SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map
SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Section 1. The Nature Of Justification

Grace Actual And Habitual by Joseph Pohle

Section 1. The Nature Of Justification

Justification in the active sense (iustificatio, {GREEK SMALL LETTER DELTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMEGA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}) is defined by the Tridentine Council as |a translation from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.|(860)

Justification, therefore, has both a negative and a positive element. The positive element is interior sanctification through the merits of Jesus Christ. The negative element consists in the forgiveness of sin. Though these elements are objectively inseparable, the forgiveness of sin being practically an effect of interior sanctification, yet we must treat them separately in order to be able to refute more effectively the Lutheran heresy that sin is not wiped out but merely |covered,| and that justification consists in an external |imputation| of the righteousness of Christ.

Article 1. The Negative Element Of Justification

1. THE HERESY OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS AND THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH. -- Luther held that human nature was radically depraved by original sin(861) and that justification consists in this, that sin (original and mortal) is no longer |imputed| to the sinner; that is to say, it is not blotted out but merely |covered| by the merits of Christ.

a) Forgiveness of sins, therefore, according to Luther, consists simply in their being no longer imputed.(862) This heresy was incorporated in the Formula of Concord and other symbolical books of the Lutheran Church,(863) and subsequently adopted by Calvin.(864)

b) The Catholic Church has always maintained that justification is a renewal of the soul by which a man's sins are blotted out and he becomes truly just. This applies first of all to original sin. |If,| says the Council of Trent, |anyone denies that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in Baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away, but says that it is only raised or not imputed, let him be anathema.|(865) What it here defines in regard to original sin, the Council elsewhere reaffirms in respect of mortal sin.(866)

2. REFUTATION OF THE LUTHERAN THEORY. -- The theory thus solemnly condemned by the Tridentine Fathers is unscriptural and opposed to Catholic Tradition.

a) The teaching of the Bible on this point may be reduced to four distinct heads.

(1) The remission of sin granted in the process of justification is a real annihilation of guilt; that is to say, the sins remitted cease to exist in the moral (though not, of course, in the historical) order. Cfr. Ps. L, 3: |Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity.|(867) Is. XLIII, 25: |I am he that blot out thy iniquities.|(868) After God has blotted out a sin, it no longer exists. Cfr. Is. XLIV, 22: |I have blotted out thy iniquities as a cloud, and thy sins as a mist.|(869) Acts III, 19: |Be penitent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.|(870) Elsewhere God is said to |take away| sin. Cfr.2 Kings XII, 13: |The Lord also hath taken away thy sin.|(871) 1 Paral. XXI, 8: |I beseech thee, take away the iniquity of thy servant.|(872) When He takes away sin, it is really and truly blotted out. Cfr. Mich. VII, 18 sq.: |Who is a God like to thee, who takest away iniquity?... He will put away our iniquities, and he will cast all our sins into the bottom of the sea.|(873) Ps. X, 15: |His sin shall be sought, and shall not be found.|(874) Ps. CII, 12: |As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our iniquities from us.|(875) Consequently, when our Divine Saviour said of Mary Magdalen: |Many sins are forgiven her,|(876) He meant that her sins were completely blotted out and taken away.

(2) Justification washes the soul from iniquity and purifies the heart. Cfr. Ps. L, 4: |Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.|(877) Is. I, 16: |Wash yourselves, be clean.|(878) After one's sins are washed away, the heart is clean and pure. Cfr. Ez. XXXVI, 25 sq.: |And I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, ... and I will give you a new heart.|(879) 1 Cor. VI, 11: |And such [fornicators, etc.] some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified.|(880) Spotless purity takes the place of the impurity that previously defiled the soul of the sinner. Cfr. Ps. L, 9: |Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.|(881) Is. I, 18: |If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.|(882) No trace of sin remains in the soul after it has been washed in the Precious Blood of Christ. Apoc. I, 5: |... Jesus Christ, ... hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.|(883) 1 John I, 7: |... the blood of Jesus Christ ... cleanseth us from all sin.|(884)

(3) Justification is an awakening of the sinner from death to life, a transition from darkness to light. Cfr.1 John III, 14: |We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren; he that loveth not, abideth in death.|(885) Col. II, 13: |And you, when you were dead in your sins, ... he hath quickened together with him, forgiving you all offences.|(886) Eph. V, 8: |For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord.|(887)

