Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 7.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

Q. Can nature, of herself, without the grace aforesaid, arrive at the knowledge of truth, either natural or supernatural? Can nature alone perform any good action, overcome temptations, love God, and keep all his commandments, avoid venial sins, and persevere in goodness to the end?

A. The doctrine of the Catholic church is this; certain natural truths may be known by man, by the light of reason alone, without the special assistance of grace; but grace is required to know supernatural or revealed truths, both speculative and practical, for faith is a special gift of God. As for good works, it is the general opinion of divines, that nature without grace can perform several works that are morally good, but not profitable towards obtaining future happiness; because several circumstances are wanting, to make them serviceable in that way. Hence, those who presume to teach, that infidels, etc., are incapable of performing any action that is morally good, are in danger of incurring the censure of that condemned proposition, every action of a sinner is sinful; which is prescribed in Huss, Michael Bains, and Calvin. As to temptations, slight ones may be overcome without grace, but not great and frequent ones; and neither small nor great, without grace, can be overcome, so as to dispose persons thereby for a supernatural reward: much less, morally speaking, can God be loved above all things, and the commandments kept by nature only, without the special assistance of God's grace; neither can a person without the said special grace, avoid all venial sin, or persevere to the end.

Q. What are the properties of habitual grace ?

A. It is inherent in the soul, and an habitual state, whereby a person lives in God's favor, even when he ceases to act, as it appears in infants after they are baptized, though incapable of acting by exciting grace; yet it is not so permanent a state, but it may be lost by subsequent offences, the just often falling both from faith and grace. Hence, habitual grace, being inherent in the soul, a person becomes by it intrinsically just, arid not only by the imputation of God's extrinsical justice, so that God does not only pardon his sin, by not imputing it, but inwardly purifies his soul from sin, by inherent grace. In the next place, habitual grace puts a person in a condition of meriting properly ; that is deserving both more grace, and an eternal reward ; (De Condigno.) for by the works proceeding from it, he applies Christ's merits, which works, are the immediate effects of God's grace. These are the chief articles of our faith concerning habitual grace, defined in the council of Trent.

Q. What is justification, and how performed?

A. In general it is an infusion, and reception of habitual grace; which is common to angels, to our first parents in the state of innocence, and to the blessed Virgin Mary, who were just without remission of sin. But as it regards sinners, it is a translation of a person from the state of sin, to the state of grace; so that it includes infusion of grace, and remission of sin.

Q. What dispositions are required for a person to be justified before God ?

A. These six following, according to the doctrine delivered in the council of Trent, viz.: First, faith. Secondly, fear. Thirdly, hope. Fourthly, the love of God. Fifthly, a detestation of sin. Sixthly, a purpose of offending no more, and keeping God's commandments.

Q. Why is faith required? Why do the Scriptures ascribe justification to faith? Does faith always justify?

A. St. Paul assures us, that it is impossible to please God without faith. Heb. xi. 6. The Scripture ascribes justification, first to faith, because it is the foundation on which justification is built. And again, because faith, in the language of the Scripture, often includes all the speculative, and practical duties of the gospel, which concur to man's justification. But faith alone, which is only the assent we give to revealed truths, cannot justify, as St. James assures us; because the greatest sinners, are capable of such a faith. St. James ii. 24.

Q. But is there not another kind of faith, viz.: A belief, and confidence that our sins are forgiven us, by the merits of Christ, and that thereby we are of the number of the elect ?

A. This cannot be called faith, but a vain presumption, if we pretend to be infallibly certain of our justification in particular; or that we are of the number of the elect: and in case we had such a faith, it could not justify us, as St. Paul and St. James declare, without the concurrence of charity and good works. 1. Cor. xiii. 2, 3. St. James ii. 24.

Q. What sort of fear is required in justification ? Methinks fear, is rather an obstacle than a disposition, fear being opposite to love.

A. The fear of God and his punishments, is everywhere recommended in the holy Scriptures, and proceeds from an impulse of actual grace; and moreover, it is a disposition towards coming into God's favor, and the beginning of love. Hence, arises the other dispositions, viz.: Hope of salvation through Christ's merits; the love of God, as the fountain of justice; the detestation of sin, and purpose of amendment. Yet these dispositions are not required in infants, who are justified otherwise, by the infusion of grace, and incapable of preparing themselves by acts.