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


In treating this question we should always keep before our eyes the following texts.

“God does not command the impossible, but by commanding He teaches thee both to do what thou canst and to ask what thou canst not, and He helps thee that thou mayest be able” (St. Augustine, quoted at the Council of Trent, Denz., no. 804).

“Christ is the propitiation for our sins, for some efficaciously, but for all sufficiently, since the price of His blood is sufficient for the salvation of all” (St. Thomas on I Tim. 23, and elsewhere).

“The help of grace is twofold: one, indeed, accompanies the power; the other, the act. But God gives the power, infusing the virtue and grace whereby man is made capable and apt for the operation; whereas He confers the operation itself according as He works in us interiorly, moving and urging us to good” (St. Thomas on Ephes. 3:7).


Generally speaking, there are two systems. The first is held by those who declare efficacious grace to be intrinsically efficacious, that is, from the very intrinsic force of grace which of itself and with us infallibly produces consent saving free will. They consequently insist upon a real distinction, before consent, between efficacious and sufficient grace. The Thomists and Augustinians accept this view; but they are divided according as they explain “intrinsically efficacious” as signifying: by moral motion only, as pleasure is victorious, which the Augustinians hold, or as signifying also: by predetermining physical premotion, saving free will however; this is the position of Thomists.1 Cf. the synopsis. Another general system is that of the theologians of the Society of Jesus, who deny that efficacious grace is intrinsically efficacious since, as they declare, intrinsically efficacious grace deprives man of his liberty. In this major, as Del Prado shows, they are in agreement with Protestants and Jansenists. For these heretics say that intrinsically efficacious grace takes away liberty; but grace efficaciously moving one toward the good is intrinsically efficacious; therefore freedom from necessity is not required in order to merit, but only freedom from force.

The theologians of the Society of Jesus agree with these in the major and distinguish the minor, thus: intrinsically efficacious grace takes away freedom; but freedom from necessity is required in order to merit; therefore grace is not intrinsically efficacious but only extrinsically so, that is, on account of our consent foreseen by mediate knowledge. We, on the other hand, disagree with the heretics in the major, that is, in the very basic principle by which the problem is solved: whether God can, gently and firmly, in other words, infallibly, move our will to this free act rather than to another. To this fundamental question we reply in the affirmative; the heretics, however, deny it, and with them the Molinists and Congruists.  It is clear from this how greatly Thomism differs from Calvinism and Jansenism; the difference appears in our rejection of the five propositions of Jansen; cf. Billuart, De gratia, diss. V, a. 2, §2: seven differences between Thomism and Jansenism.

Two synopses are presented: the first for the systems which admit intrinsically efficacious grace, the second for those which hold grace to be extrinsically efficacious; in the third place will be added the middle ground of the eclectics.

The last opinion which practically seems to be good, theoretically has all the difficulties of both Molinism and Thomism; nor is it so easy for prayer to possess all the required conditions even for impetratory force. It should be remarked that, before Molina, almost all the traditional theologians taught that grace was intrinsically efficacious, except a few such as the very small perversely inclined minority among the Dominicans, among them Durandus and Catharinus, who invented Molinism before Molina. The true sense of St. Alphonsus’ doctrine is a disputed question, but Father Jansen (Revue thomiste, 1903, p. 341) maintains that St. Alphonsus in no wise favored Molinism but rather admitted intrinsically efficacious grace for all acts conducive to salvation.

The theologians of the Society of Jesus are divided among themselves, depending on whether they are pure Molinists or Congruists after the fashion of Suarez. Molina, at the end of the sixteenth century, taught (cf. Concordia, quaest. 14, a. 13; disp. 40, pp. 230, 459): “Whether sufficient help is efficacious or inefficacious depends on the will of him to whom it is given. That is, no graces are given except those sufficient in themselves, but they are made efficacious by the consent of the human will foreseen by mediate knowledge. (Cf. Concordia, index under “Auxilium,” and the text, pp. 230, 459, 462, 565.) Moreover, Molina holds that “One who is aided by less help from grace can rise, while another with greater help does not rise but may persevere in his obduracy” (p. 565). Therefore before our consent, sufficient grace and efficacious grace do not really differ, either physically or morally. But God predestined to glory those whom He foreknew, by mediate knowledge, would consent with their innate free will to the grace offered to all and would persevere therein, if placed in such and such circumstances.

Hence gratuitous predestination, being gratuitous, is not peculiar either to glory or to grace, but to favorable circumstances. For example, God decreed to place Peter in favorable circumstances where He foresaw Peter would consent to the grace offered, and

 He decreed to place Judas in circumstances where He foresaw that Judas would not3 consent to the grace offered. But, according to this theory, the grace offered to Peter is4  not of itself greater than the grace offered to Judas, even if it is a question of the interior grace offered at the last moment of their careers. It is a moral motion with simultaneous indifferent concurrence. However, the gratuity of predestination is saved by the divine choice of circumstances. Lessius retains this teaching of Molina.5

Molina holds (Concordia, pp. 546, 548) that if this doctrine had been known in the fifth century, “from the opinion of Augustine, so many of the faithful would not have been disturbed.” (Cf. Salmant., De gratia, disp. V, dub. VII, no. 173.) This doctrine seemed an innovation to many and was a cause of displeasure, as Billuart relates (De gratia, diss. V, a. 6); the Thomists disputed it before Clement VIII and Paul V, as bordering on Semi-Pelagianism, and their accusation was pursued for ten years in the famous debates de Auxiliis. Nor were the Thomists alone in attacking this doctrine of Molina; so, even among Jesuit theologians, did St. Robert Bellarmine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, Bk. I, chap. 12 (cf. Del Prado, III, 373),6 Henry Henriquez in two judgments, dated 1594 and 1597 respectively, and Mariana, De regimine Societatis, chap. 4. Hence the Society of Jesus, which supported Molina’s defense in the Congregationes de Auxiliis, after more mature deliberation on the matter, moderated the system of this author and abandoned it as it stood, taking up the advocacy of the Congruism of Suarez “as more conformable with the teaching of St. Augustine and St. Thomas.”

It is expressly declared in these very terms by a decree of the Most Reverend Claude Aquaviva, General of the Society of Jesus, in 1613. This very celebrated decree is quoted by the Jesuits, Tanner, de Regnon (Banez and Molina), and by Billuart (op. cit.). The distinction between Molinism and Congruism appears clearly in the decree. Thus, Father Claude Aquaviva declares: “We ordain and command that in propounding the efficacy of divine grace . . . our fathers should in the future explicitly teach that between the grace which has an effect of itself, called “efficacious,” and that which is termed “sufficient,” the difference is not so much as regards second act, since it still obtains its effect by the use of free will possessed of cooperating grace, nor likewise the other, but in first act itself, which, assuming a knowledge of the conditionals, on account of God’s disposition and intention of most certainly effecting good in us, by His own activity selects those means and confers them in the way and at the time when He sees the effect will be produced infallibly, whereas He would have foreseen these as inefficacious under other circumstances. Wherefore, something more is always contained, morally, in efficacious than in sufficient grace, both by reason of its benefit and with respect to first act; and thus God effects that we may act of ourselves, not so much because He gives grace by which we are able to act. The same may be said of perseverance which, without any doubt, is a gift of God.”

So writes the Most Reverend General Aquaviva, whose decree was confirmed by the seventh general Congregation of the Society of Jesus, in the year 1616, at which Muzio Vitelleschi was elected presiding General. He declared that Father Aquaviva held efficacious grace to differ from sufficient grace in first act, not physically but morally, by reason of greater congruous benefits. This decree of Father Aquaviva was subsequently confirmed at the ninth general Congregation of the Society of Jesus, in 1651, under General Picolomini. At present, however, the theologians of the Society are actually free to choose either of the two opinions.

Otherwise all the theologians of the Society agree in this matter, that they should not return to the infallible, intrinsic efficacy of grace, that is, as coming from divine omnipotence. And Congruism is therefore only whitewashed Molinism, for even in the former, ultimately, grace is infallibly efficacious, not because God so wills, but because man wills it to be efficacious. Hence God is always regarded as a created cause, urging and attracting, as a friend persuades a friend to choose the good. Whereas God is in reality infinitely more powerful than my most beloved friend to persuade me, more so than the guardian angels, or the highest angels capable of being created, and God does not only move by attracting objectively, but interiorly by contact with the will from within, inasmuch as He is closer to it than it is to itself, as we shall see.

This suffices for an explanation of the system of these theologians. Let us now proceed to the proof of the Thomistic opinion: 1. with respect to sufficient grace, that is, in what sense it is to be accepted; 2. with respect to efficacious grace: whether it is efficacious intrinsically and by physical premotion not ultimately determinable by us. We shall examine the objections to both theses.


Conclusion. Sufficient grace is that which confers upon man the power of doing good, beyond which he requires another grace, namely, efficacious, that he may do good. (Cf. Lemos, Panoplia, Vol. IV, Part 11, p. 36; Gonet, De voluntate Dei, disp. IV, no. 147; John of St.  Thomas, De gratia, d. 24; the Salmanticenses, Gotti, Billuart.)

