Clement of Alexandria: Stromata, 7.2


To know God is, then, the first step of faith; then, through confidence in the teaching of the Saviour, to consider the doing of wrong in any way as not suitable to the knowledge of God.

So the best thing on earth is the most pious man; and the best thing in heaven, the nearer in place and purer, is an angel, the partaker of the eternal and blessed life. But the nature of the Son, which is nearest to Him who is alone the Almighty One, is the most perfect, and most holy, and most potent, and most princely, and most kingly, and most beneficent. This is the highest excellence, which orders all things in accordance with the Father’s will, and holds the helm of the universe in the best way, with unwearied and tireless power, working all things in which it operates, keeping in view its hidden designs. For from His own point of view the Son of God is never displaced; not being divided, not severed, not passing from place to place; being always everywhere, and being contained nowhere; complete mind, the complete paternal light; all eyes, seeing all things, hearing all things, knowing all things, by His power scrutinizing the powers. To Him is placed in subjection all the host of angels and gods; He, the paternal Word, exhibiting a the holy administration for Him who put [all] in subjection to Him.

Wherefore also all men are His; some through knowledge, and others not yet so; and some as friends, some as faithful servants, some as servants merely. This is the Teacher, who trains the Gnostic by mysteries, and the believer by good hopes, and the hard of heart by corrective discipline through sensible operation. Thence His providence is in private, in public, and everywhere.

And that He whom we call Saviour and Lord is the Son of God, the prophetic Scriptures explicitly prove. So the Lord of all, of Greeks and of Barbarians, persuades those who are willing. For He does not compel him who (through choosing and fulfilling, from Him, what pertains to laying hold of it the hope) is able to receive salvation from Him.

It is He who also gave philosophy to the Greeks by means of the inferior angels. For by an ancient and divine order the angels are distributed among the nations. But the glory of those who believe is “the Lord’s portion.” For either the Lord does not care for all men; and this is the case either because He is unable (which is not to be thought, for it would be a proof of weakness), or because He is unwilling, which is not the attribute of a good being. And He who for our sakes assumed flesh capable of suffering, is far from being luxuriously indolent. Or He does care for all, which is befitting for Him who has become Lord of all. For He is Saviour; not [the Saviour] of some, and of others not. But in proportion to the adaptation possessed by each, He has dispensed His beneficence both to Greeks and Barbarians, even to those of them that were predestinated, and in due time called, the faithful and elect. Nor can He who called all equally, and assigned special honours to those who have believed in a specially excellent way, ever envy any. Nor can He who is the Lord of all, and serves above all the will of the good and almighty Father, ever be hindered by another. But neither does envy touch the Lord, who without beginning was impassible; nor are the things of men such as to be envied by the Lord. But it is another, he whom passion hath touched, who envies. And it cannot be said that it is from ignorance that the Lord is not willing to save humanity, because He knows not how each one is to be cared for. For ignorance applies not to the God who, before the foundation of the world, was the counsellor of the Father. For He was the Wisdom “in which” the Sovereign God “delighted.” For the Son is the power of God, as being the Father’s most ancient Word before the production of all things, and His Wisdom. He is then properly called the Teacher of the beings formed by Him. Nor does He ever abandon care for men, by being drawn aside from pleasure, who, having assumed flesh, which by nature is susceptible of suffering, trained it to the condition of impassibility.

And how is He Saviour and Lord, if not the Saviour and Lord of all? But He is the Saviour of those who have believed, because of their wishing to know; and the Lord of those who have not believed, till, being enabled to confess him, they obtain the peculiar and appropriate boon which comes by Him.

Now the energy of the Lord has a reference to the Almighty; and the Son is, so to speak, an energy of the Father. Therefore, a hater of man, the Saviour can never be; who, for His exceeding love to human flesh, despising not its susceptibility to suffering, but investing Himself with it, came for the common salvation of men; for the faith of those who have chosen it, is common. Nay more, He will never neglect His own work, because man alone of all the other living creatures was in his creation endowed with a conception of God. Nor can there be any other better and more suitable government for men than that which is ap- pointed by God.

