Grace: Commentary on the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, Chapter One
Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.



 Brief introductory remarks are necessary so as to avoid repetition:

 1. On the various meanings of the word “grace” and presupposed notions from the treatise on God;

 2. On the errors involved in this subject.



The various meanings are indicated by St. Thomas (Ia Iae, q. 110, a. 1), but it is fitting that we say something of them at the beginning so that the connection may be apparent between the present question and the questions relating to God’s love for us.

First, there are of course three acceptations of this word “grace” even used in human affairs. For grace (χάρις) originally refers to something, which is not due or is freely bestowed; this meaning is very common in both profane and biblical writings. Hence even in purely human matters the term “grace” has a threefold application, as follows:

 1. The love of benevolence conferring a gift, which is not due; for example, we say: This soldier has the grace of the king.

2. The gift itself freely bestowed; thus we say: I grant you this grace.

3. Gratitude for a benefit received; thus: I render you thanks for your benefits.1

Moreover, these three significations may be transferred to the supernatural order, whereupon the word grace applies to the following.

1. The love of benevolence on the part of God, conferring supernatural, life. This love of God is uncreated grace.

2. The supernatural gift of grace itself freely bestowed and ordained to eternal life; this is created grace, of which we are now treating, whether it is interior or exterior, such as the preaching of the gospel.

3. Our gratitude to God.

Between the human and the supernatural meanings of the word “grace” there lies a great difference which is principally based upon the fact that God’s love of benevolence for us, as stated in Ia, q. 20, a. 2, infuses and creates goodness in things, whereas the love of benevolence of one man for another presupposes something lovable in that other. But “God’s love for the creature is twofold, the common love whereby natural being is bestowed on created things, and the other special love by which God raises the rational creature above the state of nature unto a participation in the divine good. Thus grace is the effect of the love of God in us and signifies the supernatural gift freely granted by God to an intellectual creature ordained to eternal life (Ia IIae, q. 110, a. 1).

Thus the whole treatise on grace in the Summa theologica of St. Thomas depends upon the treatise on the love of God (Ia, q. 20), in which are expressed and explained two supreme principles which throw a light from above upon all the articles of the treatise on grace and virtually contain them.

Hence St. Thomas says: “It is demonstrated above (q. 19, a. 4) that the will of God is the cause of all things; so it must be that so far as a thing possesses being or any good whatever, to that extent it is willed by God. Therefore God wills some good to whatever exists. And since loving is nothing else but wishing well to someone, it is clear that God loves all things that are, not however in the same way as we do, our will is not the cause of the goodness of things. But the love of God infuses and creates goodness in things” (Ia, q. 20, a. 2). Accordingly the will of God is also the cause of the goodness of our acts, while preserving their liberty. As St. Thomas says: “If the will of God is most efficacious, it follows not only that those things will be done which God wills to be done, but that they will be done in the way God wills them to be done. Thus God wills certain things to be necessary, others to be contingent, that there may be order among things for the perfection of the universe” (Ia, q. 19, a. 8).

From this first principle thus understood the second follows: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, nothing is in any respect better, if God does not will one thing to be better than another” (Ia, q. 20, a. 4, 5). This is the principle of predilection, which is valid for every created being and for the facility, or difficulty of each of its acts: No created being is in any respect better if it is not preferred by God. St. Thomas deduces from this that “in God love precedes election . . . for His will, willing good to whatever it loves, is the cause of its possessing this good from Him beyond others” (ibid., q. 23, a. 4).

This principle of predilection presupposes that the divine decrees in regard to our future acts conducive to salvation are infallibly efficacious of themselves and not from a foreknowledge of our consent (Ia, q. 19, a. 8). Otherwise, of two men equally loved and assisted by God, one would be in some respect better. He would be better of himself and not so far as preferred by God; and therefore the free determination in him to be saved would be something good which would not proceed from the source of all good, contrary to the words of St. Paul: “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.)

These are the principles already laid down and explained in the treatises on the will and on the love of God; they virtually contain what is now to be said concerning grace, both habitual grace and actual grace.

Finally, it must be remarked that the Pelagians, not wishing to recognize the love of God as being the first cause of all our good choices, were equally averse to distinguishing the natural from the supernatural meanings of this word “grace.” They therefore misused it in a broad, incorrect sense and applied the word “grace” to any free gift of God whatever; thus creation, preservation, and even free will are called by them graces.

Likewise created grace properly so called is defined in a variety of ways:

1. As external grace, such as the preaching of the gospel, the example of Christ; and the Pelagians admitted this grace.

2. As internal grace, namely, that which is received in the interior of the soul, ennobling it. Moreover, this internal grace may be either that which makes one pleasing (gratum faciens), which is divided into habitual or sanctifying grace, and actual grace, or charismatic grace (gratia gratis data), which is principally or primarily for the benefit of others.

Since grace is indeed supernatural, and frequently in this treatise there will be question of the distinction between what is supernatural substantially and what is supernatural modally, it will be well to recall the definition and division of supernaturalness itself as it has already been set forth in fundamental theology. The supernatural, according to the Catholic Church, is that which is above all created nature; which, although it exceeds the powers and requirements of any nature created or capable of being created, does not exceed the passive capacity of perfectibility and aptitude of our nature. (Cf. Denz, nos. 1790, 1795, 1808, 1816; Garrigou-Lagrange, De revelatione, I, 193, 197, 202.)

Moreover, according to the Church, supernaturalness is at least twofold, namely:

1. The supernaturalness of miracles, which surpasses the efficient powers and requirements of any created nature, but not, however, the cognitive powers of human nature. (Denz, nos. 1790, 1818.)

2. The supernaturalness of mysteries strictly speaking and of the life of grace and glory is that which surpasses not only the efficient powers and requirements of any created nature, but also the cognitive and appetitive powers (or natural merit) of any intellectual nature created or capable of being created.

Such is the declared doctrine of the Church as follows from the condemnation of naturalism, rationalism, semi-rationalism (which deviates in the matter of the powers), Baianism (an excess as to requirements), and agnosticism (denying that miracles are ascertainable). Cf. Denz., nos. 1795, 1808; cf. De Revelatione, I, 193.

This division of supernaturalness may be otherwise expressed according to the terminology rather generally accepted among theologians, thus:



This is found in John of St. Thomas, the Salmanticenses, and Suarez. Cf. De revelatione, I, 205, for the explanation of this division and its reduction to the division of the four causes. The miraculous substantially is not to be confused with the supernatural substantially.2


In the introduction a brief reference must be made to the history of this doctrine of grace in relation to the mutually opposing errors on the subject: that is, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism on the one hand, Baianism and Jansenism on the other. For at the appearance of these contrary errors, the Church solemnly defined its doctrine on grace. It is therefore advisable to determine at the start at least the principal opposing theses, which have been condemned; thus will be brought to light the problems still disputed among Catholic theologians. It will be easier in explaining the articles later to show how St. Thomas’ arguments prevail over such and such a heresy.

Since St. Thomas preceded Baius, he could not have before his eyes, as we have, several definitions of the Church which clearly determined how the excess contrary to Pelagianism was to be avoided; yet St. Thomas was acquainted with predestinationism from the Council of Lyons (475) and its subsequent condemnation at the Council of Quierzy against Gottschalk, who prepared the way for Lutheranism and thereby for Baianism and Jansenism.

Generally, it is true, when great problems must be solved, there arise almost from the beginning mutually opposing theses, and only by degrees, under the inspiration of God, does the mind attain to the summit of truth whereon diverse aspects of reality are reconciled. St. Thomas reached this summit and escaped the excess of future Jansenism no less than the defect of Pelagianism.

As we observed in De revelatione (I, 398), the two extremes that are to be avoided may be termed naturalism and pseudo-supernaturalism.

Naturalism denies that the Christian life is beyond natural powers; in other words, it declares that what is in reality achieved by it can be achieved without interior grace. Indeed it maintains that the human intellect in its natural development is capable of attaining to the possession of every truth and good, even to the intuition of God. (Denz.,no. 1808.)

Pseudo-supernaturalism denies that the Christian life is above the requirements of nature; in other words, human reason is so weak that it necessarily stands in need of revelation, which accordingly is not properly supernatural, and its exaltation to a participation in the divine nature was due to it for the integrity of its original state.

In both errors there is a confusion of the two orders, but the first confusion sins by exaggerated optimism in regard to the powers of human nature, and the second by exaggerated pessimism in regard to the destitution of nature.

