Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter IX.—That It is the Prerogative of the Same Power to Be Beneficent and to Punish Justly. Also the Manner of the Instruction of the Logos.
Chapter IX.—That It is the Prerogative of the Same Power to Be Beneficent and to Punish Justly. Also the Manner of the Instruction of the Logos.
With all His power, therefore, the Instructor of humanity, the Divine Word, using all the resources of wisdom, devotes Himself to the saving of the children, admonishing, upbraiding, blaming, chiding, reproving, threatening, healing, promising, favouring; and as it were, by many reins, curbing the irrational impulses of humanity. To speak briefly, therefore, the Lord acts towards us as we do towards our children. “Hast thou children? correct them,” is the exhortation of the book of Wisdom, “and bend them from their youth. Hast thou daughters? attend to their body, and let not thy face brighten towards them,” 1210 —although we love our children exceedingly, both sons and daughters, above aught else whatever. For those who speak with a man merely to please him, have little love for him, seeing they do not pain him; while those that speak for his good, though they inflict pain for the time, do him good for ever after. It is not immediate pleasure, but future enjoyment, that the Lord has in view.
Let us now proceed to consider the mode of His loving discipline, with the aid of the prophetic testimony.
Admonition, then, is the censure of loving care, and produces understanding. Such is the Instructor in His admonitions, as when He says in the Gospel, “How often would I have gathered thy children, as a bird gathers her young ones under her wings, and ye would not!” 1211 And again, the Scripture admonishes, saying, “And they committed adultery with stock and stone, and burnt incense to Baal.” 1212 For it is a very great proof of His love, that, though knowing well the shamelessness of the people that had kicked and bounded away, He notwithstanding exhorts them to repentance, and says by Ezekiel, “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of scorpions; nevertheless, speak to them, if peradventure they will hear.” 1213 Further, to Moses He says, “Go and tell Pharaoh to send My people forth; but I know that he will not send them forth.” 1214 For He shows both things: both His divinity in His foreknowledge of what would take place, and His love in affording an opportunity for repentance to the self-determination of the soul. He admonishes also by Esaias, in His care for the people, when He says, “This people honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” What follows is reproving censure: “In vain do they worship p. 229 Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” 1215 Here His loving care, having shown their sin, shows salvation side by side.
Upbraiding is censure on account of what is base, conciliating to what is noble. This is shown by Jeremiah: “They were female-mad horses; each one neighed after his neighbours wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” 1216 He everywhere interweaves fear, because “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of sense.” 1217 And again, by Hosea, He says, “Shall I not visit them? for they themselves were mingled with harlots, and sacrificed with the initiated; and the people that understood embraced a harlot.” 1218 He shows their offence to be clearer, by declaring that they understood, and thus sinned wilfully. Understanding is the eye of the soul; wherefore also Israel means, “he that sees God”—that is, he that understands God.
Complaint is censure of those who are regarded as despising or neglecting. He employs this form when He says by Esaias: “Hear, O heaven; and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have begotten and brought up children, but they have disregarded Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his masters crib: but Israel hath not known Me.” 1219 For how shall we not regard it fearful, if he that knows God, shall not recognise the Lord; but while the ox and the ass, stupid and foolish animals, will know him who feeds them, Israel is found to be more irrational than these? And having, by Jeremiah, complained against the people on many grounds, He adds: “And they have forsaken Me, saith the Lord.” 1220
Invective 1221 is a reproachful upbraiding, or chiding censure. This mode of treatment the Instructor employs in Isaiah, when He says, “Woe to you, children revolters. Thus saith the Lord, Ye have taken counsel, but not by Me; and made compacts, but not by My Spirit.” 1222 He uses the very bitter mordant of fear in each case repressing 1223 the people, and at the same time turning them to salvation; as also wool that is undergoing the process of dyeing is wont to be previously treated with mordants, in order to prepare it for taking on a fast colour.
