09. The Angelic Will
In a spiritual nature, spiritual perception is followed by a corresponding inclination of attraction or aversion which we call will, though the name is more usually applied to the faculty than to the act. Its object is that which is perceived as good, i.e., as befitting the subject, or in some way or other perfecting it. If the object is apprehended only in that general way, the faculty cannot be indifferent – it can only seek, it cannot turn away from its object. So, too, were the object apprehended as under every aspect good, and the fullness of good, the will could only turn toward it and covet it with all the eagerness and all the energy of its nature. But where the object is presented to the will by the intellect as partly good and partly evil, or at least defective, or where the highest good itself is not perceived in all its loveliness and infinite attractiveness, the will is free either to embrace or to reject the object – even to abstain from any activity respecting it.
That the angels were endowed with freedom of will at their creation follows from the spirituality of their nature, and from the fact too that we are free. For although the power to choose moral evil is a defect, yet to be master of one’s acts is a perfection, and the angelic nature is more perfect than ours.
But the angelic will labours under the defect of every finite will. It is of its own nature capable of sin, and a great multitude of the angels did actually sin, and on that account were cast forever into the abyss of hell.
Some have thought that the angels, having once made their choice, must remain immovably fixed in it, and in this way they explain how it was impossible for the demons to repent of their sin and so obtain forgiveness. These angels were free before their choice, they say, but not after it.
It may, of course, be conceded that with their extraordinary clearness of perception the angels lack an element which is largely responsible for much fickleness on our part. Nevertheless, it does not appear why a clearness of vision which left them free antecedently to the act of choice should prove an obstacle to their freedom after it.
Besides, there is a pretty general consent among the Fathers that the reason why the angels, having once chosen, continued ever after unalterably fixed in their choice was not their nature but, in the cast of the reprobate angels, God’s justice, and in the case of the blessed spirits, the grace of God or the gift of the Holy Spirit.