Grace, Actual and Habitual
by Joseph Pohle
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3. It follows, by way of corollary, that Vasquez's opinion,(200) that there can be no good work without supernatural aid in the shape of a cogitatio congrua, is untenable, as is also the assertion of Ripalda(201) that in the present economy purely natural good actions are so invariably connected with the prevenient grace of Christ that they practically never exist as such.

a) Vasquez, whose position in the matter is opposed by most other theologians, contends(202) that no man can perform a good work or resist any temptation against the natural law (Decalogue) without the help of supernatural grace derived from the merits of Christ. To avoid the heretical extreme of Baianism, however, he makes a twofold limitation. He assumes with the Scotists that there is such a thing as a morally indifferent act of the will,(203) and defines the grace which he holds to be necessary for the performance of every morally good deed, as cogitatio congrua. This "congruous thought," he says, is in itself, i.e. ontologically, natural, and can be regarded as supernatural only quoad modum et finem. The subtle argument by which Vasquez tries to establish this thesis is based principally on St. Augustine and may be summarized as follows: Whenever the Fathers and councils insist on the necessity of grace for the performance of good works, they mean all good works, natural as well as supernatural. The only alternative they know is virtue or vice, good or evil. Consequently the grace of Christ, in some form or other, is a necessary requisite of all morally good deeds.

As we have already intimated, we regard this opinion of the learned Spanish divine as erroneous.(204) Three solid reasons militate against it. The first is that, to guard against Baianism, Vasquez is compelled to assume the existence of morally indifferent acts of the will, which is untenable, as "St. Augustine and St. Thomas, and theologians generally teach that there is no such thing in the concrete as a morally indifferent act of the free will, and consequently, if the will is able, without grace, to perform acts that are not evil, it is also able to perform good acts."(205) Second, Vasquez's theory counterfeits the notion of Christian grace. "Good thoughts" come so natural to man, and are so closely bound up with the grace of creation, that even Pelagius found no difficulty in admitting this sort of "grace."(206) Surely fallen nature is not so utterly corrupt that a good child is unable to honor and love his parents without the aid of "grace" (in the sense of cogitatio congrua ex meritis Christi). The third reason which constrains us to reject Vasquez's theory, is that it leaves no room for natural morality (naturaliter honestum) to fill the void between those acts that are naturally bad (moraliter inhonesta, i.e. peccata) and such as are supernaturally good (supernaturaliter bona, i.e. salutaria). The existence of such naturally good acts would seem to be a highly probable inference from the condemnation, by Pius VI, of a certain proposition taught by the pseudo-Council of Pistoia.(207)

b) Martinez de Ripalda (+1648) tried to improve Vasquez's theory by restoring the Christian concept of grace and adding that Providence invariably precedes all naturally good works, including those performed by heathens and sinners, with the entitatively supernatural grace of illumination and confirmation.(208) In this hypothesis the necessity of grace is not theological but purely historic.(209)

Despite the wealth of arguments by which Ripalda attempted to prove his theory,(210) it has not been generally accepted. While some, e.g. Platel(211) and Pesch,(212) regard it with a degree of sympathy, others, notably De Lugo(213) and Tepe,(214) are strongly opposed to it. Palmieri thinks it may be accepted in a restricted sense, i.e. when limited to the faithful.(215)

Ripalda's hypothesis of the universality of grace is truly sublime and would have to be accepted if God's salvific will could be demonstrated by revelation or some historic law to suffer no exceptions. But Ripalda has not been able to prove this from Revelation.(216) Then, too, his theory entails two extremely objectionable conclusions: (1) a denial, not indeed of the possibility (Quesnel), but of the existence of purely natural good works, and (2) the possibility of justification without theological faith. Neither of these difficulties probably occurred to Vasquez or Ripalda,(217) because at the time when they wrote Pius VI had not yet condemned the teaching of the pseudo-Council of Pistoia,(218) nor had Innocent XI censured the proposition that "Faith in a broad sense, as derived from the testimony of creatures or some other similar motive, is sufficient for justification."(219) If the love of God, even perfect love, (such as we have shown to be possible in the natural order), were of itself necessarily supernatural, as Ripalda contends, it would be possible for a pagan to receive the grace of justification without theological faith, which he does not possess, as is evident from the Vatican teaching that it is "requisite for divine faith that revealed truth be believed because of the authority of God who reveals it."(220)

*Thesis III: Not all actions performed by man in the state of mortal sin are sinful on account of his not being in the state of grace.*

This is de fide.

Proof. Though this thesis is, strictly speaking, included in Thesis II, it must be demonstrated separately on its own merits, because it embodies a formally defined dogma which has been denied by the Protestant Reformers and by the followers of Baius and Jansenius. Martin Luther taught,—and his teaching was adopted in a modified form by the Calvinists,—that human nature is entirely depraved by original sin, and consequently man necessarily sins in whatever he does,(221) even in the process of justification. Against this heresy the Tridentine Council defined: "If any one shall say that all the works done before justification ... are indeed sins, ... let him be anathema."(222)

The Protestant notion of grace was reduced to a theological system by Baius(223) and Jansenius,(224) whose numerous errors may all be traced to their denial of the supernatural order.

The Jansenist teaching was pushed to an extreme by Paschasius Quesnel, 101 of whose propositions were formally condemned by Pope Clement XI in his famous Constitution "Unigenitus."(225) The Jansenistic teachings of the Council of Pistoia were censured by Pius VI, A. D. 1794, in his Bull "Auctorem fidei." The quintessence of this heretical system is embodied in the proposition that whatever a man does in the state of mortal sin is necessarily sinful for the reason that he is not in the state of grace (status caritatis). Baius(226) and Quesnel(227) gave this teaching an Augustinian turn by saying that there is no intermediate state between the love of God and concupiscence, and that all the works of a sinner must consequently and of necessity be sinful. This heretical teaching is sharply condemned in the Bull "Auctorem fidei."(228) Quesnel pushed it to its last revolting conclusion when he said: "The prayer of the wicked is a new sin, and that God permits it is but an additional judgment upon them."(229)

The teaching of Baius and Quesnel is repugnant to Revelation and to the doctrine of the Fathers.

a) The Bible again and again exhorts sinners to repent, to pray for forgiveness, to give alms, etc. Cfr. Ecclus. XXI, 1: "My son, thou hast sinned? Do so no more: but for thy former sins also pray that they may be forgiven thee." Ezech. XVIII, 30: "Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities: and iniquity shall not be your ruin." Dan. IV, 24: "Redeem thou thy sins with alms, and thy iniquities with works of mercy to the poor: perhaps he will forgive thy offences." Zach. I, 3: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Turn ye to me, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will turn to you." If all the works thus enjoined were but so many sins, we should be forced to conclude, on the authority of Sacred Scripture, that God commands the sinner to commit new iniquities and that the process of justification with its so-called dispositions consists in a series of sinful acts. Such an assumption would be manifestly absurd and blasphemous.

Quesnel endeavored to support his heretical conceit by Matth. VII, 17 sq.: "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit; a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit." But as our Lord in this passage speaks of prophets, the fruits he has in mind must obviously be doctrines not works.(230) And what if they were works? Are not doctrines and morals ultimately related, and may we not infer from the lives they lead (according to their doctrines) whether prophets are true or false? By their fruits (i.e. works) you shall know them (i.e. the soundness or unsoundness of the teaching upon which their works are based).

b) In appealing to the testimony of the Fathers the Jansenists were notoriously guilty of misinterpretation.

α) Origen plainly teaches that prayer before justification is a good work. "Though you are sinners," he says, "pray to God; God hears the sinners."(231) The seemingly contradictory text John IX, 31: "Now we know that God doth not hear sinners,"(232) is thus explained by St. Augustine: "He speaks as one not yet anointed; for God also hears the sinners. If He did not hear sinners, the publican would have cast his eyes to the ground in vain and vainly struck his breast saying: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner."(233) Moreover, since there is question here of extraordinary works and signs only (viz. miracles), the text is wholly irrelevant in regard to works of personal righteousness. St. Prosper teaches: "Human nature, created by God, even after its prevarication, retains its substance, form, life, senses, and reason, and the other goods of body and soul, which are not lacking even to those who are bad and vicious. But there is no possibility of seizing the true good by such things as may adorn this mortal life, but cannot give [merit] eternal life."(234)

