Cruttwell: CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (145-220?)



IT has already been mentioned that Pantaenus was the founder of the Catechetical school. [[NA: That is, in the sense in which it became celebrated, as a center of apologetics. There is an untrustworthy tradition which mentions Athenagoras as its first president.]] But he was something more, He was the teacher and spiritual father of the great Clement, who is the most original spirit in the whole Ante-Nicene Church. His Life. Oddly enough, we know nothing of Clement’s life. Genial and chatty as he is, it never occurs to him that posterity might like to know who he was. Like Plato and Thucydides, he discourses fully on the matter in hand, but keeps his own history to himself. Still, there are indications in his writings which offer some ground for conjecture. There can be no doubt he was a Greek, and very probably an Athenian. [[NA: It is true our only authority is the inaccurate Epiphanius. But in this case internal probability points the same way. His name, Titus Flavius Clemens, points to an ancestral connection with Rome.]] There is not the smallest tinge of Orientalism about his mind. Except the writer to Diognetus, he is the most genuinely Hellenic of all the Fathers. Possessed of good means, he made the search for truth his life’s object, and went the round of all the systems that professed to satisfy it. We have seen other instance of this in Justin and Tatian, and more doubtfully in the Roman Clement, whose biography has borrowed this feature from his Alexandrian namesake. In the first chapter of his Stromateis [[NA: Quoted by Eusebius, H. E. v. II. Other important notices of him in Eusebius are, H. E. iv. 26; v. 28; vi. 13-14. – Praep. Ev. ii. 2 and 5.]], Clement alludes to some of the Christian teachers who had been of use to him in his process from heathen darkness to light. The first was an Ionian, who taught in Greece; another a native of Southern Italy; a third, of Egypt; a fourth had taught in Assyria, a fifth in Palestine (this man was of Jewish origin), and the sixth and last was Pantaenus, whose broad and philosophic grasp of truth at length brought the weary soul to anchor, and raised in it a profound sense of gratitude. These scattered pilgrimages sufficiently reveal the earnestness of Clement’s character. He was no dilettante, striving to beguile the aimless leisure of an unfilled life, but a true spiritual athlete, determined, even in his heathen days, to lose no chance of acquiring truth so long as any corner of the known world remained to yield it. His case is doubtless a striking one; but it certainly was far from unique, [[NA: The “quest for a religion” was a very real thing in those days. Earnest men hunted up the different aspects of truth in their native habitats. The frequent allusions to wide and prolonged travel seem to suggest a generally diffused possession of good means. We must not forget, however, that the standard of living among students and philosophers was very moderate, and food and lodging cheap.]] and it brings vividly before us the reality of the void which Christianity was able to fulfill, and the self-sacrificing enthusiasm which the nobler Pagan mind brought into their quest. We have no sure data for determining Clement’s age when he finally settled in Alexandria; but the style of this writings make it probable that he had attained the full maturity of his powers. Supposing him to have been at least forty when he succeeded Pantaenus as head of the school, we may approximately fix the date of his birth at about A.D. 140-150. For about fourteen years he continued to preside over it as an honored presbyter of the Alexandrian Church, till 202, when the persecution arose under Severus, his disinclination for martyrdom caused him to quit the scene of his labors, never more to return. He spent the rest of his life in Palestine, chiefly in the society of his old pupil Alexander of Jerusalem. [[NA: About A.D. 213 we find him recommended by Alexander to the Church of Antioch. This is the last notice of his life.]] The date of his death is uncertain. His work, however, was already done. He had inspired many noble minds with his broad and genial philosophy, and among them Origen, the greatest of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and his own worthy successor in the professorial chair.

His Literary Qualities.

