The MOST Theological Collection: Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God: New Answers to Old Questions
"Pt. 1: Research in the sources of revelation - Ch. 4: The nature of the redemption"
In this chapter we do not propose to give an exhaustive or complete treatment of so large a topic, but merely to investigate those aspects of it that bear on our question.
40. General notion of redemption in Scripture: The Old Testament speaks of God as having redeemed His people inasmuch as He delivered them from the slavery of Egypt. Although that was a temporal slavery, yet, as time went on, it was more and more thought of as a type of the slavery of sin.1
Now there were two elements in that redemption: (1) They were freed from slavery. (2) They were made the people of God. These two elements are most closely connected, because, in the covenant of Sinai, the people who were freed from Egypt became the "special possession" of God or the "purchased people."2
Therefore,3 "just as in the Old Testament, Israel was redeemed inasmuch as they became the possession of God Himself . . . so also in the New Testament, 'redemption' is identified with the 'remission of sins' . . . inasmuch as it joins man to God." So redemption is not a purely negative concept, but contains a positive aspect as well: man is not only liberated, but is liberated precisely inasmuch as He becomes the possession of God through a covenant. In the Old Testament, man became the possession of God through the covenant of Sinai; in the New Testament, through a new covenant.
As a result of the old covenant, as we can see in numerous texts of the Old Testament, the people of God thought that there existed between themselves and God a relation which was expressed by the Hebrew word hesed. In general usage, the word means:4 "the dutiful love and benevolence of men among one another, by which blood relatives, kinsmen, friends, those bound by pact etc. are prepared to help and please one another. . . ." Hence, because God5 "willed to be Father, King, Spouse to His chosen people, and joined Himself with that people in a mutual covenant of fidelity and love . . . hesed, filial love, fidelity, devotedness could be shown by [their] deeds . . . and, on the other hand, [there was] the devotedness, kindness, mercy, of God towards men (and especially towards the people related to Him) [and] the immense inclination to save and help." For God Himself saw fit to become as it were the Father of the family, in which all were bound to love, devotedness, and mutual help to one another from the very nature of the family. In this feeling, the Psalmist could say:6 "For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up."
Similarly, God was willing to be called the go'el or redeemer of His people. For He Himself had said to Moses:7 "I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from the work prison of Egypt . . . and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. . . ." And similarly in second Isaiah:8 "Fear not . . . I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel." Now in the mind of the Hebrews, the go'el or redeemer was9 "that next of kin to whom the Mosaic law gave the right or enjoined the duty of redeeming his kinsmen and protecting them in all their rights."
Hence, in the very ceremony of making the covenant, Moses10 "took the blood and threw it upon the people and said, 'Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you. . . .'" Now in Hebrew thought11 "the life of the flesh is in the blood." Therefore, the sprinkling of blood signified the union of life of the people of Israel with God, who by virtue of the covenant itself became their next of kin and redeemer.
41. The Father bound Himself in the old covenant: Some exegetes have hesitated12 to say that the old covenant was a bilateral13 pact. Strange to say, quite often the reasons for hesitation seem to have been of an a priori nature (which all admit is improper method in Scriptural studies). Thus some simply refuse to admit the possibility of any human cooperation in divine works; others seem to fear that a bilateral agreement would cause God to owe something to His creatures; still others fear this bilateral interpretation would contradict St. Paul.
As to these objections: The position that there can be no human cooperation is a Protestant view, and is not, of course, accepted by any Catholic. The second objection correctly observes that God cannot owe anything to a creature, but fails to notice that if God freely enters into such a pact, He will owe it to Himself to keep His pledged word. The result is in practice the same: God is bound. Finally, as to St. Paul, we will examine his thought in detail later on. For the present, we may note that Paul himself clearly considers Sinai as bilateral, for it is that very fact that raises for him a great problem, with which he wrestles in Gal 3:16-18.14
Some exegetes15 have also approached the problem by trying to find the literary model of the Sinai covenant in the Hittite vassal treaties. It is, at best, very doubtful if Sinai does follow that form. The studies of D. J. McCarthy, SJ,16 have shown that it is at least highly probable that it does not. But even if Sinai really should follow the Hittite pattern, we know that in at least some of those treaties, the Great King also took on an obligation, i.e., to maintain the vassal on his throne, on condition of the fidelity of the vassal.17
But when we turn to the Old Testament itself, it becomes clear that God did bind Himself. . . ." That is: First, the language of Exodus 19:5-6 is quite plain: "Now therefore if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples. . . ." That is: If you do this, I will do that. . . . If you obey . . . you will be my favored people.
