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

Exposition of the Christian Faith, Book III

Book III.

Chapter 1.

Statement of the reasons wherefore the matters, treated of shortly in the two former, are dealt with more at length in the three later books. Defence of the employment of fables, which is supported by the example of Holy Writ, wherein are found various figures of poetic fable, in particular the Sirens, which are figures of sensual pleasures, and which Christians ought to be taught to avoid, by the words of Paul and the deeds of Christ.

1. Forasmuch as your most gracious Majesty had laid command upon me to write for your own instruction some treatise concerning the Faith, and had yourself called me to your presence and encouraged my timidity, I, being as one on the eve of battle, composed but two books only, for the pointing out of certain ways and paths by which our faith progresses.

2. Seeing, however, that certain malicious minds, bent on sowing disputes, have not yet exhausted the force of their assaults, while your gracious Majesty's pious anxiety calls me to further labours, inasmuch as you desire to try in more things him whom you have proved in a few, I am resolved to deal somewhat more particularly with the matters whereof I have already treated in a few words, lest it should be thought, not that I have advanced those propositions in quietness and confidence, but that I, having asserted them, doubted and so abandoned their defence.

3. Again, seeing that we spoke of the Hydra and Scylla (I. vi. 46), and brought them in by way of comparison, to show how we must beware, whether of the ever-renewed outgrowths of infidelity, or the ill-omened shipwrecks made upon its shallows, if any one holds that such embellishments of an argument, borrowed from the romances of poets, are unlawful, and, from lack of opportunity to speak evil of my faith, assails something in my language, then let him know that not only phrases but complete verses of poetry have been woven into the text of Holy Writ.

4. Whence, for instance, came that verse, His offspring truly are we, Acts 17:28 whereof Paul, by prophetic experience, taught, makes use? The course of prophetic speech avoids neither the Giants nor the Valley of the Titans, and Isaiah spoke of sirens and the daughters of ostriches. Jeremiah also has prophesied concerning Babylon, that the daughters of sirens shall dwell therein, in order to show that the snares of Babylon, that is, of the tumult of this world, are to be likened to stories of old-time lust, that seemed upon this life's rocky shores to sing some tuneful song, but deadly withal, to catch the souls of youth—which the Greek poet himself tells us that the wise man escaped through being bound, as it were, in the chains of his own prudence. So hard a thing, before Christ's coming, was it esteemed, even for the stronger, to save themselves from the deceitful shows and allurements of pleasure.

5. But if the poet judged the enticement of worldly pleasure and licence destructive of men's minds and a sure cause of shipwreck, what ought we to think, for whom it has been written: Train not the flesh in concupiscence? And again: I chastise my body and bring it into servitude, lest while I preach to others, I myself become a castaway. 1 Corinthians 9:27

6. Truly, Christ won salvation for us, not by luxury but by fasting. Moreover, it was not to obtain favour for Himself, but to instruct us, that He fasted. Nor yet did He hunger because He was overcome by the weakness of the body, but by His hunger He proved that He had verily taken upon Himself a body; that so He might teach us that He had taken not only our body, but also the weaknesses of that body, even as it is written: Surely He has taken our infirmities and borne our sicknesses.

Chapter 2.

The incidents properly affecting the body which Christ for our sake took upon Him are not to be accounted to His Godhead, in respect whereof He is the Most Highest. To deny which is to say that the Father was incarnate. When we read that God is one, and that there is none other beside Him, or that He alone has immortality, this must be understood as true of Christ also, not only to avoid the sinful heresy above-mentioned (Patripassianism), but also because the activity of the Father and the Son is declared to be one and the same.

7. It was a bodily weakness, then, that is to say, a weakness of ours, that He hungered; when He wept, and was sorrowful even unto death, it was of our nature. Why ascribe the properties and incidents of our nature to the Godhead? That He was even, as we are told, made, is a property of a body. Thus, indeed, we read: Sion our mother shall say: 'He is a man,' and in her He was made man, and the Most High Himself laid her foundations. He was made man, mark you, not He was made God.

