A gift cannot be forced.
1 As we gather from the foregoing, since one cannot be directed to the ultimate end except by means of divine grace, without which no one can possess the things needed to work toward the ultimate end, such as faith, hope, love, and perseverance, it might seem to some person that man should not be held responsible for the lack of such aids.
Especially so, since he cannot merit the help of divine grace, nor turn toward God unless God convert him, for no one is held responsible for what depends on another. Now, if this is granted, many inappropriate conclusions appear. In fact, it follows that he who has neither faith, hope, nor love of God, nor perseverance in the good, is not deserving of punishment; whereas, it is clearly stated in John (3:36): “He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
And since no one reaches final happiness without the aids that we have mentioned, it follows that there are certain men who neither attain happiness nor suffer punishment from God. The contrary of this is shown from the statement in Matthew (25:34, 41) that to all who are present at the divine judgment, it will be said: “Come…possess you the kingdom prepared for you” or “Depart … into everlasting fire.”
Notes The ellipses were original. It takes a weak man to interpret that last warning into its opposite sense. Alas, that is now common.
2 To settle this difficulty, we ought to consider that, although one may neither merit in advance nor call forth divine grace by a movement of his free choice, he is able to prevent himself from receiving this grace: Indeed, it is said in Job(21:34): “Who have said to God: Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Your ways”; and in Job (24:13): “They have been rebellious to the light.”
And since this ability to impede or not to impede the reception of divine grace is within the scope of free choice, not undeservedly is responsibility for the fault imputed to him who offers an impediment to the reception of grace. In fact, as far as He is concerned, God is ready to give grace to all; “indeed He wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” as is said in 1 Timothy (2:4).
But those alone are deprived of grace who offer an obstacle within themselves to grace; just as, while the sun is shining on the world, the man who keeps his eyes closed is held responsible for his fault, if as a result some evil follows, even though he could not see unless he were provided in advance with light from the sun.
Notes If you walk over the cliff with your eyes closed, you have only yourself to blame.