Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XII.—Exhortation to Abandon Their Old Errors and Listen to the Instructions of Christ.
Chapter XII.—Exhortation to Abandon Their Old Errors and Listen to the Instructions of Christ.
Let us then avoid custom as we would a dangerous headland, or the threatening Charybdis, or the mythic sirens. It chokes man, turns him away from truth, leads him away from life: custom is a snare, a gulf, a pit, a mischievous winnowing fan.“Urge the ship beyond that smoke and billow.” 1024
Let us shun, fellow-mariners, let us shun this billow; it vomits forth fire: it is a wicked island, heaped with bones and corpses, and in it sings a fair courtesan, Pleasure, delighting with music for the common ear.“Hie thee hither, far-famed Ulysses, great glory of the Achæans;
Moor the ship, that thou mayest hears diviner voice.” 1025
She praises thee, O mariner, and calls the eillustrious; and the courtesan tries to win to herself the glory of the Greeks. Leave her to prey on the dead; a heavenly spirit comes to thy help: pass by Pleasure, she beguiles.“Let not a woman with flowing train cheat you of your senses,
With her flattering prattle seeking your hurt.”
Sail past the song; it works death. Exert your will only, and you have overcome ruin; bound to the wood of the cross, thou shalt be freed from destruction: the word of God will be thy pilot, and the Holy Spirit will bring thee to anchor in the haven of heaven. Then shalt thou see my God, and be initiated into the sacred mysteries, and come to the fruition of those things which are laid up in heaven reserved for me, which “ear hath not heard, nor have they entered into the heart of any.” 1026“And in sooth methinks I see two suns,
And a double Thebes,” 1027
said one frenzy-stricken in the worship of idols, intoxicated with mere ignorance. I would pity him in his frantic intoxication, and thus frantic I would invite him to the sobriety of salvation; for the Lord welcomes a sinners repentance, and not his death.
Come, O madman, not leaning on the thyrsus, not crowned with ivy; throw away the mitre, throw away the fawn-skin; come to thy senses. I will show thee the Word, and the mysteries of the Word, expounding them after thine own fashion. This is the mountain beloved of God, not the subject of tragedies like Cithæron, but consecrated to dramas of the truth,—a mount of sobriety, shaded with forests of purity; and there revel on it not the Mænades, the sisters of Semele, who was struck by the thunderbolt, practising in their initiatory rites unholy division of flesh, but the daughters of God, the fair lambs, who celebrate the holy rites of the Word, raising a sober choral dance. The righteous are the chorus; the music is a hymn of the King of the universe. The maidens strike the lyre, the angels praise, the prophets speak; the sound of music issues forth, they run and pursue the jubilant band; those that are called make haste, eagerly desiring to receive the Father.
Come thou also, O aged man, leaving Thebes, and casting away from thee both divination and Bacchic frenzy, allow thyself to be led to the truth. I give thee the staff [of the cross] on which to lean. Haste, Tiresias; believe, and thou wilt see. Christ, by whom the eyes of the blind recover sight, will shed on thee a light brighter than the sun; night will flee from thee, fire will fear, death will be gone; thou, old man, who saw not Thebes, shalt see the heavens. O truly sacred mysteries! O stainless light! My way is lighted with torches, and I survey the heavens and God; I become holy whilst I am initiated. The Lord is the hierophant, and seals while illuminating him who is initiated, and presents to the Father him who believes, to be kept safe for ever. Such are the reveries of my mysteries. If it is thy wish, be thou also initiated; and thou shall join the choir along with angels around the unbegotten and indestructible and the only true God, the Word of God, raising the hymn with us. 1028 This Jesus, who is eternal, the one great High Priest of the one God, and of His Father, prays for and exhorts men.
