Summary Against Modern Thought: What Grace Is

Summary Against Modern Thought: What Grace Is

Previous post.

Another most simple chapter, which if you accept its premises, flows easily on. Key quote: “For divine love is causative of the good which He loves in anything, but human love is not always so.”


1 Since what is given a person, without any preceding merit on his part, is said to be given to him gratis, and because the divine help that is offered to man precedes all human merit, as we showed, it follows that this help is accorded gratis to man, and as a result it quite fittingly took the name grace. Hence, the Apostle says, in Romans (11:6): “And if by grace, it is not now by works: otherwise grace is no more grace.”

2 But there is another reason why the aforesaid help of God has taken the name grace. In fact, a person is said to be in the “good graces” of another because he is well liked by the other. Consequently, he who is loved by another is said to enjoy his grace. Now, it is of the essence of love that the ]over wishes good and does what is good for the object of his love. Of course, God wishes and does good things in regard to every creature, for the very being of the creature and all his perfection result from God’s willing and doing, as we showed above. Hence, it is said in Wisdom (11:25): “For You love all things that are, and hate none of the things which You have made.”

But a special mark of divine love is observable in the case of those to whom He offers help so that they may attain a good which surpasses the order of their nature, namely, the perfect enjoyment, not of some created good, but of Himself. So, this help is appropriately called grace, not only because it is given gratis, as we showed, but also because by this help man is, through a special prerogative, brought into the good graces of God. Hence, the Apostle says, in Ephesians (1:5-6): “Who predestinated us to the adoption of children… according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He hath graced us in His beloved Son.”

3 Now, this grace, within the man who is graced by it, must be something, a sort of form and perfection for that man. For, a thing that is directed toward an end must have a continual relation to it, because the mover continually moves the moved object, until the object comes to its end as a result of the motion. Therefore, since man is directed to the ultimate end by the help of divine grace, as we showed, man must continually enjoy this help until he reaches his end.

Now, this would not be if man participated in the aforesaid help as a motion or passion and not as an enduring form which is, as it were, at rest in him. In fact, a motion and a passion would not be present in man except when he was actually converted to the end, and this act is not continually performed by man, as is especially evident in the case of sleeping man. Therefore, sanctifying grace is a form and perfection remaining in man even when he is not acting.

4 Again, God’s love is causative of the good which is in us, just as a man’s love is called forth and caused by some good thing which is in the object of his love. But man is aroused to love someone in a special way because of some special good which pre-exists in the person loved. Therefore, wherever there is found a special love of God for man, there must consequently be found some special good conferred on man by God. Hence, since in accord with the preceding explanation sanctifying grace marks a special love of God for man, it must be that a special goodness and perfection is marked, as being present in man, by this term.

5 Besides, everything is ordered to an end suitable to it by the rational character of its form, for there are different ends for different species. But the end to which man is directed by the help of divine grace is above human nature. Therefore, some supernatural form and perfection must be superadded to man whereby he may be ordered suitably to the aforesaid end.

6 Moreover, man must reach his ultimate end by his own operations. Now, everything operates in accord with its own form. So in order that man may be brought to his ultimate end by his own operations, a form must be superadded to him from which his operations may get a certain efficacy in meriting his ultimate end.

7 Furthermore, divine providence makes provision for all things in accord with the measure of their nature, as is evident from preceding statements. Now, this is the measure proper for man: for the perfection of their operations there must be present in them, above their natural potencies, certain perfections and habits whereby they may operate well and do the good, connaturally, easily and enjoyably, as it were. Therefore, the help of grace which man obtains from God in order to reach the ultimate end designates a form and perfection present in man.

8 Hence, in Scripture, the grace of God is signified by some sort of light, for the Apostle says in Ephesians (5:8): “you were heretofore darkness, but now, light in the Lord.” Properly enough, then, the perfection whereby man is initially moved to his ultimate end, which consists in the vision of God, is called light, for this is the principle of the act of seeing.

9 By this we set aside the opinion of certain men who say that the grace of God places nothing within man, just as something is not put into a person as a result of the statement that he has the good graces of a king, but only in the king who likes him. It is clear, then, that they were deceived by their failure to note the difference between divine and human love. For divine love is causative of the good which He loves in anything, but human love is not always so.


