Part II: The Grace of Prayer given to All
And this Grace's Ordinary Mode of Operation

Part II - Chapter I
God Wishes All Men to be Saved


Saint Francis in Prayer before the Crucifix - by GRECO, El - from Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao

 

God in His goodness grants to every one the Grace of Prayer,
by which he is able to obtain all other graces which he needs,
in order to keep the Commandments and to be saved

 

God Wishes All Men to be Saved

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Doctor of the Church
1759

Introduction

Taking, then, for granted that prayer is necessary for the attainment of eternal life, as we have proved in Part I, Chapter I, we should consequently, also, take for granted that every one has sufficient aid from God to enable him actually to pray, without need of any further special grace; and that by prayer he may obtain all other graces necessary to enable him to persevere in keeping the Commandments, and so gain eternal life; so that no one who is lost can ever excuse himself by saying that it was through want of the aid necessary for his salvation. For as God, in the natural order, has ordained that man should be born naked, and in want of several things necessary for life, but then has given him hands and intelligence to clothe himself and provide for his other needs; so, in the supernatural order, man is born unable to obtain salvation by his own strength; but God in His goodness grants to every one the grace of prayer, by which he is able to obtain all other graces which he needs in order to keep the Commandments and to be saved.

But before I explain this point, I must prove two preliminary propositions. First, that God wills all men to be saved; and therefore that Jesus Christ has died for all. Secondly, that God, on His part, gives to all men the graces necessary for salvation; whereby every one may be saved if he corresponds to them.

 

Christ Died for All Men

God loves all things that He has created: "For Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things that Thou hast made" - Wisdom 11:25. Now love cannot be idle: "All love has a force of its own, and cannot be idle", says Saint Augustine. Hence love necessarily implies benevolence, so that the person who loves cannot help doing good to the person beloved whenever there is an opportunity: "Love persuades a man to do those things which he believes to be good for him whom he loves", says Aristotle. If, then, God loves all men, He must in consequence will that all should obtain eternal salvation, which is the one and sovereign good of man, seeing that it is the one end for which he was created: "You have your fruit unto sanctification; and the end life everlasting" - Romans 6:22.

This doctrine, that God wishes all men to be saved, and that Jesus Christ died for the salvation of all, is now a certain doctrine taught by the Catholic Church, as theologians in common teach, namely, Petavius, Gonet, Gotti, and others, besides Tourneley, who adds, that it is a doctrine all but of faith.

 

Decision of the Church

With reason, therefore, were the predestinarians condemned, who, among their errors, taught that God does not will all men to be saved; as Hincmar, Archbishop of Rheims, testifies of them in his first letter, where he says, "the ancient predestinarians asserted that God does not will all men to be saved, but only those who are saved". These persons were condemned, first in the Council of Arles, A.D. 475, which pronounced "anathema to him that said that Christ did not die for all men, and that He does not will all to be saved" - Anathema 6. They were next condemned in the Council of Lyons, A.D. 490, where Lucidus was forced to retract and confess, "I condemn the man who says that Christ did not suffer death for the salvation of all men".  So also in the ninth century, Gotheschalcus, who renewed the same error, was condemned by the Council of Quercy, A.D. 853, in the third article of which it was decided, "God wills all men, without exception, to be saved, although all men be not saved"; and in the fourth article: "There is no man for whom Christ did not suffer, although all men be not redeemed by the mystery of His Passion" - Article 3, 4. The same error was finally condemned in the 12th and 13th Propositions of Quesnel. In the former it was said: "When God wills to save a soul, the will of God is undoubtedly effectual"; in the latter: "All whom God wills to save through Christ are infallibly saved". These propositions were justly condemned, precisely because they meant that God does not will all men to be saved; since from the proposition that those whom God wills to be saved are infallibly saved, it logically follows that God does not will even all the faithful to be saved, let alone all men.

