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Home > Fathers of the Church > Exposition of the Christian Faith (Ambrose) > Book II

Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book II

Book II.

Introduction.

Twelve names of the Son of God are recounted, being distributed into three classes. These names are so many proofs of the eternity not only of the Son, but of the Father also. Furthermore, they are compared with the twelve stones in the High Priest's breastplate, and their inseparability is shown by a new distribution of them. Returning to the comparison with the High Priest's breastplate, the writer sets forth the beauty of the woven-work and the precious stones of the mystic raiment, and the hidden meaning of that division into woven-work and precious stones, which being done, he expounds the comparison drawn by him, showing that faith must be woven in with works, and adds a short summary of the same faith, as concerning the Son.

1. Enough has been said, as I think, your sacred Majesty, in the book preceding to show that the Son of God is an eternal being, not diverse from the Father, begotten, not created: we have also proved, from passages of the Scriptures, that God's true Son is God, and is declared so to be by the evident tokens of His Majesty.

2. Wherefore, albeit what has already been set forth is plentiful even to overflowing for maintaining the Faith— seeing that the greatness of a river is mostly judged of from the manner in which its springs rise and flow forth— still, to the end that our belief may be the plainer to sight, the waters of our spring ought, methinks, to be parted off into three channels. There are, then, firstly, plain tokens declaring essential inherence in the Godhead; secondly, the expressions of the likeness of the Father and the Son; and lastly, those of the undoubtable unity of the Divine Majesty. Now of the first sort are the names begetting, God, Son, The Word; of the second, brightness, expression, mirror, image; and of the third, wisdom, power, truth, life.

3. These tokens so declare the nature of the Son, that by them you may know both that the Father is eternal, and that the Son is not diverse from Him; for the source of generation is He Who is, and as begotten of the Eternal, He is God; coming forth from the Father, He is the Son; from God, He is the Word; He is the radiance of the Father's glory, the expression of His substance, the counterpart of God, the image of His majesty; the Bounty of Him Who is bountiful, the Wisdom of Him Who is wise, the Power of the Mighty One, the Truth of Him Who is true, the Life of the Living One. In agreement, therefore, stand the attributes of Father and Son, that none may suppose any diversity, or doubt but that they are of one Majesty. For each and all of these names would we furnish examples of their use were we not constrained by a desire to maintain our discourse within bounds.

4. Of these twelve, as of twelve precious stones, is the pillar of our faith built up. For these are the precious stones— sardius, jasper, smaragd, chrysolite, and the rest—woven into the robe of holy Aaron, even of him who bears the likeness of Christ, that is, of the true Priest; stones set in gold, and inscribed with the names of the sons of Israel, twelve stones close joined and fitting one into another, for if any should sunder or separate them, the whole fabric of the faith falls in ruins.

5. This, then, is the foundation of our faith— to know that the Son of God is begotten; if He be not begotten, neither is He the Son. Nor yet is it sufficient to call Him Son, unless you shall also distinguish Him as the Only-begotten Son. If He is a creature, He is not God; if He is not God, He is not the Life; if He is not the Life, then is He not the Truth.

6. The first three tokens, therefore, that is to say, the names generation, Son, Only-begotten, do show that the Son is of God originally and by virtue of His own nature.

7. The three that follow— to wit, the names God, Life, Truth, reveal His Power, whereby He has laid the foundations of, and upheld, the created world. For, as Paul said, in Him we live and move and have our being; Acts 17:28 and therefore, in the first three the Son's natural right, in the other three the unity of action subsisting between Father and Son is made manifest.

8. The Son of God is also called the image and effulgence and expression [of God], for these names have disclosed the Father's incomprehensible and unsearchable Majesty dwelling in the Son, and the expression of His likeness in Him. These three names, then, as we see, refer to [the Son's] likeness [to the Father].

9. We have yet the operations of Power, Wisdom, and Justice left, wherewith, severally, to prove [the Son's] eternity.

10. This, then, is that robe, adorned with precious stones; this is the amice of the true Priest; this the bridal garment; here is the inspired weaver, who well knew how to weave that work. No common woven work is it, whereof the Lord spoke by His Prophet: Who gave to women their skill in weaving? No common stones again, are they— stones, as we find them called, of filling; for all perfection depends on this condition, that there be nought lacking. They are stones joined together and set in gold— that is, of a spiritual kind; the joining of them by our minds and their setting in convincing argument. Finally Scripture teaches us how far from common are these stones, inasmuch as, while some brought one kind, and others another, of less precious offerings, these the devout princes brought, wearing them upon their shoulders, and made of them the breastplate of judgment, that is, a piece of woven work. Now we have a woven work, when faith and action go together.

11. Let none suppose me to be misguided, in that I made at first a threefold division, each part containing four, and afterwards a fourfold division, each part containing three terms. The beauty of a good thing pleases the more, if it be shown under various aspects. For those are good things, whereof the texture of the priestly robe was the token, that is to say, either the Law, or the Church, which latter has made two garments for her spouse, as it is written — the one of action, the other of spirit, weaving together the threads of faith and works. Thus, in one place, as we read, she makes a groundwork of gold, and afterwards weaves thereon blue, and purple, with scarlet, and white. Again, [as we read] elsewhere, she first makes little flowerets of blue and other colours, and attaches gold, and there is made a single priestly robe, to the end that adornments of diverse grace and beauty, made up of the same bright colours, may gain fresh glory by diversity of arrangement.

12. Moreover (to complete our interpretation of these types), it is certain that by refined gold and silver are designated the oracles of the Lord, whereby our faith stands firm. The oracles of the Lord are pure oracles, silver tried in the fire, refined of dross, purified seven times. Now blue is like the air we breathe and draw in; purple, again, represents the appearance of water; scarlet signifies fire; and white linen, earth, for its origin is in the earth. Of these four elements, again, the human body is composed.

13. Whether, then, you join to faith already present in the soul, bodily acts agreeing thereto; or acts come first, and faith be joined as their companion, presenting them to God— here is the robe of the minister of religion, here the priestly vestment.

14. Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works. James 2:14-26 This faith— that I may set the matter forth shortly— is contained in the following principles, which cannot be overthrown. If the Son had His origin in nothing, He is not Son; if He is a creature, He is not the Creator; if He was made, He did not make all things; if He needs to learn, He has no foreknowledge; if He is a receiver, He is not perfect; if He progress, He is not God. If He is unlike (the Father) He is not the (Father's) image; if He is Son by grace, He is not such by nature; if He have no part in the Godhead, He has it in Him to sin. There is none good, but Godhead. Mark 10:18

Chapter 1.

The Arian argument from S. Mark 10:18 , There is none good but one, that is, God, refuted by explanation of these words of Christ.

15. The objection I have now to face, your sacred Majesty, fills me with bewilderment, my soul and body faint at the thought that there should be men, or rather not men, but beings with the outward appearance of men, but inwardly full of brutish folly— who can, after receiving at the hands of the Lord benefits so many and so great, say that the Author of all good things is Himself not good.

16. It is written, say they, that There is none good but God alone. I acknowledge the Scripture— but there is no falsehood in the letter; would that there were none in the Arians' exposition thereof. The written signs are guiltless, it is the meaning in which they are taken that is to blame. I acknowledge the words as the words of our Lord and Saviour— but let us bethink ourselves when, to whom, and with what comprehension He speaks.

17. The Son of God is certainly speaking as man, and speaking to a scribe,— to him, that is, who called the Son of God Good Master, but would not acknowledge Him as God. What he believes not, Christ further gives him to understand, to the end that he may believe in God's Son not as a good master, but as the good God, for if, wheresoever the One God is named, the Son of God is never sundered from the fullness of that unity, how, when God alone is said to be good, can the Only-begotten be excluded from the fullness of Divine Goodness? The Arians must therefore either deny that the Son of God is God, or confess that God is good.

