Summa Th. I-II EN Qu.114 a.7
Objection: 1. It would seem that anyone may merit for himself restoration after a fall. For what a man may justly ask of God, he may justly merit. Now nothing may more justly be besought of God than to be restored after a fall, as Augustine says [*Cf. Ennar. i super Ps. lxx.], according to Ps 70,9: "When my strength shall fail, do not Thou forsake me." Hence a man may merit to be restored after a fall.
2. Further, a man's works benefit himself more than another. Now a man may, to some extent, merit for another his restoration after a fall, even as his first grace. Much more, therefore, may he merit for himself restoration after a fall.
3. Further, when a man is once in grace he merits life everlasting by the good works he does, as was shown above (Article ; Question , Article ). Now no one can attain life everlasting unless he is restored by grace. Hence it would seem that he merits for himself restoration.
On the contrary It is written (Ez 18,24): "If the just man turn himself away from his justice and do iniquity . . . all his justices which he hath done shall not be remembered." Therefore his previous merits will nowise help him to rise again. Hence no one can merit for himself restoration after a fall.
I answer that No one can merit for himself restoration after a future fall, either condignly or congruously. He cannot merit for himself condignly, since the reason of this merit depends on the motion of Divine grace, and this motion is interrupted by the subsequent sin; hence all benefits which he afterwards obtains from God, whereby he is restored, do not fall under merit---the motion of the preceding grace not extending to them. Again, congruous merit, whereby one merits the first grace for another, is prevented from having its effect on account of the impediment of sin in the one for whom it is merited. Much more, therefore, is the efficacy of such merit impeded by the obstacle which is in him who merits, and in him for whom it is merited; for both these are in the same person. And therefore a man can nowise merit for himself restoration after a fall.
Reply to Objection: 1. The desire whereby we seek for restoration after a fall is called just, and likewise the prayer whereby this restoration is besought is called just, because it tends to justice; and not that it depends on justice by way of merit, but only on mercy.
2. Anyone may congruously merit for another his first grace, because there is no impediment (at least, on the part of him who merits), such as is found when anyone recedes from justice after the merit of grace.
3. Some have said that no one "absolutely" merits life everlasting except by the act of final grace, but only "conditionally," i.e. if he perseveres. But it is unreasonable to say this, for sometimes the act of the last grace is not more, but less meritorious than preceding acts, on account of the prostration of illness. Hence it must be said that every act of charity merits eternal life absolutely; but by subsequent sin, there arises an impediment to the preceding merit, so that it does not obtain its effect; just as natural causes fail of their effects on account of a supervening impediment.
Objection: 1. It would seem that a man cannot merit an increase of grace or charity. For when anyone receives the reward he merited no other reward is due to him; thus it was said of some (Mt 6,2): "They have received their reward." Hence, if anyone were to merit the increase of charity or grace, it would follow that, when his grace has been increased, he could not expect any further reward, which is unfitting.
2. Further, nothing acts beyond its species. But the principle of merit is grace or charity, as was shown above (Articles , 4). Therefore no one can merit greater grace or charity than he has.
3. Further, what falls under merit a man merits by every act flowing from grace or charity, as by every such act a man merits life everlasting. If, therefore, the increase of grace or charity falls under merit, it would seem that by every act quickened by charity a man would merit an increase of charity. But what a man merits, he infallibly receives from God, unless hindered by subsequent sin; for it is written (2Tm 1,12): "I know Whom I have believed, and I am certain that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him." Hence it would follow that grace or charity is increased by every meritorious act; and this would seem impossible since at times meritorious acts are not very fervent, and would not suffice for the increase of charity. Therefore the increase of charity does not come under merit.
On the contrary Augustine says (super Ep. Joan.; cf. Ep. clxxxvi) that "charity merits increase, and being increased merits to be perfected." Hence the increase of grace or charity falls under merit.
I answer that s stated above (Articles ,7), whatever the motion of grace reaches to, falls under condign merit. Now the motion of a mover extends not merely to the last term of the movement, but to the whole progress of the movement. But the term of the movement of grace is eternal life; and progress in this movement is by the increase of charity or grace according to Pr 4,18: "But the path of the just as a shining light, goeth forward and increaseth even to perfect day," which is the day of glory. And thus the increase of grace falls under condign merit.
Reply to Objection: 1. Reward is the term of merit. But there is a double term of movement, viz. the last, and the intermediate, which is both beginning and term; and this term is the reward of increase. Now the reward of human favor is as the last end to those who place their end in it; hence such as these receive no other reward.
2. The increase of grace is not above the virtuality of the pre-existing grace, although it is above its quantity, even as a tree is not above the virtuality of the seed, although above its quantity.
3. By every meritorious act a man merits the increase of grace, equally with the consummation of grace which is eternal life. But just as eternal life is not given at once, but in its own time, so neither is grace increased at once, but in its own time, viz. when a man is sufficiently disposed for the increase of grace.
Objection: 1. It would seem that anyone may merit perseverance. For what a man obtains by asking, can come under the merit of anyone that is in grace. Now men obtain perseverance by asking it of God; otherwise it would be useless to ask it of God in the petitions of the Lord's Prayer, as Augustine says (De Dono Persev. ii). Therefore perseverance may come under the merit of whoever has grace.
2. Further, it is more not to be able to sin than not to sin. But not to be able to sin comes under merit, for we merit eternal life, of which impeccability is an essential part. Much more, therefore, may we merit not to sin, i.e. to persevere.
3. Further, increase of grace is greater than perseverance in the grace we already possess. But a man may merit an increase of grace, as was stated above (Article ). Much more, therefore, may he merit perseverance in the grace he has already.