This was also clearly expressed by the Council of Trent, in which it was said that Jesus Christ died, "that all might receive the adoption of sons", and in chapter 3: "but though He died for all, yet all do not receive the benefits of His death" - Session 6, c. 2-3. The Council then takes for granted that the Redeemer died not only for the elect, but also for those who, through their own fault, do not receive the benefit of Redemption. Nor is it of any use to affirm that the Council only meant to say that Jesus Christ has given to the world a ransom sufficient to save all men; for in this sense we might say that He died also for the devils. Moreover, the Council of Trent intended here to reprove the errors of those innovators, who, not denying that the blood of Christ was sufficient to save all, yet asserted that in fact it was not shed and given for all; that is the error which the Council intended to condemn when it said that Our Savior died for all.

Further, in Chapter 6 it says that sinners are put in a fit state to receive justification by hope in God through the merits of Jesus Christ: "They are raised to hope, trusting that God will be merciful to them through Christ" - Session 6, c. 6. Now, if Jesus Christ had not applied to all, the merits of His Passion, then, since no one [without a special revelation] could be certain of being among the number of those to whom the Redeemer had willed to apply the fruit of His merits, no sinner could entertain such hope, not having the certain and secure foundation which is necessary for hope; namely, that God wills all men to be saved, and will pardon all sinners prepared for it by the merits of Jesus Christ. And this, besides being the error formerly condemned in Baius, who said that Christ had only died for the elect, is also condemned in the fifth proposition of Jansenius: "it is Semi-Pelagianism to say that Christ died or shed His Blood for all men". And Innocent X, in his Constitution of A.D. 1653, expressly declared that to say Christ died for the salvation of the elect only, is an impious and heretical proposition.

 

The Celebrated Text of Saint Paul

On the other hand, both the Scriptures and all the Fathers assure us that God sincerely and really wishes the salvation of all men and the conversion of all sinners, as long as they are in this world. For this we have, first of all, the express text of Saint Paul: "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth". The sentence of the Apostle is absolute and indicative-----"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" - 1Timothy 2:4. These words in their natural sense declare that God truly wills all men to be saved; and it is a certain rule, received in common by all, that the words in Scripture are not to be distorted to an unnatural sense, except in the sole case when the literal meaning is repugnant to faith or morals. Saint Bonaventure writes precisely to our purpose when he says, "We must hold that when the Apostle says, God wills all men to be saved, it is necessary to grant that He does will it".

It is true that Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas mention different interpretations which have been given to this text; but both these Doctors understand it to mean a real will of God to save all, without exception.

And concerning Saint Augustine, we shall see just now that this was his true opinion; so that Saint Prosper protests against attributing to him the supposition that God did not sincerely wish the salvation of all men, and of each individual, as an aspersion on the holy Doctor. Hence the same Saint Prosper, who was a most faithful disciple of his, says, "It is most sincerely to be believed and confessed that God wills all men to be saved; since the Apostle [whose very words these are] is particular in commanding that prayers should be made to God for all".

The argument of the Saint is clear, founded on Saint Paul's words in the above-cited passage-----"I beseech therefore, first of all that prayers should be made for all men"; and then he adds, "For, this is good and acceptable before God our Savior, Who wills all men to be saved". So the Apostle wishes us to pray for all, exactly in the same sense that God wishes the salvation of all. Saint Chrysostom uses the same argument: "If He wills all to be saved, surely we ought to pray for all. If He desires all to be saved, do you also be of one mind with Him". And if in some passages in his controversy with the Semi-Pelagians, Saint Augustine seems to have held a different interpretation of this text, saying that God does not will the salvation of each individual, but only of some, Petavius well observes that here the holy Father speaks only incidentally, not with direct intention; or, at any rate, that he speaks of the grace of that absolute and victorious will [voluntas absoluta et victrix] with which God absolutely wills the salvation of some persons, and of which the Saint elsewhere says, "The will of the Almighty is always invincible" - Enchir. c. 102.

Let us hear how Saint Thomas uses another method of reconciling the opinion of Saint Augustine with that of Saint John Damascene, who holds that antecedently God wills all and each individual to be saved: "God's first intention is to will all men to be saved, that as good He may make us partakers of His goodness; but after we have sinned, He wills to punish us as just". On the other hand, Saint Augustine [as we have seen] seems in a few passages to think differently. But Saint Thomas reconciles these opinions, and says that Saint Damascene spoke of the antecedent will of God, by which He really wills all men to be saved, while Saint Augustine spoke of the consequent will. He then goes on to explain the meaning of antecedent and consequent will: "Antecedent will is that by which God wills all to be saved; but when all the circumstances of this or that individual are considered, it is found to be good that all men should be saved; for it is good that he who prepares himself, and consents to it, should be saved; but not he who is unwilling and resists, etc. And this is called the consequent will, because it presupposes a foreknowledge of a man's deeds, not as a cause of the act of will, but as a reason for the thing willed and determined".

