"we don't know what we are." But "God knows us in ways we cannot know ourselves, and ... values us in ways we cannot value ourselves or one another...."
Marilynne Robinson, "The human spirit and the good society," in When I was a child I read books (New York: Picador; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 162-163.
"What would a secular paraphrase of this [(the opening)] sentence [(of the Declaration of Independence)] look like? In what non-religious terms is human equality self-evident? . . . What would be the nonreligious equivalent for the assertion that individual rights are sacrosanct in every case? Every civilization, including this one, has always been able to reason its way to ignoring or denying the most minimal claims to justice in any form that deserves the name. The temptation is always present and powerful because the rationalizations are always ready to hand."
Robinson makes the point that Jefferson appeals to "self-eviden[ce]" while slipping "the language and assumptions" of Judeo-Christian revelation in by the back door, and that "if he could have articulated the idea as or more effectively in other terms, he would have done it" (162).
"gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit" (Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., lib. 2 d. 9 q. 1 a. 8 arg. 3). (For what very little it is worth, I haven't yet been able to turn up a single occurrence of the exact phrase "gratia non tollit" in the Calvini Opera Database.)