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CHAPTER CLVIIThat he who falls from Grace by Sin may be recovered again by Grace

IT belongs to the same power to continue and to repair after interruption, as is the case with the powers of nature in regard of bodily health. But man perseveres in good by the aid of divine grace: therefore, if he has fallen by sin, he may be recovered by help of the same grace.851851But the vigour of a natural constitution is of no avail for restoring life, once it is interrupted by death. And mortal sin is death. The whole question is whether mortal sin is such a death as to be, in God’s ordinary providence, beyond resurrection. This point cannot be determined a priori. Apart from His promises, God is not bound ever to forgive any mortal sin. Whether He will forgive, and on what conditions, depends on His free good pleasure, and that is ascertainable only by revelation, and its vehicle, Christian tradition.

2. An agent that requires no predisposition of its subject, can imprint its effect on its subject, howsoever disposed. But God, requiring no predisposition of the subject of His action, when the subject is corporeal, — as when He gives sight to the blind, or raises the dead to life, — does not require any previous merit either in the will for the conferring of His grace, which is given without merits (Chap. CXLIX). Therefore even after a man has fallen from grace by sin, God can confer on him the grace that puts the recipient in the state of grace, whereby sins are taken away.

5. In the works of God there is nothing in vain, as neither in the works of nature, for nature has this prerogative of God. Now it would be in vain for anything to move with no chance of arriving at its term. Whatever naturally moves to a certain end, must be somehow competent to get there.852852“True, in the individual, plant or animal, there are many potentialities frustrate and made void. That is neither here nor there in philosophy. Philosophy deals not with individuals but with species; not with Bucephalus or Alexander, but with horse, man. Enough that one seed ever germinates, and that all normal specimens are apt to do the like, meeting with proper environment.” — Ethics and Natural Law, p. 17. But after a man has fallen into sin, so long as the state of this life lasts, there remains in him an aptitude of being moved to good, shown by such signs as desire of good and grief at evil. Therefore there is some possibility of his return to good.

6. There exists in nature no potentiality, which cannot be reduced to act by some natural active power. Much less is there in the human soul any potentiality, which is not reducible to act by the active power of God. But 328even after sin there still remains in the human soul a potentiality of good, because the natural powers, whereby the soul is related to its proper good, are not taken away by sin.

Therefore it is said: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as Snow (Isai. i, 18): Charity covereth all sins (Prov. x, 12). Nor do we ask of the Lord in vain, Forgive us our trespasses.

Hereby is refuted the error of the Novatians, who said that man cannot obtain pardon for sins committed after baptism.853853How far the pardon of post-baptismal sin was obtainable through the Church’s ministrations, or was to be looked for only from the unconvenanted mercies of God, was another matter of controversy in the early Church.


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