18. With divinely inspired comprehension, then, our Lord said, not There is none good but the Father alone, but There is none good but God alone, and Father is the proper name of Him Who begets. But the unity of God by no means excludes the Godhead of the Three Persons, and therefore it is His Nature that is extolled. Goodness, therefore, is of the nature of God, and in the nature of God, again, exists the Son of God— wherefore that which the predicate expresses belongs not to one single Person, but to the [complete] unity [of the Godhead].

19. The Lord, then, does not deny His goodness— He rebukes this sort of disciple. For when the scribe said, Good Master, the Lord answered, Why do you call Me good?— which is to say, It is not enough to call Him good, Whom you believe not to be God. Not such do I seek to be My disciples— men who rather consider My manhood and reckon Me a good master, than look to My Godhead and believe Me to be the good God.

Chapter 2.

The goodness of the Son of God is proved from His works, namely, His benefits that He showed towards the people of Israel under the Old Covenant, and to Christians under the New. It is to one's own interest to believe in the goodness of Him Who is one's Lord and Judge. The Father's testimony to the Son. No small number of the Jewish people bear witness to the Son; the Arians therefore are plainly worse than the Jews. The words of the Bride, declaring the same goodness of Christ.

20. Howbeit, I would not that the Son should rely on the mere prerogative of His nature and the claims of peculiar rights of His Majesty. Let us not call Him good, if He merit not the title; and if He merit not this by works, by acts of lovingkindness, let Him waive the right He enjoys by virtue of His nature, and be submitted to our judgment. He Who is to judge us disdains not to be brought to judgment, that He may be justified in His saying, and clear when He is judged.

21. Is He then not good, Who has shown me good things? Is He not good, Who when six hundred thousand of the people of the Jews fled before their pursuers, suddenly opened the tide of the Red Sea, an unbroken mass of waters?— so that the waves flowed round the faithful, and were walls to them, but poured back and overwhelmed the unbelievers.

22. Is He not good, at Whose command the seas became firm ground for the feet of them that fled, and the rocks gave forth water for the thirsty? so that the handiwork of the true Creator might be known, when the fluid became solid, and the rock streamed with water? That we might acknowledge this as the handiwork of Christ, the Apostle said: And that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4

23. Is He not good, Who in the wilderness fed with bread from heaven such countless thousands of the people, lest any famine should assail them, without need of toil, in the enjoyment of rest?— so that, for the space of forty years, their raiment grew not old, nor were their shoes worn, a figure to the faithful of the Resurrection that was to come, showing that neither the glory of great deeds, nor the beauty of the power wherewith He has clothed us, nor the stream of human life is made for nought?

24. Is He not good, Who exalted earth to heaven, so that, just as the bright companies of stars reflect His glory in the sky, as in a glass, so the choirs of apostles, martyrs, and priests, shining like glorious stars, might give light throughout the world.

25. Not only, then, is He good, but He is more. He is a good Shepherd, not only for Himself, but to His sheep also, for the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Aye, He laid down His life to exalt ours— but it was in the power of His Godhead that He laid it down and took it again: I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.

26. You see His goodness, in that He laid it down of His own accord: you see His power, in that He took it again— do you deny His goodness, when He has said of Himself in the Gospel, If I am good, why is your eye evil? Ungrateful wretch what are you doing? Do you deny His goodness, in Whom is your hope of good things— if, indeed, you believe this? Do you deny His goodness, Who has given us what eye has not seen, nor ear heard?

27. It concerns my interest to believe Him to be good, for It is a good thing to trust in the Lord. It is to my interest to confess Him Lord, for it is written: Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.

28. It is to my interest to esteem my Judge to be good, for the Lord is a righteous Judge to the house of Israel. If, then, the Son of God is Judge, surely, seeing that the Judge is the righteous God and the Son of God is Judge, [it follows that] He who is Judge and Son of God is the righteous God.

29. But perchance you believe not others, nor the Son. Hear, then, the Father saying: My heart has brought forth out of its depth the good Word. The Word, then, is good— the Word, of Whom it is written: And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 If, therefore, the Word is good, and the Son is the Word of God, surely, though it displease the Arians, the Son of God is God. Let them now at least blush for shame.

30. The Jews used to say: He is good. Though some said: He is not, yet others said: He is good,— and you do all deny His goodness.

31. He is good who forgives the sin of one man; is He not good Who has taken away the sin of the world? For it was of Him that it was said: Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world.

32. But why do we doubt? The Church has believed in His goodness all these ages, and has confessed its faith in the saying: Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth; for your breasts are better than wine; Song of Songs 1:1 and again: And your throat is like the goodliest wine. Of His goodness, therefore, He nourishes us with the breasts of the Law and Grace, soothing men's sorrows with telling them of heavenly things; and do we, then, deny His goodness, when He is the manifestation of goodness, expressing in His Person the likeness of the Eternal Bounty, even as we showed above that it was written, that He is the spotless reflection and counterpart of that Bounty? Song of Songs 7:9

Chapter 3.

Forasmuch as God is One, the Son of God is God, good and true.

33. Yet what think you, who deny the goodness and true Godhead of the Son of God, though it is written that there is no God but One? 1 Corinthians 8:4 For although there be gods so-called, would you reckon Christ among them which are called gods, but are not, seeing that eternity is of His Essence, and that beside Him there is none other that is good and true God, forasmuch as God is in Him; John 17:22-23 while it follows from the very nature of the Father, that after Him there is no other true God, because God is One, neither confounding [the Persons of] the Father and Son, as the Sabellians do, nor, like the Arians, severing the Father and the Son. For the Father and the Son, as Father and Son, are distinct persons, but they admit no division of their Godhead.

Chapter 4.

The omnipotence of the Son of God, demonstrated on the authority of the Old and the New Testament.

34. Seeing, then, that the Son of God is true and good, surely He is Almighty God. Can there be yet any doubt on this point? We have already cited the place where it is read that the Lord Almighty is His Name. Because, then, the Son is Lord, and the Lord is Almighty, the Son of God is Almighty.

35. But hear also such a passage as you can build no doubts upon: Behold, He comes, says the Scripture, with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they which pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn because of Him. Yea, amen. I am Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8 Whom, I ask, did they pierce? For Whose coming hope we but the Son's? Therefore, Christ is Almighty Lord, and God.

36. Hear another passage, your sacred Majesty,— hear the voice of Christ. Thus says the Lord Almighty: After His glory has He sent me against the nations which have made spoil of you, forasmuch as he that touches you is as he that touches the pupil of His eye. For lo, I lay my hand upon them which despoiled you, and I will save you, and they shall be for a spoil, which made spoil of you, and they shall know that the Lord Almighty has sent Me. Plainly, He Who speaks is the Lord Almighty, and He Who has sent is the Lord Almighty. By consequence, then, almighty power appertains both to the Father and to the Son; nevertheless, it is One Almighty God, for there is oneness of Majesty.

37. Moreover, that your most excellent Majesty may know that it is Christ which has spoken as in the Gospel, so also in the prophet, He says by the mouth of Isaiah, as though foreordaining the Gospel: I Myself, Who spoke, have come, that is to say, I, Who spoke in the Law, am present in the Gospel.

38. Elsewhere, again, He says: All things that the Father has are Mine. John 16:25 What means He by all things? Clearly, not things created, for all these were made by the Son, but the things that the Father has— that is to say, Eternity, Sovereignty, Godhead, which are His possession, as begotten of the Father. We cannot, then, doubt that He is Almighty, Who has all things that the Father has (for it is written: All things that the Father has are Mine).

Chapter 5.

Certain passages from Scripture, urged against the Omnipotence of Christ, are resolved; the writer is also at especial pains to show that Christ not seldom spoke in accordance with the affections of human nature.