Pelagian naturalism differs, as a matter of fact, from modern rationalism so far as it does not reject the external revelation of the Gospel confirmed by miracles, holding it to be divine, as did the Semi-rationalists (Froschammer, Gunther, and Hermes), who nevertheless wished to prove every mystery. But in all these doctrines the tendency is the same, namely, to deny the necessity of grace.

Particularly it should be noted that naturalism proceeds historically from the pagans or Gentiles; many of their philosophers thought that moral powers came from man alone and not from God, and they besought God only for fortune or a happy outcome. Thus, in particular, Cicero and Seneca who agreed that “there is one good, which is the cause and foundation of a blessed life: to have faith in oneself” (Letter 31, 3). Such is the opinion of naturalists today, whether atheists or deists, who deny that providence extends to every individual thing, or theists, who admit providence in the natural order but not in the supernatural. Liberal Protestants adhere to this teaching in a greater or less degree.

On the other hand, Judaism inclined toward naturalism in another way, for Judaism, contrary to the evident testimony of Holy Scripture, made justice or justification dependent, not on the supernatural grace of God, but on the external observance of the law and the physical origin of the children of Abraham. Against this, cf. Council of Jerusalem, Acts of the Apostles, A.D. 50 (Acts, 15), and St. Paul (Rom. 2-4; Gal., 3-5).

Likewise the Origenists and Theodore of Mopsuestia did not recognize sufficiently the necessity of grace.

Pelagianism, the chief heresy of this kind, gathered together the preceding errors of like tendency into something of a system and spread it throughout the world in the fifth century. Historically speaking, there were three phases to the doctrine of the Pelagians.

1. It denied original sin, the necessity of baptism and interior grace for obtaining ordinary eternal life. It declared, however, that baptism and grace are necessary for entering the kingdom of God, which is something excelling ordinary eternal life. Hence, to attain to eternal life as commonly accepted, no grace was necessary, not even the grace of faith or the knowledge of external revelation. But, said Pelagius, God gave us a power or faculty, i.e., free will; moreover, willing and doing are eminently proper to us. Grace would be only an unnecessary adornment, just as some souls have visions and ecstasies, without which, however, a man can be saved.

2. Later, to refute the objections drawn from Holy Scripture, Pelagius admitted the term “grace” and the necessity of grace, but by this name he designated free will, and subsequently the external grace of revelation or the preaching of the gospel.

3. Finally, Pelagius, not knowing how to reply to the objections of Catholics, admitted internal grace, but first in the intellect alone, that is, as enlightenment; secondly, he recognized some habitual grace, but not as plainly gratuitous (he maintained that it was given according to the merits of nature) nor strictly supernatural; thirdly, the Pelagians ultimately admitted as more probable actual grace in the will, not however plainly gratuitous (but granted according to natural merits) nor necessary for doing good, but only for working more easily and perfectly. Cf. Billuart (De gratia, diss. I), who cites many texts of St. Augustine on the subject.

Hence there are in Pelagianism two heresies in particular regarding internal grace.

1. If internal grace is given, it is not simply gratuitous, but is bestowed according to natural merit.

2. It is not necessary for merely acting as is needful for salvation, but for doing so with greater facility or for accomplishing some more excellent works.

Thus without the internal grace of faith we can arrive at the formal motive of Christian faith.

This is the teaching of Pelagius and of his principal disciples, Caelestius and Julian of Eclanum, against whom Augustine and Jerome wrote. Cf. Tixeront, Hist. des dogma.

This heresy was condemned by twenty-four separate councils, notably by the first and second councils of Carthage, that of Milevum, and finally by the ecumenical Council of Ephesus, 431; cf. Denz., nos. 101 ff., 126, 129, 142, 174 ff., 138.

The Semi-Pelagians admitted not only external revelation, but properly supernatural internal grace, although they erred in two respects, namely, in regard to initial grace and final grace.

They said: 1. The beginning of salvation depends on man’s petitioning for it, so far as man, without grace, by desiring through a pious disposition to believe, by knocking, by asking, can prepare himself for grace, which is bestowed on account of this natural preparation. Hence initial grace was not simply gratuitous. Likewise they all maintained that the consent to the initial grace offered is entirely yours. 3

2. The last grace, namely, of final perseverance, is not strictly gratuitous but may be obtained by our merits; nay rather, they said, “man perseveres to the end, so far as he abides in that consent to the grace offered him, bestowed at the moment of justification” (Billuart, loc. cit.).

From these two errors it followed that predestination, whether to grace or to glory, is not strictly gratuitous for, according to this teaching, the first grace is conferred on account of the merits of nature, broadly speaking, and the term of salvation depends upon the preceding merits which have been foreseen. (See the canons of the Council of Orange; Denz., nos. 176 ff .)

It would be well to have a thorough knowledge of the history of Semi-Pelagianism so as to understand correctly what was condemned in it and in what respect Molinism differs from it.

It is clear, as Billuart demonstrates (ibid.), that the Semi-Pelagians taught that predestination, whether to grace or to glory, was not gratuitous, but that God accompanied all men, the reprobate as well as the predestinate, with equal love, and offered grace and glory to all equally; hence, according to the Semi-Pelagians, of two men to whom grace is offered equally by God, he possesses grace who consents to it of himself, he receives no greater help, and he receives glory who, of himself, perseveres in the grace received.

Consequently the Semi-Pelagians declared in respect to foreknowledge: “God, from eternity, predestined to grace those who He foresaw would consent and utilize it well, and He predestined to glory those who He foresaw would similarly persevere in grace, of themselves.” Thus the knowledge of God is not the cause of things; at least it is not the cause of our determination toward the good, which is first in the affair of salvation. Hence men rather save themselves than are saved by God; in other words, God would not bestow our consent to good, but would expect it of us. (Denz., no. 177; Summa theol., Ia, q.23, a. 5, 2nd error.)

Indeed the Semi-Pelagians hit upon mediate knowledge (scientia media) before Molina, as the Thomists in general clearly show, particularly, among the more recent, Father del Prado (De gratia et lib arb., III, 312). And this is also evident from the epistles of St. Prosperto St. Augustine and from the book on the Predestination of the Saints, (chaps. 14 and 17).

As a logical conclusion to their theory, the Semi-Pelagians necessarily arrived at mediate knowledge, at least in regard to the salvation of infants. They were therefore obliged to solve this objection: among infants, some, without any merit on their part, are predestined to baptism and eternal life. But not being willing to admit gratuitous predestination even in this case, the Semi-Pelagians replied: God knows even the conditional future, and predestined to baptism those infants who He foresaw would have consented to grace and persevered if they had reached the age of adults.4

Similarly, they maintained, in regard to infidels: God foresaw what they would have done, of themselves, if the preaching of the gospel had been proposed to them.5 Moreover, this foreknowledge of conditional future events or of events possible in the future, independent of divine decree, is the foreknowledge, which is now called scientia media. But Molina admitted, above and beyond this, prevenient grace.

From this theory they further deduced many corollaries, for instance: Christ died equally for all, and dispenses the price of His death equally to all, so that the vessels of mercy receive no more of benefit than the vessels of wrath, whatever St. Paul may say (Rom. 9:22). Otherwise, as they said, God would be an unjust respecter of persons if, without previous merit or disposition, He were to give grace to one and deny it to another. And, they added, this would lead to fatalism, would deprive reproof and prayer of their usefulness, and would lead to despair.

Moderate Semi-Pelagians, such as Cassian (13th Conference), although they admitted initial grace, whenever it was given gratuitously without any merits, allowed that it was more often bestowed on the basis of merit. Further, certain Semi-Pelagians openly declared that perhaps prevenient grace was truly gratuitous in respect to initial acts, and was indeed conferred by God, although He expects our consent. And, as Billuart remarks (loc. cit.): “This was the last stand of this heresy, so far as its concessions are concerned, namely: it depends upon us to accept or reject grace, so that in those who accept it their consent does not depend on the grace of God, but on themselves. In this sense they withdrew from grace the initial step toward salvation as well as perseverance, and attributed them to free will.”

The advocates of Semi-Pelagianism were certain monks of Hadrumetam, as well as Cassian, Gennadius of Marseilles, and Faustus of Riez.

