Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume II/CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA/The Stromata, or Miscellanies/Book IV
The Stromata, or Miscellanies.
Chapter I.—Order of Contents.
It will follow, I think, that I should treat of martyrdom, and of who the perfect man is. With these points shall be included what follows in accordance with the demands of the points to be spoken about, and how both bond and free must equally philosophize, whether male or female in sex. And in the sequel, after finishing what is to be said on faith and inquiry, we shall set forth the department of symbols; so that, on cursorily concluding the discourse on ethics, we shall exhibit the advantage which has accrued to the Greeks from the barbarian philosophy. After which sketch, the brief explanation of the Scriptures both against the Greeks and against the Jews will be presented, and whatever points we were unable to embrace in the previous Miscellanies (through having respect necessarily to the multitude of matters), in accordance with the commencement of the poem, purposing to finish them in one commentary. In addition to these points, afterwards on completing the sketch, as far as we can in accordance with what we propose, we must give an account of the physical doctrines of the Greeks and of the barbarians, respecting elementary principles, as far as their opinions have reached us, and argue against the principal views excogitated by the philosophers.
It will naturally fall after these, after a cursory view of theology, to discuss the opinions handed down respecting prophecy; so that, having demonstrated that the Scriptures which we believe are valid from their omnipotent authority, we shall be able to go over them consecutively, and to show thence to all the heresies one God and Omnipotent Lord to be truly preached by the law and the prophets, and besides by the blessed Gospel. Many contradictions against the heterodox await us while we attempt, in writing, to do away with the force of the allegations made by them, and to persuade them against their will, proving by the Scriptures themselves.
On completing, then, the whole of what we propose in the commentaries, on which, if the Spirit will, we ministering to the urgent need, (for it is exceedingly necessary, before coming to the truth, to embrace what ought to be said by way of preface), shall address ourselves to the true gnostic science of nature, receiving initiation into the minor mysteries before the greater; so that nothing may be in the way of the truly divine declaration of sacred things, the subjects requiring preliminary detail and statement being cleared away, and sketched beforehand. The science of nature, then, or rather observation, as contained in the gnostic tradition according to the rule of the truth, depends on the discussion concerning cosmogony, ascending thence to the department of theology. Whence, then, we shall begin our account of what is handed down, with the creation as related by the prophets, introducing also the tenets of the heterodox, and endeavouring as far as we can to confute them. But it shall be written if God will, and as He inspires; and now we must proceed to what we proposed, and complete the discourse on ethics.
Chapter II.—The Meaning of the Name Stromata or Miscellanies.
Let these notes of ours, as we have often said for the sake of those that consult them carelessly and unskilfully, be of varied character—and as the name itself indicates, patched together—passing constantly from one thing to another, and in the series of discussions hinting at one thing and demonstrating another. “For those who seek for gold,” says Heraclitus, “dig much earth and find little gold.” But those who are of the truly golden race, in mining for what is allied to them, will find the much in little. For the word will find one to understand it. The Miscellanies of notes contribute, then, to the recollection and expression of truth in the case of him who is able to investigate with reason.
And you must prosecute, in addition to these, other labours and researches; since, in the case of people who are setting out on a road with which they are unacquainted, it is sufficient merely to point out the direction. After this they must walk and find out the rest for themselves. As, they say, when a certain slave once asked at the oracle what he should do to please his master, the Pythian priestess replied, “You will find if you seek.” It is truly a difficult matter, then, as turns out, to find out latent good; since
“Before virtue is placed exertion,
And long and steep is the way to it,
And rough at first; but when the summit is reached,
Then is it easy, though difficult [before].”
“For narrow,” in truth, “and strait is the way” of the Lord. And it is to the “violent that the kingdom of God belongs.”
Whence, “Seek, and ye shall find,” holding on by the truly royal road, and not deviating. As we might expect, then, the generative power of the seeds of the doctrines comprehended in this treatise is great in small space, as the “universal herbage of the field,” as Scripture saith. Thus the Miscellanies of notes have their proper title, wonderfully like that ancient oblation culled from all sorts of things of which Sophocles writes:—
“For there was a sheep’s fleece, and there was a vine,
And a libation, and grapes well stored;
And there was mixed with it fruit of all kinds,
And the fat of the olive, and the most curious
Wax-formed work of the yellow bee.”
Just so our Stromata, according to the husbandman of the comic poet Timocles, produce “figs, olives, dried figs, honey, as from an all-fruitful field;” on account of which exuberance he adds:—
“Thou speakest of a harvest-wreath not of husbandry.”
For the Athenians were wont to cry:—
“The harvest-wreath bears figs and fat loaves,
And honey in a cup, and olive oil to anoint you.”
We must then often, as in winnowing sieves, shake and toss up this the great mixture of seeds, in order to separate the wheat.
Chapter III.—The True Excellence of Man.
The most of men have a disposition unstable and heedless, like the nature of storms. “Want of faith has done many good things, and faith evil things.” And Epicharmus says, “Don’t forget to exercise incredulity; for it is the sinews of the soul.” Now, to disbelieve truth brings death, as to believe, life; and again, to believe the lie and to disbelieve the truth hurries to destruction. The same is the case with self-restraint and licentiousness. To restrain one’s self from doing good is the work of vice; but to keep from wrong is the beginning of salvation. So the Sabbath, by abstinence from evils, seems to indicate self-restraint. And what, I ask, is it in which man differs from beasts, and the angels of God, on the other hand, are wiser than he? “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels.” For some do not interpret this Scripture of the Lord, although He also bore flesh, but of the perfect man and the gnostic, inferior in comparison with the angels in time, and by reason of the vesture [of the body]. I call then wisdom nothing but science, since life differs not from life. For to live is common to the mortal nature, that is to man, with that to which has been vouchsafed immortality; as also the faculty of contemplation and of self-restraint, one of the two being more excellent. On this ground Pythagoras seems to me to have said that God alone is wise, since also the apostle writes in the Epistle to the Romans, “For the obedience of the faith among all nations, being made known to the only wise God through Jesus Christ;” and that he himself was a philosopher, on account of his friendship with God. Accordingly it is said, “God talked with Moses as a friend with a friend.” That, then, which is true being clear to God, forthwith generates truth. And the gnostic loves the truth. “Go,” it is said, “to the ant, thou sluggard, and be the disciple of the bee;” thus speaks Solomon. For if there is one function belonging to the peculiar nature of each creature, alike of the ox, and horse, and dog, what shall we say is the peculiar function of man? He is like, it appears to me, the Centaur, a Thessalian figment, compounded of a rational and irrational part, of soul and body. Well, the body tills the ground, and hastes to it; but the soul is raised to God: trained in the true philosophy, it speeds to its kindred above, turning away from the lusts of the body, and besides these, from toil and fear, although we have shown that patience and fear belong to the good man. For if “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” as those allege who disparage the law, and “till the law sin was in the world;” yet “without the law sin was dead,” we oppose them. For when you take away the cause of fear, sin, you have taken away fear; and much more, punishment, when you have taken away that which gives rise to lust. “For the law is not made for the just
man,” says the Scripture. Well, then, says Heraclitus, “They would not have known the name of Justice if these things had not been.” And Socrates says, “that the law was not made for the sake of the good.” But the cavillers did not know even this, as the apostle says, “that he who loveth his brother worketh not evil;” for this, “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal; and if there be any other commandment, it is comprehended in the word, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.” So also is it said, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” And “if he that loveth his neighbour worketh no evil,” and if “every commandment is comprehended in this, the loving our neighbour,” the commandments, by menacing with fear, work love, not hatred. Wherefore the law is productive of the emotion of fear. “So that the law is holy,” and in truth “spiritual,” according to the apostle. We must, then, as is fit, in investigating the nature of the body and the essence of the soul, apprehend the end of each, and not regard death as an evil. “For when ye were the servants of sin,” says the apostle, “ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things in which ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The assertion, then, may be hazarded, that it has been shown that death is the fellowship of the soul in a state of sin with the body; and life the separation from sin. And many are the stakes and ditches of lust which impede us, and the pits of wrath and anger which must be overleaped, and all the machinations we must avoid of those who plot against us,—who would no longer see the knowledge of God “through a glass.”
“The half of virtue the far-seeing Zeus takes
From man, when he reduces him to a state of slavery.”
As slaves the Scripture views those “under sin” and “sold to sin,” the lovers of pleasure and of the body; and beasts rather than men, “those who have become like to cattle, horses, neighing after their neighbours’ wives.” The licentious is “the lustful ass,” the covetous is the “savage wolf,” and the deceiver is “a serpent.” The severance, therefore, of the soul from the body, made a life-long study, produces in the philosopher gnostic alacrity, so that he is easily able to bear natural death, which is the dissolution of the chains which bind the soul to the body. “For the world is crucified to me, and I to the world,” the [apostle] says; “and now I live, though in the flesh, as having my conversation in heaven.”
Chapter IV.—The Praises of Martyrdom.
Whence, as is reasonable, the gnostic, when Galled, obeys easily, and gives up his body to him who asks; and, previously divesting himself of the affections of this carcase, not insulting the tempter, but rather, in my opinion, training him and convincing him,—
“From what honour and what extent of wealth fallen,”
as says Empedocles, here for the future he walks with mortals. He, in truth, bears witness to himself that he is faithful and loyal towards God; and to the tempter, that he in vain envied him who is faithful through love; and to the Lord, of the inspired persuasion in reference to His doctrine, from which he will not depart through fear of death; further, he confirms also the truth of preaching by his deed, showing that God to whom he hastes is powerful. You will wonder at his love, which he conspicuously shows with thankfulness, in being united to what is allied to him, and besides by his precious blood, shaming the unbelievers. He then avoids denying Christ through fear by reason of the command; nor does he sell his faith in the hope of the gifts prepared, but in love to the Lord he will most gladly depart from this life; perhaps giving thanks both to him who afforded the cause of his departure hence, and to him who laid the plot against him, for receiving an honourable reason which he himself furnished not, for showing what he is, to him by his patience, and to the Lord in love, by which even before his birth he was manifested to the Lord, who knew the martyr’s choice. With good courage, then, he goes to the Lord, his friend, for whom he voluntarily gave his body, and, as his judges hoped, his soul, hearing from our Saviour the words of poetry, “Dear brother,” by reason of the similarity of his life. We call martyrdom perfection, not because the man comes to the end of his life as others, but because he has exhibited the perfect work of love. And the ancients laud the death of those among the Greeks who died in war, not that they advised people to die a violent death, but because he who ends his life in war is released without the dread of dying, severed from the body without experiencing previous suffering or being enfeebled in his soul, as the people that suffer in diseases. For they depart
in a state of effeminacy and desiring to live; and therefore they do not yield up the soul pure, but bearing with it their lusts like weights of lead; all but those who have been conspicuous in virtue. Some die in battle with their lusts, these being in no respect different from what they would have been if they had wasted away by disease.
If the confession to God is martyrdom, each soul which has lived purely in the knowledge of God, which has obeyed the commandments, is a witness both by life and word, in whatever way it may be released from the body,—shedding faith as blood along its whole life till its departure. For instance, the Lord says in the Gospel, “Whosoever shall leave father, or mother, or brethren,” and so forth, “for the sake of the Gospel and my name,” he is blessed; not indicating simple martyrdom, but the gnostic martyrdom, as of the man who has conducted himself according to the rule of the Gospel, in love to the Lord (for the knowledge of the Name and the understanding of the Gospel point out the gnosis, but not the bare appellation), so as to leave his worldly kindred, and wealth, and every possession, in order to lead a life free from passion. “Mother” figuratively means country and sustenance; “fathers” are the laws of civil polity: which must be contemned thankfully by the high-souled just man; for the sake of being the friend of God, and of obtaining the right hand in the holy place, as the Apostles have done.
Then Heraclitus says, “Gods and men honour those slain in battle;” and Plato in the fifth book of the Republic writes, “Of those who die in military service, whoever dies after winning renown, shall we not say that he is chief of the golden race? Most assuredly.” But the golden race is with the gods, who are in heaven, in the fixed sphere, who chiefly hold command in the providence exercised towards men. Now some of the heretics who have misunderstood the Lord, have at once an impious and cowardly love of life; saying that the true martyrdom is the knowledge of the only true God (which we also admit), and that the man is a self-murderer and a suicide who makes confession by death; and adducing other similar sophisms of cowardice. To these we shall reply at the proper time; for they differ with us in regard to first principles. Now we, too, say that those who have rushed on death (for there are some, not belonging to us, but sharing the name merely, who are in haste to give themselves up, the poor wretches dying through hatred to the Creator)—these, we say, banish themselves without being martyrs, even though they are punished publicly. For they do not preserve the characteristic mark of believing martyrdom, inasmuch as they have not known the only true God, but give themselves up to a vain death, as the Gymnosophists of the Indians to useless fire.
But since these falsely named calumniate the body, let them learn that the harmonious mechanism of the body contributes to the understanding which leads to goodness of nature. Wherefore in the third book of the Republic, Plato, whom they appeal to loudly as an authority that disparages generation, says, “that for the sake of harmony of soul, care must be taken for the body,” by which, he who announces the proclamation of the truth, finds it possible to live, and to live well. For it is by the path of life and health that we learn gnosis. But is he who cannot advance to the height without being occupied with necessary things, and through them doing what tends to knowledge, not to choose to live well? In living, then, living well is secured. And he who in the body has devoted himself to a good life, is being sent on to the state of immortality.
Chapter V.—On Contempt for Pain, Poverty, and Other External Things.
Fit objects for admiration are the Stoics, who say that the soul is not affected by the body, either to vice by disease, or to virtue by health; but both these things, they say, are indifferent. And indeed Job, through exceeding continence, and excellence of faith, when from rich he became poor, from being held in honour dishonoured, from being comely unsightly, and sick from being healthy, is depicted as a good example, putting the Tempter to shame, blessing his Creator; bearing what came second, as the first, and most clearly teaching that it is possible for the gnostic to make an excellent use of all circumstances. And that ancient achievements are proposed as images for our correction, the apostle shows, when he says, “So that my bonds in Christ are become manifest in all the palace, and to all the rest; and several of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear,”—since martyrs’ testimonies are examples of conversion gloriously sanctified. “For what things the Scripture speaks were written for our instruction, that we, through patience and the consolation of the Scriptures, might have the hope of consolation.” When pain is present, the soul appears to decline from it, and to deem release from present pain a precious thing. At that moment it slackens from studies, when the other virtues also are
neglected. And yet we do not say that it is virtue itself which suffers, for virtue is not affected by disease. But he who is partaker of both, of virtue and the disease, is afflicted by the pressure of the latter; and if he who has not yet attained the habit of self-command be not a high-souled man, he is distraught; and the inability to endure it is found equivalent to fleeing from it.
The same holds good also in the case of poverty. For it compels the soul to desist from necessary things, I mean contemplation and from pure sinlessness, forcing him, who has not wholly dedicated himself to God in love, to occupy himself about provisions; as, again, health and abundance of necessaries keep the soul free and unimpeded, and capable of making a good use of what is at hand. “For,” says the apostle, “such shall have trouble in the flesh. But I spare you. For I would have you without anxiety, in order to decorum and assiduity for the Lord, without distraction.”
These things, then, are to be abstained from, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the body; and care for the body is exercised for the sake of the soul, to which it has reference. For on this account it is necessary for the man who lives as a gnostic to know what is suitable. Since the fact that pleasure is not a good thing is admitted from the fact that certain pleasures are evil, by this reason good appears evil, and evil good. And then, if we choose some pleasures and shun others, it is not every pleasure that is a good thing.
Similarly, also, the same rule holds with pains, some of which we endure, and others we shun. But choice and avoidance are exercised according to knowledge; so that it is not pleasure that is the good thing, but knowledge by which we shall choose a pleasure at a certain time, and of a certain kind. Now the martyr chooses the pleasure that exists in prospect through the present pain. If pain is conceived as existing in thirst, and pleasure in drinking, the pain that has preceded becomes the efficient cause of pleasure. But evil cannot be the efficient cause of good. Neither, then, is the one thing nor the other evil. Simonides accordingly (as also Aristotle) writes, “that to be in good health is the best thing, and the second best thing is to be handsome, and the third best thing is to be rich without cheating.”
And Theognis of Megara says:—
“You must, to escape poverty, throw
Yourself, O Cyrnus down from
The steep rocks into the deep sea.”
On the other hand, Antiphanes, the comic poet, says, “Plutus (Wealth), when it has taken hold of those who see better than others, makes them blind.” Now by the poets he is proclaimed as blind from his birth:—
“And brought him forth blind who saw not the sun.”
Says the Chalcidian Euphorion:—
“Riches, then, and extravagant luxuries,
Were for men the worst training for manliness.”
Wrote Euripides in Alexander:—
“And it is said,
Penury has attained wisdom through misfortune;
But much wealth will capture not
Sparta alone, but every city.”
“It is not then the only coin that mortals have, that which is white silver or golden, but virtue too,” as Sophocles says.
Chapter VI.—Some Points in the Beatitudes.
