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Home > Fathers of the Church > Exhortation to the Heathen (Clement of Alexandria) > Chapter 8

Exhortation to the Heathen (Chapter 8)

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Chapter 8. The True Doctrine is to Be Sought in the Prophets.

It is now time, as we have dispatched in order the other points, to go to the prophetic Scriptures; for the oracles present us with the appliances necessary for the attainment of piety, and so establish the truth. The divine Scriptures and institutions of wisdom form the short road to salvation. Devoid of embellishment, of outward beauty of diction, of wordiness and seductiveness, they raise up humanity strangled by wickedness, teaching men to despise the casualties of life; and with one and the same voice remedying many evils, they at once dissuade us from pernicious deceit, and clearly exhort us to the attainment of the salvation set before us. Let the Sibyl prophetess, then, be the first to sing to us the song of salvation:—

So He is all sure and unerring:
Come, follow no longer darkness and gloom;
See, the sun's sweet-glancing light shines gloriously.
Know, and lay up wisdom in your hearts:
There is one God, who sends rains, and winds, and earthquakes,
Thunderbolts, famines, plagues, and dismal sorrows,
And snows and ice. But why detail particulars?
He reigns over heaven, He rules earth,
He truly is;

where, in remarkable accordance with inspiration she compares delusion to darkness, and the knowledge of God to the sun and light, and subjecting both to comparison, shows the choice we ought to make. For falsehood is not dissipated by the bare presentation of the truth, but by the practical improvement of the truth it is ejected and put to flight.

Jeremiah the prophet, gifted with consummate wisdom, or rather the Holy Spirit in Jeremiah, exhibits God. Am I a God at hand, he says, and not a God afar off? Shall a man do ought in secret, and I not see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? Says the Lord . Jeremiah 23:23

And again by Isaiah, Who shall measure heaven with a span, and the whole earth with his hand? Isaiah 40:12 Behold God's greatness, and be filled with amazement. Let us worship Him of whom the prophet says, Before Your face the hills shall melt, as wax melts before the fire! Isaiah 64:1-2 This, says he, is the God whose throne is heaven, and His footstool the earth; and if He open heaven, quaking will seize you. Isaiah 66:1 Will you hear, too, what this prophet says of idols? And they shall be made a spectacle of in the face of the sun, and their carcasses shall be meat for the fowls of heaven and the wild beasts of the earth; and they shall putrefy before the sun and the moon, which they have loved and served; and their city shall be burned down. He says, too, that the elements and the world shall be destroyed. The earth, he says, shall grow old, and the heaven shall pass away; but the word of the Lord endures forever. What, then, when again God wishes to show Himself by Moses: Behold, behold, that I Am, and there is no other God beside Me. I will kill, and I will make to live; I will strike, and I will heal; and there is none who shall deliver out of My hands. Deuteronomy 32:39 But do you wish to hear another seer? You have the whole prophetic choir, the associates of Moses. What the Holy Spirit says by Hosea, I will not shrink from quoting: Lo, I am He that appoints the thunder, and creates spirit; and His hands have established the host of heaven. Amos 4:13 And once more by Isaiah. And this utterance I will repeat: I am, he says, I am the Lord; I who speak righteousness, announce truth. Gather yourselves together, and come. Take counsel together, you that are saved from the nations. They have not known, they who set up the block of wood, their carved work, and pray to gods who will not save them. Isaiah 45:19-20 Then proceeding: I am God, and there is not beside Me a just God, and a Saviour: there is none except Me. Turn to Me, and you will be saved, you that are from the end of the earth. I am God, and there is no other; by Myself I swear. Isaiah 45:21-23 But against the worshippers of idols he is exasperated, saying, To whom will you liken the Lord, or to what likeness will you compare Him? Has not the artificer made the image, or the goldsmith melted the gold and plated it with gold? Isaiah 40:18-19 — and so on. Be not therefore idolaters, but even now beware of the threatenings; for the graven images and the works of men's hands shall wail, or rather they that trust in them, Isaiah 10:10-11 for matter is devoid of sensation. Once more he says, The Lord will shake the cities that are inhabited, and grasp the world in His hand like a nest. Isaiah 10:14 Why repeat to you the mysteries of wisdom, and sayings from the writings of the son of the Hebrews, the master of wisdom? The Lord created me the beginning of His ways, in order to His works. Proverbs 8:22 And, The Lord gives wisdom, and from His face proceed knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6 How long will you lie in bed, O sluggard; and when will you be aroused from sleep? Proverbs 6:9 but if you show yourself no sluggard, as a fountain your harvest shall come, Proverbs 6:11 the Word of the Father, the benign light, the Lord that brings light, faith to all, and salvation. Proverbs 6:23 For the Lord who created the earth by His power, as Jeremiah says, has raised up the world by His wisdom; Jeremiah 10:12 for wisdom, which is His word, raises us up to the truth, who have fallen prostrate before idols, and is itself the first resurrection from our fall. Whence Moses, the man of God, dissuading from all idolatry, beautifully exclaims, Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord; and you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. Now therefore be wise, O men, according to that blessed psalmist David; lay hold on instruction, lest the Lord be angry, and you perish from the way of righteousness, when His wrath has quickly kindled. Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him. But already the Lord, in His surpassing pity, has inspired the song of salvation, sounding like a battle march, Sons of men, how long will you be slow of heart? Why do you love vanity, and seek after a lie? What, then, is the vanity, and what the lie? The holy apostle of the Lord, reprehending the Greeks, will show you: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and changed the glory of God into the likeness of corruptible man, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. And verily this is the God who in the beginning made the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1 But you do not know God, and worship the heaven, and how shall you escape the guilt of impiety? Hear again the prophet speaking: The sun, shall suffer eclipse, and the heaven be darkened; but the Almighty shall shine for ever: while the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, and the heavens stretched out and drawn together shall be rolled as a parchment-skin (for these are the prophetic expressions), and the earth shall flee away from before the face of the Lord.

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. <>.

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