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



In this question there are ten articles, methodically arranged in progressive order, beginning with the lesser actions for which grace is necessary (for example, knowing some truth) and ending with the last supreme good work, that is, final perseverance. (Cf. titles.) There are three parts, as Cajetan observes at the beginning of article 7:



Statement of the question. It seems that grace is required for knowing any truth whatever, for it is said in II Cor. 35: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves as of ourselves.” And St. Augustine maintained this answer in a certain prayer, but he himself retracted later (Retract., I, 4), as is said in the argument to the contrary and declared that it could be refuted thus: “Many who are not sinless know many truths,” for example, those of geometry.

The first conclusion is the following. To know any truth, man requires at least natural help from God, but he does not require a new supernatural illumination for it. The aforesaid natural help is due to human nature as a whole, but not to any individual.

Proof of the first part. Since every created agent requires divine premotion in order to pass from potency to act, “however perfect the nature of any corporal or spiritual being, it cannot proceed to act unless moved by God.”1

Proof of the second part. Because many truths do not surpass the power proper to our intellect, they are easily knowable naturally (cf. ad 1, ad 2, ad 3).

It should be noted that the natural concurrence called here by St. Thomas “motion” (motio) is not mere simultaneous cooperation.2 Likewise, contrary to Suarez, the virtual act of the will cannot, without divine motion, be reduced to a secondary act, for St. Thomas said: “However . . . (cf. Suarez, Disp. met., disp. 29, sect. I, no. 7, on virtual act). We reply: there is more in the secondary act than in the virtual act, which in reality differs from the action, nor is it its own action. Already in this first article it is evident that St. Thomas withdraws nothing from divine motion.

The second conclusion is the following. For attaining a knowledge of supernatural truths, our intellect stands in need not only of the natural concurrence of God, but of a special illumination, namely, the light of faith or the light of prophecy and of a proportionate motion. The reason is that these truths surpass the power proper to our intellect.


Objection to the first conclusion. Vasquez presents several objections in the first place, he says:

The intellect, indifferent to truth and falsehood, is determined by grace toward any truth. 

But our intellect is indifferent to truth and falsehood.

Therefore our intellect is determined by grace toward any truth.

Reply. I distinguish the major: by grace, broadly speaking, granted; properly, denied. Let the minor pass, although the intellect is not so indifferent to truth and falsehood as not to incline naturally to truth. It is called grace broadly since, for example, it is given to Aristotle rather than to Epicurus.

I insist. Grace properly speaking, is required in this case, at least after original sin, according to the fideists, such as Bautin, Bonetti.

Grace, properly speaking, is required that the wounded intellect may be healed.

But when it knows any truth, our intellect is at least partially healed.

Therefore grace, properly speaking, is required for knowing any truth.

Reply. I distinguish the major: for knowing the whole body of natural truths, I concede; for any one truth, I deny. The intellect would thus be not merely darkened but extinct, were it incapable of knowing even the least truth without healing grace. Let the minor pass. I distinguish the conclusion in the same way as the major- I say transeat in regard to the minor but I do not concede since the intellect is not properly healed when it knows a truth of geometry but rather when it knows the truth of natural religion.

Instance: But the intellect is extinct or almost extinct, according to the Jansenists.

Ignorance is opposed to knowledge as being a total deprivation.

But the wound of ignorance is in the intellect, according to tradition.


Reply. I distinguish the major: total ignorance, granted; partial ignorance, denied. I contradistinguish the minor; explanation: the wound of ignorance affects principally the practical intellect wherein prudence resides; but there remains in the practical intellect a synderesis, and the speculative intellect is less wounded, since it does not presuppose rectitude of the appetites.

Objection to the second conclusion. Whatever does not surpass the object of our intellect can be known without grace. The mysteries of faith do not surpass the object of our intellect.


Reply. I distinguish the major: a proportionate object, granted; an adequate object, surpassing a proportionate object, denied. I contradistinguish the minor.

I insist. But the mysteries of faith do not surpass the proportionate object. That which is known habitually to the senses does not surpass the proportionate object.

But the mysteries of faith are known habitually to the senses.


Reply. I distinguish the major: whatever is so known without revelation, granted; after revelation, I distinguish further: they do not surpass the remotely proportionate object, granted; proximately proportionate, denied.

I insist. But at least, after external revelation, the mysteries of the faith do not surpass the proximately proportionate object.

That which is known by its species abstracted from the senses and through external signs does not surpass the proximately proportionate object.

But the mysteries of faith are thus known.


Reply. I distinguish the major: if this is known from a human motive, granted; and then it does not require supernatural grace; and contrariwise if it is known from a supernatural motive, that is, on the authority of God revealing in the order of grace (cf. below, Corollary 4).

I insist. But man is made in the image of the Trinity. And he is naturally capable of knowing this image.


Reply. I distinguish the minor: so far as man is the image of God, the author of nature, granted; so far as he is the image of the Trinity, denied, since the term of this relationship is of a higher order. Thus if someone is given an image of an entirely unknown man, he cannot say whose image it is. (For a correct treatment, cf. Salmanticenses, De gratia, disp. III, dub. IV, no. 40, and Billuart, De gratia, diss. III, a. 2). Thomists have drawn several corollaries from this article, using more modern terminology.

Corollary 1. Fallen man, without grace, with natural concurrence alone, is capable of knowing certain natural truths, namely, the first speculative and practical principles of reason and the conclusions which are easily drawn from them. This is contrary to some ancient writers who do not distinguish sufficiently between grace and natural concurrence; it is also contrary to Vasquez who, following the ways of the nominalists, disparaged the powers of reason excessively, as did Baius and the Jansenists, Quesnel and the nineteenth-century fideists, such as Bautin and Bonetty. With regard to this conclusion, cf. the following condemned propositions.

Denz., no. 1022. This one of Baius is condemned: “Those who consider, with Pelagius, the text of the Apostle to the Romans (2:14): ‘The Gentiles, who have not the (written) law, do by nature those things that are of the law,’ understand it to apply to the Gentiles who have not the grace of faith.” For it is certainly contrary to Baius that, without grace, man by natural reason can know the first precepts of the natural law: good ought to be done, thou shalt not kill.

Denz., no. 1391. This proposition of Quesnel is condemned: “All knowledge of God, even natural, even in pagan philosophy, can come only from God, and without grace it produces nothing but presumption, vanity, and opposition to God Himself, in place of sentiments of adoration, gratitude, and love.” Thus had spoken previously Luther and Calvin (I De Inst., chaps. 1 and 2), as if peripatetic philosophy had come from diabolic inspiration. The natural reason of Aristotle was capable of discovering the theory of potency and act, of the four causes, and this without any opposition to God.

Denz., no. 1627. The following may probably be attributed to Bautin: Although reason is obscure and weak through original sin, there still remains in it enough lucidity and power to lead us with certainty to (the knowledge of) the existence of God, to the revelation made to the Jews by Moses and to the Christians by our adorable God-man.”

The Vatican Council defined the following (Denz., no. 1806): “If anyone says that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot certainly be known by the light of natural human reason, let him be anathema.” This is contrary to the traditionalists, Kant, and the Positivists. Finally, in the oath against Modernism: “I acknowledge in the first place and of a truth, that, by the light of natural reason through the things which have been made, that is, through the visible works of creation, God, the beginning and end of all things, can be certainly known and even demonstrated.” Likewise in regard to miracles confirming the Gospel it is similarly declared that they are “most certain signs that the Christian religion is of divine origin . . . and even in the present time especially adapted to the intelligence of all men.”

Moreover, the reason for this conclusion is the one given in the article, that is:

Every power infused in created things is efficacious in respect to its own proper effect.

But our intellect is a power infused into us by God and, granted that it is darkened by sin, yet it is not extinct.

Therefore it can of itself, with natural concurrence, arrive at a knowledge of certain natural truths.

Otherwise intellectual power would be, in its own order, much more imperfect than are the powers of bodies, of plants and animals,in respect to their own objects, sight and hearing, for example.

As a matter of fact, the natural concurrence required for the knowledge of any truth may be called grace in the broad sense, inasmuch as it is not due to any individual but to human nature in general; (cf.Ia, q. 21, a. I ad 3): “It is due to any created thing that it should have that which is ordained to it, as to a man that he have hands and that the other animals serve him; and thus again God works justice when He gives to anything that which is due to it by reason of its nature and condition.” God owes it to Himself to give to the various kinds of plants and animals and to humankind the natural concurrence enabling them to reach their final end on account of which they were made. But, on the other hand, it is not to be wondered at that what is deficient should sometimes fail, and God is not bound to preventthese defects, since, if He prevented them all, greater goods would not come about, and it is on account of these many goods that He permits the defect. Hence, as our intellect is defective, there is due to it, according to the laws of ordinary providence, that it should atleast sometimes be moved toward the truth and not always fall into error. But the fact that Aristotle, for example, rather than another, let us say Epicurus, may be moved in the direction of truth, this is not due to him; it is by a special providence and benevolence, and in this sense such natural concurrence is called “grace” broadly speaking. And it is proper to pray that one may obtain this grace in the wide sense of the term.

Corollary 2. Fallen man, without a special added grace, cannot, at least with any moral power, know either collectively or even separately all natural truths, speculative or speculative-practical, or, for still greater reason, practical-practical; since for these last, as for prudence, rectitude of the appetite is required.

Many hold, not without probability, that without special grace man can know all natural speculative truths, by physical power, since these truths do not exceed the capacity of a man possessing a keen mind. But in the present corollary it is a question of moral power, that is, such as may be rendered active without very great difficulty. And it is certain that this moral power is not given in regard to all the aforesaid kinds of truth taken together. Rather, it was on this account that the Vatican Council declared (Denz., no. 1786) revelation to be morally necessary “so that those things concerning divine matters which are not of themselves impenetrable to human reason may nevertheless, in the present condition of the human race, be readily known by all with a firm certainty and no admixture of error.” This is explained by St.Thomas (Ia, q. I, a. I; IIa IIae, q. 2, a. 3 and 4; Contra Gentes, Bk.I, chaps. 4 and 6; Bk. IV, Gentes, chap. 52). For the impediments are manifold: the shortness of life, the weakness of the body, domestic cares, the disorder of the passions, etc. It is clearly evident that, with all these impediments, fallen man without grace has not the moral power to attain to the knowledge of all natural truths together; nor even, as a matter of fact to the separate knowledge of them: 1. Because the wound of ignorance is in the intellect, preventing especially thatease of understanding necessary to prudence, for prudence presupposes rectitude of the appetite; 2. because many speculative natural truths are very difficult, demanding long and rigorous study for a certain and complete knowledge of them and therefore a constantly good will, burning love of truth, a relish for contemplation, undisturbed passions, a good disposition of the senses, leisure uninterrupted by cares. All of this cannot be arrived at easily before regeneration by healing grace; indeed even afterward a special grace is required for it.

Among natural truths, according to Billuart, there are some so extremely difficult that no man has thus far been able to attain a certain knowledge of them, for example, the ebb and flow of the tides, the essence of light, electricity, magnetism, the inner development of the embryo; similarly, the inner nature of sensation, the active intellect and its functioning, the intimate relationship between the last practical judgment and choice, etc.; likewise the reconciling of the attributes of God as naturally knowable, although the knowledge of the existence of God, supreme Ruler, is easily arrived at by common sense from the order of the universe.

Doubt. Whether this special grace required for a knowledge of all these natural truths is properly supernatural.

Reply. It suffices that it is supernatural in respect to the manner of which is supernatural in respect to its substance, because the knowledge of which we are speaking is ontologically natural.

Corollary 3. Supposing the existence of an external revelation, fallen man, with natural, general concurrence alone and without a special added grace, is able to know and enlarge on supernatural truths, from some human or natural reason.

Thus the demons believe naturally, by a faith not infused but acquired, on the evidence of compelling miracles, as is demonstrated in IIa IIae, q. 5, a. 2. And formal heretics retain certain supernatural truths, not from the supernatural motive of divine revelation (otherwise they would believe all that is revealed), but from a human motive,

that is, on the bases of their own judgment and will; for example, because they consider this faith to be honorable or useful to themselves, or because it seems to them very foolish to deny certain things in the Gospel. The reason for this is that, although a true supernatural is in itself entitatively supernatural, yet, as depending upon a human or natural motive, it is not formally supernatural.

Why? Because an object, not as a thing, but by reason of object, is formally constituted by the formal motive through which it is attained. Thus when a formal heretic from a human motive and by human faith believes in the Incarnation, while rejecting the Trinity; then the object believed, as a thing, is supernatural, but, as an object, it is not supernatural. Therefore it may thus be attained by the natural powers, and then the supernatural truth is attained only materially because it is not attained formally in its supernaturalness, as it is supernatural.

That a demon should naturally believe the mysteries of faith is analogical, all proportions being maintained, to a dog’s materially hearing human speech as sound but not really hearing formally the intelligible meaning of this same speech. Similarly, “the sensual man (for example, a heretic retaining certain mysteries of faith) perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand” (I Cor. 2:14); cf. also St. Thomas’ Commentary on this Epistle. We might draw another comparison with the case of one who listens to a symphony of Beethoven or Bach, possessed of the sense of hearing but devoid of any musical sense; he

would not attain to the spirit of the symphony (cf. our De revelatione, I, 478, based on IIa IIae, q. 5, a. 3).

Corollary 4. Man cannot believe supernatural truths from the supernatural motive of divine revelation without a special interior grace, both in the intellect and in the will.

This is contrary, first, to the Pelagians, who say that external revelation is sufficient for the assent of faith (cf. Denz., nos. 129 ff.) and, secondly, to the Semi-Pelagians, who would have it that the beginning of faith comes from us (cf. Denz., nos. 174 ff.; Council of Orange, c. 5, 6, 7); therein it is declared that the inspiration and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit is required in this matter (Denz., nos. 178-80).

These definitions of the Church are based upon several texts of Sacred Scripture cited by the Council of Orange, for example, Ephes. 2:8: “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.” This does not refer to external revelation, for it is further said in the same Epistle (1:17 f.): “That . . . God . . . may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and of revelation, in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what the hope is of his calling”; and (Acts 16:14): “ . . . Lydia . . . whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul.”

Again, this fourth corollary is opposed to Molina and many Molinists who declare that fallen man can, without supernatural grace, believe supernatural truths from a supernatural motive, but then he does not believe as is necessary for salvation, for which grace is required. And therefore Molina holds that the assent of faith is supernatural not in respect to substance by virtue of its formal motive, but only in respect to mode, by reason of the eliciting principle and by reason of its extrinsic end. (Cf. Concordia, q. 14, a. 13, disp. 38, pp. 213 ff., and our De revelatione, I, 489, where Molina and Father Ledochowski are quoted.)

This question has been treated at length and fully by the Salmanticenses in their Commentary on our article, De gratia, disp. III, dub. III, and I have quoted their principal texts in De revelatione, I, 494, 496, showing that therein they are in accord with all Thomists from Capreolus to the present day (pp. 458-514). Their conclusions, here cited, ought to be read. The argument put forth against Molina and his disciples is found in IIa IIae, q. 6, a. I, “Whether faith is infused in man by God”: “For, since man, assenting to the things which are of faith, is raised above his nature, it is necessary that this be instilled into him by a supernatural principle impelling him interiorly through grace,” for an act is specified by its formal object (objectum formale quo et quod); if, therefore, the latter is supernatural, the act specified by it is essentially supernatural and cannot be elicited without grace. Further, St. Thomas affirms this to be true even of faith lacking form (informus), that is, faith without charity (IIa IIae, q. 6, a. 2); even faith lacking form is a gift of God, since it is said to lack form on account of a defect of extrinsic form, and not on account of a defect in the specific nature of infused faith itself, for it has the same specifying formal object.

Thus Billuart comments on our article: “the formally supernatural object as such cannot be attained except by a supernatural act. This upsets the basic assertion of Molina, who maintains that the assent to faith from the motive of divine revelation is natural in respect to its substance, and supernatural in respect to its mode. . . . This opinion does not seem to us sufficiently removed from the error of the Semi-Pelagians.” (Likewise, the Salmanticenses, loc. cit.)

