Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chap. I.—On Faith.
Chap. I.—On Faith.
Of the Gnostic so much has been cursorily, as it were, written. We proceed now to the sequel, and must again contemplate faith; for there are some that draw the distinction, that faith has reference to the Son, and knowledge to the Spirit. But it has escaped their notice that, in order to believe truly in the Son, we must believe that He is the Son, and that He came, and how, and for what, and respecting His passion; and we must know who is the Son of God. Now neither is knowledge without faith, nor faith without knowledge. Nor is the Father without the Son; for the Son is with the Father. And the Son is the true teacher respecting the Father; and that we may believe in the Son, we must know the Father, with whom also is the Son. Again, in order that we may know the Father, we must believe in the Son, that it is the Son of God who teaches; for from faith to knowledge by the Son is the Father. And the knowledge of the Son and Father, which is according to the gnostic rule—that which in reality is gnostic—is the attainment and comprehension of the truth by the truth.
We, then, are those who are believers in what is not believed, and who are Gnostics as to what is unknown; that is, Gnostics as to what is unknown and disbelieved by all, but believed and known by a few; and Gnostics, not describing actions by speech, but Gnostics in the exercise of contemplation. Happy is he who speaks in the ears of the hearing. Now faith is the ear of the soul. And such the Lord intimates faith to be, when He says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear;” 2943 so that by believing he may comprehend what He says, as He says it. Homer, too, the oldest of the poets, using the word “hear” instead of “perceive”—the specific for the generic term—writes:—“Him most they heard.” 2944
For, in fine, the agreement and harmony of the faith of both 2945 contribute to one end—salvation. We have in the apostle an unerring witness: “For I desire to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, in order that ye may be strengthened; that is, that I may be comforted in you, by the mutual faith of you and me.” 2946 And further on again he adds, “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” 2947 The apostle, then, manifestly announces a twofold faith, or rather one which admits of growth and perfection; for the common faith lies beneath as a foundation. 2948 To those, therefore, who desire to be healed, and are moved by faith, He added, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” 2949 But that which is excellently built upon is consummated in the believer, and is again perfected by the faith which results from instruction and the word, in order to the performance of the commandments. Such were the apostles, in whose case it is said that “faith removed mountains and transplanted trees.” 2950 Whence, perceiving the greatness of its power, they asked “that faith might be added to them;” 2951 a faith which salutarily bites the soil “like a grain of mustard,” and grows magnificently in it, to such a degree that the reasons of things sublime rest on it. For if one by nature knows God, as Basilides thinks, who calls intelligence of a superior order at once faith and kingship, and a creation worthy of the essence of the Creator; and explains that near Him exists not power, but essence and nature and substance; and says that faith is not the rational assent of the soul exercising free-will, but an undefined beauty, belonging immediately to the creature;—the precepts both of the Old and of the New Testament are, then, superfluous, if one is saved by p. 445 nature, as Valentinus would have it, and is a believer and an elect man by nature, as Basilides thinks; and nature would have been able, one time or other, to have shone forth, apart from the Saviours appearance. But were they to say that the visit of the Saviour was necessary, then the properties of nature are gone from them, the elect being saved by instruction, and purification, and the doing of good works. Abraham, accordingly, who through hearing believed the voice, which promised under the oak in Mamre, “I will give this land to thee, and to thy seed,” was either elect or not. But if he was not, how did he straightway believe, as it were naturally? And if he was elect, their hypothesis is done away with, inasmuch as even previous to the coming of the Lord an election was found, and that saved: “For it was reckoned to him for righteousness.” 2952 For if any one, following Marcion, should dare to say that the Creator (Δημιουργόν) saved the man that believed on him, even before the advent of the Lord, (the election being saved with their own proper salvation); the power of the good Being will be eclipsed; inasmuch as late only, and subsequent to the Creator spoken of by them in words of good omen, it made the attempt to save, and by instruction, and in imitation of him. But if, being such, the good Being save, according to them; neither is it his own that he saves, nor is it with the consent of him who formed the creation that he essays salvation, but by force or fraud. And how can he any more be good, acting thus, and being posterior? But if the locality is different, and the dwelling-place of the Omnipotent is remote from the dwelling-place of the good God; yet the will of him who saves, having been the first to begin, is not inferior to that of the good God. From what has been previously proved, those who believe not are proved senseless: “For their paths are perverted, and they know not peace,” saith the prophet. 2953 “But foolish and unlearned questions” the divine Paul exhorted to “avoid, because they gender strifes.” 2954 And Æschylus exclaims:—“In what profits not, labour not in vain.”
