EXPLANATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
Q. What is the grace of God?
A. It is a supernatural gift of God, not at all due to us; a divine quality communicated by God to the soul, which cleanses her from all the stains of sin, and renders her beautiful and agreeable in the eyes of God: It is also a divine help, which excites us and enables us to do good and avoid evil.
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DIFFERENT KINDS OF GRACE.
Q. How many kinds of grace are there?
A. It is principally divided into two kinds, actual grace and sanctifying grace.
Q. What dos actual grace do to us?
A. It fortifies and strengthens the soul.
Q. What good does sanctifying grace do to us?
A. It washes and beautifies the soul.
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EXPLANATION OF ACTUAL GRACE.
Q. What is actual grace?
A. Actual grace is an internal supernatural help, which God communicates to the soul, to enable us to do good and avoid evil.
Q. How does this actual grace operate in the soul?
A. First, By enlightening the understanding, to see what ought to be done or avoided, and inclining the will towards what is good, or averting it from evil; and, on this account, it is called exciting grace, and preventing grace. It is called exciting grace, because it excites and invites us, as it were, to do good and avoid evil; and it is called preventing grace because it is wholly the work of God in our souls, and precedes every deliberate or voluntary act of our own, as experience itself teaches us; for we feel those holy inspirations arise in our souls, without any thing done by us to procure them, or having it in our power to hinder them; though, when they come, we have it always in our power either to comply with them or to resist them.
Second, When we freely comply with this first motion of actual grace, it continues to fortify and strengthen us to go on and perfect the good work we have begun; and on this account it is called concomitant grace; because it accompanies us during the whole good action; and strengthening or helping grace, because it helps our salvation, and enable us to perform it.
Q. What does the scripture say of this actual grace?
A. Our Savior says himself, "Behold I stand at the door and knock." See here the exciting grace; and he immediately adds, "If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me," Rev. iii. 20. Behold the helping grace, or the continuation of his actual grace, when we comply with the first motions it works in our souls. To the same purpose St. Paul says, "It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good pleasure," Phil. ii. 3. God worketh in us to will, by his exciting grace, without which we could never of ourselves have a good thought: and to accomplish by his helping grace, without which we can do nothing. David was very sensible of this when he said, "My God, his mercy shall prevent me," Ps. lviii. 11. And again, "Thou hast held me by thy right hand, and by thy will thou hast conducted me," Ps. lxxii. 24. "And they mercy shall follow me all the days of my life," Ps. xxxi. 6. On this subject St. Paul also says, "He who hath begun the good work in you shall perfect it," Phil. i. 6. To show that it is God who first begins, and then enables us by his help to perfect it.
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NO SALVATION WITHOUT THE HELP OF GOD'S GRACE.
Q. Can we, by our own natural strength, without the help of God's grace, do any thing towards our salvation?
A. No; we cannot by ourselves, and without the grace of God, do the least thing towards our salvation, neither in thought, words, nor deed; nor so much as have a good notion in our heart towards God, but which must first be excited in us by him.
As this is the point of the greatest importance, the foundation of true Christian humility, and the source of all good to our souls, it is necessary to establish it in the strongest manner; the more so, because our pride, the deepest and most dangerous wound our nature has received from sin, recoils at this truth, and endeavors to hide it entirely from our eyes. From this unhappy blindness towards ourselves, and towards our own weakness and misery, innumerable evils flow to our poor souls; wherefore we must consider fully what the word of God teaches us concerning this great Christian truth.
First, No man can take the smallest step to come to Jesus Christ, unless he be moved and assisted thereto to God. This our Savior declares in express terms, "No man can come to me," says he, except the Father who hath sent me draw him," John vi. 44.; and not by compulsion, not by laying the free will of man under any necessity, but by the strong and sweet motions of his heavenly grace;and, a little after repeating the same truth, he says, "No man can come to me, unless it be given him of my Father," verse 66. To show that this grace is not a force or constraint put upon us, but a gift of God, an effect of his mercy, enlightening our minds to see, and inclining our wills to do what is good, and when we consent to and comply with that inclination, assisting us to complete the good work. To the same purpose St. Paul says, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," Rom. ix. 16. Because no natural will nor endeavor off our own can ever lead us towards Christ, unless we be excited thereto by the mercy of God.
Second, We cannot have true faith in Jesus Christ, nor believe the sacred truths of eternity with divine faith, without the help of his grace. Thus St. Paul declares, "To you it is given for Christ to believe in him," Philip. i. 29. And again, "By grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God," Ephes. ii. 8. Hence the Church of Christ, by the mouth of her General Councils, pronounces Anathema upon those who teach, that "without the preventing inspiration and help of the Holy Ghost, a man can believe as he ought," Conc. Trid. Sees. 6. can. 3.
Third, A sinner cannot, by his own strength, repent of his sins as he ought, unless he receive the grace of repentance from the mercy of God. This we have seen above; to which add what St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, attributing this favor entirely to the mercy, grace, and love of God; "God," says he, who is rich in mercy, for the exceeding great charity, wherewith he loves us, even when we were dead by sin, hath quickened us together in Christ, by whose grace ye are saved," Eph. ii.4
Fourth, We can neither think a good thought, nor speak a good word, which can be useful towards our salvation, without the assistance of God; for we are not sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God," 2 Cor. iii. 5. "Wherefore I give you to understand - that no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost," 1 Cor. xii. 3. And hence the wise man says, "It is the part of the Lord to govern the tongue, Prov. xvi. 1.; to show that we can never speak what is good and conducive to our salvation, unless the Lord guide and assist us in what we say.
Fifth, We cannot do a good action, nor produce any good fruit conducive to eternal happiness, without the help of God. "I am the vine," says Jesus Christ, "you the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing," John xv. 5. He does not say, without me you can do little; because this would suppose we could do something of ourselves; but he absolutely says, "Without me you can do nothing," to show that, whether little or much, we cannot do it without his assistance.
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THE GRACE OF GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.
In a word, whatever we do towards our salvation, whatever progress we make in virtue or Christian perfection, all flows from the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ. It is he "who worketh in us both to will and to accomplish, according to his good pleasure," Phil. ii. 13. "It is he who begins the good work in us, and who also perfects it," Phil. i. 6. Hence St. Paul acknowledges, that all the good that is in him, and all the good works he had wrought, flowed from this divine grace and mercy; "By the grace of God," says he, "I am what I am, and his grace in me hath not been void; but I have labored more abundantly than all they; yet not I, but the race of God with me," 1 Cor. xv. 10.
