Does the mode of virtue fall under a
precept of the Law?
It seems that the mode of virtue
falls under a precept of the Law:
Objection 1: The mode
of virtue involves one’s doing just things in a just
way, and courageous things in a courageous way, and
so on for the other virtues. But Deuteronomy 16:20
commands, “You shall do justly that which is just.”
Therefore, the mode of virtue falls under a precept.
It is what the lawmaker intends that principally (maxime)
falls under a precept. But as Ethics 2 says, the
lawmaker’s intention is mainly to make men virtuous, and
virtuous men are those who act in a virtuous manner.
Therefore, the mode of virtue falls under a precept.
The mode of virtue, properly speaking, seems to involve
one’s acting willingly (voluntarie) and with
delight (delectabiliter). But this falls under a
precept of divine law. For Psalm 99:2 says, “Serve the
Lord in gladness,” and 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “..... not
with sadness or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful
giver”—and the Gloss on this second passage says,
“Whatever good you do, do it with cheerfulness, and then
you will do well; but if you do it with sadness, though it
comes from you, you are not doing it.” Therefore, the
mode of virtue falls under a precept of the Law.
But contrary to this:
As is clear from the Philosopher in Ethics 2 and 4,
no one can act in the way a virtuous man acts unless he
has the habit of the virtue. But anyone who transgresses
a precept of the Law merits punishment. Therefore, it
would follow that one who does not have the habit of a
virtue is such that whatever he does merits punishment.
But this is contrary to the intention of the Law, which
intends to lead man to virtue by making him accustomed to
good works. Therefore, it is not the case that the mode
of virtue falls under a precept.
As was explained above (q. 90, a. 3), a precept of the
law has coercive force. Therefore, what directly
falls under a precept of the law is that toward which
the law coerces one. But as Ethics 10
says, the law’s coercive force comes from the fear of
punishment, since what properly falls under a precept
of the law is such that the law’s punishment is inflicted
in light of it.
Now divine law and human law go about instituting punishments
in different ways. For the law’s punishment is
inflicted only for those things over which the lawmaker
exercises judgment, since the law punishes in light
of this judgment. But man, who makes human law,
is able to pass judgment only about exterior acts, since,
as 1 Kings 16:7 puts it, “Men see things that appear
to be the case.” By contrast, only God, who makes
divine law, can judge the interior movements of wills—this
according to Psalm 7:10 (“The searcher of hearts and
affections (renes) is God”). Accordingly,
then, one should claim that there is one respect in
which the mode of virtue is relevant to both human law
and divine law, a second respect in which it is relevant
to divine law but not human law, and a third respect
in which it is relevant to neither divine law nor human
Now according to the Philosopher in Ethics 2,
the mode of virtue consists of three elements:
The first is that the agent acts “with knowledge”
(sciens). This falls under the judgment
of both divine law and human law. For what someone
does in ignorance, he does per accidens.
Hence, as far as punishment and pardon are concerned,
some matters are judged by reference to ignorance—and
this according to both divine law and human law.
The second is that the agent acts willingly (volens),
i.e., “by choosing [the act] and choosing it for its
own sake.” This involves two interior movements,
viz., an act of willing (voluntas) and an act
of intending (intentio), which were explained
above (q. 8 and q. 12). Only divine law, and not
human law, passes judgment on these two acts.
For human law does not punish someone who wills to kill
and yet does not kill, whereas divine law does punish
him—this according to Matthew 5:22 (“Whoever is angry
with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment”).
The third element is that
the agent “has, and acts from, a firm and unchangeable
character” (ut firme et immobiliter habeat et
operetur). This firmness properly involves
a habit, so that he is acting from a rooted habit (ex
habitu radicato). As far as this element is
concerned, the mode of virtue does not fall under a
precept of either divine law or human law. For
even if someone who gives the honor due to his parents
does not have the habit of piety, he is not punished
by man or by God as a transgressor of the precept.
Reply to objection 1:
In the performance of an act of justice, the mode that
falls under the precept is not that something be done from
the habit of justice, but that it be done in accord with
the order of uprightness (secundum ordinem iuris).
Reply to objection 2:
The lawmaker’s intention involves two things. The first
is what he intends to lead [his subjects] toward by means
of the precepts of the law—and this is virtue. The
second is what he intends to make his precept about—and
this is what leads or disposes them toward virtue, viz.,
acts of virtue. For the end of the precept is not
the same as what the precept is about—just as, in other
matters, the end is not the same as what is ordered toward
Reply to objection 3:
Performing an act of a virtue without sadness (sine
tristitia) does fall under a precept of divine law,
since anyone who acts with sadness is acting unwillingly.
the other hand, acting with delight (delectabiliter)—whether
with joy (cum laetitia) or with cheerfulness
(cum hilaritate)—falls under a precept in one
sense, viz., to the extent that the delight follows
from the love of God and neighbor, which itself falls
under a precept. For love is a cause of delight.
However, there is a sense in which acting with delight
does not fall under a precept, since, as Ethics
2 says, delight in the act is a sign of a habit that
has already been generated. For an act can be
delightful either because of its end or because of the
agreeableness of a habit.