  1. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    The translation is not the best. For instance, number 5 says: “Amplius. Unumquodque ordinatur in finem sibi convenientem secundum rationem suae formae…”. Which means: “Moreover, everything is ordered to its proper end, the end that suits it, according to the nature of its form”. But the text of the translation translates ‘rationem’ as a “rational character”, so, it renders it: “Besides, everything is ordered to an end suitable to it by the rational character of its form”, as if the form had reason herself. It’s misleading. The word ‘ratio’ is hard to translate, but you have to strive to preserve the total meaning of the text, its integrity. Ration, in the transcendentals, that are the same, but differ in the RATIONE, don’t differ in NATURE, which is the word I used above. Rather, they are the same nature, being, but UNDER A DIFFERENT CONSIDERATION. So, there you go, ratio is pretty hard, in some context you could say that it expresses a “character” and that it has some regard to reason, but to say that it is a “rational character”, especially in this particular context is a failure…

  2. Carlos Julio Casanova Guerra

    Number 7: “Praeterea. Divina providentia omnibus providet secundum modum suae naturae, ut ex supra dictis patet”. That is: ” What is more, divine Providence provides for everything, ACCORDING TO THE MODE OF BEING of their nature, as is evident for what is said above”. But the translation says: “Furthermore, divine providence makes provision for all things in accord with the MEASURE of their nature, as is evident from preceding statements”. As if modevof being and measure were the same, they’re not. So, it’s misleading. And, in this case, it’s evident, not only if you can read Latin or if you speak, for instance, Spanish, in plain English you can see the problem…

  3. Ann Cherry

    St. Thomas Aquinas has always given me a headache. The fault is mine, being poor in understanding and education. We know that he eventually exclaimed, “It’s all (as) straw!” What a let-down that must have seemed, and yet soon thereafter, Our Lord took this good saint to Himself.

    The “Dumb Ox” was in the arms of Jesus at age 49, after giving it his all. He too, was stretched out on his cross, the Dark Night of the Soul. It’s not a stumbling, it’s pointed, like an arrow, straight to God

    “‘Hallowed be Thy Name’, means, be Glorified in our need.” -A saintly published priest, I forget who.

    It’s interesting to read Dr. Brigg’s Sunday Aquinas, and then the Sunday Mass readings. For instance, last week, I thought the parable of the workers in the vineyard, rather answered the question of Grace preceding our actions. He first seeks us out. “The landowner (God) went out….”

    That Holy Scripture reading is also a big “whew” or antidote to despair, that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. As we naturally age, we need all the antidotes we can get, and that is probably also Grace. God, in His Goodness, gives some of us more time to get humble. It’s up to us to also smell the roses.

    So, today, the reading chosen by Dr. Briggs, seems to track beautifully with today’s Mass reading, Mt. 21:28-32, and reminds me of another favorite, from the Cure’ of Ars, who wrote, exclaimed, and lived, “All of my merit, consists in cooperating with Grace.”

    Thus, all of us prostitutes and tax collectors, all of us cripples and lepers, and that would be us all, have our antidote to despair, Hope. We who know we are lowly and useless, if only very deep down, know we are totally unable to heal ourselves.

    God seeks out those in need of a physician. He first seeks us out, and being without our own merit, and in need of a physician, we accept this Gift. For some of us, it’s our first honest act. That is Grace. What comes after, is what it alway is, complications, ie our own fallen natures!

    We know that our troubles are, mostly, of our own making, and so we must continually “cooperate with Grace.”

    God bless and have a lovely day!

  4. Joseph Bastardi

    As good as any Sunday Sermon I am going to hear

  5. C-Marie

    So consistently missing is the information concerning the relationship that Jesus said we are to have with God our Father. It is all in the Gospel of John, especially during the Last Supper. Jesus makes no mention of a dark night of the soul, but He does always say that we are to obey the Commandments of Love God and Love our neighbor. And in order to do so, we are to count the cost and then if the cost is accepted, we are to follow Him, carrying our own cross, but it is all to be accomplished in relationship with God our Father, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, pouring God’s graces into our hearts!!

    God bless, C-Marie

  6. ddf

    “By this we set aside the opinion of certain men who say that the grace of God places nothing within man, just as something is not put into a person as a result of the statement that he has the good graces of a king, but only in the king who likes him. ”
    This shows Luther’s error is an old one and anticipates him quite well.

  7. Joy

    Luther’s error was in overstating that good works without faith have the nature of sin.
    He said we are saved by Grace: alone”
    I believe that part CAN be true.
    We don’t save ourselves. Jesus Christ is the saviour. He saves us from our sin.

    Luther’s main complaint was the sale of indulgences and the excesses of the Church. THAT was what started it.

    We do Good because of our nature, what we know, what we believe, what we love, who we trust, which amounts to the same thing.

    Why do people think there’s a choice between one and the other?

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