Front Page Titles (by Subject) DEFINITION XX: Merit is an estimative moral quality resulting to a man from an action which he is not bound to perform, in accordance with which there is owed him an equivalent good on the part of the one in whose favour that action was undertaken. - Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence
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DEFINITION XX: Merit is an estimative moral quality resulting to a man from an action which he is not bound to perform, in accordance with which there is owed him an equivalent good on the part of the one in whose favour that action was undertaken. - Samuel von Pufendorf, Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence 
Two Books of the Elements of Universal Jurisprudence, translated by William Abbott Oldfather, 1931. Revised by Thomas Behme. Edited and with an Introduction by Thomas Behme (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2009).
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Merit is an estimative moral quality resulting to a man from an action which he is not bound to perform, in accordance with which there is owed him an equivalent good on the part of the one in whose favour that action was undertaken.
1. The foundation and, as it were, the fountain head of merit, is the performance of a work not owed, or, in other words, to receiving which at our hands the other person, for whose sake the deed was done, had no just claim. For, if I furnish the other person merely that which I am thoroughly bound to furnish, so that he has the authority to demand the same from me, it is perfectly patent, that, by the very act of furnishing the thing in question, I am merely meeting a debt and my obligation, and in the action itself there is nothing superabounding, as it were, wherefrom merit can arise for me. Hence it is well established that a mortal cannot have any merit at all towards God, even if we should grant that he can fulfil perfectly the divine law, and so God cannot in any way be man’s debtor, except on the faithfulness of a gratuitous promise, which, however, itself confers no right upon man. Thus, also, other actions which are enjoined upon us by men in virtue of their command [imperio], cannot directly produce for us merit towards the one who made the injunction, although God as well as men who are able to obligate one completely, are apt very frequently to provide definite good things and to confer them upon those who have fulfilled their commands, so as to excite promptitude in obedience. But they are not bound to furnish these because of merit on the part of the agent, or as though on the basis of a contract, but by the force of a generous promise. And so these good things are listed under the designation, not of a reward or premium, but of a gift or gratuitous premium.
2. For the acquisition of merit towards men there remain, therefore, those actions which were not owed them, whether it be that there was absolutely no binding obligation to furnish these, or nature, indeed, commanded or urged that those same actions be undertaken, the application, however, to individual cases having been left to our free choice; or else they were not commanded by a civil law, at least. The reason for this is that what I owe completely to a second person, he himself now has a right over, so that if I render it, properly speaking nothing is lost to me from that to which I myself have a right at the present moment, since, forsooth, if I am going to keep back or deny the same, I shall be doing an injury to the other party. This makes it clear enough that the thing is now his and no longer mine at all, and so there is left to me no place for merit in giving it over to him. But, in truth, when I perform something for another beyond a complete obligation, assuredly that matter, since it is lost to me, and accrues to him, leaves with me a perfect or an imperfect right to have from the second person, upon whom it was bestowed, that which will equal it in worth. And this very thing is merit.
3. When we expressly stipulate for the satisfaction of merit, it is properly called reward. But when the satisfaction of merit in all that concerns manner, time, and amount, is left to the free choice and equity of the second person, it is called premium. Now this is either a corporeal thing, as money, land, house, &c., and incorporeal, as the concession of immunities, privileges, and definite rights; or moral, as honour, praise, &c.; or else notional, as statues, inscriptions, crowns, and the like.