Grace: Chapter Nine

Grace: Commentary on the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, Chapter Ten

Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.



Up to this point we have considered the necessity, essence, divisions, and cause of grace; now we are to examine its effects, of which the two principal ones are: I. the justification of the wicked, “which is the effect of operative grace,” and merit, which is the effect of cooperative grace.

There are three parts to this question:

1. What justification is and whether an infusion of grace is necessary for it (a. 1 and 2).

2. The acts required for the justification of adult sinners (a. 3-6), that is, whether it requires a movement of the free will, or of faith or of contrition and the remission of sins.

3. The properties of justification (a.7-10); that is, whether it is brought about instantaneously or whether there is a priority and posteriority of nature in the acts which concur toward it; whether justification is the greatest work of God; whether it is a miracle.


The reply is in the affirmative; it is of faith and opposed to Protestant teaching. For Protestants contended that by justification, the sins of the sinner were not really effaced or removed, but remained in their entirety in man, being merely covered over or no longer imputed to him.

Proof from the Council of Trent, Sess. V, can. 5, (Denz., no. 792): “If anyone denies that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or even asserts that all that is included in the true and proper reason of sin is not removed, but is only said to be erased or not imputed, let him be anathema.”

This definition of the Church’s faith is based on many texts of Sacred Scripture: “Blot out my iniquity…blot out all my iniquities….Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow” (Ps. 50); “I am he that blot out thy iniquities for My own sake” (Isa.  43:25); “And I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness” (Ezech. 36:25); “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29); “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7); “The unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God.  Do not err; neither fornicators…nor adulterers, nor the effeminate…nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified” (I Cor. 6:9-11). Again, St. Augustine writes, refuting two letters of Pelagius (Ad Bonifacium, Bk. I, chap. 12): “We hold that baptism bestows remission of sins and removes our crimes, not merely erasing them.”1

Theological proof. Since justification is derived from justice, taken passively, it implies a motion toward justice, as calefaction imparts a motion toward heat. But the justice with which we are here concerned requires of a man not merely rectitude toward another man, but toward God, inasmuch as reason is subject to God and lower powers to reason, which rectitude excludes injustice or mortal sin.  Therefore the justification of a sinner is a transmutation to the state of justice demanding the remission of sins.

This reasoning is based on the definition of motion which is from a contrary to a contrary, that is, from the terminus a quo, namely, the state of sin or injustice, to the terminus ad quem, which is the state of justice. However, justification may also be, as in Adam before the fall and in the angels, a simple generation, that is, from privation to a form. This mode of justification is appropriate to one who is not in sin, as stated in the body of the article.2

Reply to second objection. It is noted that this transmutation is named from justice rather than from charity since justice demands the complete rectitude of order in general and is thus distinguished as a special virtue.

Reply to third objection. According to the words of St. Paul: “Whom He called, them He also justified” (Rom. 8:30), vocation precedes justification as it excites one to give up sin. 

Confirmation of the reply by reduction ad absurdum. If in the justification of the wicked, sins remain and are merely covered over but not effaced, it follows:

1. that man is simultaneously just and unjust: just because justified, and unjust because he remains in habitual mortal sin, which is essentially injustice;

2. that God loves sinners as His friends;

3. that Christ is not the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

4. that He spoke a falsehood when He said: “Now you are clean” (John 15:3);

5. that God’s evaluation, reputing him to be just who is in sin, must be false. These are the arguments generally proposed by theologians against the so-called Reformers. 



State of the question. In the second objection St. Thomas had already formulated the Protestant opinion according to which justification does not require an infusion of grace. The Protestants declared that man was rendered just, not by an intrinsically justifying form, but either by the justice whereby God is just or by the justice of Christ imputed extrinsically. Therefore the justification of the wicked would be an extrinsic denomination.


The reply of St. Thomas is: “The remission of guilt is inconceivable without an infusion of grace.” This reply contains two elements: 1. the remission of guilt is in fact produced by an infusion of grace, and 2. it cannot be effected otherwise, even by the absolute power of God.

The first of these is of faith; the second is opposed to Scotus, the Scotists, and Saurez.

Definition of faith by the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. 10 and 11; Denz., nos. 820, 821):

“If anyone should say that men are just without the justice of Christ whereby He merited our justification or by that justice itself formally, let him be anathema.” “If anyone should say that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the remission of sins alone, excluding grace and charity which is poured forth into their hearts by the Holy Ghost and abides in them, or even that the grace whereby we are justified is only a favor from God, let him be anathema. 

This article of the Church’s faith is clearly based on Sacred Scripture: “Of his fullness we all have received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16); “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5); “To every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ” (Eph. 4:7).

Theological proof. St. Thomas shows the very impossibility of the remission of sin without the infusion of grace, thus admirably founding his argument on God’s love for us.

The remission of sin is effected according as God is pacified in our regard, loving us with special benevolence. But God cannot love the sinner with a special love except by infusing grace whereby the sinner is intrinsically transformed and made pleasing to God. Therefore the remission of sin cannot be effected without an infusion of grace. 

The major is self-evident, for God cannot remit the offense of the sinner unless He makes peace with him, and God makes peace with us inasmuch as He loves us with a special love. Thus nothing else can be designated wherein our peace with God consists; in other words, God makes peace with us in the matter of our offense on account of His special benevolence toward us.

The minor is based on St. Thomas’ principle enunciated in Ia IIae, q. 110, a. I, and Ia, q. 20, a. 2, to the effect that “the love of God does not presuppose goodness in us but produces it”; “the love of God infuses and creates goodness in things,” since He is the author of all good. Nor are we here concerned with the general love whereby God loves and preserves the very nature of the sinner while he is in the state of sin, but rather with the special love whereby He remits or pardons the offense. This special love cannot but produce some effect in us, that is, it cannot help but make man pleasing; otherwise God’s created love for us would be no more effective than the love of our friends, who cannot change the interior state of our souls. Now habitual grace excludes mortal sin absolutely, which is precisely the privation of the life of grace, or the death of the soul. (Cf. ad I.)

Reply to second objection. “God’s not imputing sin to man” proceeds “from the divine love for US,” and this divine love “produces an effect in us.”

Reply to third objection. The cessation of actual sin does not suffice for the remission of sin, since, as has already been said, habitual sin and the liability to punishment remain.

Objection of Scotus. God can be pacified by a negative love by which He wills only not to be offended any more, just as may be done among men.

Reply. Cf. IIIa, q. 85, a. 2. The case is not parallel, for man can pardon the offense of another through a change in himself, without any change in the offender; God, however, is changeless but works a change in others. Hence the transformation is here confined to man, who at first was not pleasing to God and was then made pleasing through the effect of God’s love for him.

A second theological proof may be adduced, as many theologians propose, on the basis of created grace itself.

A privation can only be removed by the opposite form, blindness, for instance, only by sight, darkness by light. But habitual sin con-sists essentially in the privation of sanctifying grace. Therefore, habitual sin can be removed only by the form of sanctifying grace. 

Objection. The major is true of physical privation, but not of moral privation, which is the absence of a form the subject ought to have, not by the nature of things, but by divine ordination. This moral privation can be removed, not only by the introduction of the op-posite form, but precisely by the fact that God’s ordination is changed, determining that this form is no longer due to this subject. God would thus act if He were to withdraw man’s ordination toward a supernatural end.

Reply. Although God can withdraw man’s ordination toward a supernatural end, He cannot bring it about that at the time when man sinned he was not ordained to a supernatural end, for power does not extend to the past. Moreover, the voluntary privation of grace does not cease to exist in the sinner except by a retractation of his previous will. 

A third theological proof on the part of man. Man does not cease to be turned away from God unless he is converted to Him by an interior transformation. But habitual mortal sin implies a habitual aversion to God. Therefore habitual mortal sin does not cease unless man is converted to God by an interior transformation. 

Corollary. It follows from this that, even by absolute power, mortal sin whether actual or habitual cannot coexist with habitual grace in the same subject. This is commonly held by theologians against the Nominalists, Scotus, and Suarez. The reason is that man would be at one and the same time actually, or at least habitually, turned away from God, his last end, and habitually converted to God. For the primary formal effect of sanctifying grace is to sanctify man, to justify or “rectify” him (that is, to confer rectitude with regard to God, his last end), and thereby to make man a child of God. Whereas on the other hand, mortal sin is essentially iniquity and departure from rectitude with relation to our last end, and therefore destroys divine filiation or participation in the divine nature. But even by absolute power justice cannot be made to coexist with injustice, sanctity with iniquity and impurity, or rectitude with a turning aside from rectitude.