So that Saint Thomas was also of opinion that God truly wills all men and each individual to be saved. This opinion he reasserts in several other places. On the text-----"Him that cometh to Me, I will not cast out", - John 6:37, he quotes Saint Chrysostom, who makes Our Lord say, "If then I was incarnate for the salvation of men, how can I cast them out"? And this is what He means when He says, "Therefore I cast them not out, because I came down from Heaven to do My Father's will, Who wills all men to be saved".  And again, "God, by His most liberal will, gives [grace] to every one that prepares himself",-----Who wills all men to be saved; "and therefore the grace of God is wanting to no man, but as far as He is concerned He communicates it to every one". Again, he declares the same thing more expressly in his explanation of the text of Saint Paul-----"God wills all men to be saved". "In God", he says, "the salvation of all men, considered in itself, belongs to that class of things which He wishes, and this is His antecedent will; but when the good of justice is taken into consideration, and the rightness of punishing sin, in this sense He does not Will the salvation of all, and this is His consequent will".  Here we may see how consistent Saint Thomas was in his explanation of antecedent and consequent will; for he here repeats what he had said in the passage quoted a little before. In this place he only adds the comparison of a merchant, who antecedently wills to save all his merchandise; but if a tempest comes on, he willingly throws it overboard, in order to preserve his own life. In like manner, he says, God, considering the iniquity of some persons, wills them to be punished in satisfaction of His justice, and consequently does not will them to be saved; but antecedently, and considered in itself, He wills with a true desire the salvation of all men. So that, as he says in the former passage, God's will to save all men is on His part absolute; it is only conditional on the part of the object willed, that is, if man will correspond to what the right order demands, in order to be saved. "Nor yet", he says, "is there imperfection on the part of God's will, but on the part of the thing willed; because it is not accepted with all the circumstances which are required, in order to be saved in the proper manner" [In I Sent. d. 46, q. 1, a. 1]. And he again and more distinctly declares what he means by antecedent and consequent will: "A judge antecedently wishes every man to live, but he consequently wishes a murderer to be hanged; so God antecedently wills every man to be saved, but He consequently wills some to be damned; in consequence, that is, of the exigencies of His justice".

It is certain that God creates all men for eternal life. We ought to submit ourselves to the will of God, Who has chosen to leave this mystery in obscurity to His Church, that we all might humble ourselves under the deep judgments of His Divine Providence, and the more, because Divine grace, by which alone men can gain eternal life, is dispensed more or less abundantly by God entirely gratuitously, and without any regard to our merits. So that to save ourselves it will always be necessary for us to throw ourselves into the arms of the Divine mercy, in order that He may assist us with His grace to obtain salvation, trusting always in His infallible promises to hear and save the man who prays to Him.

 

Other Texts of Scripture

But let us return to our point, that God sincerely wills all men to be saved. There are other texts which prove the same thing, as when God says: "As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked man turn from his way and live" - Ezekiel 33:11. He not only says that He wills not the death, but that He wills the life of a sinner; and He swears, as Tertullian observes, in order that He may be more readily believed in this: "When moreover He swears, saying, as I live, He desires to be believed".

Further, David says: "For wrath is in His indignation, and life in His good will" - Psalm 29:6. If He chastises us, He does it because our sins provoke Him to indignation; but as to His will, He wills not our death, but our life: "Life is His will". Saint Basil says about this text, that God wills all to be made partakers of life. David says elsewhere: "Our God is the God of salvation; and of the Lord, of the Lord are the issues from death" - Psalm 67:21. On this Bellarmine says: "This is proper to Him, this is His nature, our God is a saving God, and His are the issues from death-----that is, liberation from it"; so that it is God's proper nature to save all, and to deliver all from eternal death.

