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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Section 3. The Properties Of Sanctifying Grace

Grace Actual And Habitual by Joseph Pohle

Section 3. The Properties Of Sanctifying Grace

By a property (proprium, {GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH PSILI AND OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER DELTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}) we understand a quality which, though not part of the essence of a thing, necessarily flows from that essence by some sort of causation and is consequently found in all individuals of the same species.(1155) A property, as such, is opposed to an accident (accidens, {GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}), which is neither part of, nor necessarily attached to, the essence, but may or may not be present in the individual. Thus the ability to laugh is a property of human nature, whereas the color of the skin is an accident.

How do the properties of grace differ from its formal effects, and from its supernatural concomitants? The formal effects of grace, as we have seen, are the elements constituting its nature, the properties are determinations necessarily flowing from that nature, while the supernatural concomitants are free gifts superadded by God.

According to the Protestant theory, justification is absolutely certain, equal in all men, and incapable of being lost. The Catholic Church, on the contrary, teaches that justification is (1) uncertain, (2) unequal, and (3) amissible. We will explain this teaching in three theses.

*Thesis I: No man knows with certainty of faith whether he is justified or not.*

This proposition is de fide.

Proof. The Tridentine Council rejected the |fiduciary faith|(1156) of Luther as |an empty heretical confidence,|(1157) and in three distinct canons denied the properties attributed to faith by the early Protestant dogmaticians.(1158)

a) Holy Scripture again and again warns us that we can never be sure of our salvation. St. Paul, though himself |a vessel of election,| freely admits: |I am not conscious to myself of any thing, yet I am not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord,|(1159) and declares: |I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.|(1160) He exhorts the faithful to work out their salvation |with fear and trembling.|(1161)

b) The Fathers also teach the uncertainty of justification in the individual, and attribute it to the fact that, while we know that God pardons penitent sinners, no man can be entirely certain that he has complied with all the conditions necessary for justification.

|Our fate,| says St. Chrysostom, |is uncertain for a number of reasons, one of which is that many of our own works are hidden from us.|(1162) St. Jerome, commenting on Eccles. IX, 1 sq.,(1163) observes: |In the future they will know all, and all things are manifest to them, that is to say, the knowledge of this matter will precede them when they depart this life, because then the judgment will be pronounced, while now we are still battling, and it is now uncertain whether those who bear adversities, bear them for the love of God, like Job, or because they hate Him, as do many sinners.|(1164) Pope St. Gregory the Great said to a noble matron who asked him whether she could be sure of her salvation: |You ask me something which is both useless and difficult [to answer]; difficult, because I am unworthy to receive a revelation; useless, because it is better that you be uncertain with regard to your sins, lest in your last hour you should be unable to repent.|(1165)

c) We now proceed to the theological explanation of the dogma embodied in our thesis.

{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}) The purpose of this dogma is not, as Harnack(1166) thinks, |partly to assuage and partly to excite the restlessness that still remains, by means of the sacraments, indulgences, liturgical worship and ecclesiastical encouragement of mystical and monkish practices,| but to prevent undue security and careless assurance. What the Church condemns, in accordance with Sacred Scripture and Tradition, is the certitudo fidei, that vain confidence which leads men to feel certain that they are in the state of grace (inanis fiducia), not the certitudo spei, i.e. humble trust in God's abundant mercy. |As no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments,| says the Tridentine Council, |even so each one, when he regards himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.|(1167)

One needs but to apply to theology the epistemological principles and criteria furnished by philosophy to perceive that the Catholic dogma is as reasonable as the Protestant theory is absurd. The Protestant syllogism: |I know with a certainty of faith that the penitent sinner who does his share, is justified through the grace of Christ; now, I, who am a penitent sinner, know with a certainty of faith that I have done my share; therefore, I know with a certainty of faith that I am justified,| may be formally correct, but the minor premise embodies a material error, because no man knows with a certainty of faith that he has done his share, unless it be specially revealed to him by God. No matter how sure I may feel of my own goodness, I have no certainty of faith, such as that which Mary Magdalen had, or that which was vouchsafed to the penitent thief on the cross, that I am justified. It is one of the approved rules of syllogistic reasoning that |the conclusion must follow the weaker premiss.|(1168) Hence, in the above syllogism the certainty cannot be of faith, but human and moral only. We do not mean to deny that God may grant to this or that individual a certainty of faith with regard to his justification; in fact theologians expressly teach that in such a rare and exceptional case the privileged person would be obliged to believe in his own justification, fide divina.(1169)