The first part is proved, since it must be admitted that grace which gives the power to do good is given even to those who do not do good.  For this is a dogma of faith defined, as we have seen, in the condemnation of the first proposition of Jansen (Denz., no. 1092). The commandments would be impossible to those who, in fact, do not keep them. (Cf. St. Thomas on the Epistle to the Ephesians, 3:7.)

The second part of the conclusion is proved as follows:

God is the first cause of salvation and of that which is peculiar to the affair of salvation.

But the salutary action, as distinct from the potentiality of doing good, is that which is peculiar to the affair of salvation.  Therefore, beyond sufficient grace, which gives the power of doing good, efficacious grace is required, which causes us to perform the good action. (Cf. Ia, q. 109, a. I.)

Otherwise, and this is the refutation of Molinism, the greatest activity of all, namely, the passage into a free, supernatural act, would belong exclusively to the free will and not to God. Thus, what is greatest in the affair of salvation would not derive from the author of salvation; from God would proceed only the unstable sufficient grace which effects nothing but an indeliberate motion. God would wait upon our will for our consent, which seems to be contrary to the Council of Orange (Denz., no. 177): “If anyone maintains that God waits upon our will to cleanse us from sin, and does not rather acknowledge that even our willingness to be cleansed is brought about in us through the infusion and operation of the Holy Ghost, he resists the you both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will” (Phil. 2:13).

The Molinists admit, of course, against the Semi-Pelagians, prevenient grace, but an unstable prevenient grace, no greater in one who is converted than in another who persevers in obduracy, and therefore it still remains that, according to this theory, God waits upon our consent and does not produce it. The foregoing argument is quite certain; but that its conclusiveness may appear even more clearly, let us examine the force of both the major and the minor. 

The major is evident from reason according as God is the supreme, universal first cause of all being and act. Moreover it is contained in revelation: “The salvation of the just is from the Lord” (Ps. 36:39); “Salvation is of the Lord: and Thy blessing is upon Thy people” (Ps. 3:9); “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Ps. 26:1); “My God is…my protector and the horn of my salvation” (Ps. 17:3); “Attend unto my help, O Lord, the God of my salvation” (Ps. 37:23); “O Lord, Lord, the strength of my salvation: Thou hast overshadowed my head in the day of battle” (Ps. 139:8); “The Lord  . . . is become my salvation” (Ps. 117:14); “Neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12); “It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 1:16); “Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or famine or nakedness or danger or persecution or the sword? . . . But in all these things we overcome, because of Him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor might nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39). Cf. St. Thomas’ commentary on the words of our Lord, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and “Have confidence, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).7

From all of these and many other texts of Sacred Scripture it is evident that God is the author of salvation. This is the very expression of St. Paul to the Hebrews (2:10): “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, who had brought many children into glory, to perfect the author of their salvation, by His passion.” Hence the title often occurs in the liturgy: “O Lord, the author of salvation”; for example, in the second prayer of the Office of the Dead: “O God, bestower of pardon and author of human salvation, we beseech Thy clemency” (at least, in the Dominican rite); and again: “O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful.” Our major is therefore incontrovertible; that is: “That which is peculiar to the affair of salvation ought to proceed from God, the author of salvation.”7

The minor is equally certain: that which is peculiar to the affair of salvation is not the power to do good, but the actual consenting to the good and the good act itself. Thus our Lord says (Matt. 7:21): “Not everyone that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of My Father in heaven.” And in Ezechiel we read: “I will cause you to walk in My commandments, and to keep My judgments, and do them” (36:27). Therefore the conclusion follows: Beyond sufficient grace, which gives the power of doing good, is required efficacious grace, which actuates us to perform that good. And this is admitted by all theologians except the pure Molinists, even by the Congruists who hold that, beyond sufficient grace, congruous grace is required, differing not physically but morally in first act, that is, before consent.  Moreover, Molina does not seem to observe canon g of the Council of Orange (Denz., no. 182): “Whatever good we do, God operates in us and with us that we may operate.” Hence a certain grace is given which confers on us, not only the power to act, but the very act itself.  Nor does Molinism seem to respect the words of the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 13, Denz., no. 806): “For, unless men themselves fall short of His grace, God as He began a good work (by sufficient grace), so does He perfect it, working both the willing and the accomplishment” (Phil. 2:13). Likewise, Denz., no. 832. For Molina, God does not effect the willing and accomplishment except by simultaneous concurrence, and therefore what is peculiar to the business of salvation does not derive from God, namely, the good determination itself, and what may be in this man rather than in another who is equally tempted and equally assisted.

There are several confirmations of the Thomistic conclusion. 

First confirmation. God provides proportionately in the same way for the supernatural as for the natural order. But in the natural order the power of acting and the impulsion to act are differentiated. Therefore in the supernatural order sufficient grace, which confers the power of doing good, and efficacious grace, which causes us to do it, are likewise distinct. (Cf. Ia IIae, q. 19, a. I.) Moreover, in the natural order, as stated in this article, however perfect a power may be, it never passes into act without the efficacy of divine motion. Therefore in the same way, grace which bestows a power, however completely sufficient it may be, never passes into act without efficacious grace. 

Second confirmation. (Cf. Gotti’s commentary, IX, 128.) Otherwise it would follow that those who have such sufficient grace should not pray to God for further grace, since it is supposed that for performing a good act, nothing more is required on the part of God beyond this sufficient grace.

Third confirmation. It would follow that efficacious grace would not be necessary for doing good and persevering in a good act for which sufficient grace gives the power; or else that man could render sufficient grace efficacious without any further help from God; and consequently not from grace would a doer of good be distinguished from a doer of evil, equally assisted, but rather from himself. For he would himself, without any further help on the part of God, have rendered sufficient grace efficacious, whereas another man would not have done so. This contradicts the words of St. Paul: “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.)

Therefore St. Robert Bellarmine, when he examined the opinion of those who hold that it is within the power of man to make grace efficacious, which would otherwise of itself be only sufficient, writes as follows (De gratia et libero arbitrio, Bk. I, chap. 12): “This theory is entirely alien to the opinion of St. Augustine and, in my judgment, even to the meaning of Holy Scripture.” For St. Augustine declares in his book on the predestination of the saints (chap. 8): “Grace (manifestly efficacious grace) is not rejected by a hard heart, since of itself it softens the heart.” Whenever efficacy is attributed to grace, not to the human will, Tanner expresses the same view of Molina’s opinion.  Fourth confirmation. Otherwise the distinction between sufficient and efficacious grace would not be justified as given by Augustine (De correptione et gratia, chap. 12), between merely sufficient, inefficacious grace (“help without which we cannot,” conferring the power) and efficacious, not merely sufficient, grace (“help whereby,” conferring the act). This distinction, as we have seen, is based on Sacred Scripture: “For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish according to His good will” (Phil. 2:13); “I will cause you to walk in My commandments, and to keep My judgments, and do them” (Ezech. 36:27); here it is a question of efficacious grace. On the contrary, sufficient grace is referred to when St. Stephen says: “You always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51); and similarly: “I called, and you refused: I stretched out My hand, and there was none that regarded” (Prov. 1:24).

The division of sufficient grace

Sufficient grace is manifold and involves the following.

1. External helps, such as external revelation, the preaching of the faith, exhortation, example, miracles, salutary trials, benefits, and indeed a certain disposition of events ordained by a special providence toward salvation.

2. Internal helps, which are either permanent (such as infused habits, for instance, sanctifying grace, the virtues and gifts) or transient (such as supernatural movements which excite in us indeliberate acts, pious thoughts and aspirations). These helps are infallibly eflicacious for producing those indeliberate acts, and sufficient for the de-liberate act for which they give the proximate power. These various helps are extremely useful; it is obvious that they render our powers noble and elevated; they are truly sufficient in their order, just as the intellectual faculty is for understanding; and they really confer the proximate power. But they are called merely sufficient with respect to salutary acts which, on account of man’s culpable resistance, are not performed. Indeed, as has been said, grace which is termed sufficient with respect to a perfect act, for example, contrition, is infallibly efficacious with respect to an imperfect act, such as attrition.9  

Sufficient help is divided into remote and proximate. Proximate help is that by which a person can immediately perform a good work, such as the infused habits with respect to their acts, and with still greater reason indeliberate devout thoughts and aspirations inspired by God and inclining toward consent to the good. Remote sufficient help is that by which a person is not yet capable of the act, but can do something easier, for instance, pray, which, if he does it well, will enable him to act, for example, to overcome temptation. The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. II) indicates this difference drawn from St. Augustine: “God does not command the impossible, but by commanding He teaches thee to do what thou canst (proximately suffcient help) and to ask for what thou canst not (remotely sufficient help.)”

Furthermore, sufficient help is divided into conferred help and offered sufficient help, which we would certainly receive were there not an obstacle. Sufficient help is also either immediate and personal or mediate, for instance, conferred upon the parents for their children who are incapable of receiving personal sufficient help; thus the parents might receive from God the pious thought of the necessity of having their children baptized and not do so. Hence truly and merely sufficient help does not consist in some one, indivisible, definite thing, but in many helps, whether external or internal, permanent or transitory, whereby a man has the proximate power of doing good or at least of praying, and nevertheless resists it.