Confirmation. The Council of Orange (c. 5,6,7; Denz., nos. 178-80) defined grace to be necessary for the initial step toward faith and for the belief necessary to salvation.

But to believe on account of the formal supernatural motive of infused faith itself is already to believe in the way necessary to salvation; what more formal belief can then be required?

Therefore, to believe on account of this supernatural motive is impossible without grace.

Many difficulties would arise from any other opinion.

1. An act cannot be specified by an eliciting principle, for this eliciting principle itself requires specifying, and it is specified by the act toward which it tends, as the act is specified by its object. Otherwise specification would come from the rear rather than from thefront, as if the way from the College “Angelicum” to the Vatican were specified by the terminus from which, and not by the terminus toward which.

2. An act of faith would be no more supernatural than an act of acquired temperance ordered by charity to a supernatural end; it would be less supernatural than an act of infused temperance, as referred to by St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q. 63, a. 4). This supernatural in respect to mode is the supernatural almost as applied from without, like gold applied over silver for those who cannot afford to buy pure gold jewelry: it is “plated,” “veneered.”

3. What Molina says of the act of theological faith, could equally be said of the act of hope, and even of the act of charity, for the substance of which natural good will would sufice, and the supernatural mode would be added to make it what is required for salvation. But then the charity of the viator thus specified by a formal object naturally attainable would not be the same as the charity of the blessed, which must be, like the beatific vision, essentially supernatural. Hence charity would be something different in heaven from what it is now, contrary to the words of St. Paul, “charity never falleth away” (I Cor. 13:8). Thus even Suarez vigorously opposes Molina in this matter. There would be innumerable other consequences as indicated in De revelatione, I, 511-14.

We cannot therefore admit the following two theses of Cardinal Billot on the subject as put forward in his book, De virtutibus infusis (71, 87, 88): “Supernatural formality, causing acts to be proportioned to the condition of objects conformable to themselves, does not proceed from the object in that it performs in respect to us the office of an object, nor, namely, either from the material object which is believed, hoped, or loved, or from the formal object on account of which it is believed, hoped, or loved, but solely from the principle of grace by which the operative faculty is elevated.” “Supernatural habits are not necessarily distinguished from natural habits according to their objects” (p. 84).

In opposition to our thesis, cf. the objections in De revelatione, I, 504-11. The principal one is the following.

The demons believe (Jas. 2), and they believe without grace. But they believe from the motive of divine revelation. Therefore grace is not necessary to believe from a motive of divine revelation.

Reply. I concede the major. I distinguish the minor: that the demons believe formally from the motive of divine revelation according as it is supernatural in respect to substance in itself and on that account, I deny; that they believe materially on the evidence of the signs of revelation, I grant; to this evidence their faith is ultimately reducible. (Cf. IIa IIae, q. 5, a. 2 ad I, 3.) They believe, says St.Thomas, as it were under constraint from the evidence of miracles, for it would be exceedingly stupid for them to reject this evidence. They therefore attain to God the author of nature and of miracles, but not really to God the author of grace, nor to revelation as it proceeds from God the author of grace. On the contrary, revelation as proceeding from God, the author of grace, specifies infused faith which is of a higher species than would be a faith, supernatural in respect to mode, based upon the revelation of God, author of nature. (Cf. Salmanticenses quoted in De revelatione, I, 496,471.)



State of the question. It seems that man can do some good without grace: 1. for his acts are in his power, since he is ruler of his acts; 2. for everyone can do better that which pertains to him by nature than that which is beyond him by nature; but man can sin by himself, which is acting beyond and even against nature; therefore with even greater reason can he do good of himself. This objection raises the question whether not sinning, or persevering in good, is itself a gift of God; whether of two men, equally tempted and equally assisted, it can happen that one sins and the other does not. 3. Just as our intellect can, of itself, know truth, so our will can, of itself, will the good.

This question concerns: 1. a morally or ethically good work in the natural order (such as proceeds from the dictates of right reason and is not vitiated by any circumstances) so that it is not a sin; and 2. good works conducive to salvation, such as are ordained to a supernatural end, not indeed always as meritorious acts presupposing habitual grace, but as salutary acts disposing to justification and presupposing actual grace.

Reply. In respect to these two problems, certain truths are articles of faith. 1. It is of faith that not all the works of infidels or sinners are sins (against Wyclif, Denz., no. 606; John Hus, no. 642, Baius, nos. 1008, 1027 ff .; Quesnel, nos. 1351, 1372, 1388) Therefore without the grace of faith a man can do some morally or ethically good works. 2. It is of faith that supernatural good cannot be effected by fallen man without grace. Cf. Council of Orange (Denz., no. 174), can. 6, 7, 9, 11, 12-20, 22; and Council of Quierzy (Denz., no. 317), c. 2. These two articles of faith are based on many passages in Holy Scripture.

1. Holy Scripture does indeed praise certain works of infidels and testifies that they were rewarded by God; for example, it praises the kind-heartedness of the Egyptian midwives who did not wish to kill the children of the Hebrews in conformity with the iniquitous command of Pharaoh (Exod., chap. I); the hospitality of Rahab the harlot, who refused to betray the men sent by Josue (Josue, chap. 2), is also praised; likewise God gave the land of Egypt to King Nabuchodonosor, that he might wage a successful war against the inhabitants of Tyre, according to the command of God (Ezech. 29:20). St. Augustine says (De civ. Dei, Bk. V, chap. 15) that God granted a vast empire to the Romans as a temporal reward of their virtues and good works. But God neither praises nor rewards sins, but rather punishes. Therefore. Similarly it is said in Romans (2:14): “The Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law”; in other words, they do at least some good works, as St. Augustine shows (De spiritu et littera, chap. 27).

2. The other proposition of faith, that supernatural good works cannot be performed by fallen man without grace, is also based on many texts from Scripture cited by the Council of Orange: “A man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27). “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He hath sent” (John 6:29). “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). “I am the vine; you the branches” (ibid.). “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:16). “It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will” (Phil. 2:13). “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.) “No man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor. 12:3). “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God” (II Cor. 3 5 ). “Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17). There are innumerable texts from St. Augustine; for example, the one quoted in the Sed contra. In the body of the article are found four conclusions, which should be consulted in the text itself.

1. To accomplish any good whatever, man, in any state, requires the general concurrence of God, whether in the state of incorrupt or of corrupt nature (or even in the state of pure nature of which St. Thomas does not speak here, but the possibility of which he admits, as stated in II Sent., d. 31, q. I, a. 2 ad 3, and Ia, q. 95, a. I). The reason for this is that every creature, since it neither exists nor acts of itself, is in potency regarding action, and needs to be moved from without that it may act, as said in article I. This efficacious concurrence toward a naturally virtuous good is due, as we have said, to human nature in general, not to any individual, in whom God may permit sin.

2. In the state of integral nature, man did not require special added grace, except for performing supernatural works, not, that is, for morally good works commensurate with nature. For nature was then in a perfect state and needed only general concurrence, which is, of course, to be understood in the sense of a concurrence which is prior and efficacious in itself, not in the sense accepted by Molina.

3. In the state of fallen nature man requires supernatural grace not only to perform a supernatural work, but to observe the whole natural law (as will be made more evident later in article 5).

4. Fallen man can do some morally good work in the natural order with general concurrence alone, for example, build houses, plant vineyards, and other things of this kind; and he can do this on account of a duly virtuous end, so that this act may be ethically good from the standpoint of its object, its end, and all its circumstances; for instance, that a man build a home for the good of his family, that is, in such a way that there is no sin involved. This is particularly evident from the fact that, for St. Thomas, there are no indifferent acts in regard to an individual (Ia IIae, q. 18, a. 9; cf. above, Ia IIae, 65, a. 2): “Acquired virtues, according as they are operative of good ordained to an end which does not exceed the natural faculty of man, can be deprived of charity,” but they are so on the part of the subject in the circumstance of his disposition, not in the circumstance of a virtue difficult to set in motion, nor closely connected actually.

Thus not all the works of infidels and sinners are sins. The reason is that, since human nature “is not totally corrupted” by sin so as to be entirely deprived of natural good, therefore it can, through the power which remains, easily do some morally good works with general concurrence, just as a sick man may have some power of movement in himself, although he is not able to move perfectly unless he is cured.

REFUTATION OF OBJECTIONS (cf. De veritate, q. 24, a. 14)

First objection. That is in the power of a man of which he is master. But a man is master of his acts.

Therefore it is in the power of a man to do good.

Reply. I distinguish the major: without the concurrence of God, denied; with the concurrence of God, granted. I grant the minor. I distinguish the conclusion in the same way as the major. (Read St. Thomas’ answer.)

Second objection. Everyone can do better that which pertains to him by nature than that which is beyond his nature. But man can sin of himself, which is beyond nature. Therefore man can do good of himself. (See a similar objection in De veritate, q. 24, a. 14, objections 3 and 4, also objection 2 and the body of the article toward the end.) Likewise some say that of two men, tempted in the same way and equally assisted, it may be that one perseveres in attrition or in an easy, imperfect prayer, whereas the other, on the contrary, sins by not continuing this easy act.

St. Thomas’ reply to objection 2 is as follows: “Every created thing needs to be preserved in the goodness proper to its nature by something else (that is, by God), for of itself it can fall away from goodness. At least, he who does not sin is divinely preserved in the goodness proper to his nature, while God does not preserve the other, but, on the contrary, permits sin in him; therefore they are not equally assisted. However, nature is not completely corrupt; it is able to do some good but with the help of God, which is due to nature in general, but not indeed to this individual. Therefore, as Augustine says, we ought to thank God inasmuch as we avoid sins which were possible to us, for the very fact of not sinning is a good coming from God; it is, in other words, being preserved in goodness.

In reply to the third objection it is noted that “human nature is more corrupted by sin in regard to its appetite for the good than in regard to its knowledge of the truth.” This is because original sin first causes an aversion of the will directly from the final supernatural end, and indirectly from the final natural end; and consequently a disorder in the sensitive appetite tending toward sensible goods, not according to the dictates of right reason.

Doubt. How is this general concurrence, necessary for fallen man to accomplish any moral good, to be understood?

Reply. The Molinists understand it as a natural, general, indifferent concurrence which the will, through its own volition, directs toward the good. But the Thomists reply that in that case God, by moving one as far as the exercise of the will is concerned, would be no more the author of a good work than of a bad one (contrary to the Council of Trent, Denz., no. 816).3 Therefore they insist upon a prevenient, determining, and effective concurrence enabling a man to do good rather than evil. The early Thomists called this a special concurrence, a since it is not due to this or that individual; but later Thomists call it a general concurrence, because it is, in a certain sense, due to human nature, even in its fallen state, for nature is not totally corrupt or confirmed in evil, but only weakened. However, it is not due to one individual rather than to another, and from this aspect it is special.

In the same way various texts from Scripture, the councils, the Fathers, and St. Thomas, which seem to be contradictory, are reconciled. For example: “No one has anything of himself but sin and lying,” says the Council of Orange (can. 22). That is to say, no one tells the truth with honest intent without at least the natural assistance of God, which is a grace, broadly speaking, with respect to this man on whom it is bestowed rather than on another; otherwise it would have the meaning which Baius gives to it when he says: “Man’s free will, without the grace and help of God, is of no use except to commit sin.” Baius means not only natural assistance, or grace broadly speaking, but grace in the proper sense, which comes from Christ, hence sanctifying grace and charity.



We are especially concerned, in this article, with the love of God, author of nature, above all things, although there is still a reference in the reply to the first objection to the love of God, author of grace, which proceeds from infused charity. St. Thomas had already dealt with this subject (Ia, 4.60, a.5) in respect to the angels, and later (IIa IIae, q. 26, a. 3), where he distinguishes more explicitly between natural and supernatural love of God. (Likewise on I Cor., XIII, lect. 4; De virtutibus, q. 2, a. 2 ad 16; q. 4, a. I ad 9; Quodl. I, q. 4, a. 3.)

In the statement of the question he sets down the objections to the possibility of a natural love of God above all things. Later, Baius and Jansen again voice the same objections. This natural love of God above all things seems impossible: 1. because loving God above all things is proper to the act of infused charity; 2. since no creature can rise

above itself, it cannot naturally love God more than itself; 3. because, grace would be added to no purpose. Let us examine: 1. the doctrine of St. Thomas; 2. its confirmation by the condemnation of Baius and Quesnel; 3. the controversy of modern theologians on this subject.


This teaching can be reduced to three conclusions treating of

1. the love of God, author of nature, above all things in the state of integral nature.

2. the love of God, author of nature, above all things in the state of  corrupt nature.

3. the supernatural love of God, author of grace, above all things.

We shall see later, in reference to a particular problem, whether man in the state of pure nature would be able to love God, author of nature, above all things. This question is not solved by the Sed contra, because in it the expression “by merely natural powers” does not refer to pure nature but to integral nature. The article itself should be read.

Conclusion 1. In the state of integral nature, man did not require an added gift of grace to love God, the author of nature, above all things efficaciously; he required only the help of God moving him to it, or natural concurrence. This is proved as above, in regard to the angels, that is, in forms.

Loving God, the author of nature, above all things is natural to man and to every creature, even irrational, in its own way; for, as the good of the part is for the sake of the good of the whole, every particular thing naturally loves its own good on account of the common good of the whole universe, which is God.

But man in the state of integral nature could have performed, by virtue of his nature, the good which was natural to him.

Therefore man in the state of integral nature could, by virtue of his nature without any added grace, efficaciously love God the author of nature above all things.

The major is explained above (Ia, 60, a. 5) and later (IIa IIae, q. 26, a. 3). According to Ia, 60, a. 5: “The natural inclination in those things which are without reason throws some light upon the natural inclination in the will of the intellectual nature. But in natural things, everything which, as such, naturally belongs to another, is principally and more strongly inclined to that other to which it belongs than toward itself. For we observe that a (natural) part endangers itself naturally for the preservation of the whole, as the hand exposes itself without any deliberation to receive a blow for the safeguarding of the whole body. And since reason imitates nature, we find an imitation of this manner of acting in regard to political virtues. For it is the integral nature; corrupt nature; part of a virtuous citizen to expose himself to the danger of death for the safety of the whole nation. And if a man were a natural part of this state, this inclination would be natural to him. Since, therefore, the universal good is God Himself, and angels and men and all creatures are encompassed by this goodness, and since every creature naturally by its very being belongs to God, it follows that even by a natural love angels and men love God in greater measure and more fundamentally than they do themselves. Otherwise, if they naturally loved themselves more than God, it would follow that natural love was perverse and would not be perfected by charity but rather destroyed.” These last words imply that in the state of pure nature man would be able to love God naturally above all things, otherwise natural love would be perverse; but we shall see in the second conclusion that this is not so in the state of fallen nature on account of its wounds.

The major of the present argument is entirely fundamental and a most beautiful concept. It is thus explained (Ia, q. 60, a. 5 ad I): “Every (natural) part naturally loves the whole more than itself. And every individual member naturally loves the good of its species more than its own individual good.” Hence onanism, preventing fertility, is a crime against nature, against the good of the species. A good Thomist, then, loves and defends the doctrine of St. Thomas more than his personal opinions. However, in the exposition of this major the excess of pantheism must be avoided, for then the creature would love God more than self naturally in such a way that sin would be impossible. This impossibility of sinning only follows confirmation in goodness, and especially the beatific vision.

The contrary excess would be a pessimism arising from dualism, which would lead to Manichaeism, that is, the doctrine of two principles. As Father Rousselot demonstrates in his thesis, “Pour l’histoire du problème de l’amour au Moyen Age,”4 there are various theories between these two mutually opposing excesses. There is already, therefore, in our nature an inclination to love God, the author of nature, more than ourselves.