8. But what is He Who is at once the Most High and man, what but the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus Who gave Himself as a ransom for us? 1 Timothy 2:5 This place indeed refers properly to His Incarnation, for our redemption was made by His Blood, our pardon comes through His Power, our life is secured through His Grace. He gives as the Most High, He prays as man. The one is the office of the Creator, the other of a Redeemer. Be the gifts as distinct as they may, yet the Giver is one, for it was fitting that our Maker should be our Redeemer.

9. Who indeed can deny that we have plain evidence that Christ is the Most High? He who knows otherwise makes the sacrament of Incarnation to be the work of God the Father. But that Christ is the Most High is removed beyond doubt by what Scripture has said in another place, concerning the mystery of the Passion: The Most High sent forth His Voice, and the earth was shaken. And in the Gospel you may read: And thou, child, shall be called the Prophet of the Highest; for you shall go before the face of the Lord, to prepare His ways. Luke 1:76 Who is the Highest? The Son of God. He, then, Who is the Most High God is Christ.

10. Again, while God is everywhere said to be One God, the Son of God is not separated from this Unity. For He Who is the Most High is alone, as it is written: And let them know that Your Name is the Lord: You alone are Most High over all the earth.

11. And so the adversaries' injurious conclusion is rejected with contempt and disgrace, which they drew from the Scripture speaking of God: Who alone has immortality and dwells in light unapproachable; 1 Timothy 6:16 for these words are written of God, which Name belongs equally to Father and to Son.

12. If, indeed, wheresoever they read the Name of God, they deny that there is any thought of the Son [as well as the Father], they blaspheme, inasmuch as they deny the Son's Divine Sovereignty, and they shall appear as though they shared the sinful error of the Sabellians in teaching the Incarnation of the Father. Let them, indeed explain how they can fail to interpret in a sense blasphemous to the Father the words of the Apostle: In Whom you also rose again, by faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:12 Let them also take warning from what follows of what they are running upon— for this is what comes after: And though you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He quickened us with Him, pardoning us all our offenses, blotting out the handwriting of the Ordinance, which was opposed to us, and removed it from our midst, nailing it to His Cross, divesting Himself of the flesh. Colossians 2:13-14

13. We are not, then, to suppose that the Father Who raised the flesh is alone [God]; nor, again, are we to suppose the like of the Son, Whose Body was raised again. He Who raised, did surely also quicken; and He who quickened, also pardoned sins; He who pardoned sins, also blotted out the handwriting; He Who blotted out the handwriting, also nailed it to the Cross: He who nailed it to the Cross, divested Himself of the flesh. But it was not the Father Who divested Himself of the flesh; for not the Father, but, as we read, the Word was made flesh. John 1:14 You see, then, that the Arians, in dividing the Father from the Son, run into danger of saying that the Father endured the Passion.

14. We, however, can easily show that the words treat of the Son's action, for the Son Himself indeed raised His own Body again, as He Himself said: Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it again. John 2:19 And He Himself quickens us together with His Body: For as the Father raises the dead and quickens them, so also the Son quickens Whom He will. John 5:21 And He Himself has granted forgiveness for sins, saying, Your sins be forgiven you. Luke 5:20 He too has nailed the handwriting of the record to His Cross, in that He was crucified, and suffered in the body. Nor did any divest Himself of the flesh, save the Son of God, Who invested Himself therewith. He, therefore, Who has achieved the work of our resurrection is plainly pointed out to be very God.

Chapter 3.

That the Father and the Son must not be divided is proved by the words of the Apostle, seeing that it is befitting to the Son that He should be blessed, only Potentate, and immortal, by nature, that is, and not by grace, as even the angels themselves are immortal, and that He should dwell in the unapproachable light. How it is that the Father and the Son are alike and equally said to be alone.

15. When, therefore, you read the Name God, separate neither Father nor Son, for the Godhead of the Father and the Son is one and the same, and therefore separate them not, when you read the words blessed and only Potentate, 1 Timothy 6:15 for the words are spoken of God, even as you may read: I charge you before God, Who quickens all things. 1 Timothy 6:13 Christ also indeed does quicken, and therefore the Name of God is meetly given both to the Father and to the Son, inasmuch as the effect of their activity is in agreement. Let us go on to the words following: I charge you, he says, before God, Who quickens all things, and Jesus Christ.

