Grace: Chapter Twelve

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

Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.



(We here reprint an article which appeared in the Revue Thomiste, 1936.)

“Grace, which is an accident, is a certain participated likeness of the divinity in man” (St. Thomas, IIIa, q. 2, a. 10 ad I).

This question has been put to us in connection with recent debates1and with reference to what we recently wrote in the Revue Thomiste on the subject of Deity.2More precisely, the question was formulated as follows: Is grace a participation in Deity as it is in itself and as seen by the blessed, or only in Deity as imperfectly known by us? This latter aspect could be further differentiated: Is it a question of Deity as imperfectly known by the philosopher, or as known by the theologian-wayfarer?

State of the question. In order to grasp better the sense of the terms, let us recall what we have discussed elsewhere3at greater length. The Deity as it is in itself remains naturally unknowable, and even cannot be known except by the immediate vision of the blessed. But among the divine perfections which it contains formally in its eminence, which we know by natural means, is there not one which has priority over the others, from which the others can be deduced, as the properties of man are deduced from his rationality?

The controversy on this subject, relative to the formal constituent of the divine nature according to our imperfect mode of knowledge, is well known. Even the Thomists themselves are not in complete accord on this point. Some maintain that this formal constituent is subsistent being itself, according to the words of Exod. 3:14: “I am who am,” because all the divine attributes are deducible therefrom.  Others hold that it is subsistent intellection (intelligere subsistens).  We have explained elsewhere4 why we accept the first solution, on account of the text from Exodus, of the radical distinction between subsistent being andcreated being, and because all the divine attributes are deducible from it. Does not St. Thomas accordingly delay treating of the divine intelligence until question fourteen of the First Part, after he has deduced several attributes from subsistent being itself?5

Whatever may be the issue of this discussion, it remains true for all Thomists that Deity as it exists in itself is superior to all the absolute perfections which it contains in its eminence (formaliter eminenter).

This is evident from the fact that these perfections, which are naturally capable of participation by creatures, such as being, life, intelligence, are naturally knowable in a positive way, whereas Deity is not: it is the great darkness which the mystics speak of. It designates the very essence of God, that which is proper to Him, His intimate life. It is the object of the beatific vision itself, and, before that vision, it is the “obscurity from above” which proceeds from a light too intense for the weak eyes of our souls.

From this it can be inferred that subsistent being itself contains only in implicit act the attributes which are progressively deducible from it, but Deity as such contains them in explicit act, since, when it is seen, there is no longer any need of deducing these attributes. Deity can thus be represented as the apex of a pyramid the sides of which would represent subsistent being, subsistent intellection, subsistent love, mercy, justice, omnipotence, that is, all the attributes formally contained in the eminence of Deity. To adopt a less far-fetched symbolism, Deity in relation to the perfections inhering in its eminence is somewhat like whiteness in relation to the seven colors of the rainbow, with this difference: the seven colors are only virtually present in the whiteness, whereas the absolute perfections (being, intelligence, love, etc.) are in Deity formally and eminently.6

Thereupon the question presents itself: Is grace a participation in the divine nature (or in Deity), the intimate life of God as it is in itself, or only in the divine nature as it is imperfectly conceived by us as subsistent being or subsistent intellection? 

The theologians who have written on this subject generally concede that grace is a participation in Deity as it is in itself, objectively (inasmuch as it disposes us radically to see it). But some add that it is not so intrinsically or subjectively, for Deity is infinite and hence, as such, cannot be participated in subjectively. Furthermore, they declare that Deity is the intimate life of God, none other than the Trinity of the divine persons. Now grace cannot be a subjective participation in the Fatherhood, the Sonship, the Spiration which constitute the intimate life of God. These theologians deduce therefrom that grace is subjectively a participation in the divine nature as imperfectly conceived by us, as one (not as triune) and as subsistent intellection.7

It is at once evident that this viewpoint can be interpreted in two ways, according to whether it refers to the divine nature imperfectly known by the philosopher or to the divine nature imperfectly known beneath the light of essentially supernatural revelation by the theologian, who knows God, not only under the nature of being and first being, but also under the nature of Deity, already known obscurely by the attributes of God, author of grace (as supernatural Providence) and, above all, by the mystery of the Trinity. (Before the revelation of this mystery of the Trinity, under the Old Testament, the super-natural providence of God, author of salvation, was known.)

Basis of a solution. To the question thus stated, we reply that, according to traditional teaching, sanctifying grace in itself is intrinsically (and not merely in an objective, extrinsic manner) a formal, analogical (and, of course, inadequate) participation in the Deity as it is in itself, superior to being, intelligence, and love, which it contains in its eminence or formally and eminently. As Cajetan says, Ia, q. 39, a. I, no. 7: “The Deity is prior to being and all its differences; for it is above being and beyond unity, etc.” The reasons which we are about to indicate are presented in progressive order, beginning with the most general.

I. There can be no question of a participation in the divine nature merely as conceived by the philosopher. He does, in fact, know God as first being and first intelligence, inasmuch as He is author of nature, but not as God, author of grace. This is the basis of the dis-tinction between the proper object of natural theology or theodicy (a branch of metaphysics): God under the reason of being and as author of nature, and the proper object of sacred theology: God under the nature of Deity (at least obscurely known) and as author of grace. This is the classical terminology employed by the great commentators on St. Thomas, Ia, q. I, a. 3, 7; cf. Cajetan, Bañez, John of St. Thomas, the Salmanticenses, Gonet, Gotti, Billuart, etc. Nowadays several writers make use of this classical terminology from force of habit, without apparently having pondered very deeply the difference between the proper object of theodicy, or natural theology, and that of theology properly so called. Nevertheless St. Thomas has expressed this difference in very precise terms, Ia, q. I, a. 6: “Sacred doctrine properly treats of God under the aspect of highest cause, for it considers Him not only to the extent that He is knowable through creatures (as the philosophers knew Him) but also with respect to what He alone knows of Himself which is communicated to others by revelation.” This is what later theologians referred to as “God, not under the general reason of being, but under the essential, intimate reason of Deity, or according to His intimate life.” Hence in the question which engages our attention, we are not concerned with the divine nature only as it is imperfectly conceived by the philosopher.

2. Moreover, only God can produce grace in an angel or in the very essence of the soul, and He does so independently of the conception which the philosopher or theologian holds regarding the divine nature, and independently of any natural effect which might be the source of these imperfect conceptions. Grace thus assimilates us immediately to God as such in His intimate life; it is therefore a formal, analogical participation in the Deity as it is in itself.  In the natural order, a stone has an analogical likeness to God inasmuch as He is being, the plant inasmuch as He is living, man and angel inasmuch as He is intelligence. Sanctifying grace, which is far superior to the angelic nature, is an analogical likeness to God inasmuch as He is God, or to His Deity, to His intimate life, which is not naturally knowable in a positive way. This is why, above the kingdoms of nature (mineral, vegetable, animal, human, angelic), there is the kingdom of God: the intimate life of God and its formal participation by the angels and the souls of the just.

Therefore to know perfectly the essence or quiddity of grace, one would have to know the light of glory of which it is the seed, just as one must know what an oak is to know the essence of the germ contained in an acorn. But it is impossible to know perfectly the essence of the light of glory, essentially ordered to the vision of God, without knowing the divine essence immediately by intuition.  Hence St. Thomas declares, in demonstrating that only God can produce grace, Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 2: “It must be that God alone should deify, communicating a fellowship in the divine nature by a certain participated likeness, just as it is impossible for anything but fire to ignite.” The word “deify” shows that grace is a participation in the divine nature, not according to the reason of being or intelligence merely, but by the essential, intimate reason of Deity.

3. But in that case, it will be objected, grace would have to be intrinsically a (subjective) participation in the intimate life of God.  Now this is none other than the Trinity of the divine persons. There would therefore be in grace a participation in the fatherhood, the sonship and the spiration, which theory is a departure from traditional teaching.The answer to this objection is that, according to traditional teaching, and particularly that of St. Thomas, the adoptive sonship of the children of God, ex Deo nati, is a certain likeness to the eternal sonship of the Word. In fact we find explicitly in IIIa, q. 3, a. 5 ad 2: “Just as by the act of creation divine goodness is communicated to all creatures by way of a certain similitude, so by the act of adoption a similitude of natural sonship is communicated to men, according to the words of Rom. 8:29: ‘Whom He foreknew . . . to be made conformable to the image of His Son.’” And further (ibid., a. 2 ad 3):

“Adoptive sonship is a certain likeness of eternal sonship; just as all the things that were made in time are, as it were, likenesses of those which were from all eternity. Man however is likened to the eternal splendor of the Son by the brightness of grace, which is attributed to the Holy Ghost. And hence adoption, although common to the whole Trinity, is appropriated to the Father as its author, to the Son as its exemplar, to the Holy Ghost as imprinting this likeness of the exemplar upon us.”

Likewise St. Thomas again in his commentary on Rom. 8:29 thus explains the words “to be made conformable to the image of His Son”: “He who is adopted as son of God is truly conformed to His Son, first, indeed, by a right to participate in His inheritance . . . ; secondly, by sharing His glory (Heb. 1:3). Hence by the fact that He enlightens the saints with the light of wisdom and grace, He makes them conformable to Himself. . . . Thus did the Son of God will to communicate to others a conformity with His sonship, that He might not only be the Son, Himself but also the first-born of sons. And so He who is the only-begotten by eternal generation (John 1:18), . . . is, by the conferring of grace, the first-born of many brethren. . . . Therefore we are the brothers of Christ because He has communicated a likeness of sonship to us, as is here said, and because He assumed the likeness of our nature.”

St. Thomas speaks similarly in his commentary on St. John’s Gospel (1:13), explaining the words, “who are born of God.” “And this is fitting, that all who are sons of God by being assimilated to the Son, should be transformed through the Son. . . . Accordingly the words, ‘not of blood, etc.,’ show how such a magnificent benefit is conferred upon men. . . . The Evangelist uses the preposition ‘ex’ speaking of others, that is, of the just: ‘Ex Deonati sunt’; but of the natural Son, he says ‘De Patre est natus.’ ” Why? Because, as explained in the same commentary, the Latin preposition ‘de’ indicates either the material, efficient, or consubstantial cause (The smith makes a little knife of [de] steel); the Latin preposition ‘a’ always refers to the efficient cause, and the preposition ‘ex’ is general, indicating either the material or efficient cause, but never the consubstantial cause. 

Now the objection raised was that grace cannot be intrinsically a (subjective) participation in the Deity or the intimate life of God, for that is none other than the Trinity of persons in which there is no participating. The participation is in the divine nature as one.

From what has just been explained, the reply may be made as follows: True, the participation is in the divine nature as one, however not merely such as conceived by the philosopher, but such as it is in itself, in the bosom of the Trinity. It is not only a question of the unity of God, author of nature, but of that absolutely eminent, naturally unknowable unity which is capable of subsisting in spite of the Trinity of persons. We are concerned with the unity and identity of the nature communicated by the Father to the Son and by Them to the Holy Ghost. Therein lies the meaning of the traditional proposition which we have just read in St. Thomas: “Adoptive sonship is a certain likeness of eternal sonship.” So has it always been understood.

From all eternity God the Father has a Son to whom He communicates His whole nature, without dividing or multiplying it; He necessarily engenders a Son equal to Himself, and gives to Him to be God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. And from sheer bounty, gratuitously, He has willed to have in time other sons, adopted sons, by a filiation which is not only moral (by external declaration) but real and intimate (by the production of sanctifying grace, the effect of God’s active love for us). He has loved us with a love that is not only creative and preserving, but vivifying, which causes us to participate in the very principle of His intimate life, in the principle of the immediate vision which He has of Himself and which He communicates to His Son and to the Holy Ghost. It is thus that He has predestinated us to be conformable to the image of His only Son, that this Son might be the first-born of many brethren (Rom. 8:29). The just are accordingly of the family of God and enter into the cycle of the Holy Trinity. Infused charity gives us a likeness to the Holy Ghost (personal love) ; the beatific vision will render us like the Word, who will make us like unto the Father whose image He is. Then the Trinity which already dwells in us as in a darkened sanctuary, will abide in us as in an illuminated, living sanctuary, where It will be seen unveiled and loved with an inamissible love.

The only Son of God receives the divine nature eternally, not merely as it is conceived by the philosopher (as being itself or even as subsistent intellection), but as it is in itself (under the reason of the Deity clearly perceived). Consequently He received the unity of that nature, not only as conceived by the philosopher, but as it is capable of subsisting in spite of the Trinity of persons really distinct one from another. He receives with Deity the essential intellection common to the three persons, which has for its primary object the Deity itself known comprehensively. He also receives essential love, not only as known by the philosopher, but that essential love which, remaining numerically the same, belongs to the three persons, since they love one another by one sole, identical act, just as they know one another by the same, identical intellection.

Now according to traditional teaching, as we have just seen, sanctifying grace makes us children of God by an analogical, participated likeness to the eternal sonship of the Word. Hence, in us, it is a participation in Deity as it is in itself, not only under the nature of being or under the nature of intellection, but under the nature of Deity, and not only a participation in Deity as known obscurely by the theologian through created concepts, but as it is in itself and seen as it is by the blessed.

Such is the true sense of these assertions, admitted by all theologians. But their profundity does not always receive sufficient attention. The mineral already resembles God analogically as being, the plant and animal as living, man and angel as intelligent; but the just man by grace resembles God precisely inasmuch as He is God, according to His very Deity or His intimate life as it is in itself. Thus the just man penetrates, beyond the human kingdom of reason, beyond the angelic kingdom, into the kingdom of God; his life is not merely intellectual but deiform, divine, theological: “it is deified,” according to St. Thomas, Ia IIae, q. 112, a. I.

That is truly the formal aspect of the life of grace, what is proper to it, unique, significant, and interesting. Thereby it is a formal, although inadequate and analogical, participation in the divine nature as it is in itself, or of Deity as such. This is found above all in con-summate, inamissible grace received into the essence of the soul, and also in the light of glory received into the intellect by the beatified soul, and in the charity received into its will.

4. It is, then, materially (in the theological sense of the term) that grace is a finite accident (an entitative habit received into the essence of the soul), that infused faith is an operative habit received into our intellect, and charity an operative habit received into our will. All of this is true by reaTon of the receptive subject. But these habits are a formal participation in the intimate life of God; otherwise they would not dispose us to see it as it is in itself by an immediate vision that will have the same formal object (objectum formale quod et quo) as the uncreated vision which God, one in three persons, has of Himself.

This distinction of what grace is either materially or formally, is similar to the one that is generally made in the natural order between intelligence and the created mode whereby it exists in us and in the angels, as a faculty (accident) distinct from the substance of the soul or of the angel, distinct also from the act of intellection. This is quite true and does not prevent intelligence as such from being an analogical perfection, the formal notion of which does not imply any imperfection, and which, consequently, is to be found properly and formally in God as subsistent intellection. In the same way, the perfection of wisdom is distinguished from its created mode whereby, in us, wisdom is measured by things, whereas in God it is the measure and cause of things.

From the same more or less material standpoint, when sanctifying grace is compared to faith and charity, it may be said that grace is a participation in the Deity as a nature, faith a participation in the Deity or intimate life of God as knowledge, and charity a participation in that intimate life as love. But it is always a question of formal participa-tion in the intimate life of God or in the Deity in its eminent unity, not such as it is known by the philosopher, but as it is in itself in the Trinity.

Moreover, sanctifying grace cannot be an objective participation in the Deity as it is in itself (and dispose us radically to immediate vision) without being intrinsically specified by it, that it, without having an essential (or transcendant) relationship to the Deity as it is in itself.8Hence, in his reply to Father Menéndez Rigada, Father Gardeil 9 recognizes, with reference to the passage from the Salmanticenses which we have just indicated in a note, that “it does not seem possible for the intuition of the divine persons to originate in sanctifying grace, if the latter is not a kind of exemplary participation in the divine nature inasmuch as it subsists in the divine persons. For, as the Salmanticenses declare (loc. cit.), the inclination toward an object should originate in some participation in the object aimed at.” Yes, for there is here, not an accidental, but an essential (or transcendant) relationship between grace and Deity seen immediately. This argument clarifies the last problem which we are about to propose.

6. In the light of what immediately precedes, it is apparent that subsistent intellection (intelligere subsistens), even considered subjectively, is no less infinite than subsistent being, or than Deity as it is in itself. Granted that sanctifying grace can be a participation in the divine nature as intellection, one should admit that it can be a participation in Deity as it is in itself.10

If it is objected: but Deity as it is in itself is, like subsistent being, infinite and therefore cannot be participated in subjectively or intrinsically, the reply in the words of Father Gardeil is as follows:11“That would be true if a participation could be adequate, but it could be only imitative and analogical.” The Salmanticenses (o.p. cit., no. 64) are in accord: “Therefore in the mind of St. Thomas it is perfectly consistent for grace to participate, that is, to imitate, the whole being as to its essence and infinity, although it does not correspond to it adequately in all its predicables but only partially. 

Deity is thus identified with subsistent being itself (inasmuch as it contains being and the other absolute perfections formally and eminently), whereas in us the formal, analogical participation in Deity takes the form of an accident. This is the more or less material, not formal, aspect of sanctifying grace, just as in the natural order there is a difference between the perfection of intelligence and the created mode whereby it is in us a faculty distinct from the substance of the soul and the act of intellection.

Conclusion. For these various reasons, of which the first are more general and are presupposed according to our mode of cognition, we consider sanctifying grace to be a formal, analogical participation in Deity as it is in itself. Two important corollaries follow from this:

1. It can be seen manifestly, as we have established elsewhere,12that reason alone is incapable (for instance, by the natural, conditional, inefficacious desire to see God) of demonstrating precisely the possibility of grace, the possibility of a formal, analogical participation in the Deity or intimate life of God which would be, materially, a finite accident of our souls. Of this possibility reason can give a proof of suitability, but not an apodictic proof, for, of itself, reason cannot know the Deity or intimate life of God positively. “This possibility of grace,” as is commonly taught, “is neither proved nor disproved apodictically, but it is urged by reason, defended against those who deny it, and held with a firm faith.”

2. With regard to the problem of the formal constituent of the divine nature, according to our imperfect mode of understanding, the solution which identifies it with subsistent intellection rather than with being itself is not confirmed by the sequence: grace would be a participated likeness, not of subsistent being but of subsistent intellection. This question of the philosophically formal constituent is of no importance here for the definition of grace, which is in reality a participated likeness in Deity, superior to both being and intellection which are contained in its eminence, that is, formally and eminently.

The doctrine we have just presented is found in St. Thomas, Ia, q. 13, a. 9: “This name of God is not communicable to any man according to the fullness of its meaning, but something of it is so by a kind of likeness, so that they may be called ‘gods’ who participate by such a likeness in something of the divinity, according to the words

of psalm 81: ‘I have said: You are gods.’ ” And the answer to the first objection: “The divine nature is not communicable except by the participation of likeness.” Likewise IIIa, q.2, a.6 ad I. Cf. Salmanticenses, De gratia, disp. IV, the quiddity and perfection of habitual grace, dub. IV, nos. 62, 63, 7072, where the participation by formal, analogical imitation is very well defined; also John of St.  Thomas and Gonet, quoted in the same place.

 In his volume entitled Surnaturel (Etudes historiques, 1946), p.  254, Father H. de Lubac, having examined certain texts of St. Thomas on the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, writes as follows: “At any rate, nothing in his works declares the distinction which a certain number of Thomistic theologians would later concoct between ‘God the author of the natural order’ and ‘God the object of supernatural beatitude.’ . . . Nowhere, explicitly or implicitly, does St. Thomas refer to a ‘natural beatitude.’” It is evident that Father de Lubac has never explained the Summa theologica article by article.

St. Thomas says, Ia, q. 23, a. I, Whether men are predestined by God: “It pertains to providence to ordain a thing to its end. But the end toward which created things are ordained by God is twofold.  One, which exceeds the proportion and faculty of created nature, is eternal life, which consists of the divine vision and which is beyond the nature of any creature as is shown above (Ia, q. 12, a. 4). The other end, however, is proportioned to created nature, such, that is, as a creature can attain to by the power of its nature.

Again in the De veritate, q. 14, a. 2: “The final good of man, which first moves the will as to its final end, is twofold. One good is proportioned to human nature, since natural powers are sufficient to attain it; this is the happiness of which the philosophers have spoken. It is either contemplative, consisting in the act of wisdom, or active, consisting first in the act of prudence and accordingly in the acts of the other moral virtues. The other good of man exceeds the proportion of human nature, since natural powers do not suffice to attain it, nor even to conceive or desire it; but it is promised to man by the divine bounty alone.” The whole article should be read; it affirms that “in human nature itself there is a certain beginning of this good which is proportioned to nature,” and further that infused “faith is a certain beginning of eternal life.”

St. Thomas also declares, Ia IIae, q. 62, a. I: “The beatitude or happiness of man is twofold. One sort is proportioned to human nature, that which man can attain by the principle of his nature. But the other is a beatitude surpassing human nature, to which man can attain only by divine power, by means of a certain participation in divinity, according to the words of St. Peter’s Second Epistle (1:4): ‘By these [the promises of Christ] . . . you may be made partakers of the divine nature.’ ” St. Thomas speaks similarly with reference to angels, Ia, q. 62, a. 2.

He even affirms, II Sent., dist. 31, q. I, a. I ad 3: “In the beginning when God created man, He could also have formed another man of the slime of the earth and have left him in his natural condition; that is, he would have been mortal, passible, and have experienced the struggle of concupiscence against reason; this would not have been derogatory to human nature, since it follows from the principles of nature. Nor would any reason of guilt or punishment be attached to this defect, since it would not be caused voluntarily.” This is indeed evident for, if sanctifying grace and likewise the gift of integrity and immortality are gratuitous or not due (as defined against Baius), it follows that the merely natural state (that is, without these gratuitous gifts) is possible both from the part of man and from that of God.

Is sanctifying grace a permanent gift in the just, like the infused virtues? Of recent years an opinion has been expressed according to which sanctifying grace is not a form or a permanent, radical principle of supernatural operations, but rather a motion.13It is nevertheless certain that the infused virtues, especially the three theological virtues, are, within us, permanent principles of supernatural operations and meritorious as well; and it is no less certain that sanctifying or habitual grace is the permanent root of these infused virtues. It is not therefore merely a transitory motion, nor even a motion unceasingly renewed in the just man as long as he preserves friendship with God. The Fathers always referred to the theological virtues and to sanctifying grace which they presuppose as their radical principle.

The Council of Trent leaves no room for doubt on this point. Denzinger in his Enchiridion sums up the definitions and declarations of the Church very correctly in the formula: “Habitual or sanctifying grace is distinct from actual grace (nos. 1064 ff .); it is an infused, inherent quality of the soul, by which man is formally justified (nos. 483, 792, 795, 799 ff., 809, 821, 898, 1042, 1063 ff.), is regenerated (nos. 102, 186), abides in Christ (nos. 197, 698), puts on a new man (no. 792), and becomes an heir to eternal life (nos. 792,799 ff .).14


Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, nothing would be better than another were it not better loved by God” (St.  Thomas, Ia, q. 20, a. 3).

One of the greatest joys experienced by the theologian who, for long years, has read and explained each day the Summa theologica of St. Thomas, is to glimpse the sublime value of one of those principles, often invoked but not sufficiently contemplated, which by their simplicity and elevation form, as it were, the great leitmotivs of theological thought, containing in themselves virtually entire treatises.  The great St. Thomas formulated them especially toward the end of his comparatively short life, when his contemplation had reached that height and simplicity which one associates with the intellectual vision of the higher angels, who encompass within a very few ideas vast regions of the intelligible world, metaphysical landscapes, so to speak, composed not of colors but of principles, and illumined from above by the very light of God.

Among these very lofty, very simple principles upon which the contemplation of the Angelic Doctor paused with delight, there is one to which sufficient attention is not generally paid and yet which contains in its virtuality several of the most important treatises. It is the principle which we find thus formulated, Ia, q. 20, a. 3: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, none would be better thari another, were it not better loved by God.” In article 4 of the same question, the same principle is thus stated: “If some beings are better than others it is because they are better loved by God.” In short: no creature is better than another unless it is better loved by God. This may be called the principle of predilection, for principles derive their names from their predicates.

This is the principle against which all human pride ought to dash itself. Let us examine: 1. its bases, necessity, universality, 2. its principal consequences according to St. Thomas himself, and 3. by what other principle it should be balanced so as to maintain in all their purity and elevation the great mysteries of faith, particularly those of predestination and the will for universal salvation.

This principle, “no creature is better than another unless better loved by God,” seems at the outset to be manifestly necessary in the philosophical order. If the love of God is, in fact, the cause of the goodness of creatures, as St. Thomas affirms in the first text quoted, no one can be better than another except for the reason that it has received more from God; this greater goodness in it, rather than in another, obviously comes from God.

As will be seen, this principle of predilection is a corollary of the principle of effcient causality: “Every contingent being or good requires an efficient cause and, in the final analysis, depends upon God the first cause.” It is also a corollary of the principle of finality: “Every agent acts for an end”; consequently the order of agents corresponds to the order of ends,15 the first agent produces every good in view of the supreme end, which is the manifestation of His goodness, and hence it is not independently of Him or of His love, that one being is better than another, the plant superior to the mineral, the animal to the plant, man to the animal, one man to another, either in the natural order or in the order of grace.

It is also apparent from reason alone that this principle is absolutely universal, valid for every created being from a stone to the hightest angel, and not merely applicable to their substance, but to their accidents, qualities, actions, passions, relations, etc., for whatever is good in them and better in one than another, whether it is a question of physical, intellectual, moral, or strictly spiritual values.