Q. Why does the Apostle say the grace of God with me?
A. By these words he shows, that, although Almighty God is always the first to begin the good work in us, by his exciting and preventing grace; and, although it is God who carries on the good work in us to its perfection, by his assisting grace; yet it is not the grace alone that does it, but that we also co-operate with this grace, freely consenting to its motions in our soul, and willingly performing the good work to which it inclines and assists us. Almighty God will cure your infirmities, says St. Augustine; but "you must be willing yourself; he heals all that are infirm, but he heals none but those who are willing to be cured," in Ps. 102, n. 6. He stands at the door of our heart and knocks, by his preventing grace; but we must yield to his call, and open the door of our heart to him, if we want him to come in and sup with us;" that is, without any co-operation on your part, "will not justify you without you;" that is, without your will and co- operation.
Q. Is it in our power to resit the grace of God, and not consent to it?
A. Yes. The grace of God does not force us, nor take away our free will; but it helps our weakness, and enables us to will and do what we could neither will nor do without it; consequently, whether we consent to the motions of his grace, or resist them, in either case we act with the full freedom of our will; when we consent, we have it in our power not to consent, and when we resist, we have it in our power to consent. Free will is an essential part of our nature with which we were created; for "God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel." He added his commandments and precepts: "If thou wilt keep the commandments and perform acceptable fidelity for ever, they shall preserve thee. He hath set water and fire before thee; stretch forth thy hand to which thou wilt. Before man is life and death, good and evil; that which he shall choose, shall be given him," Ecclus. xv. 14. This liberty and free will with which God created man, was greatly diminished by original sin, and our power of doing good exceedingly weakened, from the violence of concupiscence let loose in our souls by that sin. Now, the grace of Jesus Christ cures this infirmity, fortifies and perfects our liberty, excites us to do good, and enables us to perform it: but by no means forces us. Fatal experience itself teaches us, that we too often resist the motions of grace; which is the source of all our woe.
Q. Why do you say, that without the help of God's grace we can do nothing towards our salvation?
A. That is to say, that whatever good actions we may do by the mere strength of nature, and without the aid of the grace of Jesus Christ, it can never, in any manner, conduce to our eternal salvation; because "there is no other name given to men under heaven, by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus only, neither is there salvation in any other," Acts iv. 12. Hence whatever we do independent of him, however laudable it may be in itself, or in the eyes of men, can in no way contribute, neither mediately nor immediately, towards our salvation. Nothing can conduce, in any degree, towards our salvation, but through the merits of Christ.
The merits of Jesus Christ are applied to our souls only by his grace; whatever, then, we do in union with his grace, partakes of his merits; and, whatever we do without his grace, and by the force of nature alone, partakes not of his merits, and, therefore, can be of no use towards our salvation; hence he himself says, "Without me you can do nothing;" namely, nothing conducive to salvation; and St. Paul says, "No man can say, Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Spirit;" to wit, no man can say it, so as to conduce to his salvation.
Q. But can man do any thing good at all without the grace of God?
A. Observe, although our nature was greatly vitiated by sin; yet it was not totally corrupted and lost to all good. There still remain in us some sparks of that original rectitude in which we were created; and hence, among the numberless vicious dispositions of the heart of man, there are few or none to be found who have not some good natural inclinations, some to one moral virtue, some to another. Thus some are naturally inclined to compassion, some to generosity, some to honesty in their dealings, and so of others.
Now, though these good natural dispositions will not be able to support a man, when they are occasionally opposed by other violent passions; yet in ordinary cases he can act according to them, and, when he does so, he performs a good moral action; and this he certainly may do by the strength of nature only; and though such actions can in no respect conduce to salvation, which is a supernatural reward, yet they do not fail to receive from God some temporal recompense; for the divine justice "will render to every one according to his works." Return to Table of Contents
GOD BESTOWS HIS GRACE UPON ALL MEN.
Q. As we cannot possibly do any thing conducive to our eternal salvation, without the actual grace of God exciting us, and aiding us thereto, does God bestow his grace upon all men without exception?
A. It would certainly be the height of impiety to suppose that God would lay his commands upon his creatures, and oblige us to obey them, under pain of eternal damnation, the most dreadful of evils, and at the same time refuse to give us those helps without which it is impossible for us to observe them. Nothing can be more contrary to every idea we have of the wisdom, goodness, and justice of God, than such a supposition.
Seeing, then, that God commands all men, without exception, to do good, and avoid evil, he certainly gives to all such helps of his grace, as he sees necessary to enable them to do so, and by doing so to save their souls. This truth is laid down to us in the scripture as follows: "Wisdom preacheth abroad, she uttereth her voice in the streets; at the head of the multitudes she cries out, in the entrance of the gates of the city she uttereth her words, saying, O children, how long will you love childishness, and fools covet those things which are hurtful to themselves, and the unwise hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof; behold I will utter my spirit to you, and will show you my words," Prov. i. 20. So speaks the wisdom of God in all places, and to all men, reproving them for their evil ways, inviting them to good, and promising the Divine Spirit to those that give ear to this invitations. Again, "Thou hast mercy upon all, because thou canst do all things, and winkest at the sins of men, because of repentance. For thou lovest all things that are, and hatest nothing of the things that thou hast made - but thou sparest all because they are thine, O Lord, who lovest souls," Wisd. xi. 24. Here we see that God loveth all that he has made, consequently all men without exception; that he spares them, and has mercy upon them; consequently, he gives to all, without exception, such helps of his grace, at least, as are necessary for enabling them to repent, and do good, and save their souls, if they co-operate with them: otherwise his loving them, having mercy on them, and sparing them, would be nugatory, and to no purpose.
