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



Having arrived at a definition of sanctifying grace, we must now consider the divisions of grace. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of this treatise, when we were establishing our terminology, we enumerated the various significations of created grace which may be reduced to the following outline.

In the present question St. Thomas examines the basis of these principal traditional divisions. He does so in five articles. The first and the last two deal with the graces gratis datae as compared with sanctifying grace; the second and third are concerned with the division into operative and cooperative grace, prevenient and subsequent grace, this latter division being the occasion for a discussion of efficacious and sufficient grace.




State of the question. This article endeavors to explain the text of I Cor. 12:8-10, wherein St. Paul enumerates nine graces gratis datae:

“To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith in the same spirit; to another the grace of healing in one Spirit: to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another the discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another interpretation of speeches”; and further (ibid., 12:31 and 13:1 f.): “I show unto you yet a more excellent way. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (Cf. St. Thomas on this Epistle.) From this contrast has arisen the traditional division between the graces gratis datae, also called charismata, and sanctifying grace. The statement of the question will be more manifest from the problems raised at the beginning of the article.

Reply. St. Thomas shows the appropriateness of this traditional twofold division.

1.  In the argument Sed contra, on the authority of St. Paul who attributes both characteristics to grace, namely, that of making us pleasing (“He hath graced us,” Ephes. 1:6) and that of being a gratuitous gift (Rom. 11:6). Hence grace may be differentiated according to whether it possesses but one of these notes, that is, being a free gift (and every grace is gratuitous) or both notes, not only that of being given freely, but also that of making us pleasing.

This is explained more clearly in the answer to the third objection: “Sanctifying grace adds something beyond the reason of graces gratis datae, . . . that is, it makes man pleasing to God. And therefore grace gratis data, which does not have this effect, retains merely the generic name,” just as brute beasts are called “animals”; the name of the genus is applied to the least distinguished member. Hence this division is between an affirmation and a negation. In other words, grace in general is defined as a supernatural gratuitous gift bestowed by God upon a rational creature; and grace thus defined is divided according to whether it renders him pleasing or does not. Thus grace gratis data is not opposed, strictly speaking, to the other, in the sense that it cannot be the object of merit, for neither can the first sanctifying grace be merited, nor the last, that is, final perseverance, nor eficacious actual grace to persevere in good acts throughout the course of life. Nevertheless, as stated in the body of the article, grace gratis data is granted over and above the merits of the person. (Cf. below, q. I 14.)

2. By a theological argument the appropriateness of the aforesaid divisions is proved from a consideration of the ends.

Since grace is ordained to the end that man may be restored to God, grace is twofold according to the twofold restoration to God. 

But the restoration to God is twofold, thus: 1. uniting man himself to God immediately, and this is effected by sanctifying grace; 2. not of itself uniting man to God, but causing him to cooperate in the salvation of others, and this is brought about by grace gratis data

Therefore this traditional division is correct. In other words, the union with God is either formal or only ministerial. This division is adequate since to render pleasing and not to render pleasing are contradictory opposites to one another and there can be no middle ground between them. Grace gratis data is per se primarily ordained to the salvation of others, or “unto profit.”1 Sanctifying grace is per se primarily ordained to the salvation of the recipient, whom it justifies.

It should be noted that these two statements are qualified as “per se primarily,” that is, essentially and immediately; however, grace gratis data may secondarily lead to the salvation of the recipient, provided, that is, it be employed by charity. Likewise, sanctifying grace may secondarily lead to the salvation of others through the example of virtue. But the primary end of each is the one assigned to it above.

Corollary. Unlike sanctifying grace, the graces gratis datae may sometimes be found in the wicked or sinners; for although sinners neglect their own salvation, they may procure the salvation of others and cooperate in it, after the manner of those who built Noah‘s ark and yet were submerged in the waters of the flood.

Thus Caiphas prophesied as one divinely inspired, saying “It is expedient . . . that one man die for the people” (John 11:50). Again, as narrated in the Book of Numbers (23:22 ff.), Balaam, although a soothsayer and idolater, received the gift of prophecy; likewise the sibyl, in spite of being a pagan. (Cf. IIa IIae, q. 172, a. 4); with respect to prophecy (q.178, a. 2), the wicked can perform miracles in order to confirm revealed truths; but if the gift of prophecy, which is the highest among the graces gratis datae, exists in the wicked, with still greater reason is this true of the others. Hence St. Paul himself says: “I chastise my body, . . . lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” (I Cor. 9:27). 

Doubt. Whether “sanctifying grace” can be taken in a twofold sense.

Reply. Undoubtedly. 1. Strictly, it refers to habitual grace, distinct from the infused virtues, by which we are justified or formally rendered pleasing to God. 2. Broadly, it includes that which is ordained to the justification of its subject, whether antecedently as stimulating grace which disposes us for justification, or concomitantly, or consequently, as, for example, supernatural helps, the infused virtues, the gifts, the increase of grace, and glory, which is the consummation of grace. In the present question sanctifying grace is thus broadly taken in contrast to grace gratis data. And thus the aforesaid division is adequate. Vasquez did not take this extended use of the term into account when, in commenting on the article, he declared this division to be insufficient since faith, hope, and actual helps could not be found under either of its members. Hence sanctifying grace is identical here with the “grace of the virtues and gifts with their proportionate helps,” which St. Thomas speaks of (IIIa, q. 62, a. I): whether sacramental grace adds something over and above the grace of the virtues and gifts. Indeed to sanctifying grace also belong the sacramental graces which are the proper effects of the sacraments; for example, baptismal grace, the grace of absolution, of confirmation, nutritive grace (cf.p. 148 above).

Corollary. It is of great importance to determine clearly whether infused or mystical contemplation, according as it is distinguished from private revelations, visions, and even from words of wisdom or knowledge, pertains to sanctifying grace and is in the normal way to sanctity, or to the graces gratis datae as something extraordinary. Theologians generally teach that infused contemplation belongs to sanctifying grace, or to the grace of the virtues and gifts; it is something not properly extraordinary but eminent, for its proceeds not from prophecy but from the gifts of wisdom and understanding as they exist in the perfect. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 180, on contemplative life, after he considered graces gratis datae in particular.2


Let us pass immediately to articles four and five which deal with the same material, because afterwards there will be a longer consideration of articles 2 and 3 with reference to operative and cooperative grace, sufficient and efficacious grace.






State of the question. St. Paul here enumerates nine graces gratis datae. St. Thomas shows the appropriateness of this division. Many Thomists, Gonet among them, hold this division to be adequate; so also does Mazella. On the other hand, Medina, Vasquez, Bellarmine, Suarez, and Ripalda do not consider this division all-embracing, but maintain that St. Paul was enumerating only the principal graces.  Suarez would further add to them the priestly character, jurisdiction in the internal forum, and the special assistance conferred upon the Sovereign Pontiff.

St. Thomas seems to judge the enumeration given by St. Paul to be entirely sufficient and he defends it brilliantly in a remarkable discussion both here and in his commentary on I Cor. 12 (cf. De revelatione, I, 209).