39. Although it is written concerning God, Blessed and only Potentate, 1 Timothy 5:15 yet I have no misgiving that the Son of God is thereby severed from Him, seeing that the Scripture entitled God, not the Father by Himself, the only Potentate. The Father Himself also declares by the prophet, concerning Christ, that I have set help upon one that is mighty. It is not the Father alone, then, Who is the only Potentate; God the Son also is Potentate, for in the Father's praise the Son is praised too.

40. Aye, let some one show what there is that the Son of God cannot do. Who was His helper, when He made the heavens,— Who, when He laid the foundations of the world? Had He any need of a helper to set men free, Who needed none in constituting angels and principalities? Colossians 1:15-16

41. It is written, say they: 'My Father, if it be possible, take away this cup from Me.' If, then, He is Almighty, how comes He to doubt of the possibility? Which means that, because I have proved Him to be Almighty, I have proved Him unable to doubt of possibility.

42. The words, you say, are the words of Christ. True— consider, though, the occasion of His speaking them, and in what character He speaks. He has taken upon Him the substance of man, and therewith its affections. Again, you find in the place above cited, that He went forward a little further, and fell on His face, praying, and saying: Father, if it be possible. Not as God, then, but as man, speaks He, for could God be ignorant of the possibility or impossibility of anything? Or is anything impossible for God, when the Scripture says: For You nothing is impossible? Job 22:17

43. Of Whom, howbeit, does He doubt— of Himself, or of the Father? Of Him, surely, Who says: Take away from Me,— being moved as man is moved to doubt. The prophet reckons nothing impossible with God. The prophet doubts not; think you that the Son doubts? Will you put God lower than man? What— God has doubts of His Father, and is fearful at the thought of death! Christ, then, is afraid— afraid, while Peter fears nothing. Peter says: I will lay down my life for Your sake. John 13:37 Christ says: My soul is troubled. John 12:27

44. Both records are true, and it is equally natural that the person who is the less should not fear, as that He Who is the greater should endure this feeling, for the one has all a man's ignorance of the might of death, while the other, as being God inhabiting a body, displays the weakness of the flesh, that the wickedness of those who deny the mystery of the Incarnation might have no excuse. Thus, then, has He spoken, yet the Manichæan believed not; Valentinus denied, and Marcion judged Him to be a ghost.

45. But indeed He so far put Himself on a level with man, such as He showed Himself to be in the reality of His bodily frame, as to say, Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will, Matthew 26:39 though truly it is Christ's special power to will what the Father wills, even as it is His to do what the Father does.

46. Here, then, let there be an end of the objection which it is your custom to oppose to us, on the ground that the Lord said, Not as I will, but as You will; and again, For this cause I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. John 6:38

Chapter 6.

The passages of Scripture above cited are taken as an occasion for a digression, wherein our Lord's freedom of action is proved from the ascription to the Spirit of such freedom, and from places where it is attributed to the Son.

47. Let us now, for the present, explain more fully why our Lord said, If it be possible, and so call a truce, as it were, while we show that He possessed freedom of will. You deny— so far are you gone in the way of iniquity— that the Son of God had a free will. Moreover, it is your wont to detract from the Holy Spirit, though you cannot deny that it is written: The Spirit does breathe, where He will. Where He will, says the Scripture, not where He is ordered. If, then, the Spirit does breathe where He will, cannot the Son do what He will? Why, it is the very same Son of God Who in His Gospel says that the Spirit has power to breathe where He will. Does the Son, therefore, confess the Spirit to be greater, in that He has power to do what is not permitted to Himself?

48. The Apostle also says that all is the work of one and the same Spirit, distributing to each according to His will. 1 Corinthians 12:11 According to His will, mark you— that is, according to the judgment of a free will, not in obedience to compulsion. Furthermore, the gifts distributed by the Spirit are no mean gifts, but such works as God is wont to do—the gift of healing and of working deeds of power. While the Spirit, then, distributes as He will, the Son of God cannot set free whom He will. But hear Him speak when He does even as He will: I have willed to do Your will, O my God; and again: I will offer You a freewill offering.

49. The holy Apostle later knew that Jesus had it in His power to do as He would, and therefore, seeing Him walk upon the sea, said: Lord, if it be You, bid me come to You over the waters. Matthew 14:28 Peter believed that if Christ commanded, the natural conditions could be changed, so that water might support human footsteps, and things discrepant be reduced to harmony and agreement. Peter asks of Christ to command, not to request: Christ requested not, but commanded, and it was done— and Arius denies it!

50. What indeed is there that the Father will have, but the Son will not, or that the Son will have, but the Father will not? The Father quickens whom He will, and the Son quickens whom He will, even as it is written. John 5:21 Tell me now whom the Son has quickened, and the Father would not quicken. Since, however, the Son quickens whom He will, and the action [of Father and Son] is one, you see that not only does the Son the Father's will, but the Father also does the Son's. For what is quickening but quickening through the passion of Christ? But the passion of Christ is the Father's will. Whom, therefore, the Son quickens, He quickens by the will of the Father; therefore their will is one.

51. Again, what was the will of the Father, but that Jesus should come into the world and cleanse us from our sins? Hear the words of the leper: If You will, You can make me clean. Matthew 8:2 Christ answered, I will, and straightway health, the effect, followed. See you not that the Son is master of His own will, and Christ's will is the same as the Father's. Indeed, seeing that He has said, All things that the Father has are Mine, John 16:15 nothing of a certainty being excepted, the Son has the same will that the Father has.

Chapter 7.

The resolution of the difficulty set forth for consideration is again taken in hand. Christ truly and really took upon Him a human will and affections, the source of whatsoever was not in agreement with His Godhead, and which must be therefore referred to the fact that He was at the same time both God and man.

52. There is, therefore, unity of will where there is unity of working; for in God His will issues straightway in actual effect. But the will of God is one, and the human will another. Further, to show that life is the object of human will, because we fear death, while the passion of Christ depended on the Divine Will, that He should suffer for us, the Lord said, when Peter would have detained Him from suffering: You savour not of the things which be of God, but the things which be of men. Matthew 16:23

53. My will, therefore, He took to Himself, my grief. In confidence I call it grief, because I preach His Cross. Mine is the will which He called His own, for as man He bore my grief, as man He spoke, and therefore said, Not as I will, but as You will. Mine was the grief, and mine the heaviness with which He bore it, for no man exults when at the point to die. With me and for me He suffers, for me He is sad, for me He is heavy. In my stead, therefore, and in me He grieved Who had no cause to grieve for Himself.

54. Not Your wounds, but mine, hurt You, Lord Jesus; not Your death, but our weakness, even as the Prophet says: For He is afflicted for our sakes Isaiah 53:4 — and we, Lord, esteemed You afflicted, when You grieved not for Yourself, but for me.

55. And what wonder if He grieved for all, Who wept for one? What wonder if, in the hour of death, He is heavy for all, Who wept when at the point to raise Lazarus from the dead? Then, indeed, He was moved by a loving sister's tears, for they touched His human heart—here by secret grief He brought it to pass that, even as His death made an end of death, and His stripes healed our scars, so also His sorrow took away our sorrow.

56. As being man, therefore, He doubts; as man He is amazed. Neither His power nor His Godhead is amazed, but His soul; He is amazed by consequence of having taken human infirmity upon Him. Seeing, then, that He took upon Himself a soul He also took the affections of a soul, for God could not have been distressed or have died in respect of His being God. Finally, He cried: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? As being man, therefore, He speaks, bearing with Him my terrors, for when we are in the midst of dangers we think ourself abandoned by God. As man, therefore, He is distressed, as man He weeps, as man He is crucified.

57. For so has the Apostle Paul likewise said: Because they have crucified the flesh of Christ. And again the Apostle Peter says: Christ having suffered according to the flesh. 1 Peter 4:1 It was the flesh, therefore, that suffered; the Godhead above secure from death; to suffering His body yielded, after the law of human nature; can the Godhead die, then, if the soul cannot? Fear not them, said our Lord, which can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Matthew 10:28 If the soul, then, cannot be killed, how can the Godhead?