To the same purpose Jesus Christ says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man shall hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and be with me. TO him that shall overcome I will give to sit with me on my throne," Rev. iii. 20. Christ then knocks at the hearts of all; there is no exception; and if any man opens, be he what he will if he gives Christ entrance, and co-operating with him, shall overcome, eternal glory shall be his reward. On this account, it is said of Christ, that he is "the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world," Jo. i. 9.; consequently, every man, without exception, is enlightened by Christ; for, "to every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ," Eph. iv. 7. That is, he gives to some more, to some less, as he thinks proper, but to all what is sufficient for their needs, if they comply with what he gives. He is master of his own gifts, and may give more abundantly to whom he pleases, as he did to the Jews of old, of whom it is said, "He hath not done in like manner to every nation," Ps. cxlvii. 20.; and he gives give talents to one, two to another, and only one to a third; but that one was sufficient for him who received it, and therefore he was justly condemned for not improving it.
Aside from these general proofs, which show that God gives to all men the graces absolutely necessary for their salvation, there are also several plain testimonies of scripture which prove the same, in particular, of each of the three classes into which mankind are divided, to wit, true believers who are in the state of grace, true believers who are in the state of sin and unbelievers.
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GOD DOES NOT COMMAND IMPOSSIBILITIES.
Q. How is this shown with regard to those who are in the state of grace?
A. That the just who are in the state of grace, and in friendship with God, are never deprived of such helps of the actual grace of God as enable them, if they themselves be willing to co-operate with them, to keep all the commandments of God, and persevere in the state of grace, is an article of divine faith, which assure us,
First, That "God is able to make all grace abound in you, that ye always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good word," 2 Cor. ix. 8.; for "I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me," Phil. iv: 13.
Second, That the stronger the temptation is, the greater grace is given to enable the just man to overcome it, for "to envy doth the spirit covet that dwelleth in you; but he giveth greater grace," Ja. iv. 5.
Third, That God hath pledged his sacred promise to give them this grace; for "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with temptation issue (that is, a way to escape,) that you may be able to hear it," 1 Cor. x. 13., and the church, in the council of Trent, defines this: "If any one shall say that the commands of God are impossible to be observed by a just man, who is in the state of grace, let him be anathema," Sess. vi. can. 18.; and hence assures, that "God does not forsake those that are justified by his grace, unless he be first forsaken by them," Sess vi. ch. 11.; for anything, "he admonishes us to do what we can, to pray for what help we need, and then he helps us to make us able," Ibid.
Q. Why does the council say, to pray for what help we need?
A. It is to show us, that the grace enabling us to pray is never wanting, and this grace, if well used, will never fail to obtain all other necessary helps, according to our Savior's ample promise, "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you;" and, consequently, that it is always in our power to keep the commandments of God, and overcome all temptations of breaking them, seeing we always have either the actual assistance of God's grace enabling us to do so, or the grace of prayer, by the proper use of which that actual assistance will certainly be obtained.
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THE INVITATION TO REPENT OF PAST SINS.
Q. How does it appear that Almighty God gives the necessary assistance of his grace to true believers who are in the state of sin?
A. Two things God requires of people in this state: first, to repent of their past sins, and return to his friendship; and, secondly, not to go on in a sinful course, but to keep his commandments. Now, as God expressly requires both these things from them, the proofs of the preceding case evince in this also, that he gives such sinners the necessary helps to enable them to do both; to which the following proofs are added: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his evil ways and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; and why will you die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. xxxiii. 11. Now, if God so earnestly wills the life of the sinner, and so pressingly invites him to turn and live, he must necessarily give him grace to enable him to do so. The same reason holds from what St. Peter says, "The Lord dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance," 2 Pet. iii. 3.; and our Savior warmly invites all such to come to him, and, consequently, gives them the necessary graces to enable them to follow his invitation,"Come to me," says he, "all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you," Matth. xi.; besides, all the above general proofs have particular place here.
Q. But what if the sinner be blinded and hardened in his sin?
A. Nothing, to be sure, is more deplorable than the state of a blinded and hardened sinner. A blinded sinner is one who has taken up some false and dangerous opinions, and is so positive and fixed in them, that he shuts his eyes to every thing that can undeceive him. A hardened sinner, is one whose passions and affections towards some bad objects are so strong, that he condemns and resists all the admonitions which God sends him, whether by the interior motions of the grace, or the exterior call from his holy word, good works, exhortations of pastors, or the like.
This most unhappy state is in itself a sinful state; for it is a sin to have our mind or heart tied to any false or sinful object; it is also a consequence and punishment of former sins; and, what is no less deplorable, it is the cause and source of other sins. Though this is a great evil, God Almighty, through the riches of his mercy does not entirely abandon such sinners, but visits them from time to time with his holy calls, both by exterior occasions, and the internal motions of his holy spirit, with which if they could concur, they might work out their conversion. This appears from what St. Stephen said to the blind and obdurate Jews, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and in ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost," Acts vii. 51. which shows that the Holy Ghost did not entirely withdraw the offers of his grace from them, but that they obstinately resisted and rejected them.
St. Paul also, speaking to such sinners, says, "Knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth thee to repentance; but according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the just judgment of God," Rom. ii. 4.; where we see that the goodness of God does not give over entirely moving such sinners to repentance; but their hard heart, rejecting all his calls, justly increases the measure of their guilt and punishment.
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THE GREAT PUNISHMENT IN THIS LIFE.
Q. Why do you say that he does not entirely abandon them?
A. Because though God, out of his infinite goodness, does not wholly leave such sinners while they are in his life; yet in just punishment of their repeated abuses of mercy, he withdraws his more powerful grace from them, visits them seldomer, and sometimes leaves them for a while entirely. On this account, their blindness towards spiritual things becomes greater, and the hardness of their heart more confirmed. And in this sense it is said in scripture, that God sometimes hardens sinners, blinds them, leaves them to their own inventions, gives them upon their lusts, or to a reprobate sense, and the like; which is certainly the greatest of all punishments which he inflicts upon sinners in this life, but what such sinners most justly deserve for their repeated abuses of mercy.
Q. How comes this to be so dreadful a punishment?
A. Because, as we can do no good of ourselves without the grace of God, so, left to ourselves, without the aid of his holy grace, there is no manner of crimes into which we would not plunge ourselves headlong. Hear how the scripture shows us what we are of ourselves, "God saw that the wickedness of men was great upon the earth, and that all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times," Gen. vi. 5.; "And the Lord said, the imagination and thought of moan's heart are prone to evil from their youth," Gen. viii. 21. "The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it?" Jer. xvii. 9, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies," Matth. xv. 19. She also the description which St. Paul gives, Rom i. and iii. of the abominations which the heathens fell into, "in times past, when" as he tells us, "God suffered all nations to walk in their own way," Acts xiv. 15. Therefore, to be left to ourselves, and deprived of the grace of God, is to be left in the hands of our greatest enemy, so as to be hurried on by him to certain damnation.