β) Baius and Quesnel succeeded in veiling their heresy by a phraseology of Augustinian color but with implications foreign to the mind of the Doctor of Grace. Augustine emphasized the opposition between "charity" and "concupiscence" so strongly that the intermediary domain of naturally good works was almost lost to view. Thus he says in his Enchiridion: "Carnal lust reigns where there is not the love of God."(235) And in his treatise on the Grace of Christ: "Here there is no love, no good work is reckoned as done, nor is there in fact any good work, rightly so called; because whatever is not of faith is sin, and faith worketh by love."(236) And again in his treatise on Grace and Free Will: "The commandments of love or charity are so great and such, that whatever action a man may think he does well, is by no means well done if done without charity."(237) We have purposely chosen passages in which the "Doctor of Grace" obviously treats of charity as theological love, not in the broad sense of dilectio.(238) At first blush these passages seem to agree with the teaching of Baius, who says: "Every love on the part of a rational creature is either sinful cupidity, by which the world is loved, and which is forbidden by St. John, or that praiseworthy charity which is infused into the heart by the Holy Spirit, and by which we love God;"—(239) and with the forty-fifth proposition of Quesnel: "As the love of God no longer reigns in the hearts of sinners, it is necessary that carnal lust should reign in them and vitiate all their actions."(240) Yet the sense of these propositions is anything but Augustinian. Augustine upholds free-will in spite of grace and concupiscence, whereas the Jansenists assert that the carnalis cupiditas and the caritas dominans produce their effects by the very power of nature, i.e. necessarily and of themselves.(241)

Besides this capital difference there are many minor discrepancies between the teaching of St. Augustine and that of Baius and Quesnel. Augustine, it is true, in his struggle with Pelagianism,(242) strongly emphasized the opposition existing between grace and sin, between love of God and love of the world; but he never dreamed of asserting that every act performed in the state of mortal sin is sinful for the reason that it is not performed in the state of grace. Scholasticism has long since applied the necessary corrective to his exaggerations. It is perfectly orthodox to say that there is an irreconcilable opposition between the state of mortal sin and the state of grace. "No one can serve two masters."(243) This is not, however, by any means equivalent to saying, as the Jansenists do, that the sinner, not being in the state of grace, of necessity sins in whatever he does. Augustine expressly admits that, no matter how deeply God may allow a man to fall, and no matter how strongly concupiscence may dominate his will, he is yet able to pray for grace, which is in itself a distinctly salutary act. "If a sin is such," he says in his Retractationes, "that it is itself a punishment for sin, what can the will under the domination of cupidity do, except, if it be pious, to pray for help?"(244) Compare this sentence with the fortieth proposition of Baius: "The sinner in all his actions serves the lust which rules him,"(245) and you will perceive the third essential difference that separates the teaching of St. Augustine from that of the Jansenists. The former, even when he speaks, not of the two opposing habits, but of their respective acts, does not, like Jansenism, represent the universality of sin without theological charity as a physical and fundamental necessity, but merely as a historical phenomenon which admits of exceptions. Thus he writes in his treatise On the Spirit and the Letter: "If they who by nature do the things contained in the law, must not be regarded as yet in the number of those whom Christ's grace justifies, but rather as among those whose actions (although they are those of ungodly men who do not truly and rightly worship the true God) we not only cannot blame, but actually praise, and with good reason, and rightly too, since they have been done, so far as we read or know or hear, according to the rule of righteousness; though were we to discuss the question with what motive they are done, they would hardly be found to be such as to deserve the praise and defense which are due to righteous conduct."(246)

In conclusion we will quote a famous passage from St. Augustine which reads like a protest against the distortions of Baius and Jansenius. "Love," he says, "is either divine or human; human love is either licit or illicit.... I speak first of licit human love, which is free from censure; then, of illicit human love, which is damnable; and in the third place, of divine love, which leads us to Heaven.... You, therefore, have that love which is licit; it is human, but, as I have said, licit, so much so that, if it were lacking, [the want of] it would be censured. You are permitted with human love to love your spouse, your children, your friends and fellow-citizens. But, as you see, the ungodly, too, have this love, _e.g._ pagans, Jews, heretics. Who among them does not love his wife, his children, his brethren, his neighbors, his relations and friends? This, therefore, is human love. If any one would be so unfeeling as to lose even human love, not loving his own children, ... we should no longer regard him as a human being."(247) Tepe pertinently observes(248) that St. Augustine in this passage asserts not only the possibility but the actual existence of naturally good though unmeritorious works (_opera steriliter _ bona_), and that the theory of Ripalda(249) is untenable for this reason, if for no other, that the quoted passage is cited in Pius VI's Bull "_Auctorem fidei_."(250)

Article 2. The Necessity Of Actual Grace For All Salutary Acts

Salutary acts (actus salutares) are those directed to the attainment of sanctifying grace and the supernatural end of man.

According to this double purpose, salutary acts may be divided into two classes: (1) those that prepare for justification (actus simpliciter salutares), and (2) those which, following justification, gain merits for Heaven (actus meritorii).

In consequence of the supernatural character of the acts which they comprise, both these categories are diametrically opposed to that class of acts which are good only in a natural way,(251) and hence must be carefully distinguished from the latter. The Fathers did not, of course, employ the technical terms of modern theology; they had their own peculiar phrases for designating what we call salutary acts, e.g. agere sicut oportet vel expedit, agere ad salutem, agere ad iustificationem, agere ad vitam aeternam, etc.(252)

1. PELAGIANISM.—Pelagianism started as a reaction against Manichaeism, but fell into the opposite extreme of exaggerating the capacity of human nature at the expense of grace. It denied original sin(253) and grace.

As the necessity of grace for all salutary acts is a fundamental dogma of the Christian religion, the Church proceeded with unusual severity against Pelagian naturalism and condemned its vagaries through the mouth of many councils.

a) Pelagius was a British lay monk, who came to Rome about the year 400 to propagate his erroneous views.(254) He found a willing pupil in Celestius, who after distinguishing himself as a lawyer, had been ordained to the priesthood at Ephesus, about 411.

The Pelagian heresy gained another powerful champion in the person of Bishop Julian of Eclanum in Apulia. Its strongest opponent was St. Augustine. Under his powerful blows the Pelagians repeatedly changed their tactics, without however giving up their cardinal error in regard to grace. Their teaching on this point may be summarized as follows: The human will is able by its natural powers to keep all the commandments of God, to resist temptation, and to gain eternal life; in fact it can attain to a state of holiness and impeccability(255) in which the petition "Forgive us our trespasses" no longer has any meaning except perhaps as an expression of humility.(256) In so far, however, as free-will is itself a gift of the Creator, man can perform no good works without grace. At a later period of his career Pelagius admitted the existence of merely external supernatural graces, such as revelation and the example of Christ and the saints,—which led St. Augustine to remark: "This is the hidden and despicable poison of your heresy that you represent the grace of Christ as His example, not His gift, alleging that man is justified by imitating Him, not by the ministration of the Holy Spirit."(257) But even this external grace, according to Pelagius, does not confer the strength necessary to perform good works; it merely makes it easier to keep the commandments. Pelagius did not deny that justification and adoptive sonship, considered in their ideal relation to the "kingdom of Heaven," as distinguished from "eternal life,"(258) are not identical in adults with the grace of creation, but he denied their gratuity by asserting that the free will is able to merit all these graces by its own power.(259)

Whatever may have been the variations of Pelagianism, it is patent from the writings of St. Augustine that its defenders one and all rejected the necessity and existence of the immediate grace of the will.(260) Their attitude towards the illuminating grace of the intellect is in dispute. Some theologians(261) think the Pelagians admitted, others(262) that they denied its existence. No matter what they may have held on this point, there can be no doubt that the followers of Pelagius conceived the object of grace to be nothing more than to facilitate the work of salvation.

b) Within the short span of twenty years (A. D. 411 to 431) no less than twenty-four councils occupied themselves with this new heresy.

At first the wily heretic succeeded in deceiving the prelates assembled at Lydda (Diospolis), A. D. 415; but the bishops of Northern Africa, among them St. Augustine, roundly condemned his teaching at two councils held with the sanction of Pope Innocent I at Carthage and Mileve in 416. Shortly afterwards, deceived by the terms of the creeds and explanations which they circulated, Pope Zosimus (417-418) declared both Pelagius and Celestius to be innocent. Despite this intervention, however, two hundred African bishops, at a plenary council held at Carthage, A. D. 418, reiterated the canons of Mileve and submitted them for approval to the Holy See. These proceedings induced Zosimus to adopt stronger measures. In his Epistula Tractoria (418) he formally condemned Pelagianism and persuaded the Emperor to send Julian of Eclanum and seventeen other recalcitrant bishops into exile. The canons of Carthage and Mileve were subsequently received by the universal Church as binding definitions of the faith. The most important of them in regard to grace is this: "If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is given to us for the purpose of enabling us to do more easily by the aid of grace what we are commanded to do by free-will, as if we were able, also, though less easily, to observe the commandments of God without the help of grace, let him be anathema."(263) The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (A. D. 431), with the approval of Pope Celestine I, renewed the condemnation of Celestius, but it was not until nearly a century later that Pelagianism received its death-blow. In 529 the Second Council of Orange defined: "If any one assert that he is able, by the power of nature, and without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who grants to all men the disposition believingly to accept the truth, rightly (ut expedit) to think or choose anything good pertaining to eternal salvation, or to assent to salutary, i.e. evangelical preaching, such a one is deceived by a heretical spirit."(264) This decision was reiterated by the Council of Trent: "If any one saith that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly and to merit eternal life, as if by free-will without grace he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty, let him be anathema."(265)

2. PELAGIANISM REFUTED.—Sacred Scripture and the Fathers plainly teach that man is unable to perform any salutary act by his own power.

a) Among the many Biblical texts that can be quoted in support of this statement, our Lord's beautiful parable of the vine and its branches is especially striking. Cfr. John XV, 4 sq.: "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing."(266)

α) The context shows that Jesus is not speaking here of purely natural works of the kind for which the concursus generalis of God suffices, but that He has in mind salutary acts in the strictly supernatural sense; and the truth He wishes to inculcate is that fallen nature cannot perform such acts except through Him and with His assistance. This supernatural influence is not, however, to be understood exclusively of sanctifying or habitual grace, because our Divine Saviour refers to the fruits of justification and to salutary works. "Of these he does not say: 'Without me you can do but little,' but: 'Without me you can do nothing.' Be it therefore little or much, it cannot be done without Him, without whom nothing can be done."(267) If this was true of the Apostles, who were in the state of sanctifying grace,(268) it must be true a fortiori of sinners. Consequently, supernatural grace is absolutely necessary for the performance of any and all acts profitable for salvation.