{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}) Can any one, without a special revelation, be theologically certain that he is justified? Theological certainty (certitudo theologica) is the result of a syllogism which embodies an article of faith in one of its premises and an obvious truth of reason in the other. Ambrosius Catharinus(1170) stands alone among Catholic theologians in holding that there are rare cases in which men do have a theological certainty as to their justification without a private revelation. All other writers deny the possibility: (1) because Scripture and Tradition do not countenance the proposition; (2) because there are no criteria available for such certainty outside of private revelation, and (3) because the Tridentine Council censured the assertion |that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubt whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified.|(1171)

{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}) For precisely the same reasons no man can be metaphysically certain of his own justification. Hence there remains only moral certainty. Moral certainty admits of varying degrees. The highest degree of moral certainty concerning justification can be had in the case of baptized infants, though, of course, we can never be metaphysically certain even in regard to them, because there is always room for doubt as to the intention of the minister and the validity of the matter and form employed in the administration of the sacrament. In the case of adults, certainty regarding justification varies in proportion to the measure in which it can be ascertained whether one has complied with all the requirements demanded by God. However, certainty may be so great as to exclude all reasonable doubt. St. Paul says: |I am sure that neither death nor life ... shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.|(1172) And St. Augustine: |What do we know? We know that we have passed from death to life. Whence do we know this? Because we love our brethren. Let no one ask another. Let each question his own heart; if he there finds fraternal charity, let him be sure that he has passed from death to life.|(1173) This teaching has led theologians to set up certain criteria by which the faithful may be relieved of unreasonable anxiety and obtain some sort of assurance as to the condition of their souls. Such criteria are: a taste for things spiritual; contempt of earthly pleasures; zeal and perseverance in doing good; love of prayer and pious meditation; patience in suffering and adversity; a fervent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; frequent reception of the sacraments, etc.(1174)

*Thesis II: Sanctifying grace admits of degrees and therefore can be increased by good works.*

Both propositions contained in this thesis are de fide.

Proof. The Protestant contention that the grace of justification is shared in an equal measure by all the justified, was a logical deduction from Luther's false principle that men are justified by faith alone through the external justice of Christ. If this were true, good works would be superfluous, and all Christians would enjoy an equal measure of grace. Luther formally asserted this in his sermon on the nativity of the Blessed Virgin: |All we who are Christians are equally great and holy with the Mother of God.|(1175) The Catholic Church rejects this teaching. She holds that justification is an intrinsic process by which the justice and holiness of Christ becomes our own through sanctifying grace, and that consequently sanctifying grace may be present in the soul in a greater or less degree, according to the liberality of God and the disposition of the individual Christian, and those who are in the state of grace may augment it by good works. The Council of Trent formally defines these truths when it says: |[We receive] justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one's proper disposition and cooeperation.|(1176) And: |[The justified], faith cooeperating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified....|(1177) The second and more important of these truths is re-iterated and emphasized in the canons of Session VI: |If anyone saith that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof: let him be anathema.|(1178)

a) The Tridentine Fathers base their teaching on a number of Scriptural texts which either expressly declare or presuppose that grace is capable of being increased in the soul after justification.

Thus we read in Prov. IV, 18: |The path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards and increaseth even to perfect day.|(1179) Ecclus. XVIII, 22: |Let nothing hinder thee from praying always, and be not afraid to be justified even to death: for the reward of God continueth for ever.|(1180) 2 Pet. III, 18: |Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.|(1181) 2 Cor. IX, 10: |[God] will increase the growth of the fruits of your justice.|(1182) Eph. IV, 7: |But to every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ.|(1183) Apoc. XXII, 11 sq.: |He that is just, let him be justified still; and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still. Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his works.|(1184)

Such texts could easily be multiplied.

b) Tradition found definite utterance as early as the fourth century.