We proceed to consider Clement’s position as a Christian writer and philosophic theologian. It is difficult to overvalue him in either relation. As a writer he is conspicuous for infusing into theological discussions a rich vein of combined classic learning and racy common-sense, such as the English churchman may find in Fuller, Taylor, or South, but which it is in vain to seek elsewhere among Ante-Nicene Fathers. His reading is immense; but he moves with ease under its weight. It obscures his argument at times, but never his judgment. Though each step that he takes is accompanied by a train of authorities, poetical, rhetorical, and philosophical, he uses these not as props, far less as guides, but solely as consenting witnesses, who endorse the truth he affirms. At the same time he would not move at ease without them; their voices are linked with his own by many a train of pleasant association; he encourages them to venture on fresh paths under his guidance. He resembles that wise householder who brings out of his treasure-house things new and old. Among the poets Homer is his favorite, among the philosophers Plato. To these he refers in countless instances; but the range of his familiarity extends through the whole domain of Greek letters. Hesiod, the tragic and comic dramatists, the Attic masters of thought, the Stoic and Pythagorean prose-writers and poets, not excluding the so-called Sibylline literature – he levies contributions from them all. The scholar, whose interests are wholly apart from theology, may yet find in Clement a fruitful mine of study. Embedded in his lengthy periods lie quotations, allusions, and reminiscences innumerable, some of which are accurate and easily identifiable; others are unknown to us from any other source. It is probable that some still lie undetected amid the surrounding mass of curious and metaphorical expressions with which he delights to garnish his style. The idiom used by Clement approximates nearer to the Attic than that of Origen, Irenaeus, or Eusebius. But this resemblance is, after all, only comparative. The scholar who has been accustomed to the clear stream of Attic diction of the best age, when he takes up Clement, finds himself obliged to read into old familiar words the accumulated storage of many minds, the deposits of successive strata of thought. Hence their connotation is rendered highly complex, and terms once living and expressive have become allusive and conventional; and this constitutes no small source of difficulty in apprehending Clement’s drift. In order thoroughly to master the vocabulary of the Alexandrine Fathers, it is necessary to familiarize oneself not only with the works of Philo, but still more with those of the Pagan rhetoricians and philosophers of the period. It is in the sense of words far more than in modifications of syntax that the true difference between the classical and the theological writers consists. [[NA: A thoroughly good historical lexicon of the later Greek is still a desideratum. Every Greek scholar is aware of the change in the meaning of words from Homer to Aristotle. Yet the almost equally profound modifications of meaning from the time of Aristotle to that of Clement are often unnoticed or forgotten.]] In spite, therefore, of the vigor of Clement’s thought, and the spirited language in which he presents it, we find a sort of second-hand allusiveness in his literary style, which is not favorable to clearness of meaning. Our opinion differs from that of many critics, who rank him as the best among the Fathers in point of style. To us he appears inferior to Origen, in whose diction a far more complete fusion of thought and language is attained, though at the cost of a further removal from the conventional fine writing of the day. Serious and profound writer as he is, Clement is at bottom a rhetorician; one, it is true, to whom the mere form was wholly secondary to the truth conveyed, but in whom the fresh sense of nature was dulled by a long course of artificial training, which it was impossible to shake off.

His Writings.

His extant writings are sufficiently voluminous. They consist, in the first place, of three lengthy and closely-connected treatises, intended to sketch out the plan of Christian education, and, from their desultory mode of treatment, doubtless a faithful reproduction of his lectures in the school. There are the Protrepticus, or “Exhortation to Greeks,” the Paedagogus (in three books), or “Tutor,” and the Stromateis (in eight books) or Stromata, which literally means “parti-colored carpets,” but may be rendered “Miscellanies.” These will be dealt with presently. We possess also three short and defective treatises, which probably belong to the lost Hypotyposes, or “Outlines,” the fourth and final division of his scheme of Christian truth. They are – (1.) “Summaries of Doctrines from Theodotus and the Eastern School of Valentinian Gnostics.” (2.) “Prophetic Selections.” (3.) “Adumbrations on some of the Canonical Epistles.” (Adumbrationes in aliquot Epistolas Canonicas, preserved in the old Latin version) On these also a few words will be said. The only other treatise that has survived is that entitled, “Who is the Rich Man that is to be Saved?” (Quis dives Salvetur?) which Eusebius expressly attributes to Clement, and which is undoubtedly his, though it is inserted in some good MSS., among the works of Origen, and for a time was attributed to him.

Besides this goodly catalogue, a number of important works have perished. First come the Hypotyposes in eight books already referred to, a grievous loss, which may yet be partially redeemed if the omens of discovery so happily inaugurated of late years be fulfilled. Then again we read of treatises “On Providence,” “On the Paschal Controversy,” “On Fasting,” “On Slander;” an “Exhortation to Patience,” addressed to the newly-baptized; and “Ecclesiastical Canon;” “Various Definitions;” besides several works referred to by Clement himself as contemplated or undertaken, but of which we have no further record: e.g., “On First Principles,” “On Prophecy,” “On Allegorical Interpretation,” “On Angels,” “On the Devil,” “On the Creation of the World,” “On the Unity of the Church,” “On the Duties of Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons and Widows,” “On the Soul,” “On the Resurrection,” “On Marriage,” “On Continence,” and possibly “Against Heresies.” Mention is also made by Palladius of a short commentary on the prophet Amos.