58. When we read, then, that the Lord of glory was crucified, let us not suppose that He was crucified as in His glory. 1 Corinthians 2:8 It is because He Who is God is also man, God by virtue of His Divinity, and by taking upon Him of the flesh, the man Christ Jesus, that the Lord of glory is said to have been crucified; for, possessing both natures, that is, the human and the divine, He endured the Passion in His humanity, in order that without distinction He Who suffered should be called both Lord of glory and Son of man, even as it is written: Who descended from heaven. John 3:13

Chapter 8.

Christ's saying, The Father is greater than I, is explained in accordance with the principle just established. Other like sayings are expounded in like fashion. Our Lord cannot, as touching His Godhead, be called inferior to the Father.

59. It was due to His humanity, therefore, that our Lord doubted and was sore distressed, and rose from the dead, for that which fell does also rise again. Again, it was by reason of His humanity that He said those words, which our adversaries use to maliciously turn against Him: Because the Father is greater than I. John 14:28

60. But when in another passage we read: I came out from the Father, and have come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father, John 16:28 how does He go, except through death, and how comes He, save by rising again? Furthermore, He added, in order to show that He spoke concerning His Ascension: Therefore have I told you before it come to pass, in order that, when it shall have come to pass, you may believe. John 14:20 For He was speaking of the sufferings and resurrection of His body, and by that resurrection they who before doubted were led to believe— for, indeed, God, Who is always present in every place, passes not from place to place. As it is a man who goes, so it is He Himself Who comes. Furthermore, He says in another place: Rise, let us go hence. John 14:31 In that, therefore, does He go and come, which is common to Him and to us.

61. How, indeed, can He be a lesser God when He is perfect and true God? Yet in respect of His humanity He is less— and still you wonder that speaking in the person of a man He called the Father greater than Himself, when in the person of a man He called Himself a worm, and not a man, saying: But I am a worm, and no man; and again: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter. Isaiah 53:7

62. If you pronounce Him less than the Father in this respect, I cannot deny it; nevertheless, to speak in the words of Scripture, He was not begotten inferior, but made lower, Hebrews 2:9 that is, made inferior. And how was He made lower, except that, being in the form of God, He thought it not a prey that He should be equal with God, but emptied Himself; Philippians 2:6-7 not, indeed, parting with what He was, but taking up what He was not, for He took the form of a servant. Philippians 2:6-7

63. Moreover, to the end that we might know Him to have been made lower, by taking upon Him a body, David has shown that he is prophesying of a man, saying: What is man, that You are mindful of him, or the son of man, but that You visit him? You have made him a little lower than the angels. And in interpreting this same passage the Apostle says: For we see Jesus, made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because that He suffered death, in order that apart from God He might taste death for all. Hebrews 2:9

64. Thus, the Son of God was made lower than, not only the Father, but angels also. And if you will turn this to His dishonour; [I ask] is then the Son, in respect of His Godhead, less than His angels who serve Him and minister to Him? Thus, in your purpose to diminish His honour, you run into the blasphemy of exalting the nature of angels above the Son of God. But the servant is not above his master. Matthew 10:24 Again, angels ministered to Him even after His Incarnation, to the end that you should acknowledge Him to have suffered no loss of majesty by reason of His bodily nature, for God could not submit to any loss of Himself, while that which He has taken of the Virgin neither adds to nor takes away from His divine power.

65. He, therefore, possessing the fullness of Divinity and glory, Colossians 2:9 is not, in respect of His Divinity, inferior. Greater and less are distinctions proper to corporeal existences; one who is greater is so in respect of rank, or qualities, or at any rate of age. These terms lose their meaning when we come to treat of the things of God. He is commonly entitled the greater who instructs and informs another, but it is not the case with God's Wisdom that it has been built up by teaching received from another, forasmuch as Itself has laid the foundation of all teaching. But how wisely wrote the Apostle: In order that apart from God He might taste death for all,— lest we should suppose the Godhead, not the flesh, to have endured that Passion!

66. If our opponents, then, have found no means to prove [the Father] greater [than the Son], let them not pervert words unto false reports, but seek out their meaning. I ask them, therefore, as touching what do they esteem the Father the greater? If it is because He is the Father, then [I answer] here we have no question of age or of time— the Father is not distinguished by white hairs, nor the Son by youthfulness— and it is on these conditions that the greater dignity of a father depends. But father and son are names, the one of the parent, the other of the child— names which seem to join rather than separate; for dutifulness inspires no loss of personal worth, inasmuch as kinship binds men together, and does not rend them asunder.

67. If, then, they cannot make the order of nature a support for any questioning, let them now believe the witness [of Scripture]. Now the Evangelist testifies that the Son is not lower [than the Father] by reason of being the Son; nay, he even declares that, in being the Son, He is equal, saying, For the Jews sought to kill Him for this cause, that not only did He break the Sabbath, but even called God His own Father, making Himself equal to God. John 5:10

68. This is not what the Jews said— it is the Evangelist who testifies that, in calling Himself God's own Son, He made Himself equal to God, for the Jews are not presented as saying, For this cause we sought to kill Him; the Evangelist, speaking for himself, says, For the Jews sought to kill Him for this cause. Moreover, he has discovered the cause, [in saying] that the Jews were stirred with desire to slay Him because, when as God He broke the Sabbath, and also claimed God as His own Father, He ascribed to Himself not only the majesty of divine authority in breaking the Sabbath, but also, in speaking of His Father, the right appertaining to eternal equality.

69. Most fitting was the answer which the Son of God made to these Jews, proving Himself the Son and equal of God. Whatsoever things, He said, the Father has done, the Son does also in like wise. John 5:19 The Son, therefore, is both entitled and proved the equal of the Father— a true equality, which both excludes difference of Godhead, and discovers, together with the Son, the Father also, to Whom the Son is equal; for there is no equality where there is difference, nor again where there is but one person, inasmuch as none is by himself equal to himself. Thus has the Evangelist shown why it is fitting that Christ should call Himself the Son of God, that is, make Himself equal with God.

70. Hence the Apostle, following this revelation, has said: He thought it not a prey that He should be equal with God. For that which a man has not he seeks to carry off as a prey. Equality with the Father, therefore, which, as God and Lord, He possessed in His own substance, He had not as a spoil wrongfully seized. Wherefore the Apostle added [the words]: He took the form of a servant. Now surely a servant is the opposite of an equal. Equal, therefore, is the Son, in the form of God, but inferior in taking upon Him of the flesh and in His sufferings as a man. For how could the same nature be both lower and equal? And how, if [the Son] be inferior, can He do the same things, in like manner, as the Father does? How, indeed, can there be sameness of operation with diversity of power? Can the inferior ever work such effects as the greater, or can there be unity of operation where there is diversity of substance?

71. Admit, therefore, that Christ, as touching His Godhead, cannot be called inferior [to the Father]. Christ speaks to Abraham: By Myself have I sworn. Genesis 22:16 Now the Apostle shows that He Who swears by Himself cannot be lower than any. Thus he says, When God rewarded Abraham with His promise, He swore by Himself, forasmuch as He had none other that was greater, saying, Surely with blessing will I bless you, and with multiplying will I multiply you. Hebrews 6:13-14 Christ had, therefore, none greater, and for that cause swore He by Himself. Moreover, the Apostle has rightly added, for men swear by one greater than themselves, forasmuch as men have one who is greater than themselves, but God has none.

72. Otherwise, if our adversaries will understand this passage as referred to the Father, then the rest of the record does not agree with it. For the Father did not appear to Abraham, nor did Abraham wash the feet of God the Father, but the feet of Him in Whom is the image of the man that shall be. Moreover, the Son of God says, Abraham saw My day, and rejoiced. John 8:56 It is He, therefore, Who swore by Himself, [and] Whom Abraham saw.

