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CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter VI.—The Benefit of Culture.
Chapter VI.—The Benefit of Culture.
The readiness acquired by previous training conduces much to the perception of such things as are requisite; but those things which can be perceived only by mind are the special exercise for the mind. And their nature is triple according as we consider their quantity, their magnitude, and what can be predicated of them. For the discourse which consists of demonstrations, implants in the spirit of him who follows it, clear faith; so that he cannot conceive of that which is demonstrated being different; and so it does not allow us to succumb to those who assail us by fraud. In such studies, therefore, the soul is purged from sensible things, and is excited, so as to be able to see truth distinctly. For nutriment, and the training which is maintained gentle, make noble natures; and noble natures, when they have received such training, become still better than before both in other respects, but especially in productiveness, as is the case with the other creatures. Wherefore it is said, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, and become wiser than it, which provideth much and, varied food in the harvest against the inclemency of winter.” 1870 Or go to the bee, and learn how laborious she is; for she, feeding on the whole meadow, produces one honey-comb. And if “thou prayest in the closet,” as the Lord taught, “to worship in spirit,” 1871 thy management will no longer be solely occupied about the house, but also about the soul, what must be bestowed on it, and how, and how much; and what must be laid aside and treasured up in it; and when it ought to be produced, and to whom. For it is not by nature, but by learning, that people become noble and good, as people also become physicians and pilots. We all in common, for example, see the vine and the horse. But the husbandman will know if the vine be good or bad at fruit-bearing; and the horseman will easily distinguish between the spiritless and the swift animal. But that some are naturally predisposed to virtue above others, certain pursuits of those, who are so naturally predisposed above others, show. But that perfection in virtue is not the exclusive property of those, whose natures are better, is proved, since also those who by nature are ill-disposed towards virtue, in obtaining suitable training, for the most part attain to excellence; and, on the other hand, those whose natural dispositions are apt, become evil through neglect.
Again, God has created us naturally social and just; whence justice must not be said to take its rise from implantation alone. But the good imparted by creation is to be conceived of as excited by the commandment; the soul being trained to be willing to select what is noblest.
But as we say that a man can be a believer without learning, 1872 so also we assert that it is impossible for a man without learning to comprehend the things which are declared in the faith. But to adopt what is well said, and not to adopt the reverse, is caused not simply by faith, but by faith combined with knowledge. But if ignorance is want of training and of instruction, then teaching produces knowledge of divine and human things. But just as it is possible to live rightly in penury of this worlds good things, so also in abundance. And we avow, that at once with more ease and more speed will one attain to virtue through previous training. But it is not such as to be unattainable without it; but it is attainable only when they have learned, and have had their senses exercised. 1873 “For hatred,” says Solomon, “raises strife, but instruction guardeth the ways of life;” 1874 in such a way that we are not deceived nor deluded by those who are practiced in base arts for the injury of those who hear. “But instruction wanders reproachless,” 1875 it is said. We must be conversant with the art of reasoning, for the purpose of confuting the deceitful opinions of the sophists. Well and felicitously, therefore, does Anaxarchus write in his book respecting “kingly rule:” “Erudition benefits greatly and hurts greatly him who possesses it; it helps him who is worthy, and injures him who utters readily every word, and before the whole people. It is necessary to know the measure of time. For this is the end of wisdom. And those who sing at the doors, even if they sing skilfully, are not reckoned wise, but have the reputation of folly.” And Hesiod:—“Of the Muses, who make a man loquacious, divine, vocal.”
p. 308 For him who is fluent in words he calls loquacious; and him who is clever, vocal; and “divine,” him who is skilled, a philosopher, and acquainted with the truth.
Prov. 6:6, 8. [The bee is not instanced in Scripture.]307:1871
Matt. vi. 6; John iv. 23.307:1872
[Illustrative of the esoteric principle of Clement. See Elucidation IX., infra.]307:1873
Heb. v. 14.307:1874
Prov. 10:12, 17.307:1875
Prov. x. 19.
Next: Chapter VII.—The Eclectic Philosophy Paves the Way for Divine Virtue.
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