"Nature and Grace," (From the Catholic World for January, 1868)

In the article on Rome and the World it was shown that there is an irrepressible conflict between the spirit which dominates in the world and that which reigns in the church, or the antagonism which there is and must be between Christ and Satan, the law of life and the law of death; and everyone who has attempted to live in strict obedience to the law of God has found that he has to sustain and unnecessary warfare between the spirit and the flesh, between the law of the mind and the law in the members.  We see the right, we approve it, we resolve to do it, and do it not.  We are drawn away from it by the seductions of the flesh, our appetites, passions, and carnal affections, so that the good we would do, we do not, and the evil we would not, that we do.  This, which is really a struggle on our own bosom between the higher nature and the lower, is sometimes regarded as a struggle between nature and grace, and taken as a proof that our nature is evil, and that between it and grace there is an inherent antagonism which can be removed only by the destruction either of nature by grace, or of grace by nature.

Antagonism there certainly is between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of the world, and in the bosom of the individual between the spirit and the flesh.  This antagonism must last as long as this life lasts, for the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be; but this implies no antagonism between the law of grace and the law of nature; for there is, as St. Paul assures us, “no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh.” (Rom. 8, 1)  Nor does this struggle imply that our nature is evil or has been corrupted by the fall; for the council of Trent has defined that the flesh indeed inclines to sin, but is not itself sin.  It remains even after baptism, and renders the combat necessary through life; but they who resist it and walk after the spirit are not sinners because they retain it, feel its motions, and are exposed to its seductions.  All evil originates in the abuse of good, for God has never made any thing evil.  We have suffered and suffer from original sin; we have lost innocence, the original righteousness in which we were constituted, the gifts originally added thereto, or the integrity of our nature- as immunity from disease and death, the subjection of the body to the soul, the inferior soul to the higher- and fallen into a disordered or abnormal state; but our nature has undergone no entitative or physical change or corruption, and it is essentially now what it was before the fall.  It retains all its original faculties, and these all retain their original nature.  The understanding lacks the supernatural light that illumined it in the state of innocence; but it is still understanding, and still operates and can operate only ad veritatem; free-will, as the council of Trent defines, has been enfeebled, attenuated, either positively in itself by being despoiled of its integrity and if its supernatural endowment, or negatively by the greater obstacles in the appetites and passions it has to overcome; but it is free-will still, and operates and can operate only propter bonum. We can will only good, or things only in the respect that they are good, and only for the reason they are good. We do not and cannot will evil as evil, or for the sake of evil.  The object and only object of the intellect is truth, the object and only object of the will is good, as it was before the prevarication of Adam or original sin.

Even our lower nature, concupiscentia, in which is the fomes peccati, is still entitatively good, and the due satisfaction of all its tendencies is useful and necessary in the economy of human life.  Food and drink ae necessary to supply the waste of the body and to maintain its health and strength.  Every natural affection, passion, appetite, or tendency points to a good of some sort, which cannot be neglected without greater or less injury; nor is the sensible pleasure that accompanies the gratification of our nature in itself evil, or without a good and necessary end.  Where, then, is the evil, and in what consists the danger done to our nature by original sin?  The damage, aside from the culpa, or sin and consequent loss of communion with God, is in the disorder introduced, the abnormal development of the flesh or the appetites and passions consequent on their escape from the control of reason, their fall under satanic influence, and the ignoble slavery, when they became dominant, to which they reduce reason and free-will as ministers of their pleasure. All the tendencies of our nature have each its special end, which each seeks without respect for the special ends of the others; and hence, if not restrained by reason within the bounds of moderation and sobriety they run athwart one another, and introduce into the bosom of the individual disorder and anarchy, whence proceed the disorder and anarchy, the tyranny and oppression, the wars and fights in society.  The appetites and passions are all despotic and destitute of reason, each seeking blindly and with all its force its special gratification; and the evil is in the struggle each for the mastery of the others, and in their tendency to make reason and free-will their servants, or to bring the superior soul into bondage to the inferior, as is said, when we say of a man, “He is the slave of his appetites,” or “the slave of his passions;” so that we are led to prefer a present and temporary good, though smaller, to a distant future and eternal beatitude, though infinitely greater.  Hence, under their control we not only are afflicted with internal disorder and anarchy, but we come to regard the pleasure that accompanies the gratification of our sensitive appetites and passions as the real and true end of life.  We eat and drink, not in order to live, but we live in order to eat and drink.  We make sensual pleasure our end, the motive of our activity, and the measure of our progress.  Hence we are carnal men, sold under sin, follow the carnal mind, which is antagonistic to the spiritual mind, or to reason and will, which, though they do in the carnal man the bidding of the flesh, never approve it, nor mistake what the flesh craves for the true end of man. 

The antagonism here is antagonism between the spirit and the flesh, not an antagonism between nature and grace- certainly not between the law of nature and the law of grace.  The law of nature is something very different from the natural law of the physicists, which are simply physical laws.  Transcendentalists, humanitarians, and naturalists confound these physical laws with what theologians call the natural law as distinguished from the revealed law, and take as their rule of morals the maxim, “Follow nature,” that is, follow one’s own inclinations and tendencies.  They recognize no real  difference between the law of obedience and the law of gravitation, and allow no distinction between physical laws and moral law. Hence for them there is a physical, but no moral order.  The law of nature, as recognized by theologians and moralists, is a moral law, not a physical law, a law which is addressed to reason and free-will, and demands motives, not simply a mover. It is called natural because it is promulgated by the supreme Lawgiver through natural reason, instead of supernatural revelation, and is, at least in a measure, known to all men; for all men have reason, and a natural sense of right and wrong, and, therefore, a conscience.

Natural reason is able to attain to the full knowledge of the natural law, but, as St. Thomas maintains, only in the elite of the race.  For the bulk of mankind a revelation is necessary to give them an adequate knowledge even of the precepts of the natural law; but as in some men it can be known by reason alone, it is within the reach of our natural faculties, and therefore properly called natural.  Not that nature is the source from which it derives its legal character, but the medium of its promulgation.

