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Article Four

Whether a Man can fulfil the Commandments of the Law by His Natural Powers, without Grace

We proceed to the fourth article thus:

1. It seems that a man can fulfil the commandments of the law by his own natural powers, without grace. For the apostle says that “the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law” (Rom. 2:14). But what a man does by nature he can do by himself, without grace. He can therefore keep the commandments of the law without grace.

2. Again, Hieronymus (Pelagius) says that “they speak ill who affirm that God has commanded anything impossible for man” (Expositio Cath. Fidei, Epist. ad Damasc.). Now what a man cannot fulfil is impossible for him. It follows that he can fulfil all the commandments of the law by himself.

3. Again, it is plain from Matt. 22:37 that the greatest commandment of all is this: “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” Now a man can fulfil this commandment by his natural powers alone, by loving God above all things, which the preceding article affirmed that he can do. He can therefore fulfil all the commandments of the law without grace.

On the other hand: Augustine says (De Haer. 88): “to believe that a man can fulfil all the divine commandments without grace is part of the Pelagian heresy.”

I answer: there are two ways of fulfilling the commandments of the law. In the first place, one may actually do what the law commands, by performing acts of justice or fortitude, for example, or other acts of virtue. Man could fulfil all the commandments of the law in this way when he was in the state of pure nature, since he would not otherwise have been able to avoid sin, which is nothing other than transgression of the divine commandments. But a man in the state of corrupt nature cannot fulfil all the divine commandments without healing grace. In the second place, the law may be fulfilled not only in respect of what it commands, but also in respect of the manner of action. It is so fulfilled when actions are inspired by charity. A man cannot fulfil the law in this way without grace, whether in the state of pure nature or in the state of corrupt nature. For this reason, when Augustine said that men do absolutely nothing good without grace, he added: “not only do they know by grace what they ought to do, but they do it 145out of love by the aid of grace” (De Corrept. et. Grat.). In both states, moreover, men need the help of God moving them to fulfil his commandments, as we said in Art. 3.

On the first point: as Augustine says (De Spiritu et Littera, 27): “It should not disturb us that he said that these do by nature the things contained in the law. For this is wrought by the spirit of grace, to restore within us the image of God in which we were naturally made.”

On the second point: what we can do by means of divine help is not absolutely impossible for us. As the philosopher says: “what we can do through our friends we can in a sense do ourselves” (3 Ethics 3). Hieronymus (Pelagius) accordingly confesses, in the passage quoted, that “our will is free enough to allow us to say that we always need God’s help.”

On the third point: it is clear from what was said in Art. 3 that a man cannot, by his natural powers alone, fulfil the commandment about love to God in the same way as it is fulfilled through charity.

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