The principle of predilection is also supported by revelation under various aspects in both the Old and New Testaments; it is even applied therein to our free, salutary acts. Our Lord tells us: “Without Me you can do nothing”16 in the order of salvation. St. Paul explains this by saying: “It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will”17; “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?”18 The principle in question is contained in many other texts cited by the Council of Orange:19 “Unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him”;20 “Being confident of this very thing, that He, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus”;21 “By grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God”;22 Now concerning virgins . . . I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful.”23Again we find: “Do not therefore, my dearest brethren. Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration”;24“No man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost”;25 “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God.”26

That is clearly the principle of predilection or of the source of what is better. St. Augustine often expresses it in commenting on the scriptural texts which we have just quoted together with several others from the Epistle to the Romans (chapters 8, 9, and 11). He applies it not only to men but to angels, regarding whom there is no question of the fact of original sin (by title of infirmity, titulus infirmitatis) but only of right, of the dependence (titulus dependentiae) of the creature upon the Creator, both in the natural order and in the order of grace. He observes that those angels who attained supreme beatitude received greater aid than the others, “amplius adjuti.”27

St. Thomans discerned an equivalent formula of the principle of the origin of superiority in the Council of Orange and the scriptural texts cited by it. He writes, in fact, with reference to predestination, in rendering an account of the condemnation of the Semi-Pelagians who attributed the beginning of salvation to man and not to God: “But opposed to this is what the Apostle says (II Cor. 3:5), that we are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves. However no principle can be found anterior to thought. Hence it cannot be said that any beginning exists in us which is the cause of the effect of predestination.” The reader is no doubt acquainted with the texts of the Council of Orange (can. 4; cf. Denz., nos. 177-85): “If anyone holds that God waits upon our will to cleanse us from sin, and does not admit that even our willing to be cleansed is brought about by the infusion and operation of the Holy Ghost, he resists the Holy Ghost Himself . . . and the salutary preaching of the Apostle: ‘It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will’ (Phil. 2:13).” Canon 9 on the help of God asserts: “It pertains to the category of the divine when we both think rightly and restrain our steps from falsehood and injustice; for whatever goodwe may do, God operates in us and with us to enable us to operate”; and canon 12 on the quality in which God loves us: “God so loves us according to the quality we shall have by His gift, and not as we are by our own merit.” This text taken from the fifty-sixth Sentence of St. Prosper summarizes the one preserved in the Indiculus de gratia Dei, a collection of anterior statements by the Holy See wherein we read (Denz., nos. 133-4): “No one uses his free will well except through Christ”; “All the desires and all the works and merits of the saints should be referred to the glory and praise of God, for no one pleases Him otherwise than by what He Himself has bestowed.” This is essentially the principle of the origin of superiority in a formula almost identical with the one which St. Thomas was to give later (Ia, q. 20, a. 4). The same Indiculus preserves the following (Denz., nos. 135, 137, 139, 141, 142): “God so works in the hearts of men and in the free will itself, that a devout thought, holy counsel and every movement of good will is from God, since we can do some good through Him without whom we can do nothing (John 15:5)”; and likewise, no. 139: “The most devout Fathers taught the beginnings of good will, the growth of commendable desires, and perseverance in them to the end is to be referred to the grace of Christ . . .”;

“Hearkening to the prayers of His Church, God deigns to draw many souls from every kind of error, and once they are rescued from the power of darkness He transports them into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:13), that from vessels of wrath He might fashion vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:22). All this is regarded as of divine operation to such an extent that gratitude may always be referred to God as effecting it.”

The end of this famous Indiculus is well-known: “Let us acknowledge God to be the author of all good dispositions and works . . .  Indeed, free will is not taken away but rather liberated by this help and gift of God . . . He acts in us, to be sure, in such wise that nothing interior is to be withdrawn from His work and regard; this we believe to satisfy adequately, whatever the writings taught us according to the aforesaid rules of the Apostolic See” (Denz., no. 142). Is this not equivalent to saying: “In the affair of salvation everything comes from God”? “Nothing interior is to be withdrawn,” as the last text quoted declares. If, then, one man is better than another, especially in the order of salvation, it is because he has been loved more by God and has received more. This is the meaning of: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” quoted by the Council of Orange (Denz., nos. 179, 199). The sense in which the same Council speaks of God the author of every good, whether natural or supernatural, is explained by the definition contained in canon 20: “Nothing of good can exist in man without God. God does many good things in man which are not done by man; but man does nothing good which God does not grant it to him to do” (Denz., no. 193); and canon 22: “No one has anything of his own but lying and sin. But if a man possesses anything of truth and justice it comes from that fountain for which we should thirst in this desert, so that, refreshed, as it were, by a few drops from it, we may not faint on the way.” Cf. in the Histoire des Conciles of C. J. Héflè, translated, corrected, and augmented with critical notes by Dom. H. Lecleroq, Vol. II, Part II, pp. 1085-1110, the passages from St. Augustine and St. Prosper from which these canons of the Council of Orange are drawn, as confirmed by Boniface II; the most interesting, of course, are those concerning the beginning of salvation and final perseverance (“persevering in good works”) for both of which they affirm the necessity of a special, gratuitous grace (Denz., nos. 177f., 183). But the grace of final perseverance is that The Semi-Pelagians, reducing predestination to a foreknowledge of merits, held that from the height of His eternity God desires equally the salvation of all men and that He is therefore rather the spectator than the author of the fact that one man is saved rather than another.  Is this true or not? Such was the profound question which confronted thinkers at the time of the Semi-Pelagian heresy, as anyone will recognize who reads St. Augustine and St. Prosper.

But did the Council of Orange leave it unanswered? It asserted the principle of predilection, affirming, as everyone admits, the necessity and gratuity of grace which is not granted to all in the same manner, and demonstrating that in the work of salvation everything, from beginning to end, is from God, who anticipates our free will, supports it, causes it to act without doing it any violence, lifts it up often, but not always; and therein lies the very mystery of predestination. So true is this that, heneceforth, to avoid Semi-Pelagianism it will always be necessary to admit a certain gratuity in predestination.29

Is not the incontrovertible principle of all this teaching that all good without exception comes from God, and that if there is more good in one man than in another, it cannot be so independently of God? ‘“For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received ?” This text, according to St. Augustine, should cause us to admit that there is no sin committed by any other man that I am not capable of committing under the same circumstances, as a result of the weakness of my free will or of my own frailty (the apostle Peter denied his Master thrice); and if, in fact, I have not fallen, if I have persevered, it is no doubt because I have labored and struggled; but without divine grace I should have accomplished nothing. Such was the thought of St. Francis of Assisi at the sight of a criminal condemned to death. St. Cyprian had said (Ad Querin., Bk. III, chap.  4, PL, IV, 734): “We should glory in nothing, when nothing is our own.” St. Basil asserts (Hom. 22 De humitate): “Nothing is left to thee, O man, in which thou canst glory . . . for we live entirely by the grace and gift of God.” And St.’ John Chrysostom adds (Serm.  2, in Ep. ad Coloss., PG, LXII, 312): “In the affair of salvation everything is a gift of God.”


St. Thomas deduces therefrom, in the first place, the reason for the inequality of creatures, Ia, q. 47, a. I: “The distinction and multitude of things is from the design of the first agent who is God; for He brought creatures into existence in order to communicate His goodness to them and be represented by them. And since He cannot be adequately represented by one creature, He produced a multitude of diverse creatures”; and article 2: “And unequal . . . because a formal distinction [which is paramount] always requires inequality.” By creation God willed to manifest His goodness, but it could not be sufficiently represented by one creature, which would be too deficient and limited for that. Hence He desired many and these unequal and subordinate one to another, for the mere material multiplication of individuals of the same species is much less representative of the richness of divine goodness than a multiplicity of species, hierarchically arranged as are numbers. Leibnitz remarked that there would be no satisfaction in having a thousand copies of the same edition of Virgil in one’s library. But among these unequal creatures, one is better than another only because it has received more from God. 

St. Thomas draws from the same principle the reason why grace is not equal in all men, Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 4: “It cannot be said,” he remarks, “that the primary reason for this inequality arises from the fact that one man has prepared himself better than another to receive grace, for this preparation does not pertain to man except so far as his free will is moved by God. Hence the primary reason for this difference must be found in God who dispenses the gifts of His grace in diverse ways, so that the beauty and perfection of the Church may come forth from these different degrees.” God sows a more or less choice divine seed in souls according to His good pleasure with the beauty of His Church in view.

St. Thomas also deduces from this principle of the origin of superiority that if one man prepares himself better than another for justification it is because, in the last analysis, he received more help from a stronger actual grace. In fact the holy doctor states in his commentary on St. Matthew (25:15) with reference to the parable of the talents: “He who strives harder receives more grace, but the fact that he does strive requires a higher cause.” Again on the Epistle to the Ephesians (4:7), with respect to the words, “To every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ,” St. Thomas comments: “This difference is not owing to fate or chance or merit, but to the giving of Christ, that is, to the extent to which Christ measured it out to us. . . . For, as it is in the power of Christ to give or not to give, so also is it to give more or less.”

The principle of the origin of superiority is so evident that all theologians would accept it, did it not imply as a consequence that grace, which is followed by its effect, is infallibly efficacious of itself and not on account of our consent. Yet this consequence is manifest, as many texts of St. Thomas show. If, in fact, actual grace followed by consent to the good were not infallibly efficacious of itself but only through the consent which follows it, there would be the possibility that of two men equally aided by grace one would become better than the other by his consent; he would become better without having been loved and aided more by God.

This reason is put forth by all Thomists.30 It rests on the principle of which we are speaking and is a6rmed equivalently in several texts of St. Thomas. It is found clearly stated particularly in the distinction which he establishes between consequent divine will (which bears upon every good, easy or difficult, which will come to pass here and now) and antecedent divine will (bearing on the good separated from the particular circumstances without which nothing comes to pass); cf. Ia, q. 19, a. 6 ad I : “What we will antecedently we do not will absolutely but under a particular aspect; for the will is applied to things as they are in themselves, and in themselves they are individual.  Hence we will a thing absolutely to the extent that we will it taking into account all the particular circumstances, which means willing it consequently. . . . And thus it is evident that whatever God wills absolutely comes to pass, although what He wills antecedently may not.” If it happens, then, that Peter becomes here and now better than another man, whether by a facile or a difficult act, this is because from all eternity God has so willed by consequent will. 

St. Thomas adds that this consequent will is expressed in time by a grace which is efficacious of itself; cf. Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 3: “The intention of God cannot fail, according to the affirmation of Augustine in the book De dono perseverantiae, chap. 14, that those who are liberated are most certainly liberated by the beneficence of God. Hence if it is in the designs of God who moves, that the man whose heart He moves should obtain grace, he will infallibly obtain it, according to the words of John 6:45: ‘Everyone that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me.’”

This proposition of St. Thomas is manifestly very different from an apparently similar one of Quesnell,31 for the latter denies freedom from necessity and admits only freedom from coercion; moreover, he denies sufficient grace and considers every actual grace intrinsically efficacious.

Many other texts of St. Thomas on the intrinsic efficacy of grace might be cited. They are well known, quoted and explained in all the treatises on grace written by Thomists.32This conception of the intrinsic efficacy of grace is in no way contradictory of the traditional definition of free will, which recent historical works have set in increasingly clear relief: “the faculty of choosing the means in view of an end to be attained,”33 so that to deviate from the true end is an abuse of liberty.

Intrinsically efficacious grace is opposed only to a new definition of free will34 which disregards the specifying object of the free act (an object not good in every respect), a definition which will not withstand metaphysical analysis and which is unmindful of the truth that free will is applied not univocally but analogically to God and to man, according to a reason not absolutely but proportionately the same,35so that the free will of man, not only as an entity but also as such under the idea of free entity (sub ratione liberi arbitrii) depends on God, who is not merely first being, but first intelligence and first liberty. Freedom is a perfection in God, and we can participate in it only analogically.

As a matter of fact, the human will can resist efficacious grace if it so wills, as the Council of Trent declares, but as long as the will is under efficacious grace, it never wills to resist. Under efficacious actual grace it never sins, for the grace which is termed efficacious is that which is followed by its effect: consent to good. As St. Thomas ex-plains, in the same way, a man who is seated can stand up, he has the real, proximate power to do so; but as long as he remains seated he never does stand up, since by virtue of the principle of contradiction, he cannot be both seated and standing.

The new definition of liberty: “a faculty which, assuming all the prerequisites for acting, can either act or not act,”-if understood in the sense: under efficacious divine motion and after the final salutary, practical judgment, the free will not only can resist but at times actually does-such a definition is contrary to the principle of predilection which is a corollary of the principles of causality and finality. 

By what other principle should that of predilection be balanced? By the following: God never commands the impossible. St. Thomas, great contemplative even more than able dialectician, recognizes that the Christian doctrine of predestination and grace rises like a summit above the two opposing chasms of Pelagianism and predestinationism. He understands that, on undertaking the ascent of that peak, one must deviate neither to right nor to left, neither toward a rigid doctrine which restricts the will for universal salvation and limits sufficient grace nor toward a contrary doctrine which denies the intrinsic efficacy of grace. He perceives, too, that one must not come to a halt halfway up the slope at one of those eclectic combinations which would admit grace to be intrinsically efficacious for difficult acts conducive to salvation and not intrinsically efficacious for facile acts conducive to salvation. Such a solution may appear simple in practice, but speculatively it disregards the necessity and universality of principles with relation to divine causality, principles which there upon lose all their value; and it adds to the obscurity of the doctrine admitted for difficult acts the insoluble difficulties of that which is admitted for facile acts. St. Thomas sees in such eclectic combinations nothing but a quite human clarity, merely apparent and without basis, substituted for the higher obscurity of the mystery, the loftiness of which is thus minimized. Assuredly he does not look upon this as an insoluble question which it is useless to fathom, but rather as an object of loving contemplation, “the terrible but sweet mystery of the love of predilection in God: ‘Who is like to Thee, among the strong, O Lord? who is like to Thee, glorious in holiness, terrible and praiseworthy, doing wonders?’ (Exod. 15:11) .”

Incapable of stopping halfway as does eclecticism, St. Thomas aspires to climb straight toward the summit. But at a certain height the trail ends, the path has not yet been blazed, as St. John of the Cross indicates on the illustration representing the Ascent of Carmel. St.  Thomas perceives clearly that here on earth no one can attain to that culminating point where it will be granted him to see the intimate reconciliation of the will for universal salvation with gratuitous predestination. Thus he preserves all the loftiness of the mystery and does not seek to substitute for its sublime obscurity any vain human clarity. But without seeing the summit (faith regards what is not seen), he succeeds in determining where it is to be found by means of higher principles which mutually balance one another. He formulates these very lofty, very simple principles with such great lucidity that they only bring out in clearer relief the superior obscurity of the inaccessible mystery located in its true site, there where it must be contemplated in the cloud of faith, and not elsewhere. It is one of those most beautiful chiaroscuros which have ever attracted and riveted the contemplation of great theologians. The masters of former times delighted in such vistas, painted not with pigments but with principles, wherein the luminous circle surrounding the mystery expresses so powerfully the grandeur of faith; vistas so manifestly surpassing those of the greatest painters or the most beautiful musical conceptions of Beethoven or Bach. And just as these great artists understood that har-mony is destroyed by a discordant commingling of sharps and flats, so did those great masters of theology strive no less to avoid the jarring dissonance produced in such difficult questions by a sharp which would tend toward predestinationism or a flat which would incline toward the opposite error.

The principles which produce equilibrium here are, on the one hand, that of predilection: “no creature is better than another unless it is better loved by God,” a simple interpretation of the words of Christ: “Without Me, you can do nothing,” and of those of St. Paul: “It is God who worketh in you, both to will and accomplish, according to His good will”; “Who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” This principle is immutable, and together with it that other: “All that God wills by consequent will comes to pass, without liberty being thereby destroyed.”

On the opposite slope of the invisible, inaccessible peak, so as to determine the point where it rises and where the blessed contemplate it in heaven, must be recalled the principle of St. Augustine quoted by the Council of Trent (Denz., no. 804): “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.” This formula is sacrosanct. 

Invoking several passages of St. Paul, St. Augustine,36St. Prosper,37and St. John Damascene, the Angelic Doctor gives us the principle of the will for universal salvation (“God . . . will have all men to be saved,” I Tim. 2:4) in an admirable and very profound formula which echoes the most beautiful psalms in praise of the mercy of God.  He writes (Ia, q. 21, a. 4): “Every work of divine justice presupposes a work of mercy or of sheer bounty, and finds therein its basis. If, in fact, God owes something to His creature, it is by virtue of a preceding gift. If He owes a reward to our merits, it is because He has first given us the grace to merit; if He owes it to Himself to give us the grace necessary for salvation, it is because, from pure liberality in the first place, He has created us and called us to the supernatural life. . . . Divine mercy is thus the root, as it were, or the principle of all the divine works; it penetrates them with its virtue and governs them. In the capacity of primary source of all gifts, it is mercy which has the strongest influence, and it is for this reason that it surpasses justice, which takes second place. This is why, even with regard to things due to the creature, God in His superabundant liberality gives more than justice requires, “et propter hoc etiam ea, quae alicui creaturae debentur, Deus ex abundantia suae bonitatis largius dispensat quam exigat propitio rei.” (See also Ia, q. 21, a. 2 ad 3.) St. Thomas also affirms in the very question dealing with predestination: “God does not deprive anyone of what is his due.”38 “He gives help sufficient to avoid sin”;39 “Those to whom efficacious help is not given are denied it in justice, as punishment for a previous sin, . . . those to whom it is granted receive it in mercy.”40This is the echo of the psalms relating to divine mercy, particularly Ps. 135: “Praise the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever. Praise ye the God of gods: for His mercy endureth forever.” Likewise Ps. 117: “Give praise to the Lord, for He is good.”

How is this mercy, principle of all the works of God, reconcilable with the divine permission of evil and of the final impenitence of many? Why does it sometimes raise up the sinner, but not always? Therein lies a mystery surpassing the natural powers of any intelligence created or capable of being created, and beyond them not only because of its essential supernaturalness, as in the case of the Trinity, but also by the contingency resulting from dependence on the sovereign liberty of God:41 “If efficacious grace is refused to many,” says St. Thomas following St. Augustine, “it is in justice, as the result of a sin [permitted, of course, by God, but of which He was in no sense the cause]; if this same grace is granted to others, it is out of mercy.”42It is fitting that these two divine perfections should be manifested, as St. Paul declares;43there is consequently involved here the cooperation of infinite justice, infinite mercy, and also of supreme liberty, eminently wise in its good pleasure, which is in no way a caprice. Obviously each of these divine perfections herein involved exceeds the natural powers of any intelligence created or capable of being created.  None among them may be limited, just as in the mystery of the Cross and Passion of the Savior neither infinite justice nor infinite mercy may be restricted; they are reconciled in the uncreated love of God and in the love of Christ delivered up for our sake. The apparently contradictory aspects of a mystery must not be restricted for the sake of a better understanding of them. Rather must one, as it were, soar above this apparent contradiction by the contemplation of faith. This is why St. Paul exclaims: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways!” (Rom. 11:33.)

To acknowledge this mystery which is at the topmost point of the peak we have just been describing, of that summit which can never be seen from here below, one must cling to it in pure faith, as Holy Scripture frequently urges us to do. Let us recall, for example, the hymn of thanksgiving uttered by the elder Tobias (Tob 13): “Thou art great, O Lord, forever, and Thy kingdom is unto all ages. For Thou scourgest and Thou savest: Thou leadest down to hell, and bringest up again: and there is none that can escape Thy hand. . . .  There is no other almighty God besides Him. He hath chastised us for our iniquities: and He will save us for His own mercy. See then what He hath done with us, and with fear and trembling give ye glory to Him: and extol the eternal King of worlds in your works.”

Theology, as the Council of the Vatican asserts,44is essentially ordained to the contemplation of revealed mysteries; infused faith, entirely divine and essentially supernatural, is, in spite of its obscurity, eminently superior to it, especially faith which is enlightened by the gifts of wisdom and understanding. It becomes increasingly evident, then, that this obscurity does not derive from absurdity or incoherence, but from a light too intense for our feeble gaze. We begin to realize that, with reference to these great mysteries of predestination, of grace, and also of the will for universal salvation, we should read above all the great theologians who were at the same time great contemplative.45 We come to understand better and better why, in the passive purification of the soul described by the great spiritual writers, St. John of the Cross in particular, the light of the gift of understanding removes little by little the false lucidity of eclectic combinations which stop halfway, and set the soul in the presence of the real mystery without diminishing its sublimity. We finally grasp the reason for St. Theresa’s remark: “The more obscure a mystery is the more devotion I have to it,” obscure, that is, with the translucent darkness which gives us a presentiment of the very object of the contemplation of the blessed. Above all, we attain to a growing realization of the fact that what is most obscure in these mysteries is what is most divine, most elevated, most lovable; and if we cannot yet cling to them in vision, we do so by faith and by love. 

The mystery involved here, whence proceeds the principle of the origin of superiority to which this principle leads, is the incomprehensible mystery of the love of predilection in God. “No created being would be better than another were it not better loved by God” (Ia, q. 20, a. 3); “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7); “He [God] chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in His sight in charity.46 Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto Himself: according to the purpose of His will: unto the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He hath graced us in His beloved Son” (Eph. 1:4-6). We can understand that these words, “unto the praise of the glory of His grace,” ought to become the delight of contemplatives, expressing as they do with extraordinary splendor the principle of predilection which manifestly dominates all the problems of sanctifying and actual grace in every degree.


(By way of recapitulation, we here reprint this article which appeared in French in the Revue Thomiste, May, 1937.)

“Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done” (Ps. 134:6). “God does not command the impossible” (St. Augustine and Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. II).

We dealt with this subject in a book which appeared in 1936: La prédestination des saints et la grâce; cf. especially pp. 257-64; 341-50; 141-44. In the present article we wish to stress a higher principle admitted by all theologians wherein the Thomists find the ultimate basis of the distinction between sufficient and efficacious grace.

The problem. It is certain from revelation that many actual graces bestowed by God do not produce the effect (or at least the entire effect) toward which they are ordered, whereas others do. The former are called sufficient and purely sufficient; they confer the power of doing good without carrying over efficaciously to the act itself. Man resists their attraction; but their existence is absolutely certain, regardless of what the Jansenists maintain. Otherwise God would command the impossible, which would be contrary to His mercy and His justice. Sin, moreover, would be inevitable; hence it would no longer really be sin and consequently could not be justly punished by God. In this sense we say that Judas, before sinning, could really, at the time and place, have avoided the crime he committed; the same is also true of the unrepentant thief before he expired beside our Lord. 

The other actual graces which are termed efficacious not only convey the real power of observing the commandments; they cause us to observe them in fact, as in the case of the good thief in contrast with the other. The existence of efficacious actual grace is affirmed in numerous passages of Scripture, such as: “I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit in the midst of you: and I will cause you to walk in My commandments, and to keep My judgments, and do them” (Ezech.  36:26 f.); “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done” (Ps. 134:6), that is, all that He wills, not conditionally but absolutely, He accomplishes even the free conversion of man, as in the case of King Assuerus at the prayer of Esther (Esther 13:9; 14:13); “And God changed the king’s spirit into mildness” (ibid., 15:11). The infallibility and efficacy of a decree of God’s will are obviously based in these texts upon His omnipotence and not upon the foreseen consent of King Assuerus. In the same sense the Book of Proverbs declares (21:1): “As the divisions of waters, so the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever He will He shall turn it”; likewise Ecclus. 33:24-27. Jesus Himself declares: “My sheep hear My voice: and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them life everlasting: and they shall not perish forever, and no man shall pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:27); and again: “Those whom Thou gavest Me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the scripture may be fulfilled’’ (ibid., 17:12). St. Paul writes with the same purport to the Philippians (2:13): “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will.”

The Second Council of Orange, opposing the Semi-Pelagians, quotes several of these scriptural texts and refers to the efficacy of grace in the following terms (Denz., no. 182): “Whatever good we do, God works in us and with us so that we may work.” There is therefore a grace which not only gives the real power of doing good (which exists in one who sins), but which is effectual in the act, although it does not exclude our free cooperation but arouses and induces it in us. St. Augustine explains these same scriptural texts when he says: “God converts and transforms the heart of the king . . . from wrath into mildness by His most secret and efficacious power” (I ad Bonifatium, chap. 20).

Hence a great majority of the ancient theologians, Augustinians, Thomists, Scotists, have allowed that the grace termed efficacious is so of itself, because God wills it and not because we will it by a consent foreseen in the divine prevision. God is not merely the spectator of what distinguishes the just man from the sinner; He is the author of salvation. It is true that these ancient theologians are divided on the secondary question of explaining how grace is efficacious of itself; some have recourse to the divine motion known as physical premotion, others to a predominating delight or some similar attraction. But all admit that the grace called efficacious is so of itself. 

Molina, on the contrary, maintained that it is extrinsically efficacious on account of our consent which was foreseen by God through mediate knowledge. This mediate knowledge has always been rejected by Thomists who accuse it of attributing passivity to God with respect to our free determinations (possible in the future, and then future) and of leading to determinism regarding circumstances (so far as, by examining these, God would foresee infallibly what a man would choose). Thus the very being and the goodness of man’s free and salutary choice would derive from him and not from God, at least in the sense in which Molina writes: “It may happen that, with equal help, one of those called will be converted and not the other. Indeed, even with less help one man may rise while another with greater help does not, but perseveres in his obduracy.”47

The opponents of Molinism reply that there would thus be a good, that of salutary free choice, which would not proceed from God, the source of all good. How then can the words of Jesus be sustained (John 15:5): “Without Me you can do nothing” in the order of salvation, and those words of St. Paul: “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?” (I Cor. 4:7.) It would in fact come to pass that of two sinners placed in the same circumstances and equally aided by God, one would be converted and not the other; man would distinguish himself and become better than another without greater assistance from God, without having received more, contrary to the text of St. Paul.