It should be noted that St. Thomas, treating of these graces in particular (IIa IIae, q. 171-79) in that case divides them according as they pertain either to knowledge or to speech or to action; and under the heading “prophecy” he includes all those which refer to the knowledge of divine things, except words of wisdom and knowledge. For those which pertain to prophecy are knowable only by divine revelation, whereas whatever is included under words of wisdom and science and interpretation of speeches can be known by man through his natural reason, although they are manifested in a higher mode by the illumination of divine light.

Confirmation from the refutation of objections.

1. The graces gratis datae exceed the power of nature, as when a fisherman is fluent in words of wisdom and science; they are thus differentiated from the natural gifts of God which likewise do not make us pleasing to God.

2. The faith of which it is a question here is not the theological virtue present in all the faithful, but a supereminent certitude of faith by which a man is rendered capable of instructing others in the things that pertain to faith.

3. The grace of healing, the gift of tongues, and the interpretation of speeches possess a certain special motivation impelling faith, according as they excite admiration or gratitude. In the grace of healing the benignity of God toward the misery of man shines forth; in the performance of miracles, such as the opening of a passage through the sea or the stopping of the sun in its course, the omnipotence of God appears.

4. Wisdom and knowledge are included among the graces gratis datae not because they are gifts of the Holy Ghost, but because, by means of them, a man may instruct others and vanquish his opponents. Therefore they are purposely set down in the present enumeration as utterances of wisdom or knowledge. (Cf. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 45, a. 5 and on I Cor. 12, lect. 2.)

According to Thomists, in opposition to Suarez, the sacramental character and jurisdiction in the internal forum, and the assistance of the Holy Ghost do not belong to the graces gratis datae, but to the ministries and operations which St. Paul himself distinguishes from the graces gratis datae.“There are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but the same God.” And they are indeed distinguished, as Billuart observes, inasmuch as grace gratis data concerns only an act which manifests faith, whereas ministration or the ministry refers to the authority to perform some act with respect to other men, such as the apostolate, the episcopate, the priesthood, or any other dignity. An operation, moreover, is the exercise of a ministry. Thus in the Old Testament priests and prophets were differentiated.

Doubt. Whether the aforesaid graces gratis datae reside in man after the manner of a habit or rather as a transient movement. (Cf.  Gonet, De essentia gratiae.)

Reply. Gonet replies: Generally they are present as transient movements, such as the gift of prophecy, the grace of healing or of prodigies, the discerning of spirits. This is evident from the fact that a prophet or wonderworker does not prophesy or work miracles whenever he wills. (Cf. IIa IIae, q. 171, a. 2.)

However, according to the same authority, faith, words of wisdom and of knowledge do exist after the manner of habits, since one who receives them uses them when he so wills.

In Christ all these graces were present as habits for two reasons.

1. On account of the hypostatic union He was an instrument united to the divinity.

2. He had supreme power, by reason of which He disposed of all creatures and hence at will He could perform miracles or cast out demons, as explained in the treatise on the Incarnation, IIIa, q. 7, a. 7 ad I.




This question is of great importance with respect to mystical theology; for example,  which are higher among the works of St. Theresa, those which pertain to sanctifying grace or those pertaining to graces gratis datae?

State of the question. It seems that grace gratis data is superior: 1. because the good of the Church in general, to which graces gratis datae are ordained, is higher than the good of one man, to which sanctifying grace is ordered; 2. because that which is capable of enlightening others is of greater value than that which only perfects oneself; it is better to enlighten than merely to shine; and 3. because the graces gratis datae are not given to all Christians, but to the more worthy members of the Church, especially to the saints. However, in spite of these arguments, St. Thomas’ conclusion is in the negative; and so is that of theologians generally.

The reply is: Sanctifying grace is much more excellent than grace gratis data.

First proof, from the authority of St. Paul, who, after enumerating the graces gratis datae, continues: “And I show unto you yet a more excellent way. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.  And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing’’ (I Cor. 12:31-13:2). But prophecy is the highest of all the graces gratis datae (cf. IIa IIae, q.171), and this is said to be below charity, which pertains to sanctifying grace. Therefore.

In his commentary on the first Epistle to the Corinthians (chap. 13), St. Thomas thus explains the words “I am nothing,” that is, with respect to the being of grace, described in Ephesians (2:10): “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works”; likewise II Cor. 5:17, and Gal. 6:15.3

In the same place it is shown that charity surpasses all these charismata in three respects:

1. From necessity, since without charity, the other gratuitous gifts do not suffice.

2.  From utility, since it is through charity that every evil is avoided and every good work performed. “Charity is patient, . . . beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

3. From its permanence, for “charity never falleth away,” as St. Paul declares, whether prophecies shall be made void or tongues shall cease. Hence charity is said to be the bond of perfection uniting the soul to God and gathering together all other virtues to ordain them toward God. Therefore can Augustine say: “Love and do what you will.”

Second proof from theological argument.

The excellence of any virtue is higher according as it is ordained to a higher end; and the end is superior to the means.

But sanctifying grace ordains men immediately to union with his final end; and the graces gratis datae ordain him toward something preparatory to his final end, since by miracles and prophecies men are led to conversion.

Therefore sanctifying grace is much more excellent than grace gratis data.

In a word, sanctifying grace unites man immediately to God, who dwells in him; on the other hand, grace gratis data serves only to dispose others for union with God. This argument appears even more profound when we observe that sanctifying grace, inasmuch as it unites man immediately to God, his final supernatural end, is supernatural substantially. It is indeed the root of the theological virtues which are immediately specified by their formal supernatural object (objectum formale quo et quod), and it is the seed of glory, the beginning of eternal life which is essentially supernatural.

On the contrary, the graces gratis datae are generally supernatural. only with respect to the mode of their production, in the same way as miracles. As a matter of fact, with respect to this supernaturalness, the division of the charismata corresponds to the division of miracles given by St. Thomas (Ia, q. 105, a. 8); the comparison may be made as follows:

Thus the great difference becomes evident between the supernatural substantially and the miraculous substantially; in the former “substantially” means formally, by virtue of its formal object; in the latter “substantially” means effectively, or concerning an effect the substance of which cannot be produced by a created cause in any manner or in any subject, such, for instance, as the glorification of the body. 

Hence below intrinsically supernatural knowledge, such as the beatific vision or infused faith, there exist the following three kinds of effectively supernatural knowledge the object of which is intrinsically natural.

1. Effectively, with respect to the substance of cognition, such as the prophetic knowledge of future natural events taking place at a remote time. This exceeds every created intellect, not by reason of the essential supernaturalness of its object, as would be that of the Trinity, but by reason of the uncertainty or indetermination of the future, for example, the date when some war would end.

2. Effectively, with respect to the subject in which it resides, such as the knowledge of a natural object already actually existing, but removed in regard to place or exceeding the faculty of vision of this particular man, although not of all men (IIa IIae, q. 171, a. 3). Likewise the knowledge of the secrets of hearts which are known nat-urally by the person whose secrets they are.

