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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection...: Section 19

Early Church Fathers  Index     

(19.) The Commandment of Love Shall Be Perfectly Fulfilled in the Life to Come.

And in this prayer, unless we choose to be contentious, there is placed before our view a mirror of sufficient brightness in which to behold the life of the righteous, who live by faith, and finish their course, although they are not without sin. Therefore they say, “Forgive us,” because they have not yet arrived at the end of their course. Hence the apostle says, “Not as if I had already attained, either were already perfect. . .Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” 1420 In other words, let us, as many as are running perfectly, be thus resolved, that, being not yet perfected, we pursue our course to perfection along the way by which we have thus far run perfectly, in order that “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part may be done away;” 1421 that is, may cease to be but in part any longer, but become whole and complete. For to faith and hope shall succeed at once the very substance itself, no longer to be believed in and hoped for, but to be seen and grasped. Love, however, which is the greatest among the three, is not to be superseded, but increased and fulfilled,—contemplating in full vision what it used to see by faith, and acquiring in actual fruition what it once only embraced in hope. Then in all this plenitude of charity will be fulfilled the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” 1422 For while there remains any remnant of the lust of the flesh, to be kept in check by the rein of continence, God is by no means loved with all one’s soul. For the flesh does not lust without the soul; although it is the flesh which is said to lust, because the soul lusts carnally. In that perfect state the just man shall live absolutely without any sin, since there will be in his members no law warring against the law of his mind, 1423 but wholly will he love God, with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind 1424 which is the first and chief commandment. For why should not such perfection be enjoined on man, although in this life nobody may attain to it? For we do not rightly run if we do not know whither we are to run. But how could it be known, unless it were pointed out in precepts? 1425 Let us therefore “so run that we may obtain.” 1426 For all who run rightly will obtain,—not as in the contest of the theatre, where all indeed run, but only one wins the prize. 1427 Let us run, believing, hoping, longing; let us run, subjugating the body, cheerfully and heartily doing alms,—in giving kindnesses and forgiving injuries, praying that our strength may be helped as we run; and let us so listen to the commandments which urge us to perfection, as not to neglect running towards the fulness of love.



Phil. iii. 12-15.


1 Cor. xiii. 10.


Mente. The Septuagint, however, like the Hebrew, has δυναμεως. A.V. “thy might.” Comp Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37.


Rom. vii. 23.


Matt. xxii. 37.


See above in Augustin’s De Spiritu et Littera, 64.


1 Cor. ix. 23.


1 Cor. ix. 24.

Next: Section 20

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