This same understanding of Sinai is shown in many places in the Old Testament. For example, in many of the Psalms, the word hesed (the word for the covenant bond) is used in parallelism with sedaqa (moral righteousness) e.g.,18 "Keep up your hesed toward your friends; your sedaqa to the upright of heart." Now since, by parallelism, both halves of the line have the same thought, we see that the sacred writer believes that God's exercise of hesed is also an exercise of sedaqa, that is, for Him to keep the covenant bond (hesed) is a matter of moral righteousness (sedaqa). If He did not keep it, He would be acting against moral righteousness. But that means that He has bound Himself.19 And, of course, His people are bound. So, with both bound, we have a bilateral pact.
Still more striking is the fact that not a few Old Testament passages put God and Israel in parallel positions. Thus, Deuteronomy 26:17-18 asserts-in a literal translation, for the usual published translations seem reluctant to bring out the full force-"You have caused20 Yahweh today to say He will be a God to you . . . and Yahweh has caused you today to say you will be to Him a people, . . . and to keep all his commandments." Hence Psalm 62:12 says flatly: "And you, O Lord, have hesed, for you will pay a man according to his work." That is, the reason why God can be said to observe hesed is this: He pays a man according to that man's deeds.21
Again, several Old Testament writers, especially Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah,22 depict the relation between God and His people under the image of a marriage. As Father Stuhlmueller has so well observed (speaking of the words of Hosea):23 "Marriage is a mutual contract, a two way agreement; what is true for one party, is true for the other. God dares to oblige Himself by such an agreement."
Finally, any possible doubt is removed by the fact that St. Paul himself, writing under divine inspiration, considers Sinai to be bilateral, as we saw above.24
42. Why did God bind Himself?: It is obvious, and needs no proof, that God did not enter into the covenant in order to gain anything for Himself. As the book of Job says:25 "Can a man be profitable to God? . . . Or is it gain to Him if you make your ways blameless?" Deuteronomy 7:7 gives us the basic reason: "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love upon you and chose you. . . . But it is because the Lord loves you." But we should still ask a further question: Why did God's love choose to use the covenant form? We can surmise at least three reasons:
1) Human beings are rather apt to mistrust God saying: His ways are so far above ours: who can understand Him or know what He will do? Further, Israel came from a milieu in which men openly expressed their mistrust of the gods.26 So a covenant could obviously serve as a means of reassuring men, by telling them that at least under specified conditions they could be confident of His favor.
2) Even though God wanted to give His favors, that presupposed that men would be properly disposed to receive. The covenant could detail the needed dispositions for receiving.
3) Intense love tends to want to bind itself. Thus men bind themselves by vow to try to insure their perseverance in a course of life that pleases God. God's intense love could not doubt its own perseverance, but men could doubt it, as we have said. Hence God could will to bind Himself so as to reassure men in order to move them to respond to this proof of love. In responding, they become better disposed to receive, and so His love can give the more freely.
Actually, there are two levels on which one can ask why God made a covenant, and why, having made it, He carried out His part in it. (1) On the most basic level, the sole reason why He made and kept the covenant was simply His generous, spontaneous, unmerited and unmeritable love. But, since that love led Him to bind Himself, there was also (2) a superadded reason for His keeping His part in the covenant, namely, the fact that He had bound Himself, and so must keep His pledge.
43. The new covenant: The prophet Jeremiah had foretold that there would be a new covenant. Although his words, considered in their context, seem to refer primarily to the time after the return of the Jews from exile, yet, thanks to Vatican II, we are now certain that they also have in view the covenant to be established by Christ. For, after citing this prophecy, the Council says:27 "Christ established this new covenant, that is, the new testament in His blood, calling together a people from Jews and gentiles, which would grow into unity not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit and would be a new People of God." God Himself had said, speaking through Jeremiah:28 "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Juda. Not according to the covenant I made with their fathers . . . for they broke my covenant, and I had to show myself their master29 . . . but this is the covenant. . . . I will place my law within them and write it on their hearts: I will be their God, and they will be my people."
We notice that the prophecy says the new covenant will be different. The differences are obvious: the old covenant was broken, while the new will be eternal; the old law was written on stone, but in the new, the law is to be written in hearts.30
But it is also obvious that the new is parallel to the old in the two essential aspects. For both covenants create a People of God; and in both, there is a law as a human condition, though in the new, the law is written in hearts by the Spirit, instead of being written outwardly on stone.
