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Article Five

Whether Free Grace is Nobler than Sanctifying Grace

We proceed to the fifth article thus:

1. It seems that free grace is nobler than sanctifying grace. For the philosopher says that “the good of the race is better 173than the good of the individual” (1 Ethics 2), and sanctifying grace is ordained only for the good of the individual, whereas free grace is ordained for the common good of the whole Church, as was said in Arts. 1 and 4. Free grace is therefore nobler than sanctifying grace.

2. Again, a power which can act upon something else is greater than a power which is merely perfect in itself. Light which can illumine objects, for example, is greater than light which shines itself but cannot illumine objects. For this reason the philosopher says that “justice is the noblest of the virtues” (5 Ethics 1), since justice enables a man to behave rightly towards others. Now by sanctifying grace a man is made perfect in himself. But by free grace he contributes to the perfection of others. Free grace is therefore nobler than sanctifying grace.

3. Again, what is peculiar to those who are better is nobler than what is common to all. Thus reason, which is peculiar to man, is nobler than feeling, which is common to all animals. Now sanctifying grace is common to all members of the Church, whereas free grace is a special gift to its worthier members. Free grace is therefore nobler than sanctifying grace.

On the other hand: after numbering the free graces, the apostle says (I Cor. 12:31): “and yet show I unto you a more excellent way”—and what follows clearly shows that he here speaks of charity, which belongs to sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is therefore more excellent than free grace.

I answer: a power is the more excellent the higher is the end for which it is ordained. For an end is always more important than the means to it. Now sanctifying grace is ordained to unite man directly with his final end, whereas the free graces are ordained to prepare him for his final end; prophecy, miracles, and the like being the means whereby he is put in touch with it. Sanctifying grace is therefore more excellent than free grace.

On the first point: as the philosopher says in 12 Metaph., text 52, the good of a multitude, such as an army, is twofold. There is the good which is in the multitude itself, such as the orderliness of an army. But there is also the good of its leader. This is separate from the multitude, and is the greater good, since the former is ordained for the sake of it. Now free grace is ordained for the common good of the Church, which consists in ecclesiastical order. But sanctifying grace is ordained for the common good which is separate, which is God himself. Sanctifying grace is therefore the nobler.

On the second point: if free grace could bring about in 174another what a man himself obtains through sanctifying grace, it would follow that free grace was the nobler, just as the light of the sun which illumines is greater than the light of the object which it illumines. But free grace does not enable a man to bring about in another the fellowship with God which he himself shares through sanctifying grace, although he creates certain dispositions towards it. Hence free grace is not bound to be the more excellent, any more than the heat in a fire, which reveals the specific nature by which it produces heat in other things, is nobler than its own substantial form.

On the third point: feeling is subservient to reason as its end. Hence reason is the nobler. But in this instance things are reversed. What is special is ordained to serve what is common. There is therefore no similarity.

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