All of this is commonly taught by Thomists; but in addition reference should be made to the opinion of Gonzalez de Albeda, O.P., in his Commentary on Ia, q. 19, a. 8, disp. 58, sect. 2, Naples, 1637, 11, 85. Gonzalez holds that sufficient grace gives the ultimate completion to the power, or proximate power in readiness to consent when God calls (in fact, it impels toward second act, although it does not remove the impediments to this act); on the contrary, efficacious grace simultaneously moves toward second act and removes all impediments, and hence it is not resisted.

Thus Gonzalez still preserves a real distinction between sufficient grace, impelling toward second act, and efficacious grace, surmounting obstacles; and he explains this distinction, not as residing in our free will, but before our consent, on the part of God Himself assisting us. He says (ibid.): “I consider that it ought to be held without doubt that the created will, only sufficiently helped by God, possesses the ultimate fullness of active power and the prevenient concurrence of God. . . . It is otherwise, however, with the created will efficaciously assisted; for the ultimate fullness in this latter case (efficaciously assisted) establishing it finally in first act is more particular and extrinsically efficacious with greater power to incline the will to consent here and now.”

Other texts of Father Gonzalez in the same connection should be consulted. We have examined this theory at length in another work.10 Gonzalez, then, maintains the principle of predilection, namely, no one would be better than another if he were not better loved by God.  Cf. below, § 4, for the value of this opinion; and the excursus on efficacious grace, chap. I.


Objection. Some have objected, declaring this grace to be useless; for that grace is  useless which no one ever uses. But no one ever uses sufficient grace, as defined by Thomists. Therefore this grace is useless.

Reply. I distinguish the major: that it is useless of itself, denied, since of itself it confers a real power which is truly useful; that it is useless accidentally, on account of a defect in man, granted; in other words, if man does not use this sufficient grace, it is not the fault of grace, but of man.

I counterdistinguish the minor: no one ever uses sufficient grace by reduplication as merely sufficient, granted, and this is so by reason of our resistance permitted by God; that no one ever uses sufficient grace specifically, in that it confers the power of doing good, denied; for we often make good use of infused habits which are in themselves sufficient. Similarly in the natural order, although the power in plants of bearing fruit may often remain ineffectual, on account of accidental defects, it is not thereby rendered useless, since in other plants it does produce fruit.

I insist. But sufficient grace as defined by Thomists is even pernicious, as the following proves. Grace by which a man is made worse is pernicious. But man is made worse by sufficient grace in the Thomistic sense, for, if he lacked it, he would not sin, whereas, possessing it, he so many times sins. Therefore this grace is pernicious. Hence some used to say: From the sufficient grace of the Thomists, deliver us, O Lord.

First reply. This argument proves too much, for in the same way it can be proved that reason is pernicious, since he who lacks it does not sin, and he who possesses it sins.

Second reply. I distinguish the major: grace by which man is made worse on account of a defect in this grace is pernicious, granted; but on account of a perverse will, denied. I counterdistinguish the minor and deny the conclusion and its consequence. For it is utterly false to say that man is made worse by sufficient grace considered in itself, since through habitual grace which is sufficient he is made pleasing to God and capable of acting supernaturally.

I insist. No one, not even the Church itself, asks God for sufficient grace in the Thomistic sense. Therefore it is not a good. 

Reply. I distinguish the antecedent: no one asks for it as merely sufficient, by reduplication, since that would be asking God to permit us to decline from grace, granted. That no one asks for it taken specifically and entitatively, denied; since we ask for the power of doing good, for instance, faith, hope, and charity.

Further objection is made to the novelty of this conception. The aforesaid real distinction between sufficient and efficacious grace is not derived from St. Thomas; it was invented by Bañez to avoid censure after the condemnation of Jansenism.

Reply. We have seen that the aforesaid division is also found long before Bañez and even before St. Thomas, in Augustine, De correptione et gratia, chap. 12, as “help without which” conferring power, and “help whereby” producing the good act.

With respect to the term “Bañezianism,” see Del Prado, De gratia et libero arbitrio, III, 427-59, for a discussion of whether Bañezianism is not really a farce invented by the Molinists. He replies in the afhrmative and proves that this little diversion was staged by the Molinists to avoid the appearance of any opposition between Molinism and St. Thomas himself, declaring that their teaching was contrary to Bañez, not to St. Thomas. Molina himself proceeded with more straightforwardness, stating expressly (Concordia, p. 152) that he rejected the divine application of secondary causes as laid down by St.  Thomas. And again (pp. 546, 548) he admits that he is abandoning the teaching of St. Augustine and St. Thomas on predestination, which was a source of anxiety to so many of the faithful.

Hence Cardinal Gonzales, O.P., in his philosophical work, Theodicea, chap. 4, a. 3, writes as follows: “Some, who strive to cast a light on the darkness, are not afraid to declare that St. Thomas is considering only simultaneous concurrence and not really physical premotion.  In which matter, indeed, Molina and certain other of his disciples act more honorably and becomingly when they frankly acknowledge that, in this matter, they depart from St. Thomas.” This admission is made, together with Molina, by the Coimbrian school, by Bellarmine, Tolet, and Suarez, whom I have quoted elsewhere (God, II,154). 

Moreover, it is clear from many texts of St. Thomas that he admitted a twofold grace: first, grace which gives the power of doing good; second, grace which makes us do good. Cf. Ia IIae, q. 106, a. 2 ad 2: “The grace of the New Testament . . . to the extent that it is sufficient of itself gives help to avoid sin but it does not confirm a man in good so that he is not able to sin . . . and hence if, after receiving the grace of the New Testament, a man should sin, he is deserving of greater punishment for not using the help given to him.” Again, in his commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians (chap. 3, lect. 2): “God gives the power by infusing virtue and grace through which man is made capable and apt for action. But He confers the action itself according as He works within us interiorly impelling and urging us toward the good…in the measure that His power effects in us both to will and to accomplish on account of His good will.”

Likewise in Ia IIae, q. 109, a. I: “The act of the intellect and of any created being depends upon God in two respects: I. inasmuch as it has received from Him the form by which it operates; 2. according as it is moved to the action by Him”; and further in article two: “Man…requires a power superadded to his natural power on two accounts, namely, that he may be healed and, beyond this, that he may perform good works of supernatural virtue. See also ibid., a. 9 and 10; and IIa IIae, q. 137, a. 4; De peseverantia; Ia IIae, q. 113, a. 7 and 10. At least it may be said that St. Thomas always distinguishes the infused habits, which give the power of doing supernaturally good works, and actual grace which confers the working of good itself; indeed he distinguishes between good thoughts which come from God and consent to good which presupposes greater assistance.” 11

A third objection is raised as follows. That grace is not sufficient beyond which another is required. But beyond sufficient grace in the Thomistic sense another is required. Therefore this sufficient grace of the Thomists does not suflice.

Reply. I distinguish the major: this grace is not sufficient in its own genus, denied; in every genus, granted. 

I grant the minor, and distinguish the conclusion: does not suffice in its own order, denied; in every order, granted. This distinction was made long before Bañez by Ferrariensis. 12

Explanation. This is the specifically philosophical and theological sense of the term “sufficient”; a thing is really sufficient in its own order, even though another cause may be required in another order. Thus, of the four causes, any one of which is sufficient in its own order, but requires the concurrence of the others in order actually to operate; for example, we generally say with reference to the order of final cause: this motive is sufficient for free action, and yet there does not follow an infallible choice, for which the concurrence is required of both the intelligence proposing the motive as an object and will actually willing it. Indeed, the stronger motive at the end of the deliberation seems so sufficient that the Determinists after the fashion of Leibnitz deny the liberty of indifference. In fact, however, this sufficient motive gives, on the part of the object, only a proximate potentiality, and so likewise does sufficient grace, which is either a habit of charity or of some other virtue, or an indeliberate pious aspiration toward a good conducive to salvation. And just as this motive is truly sufficient, although it may not incline one infallibly to act, so it is with this grace. We have developed this at greater length elsewhere (God, II, 368-79). On the contrary, the Megarians held that power does not exist without act; consequently a teacher, not actually teaching, would lose the power of teaching. 

We should say nowadays that heat is sufficient to cause burning, although it must first be applied to combustible matter; and bread, similarly, is sufficient for nourishment, although it must further be masticated, swallowed, and assimilated. The intellect is sufficient for understanding, but beyond this its object must be correctly presented to it; for instance, the doctrine of St. Thomas must be presented to it correctly, and not according to the interpretation of the Molinists; otherwise the student will not understand although he may have sufficient intelligence. The passion of Christ is sufficient to save us, but, in addition, its merits must be applied to us, for example, in the sacrament of baptism. Hence St. Thomas says (IIIa, q. 61, a. I ad 3): “The passion of Christ is a sufficient cause of man’s salvation, but it does not therefore follow that the sacraments are not necessary for salvation, since they operate by virtue of the passion of Christ.” Again, he declares (De malo, q. 6, a. I ad 15): “Not every cause necessarily produces its effect, even if it is a sufficient cause, on account of the fact that a cause may be impeded.” Thus, natural causes produce their effect only in the greater number of cases.

