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ANF02. Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire)
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Chapter V.—All Who Walk According to Truth are Children of God.

That, then, Pædagogy is the training of children (παίδων ἀγωγή), is clear from the word itself. It remains for us to consider the children whom Scripture points to; then to give the pædagogue charge of them. We are the children. In many ways Scripture celebrates us, and describes us in manifold figures of speech, giving variety to the simplicity of the faith by diverse names. Accordingly, in the Gospel, “the Lord, standing on the shore, says to the disciples”—they happened to be fishing—“and called aloud, Children, have ye any meat?”10491049    John xxi. 4, 5.—addressing those that were already in the position of disciples as children. “And they brought to Him,” it is said, “children, that He might put His hands on them and bless them; and when His disciples hindered them, Jesus said, Suffer the children, and forbid them not to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”10501050    Matt. xix. 14. What the expression means the Lord Himself shall declare, saying, “Except ye be converted, and become as little chidren, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven;”10511051    Matt. xviii. 3. not in that place speaking figuratively of regeneration, but setting before us, for our imitation, the simplicity that is in children.10521052    [The dignity ascribed to Christian childhood in this chapter is something noteworthy. The Gospel glorifying children, sanctifies marriage, and creates the home.]

The prophetic spirit also distinguishes us as children. “Plucking,” it is said, “branches of olives or palms, the children went forth to meet the Lord, and cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord;”10531053    Matt. xxi. 9. light, and glory, and praise, with supplication to the Lord: for this is the meaning of the expression Hosanna when rendered in Greek. And the Scripture appears to me, in allusion to the prophecy just mentioned, reproachfully to upbraid the thoughtless: “Have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?”10541054    Matt. xxi. 16; Ps. viii. 2. In this way the Lord in the Gospels spurs on His disciples, urging them to attend to Him, hastening as He was to the Father; rendering His hearers more eager by the intimation that after a little He was to depart, and showing them that it was requisite that they should take more unsparing advantage of the truth than ever before, as the Word was to ascend to heaven. Again, therefore, He calls them children; for He says, “Children, a little while I am with you.”10551055    John xiii. 33. And, again, He likens the kingdom of heaven to children sitting in the market-places and saying, “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned, and ye have not lamented;”10561056    Matt. xi. 16, 17. [In the Peshitoi-Syraic version, where are probably found the very words our Saviour thus quotes from children in Nazareth, this saying is seen to be metrical and alliterative.] and whatever else He added agreeably thereto. And it is not alone the Gospel that holds these sentiments. Prophecy also agrees with it. David accordingly says, “Praise, O children, the Lord; praise the name of the Lord.”10571057    Ps. cxiii. 1. It says also by Esaias, “Here am I, and the children that God hath given me.10581058    Isa. viii. 18. Are you amazed, then, to hear that men who belong to the nations are sons in the Lord’s sight? You do not in that case appear to give ear to the Attic dialect, from which you may learn that beautiful, comely, and freeborn young maidens are still called παιδίσκαι, and servant-girls παιδισκάρια; and that those last also are, on account of the bloom of youth, called by the flattering name of young maidens.

And when He says, “Let my lambs stand on my right,”10591059    Matt. xxv. 33. He alludes to the simple children, as if they were sheep and lambs in nature, not men; and the lambs He counts worthy of preference, from the superior regard He has to that tenderness and simplicity of disposition in men which constitutes innocence. Again, when He says, “as suckling calves,” He again alludes figuratively to us; and “as an innocent and gentle dove,”10601060    Matt. x. 16. the reference is again to us. Again, by Moses, He commands “two young pigeons or a pair of turtles to be offered for sin;”10611061    Lev. xv. 29, xii. 8; Luke ii. 24. thus saying, that the harmlessness and innocence and placable nature of these tender young birds are acceptable to God, and explaining that like is an expiation for like. Further, the timorousness of the turtle-doves typifies fear in reference to sin.

And that He calls us chickens the Scripture testifies: “As a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.”10621062    Matt. xxiii. 37. Thus are we the Lord’s chickens; the Word thus marvellously and mystically describing the simplicity of childhood. For sometimes He calls us children, sometimes chickens, sometimes infants, and at other times sons, and “a new people,” and “a recent people.” “And my servants shall be called by a new name”10631063    Isa. lxv. 15, 16. (a new name, He says, fresh and eternal, pure and simple, and childlike and true), which shall be blessed on the earth. And again, He figuratively calls us colts unyoked to vice, not broken in by wickedness; but simple, and bounding joyously to the Father alone; not such horses “as neigh after their neighbours’ wives, that are under the yoke, and are female-mad;”10641064    Jer. v. 8. but free and new-born, jubilant by means of faith, ready to run to the truth, swift to speed to salvation, that tread and stamp under foot the things of the world.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; tell aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh, just, meek, and bringing salvation; meek truly is He, and riding on a beast of burden, and a young colt.”10651065    Zech. ix. 9; Gen. xlix. 11. It was not enough to have said colt alone, but He added to it also young, to show the youth of humanity in Christ, and the eternity of simplicity, which shall know no old age. And we who are little ones being such colts, are reared up by our divine colt-tamer. But if the new man in Scripture is represented by the ass, this ass is also a colt. “And he bound,” it is said, “the colt to the vine,” having bound this simple and childlike people to the word, whom He figuratively represents as a vine. For the vine produces wine, as the Word produces blood, and both drink for health to men—wine for the body, blood for the spirit.