When Jovinian attempted to revive the Stoic theory of the absolute equality of all virtues and vices, he met with strenuous opposition on the part of St. Jerome, who wrote a special treatise Contra Iovinianum, in which he said: |Each of us receives grace according to the measure of the grace of Christ (Eph. IV, 7); not as if the measure of Christ were unequal, but so much of His grace is infused into us as we are capable of receiving.|(1185) St. Augustine teaches that the just are as unequal as the sinners. |The saints are clad with justice (Job XXIX, 14), some more, some less; and no one on this earth lives without sin, some more, some less: but the best is he who has least.|(1186) But, we are told, life as such is not capable of being increased; how then can there be an increase of spiritual life? St. Thomas answers this objection as follows: |The natural life pertains to the substance of man, and therefore can be neither augmented nor diminished; but in the life of grace man participates accidentaliter, and consequently he can possess it in a larger or smaller degree.|(1187)

c) From what we have said it is easy to understand the distinction which theologians make between justification as gratia prima and justification as gratia secunda. The latter is merely another term for an increase of grace after justification.

{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}) Such an increase may be effected either ex opere operantis, that is, by good works, or ex opere operato, through the sacraments, and is called justification (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}) partly because Sacred Scripture refers to it by that name(1188) and partly because |to become just| (iustum fieri) and |to become more just| (iustiorem fieri) both imply true sanctification.

In this connection the question may be raised whether sanctifying grace is diminished by venial sin. Venial sin does not destroy the state of grace and consequently cannot augment or diminish grace. To assume that it could, would lead to the absurd conclusion that a definite number of venial sins might eventually grow into a mortal sin, or that repeated venial sins gradually diminish grace until finally it disappears. The first-mentioned assumption is impossible because venial differs generically from mortal sin, and a transition from the one to the other would be a {GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} {GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH PSILI AND OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON} {GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}. The second assumption would entail the heretical inference that the state of grace can be lost without mortal sin.(1189) No doubt venial sin influences the state of grace unfavorably; but this evil influence must be conceived as indirect -- by committing venial sins man weakens his will-power, and temptation eventually grows so strong as to make mortal sin inevitable. |He that contemneth small things, shall fall little by little.|(1190)

{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}) If we inquire how sanctifying grace increases in the soul, we find that the process must be conceived as a growing intensity analogous to that of light and heat in the physical order.

Gratia prima, as we have seen in a previous chapter, is a supernatural physical quality.(1191) Hence its increase, i.e. gratia secunda, must be an increase of physical quality. Such an increase is called in Scholastic parlance intensio.(1192) In what does this process consist? Certain Thomists(1193) describe it as a maior radicatio in subiecto, while the majority of theologians hold that it is simply an additio gradus ad gradum. This latter explanation is probably the correct one. Sanctifying grace is either capable of gradual increase, or it is not. If it is, there is no reason why God should deny such an increase under certain conditions. If it is not, Luther would have been right in contending that a newly baptized infant enjoys the same measure of holiness as the Blessed Virgin Mary or the human soul of our Divine Lord. It is impossible to imagine how grace could produce a quantitatively higher holiness by simply striking its roots deeper into the soul.(1194)

{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}) A question of greater practical importance is this: Is the increase of sanctifying grace accompanied by a corresponding increase of the infused virtues, and vice versa.

Every increase or decrease of sanctifying grace must eo ipso entail a corresponding increase or decrease, respectively, of theological charity. Charity is either identical with grace or it is not.(1195) If it is, an increase of the one implies an increase of the other; if it is not, the one cannot increase without an increase of the other, because they are inseparable and related to each other as nature to faculty, or root to blossom. Moreover, the degree of heavenly glory enjoyed by a soul will be commensurate with the measure of charity which it possessed at death. Now grace and glory bear a proportional relation to each other. Consequently, grace is augmented as charity increases, and vice versa. The same argument applies to the infused moral virtues.

The case is different, however, with the theological virtues of faith and hope. These may continue to exist in the soul after charity has departed, and hence are not inseparable from sanctifying grace and charity, nor from the moral virtues. This consideration led Suarez to infer that, as the theological virtues of faith and hope may be infused into the soul independently of charity and before justification, they must be susceptible of increase in the course of justification without regard to the existing state of grace and charity.(1196) This is true of the sinner. In the justified, as Suarez himself admits, an increase of grace (or charity) probably always entails an increase of faith and hope,(1197) -- a proposition which finds strong support in the decree of Trent which says: |This increase of justification Holy Church begs, when she prays: 'Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.' |(1198)

{GREEK SMALL LETTER DELTA}) A final question forces itself upon the enquiring mind, viz.: Is sanctifying grace capable of an indefinite increase, or is there a limit beyond which it cannot grow? In trying to find an answer to this question we must draw a careful distinction between the absolute and the ordinary power of God.