The law of grace or the revealed law presupposes the natural law- gratia supponit naturam- and however much or little it contains that surpasses it, it contains nothing that contradicts, abrogates, or overrides it.  The natural law itself requires that all our natural appetites, passions, and tendencies be restrained within the bounds of moderation, and subordinated to a moral end or the true end of man, the great purpose of his existence; and even Epicurus, who makes pleasure the end of our existence, our supreme good, requires, at least theoretically, the lower nature to be indulged only with sobriety and moderation.  His error is not so much in the indulgences he allowed to the sensual or carnal nature, which he was as well aware as others, needs the restraints of reason and will, as in placing the supreme good in the pleasure that accompanies the gratification of nature, and in giving as the reason or motive of the restraint, not the will of God, but the greater amount and security of natural pleasure.  The natural law not only commands the restraint, but forbids us to make the pleasure the supreme good, or the motive of the restraint.  It places the supreme good in the fulfillment of the real purpose of our existence, makes the proper motive just or right, not pleasure, and commands us to subordinate inclination to duty as determined by reason or the law itself.  It requires the lower nature to move in subordination to the higher, and the higher to act always in reference to the ultimate end of man, which, we know even from reason itself, is God, the final as well as the first cause of all things.  The revealed law and the natural law here perfectly coincide, and there is no discrepancy between them.  If, then, we understand by nature the law of nature, natural justice and equity, or what we know or may know naturally is reasonable and just, there is no contrariety between nature and grace, for grace demands only what nature herself demands.  The supposed war of grace against nature is only the war of reason and free-will against appetite, passion, and inclination, which can be safely followed only when restrained within proper bounds.  The crucifixion or annihilation of nature, which Christian asceticism enjoins, is a moral, not a physical crucifixion or annihilation; the destruction of pleasure as our motive or end.  No physical destruction of any thing natural, nor physical change in any thing natural, is demanded by grace or Christian perfection.  The law of grace neither forbids nor diminishes the pleasure that accompanies the satisfaction of nature; it only forbids our making it our good, an end to be lived for.  When the saints mortify the flesh, chastise the body, or sprinkle with ashes their mess of bitter herbs, it is to maintain inward freedom, to prevent pleasure from gaining a mastery over them, and becoming a motive of action, or perhaps oftener from a love of sacrifice, and the desire to share with Christ in his sufferings to redeem the world.  We all of us, if we have any sympathies, feel an invincible repugnance to feasting and making merry with our friends, those we tenderly love, are suffering near us, and the saints see always the suffering Redeemer, Christ in his agony in the garden and on the cross, before their eyes, him whom they love deeply, tenderly, with their whole heart and soul.

But though the law of nature and the law of grace really coincide, we have suffered from original sin, that we cannot, by our unassisted natural strength, perfectly keep even the law of nature.  The law of nature requires us to love God with our whole heart and with our whole soul, and with all our strength and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.  This law, though not above our powers in integral nature, is above them in our fallen or abnormal state. Grace is the supernatural assistance given us through Jesus Christ to deliver us from the bondage of Satan and the flesh, and to enable us to fulfill this great law.  This is sometimes what is called medicinal grace; and however antagonistic it may be to the moral disorder introduced by original sin and aggravated by actual sin, it is no more antagonistic to nature itself than is medicine administered by the physician to the body to enable it to throw off a disease too strong for it, and to recover its health.  What assists nature, aids it to keep the law and attain to freedom and normal development, cannot be opposed to nature or in any manner hurtful to it.   

Moreover, grace is not merely medicinal, nor simply restricted to repairing the damage done by original sin.  Where sin abounded, grace superabounds.  Whether, if man had not sinned, God would have become incarnate or not is a question which we need not raise here, any more than the question whether God could or could not, congruously with his known attributes, have created man in what the theologians call the state of pure nature, as he is now born, seclusa ratione culpae et poenae, and therefore for a natural beatitude; for it is agreed on all hands that he did not so create him and that the Incarnation is not restricted in its intention or effect to the simple redemption of man from sin, original or actual, and his restoration to the integrity of his nature, lost by the prevarication of Adam.  All schools teach that as a matter of fact the Incarnation looks higher and further, and is intended to elevate man to a supernatural order of spiritual life, and to secure him a supernatural beatitude, a life and beatitude to which his nature alone is not adequate. 

Man regarded in the present decree of God has not only his origin in the supernatural, but also has his last end or final cause.  He proceeds from God as first cause, and returns to him as final cause.  The oriental religions, the Egyptian, Hindoo, Chinese, Buddhist, etc., all say as much, but fall into the error of making him proceed from God by way of emanation, generation, formation, or development, and his return to him as final cause, absorption in him, as the stream in the fountain, or the total loss of individuality, which, instead of being perfect beatitude in God, is absolute personal annihilation.  But these religions have originated in a truth which they misapprehend, pervert, or travesty.  Man, both Christian faith and sound philosophy teach us, proceeds from God as first cause by way of creation proper, and returns to him as final cause without absorption in him or loss of individuality.  God creates man, not indeed an independent, but a substantive existence, capable of acting from his own center as a second cause; and however intimate may be his relation with God, he is always distinguishable from him, and can no more be confounded with him as his final cause than he can be confounded with him as his first cause.  Not only the race but the individual man returns to God, and finds in him his supreme good, and individually united to him through the Word made flesh, enjoys personally in him an infinite beatitude.   God alike as first cause and as final cause is supernatural.  And man therefore can neither exist nor find his beatitude without the intervention of the supernatural.  He can no more rise to a supernatural beatitude or beatitude in God without the supernatural act of God, than he could begin to exist without that act.  The natural is created and finite, and can be no medium of the infinite or supernatural.  Man, as he is in the present decree of God, cannot obtain his end, rise to his supreme good or beatitude, without a supernatural medium.  This medium in relation to the end, or in the teleological order, is the Word made Flesh, God incarnate, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and men.  Jesus Christ is not only the medium of our redemption from sin and the consequences of the fall, but of our elevation to the plane of a supernatural destiny, and perfect beatitude in the infinite and eternal possession of God, who is both our good and the Good in itself.  This is a higher, an infinitely greater good than man could ever have attained to by his natural powers even in a state of integral nature, or if he had not sinned, and had had no need of a Redeemer; and hence the apostle tells us where sin abounded grace superabounded, and the church sings on Holy Saturday, O felix culpa.  The incarnate Word is the medium of this superabounding good, as the Father is its principle and the Holy Ghost its consummator.