This would be the denial of the principle of contradiction or of identity: being is being, nonbeing is nonbeing, good is good, evil is evil, spirit is spirit, flesh is flesh. But once this supreme principle should be denied, it would give way to absolute, atheistic evolutionism the formula of which is found in the first proposition of the syllabus of Pius IX (Denz., no. 1701): “No supreme, all-wise, all-provident divine power exists distinct from the universe of things; God is the same as the nature of things and therefore subject to change, God is actually made in man,…and God is one and the same thing with the world and, therefore, spirit with matter, necessity with liberty, truth with falsehood, good with evil, and the just with the unjust.” It is to this that the opinion of the Nominalists, Scotus, and Suarez leads. 

Suarez objects: The sanctification or deification of the soul is not a primary but a secondary effect of grace. But by absolute power secondary effects may be separated from a form, as risibility from rationality. Therefore by absolute power habitual grace may exist without sanctification.

Thomists answer: I deny the major. This effect, namely, sanctification, is the primary effect of sanctifying grace, for grace is essentially a participation in the divine nature and supernatural substantially; it is not, as the Nominalists claimed, something entitatively natural conferring, by divine institution, a right to glory, as a bank note confers a right to receive money. Cf. above on the essence of sanctifying grace the primary formal effect of which is to sanctify. Thus the Nominalist conception of grace would be destructive of the whole supernatural order in us since this order would become entitatively natural. This debased form of theology held by the Nominalists is indeed wretched and worthy of contempt.3  Molina, although he taught that the act of infused faith is not specified by a higher formal object than that of acquired faith such as exists in the demons, never-theless elsewhere deplored deep-rooted and unconscious Nominalism. 

I insist. An act can coexist with the contrary habit, for instance, an act of intemperance with the habit of temperance. But habitual grace is a habit, whereas mortal sin is an act. Therefore they can co-exist in the same man.

Reply. 1. This proves too much, for then even by ordinary power habitual grace might coexist with mortal sin, just as the habit of temperance may coexist in corrupt human nature with the sin of intemperance by ordinary power. But all theologians deny such a possibility by ordinary power. 

2. There is a distinction to be made between acquired habits which are acquired by repeated acts and not destroyed by one sin, and the infused habits of grace and charity which are not acquired and are taken away in an instant by mortal sin which essentially includes the opposite matter of injustice and deviation from rectitude with regard to the final end.

I insist. But habitual grace resides in the essence of the soul, whereas sin lies in the will.

Reply. By the very fact that there is mortal sin, it follows that injustice and iniquity are present in the whole man; for sin destroys in the will the last disposition for habitual grace which resides in the essence of the soul and destroys as well the necessary properties of grace.

I insist. But sin does not expel grace physically, but only demeritoriously.

Reply. It does not expel grace physically, by a positive form, acting physically: granted; by its nature: denied. For iniquity, injustice, withdrawal from God, the death of the soul by its nature physically expels sanctity, approach to God, the life of the soul. 

I insist. God is not necessitated to withdraw grace from a sinner.  Therefore.

Reply. God is not necessitated absolutely to do so: granted; but He is necessitated on the supposition that He permits man to fall into mortal sin, for God cannot will two contradictories simultaneously.

I insist. God does not remove His grace from those once justified, unless He is first abandoned by them, according to the Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. II. Therefore sin precedes the withdrawal of grace and hence coexists with grace.

Reply. That mortal sin precedes the withdrawal of grace by a priority of time: denied; by a priority of nature on the part of the material cause: granted, as will be explained below (a. 8), just as darkness ceases in the atmosphere before the latter is illuminated, by a priority of nature but not of time.  


State of the question. We have already seen (q.112, a. 2) that a certain disposition is required for the justification of an adult which is effected under the influence of prevenient actual grace. Now we are concerned with the free acts required for justification. Let us first examine the Church’s definition of faith according to the Council of Trent, in opposition to the Protestants who held that only confident faith in the remission of our sins was required for justification, The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 6; Denz., no. 798) assigns six acts required for the justification of an Bdult sinner: I. faith, 2. fear, 3.  hope, 4. love of God, 5. repentance or contrition, and 6. the intention of receiving the sacrament instituted for the remission of sins, of beginning a new life and of keeping the divine commands, which intention is included in contrition itself. We shall see how this doctrine of the Church had already been admirably explained in the present article by St. Thomas long before the Protestant heresy.


It seems not to be, since: I. it is not required in infants, 2. a man may be justified while asleep, and 3. grace is preserved in us without any movement of free will, so that it should also be capable of being produced in the same way.

The reply, however, is that a movement of the free will to accept the gift of grace is required for the justification of an adult guilty of sin.

1 . Proof from authority. According to the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 6, can. 9; Denz., nos. 798, 819): “If anyone should say…that for justification…it is not necessary for a man to prepare and dispose himself by a movement of his will, let him be anathema.” This definition is based on Sacred Scripture (I Kings 7:3): “Prepare your hearts unto the Lord,” and (Zach. 1:3): “Turn ye to Me…and I will turn to you.”

2. Theological proof. In justifying man, God moves him to justice according to the condition of his nature. But it is in accordance with the proper nature of man that he should possess free will. Therefore in one who has the use of free will, God does not produce a motion toward justice without a movement of the free will, or without the free acceptance of the gift of grace.

Reply to first objection. This is not required in infants since they do not yet have the use of free will; thus without personal consent they are freed from original sin, the guilt of which they contracted without personal consent. The same reason applies to the insane or mentally deranged who have never had the use of free will. But if a person has had the use of free will for some time and later loses it either by some infirmity or merely by sleep, he does not obtain justifying grace through baptism, in the ordinary dispensation of providence, unless he first has at least the implicit desire for the necessary sacrament; cf. treatise on baptism. By absolute power, however, a sleeping man can be justified without a previous desire for baptism. 

Reply to second objection. St. Thomas makes note of two possibilities: 1. In a prophetic sleep a person may retain the use of free will; 2. without a complete movement of free will the intellect may be enlightened by the gift of wisdom, “since wisdom perfects the intellect which precedes the will.” (Cf. Job 33:15.)

Reply to third objection. The preservation of grace in the soul involves no transformation of the soul from the state of injustice to the state of justice; therefore it does not require a movement of free will but “only a continuation of the divine influx.” Thus the Trinity dwelling in the just soul preserves grace in it merely by the continua-tion of the divine presence or influx.



It seems not to be so, for: 1. an act of humility or of love of God suffices: 2. natural knowledge of God on the part of the intellect is sufficient; 3. at the moment of justification a man cannot think of all the articles of faith.

The reply, however, is that an act of supernatural faith is required for the justification of an adult sinner. This is of faith.

1. Proof from authority. The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. 12; Denz., nos. 822, 799, 802) in opposition to the Protestants who held that confident faith alone in the remission of our sins is required, whereby we trust that our sins are remitted for the sake of Christ.  According to the Council (Sess. VI, chap. 6; Denz., no. 798) faith by hearing is required of which St. Paul speaks in Rom. 10:17: “They are disposed for justice when, aroused by divine grace and aided, receiving faith by hearing (Rom. 10:17), they are freely moved unto God, believing those things to be true which are divinely revealed and promised, and this primarily: that the wicked are justified by His grace ‘through the redemption, which is in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 3:24).” Again the same Council, referring to the vain confidence of heretics, declares (Sess. VI, chap. 9; Denz., no. 802): “No one is capable of knowing with the certainty of faith, in which no falsehood lies concealed, that he has obtained the grace of God.” (Cf. also Denz., nos. 822 ff., 851, 922.)

Protestants, in fact, distinguished a threefold faith as follows:

They called this last form of faith “confidence,” confusing faith, which resides in the intellect, with confidence, which pertains to hope and to the will; for confidence is a firm hope (cf. IIa IIae, q. 129, a. 6). The Protestants held that only this confident hope is required for justification. Some of them, however, maintained that love, contrition, and good works were necessary, not as conducing to justification but as a sign of justifying confidence.

Furthermore, many laxist propositions have been condemned; cf.  Denz., no. 1173: “Faith broadly speaking, on the testimony of creatures or some similar motive, suffices for justification”; ibid., no. 1172: “Only faith in one God seems to be necessary by mediate necessity, but not explicit faith in a Rewarder.” Hence there is required supernatural faith at least that God exists and is a rewarder; otherwise man cannot tend toward his final supernatural end. Further condemnation follows (ibid., no. 1207): “It is probable that natural attrition of an honorable kind suffices.”