Q. How does it appear that God gives to unbelievers such helps of his actual grace as are sufficient to enable them to arrive at salvation?
A. Besides the general proofs given above, which show that he does this to all men, without exception, there are also these two following:
First, "God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the ruth," 1 Tim. ii. 4. He wills all to be saved, as the great end for which he created them; and to come to the knowledge of the truth, as a necessary condition of salvation, because, "without faith it is impossible to please God," Hebrews xi. 6. Now, infidels, or unbelievers have not this knowledge of the truth. Seeing, therefore, that God expressly wills they should get it and be saved, consequently he gives them such graces as are sufficient, if they co-operate with them, to bring them to it." Second, Jesus Christ "gave himself a redemption for all," 1 Tim. ii. 6.; and "he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, "but also for those of the whole world," 1 John ii. 2.; for "he is the Savior of all men, especially of the faithful," 1 Tim. iv. 10.: hence all must receive, in some manner or other, the fruits of his redemption; with a view to their salvation, by means of his grace; therefore, all infidels, Jews, Turks, and Heathens, received from God, in such measure and manner as he sees proper, such graces as are sufficient, if they cooperate with them, to bring them to the knowledge of the truth, and to salvation.
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THE TENDENCY OF GRACE.
Q. What is the tendency of all those actual graces which God bestows upon all mankind?
A. The ultimate tendency of them all is to procure the salvation of souls; but their immediate tendency is different, according to the different people who receive them. In unbelievers the immediate end of these graces is to enable them to observe the law of nature, by avoiding evil and doing good; which if they comply with faithfully, greater and greater graces of the same kind would be given them, till at last the Divine Wisdom would bring them, in such manner as he sees proper, to the knowledge of the truth and to the faith of Jesus Christ. In the faithful who are in the state of sin, these graces tend immediately to excite them to repentance, and bring them to the grace of justification. In those who are justified and in the state of grace, the actual graces they receive, enable them to persevere in that happy state, by obeying the commands of God, and to secure their salvation.
Q. When comes it that these noble effects are so seldom produced in the greatest part of mankind?
A. Not from any deficiency in the graces we receive, which are all fully sufficient for producing these effects in our souls; but from the perverse will of man, which resists these motions of the grace of God, refuses to comply with them, and renders them of no effect.
Q. But cannot Almighty God give us such graces as would effectually overcome that perverseness of our will?
A. Yes: Almighty God has an absolute power over the heart of man, and in the treasures of his infinite wisdom and mercy, has such superabundant and suitable helps and graces to give him, as would infallibly procure his free and willing consent to whatever God requires from him. This power he exercised in a most miraculous manner in the conversion of St. Paul, St. Mary Magdalen, and others. Hence the scripture affirms "that God works in us both to will and to do, according to his good pleasure;" and God himself says, "I will give you a new heart and a new spirit - and I will put my spirit in the midst of you, and I will cause you to walk in my commandments," Ezek. xxxvi. 26.; also the Wise Man says, "The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, whithersoever he will put he shall turn it," Prov. xxi. 1. This supreme dominion which God has over the heart and will of man, as our sovereign Lord, he exercises not by forcing our will or infringing on our liberty, but by giving us such abundant and suitable graces as he infallibly knows will procure our ready consent, and effectually enable us to do what he pleases, and cheerfully to walk in his commandments. Thus David says, "I have run in the way of thy commandments, when thou didst dilate my heart," Psal. cxviii. 32.
The Holy Ghost pronounces that man "blessed, that could have transgressed, and could do evil things, and hath not done them; therefore are his goods established in the Lord," Ecclus. xxxi. 10.; where it is manifest, and expressly affirmed, that when, through the grace of God, we observe his commands, we have it in our power to transgress them, and when we abstain from evil we have it in our power to do it; and therefore, that the grace by which we do good and avoid evil, and by which God causes us to walk in his commandments, and turns our heart whithersoever he pleases, does by no means force us, or hurt our free will, but strengthens and rectifies and perfects it.
On this account, these graces of God which man resists, and to which he refuses his consent, are called, in the language of divine sufficient graces because they are always sufficient to enable us to do what God requires we should do when he gives them, though by our resistance we do it not; but those graces to which we consent, and with which we cooperate, are called efficacious graces, because the happy effects for which they are given are actually produced in our consent and co-operation with them.
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GOD'S GOODNESS TO MEN.
Q. Is Almighty God obliged to give us these superabundant and efficacious graces?
A. Observe: man of himself has no manner of right, claim or title to any grace from God at all; being by nature born in sin, and a child of wrath, he is the just object of God's justice, but has nothing in himself which can give him the smallest claim to favor. So that God has no obligation, on the part of man to give him any grace at all. As God has a sincere will for the salvation of all men, and as Jesus Christ died for the salvation of all, and through the merits of his death, obtained for them all such graces as are necessary for enabling them to procure their salvation; therefore, God Almighty becomes obliged to his own goodness, which thus wills all to be saved, and to Jesus Christ, which has bought for us the necessary helps to salvation, to bestow on all mankind such graces as are necessary and sufficient for enabling them to work out their salvation, if they consent to, and co-operate with them; and these, as we have seen at large, he actually gives to all, without exception; so that, whoever is lost, is lost through his own fault, for not making the use that he might make of the graces which God bestows upon him.
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THE EFFECTS OF PURE MERCY.
As for those other super-abundant graces, God is, properly speaking, obliged to give them to none; they are the effects of his pure mercy, and he gives them to whom he pleases; he is sole master of his own gifts, and distributes them according to his own pleasure; and, as it is impossible for men to comprehend his unsearchable judgment in the distribution of his graces, so none can find fault with what he does, or say to him, "Why dost thou so?" This we know for certain, and this is fully sufficient for us to know, that God gives to all what is necessary; that we have it in our power to be saved, if we will ourselves; that the grace of prayer is never wanting to us, and that, if we make a good use of the graces God gives us, and pray as we ought for more, we shall undoubtedly obtain whatever we stand in need of; that, therefore, if we be lost, it is wholly our own fault, and if we be saved, we owe this to his infinite goodness only, through the merits of Jesus; according to what he says by his prophet, "Destruction is thy won, O Israel, they help is only in me," Hosea xiii. 9.