3.  Effectively, modally, such as the instantaneous knowledge of some human science or unknown tongue without human study. Thus the supernaturalness of prophecy is of an inferior order to the supernaturalness of divine faith. Therefore St. Thomas says (III Sent., d. 24, a. 1 ad 3): “Although prophecy and faith treat of the same matter, such as the passion of Christ, they do not do so in the same way; for faith considers the Passion formally under the aspect of something which borders on the eternal, that is, according as it was God who suffered, although materially it considers a temporal event. This is not true of prophecy.”

But what has been said of the supernaturalness of prophecy, the highest of all the graces gratis datae, can be said of all the charismata, as is very evident in the case of the gift of tongues, the grace of healing, the performing of prodigies, and the discernment of spirits. The same may be said of utterances of wisdom and knowledge and of the interpretation of speech, for these latter three supply in a supernatural way for what would be attained naturally by acquired theology or hermeneutics. Thus, in general, the charismata are supernatural modally only, and therefore sanctifying grace, which is supernatural substantially, as a participation in the divine nature, is “much more excellent,’’ as St. Thomas declares.

Confirmation of the aforesaid conclusion from the refutation of objections.

First objection. The common good of the Church is better than the good of one man. But sanctifying grace is ordained only to the good of one, whereas grace gratis data is ordered to the common good of the Church. Therefore.

Reply. The major is to be distinguished: the common good which is in the Church is below the separated common good, that is, God: granted; otherwise, denied.

I distinguish the minor: sanctifying grace is ordained to the good of the individual and also to the separate common good, that is, to God to whom it unites us immediately: granted; otherwise, denied. 

Hence, above the common good of the Church, which is the ecclesiastical order, there is the separate common good, which is God Himself, to whom sanctifying grace unites us immediately. Similarly, above the common good of an army, which is its order, there is the common good considered separately, namely, the good of the country.

On this account St. Thomas says later (IIa IIae, q. 182, a. 1-4) that contemplative life, which is immediately ordained to the love and praise of God, is, in an absolute sense, better, higher, and more meritorious than the active life, which is ordained toward the love of neighbor and to the common good of the Church not considered apart. Therefore did Christ say (Luke 10:42): “Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Many moderns would do well to read this response to the first objection.

Again St. Thomas declares (IIa IIae, q. 182, a. I ad I): “It not only pertains to prelates to lead the active life, but they should also excel in the contemplative life”; which St. Gregory had already expressed in the words: “Let the leader be eminent in action, and sustained in contemplation above all others.”

Second objection. It is better to enlighten others than merely to be enlightened; but by the graces gratis datae man enlightens others; by sanctifying grace he is only enlightened himself. Therefore. 

Reply. I distinguish the major: it is better than merely to be enlightened to enlighten others formally: granted; to enlighten others merely by disposing them: denied.

I distinguish the minor: that man, by grace gratis data, enlightens others formally: denied; by disposing them, granted; on the contrary he is formally enlightened by sanctifying grace.

For, by the graces gratis datae man cannot produce sanctifying grace in another, but only offer him certain disposing or preparatory factors toward justification, such as preaching to him or performing miracles. God alone directly or through His sacraments infuses sanctifying grace. Similarly, in the natural order, St. Thomas maintains, the heat by which fire acts is not more estimable than the form of fire itself.

I insist. Then St. Thomas was wrong when he said later (IIa IIae, q. 188, a. 6) that the apostolic or mixed life “proceeding from the fullness of contemplation is to be preferred absolutely to contemplation, since it is a greater thing to enlighten than merely to shine.”

Reply. The apostolic life is preferred to simple contemplation inasmuch as it includes this and something more; on the contrary, grace gratis data does not include sanctifying grace and something more. 

Third objection. That which is proper to the more perfect is better than that which is common to all. But the graces gratis datae are gifts proper to the more perfect members of the Church. Therefore they are higher than the grace common to all the just, as reasoning power is superior to sensation.

Reply. There is a disparity, for sensation (which is common to all animals) is ordained to ratiocination. But on the contrary the graces gratis datae (which are proper) are ordained to the conversion of men, in other words, to sanctifying or justifying grace.

First corollary. Sanctifying grace or the grace of the virtues and gifts belongs to the normal supernatural. But it exists in three degrees, that of beginners, proficients, and perfect; in other words, the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways, the last being the age of maturity of the spiritual life.

Second corollary. The graces gratis datae belong to the extraordinary supernatural, so called not so much in relation to the Church as to the individual, for example, private revelations, visions, and internal words pertaining to prophecy.

Third corollary. Infused contemplation, proceeding from the gifts of wisdom and understanding as they exist in the perfect, is therefore not something extraordinary, like prophetic revelation, but something normal and eminent, that is, in the normal way of sanctification. 

Fourth corollary. Cajetan In llam llae, q. 178, a.2 (quoted by Father Del Prado, De gratia et libero arbitrio, p. 268): “It is a most pernicious error to consider the gift of God in the working of miracles to be greater than in the works of justice. And this, contrary to the popular idea and common error of humankind, which judges men who perform miracles to be saints and, as it were, gods, whereas these dullminded people have almost no esteem whatever for just men. The complete opposite ought to be considered of high value, as it truly is.” Although the sanctity of the servants of God is outwardly manifested by miracles, the saint who performs more miracles than another is not, on that account, a greater saint.

Fifth corollary. Del Prado (op. cit., p. 261): “The graces gratis datae may exist without sanctifying grace for the manifesting of divine truth; for of themselves they do not justify. Hence St. Thomas says, commenting on I Cor. (13, lect. 1): ‘It is obvious with regard to prophecy and faith, that they may be possessed without charity. But it is to be remarked here that firm faith, even without charity, produces miracles. Wherefore the apostle Matthew (7:22), in reply to those who will ask: ‘Have we not prophesied in Thy name  . . . and done many miracles?’ declares that our Lord will reply: ‘I never knew you.’ For the Holy Ghost works prodigies even by the wicked, just as He speaks truth through them.”

Sixth corollary. However, the graces gratis datae are, in the saints, also a manifestation of their sanctity (Del Prado, ibid.); cf. St.  Thomas on I Cor. (12, lect. 2); whence it is said in Acts (6:8) that “Stephen, full of grace and fortitude, did great wonders and signs among the people.”





State of the question. This article explains the division made by St. Augustine (De gratia et libero arbitrio, chap. 17); it should be carefully studied, for Molina maintains (Concordia, q. 14, a. 13, disp.  42, p. 242) that St. Thomas misinterprets Augustine. After giving his own interpretation, Molina says: “This is manifest in the clearest light, although Augustine has been understood otherwise by St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q. III, a. 2 and 3), by Soto and by certain others.” In fact, Molina attempts to demonstrate (ibid., p. 243) that Augustine cannot be interpreted in any other way, in the light of faith. Since this is a most serious charge, the question must be considered attentively.

The principal point at issue between Thomists and Molinists on this subject may be formulated thus: For Molina (Concordia, p. 565), Suarez 4 and their disciples, operative actual grace urges only by moral, and not by physical, impulsion, and leads only to indeliberate acts, but never of itself alone to free choice or consent. But cooperative actual grace, according to Molina, produces, by moral impulsion, a free choice, with simultaneous concurrence, in such a way that man is determined by himself alone. Thus man and God seem to be rather two causes acting coordinately, like two men rowing a boat, than two causes of which one is subordinate, acting under the impulsion of the superior cause.