16. The Word is in God, even as it is written: In God will I praise His Word. In God is His Eternal Power, even Jesus; in [speaking of] God, therefore, the Apostle has witnessed to the unity of the Godhead, while by the Name of Christ he has witnessed to the sacrament of the Incarnation.

17. Furthermore, to show that he has spoken of the Incarnation of Christ, he added: Who bore witness under Pontius Pilate with the good confession, [I charge you] keep undefiled the commandment, until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, Which in His own good time the blessed and only Potentate shall manifest, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone has immortality, and dwells in light unapproachable, Whom no man has seen, nor can see. 1 Timothy 6:13-16 Those words, then, are written with regard to God, of which Name the dignity and truth are common to [both the Father and] the Son.

18. Why, then, should there be no thought of the Son in this place, seeing that all these things hold good of the Son also? If they do not so, then deny His Godhead, and so may thou deny what is proper to be said of God. His Blessedness cannot be denied, Who bestows blessings, for Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven. He cannot but be called Blessed, Who has given us wholesome teaching, even as it is written: Which is according to the Gospel of the beauty of the Blessed God. 1 Timothy 1:11 His Power cannot be denied, of Whom the Father says: I have laid help upon One that is mighty. And who dare refuse to acknowledge Him to be immortal, when He Himself has made others also immortal, as it is written of the Wisdom of God: By her shall I possess immortality. Wisdom 8:13

19. But the immortality of His Nature is one thing, that of ours is another. Things perishable are not to be compared to things divine. The Godhead is the one only Substance that death cannot touch, and therefore it is that the Apostle, though knowing both the [human] soul and angels to be immortal, declared that God only had immortality. In truth, even the soul may die: The soul that sins, it shall die, Ezekiel 18:20 and an angel is not absolutely immortal, his immortality depending on the will of the Creator.

20. Do not hastily reject this, because Gabriel dies not, nor Raphaël, nor Uriel. Even in their nature there is a capacity of sin, though not one of improvement by discipline, for every reasonable creature is exposed to influences from without itself, and liable to judgment. It is on the influences which work upon us that the award of judgment, and corruption, or advance to perfection, do depend, and therefore Ecclesiastes says: For God shall bring all His work to judgment. Every creature, then, has within it the possibility of corruption and death, even though it do not [at present] die or commit sin; nor, if in anything it deliver not itself over to sin, has it this boon of its immortal nature, but of discipline or of grace. Immortality, then, that is of a gift is one thing: immortality without the possibility of change is another.

21. Do we deny the immortality of Christ's Godhead, because He tasted death for all in the flesh? Then is Gabriel better than Christ, for Gabriel never died, but Christ gave up the ghost. But the servant is not above his lord, Matthew 10:24 and we must discern the weakness of flesh from the eternity of Godhead. Christ's Death had its source in the flesh, immortality is of the nature of Christ's sovereignty. But if the Godhead brought it to pass that the flesh saw not corruption, the flesh being surely by nature liable to corruption, how could the Godhead itself have died?

22. And how is it that the Son dwells not in light unapproachable, if He is in the bosom of the Father, if the Father is Light, and the Son also is Light, because God is Light? 1 John 1:5 Or, if we suppose some other light, beside the Light of the Godhead, to be the unapproachable Light, is, then, this Light better than the Father, so that He is not in that Light, Who, as it is written, is both with the Father and in the Father? Let men, therefore, not exclude the thought of the Son, when they read only of God— and let them not exclude that of the Father, when they read of the Son only. John 16:32

23. On earth, the Son is not without l.c.John 10:30 the Father, and you think that the Father is without the Son in heaven? The Son is in the flesh— (when I say He is in the flesh or He is on earth, I speak as though we lived in the days whose story is in the Gospel, for now we no longer know Christ after the flesh 2 Corinthians 5:16)— He is in the flesh, and He is not alone, as it is written: And I am not alone, because the Father is with Me, John 8:16 and think you that the Father dwells alone in the Light?

24. Lest you should regard this argument as mere speculation take this sentence of authority. No man, says the Scripture, John 1:18 has seen God at any time, save the Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father; He has revealed Him. How can the Father be in solitude, if the Son be in the bosom of the Father? How does the Son reveal Him, Whom He sees not? The Father, then, exists not alone.