β) Nowhere is this fundamental truth so clearly and insistently brought out as in the epistles of St. Paul, who is preeminently "the Doctor of Grace" among the Apostles.

There are, according to him, three categories of supernatural acts: salutary thoughts, holy resolves, and good works.

St. Paul teaches that all right thinking is from God. 2 Cor. III, 5: "Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God."(269)

He also declares that all good resolves come from above. Rom. IX, 15 sq.: "For he saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."(270)

He furthermore asserts that all good works come from God. Phil. II, 13: "For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will."(271) 1 Cor. XII, 3: "No man can say: Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost."(272) Pronouncing the holy name of Jesus is obviously regarded as a salutary act, because mere physical utterance does not require the assistance of the Holy Ghost.(273) But the act as a salutary act is physically impossible without divine assistance, because it is essentially supernatural and consequently exceeds the powers of nature.(274)

b) The argument from Tradition is based almost entirely on the authority of St. Augustine, in whom, as Liebermann observes, God wrought a miracle of grace that he might become its powerful defender. There is no need of quoting specific texts because this whole treatise is interlarded with Augustinian dicta concerning the necessity of grace.

α) An important point is to prove that the early Fathers held the Augustinian, i.e. Catholic view. It stands to reason that if these Fathers had taught a different doctrine, the Church would not have so vehemently rejected Pelagianism as an heretical innovation. Augustine himself insists on the novelty of the Pelagian teaching. "Such is the Pelagian heresy," he says, "which is not an ancient one, but has only lately come into existence."(275) And this view is confirmed by Pope Celestine I, who declares in his letter to the Bishops of Gaul (A. D. 431): "This being the state of the question, novelty should cease to attack antiquity."(276)

In fact the teaching of the Apostolic Fathers, although less explicit, agrees entirely with that of Augustine. Thus St. Irenaeus says: "As the dry earth, if it receives no moisture, does not bring forth fruit, so we, being dry wood, could never bear fruit for life without supernatural rain freely given.... The blessing of salvation comes to us from God, not from ourselves."(277)

The necessity of grace is indirectly inculcated by the Church when she petitions God to grant salutary graces to all men—a most ancient and venerable practice, which Pope St. Celestine explains as follows: "The law of prayer should determine the law of belief. For when the priests of holy nations administer the office entrusted to them, asking God for mercy, they plead the cause of the human race, and together with the whole Church ask and pray that the unbelievers may receive the faith, that the idolaters may be freed from the errors of their impiety, that the veil be lifted from the heart of the Jews, and they be enabled to perceive the light of truth, that the heretics may return to their senses by a true perception of the Catholic faith, that the schismatics may receive the spirit of reborn charity, that the sinners be granted the remedy of penance, and that the door of heavenly mercy be opened to the catechumens who are led to the sacraments of regeneration."(278) In matters of salvation prayer and grace are correlative terms; the practice of the one implies the necessity and gratuity of the other.(279)

β) That the Fathers not only conceived grace to be necessary for the cure of weakness induced by sin (gratia sanans) in a merely moral sense, but thought it to be metaphysically necessary for the communication of physical strength (gratia elevans), is evidenced by such oft-recurring similes as these: Grace is as necessary for salvation as the eye is to see, or as wings are to fly, or as rain is for the growth of plants.

It will suffice to quote a passage from the writings of St. Chrysostom. "The eyes," he says, "are beautiful and useful for seeing, but if they would attempt to see without light, all their beauty and visual power would avail them nothing. Thus, too, the soul is but an obstacle in its own way if it endeavors to see without the Holy Ghost."(280)

This view is strengthened by the further teaching of the Fathers that supernatural grace was as indispensable to the angels in their state of probation (in which they were free from concupiscence) and to our first parents in Paradise (gifted as they were with the donum integritatis), as it is to fallen man; the only difference being that in the case of the latter, grace has the additional object of curing the infirmities and overcoming the difficulties arising from concupiscence. In regard to the angels St. Augustine says; "And who made this will but He who created them with a good will, that is to say with a chaste love by which they should cleave to Him, in one and the same act creating their nature and endowing it with grace?... We must therefore acknowledge, with the praise due to the Creator, that not only of holy men, but also of the holy angels, it can be said that 'the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given unto them.' "(281)

Equally convincing is the argument that Adam in Paradise was unable to perform any salutary acts without divine grace. "Just as it is in man's power to die whenever he will," says St. Augustine, "... but the mere will cannot preserve life in the absence of food and the other means of life; so man in Paradise was able of his mere will, simply by abandoning righteousness, to destroy himself; but to have led a life of righteousness would have been too much for his will, unless it had been sustained by the power of Him who made him."(282)

This is also the teaching of the Second Council of Orange (A. D. 529): "Even if human nature remained in the state of integrity, in which it was constituted, it would in no wise save itself without the help of its Creator. If it was unable, without the grace of God, to keep what it had received, how should it be able without the grace of God to regain what it has lost?"(283)

c) The theological argument for the metaphysical necessity of grace is based on the essentially supernatural character of all salutary acts.

α) St. Thomas formulates it as follows: "Eternal life is an end transcending the proportion of human nature, ... and therefore man, by nature, can perform no meritorious works proportioned to eternal life, but requires for this purpose a higher power,—the power of grace. Consequently, man cannot merit eternal life without grace. He is, however, able to perform acts productive of some good connatural to man, such as tilling the soil, drinking, eating, acts of friendship, etc."(284) For the reason here indicated it is as impossible for man to perform salutary acts without grace as it would be to work miracles without that divine assistance which transcends the powers of nature.(285)

β) Catholic theologians are unanimous in admitting that all salutary acts are and must needs be supernatural; but they differ in their conception of this supernatural quality (supernaturalitas). The problem underlying this difference of opinion may be stated thus: A thing may be supernatural either entitatively, quoad substantiam, or merely as to the manner of its existence, quoad modum. The supernaturale quoad substantiam is divided into the strictly supernatural and the merely preternatural.(286) The question is: To what category of the supernatural belong the salutary acts which man performs by the aid of grace? Undoubtedly there are actual graces which are entitatively natural, e.g. the purely mediate grace of illumination,(287) the natural graces conferred in the pure state of nature, the actual graces of the sensitive sphere,(288) and the so-called cogitatio congrua of Vasquez.(289) The problem therefore narrows itself down to the immediate graces of intellect and will. Before the Tridentine Council theologians contented themselves with acknowledging the divinely revealed fact that these graces are supernatural; it was only after the Council that they began to speculate on the precise character of this supernaturalitas.

Some, following the teaching of the Scotist school, ascribed the supernatural character of salutary acts to their free acceptation on the part of God, holding them to be purely natural in their essence and raised to the supernatural sphere merely per denominationem extrinsecam.(290) This view is untenable. For if nature, as such, possessed the intrinsic power to perform salutary acts, irrespective of their acceptation by God, the Fathers and councils would err in teaching that this power is derived from the immediate graces of illumination and strengthening.(291)

Others hold that the salutary acts which grace enables man to perform, are supernatural only quoad modum; because while it is the Holy Ghost Himself who incites the natural faculties to salutary thoughts and good resolves, He does not eo ipso raise these thoughts and resolves to the supernatural plane. This theory, besides being open to the same objection which we have urged against the first, involves another difficulty. If all salutary acts were supernatural only quoad modum, sanctifying grace, which is as certainly supernatural in its essence as the beatific vision of God,(292) would cease to have an adequate purpose; for the intrinsic reason for its existence is precisely that it raises the nature of the justified into a permanent supernatural state of being.