Whether grace is something created, as St. Thomas maintains, and as would seem to follow from the doctrine of infused virtues asserted by the council of Trent, or the direct action of the holy Ghost within us, as was held by Petrus Lombardus, the Master of Sentences, it is certain that the medium of all grace given to enable us to attain to beatitude is the Incarnation, and hence is termed by theologians gratia Christi, and distinguishable from the simple gratia Dei, which is bestowed on man in the initial order, or order of genesis, commonly called the natural order, because its explication is by natural generation, and not as the teleological order, by the election of grace.  The grace of Christ by which our nature is elevated to the plane of the supernatural, and enabled to attain to a supernatural end or beatitude, cannot be opposed to nature, or in any sense antagonistic to nature.  Nature is not denied or injured because its author prepare for it a greater, an infinitely greater than a natural or created good, to which no created nature by its own powers, however exalted, could ever attain.  Men may doubt if such a good remains for those who love our Lord Jesus Christ and by his grace follow him in the regeneration, but nobody can pretend that the proffer of such good, and the gift of the means to attain it, can be any injury or slight to nature.

There is no doubt that the flesh resists grace, because grace would subordinate it to reason and free-will, but this, though the practical difficulty, is not the real dialectic difficulty which men feel in the way of accepting the Christian doctrine of grace.  Men object to it on the ground that it substitutes grace for nature, and renders nature good for nothing in the Christian or teleological order- the order of return to God as our last end or final cause.  We have anticipated and refuted this objection in condemning the pantheistic doctrine of the Orientals, and by maintaining that the return to God is without absorption in him, or loss of our individuality or distinct personality. 

The beatitude which the regenerate soul attains to in God by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is the beatitude of that very individual soul that proceeds, by way of creation, from God.  The saints by being blest in God are not lost in him, but retain in glory their original human nature and their identical personal existence.  This the church plainly teaches in her cultus sanctorum.  She invokes the saints in heaven, and honors them as individuals distinct from God, and as distinct personalities; and hence, she teaches us that the saints are sons of God only by adoption, and, though living by and in the Incarnate Word, are not themselves Christ, or the Word made flesh.  In the Incarnation, the human personality was absorbed or superseded by the divine personality, so that the human nature assumed had a divine but no human personality.  The Word assumed human nature, not a human person.  Hence the error of the Nestorians and adoptionists, and also of those who in our own times are willing to call Mary the mother of Christ, but shrink from calling her Theotokos, or the Mother of God.  But in the saints, who are not hypostatically united to the Word, human nature not only remains unchanged, but retains its human personality; and the saints are as really men, as really human persons in glory, as they were while in the flesh, and are the same human persons that they were before either regeneration or glorification.  The church, by her cultus sanctorum, teaches us to regard the glorified saints as still human persons, and to honor them as human persons, who have by the aid of grace merited the honor we give them.  We undoubtedly honor God in his saints as well as in all his works of nature or of grace; but this honor of God in his works is that of latria, and is not that which is rendered to the saints.  In the cultus sanctorum, we not only honor him in his works, but we also honor the saints themselves for their own personal worth, acquired not, indeed, without grace, but still acquired by them, and is as much theirs as if it had been acquired by their unassisted natural powers; for our natural powers are from God as first cause, no less than grace itself, only grace is from him through the Incarnation.  You say, it is objected, that grace supposes nature, gratia supponit naturam, yet St. Paul calls the regeneration a new creation, and the regenerated soul a new creature.  Very true; yet he says this not because the nature given in generation is destroyed or superseded in regeneration, but because regeneration no more than generation can be initiated or sustained without the divine creative act; because generation can never become of itself regeneration, or make the first motion toward it.  Without the divine regenerative act we cannot enter upon our teleological or spiritual life, but must remain forever in the order of generation, and infinitely below our destiny, as is the case with the reprobate or those who die unregenerate.  But it is the person of Adam that is regenerated, that is translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, and that is the recipient of regenerating, persevering, and glorifying grace.  This is the point we insist on; for, if so, the objection that grace destroys or supersedes nature is refuted.  The whole of Catholic theology teaches that grace assists nature, but does not create or substitute a new nature, as is evident from the fact that it teaches that in regeneration even we must concur with grace, that we can resist it, and after regeneration lose all that grace confers, apostatize from the faith, and fall even below the condition of the unregenerate.  This would be impossible, if we did not retain our nature as active in and after regeneration.  In this life it is certain that regeneration is a moral, a spiritual, not a physical change, and that our reason and will are emancipated from the bondage of sin, and are simply enabled to act from a higher plane and gain a higher end than they could unassisted; but it is the natural person that is enabled and that acts in gaining the higher end.  Grace, then, does not in this life destroy or supersede nature, and the authorized cultus of the saints proves that it does not in the glorified saint or life to come.

The same conclusion follows from the fact that regeneration only fulfils generation.  “I am not come,” said our Lord, “to destroy, but to fulfil.”  The creative act, completed, as to the order of procession of existences from God, in the Incarnation or hypostatic union, which closes the initial order and institutes the teleological, includes both the procession of existences from God and their return to him.  It is completed, fulfilled, and consummated only in regeneration and glorification.  If the nature that proceeds from God is changed or superseded by grace, the creative act is not fulfilled, for that which proceeds from God does not return to him.  The initial man must himself return, or with regard to him the creative act remains initial and incomplete.  In the first order, man is only initial or inchoate, and is a complete, a perfect man only when he has returned to God as his final cause.  To maintain that it is not this initial man that returns, but, if the supposition be possible, another than he, or something substituted for him, and that has not by way of creation proceeded from God, would deny the very purpose and end of the Incarnation, and the very idea of redemption, regeneration, and glorification, the grace of Christ, and leave man without any means of redemption or deliverance from sin, or of fulfilling his destiny- the doom of the damned in hell.  The destruction or change of man’s nature is the destruction of man himself, the destruction of his identity, his human personality; yet St. Paul teaches, (Rom. 8, 30), that the persons called are they who are redeemed and glorified: “Whom he predestined, them also he called; and whom he called, them also he justified; and whom he justified, them also he glorified.”