Reproof is the bringing forward of sin, laying it before one. This form of instruction He employs as in the highest degree necessary, by reason of the feebleness of the faith of many. For He says by Esaias, “Ye have forsaken the Lord, and have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.” 1224 And He says also by Jeremiah: “Heaven was astonished at this, and the earth shuddered exceedingly. For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewn out to themselves broken cisterns, which will not be able to hold water.” 1225 And again, by the same: “Jerusalem hath sinned a sin; therefore it became commotion. All that glorified her dishonoured her, when they saw her baseness.” 1226 And He uses the bitter and biting 1227 language of reproof in His consolations by Solomon, tacitly alluding to the love for children that characterizes His instruction: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord; nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth;” 1228 “For a man who is a sinner escapes reproof.” 1229 Consequently, therefore, the Scripture says, “Let the righteous reprove and correct me; but let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head.” 1230
Bringing one to his senses (φρένωσις) is censure, which makes a man think. Neither from this form of instruction does he abstain, but says by Jeremiah, “How long shall I cry, and you not hear? So your ears are uncircumcised.” 1231 O blessed forbearance! And again, by the same: “All the heathen are uncircumcised, but this people is uncircumcised in heart:” 1232 “for the people are disobedient; children,” says He, “in whom is not faith.” 1233
Visitation is severe rebuke. He uses this species in the Gospel: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee!” The reduplication of the name gives strength to the rebuke. For he that knows God, how does he persecute Gods servants? Wherefore He says, “Your house is left desolate; for I say unto you, Henceforth ye shall not see Me, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” 1234 For if you do not receive His love, ye shall know His power.
Denunciation is vehement speech. And He employs denunciation as medicine, by Isaiah, saying, “Ah, sinful nation, lawless sons, people full of sins, wicked seed!” 1235 And in the Gospel by John He says, “Serpents, brood of vipers.” 1236p. 230
Accusation is censure of wrong-doers. This mode of instruction He employs by David, when He says: “The people whom I knew not served me, and at the hearing of the ear obeyed me. Sons of strangers lied to me, and halted from their ways.” 1237 And by Jeremiah: “And I gave her a writing of divorcement, and covenant-breaking Judah feared not.” 1238 And again: “And the house of Israel disregarded Me; and the house of Judah lied to the Lord.” 1239
Bewailing ones fate is latent censure, and by artful aid ministers salvation as under a veil. He made use of this by Jeremiah: “How did the city sit solitary that was full of people! She that ruled over territories became as a widow; she came under tribute; weeping, she wept in the night.” 1240
Objurgation is objurgatory censure. Of this help the Divine Instructor made use by Jeremiah, saying, “Thou hadst a whores forehead; thou wast shameless towards all; and didst not call me to the house, who am thy father, and lord of thy virginity.” 1241 “And a fair and graceful harlot skilled in enchanted potions.” 1242 With consummate art, after applying to the virgin the opprobrious name of whoredom, He thereupon calls her back to an honourable life by filling her with shame.
Indignation is a rightful upbraiding; or upbraiding on account of ways exalted above what is right. In this way He instructed by Moses, when He said, “Faulty children, a generation crooked and perverse, do ye thus requite the Lord? This people is foolish, and not wise. Is not this thy father who acquired thee?” 1243 He says also by Isaiah, “Thy princes are disobedient, companions of thieves, loving gifts, following after rewards, not judging the orphans.” 1244
In fine, the system He pursues to inspire fear is the source of salvation. And it is the prerogative of goodness to save: “The mercy of the Lord is on all flesh, while He reproves, corrects, and teaches as a shepherd His flock. He pities those who receive His instruction, and those who eagerly seek union with Him.” 1245 And with such guidance He guarded the six hundred thousand footmen that were brought together in the hardness of heart in which they were found; scourging, pitying, striking, healing, in compassion and discipline: “For according to the greatness of His mercy, so is His rebuke.” 1246 For it is indeed noble not to sin; but it is good also for the sinner to repent; just as it is best to be always in good health, but well to recover from disease. So He commands by Solomon: “Strike thou thy son with the rod, that thou mayest deliver his soul from death.” 1247 And again: “Abstain not from chastising thy son, but correct him with the rod; for he will not die.” 1248
For reproof and rebuke, as also the original term implies, are the stripes of the soul, chastizing sins, preventing death, and leading to self-control those carried away to licentiousness. Thus also Plato, knowing reproof to be the greatest power for reformation, and the most sovereign purification, in accordance with what has been said, observes, “that he who is in the highest degree impure is uninstructed and base, by reason of his being unreproved in those respects in which he who is destined to be truly happy ought to be purest and best.”
