else's spiritual good. The sins against the Holy Spirit are not sins of weakness or ignorance. They are sins of certain malice. By despair a man rejects God's goodness and mercy. By presumption he rejects God's justice. By impenitence he refuses to turn from sin to God. By obstinacy a man hardens his will in sin. A man sins in resisting the known truth because he does so in order to sin more freely. Lastly a man sins by envying someone else's spiritual good because he hates the increase of God's grace in the world. In all these sins there is great danger for man because these sins mean that man is deliberately refusing to consider those truths and motives which would keep him from sin and enable him to turn to God. It is for this reason that the sins against the Holy Spirit are said to be unforgivable. It is not that God is unwilling to forgive any sin. It is rather that in these sins a man shows that he does not wish forgiveness.

THE LAST OF THE SINS AGAINST FAITH are sins against the gifts of knowledge and understanding which perfect faith. They are the sins of blindness of mind and dullness of heart. Blindness of mind rises from lust. For lust withdraws a man's mind from the thought of God and immerses it in the maddening welter of sensual pleasure. This prevents man from knowing or understanding God as he ought. Dullness of heart arises from gluttony which deadens the power of the mind to penetrate to the meaning of truth. Both are great dangers to faith because they withdraw the mind of man from God and plunge his mind and his heart into the base, temporary pleasures of this world.

THE MAN OF WISDOM AND GOOD WILL is a happy man because he accepts God in the loving obedience of faith. His mind is fixed on the far horizons of God where happiness awaits him. Through the gifts of understanding and knowledge nothing can swerve him from his path to God. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb. XI, 6.) With and through faith man is happy because he has already begun to possess God.