25. Observe now what the solitude of the Father and of the Son is. The Father is alone, because there is no other Father; the Son is alone, because there is no other Son; God is alone, because the Godhead of the Trinity is One.

Chapter 4.

We are told that Christ was only made so far as regards the flesh. For the redemption of mankind He needed no means of aid, even as He needed none in order to His Resurrection, whereas others, in order to raise the dead, had need of recourse to prayer. Even when Christ prayed, the prayer was offered by Him in His capacity as human; whilst He must be accounted divine from the fact that He commanded (that such and such things should be done). On this point the devil's testimony is truer than the Arians' arguments. The discussion concludes with an explanation of the reason why the title of mighty is given to the Son of Man.

26. It is now sufficiently made plain that the Father is not God in solitude, without the Son, and that the Son cannot be thought of as God alone, without the Father, for it is in respect of His flesh that we read that the Son of God was made, not in respect of His generation from God the Father.

27. Indeed, in what sense He was made He has declared by the mouth of the holy patriarch, saying: For My soul is filled with sorrow to overflowing, and My life has drawn near unto hell. I have been counted with them that go down into the pit; I have been made as a man free, without help, among the dead. Here, then, we read: I have been made as a man, not I have been made as God; and again: My soul overflows with sorrows. My soul, mark you, not My Godhead. He was made in so far as that was concerned wherein He was due to hell, wherein He was reckoned with others, for the Godhead admits of no likeness which may be ground for classing it with others. Yet mark how the majesty of Godhead shows itself in Christ, even in that flesh which was appointed to death. Although He was made as a man, and made as flesh, yet He was made free among the dead, free, without help.

28. But how can the Son say here that He was without help, when it has already been said: I have laid help upon One that is mighty? Distinguish here also the two natures present. The flesh has need of help, the Godhead has no need. He is free, then, because the chains of death had no hold upon Him. He was not made prisoner by the powers of darkness, it is He Who exerted power among them. He is without help, because He Himself, the Lord, has by no office of messenger or ambassador, but by His own might, saved His people. How could He, Who raised others to life, require any help in order to raise His own body?

29. And though men also have raised the dead, still they did this not of their own power, but in the Name of Christ. To ask is one thing, to command is another; to obtain is different from bestowing.

30. Elijah, then, raised the dead, but he prayed— he did not command. Elisha raised one to life after laying himself upon the dead body, in accordance with its posture; 2 Kings 4:34 and, again, the very contact of Elisha's corpse gave life to the dead, that the prophet might foreshow the coming of Him, Who, being sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, should, even after His burial, raise the dead to life.

31. Peter, again, when he healed Aeneas, said: In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise and walk. Not in his own name, but in the Name of Christ. But rise is a command; on the other hand, it is an instance of confidence in one's right, SeeMark 16:17-18 not an arrogant claim to power, and the authority of the command stood in the effective influence of the Name, not in its own might. What answer, then, make the Arians? Peter commands in the Name of Christ—this on the one hand: on the other, they will have it that the Son of God did not command, but requested.

32. We read, they objected, of His uttering a prayer. John 11:41 But take note of the difference. He prays as Son of Man, He commands as Son of God. Will you not ascribe unto the Son of God what even the devil has ascribed? Will you accuse yourselves of greater wickedness than Satan's? The devil says: If You be the Son of God, command this stone that it become bread. Luke 4:3 Satan says command, you say entreat. The devil believes that, at the word of God's Son, the nature of an elementary substance may be exchanged for that of a composite one; you think that, unless the Son of God prefers a request, even His Will cannot be done. Again, the devil thinks that the Son of God is to be esteemed from His power, Romans 1:4 you that He is to be esteemed from His infirmity. The devil's temptations are more tolerable than the Arians' disputings.

33. Let us not, then, be troubled if we find the Son of Man entitled mighty in one place, and yet in another, that the Lord of glory was crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:8 What might is greater than sovereignty over the powers of heaven? But this was in the hands of Him Who ruled over thrones, principalities, angels; for, although He was among the wild beasts, as it is written, yet angels ministered to Him, that you may perceive the difference between what is proper to the Incarnation, and what is proper to Sovereignty. So far as His flesh is concerned, then, He endures the assault of wild beasts; in regard of His Godhead, He is adored by angels.