And that He also calls us lambs, the Spirit by the mouth of Isaiah is an unimpeachable witness: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd, He will gather the lambs with His arm,”10661066    Isa. xl. 11.—using the figurative appellation of lambs, which are still more tender than sheep, to express simplicity. And we also in truth, honouring the fairest and most perfect objects in life with an appellation derived from the word child, have named training παιδεία, and discipline παιδαγωγία. Discipline (παιδαγωγία) we declare to be right guiding from childhood to virtue. Accordingly, our Lord revealed more distinctly to us what is signified by the appellation of children. On the question arising among the apostles, “which of them should be the greater,” Jesus placed a little child in the midst, saying, “Whosoever, shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be the greater in the kingdom of heaven.”10671067    Matt. xviii. 4. He does not then use the appellation of children on account of their very limited amount of understanding from their age, as some have thought. Nor, if He says, “Except ye become as these children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God,” are His words to be understood as meaning “without learning.” We, then, who are infants, no longer roll on the ground, nor creep on the earth like serpents as before, crawling with the whole body about senseless lusts; but, stretching upwards in soul, loosed from the world and our sins, touching the earth on tiptoe so as to appear to be in the world, we pursue holy wisdom, although this seems folly to those whose wits are whetted for wickedness. Rightly, then, are those called children who know Him who is God alone as their Father, who are simple, and infants, and guileless, who are lovers of the horns of the unicorns.10681068    Theodoret explains this to mean that, as the animal referred to has only one horn, so those brought up in the practice of piety worship only one God. [It might mean lovers of those promises which are introduced by these words in the marvellous twenty-second Psalm.]

To those, therefore, that have made progress in the word, He has proclaimed this utterance, bidding them dismiss anxious care of the things of this world, and exhorting them to adhere to the Father alone, in imitation of children. Wherefore also in what follows He says: “Take no anxious thought for the morrow; sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”10691069    Matt. vi. 34. Thus He enjoins them to lay aside the cares of this life, and depend on the Father alone. And he who fulfils this commandment is in reality a child and a son to God and to the world,—to the one as deceived, to the other as beloved. And if we have one Master in heaven, as the Scripture says, then by common consent those on the earth will be rightly called disciples. For so is the truth, that perfection is with the Lord, who is always teaching, and infancy and childishness with us, who are always learning. Thus prophecy hath honoured perfection, by applying to it the appellation man. For instance, by David, He says of the devil: “The Lord abhors the man of blood;”10701070    Ps. v. 6. he calls him man, as perfect in wickedness. And the Lord is called man, because He is perfect in righteousness. Directly in point is the instance of the apostle, who says, writing the Corinthians: “For I have espoused you to one man, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,”10711071    2 Cor. xi. 2. whether as children or saints, but to the Lord alone. And writing to the Ephesians, he has unfolded in the clearest manner the point in question, speaking to the following effect: “Till we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we be no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by the craft of men, by their cunning in stratagems of deceit; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up to Him in all things,”10721072    Eph. iv. 13–15.—saying these things in order to the edification of the body of Christ, who is the head and man, the only one perfect in righteousness; and we who are children guarding against the blasts of heresies, which blow to our inflation; and not putting our trust in fathers who teach us otherwise, are then made perfect when we are the church, having received Christ the head. Then it is right to notice, with respect to the appellation of infant (νήπιος), that τὸ νήπιον is not predicated of the silly: for the silly man is called νηπύτιος: and νήπιος is νεήπιος (since he that is tender-hearted is called ἤπιος), as being one that has newly become gentle and meek in conduct. This the blessed Paul most clearly pointed out when he said, “When we might have been burdensome as the apostles of Christ, we were gentle (ἤπιοι) among you, as a nurse cherisheth her children.”10731073    1 Thess. ii. 6, 7. The child (νήπιος) is therefore gentle (ἤπιος), and therefore more tender, delicate, and simple, guileless, and destitute of hypocrisy, straightforward and upright in mind, which is the basis of simplicity and truth. For He says, “Upon whom shall I look, but upon him who is gentle and quiet?”10741074    Isa. lxvi. 2. For such is the virgin speech, tender, and free of fraud; whence also a virgin is wont to be called “a tender bride,” and a child “tender-hearted.” And we are tender who are pliant to the power of persuasion, and are easily drawn to goodness, and are mild, and free of the stain of malice and perverseness, for the ancient race was perverse and hard-hearted; but the band of infants, the new people which we are, is delicate as a child. On account of the hearts of the innocent, the apostle, in the Epistle to the Romans, owns that he rejoices, and furnishes a kind of definition of children, so to speak, when he says, “I would have you wise toward good, but simple towards evil.”10751075    Rom. xvi. 19. For the name of child, νήπιος, is not understood by us privatively, though the sons of the grammarians make the νη a privative particle. For if they call us who follow after childhood foolish, see how they utter blasphemy against the Lord, in regarding those as foolish who have betaken themselves to God. But if, which is rather the true sense, they themselves understand the designation children of simple ones, we glory in the name. For the new minds, which have newly become wise, which have sprung into being according to the new covenant, are infantile in the old folly. Of late, then, God was known by the coming of Christ: “For no man knoweth God but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him.”10761076    Matt. xi. 27; Luke x. 22.