(4) Baptism, in particular, completely removes all guilt. Cfr. Acts XXII, 16: |Rise up, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.|(888) Hence, though concupiscence remains, the soul has no longer in it anything damnable, i.e. any trace of original or mortal sin. Cfr. Rom. VIII, 1: |There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.|(889)

It requires no special acuteness to perceive that this Biblical teaching is irreconcilably opposed to the Protestant theory of non-imputation. If, as the Lutherans allege, God merely declared the believer just, justification would not blot out or take away sin, nor could it be truthfully said that light and life take the place of death and darkness; something deserving of condemnation would still remain in those that are in Christ Jesus.(890)

There are a few Scriptural texts that seem to favor the Lutheran view, but they must be interpreted in conformity with the general teaching of the Bible as outlined above. Among these texts is Ps. XXXI, 1 sq.: |Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile.|(891) The parallelism apparent in this verse allows us to conclude that |covered| is used in the sense of |remitted| and that |he to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin| is identical with the man |in whose spirit there is no guile.| The text manifestly refers to a real forgiveness of sins, for any sin that God |covers| and ceases to |impute,| must be blotted out and swept away, because |all things are naked and open to the eyes| of the omniscient Creator.(892)

Another favorite text of the Lutheran theologians is Rom. VII, 17: |Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.|(893) This passage clearly refers to concupiscence, which remains in the sinner after justification, but, according to Rom. VIII, 1 and James I, 14 sq., is not truly and properly sin but merely called |sin|(894) by metonymy, |because,| in the words of the Tridentine Council, |it is of sin and inclines to sin.|(895)

b) The Fathers of the Church, both Greek and Latin, unanimously teach that justification effects the forgiveness of sins.

St. Justin Martyr says: |By doing penance, all who desire it can obtain mercy from God, and Scripture calls them blessed in saying: 'Blessed is he to whom God hath not imputed sin,' which means that he receives forgiveness of his sins from God, not as you, deceiving yourselves, and others like you aver, that God does not impute [their] sin to them, though they are [still] sinners.|(896) Clement of Alexandria likens Baptism to |a bath in which sins are washed off.|(897) St. Gregory Nazianzen says: |It is called Baptism [{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}, from {GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}, to immerse] because the sin is buried in water, ... and a bath ({GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}), because it washes off.|(898) St. Augustine indignantly opposes the erroneous opinion of the Pelagians that Baptism does not take away sins but merely |trims them off.| |Who but an unbeliever,| he exclaims, |can affirm this against the Pelagians? We say, therefore, that Baptism gives remission of all sins and takes away crimes, not merely trims them off (radere) in such wise that the roots of all sins may be preserved in an evil flesh, as of hair trimmed on the head, when the sins cut down may grow again.|(899) Pope St. Gregory the Great seems almost to have foreseen the heresy of the Protestant Reformers, for he says: |But if there are any who say that in Baptism sins are forgiven as to outward appearance only, what can be more un-Catholic than such preaching?... He who says that sins are not completely forgiven in Baptism might as well say that the Egyptians did not perish in the Red Sea. But if he admits that the Egyptians actually died [in the Red Sea], let him also admit that of necessity sins completely die in Baptism.|(900)

c) The theological argument may be briefly formulated as follows: We can imagine but two reasons why God should not truly forgive us our sins in the process of justification: inability and unwillingness. To say that He is unable to forgive us our sins would be to assert that the remission of sin involves a metaphysical impossibility. This no Protestant will admit, because all believe that |nothing defiled shall enter into heaven.|(901) To assert that God is unwilling to forgive our sins would be to contradict the plain teaching of Scripture, as set forth above. Consequently there is no reason whatever for assuming that God does not truly forgive us our sins in the process of justification. Furthermore, it would be incompatible with His veracity and holiness to assume that He merely declares the sinner to be |free from sin,| without actually cleansing his soul. It would be a contradiction to assert that a man whom the truthful and all-holy God has declared free from sin, remains steeped in iniquity. Cfr. Prov. XVII, 15: |He that justifieth the wicked [i.e. absolves him from his sins], and he that condemneth the just, both are abominable before God.|

According to Revelation the justification of the sinner is not a mere change, with a privation for its terminus a quo(902) and an indifferent form for its terminus ad quem, but involves a movement from extreme to extreme, and hence the genesis of the one extreme must coincide with the destruction of the other. Sin, being in contrary opposition to righteousness, must depart when righteousness enters the soul.(903)

Article 2. The Positive Element Of Justification

1. HERETICAL ERRORS AND THE CHURCH. -- Calvin held that justification consists essentially and exclusively in the remission of sins.(904) The other |Reformers| maintained that there must also be a positive element in the process, but differed in determining its nature.