Therefore sufficient grace is really sufficient in its own order, since it confers the proximate power of doing good. Indeed it cannot be more sufficient; nor is the grace admitted by Molina any more sufficient, nor does it manifest the mercy of God any more. Rather, on the contrary, Molina minimizes the mercy and gifts of God by denying that efficacious is distinct from sufficient grace; for thus God is not the true author of salvation to that extent. (Cf. Bossuet, Elévations, eighteenth week, fifteenth elevation.)

I insist. For observing in act the divine commandments, that grace is insufficient which lacks something not in our power. But the sufficient grace of the Thomists is wanting in efficacious grace, which is not in our power. Therefore this sufficient grace of the Thomists is insufficient for the actual observance of the commandments, for which it ought to be sufficient, since God commands us not merely to be able to observe His precepts, but to observe them in fact. St. Thomas raised a similar objection to his own opinion (De veritate, q. 24, a. 14, objection 2). 13

First reply. I distinguish the major: lacks something on account of our negligence, denied; otherwise, granted.

Second reply. I distinguish the major: efficacious grace is not in our power, as our own effect, granted; as a cause offered to us in sufficient grace, denied. I counterdistinguish the minor in rhe same way and deny the logical sequence and the conclusion.

Explanation. God, to the extent that it lies with Him, is prepared to give efficacious grace to all who have sufficient grace, and does not deny it to any man except through his own fault, at least by a priority of nature, if not antecedent in time. Hence a defect in operation by no means proceeds from an insufficiency of help, but only from negligence or a defect of free will, which resists it and sets up obstacles.  Even the more rigid Thomists agree to this, such as Lemos, (Panoplia gratiae, Vol. IV, Bk. IV, Part II, tr. 3, chap. 2); his very words are quoted by Billuart (De gratia sufficienti, diss. V, a. 4).

However, the reason for this is, as Lemos himself declares (ibid., chap. 6), that “God, by bestowing sufficient help, offers us, in it, efficacious grace; but since man resists sufficient grace, he is deprived of the efficacious grace which was offered to him.” Likewise Alvarez, (De auxiliis, Bk. XI, disp. 113, no. 10, and disp. 80 ad 4); and this is entirely conformed to the teaching of St. Thomas, who says expressly (III C. Gentes, chap. 159): “God, to the extent that it lies with Him, is ready to give grace to all, for He wills all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Tim., 2); but they alone are deprived of grace who present some obstacle to grace within themselves. In the same way, since the sun illuminates the world, the blame is imputed to one who shuts his eyes if some evil results therefrom, although he cannot see unless preceded by the light of the sun.” St. Thomas explains this at greater length in Ia, d. 40, q. 4, a. 2, and Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 3 ad 2: “The first cause of a defect of grace lies in us, but the first cause of the bestowal of grace is in God, according to the words of Osee (139): ‘Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in Me.’” And again, De veritate, q. 24, a. 14 ad 2: “From man arises the negligence which accounts for his not having grace whereby he can keep the commandments.”

Indeed, this reply is fully in accord with the Council of Trent, which declared (Sess. VI, chap. 13, Denz., no. 806): “If men did not fail His grace, God would perfect the good work, just as He began it, bringing about both the willing and the accomplishing”; also ibid., chap. II.14

Therefore the sufficient grace of the Thomists is not, as their adversaries maintain, a power, sterile in itself, from which God, according to His good pleasure, withholds the outpouring necessary for reducing it to act, but rather, in sufficient grace God offers us efficacious grace.

Doubt. How is efficacious grace offered to us in sufficient grace? 

Reply. As the fruit is offered to us in the flower, although, if a hailstorm occurs, the flower is destroyed and the fruit does not appear which would have developed from the flower, under the continued influence of the sun and of the moisture in the plant, so is efficacious grace offered to us in sufficient grace, although, if resistance or sin occurs, sufficient grace is rendered sterile and efficacious grace is not given.

I insist. But this is only a metaphor.

Reply. It is not a mere metaphor, but a strictly proportionate analogy; that is, so far as in both cases an act is contained in its correlative potency. For sufficient grace is indeed the principle of a good work, virtually containing it, and would in fact accomplish it (under the continuous influence of God, as the flower under the continuous influence of the sun), did not man, by his defective liberty, resist it. Thus a good seed, consigned to the earth, bears fruit unless it is prevented by some deficiency in the soil. And hence sufficient grace is the seed of the gospel referred to by our Lord in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-9): “Behold the sower went forth to sow. And while he soweth some fell by the wayside, and the birds of the air came and ate them up. And other some fell upon stony ground, where they had not much earth. . . . And others fell among thorns: and the thorns grew up and choked them. And others fell upon good ground: and they brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” And again, in the same chapter (13:37): “He that soweth the good seed, is the Son (Denz., no. 806) and canon r6, that the singular gift of perseverance, necessary for the act of persevering, is not given to all the just, and this is not in the power of man but only in that of God. Hence the Council already presupposes that there is in all the just a potency for the act of perseverance, although not in all is the efficacious help present which is required on the part of God for the act of perseverance. The Congruists must say the same of congruous grace for persevering in act; indeed, Molina would have to declare something of the same kind with respect to the favorable circumstances in which God decrees to place those whom He has judged will persevere, according to scientiu media, if placed in these circumstances of man. And the field is the world, And the good seed are the children of the kingdom.” (Cf. St. Thomas’ Commentary on Matthew.) Similarly, the seed of glory is habitual grace itself which, as such, is sufficient, that is, as an infused habit. Nor should it be thought that after the supernatural sowing is received into the soul, the increase derives from us and not from God. On the contrary, St. Paul says (I Cor. 3:6-9): “I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase . . . you are God’s husbandry; you are God’s building.” And again (II Cor. 9:6-15): “He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings. . . . And God is able to make all grace abound in you; that ye always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. As it is written: He hath dispersed abroad, He hath given to the poor; His justice remaineth forever. And He that ministereth seed to the sower, will both give you bread to eat, and will multiply your seed, and increase the growth of the fruits of your justice; that being enriched in all things, you may abound unto all simplicity, which worketh through us thanksgiving to God. . . . Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.” (Cf. St. Thomas’ Commentary.)

I insist. Nevertheless it seems unjust that to some merely sufficient grace alone is given and to others efficacious grace besides, without which in fact the commandments are not observed. 

Reply, from St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 2, a. 5 ad I: “Man is held to many things which he cannot do without grace. . . . That help is in fact given to some from on high is an effect of mercy, but that it is not in fact given to others is an effect of justice, as a punishment of preceding sins or at least of original sin, as Augustine says in his book De correptione et gratia.” It is the absolutely free external exercise of justice and mercy, with the mystery of the intimate reconciliation of these infinite perfections in the Deity.

Hence the denial of efficacious grace is an act of justice, inasmuch as it is the punishment for preceding sin, at least with the priority of nature, that is, sin at least in its incipiency. But sin itself presupposes, not indeed as a cause, but as a condition, divine permission. Therefore the divine refusal of grace thus inflicting punishment on account of sin means something more than a simple divine permission of sin or the beginning of sin; for the permission of the incipiency of the first sin has no reason of punishment with respect to any preceding sin, and this incipiency of sin could not occur without divine permission, since if God, at that instant, were to preserve a man in goodness, there would be no sin. But God is not bound to preserve in good forever a creature in itself deficient, and if He were held to this, no sin would ever take place. Cf. Ia IIae, q. 79, a. I, toward the end of the body of the article: “For it happens that God does not grant help to some men for avoiding sin which, if He granted it, they would not sin; but He does all this according to the order of His wisdom and justice since He is wisdom itself and justice itself; hence it is not to be imputed to Him that a person sins, as if He were the cause of sin.  In the same way, a pilot is not said to be the cause of a ship’s sinking for the mere reason that he does not steer the ship, unless he relinquishes the steering of it when he can and ought to steer it.” Again, ibid. ad I, and also Ia IIae, q. 109, a. 2 ad 2: “Every created thing needs to be preserved in the good proper to its nature by another; but it can, by itself, fall away from that good.”

I insist. To neglect or resist sufficient grace is not to consent to it or to sin at least by a sin of omission. But in order that a man may not neglect or resist sufficient grace, efficacious grace is required. Therefore man sins because he is deprived of efficacious grace, in other words, from an insufficiency of help.

