American University.

American University Bulletin Catalog Issue: College of Arts and Sciences Announcements (Volume 1941-1942) online

. (page 3 of 26)
Online LibraryAmerican UniversityAmerican University Bulletin Catalog Issue: College of Arts and Sciences Announcements (Volume 1941-1942) → online text (page 3 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


On the contrary, It is prescribed (Heb. xiii. 17): Obey
your prelates and he subject to them.

I answer that, Just as the actions of natural things proceed
from natural powers, so do human actions proceed from the
human will. In natural things it behoved the higher to
move the lower to their actions by the excellence of the
natural power bestowed on them by God : and so in human
affairs also the higher must move the lower by their will in
virtue of a divinely estabUshed authority. Now to move
by reason and will is to command. Wherefore just as in
virtue of the divinety estabhshed natural order the lower
natural things need to be subject to the movement of the
higher, so too in human affairs, in virtue of the order of
natural and divine law, inferiors are bound to obey their

Reply Obj. i. God left man in the hand of his own counsel,
not as though it were lawful to him to do whatever he will,
but because, unHke irrational creatures, he is not compelled
by natural necessity to do what he ought to do, but is left
the free choice proceeding from his own counsel. And just
as he has to proceed on his own counsel in doing other things,
so too has he in the point of obeying his superiors. For
Gregory says [Moral, xxxv.), When we humbly give way to
another's voice, we overcome ourselves in our own hearts.

Reply Obj. 2. The will of God is the first rule whereby
all rational wills are regulated: and to this rule one will
approaches more than another, according to a divinely
appointed order. Hence the will of the one man who issues
a command may be as a second rule to the will of this other
man who obeys him.

Reply Obj. 3. A thing may be deemed gratuitous in two
ways. In one way on the part of the deed itself, because,
to wit, one is not bound to do it ; in another way, on the part
of the doer, because he does it of his own free will. Now a
deed is rendered virtuous, praiseworthy and meritorious,
chiefly according as it proceeds from the will. Wherefore

27 OBEDIENCE Q. 104. Art. 2

although obedience be a duty, if one obey with a prompt
will, one's merit is not for that reason diminished, especially
before God, Who sees not only the outward deed, but also
the inward will.

Second Article.

whether obedience is a special virtue ?

We proceed thus to the Second Article : —

Objection i. It seems that obedience is not a special
virtue. For disobedience is contrary to obedience. But
disobedience is a general sin, because Ambrose says [De
Par ad. viii.) that sin is to disobey the divine law. Therefore
obedience is not a special virtue.

Obj. 2. Further, Every special virtue is either theological
or moral. But obedience is not a theological virtue, since
it is not comprised under faith, hope or charity. Nor is it a
moral virtue, since it does not hold the mean between excess
and deficiency, for the more obedient one is the more is one
praised. Therefore obedience is not a special virtue.

Obj. 3. Further, Gregory says (Moral, xxxv.) that obe-
dience is the more meritorious and praiseworthy, the less it
holds its own. But every special virtue is the more to be
praised the more it holds its own, since virtue requires a
man to exercise his will and choice, as stated in Ethic, ii. 4.
Therefore obedience is not a special virtue.

Obj. 4. Further, Virtues differ in species according to
their objects. Now the object of obedience would seem to
be the command of a superior, of which, apparently, there
are as many kinds as there are degrees of superiority. There-
fore obedience is a general virtue, comprising many special

On the contrary, Obedience is reckoned by some to be a
part of justice, as stated above (Q. LXXX.).

I answer that, A special virtue is assigned to all good
deeds that have a special reason of praise : for it belongs
properly to virtue to render a deed good. Now obedience
to a superior is due in accordance with the divinely estab-
Hshed order of things, as shown above (A. i), and therefore

Q. 104. Art. 2 THE "SUMMA THEOLOGICA" 28

it is a good, since good consists in mode, species and order,
as Augustine states {De Natura Boni iii.).* Again, this act
has a special aspect of praiseworthiness by reason of its
object. For while subjects have many obligations towards
their superiors, this one, that they are bound to obey their
commands, stands out as special among the rest. Where-
fore obedience is a special virtue, and its specific object is a
command tacit or express, because the superior's v/ill,
however it become known, is a tacit precept, and a man's
obedience seems to be all the more prompt, forasmuch as
by obeying he forestalls the express command as soon as he
understands his superior's wiU.

