Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter VIII.—Similitudes and Examples a Most Important Part of Right Instruction.
Chapter VIII.—Similitudes and Examples a Most Important Part of Right Instruction.
And if any one of you shall entirely avoid luxury, he will, by a frugal upbringing, train himself to the endurance of involuntary labours, by employing constantly voluntary afflictions as training exercises for persecutions; so that when he comes to compulsory labours, and fears, and griefs, he will not be unpracticed in endurance.
Wherefore we have no country on earth, that we may despise earthly possessions. And frugality 1645 is in the highest degree rich, being equal to unfailing expenditure, bestowed on what is requisite, and to the degree requisite. For τέλε has the meaning of expenses.
How a husband is to live with his wife, and respecting self-help, and housekeeping, and the employment of domestics; and further, with respect to the time of marriage, and what is suitable for wives, we have treated in the discourse concerning marriage. What pertains to disciplane alone is reserved now for description, as we delineate the life of Christians. The most indeed has been already said, and laid down in the form of disciplinary rules. What still remains we shall subjoin; for examples are of no small moment in determining to salvation. 1646
See, says the tragedy,“The consort of Ulysses was not killed
By Telemachus; for she did not take a husband in addition to a husband,
But in the house the marriage-bed remains unpolluted.” 1647
Reproaching foul adultery, he showed the fair image of chastity in affection to her husband.
The Lacedæmonians compelling the Helots, their servants (Helots is the name of their servants), to get drunk, exhibited their drunken pranks before themselves, who were temperate, for cure and correction.
Observing, accordingly, their unseemly behaviour, in order that they themselves might not fall into like censurable conduct, they trained themselves, p. 282 turning the reproach of the drunkards to the advantage of keeping themselves free from fault.
For some men being instructed are saved; and others, self-taught, either aspire after or seek virtue.“He truly is the best of all who himself perceives all things.” 1648
Such is Abraham, who sought God.“And good, again, is he who obeys him who advises well.” 1649
Such are those disciples who obeyed the Word. Wherefore the former was called “friend,” the latter “apostles;” the one diligently seeking, and the other preaching one and the same God. And both are peoples, and both these have hearers, the one who is profited through seeking, the other who is saved through finding.“But whoever neither himself perceives, nor, hearing another,
Lays to heart—he is a worthless man.” 1650
The other people is the Gentile—useless; this is the people that followeth not Christ. Nevertheless the Instructor, lover of man, helping in many ways, partly exhorts, partly upbraids. Others having sinned, He shows us their baseness, and exhibits the punishment consequent upon it, alluring while admonishing, planning to dissuade us in love from evil, by the exhibition of those who have suffered from it before. By which examples He very manifestly checked those who had been evil-disposed, and hindered those who were daring like deeds; and others He brought to a foundation of patience; others He stopped from wickedness; and others He cured by the contemplation of what is like, bringing them over to what is better.
For who, when following one in the way, and then on the former falling into a pit, would not guard against incurring equal danger, by taking care not to follow him in his slip? What athlete, again, who has learned the way to glory, and has seen the combatant who had preceded him receiving the prize, does not exert himself for the crown, imitating the elder one?
Such images of divine wisdom are many; but I shall mention one instance, and expound it in a few words. The fate of the Sodomites was judgment to those who had done wrong, instruction to those who hear. The Sodomites having, through much luxury, fallen into uncleanness, practising adultery shamelessly, and burning with insane love for boys; the All-seeing Word, whose notice those who commit impieties cannot escape, cast His eye on them. Nor did the sleepless guard of humanity observe their licentiousness in silence; but dissuading us from the imitation of them, and training us up to His own temperance, and falling on some sinners, lest lust being unavenged, should break loose from all the restraints of fear, ordered Sodom to be burned, pouring forth a little of the sagacious fire on licentiousness; lest lust, through want of punishment, should throw wide the gates to those that were rushing into voluptuousness. Accordingly, the just punishment of the Sodomites became to men an image of the salvation which is well calculated for men. For those who have not committed like sins with those who are punished, will never receive a like punishment. By guarding against sinning, we guard against suffering. “For I would have you know,” says Jude, “that God, having once saved His people from the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not; and the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved to the judgment of the great day, in everlasting chains under darkness of the savage angels.” 1651 And a little after he sets forth, in a most instructive manner, representations of those that are judged: “Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain, and run greedily after the error of Balaam, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” For those, who cannot attain the privilege of adoption, fear keeps from growing insolent. For punishments and threats are for this end, that fearing the penalty we may abstain from sinning. I might relate to you punishments for ostentation, and punishments for vainglory, not only for licentiousness; and adduce the censures pronounced on those whose hearts are bad through wealth, 1652 in which censures the Word through fear restrains from evil acts. But sparing prolixity in my treatise, I shall bring forward the following precepts of the Instructor, that you may guard against His threatenings.
The word used by Clement here for frugality is εύτέλεια, and he supposes the word to mean originally “spending well.” A proper way of spending money is as good as unfailing riches, since it always has enough for all that is necessary.281:1646
[This plea for similitudes illustrates the principle of Hermas, and the ground of the currency of his Pastor.]281:1647
Euripides, Orestes, 588–590.282:1648
Hesiod, Works and Days, i. 291.282:1649
Jude 1:5, 6.282:1652
Following Lowths conjecture of κακοφρόνων insteasd of that of the text, κακόφρονας.
Next: Chapter IX.—Why We are to Use the Bath.
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