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CHAPTER CLXIIThat some Men God delivers from Sin, and some He leaves in Sin

THOUGH the sinner raises an obstacle to grace, and by the exigence of the order of things ought not to receive grace, nevertheless, inasmuch as God can work setting aside the connatural order of things, as when He gives sight to the blind, or raises the dead, He sometimes out of the abundance of His goodness forestalls by the assistance of His grace even those who raise an obstacle to it, turning them away from evil and converting them to good. And as He does not give sight to all the blind, nor heal all the sick, that in those whom He heals the work of His power may appear, and in the others the order of nature may be observed, so He does not forestall by His aid all who hinder grace, to their turning away from evil and conversion to good, but some He so forestalls, wishing in them His mercy to appear, while in others He would have the order of justice made manifest.863863   May we not however observe that as in the natural order of things God has provided, in the acquired skill of physicians and surgeons, certain ordinary means for healing the sick and even giving sight to the blind, so in the supernatural order He has provided an ordinary means for the justification of the sinner in the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance? Miracles are exceptional, but the forgiveness of sins is part of the Church’s daily ministry; and the gratia praeveniens, necessary to bring the sinner to avail himself of this ministry, has to be presupposed as part of the institution. The fuller and fuller recognition of this consoling truth is a typical instance of the ‘development’ of the mind of the Church.
   On the texts from Romans quoted here cf. Notes on St Paul pp. 393-397.
Hence the Apostle says: God, though willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, that he might show forth the riches of his glory upon the vessels of mercy, which he hath prepared unto glory (Rom. ix, 22, 23).

But when, of men who are enthralled in the same sins, God forestalls and converts some, and endures, or permits, others to go their way according to the order of things, we should not enquire the reason why He converts these and not those: for that depends on His sheer will, just as from His sheer will it proceeded that, when all things were made out of nothing, some things were made in a position of greater advantage than others (digniora).864864Even if all material things were made on a dead level of hot gas, still in that uniform medium there was a promise and potency of differentiation, which can have depended only on the arbitrary will of the Creator. But query, — Could differentiation ever have come out of a uniform medium? Or civilisation out of uniform savagery? Hence again the apostle says: Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make of the same lump one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour? (Rom. ix, 21.)


Hereby is refuted the error of Origen, who said that the reason why some were converted to God, and not others, was to be sought in divers works that their souls had done before they were united with their bodies, a theory already set aside (B. II, Chapp. XLIV, LXXXIII).

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