34. We have learned, then, that He was made man, and that His being made must be referred to His manhood. Furthermore, in another passage of Scripture, you may read: Who was made for Him of the seed of David, Romans 1:3 that is to say, in respect of the flesh He was made of the seed of David, but He was God begotten of God before the worlds.

Chapter 5.

Passages brought forward from Scripture to show that made does not always mean the same as created; whence it is concluded that the letter of Holy Writ should not be made the ground of captious arguments, after the manner of the Jews, who, however, are shown to be not so bad as the heretics, and thus the principle already set forth is confirmed anew.

35. At the same time, becoming does not always imply creation; for we read: Lord, You have become our refuge, and You have become my salvation. Plainly, here is no statement of the fact or purpose of a creation, but God is said to have become my refuge and have turned to my salvation, even as the Apostle has said: Who became for us 1 Corinthians 1:30 Wisdom from God, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption, that is, that Christ was made for us, of the Father, not created. Again, the writer has explained in the sequel in what sense he says that Christ was made Wisdom for us: But we preach the Wisdom of God in doctrine of mystery, which Wisdom is hidden, foreordained by God before the existence of the world for our glory, and which none of the princes of this world knew, for had they known they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. When the mystery of the Passion is set forth, surely there is no speaking of an eternal process of generation.

36. The Lord's Cross, then, is my wisdom; the Lord's Death my redemption; for we are redeemed with His precious blood, as the Apostle Peter has said. 1 Peter 1:19 With His blood, then, as man, the Lord redeemed us, Who also, as God, has forgiven sins. Mark 2:8-12

37. Let us not, therefore, lay snares as it were in words, and eagerly seek out entanglements therein; let us not, because misbelievers make out the written word to mean that it means not, set forth only what this letter bears on the face of it, instead of the underlying sense. This way went the Jews to destruction, despising the deep-hidden meaning, and following only after the bare form of the word, for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive. 2 Corinthians 3:6

38. And yet, of these two grievous impieties, to ascribe to the Godhead what is true only of manhood is perchance more detestable than to attribute to spirit what belongs only to letter. The Jews feared to believe in manhood taken up into God, and therefore have lost the grace of redemption, because they reject that on which salvation depends; the Arians degrade the majesty of Godhead to the weakness of humanity. Detestable as are the Jews, who crucified the Lord's flesh, more detestable still do I hold them who have believed that the Godhead of Christ was nailed to the Cross. So one who ofttimes had dealings with Jews said: Avoid a heretic, after once reproving him Titus 3:10

39. Nor, again, are these men careful to avoid doing dishonour to the Father, in their impious application of the fact, that Christ was made Wisdom for us, to His incomprehensible generation, that transcends all limits and divisions of time; for, leaving it out of account that dishonour done to the Son is an insult to the Father, they do even carry their blasphemy in assault upon the Father, of Whom it is written: Let God be made truthful, but every man a liar. Romans 3:4 If indeed they think that the Son is spoken of, they do not foreclose against His generation, but in that they rest on the authority of this text they do confess that which they reject, namely, that Christ is God, and true God.

40. It would be a lengthy matter were I to pass in review each several place where we read of His being made, not indeed by nature, but by way of gracious dispensation. Moses, for example, says: You are made my Helper and Protector, to save me; Exodus 15:2 and David: Be unto me for a God of salvation, and an house of refuge, that You may save me; and Isaiah: He has become an Helper for every city that is lowly. Isaiah 25:4 Of a surety the holy men say not to God: You have been created, but By Your grace You are made a Protector and Helper unto us.

Chapter 6.

In order to dispose of an objection grounded on a text in St. John, St. Ambrose first shows that the Arian interpretation lends countenance to the Manichæans; then, after setting forth the different ways of dividing the words in this same passage, he shows plainly that it cannot, without dishonour to the Father, be understood with such reference to the Godhead as the Arians give it, and expounds the true meaning thereon.