The nature34 of this new covenant is especially clear in St. Paul. First, St. Paul tells us that a new people of God is created:35 "We are the temple of the living God; as God said: I will live in them and move among them, and will be their God and they shall be my people." St. Paul further records that this new covenant was established in the cenacle:36 "For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night in when He was betrayed, took bread . . . and also the cup, saying: This cup is the new covenant in my blood."
Secondly, St. Paul brings out the human condition of obedience in the making of the new covenant. Just as the obedience of Israel conditioned the old, so the obedience of Christ established the new covenant, and thereby saved us:37 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." And again, St. Paul says that we are38 "justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."39
St. Paul adds, however, that those who would come under the covenant with Christ must not only be members of Christ, but must be conformed to Him in all things, especially in His obedience. Speaking in the same vein as Jeremiah, Paul tells the Romans that the Spirit of Christ writes in the hearts of Christians the40 "law of the spirit," so that they41 "do not walk according to the flesh." To follow this law is a condition of belonging to Christ:42 "anyone who does not have the spirit of Christ, does not belong to him." For only,43 "if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" Or, in other words:44 "Whoever are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
The Epistle to the Hebrews reveals the same two essential elements in specially clear form. First, the new covenant creates a new people of God. This is evidenced from the long passage of 8:6-13 which cites the prophecy of Jeremiah. In v. 10 we note especially: "This is the covenant . . . I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God and they shall be my people."
Secondly, the same Epistle45 makes clear that there is a human condition in the new covenant: obedience. This obedience is basically and first that of Christ:46 ". . . when Christ came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me . . .' Then I said: 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God.' In saying before, Sacrifices and offerings . . . thou hast not desired' . . . and then saying: 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,' He annuls the first [covenant] in order to establish the second. It is in this 'will'47 that we have been sanctified through the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
The requirement of obedience on the part of the members of Christ is brought out several times in Hebrews. It is given in the words of Jeremiah in 8:10: "I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts." And again:48 "For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised."49 This obedience is brought into explicit relation with that of Him who50 "learned obedience through what He suffered", in the words:51 "He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him."
43a. The Father bound Himself in the New Covenant: This follows from our exegesis of the covenants, above. However, if someone should wish to disagree with certain features of that exegesis, it would still remain true that the Father bound Himself. This is clear in several ways:
1) There was certainly at least an implicit understanding or agreement between Christ our Head, and the Father. For Christ often said that He was sent on a mission52 by the Father. Now the mere fact that the Father sent Christ on a mission implied an understanding or agreement. If Christ did what the Father asked, the Father would not be free to withhold His own part, the result for which He had sent His Son. It was as if the Father said: "If you do this, I will do that. If you offer yourself, I will give you a treasury of grace for men your brothers." So the Father had bound Himself by at least this implicit agreement, even if not by an explicit covenant.
2) St. Paul teaches that there was a price of redemption.53 The Father called for the payment of that price. Having done so, He could not refuse to grant that redemption for the sake of which He had called for the price. For it would be contrary to Wisdom and righteousness to ask a price of redemption and then to refuse the end for whose sake He had called for the means. The Father would contradict Himself: He owes it to Himself not to contradict Himself.
3) It is the official teaching of the Church54 that Christ merited for us. Now the word "merit" in the older official texts is beyond doubt to be understood in the sense of a claim to a reward, for that was the current sense of the word at the time those texts were written. But also, the fact that His merit did produce an objective title which God wills to consider (even though it does not move Him) is constantly taken for granted in many documents of the Magisterium. For example, Pope Pius IX defined that God granted the immaculate conception to Mary55 "in view of the merits of Christ." These words make sense only on the supposition that there was an objective title or claim established by the passion. For, in this statement, the passion is not considered merely as a good example, nor as merely a stimulus to love, nor in any other subjective way, but as a thing of great objective worth, which God willed in order to provide a title to grace. Similarly, the graces granted to men before the coming of Christ were given in anticipation of the objective worth of the merits of the passion.
But the existence of this moral order is taught most clearly and explicitly in the Constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina of Paul VI:
4) The redemption is sometimes spoken of in Scripture57 as a testament, that is, a last will and testament.
This imagery pictures Christ as leaving an inheritance to us men. In such a framework, men are given an objective title to grace, for, although an inheritance is a gift, yet, the will itself gives to the inheritors a strict title to that gift.
We should add that there are other aspects to the redemption. For our purpose, it is not necessary to treat them in detail. Yet it is good to note the relation of some of them to Christ's obedience. If we think of the redemption as a sacrifice, and recall that a sacrifice is made up of an external sign and the interior dispositions which the sign expresses, then we can see that the great value of His sacrifice came from His loving obedience. The Father took no pleasure in the suffering of Christ as suffering, but as an expression of loving obedience. As He Himself said through Hosea:58 "For it is obedience to the covenant that I desire, not sacrifice." So the relation of cenacle and Calvary becomes clear: to make the covenant was to pledge obedience in the sign of a contract; to offer the covenant sacrifice was to manifest and exercise that same obedience in the sign of His death.