Our holy Saviour applied poverty and riches, and the like, both to spiritual things and objects of sense. For when He said, “Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” He clearly taught us in every circumstance to seek for the martyr who, if poor for righteousness’ sake, witnesses that the righteousness which he loves is a good thing; and if he “hunger and thirst for righteousness’ sake,” testifies that righteousness is the best thing. Likewise he, that weeps and mourns for righteousness’ sake, testifies to the best law that it is beautiful. As, then, “those that are persecuted,” so also “those that hunger and thirst” for righteousness’ sake, are called “blessed” by Him who approves of the true desire, which not even famine can put a stop to. And if “they hunger after righteousness itself,” they are blessed. “And blessed are the poor,” whether “in spirit” or in circumstance”—that is, if for righteousness’ sake. It is not the poor simply, but those that have wished to become poor for righteousness’ sake, that He pronounces blessed—those who have despised the honours of this world in order to attain “the good;” likewise also those who, through chastity, have become comely in person and character, and those who are of noble birth, and honourable, having through righteousness attained to adoption, and therefore “have received power to become the sons of God,” and “to tread on serpents and scorpions,” and to rule over demons and “the host of the adversary.” And, in fine, the Lord’s discipline draws the soul away gladly from the body, even if it wrench itself away in its removal. “For he that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life shall find it,” if we only join that which is mortal of us with
the immortality of God. It is the will of God [that we should attain] the knowledge of God, which is the communication of immortality. He therefore, who, in accordance with the word of repentance, knows his life to be sinful will lose it—losing it from sin, from which it is wrenched; but losing it, will find it, according to the obedience which lives again to faith, but dies to sin. This, then, is what it is “to find one’s life,” “to know one’s self.”
The conversion, however, which leads to divine things, the Stoics say, is affected by a change, the soul being changed to wisdom. And Plato: “On the soul taking a turn to what is better, and a change from a kind of nocturnal day.” Now the philosophers also allow the good man an exit from life in accordance with reason, in the case of one depriving him of active exertion, so that the hope of action is no longer left him. And the judge who compels us to deny Him whom we love, I regard as showing who is and who is not the friend of God. In that case there is not left ground for even examining what one prefers—the menaces of man or the love of God. And abstinence from vicious acts is found, somehow, [to result in] the diminution and extinction of vicious propensities, their energy being destroyed by inaction. And this is the import of “Sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and come, follow Me”—that is, follow what is said by the Lord. Some say that by what “thou hast” He designated the things in the soul, of a nature not akin to it, though how these are bestowed on the poor they are not able to say. For God dispenses to all according to desert, His distribution being righteous. Despising, therefore, the possessions which God apportions to thee in thy magnificence, comply with what is spoken by me; haste to the ascent of the Spirit, being not only justified by abstinence from what is evil, but in addition also perfected, by Christlike beneficence. In this instance He convicted the man, who boasted that he had fulfilled the injunctions of the law, of not loving his neighbour; and it is by beneficence that the love which, according to the gnostic ascending scale, is Lord of the Sabbath, proclaims itself. We must then, according to my view, have recourse to the word of salvation neither from fear of punishment nor promise of a gift, but on account of the good itself. Such, as do so, stand on the right hand of the sanctuary; but those who think that by the gift of what is perishable they shall receive in exchange what belongs to immortality are in the parable of the two brothers called “hirelings.” And is there not some light thrown here on the expression “in the likeness and image,” in the fact that some live according to the likeness of Christ, while those who stand on the left hand live according to their image? There are then two things proceeding from the truth, one root lying beneath both,—the choice being, however, not equal, or rather the difference that is in the choice not being equal. To choose by way of imitation differs, as appears to me, from the choice of him who chooses according to knowledge, as that which is set on fire differs from that which is illuminated. Israel, then, is the light of the likeness which is according to the Scripture. But the image is another thing. What means the parable of Lazarus, by showing the image of the rich and poor? And what the saying, “No man can serve two masters, God and Mammon?”—the Lord so terming the love of money. For instance, the covetous, who were invited, responded not to the invitation to the supper, not because of their possessing property, but of their inordinate affection to what they possessed. “The foxes,” then, have holes. He called those evil and earthly men who are occupied about the wealth which is mined and dug from the ground, foxes. Thus also, in reference to Herod: “Go, tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and perform cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” For He applied the name “fowls of the air” to those who were distinct from the other birds—those really pure, those that have the power of flying to the knowledge of the heavenly Word. For not riches only, but also honour, and marriage, and poverty, have ten thousand cares for him who is unfit for them. And those cares He indicated in the parable of the fourfold seed, when He said that “the seed of the word which fell unto the thorns” and hedges was choked by them, and could not bring forth fruit. It is therefore necessary to learn how to make use of every occurrence, so as by a good life, according to knowledge, to be trained for the state of eternal life. For it said, “I saw the wicked exalted and towering as the cedars of Lebanon; and I passed,” says the Scripture, “and, lo, he was not; and I sought him, and his place was not found. Keep innocence, and look on uprightness: for there is a remnant to the man of peace.” Such will he be who believes unfeignedly with his whole heart, and is tranquil in his whole soul. “For the different people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from the Lord.” “They bless
with their mouth, but they curse in their heart.” “They loved Him with their mouth, and lied to Him with their tongue; but their heart was not right with Him, and they were not faithful to His covenant.” Wherefore “let the false lips become speechless, and let the Lord destroy the boastful tongue: those who say, We shall magnify our tongue, and our lips are our own; who is Lord over us? For the affliction of the poor and the groaning of the needy now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety; I will speak out in his case.” For it is to the humble that Christ belongs, who do not exalt themselves against His flock. “Lay not up for yourselves, therefore, treasures on the earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break through and steal,” says the Lord, in reproach perchance of the covetous, and perchance also of those who are simply anxious and full of cares, and those too who indulge their bodies. For amours, and diseases, and evil thoughts “break through” the mind and the whole man. But our true “treasure” is where what is allied to our mind is, since it bestows the communicative power of righteousness, showing that we must assign to the habit of our old conversation what we have acquired by it, and have recourse to God, beseeching mercy. He is, in truth, “the bag that waxeth not old,” the provisions of eternal life, “the treasure that faileth not in heaven.” “For I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” saith the Lord. And they say those things to those who wish to be poor for righteousness’ sake. For they have heard in the commandment that “the broad and wide way leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in by it.” It is not of anything else that the assertion is made, but of profligacy, and love of women, and love of glory, and ambition, and similar passions. For so He says, “Fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee; and whose shall those things be which thou hast prepared?” And the commandment is expressed in these very words, “Take heed, therefore, of covetousness. For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of those things which he possesses. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” “Wherefore I say, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for your body, what ye shall put on. For your life is more than meat, and your body than raiment.” And again, “For your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” “But seek first the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness,” for these are the great things, and the things which are small and appertain to this life “shall be added to you.” Does He not plainly then exhort us to follow the gnostic life, and enjoin us to seek the truth in word and deed? Therefore Christ, who trains the soul, reckons one rich, not by his gifts, but by his choice. It is said, therefore, that Zaccheus, or, according to some, Matthew, the chief of the publicans, on hearing that the Lord had deigned to come to him, said, “Lord, and if I have taken anything by false accusation, I restore him fourfold;” on which the Saviour said, “The Son of man, on coming to-day, has found that which was lost.” Again, on seeing the rich cast into the treasury according to their wealth, and the widow two mites, He said “that the widow had cast in more than they all,” for “they had contributed of their abundance, but she of her destitution.” And because He brought all things to bear on the discipline of the soul, He said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” And the meek are those who have quelled the battle of unbelief in the soul, the battle of wrath, and lust, and the other forms that are subject to them. And He praises those meek by choice, not by necessity. For there are with the Lord both rewards and “many mansions,” corresponding to men’s lives. “Whosoever shall receive,” says He, “a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward; and whosoever shall receive a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward; and whoso shall receive one of the least of these my disciples, shall not lose his reward.” And again, the differences of virtue according to merit, and the noble rewards, He indicated by the hours unequal in number; and in addition, by the equal reward given to each of the labourers—that is, salvation, which is meant by the penny—He indicated the equality of justice; and the difference of those called He intimated, by those who worked for unequal portions of time. They shall work, therefore, in accordance with the appropriate mansions of which they have been deemed worthy as rewards, being fellow-workers in the ineffable administration and service. “Those, then,” says Plato, “who seem called to a holy life, are those who, freed and released from those earthly localities as from prisons, have reached the pure dwelling-place on high.” In clearer terms again he
expresses the same thing: “Those who by philosophy have been sufficiently purged from those things, live without bodies entirely for all time. Although they are enveloped in certain shapes; in the case of some, of air, and others, of fire.” He adds further: “And they reach abodes fairer than those, which it is not easy, nor is there sufficient time now to describe.” Whence with reason, “blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted;” for they who have repented of their former evil life shall attain to “the calling” (κλῆσιν), for this is the meaning of being comforted (παρακληθῆναι). And there are two styles of penitents. That which is more common is fear on account of what is done; but the other which is more special, the shame which the spirit feels in itself arising from conscience. Whether then, here or elsewhere (for no place is devoid of the beneficence of God), He again says, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” And mercy is not, as some of the philosophers have imagined, pain on account of others’ calamities, but rather something good, as the prophets say. For it is said, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” And He means by the merciful, not only those who do acts of mercy, but those who wish to do them, though they be not able; who do as far as purpose is concerned. For sometimes we wish by the gift of money or by personal effort to do mercy, as to assist one in want, or help one who is sick, or stand by one who is in any emergency; and are not able either from poverty, or disease, or old age (for this also is natural disease), to carry out our purpose, in reference to the things to which we are impelled, being unable to conduct them to the end we wished. Those, who have entertained the wish whose purpose is equal, share in the same honour with those who have the ability, although others have the advantage in point of resources. And since there are two paths of reaching the perfection of salvation, works and knowledge, He called the “pure in heart blessed, for they shall see God.” And if we really look to the truth of the matter, knowledge is the purification of the leading faculty of the soul, and is a good activity. Some things accordingly are good in themselves, and others by participation in what is good, as we say good actions are good. But without things intermediate which hold the place of material, neither good nor bad actions are constituted, such I mean as life, and health, and other necessary things or circumstantials. Pure then as respects corporeal lusts, and pure in respect of holy thoughts, he means those are, who attain to the knowledge of God, when the chief faculty of the soul has nothing spurious to stand in the way of its power. When, therefore, he who partakes gnostically of this holy quality devotes himself to contemplation, communing in purity with the divine, he enters more nearly into the state of impassible identity, so as no longer to have science and possess knowledge, but to be science and knowledge.
“Blessed, then, are the peacemakers,” who have subdued and tamed the law which wars against the disposition of the mind, the menaces of anger, and the baits of lust, and the other passions which war against the reason; who, having lived in the knowledge both of good works and true reason, shall be reinstated in adoption, which is dearer. It follows that the perfect peacemaking is that which keeps unchanged in all circumstances what is peaceful; calls Providence holy and good; and has its being in the knowledge of divine and human affairs, by which it deems the opposites that are in the world to be the fairest harmony of creation. They also are peacemakers, who teach those who war against the stratagems of sin to have recourse to faith and peace. And it is the sum of all virtue, in my opinion, when the Lord teaches us that for love to God we must gnostically despise death. “Blessed are they,” says He, “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for they shall be called the sons of God;” or, as some of those who transpose the Gospels say, “Blessed are they who are persecuted by righteousness, for they shall be perfect.” And, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for my sake; for they shall have a place where they shall not be persecuted.” And, “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, when they shall separate you, when they shall cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake;” if we do not detest our persecutors, and undergo punishments at their hands, not hating them under the idea that we have been put to trial more tardily than we looked for; but knowing this also, that every instance of trial is an occasion for testifying.
Chapter VII.—The Blessedness of the Martyr.
Then he who has lied and shown himself unfaithful, and revolted to the devil’s army, in what evil do we think him to be? He belies, therefore, the Lord, or rather he is cheated of his own hope who believes not God; and he believes not who does not what He has commanded.
And what? Does not he, who denies the Lord, deny himself? For does he not rob his Master of His authority, who deprives himself of his relation to Him? He, then, who denies the Saviour, denies life; for “the light was life.” He does not term those men of little faith, but faithless and hypocrites, who have the name inscribed on them, but deny that they are really believers. But the faithful is called both servant and friend. So that if one loves himself, he loves the Lord, and confesses to salvation that he may save his soul. Though you die for your neighbour out of love, and regard the Saviour as our neighbour (for God who saves is said to be nigh in respect to what is saved); you do so, choosing death on account of life, and suffering for your own sake rather than his. And is it not for this that he is called brother? he who, suffering out of love to God, suffered for his own salvation; while he, on the other hand, who dies for his own salvation, endures for love to the Lord. For he being life, in what he suffered wished to suffer that we might live by his suffering.
“Why call ye me Lord, Lord,” He says, “and do not the things which I say?” For “the people that loveth with their lips, but have their heart far away from the Lord,” is another people, and trust in another, and have willingly sold themselves to another; but those who perform the commandments of the Lord, in every action “testify,” by doing what He wishes, and consistently naming the Lord’s name; and “testifying” by deed to Him in whom they trust, that they are those “who have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” “He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
But to those miserable men, witness to the Lord by blood seems a most violent death, not knowing that such a gate of death is the beginning of the true life; and they will understand neither the honours after death, which belong to those who have lived holily, nor the punishments of those who have lived unrighteously and impurely. I do not say only from our Scriptures (for almost all the commandments indicate them); but they will not even hear their own discourses. For the Pythagorean Theano writes, “Life were indeed a feast to the wicked, who, having done evil, then die; were not the soul immortal, death would be a godsend.” And Plato in the Phædo, “For if death were release from everything,” and so forth. We are not then to think according to the Telephus of Æschylus, “that a single path leads to Hades.” The ways are many, and the sins that lead thither. Such deeply erring ones as the unfaithful are, Aristophanes properly makes the subjects of comedy. “Come,” he says, “ye men of obscure life, ye that are like the race of leaves, feeble, wax figures, shadowy tribes, evanescent, fleeting, ephemeral.” And Epicharmus, “This nature of men is inflated skins.” And the Saviour has said to us, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God,” explains the apostle: “for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed, can be. And they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” And in further explanation continues, that no one may, like Marcion regard the creature as evil. “But if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” And again: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us. If we suffer with Him, that we also may be glorified together as joint-heirs of Christ. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to the purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. And whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
You see that martyrdom for love’s sake is taught. And should you wish to be a martyr for the recompense of advantages, you shall hear again. “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” “But if we also suffer for righteousness’ sake,” says Peter, “blessed are we. Be not afraid of their fear, neither be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to him that asks a reason of the hope that is in you, but with meekness and fear, having a good conscience; so that in reference to that for which you are spoken against, they may be ashamed who calumniate your good conversation in Christ. For it is better to suffer for well-doing, if the will of God, than for evil-doing.” But if one should captiously
say, And how is it possible for feeble flesh to resist the energies and spirits of the Powers? well, let him know this, that, confiding in the Almighty and the Lord, we war against the principalities of darkness, and against death. “Whilst thou art yet speaking,” He says, “Lo, here am I.” See the invincible Helper who shields us. “Think it not strange, therefore, concerning the burning sent for your trial, as though some strange thing happened to you; But, as you are partaken in the sufferings of Christ, rejoice; that at the revelation of His glory ye may rejoice exultant. If ye be reproached in the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth on you.” As it is written, “Because for Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.”
“What you wish to ascertain from my mind,
You shall not ascertain, not were you to apply
Horrid saws from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet,
Not were you to load me with chains,”
says a woman acting manfully in the tragedy. And Antigone, contemning the proclamation of Creon, says boldly:—
“It was not Zeus who uttered this proclamation.”
But it is God that makes proclamation to us, and He must be believed. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Wherefore the Scripture saith, “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be put to shame.” Accordingly Simonides justly writes, “It is said that virtue dwells among all but inaccessible rocks, but that she speedily traverses a pure place. Nor is she visible to the eyes of all mortals. He who is not penetrated by heart-vexing sweat will not scale the summit of manliness.” And Pindar says:—
“But the anxious thoughts of youths, revolving with toils,
Will find glory: and in time their deeds
Will in resplendent ether splendid shine.”
Æschylus, too, having grasped this thought, says:—
“To him who toils is due,
As product of his toil, glory from the gods.”
“For great Fates attain great destinies,” according to Heraclitus:—
“And what slave is there, who is careless of death?”
“For God hath not given us the spirit of bondage again to fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind. Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me his prisoner,” he writes to Timothy. Such shall he be “who cleaves to that which is good,” according to the apostle, “who hates evil, having love unfeigned; for he that loveth another fulfilleth the law.” If, then, this God, to whom we bear witness, be as He is, the God of hope, we acknowledge our hope, speeding on to hope, “saturated with goodness, filled with all knowledge.”
The Indian sages say to Alexander of Macedon: “You transport men’s bodies from place to place. But you shall not force our souls to do what we do not wish. Fire is to men the greatest torture, this we despise.” Hence Heraclitus preferred one thing, glory, to all else; and professes “that he allows the crowd to stuff themselves to satiety like cattle.”
