Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sisted nature, can be so pure as to be free from all sin, and to merit at God's hand, in consistencya with his revealed attributes, as works naturally perfect. The grace thus merited was called

grace of congruity. In considering this subject, a difference is to be made between an external action regarded in itself, and the same action as done by a particular person. An action is called good from the morality and nature of it; as works of justice and charity are in themselves good, whatever may be the character of the person who performs

a

b

well doing he deserved to know God perfectly, to believe, &c.” and thence conclude, “ that good works before faith are acceptable preparatives to the grace of justification.” See Fulke's Rhen. Test. Annot. in Acts, x. 2.

Hence, the word congruity; for they do not assert these acts to be absolutely perfect, but that they are so far pure, as to render it congruous to, or consistent with God's honour to reward them.

Perbaps it may be' necessary to inform the reader of the doctrine held by the more moderate writers on this subject. Of grace there are two kinds, preventing grace, and grace of justification. The former is that by which the will is excited to good, and without it, “no man can desire or receive future grace.(Bellar, de grat. et lib. arb. 1. 2. c. 1.) The agent, however, by co-operating with this, and by help of the sacrament of penance, may so far improve himself as to deserve, congruously, a further aid from God. This aid is called grace of justification, and consists in an infusion of perfect righteousness into the nature of man, whereby his acts become absolutely blameless, and must, necessarily, by their innate condign merit, obtain everlasting life. Comp. Bell. Opera. tom. 4. pp. 410, 451, 788, 829,839, 983. Ed. Paris, 1620.

them. But actions are considered by God with reference to the principles, ends, and motives of him who does them; for, unless all these be good, let the action be in its own abstracted nature ever so virtuous, cannot render him acceptable or meritorious in the sight of God. Considered then in this sense, the Article as

serts, that

Works done before justification are not pizasant to God.

The truth of this assertion appears, (1.) From the corruption of man. If what has been before advanced, concerning a corruption that is spread over the whole race of mankind, and that has very much vitiated their faculties, be true, then it follows, that unassisted nature can do nothing so good in itself as to be pleasant or meritorious in the sight of God.

(2.) From the example of St. Paul. In Rom. vii. 12, where he is supposed (even by those who take the words in the lowest sense they can bear,) to be speaking of his former state as a Jew, previous to his conversion, he shews that an unregenerate man has within him such a principle of corruption, that even a good and holy law revealed to him cannot reform it, but on the contrary, it will take occasion from that very law “ to deceive and slay him.” (v. 11.) So that all the benefit he receives even from that revelation, is, that “sin in him becomes exceeding

לל

sinful;” (v. 13;) as being done against such a degree of light, by which it appears, that “he is carnal and sold under sin." (v. 14.) And though his understanding may be enlightened by the revelation of the law of God made to him, so that he has some inclination to obey it, yet, “he cannot do that which he would;" and from hence he knew, that“ in his flesh dwelt no good thing." (v. 18.) For though “to will was present,” yet " he found not a way to perform that which was good,” owing to “ the sin that dwelt in him.” (v. 17.) If then St. Paul could speak of himself, possessed of all the light which a divinely inspired law could give him, and educated in the strictest sect of his religion, we may from thence conclude, how little reason there is to believe, that an unregenerate man can do actions not only good, but perfect and meritorious.a

A distinction, however, should be made between the methods of God's goodness and of his justice; for since we find, (1 Kings, xxi. 29,) that upon Ahab's humiliation, notwithstanding that it was feigned, he yet granted him and his family a reprieve for some time, from the judgments that had been denounced against them, we may conclude that he will not desert those who make use of the degree of light allotted to them ; but that he who is faithful in his little shall be made ruler over more. This Article, therefore, is not to be regarded as tending to discourage men's endeavours, but only to increase their humility; to teach them not to think of themselves above measure, but soberly; to depend always on the mercy of God, and ever to fly to it.

a See Field of the Church, p. 256. Turretin Inst. Theol. L. 17. Q. 5. ; Homily of Good Works ; Bp. Saunderson on Rom. iii, 8; and Novel's Catec. p. 101.

ARTICLE XIV.

OF WORKS OF SUPEREROGATION.

VOLUNTARY WORKS, BESIDES, OVER AND ABOVE GOD's

COMMANDMENI'S, WHICH THEY CALL WORKS OF SU

[blocks in formation]

The Roman Catholics hold, that beside those rules which all men are obliged to follow under pain of sin, there are also counsels of perfection given in the New Testament, the observance of which exalts men to a sublimer degree of holiness than is necessary in order to their salvation.a Those, therefore, who follow these counsels, perform more than they are bound to do, and have, consequently, a stock of merit to communicate to others. In opposition to this doctrine, it may be observed : I. There are no such counsels given : II. No

can perform works of Supererogation.

man

a See Bellar. de Monac. I. 2. c. 6, 7. It should be observed, that the Council of Trent made no decree directly on the subject of the present Article.

b It is but fair to observe, that the doctrine of an actual communication of merit is disclaimed by moderate Roman Catholics. Their opinion on the subject, according to Bellarmine, is this : They conceive that there are two kinds of punishment attending on sin, eternal and temporal ; the former is absolved by Christ, the latter must be removed by ourselves. (de Pænit. 1. 2. c. 11, and l. 4. c. 10, 13, 14.) All good works (and therefore works of supererogation) have a twofold value attached to them ; for they are meritorious of eternal life, and also satisfactory, that is, capable of atoning for, and removing the temporal punishment of sins. This satisfactory property, therefore, of works of supererogation, constitutes the treasury which is placed in the Pope's hands, and by which he grants relief from temporal inflictions, and from the pains of purgatory. But as to the meritorious part of these works, they are rewarded by a more exalted degree of glory hereafter. (See Bell. de Indulg. 1. 1. c. 2, 5. 1. 2. c. 9, 12. Conc. Trid. sess. 25. dec. de Indulg. ; Rhem. Test. Annot. in 2 Cor. ii. 10, and viii. 14 ; and Catech. par. 2. de sac poen.)

C« The works which we do more than precept, are called works of supererogation.” (Rhem. Test. Annot. in Luke, xi. 35.)

« AnteriorContinuar »