|Question 109: On the necessity for grace
109,1: Can we know truth without grace? St. Thomas invokes his general
metaphysical thesis that no nature, be it corporeal or spiritual, can perform
its characteristic actions unless it is moved by God. Thus every action
by a created agent depends on God as the source of the form by which
it acts and as the first mover cooperating with its act. In the
case of our cognition of truth, the intellect has its natural form, the
intelligible light or the light of natural reason, from God;
and it can also by a special gift have the light of grace, which
is added to its nature. However, this light of grace is not in principle
required for the cognition of every truth; rather, it is required only
in the case of the mysteries of the faith, which exceed our natural cognition.
109,2: Can we will and do good without grace? In the state of integral
nature (Adam before the fall with respect just to the principles intrinsic
to human nature) man needed God's help as first mover to will and do good,
but man "was able, through his own natural principles, to will and do the
good proportioned to his nature, which is the good of acquired virtue,
though not the good exceeding his nature, which is the good of infused
virtue." However, in the state of fallen nature man needs grace
in order to achieve the full good of acquired virtue, since he must
be healed; in addition, he needs grace in order to achieve the good of
109,3: Can we love God above all things without grace? In the state
nature man was able to love God above all things, since
this is connatural to man and to all other intelligent creatures as
well. Grace is needed to elevate this love to supernatural
is a sharing in the very life and happiness of the persons of the
But in the state of fallen nature we need healing grace even in
order to attain the good that is connatural to us -- that is, the good that
is in principle attainable by our natural powers -- and so in this
state we need grace in order to love God above all things.
109,4: Can we fulfill the precepts of the natural law without grace?
Once again, as far as the substance of the works is concerned, in
the state of integral nature man was able to fulfill the precepts
of the law without grace, but in the state of fallen nature he needs
healing grace in order to do this. However, as far as the mode of acting
is concerned, in neither state can we fulfill the precepts out of (supernatural)
charity without grace. Notice that this immediately raises the question
of whether we can avoid sin without grace -- see art. 8 below.
109,5: Can we merit eternal life without grace? Unsurprisingly,
St. Thomas holds that the acquisition of eternal life exceeds our natural
powers. (It would be good to go back to the Treatise on Beatitude and ask
why exactly this is so. The answer is that grace is necessary for us to
know God in his essence and to act out of charity as participants in the
divine life. Any other form of knowledge or love of God falls short of
satisfying the formal definition of happiness as the fulfillment of all
our ordinate desires.)
109,6: Can we prepare ourselves for grace without the external help
of grace? This question forces us to distinguish the sort of preparation
that presupposes habitual (or sanctifying) grace, which heals us
and serves as the principle of meritorious works, i.e., the works of the
infused virtues, and the sort of preparation which precedes the
reception of the gift of habitual grace. The latter sort of preparation
does not presuppose a further habitual grace, but it does presuppose
"some gratuitous divine assistance by which God moves the soul from within
or inspires us with respect to some proposed good." This demands divine
assistance because in our postlapsarian state we are not "naturally" turned
toward God as our special end who is desired as our own proper good. God
normally accomplishes this conversio little by little (as with,
say, Augustine) but sometimes does it instantaneously and miraculously
(as in the case of St. Paul). In either case, the sort of grace in
question is often called actual -- as opposed to habitual -- grace,
since it is ordered toward an act which disposes us to habitual grace.
109,7: Can we recover from sin without the assistance of grace?
To recover from a sin is not merely to stop the act of sinning, but to
have restored what is lost through sinning. As we saw before, the loss
associated with sinning has three elements:
(i) the stain or blemish or tarnish of sin (macula peccati), i.e., the loss and privation
of the beauty of grace. This beauty of the soul cannot be restored unless
God once again illumines the soul, and hence this restoration requires
(ii) the corruption of the good of nature (corruptio boni naturae),
i.e., our nature is disordered by a will that is not subject to God. The
good of nature can be restored only if the will is subjected once again
to God, but this cannot occur without God's drawing the will to himself
in a special movement.
(iii) being deserving of punishment (reatus poenae), i.e., the meriting
of eternal damnation. This punishment can be remitted only by God, against
whom every sinful offense is committed.
109,8: Are we able not to sin without grace? In the state of integral
nature man -- even without habitual grace -- was able not to sin. (This assumes
the preternatural gifts of 'natural' justice or righteousness, etc.) But
in the state of
fallen nature we need habitual grace in order to
avoid mortal sin altogether -- and this because in such a state man's reason
is not subjected to God and hence either habitually or impulsively goes
off after commutable goods as his chief end, even though one is able in
any given case to impede acting in accordance with such a habit or impulse.