The Molinists do not fail to press the question further: If in order to act effectually one requires, in addition to sufficient grace, a grace which is efficacious of itself, does the former truly convey a real power of acting? It does so, the Thomists reply, if it is true that a real power of acting is distinct from the action itself; if it is true, as Aristotle maintained against the Megarians, that an architect who is not actually building still has the real power to do so; if it is true that a man who is asleep still has a real power of seeing: from the fact that he is not exercising his sight at the moment it does not follow that he is blind, Moreover, if a sinner did not resist sufficient grace, he would receive the efficacious grace proferred in the former, as the fruit is in the flower. If he refuses, he deserves to be deprived of this further help.

Our adversaries insist that St. Thomas himself did not distinguish explicitly between grace efficacious of itself and grace which merely conveys the power of doing good. It is an easy matter to cite many texts of the Angelic Doctor wherein he makes this distinction; for instance: “The help of God is twofold: God gives a faculty by infusing power and grace through which man is made able and apt to operate. But He confers the very operation itself inasmuch as He works in us interiorly moving and urging us to good, . . . according as His power works in us both to will and to accomplish according to His good will” (In Ep. ad Ephes., chap. 3, lect. 2); likewise, Ia IIae, q. 109, a. I, a. 2, a. g, 10; q. 113, a. 7, 10, and elsewhere. He also writes: “Christ is the propitiation for our sins, for some efficaciously, for all sufficiently, since the price of His blood is sufficient for the sal-vation of all, but possesses efficacy only in the elect, on account of an impediment” (In Ep. ad Tim., 2:6). God often removes this impediment, but not always. Therein lies the mystery. “God deprives no one of what is his due” (Ia, q. 23, a. 5 ad 3); “He gives sufficient help to avoid sin” (Ia IIae, q. 106, a. 2 ad 2). As for efficacious grace, “if it is given to one sinner, that is through mercy; if it is denied to another, that is in justice” (IIa IIae, q. 2, a. 5 ad I) .

Thomists analyze these texts as follows: Every actual grace which is efficacious of itself with regard to an imperfect salutary act such as attrition, is sufficient with regard to a more perfect salutary act such as contrition.48 This is manifestly the sense of St. Thomas’ doctrine, and, according to him, if a man actually resists the grace which confers the power of doing good, he deserves to be deprived of that which would effectually cause him to do good.49 But St. Thomas not only distinguished between these two graces; he indicated the ultimate basis of the distinction.


Thomists generally affirm that the distinction between efficacious and sufficient grace is based, according to St. Thomas, on, the distinction between consequent will and antecedent will, as explained by him (Ia, q. 19, a. 6 ad I ). From the will known as consequent proceeds efficacious grace, and from the antecedent will, sufficient grace. 

In this connection, St. Thomas writes: “The will is applied to things in accordance with what they are in themselves; but in themselves they are individual. Hence we will a thing absolutely inasmuch as we will it taking into consideration all the particular circumstances; this is willing consequently. . . . And thus it is evident that whatever God wills absolutely comes to pass.” As the psalms tell us, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done” (Ps. 1346).

The object of the will is the good. But goodness, unlike truth, resides formally not in the intellect but in the thing itself, which exists only here and now. Therefore we will absolutely, purely and simply, whatever we will as it must be realized here and now. This is consequent will, which is always efficacious in God, for all that God wills (unconditionally) He accomplishes.

If, on the contrary, the will regards what is good in itself independent of circumstances, not here and now, it is the antecedent (or conditional) will, which in itself and as such is not efficacious, since the good, natural or supernatural, facile or difficult, is realized only here and now. That is why St. Thomas says in the same place a few lines before: “In its primary signification and considered absolutely, a thing may be good or evil, which, however, when considered in connection with something else that effects the consequent estimate of it, may become quite the contrary; just as it is a good thing for a man to live,. . . but if it is added with regard to a particular man that he is a murderer, . . . it is a good thing for him to be executed.”

Thus during a storm at sea, a merchant would wish (conditionally) to save his merchandise, but he is willing in fact to cast the merchandise into the sea to save his life (Ia IIae, q. 6, a. 6). Thus likewise does God will antecedently that all the fruits of the earth come to maturity, although for the sake of a higher good He permits that all do not do so. Again, in the same way, God wills antecedently the salvation of all men, although He permits sin and the loss of many in view of a higher good of which He alone is judge. Hence St. Thomas concludes in the text quoted: “It is thus evident that whatever God wills absolutely comes to pass, although what He wills antecedently may not.” It nevertheless remains true that God never commands the impossible, and that by His will and love He renders the keeping of the commandments possible to all, in the measure in which they are known and can be known. “He gives sufficient help to avoid sin” (Ia IIae, q. 106, a. 2 ad 2). In fact, He gives to each even more than strict justice demands (Ia, q. 21, a. 4). So does St. Thomas reconcile the antecedent divine will which St. John Damascene speaks of, with omnipotence which must not be lost sight of.


But is there not a higher, simpler principle from which the distinction may be derived between the two divine wills, one of them always efficacious, the other conditional and the source of sufficent grace? Is there not a universally accepted principle whence proceeds the notion of consequent and antecedent will, which we have just reviewed, and which would justify them in a higher light before the eyes of those who might remain unconvinced?

The principle we are seeking is precisely the one upon which this entire article of St. Thomas is based (Ia, q. 19, a. 6). It is expressed in the psalms in the words (134:6): “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done.” That is, God brings to pass all that He wills purely and simply, with an unconditional will. This is the will known as consequent, the principle of grace efficacious in itself. The enunciation of this principle is completed by the formula: “For nothing is done in heaven or on earth unless God either graciously brings it about or permits it to happen in His justice.” In other words, nothing happens without God’s willing it if it is a good or permitting it if it is an evil.50 So does the Church teach universally, and accordingly it is acknowledged that there is in God a conditional will, termed antecedent, which regards a good the privation of which is permitted by God for the sake of a higher good. Thus He permits that in certain cases His commandments are not kept, and He does so for the sake of that higher good, the manifestation of His mercy or of His justice. 

To this principle must be added another which is also universally received, was frequently invoked by St. Augustine,51 and was quoted by the Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. II: God never commands the impossible. The fulfillment of His commands is really possible, in the measure in which they can be known. Hence it is evident that the antecedent divine will is the source of a sufficient grace which renders the accomplishment of the precepts really possible, without causing them to be fulfilled here and now.

From these two revealed principles is derived, as can be seen, the distinction between the two divine wills, the one always efficacious, called consequent, the other conditional and the source of sufficient grace. Herein lies the ultimate basis, then, of the distinction between the two kinds of grace which we are considering.

There is no exception to the universal principle: All that God wills (purely, simply, and unconditionally) comes to pass, without thereby violating our liberty, for God moves it strongly and sweetly, actualizing rather than destroying it. He wills efficaciously our free consent, and we do consent freely. The sovereign efficacy of divine causality extends even to the free mode of our acts (Ia, q. 19, a. 8). This supreme maxim is thus explained by St. Thomas (ibid., a. 6): “Since the divine will is the most universal cause of all things, it is impossible for it not to be fulfilled,” when it is a question of unconditional will. The reason for this is that no created agent can act without the concurrence of God, or fail without His permission. Hence this principle amounts to a declaration of what is generally taught by the Church: No good is brought about here and now (in one man rather than in another) unless God has willed it positively and efficaciously from all eternity; and no evil, no sin, takes place here and now (in one man rather than in another) unless God has permitted it. The simpler formula is frequently used: Nothing takes place without the will of God if it is a good, or the permission of God if it is an evil. Equivalent definitions are found in the Councils, for example, that of Trent (Denz., no. 816).52

This very sublime and absolutely universal principle is repeated by many writers without any perception of what it implies. But it implies precisely, as we have just seen, the basis of the distinction between the two kinds of grace we are discussing, grace efficacious in itself and grace which is merely sufficient, which man resists, but which he would not resist without divine permission.

Hence in the ninth century, in order to terminate the discussions with regard to Gottschalk’s opinion and to grant to the Augustinian bishops what they were asking, and at the same time maintaining the divine will for universal salvation and the responsibility of the sinner, the synodal letter approved by the Council of Toucy in 860 began in the following terms”:53 “God did all that He willed in heaven and on earth. For nothing is done in heaven or on earth unless He either graciously accomplishes it or permits it to happen in His justice.” That is to say that every good, natural or supernatural, easy or difficult, initial or final, comes from God, and that no sin takes place, nor does it take place in one man rather than in another, without divine permission. This extremely general principle very evidently contains innumerable consequences.  St. Thomas saw in it the equivalent of the principle of predilection which he thus formulated (Ia, q. 20, a. 3): “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, nothing would be better than something else did not God will a greater good to one than to another.” No one would be better than another were he not more loved and helped by God. This is the equivalent of St. Paul’s: “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.) CONSEQUENCES OF THIS PRINCIPLE

This truth is one of the foundations of Christian humility, resting on the dogmas of creation out of nothing and of the necessity of grace for every salutary act. The same principle of predilection contains virtually the doctrine of gratuitous predestination, for, as St. Thomas shows so clearly (Ia, q. 23, a. 5), since the merits of the elect are the effect of their predestination, they cannot be its cause. This great truth leads the saints, when they see a criminal mounting the scaffold, to say within themselves: “If that man had received all the graces I have received, he would perhaps have been less unfaithful than I; and had God permitted in my life all the faults He permitted in his, I should be in his place and he in mine.” Such humility in the saints is manifestly the consequence of the principle: “Nothing happens unless God wills it, if it is a good, or permits it, if it is an evil.”

In fact, whatever there is of being and of action in the sin, apart from the moral disorder it contains, all proceeds from God, first cause of all being and all action, as St. Thomas demonstrates so well (Ia IIae, 9.79, a.2). The divine will cannot will, either directly or indirectly, the disorder which sin contains (ibid., a. I), nor can divine causality produce it. That disorder is outside the adequate object of God to much greater extent than sound is outside the object of the sense of sight. Just as we cannot see a sound, so God cannot be the cause of the disorder which lies in sin; but He is the cause of the being and action which it contains. There is nothing more precise and more “precisive,” if we may so speak, than the formal object of a faculty.54Thus, although goodness and truth are not actually distinct in any reality, the intelligence attains to it only as true and the will only as good. In the same way, the effect of gravity in our bodily organism must not be confused with that of electricity or of heat; each of these causes produces its own effect in us, not that of any other. Likewise God is the cause of being and action in sin, but not of its moral disorder. Thus is verified once more the principle: nothing real is effected without God’s will, nor any evil without His permission.

It is apparent, therefore, that theology should not only labor to deduce new conclusions following from its principles, but should also return to the first principles of faith so as to clarify conclusions which do not seem certain to those who do not recognize their connection with the prime verities.

To revert to the distinction between grace efficacious in itself and sufficient grace, it must be said, according to the generally accepted same circumstances, as were the two thieves who died with our Lord, eternity for his salvation, and if the other continues in his impenitence, this does not happen without the just permission of God.

It is clear that if one of these two sinners should be converted, it will be as a result of a special mercy which causes him to merit before death and subsequently will crown its own gifts by rewarding him. But if a just man never sins mortally from the time of his first justification in baptism, that is the result of an even greater bounty on the part of God, who has preserved him thus efficaciously in good when He could have permitted his fall. This simple observation demonstrates the gratuity of predestination.

Such manifestly are the ultimate principles of the distinction between grace efficacious of itself which causes one to do good and sufficient grace which gives the power to do good. If a man resists the latter, as we have said, he deserves to be deprived of the former, which is offered to him in sufficient grace, as the fruit in the flower. Resistance or sin falls upon sufficient grace like hail upon a tree in blossom, which gave promise of a rich yield of fruit. The Lord in His mercy often lifts up the sinner; but He does not always do so, and therein lies the mystery.

Molina, refusing to admit that efficacious grace is so intrinsically, or of itself, maintained that it is efficacious only on account of our consent foreseen from all eternity through mediate knowledge. Thus there is a good, namely, that of our free, salutary determination, which comes about without God’s having willed it efficaciously, contrary to the principle: “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done; nothing is done unless He either graciously does it or permits it to happen in His justice.”

Molina, nevertheless, attempts to preserve this universally accepted principle. But he succeeds only in retaining it in an indirect, extrinsic way by asserting that God from all eternity has seen, through mediate knowledge, that if Peter were placed in given circumstances with such and such sufficient grace, he would in fact be converted; and thereupon, since He had the intention of saving him, He willed to place him in these favorable circumstances rather than in others wherein he should have been lost. Thus the supreme principle which we have invoked, as well as that of predilection, would be degraded to a condition of relativity. It is no longer intrinsically true of itself but only on account of circumstances extrinsic to the salutary determination.

In fact, for Molina it remains true, contrary to the principle of predilection, that of two sinners placed in the same circumstances and equally aided by God, one may be converted and not the other. “A person who is aided by the same or even less help can rise from sin, while another with greater help does not rise but remains in his obduracy.55 One of the two is converted without having received any more, contrary, so it seems, to the words of St. Paul: “Who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.)

One objection remains, which St. Paul himself poses: “Thou wilt say therefore to me: Why doth He then find fault? for who resisteth His will?” (Rom. 9:19.) We know the Apostle’s answer: God can prefer whom He wills without thereby being unjust (ibid., 14-24), and the hymn to divine wisdom whose designs are impenetrable: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!  How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how unsearchable His ways! . . . Who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and recompense shall be made him?” (ibid. 11:33-35.) St. Augustine makes the same reply: “Why does He draw this man and not that one? Do not attempt to judge if you do not wish to err.”56St. Thomas adds that predestination cannot have as its cause the merits of the elect since these are the effect of predestination, which consequently is gratuitous or dependent upon the divine good pleasure (Ia, q. 23, a. 5).

Not infrequently an effort is made to answer the foregoing problem more specifically than either St. Paul, St. Augustine, or St. Thomas did. But is not the significance of the mystery sacrificed to an inferior sort of clarity which it does not contain? From this standpoint one comes back, in spite of oneself, to the position of Molina, for instance, by the statement which recently appeared as follows: “Herein lies the mystery of predestination: Since from all eternity God knew that Judas would not profit by the sufficient graces which He willed to give him, why did He not will to give him, as he did to the good thief, graces with which He knew that he would correspond?” That is indeed the language of the Molinists and, willy-nilly, it presupposes the theory of mediate knowledge, which posits a passivity in the foreknowledge regarding the free determination a man would take, were he placed in given circumstances, and which he will take if he is in fact so placed. There is the dilemma: God either determines or is determined; there is no middle ground.If, on the contrary, one attempts to safeguard the generally accepted principle: “Nothing happens which God has not either efficaciously willed if it is a good, or permitted if it is an evil,” it does not suffice to affirm, as in the formula quoted above, that God knew what would happen, that the good thief would consent to the sufficient grace and that Judas would resist it. It must be held that: in one case, God permitted the final impenitence of Judas (had He not permitted it, it would not have happened, and God would not have been able to foresee it infallibly) and He would not have permitted it if he had willed efficaciously to save Judas. In other case, God willed efficaciously the conversion of the good thief because He willed efficaciously to save him (gratuitous predestination to glory).57This is the conclusion which proceeds from the generally accepted principles.

If a good which ought to happen does not happen (such as the conversion of Judas), it must be concluded that God had not efficaciously willed it to happen actually although He may have willed the possibility of its happening (antecedent will) and that Judas should hav eth real power to be converted, without being so in fact. (Thus a man who is asleep and not actually seeing still has the real  power of sight.) If, on the contrary, a good actually comes to pass (such as the conversion of Peter), it must be concluded that from all eternity God had efficaciously willed (by consequent will) that it should in fact take place, and in Peter rather than in Judas.58

It follows, therefore, that no one would be better than another (all other things being equal), were he not better loved efficaciously and aided more by God (consequent will); although the other (less loved) could, of course, have received and often may, under other circumstances, have received greater graces. Thus Judas received the grace of the apostolate which many of the elect have never received.  Hence no one would be better than another were he not loved more by God through consequent will. This is the meaning of the divine predilection upon which predestination is based (cf. St. Thomas, Ia, q. 23, a. 4). Bariez says no more than St. Thomas on the subject, and it is quite apparent that the epithet of “Bañezianism” to designate classical Thomism is only a poor attempt at humor, as Father N. Del Prado demonstrates (De gratia, 1907, III, 427-67: Whether Bañezianism is not really a farce invented by the Molinists). Molina spoke more frankly and admitted that his doctrine did not coincide with that of St. Thomas.

As for negative reprobation, according to the Angelic Doctor, it consists precisely in the divine permission of sins which in fact will not be remitted and especially of the sin of final impenitence.59 To this one cannot make answer, as has recently been done, that the permission of sin is general with regard to elect and reprobates alike; it is clear that we are here dealing with the will to permit sin which will not be forgiven.60


Hence it is apparent that the ultimate bases of the distinction between grace efficacious in itself and sufficient grace, as well as between consequent divine will and antecedent will, is to be found in these two principles: “Nothing happens which God has not either willed efficaciously if it is a good, or permitted if it is an evil”; and “God never commands the impossible, but renders the fulfillment of His commands really possible when He imposes them and to the extent to which He imposes them and to which they can be known.”

If the true meaning of each of the terms of these two principles is well weighed, especially the opposition that exists between “efficaciously willed” and “permitted,” it can be seen that there is a real difference between efficacious grace, the result of the intrinsically efficacious will of God, and merely sufficient grace, the result of His antecedent will accompanied by the divine permission of sin. In the first case, God confers the free, salutary action. In the second, He gives the real power to act, but not to act efficaciously. In sufficient grace, we cannot repeat too often, efficacious grace is offered, as the fruit in the flower, as act in potency. But if anyone resists sufficient grace, he deserves to be deprived of the efficacious help which he would have received had it not been for this resistance. 

Therein lies a great mystery, as St. Paul acknowledges (Rom.  9:14-24; 11:33-36). He reminds us that, without being unjust, God can show preference for whom He will. No one has first given unto Him that he should receive a recompense in return. “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! . . . who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and recompense shall be made him?What does appear manifestly in the midst of this chiaroscuro is that the question here posed involves the reconciling of infinite justice, infinite mercy, and supreme liberty within the eminence of Deity. If the grace of perseverance is granted to one, it is out of infinite mercy; if it is not granted to another, that is in just punishment for his faults. Each of these divine perfections is infinite, and their intimate reconciliation in the eminence of Deity or in the inner life of God can be seen only in the immediate vision of the divine essence.

The principles which we have just enunciated and which balance one another give us an inkling about the location of the summit toward which they converge, but the peak remains hidden from our sight. Only in heaven shall we behold the intimate reconciliation of these two truths: “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done” (Ps. 134:6), and “God does not command the impossible.” He who receives from God the real power to observe the commandments does not always do so in fact. If he observes them, he is obviously better in that respect. And this is a sign that he has received more. 

We must therefore conclude with Bossuet: “Let us learn to control our intelligence so as to admit these two graces [sufficient and efficacious] of which the one leaves the will without any excuse before God and the other does not allow it to glory in itself.”61Sufficient grace leaves us without any excuse before God because, as we have said, in it efficacious grace is offered to us; but by the very fact that a man resists this divine attention, he deserves to be deprived of the efficacious help which was virtually offered to him. Resistance to grace is an evil which derives from us alone; nonresistance is a good which would not come to pass here and now, had not God willed it from all eternity with a consequent or efficacious will.

But to arrive at a clear understanding of this doctrine, one must avoid several confusing misconceptions that are frequent among those who read the explanation of it for the first time. It would be an error to think that some receive only efficacious graces and others only sufficient graces. We all receive both of these helps. Even those who are in the state of mortal sin occasionally receive an efficacious grace to make an act of faith or of hope; but they often also resist the sufficient grace which inclines them toward conversion. Faithful servants of God frequently receive sufficient graces which they do not resist and which are followed by efficacious graces. The various degrees of sufficient grace must also be carefully considered. First of all, sufficient grace is far from always being sterile or merely sufficient; it is rendered sterile by our resistance. But if this is not forthcoming, sufficient grace, followed by efficacious help, fructifies like a flower which produces, under the action of the sun, the fruit which it is intended to yield.

Moreover, sufficient graces are most varied in kind. There are, in the first place, the exterior graces such as the preaching of the gospel, good example, wise direction. Then there is the interior habitual or sanctifying grace received in baptism which confers the radical power of acting meritoriously. There are the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are so many principles bestowing the proximate power of supernatural action. There are interior actual graces, graces of light which produce good thoughts, graces of attraction which cause an impulse toward the good, inclining us to a salutary consent to good without causing us as yet to produce it.62 Thus it is that, as we have said above, the grace which produces attrition in us efficaciously is sufficient with regard to contrition.

Sufficient grace, which renders possible the fulfillment of duty, may therefore go very far in the order of this real possibility. But however far it may go in this order of proximate power to produce a given salutary act, for instance, contrition, it remains distinct from the efficacious grace which will cause us to produce freely, here and now, this particular act of contrition. The latter would not in fact have been produced had it not been willed eternally by the consequent will of God.63

A cursory reading of this doctrine may leave one unaware of how far sufficient grace can go within us. Sometimes it urges us with insistence not to resist God’s will in a certain respect, manifested repeatedly by a superior or a spiritual director. It may happen that for a year or two or even more all the circumstances continue to confirm what is being asked of us in God’s name. And yet the soul continues to allow itself to be deceived by self-love and by the enemy of all good; it resists the light over a period of months, in spite of all the prayers that are said for it and all the Masses offered for its intention. The prayers and Masses obtain for it graces of light which produce good thoughts in it, graces of attraction which elicit transitory impulses toward the good. But these sufficient graces are blocked by a resistance which may even go so far as obduracy of the heart. Then is fulfilled the text of the Apocalypse (3:19): “Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance. Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear My voice, and open to Me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”

“Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock,” says the Lord. The soul often resists; it does so by itself; the evil comes only from the soul. When it ceases to resist and at least hearkens to Him who knocks, it is already He, the Lord, who gives it to the soul to listen with docility.  And if it really stops resisting, it will be led from grace to grace even to divine intimacy.

If the soul ceases its resistance, efficacious grace ever sweeter and stronger will be given it; sweetly and strongly will this grace gradually penetrate its will, as the beneficial warmth penetrates little by little a cold body which has been frozen stiff. Then the soul becomes more and more aware that all the resistance came from itself alone; that the nonresistance is itself a good proceeding from the author of all good; and that the soul must ask it of Him in that prayer which the priest repeats every day at Mass before the Communion, a prayer by which he begs for the efficacious grace which leads one to the good: “Lord, make me always adhere to Thy commandments and never suffer me to be separated from Thee.” Grant, Lord, not only that I may have the power of observing Thy commandments, but that I may in fact observe them; and never permit me to be separated from Thee.

Undoubtedly, he who keeps the commandments is better than he who, although really able to keep them, does not do so. He who is thus rendered better should thank the sovereign goodness for it. The distinction between the two helps, sufficient and efficacious, which we have been speaking of, is a basis for the act of thinksgiving which De praedestinatione sanctortum, the elect will sing forever the mercy of God and will see how this infinite mercy is perfectly reconciled with infinite justice and sovereign liberty.64


Any consideration of the renewal of Thomistic studies in the past hundred years must take into account the great names of the eminent Jesuits Kleutgen, Cornoldi, Liberatore, and more recently, Louis Billot and G. Mattiussi, who labored so admirably throughout their lives to lead minds back to an understanding of the works of St. Thomas. They were great admirers and often penetrating interpreters of the Angelic Doctor. Only in heaven will it be known what great friends he has had among the sons of St. Ignatius. We experience a particular joy in sincerely rendering this testimony.65

It is to be regretted that the same elevation of mind is not found in several authors who in the past few years have taken to applying the epithet of “Bañezian’’ to real Thomists. It is an ill-natured witticism to which the best theologians of the Society of Jesus would never stoop. This designation of “Bañezian” referring to genuine Thomists is even adopted by certain authors as if it were an accepted term. We are thereby reminded of the chapter, “De Comoedia banneziana,” which is to be found in a work by Father N. Del Prado, O.P., De gratia et libero arbitrio (Fribourg, 1907, III, 427-66).

This latter work, out of print for several years, brought the sum of 6,000 lire before the last war, so we are informed, and must be even more valuable today. In the chapter referred to, pp. 457 ff., the author recalls that Dr. John Ude of Graz, who had received from his professors in Rome the conviction that classical Thomism was an invention of Bañez, undertook to write a book entitled: Doctrina Capreoli de influxu Dei in actus voluntatis humanae (Graz, Istria, 1904).  He professed to show that the doctrine defended by Bañez was nowhere to be found in the early commentators on St. Thomas. But what was his surprise when, in Capreolus himself, he came upon the doctrine of predetermining divine decrees and causally predetermining premotion! In the first part of his book he still speaks in behalf of Molinism, but subsequently (op. cit., pp. 162, 182, 197-203, 215, 216, 259) he is obliged to conclude that Capreolus 66  had certainly taught what Bañez declared and that this doctrine is St. Thomas’ own, as has been demonstrated by Fathers Dummermuth67 and Del Prado. We have proved the point at great length elsewhere,68and shall quote in the present article several texts of St. Thomas. It suffices to recall for the moment the two following: “If God moves the will toward anything, it is incompatible with this position that the will should not be moved toward it. However, it is not absolutely impossible. Hence it does not follow that the will is moved by God of necessity” (Ia IIae, q. 10, a. 4 ad 3). God actualizes liberty in the will and even the free mode itself whereby it directs itself toward any good conducive to salvation, safeguarding under this very movement the power (not the act) of choosing a contrary object. Likewise, “The intention of God cannot fail. . . . Hence if it is in the intention of God who moves that the man whose heart He moves should receive [sanctifying] grace, he will infallibly receive it” (Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 3 c; cf. also IIa IIae, q. 24, a. II, and Contra Gentes, Bk. III, chaps. 91, 92, 94). 