We can, indeed, do nothing in relation to our end without the grace of Christ; but, with that grace freely given and strengthening us, it is equally certain that we can work, and work even meritoriously, or else how could heaven be promised us as a reward?  Yet it is promised: “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and is the rewarder of them that seek him.” (Heb. 11, 6)  Moses “looked to the reward;”  David had respect to the divine “retributions;” and all Christians, as nearly all heathen, believe in a future state of rewards and punishments.  We are exhorted to flee to Christ and obey him that we may escape hell and gain heaven.  The grace by which we are born again and are enabled to merit is unquestionably gratuitous, for grace is always gratuitous, omnino gratis, as say the theologians, and we can do nothing to merit it, no more than we could do something to merit our creation from nothing; but though gratuitous, a free gift of God, grace is bestowed on or infused into a subject already existing in the order of generation or natural order, and we can act by it, and can do, if faithful to it, merit heaven or eternal life.  Hence says the apostle, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, or to accomplish.” (Philip 2: 12,13)  But this no more implies that the willing and doing in the order of regeneration are not ours than that our acting in the order of nature is not ours because we can even in that order act, whether for good or evil, only by the divine concurrence.

The heterodox confound the gift of grace by which we are able to merit the reward with the reward itself; hence they maintain, because we can merit nothing without grace, that we can merit nothing even with it, and that we are justified by faith alone, which is the free gift of God, conferred on whom he wills, and that grace is irresistible, and once in grace we are always in grace.  But St. James tells us that we are “justified by our works, and not by faith only, for faith without works I dead.”  (St. James 2: 14,25)  Are we who work by grace and merit the reward the same we that prior to regeneration sinned and were under wrath?  Is it we who by the aid of grace merit the reward, or is it the grace in us?  If the grace itself, how can it be said that we are rewarded?  If the reward is given not to us who sinned, but to the new person or new nature into which grace is said to change us, how can it be said that we either merit or are rewarded?  Man has his specific nature, and if you destroy or change that specific nature, you annihilate him as man, instead of aiding his return to God, as his final cause.  The theologians treat grace not as a new nature, or a new faculty bestowed on nature, but as a habitus, or habit, but none the less a habit on that account, which changes not, transforms not nature, but gives it, as do all habits, a power or facility of doing what without it would exceed its strength.  The subject of the habit is the human soul, and that which acts by, under, or with the habit is also the human soul, not the habit.  The soul, as before receiving it, is the actor, but it acts with an increased strength, and does what before it could not; yet its nature is simply strengthened, not changed.  The general idea of habit must be preserved throughout.  The personality is not in the habit, but in the rational nature of him into whom the habit is infused by the Holy Ghost.  In our Lord there are two natures; but in him the divine personality assumes the human nature, and is always the subject acting, whether acting in the human nature or in the divine.  In the regenerated there are also the human and the divine; but the human, if we may so speak, assumes the divine, and retains from first to last its own personality, as is implied in the return to God without absorption in him or loss of personal individuality, and in the fact that, though without grace, we cannot concur with grace, yet by the aid of grace we can and must concur with it the moment we come to the use of reason, or it is not effectual.  The sacraments are, indeed, efficacious ex opere operato, not by the faith or virtue of the recipient, but only in case the will, as in infants, opposes no obstacle to the grace they signify.  Yet even in infants the concurrence of the will is required when they come to the use of reason, and the refusal to elicit the act loses the habit infused by baptism.  The baptized infant must concur with grace as soon as capable of a rational act.

The heterodox who are exclusive supernaturalists, because we cannot without grace concur with grace, deny that the concurrence is needed, and assert that grace is irresistible and overcomes all resistance, and, as gratia victrix, subjects the will.  Hence they hold that, in faith, regeneration, justification, sanctification, nature does nothing, and all that is done is done by sovereign grace even in spite of nature; but the fact on which they rely is not sufficient to sustain their theory.  The schoolmen, for the convenience of teaching, divide and subdivide grace till we are in danger of losing sight of its essential unity.  They tell us of prevenient grace, or the grace that goes before or excites the will; of assisting grace, the grace that aids the will when excited to elect to concur with grace; and efficacious grace, the grace that renders the act of concurrence effectual.  But these three graces are really one and the same grace, and the gratia praeveniens, when not resisted, becomes immediately gratia adiuvans, and aids the will to concur with grace, and, if concurred with, it becomes, ipso facto and immediately, gratia efficax.  It needs no grace to resist grace, and none, it would seem to follow from the freedom of the will, not to resist it.  Freedom of the will, according to the decision of the church in the case of the gratia victrix of the Jansenists, implies the power to will the contrary, and, if free to resist it, why not free not to resist?   There is, it seems to us, a real distinction between not willing to resist and willing to concur.  Nothing in nature compels or forces the will to resist, for its natural operation is to do good, as that of the intellect is to the true.  The grace excites it to action, and, if it do not will to resist, the grace is present to assist it to elect to comply.  If this be tenable, and we see why not it is not, both the aid of grace and the freedom and activity of the will are asserted, are saved, are harmonized, and the soul is elevated into the order of regeneration without any derogation either from nature or from grace, or lesion to either.