Q. On what occasions does God commonly bestow his grace upon men?
A. Times and moments are in the hands of the Almighty, who bestows his gifts when and how he pleases and is not tied to occasions; but of this we are sure, that the necessary helps of his grace are always ready when our wants require them. We may also be assured, that he will never refuse them when we pray in a proper manner for them. We know from experience, that our merciful God frequently sends us pious thoughts and holy inspirations, from time to time, without any other rule than his own good pleasure; and did we attend as we ought, to our own interior, and keep our heart free from all inordinate attachments to creatures, unbiased by depraved affections, and undisturbed by passions, we would receive these holy inspirations oftener, and be much more sensible of them. But the most ordinary occasions on which God sends us, the more sensible touches of his grace are to accompany his external graces.
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EXTERNAL HELPS TO SALVATION.
Q. What do you mean by external graces?
A. All those external helps to salvation which God has appointed; such as the great mysteries of our redemption, a Christian education, the good examples of others, miracles, the preaching of his word, the exhortations of our spiritual directors, reading good books, and the like; all which are intended as helps to our salvation; and, when we either read, see, hear, or mediate upon them, are generally accompanied by the proper interior graces, in order to render them profitable to our souls. Thus David was brought to a sense of his sin, and to repentance, on the reproof he received from Nathan, by the internal grace accompanying that reprehension. The Ninevites did penance at the preaching of Jonas; the good thief was converted at seeing the wonderful patience of Jesus.
Q. Can these external helps be of any use without internal graces?
A. No, they cannot; "It is the Holy Ghost," says St. Augustine, "that operates internally, in order to make the external help of service," Civ. Dei, 1. 15. c. 6. We read of a sermon of St. Paul, at which only one woman was converted, of whom it was said, "whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things that were said by Paul," Acts xvi. 14.
Q. What consequences flow from this?
A. Two very important sequences:
1`. That as these external graces are the most ordinary occasions on which Almighty God speaks to the heart, we ought to be extremely zealous in the daily use of them, meditating often on the great truths of religion, reading pious books, hearing the word of God, and the like.
2. That, as none of these helps can be of benefit to ourselves, nor can any of these means used by us to others, be of any service to them, except God be pleased to accompany them with his actual grace, we ought, therefore, to be extremely careful upon all such occasions, to pray earnestly to God beforehand for his benediction; for "Paul may plant, and Apollo may water, but it is God alone that gives the increases," 1 Cor. iii. 6.
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GRACE, JUSTICE AND CHARITY.
Q. What is sanctifying grace?
A. St. Peter calls it a "participation of the Divine Nature," 2 Pet. i. 4. And St. Paul calls it in one place "the charity of God which is poured abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost," Rom. v. 5.; and in another, "justice of God by faith of Jesus Christ upon all them that believe in him," Rom. iii. 22. The wise men calls it "a vapor of the power of God, and a certain pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; and that no defiled thing can come near it," Wisd. vii. 25.
From all this, it appears that the sanctifying grace of God is a communication which God makes to our souls of himself; and it is called Grace, because it is a free gift of his mercy through the merits of Christ; it is called Justice, because by it our sins are washed away from us, the disorders of our souls are rectified, and our souls rendered just and holy in his sight; and it is called Charity, because it enables us to love God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves.
Q. Can this be explained by an example?
A. Yes. That of iron and fire: Iron of its own nature is of a blackish ugly color, is very cold, and very hard; but, when it is heated in a strong fire it loses all its ugly appearance, and becomes bright and shining like the fire itself. It also becomes burning hot, and at the same time soft and ductile, so as easily to be formed into any shape the workman pleases. In like manner, a soul in the state of sin is ugly and hateful in the sight of God, cold and tepid towards all that is good, and of itself hard and obdurate in its evil ways; but, when the great God communicates himself to such a soul, by his justifying race all her defilements are washed away, and she becomes just and beautiful before him. She is also warmed with his holy love and true devotion, and becomes pliable to his blessed will in obedience to his commandments. And this explains what St. Paul means when he says, "As many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ," Gal. iii. 27.; because by the grace of justification received in baptism, the justice and sanctify of Christ is poured forth into our souls, which makes us resemble him, as the iron inflamed with the fire, resembles the fire itself. There is the example of the soul and the body of man: A dead body, without the soul, is a loathsome spectacle, incapable of doing any vital action, and tending of itself to nothing but rottenness and corruption; but, when the soul is united to the body, it becomes alive, and has all the beauty of the human form, easily performs all the actions of life, and is preserved from corruption.
In like manner a soul in the state of sin is a dead soul, and loathsome to behold in the eyes of God and of his holy angels. She is incapable, by any strength of her own, of performing any vital action of the spiritual life conducive to her eternal salvation, and of herself, tends only to run farther and farther into the corruption of sin; but, when the grace of God is poured down into such a soul, the becomes alive, and beautiful in his sight, can easily perform the duties of the spiritual life, meritorious of eternal salvation, and is strongly fortified against all the corruption of sin.
Hence this grace of God is called habitual grace, because it remains constantly in the soul, unless it be destroyed by mortal sin; "because his spirit dwelleth in you," Rom. viii. 11. It is also called sanctifying grace, because it sanctifies the soul, that is, makes it holy and pure, before God; and it is called justifying grace, because it justifies, that is, cures the disorders of the soul, and renders us just and upright in the eyes of God.
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PASSING FROM THE STATE OF SIN TO THE STATE OF GRACE.
Q. What is meant by justification?
A. It is when the soul passes from the state of sin to the state of grace.
Q. What is meant by being in a state of sin?
A. To be in the state of sin is to be deprived of the grace of God, and at enmity with God.
Q. What is it to be in the state of grace?
A. It is to be cleansed from the guilt of sin, adorned with the grace of God, and in friendship with God.
Q. What are the effects which sanctifying grace produces in the soul?
A. They are many and most excellent.
First, IT WASHES AWAY ALL THE STAINS AND GUILT OF SIN FROM THE SOUL, through the merit of the blood of Christ, which is applies to the soul, according to that, "the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin," 1 John i. 7.
