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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XIV.—Degrees of Glory in Heaven.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XIV.—Degrees of Glory in Heaven.

Such, according to David, “rest in the holy hill of God,” 3389 in the Church far on high, in which are gathered the philosophers of God, “who are Israelites indeed, who are pure in heart, in whom there is no guile;” 3390 who do not remain in the seventh seat, the place of rest, but are promoted, through the active beneficence of the divine likeness, to the heritage of beneficence which is the eighth grade; devoting themselves to the pure vision 3391 of insatiable contemplation.

“And other sheep there are also,” saith the Lord, “which are not of this fold” 3392 —deemed worthy of another fold and mansion, in proportion to their faith. “But My sheep hear My voice,” 3393 understanding gnostically the commandments. And this is to be taken in a magnanimous and worthy acceptation, along with also the recompense and accompaniment of works. So that when we hear, “Thy faith hath saved thee,” 3394 we do not understand Him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatever shall be saved, unless also works follow. But it was to the Jews alone that He spoke this utterance, who kept the law and lived blamelessly, who wanted only faith in the Lord. No one, then, can be a believer and at the same time be licentious; but though he quit the flesh, he must put off the passions, so as to be capable of reaching his own mansion.

Now to know is more than to believe, as to be dignified with the highest honour after being saved is a greater thing than being saved. Accordingly the believer, through great discipline, divesting himself of the passions, passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, viz., to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance from the sins he has committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more—not yet or not quite attaining what he sees others to have acquired. Besides, he is also ashamed of his transgressions. The greatest torments, indeed, are assigned to the believer. For God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness is righteous. And though the punishments cease in the course of the completion of the expiation and purification of each one, yet those have very great and permanent grief who 3395 are found worthy of the other fold, on account of not being along with those that have been glorified through righteousness.

For instance, Solomon, calling the Gnostic, wise, speaks thus of those who admire the dignity of his mansion: “For they shall see the end of the wise, and to what a degree the Lord has established him.” 3396 And of his glory they will say, “This was he whom we once held up to derision, and made a byword of reproach; fools that we were! We thought his life madness, and his end dishonourable. How is he reckoned among the sons of God, and his inheritance among the saints?” 3397

Not only then the believer, but even the heathen, is judged most righteously. For since God knew in virtue of His prescience that he would not believe, He nevertheless, in order that he might receive his own perfection gave him philosophy, but gave it him previous to faith. And He gave the sun, and the moon, and the stars to be worshipped; “which God,” the Law says, 3398 made for the nations, that they might not become altogether atheistical, and so utterly perish. But they, also in the instance of this commandment, having become devoid of sense, and addicting themselves to graven images, are judged unless they repent; some of them because, though able, they would not believe God; and others because, though willing, they did not take the necessary pains to become believers. There were also, however, those who, from the worship of the heavenly bodies, did not return to the Maker of them. For this was the sway given to the nations to rise up to God, by means of the worship of the heavenly bodies. But those who would not abide by those heavenly bodies assigned to them, but fell away from them to stocks and stones, “were counted,” it is said, “as chaff-dust and as a drop from a jar,” 3399 beyond salvation, cast away from the body.

As, then, to be simply saved is the result of p. 506 medium 3400 actions, but to be saved rightly and becomingly 3401 is right action, so also all action of the Gnostic may be called right action; that of the simple believer, intermediate action, not yet perfected according to reason, not yet made right according to knowledge; but that of every heathen again is sinful. For it is not simply doing well, but doing actions with a certain aim, and acting according to reason, that the Scriptures exhibit as requisite. 3402

As, then, lyres ought not to be touched by those who are destitute of skill in playing the lyre, nor flutes by those who are unskilled in flute-playing, neither are those to put their hand to affairs who have not knowledge, and know not how to use them in the whole 3403 of life.

The struggle for freedom, then, is waged not alone by the athletes of battles in wars, but also in banquets, and in bed, and in the tribunals, by those who are anointed by the word, who are ashamed to become the captives of pleasures.

