Clement of Alexandria
The Stromata, or Miscellanies
Chapter XVIII.—On Love, and the Repressing of Our Desires.
“The decorous tendency of our philanthropy, therefore,” according to Clement, “seeks the common good;” whether by suffering martyrdom, or by teaching by deed and word,—the latter being twofold, unwritten and written. This is love, to love God and our neighbour. “This conducts to the height which is unutterable.2848 ‘Love covers a multitude of sins.2849 Love beareth all things, suffereth all things.’2850 Love joins us to God, does all things in concord. In love, all the chosen of God were perfected. Apart from love, nothing is well pleasing to God.” “Of its perfection there is no unfolding,” it is said. “Who is fit to be found in it, except those whom God counts worthy?” To the point the Apostle Paul speaks, “If I give my body, and have not love, I am sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal.”2851 If it is not from a disposition determined by gnostic love that I shall testify, he means; 430but if through fear and expected reward, moving my lips in order to testify to the Lord that I shall confess the Lord, I am a common man, sounding the Lord’s name, not knowing Him. “For there is the people that loveth with the lips; and there is another which gives the body to be burned.” “And if I give all my goods in alms,” he says, not according to the principle of loving communication, but on account of recompense, either from him who has received the benefit, or the Lord who has promised; “and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains,” and cast away obscuring passions, and be not faithful to the Lord from love, “I am nothing,” as in comparison of him who testifies as a Gnostic, and the crowd, and being reckoned nothing better.
“Now all the generations from Adam to this day are gone. But they who have been perfected in love, through the grace of God, hold the place of the godly, who shall be manifested at the visitation of the kingdom of Christ.” Love permits not to sin; but if it fall into any such case, by reason of the interference of the adversary, in imitation of David, it will sing: “I will confess unto the Lord, and it will please Him above a young bullock that has horns and hoofs. Let the poor see it, and be glad.” For he says, “Sacrifice to God a sacrifice of praise, and pay to the Lord thy vows; and call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”2852 “For the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.”2853
“God,” then, being good, “is love,” it is said.2854 Whose “love worketh no ill to his neighbour,”2855 neither injuring nor revenging ever, but, in a word, doing good to all according to the image of God. “Love is,” then, “the fulfilling of the law;”2856 like as Christ, that is the presence of the Lord who loves us; and our loving teaching of, and discipline according to Christ. By love, then, the commands not to commit adultery, and not to covet one’s neighbour’s wife, are fulfilled, [these sins being] formerly prohibited by fear.
The same work, then, presents a difference, according as it is done by fear, or accomplished by love, and is wrought by faith or by knowledge. Rightly, therefore, their rewards are different. To the Gnostic “are prepared what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man;” but to him who has exercised simple faith He testifies a hundredfold in return for what he has left,—a promise which has turned out to fall within human comprehension.
Come to this point, I recollect one who called himself a Gnostic. For, expounding the words, “But I say unto you, he that looketh on a woman to lust after, hath committed adultery,”2857 he thought that it was not bare desire that was condemned; but if through the desire the act that results from it proceeding beyond the desire is accomplished in it. For dream employs phantasy and the body. Accordingly, the historians relate the following decision of Bocchoris the just.2858 A youth, falling in love with a courtezan, persuades the girl, for a stipulated reward, to come to him next day. But his desire being unexpectedly satiated, by laying hold of the girl in a dream, by anticipation, when the object of his love came according to stipulation, he prohibited her from coming in. But she, on learning what had taken place, demanded the reward, saying that in this way she had sated the lover’s desire. They came accordingly to the judge. He, ordering the youth to hold out the purse containing the reward in the sun, bade the courtezan take hold of the shadow; facetiously bidding him pay the image of a reward for the image of an embrace.
Accordingly one dreams, the soul assenting to the vision. But he dreams waking, who looks so as to lust; not only, as that Gnostic said, if along with the sight of the woman he imagine in his mind intercourse, for this is already the act of lust, as lust; but if one looks on beauty of person (the Word says), and the flesh seem to him in the way of lust to be fair, looking on carnally and sinfully, he is judged because he admired. For, on the other hand, he who in chaste love looks on beauty, thinks not that the flesh is beautiful, but the spirit, admiring, as I judge, the body as an image, by whose beauty he transports himself to the Artist, and to the true beauty; exhibiting the sacred symbol, the bright impress of righteousness to the angels that wait on the ascension;2859 I mean the unction of acceptance, the quality of disposition which resides in the soul that is gladdened by the communication of the Holy Spirit. This glory, which shone forth on the face of Moses, the people could not look on. Wherefore he took a veil for the glory, to those who looked carnally. For those, who demand toll, detain those who bring in any worldly things, who are burdened with their own passions. But him that is free of all things which are subject to duty, and is full of knowledge, and of the righteousness of works, they pass on with their good wishes, blessing the man with his work. “And his life shall not fall away”—the leaf of the living tree that is nourished “by the water-courses.”2860 Now 431the righteous is likened to fruit-bearing trees, and not only to such as are of the nature2861 of tall-growing ones. And in the sacrificial oblations, according to the law, there were those who looked for blemishes in the sacrifices. They who are skilled in such matters distinguish propension2862 (ὄρεξις) from lust (ἐπιθυμία); and assign the latter, as being irrational, to pleasures and licentiousness; and propension, as being a rational movement, they assign to the necessities of nature.
[See vol. i. p. 18. S.]
[Or, “the Wise.” See Rawlinson, Herodotus, ii. p. 317.]
i.e., of blessed souls.
The text here has θυσίαν, for which φύσιν has been suggested as probably the true reading.
ὄρεξις the Stoics define to be a desire agreeable to reason; ἐπιθυμία, a desire contrary to reason.