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THE SOUL BEAUTIFUL.
Second, IT CURES ALL THE DEADLY INFIRMITIES OF THE SOUL, as the Prophet declares in these words: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he has done for thee; who forgiveth all thy iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases," Psal. cii. 2. And hence our Savior calls himself the physician of souls, when he says, "They that are in health need not a physical; but they that are ill - for I am not come to call the just, but sinners," Matth. ix. 12. not that grace takes away all the effects of sin from the soul; concupiscence, or that proclivity to sin which followed upon the loss of original justice, still remains, neither does it destroy those bad habits which we have contracted by actual sin; but it strengthens the soul against both, and enables us to fight against them, and overcome them: for these effects of sin are not sin in themselves, except in as far as we consent to them; but when we faithfully resist them they cannot hurt us, but are the field of our victory, and the increase of our crown.
Third, IT BEAUTIFIES THE SOUL, and renders us agreeable and delightful in the eyes of our Creator; resembling Jesus Christ by the union we have with him through grace; just as the fire when it thoroughly penetrates a piece of iron, not only takes away all its natural blackness, but makes it shining and bright, and glowing like the fire itself. Hence the scripture says, "he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight, in charity," Eph. i. 4. And on this account the Lord loveth the just, Psal. cxlv. 8; "for his soul pleased God," Wisd. iv. 14.; and why? "How beautiful is the chaste generation with glory!" Wisdom iv. 1.
Fourth, IT MAKES US TEMPLES OF THE HOLY GHOST, who dwells in a particular manner in the soul of the just. "Know you not," says the Apostle, "that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you? - for the temple of God is holy, which you are," 1 Cor. iii. 16. "Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God!" 1 Cor. vi.19.
Fifth, IT MAKES US THE ADOPTED CHILDREN OF GOD; "for whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God; - you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry (Abba) Father; for the spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God," Rom. viii. 14. because by the inward motions of Divine love, and the peace of conscience which the children of God experience, they have a kind of testimony of God's favor, which strengthens their hope of salvation, and their confidence in God as their loving Father. St. John speaks of this dignity with amazement, "Behold," says he, "what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called, and should be the sons of God!" 1 John iii. 1.
Sixth, IT MAKES US HEIRS OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, giving us a right and title, as sons, to that eternal inheritance; for, "if sons, heirs also, heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ," Rom. viii. 17. "And because you are sons, God hath sent the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore he is now no more a servant, but a son; and if a Son, an heir also, through God," Gal. iv.
Seventh, IT ADORNS THE SOUL WITH THE HABIT OF ALL CHRISTIAN VIRTUES, "according to the riches of his grace, which hath super- abounded in us in all wisdom and prudence," Eph. i. 7.; and particularly in these divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity: for thus the word of God describes the admirable virtues which accompany the spirit of wisdom, and which he communicates to the soul in whom he dwells, by sanctifying grace: "I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me - Now, all good things came to me together, with her, and innumerable riches through her hands - she is an infinite treasurer to men, which they that use become the friends of God - for in her is the spirit of understanding - for she is a vapor of the power of God, and a certain pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty God; and, therefore, no defiled thing cometh near her - she conveyeth herself into holy souls, and maketh friends of God and prophets; for God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom; for she is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of the stars; being compared with light, she is found before it. - It is she that teacheth the knowledge of God - And if a man love justice, her labors have great virtues; for she teacheth temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude, which are such things as men can have nothing more profitable in life - her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness, but joy and gladness; and there is a great delight in her friendship, and inexhaustible riches is the works of her hands," Wisd. vii. viii.; through the whole. Behold what an amiable description of the admirable benefits which the Divine wisdom communicates to the soul in whom she dwells, by sanctifying race, and which she never fails effectually to produce in those who faithfully co-operate with her holy inspirations, and study in all their doings to act by her light and direction.
Eight, IT GIVES A DIGNITY, VALUE AND MERIT, TO ALL OUR GOOD WORKS, which makes them most acceptable in the sight of God, and worthy of an ample reward from him both of an increase of grace in this life, and of eternal glory in the life to come. For, when a soul is united to Jesus Christ by his grace, the good works which that soul performs, in obedience to his holy will, and from a pure intention of pleasing him, are now no longer the works of corrupted sinful man, but are the works of the friends of God, fruits produced from the branch untied to the vine, which in Christ, receiving all their nourishment from the vine, and dignified by his merits communicated to them by grace. Thus he himself says "I am the vine, you the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit," John xv. 5. And to show that these good works obtain an increase of grace, hear he says, "Every branch in me that beareth fruit, he (my Father) will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit," John xv. 2; and that they procure both an increase of sanctification here, and at our last eternal life, St. Paul assures us in these words, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and in the end everlasting life; for the wages of sin is death; but the grace of God everlasting life; in Christ Jesus our Lord," Rom. vi. 23.
Hence the holy scripture every where proposes the kingdom of heaven as a reward and recompense given by a just God the good works done in the state of grace. Thus God said to Abraham, when he was ready to sacrifice his son, "By my own self have I sworn, because thou hast done this thing - I will bless thee," Gen. xxii. 16. "I myself will be your reward," said he upon another occasion, "exceeding great," Gen. xv. 1. "Be glad," says Jesus Christ, "and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven," Matth. v.12. So he promises an open reward from our heavenly Father, to "prayer, fasting, and alms," Matth. vi. And at the last day he will say to the good, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you; for I was hungry, and ye gave me meat," &c. Matth. xxv. "A cup of water given in his name shall not lose its reward," Matth. x. 42. "Our present tribulation worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory," 2 Cor. iv. 17.
Hence St. Paul says, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; for the rest there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the Just Judge, will render to me at that day," 2 Tim. iv. 7. Now, all this is the effect of the sanctifying grace of God, who crows his own gifts in us; and, therefore,
Ninth, IT BRINGS US AT LAST TO ETERNAL HAPPINESS, if we persevere in the state of grace to the end; for being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him," Rom. v. 9. And "they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one Jesus Christ," Ibid. ver. 17. For, "according to his mercy he saved us by the laver of regeneration, and renovation of the Holy Ghost, whom he poured forth upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we may be heirs according to hope of life everlasting," Tit. iii. 5.
