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Chapter I.—The Gnostic a True Worshipper of God, and Unjustly Calumniated by Unbelievers as an Atheist.

It is now time to show the Greeks that the Gnostic alone is truly pious; so that the philosophers, learning of what description the true Christian is, may condemn their own stupidity in rashly and inconsiderately persecuting the [Christian] name, and without reason calling those impious who know the true God. And clearer arguments must be employed, I reckon, with the philosophers, so that they may be able, from the exercise they have already had through their own training, to understand, although they have not yet shown themselves worthy to partake of the power of believing.

The prophetic sayings we shall not at present advert to, as we are to avail ourselves of the Scriptures subsequently at the proper places. But we shall point out summarily the points indicated by them, in our delineation of Christianity, so that by taking the Scriptures at once (especially as they do not yet comprehend their utterances), we may not interrupt the continuity of the discourse. But after pointing out the things indicated, proofs shall be shown in abundance to those who have believed.

But if the assertions made by us appear to certain of the multitude to be different from the Scriptures of the Lord, let it be known that it is from that source that they have breath and life; and taking their rise from them, they profess to adduce the sense only, not the words. For further treatment, not being seasonable, will rightly appear superfluous. Thus, not to look at what is urgent would be excessively indolent and defective; and “blessed, in truth, are they who, investigating the testimonies of the Lord, shall seek Him with their whole heart.”35073507    Ps. cxix. 2. And the law and the prophets witness of the Lord.

It is, then, our purpose to prove that the Gnostic alone is holy and pious, and worships the true God in a manner worthy of Him; and that worship meet for God is followed by loving and being loved by God. He accordingly judges all excellence to be honourable according to its worth; and judges that among the objects perceived by our senses, we are to esteem rulers, and parents, and every one advanced in years; and among subjects of instruction, the most ancient philosophy and primeval prophecy; and among intellectual ideas, what is oldest in origin, the timeless and unoriginated First Principle, and Beginning of existences—the Son—from whom we are to learn the remoter Cause, the Father, of the universe, the most ancient and the most beneficent of all; not capable of expression by the voice, but to be reverenced with reverence, and silence, and holy wonder, and supremely venerated; declared by the Lord, as far as those who learned were capable of comprehending, and understood by those chosen by the Lord to acknowledge; “whose senses,” says the apostle, “were exercised.”35083508    Heb. v. 14.

The service of God, then, in the case of the Gnostic, is his soul’s continual study35093509    Or, as rendered by the Latin translator, “continual care for his soul and occupation, bestowed on the Deity,” etc. and occupation, bestowed on the Deity in ceaseless love. For of the service bestowed on men, one kind is that whose aim is improvement, the other ministerial. The improvement of the body is the object of the medical art, of the soul of philosophy. Ministerial service is rendered to parents by children, to rulers by subjects.

Similarly, also, in the Church, the elders attend to the department which has improvement for its object; and the deacons to the ministerial. In both these ministries the angels35103510    [Book vi. cap. 13, supra.] serve God, in the management of earthly affairs; and the Gnostic himself ministers to God, and 524exhibits to men the scheme of improvement, in the way in which he has been appointed to discipline men for their amendment. For he is alone pious that serves God rightly and unblameably in human affairs. For as that treatment of plants is best through which their fruits are produced and gathered in, through knowledge and skill in husbandry, affording men the benefit accruing from them; so the piety of the Gnostic, taking to itself the fruits of the men who by his means have believed, when not a few attain to knowledge and are saved by it, achieves by his skill the best harvest. And as Godliness (θεοπρέπεια) is the habit which preserves what is becoming to God, the godly man is the only lover of God, and such will he be who knows what is becoming, both in respect of knowledge and of the life which must be lived by him, who is destined to be divine (θεῷ), and is already being assimilated to God. So then he is in the first place a lover of God. For as he who honours his father is a lover of his father, so he who honours God is a lover of God.

Thus also it appears to me that there are three effects of gnostic power: the knowledge of things; second, the performance of whatever the Word suggests; and the third, the capability of delivering, in a way suitable to God, the secrets veiled in the truth.

He, then, who is persuaded that God is omnipotent, and has learned the divine mysteries from His only-begotten Son, how can he be an atheist (ἄθπεος)? For he is an atheist who thinks that God does not exist. And he is superstitious who dreads the demons; who deifies all things, both wood and stone; and reduces to bondage spirit, and man who possesses the life of reason.35113511    Potter’s text has καταδεδουλωμένον—which Lowth changes into καταδεδουλωμένος, nominative; and this has been adopted in the translation. The thought is the same as in Exhortation to the Heathen [cap. ii. p. 177, supra.]


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