Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter VI.—The Excellence and Utility of Faith.
Chapter VI.—The Excellence and Utility of Faith.
“Lord, who hath believed our report?” 2212 Isaiah says. For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” saith the apostle. “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe on Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those that publish glad tidings of good things.” 2213 You see how he brings faith by hearing, and the preaching of the apostles, up to the word of the Lord, and to the Son of God. We do not yet understand the word of the Lord to be demonstration.
As, then, playing at ball not only depends on one throwing the ball skilfully, but it requires besides one to catch it dexterously, that the game may be gone through according to the rules for ball; so also is it the case that teaching is reliable when faith on the part of those who hear, being, so to speak, a sort of natural art, contributes to the process of learning. So also the earth co-operates, through its productive power, being fit for the sowing of the seed. For there is no good of the very best instruction without the exercise of the receptive faculty on the part of the learner, not even of prophecy, when there is the absence of docility on the part of those who hear. For dry twigs, being ready to receive the power of fire, are kindled with great ease; and the far-famed stone 2214 attracts steel through affinity, as the amber tear-drop drags to itself twigs, and the lump sets chaff in motion. And the substances attracted obey them, influenced by a subtle spirit, not as a cause, but as a concurring cause.
There being then a twofold species of vice—that characterized by craft and stealth, and that which leads and drives with violence—the divine Word cries, calling all together; knowing perfectly well those that will not obey; notwithstanding then since to obey or not is in our own power, provided we have not the excuse of ignorance to adduce. He makes a just call, and demands of each according to his strength. For some are able as well as willing, having reached this point through practice and being purified; while others, if they are not yet able, already have the will. Now to will is the act of the soul, but to do is not without the body. Nor are actions estimated by their issue alone; but they are judged also according to the element of free choice in each,—if he chose easily, if he repented of his sins, if he reflected on his failures and repented (μετέγνω), which is (μετὰ ταῦτα ἔγνω) “afterwards knew.” For repentance is a tardy knowledge, and primitive innocence is knowledge. Repentance, then, is an effect of faith. For unless a man believe that to which he was addicted to be sin, he will not abandon it; and if he do not believe punishment to be impending over the transgressor, and salvation to be the portion of him who lives according to the commandments, he will not reform.
Hope, too, is based on faith. Accordingly the followers of Basilides define faith to be, the assent of the soul to any of those things, that do not affect the senses through not being present. And hope is the expectation of the possession of good. Necessarily, then, is expectation founded on faith. Now he is faithful who keeps inviolably what is entrusted to him; and we are entrusted with the utterances respecting God and the divine words, the commands along with the execution of the injunctions. This is the faithful servant, who is praised by the Lord. And when it is said, “God is faithful,” it is intimated that He is worthy to be believed when declaring aught. Now His Word declares; and “God” Himself is “faithful.” 2215 How, then, if to believe is to suppose, do the philosophers think that what proceeds from themselves is sure? For the voluntary assent to a preceding demonstration is not supposition, but it is assent to something sure. Who is more powerful than God? Now unbelief is the feeble negative supposition of one opposed to Him: as incredulity is a condition which admits faith with difficulty. Faith is the voluntary supposition and anticipation of pre-comprehension. Expectation is an opinion about the future, and expectation about other things is opinion about uncertainty. Confidence is a strong judgment about a thing. Wherefore we believe Him in whom we have confidence unto divine glory and salvation. And we confide in Him, who is God alone, whom we know, that those things nobly promised to us, and for this end benevolently created and bestowed by Him on us, will not fail.
Benevolence is the wishing of good things to another for his sake. For He needs nothing; and the beneficence and benignity which flow from the Lord terminate in us, being divine benevolence, and benevolence resulting in beneficence. And if to Abraham on his believing it p. 354 was counted for righteousness; and if we are the seed of Abraham, then we must also believe through hearing. For we are Israelites, who are convinced not by signs, but by hearing. Wherefore it is said, “Rejoice, O barren, that barest not; break forth and cry, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than of her who hath an husband.” 2216 “Thou hast lived for the fence of the people, thy children were blessed in the tents of their fathers.” 2217 And if the same mansions are promised by prophecy to us and to the patriarchs, the God of both the covenants is shown to be one. Accordingly it is added more clearly, “Thou hast inherited the covenant of Israel,” 2218 speaking to those called from among the nations, that were once barren, being formerly destitute of this husband, who is the Word,—desolate formerly,—of the bridegroom. “Now the just shall live by faith,” 2219 which is according to the covenant and the commandments; since these, which are two in name and time, given in accordance with the [divine] economy—being in power one—the old and the new, are dispensed through the Son by one God. As the apostle also says in the Epistle to the Romans, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith,” teaching the one salvation which from prophecy to the Gospel is perfected by one and the same Lord. “This charge,” he says, “I commit to thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war the good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck,” 2220 because they defiled by unbelief the conscience that comes from God. Accordingly, faith may not, any more, with reason, be disparaged in an offhand way, as simple and vulgar, appertaining to anybody. For, if it were a mere human habit, as the Greeks supposed, it would have been extinguished. But if it grow, and there be no place where it is not; then I affirm, that faith, whether founded in love, or in fear, as its disparagers assert, is something divine; which is neither rent asunder by other mundane friendship, nor dissolved by the presence of fear. For love, on account of its friendly alliance with faith, makes men believers; and faith, which is the foundation of love, in its turn introduces the doing of good; since also fear, the pædagogue of the law, is believed to be fear by those, by whom it is believed. For, if its existence is shown in its working, it is yet believed when about to do and threatening, and when not working and present; and being believed to exist, it does not itself generate faith, but is by faith tested and proved trustworthy. Such a change, then, from unbelief to faith—and to trust in hope and fear, is divine. And, in truth, faith is discovered, by us, to be the first movement towards salvation; after which fear, and hope, and repentance, advancing in company with temperance and patience, lead us to love and knowledge. Rightly, therefore, the Apostle Barnabas says, “From the portion I have received I have done my diligence to send by little and little to you; that along with your faith you may also have perfect knowledge. 2221 Fear and patience are then helpers of your faith; and our allies are long-suffering and temperance. These, then,” he says, “in what respects the Lord, continuing in purity, there rejoice along with them, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, knowledge.” The fore-mentioned virtues being, then, the elements of knowledge; the result is that faith is more elementary, being as necessary to the Gnostic, 2222 as respiration to him that lives in this world is to life. And as without the four elements it is not possible to live, so neither can knowledge be attained without faith. It is then the support of truth.
Isa. liii. 1.353:2213
Rom. 10:17, 14, 15.353:2214
Loadstone. [Philosophy of the second centure. See note in Migne.]353:2215
1 Cor. i. 9, x. 13.354:2216
Isa. liv. 1.354:2217
Not in Script.354:2218
Rom. i. 17, etc.354:2220
1 Tim. 1:18, 19.354:2221
[Clement accepts the Epistle of Barnabus as an apostolic writing. For this quotation, see vol. i. p. 137, this series.]354:2222
The man of perfect knowledge.
Next: Chapter VII.—The Utility of Fear. Objections Answered.
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