For Thomists, on the other hand, operative actual grace does not merely urge by moral impulsion, but operates physically as well, with respect to the performance of an act and sometimes even leads to free choice; that is, when man cannot move himself to this choice deliberately by virtue of a previous higher act, such as the moment of conversion to God or the acts of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which proceed from a special inspiration. Cooperative actual grace, moreover, is also a physical impulsion under which man, by virtue of a previous act of willing the end, moves himself to will the means to the end.

Let us examine: 1. the text of St. Augustine, 2. the interpretation of Molina, 3. the article of St. Thomas referred to and also the reply to objections (Ia IIae, q. 9, a. 6 ad 3). The teaching of St. Thomas will be defended.

1. St. Augustine. The text of St. Augustine (De gratia et libero arbitrio, chap. 17) reads thus: “God Himself works so that we may will at the beginning what, once we are willing, He cooperates in perfecting; therefore does the Apostle say: ‘Being confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 1:6). That we should will therefore, He accomplishes without us; but when we do will, and so will as to do, He cooperates with us.”

2. Molina’s opinion. For Molina, operative grace is nothing more than prevenient grace morally urging us; cooperative grace assists us.  Hence, according to Molina, “a person assisted by the help of less grace may be converted, although another with greater help does not become converted and continues to be obdurate.” Cf. Concordia p.565.

As Father Del Prado observes (De gratia, I, 226): “Molina departs from the ways of St. Thomas in the explanation of the nature of divine grace, operative and cooperative, and refuses to admit that the grace of God alone transforms the wills of men or that only God opens the heart. Consequently, whether Molina will have it or not, although it is God who stands at the gate and knocks, it is man who begins to open and man alone who, in fact, does open it . . . Hence the beginning of consent, for Molina, resides in man, who alone determines himself to will, whereas God, who stands at the gate knocking, awaits his will.” Before this beginning of consent proceeding from us alone, Molina maintains, however, against the Semi-Pelagians, that there are moral divine impulsions drawing us as well as the indeliberate movement of our will, but that they are equal and even stronger in him who is not converted.

This is corroborated by some of his well-known propositions; for instance, in the Concordia under the heading “auxilium” in the index, we read: “It may happen that with equal assistance, one of those who are called may be converted and another not converted” (p. 51).  Furthermore, “he who is helped by the aid of less grace may be con-verted, although another with more does not become converted and perseveres in his obstinacy” (p. 565). Hence, as Lessius declares, “not that he who accepts does so by his freedom alone (since there was grace attracting him), but that the turning point arose from his freedom alone and thus not from a diversity of prevenient helps.” (Cf.  Salmanticenses, De gratia, tr. XIV, disp. 7.)

St. Thomas, on the contrary, referring to the words of St. Matthew (25:15), “And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one,” comments: “He who makes more effort has more grace, but the fact that he makes more effort requires a higher cause.” Again, with reference to the Epistle to the Ephesians (4:7), “to everyone of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ,” he repeats this observation, and similarly in Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 4, on whether grace is equal in all men.

The root of the disagreement is manifold, but the principal point of contention is the one mentioned by Molina himself in the Concordia (q.14, a. 13, disp. 26, p. 152). “There are two difficulties, it seems to me, in the teaching of St. Thomas (Ia, q. 105, a. 5); the first is that I do not see what can be that impulse and its application to secondary causes, by which God moves and applies them to act . . . Wherefore I confess frankly that it is very difficult for me to understand this impulsion and application which St. Thomas requires in secondary causes.

But, as Father Del Prado observes (op. cit., p. 227): “In this article, such application and impulsion is clearly affirmed even in free secondary causes, and so, with respect to the interior act of the free will, ‘the will is situated as moved only and not as moving, God alone being the Mover. Here, as we shall presently see, physical premotion conquers, rules, and triumphs. Thence proceed the anger and the unmentioned recriminations which Molina gives vent to against the teaching of St. Thomas, under the pretense of vindicating St. Augustine.”

For Molina holds (Concordia, disp. 42, p. 242) that according to St. Augustine (De gratia et libero arbitrio, chap. 17) “whatever God effects in us that is supernatural, until the moment when He leads us to the gift of justification, whether we cooperate in it by our free will or not, is called ‘operative grace’; that, however, by which He henceforth assists us to fulfill the whole law and persevere . . . is called ‘cooperative grace.’. . . And this is plainly the sense and intention of Augustine in this place when he draws a distinction between operative and cooperative grace, which will be obvious in the clearest light to anyone examining that chapter, notwithstanding the fact that St. Thomas understands Augustine otherwise in the two articles quoted (Ia IIae, q. III, a. 2 and 3), as well as Soto (De natura et gratia, Bk. I, chap. 16) and some others.”

However, Molina is obliged to explain on the following page (p. 243) the words of St. Paul to the Philippians (2:13): “It is God who works in you, both to will and accomplish,” with regard to which Augustine had said: “Therefore, that we will is brought about by God, without us; but when we will, and so will as to act, He cooperates with us.” With regard to this text, Molina says: “But neither does Augustine mean to assert that we do not cooperate toward willing, by which we are justified, or that it is not effected by us, but by God alone. That certainly would be both contrary to faith and opposed to the teaching of Augustine himself in many other places.”

Referring to these last words of Molina, Father Del Prado (op. cit.  I, 226) declares: “Does St. Thomas teach something contrary to faith in drawing the distinction between operative and cooperative grace? . . . From the lofty and profound teaching of St. Thomas propounded in this article, wherein all is truth and brilliance, does something follow which is contrary to the Catholic faith and the teaching of Augustine himself? . . . Molina departs from the ways of St. Thomas (since he will not admit that God applies and moves the will beforehand, but). . . . He holds that, while God, drawing the soul morally, stands at the gate and knocks, it is man who begins to open, and man alone who actually does open.” In the Apocalypse (3:20) we read: “I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear My voice, and open to Me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” But man does not open it alone; he opens in fact according as God knocks efficaciously. Otherwise how would the words of St. Paul be verified: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” In the business of salvation, not everything would then be from God.

Conclusion with respect to Molina’s opinion. For Molina and Suarez and the Molinists in general, operative grace is nothing else but prevenient grace which urges morally, but does not really assist,5 and only cooperative grace assists the soul.6 Suarez himself admits this. For the beginning of consent, according to Molina, comes from man, who alone determines himself to will; while God almost waits for our consent. Indeed, for Molina, “he who is aided by the help of less grace may be converted, whereas another, with greater help, is not converted and persists in his obduracy” (op. cit., p. 365).

