(opus supererogationis). The distinction between praecepta and consilia evangelica, or between the positive duties enjoined by the law and the moral requirements of the Gospel, which the faithful are at liberty to comply with or not, referring chiefly to 1Co 7:6, and treated in the Catechism Roman. 3, 3, 24, is of very ancient origin. Scholastic theology insisted most, particularly on that distinction, and established it in the form in which it has since been held by all orthodox Roman Catholics. If the observance of the obligatory commandments constitutes all the duties of man, then his undertaking to accomplish the non-obligatory consilia may be looked upon as a sort of traffic, the object of which is to gain by this accomplishment a certain degree of merit. We acquire by it a sort of surplus, and this is what is designated as opus supereroyatioanis This doctrine of supererogatory merits is not symbolical, for the Council of Trent does not express itself on that point. On the other hand, the principle that the righteous may fully satisfy the divine law prous vitas statu byworks done in- God- is fully established by Cone. Trid. Sess., can. 16. This is also the case with the other principle," Si quis dixerit, hominis jistificati bona opera ita esse dona Dei, ut non sint etiam bona ipsius justificati 'merita,' aut. ipsum justificatim bonals operibus.non vere mereri augmentum gratiae, vitama seternam et ipsius vitae seternase consecutionem atque etiam glorise augmentum; anathema sit" (Sess. 6:can. 32). Finally, the symbolic books of the Roman Catholic Church recognize also the voluntary assumsption of the vows of obedience, poverty'and chastity (Sess. 25:can. 1), of whichBellarmine (De Monachis, c. 8) says they are "nee praecepta nee indifferentia, sed Deo grata et ab illo commendata." If a satisfactory fulfillment of the law is possible, if good works constitute a desert, then the scholastic notion of the opera supererogtivs becomes a natural consequence. This doctrine,-in short, is the result of the system. It is the natural consequence of that conception of the law in relation to the justification of man. It is supported by tradition from the time of Alexander of Hales (Summa, pt. 4 qu. 23, a. 2, m. 3; Albertus Magnius, Sent. 4:dist. 20, a.16, 17; Thomas Aquinas, Suppl. tert. part. Summae Theol. qu. 13, a. 1), and has not only never been denied, but always asserted and defended against all attacks by the most eminent theologians of the Roman Catholic Church. The assertion "ut unus posset pro altero satisfacere," in the Catech. Rom., can only be explained in view of that doctrine. If we now inquire further into its consequences as attempted by more modern theologians, Mohler, for instance (Neue Untersuchungen., 2nd ed. p..305 sq.), we find an inextricable confusion in the conception of the law. Mohler starts from the admission that the moral law, as the absolute will of God, and the unity of the human will with the divine by love, which it requires, cannot be surpassed. Yet his conception of the law is erroneous and a mere abstraction, for, on the one hand, he considers it as without limits, infinite; and, on the other, as resolving itself into a number of separate commandments, each of which constitutes a duty. Thus considered no one can do more than the law requires, though any one can do more than is required by the separate commandments taken individually. From the moment that by his entering into communion with Christ love becomes the ruling principle of a man's life, he has absolutely fulfilled the moral law. Regeneration being presupposed, there are yet different degrees in the effects of love, and these degrees are not regulated by any law. Hence every one may accomplish certain duties as if they were not duties for him, thus overstepping the common limits of duty and attaining to a higher degree of perfection. According to this argumentation, the moral law would constitute, so to speak, an imaginary quantity, consisting, on the one hand, in the complete body of the divine commandments, and, on the other, in a number of imputations separate from these commandments, and very difficult to define particularly. This, then, brings us back again to the distinction between princepta and consilia, as the basis of the opera supereroyativa. Protestantaism, on the contrary, books upon the divine law as one indivisible, and being in; this form the rule of all human