Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/Against Two Letters of the Pelagians/Book III/Chapter 15
Chapter 15.—The Perfection of Apostles and Prophets.
Since, then, all righteous men, both the more ancient and the apostles, lived from a right faith which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; and had with their faith morals so holy, that although they might not be of such perfect virtue in this life as that which should be after this life, yet whatever of sin might creep in from human infirmity might be constantly done away by the piety of their faith itself: it results from this that, in comparison with the wicked whom God will condemn, it must be said that these were “righteous,” since by their pious faith they were so far removed into the opposite of those wicked men that the apostle cries out, “What part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” But it is plain that the Pelagians, these modern heretics, seem to themselves to be religious lovers and praisers of the saints, since they do not dare to say that they were of an imperfect virtue; although that elected vessel confesses this, who, considering in what state he still was, and that the body which is corrupted drags down the soul, says, “Not that I have already attained or am yet perfect; brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended.”  And yet a little after, he who had denied himself to be perfect says, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded,” in order that he might show that, according to the measure of this life, there is a certain perfection, and that to that perfection this also is to be attributed, even although any one may know that he is not yet perfect. For what is more perfect, or what was more excellent, than the holy priests among the ancient people? And yet God prescribed to them to offer sacrifice first of all for their own sins. And what is more holy among the new people than the apostles? And yet the Lord prescribed to them to say in their prayer, “Forgive us our debts.” For all the pious, therefore, who lie under this burden of a corruptible flesh, and groan in the infirmity of this life of theirs, there is one hope: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins.”
- 2 Cor. vi. 14.
- Phil. iii. 12, 13.
- Phil. iii. 15.
- 1 John ii. 1.