The Semi-Pelagianism of Cassian is found particularly in his thirteenth Conference entitled: “Of God’s Protection,” in which he teaches: “Grace and free will certainly concur in the matter of salvation to the extent that the initial good will and pious disposition to believe, that is, the first step toward salvation, is ordinarily from man alone, and not from God, although in exceptional cases the beginning of salvation and good will comes from God, as in the vocations of St. Matthew and St. Paul.”

The adversaries of Semi-Pelagianism were the aged St. Augustine6 and St. Prosper, St. Fulgentius, Hilary, and Caesarius of Arles.

This heresy was condemned by Pope Celestine (432), Pope Gelasius (494), who denounced the books of Faustus and Cassian, and finally by the Second Council of Orange (529), which had the special approbation of Boniface II. In regard to the condemnation of Semi-Pelagianism, Denzinger records the entire Second Council of Orange (529), that is, twenty-four canons; see especially 3-12, 18-22, 25.

Molinism differs from Semi-Pelagianism in three respects: 1. In regard to prevenient grace; 2. in regard to the covenant entered into between God and Christ the Redeemer; 3. in regard to the circumstances of the life of the predestinate. Cf. Molina, Concordia.

1. Molina admits prevenient grace inclining to the initial movement to salvation, or consent to good, but he says: the distinction between the will consenting to this grace offered and the will rejecting it depends on man’s liberty alone. Cf. Molina, op. cit., pp. 230, 459.

The Thomists object that before this distinction, there is not yet any initial step toward salvation, because it is not found in those who resist first grace, as in Lessius, De gratia efficaci, chap. 18, no. 7.

2. Molina maintains that, if anyone does whatever he can by means of mere natural powers, God does not refuse grace; but he avoids Semi-Pelagianism by saying: God does not confer grace on account of this good natural disposition, but because of the covenant entered into between Himself and Christ the Redeemer. Cf. infra, q. 109, a. 6; q. 112, a. 3; Molina, op. cit., pp. 1543, 564; Index, “Faciens quod in se est.”

Molina says (pp. 51, 565): help being equal, it is possible for one of those called to be converted and another not converted. With less assistance from grace it is possible for the one assisted to make progress, while another, with greater help, does not improve, and hardly perseveres. They are not aids established as efficacious in themselves which distinguish between the predestinate and the nonpredestinate.

However, according to Molina, the predestinate receives greater help than the reprobate from the standpoint of the situation in which he is placed by the divine good pleasure, for indeed he is placed in circumstances in which God foresees by mediate knowledge that he will consent to grace.

Hence, from the viewpoint of circumstances, the gift of final perseverance depends solely on the divine good pleasure; thus, to a certain extent at least, the gratuity of predestination, denied by the Semi-Pelagians, is preserved; but, as the Thomists declare, this is seen to be gratuity of predestination only in regard to the circumstances which are more or less appropriate or suitable. 


This pseudo-supernaturalism is the error opposed to naturalism; it sins by excess, that is, it affirms the necessity of grace even for all natural good works, so that all the works of infidels are sins. But in reality, as we have said, it further confuses the order of grace with the order of nature, as it holds that grace is not above the exigencies of our nature, which it considers entirely impotent even in its own order. Whence it can be seen that it extols grace, while it proclaims its necessity beyond measure, but it actually destroys the supernaturalness of grace and depreciates nature. It is pessimistic in regard to nature as Pelagianism is optimistic in its estimate of nature.

This pseudo-supernaturalism appears in predestinationism (cf. Denz., nos. 316 ff., 320 ff.). The doctrine is attributed to Lucidus, a priest of the fifth century, who retracted his error. But the heresy is found especially in the writings of Gottschalk, in the ninth century (cf. Denz., nos. 316 ff .; Dict. théol, cath., “Predestination,” section on the Middle Ages, ninth century).

According to predestinationism, grace and predestination are necessary for doing good; whence those who are not predestined to eternal life sin necessarily, just as the predestinate are necessarily saved. Thus no real liberty remains after original sin.

According to predestinationism, there is not only predestination to eternal life, but also predestination to evil for the reprobate.

All these errors were condemned, in 853, at the Council of Quierzy at which the following was defined (Denz., no. 317): “There is no predestination to evil . . . We have a free will for good, aided by prevenient grace . . . We have a free will for evil, deprived of grace.” Likewise Denz., no. 318: “Almighty God wills that all men without exception should be saved (I Tim., 2:4) although all are not saved. That some are saved is due to the gift of salvation; that some are lost is due to the lack of merit in the reprobate.” Denz., no. 319: “There never was and never will be a man . . . for whom Christ did not suffer that all are not redeemed by the mystery of His passion pertains to the working of infidelity . . . , unless they drink, they cannot be cured.”

This error was revived by Luther and Calvin. Luther maintained that grace and integrity were due to nature in the state of innocence; whereas in the state of fallen nature, free will is so corrupted that it is a mere name without a reality, and therefore requires grace, to such an extent that whatever is done without faith and grace is sin.

Whence it follows that all the works of infidels and sinners are sins. Sanctifying grace is, in fact, only an external imputation of the merits of Christ, and man is justified by faith alone without works; man is justified by a “fiduciary” faith by which he believes that his sins are forgiven.

Calvin agrees with Luther in this, and adds that God predestined some to hell, and the faithful who believe themselves predestined are saved by this very faith. Further, children born of predestinate parents are by that very fact children of God and can be saved without baptism.

Thus it is apparent how, in this pseudo-supernaturalism, nature is greatly depreciated and even grace is only apparently extolled, since it is due to nature and reduced to a mere extrinsic denomination or to an external imputation of the merits of Christ. The way was prepared for this teaching by Ockham and the Nominalists of whom Luther was a disciple at the University of Wittemberg, as Denifle shows in his Luther and Luthertum, 1904. For the Nominalists, habitual grace is not intrinsically supernatural, but only by extrinsic denomination, as a bank note is not gold. Baianism is again a somewhat attenuated Protestantism. It teaches in particular three doctrines:

1. The grace accorded to Adam was due to nature, and hence did not exceed the requirements of nature.

2. Faith is therefore necessary even for natural good, so that all the virtues of infidels are vices.

3. Sanctifying grace is so necessary that all the works of sinners are sins. (Denz., nos. 1001 ff.) Baianists almost identify grace and natural probity.

Jansenism retained these same errors in substance, as is evident from the five propositions of Jansen. (Denz., no. 1092.) It suffices to note the first of these to make it clear how widely Thomism differs from Jansenism, whatever else may be sometimes asserted. This first Jansenist proposition is, in fact, thus expressed: “Some precepts of God to just men who are willing and striving, are, in the present state of their powers, impossible; grace is wanting to them, also, by which such precepts may become possible.” Augustine declared the contrary, as cited by the Council of Trent: “God does not command the impossible, but by commanding He incites thee both to do what thou canst and to ask what thou canst not, and He assists thee that thou mayest be able” (Denz., no. 804).

Likewise, 101 propositions of Quesnel were condemned in the bull Unigenitus (1713) (Denz., nos. 1351, 1451); lastly the synod of Pistoia was condemned by Pius VI in the bull Auctorem fidei. (Denz., nos. 1516 ff .)

As can be seen, Baianists and Jansenists agree in some respects with Pelagianists, that is, in denying the gratuity and therefore the true supernaturalness of the state of innocence. Jansen also said that in the state of innocence efficacious grace in itself was not necessary. (He was a Molinist in this regard.) In line with the same tendency, the immanentism of the Modernists, for example, Laberthonniere, asserts that grace is demanded by nature, and thus they destroy its supernaturalness (cf. Denz., no. 2103, and Hugon, De gratia, p. 212).

Finally, it should be remarked that, just as Molinism withdraws from Semi-Pelagianism, so Thomism recedes from Calvinism and Jansenism, as the Sovereign Pontiffs, Clement XI, Benedict XIII, and Paul V have declared. (Denz., p. 342 note.) Benedict XIII forbade anyone to condemn the doctrine of St. Thomas and his school or traduce it as condemned by the bull Unigenitus. Subsequently Clement XII forbade “the branding of this doctrine by any note or theological censure by the schools holding diverse opinions . . . until the Holy See should pass judgment by some definition or pronouncement in regard to such controversies.” Cf. Denz., no. 1097 note.

Thomism differs particularly from predestinationism and Jansenism in the following respects.

1. It denies predestination to evil and the opinion that God is the author of sin.

2. It teaches that predestination to glory does not destroy, through intrinsically efficacious grace, the freedom necessary for meriting, but rather brings it into play.