“For on account of the body are many toils,
For it we have invented a roofed house,
And discovered how to dig up silver, and sow the land,
And all the rest which we know by names.”
To the multitude, then, this vain labour is desirable. But to us the apostle says, “Now we know this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Does not the apostle then plainly add the following, to show the contempt for faith in the case of the multitude? “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as appointed to death: we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men. Up to this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are beaten, and are feeble, and labour, working with our hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat; we are become as it were the offscourings of the world.” Such also are the words of Plato in the Republic: “The just man, though stretched on the rack, though his eyes are dug out, will be happy.” The Gnostic will never then have the chief end placed in life, but in being always happy and blessed, and a kingly friend of God. Although visited with ignominy and exile, and confiscation, and above all, death, he will never be wrenched from his freedom, and signal love to God. “The charity which bears all things, endures all things,” is assured that Divine Providence orders all things well. “I exhort you,” therefore it is said, “Be followers of me.” The first step to salvation is the instruction accompanied with fear, in consequence of which we abstain from what is wrong; and the second is
hope, by reason of which we desire the best things; but love, as is fitting, perfects, by training now according to knowledge. For the Greeks, I know not how, attributing events to unreasoning necessity, own that they yield to them unwillingly. Accordingly Euripides says:—
“What I declare, receive from me, madam:
No mortal exists who has not toil;
He buries children, and begets others,
And he himself dies. And thus mortals are afflicted.”
Then he adds:—
“We must bear those things which are inevitable
according to nature, and go through them:
Not one of the things which are necessary is formidable for mortals.”
And for those who are aiming at perfection there is proposed the rational gnosis, the foundation of which is “the sacred Triad.” “Faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.” Truly, “all things are lawful, but all things are not expedient,” says the apostle: “all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” And, “Let no one seek his own advantage, but also that of his neighbour,” so as to be able at once to do and to teach, building and building up. For that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” is admitted; but the conscience of the weak is supported. “Conscience, I say, not his own, but that of the other; for why is my liberty judged of by another conscience? For if I by grace am partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the demolition of fortifications, demolishing thoughts, and every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of Christ.” Equipped with these weapons, the Gnostic says: O Lord, give opportunity, and receive demonstration; let this dread event pass; I contemn dangers for the love I bear to Thee.
“Because alone of human things
Virtue receives not a recompense from without,
But has itself as the reward of its toils.”
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness, meekness, long-suffering. And above all these, love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God reign in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be thankful,” ye who, while still in the body, like the just men of old, enjoy impassibility and tranquillity of soul.
Chapter VIII.—Women as Well as Men, Slaves as Well as Freemen, Candidates for the Martyr’s Crown.
Since, then, not only the Æsopians, and Macedonians, and the Lacedæmonians endured when subjected to torture, as Eratosthenes says in his work, On Things Good and Evil; but also Zeno of Elea, when subjected to compulsion to divulge a secret, held out against the tortures, and confessed nothing; who, when expiring, bit out his tongue and spat it at the tyrant, whom some term Nearchus, and some Demulus. Theodotus the Pythagorean acted also similarly, and Paulus the friend of Lacydes, as Timotheus of Pergamus says in his work on The Fortitude of Philosophers, and Achaicus in The Ethics. Posthumus also, the Roman, when captured by Peucetion, did not divulge a single secret; but putting his hand on the fire, held it to it as if to a piece of brass, without moving a muscle of his face. I omit the case of Anaxarchus, who exclaimed, “Pound away at the sack which holds Anaxarchus, for it is not Anaxarchus you are pounding,” when by the tyrant’s orders he was being pounded with iron pestles. Neither, then, the hope of happiness nor the love of God takes what befalls ill, but remains free, although thrown among the wildest beasts or into the all-devouring fire; though racked with a tyrant’s tortures. Depending as it does on the divine favour, it ascends aloft unenslaved, surrendering the body to those who can touch it alone. A barbarous nation, not cumbered with philosophy, select, it is said, annually an ambassador to the hero Zamolxis. Zamolxis was one of the disciples of Pythagoras. The one, then, who is judged of the most sterling worth is put to death, to the distress of those who have practiced philosophy, but have not been selected, at being reckoned unworthy of a happy service.
So the Church is full of those, as well chaste women as men, who all their life have contemplated the death which rouses up to Christ. For the individual whose life is framed as ours is, may philosophize without Learning, whether barbarian, whether Greek, whether slave—whether an old man, or a boy, or a woman. For self-control is common to all human beings who have made choice of it. And we admit that the same nature exists in every race, and the same virtue. As far as respects human nature, the woman does not possess one nature, and the man exhibit another, but the same: so also with virtue. If, consequently, a self-restraint and righteousness, and whatever qualities are regarded as
following them, is the virtue of the male, it belongs to the male alone to be virtuous, and to the woman to be licentious and unjust. But it is offensive even to say this. Accordingly woman is to practice self-restraint and righteousness, and every other virtue, as well as man, both bond and free; since it is a fit consequence that the same nature possesses one and the same virtue. We do not say that woman’s nature is the same as man’s, as she is woman. For undoubtedly it stands to reason that some difference should exist between each of them, in virtue of which one is male and the other female. Pregnancy and parturition, accordingly, we say belong to woman, as she is woman, and not as she is a human being. But if there were no difference between man and woman, both would do and suffer the same things. As then there is sameness, as far as respects the soul, she will attain to the same virtue; but as there is difference as respects the peculiar construction of the body, she is destined for child-bearing and housekeeping. “For I would have you know,” says the apostle, “that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man: for the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. For neither is the woman without the man, nor the man without the woman, in the Lord.” For as we say that the man ought to be continent, and superior to pleasures; so also we reckon that the woman should be continent and practiced in fighting against pleasures. “But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh,” counsels the apostolic command; “for the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. These, then, are contrary” (not as good to evil, but as fighting advantageously), he adds therefore, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornication uncleanness, profligacy, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, strifes, jealousies, wrath, contentions, dissensions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I tell you before, as I have also said before, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, temperance, goodness, faith, meekness.” He calls sinners, as I think, “flesh,” and the righteous “spirit.” Further, manliness is to be assumed in order to produce confidence and forbearance, so as “to him that strikes on the one cheek, to give to him the other; and to him that takes away the cloak, to yield to him the coat also,” strongly, restraining anger. For we do not train our women like Amazons to manliness in war; since we wish the men even to be peaceable. I hear that the Sarmatian women practice war no less than the men; and the women of the Sacæ besides, who shoot backwards, feigning flight as well as the men. I am aware, too, that the women near Iberia practice manly work and toil, not refraining from their tasks even though near their delivery; but even in the very struggle of her pains, the woman, on being delivered, taking up the infant, carries it home. Further, the females no less than the males manage the house, and hunt, and keep the flocks:—
“Cressa the hound ran keenly in the stag’s track.”
Women are therefore to philosophize equally with men, though the males are preferable at everything, unless they have become effeminate. To the whole human race, then, discipline and virtue are a necessity, if they would pursue after happiness. And how recklessly Euripides writes sometimes this and sometimes that! On one occasion, “For every wife is inferior to her husband, though the most excellent one marry her that is of fair fame.” And on another:—
“For the chaste is her husband’s slave,
While she that is unchaste in her folly despises her consort.
. . . . For nothing is better and more excellent,
Than when as husband and wife ye keep house,
Harmonious in your sentiments.”
The ruling power is therefore the head. And if “the Lord is head of the man, and the man is head of the woman,” the man, “being the image and glory of God, is lord of the woman.” Wherefore also in the Epistle to the Ephesians it is written, “Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the Church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Husbands, love your wives, as also Christ loved the Church. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies: he that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” And in that to the Colossians it is said, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, be obedient in all things to those who
are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but with singleness of heart, fearing the Lord. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as serving the Lord and not men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer shall receive the wrong, which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons. Masters, render to your servants justice and equity; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond, free: but Christ is all, and in all.” And the earthly Church is the image of the heavenly, as we pray also “that the will of God may be done upon the earth as in heaven.” “Putting on, therefore, bowels of mercy, gentleness, humbleness, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if one have a quarrel against any man; as also Christ hath forgiven us, so also let us. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which ye are called in one body; and be thankful.” For there is no obstacle to adducing frequently the same Scripture in order to put Marcion to the blush, if perchance he be persuaded and converted; by learning that the faithful ought to be grateful to God the Creator, who hath called us, and who preached the Gospel in the body. From these considerations the unity of the faith is clear, and it is shown who is the perfect man; so that though some are reluctant, and offer as much resistance as they can, though menaced with punishments at the hand of husband or master, both the domestic and the wife will philosophize. Moreover, the free, though threatened with death at a tyrant’s hands, and brought before the tribunals, and all his substances imperilled, will by no means abandon piety; nor will the wife who dwells with a wicked husband, or the son if he has a bad father, or the domestic if he has a bad master, ever fail in holding nobly to virtue. But as it is noble for a man to die for virtue, and for liberty, and for himself, so also is it for a woman. For this is not peculiar to the nature of males, but to the nature of the good. Accordingly, both the old man, the young, and the servant will live faithfully, and if need be die; which will be to be made alive by death. So we know that both children, and women, and servants have often, against their fathers’, and masters’, and husbands’ will, reached the highest degree of excellence. Wherefore those who are determined to live piously ought none the less to exhibit alacrity, when some seem to exercise compulsion on them; but much more, I think, does it become them to show eagerness, and to strive with uncommon vigour, lest, being overcome, they abandon the best and most indispensable counsels. For it does not, I think, admit of comparison, whether it be better to be a follower of the Almighty than to choose the darkness of demons. For the things which are done by us on account of others we are to do always, endeavouring to have respect to those for whose sake it is proper that they be done, regarding the gratification rendered in their case, as what is to be our rule; but the things which are done for our own sake rather than that of others, are to be done with equal earnestness, whether they are like to please certain people or not. If some indifferent things have obtained such honour as to appear worthy of adoption, though against the will of some; much more is virtue to be regarded by us as worth contending for, looking the while to nothing but what can be rightly done, whether it seem good to others or not. Well then, Epicurus, writing to Menœceus, says, “Let not him who is young delay philosophizing, and let not the old man grow weary of philosophizing; for no one is either not of age or past age for attending to the health of his soul. And he who says that the time for philosophizing is not come or is past, is like the man who says that the time for happiness is not come or has gone. So that young as well as old ought to philosophize: the one, in order that, while growing old, he may grow young in good things out of favour accruing from what is past; and the other, that he may be at once young and old, from want of fear for the future.”
Chapter IX.—Christ’s Sayings Respecting Martyrdom.
On martyrdom the Lord hath spoken explicitly, and what is written in different places we bring together. “But I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess in Me before men, the Son of man also shall confess before the angels of God; but whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before the angels.” “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me or of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man also be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with His angels.
Whosoever therefore shall confess in Me before men, him will I also confess before my Father in heaven. “And when they bring you before synagogues, and rulers, and powers, think not beforehand how ye shall make your defence, or what ye shall say. For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what ye must say.” In explanation of this passage, Heracleon, the most distinguished of the school of Valentinians, says expressly, “that there is a confession by faith and conduct, and one with the voice. The confession that is made with the voice, and before the authorities, is what the most reckon the only confession. Not soundly: and hypocrites also can confess with this confession. But neither will this utterance be found to be spoken universally; for all the saved have confessed with the confession made by the voice, and departed. Of whom are Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Levi, and many others. And confession by the lip is not universal, but partial. But that which He specifies now is universal, that which is by deeds and actions corresponding to faith in Him. This confession is followed by that which is partial, that before the authorities, if necessary, and reason dictate. For he will confess rightly with his voice who has first confessed by his disposition. And he has well used, with regard to those who confess, the expression ‘in Me,’ and applied to those who deny the expression‘Me.’ For those, though they confess Him with the voice, yet deny Him, not confessing Him in their conduct. But those alone confess ‘in Him,’ who live in the confession and conduct according to Him, in which He also confesses, who is contained in them and held by them. Wherefore ‘He never can deny Himself.’ And those deny Him who are not in Him. For He said not, ‘Whosoever shall deny’ in Me, but ‘Me.’ For no one who is in Him will ever deny Him. And the expression ‘before men’ applies both to the saved and the heathen similarly by conduct before the one, and by voice before the other. Wherefore they never can deny Him. But those deny Him who are not in Him.” So far Heracleon. And in other things he seems to be of the same sentiments with us in this section; but he has not adverted to this, that if some have not by conduct and in their life “confessed Christ before men,” they are manifested to have believed with the heart; by confessing Him with the mouth at the tribunals, and not denying Him when tortured to the death. And the disposition being confessed, and especially not being changed by death at any time, cuts away all passions which were engendered by corporeal desire. For there is, so to speak, at the close of life a sudden repentance in action, and a true confession toward Christ, in the testimony of the voice. But if the Spirit of the Father testifies in us, how can we be any more hypocrites, who are said to bear testimony with the voice alone? But it will be given to some, if expedient, to make a defence, that by their witness and confession all may be benefited—those in the Church being confirmed, and those of the heathen who have devoted themselves to the search after salvation wondering and being led to the faith; and the rest seized with amazement. So that confession is by all means necessary. For it is in our power. But to make a defence for our faith is not universally necessary. For that does not depend on us. “But he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” For who of those who are wise would not choose to reign in God, and even to serve? So some “confess that they know God,” according to the apostle; “but in works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.” And these, though they confess nothing but this, will have done at the end one good work. Their witness, then, appears to be the cleansing away of sins with glory. For instance, the Shepherd says: “You will escape the energy of the wild beast, if your heart become pure and blameless.” Also the Lord Himself says: “Satan hath desired to sift you; but I have prayed.” Alone, therefore, the Lord, for the purification of the men who plotted against Him and disbelieved Him, “drank the cup;” in imitation of whom the apostles, that they might be in reality Gnostics, and perfect, suffered for the Churches which they founded. So, then, also the Gnostics who tread in the footsteps of the apostles ought to be sinless, and, out of love to the Lord, to love also their brother; so that, if occasion call, enduring without stumbling, afflictions for the Church, “they may drink the cup.” Those who witness in their life by deed, and at the tribunal by word, whether entertaining hope or surmising fear, are better than those who confess salvation by their mouth alone. But if one ascend also to love, he is a really blessed and true martyr, having confessed perfectly both to the commandments and to God, by the Lord; whom having loved, he acknowledged a brother, giving himself up wholly for God, resigning pleasantly and lovingly the man when asked, like a deposit.
Chapter X.—Those Who Offered Themselves for Martyrdom Reproved.
When, again, He says, “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye to the other,” He does not advise flight, as if persecution were an evil thing; nor does He enjoin them by flight to avoid death, as if in dread of it, but wishes us neither to be the authors nor abettors of any evil to any one, either to ourselves or the persecutor and murderer. For He, in a way, bids us take care of ourselves. But he who disobeys is rash and foolhardy. If he who kills a man of God sins against God, he also who presents himself before the judgment-seat becomes guilty of his death. And such is also the case with him who does not avoid persecution, but out of daring presents himself for capture. Such a one, as far as in him lies, becomes an accomplice in the crime of the persecutor. And if he also uses provocation, he is wholly guilty, challenging the wild beast. And similarly, if he afford any cause for conflict or punishment, or retribution or enmity, he gives occasion for persecution. Wherefore, then, we are enjoined not to cling to anything that belongs to this life; but “to him that takes our cloak to give our coat,” not only that we may continue destitute of inordinate affection, but that we may not by retaliating make our persecutors savage against ourselves, and stir them up to blaspheme the name.
Chapter XI.—The Objection, Why Do You Suffer If God Cares for You, Answered.
But, say they, if God cares for you, why are you persecuted and put to death? Has He delivered you to this? No, we do not suppose that the Lord wishes us to be involved in calamities, but that He foretold prophetically what would happen—that we should be persecuted for His name’s sake, slaughtered, and impaled. So that it was not that He wished us to be persecuted, but He intimated beforehand what we shall suffer by the prediction of what would take place, training us to endurance, to which He promised the inheritance, although we are punished not alone, but along with many. But those, it is said, being malefactors, are righteously punished. Accordingly, they unwillingly bear testimony to our righteousness, we being unjustly punished for righteousness’ sake. But the injustice of the judge does not affect the providence of God. For the judge must be master of his own opinion—not pulled by strings, like inanimate machines, set in motion only by external causes. Accordingly he is judged in respect to his judgment, as we also, in accordance with our choice of things desirable, and our endurance. Although we do not wrong, yet the judge looks on us as doing wrong, for he neither knows nor wishes to know about us, but is influenced by unwarranted prejudice; wherefore also he is judged. Accordingly they persecute us, not from the supposition that we are wrong-doers, but imagining that by the very fact of our being Christians we sin against life in so conducting ourselves, and exhorting others to adopt the like life.
