Whether a Man can Merit the First Grace for Another
We proceed to the sixth article thus:
1. It seems that a man can merit the first grace for another. For the gloss on Matt.9:2, |and Jesus, seeing their faith,| etc., says: |How much is our own faith worth in the sight of God, if he values the faith of one so highly that he heals another both inwardly and outwardly!| Now it is by the first grace that a man is healed inwardly. One man can therefore merit the first grace for another.
2. Again, the prayers of the righteous are not in vain, but effectual, according to James 5:16: |the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.| Now he has just said: |pray for one another, that ye may be healed,| and a man can be healed only through grace. It seems, therefore, that one man can merit the first grace for another.
3. Again, it is said in Luke 16:9: |Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.| But no one is received into everlasting habitations otherwise than through grace, through which alone one can merit eternal life, as was said in Art.2, and also in Q.109, Art.5. It follows that one man can acquire the first grace for another by merit.
On the other hand: it is said in Jer.15:1: |Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people.|
I answer: as we have explained already in Arts.1, 2, and 4, there are two sources from which our works derive their meritorious character. In the first place, they have merit because God moves us. This merit is condign. In the second place, they have merit as proceeding from the free will, in so far as we do something willingly. This merit is congruous, since when a man makes good use of his own power, it is congruous that God should perform works that are more excellent, according to the surpassing excellence of his power. Now this makes it clear that none save Christ alone can merit the first grace for another condignly. For by the gift of grace each one of us is so moved by God that he may attain to eternal life, and eternal life cannot be merited condignly by anything other than God's moving. But God moved the soul of Christ by grace not only that he might attain eternal life himself, but also that he might lead others to it, as the Head of the Church and the Captain of our salvation, according to Heb.2:10: |bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.|
But one man can merit the first grace for another by congruous merit. A man in grace fulfils the divine will, and it is congruous, according to the relation of friendship, that God should fulfil his desire by saving another. There may sometimes be an obstacle, however, on the part of him whose justification a sanctified man desires. The passage quoted from Jeremiah refers to such a case.
On the first point: the faith of some avails for the healing of others by congruous merit, not by condign merit.
On the second point: intercessory prayer depends on mercy, whereas merit depends on condign justice. Hence a man obtains many things through prayer, by the mercy of God, which are not justly merited. As it is said in Dan.9:18: |For we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.|
On the third point: the poor who receive alms are said to receive others into everlasting habitations either because they intercede for their forgiveness by prayer, or because they merit it congruously by other good works. Or else this is a metaphorical way of saying that one deserves to be received into everlasting habitations for the sake of one's deeds of pity towards the poor.