A third school of theologians tries to solve the difficulty by adding to the natural operation of the intellect and the will some accidental supernatural modus. There are several such modi, which, though inhering in nature and really distinct therefrom, depend solely on the Holy Ghost, and consequently transcend the natural powers of man, e.g. the duration or intensity of a salutary act. This theory at first blush appears more plausible than the other two, but it cannot be squared with the teaching of Tradition. In the first place, the duration or intensity of a salutary act cannot affect its essence or nature. Then again, every such accidental supernatural modus is produced either by grace alone, or by grace working conjointly with free-will. In the former hypothesis it would be useless, because it would not render the free salutary act, as such, supernatural; in the latter case it could do no more than aid the will to do what is morally impossible, whereas every salutary act is in matter of fact a physical impossibility, that is, impossible to unaided nature.(293)

There remains a fourth explanation, which ascribes to every salutary act an ontological, substantial, intrinsic supernaturalitas, whereby it is elevated to a higher and essentially different plane of being and operation. This theory is convincingly set forth by Suarez in his treatise on the Necessity of Grace.(294)

It may be asked: If the salutary acts which we perform are supernatural in substance, why are we not conscious of the fact? The answer is not far to seek. Philosophical analysis shows that the intrinsic nature of our psychic operations is no more a subject of immediate consciousness than the substance of the soul itself. Consequently, sanctifying grace cannot reveal its presence through our inner consciousness. Having no intuitive knowledge of our own Ego, we are compelled to specify the different acts of the soul by means of their respective objects and their various tendencies (cognition, volition). To our consciousness the supernatural love of God does not present itself as essentially different from the natural.(295)

Article 3. The Necessity Of Actual Grace For The States Of Unbelief, Mortal Sin, And Justification

Every adult man, viewed in his relation to actual grace, is in one of three distinct states:

(1) The state of unbelief (status infidelitatis), which may be either negative, as in the case of heathens, or positive, as in the case of apostates and formal heretics;

(2) The state of mortal sin (status peccati mortalis), when the sinner has already received, or not yet lost, the grace of faith, which is the beginning of justification;

(3) The state of justification itself (status iustitiae sive gratiae sanctificantis), in which much remains yet to be done to attain eternal happiness.

The question we have now to consider is: Does man need actual grace in every one of these three states, and if so, to what extent?

1. SEMIPELAGIANISM.—Semipelagianism is an attempt to effect a compromise between Pelagianism and Augustinism by attributing to mere nature a somewhat greater importance in matters of salvation than St. Augustine was willing to admit.

a) After Augustine had for more than twenty years vigorously combatted and finally defeated Pelagianism, some pious monks of Marseilles, under the leadership of John Cassian, Abbot of St. Victor,(296) tried to find middle ground between his teaching and that of the Pelagians. Cassian's treatise Collationes Patrum,(297) and the reports sent to St. Augustine by his disciples Prosper and Hilary, enable us to form a pretty fair idea of the Semipelagian system. Its principal tenets were the following:

α) There is a distinction between the "beginning of faith" (initium fidei, affectus credulitatis) and "increase in faith" (augmentum fidei). The former depends entirely on the will, while the latter, like faith itself, requires the grace of Christ.

β) Nature can merit grace by its own efforts, though this natural merit (meritum naturae) is founded on equity only (meritum de congruo), and does not confer a right in strict justice, as Pelagius contended.

γ) Free-will, after justification, can of its own power secure the gift of final perseverance (donum perseverantiae); which consequently is not a special grace, but a purely natural achievement.

δ) The bestowal or denial of baptismal grace in the case of infants, who can have no previous merita de congruo, depends on their hypothetical future merits or demerits as foreseen by God from all eternity.(298)

b) Informed of these errors by his disciples, St. Augustine energetically set to work, and in spite of his advanced age wrote two books against the Semipelagians, entitled respectively, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum and De Dono Perseverantiae. The new teaching was not yet, however, regarded as formally heretical, and Augustine treated his opponents with great consideration, in fact he humbly acknowledged that he himself had professed similar errors before his consecration (A. D. 394).(299)

After Augustine's death, Prosper and Hilary went to Rome and interested Pope Celestine in their cause. In a dogmatic letter addressed to the Bishops of Gaul, the Pontiff formally approved the teaching of St. Augustine on grace and original sin, but left open such other "more profound and difficult incidental questions" as predestination and the manner in which grace operates in the soul.(300) But as this papal letter (called "Indiculus") was an instruction rather than an ex-cathedra definition, the controversy continued until, nearly a century later (A. D. 529), the Second Council of Orange, convoked by St. Caesarius of Arles, formally condemned the Semipelagian heresy. This council, or at least its first eight canons,(301) received the solemn approbation of Pope Boniface II (A. D. 530) and thus became vested with ecumenical authority.(302)

2. THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH.—The Catholic Church teaches the absolute necessity of actual grace for all stages on the way to salvation. We shall demonstrate this in five separate theses.

*Thesis I: Prevenient grace is absolutely necessary, not only for faith, but for the very beginning of faith.*

This is de fide.

Proof. The Second Council of Orange defined against the Semipelagians: "If any one say that increase in faith, as well as the beginning of faith, and the very impulse by which we are led to believe in Him who justifies the sinner, and by which we obtain the regeneration of holy Baptism, is in us not as a gift of grace, that is to say, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but by nature, ... is an adversary of the dogmatic teaching of the Apostles...."(303)

a) This is thoroughly Scriptural doctrine, as St. Augustine(304) and Prosper(305) proved. St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians had opened the eyes of Augustine, as he himself admits. 1 Cor. IV, 7: "For who distinguisheth(306) thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" The Apostle means to say: In matters pertaining to salvation no man has any advantage over his fellow men, because all receive of the grace of God without any merits of their own. This statement would be false if any man were able to perform even the smallest salutary act without the aid of grace.

With a special view to faith the same Apostle teaches: "For by grace you are saved through faith,(307) and that not of yourselves,(308) for it is the gift of God;(309) not of works,(310) that no man may glory."(311) This, too, would be false if faith could be traced to a purely natural instinct or to some meritum de congruo in the Semipelagian sense.(312) Our Lord Himself, in his famous discourse on the Holy Eucharist, unmistakably describes faith and man's preparation for it as an effect of prevenient grace. "No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him."(313) The metaphorical expression "come to me," according to the context, means "believe in me;" whereas the Father's "drawing" plainly refers to the operation of prevenient grace. Cfr. John VI, 65 sq.: "But there are some of you that believe not.... Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by the Father." John VI, 29: "This is the work of God,(314) that you believe in him whom he hath sent." According to our Saviour's own averment, therefore, preaching is of no avail unless grace gives the first impulse leading to faith.

b) As regards the argument from Tradition, it will suffice to show that the Fathers who wrote before Augustine, ascribed the beginning of faith to prevenient grace.

α) In the light of the Augustinian dictum that "prayer is the surest proof of grace,"(315) it is safe to assume that St. Justin Martyr voiced our dogma when he put into the mouth of a venerable old man the words: "But thou pray above all that the gates of light may be opened unto thee; for no man is able to understand the words of the prophets [as praeambula fidei] unless God and His Christ have revealed their meaning."(316) Augustine himself appeals to SS. Cyprian, Ambrose, and Gregory of Nazianzus, and then continues: "Such doctors, and so great as these, saying that there is nothing of which we may boast as of our own, which God has not given us; and that our very heart and our thoughts are not in our own power, ... attribute these things to the grace of God, acknowledge them as God's gifts, testify that they come to us from Him and are not from ourselves."(317)

β) Like the Pelagians in their teaching on original sin,(318) the Semipelagians in their teaching on grace relied mainly on the authority of St. John Chrysostom, from whose writings they loved to quote such perplexing passages as this: "We must first select the good, and then God adds what is of His; He does not forestall our will because He does not wish to destroy our liberty. But once we have made our choice, He gives us much help. For while it rests with us to choose and to will antecedently, it lies with him to perfect and bring to an issue."(319)

To understand St. Chrysostom's attitude, and that of the Oriental Fathers generally, we must remember that the Eastern Church considered it one of its chief duties to safeguard the dogma of free-will against the Manichaeans, who regarded man as an abject slave of Fate. In such an environment it was of supreme importance to champion the freedom of the will(320) and to insist on the maxim: "Help yourself and God will help you." If the necessity of prevenient grace was not sufficiently emphasized, the circumstances of the time explain, and to some extent excuse, the mistake. St. Augustine himself remarks in his treatise on the Predestination of the Saints: "What need is there for us to look into the writings of those who, before this heresy sprang up, had no necessity of dwelling on a question so difficult of solution as this, which beyond a doubt they would do if they were compelled to answer such [errors as these]? Whence it came about that they touched upon what they thought of God's grace briefly and cursorily in some passages of their writings."(321) Palmieri remarks(322) that it would be easy to cite a number of similar passages from the writings of the early Latin Fathers before Pelagius, who certainly cannot be suspected of Semipelagian leanings.(323)

