Perfectionists a controversial term, applied in an odious sense to those who lay claim to absolute Christian perfection, or maintain its possibility. They may be divided into several classes, as they rest their claims on different grounds.
1. There are the advocates of imputed perfection. These are perfect, not in their own righteousness, but in the imputed righteousness of Christ. The individual who fancies himself in possession of all Christ's righteousness holds usually, not only that he does not, but that he cannot sin. What would be sin in others is no sin in him. But moral character is not transferable property. It adheres to its possessor, and to him alone, and can never become the character of any other being. SEE IMPUTATION.
2. The second class are those who claim what they call an evangelical perfection. They do not profess to obey perfectly the divine law, or think that this is at all necessary. The moral law has been superseded by the law of faith. To this theory it is sufficient to reply that the moral law as not been superseded or annulled, but is in full force now throughout the universe. Our Savior came to vindicate and honor the law, not to annul it. SEE ANTINOMIANS.
3. The third class are those who profess to fulfill perfectly the law of God. They admit that the moral law — the great law of love — stands in unabated force; that it is binding on themselves; and insist that they can and do completely fulfill it. This they claim in such an absolute sense as to imply perfect sinlessness, and to require no further need of penitence and forgiveness. This view is not held by any one sect, nor confined to any one denomination; but is avowed more or less distinctly by some persons in different churches, chiefly in the Methodist and the Congregational denominations, though not accepted by the great body of believers in any of them. Such views have occasionally characterized mystical individuals in every age, SEE MYSTICS, and are also held, under some modification or other, by several bodies of communists in this country. See Theol. Rev. 1:554; Meth. Quar. Rev. 1841, p. 307; 1848, p. 293. SEE LAW (MORAL).