Even with grace, we are unable to avoid all venial sin -- and this because
habitual grace does not in this life restore the subjection of the passions
to reason and the law of God. (Note: Is there a problem with freedom here?
How can we be free not to commit any particular sin and yet be unable to
avoid sin altogether? Imperfect analogies: free throws; memorizing Aristotle's
Further question: what does it take to act out of character or with premeditation?
Also see ad 1: Is St. Thomas implying that in some cases the sin is imputed
to us even though in the circumstances we are unable to avoid it -- in the
same way, say, that sins are imputed to someone who is drunk?)
109,9: Is one in the state of grace able to do good and avoid sin without
any further assistance of grace? The answer is that such a one does
not need another type of habitual grace, but nonetheless does need
grace, i.e., grace directed toward a particular good operation. This is
because habitual grace does not completely remove our lack of self-knowledge,
our ignorance of particular circumstances, or the movements of sensuality.
We can think of actual grace as that by which we are conserved by God in
the goodness bestowed on us through habitual grace. (This is connected
to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, through which we are given cognitive illumination
and strengthening of the will with respect to particular acts of the infused
109,10: Does one who is in the state of grace need the assistance of
grace to persevere? If by perseverance we mean not a habit by which
we stand firm against difficulties or the resolve to persevere in the good
until the end of our lives, but our actual continuation in good
until the end of our lives, then for this we need actual grace to direct
us and protect us against temptation, but we do not need any further habitual
Question 110: On the essence of grace
110,1-2: Grace (or favor) (gratia) can mean either (i) the love
which a benefactor has for someone (as in "to be in his good graces") or
(ii) a gift which the benefactor gives to someone gratuitously (as in "he
did me a favor") or (iii) the gratitude that one shows to a benefactor
(as in "grace before meals"). The second is the sense we have in mind,
though it is important to note that God's grace, unlike man's grace, is
what makes us lovable in the first place. It is through God's grace that
rational creatures are drawn in a special way, beyond our nature, to a
participation in the divine good. Ontologically, as something existing
in a rational creature, habitual grace is a quality of the
soul, whereas actual grace is a motion or movement in the soul.
Habitual grace is the supernatural analogue of the natural inclinations
and desires for naturally attainable good which God instills into every
creature. By habitual grace we are disposed for intimate friendship with
God. It is this grace that makes us by "adoption" what the God-man
is by nature. That is, it is the source of our divine filiation.
110,3-4: Habitual grace is not identical with the infused virtues but is
instead a principle from which the infused virtues emanate, analogously
to the way in which the natural powers of the soul emanate from its essence
(see ST 1's treatment of the powers of the soul). So grace affects,
in the first instance, the essence of the soul and so has the essence of
the soul as its immediate subject:
"Just as the natural light of reason is something over and above the acquired
virtues, which are called virtues insofar as they are ordered to the natural
light itself, so too the very light of grace, which is a participation
in the divine nature, is something over and above the infused virtues,
which are derived from that light and are ordered to it ... Just as the
acquired virtues perfect man for living in a way congruent with the natural
light of reason, so the infused virtues perfect man for living in a way
congruent with the light of grace."
"Since grace is prior to virtue, it has a subject prior to the powers of
the soul. Thus, it exists in the essence of the soul. For just as by means
of his intellective power man participates in the divine knowledge through
the virtue of faith, and just as by means of the power of the will he participates
in the divine love through the virtue of charity, so too by means of the
nature of the soul he participates, according to a certain likeness, in
the divine nature through a kind of regeneration or re-creation."
Question 111: On the divisions of grace
111,1-5: Gratia gratum faciens heals and sanctifies the person who
receives it, whereas gratia gratis data is given to one person not
for his own sanctification but for the sake of the community.
Gratia gratum faciens includes habitual grace and actual
grace, each of which can be thought of as either operating grace
or cooperating grace, according to whether we are thinking just
of God's action (operating grace) or of our action as well (cooperating
grace): (i) habitual operating grace is gratia gratum faciens
insofar as it is a habit by which God alone heals or justifies the soul
and makes it gratum; (ii) habitual cooperating grace is gratia
gratum faciens insofar as it is a habit serving as a principle of the
meritorious works that proceed from creaturely free choice as well as from
God; (iii) actual operating grace is gratia gratum faciens
insofar as it involves our will being moved interiorly by God to the good;
(iv) actual cooperating grace is
gratia gratum faciens insofar
as it involves our will freely commanding the appropriate exterior act
as aided by God.