Thus the salient point at issue, as Father Del Prado says (op. cit., I, 223), is: “Whether the free will of man, when moved by the gratuitous impulsion of God to accept and receive the gift of the grace of justification, at that very instant of justification, in in a condition of being moved only, and not of moving, while God alone moves. When God stands at the gate of the heart and knocks, that we may open to Him, is it man who alone opens his heart, or God who begins to open and is the first to open and, having opened, confers upon us that we, too, may ourselves open to Him?” This is the question which St. Thomas solves in that celebrated article 2 and explains more fully below, in question 113. But Molina jumps from what precedes our justification to what follows it, and is not willing to examine the very moment when the free will of man is moved by God, through the love of charity, and from one who is averse to Him is made a convert to Him, and is intrinsically transformed by God who infuses sacnctifiying grace.” This is the crux of the present controversy.

3. St. Thomas’ opinion. St. Thomas rightly interprets St. Augustine (cf. Del Prado, op. cit. I, 224 and 202); for Augustine declares:7 “God, cooperating with us, perfects what He began by operating in us; because in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and cooperates to perfect the work with us once we are willing. For this reason the Apostles say (Phil. 1:6): ‘Being confident of this very thing, that He, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus.’ That we should will is, therefore, accomplished without us; but once we are willing, and willing to such an extent that we act, He cooperates with us; however, without either His operation or His cooperation once we will, we are incapable of any good works of piety. With regard to His bringing it about that we will, it is said in Philippians (2:13): ‘For it is God who worketh in you,  . . . to will.’ But of His cooperation, when we already are willing and willingly act, it is said: ‘We know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good’ (Rom. 8:28).” St. Augustine reiterates this opinion in chapters 5 and 14 of the same book. 

Again, writing to Boniface (Bk. II, chap. 9): “God accomplishes many good things in man which man does not accomplish (operative grace); but man does nothing good which God does not enable him to do (cooperative grace).” This is observed by the Council of Orange (c. 20, Denz., no. 193).

Moreover, according to Augustine, operative grace is not simply grace urging equally him who is converted and him who is not, for Augustine repeats in several places, with reference to predestination: “Why does He draw this man and not that? Do not judge if you do not wish to err” (Super Joan., tr. 26; cf. Ia, q. 23, a. 5). This teaching of Augustine is mentioned by St. Gregory (Moral., Bk. XVI, chap. 10) and by St. Bernard (De gratia et libero arbitrio, chap. 14); both are quoted by Del Prado (op. cit., I, 203).

In article 2 of the present question there are two conclusions, one concerning actual grace and the other habitual grace.8

First conclusion. Actual grace is properly divided into operative and cooperative grace. 

a) Council of Orange. Above and beyond the aforesaid authority of St. Augustine, this conclusion is supported by the Council of Orange (Denz., no. 177, can. 4): “It must be acknowledged that God does not wait upon our wills to cleanse us from sin, but also that we should wish to be cleansed by the infusion and operation of the Holy Ghost in us.” In canon 23 it is said that God prepares our wills that they may desire the good. Again (can. 25, Denz., no. 200): “In every good work, it is not we who begin . . . but He (God) first inspires us with faith and love of Him, through no preceding merit on our part.” All these texts pertain to operative grace, as does the beginning of canon 20 (Denz., no. 193), as follows: “God does many good works in man which man himself does not do.” But the second part of this canon applies to cooperative grace, thus: “But man does no good works which God does not enable him to do.”

b ) Theological proof.

An operation is not attributed to the thing moved, but to the mover; for example, the fact that a cart is drawn is attributed to the horse. 

But in the first interior act, the will is situated as moved only, whereas God is the mover; whereas in the exterior act, ordered by the will, the will is both moved and moves.

Therefore in the first act the operation is attributed to God, and therefore the grace is termed operative; in the second act the operation is attributed not only to God, but also to the soul, and the grace is termed cooperative.

The major is clear with regard to an inanimate thing that is moved, as the cart is moved by the horse, but if the thing moved is a living thing and the operation is a vital act, it is elicited, indeed, from it. Thus, the very first act of the will is elicited vitally from it; however, the will is not said to move itself to it, properly speaking, since, as explained above (Ia IIae, 9.9, a.3), “the will, by the very fact that it desires the end, moves itself to will those things which conduce to the end; just as the intellect, by the fact that it knows a principle, reduces itself from potency to act, with respect to the knowledge of the conclusion.” To move oneself is, indeed, to reduce oneself from potency to act. Hence it is not to be wondered at that, in this act wherein the will cannot move itself by virtue of a previous effcacious act of the same order, it should be referred to as moved only, and the operation attributed to God.

The minor needs explanation. What is this interior act? It is manifold. It is that first of all by which we desire happiness in general, and for this, supernatural help is not required (cf. Ia IIae, q. 9, a. 4, c. 2); it is particularly, according to St. Thomas (ibid.), “that the will which previously desired evil now begins to will the good.” This is explained (IIa, q. 86, a. 6 ad I): “The effect of operative grace is justification of the wicked, as stated in Ia IIae, q. 113, a. 1-3, which [justification] consists not only in the infusion of grace and the remission of sins, but also a movement of the free will toward God, which is the act of formed faith, and a movement of the free will in relation to sin, which is the act of penance. But these human acts are present as effects of operative grace, produced in the same way as the remission of sins. Hence the remission of sin is not accomplished without an act of the virtue of penance, even if it is the effect of operative grace.” These acts are therefore vital, rather are they even free, but the will does not move itself toward them, strictly speaking, by virtue of a previous eflicacious act of the same order, since beforehand, a prior act of this kind did not exist.

The following synopsis, which we have already given in the introduction and which can now be explained, should be read in an ascending order, from the natural to the supernatural.

We explained this elsewhere (Christian Perfection and Contemplation, p. 285). From the same point of view Father Del Prado has made an excellent study of the present article (op. cit., I, 206, 235; II, 220); and before him, Cajetan, commenting on this article, as well as Soto, Lemos, and Billuart.

Wherefore St. Thomas declares in the reply to the second objection: “Through the movement of the free will, when we are justified, we consent to the justice of God.” But man does not move himself, properly speaking, to justification; he is moved to it, freely of course, but moved nonetheless; hence it is the effect of operative, not cooperative grace.9

This operative grace given at the instant of justification is, as Father Del Prado states (ibid., II, 220), a kind of introduction to all the free movements toward the good, meritorious for salvation, a quasi door into the supernatural order, and, as it were, the first step in the work of divine predestination. And this first act of charity is rather a simple willing of the final end than election, for election as such, properly so called, belongs to those things that are means to an end. Cf. IIa IIae, q. 24, a. I ad 3: “Charity, the object of which is the final end, should rather be said to reside in the will than in free choice.” Hence operative grace includes not only vocation to the Christian life or the prompting by which God knocks at the gate (wherein our cooperation is non-existent; they precede our consent at any time whatever), but also the movement by which we are justified, freely consenting to it.  Thus we read in Ezechiel (36:25f.): “I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness . . . . And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh.” Again in the Acts of the Apostles (16:14): “whose heart [Lydia’s] the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul.”

Hence, when God says (Apoc. 3:20): “Behold, I stand at the gate and knock,” it is not man who begins to open and separates himself from sinners. Rather, as God opened the heart of Lydia, so does He open the heart of any of the just at the instant of justification. “God begins to open, He first opens, and in doing so, confers upon us that we, too, may open to Him,” as Father Del Prado so well expresses it (op. cit., I, 223).