Reply Obj. i. Nothing prevents the one same material
object from admitting two special aspects to which two
special virtues correspond: thus a soldier, by defending
his king's fortress, fulfils both an act of fortitude, by facing
the danger of death for a good end, and an act of justice,
by rendering due service to his lord. Accordingly the
aspect of precept, which obedience considers, occurs in acts
of all virtues, but not in all acts of virtue, since not all acts
of virtue are a matter of precept, as stated above (I. -II.,
Q. XCVL, A. 3). Moreover, certain things are sometimes a
matter of precept, and pertain to no other virtue, such things
for instance as are not evil except because they are forbidden.
Wherefore, if obedience be taken in its proper sense, as
considering formally and intentionally the aspect of precept,
it will be a special virtue, and disobedience a special sin:
because in this way it is requisite for obedience that one
perform an act of justice or of some other virtue with the
intention of fulfilling a precept; and for disobedience that
one treat the precept with actual contempt. On the other
hand, if obedience be taken in a wide sense for the perform-
ance of any action that may be a matter of precept, and
disobedience for the omission of that action through any
intention whatever, then obedience will be a general virtue,
and disobedience a general sin.

Reply Obj. 2. Obedience is not a theological virtue, for

* Cf. P. I Q. v., A. 5.

29 OBEDIENCE Q. 104. Art 2

its direct object is not God, but the precept of any superior,
whether expressed or inferred, namely, a simple word of the
superior, indicating his will, and which the obedient subject
obeys promptly, according to Tit. iii. i, Admonish them to he
subject to princes, and to obey at a word, etc.

It is, however, a moral virtue, since it is a part of justice,
and it observes the mean between excess and deficiency.
Excess thereof is measured in respect, not of quantit}^ but
of other circumstances, in so far as a man obeys either
whom he ought not, or in matters wherein he ought not to
obey, as we have stated above regarding religion (Q. XCIL,
A. 2). We may also reply that as in justice, excess is in
the person who retains another's property, and deficiency
in the person who does not receive his due, according to the
Philosopher {Ethic, v. 4), so too obedience observes the mean
between excess on the part of him who fails to pay due obe-
dience to his superior, since he exceeds in fulfilling his own
will, and deficiency on the part of the superior, who does
not receive obedience. Wherefore in this way obedience
wiU be a mean between two forms of wickedness, as was
stated above concerning justice (Q. LVIIL, A. 10).

Reply Obj. 3. Obedience, like every virtue, requires the
will to be prompt towards its proper object, but not towards
that which is repugnant to it. Now the proper object of
obedience is a precept, and this proceeds from another's will.
Wherefore obedience makes a man's will prompt in fulfilling
the will of another, the maker, namely, of the precept. If
that which is prescribed to him is willed by him for its
own sake apart from its being prescribed, as happens in
agreeable matters, he tends towards it at once by his own
will, and seems to comply, not on account of the precept, but
on account of his own will. But if that which is prescribed
is nowise willed for its own sake, but, considered in itself,
is repugnant to his own will, as happens in disagreeable
matters, then it is quite evident that it is not fulfilled except
on account of the precept. Hence Gregory says (Moral, xxxv.)
that obedience perishes or diminishes when it holds its own in
agreeable matters, because, to wit, one's own will seems to

Q. 104. Art. 3 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 30

tend principally, not to the accomplishment of the precept,
but to the fulfilment of one's own desire ; but that it increases
in disagreeable or difficult matters, because there one's own will
tends to nothing beside the precept. Yet this must be under-
stood as regards outward appearances: for, on the other
hand, according to the judgement of God, Who searches the
heart, it may happen that even in agreeable matters obedi-
ence, while holding its own, is none the less praiseworthy,
provided the will of him that obeys tend no less devotedly*
to the fulfilment of the precept.

Reply Ob]'. 4. Reverence regards directly the person that
excels: wherefore it admits of various species according to
the various aspects of excellence. Obedience, on the other
hand, regards the precept of the person that excels, and
therefore admits of only one aspect. And since obedience
is due to a person's precept on account of reverence to him,
it follows that obedience to a man is of one species, though
the causes from which it proceeds differ specifically.

Third Article,
whether obedience is the greatest of the virtues ?

