Whether Grace is greater in One Man than in Another
We proceed to the fourth article thus:
1. It seems that grace is not greater in one man than in another. For it was said in Q. no, Art.1, that grace is caused in us by God's love, and according to Wisdom 6:7, |He made both the small and the great, and cares equally for all.| It follows that all receive grace equally.
2. Again, whatever is said to be the greatest possible does not admit of more and less. Now grace is said to be the greatest possible, since it unites us with our final end. It does not then admit of more and less. It follows that it is not greater in one man than in another.
3. Again, it was said in Q.110, Arts.1, 2, and 4, that grace is the life of the soul. But life does not admit of more and less. Neither then does grace.
On the other hand: it is said in Eph.4:7: |But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.| Now what is given according to measure is not given equally to all. It follows that everyone does not have equal grace.
I answer: as we said in Q.52, Arts.1 and 2, a habit can have magnitude in two ways: in respect of its end or object, as when we say that one virtue is nobler than another because it is directed to a greater good; and in respect of its subject, as when we say that one who possesses a habit possesses it in greater or less degree. Now sanctifying grace cannot admit of more and less in respect of its end or object, since grace by its very nature unites a man with the greatest possible good, which is God. But grace does admit of more and less in respect of its subject, since one man may be more enlightened by the light of grace than another. Such diversity is partly due to him who prepares himself for grace, since he who prepares himself the more receives the greater fullness of grace. But we cannot accept this as the primary reason for it, because it is only in so far as his free will is itself prepared by God that a man prepares himself for grace. We must acknowledge that the primary reason for this diversity lies with God. For God distributes his gracious gifts diversely, to the end that the beauty and perfection of the Church may ensue from their diversity, even as he instituted the various degrees of things to the end that the universe might be perfect. Wherefore the apostle, having said: |unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ,| thereafter enumerates the various graces, adding the words |for the perfecting of the saints . . . for the edifying of the body of Christ| (Eph.4:12).
On the first point: the divine care may mean either of two things. It may mean the divine act itself, which is simple and uniform. If it means this, the divine care is equally towards all, since God bestows both the greater and the less by one, simple act. But if it means the gifts which creatures receive as the result of God's care, there is then diversity, since God bestows greater gifts on some, and lesser gifts on others.
On the second point: natural life cannot admit of more and less, because it belongs to man's essential being. But man participates in the life of grace accidentally, and may therefore do so in greater or in less degree.