It is absolutely certain that, according to St. Thomas, God knows in a comprehensive manner all that He is, all that He can do, all that He wills and accomplishes, all that He permits, and that thus, without any passivity or dependence with regard to our free determinations, He knows all that is knowable. “The knowledge of God is the cause of things and is in no way caused by them” (Ia, q. 14, a. 5,8).  Without any doubt the Molinist theory of scientia media has no foundation in St. Thomas. It is quite certain, according to him, Ia, q. 19, a. 8, that God willed efficaciously from all eternity the free acts of Christ the Redeemer, Mary’s fiat, the conversion of Mary Magdalen, of the good thief, and of Saul. And it is for this reason that these acts rather than their contraries are present to Him from all eternity (Ia, q. 14, a. 3), and that they took place infallibly in time, in a free manner, because He had efficaciously willed that they should happen freely (Ia, q. 19, a. 8). “God,” says Bossuet, “wills from eternity all the future exercise of human liberty so far as it is good and real. What can be more absurd than to say that it does not exist for the reason that God wills it to exist” (Traité du libre arbitre, chap. 8)?  Texts from St. Thomas abound proving that this is indeed his teaching; they are well known. Not to take into account these texts, often quoted by Thomists, is to proceed unscientifically. The only opposition offered is to dismiss the case. This is done by that well-known theologian of distinction who adheres, in spite of every argument, to the Molinist theory of scientia media. His answer to us was:“Even if the doctrine of predetermining decrees is in St. Thomas, we will have none of it.” At least he had the merit of being outspoken. He would have been greatly surprised had he been told that he was indulging in pragmatism which could easily lead to a revision of the traditional definition of truth so as to define it, not as that which is, but as that which pleases us and which we wish to say and to hear others say.

But the subject deserves a more forthright discussion. It is objected: for a man to be free under efficacious grace, it is not enough for him to retain, under that grace, the power of resisting; he must be able to accommodate the grace with actual resistance. If that is the case, genuine Thomists have always replied with St. Thomas himself, then, for Socrates to be sitting down freely, it does not suffice that he meanwhile retains the power to rise, but he must be able to accommodate those two contrary positions and be at the same time seated and standing, which is impossible. In the same way, efficacious grace to which resistance was made in fact would no longer be efficacious. 

But our adversaries have no wish to hear such an answer. And so they continue in certain of their works to call real Thomists “Bañezians.” In order to hold on to the title of Thomists themselves without being challenged they deprive the true intellectual sons of St.  Thomas of that right. And readers who lack keenness of perception or who are misinformed allow themselves to be taken in. Suppose someone tried to deprive the true descendants of the Bourbon line of their name: would not the cry of injustice be raised? The case is a parallel one.69

Bañezianism is then described after a fashion which no real Thomist would accept, and this description finds its way subsequently into the works of authors who attempt to advance matters by a reconciliation of the two contradictorily opposed doctrines, and who express themselves in a way of which Msgr. P. Parente is typical. In his De creatione universali (1943, p. 139), in the belief that he is accurately reporting the doctrine of the Thomists, labeled “Bañezians,” he writes:

“When the will acts under the impulse of God, it cannot deviate toward anything else inthe composite sense; but it can do so inthe divided sense. Evidently, as long a the divine motion continues, the will is not free, that is, it cannot70 fail to desire that to which it is determined by God (composite sense); but it could if it prescinded from that motion (divided sense). Similarly a person who sits down, while he is seated, cannot stand, but he does not relinquish the power of standing, in the divided sense, that is, after he has been seated.” The same author expresses himself in similar terms in his Antropologia supernaturalis, 1943, p. 194.

This is the divided sense as Calvin understood it, and it is easy to understand that it should be rejected. But why not seek the correct meaning of this term from the Thomists themselves?71 We affirm that God actualizes liberty in us, so that there no longer remains a passive or potential indifference, but rather an actual, dominating indifference with which our will, specified by the universal good, directs itself toward such and such a particular good which is commanded (toward an object not in every respect good), while preserving under this divine motion the power (not the act) of choosing the contrary.  Thus Socrates, while seated, is able to stand, but he cannot be at the same time seated and standing. In the same way, a person with his eyes closed does not see at that moment, but he retains the real faculty of sight; he is not blind. Potency is really distinct from act and can exist without it. Likewise under grace which is infallibly efficacious of itself, the will is able to resist (the opposite power remains); but under that grace it never does resist in fact, just as it never happens that while Socrates is seated he is standing. Efficacious grace which a man would resist in fact would no longer be efficacious. 

The composed sense of Calvin, declared by him to be unattainable, is our divided sense, which we maintain is real. As for the divided sense of Calvin, it is heretical. According to him, freedom and the power to resist do not remain under efficacious grace, but only reappear later. Thomists have never sustained such a theory; if they had, they would have completely misunderstood the teaching of their Idaster. They understand the divided sense in exactly the same way as St. Thomas.72

Another doctrine which they do not hold is attributed to Thomists when it is said: “Thomists add that God bestows sufficient grace in such wise that to those who make good use of it He may grant efficacious grace; but according to their opinion, the good use of sufficient grace depends upon efficacious grace. Therefore the matter is left unexplained.”73 What Thomists maintain is this: If a man resists sufficient grace, then he deserves to be deprived of efficacious grace, and it is clear that the latter is not necessary to resist the former.  Culpable resistance falls upon sufficient grace (in which efficacious grace is offered) like hail upon a tree in blossom, which promised much fruit; but the fruit will certainly not develop.

As for the disorder of sin, God who condemns it, permits it without being its cause. This divine permission is only a condition sine qua non. The disorder proceeds solely from the defective and deficient created will and in no sense from God, who absolutely cannot produce it; for this disorder is outside the adequate object of His will and omnipotence, just as sound is beyond the range of the sense of sight, or truth outside the adequate object of the will. “Nothing is more precise than the formal object of any power.” Hence the divine motion toward the physical act of the sin (as being and as action) prescinds from its malice. Again with regard to this last point, the authentic Thomistic teaching is often rendered utterly unrecognizable in the unscientific presentations that are made of it. All that would be necessary would be to cite the two articles of St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q. 79, a. I, 2); Thomists hold no other view.THE NEW SYNCRETISM

What is the substance of the new syncretism proposed by Msgr. P. Parente? He rejects Thomism and the Molinist theory of scientia media, as well as that of simultaneous concurrence, while admitting a non-predetermining premotion. He is seeking an intermediate position. The question is whether such a position is possible between two contradictory propositions. God knows certainly all future contingencies either before or not before His predetermining decree; is any middle ground possible?

I. The new syncretism rejects what it refers to as rigid Thomism or Bañezianism, that is, the doctrine of predetermining divine decrees and the divine motion derived from them. What is its objection to this teaching? We are told in the De creatione universali, p. 144: “It does not seem possible to preserve human liberty if the will of man is said to be and is determined by God toward one object. Nor will it help to have recourse to composite and divided sense, since the question concerns freedom, not before or after divine motion (in the divided sense), but during that motion (in the composite sense). Therefore if in this latter sense the will, inasmuch as it is determined to one object, is not free, it never will be free, since without this motion it never has the power to act.”

We have just seen that this interpretation of divided sense, attributed to Thomists, is by no means their own; more than that, it is heretical. Under efficacious grace a man can resist, but he does not do so in fact; grace would then no longer be efficacious. Moreover, we hold that by grace efficacious in itself God infallibly moves the will to determine itself freely in the direction of the commandment; this motion is thus a causal predetermination distinct from the formal determination of the act to which it is ordained. God determines to one object in the sense that He determines us to obey rather than not to obey.74

2. The new syncretism also rejects Molinism; cf. Msgr. Parente, De creatione universali, p. 144: “If a creature is said to be moved primarily by itself to its operation, a twofold absurdity follows, namely, the creature determines God and its passes from potency to act independently of God. . . . Moreover, reasoning, both theological and philosophical, here demands not coordination but subordination.” Furthermore, Msgr. Parente writes with respect to mediate knowledge (De Deo uno, 1938, p. 247): “Again this whole Molinistic theory simply abounds in obscurity as not a few Molinists acknowledge. For it is dificult to see how anything may be regarded as real (in the future) to the divine mind while withdrawn from the divine will. However it may be explained, this is imputing a certain determinism to God Himself. But if the futurity of free acts as dependent with respect to circumstances is urged overmuch, then we fall into determinism of circumstances. . . . In recent times no theologians have made any advance in the direction of reconciliation.  Thus L. Janssens, De Deo uno, Vol. II, declares that the medium of knowledge of all future contingencies is the divine essence to the extent that it is eternal, or the eternity of God itself, to whom all things are present. But this opinion, if it prescinds from the divine volition, either does not explain enough, or reverts to the theory of those who hold that God draws His knowledge from His own creatures.”

Mediate knowledge is then rejected by the new syncretism because God would be determined in His foreknowledge by a free determination (future contingency) which would not derive from Him. Thus far, this is a refutation of misinterpreted Thomism by means of Molinism, and of Molinism by means of Thomism.

But at this point, if the new theory refuses to come back to predetermining decrees, which it has discarded, how will it solve the inevitable dilemma: God either determines or is determined; there is no midway between the two? If He does not determine, then He is determined by a determination which does not come from Him but is imposed upon Him, since He knows it infallibly without its being derived from Him; for example, if the good thief, crucified on Calvary beside Jesus, had the help of sufficient grace, he would be converted, while the other in the same circumstances and with equal grace would not.

The new syncretism considers that it has solved the difficulty by declaring that our free, salutary determination comes from God mediately by way of our deliberation. Cf. Parente, De creatione universali, p. 158. “In a free act a twofold element must be distinguished, that of its exercise and that of its specification. The first in the actuating of the will is in the line of efficient causality which is to be ascribed to God immediately; the other is the determination of the act from the standpoint of the object, in the line of formal causality which is immediately from the intellect, and mediately from God.” The same author writes (De gratia, p. 208): “Physical predetermination is rejected; and premotion is admitted even in the supernatural order.  Likewise the motion of exercise is distinguished from the motion of specification; the former is attributed immediately to God, the latter mediately to God and immediately to the intellect proposing the object under a favorable light.” Again, (ibid., p. 204): “Then the will, of which the adequate object is the Highest Good, is directed spontaneously and infallibly toward a particular object in which a certain nature of the Highest Good is reflected.” How could the word “infallibly,” which we have italicized, ever be justified?75

To anyone who has spent a lifetime in the study of these problems under their various aspects, it is easily apparent that this new syncretism, like its predecessor, seeks an impossible mean between two contradictory propositions, between the predetermining decrees of genuine Thomists and the scientia media of the Molinists: God knows future contingencies infallibly, either before or not before His predetermining decree. If the new syncretism does not return to predetermining decrees, which it has discarded, it is led perforce to scientia media presented under another name and must reply to all the difficulties it raises. The exigencies of the principle of contradiction must not be forgotten.76

We shall here formulate the objections which we have already presented in the Acta Academiae romanae S. Thomae, 193-40, pp.  35-37. They seem to us absolutely irrefutable. The only reply they have ever received was a dismissal of the case; this is hardly scientific. 

I. This syncretism maintains that God is the cause of our free determination mediately only through the judgment of our intelligence which deliberates. Assuredly there will never be a free choice without a foregoing judgment; but at the end of the deliberation it depends on our free will (which accepts or rejects the right direction of the intelligence) that such and such a practical judgment should be the final one. (See no. 21 of the twenty-four Thomistic theses approved by the Sacred Congregation of studies.) Thereupon, since the new syncretism admits that God moves the will, as to exercise, toward this choice, in the case of a salutary choice does God will eflicaciously that it should be a salutary volition rather than a nolition, an impious refusal or a culpable omission? If so, then God by moving the will toward this choice efficaciously and infallibly as to exercise, brings it about, together with the will, that such and such a salutary practical judgment should be the final one. In that case we are dealing with genuine Thomism and are presupposing the predetermining divine decrees from which this motion as to exercise derives. 

2. Otherwise, by this motion in respect to exercise required for a salutary choice as well as for the contrary refusal, God would not cause the good act to any greater extent than the evil act, and He would not be even the mediate nor, above all, the infallible cause of the salutary choice as to specification; for the precept which comes from Him does not draw the will infallibly; even under the aspect of a good it did not infallibly attract the good thief who obeyed, while the other disobeyed.

3. Accordingly, God would not be the cause of what is bast in the merits of the saints nor of what was best in the merits of Christ and His holy Mother. This is contrary to the words of St. Paul: “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?” Therefore does St. Thomas often repeat: “Whatever of reality and perfection there is in our salutary acts derives from God, the source of every good.” In other words, as stated in Ia, q. 20, a. 3 and 4: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, one thing would not be better than another if God did not will greater good to one than to the other.” “Thus some things are better for the reason that God loves them better.” This is the principle of predilection which clarifies the whole doctrine of predestination: No one would be better than another were he not loved and helped more by God. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”

4. Finally, God in His foreknowledge would be passive or dependent with respect to our free salutary determination which would not derive from Him and which, at least as possible in the future, would impose itself upon Him infallibly since He would know it infallibly. Thus we are back again, whether we will or not, at mediate knowledge under another name, with all the difficulties which flow from it. The dilemma that cannot be solved ever reappears: God either determines or is determined; there is no middle course. Every theory that denies the predetermining divine decrees — call it mediate knowledge or not — comes to grief when it strikes against this dilemma. 

We must therefore return to certain and revealed principles. Even in the psalms we find, as Hincmar observed at the Council of Toucy in 860,77terminating the controversy raised by the writings of Gottschalk: “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done, in heaven, in earth” (Ps. 134:6). Hincmar added: “For nothing is done in heaven or on earth except what He graciously does or permits to be done in His justice.” This means that every good, whether easy or difficult, natural or supernatural, comes from God, and that no sin takes place, or takes place in one man rather than in another, without a divine permission. This extremely general principle obviously implies a multitude of consequences. Thomists see in it the equivalent of the principle of predilection: “No one would be better than another were he not loved and aided more by God.” This last principle must be balanced by that other formulated by St. Augustine78and cited by the Council of Trent (Denz., no. 804): “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”; this is the Augustinian affirmation of the will for universal salvation.

According to these principles, what answer does the Christian mind offer to the following questions: Did God from all eternity efficaciously will the free acts of Christ the Redeemer, Mary’s fiat consenting to her motherhood of the Savior, the conversions of Mary Magdalen, of the good thief, of Saul? Did God will efficaciously all that is good in each of these acts, especially what is best in them: their free determination which distinguishes them from evil acts and whereby the just man is distinguished from the sinner?

The Christian mind replies to these questions in the affirmative: Yes, God from all eternity efficaciously willed these salutary acts which took place in time; He efficaciously willed their free determination wherein a good act is distinguished from sin. Otherwise God would not be the source of all good, and what is best in the merits of the saints would not derive from Him; “in the affair of salvation, not everything would come from God, that is, not the origin of the free, salutary determination.” St. Augustine repeatedly affirms this doctrine, basing it upon the words of Jesus: “Without Me you can do nothing” in the order of salvation, and on those of St. Paul: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”

Did St. Thomas preserve this teaching, so simple in its sublimity, which becomes more and more the object of the contemplation of the saints above and beyond all controversy? To be convinced of the Angelic Doctor’s adherence to this doctrine, it suffices to read in order the articles of the Summa relating to these questions. 

According to St. Thomas, God is omniscient because He knows in a comprehensive manner all that He is, all that He can do (all possibilities), all that He wills and does (all that has been, is, and will be, as far as it is real and good), and all that He permits (all sins, their kind, number, and the exact moment when they occur); this includes all that is knowable. Nothing positive, nothing good, can in fact exist outside of God, without a relationship of causality or of dependence with respect to Him; and sin would not happen if God did not permit it — that is a condition sine qua non — and if He did not permit it to happen under a given form and at a given time. Thus the Pharisees were powerless to put our Lord to death before “His hour” had come, the hour predetermined by God with an infallible predetermination, but not necessitating the free acts of the Savior or of His persecutors, and moreover predicted by the prophets. This is traditional teaching in all its lofty simplicity and all its strength. Does St. Thomas retain it? Assuredly he does. Otherwise, as Bossuet says with reference to Molina’s mediate knowledge, “all idea of a first cause is thrown into confusion.”79

St. Thomas writes (Ia, q. 14, a. 8): “The knowledge of God is the cause of things inasmuch as His will is united to it.” He has just observed: “Since the intelligible form confronts two opposite alternatives (whether to produce it or not) and since the same knowledge relates to opposites, it would not produce a determined effect unless it were determined in one direction by the will.”

Again (ibid., a. 13): “But the knowledge of God is measured by eternity which encompasses the whole of time”; hence it attains intuitively to all futurities as presents, without any dependence in relation to them; nor does it know them any better when they take place in time. But the conversion of St. Paul would not be infallibly present to God from all eternity had He not willed it efficaciously. Otherwise it would be present to Him not as a contingent truth but as a necessary truth. This is manifest, provided one is willing to understand it. And the presence of future contingencies in eternity is not the medium of foreknowledge but the condition of its being intuitive and not subsequently perfected when the future comes to pass in time, as in the case of a prophet who sees his prediction accomplished. 

Ia, q. 19, a. 4: “The will of God is the cause of things, and determined effects proceed from His infinite perfection according to the determination of His will and intellect.” And in God, as in man, “the free will, accepting the direction of the intellect, does whatever is final in the practical judgment,” provision being made for virtually distinguishing several decrees in God; cf. ibid., ad 4. That is the decree of the divine will. In the same question, St. Thomas concludes the answer to the first objection of article 6: “Whatever God wills absolutely is done, although what He wills antecedently may not be done.” Thus from all eternity God willed antecedently Peter’s fidelity during the Passion, at the same time permitting his denial; but He willed absolutely that Peter should be converted, and infallibly he is converted. In the same way from all eternity God willed absolutely and efficaciously to save the good thief (predestination to glory), and for this reason He also willed to grant him the efficacious grace of a happy death, and the good thief was converted.

Ibid., a. 8: “The divine will imposes necessity on some things willed but not on all. . . . This depends on the efficacy of the divine will.  For when any cause would be efficacious in acting, the effect follows the cause, not only with respect to what is done but even according to the mode of doing or being. . . . To certain effects God adapted contingent causes.” God moves creatures according to their condition; His motion is not passively determined by us, but He moves our will to determine itself by deliberation in the direction of the commandments. Ibid. ad 2: “From the very fact that nothing resists the divine will, it follows not only that those things are done which God wills should be done, but also that they are done contingently or necessarily as He so wills.” He actualizes human liberty. He willed efficaciously that the good thief should be converted freely. What could be more absurd than to say that it cannot happen because God willed it? 

Ia, q. 20, a. 3, 4: “No one would be better than another were he not better loved by God.” Ia, q. 23, a. 5: “Whatever there is in man ordaining him to salvation is wholly included under the effect of predestination, even the preparation for grace. And likewise, Ia, q. 105, a. 4: “It is proper to God to move the created will, but most of all by inclining it interiorly.”

Ia IIae, q. 10, a. 4 ad 3: “If God moves the will toward anything, it is incompatible with this position 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. Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 3: “Since the intention of God cannot fail, according to Augustine, those who are rendered free by the beneficence of God are most certainly rendered free. Hence if it is in the intention of God who moves that the man whose heart He moves should receive [sanctifying] grace, he will infallibly receive it.” Bañez has said no more than this. Many other texts might be cited, particularly Contra Gentes, Bk. III, chaps. 91, 92, 94; De veritate, 4.22, a.8, 9; De malo, q.6, a. I ad 3; Comment. in Perihermenias, Bk. I, lect. 14, etc. To the mind of St. Thomas what could have appeared more absurd than the claim that by actualizing liberty in us God destroys it?

The new syncretism holds that in St. Thomas the determination to one always necessitates. This is true of a faculty which by its very nature is determined to one. In that case it is necessitated to act only in that direction; man cannot use his sight for hearing but only for seeing. But it is not true of the motion, efficacious in itself, whereby God actualizes our liberty, infallibly leading our will, specified by the universal good, to determine itself toward some particular good, toward obeying some commandment rather than disobeying it. 

St. Thomas says in fact, Ia IIae, q. 10, a. 4: “Since the will, then, is an active principle not determined to one but applying itself indifferently to many objects, God so moves it that He does not determine it to one of necessity, but that its motion remain contingent, not necessary, except in those things to which it is moved naturally.” In this sentence the expression “not . . . of necessity” should be emphasized, for the negative refers to “of necessity” and not to “He . . .  determines it to one.” Throughout this question in fact, in the preceding articles, St. Thomas writes: “God does not move of necessity” in the sense of: “God moves, but not of necessity.” Obviously, efficacious, salutary divine motion infallibly leads the will to determine itself to obey a given command rather than to disobey it. The proof is that in this very article 4 (ad 3) we read: “If God moves the will toward anything, it is incompatible with this position that the will should not be moved thereto.” The text is clear to anyone who reads it without any preconceived idea. Moreover it is certain that efficacious grace which was resisted in fact would no longer be efficacious. 

Msgr. Parente has attempted to show80 by several texts of St. Thomas that the determination to one always necessitates. But the texts presented refer to determination to one of a faculty which, like that of seeing, is determined by its very nature to one act; they do not refer to the divine motion which actualizes freedom and produces in it even the free mode (which is of its essence), leading the will infallibly to determine itself to obey a given precept rather than to disobey.

To make this evident it suffices to quote in full the texts presented.  De malo, q. 6, a. I ad 3: “God moves a certain will immutably [or infallibly] on account of the efficacy of His moving power which cannot fail;81 but because of the nature of our will which applies it-self indifferently to various objects, necessity is not introduced and liberty remains. So also in all things divine providence operates infallibly, and yet from contingent causes effects proceed contingently inasmuch as God moves things proportionately, each according to its mode.” He actualizes freedom by leading it infallibly to meritorious obedience as He causes the tree to blossom; and just as the tree spontaneously produces its natural flowers, the just man freely obeys in a meritorious way under the grace which causes him to obey. 

Without any more justification, we are confronted with the text De potentia, q. 3, a. 7 ad 13: “The will is said to have dominion over its act, not to the exclusion of the first cause, but since the first cause does not so act in the will as to determine it of necessity, as it determines nature. And therefore the determination of the act is left in the power of the reason and the will.” Assuredly, since God by His efficacious, infallible motion leads us to free self-determination through deliberation to obey a given commandment rather than to disobey it; and when the just man obeys thus, it can be said that God had willed it so, efficaciously, from all eternity, even if it is a question of a facile act. It remains true, as St. Thomas says, De veritate, q. 22, a.8, that “just as the will can change its act into another, so, to a much greater extent, can God,” and Contra Gentes, Bk. III, chap. 91, no. 3: “A man always chooses what God operates in his will.” Do we not read in Prov. 21:1: “The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever He will He shall turn it”?

The testimony of Father Congar O.P., in the Revue des sciences Phil. etthéol., 1934, pp. 369 ff ., is also invoked. But it must not be forgotten that he concludes as we do: “Nothing can free us from the unavoidable dilemma: God either determines or is determined. God ‘determines all things and is not determined by any’ (St. Thomas, III Sent., dist. 27, q. I, a. 2 ad I).”82

Finally it is objected that St. Thomas has never spoken of non-necessitating divine predetermination. It suffices to reply that he spoke of it clearly with reference to the divine decree by which Providence determined the hour of Christ’s passion: “The Son of man indeed goeth, according to that which is determined” (Luke 22:22); cf. Acts 3:18. St. Thomas in his Commentary on St. John’s Gospel (2:4), “My hour is not yet come,” says in fact: “The hour of His passion is here meant, not as of necessity, but as determined by divine providence.” Likewise (ibid., 7:30): “ ‘They sought to apprehend Him and no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come,’ not of fatal necessity but as prescribed by the whole Trinity.” And again (ibid., 13:1; 17:1): “Not the hour of fatal necessity but of His ordination and good pleasure . . . determined by providence.”

All these texts are manifestly concerned with a predetermining, infallible divine decree bearing upon the hour of Jesus and thereby even upon the free act which He was to perform infallibly by willing to die for our salvation. Herein is also concerned the permissive decree referring to the sin of Judas, of Caiphas, of Herod, of Pilate, of all those who, until that hour, were powerless to do any harm to our Lord. 

Not to admit this teaching, especially with respect to the positive predetermining decrees relating to salutary acts, is to affirm that what is best in the merits of the just, the free determination which distinguishes them from sinful acts, does not derive from God. And thus, of two men in the state of grace one of whom performs a meritorious act and the other sins mortally, that which comes from God in both cases would be only their faculties, habitual grace, the infused virtues, the commandment, actual grace which draws them morally (but not infallibly) after the manner of an object, and the motion as to exer-cise, from which the sinful refusal can proceed just as well as the meritorious volition. Then, what is best in the merits of the just, even in those of Christ and His holy Mother, — their meritorious, free determination in its first beginning — would not derive from God, contrary to the words of St. Paul: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”

St. Thomas’ teaching is quite otherwise. As Scheeben has justly remarked,83the efficacious divine motion which the Angelic Doctor speaks of, is not to be compared to the influence of a mechanical order whereby one man assists another to row a boat, nor to that of a qualitative order by which heat revives life, but to the vital influence in a plant, for example, of the parent stem upon the branches causing them to blossom and fructify, and even more to the influence of the human will, enlightened by the intelligence, upon the hand, directing it as it writes. Moreover the handwriting varies in excellence; sometimes it becomes scarcely legible on account of the tremor brought on by old age. Then the will of the writer is not responsible for the defective result; no more is God for the disorder of sin which proceeds from the evil disposition of the defective and deficient will. Excluding the faults in the penmanship, all that is written proceeds from the hand as proximate cause and all, at the same time, from the writer as higher cause. This, however, is only an analogy to sustain the imagination and aid the intelligence. Thus our will, with the infused virtues, is secondary cause of whatever in the effect does not exceed its powers when set in operation, and it is instrumental cause of whatever exceeds its powers, as would be the case under a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost received through the gifts, as inspiration to which the just man freely consents. Let us also remark the teaching of Leo XIII that liberty remains under the motion which constitutes biblical inspiration.84

Once the Thomistic doctrine has been accepted, the more faithful the soul is the more it grasps, as Scheeben says, “its mystical profundity.” It has less confidence in itself, more in the efficacy of grace; and this increases its generosity and docility to the Holy Ghost. Thus the saints even enter upon the ways known as passive, wherein merit certainly does not diminish, when God acts more and more in them, substituting, through inspiration received with docility, His own very sublime, very simple thought for their complicated ratiocination, His strength for their weakness. The saints realize then that God must be-come for them another self, as it were, more intimate than their own; and they finally reach the point of declaring with St. Paul: “I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me.” The influence of efficacious grace thus actualizes their liberty more and more; far from destroying it, grace vitalizes, transforms, and establishes it in good.