3. It admits that God wills the salvation of all men and gives to all adults truly suscient graces; but if a man resists them, he deserves to be deprived of the efficacious graces which he would otherwise receive. Hence God does not ask the impossible and wills the salvation of all men, but He does not will the salvation of all equally, contrary to what the Semi-Pelagians maintain.

And herein lies a great mystery, namely, that God often but not always gives to sinners the efficacious grace of conversion; indeed, He always bestows it upon the predestinate to whom He has determined to grant the gift of final perseverance; often He even confers the grace of conversion upon others, but later denies them, for reasons of justice, on account of repeated sins, the grace of perseverance, which, absolutely speaking, He could grant them for reasons of mercy. Whence it becomes evident that in this treatise the following two principles are reconciled.

1. God does not ask the impossible, and sincerely wills the salvation of all, contrary to predestinationism, Protestantism, Baianism, and Jansenism.

2. “Without Me ye can do nothing” in the order of salvation. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7); or, as St.Thomas says (Ia, q. 20, a. 3), “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, nothing is in any respect better if God does not will greater good to one than to another.”

These two principles are most certain, but their intimate reconciliation remains hidden, for it is the intimate reconciliation of infinite mercy, infinite justice, and supreme liberty in the sublime depth of the Deity. I have presented this matter in the volume entitled, La prèdestination des saints et la grâce, pp. 49-51, 132 ff.

The relative position of the various doctrines can thus be indicated.

Finally78, it must be observed that two contradictory propositions cannot be true at the same time or false at the same time; one is true, the other false. On the other hand, Pelagianism and predestinationism are doctrines simultaneously false; they are not contradictory in this, but in other respects. For instance, Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism erroneously maintain that “God wills equally the salvation of all men, namely, the elect and the reprobate.” The contradictory proposition: “God does not will equally the salvation of all men,” is true. This indeed is what the predestinationists, Calvinists, and Jansenists declare and in so doing they do not err, but they do err by denying the will of universal salvation, which is affirmed by Augustine when he says: “God does not demand the impossible.”

Likewise these contradictory propositions: “Grace is intrinsically efficacious,” and “Grace is not intrinsically efficacious,” cannot be true at the same time or false at the same time; one is true, the other is false. The first is maintained by Thomism, the second by Molinism and likewise by the congruism of Suarez. Which, then, is true remains to be discovered.


St. Thomas speaks particularly of two states of nature which are properly states of this nature considered formally as a nature, namely, the state of original nature in the innocent Adam and the state of corrupt nature after the sin of our first parents, before baptismal regeneration. Cf. Ia, q. 94, a. 2; Ia IIae, q. 109, a. 2.: “The nature of man may be considered in two ways, either in its integrity, as it existed in our first parents before sin, or as it exists in us, corrupted by the sin of our first parents,” and q. 114, a. 2, where he speaks of “corrupt nature, as it exists in us before its reparation by grace.” These last words show that St. Thomas further admits the state of repaired nature, which is called the state of grace and subsequently the state of glory or of grace consummated. As we shall see, he certainly speaks of the possibility of another state merely natural or of pure nature, and in the state of innocence he distinguishes the integrity of nature itself from the grace which elevated it. Cf. IIIa, q. 53, a. 2.

Theologians now, more or less generally, distinguish five states of nature.

State, as a general term, is the condition proper to man with a certain stability and permanence, (Cf. IIa IIae, q. 184, a. I.) That which human nature possesses of itself as ordained to its final end is here taken as a stable condition and mode. Five such states are differentiated: 1. the state of pure nature, 2. the state of incorrupt nature, 3. the state of original justice, 4. the state of fallen nature, 5. the state of restored nature. We might add the state of glory and the state of damnation, but we are not concerned with these, since we are now directing our attention to nature only so far as, with divine help, it tends toward its final end.

The state of pure nature or the merely natural state. St. Thomas speaks of it, II Sent., d. 31, q. I, a. 2 ad 3. “In the beginning when God created man, He could also have formed another man from the slime of the earth and have left him in the condition of his nature, that is, mortal and passable, and experiencing the struggle between concupiscence and reason; nothing of human nature would have been removed thereby, for this condition follows from the principles of nature. Nor would this defect in it be a reason for blame or punishment, since the defect would not be caused by its own will.”

Again, St. Thomas alludes to this state of pure nature as being possible: “Humankind in general suffers diverse pains, corporal and spiritual . . . , (death, hunger, thirst . . . weakness of intellect . . . from which there results an inability to overcome animal appetites entirely). Nevertheless, one may say of such defects, corporal as well as spiritual, that they are not punitive, but rather natural defects consequent upon the requirements of matter. For instance, the human body, since it is composed of unlike substances, must of necessity be corruptible . . . , and the intellect . . . , on account of the ease with which it may deviate from the truth through phantasms” (Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 52). St. Thomas adds, however, that, considering the sweet providence of God, it was fitting that man at his creation should be delivered from these defects by supernatural gifts.

How is the state of pure nature to be defined? The state of pure nature means precisely nature with its intrinsic constituent principles and such as follow from them or are due to them; in other words, it implies all those notes which are included in the definition of man, a rational animal, and further the properties of man and the natural aids due to human nature that it may attain its final natural end.

Aristotle thought that men are actually in this merely natural state.

Hence in this state man would have a body and a rational soul lower and higher faculties of the soul, would know the natural law, and would accept the helps of a natural order for arriving at his final natural end, which consists in the abstract knowledge of God and in the natural love of God above all things. However, since what is naturally deficient sometimes fails, in this state also God would permit sin against the natural law in one individual more than in another who received more assistance, and therefore, in this state, there would be given sufficient helps of the natural order to all, but efficacious helps to certain ones. These efficacious natural helps would be due, not to this individual in particular, in whom God could permit sin, but due to human nature as a whole; for God would be creating human nature incompetent for its final end if no individual of the species attained its end.

This state of pure nature may thus be considered in accordance with the four causes: 1. formal cause: the rational soul with its faculties; 2. material cause: the body; 3. efficient cause: God, the author of nature, from whom proceed the natural law and the helps of the natural order, whether sufficient or efficacious; 4. final cause: God, the author of nature, known abstractly and loved above all things. This is the order that philosophy speaks of when it abstracts from both original sin and grace.

First corollary. Neither habitual grace nor the infused virtues and gifts nor actual grace of the supernatural order belong to this state of pure nature.

Second corollary. Moreover, man, like any other animal, would be subject to pain, death, and so also to ignorance and concupiscence. Thus four unhappy natural consequences would follow. He would be subject to pain and death; for, as his body is composed of elements capable of suffering from exterior causes and often at war with one another, old age and death normally come upon man as upon other animals. Likewise man would be subject to ignorance because our intellectual knowledge, having its source in the senses, is very apt to deviate from the truth on account of its disordered phantasms, for example, by interpreting in an excessively material sense things which are spiritual and which are known only as through a glass in the natural manner of the senses. (Cf. ibid.) Similarly he would be subject to concupiscence, for the sensitive appetite naturally obeys right reason only as a subject, not as a slave; indeed, it can be carried toward its own proper object, that is, toward a delectable good or toward a sensible good difficult of attainment, according to the suggestion of the senses and imagination without any rational direction. (Cf. Ia IIae, 9. I77 a. 7.)

Hence the subject may be divided thus:

All theologians agree that this state of pure nature never existed. Baius and the Jansenists denied its possibility; we shall see later the refutation of this error.

The state of incorrupt nature consists in the perfect subjection of the body to the soul and of the sense appetites to the reason; therefore it implies exemption from the four unfortunate natural consequences, that is, from ignorance, concupiscence, pain, and death. If only the sense appetites are subject to reason without the subjection of the body to the soul, the perfection of nature is only partial, not total, since the defects of old age and death will appear.

In this integrity of nature Adam was created, according to revelation, which declares that “through sin death entered the world” (Rom. 5:12); and before sin, Adam and Eve, although naked, experienced no shame; but only after sin, as we read in Gen. 2:25, since before sin no inordinate passion of which they might be ashamed, could arise.