It is then always proper for the one who is superior by nature to be over the inferior, and for him who is capable of managing aught well to have the management of it assigned to him. Now that which truly rules and presides is the Divine Word and His providence, which inspects all things, and despises the care of nothing belonging to it.

Those, then, who choose to belong to Him, are those who are perfected through faith. He, the Son, is, by the will of the Almighty Father, the cause of all good things, being the first efficient cause of motion—a power incapable of being apprehended by sensation. For what He was, was not seen by those who, through the weakness of the flesh, were incapable of taking in [the reality]. But, having assumed sensitive flesh, He came to show man what was possible through obedience to the commandments. Being, then, the Father’s power, He easily prevails in what He wishes, leaving not even the minutest point of His administration unattended to. For otherwise the whole would not have been well executed by Him.

But, as I think, characteristic of the highest power is the accurate scrutiny of all the parts, reaching even to the minutest, terminating in the first Administrator of the universe, who by the will of the Father directs the salvation of all; some overlooking, who are set under others, who are set over them, till you come to the great High Priest. For on one original first Principle, which acts according to the [Father’s] will, the first and the second and the third depend. Then at the highest extremity of the visible world is the blessed band of an- gels; and down to ourselves there are ranged, some under others, those who, from One and by One, both are saved and save.

As, then, the minutest particle of steel is moved by the spirit of the Heraclean stone, when diffused over many steel rings; so also, attracted by the Holy Spirit, the virtuous are added by affinity to the first abode, and the others in succession down to the last. But those who are bad from infirmity, having fallen from vicious insatiableness into a depraved state, neither controlling nor controlled, rush round and round, whirled about by the passions, and fall down to the ground.

For this was the law from the first, that virtue should be the object of voluntary choice. Wherefore also the commandments, according to the Law, and before the Law, not given to the upright (for the law is not appointed for a righteous man), ordained that he should receive eternal life and the blessed prize, who chose them.

But, on the other hand, they allowed him who had been delighted with vice to consort with the objects of his choice; and, on the other hand, that the soul, which is ever improving in the acquisition of virtue and the increase of righteousness, should obtain a better place in the universe, as tending in each step of advancement towards the habit of impassibility, till “it come to a perfect man,” to the excellence at once of knowledge and of inheritance.

These salutary revolutions, in accordance with the order of change, are distinguished both by times, and places, and honours, and cognitions, and heritages, and ministries, ac- cording to the particular order of each change, up to the transcendent and continual contemplation of the Lord in eternity.

Now that which is lovable leads, to the contemplation of itself, each one who, from love of knowledge, applies himself entirely to contemplation. Wherefore also the Lord, drawing the commandments, both the first which He gave, and the second, from one fountain, neither allowed those who were before the law to be without law, nor permitted those who were unacquainted with the principles of the Barbarian philosophy to be without restraint. For, having furnished the one with the commandments, and the other with philosophy, He shut up unbelief to the Advent. Whence every one who believes not is without excuse. For by a different process of advancement, both Greek and Barbarian, He leads to the perfection which is by faith.

And if any one of the Greeks, passing over the preliminary training of the Hellenic philosophy, proceeds directly to the true teaching, he distances others, though an unlettered man, by choosing the compendious process of salvation by faith to perfection.

Everything, then, which did not hinder a man’s choice from being free, He made and rendered auxiliary to virtue, in order that there might be revealed somehow or other, even to those capable of seeing but dimly, the one only almighty, good God—from eternity to eternity saving by His Son.

And, on the other hand, He is in no respect whatever the cause of evil. For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and particularly. It is then the function of the righteousness of salvation to improve everything as far as practicable. For even minor matters are arranged with a view to the salvation of that which is better, and for an abode suitable for people’s character. Now everything that is virtuous changes for the better; having as the proper cause of change the free choice of knowledge, which the soul has in its own power. But necessary corrections, through the goodness of the great overseeing Judge, both by the attendant angels, and by various acts of anticipative judgment, and by the perfect judgment, compel egregious sinners to repent.