We proceed thus to the Third A rticle : —

Objection i. It seems that obedience is the greatest of the
virtues. For it is written (i Kings xv. 22): Obedience is
better than sacrifices. Now the offering of sacrifices belongs
to religion, which is the greatest of all moral virtues, as shown
above (Q. LXXXL, A. 6). Therefore obedience is the
greatest of all virtues.

Obj. 2. Further, Gregory says {Moral, xxxv.) that obedi-
ence is the only virtue that ingrafts virtues in the soul and pro-
tects them when ingrafted. Now the cause is greater than the
effect. Therefore obedience is greater than all the virtues.

Obj. 3. Further, Gregory says {Moral, xxxv.) that evil
should never be done out of obedience : yet sometimes for the
sake of obedience we should lay aside the good we are doing.
Now one does not lay aside a thing except for something

* Cf. Q. LXXXIL, A. 2.

31 OBEDIENCE Q. 104. Art. 3

better. Therefore obedience, for whose sake the good of
other virtues is set aside, is better than other virtues.

On the contrary, Obedience deserves praise because it
proceeds from charity : for Gregory says [Moral, xxxv.) that
obedience should he practised, not out of servile fear, hut from
a sense of charity, not through fear of punishment, hut through
love of justice. Therefore charity is a greater virtue than

/ answer that, Just as sin consists in man contemning God
and adhering to mutable things, so the merit of a virtuous
act consists in man contemning created goods and adhering
to God as his end. Now the end is greater than that which
is directed to the end. Therefore if a man contemns created
goods in order that he may adhere to God, his virtue derives
greater praise from his adhering to God than from his con-
temning earthly things. And so those, namely the theo-
logical, virtues whereby he adheres to God in Himself, are
greater than the moral virtues, whereby he holds in contempt
some earthly thing in order to adhere to God.

Among the moral virtues, the greater the thing which a
man contemns that he may adhere to God, the greater the
virtue. Now there are three kinds of human goods that man
may contemn for God's sake. The lowest of these are ex-
ternal goods, the goods of the body take the middle place, and
the highest are the goods of the soul; and among these the
chief, in a way, is the will, in so far as, by his will, man makes
use of all other goods. Therefore, properly speaking, the
virtue of obedience, whereby we contemn our own will for
God's sake, is more praiseworthy than the other moral
virtues, which contemn other goods for the sake of God.

Hence Gregory says {Moral, xxxv.) that ohedience is rightly
preferred to sacrifices, hecause hy sacrifices another's body is
slain, whereas hy ohedience we slay our own will. Wherefore
even any other acts of virtue are meritorious before God
through being performed out of obedience to God's will.
For were one to suffer even martyrdom, or to give all one's
goods to the poor, unless one directed these things to the
fulfilment of the divine will, which pertains directly to

Q. 104. Art. 3 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 32

obedience, they could not be meritorious : as neither would
they be if they were done without charity, which cannot
exist apart from obedience. For it is written (i John ii. 4, 5) :
He who saith that he knoweth God, and keepeth not His com-
mandments, is a liar . . . hut he that keepeth His word, in him
in very deed the charity of God is perfected : and this because
friendship makes the same hking and disliking.

Reply Ohj. i. Obedience proceeds from reverence, which
pays worship and honour to a superior, and in this respect
it is contained under different virtues, although considered
in itself, as regarding the aspect of precept, it is one special
virtue. Accordingly, in so far as it proceeds from reverence
for a superior, it is contained, in a way, under observance;
while in so far as it proceeds from reverence for one's parents,
it is contained under piety ; and in so far as it proceeds from
reverence for God, it comes under religion, and pertains to
devotion, which is the principal act of religion. Wherefore
from this point of view it is more praiseworthy to obey God
than to offer sacrifice, as well as because, in a sacrifice we
slay another's body, whereas by obedience we slay our own will,
as Gregory says [loc. cit.). As to the special case in which
Samuel spoke, it would have been better for Saul to obey God
than to offer in sacrifice the fat animals of the Amalekites
against the commandment of God.