We are well aware of the old question debated in Catholic schools, whether grace is to be regarded as auxilium quod or as auxilium quo; but it is not necessary either to inquire what was the precise sense of the question debated, or to enter into any discussion of its merits, for both schools held the Catholic faith, which asserts the freedom of the will, and both held that grace is auxilium, and therefore an aid given to nature, not its destruction, nor its change into something else.  The word auxilium, or aid, says of itself all that we are contending for.  St Paul says indeed, when reluctantly comparing his labors with those of the other apostles, that he had labored more abundantly than they all, but adds, “Yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”  But he recognizes himself, for he says, “grace with me;” and his sense is easily explained by what he says in a passage already quoted, namely, “Work out your own salvation; for it is God that worketh in you to will and to do,” or to accomplish, and also by what he says in the text itself.  (1 Cor. 15: 10) “By the grace of God, I am what I am;” which has primary reference to his calling to be an apostle.  God by his grace works in us to will and to do, and we can will or do nothing in relation to our final end, as has been explained, without his grace; but, nevertheless, it is we who will and do.  Hence St. Paul could say to St. Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.  For the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me at that day: and not to me only, but to them also that love his coming.” (2 Tim. 4: 7-8)  Here St. Paul speaks of himself as the actor and as the recipient of the crown.  St Augustine says that God, in crowning the saints, “crowns his own gifts,” but evidently means that he crowns them for what they have become by his gifts; and, as it is only by virtue of his gifts that they have become worthy of crowns, their glory redounds primarily to him, and only in a subordinate sense to themselves.  There is, in exclusive supernaturalists and exaggerated ascetics, an unsuspected pantheism, no less sophistical and uncatholic than the pantheism of our pseudo-ontologists.  The characteristic mark of pantheism is not simply the denial of creation, but the denial of the creation of substances capable of acting as second causes.  In the order of regeneration as in the order of generation we are not indeed primary, but are really secondary causes; and the denial of this fact, and the assertion of God as the direct and immediate actor from first to last, is pure pantheism.  This is as true in the order of regeneration as in the order of generation, though in the order of grace it is thought to be a proof of piety, when, in fact, it denies the very subject that can be pious.  Count de Maistre somewhere says, “The worst error against grace is that of asserting too much grace.”  We must exist, and exist as second causes, to be the recipients of grace, or to be able even with grace to be pious toward God, or the subject of any other virtue.  In the regeneration we do by the aid of grace, but we are, nevertheless, the doers, whence it follows that regeneration no more than generation is wholly supernatural.  Regeneration supposes generation, takes it up to itself and completes it, otherwise the first Adam would have no relation to the second Adam, and man would find no place in the order of regeneration, which would be the more surprising since the order itself originates in the Incarnation, in the God-Man, who is its Alpha and Omega, it beginning and end.

Many people are, perhaps, misled on this subject by the habit of restricting the word natural exclusively to the procession of existences from God and what pertains to the initial order of creation, and the word supernatural to the return of existences to God as their last end, and the means by which they return or attain that end and complete the cycle of existence or the creative act.  The procession is initial, the return is teleological.  The initial is called natural, because it is developed and carried on by natural generation; the teleological is called supernatural, because it is developed and carried on by grace, and the election by grace takes the place of natural descent.  This is well enough, except when we have to deal with persons who insist on separating- not simply distinguishing, but separating, the natural and supernatural, and on denying either the one or the other.  But, in reality, what we ordinarily call the natural is not wholly natural, nor what we call the supernatural is wholly supernatural.  Strictly speaking, the supernatural is God himself and what he does with no other medium than his own eternal Word, that is, without any created medium or agency of second causes; the natural is that which is created and what God does through the medium of second causes or created agencies, called by physicists natural laws.  Thus, creation is a supernatural fact, because effected immediately by God himself; generation is a natural fact, because effected by God mediately by natural laws or second causes; the hypostatic union, or the assumption of flesh by the Word, which completes the creative act in the initial order and institutes the teleological or final order, is supernatural; all the operations of grace are supernatural, though operations in and with nature; the sacraments are supernatural, for they are effective ex opere operato, and the natural parts are only the signs of grace, not its natural medium.  The water used in baptism is not a natural medium of the grace of regeneration; it is made by the divine will the sign, though an appropriate sign, of it; the grace itself is communicated by the direct action of the holy Ghost, which is supernatural.  Regeneration, as well as its complement, glorification, is supernatural, for it cannot be naturally developed from generation, and regeneration does not necessarily carry with it glorification; for it does not of itself, as St. Augustine teaches, insure the grace of perseverance, since grace is omnino gratis, and only he that perseveres to the end will be glorified.  Hence, even in the teleological order, the natural, that is, the human reason and will have their share, and without their activity the end would not and could not be gained.  Revelation demands the active reception of reason, or else it might as well be made to an ox or a horse as to a man; and the will that perseveres to the end is the human will, though the human will be regenerated by grace.  Wherever you see the action of the creature as second cause you see the natural, and wherever you see the direct action of God, whether as sustaining the creature or immediately producing the effect, you see the supernatural.

The fact that God works in us to will and to do, or that we can do nothing in the order of regeneration without grace moving and assisting us, no more denies the presence and activity of nature than does the analogous fact that we can do nothing even in the order of generation without the supernatural presence and concurrence of the Creator.  We are as apt to forget that God has any hand in the action of nature as we are to deny that where God acts nature can never cooperate; we are apt to conclude that the action of the one excludes that of the other, and to run either into Pelagianism on the one hand, or into Calvinism or Jansenism on the other; and we find a difficulty in harmonizing in our minds the divine sovereignty of God and human liberty.  We cannot, on this occasion, enter fully into the question of their conciliation.  Catholic faith requires us to assert both, whether we can or cannot see how they can coexist.  We think, however, that we can see a distinction between the divine government of a free active subject and an inanimate and passive subject.  God governs each subject according to the nature he has given it; and, if he has given man a free nature, his government, although absolute, must leave human freedom intact, and to man the capacity of exercising his own free activity, without running athwart the divine sovereignty.  How this can be done, we do not undertake to say.