For that investigation, which accords with faith, which builds, on the foundation of faith, 2955 the august knowledge of the truth, we know to be the best. Now we know that neither things which are clear are made subjects of investigation, such as if it is day, while it is day; nor things unknown, and never destined to become clear, as whether the stars are even or odd in number; nor things convertible; and those are so which can be said equally by those who take the opposite side, as if what is in the womb is a living creature or not. A fourth mode is, when, from either side of those, there is advanced an unanswerable and irrefragable argument. If, then, the ground of inquiry, according to all of these modes, is removed, faith is established. For we advance to them the unanswerable consideration, that it is God who speaks and comes to our help in writing, respecting each one of the points regarding which I investigate. Who, then, is so impious as to disbelieve God, and to demand proofs from God as from men? Again, some questions demand the evidence of the senses, 2956 as if one were to ask whether the fire be warm, or the snow white; and some admonition and rebuke, as the question if you ought to honour your parents. And there are those that deserve punishment, as to ask proofs of the existence of Providence. There being then a Providence, it were impious to think that the whole of prophecy and the economy in reference to a Saviour did not take place in accordance with Providence. And perchance one should not even attempt to demonstrate such points, the divine Providence being evident from the sight of all its skilful and wise works which are seen, some of which take place in order, and some appear in order. And He who communicated to us being and life, has communicated to us also reason, wishing us to live rationally and rightly. For the Word of the Father of the universe is not the uttered word (λόγος προφορικός), but the wisdom and most manifest kindness of God, and His power too, which is almighty and truly divine, and not incapable of being conceived by those who do not confess—the all-potent will. But since some are unbelieving, and some are disputatious, all do not attain to the perfection of the good. For neither is it possible to attain it without the exercise of free choice; nor does the whole depend on our own purpose; as, for example, what is defined to happen. “For by grace we are saved:” not, indeed, without good works; but we must, by being formed for what is good, acquire an inclination for it. And we must possess the healthy mind which is fixed on the pursuit of the good; in order to which we have the greatest need of divine grace, and of right teaching, and of holy susceptibility, and of the drawing of the Father to Him. For, bound in this earthly body, we apprehend the objects of sense by means of the body; but we grasp intellectual objects by means of the logical faculty itself. But if one expect to apprehend all things by the senses, he has fallen far from the truth. Spiritually, therefore, the apostle writes respecting the knowledge of God, p. 446 “For now we see as through a glass, but then face to face.” 2957 For the vision of the truth is given but to few. Accordingly, Plato says in the Epinomis, “I do not say that it is possible for all to be blessed and happy; only a few. Whilst we live, I pronounce this to be the case. But there is a good hope that after death I shall attain all.” To the same effect is what we find in Moses: “No man shall see My face, and live.” 2958 For it is evident that no one during the period of life has been able to apprehend God clearly. But “the pure in heart shall see God,” 2959 when they arrive at the final perfection. For since the soul became too enfeebled for the apprehension of realities, we needed a divine teacher. The Saviour is sent down—a teacher and leader in the acquisition of the good—the secret and sacred token of the great Providence. “Where, then, is the scribe? where is the searcher of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” 2960 it is said. And again, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent,” 2961 plainly of those wise in their own eyes, and disputatious. Excellently therefore Jeremiah says, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand in the ways, and ask for the eternal paths, what is the good way, and walk in it, and ye shall find expiation for your souls.” 2962 Ask, he says, and inquire of those who know, without contention and dispute. And on learning the way of truth, let us walk on the right way, without turning till we attain to what we desire. It was therefore with reason that the king of the Romans (his name was Numa), being a Pythagorean, first of all men, erected a temple to Faith and Peace. “And to Abraham, on believing, righteousness was reckoned.” 2963 He, prosecuting the lofty philosophy of aerial phenomena, and the sublime philosophy of the movements in the heavens, was called Abram, which is interpreted “sublime father.” 2964 But afterwards, on looking up to heaven, whether it was that he saw the Son in the spirit, as some explain, or a glorious angel, or in any other way recognised God to be superior to the creation, and all the order in it, he receives in addition the Alpha, the knowledge of the one and only God, and is called Abraam, having, instead of a natural philosopher, become wise, and a lover of God. For it is interpreted, “elect father of sound.” For by sound is the uttered word: the mind is its father; and the mind of the good man is elect. I cannot forbear praising exceedingly the poet of Agrigentum, who celebrates faith as follows:—“Friends, I know, then, that there is truth in the myths
Which I will relate. But very difficult to men,
And irksome to the mind, is the attempt of faith.” 2965
Wherefore also the apostle exhorts, “that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men,” who profess to persuade, “but in the power of God,” 2966 which alone without proofs, by mere faith, is able to save. “For the most approved of those that are reputable knows how to keep watch. And justice will apprehend the forgers and witnesses of lies,” says the Ephesian. 2967 For he, having derived his knowledge from the barbarian philosophy, is acquainted with the purification by fire of those who have led bad lives, which the Stoics afterwards called the Conflagration (ἐκπύρωσις), in which also they teach that each will arise exactly as he was, so treating of the resurrection; while Plato says as follows, that the earth at certain periods is purified by fire and water: “There have been many destructions of men in many ways; and there shall be very great ones by fire and water; and others briefer by innumerable causes.” And after a little he adds: “And, in truth, there is a change of the objects which revolve about earth and heaven; and in the course of long periods there is the destruction of the objects on earth by a great conflagration.” Then he subjoins respecting the deluge: “But when, again, the gods deluge the earth to purify it with water, those on the mountains, herdsmen and shepherds, are saved; those in your cities are carried down by the rivers into the sea.” And we showed in the first Miscellany 2968 that the philosophers of the Greeks are called thieves, inasmuch as they have taken without acknowledgment their principal dogmas from Moses and the prophets. To which also we shall add, that the angels who had obtained the superior rank, having sunk into pleasures, told to the women 2969 the secrets which had come to their knowledge; while the rest of the angels concealed them, or rather, kept them against the coming of the Lord. Thence emanated the doctrine of providence, and the revelation of high things; and prophecy having already been imparted to the philosophers of the Greeks, the treatment of dogma arose among the philosophers, sometimes true when they hit the mark, and sometimes erroneous, when they comprehended not the secret of the prophetic allegory. And this it is proposed briefly to indicate in running over the points requiring mention. Faith, then, we say, we are to show must not be p. 447 inert and alone, but accompanied with investigation. For I do not say that we are not to inquire at all. For “Search, and thou shalt find,” 2970 it is said.“What is sought may be captured,
But what is neglected escapes,”
according to Sophocles.