Reply. I grant the major, and the minor as well, but deny the conclusion, for the real conclusion is: “therefore, in order that a man may not sin, but consent to sufficient grace, efficacious grace is required,” and this is true. (Cf. De malo, q. 3, a. I ad g.) But it is false to say that man sins because he is deprived of efficacious grace; rather, on the contrary, it should be said that he is deprived of efficacious grace because by sinning he resists sufficient grace. For a man to sin, his own defective will suffices, and resistance to sufficient grace always cause, man) the divine denial of efficacious grace; in other words,

God refuses efficacious grace only to one who resists sufficient grace; otherwise there would be an injustice involved. And what on the part of God precedes this resistance is only the divine permission of sin. But this divine permission must not be confused with a denial of efficacious grace, which signifies something more; cf. Summa, Ia, d. 40, q. 4 a. 2: “Since God wills nothing but good, He does not will that man should lack grace (that would be a denial of efficacious grace), except to the extent that it is a good; but that he should lack grace is not a good absolutely. Hence, considered absolutely, this is precedes, at least by a priority of nature (on the part of the material not willed by God. However, it is a good for him to lack grace if he does not will to have it or if he prepares himself carelessly for receiving it, because this is just, and from this aspect it is willed by God.” But God can permit sin on account of a higher good and He is not bound always to preserve in goodness what is itself defective, for it is reasonable that a thing which is in itself deficient should sometimes evince a defection. Therefore the problem is solved according to the words of Osee (13:g) already quoted: “Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in Me.” Consult the Thomists, especially on Ia, q. 19, a. 8, concerning the divine decrees, where the objections on the grounds of insufficient help are refuted; for example, Billuart and John of St.  Thomas. Moreover, all the foregoing arguments, as well as that which follows, can be thrown back upon the Congruists, or against sufficient grace in the Congruist sense.

I insist. At least the permission of the first sin is formally a denial of the efficacious grace necessary to avoid it. But, according to Thomistic teaching, it depends upon the absolute will of God that He permits the first sin in any one man or angel rather than in another whom God preserves in good.

Therefore, according to this doctrine, the denial of efficacious grace to avoid the first sin would in like manner depend upon the divine will alone, and would not be a punishment presupposing a fault, which is exceedingly severe.

Reply. I deny the major, for the notion of a denial of grace, formally, signifies more than a simple permission of sin, since it includes, in addition, the. punishment due to sin which is at least incipient, which punishment is not implied in the concept of permission of sin, since this latter is entirely antecedent to the sin. Moreover, the beginning of the first sin, from the standpoint of its material cause, precedes the divine denial of efficacious grace, just as “in the order of nature, liberation from sin is prior to the consequence of justifying grace,” as St. Thomas declares (Ia IIae, q. 113, a. 8). He there explains further that “on the part of the efficient cause the infusion of grace precedes the remission of sin”; indeed it precedes absolutely, since these two are effects of God and the consideration of the efficient cause prevails absolutely. Whereas, on the contrary, sin as such is a defect proceeding from a defective cause; consequently here the consideration of priority on the part of the material cause, man, prevails; hence, absolutely, the beginning of sin precedes the divine refusal to confer efficacious grace which, as a punishment, differs from the simple divine permission of sin. (Cf. above, the tract on sin, Ia IIae, q. 79, a. I: God is not the cause of sin.)

This whole question had already been very well expounded before the time of Molina and Bañez by Ferrariensis, in his commentary on Bk. III Contra Gentes, chap. 161, no. 4: “Since in the reprobate four elements are found, namely, the permission of the fall into sin, the sin itself, abandonment by God who does not raise him from sin, not pouring out His grace, and the punishment, or damnation. . . . With respect to the sin, reprobation means only foreknowledge, . . . but with respect to the permission, the abandonment to sin by God, and the damnation or punishment, it signifies not only foreknowledge but also causality.” (But the punishment of damnation is on account of the foreseen demerits, whereas the permission of the first sin is not.) Ferrariensis declares in the same text: “Although sin is the demeritorious cause of abandonment by God and the disposing cause of eternal punishment, the permission, which exists first in the reprobate, is not the cause of sin, for it does not invest the reprobate with anything whereby he falls into sin, since he sins with his free will, nor does it remove anything which would withhold him from sin.”

Thus it appears that negative reprobation, according to Ferrariensis, precedes the foreseeing of demerits. Cf. Ia IIae, q. 79, a. I, the end of the conclusion: “It happens that God does not grant help to some men for avoiding sin which, if He granted it, they would not commit.

But He does all this according to the order of His wisdom and justice; . . . hence it is not to be imputed to Him that a person sins, as if He were the cause of sin.” The universal foreseer permits for the sake of a greater good that a deficient cause should sometimes fall into defect. (Cf. Ia, q. 23, a. 3 and a. 5 ad 3.)

I insist. If an affirmation is the cause of an affirmation, a negation is the cause of negation. But the bestowal of efficacious grace is the cause of fulfilling the commandment and of nonresistance to it.  Therefore the withdrawal of efficacious grace is the cause of not fulfilling the commandment, even in the beginning of the first sin.

Reply. I distinguish the major: if it is the only cause, granted; thus the presence of the pilot is the cause of the ship’s safety, and his absence when he ought to be on duty is the cause of shipwreck. If there are two causes, of which the first is indefectible but not bound to prevent an evil, and the other is deficient: denied, for then this second cause alone is responsible for the defection.

St. Thomas proposed this objection to himself in De malo, 4.3, a. I, objection 8: “If grace is the cause of merit, then contrariwise the withdrawal of grace is the cause of sin. But it is God who withdraws grace. Therefore God is the cause of sin.”

Reply (ad 8): “God as He is in Himself communicates Himself to all according to their capacity; hence if a thing is deficient in the participation of this goodness, this is because there is to be found in the thing itself some impediment to this divine participation . . . according as [a man] keeps his back turned to a light which itself does not turn away, as Denis Dionysius says in the Book of the Divine Names, chap. 4.”

So that a man fails on his own account and he is sufficient unto himself when it comes to failing; but he requires the divine help preserving him in good in order to persevere in it. To be preserved in goodness is a good and proceeds from the source of all good; but to fall away from goodness presupposes only a deficient cause. 

Thus, with regard to this objection: it is granted that if efficacious grace were given to a man he would not sin, but it does not follow that he sins for this reason or cause of not being given efficacious grace. The permission of sin is only a condition of sin, not its cause.  We must beware of confusing a cause which exerts a positive influence with an indispensible condition which does not exert an influence; otherwise there would be a vicious circle, as when it is said: I believe the Church to be infallible because God revealed this; and I believe God revealed it because it is afirmed by the Church. In the second proposition “because” is not taken in the same sense as in the first, for it does not signify the formal motive of faith, but only the indispensable condition of faith, that is, the infallible proposition of the object of faith.

Similarly, in our present case, the permission of the first sin and not being preserved in good is an indispensable condition of this sin but not its cause, for sin as such requires only a deficient cause. But on the other hand, not sinning or being preserved in good is an effect of the preserving hand of God. Cf. De malo, q. 3, a. I ad 9: “Considering the state of fallen nature, St. Augustine attributes to divine grace the avoidance of any evil whatever that he did not commit,” at least that he is preserved in good by God.

In fact, the foregoing objection is found in almost the same terms in St. Thomas, Ia, d. 40, q. 4, a. 2; the third objection: “He who by his presence is the cause of the ship’s safety, that is, the pilot, is by his absence the cause of the ship’s danger. But God is by His presence in the soul the cause of grace. Therefore by His absence He is the cause of its obduracy.”

Reply. “An effect does not follow unless all its causes work together; whereas from the defection of one of them the negation of the effect results. Therefore I say that the cause of grace as agent, is God Himself, and as recipient is the soul by way of subject and matter. . . . Nor is it essential that every defect should arise on the part of the agent; it can occur on the part of the recipient, as it does in this proposition.”

Hence the major of the preceding objection, (i.e., if an affirmation is the cause of an affirmation, a negation is the cause of a negation) is valid when there is but one cause, which is bound to act, as the pilot by his presence is the cause of the ship’s safety and by his absence, when he is bound to be present, the cause of its danger. But this major is not true if there are two causes of which the first is indefectible and not bound to prevent every evil and the second is deficient; for then this latter alone is the deficient cause of its own defection. 

Billuart has well said: “These dialectic rules are valid to the extent that all the principles on both sides concur in the same way, not so if another principle is lacking. But in the reception of grace all the principles concur, not however in its negation. In order than an adult should receive grace, two causes must work together: God must will to infuse the grace, and man must will to receive it, since the infusion of grace is a good and a good is produced by the concurrence of all its causes; on the other hand, for man to be wanting in grace, it suffices for one cause to be in default, obviously the unwillingness of man.”

Thus many of Tournely’s objections are solved, as Billuart declares. Tournely held that, from the necessity of the decree and of grace efficacious in itself for individual acts of piety, the sufficient grace of the Thomists is insufficient and the commandments of God are impossible to some men. On the contrary, it is truly sufficient and in it efficacious grace is offered to us, but man himself so resists sufficient grace, by which he could observe the commandments, that he is thus deprived of efficacious grace whereby he would in fact observe them.

I insist. Franzelin thereupon makes an objection which has been recently revived; cf. Franzelin, De Deo uno, Rome, 1876, pp. 458 f., where he declares: “By no explanations can these two statements, affirmed by Gonet in the text cited with regard to God (tr. 4, disp. 8, no. 254), be reconciled: proposition  I. ‘Unless a man or an angel previously by nature were to determine himself toward formal sin (which is foreseen by providence), he would not be predetermined by God to the material in sin.’ . . . But I ask, and Gonet himself asks: ‘In what medium God foresees this self-determination of the created will, by nature prior to the divine decree of predetermination (to the material in sin)?’” Gonet offers two answers of which Franzelin considers only the second, which he impugns. 

