Two Views on Perfection
Christian perfection, therefore, does not imply (as some men seem to have imagined) an exemption either from ignorance or mistake, or infirmities or temptations. Indeed, it is only another term for holiness. They are two names for the same thing.
Thus everyone that is perfect is holy, and everyone that is holy is, in the Scripture sense, perfect.
Yet we may, lastly, observe, that neither in this respect is there any absolute perfection on earth. There is no perfection of degrees, as it is termed; none which does not admit of a continual increase. So that how much soever any man hath attained, or in how high a degree soever he is perfect, he hath still need to "grow in grace," [2 Peter 3:18] and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God his Savior [see Philippians 1:9].
In what sense, then, are Christians perfect? This is what I shall endeavor … to show. But it should be premised, that there are several stages in Christian life, as in natural; some of the children of God being but new-born babes; others having attained to more maturity. And accordingly St. John, in his first Epistle (1 John 2:12 & c.), applies himself severally to those he terms little children, those he styles young men, and those whom he entitles fathers.
"I write unto you, little children," saith the Apostle, "because your sins are forgiven you." Because thus far you have attained, being "justified freely," you "have peace with God, through Jesus Christ" [Romans 5:1].
"I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one"; or (as he afterwards addeth), "because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you" [1 John 2:13-14]. Ye have quenched the fiery darts of the wicked one [Ephesians 6:16], the doubts and fears wherewith he disturbed ...