Conclusion 2. In the state of fallen nature, in order to love God, the author of nature, above all things efficaciously, man requires the help of grace restoring nature. (Cf. the end of the article’s conclusion.) The proof given in the words of St. Thomas is as follows: “because, on account of the corruption of nature, the will adheres to a private good, unless cured by the grace of God.” In other words, unless cured by grace, man does not refer to God, efficaciously loved as an end, his love of self and of all other things; thus, unless cured by grace, man does not love God more than himself with a natural love. And inasmuch as this disordered inclination is perverse, it is called an inordinate love of self, self-love, or egoism. By original sin, man’s will is directly averse to his final supernatural end and indirectly to his final natural end. For every sin against the supernatural law and end is indirectly against the natural law which prescribes that God is to be obeyed, whatever He commands. Hence fallen man is averse to God as his final end even naturally.

Conclusion 3. Man in any state requires the help of special grace to love God, the author of grace, with an infused, supernatural love (cf. ad I). This is of faith, contrary to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism (Council of Orange, can. 17, 25; Denz., nos. 190, 198; Council of Trent, Sess. VI, can. 3; Denz. no. 813). It was declared that “if anyone should say that, without a prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost and His assistance, man can believe, hope, love, or repent in such a way that the grace of justification would be conferred on him, let him be anathema.” This definition of faith is based on the texts of Sacred Scripture quoted at the Council of Orange as follows: “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us (Rom. 5:5). “No man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost” (I Cor. 12:3). “The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace” (Gal. 5:22). “Peace be to the brethren and charity with faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephes. 6:23). “Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And everyone that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity” (I John 4:7 f.); that is, he does not know, as it were, experimentally, with an affective knowledge. Baius and Quesnel said that he does not know in any way.

In regard to the explanation of this third conclusion, see the reply to the first objection, which was quoted against Baius. St. Thomas says: “Nature loves God above all things since God is the beginning and end of natural good; charity, however, loves God since He is the object of (supernatural) beatitude and since man has a certain spiritual fellowship (by grace) with God.” From which is to be intimated what man would be capable of even in the state of pure nature. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 26, a. 3, where it is declared that: “We can receive a two-fold good from God, the good of nature and the good of grace. Moreover, natural love is based upon the communication of natural goods made to us by  God. . . . Hence this is much more truly evident in the friendship of charity, which is based upon the communication of the gifts of grace.” Again in the reply to the second objection: “Any part loves the good of the whole according as it is becoming to itself, not however in such a way as to refer the good of the whole to itself, but rather so as to refer itself to the good of the whole.” And in reply to the third objection: “We love God more with a love of friendship than with a love of concupiscence, for the good of God is in se greater than the good which we can share by enjoying Him.” And thus, absolutely, man loves God more in charity than himself. And he loves the God who is to be seen more than the beatific vision or the created joy following upon this vision. Thus, it may be said (IIa IIae, q. 17, a. 6 ad 3): “Charity (inasmuch as it surpasses hope) properly causes a tending toward God, uniting the affections of a man with God, so that man does not live for himself but for God.” This is pure love properly understood, that is, above hope; but not excluding hope, as the Quietists would have it.

Doubt. Whether in the state of pure nature man would be able to love God the author of nature, above all things, with a natural love.

Reply. Thomists generally reply in the affirmative.

1. On account of the universality of the principle invoked by St. Thomas (Ia, q. 60, a. 5, and in the present article): “Every creature according to its being as such, is of God, and therefore it loves God with a natural love more than self.” This principle is valid for any natural state in which there is no disorder. But in the state of pure nature there would be no disorder.

2. In Quodl., I, a.8, St. Thomas enunciates the principle of our article in a very comprehensive way, so that it would be valid for any natural state in which there is no perversion.

3. Since it is said (Ia, q. 60, a. 5) that, “if (man) were to love himself naturally more than God, it would follow that natural love would be perverse, and that it would not be perfected by charity but destroyed.” But this natural love would not be perverse in the state of pure nature. Therefore.

4. Since man in the state of pure nature would not be born, as now, habitually averse to his final supernatural end directly and to his final natural end, but the possibility of conversion or aversion.

Corollary. Man has less powers in the state of fallen nature for naturally doing what is morally good than he would have in the state of pure nature. This is contested by several authors of the Society of Jesus.


 The entire solution may be reduced to the following:

Hence it must be firmly maintained that the natural love of God above all things is the supreme precept of the natural law, and with still greater reason does this hold in the supernatural order, as it was already formulated in Deut. 6:5: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart”; but there it was proclaimed as a law of thesupernatural order as well, as also in Matt. 22:27, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27. But the natural law is neither abolished by sin nor given by grace, since it is naturally stamped upon creatures.


The controversy is twofold, first on natural love and secondly on supernatural love. The first problem is whether fallen man can, without repairing grace, love God the author of nature above all things with a love that is affectively efficacious. (Cf. Billuart, De gratia, diss. III, a. 3.) The second problem is whether the act of the love of God, author of grace, considered substantially, is impossible without grace.

Molina denies this. First of all the terminology must be explained as follows:

1. It is certainly true that without grace there can be: a) an innate love or natural inclination to love God above all things; this is the faculty of the will itself; b) a necessary, elicited love of God vaguely loved in happiness in general, which all desire; in this case God is not loved above all things, since He is not considered as distinct from all other goods; c) a free inefficacious love, or simple complacency in the goodness of God, not going so far as to adopt means of pleasing God nor of withdrawing from mortal sin, for which natural concurrence would be adequate. Thus many poets have written beautiful poems on the goodness and wisdom of God, ruler of the world, but without the intention of reforming their voluptuous lives.

2. We shall see in the following article that effectively efficacious love, at least absolutely, or the practice of all the commands of the natural law which are gravely obligatory, cannot now be possessed without a special healing grace.

3. The controversy, therefore, concerns affectively efficacious love, by which God, author of nature, distinctly known, is loved with esteem above all things, with the intention of pleasing Him in all things and of withdrawing from mortal sins against the natural law.

Thomists maintain that this affectively efficacious love cannot exist in fallen man without healing grace.6 And in this regard they differ especially from Molina, who teaches that fallen man can, by his natural powers, thus love God, the author of nature, with an affectively efficacious love, and even, after having been instructed in the teaching of faith, can, likewise by his natural powers, love God as author of grace substantially, although not in respect to supernaturalness of mode, which is bestowed by charity. 7 Molina adds to this that the affectively efficacious natural love of God, author of nature, is not meritorious of grace (that would be Semi-Pelagianism) but, on account of the covenant between God and Christ the Redeemer, if man thus does what in him lies through his natural powers, God will not refuse sanctifying grace.8 With still greater reason, for Molina, if anyone imbued with the doctrine of faith undertakes an act, natural substantially, of affectively efficacious love of God, author of grace, God infuses charity, and this love become supernatural in respect to mode and thus available for salvation. Scotus, Gabriel, and certain others are cited as holding the same opinion.

Against the first of these teachings of Molina on the possibility of an affectively efficacious love of God, author of nature, above all things without grace, Thomists declare that: 1. This doctrine does not seem to preserve sufficiently the sense of the words of the Council of Orange (can. 25; Denz., no. 199): “We must believe that by the sin of the first man free will was so inclined and weakened that no one subsequently is able either to love God as he ought, . . . or to do for the sake of God what is good, unless the grace of mercy anticipates him.” The Molinists reply that the Council says, “as he ought with regard to salvation,” and hence refers only to supernatural love. To this the

Thomists answer that the Council is not referring to supernatural love alone, since it repeats that the impotence to love God above all things arises not from the supernaturalness of the act but from the infirmity of fallen nature; therefore it refers to natural love as well, since the impotence arising from the supernaturalness of the act was

already present in the state of innocence. This also seems to be the meaning of the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. 3; Denz., no. 813): “If anyone should say that without the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and His assistance man can believe, hope, love, or repent as is required in order that the grace of justification should be granted to him, let him be anathema.”

Nevertheless, the Thomists add, it is not possible for the grace of justification not to be conferred upon one who loves God, the author of nature, above all things with an affectively efficacious love. (Cf. below, q. 109, a. 6, on whether man, without grace, can prepare himself for grace, and q. 112, a. 3.).

Moreover, the aforesaid teaching of Molina is contrary to the final proposition of the body of the present article of St. Thomas, where he contrasts the state of fallen nature with that of integral nature: “In the state of corrupt nature, man requires the help of grace healing nature, even for loving God naturally above all things.” There is no doubt but that St. Thomas is speaking also of affectively efficacious natural love, that is, with the intention of pleasing God in all things and of withdrawing from mortal sin. This is confirmed by what has been said above (Ia IIae, q. 89, a. 6): “When man begins to have the use of reason . . . (he should) deliberate concerning himself. And if anyone orders his life toward the proper end (that is, to God even as author of nature), he will obtain the remission of original sin by grace. In the present article St. Thomas is not yet speaking of effectively efficacious love, that is, of the fulfillment of every natural precept; but he refers to it in the following article.

Finally, the opinion of Molina is thus refuted by theological argument: A weak power, inclined to selfish good opposed to the divine, cannot produce the superior act of a healthy power with reference to God, unless it is healed. But man in the state of fallen nature has a weak will, inclined to a selfish good. Therefore he cannot produce a preeminent work with reference to God. This act is pre-eminently that of a healthy power, since it virtually contains the fulfillment of the whole natural law, for the actual accomplishment of the law follows from the efficacious will to fulfill it. Hence grace is necessary not only for the actual observance of the whole natural law, but also for the intention of fulfilling it. Nor is the eflicacious natural volition granted for accomplishing anything which is now naturally impossible.

This weakness of the will consists in its “following a selfish good unless healed by the grace of God,” as stated in the article. In other words, it is turned away from God and even its natural final end; for sin offends God even as author of nature. Moreover, it is a disorder of the concupiscence which the demon augments and enkindles.

First doubt. What, then, of the natural love of God in the separated souls of children who die without baptism, of whom St. Thomas speaks (IIa, d. 33, q. 2, a. 2 ad 5)?

Reply. There is, first of all, an innate love and a necessary, elicited mlove of God, confusedly, as in happiness in general, for this love remains even in the demons (Ia, q. 60, a. 5 ad 5). Secondly, there is a free, imperfect, inefficacious love, or love of complacency, toward God as principle of all natural good, but not really an efficacious love. Otherwise we should have to deny the last proposition in the body of the present article.

In this connection it seems that, as stated in a.2 ad 3, “Nature is more corrupted in regard to the appetite for good than in regard to the knowledge of the truth.” For the mind of fallen man is able by its own powers to judge speculatively that God is the highest good, lovable and worthy of love above all things; but without healing grace, he is incapable of recognizing this with his practical judgment, impelling him to action. Hence the words of Medea spoken of by the poet: “I see what is better, and I approve it (speculatively), but I follow what is worse.” Man, then, is more deeply wounded in his will by which he sins than in his intellect. If, therefore, a child, reaching the full use of reason, loves God, the author of nature, above all things with an affectively efficacious love, this can only be by means of healing grace.

Objection. Fallen man can, without grace, love his country, or his friend, or his chastity more than his own life; therefore, with still greater reason can he so love God, the author of nature.

Reply. I reply by distinguishing the antecedent: fallen man does this without the special help of God, if it is done from a worldly motive, such as the desire for fame or glory, granted; but if from the pure motive of virtue, denied; for this requires the special help of God, as conceded to many pagans, according to Augustine. Moreover it is more difficult to love God, the author of nature, above all things in a manner that is affectively efficacious than to love the attractiveness of any particular virtue more than one’s life; for this is, at least virtually, to love all the virtues beyond all sensible feelings.This is more difficult; for instance that a soldier, ready to die for his country, is not willing to spare his enemy when he should.

Second doubt. What grace is required for this affectively efficacious love of God, author of nature above all things?

Reply. Of itself, by reason of its object, it requires only help of a natural order, but accidentally and indirectly, by reason of the elevation of the human race to the supernatural order, it requires supernatural help, that is, healing grace (as declared in the article). This is because the aversion to a final natural end cannot be cured without the aversion to a final supernatural end being cured; for this latter contains indirectly an aversion to the final natural end, for every sin against the supernatural law is indirectly against the natural law: God is to be obeyed, whatever He may command. Moreover, as we shall state in the following article, the love of God virtually includes the fulfillment of the whole natural law, for which supernatural healing grace is required.

The Thomists also reject the other opinion of Molina, that man imbued with the teaching of faith can without grace love God, the author of grace, in respect to the substance of this act, although not in respect to its mode as proper to salvation. Contrary to this, the Thomists generally hold, as for the act of faith, that the act is specified by its formal object; but the formal object of the aforesaid act is God, the author of grace; therefore this act is essentially supernatural, or supernatural in respect to substance and not merely in respect to mode (cf. Salmanticenses, De Gratia, disp. III, dub. III; and our De revelatione, I, 498, 511). A natural act in respect to substance would be an act specified by a natural object, such as an act of acquired temperance, which might yet become supernatural in respect to mode, according as it is commanded by charity and ordered by it to the reward of eternal life.



 State of the question. In this article, as is evident in the body, we are especially concerned with the precepts of the decalogue which already belong to the natural law and can substantially be fulfilled without charity; indeed, even the acts of faith and hope can be accomplished in the state of mortal sin. Let us examine:

1. St. Thomas’ conclusions and arguments;

2. How they are based on Holy Scripture and tradition;

3. The refutation of the objections. (The article should be read.)


His first conclusion is that in the state of corrupt nature, man cannot, without healing grace, fulfill all the precepts of the natural law with respect to the substance of the works, while on the contrary he would be able to do this without grace in the state of integral nature (supposing, however, natural concurrence). From these last words, which are found in St. Thomas, it is evident that he is concerned in this instance with the precepts of the natural law in respect to the substance of the works, for the substance of a work correlative with a supernatural precept is supernatural and cannot, even in the state of integral nature, be produced without grace. In fact, precepts are called supernatural because they enjoin acts which surpass the powers of nature. In article two it is stated that “grace was necessary to man in the state of integral nature in order to perform or will a supernatural work.”

The argument supporting this conclusion is the same as in the preceding article for the impossibility of loving God, author of nature, with an affectively efficacious love; indeed the argument now holds with still greater reason, that is, in the case of effectively efficacious love or the fulfillment of all the precepts of the natural law.

In other words, a weak man cannot of himself perform the very superior work of a healthy man, unless he is first cured. Nor can a will turned away from even its natural final end be properly oriented in regard to all the means to that end. It would be rash to deny this first conclusion or to maintain that effectively efficacious love of God, author of nature, above all things can be attained without grace. This is conceded by the Molinists.9 It would be rash because the Council of Orange (Denz., nos. 181 ff., 199) refers not only to impotence arising from the supernaturalness of the work, but from the weakness of fallen nature.

The second conclusion is that in no state can man without grace fulfill the commands of the law with respect to the mode of acting, that is, performing them from charity. This is of faith. St. Thomas makes the assertion without proof, for he has already said, in article two, that man even in the state of incorrupt nature required “grace added to nature in order to perform or will supernatural good,” and particularly to elicit a supernatural act of charity. For acts are specified by their objects and therefore the act specified by a supernatural object is essentially supernatural.


They are as indicated by Billuart, in addition to many texts of St. Augustine.

1. The Council of Milevum (Denz., no. 105), against the Pelagians who declared that without grace man can keep all the commandments of God, but with difficulty; with grace, however, he can do so with facility; it is defined that “if anyone should say . . . that grace . . . is given to us that we may more easily fulfill the divine commands, and . . ., that, without it, we are able to fulfill them, although not easily, let him be anathema.” From this it is deduced that the commandments of God cannot be fulfilled as is necessary for salvation, that is, from charity, without grace.

St. Augustine always defends this truth against the Pelagians in his De spiritu et littera, De gratia Christi, De libero arbitrio; in the book De haeresibus (heresy 88), speaking of the Pelagians, he says: “They are such enemies of the grace of God that they believe a man can accomplish all the divine commands without it.” Likewise, St. Augustine on Ps. 118, conc. 5, and in Sermon 148 (de tempore), chap. 5, where he is concerned with the precepts of the decalogue.