Supernatural contrition is necessary. It is thereupon declared that for sacramental justification, in other words, absolution, “a knowledge of the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation” is required. That is, such knowledge is necessary at least with a necessity of precept; but more probably also with mediate necessity, at least directly, but not indirectly or accidentally, if these are not known on account of insufficient preaching of the gospel in some particular region. This is the opinion of the Salmanticenses, in the treatise on faith (IIa IIae, q 4 a .7).

The Church’s belief in this matter, thus defined, is based clearly on many scriptural texts: “Preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth [the gospel]…shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15 f.); “But my just man liveth by faith” (Heb. 10:38); “But without faith it is impossible to please God.  For he that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him” (ibid., 11:6). And St. Paul demonstrates this truth by Old Testament history, citing the faith of Abel, Henoch, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. 

However, this faith of which St. Paul speaks is faith in the revealed mysteries, for it is defined in the same Epistle (Heb. 11:1): “Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not,” and one must at least believe, as he says, “that God is, and is a rewarder,” that is, believe in God as author of salvation and not merely in God as author of nature, known by natural means; such belief was necessary even before Christ. This is confirmed in our Lord’s words to Martha (John 11 q-27): “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me . . . shall not die forever,” and her reply: “Yea, Lord, I have believed that Thou art Christ the Son of the living God, who art come into this world.” Again, St. John tells us in his Gospel (20:31): “But these signs are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in His name.” That faith is justifying which Christ and His apostles preached; but they preached faith in the mysteries, not that individual, fiduciary faith whereby each one believes that his own sins are remitted.

Confirmation from tradition. From the beginning the Church, when faith is required of candidates for baptism, demanded no other faith but that by which we believe the articles of faith contained in the Creed, and not the faith by which we trust that our sins are forgiven.  (Cf. on this subject with respect to the Fathers, St. Robert Bellarmine, Dejustif., Bk. I, chap. 9.)4

Objection. But it is written in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee” (9:2), and further: “Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole” (9:22).

Reply. Before the paralytic and the woman obtained the remission of their sins they already had faith and nevertheless they did not yet believe that their sins were forgiven. Hence when Christ said: “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” He was referring to dogmatic faith, the same of which St. Paul speaks to the Romans (10:9): “If thou . . . believe . . . that God hath raised Him [the Lord Jesus] up from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

The second theological argument in the body of the article is as follows:

For the justification of adults who are in sin a movement of the soul is required freely turning toward God. But the first conversion toward God is through faith. Therefore an act of faith is required for the justification of an adult in sin.

The major is proved by what has already been said and is confirmed by Ps. 84:7: “Thou wilt turn, O God, and bring us to life.” The minor is according to St. Paul (Heb. 11:16): “For he that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him.” It is confirmed by the principle that nothing is willed without being previously known; but a supernatural end cannot first be known by wayfarers except through faith.

Reply to second objection. Natural knowledge of God does not suffice for justification, since by it a man is not converted to God as object of (supernatural) beatitude and cause of justification. The distinction is clearly affirmed here between the two orders. Lamennais and the liberals fell into error by holding (Denz., no. 1613) that: “The eternal salvation of souls may be purchased by any profession of faith whatsoever, if their morals are required to conform to a right and honorable standard.” Lammenais maintained that common sense was enough, since it was founded originally on the first revelation made to Adam. This was a confusion of the two orders, as in the case of the traditionalists. Nor does there consequently appear to have been any progress made in theology on this subject since St. Thomas, although, in founding his periodical, l’Avenir, Lammenais thought he was opening a new era. He passed from one extreme to the other, that is, from traditionalism to liberalism, declaring that the common traditions of all the people are sufficient.

Reply to third objection. St. Thomas determines which kind of faith is required according to St. Paul: “But to him that . . . believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God” (Rom. 4:5). “From which it appears,” as St. Thomas adds, “that for justification an act of faith is required to this extent: that a man believe God to be the justifier of men through the mystery of Christ.” This text may be cited in favor of the opinion which holds that, after Christ, faith in the redemptive Incarnation is necessary even by a necessity of means for salvation, since the promulgation of the gospel. (Cf. treatise on faith, IIa IIae, q. 2, a. 7.)

The answer to the first objection will be explained below in the refutation of the error of Protestantism.

The Protestant error: faith alone suffices for the justification of an adult.

It was declared at the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. 9 and 19; Denz., nos. 819, 829) that neither the confident faith referred to by Protestants, nor true Christian faith alone suffices for justification.In this respect Protestants revived an ancient heresy. Simon the Magician and, later, Eunomius misunderstood St. Paul’s words concerning the merely natural or legal works of the Jews, and maintained that Christian faith alone, that is, in the articles of the Creed, sufficed for salvation, without works of charity. It was against this error of Simon the Magician, as St. Irenaeus and St. Augustine tell us, that Peter, John, James, and Jude wrote in their epistles. However, in reviving this heresy, the Lutherans and Calvinists modified it by declaring that fiduciary faith suffices for justification, whereas the older heretics had reference to the faith by which we believe all the articles of faith. The innovators insisted that their doctrine was based on certain texts of St. Paul.5

But the definition of the Council of Trent is clearly based on many scriptural texts. St. James asks (2:14-26): “What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man says he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? . . . So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself. . . . Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only? . . . Faith without works is dead.” And in St. Peter’s Second Epistle we read (1:10): “Labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election.” St. Jude exhorts the faithful: “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (verse 21). Again St. John declares: “Little children, let no man deceive you. He that doth justice is just” (I John 3:7). And St. Paul writes: “If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (I Cor. 13:2); “For in Christ Jesus neither circum-cision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity” (Gal. 5:6); “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). 

Christ Himself everywhere recommends good works as necessary for justification and salvation: “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. . . . Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:16, 20); “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire” (ibid., 7:19); “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (ibid., 19:18).

Thus it becomes evident that Luther perverted Christ’s doctrine radically under the pretext of a deeper understanding of it. In his sermon on the words, “God so loved the world,” Luther teaches that, once justified by faith, although a man becomes a thief, murderer, adulterer, or sodomite, he still remains just; hence faith justifies without good works, indeed, even when accompanied by the worst possible works. Luther reiterates this opinion with reference to the second chapter of Galatians. Therefore he said: “Sin strongly and believe more strongly.” And Protestant historians, such as Harnack, would have us believe that this represents progress in the development of dogma. (Cf. Denifle, Luther und Luthertum.)

The principal objection of the heretics is based upon the text of St. Paul to the Romans (4:2): “If Abraham was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice [Gen. 15:6]. Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God. . . . Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered [Ps. 31:1]. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.”

Reply. This text of St. Paul is explained in the light of other texts of the Apostle by the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 8; Denz., no.  801). The meaning here is the same as in the preceding chapter of Romans (3:21 ff.): “But now without the law the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. Even the justice of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe in Him. . . . Being justified freely [that is, not by works] by His grace, through the redemption, that is in Christ Jesus”; and again later (ibid., 11:16): “If by grace, it is not now by works: other-wise grace is no more grace.” Such texts are often quoted against the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians.

Hence the reply is: St. Paul (Rom 4:5) denies only that the natural good works of pagans or the legal works of the Old Law can obtain justification for us, since justification is gratuitous, proceeding from faith in Christ the Redeemer and from grace. Therefore he declares: “To him that worketh not [that is, the natural works of the pagans or the works of the Mosaic law] yet believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.” This text should be cited against the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians who hold that “if one does what in one lies by natural power alone, God infallibly confers grace.” (Cf. Council of Trent, Denz. no. 801, and with respect to the Fathers, cf. St. Robert Bellarmine, De justificatione, Bk. I, chaps. 20-25.)6

St. Thomas’ doctrine on this subject, however, is perfectly clear, both from his answer to the first objection of the present article and from subsequent articles. Thus he maintains in his answer to the first objection of article 4: “The movement of faith is not perfect unless it is informed by charity, hence in the justification of adults guilty of sin there is a movement of charity simultaneous with the movement of faith.” Therefore justification is attributed to faith as its beginning and root, not however excluding other works which dispose for it; consequently the faith which justifies is a living faith which operates through charity. The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 6; Denz., no. 798) indicates an act of love of God following acts of faith, fear, and hope.

