Meritum De Condigno, or De Congruto
Meritum De Condigno, Or De Congruto (desert of worth or fitness). This distinction in the idea of the merit of good works, as it was first interpreted by Thomas Aquinas, may be looked upon as a compromise between the strict Augustinian doctrine to which he himself was attached, and the Pelagian tendencies of the Church in general, particularly on the subject of good works. He therefore considers meritorious works under two aspects:
1. According to the substance of the work itself, in so far as proceeding from beings endowed with free will, it is an effect of their free volition.
2. As proceeding in a measure from the grace of the Holy Spirit. Under the last aspect, being, in fact, an effect of the divine grace in man, it is meritorium vitae aeternae ex condigno. While considered as a result of free will, the immense disproportion between the creature and the supernatural communicated grace prevents there being any condignitas, any absolute desert, bhut only a congruitas, propter quandam sequalitatem proportionis.
For it appears suitable that "ut homini operanti secundum suam virtutem Deus recompenset secundum excellentiam suce virtutis." From this Thomas Aquinas concludes:
1. That no one but Christ can gain by meritum condigni any primam gratiam for another.
2. That, on the contrary, it is possible to all as regards meritum congrui, since " secundum amicitime proportionem Deus implet hominis voluntatem in salvatione alterius." The conclusion, which opens wide the door to the practice of supererogatory works, is consequently this, that "fides aliorum valet alii ad salutem merito congrui, non condigni." Duns Scotus goes even further in this Pelagian direction, and asserts that man can, de congruo, prepare (disponere) himself for the reception of the grace offered him. By Protestants this distinction is of course rejected, as well as the whole doctrine of good works. 'The Apol. Conf: (ii. 63) declares that this scholastic distinction is but a screen for Pelagianism: "Nam si Deus necessario dat gratiam pro merito congrui, jam non est meritum congrui, sed condigni;" elsewhere (iii. 127) it opposes to it the following arguments:
1. That this doctrine tends to diminish the mediatorial character of Christ; quiperpetuo est mediator, non tantum in principio justificationis.
2. That it continually awakens doubts in the conscience, for hypocrites could always rely on their good works to merit justification, while conscientious believers would be in doubt as to all their works, and always seeking for more. "Hoc est enim de congruo mereri, dubitare et sine fide operari, donec desperatio incidit." See Muinscher. Lehrbuch d. Dogengesch . 2:1, 145, 146,176; Neander, Gesch. d. chrisft. Religion u. Kirche, 2:294, 610; :Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 9:365.