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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XXII.—Plato’s Opinion, that the Chief Good Consists in Assimilation to God, and Its Agreement with Scripture.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXII.—Plato’s Opinion, that the Chief Good Consists in Assimilation to God, and Its Agreement with Scripture.

Further, Plato the philosopher says that the end is twofold: that which is communicable, and exists first in the ideal forms themselves, which he also calls “the good;” and that which partakes of it, and receives its likeness from it, as is the case in the men who appropriate virtue and true philosophy. Wherefore also Cleanthes, in the second book, On Pleasure, says that Socrates everywhere teaches that the just man and the happy are one and the same, and execrated the first man who separated the just from the useful, as having done an impious thing. For those are in truth impious who separate the useful from that which is right according to the law. Plato himself says that happiness p. 376 (εὐδαιμονία) is to possess rightly the dæmon, and that the ruling faculty of the soul is called the dæmon; and he terms happiness (εὐδαιμονία) the most perfect and complete good. Sometimes he calls it a consistent and harmonious life, sometimes the highest perfection in accordance with virtue; and this he places in the knowledge of the Good, and in likeness to God, demonstrating likeness to be justice and holiness with wisdom. For is it not thus that some of our writers have understood that man straightway on his creation received what is “according to the image,” but that what is according “to the likeness” he will receive afterwards on his perfection? Now Plato, teaching that the virtuous man shall have this likeness accompanied with humility, explains the following: “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” 2411 He says, accordingly, in The Laws: “God indeed, as the ancient saying has it, occupying the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things, goes straight through while He goes round the circumference. And He is always attended by Justice, the avenger of those who revolt from the divine law.” You see how he connects fear with the divine law. He adds, therefore: “To which he, who would be happy, cleaving, will follow lowly and beautified.” Then, connecting what follows these words, and admonishing by fear, he adds: “What conduct, then, is dear and conformable to God? That which is characterized by one word of old date: Like will be dear to like, as to what is in proportion; but things out of proportion are neither dear to one another, nor to those which are in proportion. And that therefore he that would be dear to God, must, to the best of his power, become such as He is. And in virtue of the same reason, our self-controlling man is dear to God. But he that has no self-control is unlike and diverse.” In saying that it was an ancient dogma, he indicates the teaching which had come to him from the law. And having in the Theatœtus admitted that evils make the circuit of mortal nature and of this spot, he adds: “Wherefore we must try to flee hence as soon as possible. For flight is likeness to God as far as possible. And likeness is to become holy and just with wisdom.” Speusippus, the nephew of Plato, says that happiness is a perfect state in those who conduct themselves in accordance with nature, or the state of the good: for which condition all men have a desire, but the good only attained to quietude; consequently the virtues are the authors of happiness. And Xenocrates the Chalcedonian defines happiness to be the possession of virtue, strictly so called, and of the power subservient to it. Then he clearly says, that the seat in which it resides is the soul; that by which it is effected, the virtues; and that of these as parts are formed praiseworthy actions, good habits and dispositions, and motions, and relations; and that corporeal and external objects are not without these. For Polemo, the disciple of Xenocrates, seems of the opinion that happiness is sufficiency of all good things, or of the most and greatest. He lays down the doctrine, then, that happiness never exists without virtue; and that virtue, apart from corporeal and external objects, is sufficient for happiness. Let these things be so. The contradictions to the opinions specified shall be adduced in due time. But on us it is incumbent to reach the unaccomplished end, obeying the commands—that is, God—and living according to them, irreproachably and intelligently, through knowledge of the divine will; and assimilation as far as possible in accordance with right reason is the end, and restoration to perfect adoption by the Son, which ever glorifies the Father by the great High Priest who has deigned to call us brethren and fellow-heirs. And the apostle, succinctly describing the end, writes in the Epistle to the Romans: “But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” 2412 And viewing the hope as twofold—that which is expected, and that which has been received—he now teaches the end to be the restitution of the hope. “For patience,” he says, “worketh experience, and experience hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that is given to us.” 2413 On account of which love and the restoration to hope, he says, in another place, “which rest is laid up for us.” 2414 You will find in Ezekiel the like, as follows: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. And the man who shall be righteous, and shall do judgment and justice, who has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, and hath not defiled his neighbour’s wife, and hath not approached to a woman in the time of her uncleanness (for he does not wish the seed of man to be dishonoured), and will not injure a man; will restore the debtor’s pledge, and will not take usury; will turn away his hand from wrong; will do true judgment between a man and his neighbour; will walk in my ordinances, and keep my commandments, so as to do the truth; he is righteous, he shall surely live, saith Adonai the Lord.” 2415 Isaiah too, in exhorting him that hath not believed to gravity of life, and the Gnostic to attention, proving that man’s virtue and God’s are not the same, speaks thus: “Seek the Lord, and on finding Him call on Him. And when p. 377 He shall draw near to you, let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his ways; and let him return to the Lord, and he shall obtain mercy,” down to “and your thoughts from my thoughts.” 2416 “We,” then, according to the noble apostle, “wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” 2417 And we desire that every one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope,” down to “made an high priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 2418 Similarly with Paul “the All-virtuous Wisdom” says, “H, that heareth me shall dwell trusting in hope.” 2419 For the restoration of hope is called by the same term “hope.” To the expression “will dwell” it has most beautifully added “trusting,” showing that such an one has obtained rest, having received the hope for which he hoped. Wherefore also it is added, “and shall be quiet, without fear of any evil.” And openly and expressly the apostle, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians says, “Be ye followers of me, as also I am of Christ,” 2420 in order that that may take place. If ye are of me, and I am of Christ, then ye are imitators of Christ, and Christ of God. Assimilation to God, then, so that as far as possible a man becomes righteous and holy with wisdom he lays down as the aim of faith, and the end to be that restitution of the promise which is effected by faith. From these doctrines gush the fountains, which we specified above, of those who have dogmatized about “the end.” But of these enough.



Luke xiv. 11.


Rom. vi. 22.


Rom. 5:4, 5.


Probably Heb. 4:8, 9.


Ezek. xviii. 4-9.


Isa. 55:6, 7, 9.


Gal. 5:5, 6.


Heb. vi. 11-20.


Prov. i. 33.


1 Cor. xi. 1.

Next: Chapter XXIII.—On Marriage.

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