Gratia gratum faciens is also divided into prevenient grace
subsequent grace relative to the five effects of grace (see
question 113 below):
(1) the healing of the soul
(2) the soul's willing the good
(3) the soul's efficaciously doing the good that it wills
(4) the soul's persevering in the good
(5) the soul's attaining glory (supernatural beatitude)
So, e.g., grace insofar as it is a cause of (2) is prevenient
to grace insofar as it is a cause of (3) and subsequent to grace
insofar as it is caused by (1), etc.
Gratia gratis data is divided, ala 1 Cor 12, into nine different
categories, three having to do with understanding the faith (faith,
and knowledge), four with confirming the faith (miracles of healing,
miracles of power, prophecy, discernment of spirits)
and two with proclaiming the faith (gift of tongues,
of tongues). Note that this sort of grace is not as fundamental as
gratia gratum faciens, since it is ordered toward the latter and
does not of itself sanctify the one who has it. Rather, it is given
to one person for the sake of facilitating the sanctification of others.
Question 112: On the cause of grace
112,1: God is the principal cause of grace, though he uses creatures
(both rational and irrational) as instrumental causes of grace through
their example, friendship, conversation, preaching, teaching, etc.
112,2: Habitual grace demands a predisposition for grace on our part, but
this preparation for grace is itself a moving of the will by God. God usually
accomplishes this little by little, but in some cases quickly.
112,3: Here St. Thomas takes up the interesting question of whether God
necessarily grants habitual grace to one who is preparing himself for grace
and doing all that he can to receive grace. There is no necessary connection
between the acts of free choice by which one prepares himself and the consequent
attainment of grace, since grace is not caused by such acts of free choice.
On the other hand, God's action in effecting such free acts of will infallibly
accomplishes the end toward which it is ordered. So St. Thomas's point
is that any necessary connection here is due to God's lovingly and graciously
setting things up that way and not due to a natural connection between
our acts of free choice and the attainment (or intensification) of grace.
The important thing here is that the preparatory acts of free choice are
as much God's effects as they are our effects.
112,4: To the extent that one person can participate more than another
in habitual grace, one person can have "more grace" than another.
(Perhaps it is better to say that one person can participate to a greater
degree than another in the divine life that God offers us.) This
difference is traced back principally to God, "who dispenses the gifts
of grace in different ways in order that the beauty and perfection of the
Church might emerge from different grades."
112,5: St. Thomas denies that, outside of a special revelation, anyone
can know with certitude that he is in the state of grace. However, one
can have a well-grounded opinion that he is in the state of grace insofar
as he perceives that he delights in God and disdains worldly things and
insofar as he is not aware of any mortal sin in himself.
Question 113: On the first effect of grace: the
justification of the impious
113,1: Is the justification of the impious a remission of sin? Justification
or righteousness, on the part of the one justified or made righteous, implies
a movement toward a state of justice. Justice in the relevant sense connotes
"a certain rectitude in a man's interior disposition, viz., insofar as
the highest part is subject to God and the lower powers of the soul are
subject to the highest, i.e., reason." When justification is taken as ordered
toward justice in this sense, it does not imply a previous state of impiousness
or a remission of sin. Hence, Adam is said to have been justified by original
justice. However, in our case justification implies a movement toward justice
from a state of impiousness (associated with fallen human nature). Thus
it consists in a transformation from a state of injustice to a state of
justice through the remission of sin.
113,2: Does the remission of sin and guilt require an infusion of grace?
An offense is remitted only if the one offended is at peace with the offender
(and not just if the one offended does not hate the offender or does not
impute the sin to him -- ala certain Reformed notions of justification).
Thus sin is remitted only if God is at peace with us. This peace consists
in the love by which God loves us; still, even though this love is eternal
on God's part, it is possible for us to fall out of this love and to regain
it. But what we lose when we fall out of love with God is precisely the
grace by which we become worthy of eternal life and which gives us the
ontological status of children of God. So the remission of sin requires
an infusion of grace.
113,3-5: Does the justification of the impious require a movement of
free choice? God moves us to justice in the manner proper to our nature,
and in one who has the use of free choice (see 113, 3, ad 1 for
infants, the mentally retarded, and the insane), this involves an act of
free choice by which the gift of grace is accepted and which is simultaneous
with, though naturally posterior to, the infusion of grace. The relevant
act of free choice is twofold: viz., a free conversion to God through faith
and a free renunciation of sin.
113,6-8: Here St. Thomas gives us a logical ordering of the effects which
occur simultaneously in time in the justification of the impious:
(1) the infusion of grace -- motion of the mover (God)
(2) the movement of free choice to God through faith -- motion of the moved
toward the terminus ad quem
(3) the movement of free choice against sin -- motion of the thing moved
away from the terminus a quo
(4) the remission of guilt (sin) -- the attainment of the terminus ad
So the very same action is an infusion of grace, a movement of free
choice, and a remission of sin, since it has distinct, though subordinated,
objects while remaining the same act in substance. This action is instantaneous
113,9-10: Creation is God's greatest work as far as the mode of acting
is concerned, since it involves something's coming to be from nothing.