But why are you not helped when persecuted? say they. What wrong is done us, as far as we are concerned, in being released by death to go to the Lord, and so undergoing a change of life, as if a change from one time of life to another? Did we think rightly, we should feel obliged to those who have afforded the means for speedy departure, if it is for love that we bear witness; and if not, we should appear to the multitude to be base men. Had they also known the truth, all would have bounded on to the way, and there would have been no choice. But our faith, being the light of the world, reproves unbelief. “Should Anytus and Melitus kill me, they will not hurt me in the least; for I do not think it right for the better to be hurt by the worse,” [says Socrates]. So that each one of us may with confidence say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: what shall man do to me?” “For the souls of the righteous are in the hand of the Lord, and no plague shall touch them.”
Chapter XII.—Basilides’ Idea of Martyrdom Refuted.
Basilides, in the twenty-third book of the Exegetics, respecting those that are punished by martyrdom, expresses himself in the following language: “For I say this, Whosoever fall under the afflictions mentioned, in consequence of unconsciously transgressing in other matters, are brought to this good end by the kindness of Him who brings them, but accused on other grounds; so that they may not suffer as condemned for what are owned to be iniquities, nor reproached as the adulterer or the murderer, but because they are Christians; which will console them, so that they do not appear to suffer. And if one who has not sinned at all incur suffering—a rare case—yet even he will not suffer aught through the machinations of power, but will suffer as the child which seems not to have sinned would suffer.” Then further on he adds: “As, then, the child which has not sinned before, or committed actual sin in itself, but has that which committed sin, when subjected to
suffering, gets good, reaping the advantage of many difficulties; so also, although a perfect man may not have sinned in act, while he endures afflictions, he suffers similarly with the child. Having within him the sinful principle, but not embracing the opportunity of committing sin, he does not sin; so that he is not to be reckoned as not having sinned. For as he who wishes to commit adultery is an adulterer, although he does not succeed in committing adultery; and he that wishes to commit murder is a murderer, although he is unable to kill; so also, if I see the man without sin, whom I specify, suffering, though he have done nothing bad, I should call him bad, on account of his wishing to sin. For I will affirm anything rather than call Providence evil.” Then, in continuation, he says expressly concerning the Lord, as concerning man: “If then, passing from all these observations, you were to proceed to put me to shame by saying, perchance impersonating certain parties, This man has then sinned; for this man has suffered;—if you permit, I will say, He has not sinned; but was like a child suffering. If you were to insist more urgently, I would say, That the man you name is man, but that God is righteous: “For no one is pure,” as one said, ‘from pollution.’” But the hypothesis of Basilides says that the soul, having sinned before in another life, endures punishment in this—the elect soul with honour by martyrdom, the other purged by appropriate punishment. How can this be true, when the confessing and suffering punishment or not depends on ourselves? For in the case of the man who shall deny, Providence, as held by Basilides, is done away with. I will ask him, then, in the case of a confessor who has been arrested, whether he will confess and be punished in virtue of Providence or not? For in the case of denying he will not be punished. But if, for the sake of escaping and evading the necessity of punishing such an one, he shall say that the destruction of those who shall deny is of Providence, he will be a martyr against his will. And how any more is it the case, that there is laid up in heaven the very glorious recompense to him who has witnessed, for his witnessing? If Providence did not permit the sinner to get the length of sinning, it is unjust in both cases; both in not rescuing the man who is dragged to punishment for righteousness’ sake, and in having rescued him who wished to do wrong, he having done it as far as volition was concerned, but [Providence] having prevented the deed, and unjustly favoured the sinner. And how impious, in deifying the devil, and in daring to call the Lord a sinful man! For the devil tempting us, knowing what we are, but not knowing if we will hold out, but wishing to dislodge us from the faith, attempts also to bring us into subjection to himself. Which is all that is allowed to him, partly from the necessity of saving us, who have taken occasion from the commandment, from ourselves; partly for the confusion of him who has tempted and failed; for the confirmation of the members of the Church, and the conscience of those who admire the constancy [displayed]. But if martyrdom be retribution by way of punishment, then also faith and doctrine, on account of which martyrdom comes, are co-operators in punishment—than which, what other absurdity could be greater? But with reference to these dogmas, whether the soul is changed to another body, also of the devil, at the proper time mention will be made. But at present, to what has been already said, let us add the following: Where any more is faith in the retribution of sins committed before martyrdom takes place? And where is love to God, which is persecuted and endures for the truth? And where is the praise of him who has confessed, or the censure of him who has denied? And for what use is right conduct, the mortification of the lusts, and the hating of no creature? But if, as Basilides himself says, we suppose one part of the declared will of God to be the loving of all things because all things bear a relation to the whole, and another “not to lust after anything,” and a third “not to hate anything,” by the will of God these also will be punishments, which it were impious to think. For neither did the Lord suffer by the will of the Father, nor are those who are persecuted persecuted by the will of God; since either of two things is the case: either persecution in consequence of the will of God is a good thing, or those who decree and afflict are guiltless. But nothing is without the will of the Lord of the universe. It remains to say that such things happen without the prevention of God; for this alone saves both the providence and the goodness of God. We must not therefore think that He actively produces afflictions (far be it that we should think this!); but we must be persuaded that He does not prevent those that cause them, but overrules for good the crimes of His enemies: “I will therefore,” He says, “destroy the wall, and it shall be for treading under foot.” Providence being a disciplinary art; in the case of others for each individual’s sins, and in the case of the Lord and His apostles for ours. To this
point says the divine apostle: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication: that each one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, as the Gentiles who know not the Lord: that none of you should overreach or take advantage of his brother in any matter; because the Lord is the avenger in respect of all such, as we also told you before, and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but to holiness. Wherefore he that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given His Holy Spirit to you.” Wherefore the Lord was not prohibited from this sanctification of ours. If, then, one of them were to say, in reply, that the martyr is punished for sins committed before this embodying, and that he will again reap the fruit of his conduct in this life, for that such are the arrangements of the [divine administration], we shall ask him if the retribution takes place by Providence. For if it be not of the divine administration, the economy of expiations is gone, and their hypothesis falls to the ground; but if expiations are by Providence, punishments are by Providence too. But Providence, although it begins, so to speak, to move with the Ruler, yet is implanted in substances along with their origin by the God of the universe. Such being the case, they must confess either that punishment is not just, and those who condemn and persecute the martyrs do right, or that persecutions even are wrought by the will of God. Labour and fear are not, then, as they say, incident to affairs as rust to iron, but come upon the soul through its own will. And on these points there is much to say, which will be reserved for future consideration, taking them up in due course.
Chapter XIII.—Valentinian’s Vagaries About the Abolition of Death Refuted.
Valentinian, in a homily, writes in these words: “Ye are originally immortal, and children of eternal life, and ye would have death distributed to you, that ye may spend and lavish it, and that death may die in you and by you; for when we dissolve the world, and are not yourselves dissolved, ye have dominion over creation and all corruption.” For he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature, and that this different race has come hither to us from above for the abolition of death, and that the origin of death is the work of the Creator of the world. Wherefore also he so expounds that Scripture, “No man shall see the face of God, and live,” as if He were the cause of death. Respecting this God, he makes those allusions when writing in these expressions: “As much as the image is inferior to the living face, so much is the world inferior to the living Æon. What is, then, the cause of the image? The majesty of the face, which exhibits the figure to the painter, to be honoured by his name; for the form is not found exactly to the life, but the name supplies what is wanting in the effigy. The invisibility of God co-operates also in order to the faith of that which has been fashioned.” For the Creator, called God and Father, he designated as “Painter,” and “Wisdom,” whose image that which is formed is, to the glory of the invisible One; since the things which proceed from a pair are complements, and those which proceed from one are images. But since what is seen is no part of Him, the soul comes from what is intermediate, which is different; and this is the inspiration of the different spirit, and generally what is breathed into the soul, which is the image of the spirit. And in general, what is said of the Creator, who was made according to the image, they say was foretold by a sensible image in the book of Genesis respecting the origin of man; and the likeness they transfer to themselves, teaching that the addition of the different spirit was made; unknown to the Creator. When, then, we treat of the unity of the God who is proclaimed in the law, the prophets, and the Gospel, we shall also discuss this; for the topic is supreme. But we must advance to that which is urgent. If for the purpose of doing away with death the peculiar race has come, it is not Christ who has abolished death, unless He also is said to be of the same essence with them. And if He abolished it to this end, that it might not touch the peculiar race, it is not these, the rivals of the Creator, who breathe into the image of their intermediate spirit the life from above—in accordance with the principle of their dogma—that abolish death. But should they say that this takes place by His mother, or should they say that they, along with Christ, war against death, let them own their secret dogma that they have the hardihood to assail the divine power of the Creator, by setting to rights His creation, as if they were superior, endeavouring to save the vital image which He was not able to rescue from corruption. Then the Lord would be superior to God the Creator; for the son would never contend with the father, especially among the gods. But the point that the Creator of all things, the omnipotent Lord, is the Father of the Son, we have deferred till the discussion of these points, in which we have undertaken
to dispute against the heresies, showing that He alone is the God proclaimed by Him.
But the apostle, writing to us with reference to the endurance of afflictions, says, “And this is of God, that it is given to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. If there is therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any communion of spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye may be of the same mind, having the same love, unanimous, thinking one thing. And if he is offered on the sacrifice and service of faith, joying and rejoicing” with the Philippians, to whom the apostle speaks, calling them “fellow-partakers of joy,” how does he say that they are of one soul, and having a soul? Likewise, also, writing respecting Timothy and himself, he says, “For I have no one like-souled, who will nobly care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
Let not the above-mentioned people, then, call us, by way of reproach, “natural men” (ψυκικοί), nor the Phrygians either; for these now call those who do not apply themselves to the new prophecy “natural men” (ψυκικοί), with whom we shall discuss in our remarks on “Prophecy.” The perfect man ought therefore to practice love, and thence to haste to the divine friendship, fulfilling the commandments from love. And loving one’s enemies does not mean loving wickedness, or impiety, or adultery, or theft; but the thief, the impious, the adulterer, not as far as he sins, and in respect of the actions by which he stains the name of man, but as he is a man, and the work of God. Assuredly sin is an activity, not an existence: and therefore it is not a work of God. Now sinners are called enemies of God—enemies, that is, of the commands which they do not obey, as those who obey become friends, the one named so from their fellowship, the others from their estrangement, which is the result of free choice; for there is neither enmity nor sin without the enemy and the sinner. And the command “to covet nothing,” not as if the things to be desired did not belong to us, does not teach us not to entertain desire, as those suppose who teach that the Creator is different from the first God, not as if creation was loathsome and bad (for such opinions are impious). But we say that the things of the world are not our own, not as if they were monstrous, not as if they did not belong to God, the Lord of the universe, but because we do not continue among them for ever; being, in respect of possession, not ours, and passing from one to another in succession; but belonging to us, for whom they were made in respect of use, so long as it is necessary to continue with them. In accordance, therefore, with natural appetite, things disallowed are to be used rightly, avoiding all excess and inordinate affection.
Chapter XIV.—The Love of All, Even of Our Enemies.
How great also is benignity! “Love your enemies,” it is said, “bless them who curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you,” and the like; to which it is added, “that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven,” in allusion to resemblance to God. Again, it is said, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him.” The adversary is not the body, as some would have it, but the devil, and those assimilated to him, who walks along with us in the person of men, who emulate his deeds in this earthly life. It is inevitable, then, that those who confess themselves to belong to Christ, but find themselves in the midst of the devil’s works, suffer the most hostile treatment. For it is written, “Lest he deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officers of Satan’s kingdom.” “For I am persuaded that neither death,” through the assault of persecutors, “nor life” in this world, “nor angels,” the apostate ones, “nor powers” (and Satan’s power is the life which he chose, for such are the powers and principalities of darkness belonging to him), “nor things present,” amid which we exist during the time of life, as the hope entertained by the soldier, and the merchant’s gain, “nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,” in consequence of the energy proper to a man,—opposes the faith of him who acts according to free choice. “Creature” is synonymous with activity, being our work, and such activity “shall not be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You have got a compendious account of the gnostic martyr.
Chapter XV.—On Avoiding Offence.
“We know that we all have knowledge”—common knowledge in common things, and the knowledge that there is one God. For he was writing to believers; whence he adds, “But knowledge (gnosis) is not in all,” being communicated to few. And there are those who say that the knowledge about things sacrificed to idols is not promulgated among all, “lest our liberty prove a stumbling-block to the weak. For by thy knowledge he that is weak is destroyed.” Should they say, “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, ought that to be bought?” adding, by way of interrogation, “asking no questions,” as if equivalent to “asking questions,” they give a ridiculous interpretation. For the apostle says, “All other things buy out of the shambles, asking no questions,” with the exception of the things mentioned in the Catholic epistle of all the apostles, “with the consent of the Holy Ghost,” which is written in the Acts of the Apostles, and conveyed to the faithful by the hands of Paul himself. For they intimated “that they must of necessity abstain from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication, from which keeping themselves, they should do well.” It is a different matter, then, which is expressed by the apostle: “Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as the rest of the apostles, as the brethren of the Lord and Cephas? But we have not used this power,” he says, “but bear all things, lest we should occasion hindrance to the Gospel of Christ;” namely, by bearing about burdens, when it was necessary to be untrammelled for all things; or to become an example to those who wish to exercise temperance, not encouraging each other to eat greedily of what is set before us, and not to consort inconsiderately with woman. And especially is it incumbent on those entrusted with such a dispensation to exhibit to disciples a pure example. “For though I be free from all men, I have made myself servant to all,” it is said, “that I might gain all. And every one that striveth for mastery is temperate in all things.” “But the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” For conscience’ sake, then, we are to abstain from what we ought to abstain. “Conscience, I say, not his own,” for it is endued with knowledge, “but that of the other,” lest he be trained badly, and by imitating in ignorance what he knows not, he become a despiser instead of a strong-minded man. “For why is my liberty judged of by another conscience? For if I by grace am a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God”—what you are commanded to do by the rule of faith.
Chapter XVI.—Passages of Scripture Respecting the Constancy, Patience, and Love of the Martyrs.
“With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Wherefore the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed; that is, the word of faith which we preach: for if thou confess the word with thy mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” There is clearly described the perfect righteousness, fulfilled both in practice and contemplation. Wherefore we are “to bless those who persecute us. Bless, and curse not.” “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of a good conscience, that in holiness and sincerity we know God” by this inconsiderable instance exhibiting the work of love, that “not in fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” So far the apostle respecting knowledge; and in the second Epistle to the Corinthians he calls the common “teaching of faith” the savour of knowledge. “For unto this day the same veil remains on many in the reading of the Old Testament,” not being uncovered by turning to the Lord. Wherefore also to those capable of perceiving he showed resurrection, that of the life still in the flesh, creeping on its belly. Whence also he applied the name “brood of vipers” to the voluptuous, who serve the belly and the pudenda, and cut off one another’s heads for the sake of worldly pleasures. “Little children, let us not love in word, or in tongue,” says John, teaching them to be perfect, “but in deed and in truth; hereby shall we know that we are of the truth.” And if “God be love,” piety also is love: “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” And again, to him who desires to become a Gnostic, it is written, “But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in love, in faith, in purity.” For perfection in faith differs, I think, from ordinary faith. And the divine apostle furnishes the rule for the Gnostic in these words, writing as follows: “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to lack. I can do all things through Him who strengtheneth me.” And also when discussing with others in order to put them, to shame, he does not shrink from saying, “But call to mind the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of
afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazing-stock, both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took with joy the spoiling of your goods, knowing that you have a better and enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after doing the will of God, ye may obtain the promise. For yet a little while, and He that cometh will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: and if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” He then brings forward a swarm of divine examples. For was it not “by faith,” he says, this endurance, that they acted nobly who “had trial of mockeries and scourgings, and, moreover, of bonds and imprisonments? They were stoned, they were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts, in mountains, in dens, and caves of the earth. And all having received a good report, through faith, received not the promise of God” (what is expressed by a parasiopesis is left to be understood, viz., “alone”). He adds accordingly, “God having provided some better thing for us (for He was good), that they should not without us be made perfect. Wherefore also, having encompassing us such a cloud,” holy and transparent, “of witnesses, laying aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, let us run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Since, then, he specifies one salvation in Christ of the righteous, and of us he has expressed the former unambiguously, and saying nothing less respecting Moses, adds, “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect to the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” The divine Wisdom says of the martyrs, “They seemed in the eyes of the foolish to die, and their departure was reckoned a calamity, and their migration from us an affliction. But they are in peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope was full of immortality.” He then adds, teaching martyrdom to be a glorious purification, “And being chastened a little, they shall be benefited much; because God proved them,” that is, suffered them to be tried, to put them to the proof, and to put to shame the author of their trial, “and found them worthy of Himself,” plainly to be called sons. “As gold in the furnace He proved them, and as a whole burned-offering of sacrifice He accepted them. And in the time of their visitation they will shine forth, even as sparks run along the stubble. They shall judge the nations, and rule over the peoples, and the Lord shall reign over them forever.”
Chapter XVII.—Passages from Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians on Martyrdom.