a) The ambiguous language employed by Luther and Melanchthon gave rise to many different opinions, which agreed only in one point, that is, in holding, contrary to Catholic teaching, that the positive element of justification is not inward sanctification or inherent righteousness (i.e. sanctifying grace). Probably the view most common among the supporters of the Augsburg Confession was that the sinner, by a |fiduciary apprehension| of God's mercy, as proclaimed in the Gospel, |apprehends| the extrinsic justice of Christ, and with it covers his sins, which are thereupon no longer |imputed| to him. In other words, he is outwardly accounted and declared righteous in the sight of God, though inwardly he remains a sinner. With the exception of |sola fides| there was probably no shibboleth in the sixteenth century so persistently dinned into the ears of Catholics and Protestants alike as |iustitia Christi extra nos.| It is found in the Apologia written in defence of the Augsburg Confession(905) and recurs in the Formula of Concord.(906) According to the |orthodox| Lutheran view, therefore, justification on its positive side is a purely forensic and outward imputation of the righteousness of Christ, which the sinner seizes with the arm of faith and puts on like a cloak to hide the wounds of his soul.(907)

b) Against this dismal heresy the Tridentine Council solemnly declared that |Justification ... is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and of the gifts,|(908) and anathematized all those who say that |men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost and is inherent in them, or even that the grace whereby we are justified is only the favor of God.|(909)

In thus defining the doctrine of the Church, the Council did not, however, mean to deny that the sinner is in a true sense |justified by the justice of Christ,| -- in so far namely, as our Lord has merited for us the grace of justification. He merely wished to emphasize the fact that a sinner is not formaliter justified by the imputation of Christ's justice. For the sake of greater clearness the various |causes| of justification are enumerated as follows: |Of this justification the causes are these: the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, and life everlasting; while the efficient cause is a merciful God, who washes and sanctifies gratuitously; ... but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who ... merited justification for us by His most holy Passion on the wood of the Cross; ... the instrumental cause is the Sacrament of Baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified; lastly, the sole formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just.|(910)

So important did the distinction between the causa meritoria and the causa formalis of justification appear to the Fathers of Trent, that they made it the subject of a separate canon, to wit: |If anyone saith that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.|(911) Justification in the Catholic sense, therefore, is not a mere outward imputation of the justice of Christ, but a true inward renewal and sanctification wrought by a grace intrinsically inhering in the soul. This grace theologians call the |grace of justification.|

2. REFUTATION OF THE LUTHERAN THEORY OF IMPUTATION. -- Nothing is so foreign to both the spirit and the letter of Holy Scripture as the idea that justification merely covers a man's sins with a cloak of justice and leaves him unsanctified within.

Justification is described in the Bible not only as a remission of sins,(912) but likewise as the beginning of a new life,(913) a renewal of the spirit,(914) a new creation,(915) a regeneration,(916) a supernatural likeness of God,(917) etc. All these similes point to a permanent state of sanctity in the soul of the just.

{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}) The Lutheran theory of imputation can be most effectively refuted by an analysis of the Scriptural term |regeneration| (regeneratio, {GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}, {GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}). |Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost,| says our Divine Lord, |he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.|(918) This spiritual rebirth wipes out sin and inwardly sanctifies the soul. The regenerate sinner receives a new and godlike nature. That this nature can be conceived in no other way than as a state of sanctity and justice appears clearly from Tit. III, 5 sqq.: |Not by the works of justice which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost, whom he hath poured forth upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour: that, being justified by His grace, we may be heirs, according to the hope of life everlasting.|(919) Both text and context show that the Apostle is here speaking of the justification of adult sinners in Baptism, which he describes as a |laver of regeneration and renovation| resulting in an |outpouring of the Holy Ghost.| These phrases plainly denote a positive quality of the soul as well as a permanent interior grace. Regeneration consists in the remission of sin through Baptism, and also, more particularly, in man being made like God, i.e. becoming a child of God,(920) while |renovation| means |putting off the old man|(921) and |putting on the new.|(922) The |outpouring of the Holy Ghost| effected by Baptism is not, of course, an outpouring of the Hypostasis of the Third Person of the Trinity, but of created grace, which re-forms the sinner and makes him just.(923) This justifying grace must not be conceived as an actual grace, much less as a series of actual graces, for it is not given us merely as an aid in the performance of some particular act, but as a new nature. Regeneration and renovation denote a state of being, as we can plainly see in the case of baptized infants. It is for this reason that the Apostle speaks of it as a lasting state; -- that which theologians call the status gratiae sanctificantis.(924)