The orthodoxy of St. Chrysostom can be positively established by a twofold argument. (1) Pope Celestine the First recommended him as a reliable defender of the Catholic faith against Nestorianism and Pelagianism.(324) (2) Chrysostom rejected Semipelagianism as it were in advance when he taught: "Not even faith is of ourselves; for if He [God] had not come, if He had not called, how should we have been able to believe?"(325) and again when he says in his explanation of the Pauline phrase ἀρχηγὸς τῆς πίστεως:(326) "He Himself hath implanted the faith in us, He Himself hath given the beginning."(327) These utterances are diametrically opposed to the heretical teaching of the Semipelagians.(328)

c) The theological argument for our thesis is effectively formulated by Oswald(329) as follows: "It is faith which first leads man from the sphere of nature into a higher domain,—faith is the beginning of salutary action. That this beginning must come wholly from God, and that it cannot come from man, goes without saying. By beginning we mean the very first beginning. Whether we call this first beginning itself faith, or speak, as the Semipelagians did, of certain preambles of faith,—aspirations, impulses, desires leading to faith (praeambula fidei: conatus, desideria, credulitatis affectus), makes no difference. Wherever the supernatural domain of salutary action begins—and it is divided off from the natural by a very sharp line—there it is God who begins and not man, there it is grace which precedes,—gratia praeveniens, as it has come to be known by a famous term."

Indeed, if man were able by his own power to merit for himself the first beginnings of grace, then faith itself, and justification which is based on faith, and the beatific vision, would not be strictly graces.

As for the precise moment when prevenient grace begins its work in the soul, the common opinion is that the very first judgment which a man forms as to the credibility of divine revelation (iudicium credibilitatis) is determined by the immediate grace of the intellect,(330) and that the subsequent affectus credulitatis springs from the strengthening grace of the will. St. Augustine, commenting on 2 Cor. III, 5, demonstrates this as follows:

"Let them give attention to this, and well weigh these words, who think that the beginning of faith is of ourselves, and the increase of faith is of God. For who cannot see that thinking is prior to believing? For no one believes anything unless he has first thought that it is to be believed.... Therefore, in what pertains to religion and piety [of which the Apostle was speaking], if we are not capable of thinking anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, we are certainly not capable of believing anything as of ourselves, since we cannot do this without thinking, but our sufficiency, by which we begin to believe, is of God."(331)

*Thesis II: The sinner, even after he has received the faith, stands in absolute need of prevenient and co-operating grace for every single salutary act required in the process of justification.*

This proposition also embodies an article of faith.

Proof. The Semipelagians ascribed the dispositions necessary for justification to the natural efforts of the will, thereby denying the necessity of prevenient grace. This teaching was condemned as heretical by the Second Council of Orange (A. D. 529),(332) and again by the Council of Trent, which defined: "If any one saith that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without His help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so that the grace of justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema."(333)

a) The Scriptural texts which we have quoted against Pelagianism(334) also apply to the Semipelagian heresy.

Our Lord's dictum: "Without me you can do nothing,"(335) proves the necessity of prevenient and co-operating grace, not only at the beginning of every salutary act, but also for its continuation and completion. St. Augustine clearly perceived this. "That he might furnish a reply to the future Pelagius," he observes, "our Lord does not say: Without me you can with difficulty do anything; but He says: Without me you can do nothing.... He does not say: Without me you can perfect nothing, but do nothing. For if He had said perfect, they might say that God's aid is necessary, not for beginning good, which is of ourselves, but for perfecting it.... For when the Lord says, Without me you can do nothing, in this one word He comprehends both the beginning and the end."(336)

St. Paul expressly ascribes the salvation of man to grace when he says: "... with fear and trembling work out your salvation; for it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish."(337)

The Tridentine Council, as we have seen, designates the four salutary acts of faith, hope, love, and penitence as a preparation for justification. Now St. Paul teaches: "The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope and in the power of the Holy Ghost;"(338) and St. John: "Charity is of God."(339)

b) The argument from Tradition is chiefly based on St. Augustine, who in his two treatises against the Semipelagians, and likewise in his earlier writings, inculcates the necessity of grace for all stages on the way to salvation.

Thus he writes in his Enchiridion: "Surely, if no Christian will dare to say this: It is not of God that showeth mercy, but of man that willeth, lest he should openly contradict the Apostle, it follows that the true interpretation of the saying (Rom. IX, 16): 'It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,' is that the whole work belongs to God, who both prepares the good will that is to be helped, and assists it when it is prepared. For the good will of man precedes many of God's gifts, but not all; and it must itself be included among those which it does not precede. We read in Holy Scripture, both 'God's mercy shall prevent me' (Ps. LVIII, 11), and 'Thy mercy will follow me' (Ps. XXII, 6). It precedes the unwilling to make him willing; it follows the willing to render his will effectual. Why are we taught to pray for our enemies, who are plainly unwilling to lead a holy life, unless it be that God may work willingness in them? And why are we admonished to ask that we may receive, unless it be that He who has created in us the wish, may Himself satisfy the same? We pray, then, for our enemies, that the mercy of God may precede them, as it has preceded us; we pray for ourselves, that His mercy may follow us."(340)

That grace accompanies us uninterruptedly on the way to Heaven is also the teaching of St. Jerome: "To will and to run is my own act; but without the constant aid of God, even my own act will not be mine; for the Apostle says (Phil. II, 13): 'It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish.'... It is not sufficient for me that He gave it once, unless He gives it always."(341)

St. Ephraem Syrus prays in the name of the Oriental Church: "I possess nothing, and if I possess anything, Thou [O God] hast given it to me.... I ask only for grace and acknowledge that I shall be saved through Thee."(342)

The Second Council of Orange summarizes the teaching of Tradition on the subject under consideration.(343)

c) The theological argument for our thesis is based on the character of the adoptive sonship resulting from the process of justification.(344) This sonship (filiatio adoptiva) is essentially supernatural, and hence can be attained only by strictly supernatural acts, which unaided nature is both morally and physically incapable of performing.(345)

*Thesis III: Even in the state of sanctifying grace man is not able to perform salutary acts, unless aided by actual graces.*

This is likewise de fide.

Proof. The faculties of the just man are permanently kept in the supernatural sphere by sanctifying grace and by the habits of faith, hope, and charity. Hence the just man in the performance of salutary acts does not require the same measure of prevenient grace as the unregenerate sinner, who lacks all, or at least some, of the habits mentioned.

The question here at issue, therefore, can only be: Is actual grace (as gratia excitans s. vocans, not elevans) absolutely necessary to enable a man in the state of sanctifying grace to perform salutary acts? The answer is—Yes, and this teaching is so firmly grounded on Sacred Scripture and Tradition, and so emphatically sanctioned by the Church, that we do not hesitate to follow Perrone in qualifying it as de fide.(346) The councils in their teaching on the necessity of grace, assert that necessity alike for the justified and the unjustified. That of Trent expressly declares: "Whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses His virtue into the justified,—as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,—and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified...."(347)

a) Our thesis can be easily proved from Holy Scripture. We have already shown that the Bible and Tradition make no distinction between the different stages on the way to salvation, or between different salutary acts, but indiscriminately postulate for all the illuminating grace of the intellect and the strengthening grace of the will. It follows that to perform salutary acts the justified no less than the unjustified need actual grace. Our Saviour's pithy saying: "Without me you can do nothing,"(348) was not addressed to unbelievers or sinners, but to His Apostles, who were in the state of sanctifying grace.(349)

This interpretation is fully borne out by Tradition. St. Augustine, after laying it down as a general principle that "We can of ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without God either working that we may will, or co-operating when we will,"(350) says of justified man in particular: "The Heavenly Physician cures our maladies, not only that they may cease to exist, but in order that we may ever afterwards be able to walk aright,—a task to which we should be unequal, even after our healing, were it not for His continued help.... For just as the eye of the body, even when completely sound, is unable to see, unless aided by the brightness of light, so also man, even when fully justified, is unable to lead a holy life, unless he be divinely assisted by the eternal light of righteousness."(351)

This agrees with the practice of the Church in exhorting all men without exception, saints as well as sinners, to pray: "Precede, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspiration, and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance, that every prayer and work of ours may begin always from Thee, and through Thee be happily ended."(352)

b) Some theologians have been led by certain speculative difficulties to deny the necessity of actual grace in the state of justification.