Moreover, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Clement also, drawing a picture of the Gnostic, says: “For who that has sojourned among you has not proved your perfect and firm faith? and has not admired your sound and gentle piety? and has not celebrated the munificent style of your hospitality? and has not felicitated your complete and sure knowledge? For ye did all things impartially, and walked in the ordinances of God;” and so forth.
Then more clearly: “Let us fix our eyes on those who have yielded perfect service to His magnificent glory. Let us take Enoch, who, being by his obedience found righteous, was translated; and Noah, who, having believed, was saved; and Abraham, who for his faith and hospitality was called the friend of God, and was the father of Isaac.” “For hospitality and piety, Lot was saved from Sodom.” “For faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved.” “From patience and faith they walked about in goat-skins, and sheep-skins, and folds of camels’ hair, proclaiming the kingdom of Christ. We name His prophets Elias, and Eliseus, and Ezekiel, and John.”
“For Abraham, who for his free faith was called ‘the friend of God,’ was not elated by glory, but modestly said, ‘I am dust and ashes.’ And of Job it is thus written: ‘Job was just and blameless, true and pious, abstaining from all evil.’” He it was who overcame the tempter by patience, and at once testified and was testified to by God; who keeps hold of humility, and says, “No one is pure from defilement, not even if his life were but for one day.” “Moses, ‘the servant who was faithful in all his house,’ said to Him who uttered the oracles from the bush, ‘Who am I, that Thou sendest me? I am slow of speech, and of a stammering tongue,’ to minister the voice of God in human speech. And again: ‘I am smoke from a pot.’” “For
God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”
“David too, of whom the Lord, testifying, says, ‘I found a man after my own heart, David the son of Jesse. With my holy oil I anointed him.’ But he also says to God, ‘Pity me, O God, according to Thy mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.’” Then, alluding to sin which is not subject to the law, in the exercise of the moderation of true knowledge, he adds, “Against Thee only have I sinned, and done evil in Thy sight.” For the Scripture somewhere says, “The Spirit of the Lord is a lamp, searching the recesses of the belly.” And the more of a Gnostic a man becomes by doing right, the nearer is the illuminating Spirit to him. “Thus the Lord draws near to the righteous, and none of the thoughts and reasonings of which we are the authors escape Him—I mean the Lord Jesus,” the scrutinizer by His omnipotent will of our heart, “whose blood was consecrated for us. Let us therefore respect those who are over us, and reverence the elders; let us honour the young, and let us teach the discipline of God.” For blessed is he who shall do and teach the Lord’s commands worthily; and he is of a magnanimous mind, and of a mind contemplative of truth. “Let us direct our wives to what is good; let them exhibit,” says he, “the lovable disposition of chastity; let them show the guileless will of their meekness; let them manifest the gentleness of their tongue by silence; let them give their love not according to their inclinations, but equal love in sanctity to all that fear God. Let our children share in the discipline that is in Christ; let them learn what humility avails before God; what is the power of holy love before God, how lovely and great is the fear of the Lord, saving all that walk in it holily; with a pure heart: for He is the Searcher of the thoughts and sentiments, whose breath is in us, and when He wills He will take it away.”
“Now all those things are confirmed by the faith that is in Christ.‘Come, ye children,’ says the Lord, ‘hearken to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man that desireth life, that loveth to see good days? ’ Then He subjoins the gnostic mystery of the numbers seven and eight.‘Stop thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it.’ For in these words He alludes to knowledge (gnosis), with abstinence from evil and the doing of what is good, teaching that it is to be perfected by word and deed. ‘The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are to their prayer. But the face of God is against those that do evil, to root out their memory from the earth. The righteous cried, and the Lord heard, and delivered him out of all his distresses.’ ‘Many are the stripes of sinners; but those who hope in the Lord, mercy shall compass about.’” “A multitude of mercy,” he nobly says, “surrounds him that trusts in the Lord.”
For it is written in the Epistle to the Corinthians, “Through Jesus Christ our foolish and darkened mind springs up to the light. By Him the Sovereign Lord wished us to taste the knowledge that is immortal.” And, showing more expressly the peculiar nature of knowledge, he added: “These things, then, being clear to us, looking into the depths of divine knowledge, we ought to do all things in order which the Sovereign Lord commanded us to perform at the appointed seasons. Let the wise man, then, show his wisdom not in words only, but in good deeds. Let the humble not testify to himself, but allow testimony to be borne to him by another. Let not him who is pure in the flesh boast, knowing that it is another who furnishes him with continence. Ye see, brethren, that the more we are subjected to peril, the more knowledge are we counted worthy of.”
Chapter XVIII.—On Love, and the Repressing of Our Desires.
“The decorous tendency of our philanthropy, therefore,” according to Clement, “seeks the common good;” whether by suffering martyrdom, or by teaching by deed and word,—the latter being twofold, unwritten and written. This is love, to love God and our neighbour. “This conducts to the height which is unutterable. ‘Love covers a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, suffereth all things.’ Love joins us to God, does all things in concord. In love, all the chosen of God were perfected. Apart from love, nothing is well pleasing to God.” “Of its perfection there is no unfolding,” it is said. “Who is fit to be found in it, except those whom God counts worthy?” To the point the Apostle Paul speaks, “If I give my body, and have not love, I am sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal.” If it is not from a disposition determined by gnostic love that I shall testify, he means;
but if through fear and expected reward, moving my lips in order to testify to the Lord that I shall confess the Lord, I am a common man, sounding the Lord’s name, not knowing Him. “For there is the people that loveth with the lips; and there is another which gives the body to be burned.” “And if I give all my goods in alms,” he says, not according to the principle of loving communication, but on account of recompense, either from him who has received the benefit, or the Lord who has promised; “and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains,” and cast away obscuring passions, and be not faithful to the Lord from love, “I am nothing,” as in comparison of him who testifies as a Gnostic, and the crowd, and being reckoned nothing better.
“Now all the generations from Adam to this day are gone. But they who have been perfected in love, through the grace of God, hold the place of the godly, who shall be manifested at the visitation of the kingdom of Christ.” Love permits not to sin; but if it fall into any such case, by reason of the interference of the adversary, in imitation of David, it will sing: “I will confess unto the Lord, and it will please Him above a young bullock that has horns and hoofs. Let the poor see it, and be glad.” For he says, “Sacrifice to God a sacrifice of praise, and pay to the Lord thy vows; and call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” “For the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.”
“God,” then, being good, “is love,” it is said. Whose “love worketh no ill to his neighbour,” neither injuring nor revenging ever, but, in a word, doing good to all according to the image of God. “Love is,” then, “the fulfilling of the law;” like as Christ, that is the presence of the Lord who loves us; and our loving teaching of, and discipline according to Christ. By love, then, the commands not to commit adultery, and not to covet one’s neighbour’s wife, are fulfilled, [these sins being] formerly prohibited by fear.
The same work, then, presents a difference, according as it is done by fear, or accomplished by love, and is wrought by faith or by knowledge. Rightly, therefore, their rewards are different. To the Gnostic “are prepared what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man;” but to him who has exercised simple faith He testifies a hundredfold in return for what he has left,—a promise which has turned out to fall within human comprehension.
Come to this point, I recollect one who called himself a Gnostic. For, expounding the words, “But I say unto you, he that looketh on a woman to lust after, hath committed adultery,” he thought that it was not bare desire that was condemned; but if through the desire the act that results from it proceeding beyond the desire is accomplished in it. For dream employs phantasy and the body. Accordingly, the historians relate the following decision of Bocchoris the just. A youth, falling in love with a courtezan, persuades the girl, for a stipulated reward, to come to him next day. But his desire being unexpectedly satiated, by laying hold of the girl in a dream, by anticipation, when the object of his love came according to stipulation, he prohibited her from coming in. But she, on learning what had taken place, demanded the reward, saying that in this way she had sated the lover’s desire. They came accordingly to the judge. He, ordering the youth to hold out the purse containing the reward in the sun, bade the courtezan take hold of the shadow; facetiously bidding him pay the image of a reward for the image of an embrace.
Accordingly one dreams, the soul assenting to the vision. But he dreams waking, who looks so as to lust; not only, as that Gnostic said, if along with the sight of the woman he imagine in his mind intercourse, for this is already the act of lust, as lust; but if one looks on beauty of person (the Word says), and the flesh seem to him in the way of lust to be fair, looking on carnally and sinfully, he is judged because he admired. For, on the other hand, he who in chaste love looks on beauty, thinks not that the flesh is beautiful, but the spirit, admiring, as I judge, the body as an image, by whose beauty he transports himself to the Artist, and to the true beauty; exhibiting the sacred symbol, the bright impress of righteousness to the angels that wait on the ascension; I mean the unction of acceptance, the quality of disposition which resides in the soul that is gladdened by the communication of the Holy Spirit. This glory, which shone forth on the face of Moses, the people could not look on. Wherefore he took a veil for the glory, to those who looked carnally. For those, who demand toll, detain those who bring in any worldly things, who are burdened with their own passions. But him that is free of all things which are subject to duty, and is full of knowledge, and of the righteousness of works, they pass on with their good wishes, blessing the man with his work. “And his life shall not fall away”—the leaf of the living tree that is nourished “by the water-courses.” Now
the righteous is likened to fruit-bearing trees, and not only to such as are of the nature of tall-growing ones. And in the sacrificial oblations, according to the law, there were those who looked for blemishes in the sacrifices. They who are skilled in such matters distinguish propension (ὄρεξις) from lust (ἐπιθυμία); and assign the latter, as being irrational, to pleasures and licentiousness; and propension, as being a rational movement, they assign to the necessities of nature.
Chap. XIX.—Women as well as Men Capable of Perfection.
In this perfection it is possible for man and woman equally to share. It is not only Moses, then, that heard from God, “I have spoken to thee once, and twice, saying, I have seen this people, and lo, it is stiff-necked. Suffer me to exterminate them, and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make thee into a great and wonderful nation much greater than this;” who answers not regarding himself, but the common salvation: “By no means, O Lord; forgive this people their sin, or blot me out of the book of the living.” How great was his perfection, in wishing to die together with the people, rather than be saved alone!
But Judith too, who became perfect among women, in the siege of the city, at the entreaty of the elders went forth into the strangers’ camp, despising all danger for her country’s sake, giving herself into the enemy’s hand in faith in God; and straightway she obtained the reward of her faith,—though a woman, prevailing over the enemy of her faith, and gaining possession of the head of Holofernes. And again, Esther perfect by faith, who rescued Israel from the power of the king and the satrap’s cruelty: a woman alone, afflicted with fastings, held back ten thousand armed hands, annulling by her faith the tyrant’s decree; him indeed she appeased, Haman she restrained, and Israel she preserved scathless by her perfect prayer to God. I pass over in silence Susanna and the sister of Moses, since the latter was the prophet’s associate in commanding the host, being superior to all the women among the Hebrews who were in repute for their wisdom; and the former in her surpassing modesty, going even to death condemned by licentious admirers, remained the unwavering martyr of chastity.
Dion, too, the philosopher, tells that a certain woman Lysidica, through excess of modesty, bathed in her clothes; and that Philotera, when she was to enter the bath, gradually drew back her tunic as the water covered the naked parts; and then rising by degrees, put it on. And did not Leæna of Attica manfully bear the torture? She being privy to the conspiracy of Harmodius and Aristogeiton against Hipparchus, uttered not a word, though severely tortured. And they say that the Argolic women, under the guidance of Telesilla the poetess, turned to flight the doughty Spartans by merely showing themselves; and that she produced in them fearlessness of death. Similarly speaks he who composed the Danais respecting the daughters of Danaus:—
“And then the daughters of Danaus swiftly armed themselves,
Before the fair-flowing river, majestic Nile,”
and so forth.
And the rest of the poets sing of Atalanta’s swiftness in the chase, of Anticlea’s love for children, of Alcestis’s love for her husband, of the courage of Makæria and of the Hyacinthides. What shall I say? Did not Theano the Pythagorean make such progress in philosophy, that to him who looked intently at her, and said, “Your arm is beautiful,” she answered “Yes, but it is not public.” Characterized by the same propriety, there is also reported the following reply. When asked when a woman after being with her husband attends the Thesmophoria, said, “From her own husband at once, from a stranger never.” Themisto too, of Lampsacus, the daughter of Zoilus, the wife of Leontes of Lampsacus, studied the Epicurean philosophy, as Myia the daughter of Theano the Pythagorean, and Arignote, who wrote the history of Dionysius.
And the daughters of Diodorus, who was called Kronus, all became dialecticians, as Philo the dialectician says in the Menexenus, whose names are mentioned as follows—Menexene, Argia, Theognis, Artemesia, Pantaclea. I also recollect a female Cynic,—she was called Hipparchia, a Maronite, the wife of Crates,—in whose case the so-called dog-wedding was celebrated in the Pœcile. Arete of Cyrene, too, the daughter of Aristippus, educated her son Aristippus, who was surnamed Mother-taught. Lastheneia of Arcis, and Axiothea of Phlius, studied philosophy with Plato. Besides, Aspasia of Miletus, of whom the writers of comedy write much, was trained by Socrates in philosophy, by Pericles in rhetoric. I omit, on account of the length of the discourse, the rest; enumerating neither the poetesses Corinna, Telesilla, Myia, and Sappho; nor the painters, as Irene the daughter of Cratinus, and Anaxandra the daughter of Nealces, according to the account of
Didymus in the Symposiaci. The daughter of Cleobulus, the sage and monarch of the Lindii, was not ashamed to wash the feet of her father’s guests. Also the wife of Abraham, the blessed Sarah, in her own person prepared the cakes baked in the ashes for the angels; and princely maidens among the Hebrews fed sheep. Whence also the Nausicaä of Homer went to the washing-tubs.
The wise woman, then, will first choose to persuade her husband to be her associate in what is conducive to happiness. And should that be found impracticable, let her by herself earnestly aim at virtue, gaining her husband’s consent in everything, so as never to do anything against his will, with exception of what is reckoned as contributing to virtue and salvation. But if one keeps from such a mode of life either wife or maid-servant, whose heart is set on it; what such a person in that case plainly does is nothing else than determine to drive her away from righteousness and sobriety, and to choose to make his own house wicked and licentious.
It is not then possible that man or woman can be conversant with anything whatever, without the advantage of education, and application, and training; and virtue, we have said, depends not on others, but on ourselves above all. Other things one can repress, by waging war against them; but with what depends on one’s self, this is entirely out of the question, even with the most strenuous persistence. For the gift is one conferred by God, and not in the power of any other. Whence licentiousness should be regarded as the evil of no other one than of him who is guilty of licentiousness; and temperance, on the other hand, as the good of him who is able to practice it.
Chapter XX.—A Good Wife.
The woman who, with propriety, loves her husband, Euripides describes, while admonishing,—
“That when her husband says aught,
She ought to regard him as speaking well if she say nothing;
And if she will say anything, to do her endeavour to gratify her husband.”
And again he subjoins the like:—
“And that the wife should sweetly look sad with her husband,
Should aught evil befall him,
And have in common a share of sorrow and joy.”
Then, describing her as gentle and kind even in misfortunes, he adds:—
“And I, when you are ill, will, sharing your
sickness bear it;
And I will bear my share in your misfortunes.”
“Nothing is bitter to me,
For with friends one ought to be happy,
For what else is friendship but this?”
The marriage, then, that is consummated according to the word, is sanctified, if the union be under subjection to God, and be conducted “with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and the body washed with pure water, and holding the confession of hope; for He is faithful that promised.” And the happiness of marriage ought never to be estimated either by wealth or beauty, but by virtue.
“Beauty,” says the tragedy,—
“Helps no wife with her husband;
But virtue has helped many; for every good wife
Who is attached to her husband knows how to practice sobriety.”
Then, as giving admonitions, he says:—
“First, then, this is incumbent on her who is endowed
That even if her husband be ugly, he must appear good-looking;
For it is for the mind, not the eye, to judge.”
And so forth.
For with perfect propriety Scripture has said that woman is given by God as “an help” to man. It is evident, then, in my opinion, that she will charge herself with remedying, by good sense and persuasion, each of the annoyances that originate with her husband in domestic economy. And if he do not yield, then she will endeavour, as far as possible for human nature, to lead a sinless life; whether it be necessary to die, in accordance with reason, or to live; considering that God is her helper and associate in such a course of conduct, her true defender and Saviour both for the present and for the future; making Him the leader and guide of all her actions, reckoning sobriety and righteousness her work, and making the favour of God her end. Gracefully, therefore, the apostle says in the Epistle to Titus, “that the elder women should be of godly behaviour, should not be slanderers, not enslaved to much wine; that they should counsel the young women to be lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, discreet, chaste, housekeepers, good, subject to their own husbands; that the word of God be not blasphemed.” But rather, he says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently, lest there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel surrendered his birth-right; and lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” And then, as putting the finishing stroke to the question about marriage, he adds: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
And one aim and one end, as far as regards perfection, being demonstrated to belong to the man and the woman, Peter in his Epistle says, “Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than that of gold which perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ; whom, having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Wherefore also Paul rejoices for Christ’s sake that he was “in labours, more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft.”
Chapter XXI.—Description of the Perfect Man, or Gnostic.