Again, Our Lord says: "Come to Me, all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you" - Matthew 11:28. If He calls all to salvation, then He truly wills all to be saved. Again, Saint Peter says: "The Lord . . . . dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance" - 2Peter 3:9. He does not will the damnation of anyone, but He wills that all should do penance, and so should be saved.

Again, Our Lord says: "I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear My voice, and open to Me the door, I will come in to him" - Apocalypse 3:20. "Why will you die, O house of Israel? . . . Return and live" - Ezekiel 18:31-32. "What is there that I ought to do more to My vineyard, that I have not done to it?" - Isaiah 5:4. "How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not!" - Matthew 23:37. How could Our Lord have said that He stands knocking at the heart of us sinners? How exhort us so strongly to return to His arms? How reproach us by asking what more He could have done for our salvation? How say that He has willed to receive us as children, if He had not a true will to save all men? Again, Saint Luke relates that Our Lord, looking over Jerusalem from a distance, and contemplating the destruction of its people because of their sin: "Seeing the city, He wept over it" - Luke 19:41. Why did He weep then, says Theophylact [after Saint Chrysostom], seeing the ruin of the Jews, unless it was because He really desired their salvation? Now then, after so many attestations of Our Lord, in which He makes known to us that He wills to see all men saved, how can it ever be said that God does not will the salvation of all? "But if these texts of Scripture", says Petavius, "in which God has testified His will in such clear and often-repeated expressions, nay even with tears and with an oath, may be abused and distorted to the very opposite sense,-----namely, that God determined to send all mankind [except a few] to perdition, and never had a will to save them, what dogma of faith is so clear as to be safe from similar injury and cavil"? This great writer says, that to deny that God really wills the salvation of all men, is an insult and cavil against the plainest doctrines of the faith. And Cardinal Sfondratl adds: "Those who think otherwise, seem to me to make God a mere stage-god; like those people who pretend to be kings in a play, when indeed they are anything but kings".

 

General Consent of the Fathers 

Moreover, this truth, that God wills all men to be saved, is confirmed by the general consent of the Fathers. There can be no doubt that all the Greek Fathers have been uniform in saying that God wills all and each individual to be saved. So Saint Justin, Saint, Basil, Saint Gregory, Saint Cyril, Saint Methodius, and Saint Chrysostom, all adduced by Petavius. But let us see what the Latin Fathers say:

Saint Jerome: [God] "wills to save all; but since no man is saved without his own will, He wills us to will what is good, that when we have willed, He may also will to fulfill His designs in us"; and in another place, "God therefore willed to save those who desire [to be saved]; and He invited them to salvation, that their will might have its reward; but they would not believe in Him".

Saint Hilary: "God would that all men were saved, and not those alone who are to belong to the number of the elect, but all absolutely, so as to make no exception".

Saint Paulinus: "Christ says to all, 'Come to Me,' etc; for He, the Creator of all men, so far as He is concerned, wills every man to be saved".

Saint Ambrose: "Even with respect to the wicked He had to manifest His will [to save them], and therefore He could not pass over His betrayer, that all might see that in the election even of the traitor He exhibits [His desire] of saving all . . . and, so far as God is concerned, He shows to all that He was willing to deliver all".

The author of the work known as the Commentaries of Saint Ambrose [supposed by Petavius to be Hilary the Second] in speaking of the text of Saint Paul, "Who wills all men", etc, asks this question: "But since God wills that all should be saved, as He is Almighty, why are there so many who are not saved"? And he answers: "He wills them to be saved, if they also are willing; for He Who gave the law excluded no one from salvation . . . this medicine is of no use to the unwilling". He says that God has excluded no one from glory, and that He gives grace to all to be saved, but on condition that they are willing to correspond to it; because His grace is of no use to the man who rejects it. Saint Chrysostom in like manner asks, "Why then are not all men saved, if God wills all to be saved?" and he answers, "Because every man's will does not coincide with His will, and He forces no man". Saint Augustine: "God wills all men to be saved, but not so as to destroy their free will".