Again, if we consider the death of Christ under the aspect of satisfaction,59 i.e., the offering to the Father of something He loves more than He dislikes the offense, it is still true that "what pleases the Father is not the pain of Christ as such, but the obedience of Christ that would endure even such pain."
44. The redemption did not move the Father: In the case of the Sinai covenant, we saw that there were two levels on which we could ask why God made the covenant and kept it. On the most basic level, the sole reason was simply the gratuitous unmerited love of the Father for men, to which was joined the secondary, superadded reason for keeping the covenant: the fact that He had bound Himself and that the condition of obedience was fulfilled.
The situation is fully parallel in the new covenant. Even the obedience of Christ unto death did not move the Father to love men again. He had always loved them. As St. John says:60 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son." So the Father did not love men again because Christ died; rather, Christ died because the Father had always loved men. So again, the fundamental reason why the Father fulfilled His part in the new covenant, i.e., why He granted grace and forgiveness, was simply His gratuitous, spontaneous love of men, to which was added the obedience of Christ as the reason on the secondary level.61
This secondary reason stems from the Father's love of objective moral order. In the words of St. Teresa of Jesus, 62"God would never want to do other than give if He found souls to whom He could give." But because of his sedaqa, his moral righteousness,63 the Father willed that objective titles or claims be established, as reasons which by their nature make proper, and call for the grant of grace, even though these titles do not really move Him to give. St. Thomas explains the two levels very well: 64"[God] wills that one thing be for the sake of another thing, but not because of the one thing does He will the other thing." So, in this context, God wills that grace be given on account of the merits of Christ, but not because of these merits does He will to give grace, for, according to St. Paul, 65"But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." St. Augustine expressed it well:66 "We were reconciled to the one who already loved us." Or as St. Thomas puts it:67 ". . . Christ is not said to have reconciled us to God in such a way that God would begin to love us again, for it is written in Jeremiah 31:3: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love. . . .'"
45. In the new covenant, the Father bound himself by infinite objective titles: The title or means with which God had bound Himself in the old covenant was a finite one: the obedience of the people of Israel. The favours to which He bound Himself were likewise finite, merely temporal favors. And He bound Himself towards only one people. These limitations disappear under the new covenant: God bound Himself not just in favor of one small people, but for all men, since His Son died for all. He bound Himself to give spiritual rather than temporal favors. And the title by which He bound Himself was not a finite thing, but the infinitely precious meritorious obedience unto death of His only Son, the God-man. Thus the Father bound Himself doubly: inasmuch as He had made a covenant with His Son, and inasmuch as the obedience of that Son, the condition of the covenant, was by its very nature of infinite worth, since every act of an infinite Person has infinite value.
The Father could have employed a finite title even in the new covenant, e.g., the sacrifice of an animal. Or, He could have established an infinite claim to grace by a less arduous means if He had sent His Son to become man in a palace, and to ascend after a short stay on earth, without ever dying, having redeemed us by reciting one short prayer: "Father, forgive them." Such a prayer, by an infinite Person, would have infinite value.
But the love of the Father was such that as long as there was anything more that could be done, He would not rest content until He had accomplished it. In that attitude, He sent His Son, not to a palace, but to the stable and the cross. And He added also Mary, as the New Eve, the associate of the Redeemer.68
46. God bound Himself to the establishment of an infinite treasury: There are two phases to the redemption: the establishment of an infinite treasury, and the dispensation or application of that treasury to men. Of course, we must not think of the establishment of the treasury in a crude sense, as though a physical reservoir were built, into which grace was poured. No, we mean rather that the obedience of Christ was the condition in a covenant or at least implicit agreement, and was by nature of infinite meritorious value, so that it established an infinite objective claim or title to all graces, to be given out at various future times. This treasury is inexhaustible and infinite precisely because it is measured by and in proportion to the infinity of the value of the obedience of Christ.