73. And how, indeed, has He any greater than Himself Who is one with the Father in Godhead? John 10:30 Where there is unity, there is no dissimilarity, whereas between greater and less there is a distinction. The teaching, therefore, of the instance from Scripture before us, with regard to the Father and the Son, is that neither is the Father greater, nor has the Son any that is above Him, inasmuch as in Father and Son there is no difference of Godhead parting them, but one majesty.

Chapter 9.

The objection that the Son, being sent by the Father, is, in that regard at least, inferior, is met by the answer that He was also sent by the Spirit, Who is yet not considered greater than the Son. Furthermore, the Spirit, in His turn, is sent by the Father to the Son, in order that Their unity in action might be shown forth. It is our duty, therefore, carefully to distinguish what utterances are to be fitly ascribed to Christ as God, and what to be ascribed to Him as man.

74. I have no fears in the matter of that commonly advanced objection, that Christ is inferior because He was sent. For even if He be inferior, yet this is not so proved; on the other hand, His equal title to honour is in truth proved. Since all honour the Son as they honour the Father, John 5:23 it is certain that the Son is not, in so far as being sent, inferior.

75. Regard not, therefore, the narrow bounds of human language, but the plain meaning of the words, and believe facts accomplished. Bethink you that our Lord Jesus Christ said in Isaiah that He had been sent by the Spirit. Is the Son, therefore, less than the Spirit because He was sent by the Spirit? Thus you have the record, that the Son declares Himself sent by the Father and His Spirit. I am the beginning, He says, Isaiah 48:12 and I live for ever, and My hand has laid the foundations of the earth, My right hand has made the heaven to stand abidingly; and further on: I have spoken, and I have called; I have brought him, and have made his way to prosper. Draw near to Me, and hear these things: not in secret have I spoken from the beginning. When they were made, I was there: and now has the Lord and His Spirit sent Me. Isaiah 48:15-16 Here, indeed, He Who made the heaven and the earth Himself says that He is sent by the Lord and His Spirit. You see, then, that the poverty of language takes not from the honour of His mission. He, then, is sent by the Father; by the Spirit also is He sent.

76. And that you may gather that there is no separating difference of majesty, the Son in turn sends the Spirit, even as He Himself has said: But when the Comforter has come, whom I will send you from My Father— the Spirit of truth, who comes forth from My Father. John 15:26 That this same Comforter is also to be sent by the Father He has already taught, saying, But the Comforter, that Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name. John 14:26 Behold their unity, inasmuch as whom God the Father sends, the Son sends also, and Whom the Father sends, the Spirit sends also. Else, if the Arians will not admit that the Son was sent, because we read that the Son is the right hand of the Father, then they themselves will confess with respect to the Father, what they deny concerning the Son, unless perchance they discover for themselves either another Father or another Son.

77. A truce, then, to vain wranglings over words, for the kingdom of God, as it is written, consists not in persuasive words, but in power plainly shown forth. Let us take heed to the distinction of the Godhead from the flesh. In each there speaks one and the same Son of God, for each nature is present in Him; yet while it is the same Person Who speaks, He speaks not always in the same manner. Behold in Him, now the glory of God, now the affections of man. As God He speaks the things of God, because He is the Word; as man He speaks the things of man, because He speaks in my nature.

78. This is the living bread, which came down from heaven. John 6:51 This bread is His flesh, even as He Himself said: This bread which I will give is My flesh. John 7:52 This is He Who came down from heaven, this is He Whom the Father has sanctified and sent into this world. Even the letter itself teaches us that not the Godhead but the flesh needed sanctification, for the Lord Himself said, And I sanctify Myself for them, John 17:19 in order that you may acknowledge that He is both sanctified in the flesh for us, and sanctifies by virtue of His Divinity.

79. This is the same One Whom the Father sent, but born of a woman, born under the law, Galatians 4:4 as the Apostle has said. This is He Who says: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; wherefore He has anointed Me, to bring good tidings to the poor has He sent Me: This is He Who says: My doctrine is not Mine, but His, Who sent Me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself. John 7:16 Doctrine that is of God, then, is one thing; doctrine that is of man, another; and so when the Jews, regarding Him as man, called in question His teaching, and said, How knows this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered and said, My doctrine is not Mine, for, in teaching without elegance of letters, He seems to teach not as man, but rather as God, having not learned, but devised His doctrine.

80. For He has found and devised all the way of discipline, as we read above, inasmuch as of the Son of God it has been said: This is our God, and none other shall be accounted of in comparison with Him, Who has found all the way of discipline. After these things He was seen on earth, and conversed with men. How, then, could He, as divine, not have His own doctrine— He Who has found all the way of discipline before He was seen on earth? Or how is He inferior, of Whom it is said, None shall be accounted of in comparison with Him? Surely He is entitled incomparable, in comparison of Whom none other can be accounted of— yet so that He cannot be accounted of before the Father. Now if men suppose that the Father is spoken of, they shall not escape running into the blasphemy of Sabellius, of ascribing the assumption of human nature to the Father.

81. Let us proceed with what follows. He who speaks of himself, seeks his own glory. John 7:18 See the unity wherein Father and Son are plainly revealed. He who speaks cannot but be; yet that which He speaks cannot be solely from Him, for in Him all that is, is naturally derived from the Father.

82. What now is the meaning of the words seeks his own glory? That is, not a glory in which the Father has no part— for indeed the Word of God is His glory. Again, our Lord says: that they may see My glory. John 17:24 But that glory of the Word is also the glory of the Father, even as it is written: The Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. In regard of His Godhead, therefore, the Son of God so has His own glory, that the glory of Father and Son is one: He is not, therefore, inferior in splendour, for the glory is one, nor lower in Godhead, for the fullness of the Godhead is in Christ.

83. How, then, you ask, is it written, Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son? John 17:1 He Who says these words needs to be glorified, say you. Thus far you have eyes to see; the remainder of the Scripture you have not read, for it proceeds: that Your Son may glorify You. Hath ever the Father need of any, in that He is to be glorified by the Son?

Chapter 10.

The objection taken on the ground of the Son's obedience is disproved, and the unity of power, Godhead, and operation in the Trinity set forth, Christ's obedience to His mother, to whom He certainly cannot be called inferior, is noticed.

84. In like manner our adversaries commonly make a difficulty of the Son's obedience, forasmuch as it is written: And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient even unto death. Philippians 2:7-8 The writer has not only told us that the Son was obedient even unto death, but also first shown that He was man, in order that we might understand that obedience unto death was the part not of His Godhead but of His Incarnation, whereby He took upon Himself both the functions and the names belonging to our nature.

85. Thus we have learned that the power of the Trinity is one, as we are taught both in and after the Passion itself: for the Son suffers through His body, which is the earnest of it; the Holy Spirit is poured upon the apostles: into the Father's hands the spirit is commended; furthermore, God is with a mighty voice proclaimed the Father. We have learned that there is one form, one likeness, one sanctification, of the Father and of the Son, one activity, one glory, finally, one Godhead.

86. There is, therefore, but one only God, for it is written: You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. Deuteronomy 6:13 One God, not in the sense that the Father and the Son are the same Person, as the ungodly Sabellius affirms— but forasmuch as there is one Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. But where there is one Godhead, there is one will, one purpose.

87. Again, that you may know that the Father is, and the Son is, and that the work of the Father and of the Son is one, follow the saying of the Apostle: Now may God Himself, and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way unto you. 1 Thessalonians 3:11 Both Father and Son are named, but there is unity of direction, because unity of power. So also in another place we read: Now may our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, and God and our Father, Who has loved us, and given us eternal consolation, and good hope in grace, console and strengthen your hearts. 2 Thessalonians 2:15-16 How perfect a unity it is that the Apostle presents to us, insomuch that the fount of consolation is not many, but one. Let doubt be dumb, then, or, if it will not be overcome by reason, let the thought of our Lord's gracious kindliness bend it.