 

Jesus Christ Died to Save All Men

That Jesus Christ, therefore, died for all and each of mankind, is clear, not only from the Scriptures, but from the writings of the Fathers, great certainly was the ruin which the sin of Adam occasioned to the whole human race; but Jesus Christ, by the grace of Redemption, repaired all the evils which Adam introduced. Hence the Council of Trent has declared that Baptism renders the soul pure and immaculate; and that the sin which remains in it is not for its harm, but to enable it to gain a higher crown, if it resists so as not to consent to it: "For in the regenerate God hates nothing . . . they are made innocent, immaculate, pure, and beloved of God.  . . . But this holy synod confesses and feels that concupiscence or the fuel [of sin] remains in Baptized persons; but as it was left for our probation, it cannot injure those who do not consent to it; nay rather, he who contends lawfully [against it] shall be crowned". Thus as Saint Leo says, "we have gained greater things by the grace of Christ than we had lost through the envy of the devil".

The gain which we have made by the redemption of Jesus Christ is greater than the loss which we suffered by the sin of Adam. The Apostle plainly declared this when he said, "Not as the offense, so also the gift. . . . And where sin abounded, grace did more abound". - Romans 5:15, 20. Our Lord says the same: "I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly" - John 10:10. David and Isaiah had predicted it: "With Him is plentiful redemption ----- She hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins" - Psalm 129:7; Isaiah 40:2. About which words the interpreter says: "God has so forgiven iniquities through Christ, that men have received double ----- that is, very much greater good, instead of the punishment of sin which they deserved".

Now that Our Savior, as I said, died for all, and that He offered the work of His redemption to the Eternal Father for the salvation of each one, the holy Scriptures assure us of the following:

 

The Testimony of Holy Scripture

"The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost" - Matthew 18:11. "Who gave Himself a redemption for all" - 1Timothy 2:6. "And Christ died for all; that they also who live, may not now live to themselves, but to Him Who died for them" - 2Corinthians 5:15. "For therefore we labor and are reviled, because we hope in the living God, Who is the Savior of all men, especially of the faithful" - 1Timothy 4:10. "And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" - 1John 2:2. "For the charity of Christ presseth us, judging this that, if one died for all, then all were dead" - 2Corinthians 5:14. And to speak only of this last text, I ask, how could the Apostle ever have concluded that all were dead, because Christ died for all, unless he had been certain that Christ had really died for all? And the more, because Saint Paul uses this truth as an argument for the love which it should kindle in us towards Our Savior. But by far the best passage to exhibit the desire and wish which God has to save all men, is another text of Saint Paul: "He that spared not even His Own Son, but delivered Him up for us all" - Romans 8:32. The force of this passage is increased by what follows: "How hath He not also, with Him, given us all things" - Romans 8:32. If God has given us all things, how can we henceforth fear that He has denied us the election to glory, always on condition that we correspond [to His grace]? And if He has given us His Son, says Cardinal Sfondratl, how will He deny us the grace to be saved? "Here he clearly instructs us" [he is speaking of Saint Paul] "that God assures us that He will not refuse us the less after He has given the greater; that He will not deny us grace to save ourselves, after giving His Son that we we might be saved". And in truth, how could Saint Paul have said that God, in giving us His Son, has given us all things, if the Apostle had believed that God had excluded many from the glory which is the one good and the one end for which they were created? Has then God given "all things" to these "many", and yet denied them the best thing-----namely, eternal happiness, without which [as there is no middle way] they cannot but be eternally miserable? Unless we would say another thing still more unseemly, as another learned author well observes------namely, that God gives to all the grace to attain glory, but then refuses to allow many to enter on its enjoyment; that He gives the means, and refuses the end.

 

The Teaching of the Holy Fathers

For the rest, all the holy Fathers agree in saying that Jesus Christ died to obtain eternal salvation for all men.

Saint Jerome: "Christ died for all; He was the only One Who could be offered for all, because all were dead in sins".

Saint Ambrose: "Christ came to cure our wounds; but since all do not search for the remedy . . . therefore He cures those who are willing; He does not force the unwilling". In another place: "He has provided for all men the means of cure, that whoever perishes may lay the blame of his death on himself, because he would not be cured when he had a remedy; and that, on the other hand, the mercy of Christ to all may be openly proclaimed, Who wills that all men should be saved". And more clearly still in another place: "Jesus did not write His will for the benefit of one, or of few, but of all; we are all inscribed therein as His heirs; the legacy is in common, and belongs by right to all; the universal heritage, belonging wholly to each". Mark the words, "We are all inscribed as heirs of Heaven".