In the reply to the first objection St. Thomas had likewise noted an act of fear; indeed he specified a kind of fear when he wrote: “However the free will is moved toward God so far as it subjects itself to Him; hence there also concurs an act of filial fear [that is, fear of sin] and an act of humility” (to the extent that man understands himself to be a sinner, as the Council of Trent declares, ibid.).  In fact, St. Thomas mentions “an act of mercy or of love toward one’s neighbor” according as it either follows justification, or disposes one for it, or is concomitant with it at the very moment of justification itself. Finally, the Angelic Doctor remarks that one and the same act of free will participates in several virtues so far as one imperates and the others are imperated.” In article 8 he indicates the order of these acts.

A difficult problem: On the justification of a pagan child who, when he arrives at the full use of reason, does what lies in his power, with the help of actual grace, to love God above all things. 

St. Thomas writes, Ia IIae, q. 89, a. 6: “When a child begins to have the use of reason, he should order his acts toward a proper end, to the extent that he is capable of discretion at that age.” And again in the answer to the third objection: “The end is first in the intention. Hence this is the time when the child is obliged by the affirmative command: ‘Turn ye to Me. . . .’ But if the child does this, he obtains the remission of original sin.” It is an excellent form of baptism of desire. St. Thomas and Thomists reconcile this doctrine with the legitimate interpretation of the axiom: “To one who does what in him lies (with the help of actual grace), God does not deny habitual grace,” and in the present case God does not deny what is necessary for justification, that is, the supernatural presentation of the truths of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means, at least that God “is, and is a rewarder” in the order of grace.

However, since this thesis is extremely difficult and very complex, demanding the refutation of numerous objections, it will be well to offer here a recapitulation of its proof while at the same time solving the principal difficulties. (Cf. especially on this subject John of St.  Thomas, De praedestinatione, disp. 10, a. 3, nos. 40-41, and the thesis of Father Paul Angelo, O.P., La possibilità di salute nel primo atto morale per il fanciullo infedele, Rome, the Angelicum, 1946.)

I. Why does it not suffice, when a child begins to have the use of reason, that he wills, for example, not to lie, when the occasion arises?

Reply. Because the end is first in the intention; and the end in question is not only happiness in general, but at least some honorable good to be accomplished, as expressed in the first precept of the natural law (to live according to right reason); cf. Ia IIae, q. 94, a. 2.

2. At that moment is not the moral obligation properly so called, of loving an honorable good (living according to right reason), more than a pleasurable or useful good, and more than sensitive life, made evident explicitly to the child?

Reply. Yes.

3. Does not the explicit knowledge of this moral obligation demand that, the next moment at least, the child know explicitly, although confusedly, that this moral obligation proceeds from the author of his nature?

Reply. Yes; at least according to St. Thomas, since right reason does not bind except as a second cause dependent upon the first and since passive ordering of the child’s will toward loving an honorable good efficaciously, even at great cost, supposes the active ordination of the author of nature. Otherwise there could be a philosophical sin against right reason which would not be a sin against God.  However, this has been condemned as an error (Denz., no. 1290).7 But yet, in this instant the honorable good is known before the ultimate honorable good known confusedly, and before the ultimate basis of moral obligation, namely, the ordination proceeding from the author of nature.

4. Does the child, by loving an honorable good efficaciously and explicitly more than himself, love God, the author of nature, efficaciously but implicitly?

Reply. Yes.

5. Why in the present state cannot the child love God, the author of nature, efficaciously and implicitly more than himself, without grace which is at once healing and elevating?

Reply. Because by original sin “man follows his own exclusive good unless he is healed by the grace of God” (Ia IIae, q. 109, a. 3). And this healing grace is at the same time elevating.

6. Does it not suffice for the child to be justified that in a brief moment of time he elicits a single act of efficacious love of God, the author of nature?

Reply. Yes; but in fact this single act cannot be produced unless he is already healed by grace. He will thus be instantly justified, as St. Thomas remarked, De veritate, q. 24, a. 12 ad 2: “he will have grace immediately,” or will be justified.

7. Why cannot this child be at the same time converted to God, the author of nature, and in the state of original sin? 

Reply. Because original sin brings about directly aversion from the final supernatural end, and indirectly from the final natural end; for the natural law decrees that God is to be obeyed whatever He may command. Accordingly in the present state habitual grace cannot heal, without at the same time elevating, and being the root of infused charity.

8. But the difliculty remains with respect to the revelation of the first articles of belief. Is not a revelation, strictly speaking, required? 

Reply. Yes, a revelation, strictly speaking, is required, either immediately, or mediately through the guardian angel, since there can be no justification of an adult without an act of faith based on the authority of God who reveals. But at the moment of the moral beginning of the use of reason two physical instants can be distinguished, and this revelation is given in the second of them, if the child does not set up an obstacle but, with the help of actual grace, does whatever is in his power.8

9. In this second physical instant of the first use of reason, can the act of faith coexist with merely implicit knowledge of God? 

Reply. No, the knowledge of God must be explicit, and at least vague and obscure, such as that possessed by many Christians of long standing but very poorly instructed.

10. But what are the motives of belief for this child who is unacquainted with either miracles or prophecies?

Reply. The internal motives of belief then supply for the others under divine inspiration, for instance, an experience of great peace which manifests itself as proceeding from on high.

11. Is not this divine intervention miraculous?

Reply. No, for it is produced according to the law: “To him who does what in him lies, God does not refuse grace.”

But is it not extraordinary?

Reply. Yes, indeed.

Is it frequent among pagans?

Reply. It is difficult to say; probably the number of these baptisms of desire has increased since the consecration of the human race to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was made by Leo XIII at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Does God really give to pagan children at that moment sufficient grace for ordering their lives toward the proper end?

Reply. Yes.

13. Why do not the desire for faith and implicit faith in the primary objects of belief suffice?

Reply. Because implicit faith must be contained in a principle which is more universal, not of an inferior order. Thus implicit faith in the Trinity is contained in supernatural, explicit faith in God, the rewarder, but not in knowledge of an inferior order.

14. But if a child does not resist the first prevenient grace inclining him to a pious disposition to believe, will he not receive the enlighten-ment necessary for an act of faith?

Reply. Yes.

15. The final objection of the Nominalists is as follows: This doctrine of St. Thomas seems to be true in the abstract but not in the concrete. In the abstract, the major, the minor, and even the consequence are valid, hence the conclusion is logically arrived at, but the mind is not convinced that the theory is true in the concrete. Many young students admit of this reaction.

Reply. This is the objection of the Nominalists or subjective conceptualists, according to whom our concepts have no certain objective value. They argue that a perfect circle does not exist in the concrete, though it may be conceived as perfect in the abstract. The answer is that, although it may be difficult to form a perfectly accurate circle, the nature of a circle truly exists so far as it corresponds to its definition. With still greater reason, according to moderate realism, the nature of intelligence and will exists in the concrete here and now in this child, and therefore the properties of deliberating intelligence and of will directed toward the final end are strictly verified in him; while a wayfarer he begins to walk rationally in the path of good or of evil. There is no doubt of these two truths: the end is first in the intention, and, if a person does what he can (with divine assistance), God does not refuse grace.

Furthermore, the Nominalists hold that the proof of free will given by St. Thomas is valid only in the abstract, since in practice the stronger motive here and now draws one, and the opposite motive is not sufficient. This is Kant’s idea, at least in the phenomenal order.

Likewise the Jansenists held that sufficient grace is sufficient in the abstract, but not here and now in practice. The fact remains that our will, by its nature, is free with regard to any object “not in every respect good,” and that sufficient grace confers, in the concrete, here and now, the power of doing good, since potency is distinguished from act, just as the faculty of sight is distinguished from vision itself; otherwise a person who is asleep and not actually seeing would be blind. Matters must be judged according to the very nature of things, despite what may be held by Nominalism or Positivism, which is the negation of all philosophy and theology.



State of the question. It seems that charity toward God should suffice, without hatred for sin, since I. charity covers a multitude of sins; 2. he who stretches out toward what is before should not look back upon what is behind, according to St. Paul; and 3. man cannot remember all his sins.

The reply, however, is that an act of contrition or hatred of sin is required for the justification of an adult in sin.

Proof from the declaration of the Church, particularly in view of the quotation previously cited from the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 6; Denz., no. 798): “They are disposed for justice when, aroused by divine grace and assisted . . . they are moved against sin by a certain hatred and detestation”; also canon 9. This definition is based on several scriptural texts. In the argument Sed contra, St. Thomas quotes Ps. 31:5: “I said I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord: and Thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin.”

Theological proof. The justification of sinners is a movement of the mind from the state of sin to the state of justice. But the mind cannot freely approach justice without freely withdrawing from sin by detestation of it. Therefore the justification of sinners requires not only the desire of tending toward God and justice, but the hatred of sin or injustice. Hence faith alone does not justify. 