life and action. Objectively, it is the expression of the idea of that which is good in itself, while subjectively it finds its accomplishment in love. But in order to satisfy the manifold exigencies of life, it presents itself also in the form of a plurality of commandments; These however, are not to be considered as separate from each other, nor, when taken together, as forming an uncommon suitable whole; but, as it is man's duty to do in every circumstance that which is good in itself, each distinct commandment is to be looked upon as the seal of the complete moral idea, as the whole divine law in its relation to the circumstance under consideration. As to which of the many commandments finds its application in a given case, this is a question entirely distinct from that, which is objectively to be defined. The perception of it; is given to the regenerate by the Holy Spirit through a conscience filled with love. It is evident that in this system there is no possibility of supposing a human power in those regenerated in Christ by virtue of which they could, under any circumstance, do more than is required of them, i.e. more than that which is absolutely good in itself. Thus, we may not only assert in abstracto that the young woman who devotes her life to taking care of the sick, or the missionary, does not thereby attain a higher degree of moral perfection than others who contribute but a rite towards the advancement of the kingdom of God. All depends in this respect on the individual, and on the position in which God has placed him. Thus, a young woman who having an aged mother dependent on her care, should enter an order-such, for instance, as the Sisters of Mercy — would do a bad action, Of the woman who anointed him our Lord said himself, "She hath done what she could" (Mr 14:8). In Lake 17:10, he says, "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants." Of the stewards, it is required that they should be found faithful, and nothing else. Of Christ himself it is said that he was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Php 2:8), and to be more than; obedient is impossible, while to be less is, to be disobedient. The contrary doctrine, which ascribes merits to man aside from the grace of God, is not only immoral, but positively irreligious. It is even illogical when looked at from the Roman Catholic standpoint, since (Mohler, p. 300) no living man ever accomplishes the whole law. See Janow, De Regulis; Conf. Aug. art. 27; Apol. n. 140; 163, 187,269; Art. Smalc. 3, 3, 322; Conf. Angl. 14.
We should neglect one of the principal consequences of the theory of the opus supererogativum if we forgot to consider its relation to indulgences (q.v.). While the sacrament of penance and the absolution connected with it grant exemption from sin and from eternal punishment, the Church possesses a means of lessening or even remitting the temporal punishments required by divine justice by means of indulgences. These temporal punishments are otherwise to be undergone partly on this earth, as penances and ecclesiastical expiations (pusnca vindicativm), partly afterwards in purgatory (Perrone, 9:2). But whence does the Church possess the power thus to set up as the "representative of God's mercy and justice for our time," and as such to exercise such a right of grace as is so far from being ecclesiastical in its character that it extends (under some restriction) even beyond this-life? How can it defend the assumption of a potstas conferendi indulgentiasa Christo concessa, mentioned in Conc. Trid. Sess. 25. On this point they refer as was already done by Alexander of Hales, to the thesaurus supererogationis perfectorum founded by the suipererogatory merits of Christ and of the saints; "Est indulgentia remissio pcenae temporalis adhuc post absolutionem sacramentalem peccatis debitse, in foro interno coram Deoalida, facta per applicae tionem thesauri Ecclesise a superiore legitimo" (Perrone, 9:1). -That there exists such a fund capable of atoning for all the sins of humanity, of any kind, the basis and foundation of which are the infinite merits of the Son of God as man, and of Christ in his saints (Klee, Dogai. 