Whether without Grace a Man can Prepare Himself for Grace
We proceed to the sixth article thus:
1. It seems that a man can prepare himself for grace by himself, without the external help of grace. For nothing impossible is laid upon man, as was said in Art.4, and yet it is written in Zech.1:3: |Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you.| To prepare oneself for grace is nothing other than to turn unto God. It seems, therefore, that a man can prepare himself for grace by himself, without the help of grace.
2. Again, a man prepares himself for grace by doing what lies within him. For God will not refuse him grace if he does what lies within him, since Matt., ch.7, says that |God gives his good spirit to them that ask him.| Now what is said to lie within us is within our power. Hence it seems that to prepare ourselves for grace is within our power.
3. Again, if a man needs grace to prepare himself for grace, for the same reason he will need grace to prepare himself for this latter grace, and so on to infinity, which is impossible. It seems to hold good in the first instance, therefore, that without grace a man can prepare himself for grace.
4. Again, Prov.16:1 says: |The preparations of the heart in man.| Now that is said to be of man which he can do by himself. Hence it seems that a man can prepare himself for grace by himself.
On the other hand: it is said in John 6:44: |no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.| But a man would not need to be drawn by another if he could prepare himself for grace. Hence a man cannot prepare himself for grace without the help of grace.
I answer: the preparation of the human will for grace is twofold. In the first place, the will must be prepared for good works, and for the enjoyment of God. Such preparation is impossible without an enduring gift of grace, grace being the principle of meritorious works, as we said in the preceding article. But we may have in mind, in the second place, the preparation of the will so that this enduring gift may follow. We do not need to suppose another enduring gift already in the soul, by means of which a man is enabled to receive this enduring gift, since this would go on to infinity. But we are bound to suppose the gift of God's help in moving the soul inwardly, and inspiring it to aim at good. For we need God's help in these two ways, as we said in Arts.2 and 3. It is plain that we need the help of God as mover. Every agent acts for some definite end, and every cause is therefore bound to direct its effects to its own end. Since the hierarchy of ends is parallel to the hierarchy of agents, it follows that man must be directed to his ultimate end by the moving of the first mover, and to his penultimate end by the moving of lesser movers, just as a soldier's mind is set on victory by the influence of the army commander, and on following a standard by the influence of a captain. Now since God is the absolute first mover, it is by God's moving that all things are directed to him, in accordance with the universal tendency to good by which each thing strives to resemble God after its own fashion. As Dionysius says: |God turns all things to himself| (4 Div. Nom., lect.11). But God turns just men to himself as the special end which they seek, and to which they desire to cleave as to their true good, in accordance with Ps.73:28: |It is good for me to draw near to God.| A man cannot therefore turn to God except through God turning him to himself. To turn to God is to prepare oneself for grace, just as one whose eyes are turned away from the light of the sun prepares himself to receive its light by turning his eyes towards the sun. It is clear, then, that a man cannot prepare himself for the light of grace without the gracious help of God, who moves him inwardly.
On the first point: a man turns to God of his own free will. Hence he is bidden to do so. But his free will can turn to God only through God turning it to himself, according to Jer.31:18: |turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God,| and also Lam.5:21: |Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.|
On the second point: a man can do nothing unless he is moved by God, as is said in John 15:5: |without me ye can do nothing.| When a man is said to do what lies within him, this is said to be within his power as moved by God.
On the third point: this objection argues from habitual grace, which needs preparation, since every form requires an amenable disposition. But no other previous moving is needed in order that a man may be moved by God, since God is the first mover. There is therefore no infinite regress.
On the fourth point: it is for man to prepare his soul, since he does this by his own free will. Yet he does not do so without God helping him as mover, and drawing him to himself, as we have said.