In other words, there can be no free approach to the terminus toward which one is moving without a free departure from the terminus away from which one is moving; or, there is no desire for good without flight from evil or aversion for evil, according to the words of the Psalmist: “You that love the Lord, hate evil” (96:10). Cajetan observes that from the motion of hatred for evil and the motion of affection for good there is formed, as it were, a single, complete motion of the will from evil to good. (Cf. a. 7 ad 2.)

Reply to first objection. It pertains to charity to love God and, consequently, to hate sin or offense against God; hence charity controls penitence. Cf. the treatise on penance and article 8 of the present question on the order of these acts and also of attrition and contri-tion.

Reply to second objection. Man ought not to look back on past sins to love them but rather to detest them.

Reply to third objection. Man should detest all the sins he has committed, including those he has forgotten, for he would hate these also if they were present to his memory.



State of the question. This seems not to be true, since I. this remis-sion is justification itself and not merely a part of it; 2. since the same thing should not be enumerated together with itself, and the infusion of grace is the same as the remission of sin.

The reply is, nevertheless, in the affirmative.

1 . Proof in general. Since the remission of sin is the effect and end of justification; contrary to what Luther declared, sins are not merely covered over but forgiven. But the end toward which justification is ordained should not be omitted.

2. Specific proof. Justification is a motion of the mind from the state of sin to the state of justice. But in any motion, three elements are necessary: 1. the motion of the mover, this is the infusion of grace; 2. the movement of the moved, that is, a motion of living faith and contrition; and 3. the attainment of the end, which is the remission of sin. Therefore.

Later, in his treatise on penance (IIIa, q. 85, a. 5 c.), St. Thomas states that “Penance as a habit is immediately infused by God, without any principal operation on our part; not, however, without our cooperation in disposing ourselves by certain acts.

“From another standpoint, we may speak of penance as it consists of acts in which we cooperate toward the penance which God produces; the first and principal of these acts is the operation of God converting our hearts, according to Lam. 5:21: “Convert us, O Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted.” The second act is the movement of faith; the third is the movement of servile fear, whereby a person is drawn away from his sins through fear of punishment. The fourth act is a movement of hope, by which he resolves to amend in the hope of obtaining pardon. The fifth is a movement of charity whereby sin becomes displeasing on its own account and no longer for fear of punishment. The sixth is a movement of filial fear which voluntarily offers some amendment to God out of reverence for Him.”

Reply to first objection. The justification of sinners is said to be identical with the remission of sins so far as all movement is specified by the terminus toward which it tends.

Reply to second objection. The infusion of grace and the remission of sins are the same with regard to the substance of the act, for God, by the same act, bestows grace and remits guilt; but they differ in relation to their objects, according to the distinction between guilt which is removed and grace which is infused. Thus, in natural processes, generation and corruption are differentiated, although the generation of one thing is the corruption of another. In the same way, the infusion of grace is the remission of sin.

Thus terminates this second part of question 113, that is, the consideration of the acts requisite for the justification of an adult. They are found to be: an act of living faith, that is, of faith and charity, together with acts of filial fear and hope (a. 4 c and ad I) and an act of contrition (a.5). All of these were subsequently defined by the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chap. 6; Denz., no. 798) when six acts were indicated as concurring in justification: I. faith, 2. fear of both punishment and guilt (Denz., no. 818), 3. hope, 4. love of God, 5.  contrition, 6. the intention of receiving the sacraments, of beginning a new life, and of keeping the commandments, which intention is included in contrition. The fourth act is thus designated by the Council: “They begin to love God as source of all justice and, consequently, they are moved to withdraw from sin” (Denz., no. 798). 

Concerning the necessity of at least a beginning of this love for justification through the sacrament, there is a well-known controversy, which is analyzed in the treatise on penance with reference to attrition and contrition. Contrition is said to be perfect if sin is displeasing principally as an offense against God; it is said to be imperfect if sin displeases principally as harmful to the sinner. Attrition is imperfect contrition (cf. Denz., nos. 898, 915). The controversy arises over the attrition necessary for justification with the sacrament, since attrition for sin committed may proceed from various motives, either natural or supernatural: 1. whether from the fact that sin is ugly in itself and revolting to right reason, 2. or because it is the cause of temporal evils, 3. or because it leads to damnation, 4. or because it deprives one of eternal glory, or 5. because it is evil and an offense against God. According to the Church, in opposition to the laxists, a natural motive does not suffice even for sacramental justification (Denz., no. 1207) ; attrition must be supernatural in its motivation (Denz., nos. 699, 751, 897, 1536). Perfect contrition arising from charity with the desire for the sacrament justifies even before the reception of the latter, and that not merely in case of necessity or martyrdom. The Church likewise declared that attrition without charity is not evil and may be supernatural, and that, if it is supernatural, it suffices with the sacrament of penance for justification. But it is a disputed point among theologians just what is required to make attrition supernatural, from which supernatural motive it should proceed, and whether it includes an incipient love of God, distinct from charity. According to many Thomists, it includes a love of benevolence toward God, distinct from charity, just as in faith there is a devout will to believe with reference to divine truth. We have discussed this subject at length in the treatise De poenitentia appended to the De Eucharistia (1943, pp. 360-79).

Doubt. Whether all six acts enumerated by the Council of Trent must be explicit.

Reply. The acts of faith and of love must be formal or explicit since neither in the intellect nor in the will are any more excellent or higher acts produced wherein they might be virtually contained. It seems that hope would be virtually contained in the more eminent act of charity, should a person be suddenly moved to conversion. The act of contrition, so it seems, must be explicit at least essentially, since man should regret his sin not only because it is contrary to divine goodness but also as a violation of the divine law, and this pertains formally not to charity but to penance; but accidentally a person may not think explicitly of his sins but only of loving God, and he is then justified. It suffices for the purpose of amendment to be virtual in the contrition.

The third part of the present question deals with the properties of justification, according as it takes place in an instant, including however the priority and posteriority of nature (a. 7 and 8), according as it is the greatest work of God with regard to the effect produced (a. 9) , although it is not a miracle, at least ordinarily (a. 10).



State of the question. It seems not to be instantaneous, since: 1. it requires an act of free will which entails previous deliberation; 2. it requires two acts, the love of God and the hatred of sin, which do not seem to be simultaneous; 3. habitual grace itself is susceptible of greater or less measure, and therefore is not received in an instant, but little by little according to its various degrees; 4. the movement of free will concurring toward justification is meritorious; therefore it cannot take place until after the infusion of grace, which is the principle of merit; 5. the same instant cannot be at once the first instant of the life of grace and the last instant of the state of sin, since these two opposites cannot coexist; but between two instants there must be an intermediate time; otherwise they would be identical. 

The conclusion is, nevertheless, that the justification of sinners is effected by God instantaneously, at least so far as it signifies the infusion of habitual grace and the remission of sins, although the previous dispositions by which the sinner is prepared are ordinarily produced successively. However, these dispositions, as explained in the reply to the first objection, are the path to justification, but not the real substance of justification.

Proof from Scripture, according to which the Holy Ghost comes into the souls of men suddenly: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming” (Acts 2:2).

Nevertheless the Council of Trent (Sess. VI, chaps. 5 and 6) refers not only to the infusion of grace, but also to the antecedent dispositions by which the sinner is prepared, and, in this sense, justification is ordinarily effected successively, as St. Thomas himself here declares in the body of the article, in the answer to the first objection, in the preceding article 5 ad 3, and in q. 112, a. 2 ad I and 2. His teaching may be summarized as follows: Ordinarily justification including also the preceding dispositions is produced successively, for it is only under extraordinary circumstances that God sometimes bestows at the same moment of time the complete disposition and the infusion of grace, as in miraculous conversions which are utterly instantaneous, even in regard to their preparation; cf. a. 10.

Theological proof. A form is impressed upon a previously disposed subject in an instant when the agent does not require time to overcome the resistance of the subject. But justification is the impressing of habitual grace upon a previously disposed subject by God who requires no time. Therefore justification, inasmuch as it is the infusion of grace, is effected in an instant.

We are here supposing the disposition to be primary in time, not final, since justification is understood as signifying only the infusion of grace, and God almighty requires no other disposition than that which He produces and which He can also effect at the very instant when He produces grace itself, as He did in St. Paul, or gradually and successively; but this does not pertain to justification taken in sense of the infusion of grace. What does pertain to it, as we shall see in the following article, is the final disposition through an act of living faith and contrition at the very instant of justification. Therefore justification, taken in this sense, is effected in an instant.