Saint Leo: "As Christ found no one free from guilt, so He came to deliver all".

Saint Augustine, on the words of Saint John, "For God did not send His Son to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him", says: "So, as far as it lies with the Physician, He came to heal the sick man". Mark the words, "as far as it lies with the Physician". For God, as far as He is concerned, effectually wills the salvation of all, but [as Saint Augustine goes on to say] cannot heal the man who will not be healed: "He heals universally, but He heals not the unwilling. For what can be happier for thee, than, as thou hast thy life in thy hands, so to have thy health depend on thy will"? When he says "He heals", he speaks of sinners who are sick, and unable to get well by their own strength; when he says "universally" [omnino], he declares that nothing is wanting on God s part for sinners to be healed and saved. Then when he says, "as thou hast thy life in thy hands, so thy health depends on thy will", he shows that God for His part really wills us all to be saved; otherwise, it would not be in our power to obtain health and eternal life. In another place, "He Who redeemed us at such a cost, wills not that we perish; for He does not purchase in order to destroy, but He redeems in order to give life". He has redeemed us all, in order to save us all. And hence he encourages all to hope for eternal bliss in that celebrated sentence: "Let human frailty raise itself; let it not say, I shall never be happy.  . . . It is a greater thing that Christ has done, than that which He has promised. What has He done? He has died for thee. What has He promised? That thou shalt live with Him".

Some have pretended to say that Jesus Christ offered His Blood for all, in order to obtain grace for them, but not salvation. But Petrocorensis will not hear of this opinion, of which he says: "O disputatious frivolity! How could the wisdom of God will the means of salvation, without willing its end". Saint Augustine, moreover, speaking against the Jews, says: "Ye acknowledge the side which ye pierced, that it was opened both by you and for you". If Jesus Christ had not really given His Blood for all, the Jews might have answered Saint Augustine, that it was quite true they had opened the side of our Savior, but not that it was opened for them.

In like manner, Saint Thomas has no doubt that Jesus Christ died for all; whence he deduces that He wills all to be saved: "Christ Jesus is mediator between God and men; not between God and some men, but between Him and all men; and this would not be, unless He willed all to be saved". This is confirmed, as we have already said, by the condemnation of the fifth proposition of Jansenius, who said, "It is semi-Pelagianism to assert that Christ died or shed His Blood for all men". The sense of this, according to the context of the other condemned propositions, and according to the principles of Jansenius, is as follows: Jesus Christ did not die to merit for all men the graces sufficient for salvation, but only for the predestined; or, in Jansenius's own expressed words. "It is in no way consonant to the principles of Augustine, to think that Christ Our Lord died or shed His Blood for the eternal salvation either of unbelievers, who die in their unbelief, or of the  just, who do not persevere". Therefore the contrary and Catholic belief is as follows: It is not semi-Pelagianism, but it is right to say that Jesus Christ died to merit not only for the predestinate, but for all, even for the reprobate, grace sufficient to obtain eternal salvation in the ordinary course of Providence.

Further, that God truly, on His part, wills all men to be saved, and that Jesus Christ died for the salvation of all, is certified to us by the fact that God imposes on us all the precept of hope. The reason is clear. Saint Paul calls Christian hope the anchor of the soul, secure and firm: "Who have fled for refuge to hold fast the hope set before us. Which we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm" - Hebrews 6:18-19. Now in what could we fix this sure and firm anchor of our hope, except in the truth that God wills all to be saved? "With what confidence", says Petrocorensis, "will men be able to hope for God's mercy, if it is not certain that God wills the salvation of all of them? With what confidence will they offer the death of Christ to God, in order to obtain pardon, if it is uncertain whether He was offered up for them?" And Cardinal Sfondratl says, that if God had elected some to eternal life, and excluded others, we should have a greater motive to despair than to hope; seeing that, in fact, the elect are much fewer than the damned: "No one could have a firm hope, since he would have more grounds of despair than of hope; for the reprobate are much more numerous than the elect". And if Jesus Christ had not died for the salvation of all, how could we have a sure ground to hope for salvation through the merits of Jesus Christ, without a special revelation? But Saint Augustine had no doubt when he said, "All my hope, and the certainty of my faith, is in the Precious Blood of Christ, Which was shed for us and for our salvation". Thus the Saint placed all his hope in the Blood of Jesus Christ; because the faith assured him that Christ died for all.

