John of St. Thomas on the
Gifts of the Holy Spirit


Passages from John of St. Thomas’, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit translated by Dominic Hughes OP, Sheed and Ward, 1950, Chapter 4

According to St. Thomas rectitude of judgment may be had in two ways. The first way is according to the perfect use of reason. The second is through a certain connaturality with the things to be judged. For example, in regard to matters of chastity, a man who has learned moral science may judge correctly of them by his power of reason. But one having the habit of chastity judges of them through a connaturality towards such things. Likewise, it is the province of the intellectual virtue of wisdom to judge of divine things through speculative inquiry. But it pertains to that wisdom which is a gift of the Holy Ghost to judge of them according to a connaturality with them. Denis, in The Divine Names wrote of Hierotheus that " he is perfect not only in learning divine things, but in suffering them as well." Reference should also be made to St. Thomas' Commentary on the Sentences in which he teaches that wisdom implies an overflowing fullness of knowledge, which imparts certitude of great and marvellous.

However, this argument alone does not suffice to explain the proper and formal aspect of the gift of wisdom. For if divine love and union and affective connaturality alone are presupposed for the mind to be more attentive in the consideration of the object of its love, and for it to be more easily pleased by it, wisdom would be restricted to the order of efficient causality or application. The will would merely render the intellect more attentive in its consideration, not by offering more light or expounding anything in the intellect but by applying the intellect to operate under the same light with greater attention. This, action would leave the type of knowledge unchanged. It would be much the same as when the will applies the power of sight or hearing to act with greater attention. The will does not perfect the potency or sharpen the sight, but merely applies the faculty to the act of seeing. If love does nothing more than this to the gift of wisdom, the precise nature of the light and the formal aspect on the part of the intellect which distinguishes this gift from faith and the virtue of wisdom would remain unexplained.

Wherefore it must be noted that love can be considered in two ways:

a) First, as it applies itself and other powers to action. This love is restricted to the executive or efficient order. It applies the agent to act.

b) Secondly, as it applies and unites the object to itself, assimilating it through fruition and making itself thereby connatural and proportionate to the object. Love experiences its object with a sort of loving taste, according to the Psalmist," Taste and see." In this way the one loving takes on the condition of his object, that is, through the affective experience the object is rendered more conformed, proportioned and united to the person, more suitable to him.

… the Holy Doctor presupposes that the gifts perfect a man so that he may be prompt to follow the impulse of the Holy Ghost. From this he proceeds to show how the gifts are distributed throughout the intellective and appetitive powers. Among these, he notes that it is the special province of the gift of wisdom to judge. Its judgment is unique, proceeding from a special impulse, by which the mind is elevated to judge with promptitude, and by which the soul is united and subjected to God from a connaturality and experience of divine things. This is an adequate description of the gift of wisdom.

The gift of wisdom does not judge from any knowledge derived from study and reasoning about causes or even by a light which manifests them in themselves. It judges from a connaturality and union with the supreme cause which is possessed as it were through experience.'

The formal nature by which wisdom knows the highest causes is an internal experience of God and divine things. It is a taste, love, delight, or internal contact, of the will with spiritual things.

…the gift of wisdom is a mystical and loving knowledge.

It is mystical and loving wisdom, which judges of divine things by an internal experience and taste.

It is impossible, however, that after mortal sin he should contemplate and judge by reason of that taste or internal experience of divine things, since only he who receives it knows that internal sweetness and peace which surpasses all sense, that intoxication of the Spirit and touch of divine union. When the loving experience of the divine union ceases, the experiential act of understanding and judging divine things no longer exists.

The distinction … between theology and the gift of wisdom lies in the fact that theology is concerned with truths which have been virtually revealed and are deduced from the principles of faith in a metaphysical and speculative manner. For this reason, theology frequently uses natural propositions, especially from metaphysics. It uses them merely to apprehend and judge the nature of truths, and can be found in the just and in sinners alike.

The gift of wisdom, however, is not concerned with what has been virtually revealed and what is known in its essence through a metaphysical discourse, but with what is known in affection as knowable and lovable in accord with an interior taste and experience. Accordingly, it is called the science of the saints, found only in one who has received it from God. Such wisdom is not found in a soul given to evil. Infused, like the virtues, by reason of its supernatural object, it is likewise infused because of the supernatural experiential love upon which it is founded, and because of the motion or impulse of the Holy Ghost by which it is led to judge divine things through an interior union and experience.