The third example of operative grace is the special inspiration we receive with docility by means of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to Cajetan (cf. Ia IIae, q. 68, a. 1-3), since “the gifts are certain habits by which man is perfected so as to obey the Holy Ghost promptly. . . . But man, thus acted upon by the Holy Ghost, also acts, according as it is by free choice,” as stated in the same article 3,  ad 2. Hence these operations proceeding from the gifts, for instance, from the gift of piety in the will, are vital, free, and meritorious, and yet the will does not, properly speaking, move itself to perform them, as it moves itself by deliberation to works of virtue in a human manner, but is specially moved by the Holy Ghost. This is well explained by St. Thomas in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (8:14, lect. 3), a beautiful commentary on the present article. Regarding the words: “Whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,” he writes as follows: “They are said to be led who are moved by some superior instinct: thus we say of brutes, not that they act, but that they are led or impelled to act, since they are moved by natural instinct, and not by personal movement, to perform their actions.  Likewise the spiritual man is inclined to perform some act, not, as it were, mainly by the movement of his own will, but by an instinct of the Holy Ghost.” This does not, however, prevent spiritual men from using their will and free choice, since what the Holy Ghost causes in them is precisely the movement of their will and free choice, according to Phil. 2:13: “For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish.”

In the explanation of the minor, we now come to the question of cooperative grace. This is conferred for good works in which our will is not only moved, but moves itself, that is, when, already actually willing the final supernatural end, it converts itself to willing the means conducive to that end. This act is said to be external, although it may be only internal, since it is commanded by the will in virtue of a previous efficacious act of the same order. Thus it is in the use of the infused virtues, by deliberation properly so called, that the act is performed in the human mode, for example, when the will commands an act of justice or religion or fortitude or temperance, by virtue of a previous act of love of God. Not only are these acts vital, free, and meritorious, but the will properly moves toward them or “determines itself to will this or that,” as is said in the well-known reply to the third objection, Ia IIae, q. 9, a. 6.

It is this cooperative grace that is referred to in Sacred Scripture; indeed there is even a comparison made with operative grace; for example, in Ezech. 36:27: “And I will put My spirit in the midst of you [operative grace]: and I will cause you to walk in My commandments, and to keep My judgments, and do them [cooperative grace].” Again in I Cor. 15:10: “But by the grace of God, I am what I am [operative grace]; and His grace in me hath not been void, but I have labored more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” This latter is cooperative grace.

The Angelic Doctor always speaks in harmony with these texts. According to him, under operative grace, the will elicits its act vitally, in fact, it freely consents to the divine motion or inspiration, but it does not strictly move itself by its own proper activity in virtue of a previous efficacious act of the same order, for this previous efficacious act is wanting at that time; for example, in justification, in the acts of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, such as the gift of piety. With respect to justification, St. Thomas declares (Ia IIae, q. III, a. 2 ad 2): “God does not justify us without ourselves, since by the movement of free will when we are justified we consent to the justice of God. However, this movement is not the cause of grace, but its effect; hence the whole action pertains to grace.” Again, he states (IIIa, q. 86, a. 4 ad 2): It pertains to grace to operate in man, justifying him from sin, and to cooperate with man in right action. Therefore the remission of sins and of the guilt deserving of eternal punishment belongs to operative grace, but the remission of guilt which merits temporal punishment pertains to cooperative grace, that is, according as man, enduring sufferings patiently with the help of divine grace, is also absolved from the guilt of temporal punishment, . . . the first effect is from grace alone, the second from grace and free will.” (See also q. 86, a. 6 ad  I.) It is previously declared (9.85, a. 5 c.): “Penance as a habit is immediately infused by God, without any principal operation on our part, but not however without our disposing ourselves to cooperate by some acts.”

Conclusion of Father Del Prado (op. cit., I, 21 I ): By operative grace God operates in us without our acting or moving ourselves, but not without our consent. Cf. a. 2: Thus in the instant of justification and in the operation of the seven gifts. In fact, certain operative grace is even antecedent in time to our consent, such, for instance, as vocation and admonition when God stands at the gate and knocks before it is opened. Here, however, the free consent may, broadly speaking, be called cooperation on our part; but not in the strict and formal sense in which the term is used by St. Thomas in this article. On the contrary, by cooperative grace, God works in us, not only with our consent, but with our action or motion. This is the Thomistic interpretation of St. Augustine’s teaching; it is eminently profound and in full conformity with faith.

Corollary. Thus the opposition between St. Thomas’ doctrine and that of heresy is manifest. Of the operative actual grace by which we are justified (cf. Del Prado, op. cit., I, 213): Calvin holds that free will is moved without any action on its own part, and is merely passive.  Jansen holds that free will is moved necessarily, and cannot resist even if it wills to do so; Pelagius holds that free will begins to move itself to this first volition; Molina holds 1. that free will is moved by virtuous, indeliberate impulses which, willy-nilly, are supernatural. 2. Then it begins to deliberate within itself, freely accepting them. In his first contention, Molina borders on Jansenism; in the second he does not seem sufficiently removed from Pelagius. In both respects, the opinion of Molina deviates from the teaching of St. Thomas. As declared in the reply to the third objection, grace is not called “cooperative” in the sense that God here places Himself in the position of a secondary agent; He ever remains the principal agent. But the will also moves itself in this case “once the end is taken for granted” in the intended act, and God assists it in the pursuit of this intended end.

The second conclusion is that habitual grace can also be referred to as operative and cooperative (cf. end of article) since it has two effects:1. it justifies the soul; this is operative grace, not effectively but formally, that is, it makes pleasing, just as whiteness makes a thing white, as stated in the reply to the first objection; 2. it is the root principle of meritorious works, which proceed from the free will; in this sense it is cooperative.

First doubt, arising from the reply to the fourth objection (cf. Del Prado, op. cit., I, 228): Whether operative and cooperative grace may be the same grace.

Reply. Yes, if it is a question of habitual grace, which is at the same time justifying (formally) and the root principle of meritorious works. This is clearly stated here in the answer to the fourth objection and in article 3 ad 2, where it is clearly a question of habitual grace, which is said to remain numerically the same in glory, where it is consummated. Cf. also De veritate, q. 27, a. 5 ad I, and IIIa, q. 60, a. 2; q. 72, a. 7. Sacramental grace is a mode of habitual grace and is applied with various effects.

But if the question is about actual grace, then operative grace and cooperative grace are not one and the same numerically; for the reason is the same for actual grace and for the act of the will, of which it is the principle and beginning. But the act is twofold, interior wherein the will does not move itself, exterior wherein it does. Therefore there are likewise two actual graces, for actual grace passes and ceases with the very operation toward which it moves. John of St. Thomas and the Salmanticenses hold this opinion.

In fact sometimes, after an act proceeding from operative grace, there is not elicited an act for which cooperative grace is required, as is evident in the case of one who, immediately after absolution and justification, sins, by not performing the act of virtue which he ought to perform. In such a one, operative grace efficaciously produced justification freely accepted, but it did not produce the following act.  To produce it a new actual grace is required, that is, cooperative grace, for there is a new passage from potency to act, and whatever is moved to a new supernatural act, is moved supernaturally by another.