Reply Obj. 2. All acts of virtue, in so far as they come under
a precept, belong to obedience. Wherefore according as
acts of virtue act causally or dispositively towards their
generation and preservation, obedience is said to ingraft and
protect all virtues. And yet it does not follow that obedience
takes precedence of all virtues absolutely, for two reasons.
First, because though an act of virtue come under a precept,
one may nevertheless perform that act of virtue without
considering the aspect of precept. Consequently, if there
be any virtue, whose object is naturally prior to the precept,
that virtue is said to be naturally prior to obedience. Such
a virtue is faith, whereby we come to know the subHme
nature of divine authority, by reason of which the power to
command is competent to God. Secondly, because infusion

33 OBEDIENCE Q. 104. Art. 4

of grace and virtues may precede, even in point of time, all
virtuous acts : and in this way obedience is not prior to all
virtues, neither in point of time nor by nature.

Reply Obj. 3. There are two kinds of good. There is that
to which we are bound of necessity, for instance to love God,
and so forth : and by no means may such a good be set aside
on account of obedience. But there is another good to
which man is not bound of necessity, and this good we ought
sometimes to set aside for the sake of obedience to which we
are bound of necessity, since we ought not to do good by
falling into sin. Yet as Gregory remarks (ibid.), he who
forbids his subjects any single good, must needs allow them
many others, lest the souls of those who obey perish utterly from
starvation, through being deprived of every good. Thus the
loss of one good may be compensated by obedience and other

Fourth Article.

whether god ought to be obeyed in all things ?

We proceed thus to the Fourth Article : —

Objection i. It seems that God need not be obeyed in all
things. For it is written (Matth. ix. 30, 31) that Our Lord
after healing the two blind men commanded them, saying:
See that no man know this. But they going out spread His
fame abroad in all that country. Yet they are not blamed
for so doing. Therefore it seems that we are not bound to
obey God in all things.

Obj. 2. Further, No one is bound to do anything contrary
to virtue. Now we find that God commanded certain things
contrar^^ to virtue: thus He commanded Abraham to slay
his innocent son (Gen. xxii.); and the Jews to steal the
property of the Egyptians (Exod. xi.), which things are
contrary to justice; and Osee to take to himself a woman
who was an adulteress (Osee iii.), and this is contrary to
chastity. Therefore God is not to be obeyed in aU things.

Obj. 3. Further, Whoever obeys God conforms his will
to the divine wiU even as to the thing willed. But we are
not bound in all things to conform our will to the divine
n. ii. 4 3

Q. 104. Art. 4 THE '' SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 34

will as to the thing willed, as stated above (I.-IL, Q. XIX.,
A. 10). Therefore man is not bound to obey God in all

On the contrary, It is written (Exod. xxiv. 7) : All things
that the Lord hath spoken we will do, and we will he obedient,

I answer that, As stated above (A. i), he who obeys is
moved by the command of the person he obeys, just as
natural things are moved by their motive causes. Now
just as God is the first mover of all things that are moved
naturally, so too is He the first mover of all wills, as shown
above (I.-IL, Q. IX., A. 6). Therefore just as all natural
things are subject to the divine motion by a natural neces-
sity, so too aU wills, by a kind of necessity of justice, are
bound to obey the divine command.

Reply Ohj. i. Our Lord in telling the blind men to conceal
the miracle had no intention of binding them with the force
of a divine precept, but, as Gregory says {Moral, xix.), gave
an example to His servants idho follow Him, that they might
wish to hide their virtue and yet that it should he proclaimed
against their will, in order that others might profit hy their

Reply Ohj. 2. Even as God does nothing contrary to nature
(since the nature of a thing is what God does therein, according
to a gloss on Rom. xi.), and yet does certain things contrary
to the wonted course of nature; so too God can command
nothing contrary to virtue, since virtue and rectitude of
human will consist chiefly in conformity with God's will and
obedience to His command, although it be contrary to the
wonted mode of virtue. Accordingly, then, the command
given to Abraham to slay his innocent son was not contrary
to justice, since God is the author of life and death. Nor
again was it contrary to justice that He commanded the
Jews to take things belonging to the Egyptians, because all
things are His, and He gives them to whom He will. Nor
was it contrary to chastity that Osee was commanded to take
an adulteress, because God HimseK is the ordainer of human
generation, and the right manner of intercourse with woman
is that which He appoints. Hence it is evident that the

35 OBEDIENCE Q. 104. Art. 5

persons aforesaid did not sin, neither by obeying God nor
by willing to obey Him.

Reply Ohj. 3. Though man is not always bound to will
what God wills, yet he is always bound to will what God
wills him to will. This comes to man's knowledge chiefly
through God's command, wherefore man is bound to obey
God's commands in all things.