If the objection is raised: “But I wish to find something to cling to in my free will, and I cannot reconcile it with that abandonment to grace.” Bossuet replies: “Proud contradictor, do you wish to reconcile these things or rather to believe that God reconciles them? He reconciles them in such a way that He wills, without releasing you from your action, that you attribute to Him ultimately the entire work of your salvation. For He is the Savior who has said: ‘There is no savior besides Me’ (Isa. 43:11). Believe firmly that Jesus Christ is the Savior, and all the contradictions will vanish.85 This confidence in God, the author of grace, produces peace in abandonment. It goes so far as to declare with St. Paul: “When I am weak, then am I strong”; for then I no longer put my trust in self, but in God the author of salvation.

Such has been the teaching of the greatest Thomists. To indulge the liberty of disdaining them they must first have been understood; involves; one must not confuse the divided sense of St. Thomas and his true disciples with that of Calvin, which is manifestly heretical. It is a source of regret for us to have been obliged to call attention to this confusion. 86

The important thing is to hold firmly to the principle that the best part of our salutary, meritorious actions (their free determination) comes from God, that the just man does not distinguish himself by himself from the sinner: “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.) We must ever return to the principle set forth by the Council already quoted which put an end to the discussions aroused by the writings of Gottschalk:“‘Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done, in heaven, in earth‘(Ps. 134:6). For nothing is done in heaven or on earth unless He either graciously does it (that is, a good) or permits it to be done in justice (that is, an evil permitted for the sake of a greater good).” At such heights as these we find peace. The best spiritual writers have always spoken thus, particularly when dealing with the free act of love of God which the Lord Himself causes to spring forth from our hearts. This efficacy of grace was especially manifest in the martyrs, giving them the fortitude to resist the most frightful torment.  one cannot afford to remain in ignorance of all that the question in confusion.87


The essence of Molinism and of the theories related to it is to be found in a definition of created liberty which implies the denial of the intrinsic efficacy of the divine decrees and of grace and which requires the admission of mediate knowledge in spite of its manifest disadvantages. The opponents of Molinism refuse to accept this definition of free will which, in their estimation, is begging the question. 

The definition referred to as formulated by Molina, Concordia, p. 10, is as follows: “Free will is the faculty which, given all the requirements for acting, can either act or not.” According to Molina this definition does not mean that, under efficacious grace, liberty preserves the power to resist without ever willing, under this grace, to resist actually; it means that grace is not efficacious of itself but only through our consent foreseen by mediate knowledge. As Molina says, ibid., p. 318: “It was not in the power of God to foresee anything else by His mediate knowledge; however the divine foresight would have been otherwise had the choice of the created liberty been different.” Thus the divine foresight depends on the choice which a man would make and will make, supposing him to be placed in given circumstances. Hence there is passivity or dependence in God, according to the unsolvable dilemma: God either determines or is determined; there is no middle ground. Moreover man distinguishes himself; it is hard to see how the words of St. Paul are safeguarded: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?”

On the contrary it must be affirmed that every good comes from God, and especially what is best in our salutary, meritorious acts, the free determination which distinguishes an act of obedience from one of disobedience, by which our love of God is distinguished from indifference or hatred. “Convert us to Thee, O Lord, and we shall be converted.” Such should be our prayer.


State of the question. All Scholastics recognize this teaching of Aristotle which St. Thomas expresses in the following terms: “Just as every natural thing has its species from its form, so every action has its species from its object, just as motion from its term” (Ia IIae, q. 18, a. 2). The reason for this, as explained in Ia Ilae, q. 54, a. 2, is that “whatever is said to be ordained toward something is distinguished according to the distinguishing marks of that toward which it is ordained.” But operative powers, operative habits, and operations themselves, or acts, are said to be ordered (by a transcendental relationship) to an object. Therefore they are specifically distinguished according to the distinguishing marks of their objects; in other words, they derive their species and unity essentially from an object. This principle is invoked very frequently in the treatises on grace and on the virtues. Hence special attention should be given to it. 

The foregoing principle, which Thomists have always upheld, was nevertheless assailed by Scotus, Durandus, the Nominalists, Molina, Lugo, and many others, In fact, its universality has but recently been denied. Some writers have held that “the generally admitted principle, ‘an act is specified by its formal object,’ is not generally valid.” It is indeed valid, so they maintain, “where the formal object differs specifically; then, the corresponding act differs specifically. For instance, the mode of operation with respect to the same material object varies according as it is visible (seeing), true (understanding), or good (willing). . . . Likewise the formal object of human intellection (the intelligible in sensible objects) differs from the formal object of angelic intellection (the created intelligible in itself), and these from the formal object of divine intellection (the uncreated intelligible); further human, angelic, and divine intellection are essentially diverse in their ontological perfection. . . .

“Therefore in this example a difference in mode of operation can be concluded from a difference of formal object, and ultimately a difference of ontological perfection.

“If it were generally valid that any difference of ontological perfection was based on a difierence in mode of operation with respect to the material object, it would follow that a different ontological perfection would necessarily require a different formal object. But this is not true. For the act of seeing in an irrational animal and that in a man (supposing the man not to have attained the use of reason yet) differ essentially in their ontological perfection; but their mode of operation or of reaching their object does not so differ and hence their formal object is also held to be the same. The statement is therefore not generally valid, that wherever there is diversity of ontological perfection there is also diversity of operation and of formal object.”88In the same way, the formal object of infused faith would not be distinct from the object of acquired faith in the truth of the Gospel confirmed by miracles.

Having read this explanation of the foregoing principle, many Thomists conclude: then, if the commonly admitted principle, “acts are specified by their formal object,” is not generally valid, it must be incorrectly formulated. It should not be stated generally that acts are specified by their formal object, but only that certain acts, not all, are specified by their formal object. In other words, if a difference of formal objects is given, then there is indeed a specific difference in the acts; but the converse is not true, that is, not every specific difference in acts corresponds to a difference in formal objects. It must therefore be discovered whether the aforesaid principle is universal for Aristotle, St. Thomas, and their disciples, or whether “it is not generally valid.”

Most assuredly a person would not preserve the sense of the proposition, men are rational animals, were he to say: all rational animals are indeed men, but not all men are rational animals. Similarly it may be asked whether it is true to say: all acts formally, as they are acts, are specified by their formal object, for instance, sight as sight, hearing as hearing; although from another aspect, that is, not as acts but as properties of such and such a nature, they may have another specification, for example, sight, not as sight, but as leonine, equine, or aquiline, or even sight as it is in a man rather than in a child or in a woman. 

Cajetan had already said when explaining this principle, In Iam, q. 77, a. 3, no. 6: “Keep in mind here that we can speak of the powers of the soul from two standpoints; from one aspect inasmuch as they are powers (ordained to an act and an object), and it is with this that we are entirely concerned at present; from the other aspect inasmuch as they are properties of such and such a nature; to this we are not referring. For from this standpoint they differ according to the diverse natures in which they reside, as Averroes remarks, I De anima, comment. 53: The members of a man are different specifically from those of a lion.” Herein perhaps lies the solution of the problem.89 Let us first consider whether the foregoing principle is universal for Aristotle and St. Thomas, in other words, whether it is really a principle.


In his De anima Aristotle had already thus distinguished sensation from intellection: sensation is ordered to perceiving sensible qualities, sight to visible color, hearing to sound; whereas intellection is ordered to intelligible being. And it is utterly impossible for even the highest sense faculty to attain to intelligible being or to the reasons of the essence of things. This is the basis of the demonstration of the spirituality and immortality of the rational soul. Again, Aristotle distinguished intellect ordained to the true from appetite ordained to the appetible, and rational appetite specified by the universal good from sense appetite ordained toward a sensible good which is not universal.

By the same principle, Aristotle distinguished various sciences, as can easily be observed in the sixth book of the Metaphysics, chap. I, so far as speculative science is ordered only to cognition of truth, practical science to works. Likewise there are three principal speculative sciences (physics, mathematics, and metaphysics) , each specified by its object. Physics by mobile being according to the first degree of abstraction, that is, from singular matter; mathematics by quantity according to the second degree of abstraction, that is, from sensible matter; and metaphysics by being as being according to the third degree of abstraction, that is, from all matter. Similarly, in the Ethics Aristotle distinguishes four cardinal virtues, and likewise the virtues annexed to them and their acts, according to their objects; for example, prudence as right reason applied to practice.

Hence this principle is given by Aristotle as entirely universal: acts are specified by their objects; not indeed by their material object around which many acts converge, just as the various senses round about the same sensible body, but by their formal objects.90Nowhere has Aristotle set any limit to the universality of this principle rightly formulated regarding an act not materially but formally as it is an act, a habit as a habit, or a power as a power.

St. Thomas recognized the universality of this principle no less than Aristotle. In fact, he penetrated its doctrine even more deeply, and more clearly saw its extension and universal application to supernatural acts. From this principle, that “powers, habits, and acts are specified by their formal object,” St. Thomas deduces that, both in angels and in the human soul, essence is really distinct from operative power inasmuch as essence is ordained to being, operative power to an act and its object, Ia, q. 54, a. 3; q. 77, a. I. He likewise deduces from this that there are several faculties in the soul specified by diverse objects. Thus, enunciating the universality of our principle, he says, Ia, q. 77, a. 3: “A power inasmuch as it is a power is ordained to an act. Hence the reason or nature of a power must be drawn from the act to which it is ordained, and consequently the nature of a power is diversified as the nature of the act is diversified. But the nature of an act is diversified according to the diverse nature of the object. For every act is that of either an active or a passive power. However, the object is related to the act of a passive power as principle and moving cause; thus color is the principle of vision inasmuch as it moves the organ of sight. But the object is related to the act of an active power as term and end; thus the object of an augmentative virtue is perfect measure which is the end of the increase. And from these two, that is, from the principle and from the term or end, the act receives its species. For calefaction differs from refrigeration according as the former proceeds from something hot, that is actively so, to the production of heat, but the latter from something cold to the production of cold. Hence necessarily powers are diversified according to their acts and objects.” It is therefore universally true to declare that every act, formally as an act, is specified by its formal object.

St. Thomas also applies this principle to the specific differentiation of operative habits; cf. Ia IIae, q. 54, a. 2: “Habits must be ordained to something. But whatever is said to be ordained to something is differentiated according to the differences in the thing to which it is so ordained. Now a habit is a certain disposition ordained to two objects, namely to the nature and the operation following upon that nature.” Operation is then specified by its object.

St. Thomas again insists upon the universality of this principle when he declares, with reference to infused faith and the loss of it by the denial of one single article of the creed, IIa IIae, q. 5, a. 3: “The species of any habit depends on the formal reason of the object; which being withdrawn, the species of the habit cannot survive.” He does not say that certain operative habits and certain acts are specified by their object, but all of them; the principle is entirely universal, otherwise it would not be a principle.

Thereupon St. Thomas demonstrates from this universal principle that the infused moral virtues are distinct in species from the correlative acquired moral virtues. For he says, Ia IIae, q. 63, a. 4: “It is manifest that the mode which is imposed upon such desires by the rule of human reason has a different reason from that which is imposed by a divine rule. Consider the matter of taking food. . . . Thus it is evident that infused and acquired temperance differ in kind,” according to the “specific, and formal reasons of the objects,” as declared in the same article.

Again, St. Thomas distinguishes between infused faith and acquired faith as it exists in the demons, of whom it is said that they “believe and tremble” (Jas. 2:19). For he writes in De veritate, q. 14, a. 9 ad 4: “The demons do not assent with their wills to the things which they are said to believe, but impelled by the evidence of signs by which they are convinced of the truth of what the faithful believe; although these signs do not cause what is believed to appear in such wise that they could thence be said to have a vision of what is believed. Hence the term ‘belief’ is used equivocally of the faithful and of demons; nor does faith in the latter proceed from any infused light of grace as in the faithful.” It is a question of “believing” as it is an act, and of faith as it is a habit.

It is evident that for St. Thomas infused faith and this acquired faith of the demons are differentiated in kind even formally as habit and as act and, consequently, on the part of their formal object. For he says, IIa IIae, q. 5, a. 3: “The species of any habit [or act] depends on the reason of its formal object; which being withdrawn, the species of the habit cannot survive.” But as has been said: “the term ‘belief’ is used equivocally of the faithful and of demons”; therefore these two acts have not the same formal object, but only the same material object. The faithful believe revealed mysteries on account of the authority of God who reveals them, that is, of God the author of grace; whereas the demons know naturally God the author of nature and believe in revelation on account of the evidence of signs, as said previously. Thus they attain to revealed mysteries materially, that is to say, not formally according as they are essentially supernatural mysteries of the intimate life of God, but to the extent that they are utterances of God confirmed by evident miracles, in the same way that God reveals even the natural truths of religion or future contingencies of the natural order, such as the end of a war, for example. 

Likewise, explaining the words of St. Paul (I Cor. 2:14): “The sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand,” the Angelic Doctor likewise declares: “Just as sense perception cannot estimate the things which pertain to the intellect and similarly neither sense ’ nor human reason can judge of those things which pertain to the Spirit of God, so it remains that such things are estimated only by the Holy Ghost” (Commentary on I Cor. 2:14, lect. 3). And further, on Matt. 13:14, concerning the words: “By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive,” St. Thomas says: “From the withdrawal of grace it follows that the mind is not enlightened from on high to see rightly.” We have quoted elsewhere innumerable analagous texts of St. Thomas.91

Moreover, St. Thomas thus shows that, on the part of the formal object, prophecy itself is inferior to infused faith, for he writes (III Sent., dist. 24, q. I, a. I ad 3): “Although prophecy and faith deal with the same matter, such as the passion of Christ, they do not do so under the same aspect; for faith considers the Passion formally with respect to its underlying eternal truth, inasmuch as it was God who suffered, although it nevertheless considers the temporal aspect materially. But prophecy does just the opposite”; that is, prophecy considers the temporal aspect formally and what is eternal materially. 

In the same way acquired faith in the truth of the Gospel, confirmed by miracles, attains only materially to that which is formally attained by infused faith. All the commentators of St. Thomas’ school agree on this principle.92 Just as a dog hears human speech materially, that is with regard to what is sensibly perceptible in it, so the demon hears the word of God materially, that is, with regard to what is naturally knowable in it.

This interpretation receives strong confirmation by reason of the end toward which infused faith is ordered. For infused faith would be useless if its formal object (quo et quod ) were already attained by acquired faith. Moreover, if acquired faith could attain to the formal object of infused faith, then, contrary to what St. Thomas affirms, Ia IIae, q. 63, a. 4, acquired temperance could also attain to the formal object of infused temperance, at least since the external presentation of Christian revelation; again, the natural good will to which the Pelagians referred could, under the same conditions, attain to the formal object of infused charity. But in that case, of what good would be infused faith, infused temperance, infused charity, or any of the infused virtues? They would be useless de jure, although, in a measure, useful de facto, since it is declared by the Councils: “for believing and hoping, etc. as is necessary to salvation.” But why should they be necessary for believing “as is necessary for salvation” if the formal object of infused faith and likewise of charity can be attained without these infused virtues? As Lemos, the Salmanticenses, John of St. Thomas, and, indeed, Suarez declare, once the foregoing principle is withdrawn, the whole structure of philosophy and theology falls into ruins.93

Hence neither Aristotle nor St. Thomas nor the Thomists have set any limits to the universality of our principle. Never have they asserted that “it was not generally valid,” but on the contrary they have taught that it extended to all acts. Since St. Thomas, however, many theologians (such as Durandus, Scotus, the Nominalists, Molina, Lugo and several others) have held that infused faith does not have a formal object which is inaccessible to acquired faith; and yet it differs specifically from acquired faith. They are thus led to deny the universality of our principle, “habit and act are specified by their formal object,” although, according to St. Thomas, this principle clarifies all the problems of faculties, habits, and acts, as can easily be seen from innumerable texts of his, or by consulting those at least which are cited in the Tabula aurea of his works under the heading: “Objectum,” nos. 2-6. 


The reply is in the negative, since this principle deals with power, habit, and act according as they are formally power, habit, and act and according as they are essentially ordained to their object by a transcendental relationship. This fundamental reason is admirably expressed by St. Thomas, Ia, q. 77, a. 3, when he says: “Power, inasmuch as it is a power, is ordained to an act. . . . But the nature or reason of an act is diversified according to the diverse reason or nature of the object”; and again toward the end of the body of the article: “It is not simply any difference in the objects which diversifies the powers of the soul, but that particular difference to which the power directly relates and therefore the sensitive power of color, that is, sight, is one thing and the sensitive power of sound, that is, hearing, is quite another.”

Commenting on this article, Cajetan (no. 4) offers the following profound explanation: “The basis of this is what has previously been accepted in the text, that is, power, according to that which is, is to or for this act and is the act; in other words, power according to its entity is not an absolute thing, separated from its act and object. . . .  But powers and habits by their essences are essentially ordained toward acts in such wise that they are unintelligible without them. . . . Their differences are derived from ordination to their acts, an ordination which, I say, is not that of a predicamental but of a transcendental relationship. And this is the primary and ultimate root of the solution, both in the present matter and in similar matters, such as motion, prime matter, action and passion, habit, etc. Once this is established, the whole text is clear.”

But if act, formally taken as act, is specified by its formal object, this is universally true of every act ordained toward an object; just as, if man, formally as he is man, is a rational animal, then this is universally true of all men without exception, although the exercise of reason may be impeded in certain cases. A universal is a single note capable of inhering in many things, and the nature of the universal is prior in conception to its universality. In the same way, the necessity of any principle is prior in conception to its universal extension. 

Thus the sense of sight in a lion, formally taken as an act, does not differ specifically from the sense of sight in a child, for both are essentially ordained toward sensible light and color visible in act by that light, and by these are they specified. If there are certain differences in these two senses of sight, so far as they are acts, such differences are accidental and material on the part of the disposition of the organ, somewhat as there are accidental differences in the sense of sight among men, so that some are nearsighted, others farsighted, etc. There is also a certain material difference between the eyesight of men and of women.

How, then, are we to solve the objection cited above: “The act of seeing of an irrational animal and that of a man (supposing him not yet possessed of the use of reason) differ essentially in their ontological perfection; but their mode of operation or of attaining their object does not so differ, and hence the formal object is also held to be the same. . . . Therefore the principle is not generally valid which asserts that wherever there is a difference of ontological perfection, there is also a difference of operation and of formal object.”

Cajetan had already answered this objection, In lam, q. 77, a. 3, no. 5, as follows: “Keep in mind that the powers of the soul may be considered from two aspects; from one standpoint, inasmuch as they are powers, and the present discussion refers to this alone; from another, inasmuch as they are properties of a given nature, and we do not refer to this aspect here [this would not be speaking formally but materially]. For they are thus distinguished according to the diversity of the natures in which they inhere, as Averroes remarks (De anima, comm. 53): ‘The members of a man are different in kind from the members of a lion.’”

St. Thomas speaks in similar terms, Ia IIae, q. 63, a. 4 c: “Soundness of body in a man is not of the same kind as in a horse because of the diverse natures to which they are ordained.” Thus, as a property of such and such a nature the faculty of vision in a lion is different from that of a horse or an eagle, just as their members are; the shoulder, for instance, or the leg. But from that standpoint the faculty is no longer being considered formally as an operative power, act, and habit.  Similarly, in man the two superior faculties are termed human inasmuch as they are properties of his soul; but as faculties they are distinguished on the basis of their objects and are therefore two and not one. St. Thomas himself made this distinction in classifying habits, Ia IIae, q. 54, a. 2. His classification may thus be presented:

 Does it not follow that infused virtues are specifically distinguished from acquired only on the part of the radical principle from which they proceed, and not on the part of their object? In other words, are not these principles of specification more than merely distinct, separable in fact?

By no means; for virtues, as they are operative habits essentially ordered toward operation, are specifically differentiated, in the same way as the operations themselves, by their formal object. Therefore St. Thomas says (Ia IIae, q. 63, a. 4), of acquired and infused temperance that they differ “according to the specific, formal reasons of their respective objects” according as the former is directed by a human, the latter by a divine rule. And the Angelic Doctor’s meaning is that, athough a man may know the gospel historically, as confirmed by miracles, and the rule of temperance it contains, he nevertheless cannot attain to this superior rule merely by acquired temperance. For if this were possible, infused temperance would be usless except for acting with greater facility, as the Pelagians contended.

However, if acquired and infused temperance are specifically dis-tinguished on the part of their formal object, in like manner acquired faith in the truth of the gospel confirmed by miracles is distinguished from infused faith formally as a habit and as an act by reason of its object. Otherwise infused faith would be useless, were its formal object already accessible to acquired faith. Finally, the formal object of charity, presupposing external revelation, would be accessible to natural good will, as the Pelagians maintained. As we have seen, these untenable consequences have been recognized by Thomists and even by Suarez.

Thus, even by reading the Gospel, “the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand” (I Cor. 2:14). On the other hand, as St.  Thomas shows, IIa IIae, q. 2, a. 2, c and ad I, the believer, by means of infused faith, with one and the same act94 believes God revealing and in God revealed. That is, through infused faith he adheres to God revealing as formal motive, and by the same act, on account of this motive he believes in God revealed, for example, in the triune God and in God incarnate. Nor is this a vicious circle. Its opponents declare it to be so: “If the authority of God revealing is believed, it is believed either on account of another revelation and thus ad infiniturn, or on its own account, whence results a vicious circle and reasonable credibility is lacking.”

We answer (De revelatione, I, 507)~ with Cajetan, the Salman-ticenses, and many other Thomists: The authority of God revealing is believed on its own account without any vicious circle resulting, just as light is visible of itself, just as evidence is self-evident, just as human speech manifests itself and what it affirms simultaneously.  For divine revelation in revealing the Trinity reveals itself. And although divine revelation thus believed is obscure, it does not lack rational credibility from signs confirming the revelation.  Our opponents insist: If infused faith had a specific formal object, it would fall under experience.

We reply (ibid., p. 509): It does in fact fall under experience in a certain sense, but not clearly, just as the spirituality of our intelligence and its specific distinctness from the imaginatibn are not clearly manifest experientially, or again the specific difference between the will and the sensitive appetite. Thus, as St. Thomas shows, Ia, q. 87, a. I, and De veritate, q. 10, a. 8, every man “perceives that he has a soul according as he observes that he feels and knows,” but from this experiential knowledge the spirituality of the soul is not clearly evident, so that some men are materialists. Metaphysical analysis is required to prove the spirituality of the soul.

With still greater reason, experience does not render clearly manifest the essential supernaturalness of the formal motive of faith, nor differentiate distinctly between the supernatural act of faith and concomitant natural acts. As St. Augustine says, “The school in which God is heard and teaches is far removed from the senses. We see many coming to the Son, for we see many believing in Christ; but where and how they heard this from the Father and learned it, we did not see. This grace is exceedingly hidden.”95 Hence the believer cannot discern clearly whether he is acting from a purely supernatural motive, so that he is not entirely certain of the supernaturalness of his faith, although he may have grounds for strong conjecture. Furthermore St. Thomas says of prophets: “Sometimes the prophet’s attitude before that which he knows by prophetic instinct [and not by perfect prophecy] is such that he cannot fully discern whether he thought of it with some divine instinct or with his own mind.”96 Therefore the essential supernaturalness of an act of infused faith and its motive, like the spirituality of the soul, is not known with certainty except through metaphysical analysis by virtue of the principle, that acts are specified by their formal object.

If infused faith did in fact make use of infused species, its distinctness from acquired faith would be clearly evident experientially; and some seem to consider that infused faith which would make use of infused species would be specifically different from infused faith which uses species abstracted from sensible objects.

However, speaking formally, our infused faith is certainly not specifically distinct from the infused faith which wayfaring angels had with infused species. This difference of species with respect to the thing present is only a material difference, and the infused faith of wayfaring angels was specified by the same formal object (quo et quod) as our faith. They believed God to be triune on the authority of God revealing; God the author of grace, of course, not merely of nature.

Therefore the commonly admitted principle, “powers, habits, and acts are specified by their formal object,” is generally, indeed universally, valid; otherwise it would not be a metaphysical principle. Moreover, if it were not valid generally or universally, it would have no validity at all but would have to be rejected, since it would not be true of potency formally as it is potency, nor of habit formally as it is habit, nor of act formally as it is act. If, on the contrary, this commonly admitted principle is precisely formulated by Aristotle and St. Thomas, it is true of potency formally as such, and likewise of habit and act, and is accordingly universal with metaphysical universality, without any exception, just as the principle, that “an act is multiplied and limited by the power into which it is received.”97 More concisely, St. Thomas writes: “Just as a natural thing derives its species from its form, so does an act from its object, as a movement from its term.”98 “For whatever is said to be ordained toward something is distinguished according to the distinction of that to which it is ordained.”99

Observations. P. C. Boyer, S. J., proposed the following objection to me: “I certainly agree with the thesis expounded. However, I should like to propose a problem which occurs among the writings of Cajetan on Ia IIae, q.54, a.2, where the great commentator concedes that habits as forms are distinguished according to the diversity of their active principles; from which it follows that two habits having the same formal object could differ specifically.

It may be said, if you will, that this difference is material, not formal. But with this difference, whatever it may be, how can the argument be safeguarded by which the thesis is demonstrated: an act is specified by its formal object? For the argument is based on the proportion between a power and its own act; but here we have two powers (two habits) with the same act and yet they difier specifically. If they so differ, do they not have a difference of proportion to their own act? And why, then, can it not be concluded that a natural act and a supernatural act of love are distinct in species only because they proceed from principles differing in species?”

