From the Archives: On Christian Perfection
To offset the decline in moral and spiritual values, Pietists sought to establish new standards of conduct and Christian discipline. Often these standards appeared to be perfectionistic and Pietists were criticized for this tendency. However, as this selection from A.H. Francke shows, Pietists also recognized human imperfections and thus strove for their ideals, fully aware that frailty and ignorance are a part of man’s struggle.
Originally written in 1690, the text is translated by Peter Erb from Gustav Kramer, August Herman Francke: Ein Lebensbild, 1880, and is found in Pietists: Selected Writings, 1983. Used with permission of Paulist Press.
1. We are justified only by faith in the Lord Jesus without merit or the addition of work in that the Heavenly Father because of the perfect satisfaction and the precious merit of his Son judges us free and liberated from all our sins.
2. Through this justification, which occurs through faith, the justified person becomes completely and totally perfect: indeed, it is seen as the justification of God himself, as St. Paul writes: God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the justification of God [2 Cor. 5:21]. Just as God looks upon the Lord Christ as sin (because our sins were reckoned to him), so he sees the sinner as just and completely perfect because he gives to the sinner as the sinner’s own the innocence and righteousness of Christ.
3. He who does not have this perfection cannot become holy. Perfection is nothing other than faith in the Lord Jesus and is not in us or ours but in Christ or of Christ for whose sake we are considered perfect before God and thus his perfection is ours by ascription.
4. However, if a person is justified he can be completely ...