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ANF02. Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire)
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Chapter X.—To Act Well of Greater Consequence Than to Speak Well.

Wherefore the Saviour, taking the bread, first spake and blessed. Then breaking the bread,18971897    [“Eat it according to reason.” Spiritual food does not stultify reason, nor conflict with the evidence of the senses.] He presented it, that we might eat it, according to reason, and that knowing the Scriptures18981898    [This constant appeal to the Scriptures, noteworthy.] we might walk obediently. And as those whose speech is evil are no better than those whose practice is evil (for calumny is the servant of the sword, and evil-speaking inflicts pain; and from these proceed disasters in life, such being the effects of evil speech); so also those who are given to good speech are near neighbours to those who accomplish good deeds. Accordingly discourse refreshes the soul and entices it to nobleness; and happy is he who has the use of both his hands. Neither, therefore, is he who can act well to be vilified by him who is able to speak well; nor is he who is able to speak well to be disparaged by him who is capable of acting well. But let each do that for which he is naturally fitted. What the one exhibits as actually done, the other speaks, preparing, as it were, the way for well-doing, and leading the hearers to the practice of good. For there is a saving word, as there is a saving work. Righteousness, accordingly,18991899    [Matt. xii. 37.] is not constituted without discourse. And as the receiving of good is abolished if we abolish the doing of good; so obedience and faith are abolished when neither the command, nor one to expound the command, is taken along with us.19001900    [Acts viii. 30.] But now we are benefited mutually and reciprocally by words and deeds; but we must repudiate entirely the art of wrangling and sophistry, since these sentences of the sophists not only bewitch and beguile the many, but sometimes by violence win a Cadmean victory.19011901    A victory disastrous to the victor and the vanquished. For true above all is that Psalm, “The just shall live to the end, for he shall not see corruption, when he beholds the wise dying.”19021902    Ps. xlviii. 10, 11, Sept. And whom does he call wise? Hear from the Wisdom of Jesus: “Wisdom is not the knowledge of evil.”19031903    Ecclus. xix. 22. Such he calls what the arts of speaking and of discussing have invented. “Thou shalt therefore seek wisdom among the wicked, and shalt not find it.”19041904    Prov. xiv. 6. And if you inquire again of what sort this is, you are told, “The mouth of the righteous man will distil wisdom.”19051905    Prov. x. 31. And similarly with truth, the art of sophistry is called wisdom.

But it is my purpose, as I reckon, and not without reason, to live according to the Word, and to understand what is revealed;19061906    [Revelation is complete, and nothing new to be expected. Gal. i. 8, 9.] but never affecting eloquence, to be content merely with indicating my meaning. And by what term that which I wish to present is shown, I care not. For I well know that to be saved, and to aid those who desire to be saved, is the best thing, and not to compose paltry sentences like gewgaws. “And if,” says the Pythagorean in the Politicus of Plato, “you guard against solicitude about terms, you will be richer in wisdom against old age.”19071907    Plato’s Politicus, p. 261 E. And in the Theœtetus you will find again, “And carelessness about names, and expressions, and the want of nice scrutiny, is not vulgar and illiberal for the most part, but rather the reverse of this, and is sometimes necessary.”19081908    Plato’s Theætetus, p. 184 C. This the Scripture19091909    [2 Tim. ii. 14.] has expressed with the greatest possible brevity, when it said, “Be not occupied much about words.” For expression is like the dress on the body. The matter is the flesh and sinews. We must not therefore care more for the dress than the safety of the body. For not only a simple mode of life, but also a style of speech devoid of superfluity and nicety, must be cultivated by him who has adopted the true life, if we are to abandon luxury as treacherous and profligate, as the ancient Lacedæmonians adjured ointment and purple, deeming and calling them rightly treacherous garments and treacherous unguents; since neither is that mode of preparing food right where there is more of seasoning than of nutriment; nor is that style of speech elegant which can please rather than benefit the hearers. Pythagoras exhorts us to consider the Muses more pleasant than the Sirens, teaching us to cultivate wisdom apart from pleasure, and exposing the other mode of attracting the soul as deceptive. For sailing past the Sirens one man has sufficient strength, and for answering the Sphinx another one, or, if you please, not even one.19101910    The story of Œdipus being a myth. We ought never, then, out of desire for vainglory, to make broad the phylacteries. It suffices the gnostic19111911    The possessor of true divine knowledge if only one hearer is found for him.19121912    “[Fit audience find though few.” Paradise Lost, book. vii. 31.
   Dante has the same thought. Pindar’s φωνᾶντα συνετοῖσν, Olymp., ii. 35.]
You may hear therefore Pindar the Bœotian,19131913    [Here I am sorry I cannot supply the proper reference. Clement shows his Attic prejudice in adding the epithet, here and elsewhere (Bœotian), which Pindar felt so keenly, and resents more than once. Olymp., vi. vol. i. p. 75. Ed. Heyne, London, 1823.] who writes, “Divulge not before all the ancient speech. The way of silence is sometimes the surest. And the mightiest word is a spur to the fight.” Accordingly, the blessed apostle very appropriately and urgently exhorts us “not to strive about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers, but to shun profane and vain babblings, for they increase unto more ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a canker.”19141914    2 Tim. ii. 14, 16, 17.


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