Reply. Cajetan concedes that habits as forms are distinguished according to the diversity of their active principles; for example, infused prudence inasmuch as it is infused by God and acquired prudence inasmuch as it is acquired by a repetition of acts. But it does not follow from this that two habits with the same formal object can differ specifically. If infused prudence had the same formal object as acquired prudence, it would only be accidentally infused, but not necessarily infused (like infused geometry). The specification of a habit as a form is essentially connected with its specification by its object; they cannot be separated in an operative habit. By no means do we have two habits with the same act, unless it were a question of a habit accidentally infused; and when infusion is accidental it does not specify, as is obvious in the case of geometry accidentally infused. 

The natural and supernatural acts of love differ therefore specifically, both on the part of their eliciting principles and on the part of their formal objects toward which the eliciting principles are ordered (cf. Ia IIae, q. 63, a. 4). Cajetan affirms this positively with reference to Ia IIae, q. 54, a. 2: “Since habits are both forms and habits, and each may share the differences of the other, that is, their own respective forms and habits, and there may not remain with distinction of the former a lack of distinction in the latter; wherefore in the proposition the distinctions of both concur, that is, of the acts and of the formal objects. . . . Nor is it necessary in adducing the one always to adduce the other.” We do not say that the formal difference is material; whatever would be a material distinction would hold only with respect to the subject, as, for instance, the difference between in-fused faith in men and in angels who make use of infused species. 

P. M. Brown, O.P., professor at the Angelicum, has made this excellent observation: With entire approval of what has been said, there may perhaps present itself here a certain application (not new but rarely called to mind) of this doctrine in sacred theology, which may be helpful in solving a problem frequently discussed among theologians. For it is known that in the theology of the sacraments there is great dispute over the matter and form of certain of the sacraments.  Some theologians assert that in this matter the only criterion for the solution should be liturgical history which teaches us what the usage was at the beginning with regard to matter and to form; otherwise they think there would be an admission that the specific nature or substance of the sacrament was subject to change, which is impossible. Whatever of great moment may be said of liturgical history with re-gard to the elucidation of the question, it seems worthy of remark that, in the case of at least some of the sacraments, their specification or constitution in their own specific nature should be considered in the same way as the specification of other intentionals as act, habit, and faculty. Accordingly the specific nature (which is given by the final formative actuality) is constituted by its ordination toward that grace (and, in some, toward that character) for the conferring of which the sacrament is ordained. This specific nature can be conceived as remaining the same, even presupposing the power conferred upon the Church of determining the so-called form or matter of the sacrament.


In recent times there has been a re-examination of the problem of the supernaturalness and infallible certainty of infused faith.100In particular, the question is asked: Whether, according to St. Thomas, believers adhere supernaturally and infallibly to the formal motive of faith, that is, to the authority of God revealing and, thereupon, to the mysteries revealed, by an adherence which vastly surpasses the rational knowledge of the motives of credibility, or the conclusion of all apologetic arguments, whence arises at least a moral certainty of revelation ipso facto.

The question is not one of minor importance; it concerns that faith which is “the gift of God,” that strong certitude of faith for which the martyrs suffered indomitably. Christ frequently spoke of this faith, declaring: “He that believeth in Me, hath everlasting life,”101 that is, incipiently, so far as “faith is the substance of things to be hoped for”102 and a certain beginning of eternal life. Concerning it, St. John says in his First Epistle (5:4): “This is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith”; it should therefore be strong against all errors, seductions, sophistries, temptations, persecutions. This must be stressed particularly today, for nothing can resist the exceedingly pernicious errors of materialism and atheism which are disseminated among all nations today unless it be the Christian, Catholic faith. It is obvious that Protestantism, succumbing under its own errors, is inadequate to the task. But in order to resist effectively, the faith of Catholics must be strong and deep. St. Paul thus characterizes it: “When you had received of us the word of the hearing of God, you received it not as the word of men, but (as it is indeed) the word of God, who worketh in you that have believed.”103 And therefore he gives warning elsewhere: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.”104

State of the question. We shall present briefly the two contrary opinions. Although all theologians admit that Christian faith, in spite of its obscurity, is firmly established in certainty, not all of them explain this certainty in the same way. There are two schools of thought in particular: the one does not hold that the believer knows infallibly, by this very infused faith itself, the formal motive of faith; the other has affirmed and defended this opinion for centuries as the apple of its eye.

First opinion. In the Middle Ages numerous theologians, especially the Nominalists and their satellites, maintained that infused faith resolves itself into acquired faith whereby we believe the Church to be ruled by the Holy Ghost and that the motives of this faith are the signs of revelation, particularly miracles which are naturally recognizable. Thus Durandus, III Sent., dist. 24, q. I, qc. 3; Gabriel Biel, III Sent., dist. 23, q. 2, and thereafter several others.105In fact, the same opinion is now held by many apologists and even theologians who rather consider the act of faith externally without investigating the inner nature of infused faith. They assert that the believer naturally knows the fact of revelation from the manifest signs by which it is confirmed, especially miracles and prophecies fulfilled, and they even know naturally that God does not err nor can He err. And this suflices for the certainty of Christian faith based on divine testimony thus confirmed.

Criticism. The great commentators on St. Thomas, such as Capreolus, Cajetan, Ferrariensis, Bañez, Lemos, Alvarez, John of St.  Thomas, the Salmanticenses, Gonet, Billuart, Gotti, and more recent Thomists have always rejected this opinion.106They recognize that the certainty of infused faith does indeed resolve itself materially and intrinsically into the evidence of miracles and other signs, but its formal, intrinsic resolution should be reducible to something higher. In the same way, metaphysical certainty of first principles does indeed resolve itself materially and extrinsically into sensible evidence, but formally and intrinsically it is resolved into something higher of the intellectual order. Otherwise the supernatural certainty of essentially infused faith would be greatly diminished, for it would be reduced to an inferior certainty of the natural order. 

This difficulty presents itself at once: Few indeed are the faithful who saw the miracles with their own eyes or who could have examined them with sufficient care to enable them to judge of their supernatural origin. Hence the majority of the faithful have naturally only a moral certainty of the signs of Christian revelation through the medium of human testimony often known in an uncritical way.

Therefore, as many other theologians declare, if the certainty of Christian faith were ultimately based upon this moral certitude of the fact of revelation confirmed by various signs, such certitude of faith would not be solid and infallible, but only hypothetical; that is, supposing it to be certain, in another way, on the word of another, that God Himself revealed the Trinity, the redemptive Incarnation, and the infallibility of the Church in propounding these mysteries; supposing, of course, that the preaching of these mysteries does not proceed from any natural evolution of the religious sense in the subconscious mind of the prophets and of Christ, as affirmed by the Modernists, according to whom the assent of faith ultimately depends upon a mass of probabilities (Denz., no. 2079). Thus the certainty of faith would not be absolutely infallible since it would be resolved into a moral certainty of the fact of revelation.

To this the aforementioned theologians reply that natural knowledge, morally certain of the fact of revelation and of the motive of Christian faith, is not the cause but only an indispensable condition of the certainty of faith, which therefore can still be something higher and more solid. Moreover, the moral certainty of the fact of revela-tion already referred to is confirmed by grace whence the will to believe is derived, assuming that there are sufficient signs of divine revelation.

This answer is judged inadequate by many theologians, especially by Thomists, since the knowledge of the formal motive of faith is more than an indispensable condition of the infallible certainty of faith; it pertains to its cause, for the formal motive of faith does not move one to believe infallibly in the redemptive Incarnation or the Trinity, for example, except as it is known and infallibly certain. That is, unless the mind of the believer adheres infallibly to this motive, as St. Thomas repeats often in the texts to be cited below. Similarly in metaphysics, if the principles of causality and of finality were not certain metaphysically, but only physically or morally, the conclusion deduced from these principles would not be metaphysically certain. Hence moral certainty of the fact of revelation does not suffice even when confirmed by grace and the will to believe. Further, in this case infused faith would not be an essentially supernatural virtue, since its formal, specifying motive could be known and be attained naturally. In other words, infused faith would then be no more supernatural than prudence naturally acquired and thereafter confirmed by grace. It would be no more supernatural than a rational judgment of credibility confirmed by grace. Second opinion. Therefore Thomists, and Suarez as well to a certain extent, hold a distinctly opposite opinion, namely, that infused faith is essentially supernatural and is specified by the essentially supernatural formal motive of the authority of God revealing, to which believers adhere supernaturally and infallibly with an adherence that is not discursive but quite absolute and firm and which greatly surpasses the already at least morally certain conclusion of apologetics, that is, the conclusion regarding the evident credibility of the mysteries of faith or the fact of revelation confirmed by certain signs. This opinion is defended by St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and by Thomists, classical as well as contemporary, such as Capreolus, Cajetan, Cano, Bañez, Lemos, Alvarez, John of St. Thomas, the Salmanticenses, Gonet, Gotti, Billuart, Lepidi, Zigliara, Gardeil, Del Prado, Szabo, Scheeben, and recently even by several theologians of the Society of Jesus, including Fathers Mattiussi,.Petazzi, De la Taille, Rozwadowski, and Boyer.107

Explanation and proof of the Thomistic opinion. Two points must first be considered. 1.What precisely is the formal motive of infused faith in its essence? 2. How does the mind of the believer adhere to this motive, according to the opinion we are discussing? To begin with, it should be observed that Thomists aim at considering the act of faith not merely as it is a fact of interior experience, but its nature and the nature of the infused virtue of faith; whereas, on the contrary, the Nominalists never consider the nature of things in themselves, for they consider it to be unknowable and base their reasoning only on facts. Thus in the present case, they never consider the very nature of the infused virtue of faith nor the principle which would elucidate the whole question, to wit, habit and act are specified by their respective formal objects quo et quod, that is, by the formal object toward which they are essentially and immediately ordained or primarily and per se.

I. What precisely is the motive of faith per se as directly infused? 

a. We are not here concerned with the motives of credibility as found particularly in miracles which are knowable naturally and which, if true, most certainly confirm the fact of revelation and thereby establish the evident credibility of the mysteries of faith. 

b. Nor are we concerned with the formal motive of faith whereby only the natural truths of religion would be believed as revealed by God, such as the existence of Providence in the natural order descending even to particulars or the immortality of the soul. God could indeed thus have revealed only the natural truths of religion, confirming this revelation by miracles. Such a revelation would be supernatural only with respect to the mode of its production, not with respect to its substance or essence, that is, not on the part of its specifying object. Accordingly God would then intervene only as author and ruler of nature, for as such, God can perform miracles (raise the dead, for instance) to confirm the revelation of any religious truths of the natural order. In that case, revelation would be ordained merely to the attainment of natural beatitude, that is, not to the beatific or im-mediate vision of the divine essence but to the mediate knowledge of God reflected in His creatures and the rational love of God above all things. And for those who were capable of arriving at a philosophical demonstration of these natural truths of religion, faith, as thus conceived, would not be necessary for salvation. In other men, not grasping such a demonstration, faith would be infused accidentally, as we speak of infused geometry or the infused gift of tongues. 

c. We are concerned with the formal motive of faith per se or essentially infused by which we believe the essentially supernatural mysteries of the most holy Trinity, the redemptive Incarnation, the Eucharist, the life of grace, and eternal life. This faith, essentially infused, was present in the wayfaring angels and in them, as in us, it was essentially supernatural.

But what is this formal motive? According to the Vatican Council (Denz., no. 1789), it is the authority of God revealing, or as St. Thomas says, IIa IIae, q. I, a. I, it is “first truth,” namely, first truth revealing or in speaking according as it presupposes the first truth in understanding, which is itself ontologically based on first truth in essence. Briefly, this formal motive is the authority of God revealing, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

But it is not only a question of God the author of nature, for instance, of the nature of the human soul, nor merely a word about God the author of miracles, since He can perform these inasmuch as He is author and ruler of nature. It is strictly a question of God author of grace and glory, for we are now speaking of God who revealed the essentially supernatural mysteries of the most holy Trinity, the redemptive Incarnation, and eternal life; and the order of agents should correspond to the order of ends. God as author of nature cannot reveal the essentially supernatural mysteries of His intimate life.  In short, we are here concerned with supernatural revelation not only with respect to its mode of production but with respect to its substance, that is, by virtue of its speculative object. For, when God reveals the supernatural mysteries of the life of grace and glory, He intervenes not only as Creator and Lord, but properly as adoptive Father of angels and men, calling them to a participation in His own inner life. Hence the formal motive of essentially infused faith is the authority of God the heavenly Father revealing the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Such revelation is involved in the words of Christ: “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones” (Matt. 11:25); “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17); “Although I give testimony of Myself, (John 8:14). Again, St. Paul says: “But to us God hath revealed them, by His Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (I Cor. 2:10), that is, even the essentially supernatural mysteries of the intimate life of God, which vastly exceed the natural knowledge of all men and angels, not merely created but capable of being created.

2. How, according to the Thomistic opinion, does the mind of the believer adhere to this formal motive of infused faith? 

Reply. Essentially supernatural divine revelation as proceeding from God the author of grace is that by which and what (quo et quod) we believe108 supernaturally or infallibly believed with the mysteries, although under a lower aspect, the fact of revelation, together with the miracles by which it is confirmed, is known naturally with at least moral certitude so far as it is supernatural with respect to mode.

Bases of the Thomistic opinion. Let us see whether this answer is based on principles enunciated by St. Thomas and in his own words.

There are three particular arguments, as follows:

1. by reason of the absolute infallibility of faith;

2. by reason of the essential supernaturalness of the motive of faith;

3. by reason of the essential supernaturalness of infused faith per se.

The first argument by reason of the absolute infallibility of faith is reducible to this: The fact of revelation is not merely proposed with moral certitude by history recounting the preaching and miracles of Christ; it is proposed infallibly by the Church, which has defined this revelation to be strictly supernatural, not proceeding naturally from the subconscious minds of the prophets, and confirmed, not by deceitful tricks drawn from myths, but by miracles in the strict sense, concerning which the Church pronounces final judgment with a certainty superior to any natural certainty (Denz., nos.1785, 1813, 2078).  But whatever is thus infallibly transmitted by the Church is to be supernaturally believed by all. Therefore the faithful should believe revelation supernaturally at the same time as the revealed mysteries; that is, they must believe simultaneously in God revealing and God revealed; otherwise they would not possess, with regard to the mysteries revealed, absolutely infallible certainty essentially superior to all natural certainty, as the certainty of infused faith is, according to St. Thomas (IIa IIae, q. 4, a. 8). In spite of the obscurity of mysteries, the certitude of faith should exclude all deliberate doubt, even amid violent temptations or the tortures of martyrdom, and it does so since it proceeds from the infused virtue of faith which, under efficacious actual grace, perfects the intellect so that, as St. Thomas declares, “the intellect tends infallibly toward its object” (ibid., a. 5).  If the formal motive of faith were known merely naturally, through the medium of human testimony, the certainty of faith would be infallible only hypothetically but not absolutely; that is, on the supposition that it is really God Himself who revealed these mysteries, or more specifically, supposing it to be certain from some other way that the revelation of the mysteries proceeded from God and not naturally from the subconscious of the prophets or of Christ, in accordance with the evolution of the religious sense, as the Modernists declared. Then the words of St. Paul would not be infallibly verified:

“When you had received of us the word of the hearing of God, you received it not as the word of men, but (as it is indeed) the word of God, who worketh in you that have believed” (I Thess. 2:13).Then the formal motive of faith does not move us unless it is known and it does not move us infallibly unless it is infallibly united to our intellect, producing its formal effect therein. Just as the musical sense responds to the beauty of a symphony that is heard, so does infused faith respond to the word of God contained in the Gospel according as it utterly surpasses human speech. Hence we read in St. John’s First Epistle (5:10): “He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the testimony of God in himself.”

Confirmation. Human reason can err, not in natural cognition of first principles, but in forming conclusions, and is all the more apt to do so the more remote the conclusions are from the principles.  For it is not always easy to distinguish a true miracle from a diaboli-cal fraud: “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). Nor is it always easy to verify the historical authenticity of the narrative in which the miracles are reported. In fact such investigation is not possible to great numbers of the faithful who know the signs of revelation only from the testimony of their pastors or parents. On the other hand, the Church, like the prophets of former times, judges infallibly of the existence of revelation and proposes it as doctrine, just as she proposes her own in-fallibility, otherwise confirmed by miracles and manifestly worthy of belief.

According to St. Thomas there is no incompatibility between knowing naturally a fact of revelation as it is supernatural modally, and simultaneously believing supernaturally in revelation under a higher aspect, as it is supernatural substantially or essentially, in the same way as the supernatural mysteries themselves. For the supernaturalness of the mysteries exceeds natural cognition and transcends the supernaturalness of naturally knowable miracles. Thus for St. Thomas (IIIa, q. 55, a. 2 ad I and 2, and a. 5 c, ad 2 and 3), the apostles, at the same time, knew naturally the resurrection of Christ as man, visibly restored to life as miraculous, just as they recognized the resurrection of Lazarus, and supernaturally believed in it as the mystery of the self-resurrection of the Word incarnate.

This first argument from the absolute infallibility of faith is confirmed by many texts of St. Thomas especially where he speaks of the certainty of infused faith which cannot be subjected to falsehood. Cf. IIa IIae, q. I, a. 3: “Nothing comes under any power or habit or even act except by means of the formal reason or aspect of the object. Thus, color can be seen only through light, nor can a conclusion be known except through the medium of demonstration. But it has already been said that the formal reason of the object of faith is the First Truth (revealing); hence nothing can come under faith except as it comes under first truth, under which no falsehood can stand.” Ibid., q. 4, a. 8: “As to the cause of certainty, faith is more certain than any cognition of natural wisdom, knowledge or understanding of first principles, since faith rests on divine truth, whereas the three forms of cognition just mentioned depend upon human reason. . . . Thus faith is absolutely more certain than they are [in us], but under a certain aspect it is less certain, that is, in relation to us [on account of the obscurity of the object which we do not attain to so completely as to an evident object].” Cf. De revelatione, I, 469-81, for several other texts from St. Thomas.

The second argument is taken from the essential supernaturalness of the motive of faith as follows: That which is essentially supernatural cannot formally as such be known naturally, not even by the highest angels created or capable of being created, since it pertains to the order of God’s intimate life which surpasses any natural cognition, even that of angels, just as the proper object of the divine intellect exceeds the proper object of any created intellect. Otherwise the pantheistic confusion of the nature of divine and created intellects would result; by its nature the created intellect would already be a formal participation in the divine nature or Deity in the same way as sanctifying grace; there would be a confusion of the two orders. Wherefore whatever is supernatural essentially is supernatural cognoscitively; for truth and being are convertible.

But the formal motive of per se infused faith is essentially supernatural, as has been said; for it is the authority of God revealing and indeed of God the author of grace and glory, since only as such can God reveal the essentially supernatural mysteries of the Trinity, the redemptive Incarnation, and eternal life, which utterly transcend the natural truths of religion knowable by natural means. Therefore this formal motive of infused faith, formally as such, cannot be known naturally even by the angels but supernaturally only. Hence the faithful adhere to it supernaturally and most firmly at the same time as to the mysteries. This formal motive of faith is no less supernatural and inaccessible to nature than the formal motive of infused hope or charity.

This is affirmed in many texts from St. Thomas which I have quoted elsewhere; only the principal ones will be indicated here. IIa IIae, q. 5, a. I: Whether the angel in his first state had faith. Reply: “In the object of faith there is something formal, as it were, that is first truth existing above all natural cognition, and something material, namely, that to which we assent by adhering to first truth. With respect therefore to the first of these, faith generally resides in all who have a knowledge of God, not yet attaining to future beatitude, by adhering to first truth. But with respect to those things which are proposed materially for belief, some are believed by one person which are manifestly known by another. Hence the wayfaring angels possessed infused faith.

Likewise IIa IIae, q. 6, a. I: Whether faith is infused in man by God [or acquired after learning about revelation confirmed by miracles, as the Pelagians held; and further whether the beginning of faith is infused, contrary to the Semi-Pelagians]. The answer to the doctrine of both Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians is as follows: “It is false because, when a man is raised above his nature by assenting to the truths of faith, this must needs be in him from a supernatural principle moving him interiorly, which principle is God”; similarly in the answer to the third objection. Again, commenting on the First Epistle to the Corinthians with reference to the words, “The sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand” (2:14), St. Thomas declares: “Just as sense perception cannot examine into matters which pertain to the intellect, and neither sense nor human reason can judge of those things which are of the Spirit of God, so there remain some things of a kind which are examined only by the Holy Ghost. . . .  Therefore a man is said to be spiritual: in one sense with respect to his intellect, illuminated by the Spirit of God . . . , in another sense with respect to the will, inflamed by the Spirit of God.” In the same way, the beauty of a Beethoven symphony is not perceived by a person lacking in musical sense, even if he learns in some other way that this particular symphony is very beautiful in the judgment of ex-perts. For there must be a proportion between the object known and the cognitive faculty. Hence anything essentially supernatural, such as the formal motive of infused faith which is the revelation of the heavenly Father, formally as such cannot be known naturally; just as the formal motive of infused hope or charity cannot be attained without these infused virtues.

The third argument is drawn from the essential supernaturalness of per se infused faith. It is revealed that faith is “the gift of God” (Eph. 2:6) so far as it is “the substance of things to be hoped for” (Heb. 11:1), as it were, a certain beginning of eternal life; Christ frequently said: “He that believeth in Me, hath everlasting life” (John 6:47; cf. ibid., 40,55); and the Vatican Council defined as follows (Denz., no. 1789): “The Catholic Church professes this faith, which is the beginning of human salvation (cf. no. 801), to be indeed a supernatural virtue by which, under the inspiration and help of God’s grace, we believe whatever is revealed by Him to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth of the matter perceived by the light of natural reason, but on account of the authority of God Him-self revealing, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”; and canon 2: “For according to the testimony of the Apostle, faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not” (Heb. 11:1). Hence per se infused faith is an essentially supernatural virtue.

But habit and act are specified by their respective formal objects (quod et quo) of the same order. Therefore the formal object (quo) or formal motive by which per se infused faith is specified is of the same essentially supernatural order. Accordingly this formal motive can be attained only by faith, as light whereby colors are seen is known only by sight; for light is that by which we see and what we see. Analogously, revelation is that by which one believes and what one believes, or is believed with the revealed mysteries, when the believer “by one and the same supernatural act believes God [revealing] and in God [revealed]” according to the very words of St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q.2, a.2.

Otherwise, if the formal motive of faith could be attained without grace, infused faith would be unnecessary except for believing more easily and firmly, as the Pelagians held. Moreover, faith would then be no more supernatural than acquired prudence or temperance, which in the just man are under the dominion of charity and are ordained by it to a supernatural end; but they remain acquired virtues, essentially natural and not infused.Lastly, if the formal motive of infused faith could actually be attained without grace, without the infused light of faith, the formal motive of hope and even charity could likewise be attained by natural good will; and thus infused faith and charity would not be necessary for salvation, as the Pelagians declared, and they would be of no higher order than the natural and ineffectual desire of seeing God in His essence, referred to by St. Thomas, Ia, q. 12, a. 1.109The true doctrine of tradition is far superior to the foregoing. It is thus expressed in the language of apologetics by Father Lacordaire who was speaking, as it were, from experience about converts to the faith: “What takes place within us when we believe is a phenomenon of superhuman, interior light. I do not say that exterior things (such as miracles) do not act upon us as rational motives of certitude; but the act itself of this supreme certitude of which I am speaking affects us directly as a luminous phenomenon, nay more as a translucent phenomenon (above rational evidence). . . . We are affected by a light . . . which is translucent (the infused light of faith). . . . Otherwise what proportion would there be between our adherence, which would be natural, rational, and an object which surpasses nature and reason? . . .

“A convert will tell you: ‘I read, I reasoned, I desired, but I did not attain to it. Then one day — I cannot explain how — I was no longer the same: I believed; and what happened at the moment of final conviction was totally different in nature from what preceded. . . .’ Recall the episode of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus.”110 “Thus a sympathetic intuition sets up a bond between two men in a single moment which logic would not have produced in the course of many years. So at times does a sudden illumination enlighten the genius.”111 “There may be a scholar who studies Catholic teaching without rejecting it bitterly; he may even say frequently: ‘You are fortunate to have the faith; I wish I had your faith, but I just cannot believe.’ But some day this scholar gets down on his knees; conscious of man’s wretchedness, he raises his hands to heaven, saying: ‘From the depths of my misery, O my God, I have cried unto Thee.’ At that moment something takes place within him, the scales fall from his eyes, a mystery is accomplished, and he is a changed man. He has become meek and humble of heart; now he can die, for he is master of truth.”112 A mystery has indeed been accomplished: the infusion of the light of faith which is “the gift of God.” “There is at the same time an inarticulate certitude which does not come from reasoning, nor from history or literature or science, the certitude which a poor laborer or a child may possess more and better than a scholar.”113I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast revealed these things to little ones.

As a matter of fact, this Thomistic opinion is admitted at least implicitly by all theologians inasmuch as they hold infused faith to be not only hypothetically but absolutely infallible and essentially supernatural. Assuredly whatever is proposed infallibly by the Church as revealed by God should be infallibly and supernaturally believed by the faithful. But the Church proposes not only the mysteries revealed but also the fact that they are truly revealed by God and not the result of any natural evolution of the religious sense in the subconscious of the prophets. Therefore revelation itself is infallibly believed together with the mysteries in one and the same act, although from a lower aspect these may be known naturally from miracles but in a manner that is not infallible, since it demands a long, complicated process of reasoning wherein our intellect is subject to error and which not all believers are capable of.