But as far as the magnitude of the work or effect is concerned,
the justification of the impious is God's greatest work, since it terminates
"in the eternal good of divine participation." Justification is a miracle
in some senses of 'miracle' but not others. In the sense that a miracle
requires an infinite divine power, it is a miracle. But in the sense in
which the form induced is beyond the natural potentiality of the recipient,
it is not a miracle, since "the soul has a natural capacity for grace."
(He means here an obediential potency, i.e., a natural ability to receive
grace -- though not a natural ability to effect grace.) Finally, justification
sometimes occurs suddenly and hence miraculously, as in the case of St.
Paul, whereas most of the time God works gradually through a first incomplete'
motion and brings it to completion only over an extended interval of time.
Question 114: On the second effect of grace: merit
114,1: Merit or reward is that which is given to someone in compensation
for some work or deed. To give someone a reward is an act of justice. But
justice simpliciter has to do with the relations among equals (see
ST 2-2), whereas God and man are wholly unequal. So any relation
of justice between them is justice secundum quid and any notion
of merit man deserves from God is likewise merit secundum quid.
More specifically, the idea of merit in this context presupposes a wholly
gratuitous act on God's part by which he freely promises to reward us for
our supernatural acts and also gives us the means to perform such acts.
So God is not in debt to anyone simpliciter but only because of
his previous promise and institution of merit.
114,2: We need grace as a principle of merit in order to merit eternal
life, since no created nature is a sufficient principle for meriting the
gift of eternal beatitude. This claim presupposes that there is an intrinsic,
rather than merely extrinsic, connection between the internal state of
our souls and our desire for or capacity to enjoy the beatific vision of
the Holy Trinity. We simply cannot make ourselves into beings who
either (a) desire the beatific vision as a specification of our natural desire
for happiness or (b) attain and enjoy the beatific vision. This is
God's doing. However, in the state of corrupted nature, man needs
not only to be elevated but also to be healed, and this,
too, demands the grace which constitutes the justification of the impious.
114,3: Merit can be considered in two ways: as condign, i.e., as
in some sense due according to justice, and as congruous, i.e.,
as appropriate according to mercy, though not due. (For instance, it is
appropriate that God should reward the excellence of human virtue, but
not a matter of justice.) Insofar as our meritorious acts are considered
with regard to the substance of the acts and as proceeding from our free
choice as a principle, they earn congruous merit. Insofar as they proceed
from a supernatural principle -- viz., from the grace of the Holy Spirit and the
love for God on the part of one who is an adopted child of God -- they earn
eternal life as condign merit.
114,4: Human acts merit for two reasons: (1) principally, insofar as they
are divinely ordered to the merited good; (2) secondarily, insofar as they
are voluntary. On both counts, charity is central. First of all, the good
toward which such acts are ordered, viz., the supernatural participation
in the life of God and the enjoyment of God, is an act of charity toward
which all other virtuous acts are ordered, making us fit for the beatific
vision as an intrinsic end. Second, the more our actions are motivated
by love, the more voluntary they are. So, once again, charity is the highest
motive for the acts of any virtue.
114,5-6: We cannot merit first or initial grace for ourselves, either ex condigno
or ex congruo. As far as meriting for others is concerned, only
Christ himself (via his human nature) can merit first grace for others
ex condigno. However, if we are in the state of grace, we can merit
first grace for another ex congruo, though, of course, there may
be an impediment in the one for whom we desire grace.
114,7: No one can merit reparation for himself after a fall out of the
state of grace -- either ex condigno or ex congruo, the latter
because in this case there is an impediment in both the one who asks for
grace and in the one for whom he asks it. Here we are "reduced to" pleading
for God's absolute mercy.
114,8-9: One in the state of grace can indeed merit ex condigno
an increase in grace, since this is part of the reward of grace, which
has eternal beatitude as its ultimate end and the whole progression towards
eternal beatitude as an intermediary end. (Note, though, that the increase
is over time and depends on the future disposition of the recipient.) However,
no one can merit his own final perseverance in grace up to the end of the
present life, since this depends solely on God's graciousness. (This bears
114,10: Only spiritual goods -- and not temporal goods as such -- fall
under merit. Temporal goods can, however, fall under merit per accidens,
viz., insofar as they are ordered to the works of virtue and hence to spiritual
goods. "For God gives temporal goods to the just -- and temporal evils as
well -- to the extent that this aids them in attaining eternal life."