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ANF02. Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire)
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Chapter II.—Our Instructor’s Treatment of Our Sins.

Now, O you, my children, our Instructor is like His Father God, whose son He is, sinless, blameless, and with a soul devoid of passion; God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His Father’s will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father’s right hand, and with the form of God is God. He is to us a spotless image; to Him we are to try with all our might to assimilate our souls. He is wholly free from human passions; wherefore also He alone is judge, because He alone is sinless. As far, however, as we can, let us try to sin as little as possible. For nothing is so urgent in the first place as deliverance from passions and disorders, and then the checking of our liability to fall into sins that have become habitual. It is best, therefore, not to sin at all in any way, which we assert to be the prerogative of God alone; next to keep clear of voluntary transgressions, which is characteristic of the wise man; thirdly, not to fall into many involuntary offences, which is peculiar to those who have been excellently trained. Not to continue long in sins, let that be ranked last. But this also is salutary to those who are called back to repentance, to renew the contest.

And the Instructor, as I think, very beautifully says, through Moses: “If any one die suddenly by him, straightway the head of his consecration shall be polluted, and shall be shaved,”10371037    Num. vi. 9. designating involuntary sin as sudden death. And He says that it pollutes by defiling the soul: wherefore He prescribes the cure with all speed, advising the head to be instantly shaven; that is, counselling the locks of ignorance which shade the reason to be shorn clean off, that reason (whose seat is in the brain), being left bare of the dense stuff of vice, may speed its way to repentance. Then after a few remarks He adds, “The days before are not reckoned irrational,”10381038    Num. vi. 12. by which manifestly sins are meant which are contrary to reason. The involuntary act He calls “sudden,” the sin He calls “irrational.” Wherefore the Word, the Instructor, has taken the charge of us, in order to the prevention of sin, which is contrary to reason.

Hence consider the expression of Scripture, “Therefore these things saith the Lord;” the sin that had been committed before is held up to reprobation by the succeeding expression “therefore,” according to which the righteous judgment follows. This is shown conspicuously by the prophets, when they said, “Hadst thou not sinned, He would not have uttered these threatenings.” “Therefore thus saith the Lord;” “Because thou hast not heard these words, therefore these things the Lord;” and, “Therefore, behold, the Lord saith.” For prophecy is given by reason both of obedience and disobedience: for obedience, that we may be saved; for disobedience, that we may be corrected.

Our Instructor, the Word, therefore cures the unnatural passions of the soul by means of exhortations. For with the highest propriety the help of bodily diseases is called the healing art—an art acquired by human skill. But the paternal Word is the only Pæonian physician of human infirmities, and the holy charmer of the sick soul. “Save,” it is said, “Thy servant, O my God, who trusteth in Thee. Pity me, O Lord; for I will cry to Thee all the day.”10391039    Ps. lxxxvi. 2, 3. For a while the “physician’s art,” according to Democritus, “heals the diseases of the body; wisdom frees the soul from passion.” But the good Instructor, the Wisdom, the Word of the Father, who made man, cares for the whole nature of His creature; the all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul. “Rise up,” He said to the paralytic; “take the bed on which thou liest, and go away home;”10401040    Mark ii. 11. and straightway the infirm man received strength. And to the dead He said, “Lazarus, go forth;”10411041    John xi. 43. and the dead man issued from his coffin such as he was ere he died, having undergone resurrection. Further, He heals the soul itself by precepts and gifts—by precepts indeed, in course of time, but being liberal in His gifts, He says to us sinners, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”10421042    Matt. ix. 2.

We, however, as soon as He conceived the thought, became His children, having had assigned us the best and most secure rank by His orderly arrangement, which first circles about the world, the heavens, and the sun’s circuits, and occupies itself with the motions of the rest of the stars for man’s behoof, and then busies itself with man himself, on whom all its care is concentrated; and regarding him as its greatest work, regulated his soul by wisdom and temperance, and tempered the body with beauty and proportion. And whatever in human actions is right and regular, is the result of the inspiration of its rectitude and order.


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