Finally it ought to be carefully observed that, should there be an admixture of error in the presentation of revealed doctrine, for example, on account of the ignorance of a preacher, then, by virtue of the infused light of faith, the mind of the believer adheres only to the divine word and does so infallibly. But to the errors mingled with it the imagination and intellect of the believer adhere in no sense by the infused light of faith but in a merely natural, human erroneous way, correcting it thereafter as much as possible. Wherefore the infused light of faith and the divine word are intimately and infallibly connected. Just as a magnet attracts iron but not wood even if the dust of iron and wood are mingled together, so does the virtue of infused faith adhere to the divine word alone, not to the errors acci-dentally mixed with it.

First objection. Then one must admit with Suarez that belief is first in the veracity of God, secondly in revelation, thirdly in the Trinity or the Incarnation. But it is impossible to believe with divine faith in the veracity of God before believing in revelation. 

Reply. All Thomists, from the time of Capreolus, reply: Revelation is believed together with the mysteries in one and the same act. St.  Thomas himself says, IIa IIae, q. 2, a. 2 ad I: “By these three: believing God, believing in a God, and believing in God, different acts are not signified.” Thus by one and the same supernatural, infallible act we believe God revealing and in the triune God revealed, and this in an order which vastly surpasses the rational conclusion of apologetic argument.

Second objection. But the demons also believe in the supernatural mysteries of the Trinity and the redemptive Incarnation without in-fused faith, which they lost, but only by acquired faith. The latter therefore, although not essentially supernatural, can attain to these supernatural mysteries.

Reply. Thomists generally reply: The demons attain to supernatural mysteries and the formal motive of infused faith only materially, not formally so far as they are supernatural. They attain to them as something declared by God (like the natural truths of religion) and confirmed by miracles; wherefore “they believe and tremble” as if compelled by the evidence of miracles and not formally on account of the authority of the heavenly Father. Consequently St. Thomas says of them: “They see many manifest indications whence they perceive the doctrine of the Church to be from God. . . . Their faith is, so to speak, forced upon them by the evidence of signs. . . .  Hence the faith residing in the demons is not a gift of grace, but they are all the more constrained to believe on account of the perspicacity of their natural intellects” (IIa IIae, q. 5, a. 2 ad I and 2). In the same way a person who lacks musical sense hears a Beethoven symphony materially as far as the sounds are concerned, but does not perceive its beauty.

Third objection. One who believes may occasionally undergo a prompting to doubt, but not one who understands the first principles of reason or a conclusion clearly demonstrated. Therefore infused faith is not more certain than any natural certitude.

Reply. St. Thomas answers, IIa IIae, q. 4, a. 8: “Faith is absolutely more certain than clear, natural knowledge, but relatively it is less certain. Thus certitude may be regarded in two ways: in one way on the part of the cause of certainty, wherefore that which has a more certain cause is said to be more certain. And in this respect faith is more certain than the three preceding, since it rests upon divine truth, whereas these three (that is, the understanding of principled, knowledge, and wisdom) depend upon human reason.

“In another sense certitude may be regarded from the standpoint of the subject, and thus that is said to be more certain which is more fully grasped by man’s intellect. In this respect, because the articles of faith are beyond the mind of man, whereas the objects of the aforementioned three are not, faith is, from this standpoint, less certain. But since anything is judged absolutely by its cause, but relatively according to a disposition on the part of the subject, it follows that faith is more certain absolutely but the others are more certain relatively, that is, with respect to us.” At one and the same time the infused vir-tue of faith and its formal motive produce their formal effect in our mind. Hence faith is more certain in itself and in us, but not to us, according as an obscure object is not grasped so completely as a clear object. Thus any certain metaphysical principle, such as the principle of causality, may be less certain relatively for some men who are not inclined toward metaphysics than the formal existence of colors outside the mind; and yet the former is more certain absolutely as to itself, for the extra-mental existence of colors is proved by this principle.

Conclusion. Our conclusion can be expressed in these words of St. Thomas, which are generally admitted by Catholic theologians: “The believer holds the articles of faith absolutely by his adherence to first truth, for which man stands in need of being assisted by the [infused] habit of faith,” IIa IIae, q. 2, a. 2. “We believe God [revealing] and in God [revealed] in one and the same act,” just as we see light and colors with the same sight, the light as that by which we see and that which we see simultaneously with the colors.

The Church proposes infallibly not only the revealed mysteries, but the truth that they are revealed by God and did not proceed from the subconscious minds of the prophets. Therefore the faithful infallibly believe in both simultaneously with a certitude which sur-passes the natural certitude of a conclusion in apologetic argument, This is generally expressed by Thomists briefly as follows: “First truth revealing is at the same time that by which we believe and what we believe, that is, infallibly believe together with the mysteries.” Thus revelation is revealed by itself just as light manifests itself while showing forth colors. Therefore the certitude of our faith resolves itself formally and intrinsically into uncreated revelation as infallibly believed, and only materially and extrinsically into the evidence of the signs of revelation, particularly miracles. Similarly in the natural order metaphysical certitude of the real validity of first principles does indeed resolve itself materially and extrinsically into sensible evidence or sensation, but formally and intrinsically into the intellectual evidence of the truth of those principles as laws governing extra-mental being. Otherwise superior certitude would be reducible to the inferior as in sensationalism or empiricism for which the Nominalists of the Middle Ages, such as Ockham and Nicholas of Utrecht, prepared the way.

In this question as in others the profound investigations of sacred theology find their way back to the higher certainties of the teaching of faith expressed in Sacred Scripture, which in its eminent simplicity surpasses all the ratiocination with regard to the nature of faith itself and the manner in which it attains to its formal object (objectum formale quo) or motive. This very intimate, sublime, and highly simplified manner whereby infused faith attains to its formal motive is gradually purified more and more of every imperfect element in the passive purification of the spirit, called by St. John of the Cross the dark night of the soul. In this dolorous darkness the formal motive of faith, that is, first truth revealing, is more and more detached from every other secondary and inferior motive which is then dolorously carried away, for instance, from the harmony of the supernatural mysteries with truths about God naturally known or our own aspirations. This harmony is no longer amply apparent in the course of such purification, but it still remains certain that even the very obscure mysteries of eternal punishment and gratuitous predestination are revealed by God, and that it would be a grave sin of infidelity deliberately to entertain a doubt about them.

Then the formal motive of infused faith, the authority of God revealing, shines forth in this dark night in all its loftiness, above every secondary motive accessible to natural reason and at that time enshrouded by a mist. In other words, first truth revealing appears as a star of the first magnitude in this night of the spirit; and therefore infused faith is purified of every imperfection and, soaring above all temptations and indeliberate vacillations, the human intellect finds an immutable stronghold in this authority of God revealing, to which it adheres infallibly beyond all discursive reasoning, always entreating the bestowal of actual grace for a still firmer salutary and meritorious adherence. Then, as the best directors of souls thus purified affirm, is not the time for rereading one’s apologetics, but for the most humble, confiding prayer.

There is a similar passive purification of hope and charity, the formal motives of which are likewise increasingly detached from every inferior motive in which sentimentality or unconsciously inordinate self-love were mingled. The formal motives of the three theological virtues : first truth revealing, omnipotence assisting, and infinite goodness lovable above all things for its own sake, are thus, as it were, the three highest stars in the dark night of the spirit, when these three theological virtues reach the heroic degree, as perfecting virtues or in perfected souls, to which St. Thomas refers in Ia IIae, q. 61, a. 5.

Thus the mystical experience of the saints confirms the assertion of theologians as follows: The formal motive of any theological virtue cannot be anything created; it cannot be a miracle or any truth naturally known. It is a perfection of the uncreated God belonging to His intimate life which accordingly surpasses all the natural cog-nitive faculties of any intellect created or capable of being created.


At the end of this tract on grace, by way of recapitulation, it is fitting that we should examine from the point of view of spirituality what is meant by the spirit of adoption of sons of God, inasmuch as this adoption is accomplished by sanctifying grace which is “the grace of the virtues and gifts.” “The Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:16). This is especially apparent in the liturgy of Pentecost.

The time of false peace in which we are living shows by contrast the magnitude and necessity of these graces. It is a difficult, sorry time, yet one which teaches many practical lessons if we meditate in our hearts before God. This false and merely external peace finds no place in minds or hearts or wills. It is full of deceptions and thus provokes a lively desire for true peace both interior and exterior such as only God can give.

The present state of things contains the proof by reductio ad absurdum of the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. The Lord is allowing men to see what they arc capable of doing alone when they try to work without divine assistance: “Without Me you can do nothing.” This sad situation manifestly arises from the fact that many nations have repudiated Christian principles. They descended first to liberalism which refuses to come to any conclusion either for or against Christian truth, so that it is inadequate to effect any action and merely indulges in protracted discussions ad infiniturn. 

When action became necessary, many nations then plunged from liberalism into radicalism by way of negation. Subsequently several peoples arrived at socialism and finally at materialistic, atheistic communism. The downward course was accelerated, as in the gravitation of a falling body, and it is not to be wondered at that this descent should lead to increasingly complex, insoluble problems, since minds no longer recognize true principles.

Amid the general confusion, God safeguards and directs His Church, offering and bestowing upon us graces for a meritorious reaction against error and evil. How are we to rise once more after such a decline? How recover unity of thought and life amid the diversity and complexity of insoluble problems? It is clear that for such a restoration we must return more and more to Christian principles; especially must priests and religious live their lives in accordance with them. The Holy Ghost and His seven gifts are given to us for this end. St. Thomas afirms that under difficult circumstances we stand in need of these seven gifts that we may be docile to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, conferred to aid the virtues, which are too human in their mode of operation and lack sufficient promptitude in the service and love of God.

In difficult circumstances such as present-day conditions, Christian faith must not only be a firm supernatural adherence to revealed supernatural truths, not only must it be rendered living by charity informing it, but it must be illuminated by the gift of knowledge so as to recognize more keenly the vanity of earthly things and the in-effectualness of human expedients. Our faith should also be enlightened by the gift of understanding so as to penetrate through dogmatic formulas into the mysteries themselves of the Incarnation and Redemption, by which the just man should live, in such a way that these mysteries may be in us the very truths of life inspiring all our actions.

Our hope, in avoiding presumption, should become an increasingly certain tendency toward salvation. Toward this end, “the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.” Our charity likewise should grow under the light of the gift of wisdom whereby we judge of all things connaturally with respect to God as our last end and as loved efficaciously above all things. Especially in more difficult situations is it essential that Christian prudence should be perfected by the gift of counsel, religion by piety, fortitude by the gift of fortitude, and chastity by that of filial love.

What great spiritual treasures, what sources of energy! But how are we to draw from these seven gifts the power to live in that unity demanded by the interior life amid such diversity of virtues to be practiced and complexity of faults to be avoided? There are more than thirty virtues which must be cultivated; and almost any one of them is either between or above two opposing vices. With the infused virtues we also possess these seven gifts. They are present in us as long as we are in the state of grace, since they are connected with charity in accordance with which the Holy Ghost is given to us.  These seven gifts are for us as the seven sails of a ship, capable of receiving the impulsion of a favorable wind.

But in us the gifts are often like furled sails so that they cannot spread or yield to the force of the wind. The seven gifts are tied and knotted by a host of venial sins, scarcely conscious, which fasten our souls to external things and to our own egotism. Then our course is not directed by the Holy Ghost, but by ourselves, by our reason which clings to its own judgment unconformed to the judgment of God; it is directed by our will, tenacious of self-will, inordinate self-love and caprice. Hence, although in the state of grace, we hardly live under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Thus we confuse merely natural simplicity, which depends on our tetnperament, with supernatural simplicity which is completely different, and we likewise confuse our impulsiveness with the inspirations of the gift of counsel.  And this procedure assuredly does not suffice to resist the profound errors of the present day nor to re-ascend after such a descent, nor to discover the unity of life amid the multiplicity and complexity of insoluble questions, without the grace of God.

To this end it is essential that we live deeply according to some very simple, sublime, and fruitful truth such as that we are the adopted sons of God. This is the spirit of Pentecost. St. Paul says to the Romans (8:14-16): “Whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they6 are the sons of God. For you have not received die spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). For the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.” And, as St.  Thomas remarks, He gives this testimony by the filial affection toward God which He awakens in us through special inspiration, for “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” are we born, by the grace of adoption. This is the spirit of adoption of all the seven gifts whereby the unity of life is preserved amid the complexity of problems in the upward return to God. But this fundamental truth must be a vital truth in us, not merely preserved in the memory but directing all our activity.

A certain excellent missioner from Mesopotamia recently described to me how he had arrived at this conviction. “I happened one day,” he said, “to enter an Arab village which had been destroyed by some enemy tribe, and from one of the almost ruined houses a little boy of six emerged and said to me: ‘They killed my father and mother and all my brothers and sisters: I am all alone. But I am a Christian; be so kind as to take me with you, Father, to the mission.’” The missioner interrogated the boy to see if he was really a Christian. The boy replied correctly to the first questions in the catechism. So the missioner was moved to pity and adopted him, taking him to the mission where he was educated and became a splendid Christian. But whenever he saw the boy going about, he would say to himself: “I adopted this boy and must fulfill my obligations toward him as adoptive father. Now I understand better that I, too, am an adoptive son of God who, when I was destitute, bestowed upon me grace, a participation in the divine nature, and the seed of glory or eternal life. I should therefore ever live more and more as an adopted son of God.”

This is the simple, sublime, practical, and most fruitful truth whereby we can and ought to live profoundly through faith illuminated by the gifts with great spontaneity and unity of life. This is the truth which Christ desired to impress upon the minds of His apostles when they were disputing among themselves, which of them was greatest. He warned them: “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Pride, ambition, detraction can impede our entrance therein forever.

To live as a son of God according to the spirit of adoption, the Christian’s attitude toward God must be that of a child toward his parents; indeed the distance between God and us is immeasurably greater than between parents and their children. Now a child usually possesses certain native qualities: simplicity devoid of duplicity, a consciousness of his weakness disposing him to humility; moreover he firmly believes whatever his mother tells him, especially when she speaks to him of God; he also has absolute confidence in her and loves her with all his heart more than all her flattering caresses. The true adoptive son of God possesses these qualities with respect to God and through them lives willingly by the seven gifts in great unity of thought and love, in spite of the multiplicity of virtues to be practiced, and vices to be avoided.

The child of God is simple, devoid of duplicity. Why? Because his glance turns directly to God. Thus are verified the words of Scripture: “If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome” (Matt. 6:22). If your intention is simple, pure, and straightforward, without any duplicity, your entire life will be luminous, like the candid face of a child. Thus the simple soul always loo!rs toward God and tends to see God in all persons and events. Whatever may occur, that soul recognizes that it is willed by God or at least permitted for the sake of a greater good. In this simplicity, which is eminently superior to simplicity of nature or temperament, there is frequent exercise of the gift of wisdom, the highest of all the gifts.

Like the child, an adoptive son of God is also conscious of his weakness. He feels that of himself he is nothing. Through the gift of knowledge he clearly understands the words of our Lord: “Without Me you can do nothing” in the order of sanctification and salvation. He is so inclined toward humility that he does not indulge in unnecessary self examination, does not speak of himself, nor seek the esteem of others in his regard. Moreover, since he feels his weakness, he is inclined to seek continually the help and direction of God his Father, as a little child looks to his mother for help. Thus is the spirit of prayer rendered more perfect.

Faith, too, is greatly increased. As the child firmly believes what his mother tells him, the son of God relies completely on divine revelation. Jesus has declared this to be true, whether immediately in the Gospel or through His Church: that suffices; there is no room for doubt. And what is the result? How blessed a one for the soul! Just as a mother delights in instructing her little one more and more as she finds him more eager to learn, so does Christ our Lord gladly manifest the deep simplicity of the mysteries of faith to the humble who hear them with great faith. Therefore He said: “I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones.” Thus faith becomes penetrating, delectable, contemplative, radiant, practical, the source of manifold excellent counsel. So does the spirit of faith grow with the frequent exercise of the gifts of understanding, wisdom, and counsel.

Even if God permits the dark night to overtake him, the child of God traverses it, his hand in that of his Father, as a little one holds his mother’s, knowing that she will take care of him. As a consequence, hope increases and becomes firm confidence, since it rests upon God’s love for us, His promises, His omnipotence, and the infinite merits of the Redeemer. Hope is therefore ever more certain in accordance with the certainty of the tendency toward eternal life. As the little child trusts his mother with the greatest assurance, knowing her love for him, so does the son of God entrust himself most securely to God, never doubting the fidelity of Him who said: “Ask and you shall receive.”

Nor should our frailty discourage us. As the little one assures himself: “Because of my weakness my mother always watches over me,” so the child of God recognizes that Christ ever watches over the poor and weak who invoke Him. The Holy Ghost, too, willed to be called “the father of the poor.” Confidence thus remains intact even in the gravest hours, when the Son of God says to His heavenly Father in the words of St. Theresa: “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou canst do all things, and Thou lovest me.” I recently met a certain lady of the Polish aristocracy who was deported to the northernmost part of Siberia. As she entered the prison she felt the sustaining presence of God, which never ceased as long as she remained in that prison. When she was liberated, however, the presence of God was no longer sensible, although she retained the memory of this exceptional assistance of God.

Finally, charity increases greatly if we live as true children of God. This way is not a special one for certain souls only; it is the ordinary way which all the sons of God should follow. Each one should ask himself: “Which dominates in me: the man of self-love, the egotist, or the son of God?” The little child loves his mother with all his heart and lives by her. Likewise the true son of God loves God more and more for His own sake, because of the infinity of His perfections in which we participate. The real child of God is not self-seeking, but loves God Himself more than his own personal perfection, more than the consolations of prayer. His is a generous love which asks itself: “What can I do to please God and help my neighbor on the way of eternal salvation ?”

Then the adoptive son of God, seeking Him in all things, often receives the inspirations of the gifts of counsel and of fortitude amid  great difficulties. All seven gifts operate freely in him; they are no longer bound but completely unfurled under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. This supernatural life of the child of God, in its simplicity and humility, and in the exercise of the theological virtues, vastly surpasses the natural activity of the most intelligent, efficient people who depend on their own powers and disregard the words of our Lord: “Without Me you can do nothing” in the order of sanctification and salvation.

We should therefore ask for this spirit of adoption, this simplicity, humility, faith, confidence, and radiating charity. So will the Holy Spirit give more and more testimony to our spirit that we are sons of God. He renders this testimony by the filial affection toward God the Father which He arouses in us. He will also bestow that peace which the world cannot give, that interior peace which is the tranquility of order, elevating the soul and restoring unity of thought and contemplation even amid the diversity of extremely complex questions which present themselves at the present day, questions that remain insoluble without this light from above. This supernatural peace is the fruit of the gift of wisdom: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” This is a beginning in us of eternal beatitude.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, deign to make use of these imperfect pages to lead many souls to such sanctity, that our life may be unto the praise of the glory of the grace of God!

1 Cf. Revue Thomiste, July and September, 1929, pp. 381-99, Father A. Gardeil’s reply to Father Menéndez Rigada, O.P.; see also A. Gardeil, La structure de l’âme et l’expérience mystique, I, 386-90.

2Revue Thomiste, November, 1934 and February, 1935 (double issue), “Cajetan,” pp. 311-18; and March, 1936: “La possibilité de la grâce est-elle rigoureusement démonstrable?” Sez also: Le sens du mystère, pp. 224-33. 

3God, His Existence and His Nature, Part II, chap. I, pp. 3-32.


5 The alternative opinion is consequently forced to distinguish in God general perfections anterior to His specific perfection as if He belonged to a genus. This seems to be an abuse of our imperfect mode of cognition. Furthermore, when St.  Thomas affirms, Ia, 9.3, a.4, that God is subsistent being itself, he supposes it to be already demonstrated that God is not a body but pure spirit (la, 9.3, a.1 and 2); it is therefore a question of purely spiritual being itself, the pure spirituality (or absolute immateriality) of which is the basis of intellection, as will be affirmed in Ia, q. 14, a. I.

6 Cf.Cajetan, In Iam,q.I, a.3, no.4; a.7, no.I; q.13, a.5, no.7, 10ff.; q.39, a.I, no.7.  We have presented this traditional conception elsewhere under various forms. Cf. God, pp. 3ff.; 225ff.; De revelatione, I, 8, 316, 347. Le sens du mystère et le clair-obscur intellectuel, pp, 206-33. La prédestination des saints et la grâce, pp, 121, 247- 49, 254 f., 374-76. To see things in God, in the Word, by the beatific vision, is like seeing them in a more or less dazzling whiteness. To attain to them by the infused light of faith is like seeing them in whiteness shadowed by a veil (under the aspect of Deity known obscurely). To consider them from the point of view of being is like seeing them under the aspect of the first color in the rainbow: violet; the viewpoint of intelligence or of love corresponds to other colors. Furthermore the coloring varies markedly according to whether it is seen naturally as by the angels in the mirror of spiritual things or by the human mind in that of sensible things; cf. Ia, 9.12, a. 4.

7Let us remark at the outset that subsistent intellection (even subjectively) is no less infinite than subsistent being itself and that consequently it is possible to speak only of a subjective participation, inadequate but imitative and analogical (cf. Gardeil, Structure, I, 390); this can also be admitted in regard to Deity as such, as we shall have occasion to say at the conclusion of this article.

8 Cf. Salmanticenses, Curs. theol., on the quiddity and perfection of habitual grace, disp. 4, dub. 4, no. 72. “If it is a question of (inadequate, analogical) participation by.” formal imitation, we grant that grace participates in the divine nature as subsisting in three persons. . . . With the divine being . . . it includes internal fecundity and the procession of the persons; it cannot but imply this perfection in exemplary being, imitable by means of grace. Especially is this true since grace inclines us connaturally to the vision of God in Himself and therefore not merely as one but also as triune; wherefore even radically it possesses a certain mode of extension and perfection whereby it attains intuitively . . . even to the divine persons. . . . But such an inclination and perfection would not correspond to sanctifying grace did it not participate and find its exemplar in the divine nature as subsisting in three persons . . . , for the inclination toward an object should be said to arise from a certain participation in that object appertaining to it.”

9Revue Thomiste July-September, 1929, p. 390

10  St. Thomas also says, IIa IIae, q.24, a.7: “According to the reason of its own species, charity has no term of increase; for it is a certain participation in infinite charity which is the Holy Ghost.”

11 Structure, I, 390.

12Revue Thorniste, March, 1936.

13 Cf. Henri Bouillard, Conversion et grâce chez S. Thomas d’Aquin, Paris, 1941

14 Father Bouillard (op. cit., p. 212) writes: “Grace is conceived by St. Thomas as a form, that is, not only as an inherent quality but as a principle of operation inclining the soul to produce certain determined actions. Evidently the notions used by St. Thomas are simply Aristotelian notions applied to theology.” They are human notions such as those of nature, essence, constituent form. Moreover, it is the Council of Trent which itself declares that sanctifying grace is the formal cause of justification; by not maintaining this, one denies it and no longer preserves the meaning of the Council’s affirmation. Father Bouillard says (p. 220): “Notions change but affirmations abide.” What an illusion! An affirmation which unites two notions by the verb “to be” cannot abide if the two notions change and remain forever unstable. One might as well insist on using a grappling hook to fasten the waves of the ocean. If, for example, the notion of transubstantiation changes, and is no longer maintained in its ontological sense, which transcends phenomena, the affirmation: “The real presence depends on transubstantiation” cannot abide. And if one continues to speak of “the real presence,” it will no longer be such as conceived by tradition and the councils. The examples we have used are well known; they are not of our selection.  Father Bouillard writes (p. 219): “A theology that is not abreast of the times would be a false theology,” and he adds (p. 224): “By renouncing Aristotelian physics, modern thought has given up the notions . . . which had no meaning except in terms of the former.” The reader is led to conclude that a theology which still makes use of the notion of form is no longer abreast of the times and is therefore false. We should thus be led to change even the notion and definition of truth and thus return to Modernism by asserting that truth is not the agreement of the judgment with extramental reality and its immutable laws, but the agreement of thought with the demands of a perpetually evolving human life. Thus the nature of theology and of dogma itself are changed; cf. Denz., nos. 2058, 2025, 2079, 2080. In line with the same tendency, some would change the notion of original sin so that it would no longer depend upon a single fault committed by Adam at the beginning of humanity’s history, but upon the personal faults of men in the course of centuries which have rebounded on humanity as a whole. Thus we revert to Modernism; and it is a more serious matter to return to a condemned error than to fall into it for the first time.

15Ia IIae, q. 109, a.6.

16 John 15:5. 

17 Phil. 2:13.

18 1 Cor. 4:7

19 Denz., no. 19

20 Phil. 1:29.

21Ibid., 16.

22 Eph. 2:8.

23 I Cor. 7:9; I Tim. 1:13.

24 Jas. 1:17.

25 I Cor. 12:3.

26 II Cor. 3:5.

27De civitate Dei, Bk. XII, chap. 9

29 At least gratuitous predestination to certain relatively favorable circumstances in which, according to divine prevision, the elect will consent to good. That is Molina’s opinion.

30 For example, Billuart in his Cursus theologiae, the treatise on grace, diss. V, a.6, where he explains the words of St. Paul (I Cor. 4): “Who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” writes: “If grace is not by itself efficacious of our consent, but waits for it from us and is rendered efficacious by it, man has something which he does not receive and in which he can glory and distinguish himself from another who, anticipated by equal grace, does not consent; namely, his consent to grace which he does not derive from grace but from himself.”

Wherefore it can be understood why the true disciples of St. Thomas have always refused to admit this fundamental assertion of Molinism which is thus expressed in Molina’s Concordia, p. 51: “It may happen that a person anticipated and called with greater help by far is not converted on account of his free will, while another with far less is converted.” Again, p. 565 and in the Index of the same work, under “Auxilium,” p. 617, we read: “With equal help it may happen that one of those called is converted and the other is not”; p. 618: “A person aided by less help from grace may rise while another with more help does not, but continues in his obduracy.” Most astonishing of all, Molina, ibid. p. 565, claims to find the denial of the principle of the origin of what is better in the Council of Trent. Immediately after the text we have just quoted, he adds: “For it is of faith that it rests with the faculty of free will of a person to consent to God who urges and invites, as defined in the Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. 5 and can. 4.” He speaks as if the Council had declared that, under efficacious grace, free will not only can resist but sometimes does in fact resist, that is, sins under the very influence of efficacious grace. 