Man in the state of justification, they argue, is endowed with sanctifying grace, the supernatural habits of faith, hope, and charity, and the infused moral virtues, and consequently possesses all those qualifications which are necessary to enable him to perform salutary acts with the supernatural concurrence of God. Why should the will, thus supernaturally equipped, require the aid of additional actual graces to enable it to perform strictly supernatural, and therefore salutary, actions?(353)

We reply: The necessity of actual grace in the state of justification is so clearly taught by divine Revelation that no theological theory is tenable which denies it. Besides, the objection we have briefly summarized disregards some very essential considerations, e.g. that there remains in man, even after justification, concupiscence, which is accompanied by a certain weakness that requires at least the gratia sanans sive medicinalis to heal it.(354) Furthermore, a quiescent habitus cannot set itself in motion, but must be determined from without; that is to say, in our case, it must be moved by the gratia excitans to elicit supernatural thoughts and to will supernatural acts. Just as a seed cannot sprout without the aid of appropriate stimuli, so sanctifying grace is incapable of bearing fruit unless stimulated by the sunshine and moisture of actual graces. Man may perform purely natural acts even though he be in the supernatural state of grace; hence if any particular act of his is to be truly supernatural and conducive to eternal salvation, God must lend His special aid.(355)

*Thesis IV: Except by a special privilege of divine grace, man, even though he be in the state of sanctifying grace, is unable to avoid venial sin throughout life.*

This is likewise de fide.

Proof. The Pelagians held that man is able to avoid sin, nay to attain to absolute impeccability,(356) without supernatural assistance. Against this error the Second Council of Mileve (A. D. 416) defined: "It likewise hath pleased [the holy Synod] that whoever holds that the words of the Our Father: 'Forgive us our trespasses,' when pronounced by saintly men, are pronounced in token of humility, but not truthfully, should be anathema."(357) Still more to the point is the following declaration of the Council of Trent: "If any one saith that a man once justified ... is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special grace from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema."(358)

To obtain a better understanding of this Tridentine definition it will be well to ponder the following considerations:

The Council declares that it is impossible for man, even in the state of sanctifying grace, to avoid all sins during his whole life, except by virtue of a special privilege such as that enjoyed by the Blessed Virgin Mary.(359) A venial sin is one which, because of the unimportance of the precept involved, or in consequence of incomplete consent, does not destroy the state of grace. Such a sin may be either deliberate or semi-deliberate. A semi-deliberate venial sin is one committed in haste or surprise. It is chiefly sins of this kind that the Tridentine Council had in view. For no one would seriously assert that with the aid of divine grace a saint could not avoid at least all deliberate venial sins for a considerable length of time. The phrase "in tota vita" indicates a period of some length, though its limits are rather difficult to determine. Were a man to die immediately after justification, the Tridentine canon would per accidens not apply to him. As the Council says in another place that "men, how holy and just soever, at times fall into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial,"(360) it is safe practically to limit the period of possible freedom from venial sin to one day. Theoretically, of course, it may be extended much farther. The phrase "omnia peccata" must be interpreted collectively, not distributively, for a sin that could not be avoided would cease to be a sin. For the same reason the term "non posse" must be understood of (moral, not physical) disability; in other words, the difficulty of avoiding sin with the aid of ordinary graces for any considerable length of time, is insuperable even for the just. This moral impossibility of avoiding sin can be removed only by a special privilege, such as that enjoyed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. It may incidentally be asked whether this privilege was also granted to other saints, notably St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist. Suarez lays it down as a theological conclusion that no human being has ever been or ever will be able entirely to avoid venial sin except by a special privilege, which must in each case be proved. Palmieri maintains that the moral impossibility of leading an absolutely sinless life without the special assistance of grace is taught by indirection in the canons of Mileve (416) and Carthage (418), which declare that no such life has ever been led by mortal man without that assistance.(361)

a) The Scriptural argument for our thesis was fully developed by the councils just mentioned. The careful student will note, however, that those texts only are strictly conclusive which positively and exclusively refer to venial sins. Thus when St. James says: "In many things we all offend,"(362) he cannot mean that all Christians now and then necessarily commit mortal sin. For St. John expressly declares that "Whosoever abideth in him [Christ], sinneth not."(363)

It follows that not even the just can wholly avoid venial sin. Hence the most devout and pious Christian may truthfully repeat the petition of the Lord's Prayer which says: "Forgive us our trespasses,(364) as we forgive those who trespass against us."(365) Profoundly conscious of the sinfulness of the entire human race, the author of the Book of Proverbs exclaims: "Who can say, My heart is clean, I am pure from sin?"(366)

Other Scripture texts commonly cited in confirmation of our thesis lack cogency, because they either deal exclusively with mortal sin or do not refer to sin at all. Thus Prov. XXIV, 16: "A just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again," is meant of temporal adversities.(367) Eccles. VII, 21: "There is no just man upon earth, that doth good and sinneth not,"(368) can scarcely be understood of venial sin, because the sacred writer continues: "For thy conscience knoweth that thou also hast often spoken evil of others."(369) 1 John I, 8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,"(370) would be a splendid argument for our thesis, could it be shown that the Apostle had in mind only the venial sins committed in the state of justification. This is, however, unlikely, as the term peccatum throughout St. John's first Epistle(371) is obviously employed in the sense of mortal sin.(372)

b) Tradition is again most effectively voiced by St. Augustine, who writes: "There are three points, as you know, which the Catholic Church chiefly maintains against them [the Pelagians]. One is, that the grace of God is not given according to our merits.... The second, that no one lives in this corruptible body in righteousness of any degree without sins of any kind. The third, that man is born obnoxious to the first man's sin...."(373) To Pelagius' objection: "If all men sin, then the just must die in their sins," the holy Doctor replies: "With all his acuteness he [Pelagius] overlooks the circumstance that even righteous persons pray with good reason: 'Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.'... Even if we cannot live without sin, we may yet die without sin, whilst the sin committed in ignorance or infirmity is blotted out in merciful forgiveness."(374) In another chapter of the same treatise he says: "If ... we could assemble all the afore-mentioned holy men and women, and ask them whether they lived without sin, ... would they not all exclaim with one voice: 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us'?"(375)

c) We come to the theological argument. The moral impossibility of avoiding venial sin for any considerable length of time results partly from the infirmity of human nature (infirmitas naturae), partly from God's pre-established plan of salvation (ordo divinae providentiae).

α) The infirmity of human nature flows from four separate and distinct sources: (1) concupiscence (fomes peccati); (2) imperfection of the ethical judgment (imperfectio iudicii); (3) inconstancy of the will (inconstantia voluntatis); and (4) the weariness caused by continued resistance to temptation. In view of these agencies and their combined attack upon the will, theologians speak of a necessitas antecedens peccandi;—not as if the will were predestined to succumb to any one temptation in particular, but in the sense that it is morally unable to resist the whole series (suppositione disiuncta). The will simply grows weaker and weaker, and in course of time fails to resist sin with sufficient energy.

Let us exemplify. The proofsheets of a book are scrutinized by several trained readers, yet in spite of the greatest care and many ingenious devices for the elimination of error, a perfect book, i.e. one entirely free from mistakes, is a practical impossibility. How much harder must it be for man to avoid moral lapses throughout his whole life, considering that he cannot choose his own time for meeting temptations, but must keep his mind and will under constant control and be prepared to resist the enemy at any moment.(376)

St. Thomas Aquinas says: "Man cannot avoid all venial sin, because his sensual appetite is depraved. True, reason is able to suppress the individual stirrings of this appetite. In fact, it is on this account that they are voluntary and partake of the nature of sin. But reason is not able to suppress them all [collectively], because, while it tries to resist one, there perhaps arises another, and, furthermore, reason is not always in a condition to exercise the vigilance necessary to avoid such impulses."(377)

It follows that the necessitas peccandi antecedens does not destroy the liberty of the will or the moral imputability of those venial sins which a man actually commits; for it is merely a necessitas indeterminata, which refers not to certain particular instances, but to the one or other indeterminately. It follows further that God does not command the impossible when He insists that we should avoid venial sin, for He does not in each single case command something which is physically or morally impossible,(378) but merely demands a perfection which in itself is not entirely unattainable hic et nunc with the assistance of ordinary grace.(379)

β) The second theological reason for the impossibility of avoiding venial sin for any considerable time is based on the eternal scheme of salvation decreed by Divine Providence. This scheme of salvation must not, of course, be conceived as a divine precept to commit venial sins. It is merely a wise toleration of sin and a just refusal, on the part of the Almighty, to restore the human race to that entirely unmerited state of freedom from concupiscence with which it was endowed in Paradise, and which alone could guarantee the moral possibility of unspotted innocence. Both factors in their last analysis are based upon the will of God to exercise those whom He has justified in humility and to safeguard us against pride, which is the deadliest enemy of our salvation.(380) In making this wise decree God, of course, infallibly foresaw that no man (with the sole exception of those to whom He might grant a special privilege) would de facto be able to pass through life without committing venial sins. This infallible foreknowledge is based not alone on the scientia media, but also on the infirmity of human nature.

Hence Suarez was entirely justified in rejecting the singular opinion of de Vega,(381) that the Tridentine definition does not exclude the possibility of exceptions.(382)

Nevertheless the faithful are wisely warned against both indifference and despondency. "Let no one say that he is without sin, but let us not for this reason love sin. Let us detest sin, brethren. Though we are not without sins, let us hate them; especially let us avoid grievous sins, and venial sins, too, as much as we can."(383)

*Thesis V: No man can persevere in righteousness without special help from God.*

This proposition is also de fide.