This gift of integrity, according to St. Thomas (Ia, q. 97, a. I c. and 3 ad 2; Ia IIae, q. 91, a. I), resided in a certain force of a natural order, just as we find even now that certain people possess greater health and sturdiness. In the beginning God made man perfect, for the works of God Himself are perfect, and as every agent produces something like himself, a most perfect agent produces a perfect work; for example, when God wills to establish a new religious order, He sends to the Church a holy founder, in whom all the perfections of this new order are at least virtually present. Hence, with all the more reason, when He created the first man He created him perfect, with full natural perfection; in other words, He created him in the adult state, with those virtues capable of being acquired although sometimes accidentally infused. Thus is explained this force in which the gift of natural integrity consisted.

This gift of integrity in Adam sprang de facto from sanctifying grace, by which the higher reason was subjected to God. From this primary harmony there followed, as St. Augustine and St. Thomas maintain, two others, namely, between right reason and the sensitive appetite and between body and soul. Moreover, natural integrity belonged to the natural order (like the acquired virtues) and thus was differentiated from grace which elevated to the supernatural order. The gift of integrity did not constitute man an adopted son of God, a participant in the divine nature, an heir to the kingdom of heaven; all of these were bestowed by sanctifying grace. Hence nothing prevented God from being able to create man in the state of incorrupt nature without original grace; for, although these two states were combined in Adam, the Fathers and theologians often speak of them as if they were one.

The state of original justice or of innocence is described by St. Thomas (Ia, q. 95, a. I). It consists: 1. in the perfect subjection of the reason to God by grace and charity; 2. in the perfect subjection of the sense appetites to reason; 3. in the perfect subjection of the body to the soul.

As long as the soul adhered to God by grace, the rest were perfectly subject to it; however, it was capable of failing in this perfect subjection to God through sin, for the will was not yet confirmed in goodness.

Some say, Father Kors among them, that, according to St. Thomas, sanctifying grace in Adam was not an endowment of nature but only a personal gift, as it is in us; and accordingly grace would be the external root of original justice, which would be nothing else but integrity of nature.9

Generally, in fact, Thomists hold that, according to St. Thomas, sanctifying grace was in Adam an endowment of nature: first, because it was to be transmitted with nature by way of generation; for if Adam had not sinned, his children would have been born with grace, receiving at the same time the spiritual soul and grace, at the time the body is ultimately disposed to receive the soul (Ia, q. 100, a. 1 and 2). Thus sanctifying grace is the intrinsic root of original justice, as the root is an intrinsic part of a tree.10 Secondly, because original sin is, as declared by the councils (Denz., no. 175, Council of Orange), the death of the soul. But the death of the soul is the privation not only of the integrity of nature, but of sanctifying grace or spiritual life. Thirdly, thus is explained the remission of original sin by baptism, although this sacrament does not restore the integrity of nature.

Accordingly, to this state of original justice the following pertain: 1. sanctifying grace, the infused virtues whether theological or moral, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, actual graces; 2. exemption from the four lamentable consequences to nature, namely, ignorance, concupiscence, pain, and death. The first two consequences are also called wounds; two other wounds are malice and weakness. These are the six punishments of this life (Ia IIae, q. 85, a. 3).

Corollary. If original justice is understood adequately, it include several habits, such as habitual grace, infused virtues, and preternatural privileges, namely, exemption from ignorance, concupiscence, pain, and death. In fact the root of all these perfections was habitual grace, or the union of the soul with God, the author of grace.

Problem. Whether the sanctifying grace of the state of innocence was of the same kind as the sanctifying grace, which is granted to us now unto justification. We answer in the affirmative that it was the same kind as to substance, since its formal effect was the same, to make man pleasing to God, an adopted son, a friend, and an heir to the kingdom of heaven. However, in regard to the manner of its being communicated to the subject, there is a twofold difference between the two.

1. On the part of the principle: the grace of the state of innocence as an endowment of nature proceeded from God as Creator establishing nature in its natural as well as in its supernatural being. On the contrary, habitual grace now proceeds from God as Redeemer, not as establishing nature but as restoring persons to health.

2. On the part of the subject, the grace of the original state regarded nature directly as an endowment of nature, and persons by reason of their nature, in other words it was communicated at the same time with nature, and fully, entirely communicated itself to nature in respect to all its operations (Ia, q. 100, a. I; Ia IIae, q. 81, a. 1 and 2).

On the contrary, habitual grace now regards, primarily and directly, the person to be restored by means of humility and penance; it does not look primarily and directly to nature, and accordingly it is no longer communicated with nature. Thus the son of Christian, even saintly, parents is now born in original sin, and the punishments of this life remain after baptism, as opportunities for struggle and merit (IIIa, q. 69, a. 3 and 49, a. 5 ad I).

The state of fallen nature is described at length in the treatise on original sin. It is the state of nature despoiled of sanctifying grace, of the virtues attached to it, and of the gift of integrity, in other words, subject to pain and death as well as the four wounds of ignorance in the intellect, malice in the will, concupiscence in the concupiscible appetite, and weakness in the irascible (cf. Ia IIae, q. 85, a. 3, 5, 6, on the four wounds and also pain and death).

Thomists generally hold that man in the state of fallen nature not yet restored has less strength for moral good than he would have had in the state of pure nature. The principal reason is that in the state of fallen nature, man is born with his will directly opposed to his final supernatural end and indirectly opposed to his final natural end, because every sin against his supernatural end is indirectly against the natural law, according to which we ought always to obey God, whatever He commands us. On the contrary, in the state of pure nature, man would be born with his will directed neither toward nor away from his final natural end, but with a capacity for directing himself either toward or away from this end.

The state of restored nature. It belongs properly to the treatise on grace to deal with this state, and the whole of question 109 is a discussion of it, as well as of the state of fallen nature considered as its contrary.

At the outset, however, certain general observations should be made to avoid repetition. This expression, “the state of restored nature,” is not actually found in St. Thomas, who rather speaks of the state of grace after justification or of the healing grace, but not expressly of the state of restored nature. Perhaps the reason is that after sin, habitual grace regards primarily and directly the person to be cured and nature by reason of the person. Moreover, nature is not fully or perfectly restored; there remain the four wounds, which are only in process of being healed in the baptized; besides, pain and death remain. Therefore the state of restored nature will not be perfect except in heaven. Cf. IIIa, q. 49, a. 5 ad I, and 69, a. 3.

However, this expression may be accepted in treating of these different states of nature, as grace is the seed of glory and as grace is now considered as healing the person and, by reason of the person, the nature.11

This state is expressed by various names in Holy Scripture; it is termed redemption, liberation, (spiritual) resuscitation, regeneration, vivification, reconciliation, renovation. Thus in I Tim. 2; Ephes. 2; II Cor. 5.

This state resembles the state of innocence inasmuch as sanctifying grace is present in both, identical as to substance and similarly ordered to the supernatural beatitude of heaven.

But there are several differences.

1. From the standpoint of their end: the remote end of the grace of the state of innocence was the manifestation of the divine liberality, whereas the end of the state of restored nature is the manifestation of mercy and now, certainly, the gift is greater, namely, the only-begotten Son of God: God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son. To be sure, God does not permit evil to be done except that He may bring good even out of evil, as St. Augustine says (Enchir., chap. 11), that is, except on account of a greater good. The Church sings: “O happy fault which merited to have such and so great a reparation!” And St. Paul also said (Rom. 5:20): “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” Hence, according to several Thomists (for example, the Salmanticenses): God permitted the sin of Adam and original sin for the sake of the redemptive Incarnation, as for a greater good; cf. IIIa, q. I, a. 3 ad 3. Likewise He permitted the threefold denial of Peter for the sake of the greater humility of the Apostle. Thus in the life of the predestinate the divine permission of sin is indirectly the working out of predestination, namely, that the elect may attain to greater humility.

Hence Billuart (De gratia) rightly says that in the state of restored nature the charity of God toward us is greater, for it is a greater charity to do good to enemies and especially the gift itself is greater, namely, the only-begotten Son of God. The new Adam is infinitely above the first Adam, and the Blessed Virgin Mary far surpasses Eve in excellence; the worship of the Eucharist is higher than the worship in the Garden of Eden.

Moreover, the proximate end of the grace of the state of innocence was the imprinting of the image of God the Creator upon man; now it is, above and beyond this, the imprinting of the image of the redeeming Christ as well, according to the words in Rom. 8:29: “whom . . . He predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son”; and all things in the present state of restored nature are referred to the glory of Christ.

2. The second difference lies in the efficient cause, according as the order of action should correspond to the order of ends. God is the efficient cause of the state of innocence immediately, but of the state of restored nature through Christ, since Christ merited this restoration for us and is its efficient instrumental cause, as an instrument in dissolubly united to the divinity.