Here I find perfection apprehended variously in relation to Him who excels in every virtue. Accordingly one is perfected as pious, and as patient, and as continent, and as a worker, and as a martyr, and as a Gnostic. But I know no one of men perfect in all things at once, while still human, though according to the mere letter of the law, except Him alone who for us clothed Himself with humanity. Who then is perfect? He who professes abstinence from what is bad. Well, this is the way to the Gospel and to well-doing. But gnostic perfection in the case of the legal man is the acceptance of the Gospel, that he that is after the law may be perfect. For so he, who was after the law, Moses, foretold that it was necessary to hear in order that we might, according to the apostle, receive Christ, the fulness of the law. But now in the Gospel the Gnostic attains proficiency not only by making use of the law as a step, but by understanding and comprehending it, as the Lord who gave the Covenants delivered it to the apostles. And if he conduct himself rightly (as assuredly it is impossible to attain knowledge (gnosis) by bad conduct); and if, further, having made an eminently right confession, he become a martyr out of love, obtaining considerable renown as among men; not even thus will he be called perfect in the flesh beforehand; since it is the close of life which claims this appellation, when the gnostic martyr has first shown the perfect work, and rightly exhibited it, and having thankfully shed his blood, has yielded up the ghost: blessed then will he be, and truly proclaimed perfect, “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us,” as the apostle says. Only let us preserve free-will and love: “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” For those who strive after perfection, according to the same apostle, must “give no offence in anything, but in everything approve themselves not to men, but to God.” And, as a consequence, also they ought to yield to men; for it is reasonable, on account of abusive calumnies. Here is the specification: “in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, in pureness, in knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Ghost, in love unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God,” that we may be the temples of God, purified “from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit.” “And I,” He says, “will receive you; and I will be to you for a Father, and ye shall be to Me for sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” “Let us then,” he says, “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” For though fear beget pain, “I rejoice,” he says, “not that ye were made sorry, but that ye showed susceptibility to repentance. For ye sorrowed after a godly sort, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For this same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what earnestness it wrought in you; yea, what clearing of yourselves; yea, what compunction; yea, what fear; yea, what desire; yea, what zeal; yea, revenge! In all things ye have showed yourselves clear in the matter.” Such are the preparatory exercises of gnostic discipline. And since the omnipotent God Himself “gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;” we are then to strive to reach manhood as befits the Gnostic, and to be as perfect as we can while still abiding in the flesh, making it our study with perfect concord here to concur with the will of God, to the restoration of what is the truly perfect nobleness and relationship, to the fulness of Christ, that which perfectly depends on our perfection.
And now we perceive where, and how, and when the divine apostle mentions the perfect man, and how he shows the differences of the perfect. And again, on the other hand: “The
manifestation of the Spirit is given for our profit. For to one is given the word of wisdom by the Spirit; to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith through the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing through the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another diversities of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: and all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, distributing to each one according as He wills.” Such being the case, the prophets are perfect in prophecy, the righteous in righteousness, and the martyrs in confession, and others in preaching, not that they are not sharers in the common virtues, but are proficient in those to which they are appointed. For what man in his senses would say that a prophet was not righteous? For what? did not righteous men like Abraham prophesy?
“For to one God has given warlike deeds,
To another the accomplishment of the dance,
To another the lyre and song,”
says Homer. “But each has his own proper gift of God”—one in one way, another in another. But the apostles were perfected in all. You will find, then, if you choose, in their acts and writings, knowledge, life, preaching, righteousness, purity, prophecy. We must know, then, that if Paul is young in respect to time—having flourished immediately after the Lord’s ascension—yet his writings depend on the Old Testament, breathing and speaking of them. For faith in Christ and the knowledge of the Gospel are the explanation and fulfilment of the law; and therefore it was said to the Hebrews, “If ye believe not, neither shall you understand;” that is, unless you believe what is prophesied in the law, and oracularly delivered by the law, you will not understand the Old Testament, which He by His coming expounded.
Chapter XXII.—The True Gnostic Does Good, Not from Fear of Punishment or Hope of Reward, But Only for the Sake of Good Itself.
The man of understanding and perspicacity is, then, a Gnostic. And his business is not abstinence from what is evil (for this is a step to the highest perfection), or the doing of good out of fear. For it is written, “Whither shall I flee, and where shall I hide myself from Thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I go away to the uttermost parts of the sea, there is Thy right hand; if I go down into the depths, there is Thy Spirit.” Nor any more is he to do so from hope of promised recompense. For it is said, “Behold the Lord, and His reward is before His face, to give to every one according to his works; what eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard, and hath not entered into the heart of man what God hath prepared for them that love Him.” But only the doing of good out of love, and for the sake of its own excellence, is to be the Gnostic’s choice. Now, in the person of God it is said to the Lord, “Ask of Me, and I will give the heathen for Thine inheritance;” teaching Him to ask a truly regal request—that is, the salvation of men without price, that we may inherit and possess the Lord. For, on the contrary, to desire knowledge about God for any practical purpose, that this may be done, or that may not be done, is not proper to the Gnostic; but the knowledge itself suffices as the reason for contemplation. For I will dare aver that it is not because he wishes to be saved that he, who devotes himself to knowledge for the sake of the divine science itself, chooses knowledge. For the exertion of the intellect by exercise is prolonged to a perpetual exertion. And the perpetual exertion of the intellect is the essence of an intelligent being, which results from an uninterrupted process of admixture, and remains eternal contemplation, a living substance. Could we, then, suppose any one proposing to the Gnostic whether he would choose the knowledge of God or everlasting salvation; and if these, which are entirely identical, were separable, he would without the least hesitation choose the knowledge of God, deeming that property of faith, which from love ascends to knowledge, desirable, for its own sake. This, then, is the perfect man’s first form of doing good, when it is done not for any advantage in what pertains to him, but because he judges it right to do good; and the energy being vigorously exerted in all things, in the very act becomes good; not, good in some things, and not good in others; but consisting in the habit of doing good, neither for glory, nor, as the philosophers say, for reputation, nor from reward either from men or God; but so as to pass life after the image and likeness of the Lord.
And if, in doing good, he be met with anything adverse, he will let the recompense pass without resentment as if it were good, he being just and good “to the just and the unjust.” To such the Lord says, “Be ye, as your Father is perfect.”
To him the flesh is dead; but he himself lives alone, having consecrated the sepulchre into a holy temple to the Lord, having turned towards God the old sinful soul.
Such an one is no longer continent, but has
reached a state of passionlessness, waiting to put on the divine image. “If thou doest alms,” it is said, “let no one know it; and if thou fastest, anoint thyself, that God alone may know,” and not a single human being. Not even he himself who shows mercy ought to know that he does show mercy; for in this way he will be sometimes merciful, sometimes not. And when he shall do good by habit, he will imitate the nature of good, and his disposition will be his nature and his practice. There is no necessity for removing those who are raised on high, but there is necessity for those who are walking to reach the requisite goal, by passing over the whole of the narrow way. For this is to be drawn by the Father, to become worthy to receive the power of grace from God, so as to run without hindrance. And if some hate the elect, such an one knows their ignorance, and pities their minds for its folly.
As is right, then, knowledge itself loves and teaches the ignorant, and instructs the whole creation to honour God Almighty. And if such an one teaches to love God, he will not hold virtue as a thing to be lost in any case, either awake or in a dream, or in any vision; since the habit never goes out of itself by falling from being a habit. Whether, then, knowledge be said to be habit or disposition; on account of diverse sentiments never obtaining access, the guiding faculty, remaining unaltered, admits no alteration of appearances by framing in dreams visionary conceptions out of its movements by day. Wherefore also the Lord enjoins “to watch,” so that our soul may never be perturbed with passion, even in dreams; but also to keep the life of the night pure and stainless, as if spent in the day. For assimilation to God, as far as we can, is preserving the mind in its relation to the same things. And this is the relation of mind as mind.
But the variety of disposition arises from inordinate affection to material things. And for this reason, as they appear to me, to have called night Euphrone; since then the soul, released from the perceptions of sense, turns in on itself, and has a truer hold of intelligence (φρόνησις). Wherefore the mysteries are for the most part celebrated by night, indicating the withdrawal of the soul from the body, which takes place by night. “Let us not then sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunken, are drunken in the night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as an helmet the hope of salvation.” And as to what, again, they say of sleep, the very same things are to be understood of death. For each exhibits the departure of the soul, the one more, the other less; as we may also get this in Heraclitus: “Man touches night in himself, when dead and his light quenched; and alive, when he sleeps he touches the dead; and awake, when he shuts his eyes, he touches the sleeper.” “For blessed are those that have seen the Lord,” according to the apostle; “for it is high time to awake out of sleep. For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.” By day and light he designates figuratively the Son, and by the armour of light metaphorically the promises.
So it is said that we ought to go washed to sacrifices and prayers, clean and bright; and that this external adornment and purification are practiced for a sign. Now purity is to think holy thoughts. Further, there is the image of baptism, which also was handed down to the poets from Moses as follows:—
“And she having drawn water,
and wearing on her body clean clothes.”
It is Penelope that is going to prayer:—
Having washed his hands in the hoary sea, prayed to Athene.”
It was a custom of the Jews to wash frequently after being in bed. It was then well said,—
“Be pure, not by washing of water, but in the mind.”
For sanctity, as I conceive it, is perfect pureness of mind, and deeds, and thoughts, and words too, and in its last degree sinlessness in dreams.
And sufficient purification to a man, I reckon, is thorough and sure repentance. If, condemning ourselves for our former actions, we go forward, after these things taking thought, and divesting our mind both of the things which please us through the senses, and of our former transgressions.
If, then, we are to give the etymology of ἐπιστήμη, knowledge, its signification is to be derived from στάσις, placing; for our soul, which was formerly borne, now in one way, now in another, it settles in objects. Similarly faith is to be explained etymologically, as the settling (στάσις) of our soul respecting that which is.
But we desire to learn about the man who is always and in all things righteous; who, neither dreading the penalty proceeding from the law,
nor fearing to entertain hatred of evil in the case of those who live with him and who prosecute the injured, nor dreading danger at the hands of those who do wrong, remains righteous. For he who, on account of these considerations, abstains from anything wrong, is not voluntarily kind, but is good from fear. Even Epicurus says, that the man who in his estimation was wise, “would not do wrong to any one for the sake of gain; for he could not persuade himself that he would escape detection.” So that, if he knew he would not be detected, he would, according to him, do evil. And such are the doctrines of darkness. If, too, one shall abstain from doing wrong from hope of the recompense given by God on account of righteous deeds, he is not on this supposition spontaneously good. For as fear makes that man just, so reward makes this one; or rather, makes him appear to be just. But with the hope after death—a good hope to the good, to the bad the reverse—not only they who follow after Barbarian wisdom, but also the Pythagoreans, are acquainted. For the latter also proposed hope as an end to those who philosophize. Whereas Socrates also, in the Phædo, says “that good souls depart hence with a good hope;” and again, denouncing the wicked, he sets against this the assertion, “For they live with an evil hope.” With him Heraclitus manifestly agrees in his dissertations concerning men: “There awaits man after death what they neither hope nor think.” Divinely, therefore, Paul writes expressly, “Tribulation worketh, patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed.” For the patience is on account of the hope in the future. Now hope is synonymous with the recompense and restitution of hope; which maketh not ashamed, not being any more vilified.
But he who obeys the mere call, as he is called, neither for fear, nor for enjoyments, is on his way to knowledge (γνῶσις). For he does not consider whether any extrinsic lucrative gain or enjoyment follows to him; but drawn by the love of Him who is the true object of love, and led to what is requisite, practices piety. So that not even were we to suppose him to receive from God leave to do things forbidden with impunity; not even if he were to get the promise that he would receive as a reward the good things of the blessed; but besides, not even if he could persuade himself that God would be hoodwinked with reference to what he does (which is impossible), would he ever wish to do aught contrary to right reason, having once made choice of what is truly good and worthy of choice on its own account, and therefore to be loved. For it is not in the food of the belly, that we have heard good to be situated. But he has heard that “meat will not commend us,” nor marriage, nor abstinence from marriage in ignorance; but virtuous gnostic conduct. For the dog, which is an irrational animal, may be said to be continent, dreading as it does the uplifted stick, and therefore keeping away from the meat. But let the predicted promise be taken away, and the threatened dread cancelled, and the impending danger removed, and the disposition of such people will be revealed.
Chapter XXIII.—The Same Subject Continued.
For it is not suitable to the nature of the thing itself, that they should apprehend in the truly gnostic manner the truth, that all things which were created for our use are good; as, for example, marriage and procreation, when used in moderation; and that it is better than good to become free of passion, and virtuous by assimilation to the divine. But in the case of external things, agreeable or disagreeable, from some they abstain, from others not. But in those things from which they abstain from disgust, they plainly find fault with the creature and the Creator; and though in appearance they walk faithfully, the opinion they maintain is impious. That command, “Thou shall not lust,” needs neither the necessity arising from fear, which compels to keep from things that are pleasant; nor the reward, which by promise persuades to restrain the impulses of passion.
And those who obey God through the promise, caught by the bait of pleasure, choose obedience not for the sake of the commandment, but for the sake of the promise. Nor will turning away from objects of sense, as a matter of necessary consequence, produce attachment to intellectual objects. On the contrary, the attachment to intellectual objects naturally becomes to the Gnostic an influence which draws away from the objects of sense; inasmuch as he, in virtue of the selection of what is good, has chosen what is good according to knowledge (γνωστικῶς), admiring generation, and by sanctifying the Creator sanctifying assimilation to the divine. But I shall free myself from lust, let him say, O Lord, for the sake of alliance with Thee. For the economy of creation is good, and all things are well administered: nothing happens without a cause. I must be in what is Thine, O Omnipotent One. And if I am there, I am near Thee. And I would be free of fear that I may be able to draw near to Thee, and to be satisfied with little, practising Thy just choice between things good and things like.
Right mystically and sacredly the apostle, teaching us the choice which is truly gracious,
not in the way of rejection of other things as bad, but so as to do things better than what is good, has spoken, saying, “So he that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not doeth better; as far as respects seemliness and undistracted attendance on the Lord.”
Now we know that things which are difficult are not essential; but that things which are essential have been graciously made easy of attainment by God. Wherefore Democritus well says, that “nature and instruction” are like each other. And we have briefly assigned the cause. For instruction harmonizes man, and by harmonizing makes him natural; and it is no matter whether one was made such as he is by nature, or transformed by time and education. The Lord has furnished both; that which is by creation, and that which is by creating again and renewal through the covenant. And that is preferable which is advantageous to what is superior; but what is superior to everything is mind. So, then, what is really good is seen to be most pleasant, and of itself produces the fruit which is desired—tranquillity of soul. “And he who hears Me,” it is said, “shall rest in peace, confident, and shall be calm without fear of any evil.” “Rely with all thy heart and thy mind on God.”
On this wise it is possible for the Gnostic already to have become God. “I said, Ye are gods, and sons of the highest.” And Empedocles says that the souls of the wise become gods, writing as follows:—
“At last prophets, minstrels, and physicians,
And the foremost among mortal men, approach;
Whence spring gods supreme in honours.”
Man, then, genetically considered, is formed in accordance with the idea of the connate spirit. For he is not created formless and shapeless in the workshop of nature, where mystically the production of man is accomplished, both art and essence being common. But the individual man is stamped according to the impression produced in the soul by the objects of his choice. Thus we say that Adam was perfect, as far as respects his formation; for none of the distinctive characteristics of the idea and form of man were wanting to him; but in the act of coming into being he received perfection. And he was justified by obedience; this was reaching manhood, as far as depended on him. And the cause lay in his choosing, and especially in his choosing what was forbidden. God was not the cause.
For production is twofold—of things procreated, and of things that grow. And manliness in man, who is subject to perturbation, as they say, makes him who partakes of it essentially fearless and invincible; and anger is the mind’s satellite in patience, and endurance, and the like; and self-constraint and salutary sense are set over desire. But God is impassible, free of anger, destitute of desire. And He is not free of fear, in the sense of avoiding what is terrible; or temperate, in the sense of having command of desires. For neither can the nature of God fall in with anything terrible, nor does God flee fear; just as He will not feel desire, so as to rule over desires. Accordingly that Pythagorean saying was mystically uttered respecting us, “that man ought to become one;” for the high priest himself is one, God being one in the immutable state of the perpetual flow of good things. Now the Saviour has taken away wrath in and with lust, wrath being lust of vengeance. For universally liability to feeling belongs to every kind of desire; and man, when deified purely into a passionless state, becomes a unit. As, then, those, who at sea are held by an anchor, pull at the anchor, but do not drag it to them, but drag themselves to the anchor; so those who, according to the gnostic life, draw God towards them, imperceptibly bring themselves to God: for he who reverences God, reverences himself. In the contemplative life, then, one in worshipping God attends to himself, and through his own spotless purification beholds the holy God holily; for self-control, being present, surveying and contemplating itself uninterruptedly, is as far as possible assimilated to God.
Chapter XXIV.—The Reason and End of Divine Punishments.