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AN IMMENSE TREASURE OF SPIRITUAL RICHES.
We can now see what an immense treasure of spiritual riches the grace of God brings to the soul; and consequently, what a great value we ought to put upon it, how diligent we should be to preserve and increase it, and how careful not to lose it. The grace of God is the great instrument of our salvation; because by it we are delivered from our past sins, and preserved from sin for the time to come. With great reason, then, the wise man put so great a value upon the Divine wisdom, by whom this sanctifying grace is poured down upon our souls, when he said, "I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches as nothing, in comparison of her; neither did I compare unto her any previous stone; for all gold, in comparison of her, is a little sand; and silver, in respect to her, shall be accounted as clay. I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light, for her light cannot be put out," Wisd. vii. 8.
Such is the esteem every Christian ought to have of the grace of God, so as to be ready to part with every thing this world can afford, rather than lose their heavenly treasure, and be separated from the charity of God, which is in Christ Jesus, by consenting to mortal sin. Such was the high esteem that St. Paul and all the saints of God had of it, who all could say with that holy Apostle, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation? shall distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or prosecution? or the sword? - for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor principalities, nor power, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is Christ Jesus," Rom. viii. 35. And why so? because he esteemed the happiness of being united to Jesus Christ, by justifying grace, before every thing else, and utterly despised every thing in this world, in comparison with that heavenly treasure. "I count all things to be but loss," says he, "for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith," Philip. iii. 8.
Q. Can the sanctifying grace of God be augmented in our souls?
A. Yes; and the more it is increased in a soul, the more pure, the more holy, the more beautiful a soul is, the more inflamed also, and the more fervent her love to God becomes; which is explained by the example of iron and fire, mentioned above, in which we see that the more the fire is heated about the iron, the more splendid, the more glowing, and the brighter does the iron become. Thus the scripture says, "The path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards, and increaseth even to perfect day," Prov. iv. 18. Hence the frequent exhortations to "be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus," 2 Tim. ii. 1; and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. iii. 18. And hence the angel in the Revelations cried out. "He that is Just, let him be justified still; and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still; Rev. xxii. 11. Which shows how careful we ought to be, not only to preserve, but also to increase this precious grace in our souls, by fervent prayer, and frequent goods works, which obtain from God an increase of grace, and by worthy frequenting the Holy Sacraments, which are the sacred channels by which he pours it down upon our souls.
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CAN JUSTIFYING GRACE BE DIMINISHED AND LOST FROM THE SOUL.
Q. Can justifying grace be diminished and lost from the soul?
A. No doubt the fervor of our charity may be weakened, the brightness of the soul may be obscured, and her beauty diminished; and this is the effect of venial sin, and tepidity in the service of God; which, though it does not of itself destroy the habit of charity, yet by diminishing its fervor, disposes and leads on the soul, by little and little to mortal sin, by which the grace of justification is entirely banished from the soul and lost. Thus we see that a piece of iron, though inflamed to the highest degree by the force of fire, and glowing and shining with brightens; yet, when taken out of the fire and exposed to the air, gradually loses its splendor, becomes less and less clear and glowing, and at last loses the appearance of fire entirely, and returns to its own blackish color it had before.
Q. How does it appear, that a person once justified, and in the grace of God, can lose that justification?
A. This is evident from numberless texts of scripture. Thus God said to Moses, "He that hath sinned against me, him will I strike out of my book," Exod. xxxii. 33. He must have been in his books before he sinned, and therefore justified; yet he loses his grace by his sin. "If any one abide not in me" says our Blessed Savior, "he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up and cast him into the fire, and be burneth," John xv. 6. "When the just shall depart from his justice, and commit iniquities, he shall die in them," Ezek. xxxiii. 18. Hence the frequent exhortations in scripture to "serve the Lord in fear," Ps. ii. 11. "Let him that thinketh himself to stand, take heed lest he fall," 1 Cor. x. 12. "With fear and trembling work out our salvation," Phil. ii. 12. "Take heed, lest being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness," 2 Pet. iii. 17. And St. Paul, though a chosen vessel, yet chastised his body and brought it into subjection, lest perhaps he should become a cast-away" 1 Cor. ix. 27.
Q. By what means can we recover the grace of justification, when we have lost it by sin?
A. The grace of justification is a free gift of the mercy of God, through the merits of Christ; and therefore, no good works whatsoever, which a sinner performs before justification, can ever merit or deserve that grace from God. Before justification, we are in the state of sin, separated from Jesus Christ; branches cut off from the vine, rotten members of his body in whom there is no life; and, therefore, incapable of bearing fruit, as he himself assures us; for, "as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself," says he, "unless it abide in the vine; so neither can you, unless you abide in me," John xv. 4. hence the scripture assures us, that we are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Rom. iii. 24.; to show that justification is by no means due to any preceding goods works of ours; for, "If by grace it is not now by works, otherwise grace is no more grace," Rom. xi. 6.
Though no good works done in the state of sin, can of themselves merit, or deserve the grace of justification; yet Almighty God expressly requires certain good works to be done by the sinner, as necessary dispositions for receiving that grace, and without which it will never be granted.
These dispositions, however, are his own gifts, produced in the soul of the sinner, by the help of actual grace, which God freely bestows upon him for the sake of Christ, and with which the sinner co-operating, disposes his soul for the grace of justification; and, when these dispositions are in the soul, the grace of justification is never refused; not as due to the sinner, but as due to Jesus Christ, and to God's own fidelity, who has promised, that, when the sinner is so disposed, he will receive him into his favor, and pardon his sins. So that the justification of a sinner is wholly the gift of God, both because the dispositions necessary to prepare the sinner for receiving it, are wholly his gifts, and justification itself is given to these dispositions, not as in justice due to them, but as the gift of God's mercy, through the merits of Jesus, and for his sake.
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TRUE REPENTANCE NEEDED.
Q. What are the dispositions for the justification of a sinner?
A. The holy scripture clearly points out to us the following virtues, as necessary for this end:
First, Faith in Jesus Christ; for, "without faith it is impossible to please God," Heb. ix. 6. And, therefore, "The justice of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all that believe in him," Rom. iii. 22.
Second, The fear of God; for, "the fear of the Lord driveth out sin; for he that is without fear cannot be justified," Ecclus. i. 27.