For if rulers are not a terror to a good work, how shall God, who is by nature good, be a terror to him who sins not? “If thou doest evil, be afraid,” 1249 says the apostle. Wherefore the apostle himself also in every case uses stringent language to the Churches, after the Lords example; and conscious of his own boldness, and of the weakness of his hearers, he says to the Galatians: “Am I your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” 1250 Thus also people in health do not require a physician, do not require him as long as they are strong; but those who are ill need his skill. Thus also we who in our lives are ill of shameful lusts and reprehensible excesses, and other inflammatory effects of the passions, need the Saviour. And He administers not only mild, but also stringent medicines. The bitter roots of fear then arrest the eating sores of our sins. Wherefore also fear is salutary, if bitter. Sick, we truly stand in need of the Saviour; having wandered, of one to guide us; blind, of one to lead us to the light; thirsty, “of the fountain of life, of which whosoever partakes, shall no longer thirst;” 1251 dead, we need life; sheep, we need a shepherd; we who are children need a tutor, while universal humanity stands in need of Jesus; so that we may not continue intractable and sinners to the end, and thus fall into condemnation, but may be separated from the chaff, and stored up in the paternal garner. “For the fan is in the Lords hand, by which the chaff due to the fire is separated from the wheat.” 1252 You may learn, if you will, the crowning wisdom of the all-holy Shepherd and Instructor, of the omnipotent and paternal Word, when He figuratively represents Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep. And He is the Tutor of the p. 231 children. He says therefore by Ezekiel, directing His discourse to the elders, and setting before them a salutary description of His wise solicitude: “And that which is lame I will bind up, and that which is sick I will heal, and that which has wandered I will turn back; and I will feed them on my holy mountain.” 1253 Such are the promises of the good Shepherd.
Feed us, the children, as sheep. Yea, Master, fill us with righteousness, Thine own pasture; yea, O Instructor, feed us on Thy holy mountain the Church, which towers aloft, which is above the clouds, which touches heaven. “And I will be,” He says, “their Shepherd,” 1254 and will be near them, as the garment to their skin. He wishes to save my flesh by enveloping it in the robe of immortality, and He hath anointed my body. “They shall call Me,” He says, “and I will say, Here am I.” 1255 Thou didst hear sooner than I expected, Master. “And if they pass over, they shall not slip,” 1256 saith the Lord. For we who are passing over to immortality shall not fall into corruption, for He shall sustain us. For so He has said, and so He has willed. Such is our Instructor, righteously good. “I came not,” He says, “to be ministered unto, but to minister.” 1257 Wherefore He is introduced in the Gospel “wearied,” 1258 because toiling for us, and promising “to give His life a ransom for many.” 1259 For him alone who does so He owns to be the good shepherd. Generous, therefore, is He who gives for us the greatest of all gifts, His own life; and beneficent exceedingly, and loving to men, in that, when He might have been Lord, He wished to be a brother man; and so good was He that He died for us.
Further, His righteousness cried, “If ye come straight to me, I also will come straight to you but if ye walk crooked, I also will walk crooked, saith the Lord of hosts;” 1260 meaning by the crooked ways the chastisements of sinners. For the straight and natural way which is indicated by the Iota of the name of Jesus is His goodness, which is firm and sure towards those who have believed at hearing: “When I called, ye obeyed not, saith the Lord; but set at nought my counsels, and heeded not my reproofs.” 1261 Thus the Lords reproof is most beneficial. David also says of them, “A perverse and provoking race; a race which set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful with God: they kept not the covenant of God, and would not walk in His law.” 1262
Such are the causes of provocation for which the Judge comes to inflict punishment on those that would not choose a life of goodness. Wherefore also afterwards He assailed them more roughly; in order, if possible, to drag them back from their impetuous rush towards death. He therefore tells by David the most manifest cause of the threatening: “They believed not in His wonderful works. When He slew them, they sought after Him, and turned and inquired early after God; and remembered that God was their Helper, and God the Most High their Redeemer.” 1263 Thus He knew that they turned for fear, while they despised His love: for, for the most part, that goodness which is always mild is despised; but He who admonishes by the loving fear of righteousness is reverenced.
There is a twofold species of fear, the one of which is accompanied with reverence, such as citizens show towards good rulers, and we towards God, as also right-minded children towards their fathers. “For an unbroken horse turns out unmanageable, and a son who is let take his own way turns out reckless.” 1264 The other species of fear is accompanied with hatred, which slaves feel towards hard masters, and the Hebrews felt, who made God a master, not a father. And as far as piety is concerned, that which is voluntary and spontaneous differs much, nay entirely, from what is forced. “For He,” it is said, “is merciful; He will heal their sins, and not destroy them, and fully turn away His anger, and not kindle all His wrath.” 1265 See how the justice of the Instructor, which deals in rebukes, is shown; and the goodness of God, which deals in compassions. Wherefore David—that is, the Spirit by him—embracing them both, sings of God Himself, “Justice and judgment are the preparation of His throne: mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.” 1266 He declares that it belongs to the same power both to judge and to do good. For there is power over both together, and judgment separates that which is just from its opposite. And He who is truly God is just and good; who is Himself all, and all is He; for He is God, the only God.