But be this as it may, there is no act even in the natural order that is or can be performed without the assistance of the supernatural; for we are absolutely dependent on the creative act of God in every thing, in those very acts in which we act most freely. The grace of God is as necessary as the grace of Christ.  God has not created a universe, and made it, when once created, capable of going alone as a self-moving machine.  He created substances, indeed, capable of acting as second causes; but these substances can do nothing, are nothing as separated form the creative act of God that produces them, upholds them, is present in them, and active in all their acts, even in the most free determinations of the will.  Without this divine presence, always an efficient presence, and this divine activity in all created activities, there is and can be no natural activity or action, any more than, in relation to our last end, there can be the first motion toward grace without grace. The principle of action in both orders is strictly analogous, and our acting with grace or by the assistance of grace in the order of regeneration is as natural as is our acting by the divine presence and concurrence in the order of generation.  The human activity in either order is equally natural, and in neither is it possible or explicable without the constant presence and activity of the supernatural.  The two orders, the initial and the teleological, then, are not antagonistic to each other, are not based on two mutually destructive principles, but are really two distinct parts, as we so often say, of one dialectic whole.

The Holy Scriptures, since God is causa eminens, the cause of causes, the first cause operative in all second causes speak of God as doing this or that, without always taking special note of the fact that, though he really does it, he does it through the agency of second causes or the activity of creatures.  This is frequently the case in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and sometimes, though less frequently, in the New Testament, though never in either without something to indicate whether it is the direct and immediate or the indirect and mediate action of God that is meant.  Paying no attention to this, many overlook the distinction altogether, and fall into a sort of pantheistic fatalism, and practically deny the freedom and activity of second causes, as is the case with Calvin when he declares God to by the author of sin, which on his own principles is absurd, for he makes the will of God the criterion of right, and therefore whatever God does must be right, and nothing that is right can be sin.  On the other hand, men, fixing their attention on the agency of second causes, overlook the constant presence and activity of the first cause, treat second causes as independent causes, or as if they were themselves first cause, and fall into pure naturalism, which is only another name for atheism.  The universe is not a clock or a watch, but even a clock or a watch generates not its own motive power; the maker in either has only so constructed it as to utilize for his purpose a motive power that exists and operates independently both of him and of his regeneration.

Men speak of nature as supernaturalized in regeneration, and hence assume that grace transforms nature; but in this there must be some misunderstanding or exaggeration.  In regeneration we are born into the order of the end, or started, so to speak, on our return to God as our final cause.  The principle of this new birth, which is grace, and the end, which is God, are supernatural; but our nature is not changed except as to its motives and the assistance it receives, though it receives in baptism an indelible mark not easy to explain.  This follows from the Incarnation.  In the Incarnation our nature is raised to be the nature of God, and yet remains human nature, as is evident from the condemnation by the church of the Monophysites and the Monothelites.  Catholic faith requires us to hold that the two natures, the human and the divine, remain forever distinct in the one divine person of the Word.  Some prelates thought to save their orthodoxy by maintaining that, after his resurrection, the two natures of our Lord became fused or transformed into one theandric nature; but they did not succeed, and were condemned and deposed.  The Monothelites asserted that there were in Christ two natures indeed, but only one will, or that his human will was absorbed in the divine.  But they also were condemned as heretics.  Our Lord, addressing the Father, says, “Not my will, but thine be done,” thus plainly implying a human will distinct from, though not contrary to, the divine will.  Can we suppose that the grace of regeneration or even of glorification works a greater change of nature in us than the grace of union worked in our nature as assumed by the Word?  If human nature and human will remain in Christ after the hypostatic union, so that to regard him after his resurrection as having but one will or one theandric nature is a heresy, how can we hold without heresy that grace, which flows from that union, either destroys our nature or transforms it into a theandric or supernaturalized nature?

Let us understand, then, that grace neither annihilates nor supersedes or transforms our nature.  It is our nature that is redeemed or delivered from the bondage of sin, our nature that is translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, our nature that is reborn, that is justified, that by the help of grace perseveres to the end, that is rewarded, that is glorified, and enters into the glory of our Lord.  It then persists in regeneration and glorification as one and the same human nature, with its human reason, its human will, its human personality, its human activity, only assisted by grace to act from a supernatural principle to or for a supernatural end.  The assistance is supernatural, and so is the end; but that which receives the assistance, profits by it, and attains the end, is human nature, that man that was born of Adam as well as reborn of Christ, the second Adam.

We have dwelt long, perhaps to tediousness, upon this point, because we have wished to efface entirely the fatal impression that nature and grace are mutually antagonistic, and to make it appear that the two orders, commonly called the natural and the supernatural, are both mutually consistent parts of one whole; that grace simply completes nature; and that Christianity is no anomaly, no after-thought, or succedaneum, in the original design of creation.