47. God bound Himself by infinite titles to the dispensation of that treasury: In His love of objective goodness and His love of us, the Father willed that the new pact be constantly renewed,69 so that thereby His love might bind itself to the dispensation of all graces, and so that men might be most effectively disposed to receive these fruits by joining in the renewal. Hence the Father did two things:
1) He willed that His Son institute the Mass, the renewal of the new covenant and the covenant sacrifice. In it, the continued attitude of the obedience of Christ is expressed by the apparent separation of body and blood in the double consecration. Thus the same infinite price is presented again, as the covenant condition and objective title for the application of grace to all men. That this is done for all men is clear from the form of offering of the chalice in the Roman rite "for our salvation and that of the whole world." So in this way the Father wills to bind Himself to the application of graces, so that He owes it to Himself to offer abundant graces to all men.70
2) He willed that men should join in the renewal, so as to participate in the claims of Christ to the great treasury. This participation has two facets:
The Father owes it to Himself, because of the merits of Christ, to offer to all men the grace to become members of Christ.73 This offer is not owed to men. For it is only after becoming His members that they can merit. Before that, merit is not possible. (We recall too that it is not men themselves who directly make the covenant with the Father: Christ, our Head, did that. We enter only as His members).
b) The obedience of Christ established a claim or title also in view of its infinite intrinsic worth and merit, coming from the infinite dignity of His Person. Men, of course, have no infinite dignity. But yet, the Father's generosity has arranged for them to share in an analogous way with Christ in this respect too. For after becoming, through no merit of theirs, members of Christ, adopted sons of the Father, and sharers in the divine nature, their obedience has a very great, even though not infinite intrinsic dignity. St. Thomas puts it well:74 "If we speak of a meritorious work inasmuch as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Spirit, in that way it is condignly meritorious of eternal life. For thus the value of the merit is judged according to the power of the Holy Spirit moving us towards eternal life. . . . The value of the work is judged also according to the dignity of grace, by which a man is made a sharer in the divine nature and is adopted as a son of God, to whom the inheritance is owed by the very right of adoption."
Human merit, then, is simply our participation in these two ways with Christ in the covenant condition. No merit-neither His nor ours-moves the Father, for, as we have seen, the Father did not need to be moved to benevolence. On the most fundamental level, His spontaneously generous love is the adequate reason for His grant of grace. On the secondary level, in His love of order and love of us, He willed to have a title or claim provided, the meritorious obedience of Christ, which we imitate analogously and in which we join. On that secondary level, the Father owes it to Himself, not to us, to do His part, to grant a reward, because of His commitment, and because by this grace (for, as we shall see in chapters 7 and 18, our merits are His gift) He makes us apt, fit for further grace or reward.
Obviously, our merit so conceived does not detract from Christ. We merit only inasmuch as we are His members, in the degree of our conformity to Him, and by the grace He gives. We merit only after receiving gratuitously the grace of being His members.
Nor need we fear that human merit is ruled out on the ground that infinity (the value of His obedience) does not increase from a finite addition. For the Father is not counting mathematically, nor asking how much must He do. Rather, in His supreme generosity, He wants to make all as overflowingly rich as possible. As we have seen, the cross itself goes beyond infinity, in that the incarnation in a palace and redemption by a short prayer would have had infinite value. And actually, all the acts of Christ before His death did have infinite worth.
48. God bound himself to grant graces to each individual man: As we saw in chapter 3, all these things were done not just for men in a group, but for each individual as well. This is clear from the authentic interpretation given by Vatican II of the words of St. Paul to the Galatians:75 "The innocent Lamb, by freely shedding His blood for us, merited life for us . . . so that each one of us can say with the Apostle: "The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself up for me.'" Pope Pius XII expressed the same thought beautifully:76 "And actually, our divine Redeemer was nailed to the cross more by love than by the violence of the executioners: and His voluntary holocaust is the supreme gift that He imparted to each individual man, according to the terse statement of the Apostle: 'He loved me, and gave Himself up for me.'" These statements refer to the first phase, the establishment of the treasury of grace. But, in the Mass, the dispositions of the Heart of Christ are precisely the same as they were on the cross: therefore also in the Mass He intends to present that infinite price to obtain the dispensation of graces to each individual. Hence Pope Pius XII also taught, in the same Encyclical:77 "There is no doubt that the heavenly Father, 'who spared not even his own Son, but has delivered him for us all' being asked by so great an advocate [Christ] will at all times send down upon all men a rich abundance of divine graces."
We can gather also from the above considerations what is the measure of the graces that God wills for each individual: they are measured by an infinite objective title for each individual.
So the care of God is immediate for each individual, according to the explicit teaching of many passages in the Gospels, e.g.,78 "but even the hairs of your head are all numbered." And again:79 "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?" And similarly:80 "what man of you having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? . . . So, it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."81
We can understand better, then, the reason underlying the triumphant exclamation of St. Paul:82 "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?"83
We still need to consider two special questions: (1) Can those who lack full membership in the Church and are not present at Mass so as to take part explicitly in the renewal of the covenant still fulfil the covenant condition and come under it? (2) Does the Father owe it to Himself under the covenant to offer the grace of forgiveness to those who have fallen into sin after justification?