Closely akin to the notion of |regeneration| is that of |re-creation.| Justification renews the sinner inwardly and makes of him, so to speak, a new creature, which has sloughed off sin and become just and holy in the sight of God. Cfr.2 Cor. V, 17: |If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new.|(925) This is all the more true since re-creation effects an |incorporation of man with Christ,| and is closely connected with |regeneration of God.| Cfr. James I, 18: |For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creature.|(926) A comparison with Gal. VI, 15 and Gal. V, 6 fully establishes it as a Biblical truth that in the process of justification the sinner, through faith informed by charity, is changed into a new creature. |For in Christ Jesus,| says St. Paul, |neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.|(927) And again: |In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity.|(928) In both these texts the Jewish rite of circumcision is rejected as useless and contrasted with justification, which by means of the fides formata gives birth to a |new creature.| This is incompatible with the Protestant notion that a man is justified by being declared righteous in the sight of God, though he remains inwardly unchanged.(929)

{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}) The Lutherans vainly appeal to the fact that Holy Scripture employs the word |justify|(930) for the purpose of declaring a man to be just in a purely forensic sense, as in Is. V, 23: |Who justify the wicked for gifts.| This proves nothing against the Catholic doctrine, which is based entirely on texts that exclude the judicial meaning of the term and plainly refer to inward sanctification.(931)

The word |justification| also occurs in two other meanings in the Bible. Ps. CXVIII, 8 and 26 it stands in the plural for the |law|: |I will keep thy justifications;|(932) and |Teach me thy justifications.|(933) Apoc. XXII, 11 and in a few other passages it signifies |growth| in interior holiness, which theologians call iustificatio secunda.(934)

The Lutherans are equally unfortunate in maintaining that St. Paul countenances their theory when he speaks of |putting on Christ.| Cfr. Gal. III, 27: |For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ.|(935) The Apostle in employing this simile does not mean to say that justification consists in putting on an outward cloak of grace to cover sins which inwardly endure, but precisely the contrary, viz.: that the sinner by being justified is inwardly cleansed from sin and becomes a new creature and a child of God. This interpretation is supported by various parallel texts(936) and by the staple of St. Paul's teaching.

Another passage which the Lutherans cite in their favor is 1 Cor. I, 30: |... who [Christ Jesus] of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption.|(937) Christ is made unto us justice and sanctification, in what sense? Manifestly in the same sense in which He is made unto us wisdom of God, that is to say, in so far as He imparts to us wisdom, which thereupon becomes our own, but not in the sense that the wisdom of Christ is outwardly imputed to us. Note that St. Paul in this and many other passages of his Epistles merely wishes to emphasize the gratuity of the Redemption and of grace to the exclusion of all natural merit on the part of man.(938)

b) As regards the teaching of the Fathers, the |Reformers| themselves admitted that it was against them.(939)

We read in the Epistle of Barnabas, which was probably composed about A. D.100:(940) |Since then He made us new by the remission of sins, he made us another type, that we should have the soul of children, as though He were creating us afresh.|

The reason why St. Paul calls Baptism the |laver of regeneration| rather than the laver of forgiveness, is explained by St. John Chrysostom(941) as follows: |Because it [Baptism] not only remits our sins and wipes out our misdeeds, but accomplishes all this in such a way as if we were born anew;(942) for it entirely re-creates and re-forms us.|(943)

St. Ambrose regards innocence as the positive element of justification: |After this [i.e. Baptism] you received a white robe, to indicate that you stripped off the vesture of sin and put on the chaste garments of innocence.|(944)