Operative actual grace and cooperative actual grace are therefore distinct, since at times the first is given without the second or vice versa. But if the superior and inferior acts are simultaneous, as in infused contemplation which is prolonged by some discourse, or an inspiration of the gift of council which is simultaneous with an act of prudence, then perhaps it suffices that operative grace should be given, provided that, according to God’s decree, it contains cooperative grace eminently; it is then more perfect than if it did not contain it. Second doubt. Whether operative actual grace requires a twofold motion, namely, moral on the part of the object and physical on the part of the subject. (Cf. Del Prado, op. cit., I, 233.)

Reply. I reply in the affirmative, together with John of St. Thomas and Father Del Prado; for operative grace first enlightens the intellect, then touches the will and causes a sudden desire for the object proposed through the representation of the intellect; and this is the in-spiration that opens the heart, as the heart of Lydia was “opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Hence operative grace not only excites by moral movement, but also operates physically, so that by it the heart of man is opened and led not only to indeliberate acts but sometimes to consent as well, for example, in justification or in acts of the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Third doubt. What are the effects of operative grace in us? There are three. (Cf. Father Del Prado, op. cit., I, 234.)

1. The enlightenment of the intellect and the objective pulsation of the heart: this is a moral movement prior to any consent; thereupon the acts are indeliberate, and with respect to this stage operative grace is nothing but a grace which urges.

2. The application of the free will to the holy affection or action, that it may be converted to God; this application is the complement in the secondary cause of the power to operate.

3. The very act of willing, applied to the action, namely, the very act of believing, hoping, and loving: in these acts the will does not remain passive, but elicits the acts freely. However, the will does not properly move itself to such an act as a result of a preceding act, since this act is first in the order of grace and relates to the final end. Hence, contrary to the opinion of Molina, operative grace determinately moving toward these acts is more than a mere urging, and yet liberty is safeguarded, according to St. Thomas.

Fourth doubt. Whether cooperative grace produces in us three similar effects. Undoubtedly, for cooperative grace is also a previous movement according to a priority not of time but of causality. But these three effects are in another way, since with cooperative grace the will moves itself on account of some preceding act; thus it wills, presupposing the end already intended. On the contrary, with operative grace the will wills by tending toward the end, and the act of the will resembles that first act of the angels discussed in Ia, q. 63, a. 5, or that first act of the soul of Christ which is considered in IIIa, q. 34, a. 3. In the first instant of His conception, Christ merited not incarnation but the glory of immortality, just as an adult at the instant of justification acquires not the grace of justification but the subsequent grace.


Final corollary. We may now read again the well-known reply to the third objection of Ia IIae, q. 9, a. 6, and easily grasp its meaning: “Occasionally God moves some men especially toward willing something determinate which is good, as in those whom He moves by grace, as stated below,” that is, in our article 2. This is operative grace moving determinately, but with which liberty still remains.



Operative grace does not consist in an indeliberate act, according as it depends upon God, as Ripalda would have it, since an indeliberate supernatural act presupposes operative help moving one to this act.  Nor does it consist in an indeliberate act, with God’s assistance, as Suarez holds, for God is not united to us in the manner of an operative power.

Again, in opposition to Alvarez and Gonet, operative grace is not a simple movement applying a previous one, for operative grace thus understood pertains to all operations of the will, indeliberate as well as deliberate, as these authors admit, whereas St. Thomas declares that operative grace, specifically so called, pertains only to the act of the will by which it is moved toward something freely, but does not move itself by discursive deliberation.

Cooperative grace is not the indeliberate act itself inclining toward deliberate consent, because cooperative grace, and not this indeliberate act, has an infallible connection with the deliberate operation to which it moves us and which, in fact, it produces, since by such grace God cooperates and influences the eliciting of the aforesaid act. But the indeliberate affection, left to itself, has no infallible connection with deliberate assent, since we often resist a sudden inspiration or inclination; therefore cooperative grace cannot consist in an indeliberate affection; but there must be added a motion which joins the indeliberate act with the deliberate act or which ensures that the deliberate act is effective. Cf. below, p. 230, the opinion of Gonzales, where it is a matter of the fundamental distinction between efficacious and sufficient grace.






 State of the question. This article is intended to explain the classical division of grace, according to Augustine, De natura et gratia, chap.  31, and ad Bonifacium, Bk. 11, chap. 9, as here cited at the end of the article. These terms should be carefully defined that it may be clear wherein lay the error of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, who de-nied the necessity of prevenient grace. According to them, generally, every internal grace was subsequent with respect to free will; only external preaching of the word was antecedent, according as the beginning of salvation came from us and not from God. Thus did they interpret the words of Apoc. 3:20: “I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear My voice, and open to Me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”

We shall presently see that grace can never be thus termed “subsequent” with respect to free will, but only in the sense that it follows another grace or another effect of grace; cf. below, Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 2: “Whatever preparation (for grace) may be present in man is derived from the help of God moving the soul to good”; and in IV Sent., d. 17, q. I, a. I, solut. 2 ad 2: “Our will is entirely attendant upon divine grace and in no way before hand.”

Conclusion. Grace, habitual as well as actual, is properly divided into prevenient and subsequent.

Scriptural proof, in the argument Sed contra; namely, that the grace of God proceeds from His mercy. But it is said (Ps. 58:11): “His mercy shall prevent me,” and again (Ps. 22:6): “Thy mercy will follow me.” Therefore.

Likewise in the prayers of the Church; the collect Pretiosa: “Anticipate, O Lord, we beseech thee, our actions by Thy inspiration, and continue them by Thine assistance; that every one of our works may begin always from Thee, and through Thee be ended.” The collect for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: “O Lord, we pray Thee that Thy grace may always go before and follow us.” And the collect of Easter Sunday: “Grant that the vows Thou inspirest us to perform, Thou wouldst thyself help us to fulfill.”

Similarly on the authority of St. Augustine, here cited in the body of the article, from De natura et gratia, chap. 31: “(God) precedes us that we may be healed; He follows us that, even healed, we may yet be invigorated. He precedes us that we may be called; He follows us that we may be glorified. He precedes us that we may live piously;

He follows us that we may live with Him forever, since without Him we can do nothing.”

Theological proof.

Grace is properly classified according to its various effects. 

But there are five effects appointed to grace: 1. that the soul may be healed; 2. that it may will the good; 3. that it may eficaciously perform the good it wills; 4. that it may persevere in the good; 5. that it may attain to glory.

Therefore the grace causing the first effect is properly termed “prevenient” with respect to the second effect, and as causing the second it is called “subsequent” in relation to the first effect; and so with the rest. Thus the same act is at once prevenient and subsequent with respect to different effects.

Corollary. Thus grace is called prevenient with respect to some following act, although it is also prevenient with respect to the act toward which it moves immediately, according as it is previous to it with the priority of causality. And grace is not said to be subsequent in relation to free will, as Pelagius held, but relative to another grace or effect of grace.

