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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection...: Section 38

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XVII.—(38.) The Seventh Passage. Who May Be Called Immaculate. How It is that in God’s Sight No Man is Justified.

“They also, says he, “quote the text: ‘For in thy sight shall no man living be justified.’” 1546 And his affected answer to this passage amounts to nothing else than the showing how texts of Holy Scripture seem to clash with one another, whereas it is our duty rather to demonstrate their agreement. These are his words: “We must confront them with this answer, from the testimony of the evangelist concerning holy Zacharias and Elisabeth, when he says, ‘And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.’”  1547 Now both these righteous persons had, of course, read amongst these very commandments the method of cleansing their own sins. For, according to what is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews of “every high priest taken from among men,” 1548 Zacharias used no doubt to offer sacrifices even for his own sins. The meaning, however, of the phrase “blameless,” which is applied to him, we have already, as I suppose, sufficiently explained. 1549 “And,” he adds, “the blessed apostle says, ‘That we should be holy, and without blame before Him.’” 1550 This, according to him, is said that we should be so, if those persons are to be understood by “blameless” who are altogether without sin. If, however, they are “blameless” who are without blame or censure, then it is impossible for us to deny that there have been, and still are, such persons even in this present life; for it does not follow that a man is without sin because he has not a blot of accusation. Accordingly the apostle, when selecting ministers for ordination, does not say, “If any be sinless,” for he would be unable to find any such; but he says, “If any be without accusation,” 1551 for such, of course, he would be able to find. But our opponent does not tell us how, in accordance with his views, we ought to understand the scripture, “For in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” 1552 The meaning of these words is plain enough, receiving as it does additional light from the preceding clause: “Enter not,” says the Psalmist, “into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” It is judgment which he fears, therefore he desires that mercy which triumphs over judgment. 1553 For the meaning of the prayer, “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant,” is this: “Judge me not according to Thyself,” who art without sin; “for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.” This without doubt is understood as spoken of the present life, whilst the predicate “shall not be justified” has reference to that perfect state of righteousness which belongs not to this life.



Ps. cxliii. 2.


Luke i. 6.


Heb. v. 1.


See above, ch. xi. (23).


Eph. i. 4.


Tit. i. 6.


Ps. cxliii. 2.


Jas. ii. 13.

Next: Section 39

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