[[NA: The following remarks may be made on these lost treaties: – (1) Of this some fragments are preserved in the works of Maximus. (2) In this he wrote down the traditions he ahd collected from the times of the Apostles to his own day. (3) Observe this familiar use of the term “enlightened” = baptized. (4) S. Jerome describes it more fully as “de canonibus ecclesiasticis et adversus eos qui Judaeorum sequuntur errorem, liber unus, quem proprie Alexandro Hierosolymorum episcopo.” A fragment of this is preserved in Nicephorus (5) The only definition now remaining is that of spirit, which is worth giving. (6) Clement declares no less than three times his intention of writing on this subject. We do not believe he ever carried it out. (7) He promises to give in this treatise a full account of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. (8) De membris et affectibus, quando de Deo dicuntur, allegorice interpretandis, promised in the Stromata. (9) Alluded to by Eusebius (H. E., vi. 13) as an unfulfilled promise. (10) De Ecclesiae unitate et excellentia. (11) De officiis Episcorporum, presbyterorum, diaconorum et viduarum. (12) This is speaks of as accomplished. Perhaps he refers to the sections in the Tutor and Miscellanies which treat of conjugal relations. (13) The same remark applies to the last. (14) This can hardly refer to a separate work, but rather to the scope of all his greater treaties.]]

His Theological Principles.

The works that remain supply ample material for judging of Clement’s theological position and the leading features of his thought. Strictly speaking, he has no system. His habit of mind is discursive or rambling and his views eclectic. He has neither the intellectual ambition of the systematist nor the passion for consistency of the logician. But the conceptions which dominate his thought are emphasized throughout his writings with a clearness peculiarly valuable for his purpose, which was above all things that of a missionary and an apologist. Surrounded by men and learning and reflection, he set himself to interpret the Christian revelation in terms of the philosophic reason, and to approve it by reference to a standard which his hearers and himself could alike accept. He is not exactly a rationalist: still less is he a mystic. And yet he includes a great deal of both. He is a rationalist, in fearlessly basing the evidence of truth upon the faculty of reason, and a mystic in referring that reason to its Divine and illimitable source. In the day light of intellect, he surpasses his Christian successors: in his genial humanity and optimistic view of the universe he is equally superior to his Stoic predecessors.

The key to Clement’s theology is to be found in his humanistic training. Among all his teachers, only one was of Judaeo-Christian extraction, and it is clear that his influence was of little account. Clement approaches Christianity clear of Jewish prepossessions. For him the preparation for Christ’s advent had been world-wide, not national. His first and most important principle is the unity of all truth, whether manifested in heathen thinkers, in Jewish prophets, or still more perfectly in the Incarnate Word. And the ground of this unity is the immanence of the Divine Reason in the universal human intelligence. The difficulty of maintaining this principle in face of the consciousness of sin, of alienation from God, calls out his highest powers of argument. We do not say that he has solved it. The charge brought against Greek theology in general is that its sense of sin is defective. Nor is this wholly unjust. Clement at any rate is more occupied with developing the beneficent work of the Word as raising man to his original kinship with Deity, than with analyzing the nature of that estrangement which demanded so tremendous a sacrifice on the part of the Son of God. But if, in pursuing the great truth that God is light and God is love, he brings it into the closest relation with the illumination of man’s intelligence and the purification of his soul, we must allow something for the animating influence of that truth itself, as well as for the special imperfections of Clement’s spiritual endowment. He was in fact of a strictly contemplative temperament.

The cry of anguish which Tertullian utters, which Origen all but suppresses, which Augustine suffers to well forth in burning words, is not the natural language of his soul. With him the love of God, once made known, is meant to be fearlessly appropriated, with only the explanations thrown upon it by the light of God, which reveal its essential character and reconcile its seeming contradictions. To this cause we may trace his unsympathetic attitude towards martyrdom, viewed as a baptism of blood washing away post-baptismal sin; his indifference towards the great hierarchical movement in which his bishop, Demetrius, discerned a remedy against the moral dangers that beset the Church; and his insufficient recognition of the power of faith apart from knowledge, and of the atoning efficacy of the Blood of Christ. The value of a writer’s contributions to theology is to be judged either from their completeness as an exposition of what is held by the universal Church, or from the clearness and force with which they emphasize some one or more fundamental truths in their free working.

The theology of Clement is of value exclusively from the latter point of view. He has brought out, as no other Father, the doctrine of indwelling Deity, and its necessary correlative, the divine origin and destiny of man, in whom Deity dwells. It is true that he speaks of God as He is in Himself, in Platonic language, as One, the Transcendent, the Unknowable. But this view, the product of his heathen days, is not allowed to obscure his grasp of God’s immanence as the Logos in His entire rational creation, which He is ever disciplining, ever enlightening, ever fitting for union with Himself. [[NA: Clement is usually regarded as a Christian Platonist. Yet he seems to us to be more influenced in this his central conception by the Stoic philosophy than by Plato. Plato, as Jowett truly remarks (introduction to the Timaeus, p. 510), is more embarrassed by the sense of the existence of evil in his theory of creation that the Hebrew author of Genesis. Hence Clement instinctively allies himself with the Stoic doctrine of immanence rather than with the Platonic idea of creation partly by God, partly by inferior agencies.]]

