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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection...: Section 20

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.—(20.) Who May Be Said to Walk Without Spot; Damnable and Venial Sins.

Having premised these remarks, let us carefully attend to the passages which he whom we are answering has produced, as if we ourselves had quoted them. “In Deuteronomy, ‘Thou shalt be perfect before the Lord thy God.’ 1428 Again, in the same book, ‘There shall be not an imperfect man 1429 among the sons of Israel.’ 1430 In like manner the Saviour says in the Gospel, Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ 1431 So the apostle, in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, says: ‘Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect.’ 1432 Again, to the Colossians he writes: ‘Warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ.’ 1433 And so to the Philippians: ‘Do all things without murmurings and disputings, that ye may be blameless, and harmless, as the immaculate sons of God.’ 1434 In like manner to the Ephesians he writes: ‘Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.’ 1435 Then again to the Colossians he says in another passage: ‘And you, that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death; present yourselves holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight.’ 1436 In the same strain, he says to the Ephesians: ‘That He might present to Himself a glorious Church, p. 166 not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing but that it should be holy and without blemish.’ 1437 So in his first Epistle to the Corinthians he says ‘Be ye sober, and righteous, and sin not.’ 1438 So again in the Epistle of St. Peter it is written: ‘Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is offered to you: . . . as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as He who hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, 1439 Be ye holy; for I am holy.’ 1440 Whence blessed David likewise says: ‘O Lord, who shall sojourn in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest on Thy holy mountain? He that walketh without blame, and worketh righteousness.’ 1441 And in another passage: ‘I shall be blameless with Him.’ 1442 And yet again: ‘Blessed are the blameless in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.’ 1443 To the same effect it is written in Solomon: ‘The Lord loveth holy hearts, and all they that are blameless are acceptable unto Him.’” 1444 Now some of these passages exhort men who are running their course that they run perfectly; others refer to the end thereof, that men may reach forward to it as they run. He, however, is not unreasonably said to walk blamelessly, not who has already reached the end of his journey, but who is pressing on towards the end in a blameless manner, free from damnable sins, and at the same time not neglecting to cleanse by almsgiving such sins as are venial. For the way in which we walk, that is, the road by which we reach perfection, is cleansed by clean prayer. That, however, is a clean prayer in which we say in truth, “Forgive us, as we ourselves forgive.” 1445 So that, as there is nothing censured when blame is not imputed, we may hold on our course to perfection without censure, in a word, blamelessly; and in this perfect state, when we arrive at it at last, we shall find that there is absolutely nothing which requires cleansing by forgiveness.



Deut. xviii. 13.


Augustin’s word is inconsummatus. The Septuagint term τελισκόμενος (which properly signifies complete, perfect) comes to mean one initiated into the mysteries of idolatrous worship.


Deut. xxiii. 17.


Matt. v. 48.


2 Cor. xiii. 11.


Col. i. 28.


Phil. 2:14, 15.


Eph. 1:3, 4.


Col. 1:21, 22.


Eph. 5:26, 27.


1 Cor. xv. 34.


Lev. xix. 2.


1 Pet. i. 13-16.


Ps. 15:1, 2.


Ps. xviii. 23.


Ps. cxix. 1.


Prov. xi. 20.


Matt. vi. 12.

Next: Section 21

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