The like also says Menander the comic poet:—“All things sought,
The wisest say, need anxious thought.
But we ought to direct the visual faculty of the soul aright to discovery, and to clear away obstacles; and to cast clean away contention, and envy, and strife, destined to perish miserably from among men.
For very beautifully does Timon of Phlius write:—“And Strife, the Plague of Mortals, stalks vainly shrieking,
The sister of Murderous Quarrel and Discord,
Which rolls blindly over all things. But then
It sets its head towards men, and casts them on hope.”
Then a little below he adds:—“For who hath set these to fight in deadly strife?
A rabble keeping pace with Echo; for, enraged at those silent,
It raised an evil disease against men, and many perished;”
of the speech which denies what is false, and of the dilemma, of that which is concealed, of the Sorites, and of the Crocodilean, of that which is open, and of ambiguities and sophisms. To inquire, then, respecting God, if it tend not to strife, but to discovery, is salutary. For it is written in David, “The poor eat, and shall be filled; and they shall praise the Lord that seek Him. Your heart shall live for ever.” 2971 For they who seek Him after the true search, praising the Lord, shall be filled with the gift that comes from God, that is, knowledge. And their soul shall live; for the soul is figuratively termed the heart, which ministers life: for by the Son is the Father known.
We ought not to surrender our ears to all who speak and write rashly. For cups also, which are taken hold of by many by the ears, are dirtied, and lose the ears; and besides, when they fall they are broken. In the same way also, those, who have polluted the pure hearing of faith by many trifles, at last becoming deaf to the truth, become useless and fall to the earth. It is not, then, without reason that we commanded boys to kiss their relations, holding them by the ears; indicating this, that the feeling of love is engendered by hearing. And “God,” who is known to those who love, “is love,” 2972 as “God,” who by instruction is communicated to the faithful, “is faithful;” 2973 and we must be allied to Him by divine love: so that by like we may see like, hearing the word of truth guilelessly and purely, as children who obey us. And this was what he, whoever he was, indicated who wrote on the entrance to the temple at Epidaurus the inscription:—“Pure he must be who goes within
The incense-perfumed fane.”
And purity is “to think holy thoughts.” “Except ye become as these little children, ye shall not enter,” it is said, “into the kingdom of heaven.” 2974 For there the temple of God is seen established on three foundations—faith, hope, and love.
Matt. xi. 15.444:2944
Odyss., vi. 185.444:2945
Teacher and scholar.444:2946
Rom. 1:11, 12.444:2947
Rom. i. 17.444:2948
[“The common faith” (ἡ κοινὴ πίστις) is no “secret,” then, and cannot be in its nature.]444:2949
Matt. ix. 22.444:2950
Matt. xvii. 20; Luke xvii. 6; 1 Cor. xiii. 2.444:2951
Luke xvii. 5.445:2952
Gen. xv. 6; Rom. iv. 3.445:2953
Isa. lix. 8.445:2954
2 Tim. ii. 23.445:2955
[All such expressions noteworthy for manifold uses among divines.]445:2956
[Fatal to not a little of the scholastic theology, and the Trent dogmas.]446:2957
1 Cor. xiii. 12.446:2958
Ex. xxxiii. 20.446:2959
Matt. v. 8.446:2960
1 Cor. i. 20.446:2961
1 Cor. i. 19.446:2962
Jer. vi. 16.446:2963
Rom. 4:3, 5, 9, 22.446:2964
Philo Judæus, De Abrahame, p. 413, vol. ii. Bohn. [But see Elucidation I.]446:2965
1 Cor. ii. 5.446:2967
[See p. 318, supra.]446:2969
[See vol. i. p. 190, this series.]447:2970
Matt. vii. 7.447:2971
Ps. xxii. 26.447:2972
1 John iv. 16.447:2973
1 Cor. i. 9, x. 13.447:2974
Matt. xviii. 3. [Again this tender love of children.]
Next: Chap. II.—On Hope.
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