Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XIII.—The Knowledge of God a Divine Gift, According to the Philosophers.
Chapter XIII.—The Knowledge of God a Divine Gift, According to the Philosophers.
Everything, then, which falls under a name, is originated, whether they will or not. Whether, then, the Father Himself draws to Himself everyone who has led a pure life, and has reached the conception of the blessed and incorruptible nature; or whether the free-will which is in us, by reaching the knowledge of the good, leaps and bounds over the barriers, as the gymnasts say; yet it is not without eminent grace that the soul is winged, and soars, and is raised above the higher spheres, laying aside all that is heavy, and surrendering itself to its kindred element.
Plato, too, in Meno, says that virtue is God-given, as the following expressions show: “From this argument then, O Meno, virtue is shown to come to those, in whom it is found, by divine providence.” Does it not then appear that “the gnostic disposition” which has come to all is enigmatically called “divine providence?” And he adds more explicitly: “If, then, in this whole treatise we have investigated well, it results that virtue is neither by nature, nor is it taught, but is produced by divine providence, not without intelligence, in those in whom it is found.” Wisdom which is God-given, as being the power of the Father, rouses indeed our free-will, and admits faith, and repays the application of the elect with its crowning fellowship.
And now I will adduce Plato himself, who clearly deems it fit to believe the children of God. For, discoursing on gods that are visible and born, in Timæus, he says: “But to speak of the other demons, and to know their birth, is too much for us. But we must credit those who have formerly spoken, they being the offspring of the gods, as they said, and knowing well their progenitors, although they speak without probable and necessary proofs.” I do not think it possible that clearer testimony could be borne by the Greeks, that our Saviour, and those anointed to prophesy (the latter being called the sons of God, and the Lord being His own Son), are the true witnesses respecting divine things. Wherefore also they ought to be believed, being inspired, he added. And were one to say in a more tragic vein, that we ought not to believe,“For it was not Zeus that told me these things,”
yet let him know that it was God Himself that promulgated the Scriptures by His Son. And he, who announces what is his own, is to be believed. “No one,” says the Lord, “hath known the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him.” 3098 This, then, is to be believed, according to Plato, though it is announced and spoken “without probable and necessary proofs,” but in the Old and New Testament. “For except ye believe,” says the Lord, “ye shall die in your sins.” 3099 And again: “He that believeth hath everlasting life.” 3100 “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” 3101 For trusting is more than faith. For when one has believed 3102 that the Son of God is our teacher, he trusts 3103 that his teaching is true. And as “instruction,” according to Empedocles, “makes the mind grow,” so trust in the Lord makes faith grow.
We say, then, that it is characteristic of the same persons to vilify philosophy, and run down faith, and to praise iniquity and felicitate a libidinous life. But now faith, if it is the voluntary assent of the soul, is still the doer of good things, the foundation of right conduct; and if Aristotle defines strictly when he teaches that ποιεῖν is applied to the irrational creatures and to inanimate p. 465 things, while πράττειν is applicable to men only, let him correct those who say that God is the maker (ποιητής) of the universe. And what is done (πρακτόν), he says, is as good or as necessary. To do wrong, then, is not good, for no one does wrong except for some other thing; and nothing that is necessary is voluntary. To do wrong, then, is voluntary, so that it is not necessary. But the good differ especially from the bad in inclinations and good desires. For all depravity of soul is accompanied with want of restraint; and he who acts from passion, acts from want of restraint and from depravity.
I cannot help admiring in every particular that divine utterance: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not in by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth.” Then the Lord says in explanation, “I am the door of the sheep.” 3104 Men must then be saved by learning the truth through Christ, even if they attain philosophy. For now that is clearly shown “which was not made known to other ages, which is now revealed to the sons of men.” 3105 For there was always a natural manifestation of the one Almighty God, among all right-thinking men; and the most, who had not quite divested themselves of shame with respect to the truth, apprehended the eternal beneficence in divine providence. In fine, then, Xenocrates the Chalcedonian was not quite without hope that the notion of the Divinity existed even in the irrational creatures. And Democritus, though against his will, will make this avowal by the consequences of his dogmas; for he represents the same images as issuing, from the divine essence, on men and on the irrational animals. 3106 Far from destitute of a divine idea is man, who, it is written in Genesis, partook of inspiration, being endowed with a purer essence than the other animate creatures. Hence the Pythagoreans say that mind comes to man by divine providence, as Plato and Aristotle avow; but we assert that the Holy Spirit inspires him who has believed. The Platonists hold that mind is an effluence of divine dispensation in the soul, and they place the soul in the body. For it is expressly said by Joel, one of the twelve prophets, “And it shall come to pass after these things, I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” 3107 But it is not as a portion of God that the Spirit is in each of us. But how this dispensation takes place, and what the Holy Spirit is, shall be shown by us in the books on prophecy, and in those on the soul. But “incredulity is good at concealing the depths of knowledge,” according to Heraclitus; “for incredulity escapes from ignorance.”
Matt. xi. 27; Luke x. 22.464:3099
John viii. 24.464:3100
John 3:15, 16, 36, v. 24.464:3101
Ps. ii. 12.464:3102
The text ἐπίστηται, but the sense seems to require ἐπίστευσε.464:3103
πέποιθεν, has confidence.465:3104
John x. 1-3, 7.465:3105
Eph. iii. 5.465:3106
Joel ii. 28.
Next: Chapter XIV.—Greek Plagiarism from the Hebrews.
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