In regard to those who do not adhere externally to the Church: They lack one or two requirements for full membership in the Mystical Body, namely, they may lack only external submission and certain beliefs (as do baptized Protestants) or they may lack these and also baptism (as do pagans). Now Vatican II84 made clear that baptized Protestants do enjoy a lesser degree of membership in the Church. But it is clear that not only these baptized Protestants, but also unbaptized pagans-provided they are following their conscience-can still fulfill the covenant condition, and can even meet at least the minimum conditions for merit, as laid down by theologians. For they have a certain initial brotherhood with Christ by the mere fact that the Incarnation made Christ the brother of all men. They have His life in them by sanctifying grace, if they are following their own consciences.85 If they have sanctifying grace, they have the indwelling of the Spirit, who writes the86 "law of the Spirit" in their hearts and moves them. They can fill the requirement laid down by Paul:87 "For all who are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God." So, even though they may not realize it, or explicitly intend it, yet, objectively, and by implicit intention, they are joining in the covenant condition in following the law of the Spirit.
Further, the Mass, objectively speaking, is offered, as the Ordinary itself says, "for our salvation and that of the whole world"-including these men. Christ Himself, since His dispositions are the same on the altar as on the cross, still intends to offer His sacrifice as the price for88 "each individual man"-not just for those who have full membership in the Church. So, though there is a certain deficiency in the lack of external adherence to the Church, and perhaps even of baptism of water yet this deficiency is not voluntary. And the elements that are present, by their very objective nature, and by virtue of the implicit intention of the man himself, amply suffice to make it possible for him to fulfill the covenant condition and to merit. For St. Paul said:89 "Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ, does not belong to him." But these men do have the Spirit of Christ, and follow the law of the Spirit, and, being led by the Spirit, they are sons, and as sons can be saved.90 Hence they do belong to Christ, not without some deficiency, but in a way that is ample for joining in the covenant and for meriting. St. Paul seems to have had this in mind when he said, speaking of pagans:91 "When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law unto themselves. They show that what the law requires is written in their hearts." This law is, of course, written by the Spirit, whom they certainly have since they are in the state of grace. Hence, St. Paul continues immediately: "While their conscience bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them, on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."
So it is clear that they not only come under the infinite objective titles for the reason that Christ merited and offered Himself for each individual man of them too, but they also join with His obedience in a meritorious way, under the movement of the Spirit, who dwells in them, writes the law of the Spirit in their hearts, and makes them sons.
It is good to recall too, that all classes of men receive many graces they themselves have not merited.
Secondly, we must investigate whether the Father owes it to Himself under the covenant to offer the grace of forgiveness to those who have fallen from grace by sin. We find that He does owe it, and for several reasons:
1) He who even before the covenant was Father of all men, even of sinful men, bound Himself in the covenant to act as a Father in hesed.92 Now it is true that a Father is willing to punish children when that is required. But it also true that a Father, precisely because he is a Father, is disposed to offer forgiveness readily even to sinful children: Christ Himself depicted the Father in this way in the parable of the prodigal. Since, then, God has bound Himself in the covenant to act as a Father, He has bound Himself to offer forgiveness.
2) The basic condition of the covenant is the obedience of Christ. Though men can fail, Christ cannot and does not fail. Therefore, even though the Father does not owe it to men to offer forgiveness, yet He does owe it to Christ. For Christ did strictly earn even that offer, since He fulfilled the condition for all graces, and since His obedience, being of infinite worth, strictly earned all graces, including the grace of forgiveness. Christ Himself ordered His followers to forgive seventy times seven times, i.e., without limit. He would not order His disciples to do more than He, and the Father, would do-otherwise the disciple would be above the Master.93 Hence St. Paul says that,94 "For the gifts of God . . . are irrevocable." He says this in referring to the Jews who had broken the covenant and rejected Christ. Even though they had rejected Him, St. Paul says:95 "God has not rejected his people," but rather,96 "they also, if they do not persist in their unbelief, will be grafted in" again into the kingdom. So the gifts of God are without repentance in that He who made the beginning also wishes to continue, even though His people are unfaithful. If this was true because of even the old, the broken covenant, much more will God, who has bound Himself in the superior new covenant that is not and cannot be broken, continue the work of love begun in the passion, by offering to each man every grace that the infinite worth of the passion earned for him: which includes the offer of forgiveness.