The opposite error in Baius (Denz., nos. 1061,1062) was condemned because it rejects the distinction between fulfilling the commandments in respect to substance and in respect to mode, supernaturally.

2. The Council of Orange (II, c. 25; Denz., no. 199) declared: “We must believe that through the sin of the first man free will was so inclined and weakened, that no one has since . . . been able to perform what is good for the sake of God unless the grace of divine mercy precedes him.” Hence St. Thomas’ second conclusion is of faith; that is, without grace, men cannot fulfill the commandments with respect to supernaturalness of mode, namely, so as to be performed out of charity. And the Molinists admit this.

Doubt. Whether grace is necessary for the fulfilling of any supernatural precept, in respect to its substance. Herein lies the controversy with the Molinists. Scotus and the Molinists hold that without grace men imbued with the teaching of faith can fulfill, substantially, even interior works correlative to the supernatural precepts of faith, hope, and charity.

Reply. The Thomists reply that it is not possible, since precepts are called supernatural because they enjoin acts which, in themselves, essentially surpass the powers of nature, and these acts are such, in fact, because they are specified by a supernatural formal object. Thus, for example, an act of Christian faith differs from an act of acquired temperance.

Insistance by Molina, Lugo, and Billot, that diversity of the activating principles (that is, of habits) alone is sufficient to cause acts to differ in species, even when they attain the same formal object.

Reply 1. These very activating principles, that is, habits and powers, should be specified by the formal object. 2. The Salmanticenses reply (De gratia, disp. III, dub. III, no. 60): “I deny the antecedent, for if it were true, as our adversaries contend, nothing in true philosophy but would waver (or be overturned) in regard to species and the distinction of powers and habits; we should be compelled to establish new bases such as were not taught by Aristotle, Master Thomas, or the leaders of other schools. Although younger writers would easily grant this, we should have no leader from among the ancients. The result would indeed be to the highest detriment of true wisdom; wherefore it is essential in this respect to hinder their proclivity with all our powers.” Cf. other texts of the Salmanticenses quoted in our De revelatione, I, 495.

To the same effect Thomas de Lemos, O.P., replied in the celebrated discussions of the Congregatio de Auxiliis, on May 7 and 28, 1604, before Clement VIII (cf. De revelatione, I, 491). He challenged the opinion of Molina in the following words: “By which system he would overturn faith as well as philosophy; faith, certainly, because thus God is feared and loved by the powers of nature, as the end is supernatural; philosophy indeed since, in this way, the formal object of a superior habit is attained by the inferior powers.” And on May 28, 1604, session 54 settled a problem proposed according to the interpretation of the Thomists explained by Lemos. Lemos expresses the same opinion in his Panoplia gratiae at the beginning of Bk. IV, nos. 24f. (Cf. De revelatione, I, 491; Del Prado, De gratia, I, 48; Suarez expresses agreement with us in De gratia, Bk. II, c. II, nos. 22 f., quoted in De revelatione, ibid.) Thus Suarez, as well as Lemos and the Salmanticenses considers it rash to deny the aforesaid traditional teaching of theologians. In respect to this matter many Jesuits follow Suarez, including the Wirzburg school (De virtutibus theologicis, disp. II, c. III, a. 3); Bellarmine is also cited and, among more recent writers, Wilmers (De fide divina, 1902, pp. 352, 358, 375); Mazzella, in the first two editions of De virtutibus infusis, and Pesch (De gratia, nos. 69, 71, 410).

Objection. The Molinists object, referring to Ia IIae, q. 54, a. 2 where it is stated that “the species of habits are distinguished in three ways: 1. according to the activating principles of such dispositions, 2. according to nature, 3. according to objects.” Therefore, declare the Molinists, habits are not specified only by their objects.

Reply. All of these are to be taken together and not separately. An act cannot be essentially supernatural from the standpoint of its eliciting principle and according as it presupposes habitual grace unless it is at the same time supernatural from the standpoint of its object. Moreover, we contend in De revelatione, I, 506, in agreement with the Salmanticenses and other Thomists, that from St. Thomas’context it is clearly evident that, when he says habits are specified according to their active principles, he means according to their objective, regulating, specifying principles; for he says in the answer to the second objection of the same article: “The various means (of knowledge) are like various active principles according to which the habits of science are differentiated.” And in answer to the third objection: “Diversity of ends differentiates virtues as diversity of active principles” or motives according as the end is the object of a prior act of the will, in other words, the intention.

Similarly in Ia IIae, q. 51, a. 3, St. Thomas shows that the regulating reason is the active principle of the moral virtues, and the understanding of principles is the principle of knowledge, that is, as proposing the formal object (objectum formale quo) or motive. Moreover, when he says that habits are specified according to nature, this is according as the habit is good or bad, suitable or not suitable to the nature; or according as it is suitable to human nature as such, or suitable to the divine nature in which man participates; but it cannot be of itself suitable to a higher nature, unless at the same time it has a formal object proportionate or of the same order; otherwise it would be an accidentally infused habit, such as infused geometry. Father Ledochowski, General of the Society of Jesus, further acknowledges that the teaching of Molina we are discussing is not that of St. Thomas (cf. De revelatione, I, 489).


The first classical difficulty is indicated by St. Thomas in the first objection, taken from the text of St. Paul to the Romans (2:14): “The Gentiles who have not the (written) law, do by nature those things which are of the law.”

Reply. According to St. Augustine, followed by St. Prosper, St. Fulgentius, and by St. Thomas here in his refutation, these words are to be understood of the Gentiles acting from grace; and then “by nature” is not interpreted according as it is opposed to grace, and according as it is equivalent to “the powers of nature,” but according as it is opposed to the Mosaic law, so that the meaning is: “The Gentiles who have not the written law, do naturally those things which are of the law,” in other words, without the law of Moses, but not without the spirit of grace. Thus Augustine in De spiritu et littera, Bk. I, c. 27, quoted here by St. Thomas; likewise St. Chrysostom.”10 But other interpreters understand this of the infidel Gentiles and hence “by nature” of the powers of nature; but this disposes of the objection just as well, for the meaning is that the Gentiles by their own natural powers perform certain works of the law, but not all.

The second difficulty is as follows: if the observance of the whole natural law, in respect to the substance of the works, is impossible to fallen nature, then the Jansenist heresy follows logically, that is, that certain of the precepts of God are impossible to fallen man. Luther and Calvin held the same opinion.

Reply. “What we can do with divine assistance is not altogether impossible for us”; and we avoid Jansenism by declaring that the grace necessary to accomplish the commandments is not wanting to anyone except by reason of his own fault. All adults receive graces at least remotely sufficient for salvation, and if they did not resist them, they would obtain further graces. The error of Luther and Calvin is apparent from this: according to them, Christ did not come to form observers of the law, but to redeem the faithful from the obligation of observing the law, in accordance with Luther’s words : “Sin strongly and believe more strongly,” in other words, believe firmly that you are freely elect, and you are saved, even if you persevere in crimes and the transgression of the law until death.

The Jansenists erred similarly by maintaining that certain commands of God are impossible not only to fallen man, but even to the just man. This is manifest from the first proposition of Jansen (Denz., no. 1092): “Other precepts of God are impossible to just, willing, zealous men with the powers which they now possess; they also lack the grace which would make them possible”; in 1653 this was condemned as heretical. The Council of Trent had previously defined (Denz., no. 804): “God does not command the impossible, but by commanding He urges you both to do what you can and to ask what you cannot, and He assists you that you may be able.” Also in the corresponding canon (Denz., no. 828). The foregoing words of the Council are taken from St. Augustine, and, according to them, sufficient grace to pray is never wanting, and by it man has at least the remote power of observing the divine precepts, for “by commanding, God urges you to do what you can and to ask what you cannot, and He assists you that you may be able.”

I insist. God cannot demand that a blind man see, although he may see by a miracle; therefore, neither can He demand that fallen man observe the law, although he may do so by means of grace.

Reply. The disparity lies particularly in the fact that the blind man is not offered a miracle which would cure him; but fallen man is offered grace by which he may observe the law, and he would receive it if he did not voluntarily set obstacles in the way. Hence one must pray as did Augustine, saying: “Lord, grant what Thou commandest and command what Thou wilt,” that is, give us grace to fulfill Thy commands and command what Thou wilt.

First doubt. Which grace is required by fallen man for the keeping of the whole natural law?

Reply. As in the explanation of the preceding article: of itself, by reason of its object, help of the natural order would suffice, since the object is natural. Accidentally, however, and by reason of the elevation of the human race to a supernatural end, supernatural grace is required, which under this aspect is called healing grace. This is because in the present economy of salvation man cannot be converted to God, his final natural end, and remain estranged from God, his supernactural end, since this aversion is indirectly opposed to the natural law, according to which we ought to obey God, whatever He may command.

Second doubt. To observe the whole natural law for a long time is supernatural actual grace sufficient, or is habitual grace required?

Reply. According to ordinary providence, habitual grace is required, by which alone man is solidly well disposed toward his final end. And this firm disposition toward his final end is itself required that man may keep the whole natural law enduringly and perseveringly. Nevertheless, by an extraordinary providence, God can fortify a man’s will in regard to the observance of all the natural precepts by means of continuous actual graces; but if a man does what lies within his power by the help of actual grace, God will not withhold habitual grace from him. As we shall see below (a. 9), over and above habitual grace, actual grace is required for the just man to perform any supernatural good work, and even to persevere for long in the observance of the whole natural law, in spite of the rebellion of the sense appetites against reason, and the temptations of the world and the devil.

Third doubt. Whether in the state of pure nature man would be able to observe enduringly the whole natural law without special help of the natural order.

Reply. I reply in the negative with Billuart: Since to do so demands constancy of the will in good against the ternmations that arise. A constancy which man established in the state of pure nature would not have had, of himself, with the aid of ordinary concurrence alone; hence, to persevere he would have had need of special natural help which God would have given to many, but not to those in whom He would have permitted the sin of impenitence of this natural order in punishment for preceding sins.
Cajetan’s opinion. In his commentary on the present article, which preceded the disputes aroused by Molina, at a time when the terminology of this subject was not yet fully established, Cajetan spoke less accurately in explaining the answer to the third objection. He says, “man, by nature, can believe, hope, love God, with respect to the substance of the act,” and he cites the example of a formal heretic who adheres to certain dogmas. He expresses himself similarly in regard to IIa IIae, q. 171, a. 2 ad 3. But it is evident from the context and from this example that Cajetan is referring to the generic substance of the acts, not to the specific substance, not to the formal object itself (objectum formale quod et quo); for a heretic believes formally, not by divine, but by human faith.

Later Cajetan corrects his terminology (commenting on IIa IIae, q. 6, a. I, no. 3 ), declaring that “it should be said, therefore, that the act of faith springs forth as a result of no natural knowledge, of no natural appetite, but from the appetite for eternal beatitude and from an adherence to God supernaturally revealing and preserving His Church.” Cajetan likewise defends the common opinion of Thomists against Scotus and Durandus (Ia IIae, q. 51, a. 4): “Infused habits are of themselves essentially supernatural.” Also, q. 62, a:3; q. 63, a. 6, and IIa IIae, q. 17, a. 5, no. I, where he defends the opinion that with out infused virtue there would be no act “proportionate to the supernatural object,” nor to the supernatural end. (Cf. Del Prado, De gratia, I, 50 and our De revelatione, I, 484 f., note I.)



After considering the observance of the divine commands in themselves, St. Thomas considers it in relation to eternal life. The question is here posed generally and indefinitely; later, in q. I 14, a. 1 2,3, here he is dealing with merit properly speaking, the question will be more particularly treated as to whether man without grace can merit de condigno eternal life. The answer is negative and is of faith, against the Pelagians.

1. It is proved from authority in the argument Sed contra (Rom. 6:23): “the grace of God life eternal,” which is thus explained by Augustine, here quoted: “that it may be understood that God, in His compassion, leads us unto eternal life.” St. Augustine is also quoted in the answer to the second objection. (Cf. Council of Orange, II, can. 7, Denz., no. 180; and Trent, Sess. VI, can. 2, Denz., no. 812.)

2. It is thus proved by theological reasons: Acts leading to an end must be proportionate to the end. But eternal life is an end exceeding the proportion of human nature (cf. Ia IIae, q. 5, a. 5, on supernatural beatitude). Therefore man cannot by his natural powers produce works meritorious of eternal life. Read the answer to the third objection with respect to the distinction between final natural end and supernatural end (cf. Contra Gentes, Bk. III, chap. 147, and De veritate, q. 14, a. 2). These references are clear, and whatever is to be said on this subject is reserved for consideration in q. 114, a. 1 and 2, that is, whether man can merit anything de condigno, and so merit eternal life.



State of the question. The external help of grace with which we are here concerned, is not only the preaching of the gospel itself, confirmed by miracles (the Pelagians admitted this), nor is it only the natural concurrence of God for the performance of a naturally good act, the necessity of which the Semi-Pelagians did not deny, but, as the body of the article explains, it refers to actual supernatural help.

That the difficulty of this question may be more manifest, St. Thomas considers the following. 1. The arguments maintained by the Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians, namely. it seems that without actual grace man can prepare himself for habitual grace, for, we read (Zach. 1:3): “Turn ye to Me . and I will turn to you.” 2. It is frequently said. “To him who does what he can, God does not deny grace”; and (Luke 11:13): “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask Him?” 3. It would be an infinite process, since to prepare himself for a prior grace, man would require another, and so on ad infinitum. 4. In the Book of Proverbs (16:1) it is said that “it is the part of man to prepare the soul,” according to the Vulgate; but in many codices this verse is lacking and in the Greek codices in which it occurs, the sense is: “It is the part of man to form a proposal in his heart,” as if to say: man proposes and God disposes.

On the other hand we find in the Gospel according to St. John (6:44): “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him.” How are these quotations to be reconciled? Let us examine 1. The errors on this subject which have been condemned; 2. the disagreement among Catholic theologians; and 3. the opinion of St. Thomas.

I. The condemned errors. The Pelagians, denying original sin, maintained, at least at the beginning of their heresy, that man by his own powers, without grace, can prepare himself for grace so as to merit the first grace. This was condemned by the Councils of Neo-Caesaria and Milevum (Denz., nos. 104 ff., 133 ff .).

The Semi-Pelagians said that fallen man, without grace, can have of himself the    beginning of salvation and can prepare himself for grace, by asking, desiring, knocking, seeking; thus he does not merit grace, but he disposes himself for it by himself alone, and God seizes upon this beginning of salvation as an occasion for conferring grace, otherwise He would be an acceptor of persons if He conferred grace upon one rather than another without any reason on the part of man.”11 This was condemned by the Council of Orange (II, can. 3 and 6, Denz., nos. 176,179). The same declaration was made by the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. 3, Denz., no. 813).

II. Among Catholic theologians, notwithstanding the condemnation of the Semi-Pelagians, Molina, following the lead of Durandus, Scotus, and Gabriel Biel, maintains in his Concordia (disp. 10), that if one does what one can by merely natural powers, God never denies actual grace, and at last bestows sanctifying grace; not that man may prepare himself positively for grace, but he prepares himself negatively by not placing obstacles to it and by removing impediments.12 And in order to avoid Semi-Pelagianism, Molina declares It that God confers actual grace and subsequently habitual grace, not on account of the merit of a natural act, but on account of the covenant between God and Christ from the beginning. Christ indeed presented His merits to the Father, and the Father promises that He will bestow grace upon anyone who does what is possible to his natural powers or who uses well the goods of nature.

 III. The doctrine of St. Thomas, as is clear from the last lines of the article and from the answer to the second objection, is that fallen man cannot prepare himself for habitual grace except by the help of prevenient actual grace, and “when it is said that man does what he can, the meaning is that this is within the power of man, as he is moved by God.” These words in the answer to the second objection are contrary to the opinion proposed subsequently by Molina. Stated more briefly the thesis of St. Thomas is: Fallen man can in no way dispose himself either for habitual or for actual grace by his natural powers alone.