Proof. The Semipelagians asserted that man is able by his own power to persevere in righteousness to the end.(384) Against this teaching the Second Council of Orange defined: "Even those who are reborn and holy must implore the help of God, in order that they may be enabled to attain the good end, or to persevere in the good work."(385) This definition was repeated in substance by the Council of Trent: "If any one saith that the justified either is able without the special help of God to persevere in the justice received, or that, with that help, he is not able; let him be anathema."(386)

Perfect perseverance is the preservation of baptismal innocence, or, in a less strict sense, of the state of grace, until death. Imperfect perseverance is a temporary continuance in grace, e.g. for a month or a year, until the next mortal sin. Imperfect perseverance, according to the Tridentine Council, requires no special divine assistance (speciale auxilium).(387)

Final perseverance is either passive or active, according as the justified dies in the state of grace irrespective of his will (as baptized children and insane adults),(388) or actively cooeperates with grace whenever the state of grace is imperilled by grievous temptation. The Council of Trent has especially this latter case in view when it speaks of the necessity of a speciale auxilium, because the special help extended by God presupposes cooeperation with grace, and man cannot strictly speaking cooeperate in a happy death. The Council purposely speaks of an auxilium, not a privilegium, because a privilege is by its very nature granted to but few, while the special help of grace extends to all the elect. This auxilium is designated as speciale, because final perseverance is not conferred with sanctifying grace, nor is it a result of the mere power of perseverance (posse perseverare). The state of sanctifying grace simply confers a claim to ordinary graces, while the power of perseverance of itself by no means insures actual perseverance (actu perseverare). The power of perseverance is assured by those merely sufficient graces which are constantly at the command of the righteous. Actual perseverance, on the other hand, implies a series of efficacious graces. God is under no obligation to bestow more than sufficient grace on any man; consequently, final perseverance is a special grace, or, more correctly, a continuous series of efficacious graces. The Council of Trent is therefore justified in speaking of it as "a great gift."(389)

a) Sacred Scripture represents final perseverance as the fruit of prayer and as a special gift not included in the bare notion of justification.

α) Our Divine Saviour Himself says in His prayer for His disciples, John XVII, 11: "Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we also are."(390) St. Paul teaches in his Epistle to the Colossians: "Epaphras saluteth you ... who is always solicitous for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and full in all the will of God."(391) Hence the necessity of constantly watching and praying: "Watch ye and pray that ye enter not into temptation."(392)

β) That perseverance is not included in the bare notion of justification appears from such passages as these: Phil. I, 6: "Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus."(393) 1 Pet. I, 5: "Who, by the power of God, are kept by faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time."(394)

b) The threads of Tradition run together in the hands of St. Augustine, who has written a special treatise On the Gift of Perseverance.(395)

His main argument is based on the necessity of prayer. "Why," he asks, "is that perseverance asked for from God, if it is not given by God? Is it a mocking petition inasmuch as that is asked of Him which it is known He does not give, but, although He gives it not, is in man's power?... Or is not that perseverance, perchance, asked for from Him? He who says this, is not to be rebuked by my arguments, but must be overwhelmed with the prayers of the saints. Is there indeed one among them who do not ask for themselves from God that they may persevere in Him, when in that very prayer which is called the Lord's—because the Lord taught it—whenever it is prayed by the saints, scarcely anything else is understood to be prayed for but perseverance?"(396) He then proceeds to show, in accordance with St. Cyprian's little treatise On the Lord's Prayer, that the seven petitions of the "Our Father" are all prayers for perseverance, and concludes as follows: "Truly in this matter let not the Church look for laborious disputations, but consider her own daily prayers. She prays that the unbelieving may believe; therefore God converts to the faith. She prays that believers may persevere; therefore God gives perseverance to the end."(397) And again: "For who is there that would groan with a sincere desire to receive what he prays for from the Lord, if he thought that he received it from himself and not from the Lord?"(398)

c) From this teaching flows a corollary of great practical importance, to wit: The grace of final perseverance cannot be merited by good works, but it can be obtained by pious and unremitting prayer.

"This gift of God," says St. Augustine, speaking of final perseverance, "may be obtained suppliantly [by prayer], but when it has been given, it cannot be lost contumaciously."(399) And again: "Since it is manifest that God has prepared some things to be given even to those who do not pray for them, such as the beginning of faith, and other things not to be given except to those who pray for them, such as perseverance unto the end, certainly he who thinks that he has this latter from himself, does not pray to obtain it."(400)

Between merit (meritum) and prayer (oratio, preces) there is this great difference, that merit appeals to God's justice, prayer to His mercy. If man were able to merit final perseverance by good works (meritum de condigno), God would be in justice bound to give him this precious grace. But this is plainly incompatible with the Catholic conception of final perseverance.

It may be asked: Is God determined by the meritum de congruo inherent in all good works to grant the gift of final perseverance as a reward to the righteous? Theologians are at variance on this point. Ripalda(401) thinks that this is the case at least with the more conspicuous good works performed in the state of grace. Suarez modifies this improbable contention somewhat by saying that prayer alone can infallibly guarantee final perseverance.(402) Our prayers are infallibly heard if we address the Father through Jesus Christ, because Christ has promised: "If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you."(403) To insure its being infallibly heard, prayer for perseverance must be made in the state of grace and unremittingly. True, Christ did not make sanctifying grace a necessary condition of efficacious prayer. But, as Suarez points out, prayer cannot be infallibly efficacious unless it proceeds from one who is in the state of grace, because the moral conditions that render it efficacious are found only in that state.(404) As to the second point, if we say that prayer for perseverance must be unremitting, we mean, in the words of the same eminent theologian, that it must continue throughout life and must be made with becoming trustfulness and zeal, especially when there is a duty to be fulfilled or a temptation to be overcome.(405)

READINGS:—Suarez, De Gratia, 1. I-II.—*Tricassin, O. Cap., De Necessaria ad Salutem Gratia.—Byonius, De Gratiae Auxiliis, in Becanus, Theologia Scholastica, Rouen, 1658.—Scheeben Natur und Gnade, Mainz 1861.—IDEM, Dogmatik, Vol. III, 292-298, Freiburg 1882.—*Palmieri, De Gratia Divina Actuali, thes. 19-29, Gulpen 1885.—Oswald, Lehre von der Heiligung, 9-11, 3rd ed., Paderborn 1885.—Tepe, Institutiones Theologicae, Vol. III, pp. 8-51, Paris 1896.—*Heinrich-Gutberlet, Dogmatische Theologie, Vol. VIII, 396-416, Mainz 1897.—Chr. Pesch, Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. V, 3rd ed., pp. 32 sqq., Freiburg 1908.—Schiffini, De Gratia Divina, disp. 2, Freiburg 1901.

On St. Augustine and his teaching cfr. *J. Ernst, Werke und Tugenden der Unglaeubigen nach Augustinus, Freiburg 1871.—F. Woerter, Die Geistesentwicklung des hl. Augustinus bis zu seiner Taufe, Paderborn 1898.—Wolfsgruber, Augustinus, Paderborn 1898.—Boucat, Theologia Patrum Dogmatico-Scholastico-Positiva, disp. 3, Paris 1718.—*Zaccaria, Dissert. de Adiutorio sine quo non, in the Thesaurus Theol., Vol. V, Venice 1762.—O. Rottmanner, O. S. B., Geistesfruechte aus der Klosterzelle, Muenchen 1908.—B. J. Otten, S. J., A Manual of the History of Dogmas, Vol. I, St. Louis 1917, pp. 306 sqq., 374 sq.

On the heresy of Pelagianism cfr. *F. Woerter, Der Pelagianismus nach seinem Ursprung und seiner Lehre, Freiburg 1874.—F. Klasen, Die innere Entwicklung des Pelagianismus, Freiburg 1882.—Schwane, Dogmengeschichte, Vol. II, 2nd ed., 60 sqq., Freiburg 1895.—H. Zimmer, Pelagius in Irland, Berlin 1901.—Warfield, Two Studies in the History of Doctrine, New York 1897.—Tixeront, Histoire des Dogmes, Vol. II, 2nd ed., Paris 1909 (English tr., St. Louis 1914).—Pohle in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XI, pp. 604-608.—B. J. Otten, S. J., A Manual of the History of Dogmas, Vol. I, pp. 357 sqq.

