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CHAPTER CLVIThat Man needs the Assistance of Divine Grace to persevere in Good848848If there is question of supernatural good, — as faith, hope, charity, or other virtues practised on motives of faith, hope, and charity — man can do not a single act of such good, still less persevere in it, without the aid of grace. If there is question of natural good, — as justice, fortitude, temperance, practised on a motive of ’sweet reasonableness,’ — we must further enquire whether the question is asked of man historically considered, as a fallen creature; then we must take St Thomas’s answer, Sum. Theol. 1a-2ae, q. 109, art. 8; or of man as the a priori philosopher views him, merely as man. In the latter view this fact still seems discernible, that, the acts of virtue being difficult, and the call for such acts continual, man under such a series of trials is likely to break down at times, if he have no other support than the mere liberty of his will. Aristotle refers him to the support of acquired habits of virtue (Eth. Nic. II-IV), a considerable support indeed, but these habits are difficult to acquire, and Aristotle seems to exaggerate the facility which they afford of well doing, and the security that comes of them against a fall. So even in his pure natural condition man seems to be a feeble creature, that cannot be trusted to walk quite alone, but needs “some aid of divine providence governing him from without,” and disposing external circumstances in his favour. The aid and kind provision of environment, making for morality, which would have to be looked for from God by man even in his pure natural condition, has been termed by some theologians ‘natural grace.’

THE power of free will regards matters of election: but a matter of election is some particular thing to be done; and a particular thing to be done is what is here and now:849849When I resolve to do a thing next Christmas what is immediately accomplished in my mind is the resolution to do the thing in time: but the thing is not done. And so of a resolution to persevere in well-doing. but perseverance is not a matter of present and immediate conduct, but a continuance of activity for all time: perseverance therefore is an effect above the power of free will, and therefore needing the assistance of divine grace.

3. Though man is master of his act, he is not master of his natural powers; and therefore, though he is free to will or not will a thing, still his willing cannot make his will in the act of willing adhere immovably to the thing willed or chosen. But the immovable adherence of the will to good is requisite for perseverance: perseverance therefore is not in the power of free will.850850   Is immovable adherence of the will to good requisite for perseverance, or is it sufficient that in each successive trial the will be not actually moved?
   Is perseverance distinguishable from what is sometimes called ‘confirmation in grace’?

Hence it is said: He who hath begun a good work in you will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus (Philip. i, 6): The God of all grace, who hath called us to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, himself will perfect us through some little suffering, confirm and establish us (1 Pet. v, 10). There are also found in Holy Scripture many prayers for perseverance: e.g., Perfect my steps in thy ways, that my footsteps may not slip (Ps. xvi, 5); and especially that petition of 327the Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come: for the kingdom will not come for us unless we persevere in good.

Hereby is refuted the error of the Pelagians, who said that free will is sufficient for man for his perseverance in good, and that there is no need of the assistance of grace for the purpose.

As free will is not sufficient for perseverance in good without the help of God given from without, so neither is any infused habit. For in the state of our present life the habits infused into us of God do not totally take away from our free will its fickleness and liability to evil, although they do to some extent establish the free will in good. And therefore, when we say that man needs the aid of grace for final perseverance, we do not mean that, over and above the habitual grace first infused into him for the doing of good acts, there is infused into him another habitual grace enabling him to persevere; but we mean that, when he has got all the gratuitous habits that he ever is to have, man still needs some aid of divine providence governing him from without.

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