Scriptural proof. It is proved from the authority of Scripture in the argument Sed contra: “No man can come to Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him” (John 6:44). But if man could prepare himself, there would be no need of his being drawn by another. “Convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted” (Lam. 5:21). See also Jer. 31:18. “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, according to the Septuagint, but the Hebrew text is not so clear). St. Augustine here and there puts it forward against the Semi-Pelagians, and it is quoted by the Council of Orange, Denz., no. 177). “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:15); therefore neither can one prepare oneself for grace, since that is doing something ordained to salvation. “Who hath first given to Him, and recompense shall be made him? For of Him, and by Him, and in Him, are all things” (Rom. 11:35 f.). According to the contrary opinion a man could reply: I first gave him my effort and disposition. “Who distinguisheth thee?” (I Cor. 4:7.) Man may answer: my striving. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (ibid.) Man may reply: I have my effort and my disposition. “You have not chosen Me: but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). The Semi-Pelagians would say: I chose Thee first by disposing myself for grace. This text is addressed to the apostles, of course, but in that they are the friends of God, and therefore it also applies to other friends of God.


The Council of Orange (can. 3, Denz., no. 176), according to the obvious meaning of the words, declares that all preparation for grace is of itself prevenient grace; there is no reference to a covenant entered into between God the Father and Christ. Read canons 3, 4, 5. Likewise the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 5, Denz. 797, and chap. 6).

St. Augustine (De peccatorum meritis, Bk. I, chap. 22), especially in the three arguments against the Semi-Pelagians, maintained the following.

1. In the affair of salvation nothing at all must be withdrawn from divine grace; but something would be withdrawn if the disposition for grace were not from grace.

2. The Church prays God not only to help those who will and strive after good, but also that those who will it not be made to will it.

3. It is said in II Cor. 3:5: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves.” But the slightest preparation for grace is a good thought. Therefore. Hence the words of Augustine on St. John, at the beginning of tract 26: “Why does God draw this man and not that man? Do not attempt to judge if you do not wish to err.”

Theological proof. By theological argument St. Thomas thus proves his thesis in the body of the article in form.

Since every agent acts on account of a proportionate end, the order of agents corresponds to the order of ends, and the disposition toward a supernatural end cannot be produced except by God, the supernatural agent.

But man prepares himself for grace according as he disposes himself for it as for a proximate supernatural end, and according as he turns to God as to his final supernatural end.

Therefore man cannot prepare himself for grace except by the supernatural help of God, moving him. St. Thomas does not fear to repeat this principle often; these repetitions are a kind of leitmotiv in theology, like St. John’s often repeated: “Beloved, let us love one another” (I John 4:7).

The major of this argument is based on the principle of finality, not that from this metaphysical principle the dogma may be rationally demonstrated, but that the dogma cannot be contrary to the principle of finality. For the corollary of this principle is: the order of agents corresponds to the order of ends; hence it is necessary that man be converted to his final end by the motion of the prime mover, just as the will of the soldier is directed toward striving for victory by the motion of the leader of the army, and toward following the standard of some battle by the motion of the commander. Moreover, according to this principle, the disposition toward a supernatural end cannot be produced except by a supernatural agent, that is, except by God according as He moves toward something which exceeds all nature created or capable of being created.

The minor of this argument, however, is explained later in more detail, but it is already self-evident (cf. q. 112, a. 3). More briefly, the argument can be stated thus:

Every disposition, whether remote or proximate, should have a certain proportion to the form for which it disposes; otherwise it would not dispose for it.

But merely natural acts have no proportion with supernatural grace; they do not attain to the life of grace nor do they in any way require it.

Therefore man by his own natural powers cannot prepare himself even remotely for grace, without supernatural help; it is not only morally impossible, but physically and absolutely as well.

Confirmation. In order to dispose himself, man would at least need to have a good thought from himself.

But, according to II Cor. 3:5: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves,” in the order of salvation.

Hence, with still greater reason, to desire, ask, merit even de congruo, or dispose ourselves in any way. For merit de congruo already pertains to salvation; it is a right, based on friendship, to a supernatural reward. And if man without grace could pray and thus obtain grace, the first step to salvation would be attributable to nature. Hence this is condemned by the Council of Orange, c. 7.

The whole proof, therefore, is reducible to the infinite distance between the order of nature and the order of grace, since grace as essentially supernatural surpasses the powers and the requirements of any intellectual nature, created or capable of creation. God from all eternity might at any time create angels of greater and ever greater perfection so that they would have an ever loftier natural intelligence and an ever more steadfast will; but never could these superior angels naturally dispose themselves for grace, which is of a higher order.

Thus the imagination may become ever better endowed in its own order but it will never arrive at the dignity of the intellect; thus the sides of a polygon inscribed in a circle may be ever multiplied but, however small each side, it will never be equivalent to a point. With still greater reason, when it is a question of the impossibility of disposing oneself naturally for the life of grace, natural good works can be ever increased, but they will never amount to a disposition proportionate to grace, which is essentially supernatural, whether for man or for any angel capable of being created, and they can always be created with greater perfection, since no limit of possibility can be named which would exhaust divine omnipotence.

How beautiful, how wonderful; how great a light there is in this doctrine! “All bodies, the firmament and the stars, the earth and its kingdoms, are not worth the least of spirits, for it is conscious of all that and of itself; and bodies are conscious of nothing. All bodies and all spirits together and all their productions are not worth the slightest movement of charity, for that is of an infinitely higher order” (Pascal, Thoughts).

Confirmation from the refutation of the objections.

First objection. But it is said in Zach. 1:3: “Turn ye to Me . . . and I will turn to you.”

Reply. It is indeed prescribed for man that he turn to God freely, but the free will cannot turn to God unless God Himself converts it to Himself, according to the words of Jer. 31:18: “Convert me, and I shall be converted.” Likewise Augustine and the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 6; Denz., no. 797).

Second objection. But it is generally said that to him who does what he can God does not deny grace.

Reply. Contrary to what Molina says, to him who does what he can, with God’s help; and it is a question of supernatural help granted through Christ the Redeemer, since the following words of Christ are quoted: “Without Me ye can do nothing.” Nor does natural help suflice to produce a disposition which is supernatural in form, since the order of agents should correspond to the order of ends. And God, as author of nature, cannot move one to a supernatural end.

Third objection. But this would be an infinite process, for man would need some grace to prepare himself for grace, and so on indefinitely.

Reply. A disposition is required only for habitual grace, for every form requires a disposition capable of receiving it. But for actual grace a disposition is not required, since a disposition is not necessary for yet another disposition.

Fourth objection. But in Prov. 16:1 it is written: “It is the part of man to prepare the soul and of the Lord to govern the tongue”; and further: “The heart of man disposes the way, but it is the Lord who directs his steps.”

Reply. Certainly, because man does this through his free will, but he does not therefore do it without the help of God moving and drawing him. The meaning of Holy Scripture here is that it does not suffice to consider what thou wilt say or do, unless God directs the tongue and the work so that thou mayest succeed. And this is also a very common saying: Man proposes and God disposes. St. Thomas teaches this doctrine in several other places as well. (Cf. Quodl., Ia, a. 7; in Ed. ad Rom., c. 10, lect. 3; III C. Gentes, chap. 150; De verit., q. 24, a. 15.)

Doubt. Whether according to St. Thomas, following the doctrine which he maintains in Ia IIae, q. 89, a. 6, to all who arrive at the use of reason sufficient help is given for fulfilling the precept, there and then urgent, of loving God efficaciously above all things.

Reply. The Salmanticenses reply in the affirmative (In lam llae, q. 89, a. 6, no. 65); God gives efficacious help only to those whom He at the same time decided to justify and with the aforesaid efficacious help He gives them sanctifying grace and explicit faith concerning the things which are necessary as means essential to salvation.

Whether this sufficient help which is then given to all is supernatural. It is at least supernatural modally through the merits of Christ; but it may also be said that it is supernatural substantially since it gives the proximate power of accomplishing an efficacious act of the love of God above all things, beyond the powers of fallen nature. This supernatural help should result in a certain supernatural enlightenment for the intellect and, if man would not resist this enlightenment, he would receive the grace of faith with respect to the things necessary to salvation. (Cf. below, what is said on justification and the salutary but not meritorious acts which precede it; also Billuart, De gratia, diss. VII, a. 4, nos. 2,3.)

It should be remarked that Quesnel’s proposition was condemned:

“No graces are given except through faith” (Denz., no. 1376); “Faith is the first grace and the source of all the others” (Denz., no. 1377); “The first grace which God grants to the sinner is the remission of sins” (Denz., no. 1378); likewise the Synod of Pistoia was condemned, denying grace preceding good will and faith.

Concerning the Molinist interpretation of the common axiom: “to him who does what he can, God does not refuse grace.” Cf. Concordia, disp. X, latest edition, Paris, pp. 43 and 564: “God always confers the helps of prevenient grace on him who strives with natural powers to accomplish what in him lies.” Molina, as we have said, maintained that: to him who does what he can by his natural powers alone, God never denies actual grace, and later He gives habitual grace. To avoid Semi-Pelagianism, he continues, 1. claiming that this is done not on account of the value of a natural good work, but for the sake of a convenant entered into between God and Christ the Redeemer, a covenant for thus certainly conferring grace; and 2. claiming that man thus naturally prepares himself negatively only, that is, by not raising obstacles, not sinning at least for some little time; but always, or as it were infallibly, actual grace is then conferred upon him.

What is to be thought of this covenant and of this natural, negative preparation? In regard to the covenant, we may say with the Thomists that it lacks a basis in tradition; on the contrary, it seems to be opposed to the testimony of tradition and to the principles of sound theology.

1. This pact has no basis either in Scripture or in the councils or in the Fathers, Hence it is clearly fictitious. Certainly the Council of Orange does not speak of it, although it would have been most useful for recalling the Semi-Pelagians to the faith, had this theory been true. The Semi-Pelagians would very easily have admitted it, since they did not deny Redemption through Christ nor did they deny that the primary grace was conferred on account of the merits of Christ upon those who prepared themselves naturally for it. The Semi-Pelagians did not contend that the primary grace was given on account of natural merit, but by the occasion of natural good works. Neither does Pius IX (Denz., nos. 1648,1677) refer to this covenant.13

As a matter of fact, Valentia, S.J., attempted to demonstrate this pact at the Congregatio de Auxiliis from Augustine (The City of God, Bk. XIX, chap. 13) but to obtain this proof, in reading the text of Augustine he changed the particle scilicet to et. Immediately, however, Thomas de Lemos, recognizing the text of Augustine, replied: “The text is not being rendered correctly,” and taking up Augustine’s book he read the text as it was. (Cf. Billuart, d. III, a. 7, and Serry, Histoire de la Congregatio de Auxiliis, Bk. III, chap. 5.) It is said in Scripture and tradition only that God wills the salvation of all men, that Christ died for all, and that, accordingly, graces suacient for salvation are conferred upon all adults. 2. Not only is this covenant not affirmed by tradition, but it seems to be contrary to the Council of Orange (can. 6, Denz., no. 179) which condemned anyone who should say that, “Without the grace of God, mercy is bestowed upon those who believe, will and desire it.” But supposing the aforesaid covenant, the mercy of Christ and of God would thus be conferred upon men naturally desiring it. (Likewise can. 4.).14 

3. This pact is opposed to the teaching of Augustine, who declared against the Pelagians (De peccatorum meritis, Bk. I, chap. 22) that there are among infidels and sinners some who observe many precepts of the law and are less wicked, more modest, temperate, and merciful, and yet grace passes them by and converts the most infamous; in other words, those who are converted are not always those who do more naturally good works.

Moreover, according to St. Augustine, the judgment of God is inscrutable, for He draws one and does not draw another; as he says in regard to St. John (at the beginning of tract 26): “Why does He draw this man and not that one? Do not attempt to judge if you do not wish to err.” St. Thomas refers to this in Ia, q. 23, a. 5 ad 3. But assuming the existence of the aforesaid covenant and the resulting law, God’s judgment would not be inscrutable, rather could it be easily explained, for indeed God draws this man and not another because this one does what he can by his own powers and the other does not.

4. This pact seems to be contrary to the principles of sound theology based on revelation. For, according to this hypothesis, man would have something of himself to distinguish him, in which he would glory, in other words, something ordained to salvation he would not receive from God, namely, a good work of nature which, according to the law established, would lead to salvation, and to which grace would infallibly be attached.

Hence it is incompatible that Christ should merit the establishment of this law on the part of God the father, by which the reason for grace would be destroyed. For if this pact were formed and this law established, grace would be given on account of works, and thus would no longer be grace, prevenient grace would be anticipated by the free will, the first place would be given to man, the last place to God, and thus the doctrine of grace defended by St. Augustine would be overthrown. With this law in effect, a natural good work possesses some proportion and some right to the help of grace. All these suppositions seem to be contrary to the words of St. Paul (I Cor. 4:7): “Who distinguisheth 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 ?”

Particularly opposed to these words is the teaching of Molina which holds that man thus naturally disposes himself for grace with the aid of simultaneous natural concurrence only determinable by human liberty alone. But this doctrine is not very much developed by admitting general, indifferent premotion, ultimately determinable by man alone, since one man would thus distinguish himself from another who was not converted. Moreover, as we have said, intrinsically efficacious, predetermining premotion of a natural order does not suflice as a preparation for grace; the supernatural help of grace is required, because the order of agents should correspond to the order of ends. Here indeed the end, whether proximate (grace) or remote (glory), is supernatural

It is therefore not to be wondered at that the French clergy, in a general assembly, in 1700, condemned this teaching in regard to a covenant, declaring that “it restores Semi-Pelagianism, merely changing its language . . . The pact which is held to exist between God and Christ, is an audacious, erroneous invention brought forth, not only under the silence of Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Holy Fathers, but even under their contradiction.” (Cf. Billuart, De gratia, diss. III, What, then, is to be said of the negative natural preparation, that is, not setting up obstacles to grace, which being accomplished, God infallibly confers grace, according to Molin?

Reply. 1. Not to set up any obstacles at all is to observe the whole natural law, avoiding every sin against it, and this cannot be done without healing grace, as we have already shown. 2. Not to set up obstacles in some respects, observing certain precepts, avoiding certain sins, with general natural help, does not infallibly dispose one for grace; since, as we asserted with Augustine and as experience demonstates, some men observe many commandments, and yet grace is denied them which, at one time or other, is granted to the most profligate, who have no regard for any law, according to the words of Isaias (65:1), as quoted in Rom. 10:20: “I was found by them that did not seek Me: I appeared openly to them that asked not after Me.”

3. Nowhere is there a basis for this principle: upon him who does not set up obstacles to grace through his powers of nature alone, God infallibly confers grace.

4. All the aforesaid objections reappear; thus it would no longer be inscrutable why God confers grace upon one and not upon another; one could distinguish himself and glory over another; the beginning of salvation would not be the compassion of God alone, but the willing of man as well; and other conclusions opposed to the words of St. Paul: “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

How, then, are we to understand the common axiom: to him who does what he can, God does not deny grace? I answer as St. Thomas here interprets it (q.109, a. 6 ad 2), namely, “to him who does what he can, with the help of actual grace, God does not deny further grace.” We are concerned with supernatural help, which comes from Christ the Redeemer, for the words of Christ are quoted here: “Without Me you can do nothing.” And (q.112, a. 3) St. Thomas shows that a. 7.) this preparation, since it is from God moving supernaturally, has an infallible connection with the infusion of sanctifying grace. Hence, as Father Hugon indicates (De gratia, p. 267), this axiom is threefold:  1. the necessity of a certain preparation for justification on the part of an adult man, 2. the infallibility of its connection with sanctifying grace, 3. the gratuity of justification, which is accomplished by God alone. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him.” Therefore the meaning is: to him who does what he can by the power of actual grace, God does not deny sanctifying grace. This opinion is also held by Cardinal Billot, but with indifferent concurrence.