Third, Hope and confide in the mercy of God: for, "he that trusteth in the Lord shall be healed," Prov. xxviii. 25. And therefore, "we are saved by hope," Rom. viii. 24.
Fourth, A sincere love of God; for, "he that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is charity," 1 John iv. 8.; and, "he that loveth not, abideth in death," 1 John iii. 14. Hence, "many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much," Luke vii. 46.
Fifth, A sincere repentance for our sin; for, "except you repent, you shall all likewise perish," Luke xiii. 3. And, "repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," acts iii. 19. These are the dispositions pre-required by Almighty God, as necessary for preparing the soul, and making her capable of receiving the grace of justification; and when we are thus prepared, we must,
Sixth, have recourse to the sacrament of baptism, if we have not as yet been baptised, or to the sacrament of penance, if we have lost the grace received already in baptism. Not as if these Sacraments were another disposition to prepare us for our justification, but as the sacred instruments, ordained by Jesus Christ, by which the grace of justification is poured down into the soul, when disposed by the above mentioned virtues.
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AS WELL AS FAITH
REQUIRED TO DELIVER THE SOUL
Q. Will not faith alone serve to dispose a soul for justification?
A. No; all other conditions are required to drive away sin, to heal us, and to deliver us from death as well as faith; besides, St. Paul expressly says, although "I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountain and have not charity, I am nothing," 1 Cor. xiii. 2. And St. James decides this point in express terms, saying, after a long reasoning, to prove what he says, "Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only," James ii. 24. And St. Paul further declares, that "in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity," gal. v. 6.
Q. What kind of works do these Apostles speak off?
A. Not any works done by the mere light of nature, nor even the works of the law of Moses; for all these were incapable of bringing us to the grace of justification; for "the law brought nothing to perfection," Heb. vii. 19. And "the gifts and sacrifices of the law cannot as to the conscience, make him perfect that serveth," Heb. ix. 9.; "for it is impossible, that with the blood of oxen and goats, sins should be taken away," Heb. x. 4. Therefore, the words spoken by these Apostles, are faith in Jesus Christ, which is the root and foundation of all Christian works, and those other virtues of fear, hope, love, and repentance, which naturally flow from that faith, as the branches of a tree from the root; and, therefore, St. Paul, after showing the inability of the law, and all its sacrifices, to purify our consciences, concludes, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in fulness of faith - let us hold fast the confession of our hope, without wavering - let us consider one another to provoke unto charity, and good works," Heb. x. 22. And, writing to the Romans on this subject, he gives this reason; "For we account a man to be justified, by that faith which, as he told us above, "worketh by charity," gal. v. 6.; but not by the works of the law of Moses.
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THE FIRM FAITH
OF ALL THOSE SACRED TRUTHS
WHICH CHRIST HAS REVEALED
AND HIS HOLY CHURCH TEACHES.
Q. In what manner do these other virtues above mentioned flow from Faith as from their root?
A. As the beginning of all good must come from God to our souls, for "no man can come to me," says Jesus Christ, "except the Father, who sent me, draw him," John vi. 44. So, when God, of his infinite goodness, touches the sinner's heart, and moves him to return to him by repentance, the first step which the sinner takes to this great work, is to believe, with a firm Faith, all those sacred truths which Christ has revealed, and his holy Church teaches. This Faith informing him of the severity of God's justice against sin, fills his heart with that wholesome "fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom," Prov. i. 7.; and the same Faith teaching him the infinite goodness and mercy of God, and his readiness to forgive repenting sinners, raises him up to a great confidence in god, through the merits of Jesus Christ. Then learning, from the same Faith, how infinitely good God is in himself, and how infinity good to him, in the numberless favors he has done him, especially in the great work of our redemption, conceives, in his heart, a sincere love and affection towards so amiable a benefactor. Then reflecting on his manifold sins, the enormity of which his faith also discovers to him, he is filled with a hearty sorrow for having so ungratefully offended so good a God; he hates and detests his sins, which are displeasing and offensive to God, and firmly purposes thoroughly to amend his life, and keep the law of his God, and thus he turns to the Lord his God by a sincere repentance, and applies to the holy sacraments as the happy and effectual means to be restored to his friendship and favor.
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THE MEANS BY WHICH
JUSTIFICATION IS COMMUNICATED
TO THE SOUL.
Q. But why did St. Peter say on to the Jews, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," Acts iii. 19.; without saying a word of these other virtues?
A. Because repentance is the last in order, and, when sincere, includes all the others in it. For, it is impossible to repent as we ought, without believing in God, fearing him, hoping for pardon, and loving God; all which, though not always positively expressed, are virtually, at least, contained in true repentance.
Q. How can children be justified by baptism, since they are incapable of having any of these dispositions?
A. If children, in their infancy, are incapable of having these dispositions, they are also incapable of committing any actual sin themselves, which may stand in need of an actual retraction by repentance; they were never turned away from God by any positive act of their own will, and, therefore, he does not require from them any positive act of their will to return to him again, but, out of his infinite mercy, admits them to the grace of justification, by the sacrament of baptism when presented to it, without any further disposition on their part; and the same way, he is pleased to deal with them, who, though grown up, have never had the use of reason. But in all others, who are capable of committing sin themselves, and of having the above dispositions, he absolutely requires they should have these dispositions, without which the grace of justification will not be given them, neither in the sacrament of baptism for sins committed before baptism, nor in the sacrament of penance, for those committed after baptism.
Q. Will not a perfect repentance serve to justify a sinner alone without any sacrament?
A. A perfect repentance, founded in a perfect love of God, is very seldom to be met with in sinners, much less can a sinner be certain that he possess so great a happiness; yet, if so great a grace should be granted by God to any sinner, there is no doubt, but that God will, at the same time, grant him the grace of justification; for, our Savior says, "If any man love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him," John xiv. 23.; but, as the proof which Christ here requires of the sincerity of his love, is to obey his commands, He will keep my words; and, as the express command of Christ is, that we receive his sacraments, for the sanctification of our souls; such a one will not be justified, even by his perfect repentance: nor will his repentance be perfect, from which nothing can exempt him but the impossibility of getting them. The reason is, because the sacraments are expressly ordained by Jesus Christ, as the only ordinary means by which the grace of justification is communicated to our souls.
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