3. The third difference is on the part of the subject. The subject in the state of innocence was nature possessing no right to the gratuitous gifts of this state, but with nothing, on the other hand, that would resist them. The subject of the state of restored nature is nature which must be cured of sin or, preferably, already cured and adorned with virtue.

Problem. Whether in the state of restored nature man has less powers for doing good conducive to salvation than he had in the state of innocence.

It is not easy to reply because innocent nature, healthy and vigorous, was in itself more capable of doing good and persevering in it than nature restored but still weak and harassed by many temptations; therefore the sin of Adam was all the more grave inasmuch as it could more easily have been avoided. But on the other hand, “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound,” “and with Him plentiful redemption.” Besides, the Redeemer, head of the Church, substantially present in the Eucharist, is infinitely higher than Adam, head of elevated nature in the state of innocence. Eucharistic Communion, which offers sustaining grace is infinitely above the tree of life, the proper effect of which was to preserve the vegetative faculty against the infirmity of old age.

Hence, unless I am mistaken, the question must be solved by making a distinction, thus: in the state of restored nature, still weak and vexed by many temptations, man has less strength on the part of nature than in the state of innocence.12 But on the part of Christ the Redeemer, present in the Eucharist, good Christians who generously strive after intimacy with Christ and attain it seem, in spite of temptations, to receive greater graces, at least in the unitive life, than they would have had in the state of innocence, on account of their greater union with God through Christ the Redeemer. Nature, indeed, even in the unitive way is not yet fully restored; there remain pain, old age, death, a certain disorder in the feelings. But the life of the saints, after achieving the victory, is higher, most assuredly in the Blessed Virgin Mary and very probably, if not certainly, in St. Joseph, the apostles, and the great saints. As a matter of fact, in every fervent Eucharistic Communion it seems that the union with God through Christ is greater than it was in the earthly paradise. And in the Sacrifice of the Mass the consecration is infinitely above the worship rendered in the state of innocence.

Objection. St. Thomas says (Ia, q. 95, a. 4): “The works of man would be more efficacious for meriting in the state of innocence than after sin, if the amount of merit is estimated from the standpoint of grace; for this latter would then have been more plentiful, finding no obstacle in human nature. Likewise, also, if the absolute quantity of his work be considered, for if man were possessed of greater powers, he would do greater works. But if the amount is considered proportionately, the reckoning of merit after sin is found to be greater, on account of the weakness of man, for a work of less magnitude done under difficulty greatly exceeds a work of greater magnitude performed without any difficulty.”

Reply. In this text St. Thomas seems to compare the merits of man in general in these two states. He is not really comparing the merits of Adam with the merits of any great saint of the New Testament; for, most certainly, the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary are much higher than the merits of Adam. Moreover, when he says, “grace would be more plentiful, finding no obstacle in human nature,” he is speaking of grace in relation to incorrupt nature in general, not in relation to such and such a person.

Hence this article (Ia, q. 95, a. 4) is indeed true of men as a whole, and on the part of nature, but he does not compare Adam with the saints of the New Testament who, after the victory over all temptations, seem, by the power of Christ the Mediator, through the Sacrifice of the Mass and Communion, to attain a greater union with God.

Cf. on this subject St. Thomas’ Commentary on the words of St. Paul: “And where sin abounded, grace did more abound” (Rom. 5:20);“grace, which hath super abounded in us in all wisdom” (Ephes. 1:8); “Now the grace of our Lord hath abounded exceedingly with faith”(I Tim. 1:14); “I exceedingly abound with joy in all our tribulation”(II Cor. 7:4). These words could never be said of Adam.

Commenting on the Epistle to the Romans (5:20), St. Thomas says: “Sin abounded, that is, in the human race, and especially in the Jews (more enlightened and more ungrateful), but grace super abounded, that is, in Christ remitting sin. Hence it is said (II Cor. 9:23): ‘God is able to make all grace abound in you.”’ But two reasons may be assigned to what is said here. “One from the operation of grace, . . . for it required abundant grace to cure an abundance of sins; ‘many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much’ (Luke 7:47).”The other reason is derived from the disposition of the sinner, for whenever through divine assistance he is rendered more humble by the consideration of his sins, he attains to greater grace, according to these words of Ps. 15:4: “Their infirmities were multiplied: afterward they made haste.” Thus St. Peter after his conversion; thus, among mankind, the saints after the redemption of the human race by Christ. Besides, with God there is plentiful redemption, as has already been said regarding the Psalm De profoundis and, in truth, redemption through Christ was superabundant. Cf. also III a, q. I, a. 3 ad3: “Nothing prevents human nature from being advanced to something greater after sin, for God permits evil to be done that He may draw something better there from. Hence it is said in Romans (5:20): ‘Where sin abounded, grace did more abound,’ and in the blessing of the paschal candle we find the words: ‘O happy fault, which deserved to have such and so great a Redeemer!’”

In the article on whether God would have become incarnate had man not sinned, St. Thomas uses the above words (“O happy fault,” etc.) to refute the following objection: “Human nature did not, through sin, become more receptive of grace; therefore even if man had not sinned God would have become incarnate.” Because of this reply of St. Thomas, I cannot doubt the proposition held by many Thomists, though not by all of them, namely, that according to St. Thomas and according to the true state of things, God permitted original sin that He might draw something better there from, the redemptive Incarnation. Thus there is mutual causality: merits dispose for the reception of glory, in the way of a disposing cause, but glory is the cause of merits, as a final cause (Ia, q. 23, a. 5).

Another difficult problem in regard to the various states is this: What is the order of these states according to the decrees of divine providence? There is not complete agreement even among Thomists on this problem (cf. Billuart, De incarnatione, d. 11, a.3), just as some (the Salmanticenses, Godoy, Gonet) admit that original sin was permitted by God for the sake of a greater good, that is, the redemptive Incarnation, whereas others do not (Biluart, John of St. Thomas).13

For the solution of this question particular stress must be laid on the text of St. Thomas already quoted (III a, q. I, a. 3 ad 3): “Nothing prevents human nature from being advanced to something greater after sin, for God permits evil to be done that He may draw something better there from. Hence it is said in Romans (5:20): ‘Where sin abounded, grace did more abound,’ and in the blessing of the paschal candle we find the words: ‘O happy fault, which deserved to have such and so great a Redeemer.’” Likewise III a, q. 46, a. I ad 3.

We consider the solution advanced by the Salmanticenses (Cursus theol., “De motivo incarnationis”) as well as by Goday and Gonet, to be true. They maintain the following views.

1. God, through the knowledge of simple intelligence, knows all things possible, among which is this possible world in which the order of nature, the order of grace with the permission of original sin, and the order of hypostatic union, or the redemptive Incarnation, are subordinate the one to the other.

2. God intends to manifest His goodness outside Himself.

3. God judges the aforesaid possible world to be a very suitable medium for manifesting the divine goodness.

4. God chooses this disposition of things (this is the determination of His will).

5. God commands the execution of these means to be set in action in time (this is, formally, providence).

6. For the operation of the aforesaid disposition of things God moves the universe by directing it. Thus by a single decree God simultaneously willed this possible world with all its parts; in the same way, a builder does not first design the foundation of the house and afterward the roof, but first he designs a suitable dwelling place and, with this in view, the whole house and all its parts in harmony. This interpretation seems profound because of its superior simplicity according as it answers the question: Why did God permit the sin of Adam? Hence it is more and more accepted by modern Thomists.


To complete these preliminary observations in regard to the five states of nature, something must be said against Baius and the Jansenists and also against certain Modernists about the state of pure nature. Certainly this state never existed; and Augustine, writing against Pelagius, shows that Adam in the state of innocence received more than natural gifts. But Jansen maintained that the state of pure nature is impossible. This thesis is well explained by Billuart, why should be read; here it suffices to present his principal arguments.

Augustine says (Retract., Bk. I, chap. 9.): “Ignorance and difficult belong to the wretchedness of just damnation . . . although, even if they were the natural beginnings of man, God is not to be blamed on this account, but rather praised.” Likewise (De dono perseverantiae, chap. II): “Even if it were true that ignorance and difficulty, without which no man is born, were not the original penalties of nature, still the Manichaeans would be refuted.” That is, not on this account is the Author of nature to be blamed.