On Semi-Pelagianism cfr. Suarez, De Gratia, Prolegom., V, 5 sqq.—Livinus Meyer, De Pelag. et Semipelag. Erroribus.—Wiggers, Geschichte des Semipelagianismus, Hamburg 1835.—A. Hoch, Lehre des Johannes Cassianus von Natur und Gnade, Freiburg 1895.—*A. Koch, Der hl. Faustus, Bischof von Riez, Stuttgart 1895.—Fr. Woerter, Zur Dogmengeschichte des Semipelagianismus, Muenster 1900.—Sublet, Le Semipelagianisme, Namur 1897.—Tixeront, Histoire des Dogmes, Vol. II, 2nd ed., Paris 1909 (English tr., St. Louis 1914).—Pohle in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, pp. 703-706.—B. J. Otten, S. J., A Manual of the History of Dogmas, Vol. I, pp. 379 sqq.

On Jansenism cfr. *Steph. Dechamps, De Haeresi Ianseniana, Paris 1645.—Ripalda, De Ente Supernaturali, Vol. III: "Contra Baium et Baianos," Cologne 1648.—Duchesne, Histoire du Baianisme, Douai 1731.—*Linsenmann, Michael Bajus und die Grundlegung des Jansenismus, Tuebingen 1867.—A. Schill, Die Konstitution Unigenitus, ihre Veranlassung und ihre Folgen, Freiburg 1876.—Ingold, Rome et France: La Seconde Phase du Jansenisme, Paris 1901.—P. Minges, O. F. M., Die Gnadenlehre des Duns Scotus auf ihren angeblichen Pelagianismus und Semipelagianismus geprueft, Muenster 1906.—Lafiteau, Histoire de la Constitution Unigenitus, 2 vols., Liege 1738.—Van den Peereboom, Cornelius Jansenius, Septieme Eveque d'Ypres, Bruges 1882.—J. Forget in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII, pp. 285-294.—B. J. Otten, S. J., A Manual of the History of Dogmas, Vol. II, pp. 507 sqq.

Section 2. The Gratuity Of Actual Grace

All grace ex vi termini is a free gift.(406) This applies particularly to Christian grace, which is so absolutely gratuitous that its gratuity, together with its necessity, may be called the groundwork of the Catholic religion.

1. STATE OF THE QUESTION.—To show what is meant by "gratuity" (gratuitas) we must first explain the technical term "merit."

a) "Merit" (meritum=that which is earned) is that property of a good work which entitles the performer to receive a reward from him to whose advantage the work redounds.

α) An analysis of this definition shows that (1) merit is found only in such works as are positively good; (2) merit and reward are correlative terms which postulate each other; (3) merit supposes two distinct persons, one who deserves and another who awards; (4) the relation between merit and reward is based on justice, not on benevolence or mercy. The last-mentioned determination is by far the most important of the four.(407)

β) Ethics and theology clearly distinguish two kinds of merit: (1) condign merit,(408) which is merit in the strict sense (meritum adaequatum sive de condigno), and (2) congruous merit (meritum inadaequatum sive de congruo), so called because of the congruity, or fitness, that the claim should be recognized. Condign merit presupposes some proportion between the work done and the reward given in compensation for it (aequalitas s. condignitas dati et accepti). It is measured by commutative justice and thus confers a real claim to a reward. For example, a conscientious workman has a strict claim to his wage. Owing to the lack of intrinsic proportion between service and reward, congruous merit can claim a remuneration only on grounds of fairness.

A distinction between these two kinds of merit was already made by the Fathers, though not in the terms of present-day theology. It was known to the older Scholastics and emphasized anew by Luther's famous adversary Johann Eck.(409)

No relation of strict justice is conceivable between the Creator and His creatures. On the part of God there can only be question of a gratuitous promise to reward certain good works,—which promise He is bound to keep because He is veracious and faithful.(410)

b) Two other terms must also be clearly defined in order to arrive at a true conception of the gratuity of Christian grace. They are prayer for grace,(411) and a capacity or disposition to receive it.(412) To pray means to incite God's liberality or mercy by humble supplication.

α) Despite the contrary teaching of Vasquez(413) and a few other theologians, congruous merit and prayer are really distinct because one can exist without the other. As the angels in Heaven are able to pray for us without earning a meritum de congruo, so conversely, all salutary works are meritorious even without prayer. Moreover, humble supplication does not involve any positive service entitled to a reward.

There is another important and obvious distinction, viz.: between purely natural prayer (preces naturae) and supernatural prayer inspired by grace (oratio supernaturalis).

β) Capacity or disposition, especially when it takes the form of preparation, may be either positive or negative. Positive capacity is defined as "that real mode by which a subject, in itself indifferent, becomes apt to receive a new form." Such a capacity or disposition always entails a claim to its respective form.

Positive capacity or disposition differs from both prayer or quasi-merit (meritum de congruo). Quasi-merit is entitled to a reward on the ground of fairness, whereas the capacitas s. dispositio positiva is at most the fulfilment of an expectation based upon purely teleological considerations. Again, a reward can be bestowed upon some subject other than the one by whom the service was rendered, whereas the introduction of a new form necessarily supposes a subject disposed for or prepared to receive it. Thus only he who is hungry is disposed for the reception of food and entitled to have his craving satisfied.

Negative capacity consists in the absence or removal of obstacles that impede the reception of a new form, as when green wood is dried to become fit for burning.

c) There arises the important question whether or not divine grace is an object of merit, and if so, to what extent it can be merited by prayer and preparation.

It is of faith that the just man, by the performance of supernaturally good deeds, can merit de condigno an increase in the state of grace and eternal glory, and that the sinner is able to earn justification de congruo. On the other hand, it is also an article of faith that divine grace is strictly gratuitous.(414) The two dogmas seem incompatible, but they are not, as will become evident if we consider that the good works of the just and the salutary works of the sinner are entirely rooted in divine grace and consequently the merits which they contain are strictly merits of grace in no wise due to nature.(415) When we speak of the absolute gratuity of grace, therefore, we mean the very first or initial grace (gratia prima vocans), by which the work of salvation is begun. Of this initial grace the Church explicitly teaches that it is absolutely incapable of being merited; whence it follows that all subsequent graces, up to and including justification, are also gratuitous,(416) i.e. unmerited by nature in strict justice, in so far as they are based on the gratia prima.

2. THE GRATUITY OF GRACE PROVED FROM REVELATION.—Keeping the above explanation well in mind we now proceed to demonstrate the gratuity of divine grace in five systematic theses.

*Thesis I: Mere nature cannot, in strict justice (de condigno), merit initial grace (gratia prima), nor, consequently, any of the series of subsequent graces in the order of justification.*

This proposition embodies an article of faith.

Proof. It was one of the fundamental errors of Pelagius that grace can be merited by purely natural acts.(417) When, at the instance of the bishops assembled at Diospolis (A. D. 415), he retracted his proposition that "the grace of God is given according to our merits,"(418) he employed the term gratia Dei dishonestly for the grace of creation. The Second Council of Orange (A. D. 529) formally defined that grace cannot be merited, but is purely and strictly gratuitous.(419) And the Council of Trent declared: "In adults the beginning of justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called...."(420) The non-existence of merits prior to the bestowal of the prima gratia vocans, so positively asserted in this definition, plainly excludes any and all natural merit de condigno.

a) St. Paul demonstrates in his Epistle to the Romans that justification does not result from obedience to the law, but is a grace freely bestowed by God.

The Apostle regards the merciful dispensations of Providence in favor of the Chosen People, and of the entire sinful race of men in general, as so many sheer graces. Rom. IX, 16: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."(421) The gratuity of grace is asserted in terms that almost sound extravagant two verses further down in the same Epistle: "Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will; and whom he will, he hardeneth."(422) The same truth is emphasized in Rom. XI, 6: "And if by grace, it is not now by works: otherwise grace is no more grace."(423) Lest any one should pride himself on having obtained faith, which is the root of justification, by his own merits, St. Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians: "For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man may glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them."(424) These and many similar passages(425) make it plain that grace cannot be merited without supernatural aid.

b) The leading champion of the dogma of the gratuity of grace among the Fathers is St. Augustine, who never tires of repeating that "Grace does not find merits, but causes them,"(426) and substantiates this fundamental principle thus: "Grace has preceded thy merit; not grace by merit, but merit by grace. For if grace is by merit, thou hast bought, not received gratis."(427)

c) The theological argument is based (1) on the disproportion between nature and grace and (2) on the absolute necessity of grace for the performance of salutary works.

There is no proportion between the natural and the supernatural, and it would be a contradiction to say that mere nature can span the chasm separating the two orders. To assume the existence of a strict meritum naturae for it, would be to deny the gratuity as well as the supernatural character of grace. To deny these would be to deny grace itself and with it the whole supernatural order that forms the groundwork of Christianity. We know, on the other hand,(428) that grace is absolutely indispensable for the performance of salutary acts. Hence, to deny the gratuity of grace would be to credit nature with the ability to perform salutary acts by its own power, or at least to merit grace by the performance of naturally good deeds. In the first hypothesis grace would no longer be necessary for salvation; in the second, it would be proportionate to natural goodness, and therefore no grace at all. Consequently, the gratuity of grace cannot be consistently denied without at the same time denying its necessity.(429)

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