27. The nature of moral goods, the fourth kind of goods, and the
permissible manner of rejoicing in them.
27.1. Moral goods are the fourth kind in which the will can rejoice. By
moral goods we mean: the virtues and their habits insofar as they are
moral; the exercise of any of the virtues; the practice of the works of
mercy; the observance of God's law; political prudence,1 and all the
practices of good manners.
27.2. When possessed and practiced, these moral goods perhaps merit more
joy of will than any of the other three kinds spoken of. For either of two
reasons, or for both together, a person can rejoice in these goods; that
is, because of what they are in themselves, or because of the good effected
through their instrumentality.
27.2.(2). We discovered that possessing the three kinds of good already
mentioned deserves no joy of will. Of themselves, as was said, they neither
have any good nor do they produce any in people, because they are so
perishable and frail. Rather, as was also pointed out, they engender pain,
sorrow, and affliction of spirit. Though they merit some joy for the second
reason, that is, when people make use of them to go to God, this benefit is
so uncertain that, as we commonly observe, a person contracts harm from
them more than help.
27.2.(3). But even for the first reason (for what they are in themselves),
moral goods merit some rejoicing by their possessor. For they bring along
with them peace, tranquility, a right and ordered use of reason, and
actions resulting from mature deliberation. Humanly speaking, a person
cannot have any nobler possession in this life.
27.3. Because virtues in themselves merit love and esteem from a human
viewpoint, and because of their nature and the good they humanly and
temporally effect, a person can well rejoice in the practice and possession
of them. Under this aspect and for this reason philosophers, wise men, and
ancient rulers esteemed, praised, and endeavored to acquire and practice
them.2 Although they were pagans who only cared for these goods in a
temporal way, because of the temporal, corporeal, and natural benefits they
knew would result, they did not merely acquire these goods and the renown
sought through them. But in addition God, who loves every good, even in the
barbarian and gentile, and does not hinder any good work from being
accomplished, as the Wise Man says [Wis. 7:22], bestowed on them an
increase of life, honor, dominion, and peace. He did this with the Romans
because of their just laws. He subjected almost the entire world to them,
paying them temporally for their commendable customs since, because of
their paganism,3 they were incapable of eternal reward.
27.3.(2). God so loves these moral goods that he was exceedingly pleased
merely because Solomon asked for wisdom in order to instruct his people,
govern them justly, and teach them worthwhile customs. And he told Solomon
that he had given it to him and moreover had granted him what had not been
asked for, that is, riches and honor, in such a way that no king in the
past or future was like him [1 Kgs. 3:11-13].
27.4. Though Christians ought to rejoice in the moral goods and works they
perform temporally, insofar as these are the cause of the temporal goods we
spoke of, they ought not stop there as did the gentiles, who with the eyes
of their soul did not go beyond the things of this mortal life. Since
Christians have the light of faith in which they hope for eternal life and
without which nothing from above or below will have any value, they ought
to rejoice in the possession and exercise of these moral goods only and
chiefly in the second manner: that insofar as they perform these works for
the love of God, these works procure eternal life for them.
27.4.(2). Thus, through their good customs and virtues they should fix
their eyes only on the service and honor of God. Without this aspect the
virtues are worth nothing in God's sight. This is evident in the Gospel in
the case of the ten virgins. They had all preserved their virginity and
done good works, yet because five of them had not rejoiced in this second
way (by directing their joy in these works to God), but rather in the
first, rejoicing vainly in the possession of these works, they were
rejected from heaven and left without any gratitude or reward from their
spouse [Mt. 25:1-13]. Also many of the ancients possessed numerous virtues
and engaged in good works, and many Christians have them today and
accomplish wonderful deeds; but such works are of no profit for eternal
life because of failure to seek only the honor and glory of God.
27.4.(3). Christians, then, should rejoice not if they accomplish good
works and abide by good customs, but if they do these things out of love
for God alone, without any other motive. As those who work only for the
service of God will receive a more elevated reward of glory, so those who
work for other motives will suffer greater shame when they stand before
27.5. For the sake of directing their joy in moral goods to God, Christians
should keep in mind that the value of their good works, fasts, alms,
penances, and so on, is not based on quantity and quality so much as on the
love of God practiced in them; and consequently that these works are of
greater excellence in the measure both that the love of God by which they
are performed is more pure and entire and that self-interest diminishes
with respect to pleasure, comfort, praise, and earthly or heavenly joy.
They should not set their heart on the pleasure, comfort, savor, and other
elements of self-interest these good works and practices usually entail,
but recollect their joy in God and desire to serve him through these means.
And through purgation and darkness as to this joy in moral goods they
should desire in secret that only God be pleased and joyful over their
works. They should have no other interest or satisfaction than the honor
and glory of God. Thus all the strength of their will in regard to these
moral goods will be recollected in God." St John of the Cross 'Ascent of Mount Carmel' Book 3 Chapter 27