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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter.: Chapter 64

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 64 [XXXVI.]—When the Commandment to Love is Fulfilled.

But somebody will perhaps think that we lack nothing for the knowledge of righteousness, since the Lord, when He summarily and briefly expounded His word on earth, informed us that the whole law and the prophets depend on two commandments; 1084 nor was He silent as to what these were, but declared them in the plainest words: “Thou shall love,” said He, “the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” 1085 What is more surely true than that, if these be fulfilled, all righteousness is fulfilled? But the man who sets his mind on this truth must also carefully attend to another,—in how many things we all of us offend, 1086 while we suppose that what we do is pleasant, or, at all events, not unpleasing, to God whom we love; and afterwards, having (through His inspired word, or else by being warned in some clear and certain way) learned what is not pleasing to Him, we pray to Him that He would forgive us on our repentance. The life of man is full of examples of this. But whence comes it that we fall short of knowing what is pleasing to Him, if it be not that He is to that extent unknown to us? “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” 1087 Who, however, can make so bold, on arriving far enough, to say: “Then shall I know even as also I am known,” 1088 as to think that they who shall see God will have no greater love towards Him than they have who now believe in Him? or that the one ought to be compared to the other, as if they were very near to each other? Now, if love increases just in proportion as our knowledge of its object becomes more intimate, of course we ought to believe that there is as much wanting now to the fulfilment of righteousness as there is defective in our love of it. A thing may indeed be known or believed, and yet not loved; but it is an impossibility that a thing can be loved which is neither known nor believed. But if the saints, in the exercise of their faith, could arrive at that great love, than which (as the Lord Himself testified) no greater can possibly be exhibited in the present life,—even to lay down their lives for the faith, or for their brethren, 1089 —then after their pilgrimage here, in which their walk is by “faith,” when they shall have reached the “sight” of that final happiness 1090 which we hope for, though as yet we see it not, and wait for in patience, 1091 then undoubtedly love itself shall be not only greater than that which we here experience, but far higher than all which we ask or think; 1092 and yet it cannot be possibly more than “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind.” For there remains in us nothing which can be added to the whole; since, if anything did remain, there would not be the whole. Therefore the first commandment about righteousness, which bids us love the Lord with all our heart, and soul, and mind 1093 (the next to which is, that we love our neighbour as ourselves), we shall completely fulfil in that life when we shall see face to face. 1094 But even now this commandment is enjoined upon us, that we may be reminded what we ought by faith to require, and what we should in our hope look forward to, and, “forgetting the things which are behind, reach forth to the things which are before.” 1095 And thus, as it appears to me, that man has made a far advance, even in the present life, in the righteousness which is to be perfected hereafter, who has discovered by this very advance how very far removed he is from the completion of righteousness.



Matt. xxii. 40.


Matt. 22:37, 39.


Jas. iii. 2.


1 Cor. xiii. 12.


1 Cor. xiii. 12.


John xv. 13.


2 Cor. v. 7.


Rom. viii. 23.


Eph. iii. 20.


Matt. xxii. 37.


1 Cor. xiii. 12.


Phil. iii. 13.

Next: Chapter 65

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