3) Love can be measured by the obstacles it can surmount. A small love can be stopped by a small obstacle in its course of seeking the welfare and happiness of the loved one. A great love can be stopped only by a great obstacle, and an immense love is stopped by no obstacle whatsoever. We know the size of the obstacle that the love of the Father could and did surmount: the death of the cross for His Son. To offer to a sinner the grace that was earned by that cross is no obstacle at all in comparison to the obstacle of the cross. Therefore the Father most certainly does offer forgiveness to each sinner.97
1) Just as in the old covenant, God, out of intense love, willed to bind Himself to grant His favors, so, but much more abundantly, He willed to bind Himself in the new covenant (or implicit agreement). For He established infinite objective titles, valid in justice, not only for the establishment of the treasury of grace and forgiveness, but also for the application of all graces. He did this not only for men in a group, but for each individual. Therefore He owes it to Himself not to reprobate or desert98 any man before prevision of that man's resistance to grace and demerits. The resistance must be persistent to outbalance the effects of the rich abundance which God has pledged Himself to offer. So there is no reprobation before consideration of demerits.99
2) Independently of any covenantal considerations, God has proved in the passion a love for the salvation of each man of such magnitude that it could not be stopped even by the immense difficulty of the passion. Hence it cannot be stopped from completing its work of salvation by any obstacle of lesser magnitude. So there is no reprobation before prevision of persistent resistance to grace.
3) We must note that God made all these arrangements and bound Himself after original sin and precisely as a remedy for original sin (as well as for actual personal sins). Therefore, it would be a violation of the covenant (or implicit agreement) to desert anyone because of original sin. And it would be contrary to Wisdom to institute such great remedies precisely for original sin, and yet, after providing the remedy, to make it void by deserting anyone because of original sin.100
4) According to St. Paul, the redemption is superabundant:101 "For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many." And the Church sings in the canticle of the Paschal candle: "O happy fault!" Now before original sin, God would have deserted no one in such a way that the deserted one would receive only graces such that it would be metaphysically inconceivable102 for him to be saved. Therefore, after the restoration in a superabundant redemption, God does not desert anyone, leaving him with only graces such that it would be metaphysically inconceivable for him to be saved. For then the redemption would not be superabundant, but very deficient. Nor could the Church sing of the "happy fault" if many now would be in a worse condition than before and if no one could know for certain whether or not he was one of those to be deserted.
5) It is good to add a speculation. St. Thomas says:103 ". . . it is necessary that in every work of God mercy and truth be found." In the context, St. Thomas takes "truth" to stand for "justice."104 Now, in giving the treasury of graces into the hands of Christ, God exercised, in one and the same act, both mercy and justice. He exercised mercy inasmuch as mercy and love were the foundation of the whole redemption. He exercised justice inasmuch as He was carrying out that to which He had bound Himself by an infinite price, an infinite objective title. He acts the same way in granting the dispensation of graces, in view of the infinite title of the Mass, and in view of the participation of men in the titles of Christ. In view of the many instances in which God so acts as to exercise simultaneously mercy and justice (we shall see more applications of the principle in chapter 24) it seems likely that God has freely adopted the following principle in all the works He performs outside the divine nature in dealing with men: He wills that all things be carried out in such a way that, as far as possible, rewards be given on the twofold basis of mercy and justice. Thus in His outward works there is an imitation of the fact that within the divine nature itself there is no real distinction105 of mercy and justice. Only where the free will of man frustrates His generosity will such a fusion be lacking. Now if, as it seems, this is true, then we can conclude again: If the Father deserted anyone before prevision of merits, He would no longer follow this policy which He had established but would instead seek for justice (vindictive justice) without mercy, even though mercy would enter in some small measure, and as it were accidentally, in the diminution of the penalty to a point less than what strict justice would specify.
6) From the fact that justice enters the picture, mercy is not diminished. St. Thomas says well:106 ". . . this was a more abundant mercy than if sins were forgiven without satisfaction." For the very fact that God provided such titles in justice, most brilliantly demonstrates how much God loves men in wishing to bind Himself in such tremendous ways to do good to us.