88. Let us call to mind how kindly our Lord has dealt with us, in that He taught us not only faith but manners also. For, having taken His place in the form of man, He was subject to Joseph and Mary. Luke 2:51 Was He less than all mankind, then, because He was subject? The part of dutifulness is one, that of sovereignty is another, but dutifulness does not exclude sovereignty. Wherein, then, was He subject to the Father's law? In His body, surely, wherein He was subject to His mother.

Chapter 11.

The purpose and healing effects of the Incarnation. The profitableness of faith, whereby we know that Christ bore all infirmities for our sakes—Christ, Whose Godhead revealed Itself in His Passion; whence we understand that the mission of the Son of God entailed no subservience, which belief we need not fear lest it displease the Father, Who declares Himself to be well pleased in His Son.

89. Let us likewise deal kindly, let us persuade our adversaries of that which is to their profit, let us worship and lament before the Lord our Maker. For we would not overthrow, but rather heal; we lay no ambush for them, but warn them as in duty bound. Kindliness often bends those whom neither force nor argument will avail to overcome. Again, our Lord cured with oil and wine the man who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves; having forborne to treat him with the harsh remedies of the Law or the sternness of Prophecy.

90. To Him, therefore, let all come who would be made whole. Let them receive the medicine which He has brought down from His Father and made in heaven, preparing it of the juices of those celestial fruits that wither not. This is of no earthly growth, for nature nowhere possesses this compound. Of wondrous purpose took He our flesh, to the end that He might show that the law of the flesh had been subjected to the law of the mind. He was incarnate, that He, the Teacher of men, might overcome as man.

91. Of what profit would it have been to me, had He, as God, bared the arm of His power, and only displayed His Godhead inviolate? Why should He take human nature upon Him, but to suffer Himself to be tempted under the conditions of my nature and my weakness? It was right that He should be tempted, that He should suffer with me, to the end that I might know how to conquer when tempted, how to escape when hard pressed. He overcame by force of continence, of contempt of riches, of faith; He trampled upon ambition, fled from intemperance, bade wantonness be far from Him.

92. This medicine Peter beheld, and left His nets, that is to say, the instruments and security of gain, renouncing the lust of the flesh as a leaky ship, that receives the bilge, as it were, of multitudinous passions. Truly a mighty remedy, that not only removed the scar of an old wound, but even cut the root and source of passion. O Faith, richer than all treasure-houses; O excellent remedy, healing our wounds and sins!

93. Let us bethink ourselves of the profitableness of right belief. It is profitable to me to know that for my sake Christ bore my infirmities, submitted to the affections of my body, that for me, that is to say, for every man, He was made sin, and a curse, that for me and in me was He humbled and made subject, that for me He is the Lamb, the Vine, the Rock, the Servant, the Son of an handmaid, knowing not the day of judgment, for my sake ignorant of the day and the hour.

94. For how could He, Who has made days and times, be ignorant of the day? How could He not know the day, Who has declared both the season of Judgment to come, and the cause? A curse, then, He was made not in respect of His Godhead, but of His flesh; for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree. In and after the flesh, therefore, He hung, and for this cause He, Who bore our curses, became a curse. He wept that thou, man, might not weep long. He endured insult, that you might not grieve over the wrong done to you.

95. A glorious remedy— to have consolation of Christ! For He bore these things with surpassing patience for our sakes— and we forsooth cannot bear them with common patience for the glory of His Name! Who may not learn to forgive, when assailed, seeing that Christ, even on the Cross, prayed—yea, for them that persecuted Him? See you not that those weaknesses, as you please to call them, of Christ's are your strength? Why question Him in the matter of remedies for us? His tears wash us, His weeping cleanses us—and there is strength in this doubt, at least, that if you begin to doubt, you will despair. The greater the insult, the greater is the gratitude due.

96. Even in the very hour of mockery and insult, acknowledge His Godhead. He hung upon the Cross, and all the elements did Him homage. Matthew 27:51 The sun withdrew his rays, the daylight vanished, darkness came down and covered the land, the earth trembled; yet He Who hung there trembled not. What was it that these signs betokened, but reverence for the Creator? That He hangs upon the Cross— this, thou Arian, you regard, that He gives the kingdom of God— this, you regard not. That He tasted of death, you read, but that He also invited the robber into paradise, Luke 23:43 to this you give no heed. You gaze at the women weeping by the tomb, but not upon the angels keeping watch by it. John 20:11-12 What He said, you read, what He did, thou dost not read. You say that the Lord said to the Canaanitish woman: I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Matthew 15:24 thou dost not say that He did what He was besought by her to do.

97. You should hereby understand that His being sent means not that He was compelled, at the command of another, but that He acted, of free will, according to His own judgment, otherwise thou dost accuse Him of despising His Father. For if, according to your expounding, Christ had come into Jewry, as one executing the Father's commands, to relieve the inhabitants of Jewry, and none besides, and yet before that was accomplished, set free the Canaanitish woman's daughter from her complaint, surely He was not only the executor of another's instruction, but was free to exercise His own judgment. But where there is freedom to act as one will, there can be no transgressing the terms of one's mission.

98. Fear not that the Son's act displeased the Father, seeing that the Son Himself says: Whatsoever things are His good pleasure, I do always, and The works that I do, He Himself does. How, then, could the Father be displeased with that which He Himself did through the Son? For it is One God, Who, as it is written, has justified circumcision in consequence of faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Romans 3:30

99. Read all the Scriptures, mark all diligently, you will then find that Christ so manifested Himself that God might be discerned in man. Misunderstand not maliciously the Son's exultation in the Father, when you hear the Father declaring His pleasure in the Son.

Chapter 12.

Do the Catholics or the Arians take the better course to assure themselves of the favour of Christ as their Judge? An objection grounded on Psalm 110:1 is disposed of, it being shown that when the Son is invited by the Father to sit at His right hand, no subjection is intended to be signified— nor yet any preferment, in that the Son sits at the Father's right hand. The truth of the Trinity of Persons in God, and of the Unity of their Nature, is shown to be proved by the angelic Trisagion.

100. Howbeit, if our adversaries cannot be turned by kindness, let us summon them before the Judge. To what Judge, then, shall we go? Surely to Him Who has the Judgment. To the Father, then? Nay, but the Father judges no man, for He has given all judgment to the Son. John 5:22 He has given, that is to say, not as of largess, but in the act of generation. See, then, how unwilling He was that you should dishonour His Son— even so that He gave Him to be your Judge.

101. Let us see, then, before the judgment which has the better cause, thou or I? Surely it is the care of a prudent party to a suit to gain first the favourable regard of the judge. You honour man—do you not honour God? Which of the two, I ask, wins the favour of the magistrate— respect or contempt? Suppose that I am in error— as I certainly am not: is Christ displeased with the honour shown Him? We are all sinners— who, then, will deserve forgiveness, he who renders worship, or he who displays insolence?

102. If reasoning move you not, at least let the plain aspect of the judgment move you! Raise your eyes to the Judge, see Who it is that is seated, with Whom He is seated, and where. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. If with your eyes you can not perceive this, hear the words of the prophet: The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on My right hand. The Son, therefore, sits at the right hand of the Father. Tell me now, thou who holdest that the things of God are to be judged of from the things of this world— say whether you think Him Who sits at the right hand to be lower? Is it any dishonour to the Father that He sits at the Son's left hand? The Father honours the Son, and you make it to be insult! The Father would have this invitation to be a sign of love and esteem, and you would make it an overlord's command! Christ has risen from the dead, and sits at the right hand of God.

