Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/Against Two Letters of the Pelagians/Book IV/Chapter 17
Chapter 17 [VII.]—Of the Praise of the Saints.
In that, indeed, in the praise of the saints, they will not drive us with the zeal of that publican to hunger and thirst after righteousness, but with the vanity of the Pharisees, as it were, to overflow with sufficiency and fulness; what does it profit them that—in opposition to the Manicheans, who do away with baptism—they say “that men are perfectly renewed by baptism,” and apply the apostle’s testimony for this,—“who testifies that, by the washing of water, the Church is made holy and spotless from the Gentiles,”—when, with a proud and perverse meaning, they put forth their arguments in opposition to the prayers of the Church itself. For they say this in order that the Church may be believed after holy baptism—in which is accomplished the forgiveness of all sins—to have no further sin; when, in opposition to them, from the rising of the sun even to its setting, in all its members it cries to God, “Forgive us our debts.” But if they are interrogated regarding themselves in this matter, they find not what to answer. For if they should say that they have no sin, John answers them, that they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them. But if they confess their sins, since they wish themselves to be members of Christ’s body, how will that body, that is, the Church, be even in this time perfectly, as they think, without spot or wrinkle, if its members without falsehood confess themselves to have sins? Wherefore in baptism all sins are forgiven, and, by that very washing of water in the word, the Church is set forth in Christ without spot or wrinkle; and unless it were baptized, it would fruitlessly say, “Forgive us our debts,” until it be brought to glory, when there is in it absolutely no spot or wrinkle.
- Luke xviii. 10–14.
- Eph. v. 26.
- Matt. vi. 12.
- 1 John i. 8.
- Eph. v. 27.
- See On the Perfection of Man’s Righteousness, 35, and On the Proceedings of Pelagius, 27.