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September 19, 2005

Ch. XXV. Q. 137. What is Grace, and how is it distinguished?

GRACE is a free and special gift of God, bestowed upon rational creatures, and pertaining in some manner to everlasting life. It is distinguished as external and internal, actual and habitual, prevenient and concomitant grace.1

2. Grace is said to be free because it is given, in the first instance, without pre-existing merit on our part, by the pure bounty of God. Man cannot earn grace before it is given, but God gives us to will as well as to do His good pleasure.2 Apart from internal grace our natural propensities are evil (Qq. 90. 3: 91.)3; but the effect of such grace is to emancipate our wills and to give them freedom, power and impulse to will the good.4 Yet grace is not irresistible, for we can persevere in evil or return to it, and can fall from grace after it is given.5

3. External grace consists in the influences which flow from the visible means by which God makes known to men the true path of life, and persuades them to walk in that path—e. g. the reading of Holy Scripture, sermons, ecclesiastical environment, etc. External grace does not impart power or change the soul's condition, but influences men to use the power otherwise given them, and improves the external conditions of their progress.6

4. Internal grace is a supernatural endowment imparted to the soul whereby its internal state is changed and its powers are enlarged. It is supernatural, for men cannot produce its effects by unaided efforts of the original faculties of their nature. It is distinguished as habitual and actual grace.

5. Habitual grace is so called because it changes the state, habitus, of the soul, and its relation to God. Before such grace is given the soul is in a state of sin and alienation from God. By means of it, the soul enters upon a state of sanctification and is justified before God. Therefore, it is frequently called sanctifying or justifying grace. Habitual grace is not imparted except by sacramental means.7

6. Actual grace is concerned with action, and is the grace which imparts power to live rightly —to resist temptation, work out our salvation, and fulfil our vocation in life according to the will of God. It is distinguished as prevenient and concomitant grace.8

7. Actual grace is called prevenient when it is first given, before the will has responded and cooperated with it. Such grace is given to all men. It is called sufficient because by means of it men can turn towards truth and righteousness, and obey such vocations as are providentially placed before them.9

8. Actual grace is called concomitant when the will of the recipient has begun to cooperate with it and conform to the Divine will. It is also called efficacious, not because it is irresistible, but, because, so long as the will cooperates with the grace of God, that grace enables us to avoid sin and make progress towards truth and righteousness.10

1 S. Thomas. Sum. Th. I. II. 109-113: Forbes' 39 Arts. X. pp. 156-160: Schouppe, Tr. IX: Blunt’s Theol. Dic., "Grace": Percival's Digest, 93-96.

2 Phil. II. 13

3 Rom. VIII. 7, 8:1. Cor, 11. 14: Gal. V. 16-21: Ephes. 11. 3-5

4 Ezek. XXXVI. 27: Rom. VIII. 2-6: Gal. II. 22-24

5 Phil. II. 12, 13. Schouppe, IX. 27-37 94-176, 179-204, 206-211: Moehler's Symbolism, § 11: Thos. Strong's Manual of Theol., 308-317: Sadler's Justification of Life, IV.

6 Mason's Faith of the Gosp., IX. 2: Schouppe, IX. 19.

7 Schouppe, IX. 20: Blunt's Theol. Dic., "Actual Grace."

8 Schouppe, IX. 9-286

9 S. Thos. I. II. 111. 2, 3: Schouppe., IX. 25, 26: Thos. Strong, 312-317.

10 S. Thos. I. II. 111. 2,3.

Posted by Trevor at September 19, 2005 09:13 AM