103. But, you object, the Father said. Good, hear now a passage where the Father does not speak, and the Son prophesies: Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power. Matthew 26:64 This He said with regard to taking back to Himself His body— to Him the Father said: Sit at My right hand. If indeed you ask of the eternal abode of the Godhead, He said— when Pilate asked Him whether He were the King of the JewsFor this I was born. And so indeed the Apostle shows that it is good for us to believe that Christ sits at the right hand of God, not by command, nor of any boon, but as God's most dearly beloved Son. For it is written for you: Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God; savour the things that are above. Colossians 3:2 This is to savour the things that be above— to believe that Christ, in His sitting, does not obey as one who receives a command, but is honoured as the well-beloved Son. It is with regard, then, to Christ's Body that the Father says: Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.

104. If, again, you seek to pervert the sense of these words, I will make Your enemies Your footstool, I answer that the Father also brings to the Son such as the Son raises up and quickens. For No man, says Christ, can come to Me, except the Father, Which has sent Me, draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44 And you say that the Son of God is subject by reason of weakness— the Son, to Whom the Father brings men that He may raise them up in the last day. Seems this in your eyes to be subjection, I pray you, where the kingdom is prepared for the Father, and the Father brings to the Son and there is no place for perversion of words, since the Son gives the kingdom to the Father, and none is preferred before Him? For inasmuch as the Father renders to the Son, and the Son, again, to the Father, here are plain proofs of love and regard: seeing that They so render, the One to the Other, that neither He Who receives obtains as it were what was another's, nor He That renders loses.

105. Moreover, the sitting at the right hand is no preferment, nor does that at the left hand betoken dishonour, for there are no degrees in the Godhead, Which is bound by no limits of space or time, which are the weights and measures of our puny human minds. There is no difference of love, nothing that divides the Unity.

106. But wherefore roam so far afield? You have looked upon all around you, you have seen the Judge, you have remarked the angels proclaiming Him. They praise, and thou revilest Him! Dominations and powers fall down before Him— you speak evil of His Name! All His Saints adore Him, but the Son of God adores not, nor the Holy Spirit. The seraphim say: Holy, Holy, Holy! Isaiah 6:3

107. What means this threefold utterance of the same name Holy? If thrice repeated, why is it but one act of praise? If one act of praise, why a threefold repetition? Why the threefold repetition, unless that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in holiness? The seraph spoke the name, not once, lest he should exclude the Son; not twice, lest he should pass by the Holy Spirit; not four times, lest he should conjoin created beings [in the praise of the Creator]. Furthermore, to show that the Godhead of the Trinity is One, he, after the threefold Holy, added in the singular number the Lord God of Sabaoth. Holy, therefore, is the Father, holy the Son, holy likewise the Spirit of God, and therefore is the Trinity adored, but adores not, and is praised, but praises not. As for me, I will rather believe as the seraphim, and adore after the manner of all the principalities and powers of heaven.

Chapter 13.

The wicked and dishonourable opinions held by Arians, Sabellians, and Manichæans as concerning their Judge are shortly refuted. Christ's remonstrances regarding the rest of His adversaries being set forth, St. Ambrose expresses a hope of milder judgment for himself.

108. Let us proceed, then, with your accusations, and see how you gain the favour of your Judge. Speak now, speak, I say, and tell Him: I consider You, O Christ, to be unlike Your Father; and He will answer: Mark, if you can, mark, I say, and tell Me wherein you hold Me to differ.

109. Say again: I judge You to be a created being; and Christ will reply: If the witness of two men is true, ought you not to have believed both Me and My Father, Who has called Me His Son?

110. Then you will say: I deny Your [perfect] goodness; and He will answer: Be it unto you according to your faith; so will I not be good to you.

111. That You are Almighty, I hold not; and He will answer, in turn: Then can I not forgive you your sins.

112. You are a subject being. Whereto He will reply: Why, then, do you seek freedom and pardon of Him Whom you think to be subject as a slave?

113. I see your accusation halt here. I press you not, forasmuch as I myself know my own sins. I grudge you not pardon, for I myself would obtain indulgence, but I would know the object of your prayers. Look, then, while I recite before the Judge your desires. I betray not your sins, but look to behold your prayers and wishes set forth in their order.

114. Speak, therefore, those desires, which all alike would have granted to them. Lord, make me in the image of God. Whereto He will answer: In what image? The image which you have denied?

115. Make me incorruptible. Surely His reply will be: How can I make you incorruptible, I, Whom you call a created being, and so would make out to be corruptible? The dead shall rise purified from corruption— do you call Him corruptible Whom you see to be God?

116. Be good to me. Why do you ask what you have denied [to Me]? I would have had you to be good, and I said 'Be holy, for I Myself am holy,' Leviticus 19:2 and you set yourself to deny that I am good? Do you then look for forgiveness of sins? Nay, none can forgive sins, but God alone. Mark 2:7 Seeing, then, that to you I am not the true and only God, I cannot by any means forgive you your sins.

117. Thus let the followers of Arius and Photinus speak. I deny Your Godhead. To whom the Lord will make answer: 'The fool has said in his heart: There is no God?' Of whom, think you, is this said?— of Jew or Gentile, or of the devil. Whosoever he be of whom it is said, O disciple of Photinus, he is more to be borne with, who held his peace; thou, nevertheless, hast dared to lift up your voice to utter it, that you might be proved more foolish than the fool. You deny My Godhead, whereas I said, 'You are gods, and you are all the children of the Most High?' And you deny Him to be God, Whose godlike works you see around you.

118. Let the Sabellian speak in his turn. I consider You, by Yourself, to be at once Father and Son and Holy Spirit. To whom the Lord: You hear neither the Father nor the Son. Is there any doubt on this matter? The Scripture itself teaches you that it is the Father Who gives over the judgment, and the Son Who judges. John 5:22 You have not given ear to My words: 'I am not alone, but I and the Father, Who sent Me.'

119. Now let the Manichæan have his word. I hold that the devil is the creator of our flesh. The Lord will answer him: What, then, are you doing in the heavenly places? Depart, go your way to your creator. 'My will is that they be with Me, whom my Father has given Me.' John 17:24 You, Manichæan, hold yourself for a creature of the devil; hasten, then, to his abode, the place of fire and brimstone, where the fire thereof is not quenched, lest ever the punishment have an end.

120. I set aside other heretical— not persons, but portents. What manner of judgment awaits them, what shall be the form of their sentence? To all these He will, indeed, reply, rather in sorrow than in anger: O My people, what have I done unto you, wherein have I vexed you? Did I not bring you up out of Egypt, and lead you out of the house of bondage into liberty?

121. But it is not enough to have brought us out of Egypt into freedom, and to have saved us from the house of bondage: a greater boon than this, You have given Yourself for us. You will say then: Have I not borne all your sufferings? Isaiah 53:4 Have I not given My Body for you? Have I not sought death, which had no part in My Godhead, but was necessary for your redemption? Are these the thanks I am to receive? Is it this that My Blood has gained, even as I spoke in times past by the mouth of the prophet: 'What profit is there in My Blood, for that I have gone down to corruption?' Is this the profit, that you should wickedly deny Me— you, for whom I endured those things?

122. As for me, Lord Jesu, though I am conscious within myself of great sin, yet will I say: I have not denied You; You may pardon the infirmity of my flesh. My transgression I confess; my sin I deny not. If You will You can make me clean. Matthew 8:2 For this saying, the leper obtained his request. Enter not, I pray, into judgment with Your servant. I ask, not that You may judge, but that You may forgive.

Chapter 14.

The sentence of the Judge is set forth, the counterpleas of the opposers are considered, and the finality of the sentence, from which there is no appeal, proved.

123. What verdict do we look for from Christ? That do I know. Do I say, what verdict will He give? Nay, He has already pronounced sentence. We have it in our hands. Let all, says He, honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honours not the Son, honours not the Father, Who has sent Him. John 5:23

124. If the sentence please you not, appeal to the Father, cancel the judgment that the Father has given. Say that He has a Son Who is unlike Him. He will reply: Then have I lied, I, Who said to the Son, 'Let us make man in Our image and likeness.' Genesis 1:26

125. Tell the Father that He has created the Son, and He will answer: Why, then, have you worshipped One Whom you thought to be a created being?