The major is verifiable even in the natural order, inasmuch as, once the disposition for the substantial form is present in the matter, this form, of which the specific difference is indivisible, is produced in an instant; for example, an animal either is a lion; and again, transparency which is predisposed can be suddenly illuminated.

The minor is clear with reference to the infusion of grace in its precise acceptation. Indeed God sometimes produces in an instant, under extraordinary circumstances, the preliminary dispositions for grace, since acts of free will can be made instantaneously.

Confirmation. (De veritate, q. 8, a. 9.) When there is no mean between the extremes of a change, just as there is no mean in the substantial change between being and nonbeing (for example, between the being of form of a lion and not being), then the transition is made instantaneously. But between the extremes involved in justification, habitual grace on the one hand and deprivation of habitual grace on the other, there can be no mean; for man either possesses habitual grace or he does not; if he does, even in the least degree, he is already justified. Therefore.

Further confirmation is found in the refutation of the objections.

Reply to first objection. The deliberation which precedes by a priority of time is the way to justification but not the substance of justification, for which there is required the final, instantaneous consent of the deliberation to detest sin and be united to God.

Reply to the second objection. These two acts of hatred for sin and love and love of God can be simultaneous inasmuch as one is ordained to the other, for man detests sin for the reason that it is against God to whom he wishes to adhere.

Reply to the third objection. Some forms can be received to a greater or less degree, such as light or grace; yet they are produced instantaneously, for even if possessed in the least degree their essence is already present. The slightest degree of habitual grace is already a participation in the divine nature.

Reply to the fourth objection. The movements of living faith and of contrition are meritorious inasmuch as they proceed from habitual grace itself at the very moment of infusion. For grace begins to operate at once, just as fire immediately forces itself upward or produces light. This is a remarkable fact: life is infused simultaneously in first act and in second act.

Reply to fifth objection. There is no last instant in which guilt was present in the soul, but there is a last time; whereas there is a first instant in which habitual grace is present therein; however, throughout the preceding time, guilt was present. Hence the first nonexistence of guilt is the first existence of grace, which presents no contradiction. The text should be consulted in this regard. This question of the final instant is of great importance in the matter of the end of life. 

It should be remarked that Cajetan (Ia, q. 64, a. I, no. 18), wishing to explain the obstinacy of a damned soul by comparison with the obstinacy of the demon, declares: “I say that the soul is settled in obstinacy by the first act which it elicits in the state of separation, and that the soul then demerits, not as in life, but as having arrived at its term; as appears from what has been said above (q. 63, a. 6, no.3) , the instant of death belongs intrinsically to the state of wayfarer.”

The Salmanticenses remark (De gratia, “de merito,” disp. I, dub.  IV, no. 36): “This manner of speaking of Cajetan is generally not admitted because of the testimony of several scriptural texts according to when men can merit or lose merit before death but not in death.” Hence the same thing should be said of the state of wayfarer as has been said here of the state of sin: there is not the last instant of the life of the wayfarer, but the last moment of time; on the other hand, there is the first instant of life of the separated soul; and throughout the preceding time, infinitely divisible, the life of the wayfarer ex-isted.

Hence the first nonexistence of the wayfarer’s state is the first existence of the state of separated soul; and, as it seems, merit is then no longer possible, but only immediately before, since it is man who must merit and not a separated soul, for his body is given to him that he may tend toward his end, and after separation from the body his choice is rendered permanent. Thus is confirmed by revelation the Aristotelian thesis of the soul as the form of the body. 

This problem is extremely difficult; cf. St. Thomas, Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chaps. 92, 93, and the Commentary of Francis Silvester (Ferrariensis) who does not follow Cajetan. We have dealt with this question in the treatise De Deo creatore, pp. 408-12.



State of the question. This question is attractive and, on the other hand, it illustrates the problem of the culpability of the sinner, according as the resistance to sufficient grace precedes, at least by a priority of nature, the refusal of divine efficacious grace. It seems that the infusion of grace is not first in order of nature, since: 1. withdrawal from evil precedes the approach to good; therefore the remission of guilt is prior to the infusion of grace; 2. the movement of free will is a disposition for the reception of grace and therefore precedes it; 3. indeed the remission of guilt takes place before the movement of free will, for that which prevents the movement is removed before the movement can follow. Such objections are often proposed in similar questions. Many argue on the basis of priority in the order of material cause, as if the material cause were absolutely prior to any other. This would lead to materialism, and, in the present problem, to Pelagianism, which is a materialistic explanation of justification, to the extent that at least the beginning of salvation would proceed from nature.

The conclusion of St. Thomas is twofold; he explains the profound meaning of our Lord’s words of Mary Magdalen (Luke 7:47): “Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less.” These words seem to be opposed to each other.

First conclusion. 1. On the part of God, the agent, and absolutely, the infusion of grace is prior not by a priority of time but of nature:

2. a movement of free will toward God is produced, namely, of living faith and charity; detestation for sin; and

3. detestation of sin; and

 4. the remission of guilt.

It is assumed from the preceding article that justification with respect to its essence, in the strict sense, is effected in an instant, so that the same instant is the first nonexistence of sin and the first existence of habitual grace. But there may be preceding dispositions beforehand, although not the final disposition which is produced at the very instant of justification.

Proof from common principles, from the argument Sed contra. Because a cause is prior to its effect; but the infusion of grace is the cause of the movement of free will toward God, of contrition, and of the remission of sin.

Proof, in particular; the body of the article should be read. In any movement there is: 1. the motion of the mover, 2. the movement of the object set in motion, and 3. the terminus toward which it is moved. But the justification of a sinner is the transmutation effected by God from the state of sin to the state of grace. Therefore it involves: 1. the motion of God infusing grace, 2. a twofold movement of free will, and 3. the end of the movement, that is, the remission of guilt. 

Why does the movement of free will toward God precede contrition? Because we detest sin inasmuch as it is against God; our love of God is the cause of our contrition, which is the cause of the remission of guilt. Hence our Lord says of Mary Magdalen: “Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much” (Luke 7:47); but He adds: “To whom less is forgiven, he loveth less.” This is explained by St. Thomas’ second conclusion which concerns the movable element or material cause.

The second conclusion refutes the first objection as follows: With regard to the movable element or the justified man, freedom from guilt is prior in order of nature to the acquisition of grace. Observe well that St. Thomas uses the terms liberation from guilt rather than remission of guilt, and acquisition of grace rather than infusion of grace, since he is here considering the matter from the standpoint of the man justified and not of God who justifies. (Consult the answer to the first objection.)

Proof. On the part of the object moved, withdrawal from the terminus a quo it precedes the approach to the terminus ad quem. For instance, with regard to the lighting up of the atmosphere, the dispelling of darkness precedes the arrival of the light, not by a priority of time but of nature, whereas on the other hand, in relation to the sun, illumination is prior by nature to the removal of darkness. Therefore, from the standpoint of man, liberation from guilt precedes the acquisition of grace, whereas, from the standpoint of God, the infusion of grace precedes the remission of guilt.

Again, St. Thomas says in answer to the second objection: “The movement of free will precedes in the order of nature the acquisition of grace for which it disposes one, but it follows the infusion of grace.”

He is here referring to the final disposition which is present in the same instant as justification itself, in the strict sense; but there may be previous dispositions preceding in time, as remarked in the foregoing article (ad I, and a. 5 ad 3; q. 112, a. 2 ad I and 2). 

Finally in reply to the third objection: Since the end is first in the intention, free will is moved toward God as to its end before the motion to remove the impediment of sin. Thus, in the present article, St. Thomas applies with remarkable aptness the principle of Aristotle (Met., Bk. V, chap. 2): “Causes are causes to each other but under different aspects”; thus there is a mutual relationship of priority without a vicious circle, since the mutual causes are not such under the same aspect, but under different aspects. Absolute evolutionism, however, perverts this principle and falls into contradiction by claiming that evolution is, of itself, creative and that God is the world or is made in the world. God makes all that are made in the world, but He several of which I have indicated in God: His Existence and His Nature, II, 313 ff. The efficient cause is attracted by or from the end and obtains or produces the end; the matter is determined by the form and limits it; a bird bears its wings, but is borne by them; the intellect receives its object from the senses, but it passes judgment upon them; it directs the will, but is applied by the will; the final practical judgment precedes choice and is confirmed by it. Revelation is proposed by the Church and is a motive for believing in the infallibility of the Church. Again, the Word would not have become incarnate if man had not sinned, but God permitted the sin of the first man for the greater good of the Incarnation itself.9

First corollary. The passive purifications of the spirit are often made according to the same order, inasmuch as God, through the illumination of the gifts of intellect, purifies from all imperfection faith, hope, and charity, that the formal motive of these virtues may appear in all its purity and move the soul; and on the part of God, the purification of these virtues precedes, at least by a priority of nature, the more intense contrition.