There is no intrinsic contradiction in the assumption that grace can be indefinitely augmented. True, it can never become actually infinite, as this would involve an absurdity.(1199) But if we regard the power of God as He sees fit to exercise it in the present economy (potentia Dei ordinata), we find that it is limited by two sublime ideals of holiness to which neither man nor angel can attain, viz.: the overflowing measure of sanctifying grace in the human soul of our Lord Jesus Christ(1200) and the |fulness of grace| granted to His Mother.(1201) Though these ideals are beyond our reach, we must not be discouraged, but try to approach them as nearly as possible.(1202)

*Thesis III: Sanctifying grace is lost by mortal sin.*

This thesis also embodies an article of faith.

Proof. Calvin asserted that neither justification nor faith can be lost by those who are predestined to salvation, and that the unpredestined are never truly justified. Luther held that justifying grace is lost solely through the sin of infidelity. Against the former the Council of Trent declared: |If anyone saith that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; ... let him be anathema.|(1203) Against the latter the same council defined: |If anyone saith that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity, or that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity, let him be anathema.|(1204) At the same time, however, the Holy Synod expressly declared that venial sin does not destroy the state of grace: |For although during this mortal life, men, how holy and just soever, at times fall into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, they do not therefore cease to be just.|(1205)

a) This teaching is so obviously in accord with Sacred Scripture that we confine ourselves to quoting three or four passages. Ezechiel says that sanctifying grace may be irretrievably lost: |If the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? All his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered; in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die.|(1206) Our Lord Himself admonishes His Apostles: |Watch ye and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.|(1207) St. Paul not only warns the faithful in general terms: |He that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall;|(1208) but expressly designates certain mortal sins as a bar to Heaven: |Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God.|(1209)

b) The teaching of Tradition was brought out clearly in the fight against Jovinian.

That wily heretic claimed the authority of St. John for the assertion that the grace of Baptism can never be lost. The Johannean passage in question reads: |Whosoever is born of God, committeth no sin: for His seed abideth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.|(1210) St. Jerome in his reply paraphrases the passage as follows: |Therefore I tell you, my little children, whosoever is born of God, committeth no sin, in order that you may not sin and that you may know that you will remain sons of God so long as you refrain from sin.|(1211) St. Augustine teaches: |If a man, being regenerate and justified, relapses of his own will into an evil life, assuredly he cannot say: 'I have not received,' because of his own free choice of evil he has lost the grace of God that he has received.|(1212) And St. Gregory the Great:

|As he who falls away from the faith is an apostate, so he who returns to an evil deed is regarded by Almighty God as an apostate, even though he may seem to retain the faith; for the one without the other can be of no use, because faith availeth nought without [good] works, nor [good] works without faith.|(1213) The penitential discipline of the primitive Church furnishes additional proofs for the doctrine under consideration. If grace could be lost in no other way than by unbelief, the Sacrament of Penance would be useless.(1214)

c) In connection with this subject theologians are wont to discuss the question whether or not the forfeiture of sanctifying grace involves the loss of its supernatural concomitants.

Theological love or charity is substantially identical with sanctifying grace, or at least inseparable from it, and hence both are gained and lost together. This is an article of faith. To lose sanctifying grace, therefore, is to lose theological love. On the other hand, it is equally de fide that theological faith (habitus fidei) is not destroyed by mortal sin;(1215) it can be lost only by the sin of unbelief.(1216) The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of theological hope. True, the Church has not definitely declared her mind with regard to hope, but it may be set down as her teaching that hope is not lost with grace and charity but survives like faith.(1217) The two contrary opposites of hope are desperation and presumption, concerning which theologians commonly hold that the former destroys hope, while the latter probably does not. But even if hope and charity are lost, faith may remain in the soul like a solitary root, from which, under more favorable conditions, new life is apt to spring. As regards the infused moral virtues and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost (and, a fortiori, His personal indwelling in the soul),(1218) it is the unanimous teaching that these disappear with sanctifying grace and charity, even though faith and hope survive. The reason is that these virtues and gifts are merely supernatural adjuncts of sanctifying grace and cannot persist without it. |Accessorium sequitur principale.|(1219)

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