Redemption with him is not so much an accomplished fact as a living process. We are reminded of a passage on the biography of the late Emperor Frederick. When visiting Jerusalem, and gazing on the probable scene of Christ’s Passion, he wrote in his diary: “The sight made me contemplate anew the eternal fact of redemption, of which Calvary is the highest expression.” This is exactly Clement’s point of view, clothed in modern language. How then does redemption effect its purpose? Through the operation of the Divine Instructor, first as love, then as light and love in one. In the Tutor, Clement shows how the Word leads men through trial and discipline towards moral perfection; how He taught the Greeks through poetry and philosophy, and in a lower degree through custom and law, the Jews, through rites and ceremonies and the spiritual witness of prophecy; all the time pointing onward with unwearying emphasis to the fuller disclosure of His divine purpose that should come when the time is ripe. The Incarnation of the Word in Jesus Christ throws back upon this long process the clear light of intelligibility. What was half obliterated becomes decipherable; what was isolated falls into its proper connection. It is seen that all history has been a preparation for Christ; or, in other words, a progressive manifestation of Christ in the life of man, gathered into a focus in the divine-human life of Jesus, and now spread by His Church into the universal consciousness of mankind.

The Christian Gnostic

It results from this view of redemption that the goal of Christian perfection is knowledge, and this Clement unhesitatingly asserts. In contradistinction to the false gnosis he propounds the principles of the true gnosis, which is perfect, loving communion, based on spiritual enlightenment. He does not shrink from the name Gnostic. He adopts it as the Christian’s highest title of honor. The Christian as such is called to be a Gnostic. The baptism of regeneration not only seals our forgiveness, but brings us within the circle of the light, opening thereby the possibility of infinite development to the soul. What then is the essential difference which marks off Clement’s Gnostic from the Gnostic of the heretics? In one word, it is his freedom. The old Gnostics, it will be remembered, tied by their conception of God as transcendent perfection, refused to allow Him any contact with the world. The world was so imperfect that they regarded it as the work of a Power many stages removed from God. Nevertheless some original germs of deity are found in it, and it is these and these along which, by their origin, are capable of redemption. Inferior natures are for ever confined within the sphere of their original potentialities, and thus admit only a limited redemption. This dark shadow of necessity hanging over God was abhorrent to Clement. Undeterred by the contradictions of apparent experience, he distinctly asserts the universality of redemption, and makes it realizable through the freedom of man’s will. Christ has lifted all into the heavenly sphere, and all may continue within it, if they will. Freedom of the Will. Clement is the first of Christian writers to assert clearly the doctrine of freewill. [[NA: The phrase liberum arbitirium, which states the doctrine with precision is due to Tertullian. The Greek writers have no equivalent expression.]]

He passes beyond S. Paul’s conception of sin as bondage to evil, and righteousness as bondage to Christ, and each as freedom with respect to the other, and arrives at the higher point where freedom means original capacity of moral choice. To this he was driven by his Gnostic antagonists, who declared that if God had created Adam perfect, perfect he must to all eternity have remained. In this instance, as in so many others, the hostility of these brilliant thinkers was a spur to the intellect of the Church. Though Clement scarcely carried his explanation beyond the human sphere, and did not, like Origen, attack the problem of cosmical evil, yet this contribution of his to theology is of the utmost value, and itself would entitle him to a master’s place. The solidarity of mankind in Adam, which may be called the main principle of S. Augustine’s system, is replaced in Clement’s by the solidarity of mankind in Christ. Christ is for him not only the type of manhood, but the one perfect man. The deeper question of Christ’s own freedom does not engage his attention. How freedom of choice between opposites passes into conscious identification with the absolute good as such he does not determine; but his serene and hopeful view of human nature, as expressed once for all in the freewill of Christ, must ever rank high among the inspiring forces in the Christian’s spiritual progress. Thus far Clement is successful in shaking off the pernicious dualism of the Gnostics, which set a hard and fast line between the carnal and spiritual Christian. But he admits another distinction between believers, which, smooth it down as he will, he cannot render free from danger. In his day the Church was beginning to lose its original character of a society in which all were bent on holiness. Its gates were opening wide, and multitudes were pouring in for whom the ideal of the true Gnostic was too high. For these it was necessary to present the Christian life in the form of a new law. The Western Church had already girded itself with enthusiasm to the task. Clement applied to the problem his theory of the higher and lower lives. For those who shrank from the discipline necessary to the attainment of that spiritual insight which alone discerns the Divine Love, it was sufficient to offer as motives faith and hope, springing out of fear. The goal of this life is Holiness, the negative virtue of abstinence from willful sin. But beyond it lies the sphere of Knowledge, which implies Love and active Righteousness. He does not say that this higher life is impossible for all, but he is contented to acquiesce in its nonattainment by the majority as a matter of fact. Faith is for him imperfect apprehension, not the absolute identification of the soul with Christ, which is S. Paul’s conception of it. Thus he banishes faith from the perfect life, as well as fear and hope, the former of which in unworthy, the latter unnecessary. Love remains; indeed, it is the element and the instrument of true knowledge. But Love, as he conceives it, is not an emotion. In his view Christ was absolutely passionless, and as Christ was, so the advanced Christian must be. His love is the apprehension of the absolute good, in harmonious movement with it. As we should express it, love is disinterested, purified from all thought of self. If it were possible to offer it the choice between the joys of heaven and the knowledge of God, it would unhesitatingly choose the latter. [[NA: The writer is much indebted throughout this section to Bigg’s “Christian Platonists of Alexandria,” Lecture III., and to Allen’s “Continuity of Christian Thought,” ch. i.]]