 

Children Who Die Without Baptism

Here it only remains for us to answer the objection which is drawn from children being lost when they die before Baptism, and before they come to the use of reason. If God wills all to be saved, it is objected, how is it that these children perish without any fault of their own, since God gives them no assistance to attain eternal salvation? There are two answers to this objection, the latter more correct than the former, I will state them briefly.

First, it is answered that God, by antecedent will, wishes all to be saved, and therefore has granted universal means for the salvation of all; but these means at times fail of their effect, either by reason of the unwillingness of some persons to avail themselves of them, or because others are unable to make use of them, on account of secondary causes [such as the death of children], whose course God is not bound to change, after having disposed the whole according to the just judgment of His general Providence; all this is collected from what Saint Thomas says: Jesus Christ offered His merits for all men, and instituted Baptism for all; but the application of this means of salvation, so far as relates to children who die before the use of reason, is not prevented by the direct will of God, but by a merely permissive will; because as He is the general provider of all things, He is not bound to disturb the general order, to provide for the particular order.

The second answer is, that to perish is not the same as not to be blessed: since eternal happiness is a gift entirely gratuitous; and therefore the want of it is not a punishment. The opinion, therefore, of Saint Thomas-----is very just, that children who die in infancy have neither the pain of sense nor the pain of loss; not the pain of sense, he says, "because pain of sense corresponds to conversion to creatures; and in Original Sin there is not conversion to creatures" [as the fault is not our own], "and therefore pain of sense is not due to Original Sin"; because Original Sin does not imply an act. [De Mal. q. 5, a. 2] Objectors oppose to this the teaching of Saint Augustine, who in some places shows that his opinion was that children are condemned even to the pain of sense. But in another place he declares that he was very much confused about this point. These are his words: When I come to the punishment of infants, I find myself [believe me] in great straits; nor can I at all find anything to say" - Epistle 166. And in another place he writes, that it may be said that such children receive neither reward nor punishment: "Nor need we fear that it is impossible there should be a middle sentence between reward and punishment; since their life was midway between sin and good works" [De Lib. Ar. 1, 3, c. 23] This was directly affirmed by Saint Gregory Nazianzen: "Children will be sentenced by the just judge neither to the glory of Heaven nor to punishment". Saint Gregory of Nyssa was of the same opinion: "The premature death of children shows that they who have thus ceased to live will not be in pain and unhappiness".

And as far as relates to the pain of loss, although these children are excluded from glory, nevertheless Saint Thomas, [In 2 Sent. d. 33, q. 2, a. 2] who had reflected most deeply on this point, teaches that no one feels pain for the want of that good of which he is not capable; so that as no man grieves that he cannot fly, or no private person that he is not emperor, so these children feel no pain at being deprived of the glory of which they were never capable; since they could never pretend to it either by the principles of nature, or by their own merits. Saint Thomas adds, in another place, [De Mal. q. 5, a. 3] a further reason, which is, that the supernatural knowledge of glory comes only by means of actual faith, which transcends all natural knowledge; so that children can never feel pain for the privation of that glory, of which they never had a supernatural knowledge. He further says, in the former passage, that such children will not only not grieve for the loss of eternal happiness, but will, moreover, have pleasure in their natural gifts; and will even in some way enjoy God, so far as is implied in natural knowledge, and in natural love: "Rather will they rejoice in this, that they will participate much in the Divine goodness, and in natural perfections". And he immediately adds, that although they will be separated from God, as regards the union of glory, nevertheless "they will be united with Him by participation of natural gifts; and so will even be able to rejoice in Him with a natural knowledge and love". [In 2 Sent. d. 33, q. 2, a. 2]

Note Bene

Pope Benedict's new teaching on Limbus Infantium/Puerorum
will be included when soon made public.