As St. Thomas remarks (De veritate, q. 27, a. 5 ad 6): “Prevenient and subsequent grace may be understood in another way with respect to the man whom it moves; thus prevenient grace causes a man to will what is good, and subsequent grace causes him to perform the good which he has willed.” As Augustine declares in the Enchiridion, chap. 32: “He precedes the unwilling, that he may will, and follows the willing lest he will in vain.”

Reply to first objection. Since the uncreated love of God for us is eternal, it is always prevenient. (Cf. Del Prado, op. cit., I, 247.)

Corollary 2. Both operative and cooperative grace, since they move toward diverse acts, may be called prevenient and subsequent. 

Doubt. Whether prevenient and subsequent grace may be the same grace numerically. The solution is found in the reply to the second objection, that is, in the case of habitual grace, yes; but in that of actual grace, no, for the same reason as for operative and cooperative grace.  For it is evident that the same habitual grace, numerically, is called prevenient inasmuch as, justifying us, it precedes meritorious works; it is called subsequent inasmuch as it will be consummated, thus it is called glory.”

In fact, St. Thomas expressly states here in the reply to the second objection: “Subsequent grace pertaining to glory is not different numerically from prevenient grace by which we are justified now; for as the charity of the wayfarer is not made void but perfected in heaven, so also can this be said of the light of grace, for neither of them bears any imperfection in its principle.”

But if it is a question of actual grace, which ceases with the very act toward which it moves immediately and of which it is the beginning, then it is multiplied along with the acts enumerated above, as we said before of operative actual grace and cooperative actual grace. 

To complete this Question III on the division of grace, two articles must be added since the Council of Trent and the condemnation of Jansenism: 1. The distinction between exciting or stimulating grace and assisting grace, which was considered by the Council, Sess. VI, chap. 5; 2. The difference between sufficient and efficacious grace, in respect to which the Protestants and Jansenists erred. 


This division is explained at the Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. 5 (Denz., no. 797): “It is declared, moreover, that the beginning of this very justification in adults is received from God through Christ Jesus by prevenient grace (can. 3), that is, by His vocation, in that none are called on account of their own existing merits; that they who were turned away from God by sin, may be disposed by His stimulating and assisting grace to become converted to their own justification, freely (can. 4 and 5) assenting to and cooperating with the same grace.”

According to this text, grace rousing one from the sleep of sin by moral movement, that is, by enlightenment and attraction, and grace assisting one to will the good, by the application of the will to its exercise, are included under prevenient grace, which precedes the free consent of man’s will, whereby we consent to justification and may be prepared for it. Hence this prevenient grace to which the Council refers is the same as the operative grace considered by St. Thomas in article two, especially in the reply to the second objection: “God does not justify us without ourselves, since by the movement of free will, when we are justified, we consent to the justice of God. However, this movement is not the cause of grace [as the Semi-Pelagians held], but its effect; hence the whole operation belongs to grace.” (Cf. Del Prado, De gratia, I, 228.)

Thus is corroborated our interpretation of article two, that is: operative grace is not only stimulating but assisting. Under Sess. VI, chap. 5 of the Council the same doctrine is explained as in article two of the present question (III). The Council of Trent, Sess. VI, can. 4 (Denz., no. 814) uses the term “moving grace” for assisting grace. Doubt. Whether the prevenient grace which stimulates the intellect and assists in the application of the will is absolutely prior to our consent, or subsequent to it. How are we to understand the following text of the Apocalypse (3:20)? “Behold, I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear My voice, and open to Me the door, I will come in to him.”

Reply. This grace is, with respect to its efficient cause, absolutely prior to our consent, according to St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q. III, a. 2 ad 2; q. 113, a. 8 c.). At the same instant: 1. there is an infusion of grace; 2. a movement of the free will with respect to God; 3. a movement of the free will in regard to sin; 4. the remission of sin. Similarly in the answers to the first and second objections. (Cf. Dominic Soto, De natura et gratia, Bk. I, chap. 16, and Del Prado, De gratia, I, 245.)

Corollary. Del Prado, op. cit. (I, 248): From the notion of operative and cooperative grace, propounded by St. Thomas in article two, it can easily be demonstrated that the gratuitous movement of God, whereby He impels us to meritorious good, is efficacious, not on account of the consent of the free will that has been moved, but on account of the will and intention of God who moves it, as St. Thomas expressly declares in the following question (112, a. 3). 

Even in article two of the present question, the Angelic Doctor has already said with reference to operative grace, that “with it, our mens is moved and not the mover”; and, in the answer to the second objection, that the movement of the free will, when we are justified and consent to the justice of God, “is not the cause of grace, but its effect, so that the whole operation belongs to grace.”

Again in the body of this second article it is declared of cooperative grace: “And since God also helps us in this (deliberate) act, both by interiorly strengthening the will that it may accomplish the act, and by exteriorly supplying the faculty to perform it, with respect to this kind of act it is called cooperative grace.”

As a matter of fact, Molina would not have denied the interpretation of Augustine given by St. Thomas, were it not declared in this interpretation that grace is efficacious of itself.

1 Cf. I Cor. 12:7

2 We have treated this question at length elsewhere: Christian Perfection and Contemplation; The Three Ages of the Interior Life.

3 In fact, without charity our will is turned away from God as final end. Hence we read in I John 3:14: “We have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death.”

4 De auxiliis divinae gratiae, Bk. III, chap. 5, no. 4; cf. Del Prado, De gratia et libero arbitrio, I, 228.

5 Cf. Suarez, De auxiliis divinae gratiae, BK. III chap. 5, no. 4.

6 This is contrary to the answer ad 3 of the present article: “By operative grace man is aided by God to will what is good.”

7 De gratia et libero arbitrio, chap. 17.

8 Operative and cooperative grace, according to St. Thomas; cf. Ia IIae, q. III, a.2, o., 4; a.3, c; II Sent., dist. 26, a. 5, o., 4; De veritate, q. 27, a. 5, I, 2; II Cor., 6, lect. I (at the beginning); IIIa, q. 86, a. 4, 2; a. 6 ad I; q.  88, a. I, 4.

9 St. Thomas had also said, Ia IIae, q.55, a.4 ad 6: “Infused virtue is caused in us by God, without our action, not however without our consent”; and further, Ia IIae, q.113, a.3: “By infusing grace God at once moves the free will to accept the gift of grace, in those who are capable of this movement.” As Del Prado rightly observes, op. cit., I, 213: The will cannot strictly move itself to this first act of charity, for as a supernatural conclusion is not contained in a natural principle, neither is a supernatural choice contained in man’s primary natural intention. In fact, before the gift of justifying grace, the will of man is turned away from God on account of mortal sin. Hence it is God who must begin to move the free will of man determinately by grace toward the initial volition of supernatural good, as stated in the famous reply to the third objection, Ia IIae, 9.9, a.6. Similarly, Soto, De nat. et gratia, chap. 16. This is the true interpretation of St. Thomas given by Cajetan, Soto, Lemos, etc.; also by the Salmanticenses, disp. V, dub. VII, no. 165.


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