“Hear, ye myriad tribes, rather whoever among men are endowed with reason, both barbarians and Greeks. I call on the whole race of men, whose Creator I am, by the will of the Father. Come to Me, that you may be put in your due rank under the one God and the one Word of God; and do not only have the advantage of the irrational creatures in the possession of reason; for to you of all mortals I grant the enjoyment of immortality. For I want, I want to impart to you this grace, bestowing on you the perfect boon of immortality; and I confer on you both the Word and the knowledge of God, My complete self. This am I, this God wills, this is symphony, this the harmony of the Father, this is the Son, this is Christ, this the Word of God, the arm of the Lord, the power of the universe, the will of the Father; of which things there were images of old, but not all adequate. I desire to restore you according to the original model, that ye may become also like Me. I anoint you with the ungent of faith, by which you throw off corruption, p. 206 and show you the naked form of righteousness by which you ascend to God. Come to Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.” 1029
Let us haste, let us run, my fellow-men—us, who are God-loving and God-like images of the Word. Let us haste, let us run, let us take His yoke, let us receive, to conduct us to immortality, the good charioteer of men. Let us love Christ. He led the colt with its parent; and having yoked the team of humanity to God, directs His chariot to immortality, hastening clearly to fulfil, by driving now into heaven, what He shadowed forth before by riding into Jerusalem. A spectacle most beautiful to the Father is the eternal Son crowned with victory. 1030 Let us aspire, then, after what is good; let us become God-loving men, and obtain the greatest of all things which are incapable of being harmed—God and life. Our helper is the Word; let us put confidence in Him; and never let us be visited with such a craving for silver and gold, and glory, as for the Word of truth Himself. For it will not, it will not be pleasing to God Himself if we value least those things which are worth most, and hold in the highest estimation the manifest enormities and the utter impiety of folly, and ignorance, and thoughtlessness, and idolatry. For not improperly the sons of the philosophers consider that the foolish are guilty of profanity and impiety in whatever they do; and describing ignorance itself as a species of madness, allege that the multitude are nothing but madmen. There is therefore no room to doubt, the Word will say, whether it is better to be sane or insane; but holding on to truth with our teeth, we must with all our might follow God, and in the exercise of wisdom regard all things to be, as they are, His; and besides, having learned that we are the most excellent of His possessions, let us commit ourselves to God, loving the Lord God, and regarding this as our business all our life long. And if what belongs to friends be reckoned common property, and man be the friend of God—for through the mediation of the Word has he been made the friend of God—then accordingly all things become mans, because all things are Gods, and the common property of both the friends, God and man.
It is time, then, for us to say that the pious Christian alone is rich and wise, and of noble birth, and thus call and believe him to be Gods image, and also His likeness, 1031 having become righteous and holy and wise by Jesus Christ, and so far already like God. Accordingly this grace is indicated by the prophet, when he says, “I said that ye are gods, and all sons of the Highest.” 1032 For us, yea us, He has adopted, and wishes to be called the Father of us alone, not of the unbelieving. Such is then our position who are the attendants of Christ.“As are mens wishes, so are their words;
As are their words, so are their deeds;
And as their works, such is their life.”
Good is the whole life of those who have known Christ.
Enough, methinks, of words, though, impelled by love to man, I might have gone on to pour out what I had from God, that I might exhort to what is the greatest of blessings—salvation. 1033 For discourses concerning the life which has no end, are not readily brought to the end of their disclosures. To you still remains this conclusion, to choose which will profit you most—judgment or grace. For I do not think there is even room for doubt which of these is the better; nor is it allowable to compare life with destruction.
Odyss., xii. 219.205:1025
Odyss., xii. 184.205:1026
1 Cor. ii. 9.205:1027
Eurip., Bacch., 918.205:1028
[Here are references to baptism and the Eucharist, and to the Trisagion, “Therefore with angels and archangels,” which was universally diffused in the Christian Church. Bunsen, Hippol., iii. 63.]206:1029
Matt. 11:28, 29, 30.206:1030
[“Who is this that cometh from Edom,” seems to be in mind. Isa. lxiii. 1.]206:1031
Clement here draws a distinction, frequently made by early Christian writers, between the image and the likeness of God. Man never loses the image of God; but as the likeness consists in moral resemblance, he may lose it, and he recovers it only when he becomes righteous, holy, and wise.206:1032
Ps. lxxxii. 6.206:1033
[Let me quote from an excellent author: “We ought to give the Fathers credit for knowing what arguments were best calculated to affect the minds of those whom they were addressing. It was unnecessary for them to establish, by a long train of reasoning, the probability that a revelation may be made from heaven to man, or to prove the credibility of miracles . . . The majority, both of the learned and unlearned, were fixed in the belief that the Deity exercised an immediate control over the human race, and consequently felt no predisposition to reject that which purported to be a communication of His will. . . . Accustomed as they were, however, to regard the various systems proposed by philosophers as matters of curious speculation, designed to exercise the understanding, not to influence the conduct, the chief difficulty of the advocate of Christianity was to prevent them from treating it with the same levity, and to induce them to view it in its true light as a revelation declaring truths of the highest practical importance.”
This remark of Bishop Kaye is a hint of vast importance in our study of the early Apologists. It is taken from that authors Account of the Writings of Clement of Alexandria (London, 1835), to which I would refer the student, as the best introduction to these works that I know of. It is full of valuable comment and exposition I make only sparing reference to it, however, in these pages, as otherwise I should hardly know what to omit, or to include.]
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