St. Thomas is in agreement with this (II Sent., d. 31, q. I, a. 2 ad 3; text cited above on the definition of pure nature. Cf. p. 21).

Proof from reason. The state of pure nature is not contradictory either from the part of man or from the part of God; hence it is simply possible. On the part of man, neither sanctifying grace nor the gifts of integrity and immortality are due to human nature regarded in itself, but are merely gratuitous. Hence the state of pure nature without these gifts is not contradictory from the side or part of man.

The antecedent is evident from the very notion of grace; if it is due, it is no longer a grace; nor is the adoption of sonship due to us, for adoption is made by the free will of the one adopting; and neither to our nature nor to the angelic nature is due the elevation to a participation in the divine nature, as the Church declared against Baius

(Denz., nos. 1021, 1026, 1055, 1078, 1079) and against Quesnel (Denz.,nos. 1384 ff .), Thus Augustine (De civitate Dei, Bk. XII, chap. 9 ) says of the angels: “God created them, at the same time creating nature in them and bestowing grace upon them.”

Nor is the gift of integrity and immortality due to our nature; for ignorance, concupiscence, passibility, and mortality proceed from the elements of human nature, as St. Thomas teaches (Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 52).

Thus man, created in a purely natural condition, would possess all those things that coincide with his nature, in both his physical and his moral being; in other words, he would have a body and rational soul with their properties and powers, spiritual as well as sensitive, that is, with free will and the potentiality of achieving his natural end. The proximate end of man in the state of pure nature would be an honorable good, and his final end God as the author of nature, known abstractly and loved above all things with a natural love. In this state all the sufficient aids of a natural order would be given to all, and to some certain efficacious helps which are indeed not due to any particular individual, but are necessary to human nature so that, in some individuals it may attain the end for which it was created by God.

Likewise this state of pure nature is not contradictory on God’s part; for God could have denied gratuitous gifts to man without detriment to His justice, goodness, or wisdom, just as, without any injustice, He did not prevent the sin of Adam, which He most easily could have prevented. Hence even by His ordinary power God could have created man in the state of pure nature.

Against the possibility of the state of pure nature there is a particular objection, which deserves to be considered: man cannot have even perfect natural happiness without a body, that is, without resurrection after death. But resurrection is a miracle and therefore would not be possible in the state of pure nature. Therefore this state is impossible. As a solution of this objection theologians propose three opinions.

1. In this state of pure nature there would not be the resurrection of bodies; and yet at the end of their way the just would be essentially happy, just as now, in the supernatural order, the souls of the saints are essentially happy before the resurrection of the body, which imparts only an accidental happiness. This first opinion is probable.

2. In this state of pure nature there would be a resurrection; and this is not unlikely, for the resurrection of the body is supernatural only as to mode (or modally), not as to substance (or substantially) as grace is. Therefore this state of pure nature in its term, for the just would have a certain perfection of integral nature. Moreover, God could perform a miracle in the state of pure nature to confirm the natural truths of religion. This second opinion is also probable.

3. In this state the just man would not die to be beatified; God would transfer him, body and soul, to the place of beatitude. This third opinion seems least probable; perhaps the second opinion is the more probable. In order to defend the possibility of a state of pure nature, it is not necessary to prove conclusively by what means man would attain to beatitude, just as, to demonstrate the immortality of the soul, it is not necessary to determine categorically the particular way by which the separated soul derives its knowledge. This will suffice, then, in regard to the possibility of the state of pure nature.

The other objections of the Jansenists are of less consequence and may easily be found in the writings of Thomists.


This is the last preliminary note to the understanding of our treatise. It is to be interpreted in the light of what has been said above (Ia, q. 105, a. 5 and 6; Ia IIae, q. 9, a. 6; q. 10, a. 4; q. 79, a. 1 and 2).14 As explained by Father del Prado, O.P. (De gratia, II, 240, 253-57), according to the terminology of St. Thomas there are three degrees of divine motion in the natural order and three corresponding degrees in the supernatural; for in both the natural and the supernatural order divine motion is either before our deliberation or after it or above it.

Before our deliberation, as long as we naturally desire to be happy, we are moved to desire happiness in general. For, since this desire is the first act of our will, we are not moved to it by virtue of a previous act of deliberation. There is something similar in the supernatural order when we are moved to our final supernatural end, for we cannot be moved to it by virtue of a previous higher act by way of deliberation.

After deliberation, or at its end, we are moved toward some good (on which we have deliberated) by virtue of a previous act; for by intending the end we are moved to choose the means to the end under divine cooperating concursus; this, indeed, whether in the natural order or in the supernatural by the exercise of the infused virtues.

Above deliberation we are moved toward some object, which surpasses our powers, Thus, in the natural order, under special inspiration of God, the author of nature, great geniuses in the philosophic, poetic, or strategic sphere, as well as great heroes are moved. There is something similar and even more frequent in the supernatural order, when a just man is moved by special inspiration of the gifts of the Holy Ghost; this is properly above discursive deliberation and the human mode of operation. St. Thomas often refers to the matter.15 Whence the following may be drawn, reading from below in an ascending order.


(N.B. Father del Prado distinguishes only five degrees, since he does not mention our third degree separately, but reduces it to the sixth.)

The first mode is explained in Ia IIae, q. 9, a. 6 ad 3, q. 10, a.1, 2, 4.

The second mode is explained in Ia IIae, q.68, a. 1 and 2, and whether the will may move itself, Ia IIae, q. 9,a.3.

The third mode is explained in Ia IIae, q. 68, a. 1, where the Ethics attributed to Aristotle, is cited, Bk. VII, chap. 14: “On good fortune.”

The fourth mode is explained in Ia IIae, q. III, a.2 c and as 2 operating grace before an interior act, especially when the will, which previously willed evil, begins to will the good. The will does not properly move itself, since the efficacious act is not given beforehand in respect to the final supernatural end, by virtue of which it could move itself toward that end. Further (IIa IIae, q. 24, a. I ad 3): “Charity, whose object is the ultimate end should rather be said to reside in the will that in free choice,” for choice properly applies to the means to the end (Ia IIae, q. 13, a. 3).

The fifth mode is explained in Ia IIae, q. III, a.2, cooperating grace (cf. Cajetan); and Ia, 63, a. 1, 5, 6, concerning the second instant in the life of the angels when they were able to sin.

The sixth mode is explained in Ia IIae, q. 68, a. 1 ff.



St. Thomas and nearly all theologians employ this terminology, and commonly apply the term “general help” to that which is given for operations in accordance with the universal or common mode of acting. “Special help” is that which is given for operations above the aforesaid universal or common mode, and this in a variety of ways; for example, either because a particular difficulty is to be overcome, or because this mode is properly extraordinary or miraculous. Hence there are many more or less special degrees. At the outset the principal degrees should be noted (cf. John of St. Thomas, De gratia, index under “gratia specialis”; also the Salmanticenses, Gonet, and Lemos).

1. The most general help is that by which the will is moved toward the universal good, as described above in the synopsis (no. I); without this help the will can will nothing, nor, in fact, can it sin.

2. General help often signifies the motion indicated in no. 2, as when the will is moved in the natural order toward some real good, or instance, honoring one’s father. In fact this “general help” is sometimes called grace in a broad sense because, although it is due to human nature in general, it is not due to this individual whom God may permit to sin by his not honoring his father; so in a certain sense this help is special in relation to this individual who does not sin (cf. also De veritate, q. 24, a. 14)17; see also the Salmanticenses on q. 109, a. 2, as well as Gonet, d. I, a. 3, nos. 148, 170, Cajetan, Billuart, De gratia, diss. I, a. I, and Suarez.

Indeed, “general help,” sometimes by many theologians of almost all schools, signifies the entirely common actual grace of the supernatural order, indicated in our synopsis as no. 5, provided that there is no special difficulty to be overcome. For example, it is said that, for overcoming slight temptations against supernatural precepts, general help of the supernatural order suffices, and that this help is due to elevated nature in general, but not to this just one in particular.

John of St. Thomas (De gratia, disp. 21, a. I, no. 11) thus distinguishes between general and special help and also uses the terms “ordinary” and “extraordinary help,” but this extraordinary does not here signify miraculous.

