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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter V.—He Proves by Several Examples that the Greeks Drew from the Sacred Writers.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter V.—He Proves by Several Examples that the Greeks Drew from the Sacred Writers.

Accordingly all those above-mentioned dogmas appear to have been transmitted from Moses the great to the Greeks. That all things belong to the wise man, is taught in these words: “And because God hath showed me mercy, I have all things.” 2190 And that he is beloved of God, God intimates when He says, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” 2191 For the first is found to have been expressly called “friend;” 2192 and the second is shown to have received a new name, signifying “he that sees God;” 2193 while Isaac, God in a figure selected for Himself as a consecrated sacrifice, to be a type to us of the economy of salvation.

Now among the Greeks, Minos the king of nine years’ reign, and familiar friend of Zeus, is celebrated in song; they having heard how once God conversed with Moses, “as one speaking with his friend.” 2194 Moses, then, was a sage, king, legislator. But our Saviour surpasses all human nature. 2195 He is so lovely, as to be alone loved by us, whose hearts are set on the true beauty, for “He was the true light.” 2196 He is shown to be a King, as such hailed by unsophisticated children and by the unbelieving and ignorant Jews, and heralded by the prophets. So rich is He, that He despised the whole earth, and the gold above and beneath it, with all glory, when given to Him by the adversary. What need is there to say that He is the only High Priest, who alone possesses p. 352 the knowledge of the worship of God? 2197 He is Melchizedek, “King of peace,” 2198 the most fit of all to head the race of men. A legislator too, inasmuch as He gave the law by the mouth of the prophets, enjoining and teaching most distinctly what things are to be done, and what not. Who of nobler lineage than He whose only Father is God? Come, then, let us produce Plato assenting to those very dogmas. The wise man he calls rich in the Phœdrus, when he says, “O dear Pan, and whatever other gods are here, grant me to become fair within; and whatever external things I have, let them be agreeable to what is within. I would reckon the wise man rich.” 2199 And the Athenian stranger, 2200 finding fault with those who think that those who have many possessions are rich, speaks thus: “For the very rich to be also good is impossible—those, I mean, whom the multitude count rich. Those they call rich, who, among a few men, are owners of the possessions worth most money; which any bad man may possess.” “The whole world of wealth belongs to the believer,” 2201 Solomon says, “but not a penny to the unbeliever.” Much more, then, is the Scripture to be believed which says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man” 2202 to lead a philosophic life. But, on the other hand, it blesses “the poor;” 2203 as Plato understood when he said, “It is not the diminishing of one’s resources, but the augmenting of insatiableness, that is to be considered poverty; for it is not slender means that ever constitutes poverty, but insatiableness, from which the good man being free, will also be rich.” And in Alcibiades he calls vice a servile thing, and virtue the attribute of freemen. “Take away from you the heavy yoke, and take up the easy one,” 2204 says the Scripture; as also the poets call [vice] a slavish yoke. And the expression, “Ye have sold yourselves to your sins,” agrees with what is said above: “Every one, then, who committeth sin is a slave; and the slave abideth not in the house for ever. But if the Son shall make you free, then shall ye be free, and the truth shall make you free.” 2205

And again, that the wise man is beautiful, the Athenian stranger asserts, in the same way as if one were to affirm that certain persons were just, even should they happen to be ugly in their persons. And in speaking thus with respect to eminent rectitude of character, no one who should assert them to be on this account beautiful would be thought to speak extravagantly. And “His appearance was inferior to all the Sons of men,” 2206 prophecy predicted.

Plato, moreover, has called the wise man a king, in The Statesman. The remark is quoted above.

These points being demonstrated, let us recur again to our discourse on faith. Well, with the fullest demonstration, Plato proves, that there is need of faith everywhere, celebrating peace at the same time: “For no man will ever be trusty and sound in seditions without entire virtue. There are numbers of mercenaries full of fight, and willing to die in war; but, with a very few exceptions, the most of them are desperadoes and villains, insolent and senseless.” If these observations are right, “every legislator who is even of slight use, will, in making his laws, have an eye to the greatest virtue. Such is fidelity,” 2207 which we need at all times, both in peace and in war, and in all the rest of our life, for it appears to embrace the other virtues. “But the best thing is neither war nor sedition, for the necessity of these is to be deprecated. But peace with one another and kindly feeling are what is best.” From these remarks the greatest prayer evidently is to have peace, according to Plato. And faith is the greatest mother of the virtues. Accordingly it is rightly said in Solomon, “Wisdom is in the mouth of the faithful. 2208 Since also Xenocrates, in his book on “Intelligence,” says “that wisdom is the knowledge of first causes and of intellectual essence.” He considers intelligence as twofold, practical and theoretical, which latter is human wisdom. Consequently wisdom is intelligence, but all intelligence is not wisdom. And it has been shown, that the knowledge of the first cause of the universe is of faith, but is not demonstration. For it were strange that the followers of the Samian Pythagoras, rejecting demonstrations of subjects of question, should regard the bare ipse dixit 2209 as ground of belief; and that this expression alone sufficed for the confirmation of what they heard, while those devoted to the contemplation of the truth, presuming to disbelieve the trustworthy Teacher, God the only Saviour, should demand of Him tests of His utterances. But He says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” And who is he? Let Epicharmus say:—

“Mind sees, mind hears; all besides is deaf and blind.” 2210

Rating some as unbelievers, Heraclitus says, p. 353 “Not knowing how to hear or to speak;” aided doubtless by Solomon, who says, “If thou lovest to hear, thou shalt comprehend; and if thou incline thine ear, thou shalt be wise.” 2211


Footnotes

351:2190

The words of Jacob to Esau slightly changed from the Septuagint: “For God hath shown mercy to me, and I have all things”—οτι ἠλέησέ με ὁ Θεὸς καὶ ἔστι μοι πάντα (Gen. xxxiii. 11).

351:2191

Ex. iii. 16.

351:2192

Jas. ii. 23.

351:2193

So the name Israel is explained, Stromata, i. p. 334, Potter; [see p. 300, supra.]

351:2194

Ex. xxxiii. 11.

351:2195

[This passage, down to the reference to Plato, is unspeakably sublime. One loves Clement for this exclusive loyalty to the Saviour.]

351:2196

John i. 9.

352:2197

The Stoics defined piety as “ the knowledge of the worship of God.”

352:2198

Heb. vii. 2.

352:2199

Socrates in the Phœdrus, near the end, [p. 279.]

352:2200

Introduced by Plato in The Laws, conversing with Socrates.

352:2201

Taken likely from some apocryphal writing.

352:2202

Matt. xix. 24.

352:2203

Matt. v. 3.

352:2204

Matt. xi. 28-30.

352:2205

John viii. 32-36.

352:2206

Isa. liii. 3. [That is after he became the Man of Sorrows; not originally.]

352:2207

πιστότης.

352:2208

Ecclus. xv. 10.

352:2209

Laertius, in opposition to the general account, ascribes the celebrated αὐτὸς εφα to Pythagoras Zacynthus. Suidas, who with the most ascribes it to the Samian Pythagoras, says that it meant “God has said,” as he professed to have received his doctrines from God.

352:2210

This famous line of Epicharmus the comic poet is quoted by Tertullian (de Anima), by Plutarch, by Jamblichus, and Porphyry.

353:2211

Ecclus. vi. 33.


Next: Chapter VI.—The Excellence and Utility of Faith.

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