(Purpose of the Stromata [^2143] )
The Alexandrian Gnostics were the pestilent outgrowth of pseudo-Platonism; and nobody could comprehend their root-errors, and their branching thorns and thistles, better than Clement. His superiority in philosophy and classical culture was exhibited, therefore, in his writings, as a necessary preliminary. Like a good nautical combatant, his effort was to "get to windward," and so bear down upon the enemy (to use an anachronism) with heavy-shotted broadsides. And we must not blame Clement for his plan of "taking the wind out of their sails," by showing that an eclectic philosophy might be made to harmonize with the Gospel. His plan was that of melting the gold out of divers ores, and throwing the dross away. Pure gold, he argues, is gold wherever it may be found, and even in the purse of "thieves and robbers." So, then, he "takes from them the armour in which they trusted, and divides the spoils." He will not concede to them the name of "Gnostics," but wrests it from them, just as we reclaim the name of "Catholics" from the Tridentine innovators, who have imposed a modern creed (and are constantly adding to it) upon the Latin churches. Here, then, let me quote the Account of Bishop Kaye. He says, "The object of Clement, in composing the Stromata, was to describe the true Gnostic,' or perfect Christian, in order to furnish the believer with a model for his imitation, and to prevent him from being led astray by the representations of the Valentinians and other gnostic sects." ... "Before we proceed to consider his description of the Gnostic, however, it will be necessary briefly to review his opinions respecting the nature and condition of man."
Here follows a luminous analysis (occupying pp. 229-238 of Kaye's work), after which he says,--
"The foregoing brief notice of Clement's opinions respecting man, his soul, and his fallen state, appeared necessary as an introduction to the description of the true Gnostic. By gnosis, Clement understood the perfect knowledge of all that relates to God, His nature, and dispensations. He speaks of a twofold knowledge,--one, common to all men, and born of sense; the other, the genuine gnosis, bred from the intellect, the mind, and its reason. This latter is not born with men, but must be gained and by practice formed into a habit. The initiated find its perfection in a loving mysticism, which this never-failing love makes lasting."
So, further, this learned analyst, not blindly, but always with scientific conscience and judicial impartiality, expounds his author; and, without some such guide, I despair of securing the real interest of the youthful student. Butler's Analogy and Aristotle's Ethics are always analyzed for learners, by editors of their works; and hence I have ventured to direct attention to this "guide, philosopher, and friend" of my own inquiries. [^2144]