(Note 1, p. 591.)
The kingdom of Christ was set up in great weakness, that nothing might be wanting to the glory of His working by the Spirit, in its triumph over the darkness of the world. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble," were called. 1 And so it continued for a long time. Under Commodus, however (a.d. 180-192), a temporary respite was conceded; partly because his favourite Marcia took their part for some reason, and partly because his cruelty gratified itself in another direction. "Our circumstances," says Eusebius, "were changed to a milder aspect; as there was peace prevailing, by the grace of God, throughout the world in the churches. Then, also, the saving-doctrine brought the minds of men to a devout veneration of the Supreme God, from every race on earth, so that, now, many of those eminent at Rome for their wealth and kindred, with their whole house and family, yielded themselves to salvation." What happened near the court of a fickle tyrant was far more likely to be common in Antioch and Alexandria. Men's consciences had no doubt been with the Christians, as Pilate's was with their Master; and now, when it became less perilous, they began to laugh at idols, and even to enroll themselves with Christians. Some, no doubt, like Joseph and Nicodemus, gave themselves to the Lord; but others, "with a form of godliness, denied the power thereof." Clement detected the great evil that began to threaten, and this beautiful tract is the product of his watchful observation. For he was gifted, also, with that great characteristic of noble mind, a faculty of foreseeing "whereunto such things must grow." His love and solicitude for the Church, lest its simplicity should pass away with its poverty, dictated this solemn and most timely warning.
And it is worthy of grateful remark, how admirably sustained was this primitive spirit among all the early witnesses for truth. They were not of this world, and they dreaded its influence. How richly the Word dwelt in them, is manifest from their amazing familiarity with the Scriptures. That they sometimes misquote or confuse quotations, or mix a Scriptural saying with some current proverb or an apocryphal gloss, is surely not surprising, when copies of the Scriptures were few and costly, when no concordances and books of reference were at hand, and when their whole apparatus for Biblical study was so extremely incomplete.
To the genius of this great Alexandrian Father, we are all debtors to this day. Had he not, unfortunately, allied much of his wisdom with the hateful name of the Gnostic, 2 which he failed to wrest from the pseudo-Gnostics, with whom it is irrevocably associated, we may be sure his expositions of Christian philosophy would be more useful in our times.