The axiom thus explained is only the theological formula of the dogma of God’s will to save. For, once it is admitted that God wills the salvation of all, it follows that sufficient grace necessary for salvation is conferred upon all; and if man does not resist this grace, he will receive a higher grace and thus arrive at justification. Man indeed resists by himself, but not to resist is already a good and proceeds from God preserving him in good and helping him, for at that moment God can permit resistance, as happens in the case of many. (Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. 5, Denz., no. 797.) “Hence,” says the Council, “when it is written in Holy Scripture: ‘Turn ye to Me, . . . and I will turn to you’ (Zach. 1:3), we are reminded of our liberty; when we reply: ‘Convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted’(Lam. 5:21), we acknowledge that we are anticipated by the grace of God.”

Corollary. The real clarity of the principles of superior reasoning leads to a translucent obscurity of mysteries, while, on the contrary, the false clarity of the fiction of inferior reasoning, withdrawing from the principles of superior reasoning, shuns supernatural mysteries, denying their sublimity.

This is particularly evident in the present question; thus, the true clarity of the principle, that the order of agents corresponds to the order of ends, leads to the translucent obscurity of the mystery: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father, who sent Me, draw him.” This obscurity is fully preserved by the contemplation of Augustine, when he says: “Why does He draw this man and not that one? Do not attempt to judge if you do not wish to err.”

And the mysteries, which are the object of contemplation, are all the more obscure the higher they are, with this obscurity which is not incoherence or absurdity below the level of understanding, but light inacessible beyond understanding, with respect to us who are wayfarers. Therefore it is said that Thomism fears neither logic nor mystery, but, fearlessly following the logic of first principles, arrives at the highest and most profoundly inscrutable mysteries, which are the true object of infused contemplation.

On the other hand, the false clarity of the fictions of inferior reasoning is evident in these words: to him who does what he can by his natural powers alone, God does not refuse grace; in other words, man can naturally prepare himself for supernatural grace. But this assertion of inferior reasoning withdraws from the principle: the order of agents should correspond to the order of ends, and a supernatural agent to a supernatural end.

And thus withdrawing from this principle, this false clarity ignores the inscrutable mystery: “No one can come to Me, unless the Father, who sent Me, draw him.” Nor indeed is it true any longer to say: “Why does He draw one man and not another? Do not attempt to judge if you do not wish to err.” But on the contrary, all things are clearly explained by the fiction: “this man is drawn by God because he disposed himself naturally.” The mystery is removed, and with it is taken away the highest object of contemplation; we descend to an inferior order of reasoning by rational subtleties, and inordinately so, which leads not to the obscurity of a mystery, but to the absurd denial of a principle: that the order of agents should correspond to the order of ends, every agent acts on account of a proportionate end. Hence false clarity must not be confused with true clarity. The purification of the spirit by the gift of understanding dispels such deceptive clearness and purifies “from phantasms and errors” (IIa IIae, q.8, a. 7).


1. In Holy Scripture many are mentioned who attained to grace by a natural good work, such as the Egyptian midwives moved by natural compassion for the Hebrew children, Rahab the harlot receiving and not exposing the scouts sent by God, Zachaeus welcoming Christ to his house, Cornelius practicing almsgiving and prayer before he believed in Christ.

Reply. These natural good works do not exclude the necessity of interior grace, but remain inadequate unless God disposes the heart interiorly by His grace; in other words, these naturally good works as such do not infallibly prepare for grace, and it is erroneous to declare that “to him who of himself does natural works, God does not deny grace.” Moreover, as Augustine says, among infidels and sinners, those who are converted are often not those who at first were less wicked. And at the Council of Orange (can. 25) it was stated that in the good thief, in Zachaeus and Cornelius, their pious disposition to believe was the result of a gift of God. But it is true that the occasions by which some seem to reach grace were procured for them by the special favor of providence disposing external matters in such a way that they would combine to lead these rather than others to grace. Thus in the cases of Zachaeus and Cornelius.

I insist. St. Paul says (I Tim. 1:13): “I obtained the mercy of God, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” Therefore he disposed himself negatively infallibly.

Reply. Ignorance is alleged not as a negative and infallible disposition for grace, but as matter more appropriately calling forth mercy, since indigence as such is involuntary, such as ignorance, and for this reason induces mercy. On the other hand, sin, inasmuch as it is voluntary, does not call forth mercy, but avenging justice, and this all the more so in proportion to its gravity. Thus St. Augustine explains in his eighth, ninth, and tenth sermons on the words of the Apostle. The meaning is the same as when Christ says: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Estius is also thus interpreted.

I insist, But at times Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, and Clement of Alexandria, quoted in this regard by Billuart, seem to teach that grace does not anticipate our wills but awaits them.

Reply. I. In these quotations they are speaking either of habitual grace or of the increase of actual grace for more perfect works, but they are certainly not speaking of the first actual grace, through which a beginning of good will is attained. Hence their meaning is: God awaits not our bare will, but our will supported by grace. These Fathers also deny that this first grace is an imposition of necessity, in opposition to the Manichaeans who would deprive man of free will (cf. Ia, q. 23, a. I ad I). This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that the aforesaid Fathers teach in various places the Catholic dogma on prevenient grace, when they explain the words of St. Paul: “What hast thou that thou hast not received? What then distinguisheth thee?” Nor is it remarkable if they at times spoke less accurately on the need for prevenient grace, when the Pelagian heresy had not yet broken out flagrantly, particularly since they desired to defend free will against the Manichaeans. At that time no one was attacking grace. St. Augustine replied similarly in his De praedestinatione sanctorum (chap. 14).

I insist. But St. Thomas himself says (IIa, d. 5, q. I, a. I): “For the eliciting of an act of conversion free will suffices, which prepares and disposes itself for obtaining grace through this act.” Similarly (IIa, d. 28, q. I, a. 4) he declares: “Since the preparation made for grace is not by acts which are commensurate to grace itself with an equality of proportion, as merit is commensurate to its reward, therefore it is not necessary that the acts by which man prepares himself for grace should exceed human nature.”

Reply. I. If such were the meaning of these passages quoted, we should have to admit that St. Thomas had subsequently retracted his own words, changing the opinion which he had held when he was younger. He wrote on the Sentences at Paris when he was only twenty-five years of age. 2. But St. Thomas did not change his opinion, for in the Commentary on the Sentences he rejects the opinion of certain others who held that man, to prepare himself for habitual grace, requires a habitual supernatural light, preamble to sanctifying grace. (Cf. II, d. 28, q. I, a. 4.) St. Thomas denies this, maintaining that this would go on into infinity, but he docs not exclude actual grace which he clearly aflirms in the Summa and in Quodl., I, a. 7, even more clearly: “It pertains to the Pelagian error to say that man can prepare himself for grace without the help of divine grace.” (Likewise Ia, q. 23, a. 5, on the beginning of good works.) Indeed certain thus prepared the way for Molina. Nor did St. Thomas say that a preparation is not required “proportionate to grace,” but proportionate in the way in which merit is commensurate with reward. This is true since merit demands nature elevated by sanctifying grace; merit is a right to a supernatural reward. (Cf. Quodl., I, a.7 ad I.) The distance is greater between the sinner and the just man than between the just and the blessed, for grace is the seed of glory, but nature is not really the seed of grace.

I insist. But of what use, then, are natural good works performed at the dictate of reason alone without any grace?

Reply. They are meritorious de congruo of temporal good, to the extent that it is appropriate for divine liberality in consideration of them, to grant certain temporal benefits. Hence Christ says: “They have received their reward” (Matt. 6:2). And on the other hand, good works done outside of charity, but with the help of actual grace, are a disposition to habitual grace; St. Thomas refers to them in IV Sent., q. 14, a. 4, and also in De veritate, q. 14, a. II ad I, when he says: “If a person brought up in the wilderness follows the guidance of reason (with actual grace), it can be held for a certainty that God will either reveal to him by inspiration the things that are necessary to believe or will send some preacher of the faith to him, as he sent St. Peter to Cornelius.”

I insist. Nevertheless, natural good works done without the help of actual grace seem to be at least a negative disposition to actual grace.

Reply. An infallible negative disposition, excluding every impediment to grace: denied. A fallible negative disposition, excluding some impediment: let it pass.

I insist. But man of himself can refrain from setting up an obstacle, at least at the moment when the grace is offered to him.

Reply. At that moment, of himself, with general concurrence which is in some way special for this individual, he can do so partially: granted. Completely: denied; that would be loving God the author of nature above all things.

I insist. St. Thomas (Contra Gentes, Bk. III, q. 159) declares: “Fallen man can hinder or not hinder the reception of grace.”

Reply. Not hinder, in part (and this with the concurrence of God preserving Him in good whereas He could permit sin): granted; totally: denied, because of himself he cannot avoid every sin, observing every precept of the natural law (cf. ibid., c. 160).15

Another objection. In Ia, q. 62, a. 6, it is taught that God conferred grace and glory upon the angels in proportion to their nature; hence there is no incompatibility in His conferring grace upon men who do what they can by natural powers alone.

Reply. St. Thomas himself replies to this objection (ibid., ad 2): “The acts of a rational creature are from itself; but the nature is immediately from God. Hence it seems rather that grace is given according to the rank of the (angelic) nature than according to its works.” For thus man would single out himself, and God would be moved objectively by another, which is not the case when He gives grace to the angels at the instant of their creation according to the quantity of their nature, which He alone created. To the same effect it is said that “it is reasonable for the angels, who have a better nature, to be converted to God even more powerfully and eflicaciously,” since in them nothing retarded the movement of the intellect and will. There is, moreover, an analogy between converted angels and men, for “according to the intensity of their conversion is greater grace given.”

I insist. But the disposition can be of an inferior order, as, for example, the disposition of the embryo to a spiritual soul.

Reply. But then they belong to the same nature, which is not true of grace.

Objection. God owes it to Himself to bestow His gifts upon those who are more worthy. But he is more worthy who does many natural good works of himself than he who does less. Therefore God should confer grace upon the former.

Reply. I deny the minor: he is not more worthy because natural works have no proportion with grace; they are of an inferior order.

I insist. Nevertheless he who sets up less impediments is less indisposed.

Reply. Let it pass. But he is not more disposed and worthy; thus a worm and a dog are certainly unequal; yet the dog is not more disposed to rationality. Therefore it is not unusual for God to draw to Himself those who are worse.

Thus we are back again at what we said at the end of the exposition of this thesis.



State of the question. This article, following upon the preceding ones, may seem a useless repetition. Such is not the case, however, for, as Cajetan remarks: “thus far St. Thomas was dealing with the necessity of grace for doing good; now he is concerned with evil,” and in the last two articles with the necessity of grace for the man who is already just.

What is meant by rising from sin? It is not the same as ceasing from the act of sin, as Protestants claim, but it is man being restored to what, by sinning, he had forfeited. Now, by sinning, man incurs a threefold loss: the stain (habitual sin, privation of the ornament of grace), the incurring of punishment, and the decrease of the natural inclination to virtue, as stated previously (q.85-87). The reply to the question thus posed is negative; that is certain, so that Pelagius himself did not deny it but only insisted that grace should be bestowed on account of merits.

The answer is of faith, defined at the Council of Orange, can. 4, (Denz., no. 177) also can. 14 and 19; and at the Council of Trent, Sess. VI, can. 1 (Denz., no. 811), can. 3 (Denz., no. 813). The teaching of the Fathers is clear; cf. the words of Augustine quoted in the argument Sed contra; otherwise “Christ died for nothing,” if man can rise from sin without the help of grace.

This conclusion is proved by theological argument as follows:

To rise from sin is for man to be restored and liberated from the evils which he incurred by sin.

But by sin he incurred a threefold loss which cannot be repaired except by grace.


The minor is proved thus: 1. The stain is a privation of the ornament of grace, therefore it cannot be repaired except by grace itself. 2. The decrease in the inclination of the will toward virtue cannot be repaired unless God draws the will to Himself. 3. The incurring of punishment cannot be remitted except by God against whom the offense was committed. Nevertheless there can be an imperfect resurrection without habitual grace, by actual grace which is present in attrition when the sinner aspires after reconciliation. Cf. on this subject the sixty-fourth proposition of Baius (Denz., no. 1064).



State of the question. From the second article wherein it is said that fallen man can, with the natural concurrence of God, perform some good works, it is to be supposed likewise that with this natural concurrence he can, for a certain length of time, avoid sin and overcome slight temptations. For it is not necessary that he should continually sin by act, by a sin of commission, such as blasphemy, or of omission, such as never praying when he ought to pray, since the good of reason is not entirely extinct in him. As a matter of fact, this natural concurrence, although it is in a way due to human nature in general, may, as we have said, be called gratuitous in a certain sense with respect to\this man to whom it is given here and now rather than to another in whom God permits sin; from this standpoint it may be called grace, broadly speaking. This observation is necessary in order to reconcile various texts of the councils and of the Fathers on this question. Hence the problem, properly stated, is: whether man without grace, strictly speaking, can, over a long period of time, avoid mortal sins. Cf. above, Ia IIae, q. 109, a. z ad 2, and De veritate, q. 3, a. 14 ad 2 and 3.

That such is the proper statement of the question is evident from the objections or difficulties which are raised against the first article: it seems that man can, without grace, avoid sin: 1. because no one sins in that which is unavoidable; 2. because otherwise the sinner would be blamed without cause, if he could not avoid sin; 3. because a person who sins does not cease to be a man, and it is within his power to choose good or evil; for human nature after the fall is not totally corrupt.

However, as stated in the argument Sed contra, St. Augustine declared that: “Whoever denies that we ought to pray, lest we enter into temptation, ought to be removed from the ears of all and anathematized by the mouth of all, I have no doubt.”

In the body of the article there are two principal conclusions, which, all things considered, can and ought to be proposed thus: I. concerning fallen man avoiding mortal sin; 2. concerning the just man avoiding venial sins.

The first conclusion, which is proved in the second part of the article is as follows: Fallen man being in the state of mortal sin, cannot, without the addition of healing, habitual grace, continually avoid all mortal sin against the natural law and overcome all temptations. In this regard, St. Thomas seems to correct what he had said in II Sent., d. 28, q. I, a. 2.

1. This is proved first of all from Holy Scripture: “By Thee I shall be delivered from temptation” (Ps. 17:30). “Being pushed I was over turned that I might fall: but the Lord supported me” (Ps. 117:13). “Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (And he replies): The grace of God, by Jesus Christ” (Rom. 7:24 f.). This is true with still greater reason of fallen man before justification. “And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13). Likewise the Council of Neocaesarea (chap. II) against the Pelagians condemned the following proposition of Pelagius: “Our victory is not by the help of God.” Similarly the Council of Milevum (Denz., nos.103 f.), Pope St. Celestine (Denz., no. 132), and the Council of Orange against the Semi-Pelagians (Denz., nos. 184, 186, 192, 194).

2. The conclusion is proved, secondly, from theological argument which is the corollary of articles 3 and 4 (explained here in the second part of the article): fallen man cannot, without healing grace, efficaciously love God the author of nature above all things nor observe all the precepts of the natural law; therefore neither can he avoid every mortal sin, for they are committed by transgression of the commandments.

The basis of this argument lies in the fact that man in the state of mortal sin has his will turned away from even his natural final end; therefore he is already inclined toward some mortal sins. In order, then, continually to avoid all mortal sins and overcome all temptations, he must have his will directed toward his final end, adhering to God so firmly that he will not be separated from Him for the sake of anything created; cf. the end of the body of the article.16 In short, an infirm nature cannot efficiently produce an act of healthy nature. St. Thomas says that this requires healing grace, that is, habitual grace; for without it man is not firmly established in good dispositions with regard to his final end.

Three principal objections are made to this first conclusion.

First objection. Some pagans have withstood very serious temptations for the sake of virtue.

Reply. As we have already said, perhaps they did so from a human motive of glory or pride, and, in that case, without the special help of God, or else they did so for love of virtue, in which case it was not without the special help of God. (See Augustine, Bk. IV against Julian, chap. 3.)

Second objection, which St. Thomas mentions first as follows: if man in the state of mortal sin cannot avoid sin, then by sinning he does not sin, for sin is always avoidable.

