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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection...: Section 11

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter V.—(11.) The Eleventh Breviate.

XI. “The next question which must be put,” he says, “is, in how many ways all sin is manifested? In two, if I mistake not: if either those things are done which are forbidden, or those things are not done which are commanded. Now, it is just as certain that all things which are forbidden are able to be avoided, as it is that all things which are commanded are able to be effected. For it is vain either to forbid or to enjoin that which cannot either be guarded against or accomplished. And how shall we deny the possibility of man’s being without sin, when we are compelled to admit that he can as well avoid all those things which are forbidden, as do all those which are commanded?” My answer is, that in the Holy Scriptures there are many divine precepts, to mention the whole of which would be too laborious; but the Lord, who on earth consummated and abridged 1386 His word, expressly declared that the law and the prophets hung on two commandments, 1387 that we might understand that whatever else has been enjoined on us by God ends in these two commandments, and must be referred to them: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;” 1388 and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” 1389 “On these two commandments,” says He, “hang all the law and the prophets.” 1390 Whatever, therefore, we are by God’s law forbidden, and whatever we are bidden to do, we are forbidden and bidden with the direct object of fulfilling these two commandments. And perhaps the general prohibition is, “Thou shalt not covet;” 1391 and the general precept, “Thou shalt love.” 1392 Accordingly the Apostle Paul, in a certain place, briefly embraced the two, expressing the prohibition in these words, “Be not conformed to this world,” 1393 and the command in these, “But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 1394 The former falls under the negative precept, not to covet; the latter under the positive one, to love. The one has reference to continence, the other to righteousness. The one enjoins avoidance of evil; the other, pursuit of good. By eschewing covetousness we put off the old man, and by showing love we put on the new. But no man can be continent unless God endow him with the gift; 1395 nor is God’s love shed abroad in our hearts by our own selves, but by the Holy Ghost that is given to us. 1396 This, however, takes place day after day in those who advance by willing, believing, and praying, and who, “forgetting those things which are behind, reach forth unto those things which are before.” 1397 For the reason why the law inculcates all these precepts is, that when a man has failed in fulfilling them, he may not be swollen with pride, and so exalt himself, but may in very weariness betake himself to grace. Thus the law fulfils its office as “schoolmaster,” so terrifying the man as “to lead him to Christ,” to give Him his love. 1398



An application of Rom. ix. 28.


Matt. xxii. 40.


Matt. xxii. 37.


Matt. xxii. 39.


Matt. xxii. 40.


Ex. xx. 27.


Deut. vi. 5.


Rom. xii. 2.


Rom. xii. 2.


Wisdom 8.21.


Rom. v. 5.


Phil. iii. 13.


Gal. iii. 24.

Next: Section 12

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