Gonet’s reply is that God foresees the defective determination of the will toward formal sin “in the decree denying the efficacious help to avoid sin”; but this denial has its reason in punishment, which presupposes sin, whereas the divine permission of the fault precedes it. Hence it is better expressed by many Thomists, Billuart among them, who say that God foresees the sin and its beginning in His permissive decree (cf. Father Hugon, De Deo uno, p. 213): “The permissive decree is a sufficient, certain, infallible medium. For if God wills to permit something, it most certainly will happen, not by causal necessity, but by logical necessity, just as, if God withholds efficacious concurrence, the good effect is not produced (however, the divine permission of sin implies the nonpreservation of the defective will in good, to which preservation God is not bound; otherwise a defective will would never fall into defect). Granting the divine permission of sin, anyone can become good, since man retains his real antecedent power; and he can avoid evil, since the omission of the decree or the permissive decree itself removes none of that real antecedent power; but as a matter of fact, if God wills to permit the evil which He is not bound to prevent, that real power will never be reduced to act. Hence, knowing His permissive decree, God infallibly recognized the deficiency, although He does not cause it.  It remains true that the divine refusal of effcacious grace signifies more than the simple permission of sin, more than the nonpreservation in good. Similarly, nonelection, which is merely negative reprobation and is prior to the foreseen demerits, as a will permitting sin, is distinguished from positive reprobation, which inflicts punishment for sin (Ia, q. 23, a. 3). Of course, the divine permission of the first sin does not have the reason of penalty, but the divine permission of the second sin is already a punishment for the first. Gonet had said as much in substance (Clypeus, De scientia Dei, disp. IV, a. 6, no. 195) and indeed St. Thomas himself had enunciated the principle (Ia IIae, q. 79, a. I ): “It happens that God (as universal foreseer) does not grant (efficacious) help to some men for avoiding sin which, if He granted it, they would not commit. But He does all this according to the order of His wisdom and justice.”

I insist. (Cf. Gonet, ibid., no. 192.) “The permissive decree cannot have an infallible connection with future sins by reason of non-preservation in good; for otherwise it would follow that the will, left to itself with only general concurrence, would be of itself determined toward evil, and this would be the heresy of the Manichaeans and Lutherans. It would also follow that the human will with general concurrence alone could not perform any morally good work, which is contrary to St. Thomas.” Thus Gonet presents the objection to his own opinion according to Tournely, and the objection has recently been raised again.

Gonet’s reply (ibid., no. 196): Although the permissive decree may thus have an infallible connection with future sin, a consequence not of causality but of logical sequence, “it does not follow, however, that the free will of man is, of itself and by nature, determined toward evil and sin; not only because by reason of sufficient help it can do good and avoid sin (against the Jansenists), but also because it is one thing for free will to be deficient of itself and by nature and not capable of preserving itself in good according to right reason, on account of God’s not preserving it by special means, and another thing for it to be of itself and by nature determined toward evil (as if it were destroyed altogether and not merely weakened). 

“In the first case is signified only the deficiency and potentiality for sinning which belong to the rational creature by the very fact that he is made from nothing and is not the rule of his own operations.  The second case implies further in the free will a natural determination toward evil, arising from the sin of our first parents. This is the heresy of the Lutherans.”

If God were indeed bound to preserve in goodness every will which is deficient in itself, no sin would ever occur, the will of every wayfarer would already be confirmed in good, as was the will of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And since general concurrence is due to nature, but not to any particular individual, man is capable of performing certain natural good works, such as caring for his parents, governing the state. (Cf. Gonet, ibid., and what precedes.)

I insist. But even if God, in this permissive decree, infallibly foresees future sin, He does not infallibly recognize which particular sin it will be.

Reply. I deny that this follows, for by the knowledge of vision God knows that at that particular time such a man so disposed will be in these circumstances, for instance, Peter in the circumstances attending the Passion; and He sees that for this man in these circumstances there are two alternatives: either to confess the faith or to commit the opposite sin. Cf. p. 236 below on the last difficulty with respect to sufficient grace and the profundity of this mystery.


J. Gonzalez de Albeda15 maintains that sufficient grace not only gives the proximate power for a good work, but also an impulse to second act, although it does not remove the impediments to this act and, in fact, is resisted; thus it is a physical premotion, even a predetermination, but impedible, not infallible. It thus differs from efficacious grace. This opinion was accepted by Nicolai, Bancel, Massoulié, Reginaldus, and more recently by Father Guillermin.16

Nevertheless J. Gonzalez and these other theologians reject mediate knowledge entirely and hold that no one is better than another even through easy acts conducive to salvation unless he is more beloved and helped by God. They teach that no salutary act, even the easiest, would happen here and now unless it were willed on the part of God by consequent will and unless man were helped by infallibly efficacious grace.

Recently, in fact, Father Marin Sola 17 not only admitted the opinion of J. Gonzalez, but so extended it as to maintain that infallibly efficacious grace is not necessary for easy salutary acts, at least for their continuation. This very extended opinion of Father Marin Sola, in our judgment, can in no wise be reconciled with the principles of Thomism, as we have demonstrated elsewhere.18 For St. Thomas expressly says (Ia, q. 19, a. 6 ad I), referring to the distinction between antecedent divine will and consequent will: “Whatever God wills absolutely is done; although what He wills antecedently may not be done.” Cf. below: Excursus on efficacious grace (chap. 8). 

But if the opinion of J. Gonzalez, without its being thus unduly extended, remains within the bounds proposed by its author, what judgment is to be passed on it? We reply with Lemos19 the Salmanticenses,20 Billuart, Hugon,21 and others: We cannot conceive what this physical premotion, even predetermination, is, which influences second act although the effect is not obtained but remains impedible, and not only impedible, but always impeded, while on the contrary efficacious grace is never impeded by temptation. The thing is inconceivable.

For there is no mean to be found between proximately complete power and the passage to second act accomplished in effect; nor is motion toward second act but failing in its effect comprehensible. These are the fundamental principles of the distinction between potency and act. It is likewise certain, according to St. Thomas, that no salutary act, even the easiest, would take place here and now unless it were willed by God absolutely as the object of an infallibly efficacious decree (Ia, q. 19, a. 6 ad I). Hence sufficient grace gives a certain power, as proximate as you please, for good work, but it does not give the very act itself; this latter requires infallibly efficacious grace.22

However, all Thomists admit that grace which is efficacious for an imperfect act, attrition, for instance, is sufficient for a perfect act, such as contrition. Thus the efficacious grace for a pious thought is sufficient for a pious desire, and the efficacious grace for a pious desire is sufficient for consenting to good. Indeed, if a man resists sufficient grace, he deserves to be deprived of efficacious grace which is offered to him in sufficient grace as the fruit within the flower.


See his dogmatic works, Disp. IV: The manner in which grace operates. 1. The Thomistic system and the difficulties of this system. 2. The system of Molina and the difficulties of this system. 3. Congruism, the opinion of Thomassin, of the Augustinians. 4. Our opinion set forth, that is, the opinion of Tournely, whose system I follow. 

St. Alphonsus, proceeding according to the method of Tournely, sets forth correctly the doctrine of Thomists on sufficient and efficacious grace, quoting Cajetan, Alvarez, and Lemos, and rightly declares that it is based upon God’s supreme dominion over created wills. Then he presents the difficulty which, as he says, the Thomistic system incurs, and says he has no intention of “examining the individual systems thoroughly, but only of touching upon them briefly and bringing out the particular difficulties into which they fall. 

 “The greatest difficulty of all,” he says, “which the Thomistic system encounters is that, once this system is admitted, it seems unexplainable how the perfect liberty of the human will can be reconciled with the physical predetermination of efficacious grace,” and he adduces in proof of this two arguments of Tournely which we have already examined: that predetermination seems to destroy liberty (Father Marin Sola does not grant this to St. Alphonsus) and that if efficacious grace is necessary for reducing potency to act, how is it to be explained that sufficient grace is really sufficient and that the fulfilling of the commandments is possible? Billuart, in his De Deo, d. 8, a. 4, no. 11, presents and examines at length these objections of Tournely.

We have already replied: I. Divine motion extends even to the mode of our free choice, which it produces in us, for this mode is a modality of being and is included with the object of divine omnipotence. Ia, q. 19, a. 8: “Since the divine will is eminently efficacious, it follows not only that those things are done which God wills to be done, but also that they are done in the manner in which God wills them to be done . . . that is, either necessarily or freely.” Thus St. Thomas, and again in Ia IIae, q. 10, a. 4 ad 3.23

2. Sufficient grace is really sufficient, in which efficacious grace is offered to us as the fruit in the flower; hence, as the Council of Trent declares: “Unless men themselves neglect His grace, God perfects a good work, as He began it, producing in them both the will and the accomplishment” (Denz., no. 806). This is indeed the obscurity of a mystery; but it is not the obscurity of an absurdity.