The danger of such a theory is obvious. It tends to set before men two different ideals, the one for the many, the other for the few; the one based on self-interest, the other on love of truth. But we must not suppose that Clement admitted any such radical divergence. The two ideals are stages in the path of perfection. The first must be passed through before the second can be reached. It is related to it as the incomplete to the complete, not as the essentially inferior to the essentially excellent. Clement forms a church with the Church, contrasting the two much as Origen afterwards contrasted the visible with the invisible Church.

His Attitude to the Scriptures.

We have considered Clement’s teaching thus far without reference to his attitude towards the Scriptures. It would be an injustice to his Christian convictions to imply that he at all undervalued them. Though he rates human culture so high as to consider it a stage of the Divine education of the soul, he does not for a moment allow that man can originate a revelation. All truth comes from God; and there can be no schism in the manifestation of the Divine Reason. Nevertheless, he recognizes Scripture as pre-eminently God’s Word, for in it is heard everywhere the voice of the Divine Instructor, teaching and pleading and correcting, and fashioning man’s life into conformity with His own. At the same time, he finds the evidence of the inspiration of Scripture within the human reason, not in any external authority. The relation of inspiration to human genius, and of Biblical to non-Biblical inspiration, are questions of comparatively recent date, and in their modern form are not approached by Clement. But the entire tone of his works indicates unmistakably in what way he would have answered them. Inspiration for him is not an arbitrary or coercive action of the Divine Spirit upon the human, as it was for the Montanists, who likened the Spirit to the player, and the human speaker to the instrument upon which He played. It is rather the highest exercise of that capacity for discerning truth with which the soul is endowed in virtue of its Divine sonship, and which it exhibits in proportion as it has conformed itself to the Divine Image. Revelation, like redemption, is regarded by Clement not as a deposit given once for all, but as a continuous though varying process, appropriated by the soul whose eyes are opened to see it, in greater or less measure according to its spiritual progress, and also according to the activity of the revealing Word. Thus revelation and inspiration were at their height among the Apostles, because the Apostles both lived in close communion with the Incarnate Word, and because the Word was then in the fullness of time more perfectly revealing Himself. With such a general attitude towards the subject, we need not expect any great keenness of critical insight. He accepts without misgiving not only the LXX., but many apocryphal works both of Jewish and Christian origin; or if his judgment doubts their authenticity, he just raises a passing question without denying himself the support of their testimony. His strongest expression on the comparative value of Scripture writers is where he insists on the equal authority of S. Paul’s Epistles with the writings of the Twelve. So far as he enters into the controversy at all, he is a Paulinist, but in no onesided sense. Nevertheless, he misapprehends S. Paul’s teaching in its capital point, in common, it must be allowed, with nearly all the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

In interpreting Scripture, he lays down no new principles. He condemns the literalism of the Rabbins. In conformity with the practice of his day, he allows allegorical explanation, especially in everything that approximates to an anthropomorphic representation of God. He speaks of every text having a threefold application as a sign of truth, a commandment, and a prophecy; but he does not weave this view into the fabric of his theology, and it exercises but little influence over him. The true sense of Scripture is given firstly by the consentient voice of the Church, and secondly, by the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit. The former he traces to apostolic tradition; the latter is the believer’s inalienable privilege. It was objected to him by the “merely correct believers” that to do without an authoritative canon of interpretation is to leave the truth uncertain. To this he replied that no one denies there is an art of medicine because different schools of medical science exist and different modes of treatment are followed.