Harnack claims that St. Augustine first stemmed the current dogmatic tradition and reshaped it by going back to St. Paul. Bellarmine(945) refuted this audacious assertion long before it was rehashed by the German rationalist. The Council of Trent was so thoroughly imbued with the teaching of Augustine that its decrees and canons on justification read as though they were lifted bodily from his writings. The great |Doctor of Grace| flatly contradicts the Protestant theory of imputation in such utterances as these: |He [St. Paul] does not say, 'the righteousness of man,' ... but 'the righteousness of God,' -- meaning not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly.... The righteousness of God is by faith of Jesus Christ, that is, by the faith wherewith one believes in Christ. For here is not meant the faith with which Christ Himself believes, just as there was not meant the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous. Both no doubt are ours; but yet they are called [in one case] God's, and [in the other] Christ's, because it is by their bounty that these gifts are bestowed upon man.|(946) Again: |When righteousness is given to us, it is not called our own righteousness, but God's, because it becomes ours only so that we have it from God.|(947) Again: |The grace of God is called the righteousness of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, not that by which the Lord is just, but that by which He justifies those whom from unrighteous He makes righteous.|(948) Again: |The love of God is said to be shed abroad in our hearts, not because He loves us, but because He makes us lovers of Himself; just as the righteousness of God is used in the sense of our being made righteous by His gift.|(949) According to St. Augustine, therefore, justification culminates in a true sanctification of the soul. |When he [St. Paul] says: 'We are transformed into the same image,' he assuredly means to speak of the image of God; and by calling it 'the same,' he means that very image which we see in the glass,... and that we pass from a form that is obscure to a form that is bright,... and this [human] nature, being the most excellent among things created, is changed from a form that is defaced into a form that is beautiful, when it is justified by its Creator from ungodliness.|(950)

The Augustinian passages which we have quoted (and they are not by any means all that could be quoted) enumerate the distinguishing marks of sanctifying grace in so far as it is the formal cause of justification.(951)

c) The argument from Revelation can be reinforced by certain philosophical considerations which show the absurdity of the imputation theory from the standpoint of common sense.

A man outwardly justified but inwardly a sinner would be a moral monster, and Almighty God would be guilty of an intrinsic contradiction were He to regard and treat such a one as just. This contradiction is not removed but rather intensified by the Lutheran appeal to the extraneous justice of Christ.(952)

The incongruity of the Lutheran doctrine of justification becomes fully apparent from the consequences which it involves, to wit: (1) all Christians without distinction would possess exactly the same degree of sanctity and justice; (2) justification once obtained by fiduciary faith could not be lost except by the sin of unbelief; and (3) children would not be justified by Baptism because they are not sufficiently advanced in the use of reason to enable them to |apprehend| the external righteousness of Christ. The first of these inferences runs counter to common sense and experience. The second, which Luther clothed in the shameful exhortation, |Pecca fortiter et crede fortius et nihil nocebunt centum homicidia et mille stupra,|(953) is repugnant to the teaching of Scripture and destructive of morality.(954) The third consistently led to the rejection of infant baptism by the Anabaptists, the Mennonites, and other Protestant sects.

3. SANCTIFYING GRACE THE SOLE FORMAL CAUSE OF JUSTIFICATION. -- In declaring that |inherent grace| is the |sole formal cause of justification,| the Council of Trent(955) defined it as an article of faith that sanctifying grace of itself is able to produce all the formal effects of justification, e.g. forgiveness of sins, the sanctification of the sinner, his adoption by God, etc.,(956) and consequently requires no supplementary or contributory causes. In other words, justification is wholly and fully accomplished by the infusion of sanctifying grace.

a) It appears from the discussions preceding its sixth session that the Tridentine Council not only meant to condemn the heretical contention of Butzer that |inherent grace| must be supplemented by the |imputed justice of Christ| as the really essential factor of justification,(957) but also wished to reject the view of divers contemporary Catholic theologians(958) that |intrinsic righteousness| is inadequate to effect justification without a special favor Dei externus.(959) In this the Fathers of the Council were on Scriptural ground. The principal effects of justification, -- forgiveness of sins and internal sanctification, -- are both produced by sanctifying grace. Sacred Scripture is perfectly clear on this point. It represents sin as opposed to grace in the same way in which darkness is opposed to light,(960) life to death,(961) the new man to the old.(962) The one necessarily excludes the other. Sanctifying grace and sin cannot co-exist in the same subject.

Internal sanctification may be defined as a permanent, vital union with God, by which the soul becomes righteous and holy in His sight and obtains a claim to Heaven. That this is also a function of sanctifying grace appears from those Scriptural texts which treat of the positive element of justification.(963) With this doctrine Tradition is in perfect accord, and consequently the Fathers of Trent were right in teaching as they did, in fact they could not have taught otherwise.(964)

b) While all Catholic theologians admit the incompatibility of grace and sin in the same subject, they differ as to the kind and degree of opposition existing between the two. Some hold that this opposition is purely moral, others that it is physical, again others that it is metaphysical.