126. Tell Him that He has begotten a Son Who is inferior to Himself, and He will reply: Compare Us, and let Us see.

127. Tell Him that you owed no credence to the Son, whereto He will answer: Did I not say to you, 'This is My well-beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased: hear Him'? Matthew 17:5 What mean these words hear Him, if not Hear Him when He says: 'All things that the Father has are Mine'? This did the apostles hear, even as it is written: And they fell upon their faces, and were greatly afraid. Matthew 17:6 If they who confessed Him fell to the earth, what shall they do who have denied Him? But Jesus laid His hand upon His apostles, and raised them up— you He will suffer to lie prone, that you may see not the glory you have denied.

128. Let us look to it, then, forasmuch as whom the Son condemns, the Father condemns also, and therefore let us honour the Son, even as we honour the Father, that by the Son we may be able to come to the Father.

Chapter 15.

St. Ambrose deprecates any praise of his own merits: in any case, the Faith is sufficiently defended by the authoritative support of holy Scripture, to whose voice the Arians, stubborn as the Jews, are deaf. He prays that they may be moved to love the truth; meanwhile, they are to be avoided, as heretics and enemies of Christ.

129. These arguments, your Majesty, I have set forth, briefly and summarily, in the rough, rather than in any form of full explanation and exact order. If indeed the Arians regard them as imperfect and unfinished, I indeed confess that they are scarce even begun; if they think that there be any still to be brought forward, I allow that there be nearly all; for whereas the unbelievers are in uttermost need of arguments, the faithful have enough and to spare. Indeed, Peter's single confession was abundant to warrant faith in Christ: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God; for it is enough to know His Divine Generation, without division or diminution, being neither derivation nor creation.

130. This, indeed, is declared in the books of Holy Writ, one and all, and yet is still doubted by misbelievers: For, as it is written, the heart of this people has become gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes have they darkened, lest ever they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand in their heart. Isaiah 6:10 For, like the Jews, the Arians' wont is to stop their ears, or make an uproar, as often as the Word of salvation is heard.

131. And what wonder, if unbelievers doubt the word of man, when they refuse to believe the Word of God? The Son of God, as you will find it written in the Gospel, said: Father, glorify Your Name, and from heaven was heard the voice of the Father, saying: I have both glorified it, and again will glorify. John 12:28 These words the unbelievers heard, but believed not. The Son spoke, the Father answered, and the Jews said: A peal of thunder answered Him; others said: An angel spoke to Him. John 12:29

132. Paul, moreover, as it is written in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 22:9 when by the Voice of Christ he received the call of grace, several companions journeying with him at the same time, alone said that he had heard Christ's Voice. Thus, your sacred Majesty, he who believes, hears— and he hears, that he may believe, while he who believes not, hears not, nay, he will not, he cannot hear, lest he should believe!

133. As for me, indeed, would that they might have a will to hear, that they might believe— to hear with true love and meekness, as men seeking what is true, and not assailing all truth. For it is written that we pay no heed to endless fables and genealogies, which do rather raise disputes than set forward the godly edification, which is in faith. But the aim of the charge is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned, whence some have erred and betaken themselves to empty babbling, desirous of being teachers of the law, without understanding the words they say, nor the things whereof they speak with assurance. In another place also the same Apostle says: But foolish and ignorant questionings do thou avoid. 2 Timothy 2:23

134. Such men, who sow disputes— that is to say, heretics— the Apostle bids us leave alone. Of them he says in yet another place, that certain shall depart from the faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits, and the doctrines of devils. 1 Timothy 4:1

135. John, likewise, says that heretics are Antichrists, plainly marking out the Arians. For this [Arian] heresy began to be after all other heresies, and has gathered the poisons of all. As it is written of the Antichrist, that he opened his mouth to blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His Name, and to make war with His saints, Revelation 13:6 so do they also dishonour the Son of God, and His martyrs have they not spared. Moreover, that which perchance Antichrist will not do, they have falsified the holy Scriptures. And thus he who says that Jesus is not the Christ, the same is Antichrist; he who denies the Saviour of the world, denies Jesus; he who denies the Son, denies the Father also, for it is written; Every one which denies the Son, denies the Father likewise. 1 John 2:23

Chapter 16.

St. Ambrose assures Gratian of victory, declaring that it has been foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel. This hope is further stayed upon the emperor's piety, the former disasters being the punishment of Eastern heresy. The book closes with a prayer to God, that He will now show His mercy, and save the army, the land, and the sovereign of the faithful.

136. I must no further detain your Majesty, in this season of preparation for war, and the achievement of victory over the Barbarians. Go forth, sheltered, indeed, under the shield of faith, and girt with the sword of the Spirit; go forth to the victory, promised of old time, and foretold in oracles given by God.

137. For Ezekiel, in those far-off days, already prophesied the minishing of our people, and the Gothic wars, saying: Prophesy, therefore, Son of Man, and say: O Gog, thus says the Lord— Shall you not, in that day when My people Israel shall be established to dwell in peace, rise up and come forth from your place, from the far north, and many nations with you, all riders upon horses, a great and mighty gathering, and the valour of many hosts? Yea, go up against my people Israel, as clouds to cover the land, in the last days.

138. That Gog is the Goth, whose coming forth we have already seen, and over whom victory in days to come is promised, according to the word of the Lord: And they shall spoil them, who had been their despoilers, and plunder them, who had carried off their goods for a prey, says the Lord. And it shall be in that day, that I will give to Gog— that is, to the Gothsa place that is famous, for Israel an high-heaped tomb of many men, of men who have made their way to the sea, and it shall reach round about, and close the mouth of the valley, and there [the house of Israel shall] overthrow Gog and all his multitude, and it shall be called the valley of the multitude of Gog: and the house of Israel shall overwhelm them, that the land may be cleansed.

139. Nor, furthermore, may we doubt, your sacred Majesty, that we, who have undertaken the contest with alien unbelief, shall enjoy the aid of the Catholic Faith that is strong in you. Plainly indeed the reason of God's wrath has been already made manifest, so that belief in the Roman Empire was first overthrown, where faith in God gave way.

140. No desire have I to recount the deaths, tortures, and banishments of confessors, the offices of the faithful made into presents for traitors. Have we not heard, from all along the border—from Thrace, and through Dacia by the river, Mœsia, and all Valeria of the Pannonians,— a mingled tumult of blasphemers preaching and barbarians invading? What profit could neighbours so bloodthirsty bring us, or how could the Roman State be safe with such defenders?

141. Enough, yea, more than enough, Almighty God, have we now atoned for the deaths of confessors, the banishment of priests, and the guilt of wickedness so overweening, by our own blood, our own banishment— sufficiently plain is it that they, who have broken faith, cannot be safe. Turn again, O Lord, and set up the banners of Your faith.

142. No military eagles, no flight of birds, here lead the van of our army, but Your Name, Lord Jesus, and Your worship. This is no land of unbelievers, but the land whose custom it is to send forth confessorsItaly; Italy, ofttimes tempted, but never drawn away; Italy, which your Majesty has long defended, and now again rescued from the barbarian. No wavering mind in our emperor, but faith firm fixed.

143. Show forth now a plain sign of Your Majesty, that he who believes You to be the true Lord of Hosts, and Captain of the armies of heaven; he who believes that You are the true Power and Wisdom of God, no being of time nor of creation, but even as it is written, the eternal Power and Divinity of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24 may, upheld by the aid of your Might Supreme, win the prize of victory for his Faith.

About this page

Source. Translated by H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin and H.T.F. Duckworth. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 10. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/34042.htm>.

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