All great truths excite controversy; in all things there is a genuine and a counterfeit. The great duty as well as the great difficulty is to decide aright. Thus he declares that the true refutation of heresy lies in appealing to the true sense of Scripture, not to isolated texts, but to the general drift. The remedy for error is not less knowledge but more. The path of scientific culture is a necessary preliminary to understanding the Divine Oracles. His View of the Church. His doctrine of the Church is nowhere clearly formulated. He is too entirely preoccupied with spiritual theology to do justice to the importance of ecclesiastical organization.

In this respect he compares unfavorably with Irenaeus and Tertullian, and still more with Cyprian. His conception of the Church is predominantly ethical. It consists of all those who have accepted the discipline of the Divine Instructor, who realize their calling as the children of God. He probably accepted the orthodox views on apostolical succession, baptism and the Eucharist; but they are rather incidentally referred to than made the subjects of precise definition. Worship is in his eyes the practice of righteousness; sacrifice is the oblation of self to do God’s will; the altar is the congregation of those who give themselves to prayer, having one voice and one mind. He has no leaning towards asceticism, though in one place he speaks admiringly of those who practice it. But his conception of the Fatherhood of God leads him to pronounce all human relationships sacred. He applies to the circle of family life the words of Christ, “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” He disapproves of community of goods, and declares that true poverty consists not in renouncing riches, but in detaching the heart from them. The world is not indeed the best of possible worlds, but it is in no unreal sense the home of him who knows that Christ dwells in it by His Spirit.

The idea that Christ will shortly come in the flesh to reward the faithful, and take vengeance upon His enemies has no attractions for him, believing as he does that Christ is already truly present, and has begun to witness His triumph at the Father’s right hand. The judgment of the world is not regarded as an imminent and sudden catastrophe, but as a spiritual process actually going on. The punishment of the wicked he considers to be wholly disciplinary and remedial, God’s justice being but the obverse of His love. The unbeliever who refuses exhortation must be terrified by threats, and, if these prove inefficacious, must be curbed by severity. Judgment is not an end, but a means. God judges that He may amend. His punishments are a necessary element of His educational process. Whether Clement carried this theory so far as to believe, like Origen, in a universal restoration, we have not the means of knowing, but such a belief would be in conformity with his principle that the Divine Love is the central power of the universe, and must ultimately prevail.

Defects of his Theology.

We conclude this brief sketch of Clement’s theology with one or two remarks upon its defects. The first is the difficulty of connecting the ideal with the actual relationship of man to God. Clement bases all his arguments upon the vital character of this relationship. “Like is know by like,” “spirit is discerned by spirit,” “man is akin to deity, and is destined, through the teaching of the Word, to become God.” Such is the language he uses. Does it imply an identity of essence? Or, if not, is man an emanation of the Deity? Certainly Clement would not admit either of these views. He regards man rather as a product of the Divine Will, yet not in the general sense in which the rest of creation was called into existence, but as moulded, so to speak, directly by the very hands of God, who breathed into his nostrils the spirit or intellect, which is the Divine “image,” and man’s possession by right of gift, and by which he is enabled to acquire through virtue the further prerogative of the Divine “likeness.” The question immediately arises, How could such a being fall? Clement replies, Through appetite, of which the serpent is the symbol. But this answer inevitably suggests the suspicion that the body, which is the seat of appetite, is evil. This again Clement refuses to allow; but it nevertheless remains a weak point in his system that the ground of man’s separation from God is not clearly made out. The second defect follows from the first. His theory of Redemption does not take in all the facts. He looks upon redemption not as the restoration of what was lost at the Fall, but as the “crown and consummation of the destiny of man, leading to a righteousness such as Adam never knew, and to heights of glory and power as yet unscaled and undreamed.” [[NA: See Bigg, Christian Platonists, p. 75.]] In other words, it is for him a revelation rather than a restoration. He does not apprehend the Church’s doctrine of the propitiation effected by Christ’s death, of the efficacy of His atonement for sin, of the conveyance to man of a righteousness not his own, whereby he is accepted before God. The idea of retribution is foreign to him, as is that of an expiatory sacrifice. He admits that Christ by His death ransoms us from the powers of evil, and bestows forgiveness of pre-baptismal sin, but he teachers the baptized Christian to look “not upon the Crucified, but upon the Risen Lord, the fountain, not of the pardon, but of life.” [[Christian Platonists, p. 73]]

