Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter II.—The Knowledge of God Can Be Attained Only Through Faith.
Chapter II.—The Knowledge of God Can Be Attained Only Through Faith.
“Be not elated on account of thy wisdom,” say the Proverbs. “In all thy ways acknowledge her, that she may direct thy ways, and that thy foot may not stumble.” By these remarks he means to show that our deeds ought to be conformable to reason, and to manifest further that we ought to select and possess what is useful out of all culture. Now the ways of wisdom are various that lead right to the way of truth. Faith is the way. “Thy foot shall not stumble” is said with reference to some who seem to oppose the one divine administration of Providence. Whence it is added, “Be not wise in thine own eyes,” according to the impious ideas which revolt against the administration of God. “But fear God,” who alone is powerful. Whence it follows as a consequence that we are not to oppose God. The sequel especially teaches clearly, that “the fear of God is departure from evil;” for it is said, “and depart from all evil.” Such is the discipline of wisdom (“for whom the Lord loveth He chastens” 2161 ), causing pain in order to produce understanding, and restoring to peace and immortality. Accordingly, the Barbarian philosophy, which we follow, is in reality perfect and true. And so it is said in the book of Wisdom: “For He hath given me the unerring knowledge of things that exist, to know the constitution of the word,” and so forth, down to “and the virtues of roots.” Among all these he comprehends natural science, which treats of all the phenomena in the world of sense. And in continuation, he alludes also to intellectual objects in what he subjoins: “And what is hidden or manifest I know; for Wisdom, the artificer of all things, taught me.” 2162 You have, in brief, the professed aim of our philosophy; and the learning of these branches, when pursued with right course of conduct, leads through Wisdom, the artificer of all things, to the Ruler of all,—a Being difficult to grasp and apprehend, ever receding and withdrawing from him who pursues. But He who is far off has—oh ineffable marvel!—come very near. “I am a God that draws near,” says the Lord. He is in essence remote; “for how is it that what is begotten can have approached the Unbegotten?” But He is very near in virtue of that power which holds all things in its embrace. “Shall one do aught in secret, and I see him not?” 2163 For the power of God is always present, in contact with us, in the exercise of inspection, of beneficence, of instruction. Whence Moses, persuaded that God is not to be known by human wisdom, said, “Show me Thy glory;” 2164 and into the thick darkness where Gods voice was, pressed to enter—that is, into the inaccessible and invisible ideas respecting Existence. For God is not in darkness or in place, but above both space and time, and qualities of objects. Wherefore neither is He at any time in a part, either as containing or as contained, either by limitation or by section. “For what house will ye build to Me?” saith the Lord. 2165 Nay, He has not even built one for Himself, since He cannot be contained. And though heaven be called His throne, not even thus is He contained, but He rests delighted in the creation.
It is clear, then, that the truth has been hidden from us; and if that has been already shown by one example, we shall establish it a little after by several more. How entirely worthy of approbation are they who are both willing to learn, and able, according to Solomon, “to know wisdom and instruction, and to perceive the words of wisdom, to receive knotty words, and to perceive true righteousness,” there being another [righteousness as well], not according to the truth, taught by the Greek laws, and by the rest of the philosophers. “And to direct judgments,” it is said—not those of the bench, but he means that we must preserve sound and free of error the judicial faculty which is within us—“That I may give subtlety to the simple, to the young man sense and understanding.” 2166 “For the wise man,” who has been persuaded to obey the commandments, “having heard these things, will become wiser” by knowledge; and “the intelligent man will acquire rule, and will understand a parable and a dark word, the sayings and enigmas of the wise.” 2167 For it is not spurious words which those inspired by God and those who are gained over by them adduce, nor is it snares in which the most of the sophists entangle the young, spending their time on nought true. But those who possess the Holy Spirit “search the deep things of God,” 2168 —that is, grasp the secret that is in the prophecies. “To impart of holy things to the dogs” is forbidden, so long as they remain beasts. For never ought those who are envious and perturbed, and still infidel in conduct, shameless in barking at investigation, p. 349 to dip in the divine and clear stream of the living water. “Let not the waters of thy fountain overflow, and let thy waters spread over thine own streets.” 2169 For it is not many who understand such things as they fall in with; or know them even after learning them, though they think they do, according to the worthy Heraclitus. Does not even he seem to thee to censure those who believe not? “Now my just one shall live by faith,” 2170 the prophet said. And another prophet also says, “Except ye believe, neither shall ye understand.” 2171 For how ever could the soul admit the transcendental contemplation of such themes, while unbelief respecting what was to be learned struggled within? But faith, which the Greeks disparage, deeming it futile and barbarous, is a voluntary preconception, 2172 the assent of piety—“the subject of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” according to the divine apostle. “For hereby,” pre-eminently, “the elders obtained a good report. But without faith it is impossible to please God.” 2173 Others have defined faith to be a uniting assent to an unseen object, as certainly the proof of an unknown thing is an evident assent. If then it be choice, being desirous of something, the desire is in this instance intellectual. And since choice is the beginning of action, faith is discovered to be the beginning of action, being the foundation of rational choice in the case of any one who exhibits to himself the previous demonstration through faith. Voluntarily to follow what is useful, is the first principle of understanding. Unswerving choice, then, gives considerable momentum in the direction of knowledge. The exercise of faith directly becomes knowledge, reposing on a sure foundation. Knowledge, accordingly, is defined by the sons of the philosophers as a habit, which cannot be overthrown by reason. Is there any other true condition such as this, except piety, of which alone the Word is teacher? 2174 I think not. Theophrastus says that sensation is the root of faith. For from it the rudimentary principles extend to the reason that is in us, and the understanding. He who believeth then the divine Scriptures with sure judgment, receives in the voice of God, who bestowed the Scripture, a demonstration that cannot be impugned. Faith, then, is not established by demonstration. “Blessed therefore those who, not having seen, yet have believed.” 2175 The Sirens songs, exhibiting a power above human, fascinated those that came near, conciliating them, almost against their will, to the reception of what was said.
Prov. 3:5, 6, 7, 12, 23.348:2162
Wis. 7:17, 20, 21, 22.348:2163
Jer. 23:23, 24.348:2164
Ex. xxxiii. 18.348:2165
Isa. lxvi. 1.348:2166
ἔννοιαν, not εὔνοιαν, as in the text.348:2167
Prov. i. 2-6.348:2168
1 Cor. ii. 10.349:2169
Prov. v. 16.349:2170
Hab. ii. 4.349:2171
Isa. vii. 9.349:2172
Or anticipation, πρόληψις.349:2173
Heb. 11:1, 2, 6.349:2174
Adopting Lowths conjecture of supplying πλήν before θεοσεβείας.349:2175
John xx. 29. [Note this definition of true knowledge, followed by an appeal to the Scriptures as infallible teaching. No need to say that no other infallibility is ever hinted, or dreamed of, by Clement.]
Next: Chapter III.—Faith Not a Product of Nature.
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