Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 42
Chapter 42 [XXXVI.]—The Blessed Virgin Mary May Have Lived Without Sin. None of the Saints Besides Her Without Sin.
He then enumerates those “who not only lived without sin, but are described as having led holy lives,—Abel, Enoch, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua the son of Nun, Phinehas, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Joseph, Elisha, Micaiah, Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael, Mordecai, Simeon, Joseph to whom the Virgin Mary was espoused, John.” And he adds the names of some women,—“Deborah, Anna the mother of Samuel, Judith, Esther, the other Anna, daughter of Phanuel, Elisabeth, and also the mother of our Lord and Saviour, for of her,” he says, “we must needs allow that her piety had no sin in it.” We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin. Well, then, if, with this exception of the Virgin, we could only assemble together all the forementioned holy men and women, and ask them whether they lived without sin whilst they were in this life, what can we suppose would be their answer? Would it be in the language of our author, or in the words of the Apostle John? I put it to you, whether, on having such a question submitted to them, however excellent might have been their sanctity in this body, they would not have exclaimed with one voice: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us?” But perhaps this their answer would have been more humble than true! Well, but our author has already determined, and rightly determined, “not to place the praise of humility on the side of falsehood.” If, therefore, they spoke the truth in giving such an answer, they would have sin, and since they humbly acknowledged it, the truth would be in them; but if they lied in their answer, they would still have sin, because the truth would not be in them.
- 1 John iii. 5.
- 1 John i. 8.