{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}) Nominalists(965) and Scotists(966) before the Tridentine decision maintained that the distinction between sanctifying grace and (original or mortal) sin is based on a free decree of the Almighty, and therefore purely moral. God, they held, by a favor externus superadditus, externally supplies what sanctifying grace internally lacks, just as a government's stamp raises the value of a coin beyond the intrinsic worth of the bullion. Followed to its legitimate conclusions, this shallow theory means that sanctifying grace is of itself insufficient to wipe out sin, and that, but for the superadded divine favor, grace and sin might co-exist in the soul. This is tantamount to saying that justification requires a twofold formal cause, viz.: sanctifying grace and a favor Dei superadditus, -- which runs counter to the teaching of Trent. Henno tries to escape this objection by explaining that the favor Dei acceptans appertains not to the formal but merely to the efficient cause of justification. But this contention is manifestly untenable. Sanctifying grace is either able to wipe out sin, or it is unable: if it is unable to produce this effect, the favor Dei acceptans must be part of the causa formalis of justification, and then, in Henno's hypothesis, we should have a duplex causa formalis, which contradicts the Tridentine decree. If, on the other hand, sanctifying grace is able to wipe out sin without any favor superadditus, then the Scotistic theory has no raison d'etre.

{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}) From what we have said it follows that there must be at least a physical contrariety between grace and sin. The difference between physical and metaphysical opposition may be illustrated by the example of fire and water. These two elements are incompatible by a law of nature. But as there is no metaphysical contradiction between them, Almighty God could conceivably bring them together. It is this physical kind of opposition that Suarez and a few of his followers assume to exist between grace and sin. Absolutely speaking, they say, there is no intrinsic contradiction in the assumption that God could preserve the physical entity of sanctifying grace in a soul guilty of mortal sin.(967) In so far as this school admits the existence of an internal opposition, which actually prevents original or mortal sin from ever co-existing in the soul with justifying grace, its teaching may be said to be acceptable to all Catholic theologians. The Scotistic view, on account of its incompatibility with the teaching of the Tridentine Council, is no longer held.

It may be questioned, however, whether Suarez goes far enough in this matter, and whether the opposition between grace and sin could really be overcome by a miracle. The simultaneous co-existence of grace and sin seems to involve an absolute, i.e. metaphysical, contradiction.

{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}) This is what the Thomists maintain with the majority of Jesuit theologians.(968) As some subtle objections have been raised against this view, it cannot be accepted as theologically certain; but it undoubtedly corresponds better than its opposite to the spirit and letter of Scripture. The Bible, as we have already pointed out, likens the opposition existing between grace and sin to that between life and death,(969) justice and injustice, Christ and Belial, God and an idol.(970) But these are contradictories, ergo.(971) The same conclusion can be reached by arguing from the character of sanctifying grace as a participatio divinae naturae.(972) If grace is a participation in the divine nature, it must be opposed to sin in the same way in which God Himself is opposed to it. Now God as the All-Holy One is metaphysically opposed to sin; consequently, the same kind of opposition must exist between sanctifying grace and sin.

It is alleged against this teaching that between habitual grace and habitual sin there is merely a disparate opposition, i.e. that of a physical to a moral form, the concepts of which are not mutually exclusive. But sanctifying grace is more than a physical ornament of the soul; it is an ethical form which has for its essential function to render the soul holy and righteous in the sight of God.(973)

READINGS: -- St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 1a 2ae, qu.113, and the commentators, especially Billuart, De Gratia, diss.7, art.1 sqq.; *Bellarmine, De Iustificatione, l. II (Opera Omnia, ed. Fevre, Vol. VI, pp.208 sqq., Paris 1873).

Besides the current text-books cfr. *Jos. Wieser, S. Pauli Apostoli Doctrina de Iustificatione, Trent 1874; H. Th. Simar, Die Theologie des hl. Paulus, 2nd ed., §33 sqq. Freiburg 1883.

On the Protestant notion of justification cfr. Moehler, Symbolik, §10 sqq., Mainz 1890 (Robertson's translation, pp.82 sqq., 5th ed., London 1906); Realenzyklopaedie fuer prot. Theologie, Vol. XVI, 3rd ed., pp.482 sqq., Leipzig 1905 (summarized in English in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. VI, pp.275 sqq., New York 1910); Card. Newman, Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification, 8th impression, London 1900; J. Mausbach, Catholic Moral Teaching and its Antagonists, New York 1914, pp.150 sqq. -- B. J. Otten, S. J., A Manual of the History of Dogmas, Vol. II, St. Louis 1918, pp.246 sqq., 464 sq., 470 sqq.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2020 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Affiliate Disclosure | Privacy Policy