However, St. Alphonsus presents another difficulty with regard to hope. Cf. ibid., p. 518, nos. 108 f., which should be read. The objection reduces itself to the following: My hope should rest, according to the Thomists, on God’s help and on His promise of efficacious grace through prayer. But there is no promise on the part of God with reference to the efficacious grace necessary for me to pray and pray perseveringly. Therefore my hope is unfounded, and I cannot hope for my eternal salvation, except conditionally: provided that God grants me the efficacious grace necessary for prayer.  This objection is almost reducible to the objection which St. Thomas put to himself, IIa IIae, q. 18, a. 4, third objection: “There can be no certainty of that which may fail. But many wayfarers, possessed of hope, fail to attain beatitude. Therefore the hope of wayfarers has no certainty.”

Reply. I distinguish the major: my hope inasmuch as it is certain, should rest upon the help of God and on His promise to me of efficacious grace through prayer. His promise to me, if I do not resist antecedent sufficient grace, granted; but, His promise to me absolutely, denied. For if efficacious grace were promised to me absolutely for praying well and perseveringly, by that very fact, absolutely, by way of a consequence, the grace of final perseverance would be promised to me as obtainable by this prayer. But this grace of final perseverance is not promised absolutely to any man in this life, unless by extraordinary revelation, and nevertheless all wayfarers must expect eternal life with a firm hope.

I distinguish the minor: that there is no absolute promise on the part of God assuring me of the necessary efficacious grace for prayer, granted; no conditional promise, provided I do not resist sufficient grace, denied. And I deny the logical sequence and the conclusion. 

I insist. But my hope is then only conditional; yet a conditional hope is not certain. Therefore the difficulty still remains. Cf. treatise on hope, against those who place the certainty of hope in a conditioning act.

Reply. I distinguish the major. That my hope is conditional on the part of God’s assistance on account of a probable insufficiency of help, denied; conditional on the part of my deficient free will, on account of my probable resistance, granted. (Cf. IIa IIae, q. 18, a. 4

I distinguish the minor: conditional hope on the part of God’s help is not certain, granted; on the part of deficient man, denied. Moreover, the certitude of hope is not, like the certitude of faith, a speculative certitude, but is of the practical order, and, in this order, the certitude of tending toward salvation, not really a certitude of salvation itself, of final perseverance. The act of hope proceeding from the theological virtue of hope, under the guidance of faith in God’s assistance, tends certainly toward salvation, but does not know whether in fact it will actually attain salvation. Thus St. Thomas, in IIa IIae, q. 18, a. 4: “Hope tends certainly toward its end, as if participating in the certitude of faith.”24 And the Angelic Doctor adds (ibid., ad 3): “That some men possessed of hope fail to attain beatitude results from a defect of free will setting up the obstacle of sin, not from any defect in the divine power or mercy on which hope depends. Hence this does not impair the certitude of hope.”

St. Alphonsus, as likewise Tournely, thinks infallibly efficacious grace is not necessary for actual prayer. But in that case, we are again confronted with all the difficulties raised by Thomists against mediate knowledge. Hence, of two men, equally tempted and equally aided by sufficient grace, it may happen that one prays and the other does not; thus one man distinguishes himself in this respect from the other who does not pray; and God would remain passive in His prevision of this. Hence passivity is attributed to pure Act for the sake of dispelling the mystery of sufficient grace.

Moreover, Tournely’s opinion, whether he wills it or not, sets up in the formal motive of hope not only God’s help, but our effort, by which the sufficient grace for prayer is rendered efficacious. For, according to this theory, it would follow that I hope the efficacious grace of prayer will be given to me rather than to those who, with equal grace, do not pray or persevere in prayer. But the formal motive of a theological virtue can only be God or an uncreated being, and it is on this account that the virtue is called theological. (Cf. Ia IIae, q. 62, a. I and 2.)

Moreover, it is better to trust in God than in ourselves; our salvation is much more secure in the hands of God than in our own.25 Similarly, what the Church proposes for our belief does not pertain to the formal motive of faith, but only uncreated revelation; the proposal by the Church is only an indispensable condition. The principles of St. Thomas regarding foreknowledge, divine motion, and the formal motive of hope must be safeguarded.

Confirmation of this answer is to be found in several texts of St. Paul, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas. St. Paul writes (Rom. 9:12-20): “Not of works, but of Him that calleth it was said to her [Rebecca]: The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written: Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated [or loved less]. What shall we say? Is there injustice with God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. . . .Therefore He hath mercy on whom He will; and whom He will, He hardeneth.  Thou wilt say therefore to me: Why doth He then find fault? for who resisteth His will? O man, who art thou that repliest against God?  Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus?” And in Rom. 8:30 f.: “Whom He predestinated, them He also called. And whom He called, them He also justified. And whom He justified, them He also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who is against us” (Cf. St. Thomas’ Commentary on Rom. g:14.) St. Augustine likewise declares in his De dono perseverantiae, chap. 6: “We live more securely if we give ourselves wholly to God. Moreover, we do not entrust ourselves partly to Him and partly to ourselves.” We have dealt with this problem at greater length in treating of our gratuitous predestination in the treatise The One God.

Thereupon, in the same text, St. Alphonsus shows, as do the Thomists, that Molinism is not compatible with Scripture nor with St. Augustine nor with St. Thomas. His analysis deserves to be read. 

Conclusion. The principles enunciated by St. Alphonsus in opposition to Molinism with regard to the divine decree as efficacious in itself, and to grace which man cannot render efficacious, are supremely universal, and therefore valid even for easy acts conducive to salvation. They are true of any salutary act, indeed of any act at all since it is an entity and since it is an act, for nothing moves unless efficaciously moved by God. Moreover the principle of predilection enunciated by St. Thomas is absolutely universal (Ia, q. 20, a. 3): “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, no one would be better than another if God did not will greater good to one than to another.” No one is better than another even to the extent of an easy act, unless better loved and more assisted by God. Hence when one of two sinners is converted, good Christians realize that this is a special effect of God’s mercy toward him.26


This final difficulty may be expressed thus: But no mean is offered between resistance, which proceeds from our deficiency, and non-resistance, which is already something good, proceeding from the source of every good and from efficacious grace itself. Therefore he who does not receive efficacious grace cannot help resisting sufficient grace.


Reply. I concede the antecedent but deny the consequence and the consequent. For the real consequent is as follows: Therefore he who does not receive efficacious, but only sufficient grace, although he can avoid resisting, yet does in fact resist, but freely and culpably.  The divine permission of this sin is only its indispensable condition but not its cause; and the subsequent divine refusal of efficacious grace, offered within sufficient grace, is the punishment for this free resistance.

But herein lies the great mystery which is expressed in Holy Scripture in various texts: “Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in Me” (Osee 9:9); nor is any mean between the two expressed.  Again, our Lord says, speaking of the Pharisees, “He that is not with Me, is against Me,” without any middle ground; and, on the contrary, “He that is not against you, is for you” (Mark 9:39), as the Savior said to His apostles. In the same way, the angels are either very holy or very perverse; there is no mediocrity permitted them. There is a parallel in regard to men, even in the case of a single, free, voluntary act, since no free, indifferent act is conceded to an individual (Ia IIae, q. 18, a. 9), for either the act is ordained to the proper virtuous end or it is not ordained toward it, just as, on the summit of a mountain where the waters divide, every drop falls either to the right or to the left of that dividing line.

Many men, however, such as the liberals, often err by confusing the summit of the Christian life with some extreme to be avoided under pretext of moderation. Thus they tend toward a mediocre tepidity, which is a certain unstable median between the best and the worst. Accordingly they do not wish to arrive at any conclusion either for or against Christianity. They think that the salvation of this temporal world is accomplished by those who remain in this ambiguous neutrality. But this does not suffice for action, since no decision is reached. Consequently, when there is a question of acting, if men refuse to go back to Christian principles, they descend to radicalism by way of negation, thence to socialism, and finally to materialistic, atheistic communism. Christ said: “He that is not with Me, is against Me”; no middle ground is allowed, nor any neutrality with respect to God the supreme principle and final end. Thus there is no possible midway between resistance proceeding from our deficiency and nonresistance proceeding from the source of every good, since nonresistance to grace is already a certain good. Nevertheless, sufficient grace is given whereby we may avoid resisting, and therefore this resistance re-mains free and culpable.

This mystery is expressed by St. Prosper in replying to the second Objectiones Vincentianae, and his words were cited at the Council of Quierzy (Denz., no. 318) as follows: “Almighty God wills to save all men without exception (I Tim. 2:4), although not all are saved. That some are saved is, however, a gift of the Savior; whereas, that some should be lost is the just desert of those who are lost,” and no median is given: “Destruction is thy own, O Israel: they help is only in Me” (Osee 13:9).

In this Council of Quierzy either proposition taken separately is clear, namely, “that some are saved is a gift of the Savior” and “that some should be lost is the just desert of those who are lost,” and no middle ground is offered. But the intimate reconciliation of these two propositions is a most profound mystery; to grasp it clearly one would have to see immediately the divine essence itself and see how in the eminence of Deity are found harmonized infinite justice, infinite mercy, and supreme liberty. These three perfections are formally and eminently present in the Deity, but their intimate reconciliation will not appear clearly except in heaven. It remains for us wayfarers a very lofty chiaroscuro, for we walk in an imperfect light, above the inferior darkness of error and sin, and beneath the translucent obscurity which proceeds from a brightness too dazzling for our feeble intellects, so that “we walk by faith, and not by sight” (II Cor. 5:6).