But on the part of the purified soul the order is reversed; thus there first appears the purification of humility by a profound realization of I was not made. There are many other applications of this principle, our misery and a hatred for sin; there follows the purification of faith, amid the overcoming of temptations against faith; then the purification of hope, surmounting the temptation to despair; and finally the purification of love or charity, described by St. Theresa in the seventh mansion.

Hence the passive purification of the spirit renews once more and much more profoundly what takes place in the justification of sinners; both of them are sanctifying, the first imperfectly, the second perfectly. God is the author of both, just as a farmer first plows a shallow furrow and then a much deeper one to extirpate stubborn weeds and roots and prepare the soil, so that the grain of wheat falling into it may bear much fruit.

Second corollary. The argument is the same in the opposite direction. To explain the culpability of the sinner it must be said conversely that in the first sin the resistance to sufficient grace absolutely precedes by a priority of nature the divine refusal of efficacious grace. St. Thomas had said in the reply to the first objection of our present article: “And since the infusion of grace and the remission of guilt are said to be on the part of God who justifies, therefore in the order of nature the infusion of grace is prior to the remission of guilt.” On the other hand it must be said: “And since sin as such is a defect which of itself is reducible, not to God who is indefectible, but to the defective and deficient free will, therefore in the order of nature, at the same instant, the initial defect or voluntary heedlessness in fulfilling an obligation or resistance to sufficient grace is prior absolutely to the divine refusal of efficacious grace, which is a punishment presupposing a fault, and to the divine motion concurring in the matter of the sin. Thus the divine denial of efficacious grace, so far as it is a punishment presupposing a fault, signifies  something more than the simple divine permission of the initial sin, which is the condition without which there could be no sin, but not its cause. Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. II: “God by His grace does not abandon souls once justified (by the refusal of efficacious grace) unless He is first abandoned by them”; but man would not abandon God if God did not permit it; hence we must pray: “Permit me not to be separated from Thee!” We have explained this elsewhere: God: His Existence and His Nature, 11,371 ff ., and De Deo creatore, pp. 346-52. 

The point to be emphasized is that abandoning God is a defect pertaining to man and therefore this priority on the part of the material cause is absolute; while on the contrary, in the infusion of grace, which is the work of God, the priority on the part of the agent is absolute. (Cf. Ia IIae, q. 79, a. 1 and 2: whether God is the cause of sin and the cause of the act of sin.)

Doubt. Whether the acts of charity and contrition, which dispose finally for habitual grace, proceed from it effectively or only from the actual help communicated in a transitory way; cf. Salmanticenses, dub. 3 and 4. Billuart (De gratia, d. 7, a. 4, § 4) remarks that there are the three following opinions on this subject.

1. The old school of Thomists, Cajetan, Francis Silvester (Ferrariensis), Soto, Bañez, Alvarez, Godoy, the Salmanticenses, Gonet, and Serra declare that these acts proceed effectively from habitual grace by charity and penance, and they hold this answer to be more conformable to the principles of St. Thomas.

2. More recent theologians, such as Suarez, Molina, Bellarmine, and, among Thomists, John of St. Thomas, Contenson, and Philip of the Holy Trinity, maintain that they proceed from actual help distinct from habitual grace. St. Bonaventure and Scotus are quoted in support of this opinion.

3. Goudin, wishing to reconcile the two foregoing opinions, proposed that the acts proceed from grace by charity and penance, not permanently in the manner of a habit, but transiently, communicated in the same way as habitual grace in the process of being conferred. It seems to us that the first opinion is correct as very well explained by the Salmanticenses and Gonet, Clypeus, with reference to the present article.

Proof from the authority of St. Thomas in this article, the argument Sed contra and the reply to the second objection: “The final disposition of the subject precedes the reception of a form, in the order of nature, but it follows the action of the agent whereby the subject itself is disposed. Therefore the movement of free will precedes in the order of nature [on the part of the subject] the acquisition of grace, but it follows the infusion of grace.” Cf. also Ia IIae, q. 113, a. 6,7 ad I, and later a. 10, nonmiraculous conversion; likewise, Ia IIae, q. 112, a.         2 ad I, where this disposition is said to be meritorious, and therefore proceeds from habitual grace which is the principle of merit; IIIa, q. 7, a. 13 ad 2; q. 9, a. 3 ad 2. In the same way, the body is organized finally only by the soul, and this organization is the disposition for receiving the soul, Ia, q. 76, a. 4 ad I. Thus great teachers have their own peculiar language, terminology, and characteristic mannerism which finally prepare the student to receive and understand their teaching.

Theological proof. Since these acts are vitalized by supernatural life, and at the same time connatural and meritorious, as St. Thomas declares, they should therefore proceed from a faculty elevated by infused habits. Nor is there any impossibility in this; rather is it the application of the principle: causes are a cause to each other in different orders. Thus habitual grace precedes these acts under the aspect of formal cause, and follows them under the aspect of material, disposing cause. Absolutely, however, the infusion of grace and the movement (as efficient cause) precede the acts to which we refer.  Cf. below, note 10.

In the same way, air will not enter a room unless a window is opened, nor can the window be opened without the air entering. So does God knock at the door of the heart and it opens, and at the same time, we open it by consenting. Actual grace suffices for a disposition which is not final, but the final disposition is effected at the very instant when the form is produced and, although as a disposition it precedes it in the genus or order of material cause, it nevertheless follows it in the genus or order of formal, efficient, and final cause. Likewise the final disposition toward a spiritual soul precedes it under the genus of material cause, and follows it under the genus of formal cause, as the property of form which inheres in a compound; when it is destroyed, death ensues, or the separation of soul from body.10



State of the question. It seems not to be so, since: 1. the glorification of the just is higher than the justification of sinners; 2. even the creation of heaven and earth is a higher thing inasmuch as the good of the universe is greater than the good of one justified man; and 3.  creation was made from nothing.

The first conclusion, however, is that from the standpoint of the thing produced, or absolutely, justification is a greater work than creation, although not so great as glorification, since creation terminates in a good of a mutable nature in the natural order; whereas justification terminates in the eternal good of participation in the divine nature, the beginning of eternal life; and glorification terminates in the gift of glory which is greater than the gift of grace. This conclusion is based on Holy Scripture as cited in the argument Sed contra: “His . . . mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 144:9).  And the Church prays in her Collect: “O God who, more than in all things else, showest forth Thine almighty power by sparing and by having mercy . . .”; and Augustine comments on St. John’s Gospel (chap. 14): “It is a greater work to make a just man of a sinner than to create heaven and earth.”

Corollary from the answer to the second objection: “The good of grace in one man is greater than the natural good of the whole universe,” greater even than all the angelic natures capable of being created taken together. For grace is of a superior order; likewise the tiniest plant or blade of grass, so far as it is living, is something more perfect than mountains of gold or silver. (Cf. Salmanticenses.)

Second conclusion. From the standpoint of the mode of action, creation is a greater work than justification, since it is a more excellent mode of operation to make something out of nothing. But this superiority with regard to the mode of operation is limited to a par-ticular aspect, for, as St. Augustine says, absolutely “it is a greater thing to make a just man out of a sinner than to create heaven and earth. . . . Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the salvation and justification of the predestinate will remain.”

Third conclusion. The justification of sinners is a greater work than glorification with respect to proportionate quantity, but not to absolute quantity. For the gift of grace exceeds the deserts of a sinner, who was worthy of punishment, more than the gift of glory does those of the just man, who is worthy of glory. Furthermore, the gift of grace exceeds human or angelic nature more than the gift of glory exceeds grace; for grace is the seed of glory, but even angelic nature is not the seed of grace. Such is the doctrine that ought to be preached; it is the basis of true mysticism. The Incarnation is a more perfect work than justification ; likewise the divine maternity is immeasur-ably above the order of grace and glory because, by reason of its term, it belongs to the hypostatic order.


State of the question. It seems to be so, since: 1. it is a greater work than other miraculous works; it is, as it were, the resurrection of the soul, surpassing that of the body; 2. the will of the sinner tends toward evil as a corpse toward corruption; 3. it is miraculous for a person to obtain wisdom from God suddenly, without any study; therefore it is equally so to attain to grace in an instant. 