Fifth Article.

whether subjects are bound to obey their
superiors in all things ?

We proceed thus to the Fifth Article : —

Objection i. It seems that subjects are bound to obey their
superiors in all things. For the Apo.stle says (Coloss. iii. 20) :
Children, obey your parents in all things, and farther on
(verse 22) : Servants, obey in all things your masters according
to the flesh. Therefore in hke manner other subjects are
bound to obey their superiors in all things.

Obj. 2. Further, Superiors stand between God and their
subjects, according to Deut. v. 5, / was the mediator and
stood between the Lord and you at that time, to show you His
words. Now there is no going from extreme to extreme,
except through that which stands between. Therefore the
commands of a superior must be esteemed the commands of
God, wherefore the Apostle says (Gal. iv. 14) : You ... re-
ceived me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus, and
(i Thess. ii. 13) : When you had received of us the word of the
hearing of God, you received it, not as the word of men, but, as it
is indeed, the word of God. Therefore as man is bound to obey
God in all things, so is he bound to obey his superiors.

Obj. 3. Further, Just as religious in making their profes-
sion take vows of chastity and poverty, so do they also vow
obedience. Now a religious is bound to observe chastity
and poverty in all things. Therefore he is also bound to
obey in all things.

On the contrary, It is written (Acts v. 29) : We ought to obey
God rather than men. Now sometimes the things commanded

Q. 104. Art. 5 THE " SUMMA THEOLOGICA " 36

by a superior are against God. Therefore superiors are not
to be obeyed in all things.

/ answer that, As stated above (AA. i. 4), he who obeys
is moved at the bidding of the person who commands him,
by a certain necessity of justice, even as a natural thing is
moved through the power of its mover by a natural necessity.
That a natural thing be not moved by its mover, may
happen in two ways. First, on account of a hindrance
arising from the stronger power of some other mover ; thus
wood is not burnt by fire if a stronger force of water inter-
vene. Secondly, through lack of order in the movable
with regard to its mover, since, though it is subject to the
latter's action in one respect, yet it is not subject thereto
in every respect. Thus, a humour is sometimes subject to
the action of heat, as regards being heated, but not as
regards being dried up or consumed. In like manner there
are two reasons, for which a subject may not be bound to
obey his superior in all things. First on account of the
command of a higher power. For as a gloss says on Rom.
xiii. 2, They that resist (Vulg., — He that resisteth) the power,
resist the ordinance of God (cf. S. Augustine, De Verb.
Dom. viii.). If a commissioner issue an order, are you to
comply, if it is contrary to the bidding of the proconsul ? Again
if the proconsul command one thing and the emperor another,
will you hesitate to disregard the former and serve the latter ?
Therefore if the emperor commands one thing and God another,
you must disregard the former and obey God. Secondly, a
subject is not bound to obey his superior, if the latter com-
mand him to do something wherein he is not subject to
him. For Seneca says (De Beneficiis iii.): It is wrong to
suppose that slavery falls upon the whole man : for the better
part of him is excepted. His body is subjected and assigned
to his master, but his soul is his own. Consequently in matters
touching the internal movement of the will man is not
bound to obey his fellow-man, but God alone.

Nevertheless man is bound to obey his fellow-man in
things that have to be done externally by means of the body :
and yet, since by nature all men are equal, he is not bound

37 OBEDIENCE Q. 104. Art. 5

to obey another man in matters touching the nature of the
body, for instance in those relating to the support of his
body or the begetting of his children. Wherefore servants
are not bound to obey their masters, nor children their
parents, in the question of contracting marriage or of re-
maining in the state of virginity or the hke. But in matters
concerning the disposal of actions and human affairs, a
subject is bound to obey his superior within the sphere of
his authority; for instance a soldier must obey his general
in matters relating to war, a servant his master in matters
touching the execution of the duties of his service, a son his
father in matters relating to the conduct of his life and the
care of the household; and so forth.

Reply Ohj. i. When the Apostle says in all things, he
refers to matters within the sphere of a father's or master's

Reply Ohj. 2. Man is subject to God simply as regards
all things, both internal and external, wherefore he is bound
to obey Him in all things. On the other hand, inferiors are
not subject to their superiors in all things, but only in certain

Online LibraryAmerican UniversityAmerican University Bulletin Catalog Issue: College of Arts and Sciences Announcements (Volume 1941-1942) → online text (page 3 of 26)