On the contrary What we merit, we obtain from God, unless it is hindered by sin. Now many have meritorious works, who do not obtain perseverance; nor can it be urged that this takes place because of the impediment of sin, since sin itself is opposed to perseverance; and thus if anyone were to merit perseverance, God would not permit him to fall into sin. Hence perseverance does not come under merit.
I answer that Since man's free-will is naturally flexible towards good and evil, there are two ways of obtaining from God perseverance in good: first, inasmuch as free-will is determined to good by consummate grace, which will be in glory; secondly, on the part of the Divine motion, which inclines man to good unto the end. Now as explained above (Articles ,7,8), that which is related as a term to the free-will's movement directed to God the mover, falls under human merit; and not what is related to the aforesaid movement as principle. Hence it is clear that the perseverance of glory which is the term of the aforesaid movement falls under merit; but perseverance of the wayfarer does not fall under merit, since it depends solely on the Divine motion, which is the principle of all merit. Now God freely bestows the good of perseverance, on whomsoever He bestows it.
Reply to Objection: 1. We impetrate in prayer things that we do not merit, since God hears sinners who beseech the pardon of their sins, which they do not merit, as appears from Augustine [*Tract. xliv in Joan.] on Jn 9,31, "Now we know that God doth not hear sinners," otherwise it would have been useless for the publican to say: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner," Lc 18,13. So too may we impetrate of God in prayer the grace of perseverance either for ourselves or for others, although it does not fall under merit.
2. The perseverance which is in heaven is compared as term to the free-will's movement; not so, the perseverance of the wayfarer, for the reason given in the body of the article.
3. In the same way may we answer the third objection which concerns the increase of grace, as was explained above.
Objection: 1. It would seem that temporal goods fall under merit. For what is promised to some as a reward of justice, falls under merit. Now, temporal goods were promised in the Old Law as the reward of justice, as appears from Dt 28. Hence it seems that temporal goods fall under merit.
2. Further, that would seem to fall under merit, which God bestows on anyone for a service done. But God sometimes bestows temporal goods on men for services done for Him. For it is written (Ex 1,21): "And because the midwives feared God, He built them houses"; on which a gloss of Gregory (Moral. xviii, 4) says that "life everlasting might have been awarded them as the fruit of their goodwill, but on account of their sin of falsehood they received an earthly reward." And it is written (Ez 29,18): "The King of Babylon hath made his army to undergo hard service against Tyre . . . and there hath been no reward given him," and further on: "And it shall be wages for his army . . . I have given him the land of Egypt because he hath labored for me." Therefore temporal goods fall under merit.
3. Further, as good is to merit so is evil to demerit. But on account of the demerit of sin some are punished by God with temporal punishments, as appears from the Sodomites, Gn 19. Hence temporal goods fall under merit.
4. On the contrary, What falls under merit does not come upon all alike. But temporal goods regard the good and the wicked alike; according to Qo 9,2: "All things equally happen to the just and the wicked, to the good and to the evil, to the clean and to the unclean, to him that offereth victims and to him that despiseth sacrifices." Therefore temporal goods do not fall under merit.
On the contrary What falls under merit is the reward or wage, which is a kind of good. Now man's good is twofold: the first, simply; the second, relatively. Now man's good simply is his last end (according to Ps 72,27, "But it is good for men to adhere to my God") and consequently what is ordained and leads to this end; and these fall simply under merit. But the relative, not the simple, good of man is what is good to him now, or what is a good to him relatively; and this does not fall under merit simply, but relatively.
I answer that Hence we must say that if temporal goods are considered as they are useful for virtuous works, whereby we are led to heaven, they fall directly and simply under merit, even as increase of grace, and everything whereby a man is helped to attain beatitude after the first grace. For God gives men, both just and wicked, enough temporal goods to enable them to attain to everlasting life; and thus these temporal goods are simply good. Hence it is written (Ps 33,10): "For there is no want to them that fear Him," and again, Ps 36,25: "I have not seen the just forsaken," etc.But if these temporal goods are considered in themselves, they are not man's good simply, but relatively, and thus they do not fall under merit simply, but relatively, inasmuch as men are moved by God to do temporal works, in which with God's help they reach their purpose. And thus as life everlasting is simply the reward of the works of justice in relation to the Divine motion, as stated above (Articles ,6), so have temporal goods, considered in themselves, the nature of reward, with respect to the Divine motion, whereby men's wills are moved to undertake these works, even though, sometimes, men have not a right intention in them.
Reply to Objection: 1. As Augustine says (Contra Faust. iv, 2), "in these temporal promises were figures of spiritual things to come. For the carnal people were adhering to the promises of the present life; and not merely their speech but even their life was prophetic."
2. These rewards are said to have been divinely brought about in relation to the Divine motion, and not in relation to the malice of their wills, especially as regards the King of Babylon, since he did not besiege Tyre as if wishing to serve God, but rather in order to usurp dominion. So, too, although the midwives had a good will with regard to saving the children, yet their will was not right, inasmuch as they framed falsehoods.
3. Temporal evils are imposed as a punishment on the wicked, inasmuch as they are not thereby helped to reach life everlasting. But to the just who are aided by these evils they are not punishments but medicines as stated above (Question , Article ).
4. All things happen equally to the good and the wicked, as regards the substance of temporal good or evil; but not as regards the end, since the good and not the wicked are led to beatitude by them.
And now enough has been said regarding morals in general.
Summa Th. I-II EN Qu.114 a.7