50. Objection 1: From the explanation just given, it seems that predestination itself is owed. But this cannot be true.
Answer: Predestination does not become due to us, but the offering of abundant graces becomes due to the merits of Christ. And, if a man does not gravely and persistently resist these graces, he will receive the gift of predestination gratuitously, that is, not because of his merits, nor even after consideration of them, but because the immense love of God has willed from the beginning to save all, and so, since salvation is impossible without predestination, He likewise has willed to predestine all. Actually, this love, in its course, predestines all who do not gravely and persistently resist. Hence predestination, when given, is given out of merciful love. It will help to consider an analogy from the human family: the son cannot and need not earn the basic love of his father, just as we cannot merit predestination. But the son in the human family can, by resistance to grace and persistent demerits, earn punishment, even to the point of being disinherited and thrown out of his father's house. Similarly, we can merit to be excluded from predestination, even though we cannot merit to be included. The situation will be explained more fully in chapter 17. We shall see that predestination is decreed logically before consideration of our merits.
Objection 2: From the explanation just given, it seems that the grace of final perseverance is due and owed. But the Council of Trent calls it a great gift, and implies that we cannot merit this gift. In fact, the council teaches:107 "If anyone says that he, with absolute and infallible certitude, will surely have that great gift of persevering to the end . . . let him be anathema."
Answer: As we shall see more fully later on,108 in the gift of perseverance there is always included an internal special grace, and at times there is added a special external providence governing the time of death.
The special internal grace is needed in order that a man may be able to persevere. Actually, some persevere with this grace, without anything else being added. But, as we shall show later on109 from revelation, man can resist this internal grace. If by his resistance he falls into sin,110 a special providence governing the time of his death will be needed as part of the gift of perseverance, so that death may not find him in the state of sin.
The offering of the special internal grace is not owed to the man who receives it, but it is owed to the merits of Christ. Therefore, God does offer this to all.
The special providence governing the time of death is granted, as we shall see later,111 to all who do not make themselves physically or morally incurable. For the love of God, that is so great as to establish infinite objective titles for each individual, has shown that it sets no limits which it will not pass to save a man (short of the miraculous: for the extraordinary must not become the ordinary). Therefore, if someone is not saved, this happens because the man himself sets limits, in making himself incurable: but God Himself sets no limits.
It is clear that we do not say that a man can merit the gift of perseverance, nor do we say that it is owed to a man. Nor do we contradict the statement of Trent that no one can know with infallible certitude that he "will surely have" that gift. For it is one thing to say that God will offer the needed internal grace: another thing to say that a man will have it. For if a man resists, he will not have it, even though God offers it. Similarly, God will not grant the special providence governing the time of death if man persistently resists graces in general. Therefore there is incertitude in two ways-but in both, the cause of the incertitude is in man. On the part of God, all things are certain, inasmuch as God most certainly will offer the requisite special internal grace, and most certainly will specially govern the time of death, unless a man persistently resists. Hence the same council said:112 ". . . in regard to the gift of perseverance . . . let no one promise himself anything certain with absolute certitude, although all must place and keep most firm hope in the help of God. For God, unless they themselves fail His grace, just as He has begun a good work, so He will complete it. . . ." So no uncertainty comes from God's part: otherwise, it would not be true that "all must place and keep most firm hope" in Him. The only source of uncertainty is in the fault of man, for "unless they themselves fail His grace" God will give everything that is needed.
51. Objection 3: But God does not really desert men when He reprobates them negatively before consideration of demerits. He merely permits them to ruin themselves if they wish.
Answer: It is the older Thomists who make this objection. But in their theory, as we have seen above,113 man cannot really "distinguish himself"-neither in regard to reprobation vs. predestination, nor in regard to whether he will do good or evil at a particular time. For, in their theory, God alone decides these things without any previous consideration of human conditions. For He either sends an efficacious grace (with which it would be metaphysically inconceivable that a man would do other than good, since God physically moves the man's will by it), or a sufficient grace. The sufficient grace (in the sense intended by the Thomists) gives only the ability114 of acting rightly, but it does not give the act itself, for the application of the ability is still needed (that is done through efficacious grace). Now man, in their theory, cannot obtain the application, since it is denied if man resists the sufficient grace. But, that he may not resist, the application is needed. (Sometimes the older Thomists say that man has the power of not resisting, or the power of obtaining the application, but in both cases, they mean only that man has the ability of not resisting or of obtaining the application-but there is still lacking the application of this ability of not resisting or of obtaining the application. And so the process goes on ad infinitum).115 For His part, God can deny the application without any fault on the part of man.116 So there is a vicious circle. Further, although the man cannot, by means of sufficient grace, apply himself so as to produce a good act of his will, yet, God physically moves the man's deficient will into action-and the action cannot be a good act or a good decision. And so it must be a sin.117
It is obvious that, in this theory, God does far more than merely permit man to ruin himself. In fact, as we shall see later,118 the things we have just explained imply that in the theory of the older Thomists, God is in the full sense the author of sin.