3. The term “special help” is usually applied by theologians to that which is included under nos. 3, 4, and 6 of our synopsis, that is, to a special inspiration, particularly of the supernatural order, an operating grace either in the moment of justification or later in accordance with the exercise of the gifts. Sometimes “special help” signifies, although less properly, actual grace even cooperating necessarily in overcoming a great difficulty. Thus it is almost commonly said that to overcome grave temptations special help, or special grace, is required. (Billuart, diss. III, a. 6). Such help is not due to this just man, nor proximately due to elevated nature, but is particularly to be obtained by praying for it.

Corollary. In respect, not to nature, but to individual persons, all supernatural help is special, according to John of St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q. 109, disp. 21, a. I, no. 11), for aid given to one person and not to another is special to the person to whom it is given; yet that aid can be called general in relation to common elevated nature, e.g., in the overcoming of temptations.

The following speak in like manner: Billuart, De gratia, beginning;


the Salmanticenses, De gratia, Ia IIae, q. 109, disp. 11, dub. 11, nos. 27, 34, and disp. V, dub. VII, no. 171; Gonet, De gratia, disp. I, a. 3, & 5, nos. 157, 170, 172; Lemos, Panoplia, t. IV, p. Ia, q. 85, no. 162. Lemos here maintains that general help is twofold; one is sufficient, bestowing the power to conquer a slight temptation, and this is given to all, the other is efficacious, bestowing the conquest of this slight temptation, and this is not given to all; it is necessary to pray in order to receive it.

This division corresponds to the division of the divine will into antecedent and consequent as explained in Ia, q. 19, a. 6, where it is stated that “whatever God wills absolutely, happens; although what He antecedently wills may not happen. He wills absolutely or simply when He wills a thing considering all its particular circumstances, here and now, as a just judge wills absolutely that a murderer be hanged, although in a certain sense he wills him to live inasmuch as he is a man.” Likewise in Ia, q. 20, a. 4, it is said that God always loves better men more, but they would not be better were they not loved more by God. (Cf. De veritate, q. 6, a. 2; Ia IIae, q. 109, a. 9, at the end of the body of the article.)


1 In Latin the word for “thanks” is “gratiae.” Hence the third meaning of gratia. (Tr.)

2 The supernatural substantially (such as sanctifying grace) is said to be formally so (formaliter quoad substantiam), for it is essentially supernatural. The substantially miraculous (such as the glorious resurrection) is said to be supernatural effectively (effective quoad substantiam) but not formally; that is, on the part of the agent, but not as to the exercise of the effect produced.

3 Not all the Semi-Pelagians understood in the same way that the initial step to salvation comes from us and not from God. Some who approached nearer to Pelagius placed the beginning of salvation in some acts performed, such as the act of believing, desiring, asking, seeking grace and salvation. Others, convinced by the arguments of Catholics, that every work conducive to salvation is from God, limited this initial movement to the consent to that grace which God offered each one that it might co- operate in a good act, On this beginning, whatever it might be, and on perseverance in it they based their argument for predestination, (Cf. Billuart, op. cit.) They maintained that this beginning of salvation, proceeding from us and not from God, merits the first grace, at the favorable moment, so to speak. This is evident from Faustus, who, as Gennadius relates in his life, used to say: “Whatever freedom of the will may acquire of honest reward for labor is not, properly speaking, merit.” Likewise Cassian in his Collutiones, chap. 14: “God is ready in the event of the offering of our will to bestow all these things upon it”.

4 And, on the other hand, infants who die without baptism would be punished for sins, which they would have committed if they had lived for a long time. Thus they would be punished for sins that were not real but only conditional, which is unjust.

5 Cf. Summa theol., Ia, q.23, a.5, 3rd error

6 De civ. Dei, Bk. XII, chap. 6: “If the efficient cause of bad is sought, none will be found. . . . If two individuals similarly constituted as to soul and body, both perceive the beauty of the same body; if, having seen it, one of the two is moved to illicit enjoyment, whereas the other perseveres firmly in a virtuous will, what shall we consider to be the cause of bad will present in one and not in the other? .  .  . If both are tempted by the same temptation and one yields and consents, while the other remains unmoved, what else is evident but that one willed and the other did not will to fail in chastity? . . . The same beauty was seen equally by the eyes of both; the same interior temptation solicited both equally; what, therefore caused that particular bad will in one of them? .  .  .  , Nothing presents itself. Can (human) nature be the cause of evil will in that it is human nature? No, for it is found in both individuals. But so far as it is drawn from nothingness, it is deficient in one and not in the other.” (St. Thomas says: that which is defectible in itself can be reasonably expected to fail in some respect, with divine permission.) Chap. 7: “Let no one, therefore, seek the efficient cause of bad will, since it is not efhcient, but deficient; for this is not an effect, but a defect. To fall away then, from what is greater to what is less is to begin to have an evil will.” Chap. 9: “These angels, who were created with the good, and are yet bad, bad by their own will, either received less grace of divine love than those who persevered in it, or if they were both created equally good, when the former fell from evil will, the latter, receiving greater help, attained to that fullness of beatitude.”

Whence the same Augustine says, commenting on St. John (tr. 26): “If you do not wish to fall into error, do not attempt to judge why God draws this one and does not draw that one.” Likewise St. Thomas (Ia, q.23, a.5), when the Semi-Pelagians said: “God draws this person because He sees the initial step to salvation naturally in him and not in another.”

7 The more rigid Thomists and Augustinians seem to minimize the will for universal salvation by saying that negative reprobation, which procedes the prevision of demerits, consists not only in permitting sins that will not be absolved, but in positive exclusion from glory as a benefit which is not due. This is justifiably rejected  by Billuart and many Thomists.

8 The eclecticism of the Sorbonne maintains that grace is efficacious of itself for difficult acts conducive to salvation (such as contrition), but that grace is not efficacious of itself for easy acts conducive to salvation (such as attrition).

9 We examined this opinion in our treatise De Deo trino et creatore, 1944, pp. 43-38.

10 At the Council of Trent it was declared (Denz., no. 789) that Adam “lost for himself and for us the sanctity and justice received from God”; therefore he received it for himself and for us as an endowment granted to nature, not merely as a personal gift.

11 In this sense, St. Thomas says (IIIa. 9.49, a.5): “Christ by His passion opened to us the gate of Heaven”; the souls of the just under the Old Testament could not have the beatific vision before the Passion, because, although they had a certain grace “in respect to the purifying of their own persons,” there still remained “an impediment which was an arraignment of all humanity, and which indeed is removed at the price of the blood of Christ.”

12 Thus Billuart declares: “In the state of innocence grace, conferred as an endowment of nature, encountered nothing contrary to itself in integral nature, and accordingly communicated itself fully to nature, with regard to all its effects, primary as well as secondary.” Now, grace regards directly (per se) and primarily the justified person, who previously was unworthy and finds in nature four wounds which are only in process of being healed: ignorance, malice, weakness, concupiscence, and, in addition, pain and death. Hence grace does not now communicate itself fully to nature. But the justified person ought to fight manfully and continually to implore the help of Christ.              

13 John of St. Thomas, Cajetan, and Billuart refuse to reply to this question: Why did God permit the sin of Adam, for what greater good? And they thus multiply the divine decrees, asserting that: 1. God willed the order of nature with the intention of manifesting His goodness: 2. He ordered intellectual creatures to a supernatural end: 3. foreseeing the sin of Adam and original sin, He decreed the restoration of the human race by Christ the Redeemer; 4. in Christ He chose some more especially and efficaciously and left others. Thus these various decrees would be virtually distinct, and this question would remain unsolved: For what greater good did God permit the sin of Adam and original sin, so as to make this permission holy? The reply would be exceedingly general: God permitted this in order to manifest His mercy and His justice. But it must be admitted that this supreme manifestation of mercy and justice was made through the redemptive Incarnation.

14 Cf. Billuart, De gratia, diss. III, a. I.

15 If these various degrees of divine motion are carefully studied according to St. Thomas, it will be easy to reply to several difficulties recently proposed by Father H. Bouillard, S.J., Conversion et grâce chez  S. Thomas d’Aquin, 1944.

16 These six modes of divine motion are explained at greater length in our Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 286-99. Cf. below, p. 89 ff.

17 Ia, q.21, a. I ad 3: “It is due to every created thing that it should have that which befits it, as for a man to have hands and to be served by the other animals, and thus again God exercises His justice when He gives to anything that which is due to it according to the purpose of its nature and condition.” Rather does God owe it to Himself to give to creatures whatever is necessary so that at least many of such and such a nature may attain their end.


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