The great fact of man’s reconciliation to God through the power of Christ’s death and the ministry of the Gospel is all but left out of sight. He thus emphasizes one part of the Redeemer’s work at the expense of another, equally necessary to salvation. His third defect is less vital, but still important. It consists in his inadequate appreciation of faith as the means of apprehending God. No doubt he is inconsistent with himself on this point. He speaks sometimes as S. Paul might have spoken, as when he says, “Wisdom changes its name according to its diverse applications. When mounting up to first causes it is called intelligence; it becomes science when fortifying intelligence by reasoning; and faith when, concentrated on holiness, it envisages the primordial Word, without as yet seeing Him, being limited by the conditions of the world.” But, as a rule, his estimate of faith is far to low. He relegates it to the sphere of opinion, of halfpersuasion of the truth of Christ’s promises; so that, when knowledge is reached, faith has no longer a place in the purified soul, which has now outgrown its sphere. This is the mystic element in Clement’s thought; the vision of Divine truth opened to the Gnostic is so perfect that nothing further is desired. Earth becomes heaven – the soul lies in wakeful rest within the light of God.

His Extant Words.

We shall devote a few pages to an account of the writings from which the foregoing principles are drawn. Clement’s systematic teaching is contained in the series of works already mentioned, viz., the Protrepticus, Paedagogus, and Stromateis. These correspond to the three stages of initiation into the heathen mysteries, a process which Clement had more than once gone through, and which left a profound impression upon his mind. [[NA: S. Paul several times speaks of mysteries in connection with the Christian faith. He can hardly have used the word without reference to its universal meaning among the Gentiles. He also speaks (as does S. John) of a mystery of iniquity. Hence the idea of the Christian teacher as a Mystagogue or Initiator is not unnatural. To Clement, as to S. Paul, the mystery was the spiritual revelation clearly apprehended by gnosis, believed by faith. It was not, as later, applied to sacraments.]]

The first stage was called purification, by which the soul was freed from error and made to see its need of higher truth; the second was the initiatory rite, almost always symbolic of some secret power of Nature, or some feature in the spirit’s destiny; the third was the communication of essential truths without the disguise of parable or myth. Clement makes the successive stages of his teaching answer broadly to these three divisions.

The Protrepticus is an analysis of mythological and philosophical ideas, with a demonstration of their erroneousness and an indication of the path of truth and holiness. It is addressed to Gentile inquiries.

The Paedagogus is a sketch of the discipline of the soul as carried on by the indwelling Word. It consists of three books. The first treats of the general principles of God’s government and the evolution of righteousness in human nature. The second and third descend to particular examples, and trace the working of Christ’s discipline in all departments of the Christian’s life. It is an unsystematic but tolerably complete repertory of Christian ethics, such as was suitable for intelligent catechumens.

The Stromateis comprise eight books of philosophical and theological discussions on the higher life of gnosis. The topics are not presented in any definite order, but arise naturally out of the train of thought. They are to a great extent controversial, and doubtless embody the substance of his esoteric teaching to those who had embraced the spiritual idea of the true Gnostic. The eighth book is of a wholly different character, and in its present incomplete form consists merely of a series of logical definitions, apparently intended as introductory to a minute examination of heathen philosophical systems. It is believed by many critics to belong more properly to some other work, perhaps the Hypotyposes, to which it may have been the prelude. This hypothesis is partly confirmed by the assertion at the close of the seventh book of the Stromateis, that he is about to proceed with his argument from a fresh beginning. [[The classical reader will be reminded of the commencement of the seventh book of Aristotle’s Ethics, which opens in the same way.]]

The Protrepticus.

The Protrepticus is to all intents and purposes an apologetic treatise, and it may be well in connection with it to state briefly the main features of Clement’s apologetic method. This may be characterized as at once sympathetic and incisive. He does not, like so many apologists, content himself with denouncing heathen mythology, but traces it to its source, justifies his strictures by a most ample quotation of its authorities, and recognizes the truth as well as the falsehood of many of its conclusions. He dwells especially on the value of philosophy as proving the inadequacy of the unassisted reason to attain the fullness of truth. His treatment of this part of his subject is particularly brilliant. His thorough familiarity with classic antiquity116 makes him linger with delight over passages which he cites only to reveal their weakness. He cannot forget, and would not if he could, the unequaled charm of that rich literary inheritance which God had given to Hellas to trade with till He came to reclaim His own with usury. He willingly admits the action of the Divine Word in her poetry and speculative thought, as willingly as he admits it in the prophetic literature of the Jews. But he injures the force of this admission by his theory that the Greek thinkers borrowed from Moses, a superficial view which he borrows from Justin, without troubling himself to sift it. It is an excrescence in his system, and really inconsistent with it. His genuine thought is expressed by the assertion that prophecy and philosophy came from the same source: that the highest minds have always and everywhere been God’s servants, and that what the Law was for the Jews, philosophy was for the Greeks, namely, a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ. He enforces this by an application of the Psalmist’s words that the oil which fell on Aaron’s beard signifies the Old Testament, and that which dropped on the skirts of his clothing refers to the philosophy of the Gentiles. The fundamental principle of the Protrepticus is the essential affinity between the Word and the human spirit, and its object is to show how the interrupted harmony may be re-established. Its faults consist in its over-idealism, its conception of revelation too much as a system of truth and too little as a redemption from sin, and in its over-strained brilliancy of expression, which too often obscures the thoughts.