Reply (ad I ): “Man (in the state of mortal sin) can avoid individual acts of (mortal) sin, but not all, except by means of grace. Nevertheless man is not excused, since the fault is his own that he does not prepare himself to possess grace . . .”; in other words, grace is offered to him and is not lacking except through his fault. (Cf. above, a. 4 ad 2.)

Third objection. But then it would follow that man in the state of mortal sin is bound to repent instantly, for otherwise he will always be in danger of committing sin again.

Reply. He is bound to repent instantly when the danger of sinning is certain and definite; otherwise there is no grave obligation to repent instantly.

Second conclusion. The just man, by the ordinary assistance of grace without any special privilege, can continually avoid all mortal sins, but not however, over a long period of time, all venial sins, although he can avoid individual venial sins.

The first part of this conclusion is that the just man can, without very special help, continually avoid all mortal sins (to avoid them actually and continually until death, however, requires the gift of final perseverance, as we shall explain in article 10). In support of this first part of the conclusion the following scriptural texts are quoted: “If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23 ). “My grace is sufficient for thee” (II Cor. 12:9). Also the Council of Trent (Denz., no. 804): “For God will not forsake those who are once justified by His grace, unless He is first abandoned by them”; cf. below, q. 112, a. 3.

The theological argument is the opposite of the reasoning in the preceding conclusion: since the just man firmly adheres to his final end, therefore he can avoid all mortal sin; he has even the proximate power to do so; whether he actually perseveres or not is another matter. Neither does the just man acfually avoid sins of omission unless he performs a good work, with the help of actual grace. And that he should actually persevere in the state of grace until death, is still another question (cf. a. 10, and q. 114, a. 9).

The second part of this conclusion is as follows: The just man cannot avoid all venial sins collectively. It is proven from Holy Scripture: “There is no man who sinneth not” (III Kings 8:46). “There is no just man upon earth, that doth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclus. 7:21). “In many things we all offend” (Jas. 3:2). “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). This second part of this conclusion is also declared by the Council of Milevum (can. 6 and 7, Denz., nos. 106, 107) and of Trent (Sess. VI, can. 23, Denz., no. 833), where it was stated that it was the special privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary that she could avoid all venial sin. Likewise, against the Beghards and several propositions of Michael Molinos (from 55 to 63, Denz., nos. 471, 1275, 83)

The second theological argument for this conclusion is proved in the body of the argument as follows:

Although sanctifying grace heals a man with respect to his spirit, there still remains a disorder of the sensitive appetite, so that inordinate movements often arise.

But allowing that his reason can repress individual movements (thus they have an element of involuntary act) yet not all, because while he is endeavoring to resist one, perhaps another will arise and also because the reason cannot always be vigilant.

In other words, the reason itself can be watchful to avoid some inordinate movement, but not all. But in order that this movement be voluntary it is essential that the reason have the power and duty of considering this movement in individual cases. To continue in goodness without venial sin presents great difficulty the surmounting of which requires a very special grace, by which the instability of the will is stabilized, infirmity healed, weariness refreshed, and disgust overcome.

It is a disputed question in mystical theology whether the soul that arrives at transforming union can continually avoid all venial sins collectively. It is admitted that it can avoid all fully deliberate venial sins, but not all semi-deliberate ones, except while it is under the influence of the actual grace of union. But this actual union is not absolutely continuous, saving always the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Cf. St. Theresa, Interior Castle, Seventh Mansion, chap.

The fact remains that resisting sufficient grace is an evil, and man is sufficient unto himself to do so; but not resisting grace is a good, which proceeds from God, the source of every good. 4.)



The state of the question appears from the objections at the beginning of the article. Some hold with Molina17 that natural concurrence suffices (cf. Hugon, De gratia, p. 282).

St. Thomas’ answer is: The just man needs the help of actual grace to act aright supernaturally.

1. This is proved from authority; Augustine is quoted in the argument Sed contra, which should be read.

a) Holy Scripture: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4); as the branch cannot bear fruit without a continual infusion from the vine, neither can the just man without a continual infusion of Christ. Therefore does He say: “Without Me ye can do nothing,” and “You must pray always.” (Cf. Council of Orange, can. 10, Denz., no. 183.)

b) Pope Zozimus (Epist. tractoria, PL, XX, 693, quoted by Denz., nos. 135 ff.) says: “Therefore our aid and our protector should be appealed to in all acts, causes, thoughts, and movements.” Also Council of Orange (can. 10 and 25, Denz., nos. 183,200) and Pope Celestine I (Denz., no. 132).

c ) Council of Trent (Denz., no. 809): “Since indeed this same Christ Jesus, as head in the members and as the vine in the branches, continually infuses power into justified souls, which power always precedes, accompanies, and follows their good works, and without which they cannot be pleasing to God or meritorious in any way.”18 Also Trent, Sess. VI, can. 2.

2. The theological proof is twofold: by title of dependence and by title of infirmity.

a) The first proof is general, by title of dependence. St. Thomas states only the major, but the syllogism is easily completed from what has previously been said, thus:

No created thing can proceed to any act except by the power of divine motion (a. I).    

But for any supernatural act in a just soul a proportionate motion is required, since the order of agents should correspond to the order of ends (as has been said in a. 6). Therefore the just man requires supernatural, actual grace for any supernatural act.

A certain law of metaphysics, namely, the principle of finality, requires that the introduction of the agent which is to make the transi- tion from potency to act must be of the same order as the act and the end toward which it moves. As stated in the reply to the first objection, even in the state of glory man requires commensurate actual help (cf. ad 2). Hence natural concurrence does not suflice, as Molina would have it (op. cit., p. 36), and as Cardinal Billot sometimes seems to imply (Virt. infusis, 1905, thes. VII, p. 176). Thus even Pesch declares (De gratia, no. 109): “Should it be denied that any supernatural help is required (for any work conducive to salvation), this doctrine is most generally and deservedly rejected by theologians.” Similarly Mazzella (De gratia, disp. II, a. 2, prop. 8,) declares: “The opinion maintaining the necessity of actual grace for individual acts conducive to salvation, even in a man trained to supernatural habits, seems altogether to be held more consistently, considering the authority of Holy Scripture, the constant teaching of the Fathers, and the decrees of the Church.”

b) The second proof from theology is somewhat special: “by reason of infirmity” applies to the condition of human nature, not as fallen, since we are concerned with a just man, but as not fully regenerated thus:

He who is not perfectly cured requires external assistance in order to act properly.

But, allowing that the just man is cured by sanctifying grace, he is still subject to inordinate concupiscence and the obscurity of ignorance. Therefore, for this special reason, the just man requires the help of God to direct and protect him; hence he should say daily: “and lead us not into temptation.”

First corollary. This second argument should be distinguished but not separated from the first as if it were interpreted thus: infallibly efficacious concurrence is required only for difficult acts conducive to salvation, but not for easy ones. This is false for, according to the first argument, in every state, general concurrence, at least, is required, but infallibly efficacious concurrence for any good act proposed here and now.19

Second corollary. In connection with this article Billuart brings forward a new distinction which may be admitted but it is not necessary, that is: the just man requires the general help of God, as author of the supernatural, for any easy supernatural acts, and this general help, although, in a sense, due to nature raised to the supernatural, is yet not due to this individual rather than to another, since free will remains defectible and God is not always bound to profer a remedy for this defectibility, even for the just. But the just man requires special help for more difficult acts and also for constant perseverance.

Thus, Billuart maintains, several texts of the Fathers are more concurrence is sufficient in the just man for individual supernatural acts (which are not difficult), seems to mean, in agreement with Bilhart, general supernatural concurrence or ordinary actual grace; this is admissible. But Billot is more probably referring to general supernatural concurrence with respect to mode, whereas we refer to it with respect to substance. Cf. above, p. 51, his theory on the supernaturalness of faith.



State of the question. We are not concerned here with perseverance taken as a virtue inclining one to elicit the intention of persevering lo I the consequent will. And the antecedent will never produces any good, even the (cf. IIa IIae, q. 137) nor with the intention of persevering itself, but with the actual exercise of perseverance in good conducive to salvation until the end of one’s life. That this is the sense in which it is used is evident from the body of the article, at the very beginning of which St. Thomas eliminates the consideration of the acquired virtue of perseverance, discussed by Aristotle, and of the infused virtue of temperance, annexed to fortitude, which are infused with sanctifying grace. Here it is rather a question “of the continuation in good until the end of life.”

Moreover, perseverance thus defined is capable of a twofold acceptation: 1. the enduring continuation in grace and good works until death, as attained to by many predestined adults; and 2. the coincidence of habitual grace and death, without prolonged continuation, as occurs in children who die after their baptism 20 and also in adults who die shortly after obtaining justification, 21 for example, the good thief; and thus it becomes the grace of a happy death.

Reply. To the question thus stated, the Church, as we shall presently see, replies that a special gift of perseverance is required. But in what does this special gift consist? Is it a habitual gift or an actual grace? This is the statement of the question which is quite complex. Let us examine: 1. the errors involved, 2. the teaching of Holy Scripture and the Church, 3. St. Thomas’ conclusion, and 4. the problems to be solved.


The Pelagians, at least in the beginning, attributed perseverance to the powers of nature alone. The Semi-Pelagians maintained that grace was required for it, but not a special gift distinct from sanctifying grace, and, according to them, grace is given to those who possess the beginning of salvation through their natural effort. Hence the grace of final perseverance is always given to those who persevere in this natural effort. In opposition to them, St. Augustine proved that the gift of final perseverance is a special gift and not subject to merit. Certain theologians, such as Duval and Vega, hold that a special gift is required for perseverance which is active and protracted over a long period of time, but not for a brief perseverance during which no special difficulties occur


In Scripture our perseverance in good until the end is attributed to God. “I set the Lord always in my sight: for He is at my right hand, that I be not moved” (Ps. 15:8). “Perfect Thou my goings in Thy paths: that my footsteps be not moved” (Ps. 165). “Be Thou my helper, forsake me not; do not Thou despise me” (Ps. 26:g). Likewise Ps. 37:22. “When my strength shall fail, do not Thou forsake me” (Ps. 70:g). “And unto old age and gray hairs: O God, forsake me not” (Ps. 70:18). Christ says to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak” (Matt. 26:41). “And now I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name whom Thou hast given Me; that they may be one, as We also are” (John 17:11). “He that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12). “With fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will” (Phil. 2:12 f.).

The doctrine of the Church. It is of faith that final perseverance is something gratuitous, not due to the powers of nature, and more a gift distinct from the grace of justification. This was defined against the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians whom St. Augustine specifically refuted in his book on the gift of perseverance.

Cf. Denz., no. 132, the letter of Pope Celestine I: “No one, even among the baptized, is sufliciently restored by grace to triumph over the wiles of the devil and overcome the temptations of the flesh unlessby the daily help of God he receives perseverance in the frequent practice of good.”

Also the Council of Orange, can. 10 (Denz., no. 183): “The help of God, even for the redeemed and sanctified, is ever to be implored, that they may come to a good end or continue in good works.” (Likewise can. 25, Denz., no. 200.)

The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. 16, Denz., no. 826) declares: “If anyone should say with absolute and infallible certainty that he surely will have the great gift of perseverance to the end, unless he learns it from special revelation, let him be anathema.” Likewise (can. 22, Denz., no. 832): “If anyone should say either that a justified soul can persevere in the justice it has received without the special help of God, or that with it it cannot do so, let him be anathema.”

Father Hugon (De gratia, p. 286) asks whether this canon also includes perseverance for a short space of time (for instance, between justification shortly before death and death itself) and passive perseverance (of infants dying after baptism). The Council does not distinguish; several authorities consider that a real distinction is not to be excluded from the sense of the definition. At least, it is of faith that for the active perseverance of adults over a long period of time a special aid is required distinct from habitual grace.

Among the Fathers, Augustine in particular is cited (De dono perseverantiae, chap. 2); he refutes the objections of the Pelagians, to which may be added those which are presented by St. Thomas at the beginning of the article, as follows:

1. Perseverance in virtue is something less than the virtue of perseverance itself which can be acquired by repeated acts. 2. Christian perseverance is a certain moral virtue, annexed to fortitude, and infused at the same time as grace. 3. Adam in the state of innocence would have been able to persevere, but those who are justified by Christ are not in a less perfect state with respect to grace.

Against these difficulties, St. Thomas explains, in the body of the present article, that the term “perseverance” is used in a threefold sense:

1. Acquired perseverance, described by Aristotle (Ethics, Bk. VII, chap. 7). This is a moral virtue attached to fortitude which consists in a certain firmness of the reason and will, so that a man may nqt be dissuaded from the path of virtue by the onslaught of melancholy. This perseverance maintains itself against such an onslaught as continence does against the temptations of the flesh. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 137, a. 2 ad 2.

2. The infused virtue of perseverance. By this virtue man has the intention of persevering in good until the end. But many had this intention during their lives and yet, in fact, did not persevere to the end. This virtue gives the power of persisting in the first act in spite of the difficulty which arises from the long duration of the act itself. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 137, a. 3 and 4.

3. Perseverance in the sense of a continuation of a certain good work until the end of one’s life. For this, the just man requires a special grace, not habitual but actual, directing and protecting him against the impelling force of temptation. This follows from the preceding article in which it was proved that the just man needs the help of actual grace to do good and avoid evil and therefore, with still greater reason, to do good and avoid evil until the end of his life. This is the perseverance of which we are now speaking. 22

Similarly, in IIa IIae, q. 137, a. 4, the question, whether perseverance requires the help of grace, is answered thus: 1. the infused virtue of perseverance presupposes habitual grace; 2. for the act of perseverance lasting until death “man requires not only habitual grace, but also the gratuitous help of God preserving a man in good unti the end of life.” “Since, with free will, man himself is changeable, and this condition is not altered by habitual grace in the present life, it is not within the power of free will, even restored by grace, to remain fixed in the good, although it is in its power to choose to do so. For the most part, election falls within our power, but not execution” (ibid.) .


The conclusion is thus proved. The just man requires the help of actual grace to do the good necessary for salvation and to avoid evil (preceding article).

But perseverance is the continuation of a certain good work until the end of life.

Therefore, for this perseverance until the end a special actual grace is required, distinct from habitual grace and even from the preceding actual graces, such, that is, as precede the moment of death. (Cf. ad 3.)

This argument thus proposed is metaphysical: no one is preserved in good works until death unless specially preserved by God. Some authors state this argument in a slightly different way, so that its metaphysical necessity is less evident. They say that for perseverance until the end there is a great threefold difficulty for the surmounting of which a special actual gift is required. Thus they rather proceed inductively.

It is a great threefold difficulty: 1. to shun evil, 2. to fulfill every commandment continually and enduringly, and 3. to have death coincide with grace, or to die at the opportune time. But all these taken together require a special favor from God, distinct from habitual grace. Since man cannot, without additional help, overcome temptations and elicit supernatural acts, for still greater reason does he require aid to practice these until the end. Moreover, only God, who is master of grace and of death, can cause grace to coincide with death; in doing so He manifests a special providence toward the elect. Therefore final perseverance (at least such as endures for a long time before death) requires a special favor distinct from habitual grace. This point, at least, in the question, is of faith and is confirmed by this argument based upon still higher principles of faith. This argument is good, but is better formulated by St. Thomas, inasmuch as he shows more clearly why an utterly special actual gift is required for surmounting this great difficulty in fact, that is, preservation in good.


First doubt. Whether a special grace, distinct from ordinary, actual helps, is required for long-continued, active final perseverance.

At present theologians generally reply in the affirmative, which is thus proved by the following arguments. a) From authority, since Christ prayed especially for the perseverance of His disciples, who were already just: “Holy Father, keep them” (John 17:11-15). Likewise the Church thus prays in particular: “Enable us always to obey Thy commandments” (Tuesday after the Second Sunday of Lent). “Never permit me to be separated from Thee” (prayer before Communion). The Council of Trent calls the gift of perseverance, “that great, special gift.” b) From theological argument. (Cf. ad 3.) Long- continued, active final perseverance, that is, with our cooperation, demands not only sufficient grace, but efficacious grace, nay rather the most important of all efficacious graces which consummates the state of wayfarer and brings about an infallible coincidence between the state of grace and death. This efficacious grace confers the final act of the wayfarer connected with the attainment of the final end and therefore proceeds from a very special infusion by which God is the mover. And this, too, certainly depends upon the merits of Christ who merited for us all the graces, both sufficient and efficacious, which we receive and also all the effects of our predestination.