Now that is in our power, of which equally with its opposite we are masters,—as, say to philosophize or not, to believe or disbelieve. In consequence, then, of our being equally masters of each of the opposites, what depends on us is found possible. Now the commandments may be done or not done by us, who, as is reasonable, are liable to praise and blame. And those, again, who are punished on account of sins committed by them, are punished for them alone; for what is done is past, and what is done can never be undone. The sins committed before faith are accordingly forgiven by the Lord, not that they may be undone, but as if they had not been done. “But not all,” says Basilides, “but only sins involuntary and in ignorance, are forgiven;” as would be the case were it a man, and not God, that conferred such a boon. To such an one Scripture says, “Thou thoughtest that I would be like thee.” But if we are punished
for voluntary sins, we are punished not that the sins which are done may be undone, but because they were done. But punishment does not avail to him who has sinned, to undo his sin, but that he may sin no more, and that no one else fall into the like. Therefore the good God corrects for these three causes: First, that he who is corrected may become better than his former self; then that those who are capable of being saved by examples may be driven back, being admonished; and thirdly, that he who is injured may not be readily despised, and be apt to receive injury. And there are two methods of correction—the instructive and the punitive, which we have called the disciplinary. It ought to be known, then, that those who fall into sin after baptism are those who are subjected to discipline; for the deeds done before are remitted, and those done after are purged. It is in reference to the unbelieving that it is said, “that they are reckoned as the chaff which the wind drives from the face of the earth, and the drop which falls from a vessel.”
Chapter XXV.—True Perfection Consists in the Knowledge and Love of God.
“Happy he who possesses the culture of knowledge, and is not moved to the injury of the citizens or to wrong actions, but contemplates the undecaying order of immortal nature, how and in what way and manner it subsists. To such the practice of base deeds attaches not,” Rightly, then, Plato says, “that the man who devotes himself to the contemplation of ideas will live as a god among men; now the mind is the place of ideas, and God is mind.” He says that he who contemplates the unseen God lives as a god among men. And in the Sophist, Socrates calls the stranger of Elea, who was a dialectician, “god:” “Such are the gods who, like stranger guests, frequent cities. For when the soul, rising above the sphere of generation, is by itself apart, and dwells amidst ideas,” like the Coryphæus in Theætetus, now become as an angel, it will be with Christ, being rapt in contemplation, ever keeping in view the will of God; in reality
“Alone wise, while these flit like shadows.”
“For the dead bury their dead.” Whence Jeremiah says: “I will fill it with the earth-born dead whom mine anger has smitten.”
God, then, being not a subject for demonstration, cannot be the object of science. But the Son is wisdom, and knowledge, and truth, and all else that has affinity thereto. He is also susceptible of demonstration and of description. And all the powers of the Spirit, becoming collectively one thing, terminate in the same point—that is, in the Son. But He is incapable of being declared, in respect of the idea of each one of His powers. And the Son is neither simply one thing as one thing, nor many things as parts, but one thing as all things; whence also He is all things. For He is the circle of all powers rolled and united into one unity. Wherefore the Word is called the Alpha and the Omega, of whom alone the end becomes beginning, and ends again at the original beginning without any break. Wherefore also to believe in Him, and by Him, is to become a unit, being indissolubly united in Him; and to disbelieve is to be separated, disjoined, divided.
“Wherefore thus saith the Lord, Every alien son is uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh” (that is, unclean in body and soul): “there shall not enter one of the strangers into the midst of the house of Israel, but the Levites.” He calls those that would not believe, but would disbelieve, strangers. Only those who live purely being true priests of God. Wherefore, of all the circumcised tribes, those anointed to be high priests, and kings, and prophets, were reckoned more holy. Whence He commands them not to touch dead bodies, or approach the dead; not that the body was polluted, but that sin and disobedience were incarnate, and embodied, and dead, and therefore abominable. It was only, then, when a father and mother, a son and daughter died, that the priest was allowed to enter, because these were related only by flesh and seed, to whom the priest was indebted for the immediate cause of his entrance into life. And they purify themselves seven days, the period in which Creation was consummated. For on the seventh day the rest is celebrated; and on the eighth he brings a propitiation, as is written in Ezekiel, according to which propitiation the promise is to be received. And the perfect propitiation, I take it, is that propitious faith in the Gospel which is by the law and the prophets, and the purity which shows itself in universal obedience, with the abandonment of the things of the world; in order to that grateful surrender of the tabernacle, which results from the enjoyment of the soul. Whether, then, the time be that which through the seven periods enumerated returns to the chiefest rest, or the seven heavens, which some reckon one above the other; or whether also the fixed sphere which borders on the intellectual world be called the eighth, the expression denotes that the Gnostic ought to rise out of the sphere of creation and of sin. After these seven days, sacrifices are offered for sins. For there is still fear of
change, and it touches the seventh circle. The righteous Job says: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there;” not naked of possessions, for that were a trivial and common thing; but, as a just man, he departs naked of evil and sin, and of the unsightly shape which follows those who have led bad lives. For this was what was said, “Unless ye be converted, and become as children,” pure in flesh, holy in soul by abstinence from evil deeds; showing that He would have us to be such as also He generated us from our mother—the water. For the intent of one generation succeeding another is to immortalize by progress. “But the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.” That purity in body and soul which the Gnostic partakes of, the all-wise Moses indicated, by employing repetition in describing the incorruptibility of body and of soul in the person of Rebecca, thus: “Now the virgin was fair, and man had not known her.” And Rebecca, interpreted, means “glory of God;” and the glory of God is immortality. This is in reality righteousness, not to desire other things, but to be entirely the consecrated temple of the Lord. Righteousness is peace of life and a well-conditioned state, to which the Lord dismissed her when He said, “Depart into peace.” For Salem is, by interpretation, peace; of which our Saviour is enrolled King, as Moses says, Melchizedek king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who gave bread and wine, furnishing consecrated food for a type of the Eucharist. And Melchizedek is interpreted “righteous king;” and the name is a synonym for righteousness and peace. Basilides, however, supposes that Righteousness and her daughter Peace dwell stationed in the eighth sphere.
But we must pass from physics to ethics, which are clearer; for the discourse concerning these will follow after the treatise in hand. The Saviour Himself, then, plainly initiates us into the mysteries, according to the words of the tragedy:—
“Seeing those who see, he also gives the orgies.”
And if you ask,
“These orgies, what is their nature?”
You will hear again:—
“It is forbidden to mortals uninitiated in the Bacchic rites to know.”
And if any one will inquire curiously what they are, let him hear:—
“It is not lawful for thee to hear, but they are worth knowing;
The rites of the God detest him who practices impiety.”
Now God, who is without beginning, is the perfect beginning of the universe, and the producer of the beginning. As, then, He is being, He is the first principle of the department of action, as He is good, of morals; as He is mind, on the other hand, He is the first principle of reasoning and of judgment. Whence also He alone is Teacher, who is the only Son of the Most High Father, the Instructor of men.
Chapter XXVI.—How the Perfect Man Treats the Body and the Things of the World.
Those, then, who run down created existence and vilify the body are wrong; not considering that the frame of man was formed erect for the contemplation of heaven, and that the organization of the senses tends to knowledge; and that the members and parts are arranged for good, not for pleasure. Whence this abode becomes receptive of the soul which is most precious to God; and is dignified with the Holy Spirit through the sanctification of soul and body, perfected with the perfection of the Saviour. And the succession of the three virtues is found in the Gnostic, who morally, physically, and logically occupies himself with God. For wisdom is the knowledge of things divine and human; and righteousness is the concord of the parts of the soul; and holiness is the service of God. But if one were to say that he disparaged the flesh, and generation on account of it, by quoting Isaiah, who says, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass: the grass is withered, and the flower has fallen; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever;” let him hear the Spirit interpreting the matter in question by Jeremiah, “And I scattered them like dry sticks, that are made to fly by the wind into the desert. This is the lot and portion of your disobedience, saith the Lord. As thou hast forgotten Me, and hast trusted in lies, so will I discover thy hinder parts to thy face; and thy disgrace shall be seen, thy adultery, and thy neighing,” and so on. For “the flower of grass,” and “walking after the flesh,” and “being carnal,” according to the apostle, are those who are in their sins. The soul of man is confessedly the better part of man, and the body the inferior. But neither is the soul good by nature, nor, on the other hand, is the body bad by nature. Nor is that which is not good straightway bad. For there are things which occupy a middle place, and among them are things to be preferred, and things to be rejected.
The constitution of man, then, which has its place among things of sense, was necessarily composed of things diverse, but not opposite—body and soul.
Always therefore the good actions, as better, attach to the better and ruling spirit; and voluptuous and sinful actions are attributed to the worse, the sinful one.
Now the soul of the wise man and Gnostic, as sojourning in the body, conducts itself towards it gravely and respectfully, not with inordinate affections, as about to leave the tabernacle if the time of departure summon. “I am a stranger in the earth, and a sojourner with you,” it is said. And hence Basilides says, that he apprehends that the election are strangers to the world, being supramundane by nature. But this is not the case. For all things are of one God. And no one is a stranger to the world by nature, their essence being one, and God one. But the elect man dwells as a sojourner, knowing all things to be possessed and disposed of; and he makes use of the things which the Pythagoreans make out to be the threefold good things. The body, too, as one sent on a distant pilgrimage, uses inns and dwellings by the way, having care of the things of the world, of the places where he halts; but leaving his dwelling-place and property without excessive emotion; readily following him that leads him away from life; by no means and on no occasion turning back; giving thanks for his sojourn, and blessing [God] for his departure, embracing the mansion that is in heaven. “For we know, that, if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we walk by faith, not by sight,” as the apostle says; “and we are willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with God.” The rather is in comparison. And comparison obtains in the case of things that fall under resemblance; as the more valiant man is more valiant among the valiant, and most valiant among cowards. Whence he adds, “Wherefore we strive, whether present or absent, to be accepted with Him,” that is, God, whose work and creation are all things, both the world and things supramundane. I admire Epicharmus, who clearly says:—
“Endowed with pious mind, you will not, in dying,
Suffer aught evil. The spirit will dwell in heaven above;”
and the minstrel who sings:—
“The souls of the wicked flit about below the skies on earth,
In murderous pains beneath inevitable yokes of evils;
But those of the pious dwell in the heavens,
Hymning in songs the Great, the Blessed One.”
The soul is not then sent down from heaven to what is worse. For God works all things up to what is better. But the soul which has chosen the best life—the life that is from God and righteousness—exchanges earth for heaven. With reason therefore, Job, who had attained to knowledge, said, “Now I know that thou canst do all things; and nothing is impossible to Thee. For who tells me of what I know not, great and wonderful things with which I was unacquainted? And I felt myself vile, considering myself to be earth and ashes.” For he who, being in a state of ignorance, is sinful, “is earth and ashes;” while he who is in a state of knowledge, being assimilated as far as possible to God, is already spiritual, and so elect. And that Scripture calls the senseless and disobedient “earth,” will be made clear by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, in reference to Joachim and his brethren “Earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord; Write this man, as man excommunicated.” And another prophet says again, “Hear, O heaven; and give ear, O earth,” calling understanding “ear,” and the soul of the Gnostic, that of the man who has applied himself to the contemplation of heaven and divine things, and in this way has become an Israelite, “heaven.” For again he calls him who has made ignorance and hardness of heart his choice, “earth.” And the expression “give ear” he derives from the “organs of hearing,” “the ears,” attributing carnal things to those who cleave to the things of sense. Such are they of whom Micah the prophet says, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye peoples who dwell with pangs.” And Abraham said, “By no means. The Lord is He who judgeth the earth;” “since he that believeth not, is,” according to the utterance of the Saviour, “condemned already.” And there is written in the Kings the judgment and sentence of the Lord, which stands thus: “The Lord hears the righteous, but the wicked He saveth not, because they do not desire to know God.” For the Almighty will not accomplish what is absurd. What do the heresies say to this utterance, seeing Scripture proclaims the Almighty God to be good, and not the author of evil and wrong, if indeed ignorance arises from one not knowing? But God does nothing absurd. “For this God,” it is said, “is our God, and there is none to save besides Him.” “For there is no unrighteousness
with God,” according to the apostle. And clearly yet the prophet teaches the will of God, and the gnostic proficiency, in these words: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, and walk in all His ways, and love Him, and serve Him alone?” He asks of thee, who hast the power of choosing salvation. What is it, then, that the Pythagoreans mean when they bid us “pray with the voice”? As seems to me, not that they thought the Divinity could not hear those who speak silently, but because they wished prayers to be right, which no one would be ashamed to make in the knowledge of many. We shall, however, treat of prayer in due course by and by. But we ought to have works that cry aloud, as becoming “those who walk in the day.” “Let thy works shine,” and behold a man and his works before his face. “For behold God and His works.” For the gnostic must, as far as is possible, imitate God. And the poets call the elect in their pages godlike and gods, and equal to the gods, and equal in sagacity to Zeus, and having counsels like the gods, and resembling the gods,—nibbling, as seems to me, at the expression, “in the image and likeness.”
Euripides accordingly says, “Golden wings are round my back, and I am shod with the winged sandals of the Sirens; and I shall go aloft into the wide ether, to hold convene with Zeus.”
But I shall pray the Spirit of Christ to wing me to my Jerusalem. For the Stoics say that heaven is properly a city, but places here on earth are not cities; for they are called so, but are not. For a city is an important thing, and the people a decorous body, and a multitude of men regulated by law as the church by the word—a city on earth impregnable—free from tyranny; a product of the divine will on earth as in heaven. Images of this city the poets create with their pen. For the Hyperboreans, and the Arimaspian cities, and the Elysian plains, are commonwealths of just men. And we know Plato’s city placed as a pattern in heaven.
(The Lord’s Discipline, book iv. cap. vi. p. 413.)
ἡ κυριακὴ ἄσκησις. Casaubon explains this as Dominica exercitatio (the religion which the Lord taught), and quotes the apostolic canons (li. and lii.), which, using this word (ἄσκησις), ordain certain fasts on account of pious exercise. Baronius, more suo, grasps at this word ἄσκησις, as a peg to hang the system of monkery upon. Casaubon answers: “If so, then all the early Christians were monks and nuns; as this word is always used by the Fathers for the Christian discipline, or Christianity itself.” Such are the original ascetics, nothing more. The Christian Fathers transferred the word from heathen use to that of the Church, to signify the training to which all the faithful should subject themselves, in obedience to St. Paul (1 Cor. ix. 24–27). See Isaaci Casauboni, De Annalibus Baronianis Exercitationes, p. 171.
(Theano, cap. xix. p. 431.)
The translator has not been happy in this rendering, but I retain it as in the Edinburgh Edition, which leaves one in doubt whether this second saying was Theano’s; for, possibly, the translator meant to leave it so. But the Migne note is very good: “Jamblichus mentions two Theanos, one the wife of Brontinus, or Brotinus, and the other of Pythagoras. Both alike were devoted to the Pythagorean philosophy; and it is not certain, therefore, to which of them these dicta belong.”
Theodoret quotes both, but decides not this doubt. Hoffman says, “There were many of the name;” and he mentions five different ones. Suidas makes mention of Theano of Crotona as the wife of Pythagoras, “the first woman who philosophized and wrote poetry;” and Hoffman doubts not this lady is the one quoted by Clement. She seems to have presided over the school of her husband after his death. Of the beauty and morality of the second dictum, I have spoken already (p. 348, Elucidation XI.); and I think it worth whole volumes of casuistry on a subject which (naturâ duce, sub lege Logi) the Gospel modestly leaves to natural decency and enlightened conscience. (See Clement’s fine remarks, on p. 435.
(St. Paul, note 4, p. 434.)
Better rendered, “Paul is more recent (or later) in respect of time.” This seems a strangely apologetic way to speak of this glorious apostle; though the reference may be to his own words (1 Cor. xv. 8), “as of one born out of due time.” And it suggests to me, that, among the Alexandrian Christians, there were many Jewish converts who said, “I am of Apollos,” and with whom the name of the great apostle of the Gentiles was still unsavoury. This goes to confirm the Pauline origin of the Epistle to the Hebrews, so far as it accounts for (what is testified by Eusebius, vi. 14) his omission of his own name from his treatise, lest it should prejudice his argument with his Hebrew kinsmen. Apollos may have sent it to Alexandria.
(Socrates, cap. xxii. p. 436.)
Who can read the Phædo, and think of Plato and Socrates, without hope that the mystery of redemption applies to them in some effectual way, under St. Paul’s maxims (Rom. ii. 26)? It would torture me in reading such sayings as are quoted here, were I not able reverently to indulge such hope, and then to desist from speculation. Cannot we be silent where Scripture is silent, and leave all to Him who loved the Gentiles, and died for them on the cross? I suspect the itch of our times, on this and like subjects, to be presumption (2 Cor. x. 5) “against the obedience of Christ.” As if our own concern for the heathen were greater than His who died for the unjust, praying for His murderers! Why not leave the ransomed world to the world’s Redeemer? The cross bore the inscription in Greek, and Latin also; for the Jews scorned it in Hebrew: and who can doubt that those outstretched arms embraced all mankind?
