Choose a topic from Part 2A:

114. Merit

1. Merit, taken objectively, is something earned,something owed to a person. Taken subjectively, merit is the rightof a person to his earnings, to what is owed him. Now, man cannotby his own nature set up a right towards God, and demandby the law of justice that he be paid for anything he has done. YetGod has been pleased to allow man what creatural nature cannotachieve of itself. God has provided that man can have merit, andcan establish a just claim for supernatural reward. The basis ofthis blessed situation lies in the fact that human free will,although moved by unmerited grace, actually does cooperate withGod's will in accepting and using grace.

2. Eternal life (that is, the enjoyment of the beatificvision forever in heaven) is something beyond the power of anycreated nature to achieve unaided. Even in his primal state ofinnocence, man could not merit eternal life by his natural powers.For meriting eternal life, supernatural grace is absolutelynecessary.

3. There are two types of merit, condign meritand congruous merit. Condign merit is the right in strictjustice to a reward. Congruous merit is not so much a right as aclaim; it rests upon what is suitable or fitting in a situation; itis a kind of deserving rather than an earning. Now, in so far as aman's meritorious work is human, although performed in and bygrace, it can merit only congruously. But in so far as themeritorious work is God's work in man, it can merit condignly,and thus establish a right to eternal life. By his grace, God makesus participators in the divine nature; he makes us his adoptedchildren; he makes us "sons of God." And St. Paul says(Rom. 7:17): "If sons, heirs also." And thus we can meritour inheritance as God's children; we can merit eternallife.

4. The meriting of eternal life by grace comes first bycharity; and under charity, by the other virtues.

5. Man cannot merit the first grace which justifies him. For tohave merit, man must have grace; merit is the fruit of grace. Hencethe first grace, the grace which removes the guilt of sinand establishes the soul in the state of grace, is imparted to thesoul by God, with no right or claim on man's part to demand ordeserve it.

6. No one but Christ can condignly merit the first gracefor another. But a man in the state of grace, praying and offeringgood works for the justification of another person, may set up aclaim for God's mercy towards that person. Thus one may meritcongruously, but never condignly, the first gracefor another.

7. A man who sins mortally cuts himself off from God andfrom all claims on God. He cannot merit his own restoration tograce, either condignly or congruously. Nor can a man in the stateof grace merit his own restoration in case he should commit mortalsin at some future time. For mortal sin, if it comes, will destroyall existing merits.

8. But a man in grace can, by using present grace,condignly merit further grace; that is, a man in grace cancondignly merit increase in grace.

9. The special grace of final perseverance cannot bemerited. It is the free gift of God to those who will receiveit.

10. Man cannot merit temporal goods except in so far asthese are needed for virtuous works that lead to heaven.

"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."
Thomas á Kempis

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"A man should keep himself down, and not busy himself in mirabilibus super se."
St Philip Neri

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"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."
St Augustine

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