Second doubt. Whether a special gift distinct from the ordinary aids is required for final perseverance over a short space of time, either in adults or in infants who die soon after their justification. At present most theologians generally reply in the affirmative. 

a) Since this seems to be the obvious meaning of the Councils of Orange and Trent (Denz., nos. 183, 200, 806, 826, 832, 805 ff.), although this was not expressly defined. The Council of Orange declared (no. 183). “The help of God is to be implored even by the redeemed and sanctified, that they may arrive at a good end or may continue long in good works.” In speaking thus, as Billuart remarks, the Council distinguishes perseverance taken as a continuation of good over a long period of time, and for both of these require a special help which is to be implored even by those who are living a holy life. Likewise the Council of Trent requires a special help for perseverance simply and without any limitations.

b) Theological argument. The very special effect of predestination, which has an infallible relationship to glory, is a very particular gift. But the coincidence of grace with death is an effect of this kind, conferred only on the prefestinate. Therefore it is a very special gift, surpassing ordinary aids, which are attributed to ordinary providence.

This is confirmed from the consideration of death. Death may come about, for those who persevere, in a twofold manner: 1. Beyond the natural course of events, according to divine decree, the time of death is hastened or delayed; then it is manifestly a special favor. 2. Or it occurs according to the natural order, but even then providence had this special gift does not require internal actual grace but consists in an external grace, that is, in a special providence by virtue of which the infant dies when in the state of grace. And this indicates a special care on the part of providence had disposed natural events from all eternity so that they would bring about death at an opportune time, when a man is in the state of grace. And this indicates a special care on the part of providence, which extends to all things, ordains means to their end, and in particular to the glory of God and of the elect. Therefore the coincidence of the state of grace with death is a special favor from God, who alone can cause these two to coincide, since He is the master of grace and of death. At least, this disposition of circumstances is in some respects a special favor; this is admitted by Molina when he maintains that God foresees through mediate knowledge that, if a certain person at the moment of death were placed in such and such circumstances, he would elicit an act of contrition. (Cf. Concordia, ed. cit., p. 548)

Third doubt. In what does this special gift of final perseverance consist? A distinction must be made between adults and infants.

a) In baptized children who die before attaining the use of reason, this special gift does not require internal actual grace but consists in an external grace, that is, in a special providence by virture of which the infant dies when in the state of grace.

b) In adults, however, the gift of final perseverance does not consist in any one indivisible thing, but comprises a great many, thus: 1. on the part of God it is the special providence causing grace to coincide with death; 2. on the part of man it consists in a series of helps by which he is preserved from temptation, or overcomes temptations, or, if he falls, he rises again at the opportune time; finally, it includes the last efficacious grace, connecting the last meritorious act with the end, which, as it is an efficacious grace, is called by antonomasia “the great and signal gift of God.”

But whether this last grace is intrinsically efficacious, as the Thomists hold, or extrinsic through the prevision of the scientia media, Billuart (diss. III, a. 10) cites texts from Scripture and from St. Augustine in which it is attributed to the grace of final perseverance that man does persevere. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.) Therefore election “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:16). That is, divine election does not depend on the will or the effort of man, but on God who shows mercy. “For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish” (Phil. 2:13).

St. Augustine’s references to the subject include the following: They receive “grace which is not rejected by any hard heart, since it is first granted to them to have their hardness of heart taken away” (De praedestinatione sanctorum, chap. 8). “God has the wills of men in His power to a greater extent than they themselves have” (De correptione et gratia, chap. 14). “We are speaking of that perseverance which perseveres until the end; if it is granted, one perseveres until the end; but if one does not persevere until the end, it is not granted” (De dono perseverantiae, chap. 6). “Therefore the weakness of the human will is assisted, so that it may be moved invariably and in- evitably by divine grace, and hence, although weak, it may not fail nor be overcome by any adversity” (De correptione et gratia, chap. 12). Cf. R. de Journel, Enchir. patr., no. 1958; read also the reply to the third objection of the present article.

The question is whether this grace is efficacious because God wills it to be so or because man wills to render it so. In the answer to the third objection St. Thomas says: “By the grace of Christ many receive the gift of grace by which they can persevere and also it is further granted to them that they do persevere.” Hence if, of two equally obdurate sinners, one is converted rather than the other, this is the effect of a special mercy toward him, With still greater reason, if anyone perseveres in good throughout the whole of his life, this is the effect of a special mercy of God toward him.

Fourth doubt. Whether perseverance was a very special gift for the angels. The Jansenists reply negatively, both for angels and for man in the state of innocence. The answer of St. Thomas and the generality of theologians is affirmative. Cf. III C. Gentes, chap. 155, and IIa IIae, q. 137, a. 4.

a) The foregoing arguments are also valid for the angels and for man in the state of innocence, in whom free will was capable of defection.

b) Moreover, for the angels, final perseverance is the proper effect of predestination, and not all the angels were predestined. Further, this is implied by the Council of Orange (Denz., no. 192) when it declares: “Human nature, even had it remained in that state of integrity in which it was created, would by no means have preserved itself without the aid of its Creator.” And St. Augustine, in The City of God (Bk. XIII, chap. 9 ) maintains: “If in both cases (the angels) were created equally good, some fell through bad will, while others, receiving more help, attained that fullness of beatitude, whence they were made absolutely certain that they will never fall.”

Fifth doubt. Whether the gift of final perseverance is identical with the gift of confirmation in grace. Cf. Salmanticenses, De gratia, q. 110, disp. III, dub. XI, no. 259. The answer is in the negative, since the gift of final perseverance is common to all the predestinate, but not the gift of confirmation in grace, which was conferred upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost and upon souls that arrived at the intimate union with God which is called the transforming union. In what respects do they differ? In this: the gift of confirmation in grace preserves one from mortal sin and also generally from deliberate venial sin, according to the mode in which it is given, that is, by a certain participation in the impeccability of the blessed, and the intrinsic gift requires to be completed by the extrinsic protection of God. Hence this gift of confirmation in grace adds something over and above the gift of persererance, namely, something intrinsic and habitual which prevents sin, almost binding the power to preserve it from sin, on the other hand, the gift of final perseverance does not necessarily demand anything more than the conjunction of the state of grace with death.


First objection. Final perseverance is the coincidence of grace with death. But shortly before death, the justified man with the ordinary helps can persever for a considerable time in goodness until his death. Therefore final perseverance is not a special help.

Reply. I distinguish the major: final perseverance is the coincidence of grace with death, willed in virture of itself by God for the efficacious purpose of glory: granted; a fortuitous and accidental coincidence: denied. I likewise distinguish the minor: for a moderately long time until the accidental conjunction of grace and death: granted; for a definite interval of time until the conjunction of habitual grace with death willed in virtue of itself by God: denied.

Second objection. To those who possess grace, glory is due. Therefore with still greater reason is the help due to them for the continuation of grace with glory.

Reply. I deny the conclusion, for, although glory is due to a man who possess grace, as long as he remains in grace, it is not however due to him that he be invariably preserved in grace until death, since he is of an erratic, defectible nature.

Third objection. According to the Council of Trent, “God does not abandon a soul that is once justified unless He is first abandoned by it” (Denz., no. 804). But if, in order to persevere, the just man requires special help, which God denies to many of the just, He would desert him before being deserted by him. Therefore.

Reply. The sense of the major is: God does not abandon by with dreawing the efficacious actual grace, unless man first resists sufficient grace. But to ask why God does not give to all the just efficacious grace, by means of which they many not neglect sufficient grace. But to aks why God does not give to all the just efficacious grace, by means of which they may not neglect sufficient grace. But to ask why God does not give to all the just efficacious grace, by means of which they may not neglect sufficient grace, by means of which they may not neglect sufficient grace, is equivalent to asking why he permits sin in one defectible soul rather than in another, whereupon the answer, in the words of St. Augustine (de dono perseverantiae, chap. 9), is that “in this respect the judgment of God is inscrutable”; and further, in his commentary on St.  John 6:44, “No man can come to Me, except the Father, who sent Me, draw him,” he adds: “Why does He draw one and not another?  Do not judge if you do not wish to err; but accept and understand: if you are not yet drawn, pray that you may be drawn.” Cf. St. Thomas on John 6:44. Hence we should pray in the words of the Mass, before the Communion: “Grant me ever to adhere to Thy commandments and never permit me to be separated from Thee.”23

Further, according to the Council of Trent (Denz., no. 806): “The gift of perseverance . . . can be possessed only by the one who is able to make him who stands, stand (Rom. 14:4), that he may persevere standing, and to raise up him who falls.” Cf. below (q.114, a. 9 ) on the gift of perseverance which cannot be the object of merit, but which can be obtained by virtue of humble, persevering, impetratory prayer in union with the prayer of Christ, the High Priest of the Sacrifice of the Mass. How advantageous it is, then, to celebrate or hear Mass in order to obtain the grace of a happy death, as Benedict XV declared!

This terminates the question of the necessity of grace for knowing natural and supernatural truth, for doing natural and supernatural good, for avoiding evil, and for persevering unto the end. 

1 Thus the Council of Orange (can. 22, Denz., no. 195): “No one has anything of his own but lying and sin. But if man has something of truth and justice, it comes from that source after which we should thirst in this desert land.” At  least natural  concurrence is required.

2 In simultaneous concurrence, admitted by Molina, God and the secondary cause I are like two men rowing a boat, that is, like two coordinated causes. On the contrary, for St. Thomas, God’s premotion and the secondary cause thus moved are two causes of which the second is subordinated to the supreme first cause, with reference both to causality and to being.

3 “If anyone should say . . . that bad works as well as good are done by God, and not merely by His permission,. . . let him be anathema.”

4 Beitrāge zur Geschichte der Phil. des Mittelalters, Münster, 1908. (ed. C1.Baeumker).

5 The excess of Jansenism is found to a certain extent in the argument proposed by Pascal as “the wager,” in which he says: a choice must be made between the Christian life which is set before us as the way to heaven, and the life of the libertine which is said to be the way of damnation. Some might add a third alternative: natural virtue. But in practice, the argument proposed by Pascal holds good, since the fullness of natural virtue is not present in fallen nature without grace.

6 It is a question of the consequent power. Cf. Salmanticenses, De gratia, disp. II, dub. IV, no. 135, where other important Thomists are quoted; cf. also John of St. Thomas, Gonet, Billuart.

7 Cf. Molina, Concordia, Paris ed., 1876, pp. 31, 34, 68 A,, 73, 255.

8 Ibid., PP. 43, 73, 564.

9 St. Thomas’ first conclusion on the necessity of grace to fulfill substantially all the precepts of the natural law is commonly accepted by theologians, although it was formerly denied by Scotus (II, d.28, .1), Gabriele, and Durandus; to deny it would be rash or erroneous and savors of Pelagianism. Cf. Hugon, De gratia, p. 259.

10 St. Chrysostom, in his fifth homily on the Epistle to the Romans, declares: “The Apostle refers not to the idolatrous Greeks but to those who by worshiping God and obeying the natural law, practiced all those things that pertain to piety, even prior to the Jewish observances; such were those who lived with Melchisedech, such was Job, such were the Ninivites, such finally was Cornelius.” St. Chrysostom, in his thirteenth homily on the same Epistle, commenting on the words “miserable man that I am,” teaches that the law without grace does not suffice. Thirteenth homily on the same Epistle, commenting on the words “miserable man that I am,” teaches that the law without grace does not suffice.

11 The Semi Pelagians held that the preparation for grace could be made naturally in three ways: 1) by positively disposing oneself for grace; 2) by meriting it, at least de congruo; or 3) by asking it through prayer.  

12 Molina holds: To him who does what in him lies by his natural powers in easier matters, and by the powers of medicinal grace (which is natural from the standpoint of its being) in more difficult matters, God does not deny actual grace and, eventually, He grants sanctifying grace, on account of the covenant entered into with Christ, Molina does not give sufficient attention to the fact that man alone, by himself, can set up some obstacle, but he cannot, by himself, avoid setting up an obstacle, for this latter is a good act proceeding from the source of all good: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”

13 Pius IX declares (Denz., no. 1677): “Those who labor under invincible ignorance in regard to our most holy religion, and who observe conscientiously (this presupposes the help of grace) the natural law whose precepts are inscribed by God in all hearts, and are ready to obey God, can lead an honorable, righteous life, by virtue of the operation of divine light and grace, and arrive at eternal life.” Pius IX has no recourse to the Molinistic pact, but speaks as does St. Thomas.

14 According to the Council of Orange (can. 4, Denz., no. 177): “If anyone maintains that God waits upon our will in order to cleanse us from sin, and does not rather acknowledge that even our willing to be cleansed is brought about in us through the infusion and operation of the Holy Ghost, such a one is resisting the same Holy Ghost.” And yet, according to Molina’s theory, God waits upon our will, that is, our natural effort, which He foresees by scientia media, and which is produced simultaneously with only the concurrence of God, before the conferring of prevenient actual grace. Thus this natural effort precedes prevenient grace itself, and thus it seems to be the first step to salvation, which is therefore natural. On the contrary, it is God who knocks first, according to the words of the Apocalypse (320): “I stand at the gate and knock.”

15 Man alone of himself can resist grace (and this is sin permitted by God), but “not to resist grace” is itself a good which proceeds from God who preserves him in good whereas He might have permitted resistance. Cf. our La prédestination des saints et la grâce, 1936, p. 381.

16 Here the words of Aristotle are cited: “In unexpected circumstances a man acts according to a preconceived objective and a pre-existing habit”; hence one who is in the state of mortal sin cannot long remain without mortal sin, especially in sudden temptation. Even if he should wish to act rationally, he cannot long maintain this intention on account of his habitually bad disposition.

17 Molina, Concordia, q. 14, a. 13, disp. 8, p. 36; also quoted by Billot, De virt. infusis, 1905, P. 176.

18 This cannot all be regarded as applying to habitual grace, which is not a subsequent but a permanent aid; hence it must refer to actual grace.

19 Cf. De malo, q.6, a. 1 ad 3. “In all things divine providence works infallibly, and yet effects to proceed from contingent causes dependently to the extent that God moves all things proportionately, each according to its own mode.”

For, as St. Thomas declares (Ia, 4.19, a.6 ad): “Whatever God wills absolutely is done, even if what He wills antecedently is not done.” But all the good which takes place here and now, even the least, was from eternity tile object of the consequent divine will, which concerns, as stated in the same place, not the absolute good, as it were abstractly, with which the antecedent will deals, but the good here and now clothed in all its circumstances; for no good comes about except by the intention of slightest and easiest here and now, except by virtue of the accompanying consequent will, which is concerned with the good regarded here and now and infallibly produces it. Cf. our La prédestination des saints et la grâce, 1936, pp. 381-94. In thus explaining metaphysically the distinction of Damascene, reconciling it with the dogmas of divine omnipotence and predestination, St. Thomas shows the supreme, fundamental distinction between efficacious grace, which proceeds from the consequent will of God, and sufficient grace, which proceeds from His antecedent will.

20 Then it is final passive perseverance, requiring no cooperation, since an infant is not capable of cooperation.

21 Then it is perseverance not only passive but active, including at least a certain brief cooperation.

22 Cf. Tabulam auream, s.v. Perseverantia.

23 It is obvious that the divine withdrawal of efficacious grace is a punishment, and as a punishment it presupposes at least an initial fault or resistance to sufficient grace.  And on the other hand, even an initial fault presupposes the divine permission of it.  To confuse this divine permission with a divine refusal or with the withdrawal of efficacious grace is to set the punishment before the fault, and this is the cruelty which is found in Calvinism, condemned at the Council of Trent.


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