“I would never part with virtue for unrighteous gain.” But plainly, unrighteous gain is pleasure and pain, toil and fear; and, to speak comprehensively, the passions of the soul, the present of which is delightful, the future vexatious. “For what is the profit,” it is said, “if you gain the world and lose the soul?” 3404 It is clear, then, that those who do not perform good actions, do not know what is for their own advantage. And if so, neither are they capable of praying aright, so as to receive from God good things; nor, should they receive them, will they be sensible of the boon; nor, should they enjoy them, will they enjoy worthily what they know not; both from their want of knowledge how to use the good things given them, and from their excessive stupidity, being ignorant of the way to avail themselves of the divine gifts.

Now stupidity is the cause of ignorance. And it appears to me that it is the vaunt of a boastful soul, though of one with a good conscience, to exclaim against what happens through circumstances:—

“Therefore let them do what they may; 3405
For it shall be well with me; and Right
Shall be my ally, and I shall not be caught doing evil.”

But such a good conscience preserves sanctity towards God and justice towards men; keeping the soul pure with grave thoughts, and pure words, and just deeds. By thus receiving the Lord’s power, the soul studies to be God; regarding nothing bad but ignorance, and action contrary to right reason. And giving thanks always for all things to God, by righteous hearing and divine reading, by true investigation, by holy oblation, by blessed prayer; lauding, hymning, blessing, praising, such a soul is never at any time separated from God. 3406 Rightly then is it said, “And they who trust in Him shall understand the truth, and those faithful in love shall abide by Him.” 3407 You see what statements Wisdom makes about the Gnostics.

Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed. 3408 To the point Solomon says, “For there shall be given to him the choice grace of faith, and a more pleasant lot in the temple of the Lord.” 3409 For the comparative shows that there are lower parts in the temple of God, which is the whole Church. And the superlative remains to be conceived, where the Lord is. These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel—the thirty, the sixty, the hundred. 3410 And the perfect inheritance belongs to those who attain to “a perfect man,” according to the image of the Lord. And the likeness is not, as some imagine, that of the human form; for this consideration is impious. Nor is the likeness to the first cause that which consists in virtue. For this utterance is also impious, being that of those who have imagined that virtue in man and in the sovereign God is the same. “Thou hast supposed iniquity,” He says, “[in imagining] that I will be like to thee.” 3411 But “it is enough for the disciple to become as the Master,” 3412 saith the Master. To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught.



Ps. xv. i.


John i. 47; Matt v. 8.


έποπτεία, the third and highest grade of initiation of the Eleusinian mysteries (Liddell and Scott’s Lexicon).


John x. 16.


John x. 27.


Mark v. 34, etc.


The text here has ὄτι, for which has been substituted (Potter and Sylb.) οί, as above; τήν after αὐλῆς (fold) requires to be omitted also in rendering the sentence as we have done.


Wisd. iv. 17.


Wisd. v. 3-5.


Deut. iv. 19.


Isa. xl. 15.


The author reckons three kinds of actions, the first of which is κατόρθωμα, right or perfect action, which is characteristic of the perfect man and Gnostic alone, and raises him (εἰς τὴν ἀνωτάτω δόξαν) to the height of glory. The second is the class of τῶν μέσων, medium, or intermediate actions, which are done by less perfect believers, and procure a lower grade of glory. In the third place he reckons sinful actions (ἀμαρτητικάς), which are done by those who fall away from salvation (Potter).


[2 Pet. i. 11.]


To produce this sense, καθῆκεν of the text is by Potter changed into καθῆκειν.


On the authority of one of the ms., Sylburgius reads ὄλον instead of λόγον in the text.


Matt. viii. 26; Mark viii. 36; Luke ix. 25.


From the Acharneis of Aristophanes, quoted also by Cicero; with various readings in each. Heinsius substitutes παλαμάσθων for παλαμᾶσθαι of the text.


[Bunsen, Hippol., iii. p. 141.]


Wisd. iii. 9.


[1 Cor. xv. 41.]


Wisd. iii. 14.


Matt. xiii. 8.


Ps. l. 21.


Matt. xxv. 10.

Next: Chapter XV.—Different Degrees of Knowledge.

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