For as the mirror is not evil to an ugly man because it shows him what like he is; and as the physician is not evil to the sick man because he tells him of his fever,—for the physician is not the cause of the fever, but only points out the fever;—so neither is He, that reproves, ill-disposed towards him who is diseased in soul. For He does not put the transgressions on him, but only shows the sins which are there; in order to turn him away from similar practices. So p. 232 God is good on His own account, and just also on ours, and He is just because He is good. And His justice is shown to us by His own Word from there from above, whence the Father was. For before He became Creator He was God; He was good. And therefore He wished to be Creator and Father. And the nature of all that love was the source of righteousness—the cause, too, of His lighting up His sun, and sending down His own Son. And He first announced the good righteousness that is from heaven, when He said, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; nor the Father, but the Son.” 1267 This mutual and reciprocal knowledge is the symbol of primeval justice. Then justice came down to men both in the letter and in the body, in the Word and in the law, constraining humanity to saving repentance; for it was good. But do you not obey God? Then blame yourself, who drag to yourself the judge.
Sir. 7:23, 24.228:1211
Matt. xxiii. 37.228:1212
Jer. iii. 9, vii. 9, xi. 13, xxxii. 29.228:1213
Ezek. 2:6, 7.228:1214
Exod. 3:18, 19.229:1215
Isa. xxix. 13.229:1216
Jer. 5:8, 9.229:1217
Prov. i. 7.229:1218
Hos. iv. 14: “understood not” in the A.V.229:1219
Isa. 1:2, 3.229:1220
Jer i. 16, ii. 13, 29.229:1221
Isa. xxx. 1.229:1223
Lowth conjectures ἐπιστομῶν or ἐπιστομίζων, instead of ἀναστομῶν.229:1224
Isa. i. 4.229:1225
Jer. 2:12, 13.229:1226
Lam. i. 8.229:1227
H. reads δηκτικόν, for which the text has ἐπιδεικτικόν.229:1228
Prov. 3:11, 12.229:1229
Ecclus. xxxii. 21.229:1230
Ps. cxli. 5.229:1231
Jer. vi. 10.229:1232
Jer. ix. 26.229:1233
Isa. xxx. 9.229:1234
Matt. xxiii. 37-39.229:1235
Isa. i. 4.229:1236
Nothing similar to this is found in the fourth Gospel; the reference may be to the words of the Baptist, Matt. iii. 7, Luke iii. 7.230:1237
Ps. xviii. 43-45.230:1238
Jer. iii. 8.230:1239
Jer. 5:11, 12.230:1240
Lam. 1:1, 2.230:1241
Jer. 3:3, 4.230:1242
Nahum iii. 4.230:1243
Deut. 32:5, 6.230:1244
Isa. i. 23.230:1245
Sir. 18:13, 14.230:1246
Ecclus. xvi. 12.230:1247
Prov. xxiii. 14.230:1248
Prov. xxiii. 13.230:1249
Rom. 13:3, 4.230:1250
Gal. iv. 16.230:1251
John 4:13, 14.230:1252
Matt. iii. 12; Luke iii. 17.231:1253
Ezek. 34:14, 15, 16.231:1254
Ezek. xxxiv. 14-16.231:1255
Isa. lviii. 9.231:1256
Isa. xliii. 2.231:1257
Matt. xx. 28; Mark x. 45.231:1258
John iv. 6.231:1259
Matt. xx. 28.231:1260
Here Clement gives the sense of various passages, e.g., Jer. vi., Lev. xxvi.231:1261
Prov. 1:24, 25.231:1262
Ps. 78:8, 10.231:1263
Ps. lxxviii. 32-35.231:1264
Ecclus. xxx. 8.231:1265
Ps. lxxviii. 38.231:1266
Ps. lxxxix. 14.232:1267
Luke x. 22.
Next: Chapter X.—That the Same God, by the Same Word, Restrains from Sin by Threatening, and Saves Humanity by Exhorting.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: https://st-takla.org / Contact us at