The heterodox, with their doctrine of total depravity, and the essential corruption or evil of nature, and their doctrine, growing out of this assumed depravity or corruption, of irresistible grace, and the inactivity or passivity of man in faith and justification, obscure this great fact, and make men regard nature as a failure, and that to save some God had to supplant it and create a new nature in its place.  A more immoral doctrine, or one more fatal to all human activity, is not conceivable, if it could be really and seriously believed and acted on prior to regeneration, which is impossible.  The heterodox are better than their system.  The system teaches that all our works before regeneration are sins; even our prayers are unacceptable, some say, an abomination to the Lord, and consequently, there is no use in striving to be virtuous.  After regeneration there is no need of our activity, for grace is inamissible, and if really born again, sin as much as we will, our salvation is sure, for the sins of the regenerated are not reputed to them or counted as sins.  There is no telling how many souls this exclusive and exaggerated supernaturalism (which we owe to the reformers of the sixteenth century) has destroyed, or how many persons it has deterred from returning to the Catholic church by the common impression, that, since she asserts original sin and the necessity of grace, she holds and teaches the same frightful system.  Men who are able to think, and accustomed to sober reflection, find themselves unable to embrace Calvinism, and, confounding Calvinism with Christianity, reject Christianity itself, and fall into a meagre rationalism, a naked naturalism, or, worst of all, an unreasoning indifferentism; yet there is no greater mistake than to suppose that the church holds it or has the slightest sympathy with it.  We have wished to mark clearly the difference between it and her teaching.  Christian asceticism, when rightly understood, is not based on the assumption that nature is evil, and needs to be destroyed, repressed, or changed.  It is based on two great ideas, liberty and sacrifice.  It is directed not to the destruction of the flesh or the body, for in the creed we profess to believe in the “resurrection of the flesh.”  Our Lord assumed flesh in the womb of the Virgin; he had a real body, ascended into heaven with it, and in it sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty.  He feeds and nourishes us with it in Holy Communion; and it is by eating his flesh and drinking his blood that our spiritual life is sustained and strengthened.  Our own bodies shall rise again, and, spiritualized after the manner of Christ’s glorious body, shall, reunited to the soul, live forever.  We show that this is our belief by the honor we pay to the relics of the saints.  This sacred flesh, these sacred bones, which we cherish with so much tender piety, shall live again, and re-enter the glorified body of the saint.  Matter is not evil, as the Platonists teach, and as the false asceticism of the heathen assumes, with which Christian asceticism has no affinity, though many who ought to know better pretend to the contrary.  The Christian ascetic aims, indeed, at a moral victory over the flesh, labors by the help of grace to liberate the soul from its bondage, to gain the command of himself, to be at all times free to maintain the truth, and to keep the commandments of God; to bring his body into subjection to the soul, to reduce the appetites and passions under the control of his reason and will, but never to destroy them or in any manner to injure his material body.  Far less does he seek to abnegate, destroy, or repress either will or reason, in order to give grace freer and fuller scope; he only labors to purify and strengthen both by grace.  Nature is less abnormal, purer, stronger, more active, more energetic in the true ascetic than in those who take no pains to train and purify it under the influence of divine grace.

The principle of all sacrifice is love.  It was because God so loved men that he gave his only-begotten Son to die for them that they might not perish, but have everlasting life.  It was love that died on the cross for our redemption.  Nothing is hard or difficult to love, and there is nothing love will not do or sacrifice for the object loved.  The saint can never make for his Lord a sacrifice great enough to satisfy his love, and gives up for him the most precious things he has, not because they are evil or it would be sin in him to retain them; not because his Lord needs them, but because they are the most costly sacrifice he can make, and he in making the sacrifice can give some proof of his love.  The chief basis of monastic life is sacrifice.  The modern notion that monastic institutions were designed to be a sort of hospital for infirm souls is essentially false.  As a rule, a virtue that cannot sustain itself in the world will hardly acquire firmness and strength in a monastery.  The first monks did not retire from the world because unfit to live in it, but because the world restrained their liberty, and because it afforded them no adequate field for the heroic sacrifices to which they aspired.  Their austerities, which we, so little robust as Christians, accustomed to pamper our bodies, and to deny ourselves nothing, regard as sublime folly, if not with s shudder of horror, were heroic sacrifices to the Spouse of the soul, for whom they wished to give up every thing but their love.  They rejoiced in affliction for his sake, and they wished to share, as we have already said, with him in the passion and cross which he endured for our sake, so as to be as like him as possible.  There are saints today in the monasteries, and out of monasteries in the world, living in our midst, whom we know not or little heed, who understand the meaning of this word sacrifice, and make as great and as pure sacrifices, though perhaps in other forms, and as thoroughly forego their own pleasure, and as cheerfully give up what costs them the most to give up, as did the old fathers of the desert.  But, if we know them not, God knows them and loves them.

Yet we pretend not to deny that many went into monasteries from other motives, from weakness, disappointed affection, disgust of the world, and some to hide their shame, and to expiate their sins by a life of penance; but, if the monastery often sheltered such as these, it was not for such that it was originally designed.  In process of time, monastic institutions when they became rich, were abused, as often the priesthood itself, and treated by the nobles as a provision for younger sons or portionless daughters.  We may at times detect in ascetics an exaggeration of the supernatural element and the underrating, if not a neglect of the natural; we may find, chiefly in modern times, a tendency among the pious and devout to overlook the fact that manliness, robustness, and energy of mind and character enter as an important element in the Christian life; but the tendency in that direction is not catholic, though observed to some extent among Catholics.  It originates in the same causes that originated the Calvinistic or Jansenistic heresy, and has been strengthened by the exaggerated assertion of the human and natural elements caused by the reaction of the human mind against an exclusive and exaggerated supernaturalism.  The rationalism and humanitarianism of the last century and the present are only the reaction of human nature against the exaggerated supernaturalism of the reformers and their descendants, the Jansenists, who labored to demolish nature to make way for grace, and to annihilate man in order to assert God.  Each has an element of truth, but, neither having the whole truth, each makes war on the other, and alternately gains a victory and undergoes a defeat.  Unhappily, neither will listen to the church who accepts the truth and rejects the exclusiveness of each, and harmonizes and completes the truth of both in the unity and catholicity of the faith once delivered to the saints.  The Catholic faith is the reconciler of  all opposites.  These alternate victories and defeats go on in the world outside of the church; but it would be strange if they did not have some echo among Catholics, living, as they do, in the midst of the combatants, and in constant literary and intellectual intercourse with them.  They create some practical difficulties for Catholics which are not always properly appreciated.  We cannot assert the natural, rational, and human element of the church without helping, more or less, the exclusive rationalists or naturalists who deny the supernatural; and we can hardly oppose them with the necessary vigor and determination without seeming at least to favor their opponents, the exclusive supernaturalists, who reject reason and deny the natural.  It is this fact very likely that has kept Catholics for the most part during the last century and the present on the defensive; and as, during this period, the anti-supernaturalists have been the most formidable enemy of the church, it is no wonder if the mass of devout Catholics have shown some tendency to exaggerate the supernatural, and been shy of asserting as fully as faith warrants the importance of the rational and the natural, or if they have paid less attention  to the cultivation of the human side of religion than is desirable. 