The first conclusion, nevertheless, is that the justification of a sinner, so far as it is ordinarily accomplished, cannot be termed miraculous, although it is a very wonderful thing.

Proof. It is said to be wonderful since it can be effected only by God. However, for a miracle, strictly speaking, it does not suffice that God alone be able to accomplish it; it must be out of the ordinary course of divine providence, such as raising of the dead or giving sight to one born blind. But justification, inasmuch as it commonly comes to pass, is within the ordinary course of supernatural providence; that is, imperfect conversion takes place first, which is the disposition for perfect conversion. The soul is naturally, by reason of its obediential power, “capable of grace,” and is made “capable of God by grace.” Certain immanentists misunderstood these words of St. Thomas: “the soul is naturally capable of grace”; it does not possess within itself the germ of grace but only an obediential power, as St. Thomas declares in several places; cf. ad 3.

Second conclusion. Sometimes, however, justification or conversion is miraculous, according as God, operating outside the usual order of His providence, suddenly moves a sinner to perfect conversion, without any preceding disposition in priority of time. This occurred in the conversion of St. Paul which is commemorated by the Church as a miracle for two reasons: I. because, as St. Thomas says, St. Paul “suddenly attained to a certain perfection of justice”; 2. and because a miraculous external prostration was also added to it. The sudden conversion of Mary Magdalen is also cited by many theologians, such as Billuart, as miraculous. And in the nineteenth century such was the conversion of Father Ratisbonne in Rome.

Reply to first objection. Very many miracles, such as the resurrection of the body, are inferior to justification, with respect to the good they produce, although they possess more of the nature of a miracle. In the same way, the grace of the virtues and the gifts is higher than the graces gratis datae, for example, than prophecy, Ia IIae, q. III, a. 4; cf. Salmanticenses.


We have dealt with this question at length in the treatise De Deo Trino, explaining St. Thomas’ article, Ia, q. 43, a. 3: Whether the invisible mission of a divine person is only according to the gift of sanctifying grace. Only the principal points will be outlined here. 

God is already present in all things according as He preserves them in being (Ia, q. 8, a. 3) ; but He is especially present in the just, according as He is in them as an object quasi-experimentally knowable and lovable, and sometimes actually known and loved. Thus Christ promises (John 14:23): “If anyone love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him.” And again, St. Paul writes (Rom. 5:5): “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.” Cf. the encyclical of Leo XIII, Divinum illud munus, May 9, 1897. It is a question of the special presence of the most Blessed Trinity according as, through living faith illuminated by the gift of wisdom, God is known quasi-experientially and loved, and we take delight in Him, as St. Thomas explains (Ia, q. 43, a. 3; IIa IIae, q.45, a.2)

But there are three different interpretations of this doctrine, the first proposed by Vasquez, the second by Suarez, and the third by the most eminent Thomists.

Vasquez holds that this special presence is not of itself real, but only affective, like the presence of a friend who is physically at a distance; God is, nevertheless, really present in us by His ordinary presence as preserving us in being. But Vasquez does not sufficiently safeguard the words of Holy Scripture on this special presence. 

Suarez maintains that the most Blessed Trinity is really present in the just as object of charity, even independently of its ordinary presence; for the charity of a wayfarer demands and constitutes a presence not merely affective but real of the object which we enjoy.  The foremost Thomists, notably John of St. Thomas, declare that the charity of a wayfarer demands the affective presence and craves the real presence of the God it loves, but does not constitute that presence. Thus we love the humanity of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, although they do not dwell in us. Hence a special presence of the most Blessed Trinity presupposes the ordinary presence of God preserving us in being, but it is nevertheless a real presence by a reason of its own in the sense that it is the presence of an object known and loved quasi-experientially; for a quasi-experiential knowledge has its term in a thing present, not at a distance. (Similarly accident pre-supposes substance but is itself a reality.) We know God quasi-experientially by the filial affection He excites in us; thus “the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:16).


1 Cf. Rouet de Journel, Enchir. patrist., Theological index, nos. 354 ff., which cites evidence from many of the Fathers on this subject.

2 From this article and the following one it appears evident that the gift of original justice was not only the integrity of nature, but included sanctifying grace as well, as its intrinsic root, from which charity flowed according to which the “highest in I man was subjected to God.” This is opposed to Father Kors’ opinion, as we explained in the treatise De Deo creatore, pp. 431-37.

3Divine adoptive filiation follows from deification, unless a man is already the natural Son of God, which is true only of Christ.

4 Cf. Rouet de Journel, Enchir. patrist., Theological index, no. 362, for the opinions of the Fathers on this subject.

5 “We account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28); “If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God” (Rom. 4:2); “Knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16); “. . . And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith” (Phil. 3:9). 

It is certain that the innovators misunderstood these texts, as appears from the context. For, in the first place, St. Paul is not speaking of fiduciary faith, but of the Christian faith whereby we believe the mysteries; and in the second place, he excludes only the works of the law, or the legal obligations of the Jews, who observed the Mosaic law according to the flesh, and those merely natural works which proceed only from the powers of nature and neither from faith, nor from grace or charity. But he does not exclude the supernatural works of charity, for he himself declares to the Galatians (5:6): “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by charity.” (Cf. also I Cor. 13:2 and Rom. 2:13, texts to be cited below.)

6 Cf. Rouet de Journel, Enchir. patrist., Theological index, no. 363: Man should dispose himself for justification by faith and by acts of the other virtues. (The testimony of the Fathers on this subject.)

7 Denz., no. 1290: “Philosophical sin or moral is a human act unbecoming to ra-tional nature and right reason; theological, mortal sin is the transgression of the divine law. A philosophical sin, although grave, in him who either docs not know God or docs not think of God when he acts, is a grave sin, but it is not an offense against God nor a mortal sin dissolving friendship with God, nor is it deserving of eternal punishment.” This proposition was condemned as scandalous, audacious, and erroneous.

8 This question has been explained more profoundly than by other Thomists in the De auxiliis of Alvarez, disp. 56, no. 22, and subsequently even more satisfactorily by John of St. Thomas, who writes (De praedestinatione, disp. 10, a.3, nos. 40-41): “This child, to whom the whole law of living according to reason is proposed, cannot accept it unless it is represented to him that the observance of the whole law is something great and for the sake of which something great is to be done which he himself cannot fully attain to; and it is the supernatural which is then implicitly proposed to him.

“And this is because, in the state of fallen nature, he cannot fulfill and accept the whole law, so as to accomplish it by his natural powers alone, but only by the help of grace, whereby eternal life is promised to those who keep the commandments; and thus the observance of the commandments cannot be separated from God, the supernatural end. . . . Hence those who, in that first instant, accept the law and fulfill the natural precept with regard to the whole law present a manifest sign of having received supernatural help, since the powers of nature do not suffice. And such persons will most assuredly be enlightened and obtain knowledge of those mysteries which are necessary for justification and salvation, either through an angel or by means of the preaching of the word, as Peter was sent to Cornelius.” This whole text of John of St. Thomas should be read; he has penetrated more deeply into the subject than many other Thomists either among his predecessors or among subsequent and more recent authorities.

The words of St. Thomas must be completely safeguarded, IIa IIae, q.2, a.3: “For man to arrive at the perfect vision of beatitude, it is prerequisite that he believe in God, as a pupil in the master who instructs him.” Hence belief in something above natural reason (namely, that God is and is a rewarder in the order of salvation) has always been necessary to salvation. Cf. ibid., a.8 ad I: “At all times and with respect to all things, it has been necessary to believe explicitly in these two primary articles of faith concerning God.”

9 Thus Peter would not have reached heaven had he not done penance, and God permitted his threefold denial so that Peter might become more humble and attain a greater degree of glory.

10 Father Henri Bouillard, S.J., in his recent book, Conversion et grâce chez  S. Thomas d’Aquin, Paris, 1944, coming to the heart of the problem, writes (pp. 169-70): “It will be observed that St. Thomas, la IIae, q. 113, a. 8 ad  I, no longer has recourse to reciprocal causality. In the works of his youth he did so.” On the contrary, as we have remarked (a.8), St. Thomas clearly resorts to reciprocal causality, as all Thomists agree. In fact, this mutual causality always comes into play when the four causes are involved. Cf. above, pp. 204 ff. Nor can we admit the opinions expressed in Father Bouillard’s volume on pages 212, 219, 221, 224.