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Home > Fathers of the Church > Exhortation to the Heathen (Clement of Alexandria) > Chapter 9

Exhortation to the Heathen (Chapter 9)

BY CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA

Chapter 9. That Those Grievously Sin Who Despise or Neglect God's Gracious Calling.

I could adduce ten thousand Scriptures of which not one tittle shall pass away, Matthew 5:18 without being fulfilled; for the mouth of the Lord the Holy Spirit has spoken these things. Do not any longer, he says, my son, despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of Him. Proverbs 3:11 O surpassing love for man! Not as a teacher speaking to his pupils, not as a master to his domestics, nor as God to men, but as a father, does the Lord gently admonish his children. Thus Moses confesses that he was filled with quaking and terror Hebrews 12:21 while he listened to God speaking concerning the Word. And are you not afraid as you hear the voice of the Divine Word? Are you not distressed? Do you not fear, and hasten to learn of Him—that is, to salvation—dreading wrath, loving grace, eagerly striving after the hope set before us, that you may shun the judgment threatened? Come, come, O my young people! For if you become not again as little children, and be born again, as says the Scripture, you shall not receive the truly existent Father, nor shall you ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. For in what way is a stranger permitted to enter? Well, as I take it, then, when he is enrolled and made a citizen, and receives one to stand to him in the relation of father, then will he be occupied with the Father's concerns, then shall he be deemed worthy to be made His heir, then will he share the kingdom of the Father with His own dear Son. For this is the first-born Church, composed of many good children; these are the first-born enrolled in heaven, who hold high festival with so many myriads of angels. We, too, are first-born sons, who are reared by God, who are the genuine friends of the First-born, who first of all other men attained to the knowledge of God, who first were wrenched away from our sins, first severed from the devil. And now the more benevolent God is, the more impious men are; for He desires us from slaves to become sons, while they scorn to become sons. O the prodigious folly of being ashamed of the Lord! He offers freedom, you flee into bondage; He bestows salvation, you sink down into destruction; He confers everlasting life, you wait for punishment, and prefer the fire which the Lord has prepared for the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41, 46 Wherefore the blessed apostle says: I testify in the Lord, that you walk no longer as the Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind; having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart: who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness and concupiscence. Ephesians 4:17-19 After the accusation of such a witness, and his invocation of God, what else remains for the unbelieving than judgment and condemnation? And the Lord, with ceaseless assiduity, exhorts, terrifies, urges, rouses, admonishes; He awakes from the sleep of darkness, and raises up those who have wandered in error. Awake, He says, you that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light, Ephesians 5:14 — Christ, the Sun of the Resurrection, He who was born before the morning star, and with His beams bestows life. Let no one then despise the Word, lest he unwittingly despise himself. For the Scripture somewhere says, Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers proved Me by trial. And what was the trial? If you wish to learn, the Holy Spirit will show you: And saw my works, He says, forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in heart, and have not known My ways. So I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter into My rest. Look to the threatening! Look to the exhortation! Look to the punishment! Why, then, should we any longer change grace into wrath, and not receive the word with open ears, and entertain God as a guest in pure spirits? For great is the grace of His promise, if today we hear His voice. And that today is lengthened out day by day, while it is called today. And to the end the today and the instruction continue; and then the true today, the never-ending day of God, extends over eternity. Let us then ever obey the voice of the divine word. For the today signifies eternity. And day is the symbol of light; and the light of men is the Word, by whom we behold God. Rightly, then, to those that have believed and obey, grace will superabound; while with those that have been unbelieving, and err in heart, and have not known the Lord's ways, which John commanded to make straight and to prepare, God is incensed, and those He threatens.

And, indeed, the old Hebrew wanderers in the desert received typically the end of the threatening; for they are said not to have entered into the rest, because of unbelief, till, having followed the successor of Moses, they learned by experience, though late, that they could not be saved otherwise than by believing on Jesus. But the Lord, in His love to man, invites all men to the knowledge of the truth, and for this end sends the Paraclete. What, then, is this knowledge? Godliness; and godliness, according to Paul, is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8 If eternal salvation were to be sold, for how much, O men, would you propose to purchase it? Were one to estimate the value of the whole of Pactolus, the fabulous river of gold, he would not have reckoned up a price equivalent to salvation.

Do not, however, faint. You may, if you choose, purchase salvation, though of inestimable value, with your own resources, love and living faith, which will be reckoned a suitable price. This recompense God cheerfully accepts; for we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10

But the rest, round whom the world's growths have fastened, as the rocks on the sea-shore are covered over with sea-weed, make light of immortality, like the old man of Ithaca, eagerly longing to see, not the truth, not the fatherland in heaven, not the true light, but smoke. But godliness, that makes man as far as can be like God, designates God as our suitable teacher, who alone can worthily assimilate man to God. This teaching the apostle knows as truly divine. You, O Timothy, he says, from a child have known the holy letters, which are able to make you wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 For truly holy are those letters that sanctify and deify; and the writings or volumes that consist of those holy letters and syllables, the same apostle consequently calls inspired of God, being profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to every good work. No one will be so impressed by the exhortations of any of the saints, as he is by the words of the Lord Himself, the lover of man. For this, and nothing but this, is His only work— the salvation of man. Therefore He Himself, urging them on to salvation, cries, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17 Those men that draw near through fear, He converts. Thus also the apostle of the Lord, beseeching the Macedonians, becomes the interpreter of the divine voice, when he says, The Lord is at hand; take care that you be not apprehended empty. Philippians 4:5 But are you so devoid of fear, or rather of faith, as not to believe the Lord Himself, or Paul, who in Christ's stead thus entreats: Taste and see that Christ is God? Faith will lead you in; experience will teach you; Scripture will train you, for it says, Come hither, O children; listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord . Then, as to those who already believe, it briefly adds, What man is he that desires life, that loves to see good days? It is we, we shall say— we who are the devotees of good, we who eagerly desire good things. Hear, then, you who are far off, hear you who are near: the word has not been hidden from any; light is common, it shines on all men. No one is a Cimmerian in respect to the word. Let us haste to salvation, to regeneration; let us who are many haste that we may be brought together into one love, according to the union of the essential unity; and let us, by being made good, conformably follow after union, seeking after the good Monad.

The union of many in one, issuing in the production of divine harmony out of a medley of sounds and division, becomes one symphony following one choir-leader and teacher, the Word, reaching and resting in the same truth, and crying Abba, Father. This, the true utterance of His children, God accepts with gracious welcome— the first-fruits He receives from them.

About this page

Source. Translated by William Wilson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/020809.htm>.

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