"The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe"
- St Thomas Aquinas Ia IIa, q.24, a. 3, ad 2

REALITY—A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


Was the first man created in the state of grace? Did that original justice include sanctifying grace? Peter Lombard and Alexander of Hales, followed by St. Albert the Great and St. Bonaventure, had answered as follows: Adam was not created in the state of grace, but only with the full integrity of human nature. Thereupon, after voluntarily disposing himself thereunto, he received sanctifying grace. From this point of view grace seems to be a personal gift to Adam rather than a gift to be transmitted to his descendants. Still, according to these four teachers, these descendants too by the dispositions given them in their transmitted integrity of nature would have received sanctifying grace.

What is the position of St. Thomas? We find a development in his thought. When he wrote his commentary on the Sentences, [686] after expounding the foregoing view, he goes on to speak as follows: "But others say that man was created in grace. According to this view the gift of gratuitous justice would seem to be a gift to human nature itself, and therefore grace would have been transmitted simultaneously with nature."

At this time then, around 1254, he does not as yet give preference to either of these views. But a little later, farther on in the same work, [687] he says that it is more probable that Adam received grace at the moment of his creation.

In his subsequent works, he favors this view ever more strongly. In a work [688] written between 1263 and 1268, he speaks thus: "Original justice includes sanctifying grace. I do not accept the view that man was created in the simple state of nature." Later on, in the same work, [689] he again says: "According to some authors sanctifying grace is not included in the concept of original justice. This view I hold to be false. My reason is this: Original justice consists primordially in the subjection of the human mind to God, and such subjection cannot stand firm except by grace. Hence original justice must include grace."

Finally, in the Summa, [690] he affirms without qualification, that the first man was created in the state of grace, that grace guaranteed the supernatural submission of his soul to God, and, further, that this primordial rectitude brought with it perfect subordination of passion to reason and of the body to the soul, with the privileges of impassibility and immortality.

Original justice, then, includes grace. This truth St. Thomas finds in a word of Scripture: [691] God made man right. Thus this text was understood by tradition, notably by St. Augustine, who often says that, as long as reason submitted to God, the passions submitted to reason. Hence St. Thomas holds that the original justice received by Adam for himself and for us, included, as intrinsic and primordial element, sanctifying grace, and that this grace is the root and source of the other two subordinations, of passion to reason, of body to soul.

Let us hear the saint's own words: "Since the root of original justice, which made man right, lies in the supernatural subjection of reason to God, which subjection, as said above, comes with sanctifying grace, we must say that children born in original justice would also have been born in grace. Would grace then be something natural? No, because grace would not be given by seminal transfusion of nature, but by God, at the moment when God infused the rational soul." [692].

And here is another text: [693] "Original justice belonged primordially to the essence of the soul. For it was a gift divinely given to human nature, a gift which is given to the essence of the soul, before being given to the faculties." [694].

Original justice, then, includes sanctifying grace, received by Adam for himself and for us. That this is the position of St. Thomas is maintained by most of the commentators. [695].

We may add here a word from the saint's teaching on baptism. [696] If original justice meant merely full integrity of nature, then original sin would be merely the privation of this integrity, and hence would not be remitted by baptism, since baptism does not restore this integrity. But original sin, the death of the soul, [697] is the privation of grace, and grace is what is restored by baptism.

This position of St. Thomas, compared to the other view, is much nearer to the position later defined by the Council of Trent, [698] which condemned anyone who would assert that Adam's fall harmed himself only and not his progeny, or that he lost for himself but not for us that sanctity and justice he had received from God. The word "sanctity" in that sentence was declared by many fathers of that Council to mean "sanctifying grace." And while the sentence underwent many amendments, the word "sanctity" was never expunged. [699].

Thus Adam is conceived as head of nature elevated, who, both for himself and for us, first received and then lost, that original justice which included sanctifying grace. This truth is thus expressed in the preparatory schema for the Council of the Vatican: [700] God raised primordially the whole human race in its root and head to the supernatural order of grace, but now Adam's descendants are deprived of that grace.

Original sin, therefore, is a sin of nature, which is voluntary, not by our will, but only by the will of Adam. Hence original sin consists formally in the privation of original justice, of which the primordial element is grace, which is restored by baptism. Listen to St. Thomas: "The disorder found in this or that man descended from Adam is voluntary, not by his will, but by the will of our first parent." [701].

To say it in a word, the human nature transmitted to us is a nature deprived of those gifts, supernatural and preternatural, which, without being gifts of nature, still enriched our nature as if they were gifts of nature. [702].

Much light is thrown on the transmission of this sin of nature by the doctrine of the soul as form of the body. The soul, being the substantial and specific form of the body, constitutes with the body one and only one natural unity; [703] hence although the soul, being an immaterial thing, does not arise from matter but must be created by God from nothing, still that soul enters into a natural union with a body which is formed by generation. If human nature is thus transmitted, then, after Adam's sin, it is transmitted as deprived of original justice. Were the soul, like a motor, only accidentally united to the body, we would have no way of explaining the transmission of original sin. Let St. Thomas speak: "Human nature is transmitted from parent to child by transmission of a body into which then the soul is infused. The soul of the child incurs the original stain, because that soul constitutes with the transmitted body one nature. If the soul were not thus united to form one nature, but were only united as an angel is united to an assumed body, then the soul would not incur this original stain." [704].

This same doctrine, the soul as form of the body, explains also, as we saw above, the immutability of the soul, immediately after death, in regard to its last end. The purpose of the body is to aid the soul to reach that last end. Hence, when the soul is no longer united to the body, it is no longer on the road to its last end, but is settled in its relation to that end by the last act, meritorious or demeritorious, which it placed during its state of union with the body. [705].

Thus all questions concerning man from beginning to end, from conception unto death and thereafter, are explained by one and the same set of principles. This is a great step in attaining unity of theological science.

We have now seen, from the viewpoint of principle, the most important questions regarding God, and the angels, and man, before his fall and after. Let us summarize and conclude. God alone is pure act, in whom alone is essence identified with existence, who alone is not only His own existence, but also His own action. Every creature is composed of essence and existence, it has its existence, but it is not its existence. [706] Here appears the gulf between the verb "to be" and the verb "to have." Since activity follows being, every creature is dependent on God for its activity, just as it is dependent on Him even for its being.

Such is the word of wisdom, which decides all questions in the light of the supreme cause, God, the source and goal of all creation.

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