(Basilides answered, cap. xxiv. p. 437.)
Note the pith and point of this chapter, and the beauty of Clement’s dictum, “So it would be, were it a man and not God that justifies! As it is written, Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” (Compare Matt. xx. 14.) But let us not overlook his exposition of the ends and purposes of chastisement. The great principle which he lays down destroys the whole Trent theology about penance, and annihilates the logical base of its figment about “Purgatory.” “Punishment does not avail to him who has sinned, to undo his sin.” The precious blood of Christ “speaketh better things.”
(Sin after Baptism, cap. xxiv. p. 438.)
Not to broach any opinion of my own, it is enough to remark, that this reference to primitive discipline shows that a defined penitential system in the early Church was aimed at by the Montanists,
and inspired their deadly animosity, not merely as a theory, but as a system. Although differing on many points with Dr. Bunsen (he is both Baron and Doctor, and I give him the more honourable title of the two), I feel it due to my contract with the reader of this series to refer him to what he says of the baptismal vow, etc. (Hippol., iii. p. 187), as furnishing a valuable commentary on the text, and on the whole plan of Alexandrian teaching and discipline.
(Jubilee, cap. xxv. p. 438.)
Here the reader may feel that an Elucidation is requisite to any intelligent idea of what Clement means to say. “We wish he would explain his explanation” of Ezekiel. Let me give a brief rendering of the annotations in Migne, as all that can here be furnished. (1) The tabernacle is the body, as St. Paul uses the word (2 Cor. v. 1–4), and St. Peter (2 Ep. i. 13, 14). (2) The seven periods are the Sabbatical weeks of years leading up to the year of Jubilee. (3) The ἀπλανὴς χώρα refers to the old system of astronomy, and its division of the heavens into an octave of spheres, of which the seven inner spheres are those of the seven planets; the fixt stars being in the eighth, which “borders on the intellectual world,”—the abode of spirits, according to Clement.
The Miltonic student will recall the perplexity with which, perhaps, in early years, he first read:—
“They pass the planets seven, and pass the fixt,
And that crystalline sphere whose balance weighs
The trepidation talked, and that first moved.
Paradise Lost, book iii. 481.
The Copernican system was, even in Milton’s time, not generally accepted; but, for one who had personally conversed with Galileo, this seems incorrigibly bad. The true system would have given greater dignity, and in fact a better topography, to his great poem.
(Rebecca, p. 439.)
Le Nourry, as well as Barbeyrac (see Kaye, pp. 109 and 473), regards Clement as ignorant of the Hebrew language. Kaye, though he shows that some of the attempts to demonstrate this are fanciful, inclines to the same opinion; remarking that he borrows his interpretations from Philo. On the passage here under consideration, he observes, that, “having said repeatedly that Rebekah in Hebrew is equivalent to ὑπομονὴ in Greek, he now makes it equivalent to Θεοῦ δόξα. He elsewhere refers our Saviour’s exclamation, Eli, Eli, etc., to the Greek word ἡλιος, and the name Jesus to ἰᾶσθαι.”
(Plato’s City, cap. xxvi. p. 441.)
This is worth quoting from the Republic (book ix. p. 423, Jowett): “In heaven there is laid up a pattern of such a city; and he who desires may behold this, and, beholding, govern himself accordingly; He will act according to the laws of that city, and of no other.” Sublime old Gentile! Did not the apostle of the Gentiles think of Socrates, when he wrote Heb. xii. 28, and xiii. 14? On this noble passage, of which Clement has evidently thought very seriously, Schleiermacher’s remarks seem to me cold and unsatisfactory. (See his Introductions, translated by Dobson; ed. Cambridge, 1836.)
- Matt. vii. 14, xi. 12, vii. 7.
- Job v. 25.
- Ps. viii. 5.
- Rom. xvi. 26, 27.
- Ex. xxxiii. 11.
- Prov. vi. 6, 8.
- Rom. iii. 20.
- Rom. v. 13.
- Rom. vii. 6.
- 1 Tim. i. 9.
- Rom. xiii. 8–10.
- Luke x. 27.
- Rom. vii. 12, 14.
- Rom. vi. 20–23.
- Jer. v. 8, etc.
- Gal. vi. 14; Phil. iii. 20.
- Matt. xix. 29.
- [οἱ ψευδώνυμοι, i.e., the gnostic heretics. Clement does not approve of the surrender of a good name to false pretenders.]
- Phil. i. 13, 14.
- Rom. xv. 4.
- 1 Cor. vii. 28, 32, 35.
- Matt. v. 10.
- John. i. 12.
- Luke x. 19.
- [Canons Apostolical (so called), li. liii. But see Elucidation I.]
- [Matt. x. 39; John xii. 25. S.]
- Matt. xix. 21.
- κυριακῆ εὐποιῖᾳ
- [If love, exerting itself in doing good, overruled the letter of the Sabbatic law, rise to this supremacy of love, which is, of itself, “the fulfilling of the law.”]
- Luke xiii. 32.
- [He regards the estate of marriage and the estate of poverty, as gifts redounding to the benefit of those who accept them as such, and adapt themselves to the same, as stewards.]
- Ps. xxxvii. 35–37.
- Isa. xxix. 13 (ὁ ἔτερος inserted).
- Ps. lxii. 4.
- Ps. xii. 3–5.
- Matt. vi. 19.
- Luke xii. 33.
- Rom. ix. 15.
- Matt. vii. 13.
- Luke xii. 20.
- Matt. xvi. 26.
- Matt. vi. 31; Luke xii. 22, 23.
- Matt. vi. 32, 33; Luke xii. 30, 31.
- Luke xix. 8, 9, 10.
- Matt. v. 5.
- Matt. x. 41, 42.
- Translated as completed, and amended by Heinsius. In the text it is plainly mutilated and corrupt.
- Matt. v. 4.
- [Clement describes the attrition of the schoolmen (which they say suffices) with the contrition exacted by the Gospel. He knows nothing but the latter, as having promise of the Comforter.]
- Hos. vi. 6; Matt. ix. 13, xii. 7.
- [Matt. v. 7. S.]
- [A cheering comment on the widow’s mites, and the apostolic principle of 2 Cor. viii. 12.]
- [Matt. v. 8. S.]
- [Matt. v. 9. S].
- Matt. v. 10.
- [Note that thus in the second century there were those (scholiasts) who interlined and transposed the Gospels, in mss.]
- Luke vi. 22.
- John i. 4.
- Matt. vi. 30.
- Luke vi. 46.
- Isa. xxix. 15.
- Gal. v. 24, 25.
- Gal. vi. 8.
- [This is important testimony as to the primitive understanding of the awards of a future life.]
- Matt. xxvi. 41.
- [See book iii., cap iii., supra.]
- Rom. viii. 7, 8, 10, 13, 17, 18, 28, 29, 30.
- Rom. vii. 24, 25.
- In allusion to Eph. vi. 12.
- 1 Pet. iv. 12, 13, 14.
- Rom. viii. 36, 37.
- Rom. x. 10, 11.
- 2 Tim. i. 7, 8; Rom. viii. 15.
- Rom. xii. 9.
- Rom. xiii. 8.
- Instead of μέγιστοι, read from Rom. xv. 13, 14, μεστοί.
- Rom. vi. 6.
- 1 Cor. iv. 9, 11, 12, 13.
- [ii. 5. Compare Cicero’s Rep., iii. 17.]
- 1 Cor. xiii. 7.
- For σώματος read ωτηρίας.
- 1 Cor. xiii. 13. [Not without allusion to the grand Triad, however. p. 101, this volume.]
- 1 Cor. x. 23.
- 1 Cor. x. 24.
- 1 Cor. x. 26, 28, 29, 30, 31.
- 2 Cor. x. 3, 4, 5.
- Col. iii. 12, 14, 15.
- [The Edin. Translator says “courted the death;” but surely (μελετησάντων) the original merely states the condition of Christians in the second century, “dying daily,” and accepting in daily contemplation the very probable death “by which they should glorify God.”]
- [Note the Catholic democracy of Christianity, which levels up and not downward.]
- [This vindication of the equality of the sexes is a comment on what the Gospel found woman’s estate, and on what it created for her among Christians.]
- 1 Cor. xi. 3, 8, 11.
- [Gal. v. 16, 17, 19–23. S.]
- [The Edin. Trans. has “best at everything,” but I have corrected it in closer accord with the comparative degree in the Greek.]
- 1 Cor. xi. 3, 7.
- Eph. v. 21–29.
- [It is a sad token of our times that some women resent this law of the Christian family. In every society there must be presidency even among equals; and even Christ, though “equal to the Father,” in the Catholic theology, is yet subordinate. See Bull, Defens. Fid., Nicæn. Works, vol. v. p. 685.]
- Col. iii. 18–25, iv. 1, iii. 11.
- Matt. vi. 10.
- Col. iii. 12–15. [Again let us note this Catholic democracy of the Christian brotherhood (see p. 416, supra), for which indeed we should be thankful as Christ’s freemen.]
- [Book iii. cap. iii., supra.]
- [He who studies the Sapiential books of the Bible and Apocrypha and the Sermon on the Mount, is a philosopher of the sort here commended.]
- Luke xii. 8.
- Matt. x. 32.
- Luke xii. 11, 12.
- [Rom. x. 10. The indifference of our times is based on an abuse of the principle that God sees the heart, and needs no public (sacramental) profession of faith. Had this been Christ’s teaching, there would have been no martyrs and no visible Church to hand down the faith.]
- [Rom. x. 10. The indifference of our times is based on an abuse of the principle that God sees the heart, and needs no public (sacramental) profession of faith. Had this been Christ’s teaching, there would have been no martyrs and no visible Church to hand down the faith.]
- [Absolutely necessary (i.e., open profession of Chirst) to the conversion of others, and the perpetuation of the Christian Church.]
- Tit. i. 16.
- [See p. 18, this volume.]
- Luke xxii. 31, 32.
- [As a reflection of the condition and fidelity of Christians, still “sheep for the slaughter.” At such a period the tone and argument of this touching chapter are suggestive.]
- Matt. x. 23.
- [An excellent rendering, which the Latin translator misses (see ed. Migne, ad loc.), the reference being to Jas. ii. 7.]
- [Self-condemned. A pathetic description of the indifference of the Roman law to the rights of the people. Pilates all were these judges of Christ’s followers or Gallios at best.]
- Ps. cxviii. 6.
- Wisd. iii. 1. [This is pronounced canonical Scripture by the Trent theology, and yet the same theology asserts a purgatory to which none but the faithful are committed.]
- Job. xiv. 4.
- [This exposition of Basilides is noteworthy. It is very doubtful, whether, even in poetry, the Platonic idea of pre-existence should be encouraged by Christians, as, e.g., in that sublimest of moderns lyrics, Wordsworth’s ode on Immortality and Childhood.]
- Isa. v. 5.
- The text has παιδευτικῆς τέχνης τῆς τοιάδε, for which Sylburgius suggests τοιᾶσδε, as translated above.
- 1 Thess. iv. 3–8.
- [Kaye, p. 322.]
- [See the Valentinian jargon about the Demiurge (rival of the true Creator), in Irenæus, vol. i. p. 322, this series.]
- Phil. i. 29, 30; ii. 1, 2, 17.
- Phil. i. 7.
- Phil. ii. 20, 21.
- [Kaye, p. 405.]
- [The valuable note of Routh, on a fragment of Melito, should be consulted. Reliquiæ, vol i. p. 140.]
- Matt. v. 44, 45.
- Matt. v. 25.
- Rom. viii. 38, 39.
- 1 Cor. viii. 1, 7, 9, 11.
- 1 Cor. x. 25.
- Acts xv. 24, etc.
- 1 Cor. ix. 19–25.
- 1 Cor. x. 26.
- 1 Cor. x. 28–31.
- Rom. x. 10, 11, 8, 9.
- Rom. xii. 14.
- 2 Cor. i. 12.
- 2 Cor. iii. 14.
- 1 John iii. 18, 19.
- 1 John iv. 16, 18.
- 1 John v. 3.
- 1 Tim. iv. 12.
- Phil. iv. 11–13.
- Heb. x. 32–39.
- Heb. xi. 36–40, xii. 1, 2.
- Who lived before Christ. [Moses was a Christian.]
- Heb. xi. 26, 27. [Moses suffered “the reproach of Christ.”]
- Wisd. iii. 2, 3, 4.
- Wisd. iii. 5, 6, 7, 8.
- [The use of this title is noticeable here, on many accounts, as historic.]
- [See vol. i. p. 5–11, et seqq. S.]
- Gen. xviii. 27.
- Job i. 1.
- Job xvi. 4, 5, Sept.
- Jas. iv. 6; 1 Pet. v. 5.
- Ps. lxxxix. 21.
- Ps. li. 1–4.
- Ps. li. 6.
- Prov. xx. 27.
- ἡγιάσθη. Clemens Romanus has ἐδόθη. [Vol. i. p. 11, this series.]
- Ps. xxxiv. 12.
- Ps. xxxiv. 13, 14.
- Ps. xxxiv. 15–17.
- Ps. xxxii. 10.
- [See vol. i. p. 18. S.]
- Jas. v. 20; 1 Pet. iv. 8.
- 1 Cor. xiii. 7.
- 1 Cor. xiii. 1, 3.
- Ps. l. 14, 15.
- Ps. li. 17.
- 1 John iv. 8, 16.
- Rom. xiii. 10.
- Rom. xiii. 10.
- Matt. v. 28.
- [Or, “the Wise.” See Rawlinson, Herodotus, ii. p. 317.]
- i.e., of blessed souls.
- Ps. i. 3.
- The text here has θυσίαν, for which φύσιν has been suggested as probably the true reading.
- ὄρεξις the Stoics define to be a desire agreeable to reason; ἐπιθυμία, a desire contrary to reason.
- Ex. xxxii. 9, 10, 32.
- So rendered by the Latin translator, as if the reading were τεθλιμμένη.
- Sylburguis’ conjecture of ὡπλισμένας instead of ὁπλισαμένας is here adopted.
- Sylburguis’ conjecture of ὡπλισμένας instead of ὁπλισαμένας is here adopted.
- [Theano. See, also, p. 417. Elucidation II.]
- Tit. ii. 3–5.
- Heb. xiii. 14–16.
- Heb. xiii. 4.
- 1 Pet. i. 6–9.
- 2 Cor. xi. 23.
- Deut. xviii. 15; Rom. x. 4.
- 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9.
- 2 Cor. vi. 3–7.
- 2 Cor. vii. 1, vi. 16, 17, 18.
- 2 Cor. vii. 1–11.
- Eph. iv. 11, 12, 13.
- 1 Cor. xii. 7–11.
- Iliad, xiii. 730.
- 1 Cor. vii. 7.
- [Elucidation III.]
- Isa. vii. 9.
- Ps. cxxxix. 7–10.
- Isa. xl. 10; lxii. 11; Ps. lxii. 12; Rev. xxii. 12; Rom. ii. 6.
- Ps. ii. 8.
- Matt. vi. 2, etc.
- Euphrone is plainly “kindly, cheerful.”
- 1 Thess. v. 6–8.
- As it stands in the text the passage is unintelligable, and has been variously amended successfully.
- Clement seems to have read Κύριον for καιρόν in Rom. xiii. 11.
- ROm. xiii. 11, 12.
- Homer, Odyss., iv. 750, 760; xvii. 48, 58.
- Odyss., ii. 261.
- Explaining μετανοέω etymologically.
- [Elucidation IV.]
- Rom. v. 3–5.
- 1 Cor. viii. 8.
- 1 Cor. vii. 38, 35.
- Prov. i. 33.
- Prov. iii. 5.
- Ps. lxxxii. 6.
- θεῖν … Οεός.
- [Elucidation V.]
- Ps. l. 21.
- λουτρόν. [See Elucidation VI.]
- Ps. i. 4: Isa. xl. 15.
- Hom., Odyss., x. 495.
- Jer. xxxiii. 5.
- Ezek. xliv. 9, 10.
- Ezek. xliv. 27.
- The jubilee. [Elucidation VII.]
- Job i. 21.
- Matt. xviii. 3.
- i.e., Baptism.
- Job [xviii. 5.; Prov. xiii. 9.]
- Gen. xxiv. 16.
- [On Clement’s Hebrew, see Elucidation VIII.]
- Mark v. 34.
- Eurip., Bacchæ, 465, etc.
- Isa. xl. 6–8.
- Jer. xiii. 24–27.
- Gen. xxiii. 4; Ps. xxxix. 12.
- 2 Cor. v. 1, 2, 3, 7.
- 2 Cor. v. 9.
- Pindar, according to Theodoret.
- Job xlii. 2, 3, 6.
- Jer. xxii. 29, 30.
- Isa. i. 2.
- Mic. i. 2, where, however, the concluding words are not found.
- Gen. xviii. 25.
- John iii. 18.
- Isa. xlv. 21.
- Rom. ix. 14.
- Deut. x. 12
- Rom. xiii. 13.
- Matt. v. 16.
- Isa. lxii. 11.
- Gen. i. 26.
- [Elucidation IX.]
- e.g., this vol., p. 309.