In contradistinction, therefore, to the older people, the new people are called young, having learned the new blessings; and we have the exuberance of life’s morning prime in this youth which knows no old age, in which we are always growing to maturity in intelligence, are always young, always mild, always new: for those must necessarily be new, who have become partakers of the new Word. And that which participates in eternity is wont to be assimilated to the incorruptible: so that to us appertains the designation of the age of childhood, a lifelong spring-time, because the truth that is in us, and our habits saturated with the truth, cannot be touched by old age; but Wisdom is ever blooming, ever remains consistent and the same, and never changes. “Their children,” it is said, “shall be borne upon their shoulders, and fondled on their knees; as one whom his mother comforteth, so also shall I comfort you.”10771077    Isa. lxvi. 12, 13. The mother draws the children to herself; and we seek our mother the Church. Whatever is feeble and tender, as needing help on account of its feebleness, is kindly looked on, and is sweet and pleasant, anger changing into help in the case of such: for thus horses’ colts, and the little calves of cows, and the lion’s whelp, and the stag’s fawn, and the child of man, are looked upon with pleasure by their fathers and mothers. Thus also the Father of the universe cherishes affection towards those who have fled to Him; and having begotten them again by His Spirit to the adoption of children, knows them as gentle, and loves those alone, and aids and fights for them; and therefore He bestows on them the name of child. The word Isaac I also connect with child. Isaac means laughter. He was seen sporting with his wife and helpmeet Rebecca by the prying king.10781078    Gen. xxvi. 8. The king, whose name was Abimelech, appears to me to represent a supramundane wisdom contemplating the mystery of sport. They interpret Rebecca to mean endurance. O wise sport, laughter also assisted by endurance, and the king as spectator! The spirit of those that are children in Christ, whose lives are ordered in endurance, rejoice. And this is the divine sport. “Such a sport, of his own, Jove sports,” says Heraclitus. For what other employment is seemly for a wise and perfect man, than to sport and be glad in the endurance of what is good—and, in the administration of what is good, holding festival with God? That which is signified by the prophet may be interpreted differently,—namely, of our rejoicing for salvation, as Isaac. He also, delivered from death, laughed, sporting and rejoicing with his spouse, who was the type of the Helper of our salvation, the Church, to whom the stable name of endurance is given; for this cause surely, because she alone remains to all generations, rejoicing ever, subsisting as she does by the endurance of us believers, who are the members of Christ. And the witness of those that have endured to the end, and the rejoicing on their account, is the mystic sport, and the salvation accompanied with decorous solace which brings us aid.

The King, then, who is Christ, beholds from above our laughter, and looking through the window, as the Scripture says, views the thanksgiving, and the blessing, and the rejoicing, and the gladness, and furthermore the endurance which works together with them and their embrace: views His Church, showing only His face, which was wanting to the Church, which is made perfect by her royal Head. And where, then, was the door by which the Lord showed Himself? The flesh by which He was manifested. He is Isaac (for the narrative may be interpreted otherwise), who is a type of the Lord, a child as a son; for he was the son of Abraham, as Christ the Son of God, and a sacrifice as the Lord, but he was not immolated as the Lord. Isaac only bore the wood of the sacrifice, as the Lord the wood of the cross. And he laughed mystically, prophesying that the Lord should fill us with joy, who have been redeemed from corruption by the blood of the Lord. Isaac did everything but suffer, as was right, yielding the precedence in suffering to the Word. Furthermore, there is an intimation of the divinity of the Lord in His not being slain. For Jesus rose again after His burial, having suffered no harm, like Isaac released from sacrifice. And in defence of the point to be established, I shall adduce another consideration of the greatest weight. The Spirit calls the Lord Himself a child, thus prophesying by Esaias: “Lo, to us a child has been born, to us a son has been given, on whose own shoulder the government shall be; and His name has been called the Angel of great Counsel.” Who, then, is this infant child? He according to whose image we are made little children. By the same prophet is declared His greatness: “Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; that He might fulfil His discipline: and of His peace there shall be no end.”10791079    Isa. ix. 6. O the great God! O the perfect child! The Son in the Father, and the Father in the Son. And how shall not the discipline of this child be perfect, which extends to all, leading as a schoolmaster us as children who are His little ones? He has stretched forth to us those hands of His that are conspicuously worthy of trust. To this child additional testimony is borne by John, “the greatest prophet among those born of women:”10801080    Luke vii. 28. Behold the Lamb of God!”10811081    John i. 29, 36. For since Scripture calls the infant children lambs, it has also called Him—God the Word—who became man for our sakes, and who wished in all points to be made like to us—“the Lamb of God”—Him, namely, that is the Son of God, the child of the Father.


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