Molina’s proposition is retained by Lessius, De gratia, chap. 18, no. 7, in the famous text often quoted: “The fact that, of two persons similarly called, one accepts the proferred grace and the other rejects it, is rightly said to proceed from free will alone, not that he who accepts does so by his free will alone, but because this difference arises only from free will so as not to depend upon any diversity in their prevenient helps.” What then becomes of “Who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” It should be remarked that the congruists themselves must adhere to this, for, since congruous grace is not efficacious of itself, it may happen that, with equal congruous graces, one man consents to good and the other does not.  In numerous treatises written during the past three centuries on these questions we find the same denial of the principle of predilection: “No created being is better than another unless it is loved more by God.” And yet it is an obvious corollary of the principles of causality and finality.

31 Cf. Denz., no. 1362: “When God wills to save a soul, whatever may be the time or place, the undoubted effect follows the will of God.” The sense of this proposition is determined by the preceding one: “Grace is nothing else but the omnipotent will of God commanding and effecting what it commands,” as well as by the others who deny free will (freedom from necessity) and sufficient grace. 

32 See, for example, Ia, q. 19, a.8 c and ad 2; q.22, a.4 ad 3; Ia IIae, q. 10, a.4; q . 109, a. I; IIa IIae, q.24, a. II; Contra Gentes, Bk. III, chap. 89; De malo, q. 6, a. I ad 3; De veritate, 9.22, a.8; In Ep. ad Eph., chap. 3, lect. 2.

33 Ia, q. 62, a. 8; q. 83, a. 4.

34 A faculty which, presupposing all the prerequisites for acting (even divine motion and the last practical judgment), can either act or not act, even in the composite sense.

35De veritate, q.2, a.II,

36 In quoting the restricted interpretation given by St. Augustine of St. Paul’s text:“[God] will have all men to be saved,” too often the texts which counterbalance this interpretation are forgotten. It would be wronging St. Augustine not to quote with reference to predestination and the will for universal salvation the classic passage from his De natura et gratia, chap. 43, which the Council of Trent itself cites (Sess. VI, chap. II, Denz., no. 804) against the Protestants to show that God does not command the impossible. Assuredly, if St. Augustine understood at one time in a restricted sense the text of St. Paul, “[God] will have all men to be saved,” it was with reference to the efficacious or consequent divine will. But he had no intention of denying (as later Protestants and Jansenists would do) what was subsequently to be called antecedent will. It is very evident that St. Augustine cannot be accused of teaching that God commands the impossible by not granting sufficient grace. Sin would then become inevitable, so that it would no longer be sin and could not de-serve punishment from God. Such aberrations never entered the mind of St.  Augustine. On the contrary, he affirms in several texts often cited by theologians against the Jansenists what was later to be termed the antecedent will for the salvation of all men and the corresponding sufficient grace; cf. De spiritu et littera, chap.  33. St. Augustine never retracted these texts; had he done so he would have had to assert that God commands the impossible. But, as the Council of Trent observes, he clearly said quite the opposite, especially in his De nutura et gratia, chap. 43, no. 50; chap. 26, no. 29.

37 Cf. St. Prosper on the second Vincentian objection. St. Prosper did not therefore abandon, as we are sometimes led to believe, the teaching of his master when he affirmedthe will of universal salvation. Without deviating from the doctrine of his master, St. Prosper may well declare that positive reprobation presupposes the prevision of demerits, for a punishment is only inflicted on account of a sin. He may also concede to his adversaries without any difficulty that the divine permission of the sin of final impenitence is a chastisement for preceding sins. Did not St. Augustine affirm several times that the gift of final perseverance is granted to some out of mercy and is not granted to others in justice on account of preceding sins?

38 Ia, q.23, a.5 ad 3.

39 Ia IIae, q.106, a.2 ad 2.

40 IIa IIae, q.2, a.5 ad I.

41 Ia, q.23, a. 5 ad 3.

42 IIa IIae, 9.2, a.5 ad I ; also Ia, 9.23, a.5 ad 3.

43 Rom. 9:22: “What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, that He might show the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He hath prc-pared unto glory”; (where i s the injustice?)

44 Denz., no. 1796.

45 One might have gained an idea of what the spirit of theology ought to be from hearing an old theologian of Asturias, Father N. Del Prado, who was still teaching in the university some years ago; his soaring flight sometimes reminded one of the eagles of his native province. He was an eminent metaphysician who viewed the whole treatise on the one God in this single principle: “In God alone essence and existence are identical.” He was, moreover, a man of great faith and used to pray before giving his lectures. Their material documentation might not always be very complete-one did not go to him for that; but he possessed the spirit of theology for which he entertained the greatest esteem, although he considered faith far superior to it. He understood that theology was ordained to the contemplation of mysteries, and it was such a joy for him to explain the Summa theologicu of St. Thomas wherein he always found the most sublime, comprehensive, simple principles, that he probably would not have minded living another hundred or two hundred years here on earth in order to explain it to generations of students. He was a contemplative theologian who realized that the spirit of theology is drawn from prayer, from psalmody, from meditation more than from a documentation which combines the texts of the masters without throwing upon them the light of the higher principles which those same masters have formulated. He never wearied of repeating these principles; they were the themes of his teaching.

46 As many interpreters observe, although the Vulgate joins the words “in charity” to verse four, it seems preferable to translate thus the Greek of St. Paul.

47Concordia, pp. 51, 565, and the Index under “Auxilium.” Lessius adds: “Not that he who accepts does so by his free will alone, but because this difference arises only from free will so as not to depend upon any diversity in their prevenient helps” (De gratia efficaci, chap. 18, no. 7).

48 Cf. Alvarez, De auxiliis, Bk. III, disp. So; Gonet, Clypeus thorn., “De voluntate Dei,” disp. 4, no. 147; Del Prado, De gratia et libero aubitrio, III, 423. 

49Cf. Ia IIae, 9.79, a.3: “According to His own discretion, God does not send the light of grace to those in whom He finds an obstacle.”

50 Cf. Council of Toucy, A.D. 860, PL, CXXVI, 123; see Héfèle, Histoire des Conciles (French transl.), IV, 197-229.

51 Cf. St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, chap. 43, no. 50 (PL, XLIV; 271): “God does not command the impossible, but by commanding He teaches thee to do what thou canst and to ask for what thou canst not do.”

52 If anyone should say that it is not within the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God operates in bad works as well as good, not merely by permitting them, but even strictly and by Himself, in such wise that the betrayal of Judas is no less His own work than the vocation of Paul, let him be anathema.”

53 Cf. PL, CXXVI, 123. Cf. Denz., 17th ed., p. 145, no. 320.

54 Hence the theological formula: “The divine causality necessary for the physical act of sin prescinds entirely from malice.”

55 Molina, Concordia, pp. 51, 565

56In Joannem, tr. 26.

57 Thomists have recently been reproached with positing a succession in God because they admit predestination before foreseen merits. Clearly they admit of no such succession since they recognize but one act of will in God by which He efficaciously wills the merits of the elect in order to save them.As St. Thomas says, Ia, q, 19, a.5: “Therefore He wills this to be as a means to that, but He does not will this.” The principle of predilection: “No one would be better than another were he not better loved by God,”  manifestly leaves all temporal succession out of consideration.

58 It is clear that the canon of the Council of Trent, “Free will moved and urged by God is capable of dissenting if it so wills,” is not a condemnation of the doctrine of grace e6cacious in itself. The Thomist, Dominic Soto, and several Augustinians collaborated in the formulation of that canon, all of whom admitted in precise terms the intrinsic efficacy of grace. The latter, far from doing violence to our liberty, actualizes it, allowing the power of resistance to remain, but not actual resistance. This is what St. Thomas says, for example, in Ia IIae, q.10, a.4 ad 3, and in many other texts. No one can be seated and standing at the same time, but a person who is seated has a real power to stand; in the same way a person who chooses such and such a particular good has the real power to refuse it freely. Real power is distinct from act, the power of resistance differs from actual resistance. In his book, De gratzu, 1943, p. 199, Msgr. P. Parente confuses the divided sense of Calvin with that of Thomists. Calvin declared: “Under eflicacious grace the power of the contrary does not remain; it only reappears subsequently. Thomists hold nothing of the kind.  Msgr. Parente proposes a solution intermediate between Thomism and Molinism; he forgets that no middle ground is possible between these two contradictory proposi-tions: God knows free future contingencies either before or not before His decree.  God either determines or is determined; there is no middle view. 

59 S9Ia, 4.23, a.3: “Reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin [negative reprobation] and to inflict the punishment of damnation for the sin [positive reprobation] .”

60 Nor can it be said: God is not the cause of sin and yet He foresees it infallibly; therefore He can infallibly foresee a salutary act without being its cause. Clearly, nothing positive can exist outside of God without having a relationship of causality or dependence with regard to Him. God is thus the cause of all the being and all the goodness of a good act; He is also the cause of the being of an evil act, but not of its disorder. Such disorder is only permitted, and it is in His permissive decree that God knows it.

61 Bossuet, Œuvres complètes, 1845, I, 644, and general index under “Grâce”; also La défense de la tradition, Bk. XI, chaps. 19-27.

62 Father Norbert Del Prado presents a clear exposition of these various degrees of sufficient grace in his great work, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 1907, II, 5-23. It is apparent from what is said in those pages that grace which is efficacious in itself with relation to an imperfect act is suficient with relation to a more perfect act which should follow. The assistance which leads efficaciously to a good thought is sufficient for a good movement of the will; that which produces this good movenient in us is sufficient with relation to a good consent.

63 We have shown elsewhere (La prédestination des saints et la grâce, pp. 387-89) that the Thomists, Gonzilez, Bancel, Guillermin, who conceded as much as possible to sufficient grace, maintained this point of doctrine which is essential to Thomism: as St. Thomas affirms, Ia, q.19, a.4, “Effects determined by the infinite perfection of God proceed according to the determination of His will and intelligence.” That is the divine decree. As can be seen, this terminology is much earlier than Duns Scotus, in spite of what several writers maintain today.

64 Will the theology of the future produce many discoveries with regard to this question? We doubt it very strongly; the problem has been examined for centuries by the greatest minds. In any case, the theology of the future must always keep in mind the supreme principle: “Whatsoever the Lord please He hath done” (Ps. 134:6); for nothing is done in heaven or on earth unless God either graciously does it Himself or justly permits it to be done. The first cause of evil assuredly resides in us; a deficiency proceeds from defectability; but it would not happen without the permission of evil, allowed by God for a higher good of which He alone is judge.  God remains the first cause and last end of every good without exception. Nothing positive or good can exist outside of God without a relationship of causality or dependence with respect to Him; otherwise the very proofs of His existence (based on this relationship of causality) are jeopardized. God is most certainly, according to reason as well as faith, the author of all good without exception.

65 We were personally acquainted with a Jesuit theologian, a man of keen intelligence and with, now some years deceased, who used to say to us in substance: “I was a professor in a Catholic institution where my colleague was a Dominican who was somewhat timid about his Thomism. I used to tell him: ‘If things go on this way, when it comes to the problem of grace, I shall be teaching the Thomism and you the Molinism. If I were a Dominican I should teach your great doctrines of grace without any hedging. Do not let my being here embarrass you. Properly understood, there is in your conception something very sublime which deserves a hearing. Do not be afraid to quote the texts of St. Thomas in which your school maintains that he himself clearly taught that grace is infallibly efficacious of itself and not through our foreseen consent.’”

66 Cajetan expresses the same thought on Ia, q.14, a.13, no. 17: “We say that [divine] ideas represent something merely naturally, for instancc the quiddity of things; and something not merely naturally, but naturally on account of a free sup-position, that is, the existence of things and contingent relationship. For they repre-sent the former before every act of the divine will, but the lattcr prcsupposing the free determination of the divine will to the other side of the contradiction.” Again on Ia, q. 19, a.8, no. 10, Cajetan writes: “Since that [divine] willing is most efficacious, both the thing willed and the modes willed are produced,” that is, even the free mode of our choice. Cf. Cajetan also on Ia, q.20, a.3 and 4; q.23, a.4; q.105, a.4 and 5. Again he says, commenting on Matt. 4:21: “It is not to be wondered at that all of these [apostles called in this chapter of Matthew] should have followed Jesus immediately; since by an interior operation Jesus was moving their hearts to leave all things and follow Him. For no spirit ever resists such an internal attraction or ever will resist it. Thus are produced willing followers, workers, martyrs, etc.” That is indeed Bañezianism before Bañiez, and it is clearly to be found in St. Thomas himself. One need only open one’s eyes to see it undeniably; it is a question of scientific honesty.

67 S . Thomas et doctrina praemotionis physicac, 1886; Defensio doctrinae S. Thomae. . . . Reply to Father V. Frinz, S.J., 1895.

68Dict. theol. cath., “Prémotion,” especially col. 44-56; La prédestination des saints et la grâce, 1936, pp. 294-96, 296-310, 310 f., 333-41, 362-74.

69  Others no longer wish to be called Thomists. Father Gaston Fessart in Etudes, November, 1945, p. 270, speaks of the “blissful somnolence which safeguards that ‘canonized’ Thomism-which is also, as Péguy used to say, ‘buried’; while the thoughts [of the Existentialists] go on living, dedicated in its name to contradiction.” Can this be interpreted to mean that Leo XIII was mistaken in urging the study and development of St. Thomas’ teaching? In Gunther’s day, Hegelianism was also spoken of as a living system in comparison with a dead Thomism. This it was that led the great Jesuit, Kleutgen, to write Die Theologie des Vorzeit, 1860, and Die Philosophie der Vorzeit, 1866. One reverts quickly to Modernism by forgetting the words of Pius X (“Pascendi”): “But we warn teachers that they view this matter rightly: one cannot depart from Aquinas even slightly, especially in questions of meta-physics, without great detriment.” One assumes a great responsibility in leaving such warnings unheeded.

70 The italics are ours, indicating the phrases which we cannot accept. 

71  Billuart explains this very well against Calvin, Cursus theol., De Deo uno, Diss.  VIII, a.4, II. He refutes the objections regarding the injury done to freedom. See also our De Deo uno, pp. 449ff.

72 Cf. De veritate, q.6, a.4 ad 8; Ia IIae, q.10, a.4 ad 3. St. Thomas also declares (De veritate, q.23, a.5): “For there is no incompatibility in this: God wills a man to be saved but he is capable of being damned; however, there is incompatibility in this: God wills a man to be saved and he is damned.”

73 P. Parente, Anthropol. supern., De gratia.

74  Msgr. Parente also departs from Thomism in a diametrically opposite direction whcn it occurs to him to assert that in the beatified soul the love of God seen face to face is free. This is a confusion of the consciously spontaneous (freedom from force) with the free (freedom from necessity). This, however, is a familiar distinction if only on account of the condemnation of Jansenism; cf. Denz., no. 1094. St. Thomas de-clares, on the contrary, in two texts frequently quoted: “God alone [clearly seen] fully satisfies the will and moves it sufficiently as an object” (Ia, q.105, a.4); “But the will can be moved as by an object, by any good; not however sufficiently and efficaciously, except by God [clearly seen]” (ibid.). And again: “If some object is proposed to the will which is good universally and from every aspect, the will tends to it of necessity if it wills at all, for it could not will the opposite” (Ia IIae, q.10, a.2). That is, with reference to God clearly seen and lovable beyond all things, indifference of judgmcnt and will does not remain, nor the power to choose the opposite. On the contrary, these do remain with regard to an object which is not in every respect good. If the love of God in the blessed were not only spontaneous but free, the discussion between Thomists and Molinists on free acts would never have taken place, for spontaneity would have sufficed to constitute liberty. This is evident.

75 The italics are ours; this adverb “infallibly” is in no sense justified. God alone seen face to face attracts the will infallibly, not the object of a precept proposed to man as wayfarer. The good thief was not infallibly drawn by the object which the other thief rejected.

76 They were forgotten recently by a writer who affirmed that integral truth is a polyhedron; it contains the thought of St. Thomas, Scotus, etc. This amounts to saying that it includes a goodly number of contradictory propositions.

77 PL, CXXVI, 123.

78De natura et gratia, chap. 43, no. 50; PL, XLIV, 271.

79 Moreover Thomists by no means multiply the determination of future conditional contingents, outside of the conditional prophecy termed “threatening.” With this exception it suffices to distinguish between simple possibles and futures properly so called, which will exist effectually in time. Furthermore, Thomists certainly do not suppress the mystery of the divine knowledge of vision by holding it to be based upon an infallible decree, for we do not know the content of that knowledge and, before the events take place, we cannot differentiate between what therein depends not upon the conditional divine will but upon the divine will termed consequent or absolute and efficacious.

80Acta Pont. Acad. RomanaeS. Thomae, 1939-40, pp. 38-40. 

81 St. Thomas does not say: “On account of the divine prevision of our future contingent consent.”

82 See in this same article by Father Congar the texts of St. Thomas regarding predetermination which he quotes.

83Handbuch der Katholischen Dogmatik, 1933, Vol. II, no. 63.

84 In the encyclical Providentissimus, 1893 (Denz., no. 1952), it was declared:

“God by His supernatural power so stirred and moved them [the inspired writers] to write and so assisted them while they wrote that they might rightly conceive, will to set down faithfully, and aptly express with infallible truth all and only that which He should command; otherwise He Himself would not be the author of the whole of Sacred Scripture.” It has not been sufficiently observed that here is an infallibly efficacious divine motion influencing not only the mind of the sacred writers but their free will as well: “that they might . . . will to set down faithfully.” And, far from destroying their freedom, this motion actualizes it so that they may freely will to write what God wills and that alone, and may write infallibly in a manner con-formed to truth. The text is clear. But if in one instance efficacious divine motion actualized freedom without doing any violence to it, this is possible in many another case. The difference between the inspired writers and us when we write is that God does not permit an error of judgment in them, whereas He sometimes does so in us; but in both cases freedom remains. Moreover, when God moves us efficaciously toward a salutary choice, He does not allow a practical error in the final judgment accepted by this salutary choice. Cf. J. M. Vostb, O.P., De divina inspiratione et veritate sacrae scripturae, 2nd ed., 1932, pp. 38, 66-68.

85Elévations sur les mystères, 18th week, 15th elevation.

86 Msgr. Parente is under much happier inspiration in his apologetic conferences, Dio e l’uomo, 1946. Except for pages 253-58 wherein he again discusses Bañezianism, he shows cIearIy that man is not completely himself until he finds God, his last end, and he presents quite vividly the richness contained in the mysteries of Christianity.

87 If the freedom of Christ obeying the precepts of His Father remained in spite of His impeccability, that is, even though He could not sin by disobedience, our freedom remains under efficacious grace which actualizes our free will instead of destroying it, leaving in us still the unhappy power of sinning by disobedience.

88 Thus H. Lennerz, S.J., De virtutibus theologicis (MS) Rome, 1930, p. 179

89 It should therefore be noted from the start, with respect to the meaning of our principle, that we are concerned with acts formally as they are acts. In other words, the meaning is: “Acts formally as acts, are specified by their formal object,” although they may have another specification, not as acts, but as properties of such and such a nature. St. Thomas himself says, Ia IIae, q.63, a.4: “The health of a man is not the same in kind as that of a horse, on account of their different natures, to which they are ordered.” Likewise the infused virtues as properties of grace are distinguished from the acquired virtues; but, as the Angelic Doctor observes in the same article, they are also distinguished inasmuch as they are habits by the formal object toward which they are ordained.

It is evident that the principle, ‘‘Powers, habits, and acts are specified by their formal objects,” considers powers formally as powers, habits as habits, acts as acts; not as properties of such and such a nature. Thus as properties of a particular nature the members of a lion differ in kind from those of a man, the eyes of a lion from those of a man, etc. But our principle is not concerned with this distinction. Again, all the faculties of the human soul are human as properties of our nature, but formally as faculties they are specified by different formal objects and are thus various faculties, not merely one.

Cf. Cajetan In lam, q.77, a.3, no. 4: “The maxim that powers are differentiated by their acts and objects can be understood in a fourfold sense. . . . The true meaning is that a power as such is said to be and is directed toward its act. . . . Powers by their essences are essentially ordered toward their acts; . . . by order I mean not a predicamental relationship but a transcendant one.” Similarly with regard to acts.  Hence the meaning of the axiom is: “Acts as they are acts, formally, are specified by their formal objects.” St. Thomas always speaks formally, not materially.

90 In fact, an act is specified first by the formal object by which (quo) the formal object (quod) is attained, as sight is specified by light through which colors are made visible in act.

91De revelatione (2 vol. ed.), I, 470-81, 180 ff.

92 These texts are quoted, ibid., I, 469-514.

93 These are among the texts quoted, ibid., I, 492 ff. In the famous discussions of the Congregatio de Auxiliis, May 7 and 28, 1604, before Clement VIII, Father Lemos, O.P., said of the opinion mentioned above, admitted by Molina: “By this system he would overturn faith as well as philosophy; faith, certainly, because thus God is feared and loved by the powers of nature, as the end is supernatural; philosophy indeed, since, in this way, the formal object of a superior habit is attained by inferior powers.” (Cf. Serry, Historia Congreg. de Auxiliis, Bk. III, chaps. 35-6, p. 406.) On May 29, 1604, the fifty-fourth session solved the problem proposed according to the interpretation of the Thomists as presented by Lemos. (Cf. Serry, ibid., p. 410; also Lemos, Panoplia gratiae, Bk. IV. nos. 24 f.)

Again, the Salmanticenses, De gratia, tr. 19, disp. III, dub. 3; IV, no. 60, examine the opinion of Molina and de Lugo according to which “a difference of activating principle alone suffices for acts to differ in kind, even though they attain the same formal object.” They reply by “denying the antecedent, for if it were true, as our adversaries contend, nothing in true philosophy but would waver in regard to species and the distinction of powers and habits; we should be compelled to establish new bases such as were not taught by Aristotle, Master Thomas, or the leaders of other schools. Although younger writers would easily grant this, lest we might have any leader among the ancients, the result would indeed be to the highest detriment to true wisdom; wherefore it is essential in this respect to hinder their proclivity with all our powers.”

In fact, Suarez himself, in spite of his special theory of active, obediential power, asserts with regard to the necessity of the interior grace of faith: to say this grace “is required only that the assent may be more perfect with respect to being, although from the standpoint of the object it would not be necessary, comes very close to the declaration of Pelagius that grace is required only for greater facility. Furthermore it seems merely to be an escape contrived so as to elude the testimony of the councils and the Fathers” (De gratia, Bk. II, chap. I, no. 17). But Suarez does not observe this principle when he recognizes in our nature an active obediential power for supernatural objects. In this connection John of St. Thomas says, Ia, q.12, disp.  XIV, a.z, no. II: “Such an affirmation of active obediential power gives rise to all those inconsistencies which are strongly refuted in matters of grace.” An obediential power which should be active (not only materially as it resides in an active power such as the will, but formally), would be at the same time essentially natural as a property of our nature and essentially supernatural as specified by a supernatural object. Thus elevating grace would not be absolutely necessary.

94 Not by three acts, as Suarez maintains.

95De praedestinatione sanctorum, PL, XLIV, 970

96 IIa IIae, q.171, a.5.

97 Hence in his work, Tria principia, Reginaldus presented the whole of St. Thomas’ teaching under these three principles: I. Being and analogue; 2. God is pure act; 3.  Powers, habits, and acts are specified by their formal object.

98 Ia IIae, q.18, a.z.

99Ibid., 9.54, a.2.

100 Cf. Father Teresio of St. Agnes Zielinski, O.C.D., De ultima resolutione actus fidei, 1942; Father Anselm Stolz, O.S.B., Manuale theologiae dogmaticae, 1941, fasc. I, pp. 39,41; fasc. IV, pp. 26-30. We have examined these two works at length with reference to this subject in Angelicum, October, 1942, pp. 312-23.

101 John 5:24; 6:40, 47-55.

102 Heb. 11:1.

103 1 Thess. 2:13.

104 Gal. 1:8

105 Such as the Scotists, Nominalists, Molina, Ripalda, de Lugo, Franzelin, Billot (who, however, justly denies that faith is discursive), Bainvel, van Noort, Harent (Dict. théol. cath., “foi”), and many others. I presented these opinions in De revelatione, I, chap. 14, a.3. For Scotus in particular (III Sent., d.31, no. 4), a natural act and a supernatural act of faith may have the same formal object. Likewise for him (III Sent., d.23, q.1, no. 8) infused faith is not necessary on account of the supernaturalness of the object, for the formal object of theological faith does not exceed acquired faith; and infused faith resolves itself into acquired faith by which we believe the Church to be true on account of certain signs. 

106 I quoted these texts of Thomists in De revelatione, 3d ed., Vol. I, chap. 14, a.3, pp. 484-97. See especially Capreolus on III Sent., dist. 24, q.1, a.3, 2.4; Cajetan on IIa IIae, q. I, a. I, nos. 10 f.; Ferrariensis, Contra Gentes, Bk. III, chap. 40, § 3; and Bk.  I, chap. 6; Bañez on IIa IIae, q.1, a.1; John of St. Thomas, De gratia, disp. 20, a.1, no. 7; De fide, q. I, disp. II, a.2, 3.

107 Many texts from St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and Thomist writers are quoted in favor of this opinion in De revelatione, Vol. I, chap. 14, a.3, pp. 467-97. 

108 This formula, “Divine revelation is that by which we believe and that which we believe,” is classic among commentators on St. Thomas. Cf. Cajetan on IIa IIae, 4.1, a.1, no. II. It is also found in Bañez, John of St. Thomas, the Salmanticenses, Gonet, Billuart, etc.

109 Cf. what we wrote on this subject in Angelicum, 1942, fasc. 4, pp. 315-19.

110Conférences de Notre Dame, 17th Conf., pp. 343, 353.

111Ibid., p. 346.

112Ibid., p. 363.