The Paedagogus.

None of his works is pervaded by a more genial tone than this. The thought that underlies it is both joyous and fruitful of result. It is Christ as the Educator of the human race: the ever-present enlightener of its intelligence, the trainer of its capacity for virtue. The germ of this idea is to be sought in S. Paul’s account of the Law as a Tutor which prepared the Jews for Christ. But Clement works it out in a different way. For him Christ is the Tutor, and Law is one of His methods. But not the only one. All the varied issues of man’s life are woven into the Divine plan of amelioration. Poetry, art, wealth, patriotism, ambition, success, defeat: all have their formative purpose; all contribute to prepare for the final stage, which is conscious effort towards perfection, conscious union of humanity as one divinely-created brotherhood marching forward to the inheritance won for it by its Elder Brother Christ. This is in truth a noble optimism. And we emphasize with pleasure the exhilaration of soul which two centuries of pure Christianity had aroused in its most accomplished spokesman. Clement resolutely fixes his gaze on the bright side of human destiny: the side which S. Paul had so magnificently inaugurated, when he announced to the Christian community that “ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” The succession of early apologists which begins with the unknown writer to Diognetus, and is continued by Justin, Athenagoras, and Pantaenus, finds in Clement its most eloquent exponent. But already the signs of the times are changing. A growing sense of man’s guilt, with a consciousness of his remoteness from God, stamps with a far sadder tone the writings of the great men that follow. In Origen its influence is already felt, in Tertullian and Cyprian it alternates with exultant hope; but in spirit of a deeper psychology, in spirit of a more heroic sainthood, few if any of succeeding writers preserve so much of that pure free consciousness of the Father’s boundless love, which is the immortal breath of the sayings of Christ.

The second and third books of the Paedagogus form a rich mine of information as to the social customs of Clement’s day. Many of the particulars are trivial; others tediously minute; others again are enlivened by touches of playful satire. But though they cover the ground of casuistry, their tone is the reverse of casuistical. The details are throughout vivified by the consciousness of a great principle, and are never intended to enslave the judgment or fetter the liberty of the Christian. At the close of the work are appended two short pieces in verse – the first a hymn to the Word, in anapaestic measure, which may possibly be genuine; the second an apostrophe to Christ “the Tutor,” in iambics, which has all the characters of an academical exercise. In neither is there sufficient poetical merit to call for any comment.

The Stromateis.

The Stromateis are Clement’s longest work; and in them we see his ideas at their widest range and highest level. In spite of its desultory character, the treatise is pervaded by the same general plan as his other books. Its central thought is the ability of the Gospel to fulfill all the desires of men, and to raise to a supreme unity all the objects of the Christian philosopher’s knowledge. To give an analysis of its contents would exceed the limits of our chapter. The summary of Clement’s theology already supplied will have presented to the reader the chief results of investigation pursued in the Stromateis in an unsystematic way. At its close he draws a sharp contrast between his own method and that of the heathen sages. While they begin from man, and work up as they believe to God, he begins with the Word and shows how man’s true nature is revealed in Him. While they end by imagining gods like themselves, and so remain ignorant of the true Deity, he, following the lead of the Word, raises man to his genuine self, and so makes him like the Son of God. The great reputation achieved by Clement, combined with his gentle and peaceable character, raised him high in the estimation of the Church. Popular opinion reckoned him among the saints, and he was commemorated in the early Western Martyrologies on Dec. 4. His name was, however, erased from the list by Clement VIII, and the omission defended by Benedict XIV., on the ground that some parts of this teaching were open to suspicion, and that mere popular cultus did not constitute a sufficient claim to insertion in the Calendar. The only wonder is that this step was not taken long before. His excellencies and defects are alike such as would place him out of sympathy with the prevailing spirit of Latin Christianity.

Clemente de Alexandria (150-211)