Do the moral precepts of the Law
have to do with all the acts of the virtues?
It seems that the precepts of the
Law do not have to do with all the acts of the virtues:
Objection 1: The observance
of the precepts of the Old Law is called ‘justification’—this
according to Psalm 118:8 (“I will keep Your justifications”).
But a justification is an execution of justice.
Therefore, the moral precepts have to do only with acts
Whatever falls under a precept has the character of
something owed (debitum). But the character of
what is owed belongs not to the other virtues but only to
justice, whose proper act is to render to each person what
is owed to him. Therefore, the moral precepts of the Law
have to do only with acts of justice and not with acts of
the other virtues.
As Isidore says, every law is made for the common good.
But as the Philosopher points out in Ethics 5,
among the virtues it is only justice that has to do with
the common good. Therefore, the moral precepts have to do
only with acts of justice.
But contrary to this:
Ambrose says, “Sin is a transgression of divine law and
disobedience against the heavenly commandments.” But all
the acts of the virtues are such that sins are opposed to
them. Therefore, divine law has to give directives about
the acts of all the virtues.
Since, as has been established (q. 90, a. 2), the precepts
of the Law are ordered toward the common good, the precepts
of the Law must be distinguished in a way corresponding
to the different types of communities. Hence,
in his Politics the Philosopher teaches that
in a city ruled by a king it is necessary to establish
laws different from those established in a city ruled
by the people or by certain people who are in charge
of the city.
Now the type of community to which human law is ordered
is different from that toward which divine law is ordered.
For human law is ordered toward the civil community
(ad communitatem civilem), which is a community
of men with respect to each other. Now men are
ordered toward one another through the exterior acts
by which men share a common life (communicant)
with one another, and it is a common life of this sort
that is relevant to the nature of justice, which properly
directs the human community. And so human law
proposes precepts having to do only with acts of justice;
and, as is clear from the Philosopher in Ethics
5, if human law commands acts of the other virtues,
this is so only to the extent that those acts take on
the character of justice.
contrast, the community directed by divine law is the
community of men with God, whether in the present life
or in the future life. And so divine law sets
forth precepts having to do with all the things through
which men are well ordered toward their common life
with God (ad communicationem cum Deo).
Now man is joined to God by his reason (ratio),
or mind (mens), in which the image of God resides.
And so divine law sets forth precepts having to do with
all the things through which man’s reason is well‑ordered.
But this ordering occurs through the acts of all the
virtues; for the intellectual virtues render acts of
reason well‑ordered in themselves, whereas the
moral virtues render the acts of reason well‑ordered
with respect to interior passions and exterior operations.
And so it is clearly fitting for divine law to set forth
precepts having to do with the acts of all the virtues—yet
in such a way that those acts without which the order
of virtue (i.e., the order of reason) cannot be maintained
fall under the obligation of a precept, whereas
others that have to do with the flourishing of perfect
virtue (bene esse virtutis perfectae) fall under
the admonition of a counsel.
Reply to objection 1:
The fulfillment of the commandments of the Law, even of
those commandments having to do with the acts of the other
virtues, has the character of justification insofar as it
is just that man should obey God—or, alternatively,
insofar as it is just that everything having to do with
man should be subject to reason.
Reply to objection 2:
Justice, properly speaking, has to do with what one man
owes to another (debitum unius hominis ad alium),
whereas all the other virtues there is a ‘debt’ (debitum)
that the lower powers owe to reason. And corresponding to
the notion of this latter sort of debt, the Philosopher in
Ethics 5 speaks of a sort of metaphorical justice.
Reply to objection 3:
The reply to the third objection is clear from what has
been said about the different kinds of community.