Some allowance must be made for the new position in which Catholics for a century or more have been placed, and it would be very wrong to censure then with severity, even if we found them failing to show themselves all at once equal to the new duties imposed upon them.  The breaking up of old governments and institutions, founded by Catholic ancestors, the political, social, and industrial revolutions that have been and still are going on, must have, to some extent, displaced the Catholic mind, and required it, so to speak, to ease itself, or to take a new and difficult observation, and determine its future course.  Catholics today stand between the old, which was theirs, and which is passing away, and the new, which is rising, and which is not yet theirs.  They must needs be partially paralyzed, and at a momentary loss to know what course to take.  Naturally conservative, as all men are who have something to lose or on which to rely, their sympathies are with the past, they have not been able as yet to accept the new state of things, and convert regrets into hopes.  A certain hesitation marks their conduct, as if in doubt whether to stand out against the new at all hazards, and, if need be, fall martyrs to a lost cause, or to accept it and do the best they can with it.  In this country, where Catholicity is not associated with any sort of political institutions, and Catholics have no old civilization to retain or any new order to resist, we, unless educated abroad, are hardly able to appreciate the doubts, hesitations, and discouragements of Catholics in the old world,  and to make the proper allowances if at times they seem to attach as Catholics undue importance to the political and social changes going on around them, to be too despondent, and most disposed to cry out against the wickedness of the age, to fold their hands, and wait for Providence to rearrange all things for them without their cooperation, than to look the changes events have produced full in the face, and to exert themselves, with the help of grace, to bring order out of the new chaos, as their brave old ancestors did out of the chaos that followed the irruption of the northern barbarians, and the breaking up of the Graeco-Roman civilization.  It is no light thing to see the social and political world in which we have lived, and with which we have been accustomed to associate the interests of religion and society falling in ruins under our very eyes, and we must be pardoned if for a moment we feel that all is gone or going.

But Catholic energy can never be long paralyzed, and already the Catholics of Europe are arousing themselves from their apathy, recovering their courage, and beginning to feel aware that the church depends on nothing temporary, is identified with no political or social organization, and can survive all the mutations of the world around her.  Leading Catholics in Europe, instead of wasting their strength in vain regrets for a past that is gone, or in vainer efforts to restore what can no longer be restored, and beginning to adjust themselves to the present, and to labor to command the future.  They are leaving the dead to bury their dead, and preparing to follow their Lord in the new work to be done for the new and turbulent times in which their lot is cast.  “All these things are against me,” said the patriarch Jacob, and yet they proved to be all for him and his family.  Who knows but the untoward events of the last century and the present will turn out for the interests of religion, and that another joseph may be able to say to their authors, “Ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good?” 

In all great political and social revolutions there must always be a moment when men may reasonably doubt whether duty calls them to labor to retain what is passing away, or whether they shall suffer it to be buried with honor, and betake themselves with faith and hope and courage to what has supplanted it.  That moment has passed in the Old World, and nothing remains but to make the best of the present, and to labor to reconstruct the future in the best way possible.  Happily for us, the church, though she may lose province after province, nation after nation, and be driven to take refuge in the catacombs, cannot be broken up, or her divine strength and energy impaired.  While she remains, we have God with us, and our case can never be desperate.  The church has seen darker days than any she now experiences; civilization has been much nearer its ruin than it is now in Europe, and Catholics have now all the means to surmount present difficulties, which sufficed them once to conquer the world.  There is no sense in despondency.  Cannot the millions of Catholics do today what twelve fishermen of Galilee did?  Is the successor of Peter today more helpless than was Peter himself, when he entered Rome with his staff to preach in the proud capitol of heathendom the crucified Redeemer?  The same God that was with Peter, and gave efficacy to his preaching, is with his successor; and we who live today have, if we seek it, all the divine support, and more than all the human means, that those Catholics had who subdued the barbarians and laid the foundation of Christian Europe.  What they did we may do, if, with confidence in God, we set earnestly about doing it.  The world is not so bad now as it was in the first century or in the sixth century; and there is as strong faith, as ardent piety, in this age, as in any age that has gone before it.  Never say, “We have fallen on evil times.”  All times are evil to the weak, the cowardly, the despondent; and all times are good to the strong, the brave, the hopeful, who dare use the means God puts into their hands, and are prepared to do first the duty that lies nearest them.

We see many movements that indicate that our European brethren are regaining their courage, and, counting the past, so glorious for Catholics, as beyond recovery, are endeavoring to do what they can in and for the present, quietly, calmly, without noise or ostentation; and they will not need to labor long before they will see the “truths crushed to the earth rise again,” and a new order, Phoenix-like, rising from the ashes of the old, more resplendent in beauty and worth, more in harmony with the divine spirit of the church, and more favorable to the freedom and dignity of man.  Truth dies never.  “The eternal years of God are hers.”  The Omnipotent reigns, and thus far in the history of the church, what seemed her defeat, has proved for her a new and more brilliant victory.  The church never grows old, and we can afford to be patient though earnest in her service.  The spirit of God never ceases to hover over the chaos, and order, though disturbed for a time, is sure, soon or late, to reappear.

We feel that we have very inadequately discussed the great question of nature and grace, the adequate discussion of which is far beyond the reach of such feeble abilities and such limited theological attainments as ours; but we have aimed to set forth as clearly and as simply as we could what we have been taught by our Catholic masters on the relation of the natural to the supernatural; and if we have succeeded in showing that there is no antagonism between nature and grace, the natural and the supernatural, the divine sovereignty and human liberty, and that we can be at once pious and manly, energetic as men, and humble and devout as Christians, or if we have thrown out any suggestions that will aid others in showing it to the intelligence of our age, and if we have been able to speak a word of comfort and hope to our brethren who find themselves in a position in which it is difficult to determine how to act, our purpose will have been accomplished, and we shall have done no great but some slight service to the cause to which we feel that we are devoted heart and soul.  We have aimed to avoid saying any thing that could wound the susceptibilities of any Catholic school of theology, and to touch as lightly as possible on matters debated among Catholics.  We hope we have succeeded; for these are times in which Catholics need to be united in action as well as in faith.