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Chapter XIX.—The True Gnostic is an Imitator of God, Especially in Beneficence.

He is the Gnostic, who is after the image and likeness of God, who imitates God as far as possible, deficient in none of the things which contribute to the likeness as far as compatible, practising self-restraint and endurance, living righteously, reigning over the passions, bestowing of what he has as far as possible, and doing good both by word and deed. “He is the greatest,” it is said, “in the kingdom who shall do and teach;”23702370    Matt. v. 19. imitating God in conferring like benefits. For God’s gifts are for the common good. “Whoever shall attempt to do aught with presumption, provokes God,”23712371    Num. xv. 30. it is said. For haughtiness is a vice of the soul, of which, as of other sins, He commands us to repent; by adjusting our lives from their state of derangement to the change for the better in these three things—mouth, heart, hands. These are signs—the hands of action, the heart of volition, the mouth of speech. Beautifully, therefore, has this oracle been spoken with respect to penitents: “Thou hast chosen God this day to be thy God; and God hath chosen thee this day to be His people.”23722372    Deut. xxvi. 17, 18. For him who hastes to serve the self-existent One, being a suppliant,23732373    ἱκέτην has been adopted from Philo, instead of οἰκέτην of the text. God adopts to Himself; and though he be only one in number, he is honoured equally with the people. For being a part of the people, he becomes complementary of it, being restored from what he was; and the whole is named from a part.

But nobility is itself exhibited in choosing and practising what is best. For what benefit to Adam was such a nobility as he had? No mortal was his father; for he himself was father of men that are born. What is base he readily chose, following his wife, and neglected what is true and good; on which account he exchanged his immortal life for a mortal life, but not for ever. And Noah, whose origin was not the same as Adam’s, was saved by divine care. For he took and consecrated himself to God. And Abraham, who had children by three wives, not for the indulgence of pleasure, but in the hope, as I think, of multiplying the race at the first, was succeeded by one alone, who was heir of his father’s blessings, while the rest were separated from the family; and of the twins who sprang from him, the younger having won his father’s favour and received his prayers, became heir, and the elder served him. For it is the greatest boon to a bad man not to be master of himself.23742374    [A noteworthy aphorism.]

And this arrangement was prophetical and typical. And that all things belong to the wise, Scripture clearly indicates when it is said, “Because God hath had mercy on me, I have all things.”23752375    Gen. xxxiii. 11. For it teaches that we are to desire one thing, by which are all things, and what is promised is assigned to the worthy. Accordingly, the good man who has become heir of the kingdom, it registers also as fellow-citizen, through divine wisdom, with the righteous of the olden time, who under the law and before the law lived according to law, whose deeds have become laws to us; and again, teaching that the wise man is king, introduces people of a different race, saying to him, “Thou art a king before God among us;”23762376    Gen. xxiii. 6. those who were governed obeying the good man of their own accord, from admiration of his virtue.

Now Plato the philosopher, defining the end of happiness, says that it is likeness to God as far as possible; whether concurring with the precept of the law (for great natures that are free of passions somehow hit the mark respecting the truth, as the Pythagorean Philo says in relating the history of Moses), or whether instructed by certain oracles of the time, thirsting as he always was for instruction. For the law says, “Walk after the Lord your God, and keep my commandments.”23772377    Deut. xiii. 4. For the law calls assimilation following; and such a following to the utmost of its power assimilates. “Be,” says the Lord, “merciful and pitiful, as your heavenly Father is pitiful.”23782378    Luke vi. 36. Thence also the Stoics have laid down the doctrine, that living agreeably to nature is the end, fitly altering the name of God into nature; since also nature extends to plants, to seeds, to trees, and to stones. It is therefore plainly said, “Bad men do not understand the law; but they who love the law fortify themselves with a wall.”23792379    Prov. xxviii. 4, 5. “For the wisdom of the clever knows its ways; but the folly of the foolish is in error.”23802380    Prov. xiv. 8. “For on whom will I look, but on him who is mild and gentle, and trembleth at my words?” says the prophecy.

We are taught that there are three kinds of friendship: and that of these the first and the best is that which results from virtue, for the love that is founded on reason is firm; that the second and intermediate is by way of recompense, and is social, liberal, and useful for life; for the friendship which is the result of favour is mutual. 370And the third and last we assert to be that which is founded on intimacy; others, again, that it is that variable and changeable form which rests on pleasure. And Hippodamus the Pythagorean seems to me to describe friendships most admirably: “That founded on knowledge of the gods, that founded on the gifts of men, and that on the pleasures of animals.” There is the friendship of a philosopher,—that of a man and that of an animal. For the image of God is really the man who does good, in which also he gets good: as the pilot at once saves, and is saved. Wherefore, when one obtains his request, he does not say to the giver, Thou hast given well, but, Thou hast received well. So he receives who gives, and he gives who receives. “But the righteous pity and show mercy.”23812381    Prov. xxi. 26. “But the mild shall be inhabitants of the earth, and the innocent shall be left in it. But the transgressors shall be extirpated from it.”23822382    Prov. ii. 21, 22. And Homer seems to me to have said prophetically of the faithful, “Give to thy friend.” And an enemy must be aided, that he may not continue an enemy. For by help good feeling is compacted, and enmity dissolved. “But if there be present readiness of mind, according to what a man hath it is acceptable, and not according to what he hath not: for it is not that there be ease to others, but tribulation to you, but of equality at the present time,” and so forth.23832383    2 Cor. viii. 12, 13, 14. “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever,” the Scripture says.23842384    Ps. cxii. 9. For conformity with the image and likeness is not meant of the body (for it were wrong for what is mortal to be made like what is immortal), but in mind and reason, on which fitly the Lord impresses the seal of likeness, both in respect of doing good and of exercising rule. For governments are directed not by corporeal qualities, but by judgments of the mind. For by the counsels of holy men states are managed well, and the household also.


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