2, 335), is considered as fidei proxitnum. Aside from the fact that it is implicitly established by the sanction of indulgences (Conc. Trid. Sess. 25:can. 21), it is confirmed by the express declarations of popes Clement VI (Const. Unigeinifus), Leo X, Pius V, Gregory XIII, Pius VI, and Benedict XIV. See also Alex. Ales. pt. 4 qu. 23, a. 1, m. 1; Albertus Magnus, Sent.4, dist. 20, a. 17, 18; Thomas Aquinas, pt. 3, qu. 25, a. 1; Sent. 4 dist. 20, qu. 1, a. 3; Summ. adv. Gent. 3, 156; Bonaventura, Sent. 4 dist. 20, pt. 2, qu; Bellarmine, De Indulg. c. 2, 3; Veronius, Regula Fidei, 2, 4; Bossuet, Exposition, § 8; Ballerini [Peter], Summ. Theol. Prael. 3. Still there may remain some' doubt as to whether the merita on which the; system of indulgences rests is to be considered as active performances in the strict sense of the opus supererogationis, or as unmerited sufferings, such as those undergone by the saints, and which were not to be considered as punishments, but which thus served to atone beforehand for the faults afterwards committed by the universality of sinners. It is only in the first case that the doctrine of the opus superereogationis forms the basis of the system of indulgences, or the notion of the opus supere-ogativum must also embrace the superfluous sufferings of the perfect; and on this the orthodox writers of the Roman Catholic Church do not agree. In 'their polemical defenses of the doctrine of a find of merits, they mostly base themselves on the second consideration. If we leave these, we find in their other works so much that is obscure and indefinite on this as well as on most other points that it is impossible for Protestant expositors to attempt to define the doctrine of the Church without being at once accused by Roman Catholics of misunderstanding their authors. The same Mahler who in Neue Untersuchungen, § 68, derives the thesaurus from the excessive sufferings of some, in § 69, p. 411, considers good works as efficient as undeserved sufferings in freeing the yet ensnared members of the body of Christ. This is still more expressly asserted by Klee (Dogm. 2, 334) and Bellarmine (De Monach. c. 7:8). And it could not be otherwise, for the thesaurus, that basis of indulgences, the product of the "merita Christi et sanctorum,quatenus hiscsatits fatoriia sunt," is alone "norunt theologi omunes opera bona esse meritoria, impetratoria, et satisfactoria." Thus the opera supere oggativa contribute unquestionably to making up the fund of merits imparted to those who need it in the forth of indulgences. "Les bonnes ceuvres de tousles hommes, le sang des martyrs, les sacrifices et les larmes de l'innocence s'acclimulent sans relache pour faire equilibre au mal. L'action de graces, la priere, les satisfactions, les secours, les inspirations, la foi, l'esperance et l'amour circulent de lun a l'autre comme des fleuves bienfaisans" (De Maistre, Soirges de St. Petersburg).
This doctrine of the opus supereauogationis was attacked by Wycliffe (Dial. p. 287), and sharply criticized in Job. von. Wesel's Adv. Indulg. Disput. The position of the Reformers on that question may be seen in Melancthon (Loci, De Satisfactione), and Calvin (Inst. 3; 5). It was afterwards treated by Chemnitz (1, De Bonis Opp. qu. 3; 2, De Indulg.), Chamier (Panstratia Cathol. 3, lib. 24, De Satisfactionibus Alienis), and Jo Gerhard (Loc. 15:9, ed. Cotta). The Synod of Pistoja (Propos. XLI), in 1876, took the same views in the Roman Catholic Church. If Protestant polemists have occasionally failed to observe that the vicarious satisfaction of the saints does not refer to sin itself, but to the temporal consequences of sin pardoned, this has, nevertheless, made no practical difference. We may also notice here the evident incongruity between the Roman Catholic essays on this subject and the fundamental truth of Christ's all-sufficient merits. For, admitting the fundamental distinction made by the Thomists between meritum de condigno and meritum de congruo, since the merit of Christ remains still the active principle of the supererogatory merits of the saints, the latter cannot increase the value of the merits of Christ, but only the quantity or numbers. "Per modum cumuli adjiciuntur satisfactionibus Christi, quin istis ulla ratione derogetur." The merits of others, consequently, are reversible merely as satisfactory services, not as personal moral actions, and thus are looked upon only as means of application of the merits of Christ as manifested in supererogative works. "Non habent nisi rationem medii, quo Christi pretium nobis applicatur" (Bellarmine, De Indulg. 1, 4, n. 4). —Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. SEE MERIT.