1 We have expounded the Thomistic doctrine on physical premotion elsewhere at length; see Dictionnaire de théologie catholique: “Prémotion” (prédéterminante), “Prédestination,” “Thomisme.”

2 Some writers accept indifferent physical promotion, although not predetermining physical promotion; but in that case efficacious grace would not be strictly efficacious of itself, intrinsically and, whether they will or no, they are forced to admit of scientia media, by that name or by another. Thus Pignataro, Cardinal Pecci, Satolli, Paquet, L. Billot.

3 Thomassin, De consensus Scholae de gratia, tr. III, maintains that, if single helps may fail to produce their effect, a combination of them never does.

4 Likewise Isambert and Lemoine, as it appears. St. Alphonsus adhered to this party, according to some, but not absolutely. Cf. St. Alphonsus, Op. dogm., II 707 ff., against the heretical so-called reformers. St. Alphonsus rejects scientia media.

5 Lessius, De gratia efficaci, chap. 18, no. 7: “That, of two men who are similarly invited, one accepts the proferred grace and the other rejects it, it may rightly be said to proceed from free will alone; not that he who accepts does so by his liberty alone, but because the difference arises from free will alone and thus not from any diversity of prevenient help.” The Thomists replied straightway: this is contrary to St. Paul’s words in I Cor. 4:7: “For 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?” Cf. Salrnanticenses, De gratia efficaci, disp. VII, dub. I, § IV, no. 18.

6 St. Robert Bellarmine, I De gratia et lib. arb., chap. 12, where he explains the extent to which the efficacy of grace is accepted; he distinguishes three opinions of which the first is attributed to those who “regard it as within the power of man to render grace efficacious which would otherwise of itself be only sufficient.” Bellarmine adds that “this opinion, a) is entirely foreign to the thought of divine Scripture itself. . . . For who distinguisheth thee? b) and it is opposed to St. Augustine, who will not have efficacious grace depend on human will, but on the divine, and c) this opinion utterly destroys the basis of divine predestination which St.  Augustine established so solidly from Holy Scripture.” Thus St. Robert Bellarmine withdraws from Molinism to embrace Congruism.

7 St. Thomas, commenting on the Epistle to the Romans (8:35), “Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ?” says of these words: “All benefits are conferred upon us by God so efficaciously that no man can withstand them. However, all these aforesaid benefits tend to this end: that we should be founded and rooted in charity. . . . Many waters could not quench charity, according to the Canticle.  But St. Paul enumerates the evils the endurance of which may constrain a person to abandon the charity of Christ . . . Tribulation or distress or famine or persecution or the sword. But in all these things we overcome, because of Him that hath loved us. We overcome; that is, in all these evils we preserve charity intact, according to the words of Wisdom (10:12): ‘She . . . gave him a strong conflict, that he might overcome.’ And this not by our own power, but by the help of Christ, wherefore he adds: because of Him that hath loved us, that is, on account of His help, or on account of the disposition produced in us by Him, not as if we had first loved Him, but because He hath first loved us. As declared in I Corinthians (15:57): Thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’

“For I am sure that neither death . . . nor principalities nor powers . . . nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” St. Thomas asks: “How is it that St. Paul says he is sure that nothing can separate him from charity when ‘no man knows whether he is worthy of love or of hate?’ To this question answer may be made that the Apostle is not speaking of himself individually but in the person of all the predestinate, of whom he declares, on account of the certainty of predestination, that nothing can separate them from charity. . . . However, if  St. Paul is speaking of himself, he could not be certain of this statement unless perhaps by revelation.”

8 Cf. P. Guillermin, O.P., “De la grâce suffisante,” Revue Thomiste, 1902, p. 75.

9 As Gonet states, Clypeus, De voluntate Dei, disp. 4, no. 14, Thomists generally agree with Alvarez, Bk. III, De auxiliis, disp. 80, that: “All help which is sufficient with respect to one act is at the same time also efficacious in the order of another act to the accomplishment of which it is ordained by an absolute decree of divine providence, so that it is sufficient absolutely (for example, with respect to contrition) and efficacious under a certain aspect”; in other words, it is efficacious with respect to an imperfect act, such as attrition, and infallibly efficacious with respect to this imperfect act.

10 La prédestination des saints et la grâce, 1935, pp. 386-92.

11 Cf. Ia IIae, q. 112, a.3: “If it is in the intention of God who moves that the man whose heart He moves should attain grace, he attains it infallibly, according to the words of St. John (6:45): ‘Everyone that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me.’ ” Furthermore, St. Thomas gives the supreme basis of the distinction bctween efficacious and sufficient grace (Ia, 4.19, a.6 ad I): “Whatever God wills absolutely is done, although what He wills antecedently may not be done.”

The treatise on evil (De malo), q.6, a. I ad 3: “God moves some wills immutably on account of the efficacy of the moving power which cannot fail; but on account of the nature of the will moved, which holds itself in indifference toward various objects, necessity is not introduced, but liberty remains; just as in all things divine providence works infallibly, and yet contingent effects proceed from contingent causes, inasmuch as God moves all things proportionately, each according to its own mode”; cf. ibid., ad 15.

Cf. Ia IIae, q.10, a.4 ad 3: “If God moves the will toward something, it is incompatible with this affirmation that the will should not be moved thereto. But it is not absolutely impossible. Hence it does not follow that the will is moved by God of necessity.” Those who admit fallibly efficacious premotion, with respect to what is really effected, must reconcile their theory with this last text; “it is incompatible,” and we shall see later whether such a reconciliation is possible, that is, whether fallibly efficacious premotion may be conferred with respect to what it actually produces in us, for example, with respect to the continuation of attrition or of prayer, here and now, produced in this sinner rather than in another.

12 Ferrariensis, commenting on the Contra Gentes, Bk. III, chap. 86, no. 5, says: “Any cause is said to be sufficient when it has enough power, from its own form, to be able to produce an effect without the concurrence of any other cause of its own order; just as fire is a sufficient cause of heat, for it can by itself, without the concurrence of any other particular effective cause, produce heat (presupposing, however, the influence of the first cause). On the contrary, a cause is said to be insufficient which does not possess, from its own form, sufficient power so that by itself, without the concurrence of any other cause of its own order, it can produce an effect; as when many men are rowing a boat together which no one of them could row alone, each of them is said to be an insufficient cause of the boat’s being drawn.”

13 St. Thomas in De verit., q. 24, a. 14, proposes to himself the same objection: Whether free will can choose the good without grace. Second objection: “No one should be blamed for not doing what he cannot do. But a man is justly blamed if he omits doing good . Therefore by his free will man is capable of doing good (without grace).” St. Thomas replies: “to the second objection, it must be said, that man is rightly blamed for not fulfilling the commandments, since it is on account of his own negligence that he does not have the grace whereby he is enabled to keep the commandments modally; although he can observe them by his free will, substantially” with general concurrence.

14 Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. II, teaches: “The divine precepts are not impossible to any just man.” Therefore the precept of finally persevering is possible to the justified man. But the same holy synod teaches, in the same session, chap. 13

15 In lam, q. 19, a. 8, disp. 58, sect. II, Naples, 1637. 

16 Revue Thomiste, January and March, 1903.

17 Ciencia Tomasta, January, 1926.

18 Revue Thomiste, November, 1925, March, 1926; and in La prédestination des saints et la grâce, 1936, pp. 381-93.

19 Panoplia, Vol. IV, part 11, p. 120, no. 119.

20 De gratia, disp. VII, dub. 5, nos. 312, 318.

21 De gratia, 1926, p. 211.

22 A frequent illusion in these problems must be avoided: as a polygon inscribed within a circle, however much its sides may be multiplied, will never be the circumference, in the same way sufficient grace, however proximate, will never become grace efficacious of itself; nor will moral motion, however multiplied, ever become motion efficacious of itself. The highest of the lowest class, although it may approach the lowest of the highest class, will never be identical with it. Likewise, strong probability will never be certainty, even in the computing of probability.

23 Ia IIae, q. 10, a. 4 ad 3: “If God moves the will toward something, it is incompatible with this affirmation that the will should not be moved thereto. But it is not absolutely impossible,” for “the will is moved freely, as becomes its nature,” ibid., ad I.

24 As a polygon inscribed in a circle, however much its sides may be multiplied, will never be the circumference, so never in this world will the certainty of a tendency toward salvation become a certainty of salvation itself, except by a special revelation or its equivalent.

25 Because the rectitude of God’s intention is much more certain than the rectitude of our intention.

26 Furthermore, as will become more evident later, and as we demonstrated in La prédestination des saints et la grâce, pp. 185-90, the Congruism of the Sorbonne is an impossible middle ground between Thomism and the Molinist theory of scientia media, which are opposed to each other as contradictories. (God knows future possibilities infallibly, either before or not before the predetermining decrees.) Thus this Congruism has speculatively all the difficulties of Molinism for facile acts, and all the obscurities of Thomism for difficult acts.


Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210