41. We have no reason, therefore, to fear the argument which the Arians, in their reckless manner of expounding, use to construct, showing that the Word of God was made, for, say they, it is written: That which has been made in Him is life.

42. First of all, let them understand that if they make the words That which has been made to refer to the Godhead, they entangle themselves in the difficulties raised by the Manichæans, for these people argue: If that which has been made in Him is life, then there is something which has not been made in Him, and is death, so that they may impiously bring in two principles. But this teaching the Church condemns.

43. Again, how can the Arians prove that the Evangelist actually said this? The most part of those who are learned in the Faith read the passage as follows: All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that has been made. Others read thus: All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. Then they proceed: What has been made, and to this they join the words in Him; that is to say, But whatsover is has been made in Him. But what mean the words in Him? The Apostle tells us, when he says: In Him we have our being, and live, and move. Acts 17:28

44. Howbeit, let them read the passage as they will, they cannot diminish the majesty of God the Word, in referring to His Person, as subject, the words That which was made, without also doing dishonour to God the Father, of Whom it is written: But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be made manifest that they are wrought in God. John 3:21 See then— here we read of man's works being wrought in God, and yet for all that we cannot understand the Godhead as the subject of them. We must either recognize the works as wrought through Him, as the Apostle's affirmation shows that all things are through Him, and were created in Him, and He is before all, and all things exist together in Him, or, as the witness of the text here cited teaches us, we ought to regard the virtues whereby the fruit of life eternal is gained, as wrought in Godchastity, piety, devoutness, faith, and others of this kind, whereby the will of God is expressed.

45. Just as the works, then, are the expression of the will and power of God the Father, so are they of Christ's, even as we read: Created in Christ in good works; Ephesians 2:10 and in the psalm: Peace be made in Your power; and again: In wisdom have You made them all. In wisdom have You made, mark you— not You have made wisdom; for since all things have been made in wisdom, and Christ is the Wisdom of God, then this Wisdom is plainly not an accident, but a substance, and an everlasting one, but if the Wisdom has been made, then is it made in a worse condition than all things, forasmuch as it could not, by itself, be made Wisdom. If, then, being made is oftentimes referred to something accidental, not to the essence of a thing, so may creation also be referred to some end had in view.

Chapter 7.

Solomon's words, The Lord created Me, etc., mean that Christ's Incarnation was done for the redemption of the Father's creation, as is shown by the Son's own words. That He is the beginning may be understood from the visible proofs of His virtuousness, and it is shown how the Lord opened the ways of all virtues, and was their true beginning.

46. Hereby we are brought to understand that the prophecy of the Incarnation, The Lord created me the beginning of His ways for His works, Proverbs 8:22 means that the Lord Jesus was created of the Virgin for the redeeming of the Father's works. Truly, we cannot doubt that this is spoken of the mystery of the Incarnation, forasmuch as the Lord took upon Him our flesh, in order to save the works of His hands from the slavery of corruption, so that He might, by the sufferings of His own body, overthrow him who had the power of death. For Christ's flesh is for the sake of things created, but His Godhead existed before them, seeing that He is before all things, while all things exist together in Him. Colossians 1:16

47. His Godhead, then, is not by reason of creation, but creation exists because of the Godhead; even as the Apostle showed, saying that all things exist because of the Son of God, for we read as follows: But it was fitting that He, through Whom and because of Whom are all things, after bringing many sons to glory, should, as Captain of their salvation, be made perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10 Has he not plainly declared that the Son of God, Who, by reason of His Godhead, was the Creator of all, did in after time, for the salvation of His people, submit to the taking on of the flesh and the suffering of death?

48. Now for the sake of what works the Lord was created of a virgin, He Himself, while healing the blind man, has shown, saying: In Him must I work the works of Him that sent Me. Furthermore He said in the same Scripture, that we might believe Him to speak of the Incarnation: As long as I am in this world, I am the Light of this world, John 9:5 for, so far as He is man, He is in this world for a season, but as God He exists at all times. In another place, too, He says: Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20

49. Nor is there any room for questioning with respect to the beginning, seeing that when, during His earthly life, He was asked, Who are You? He answered: The beginning, even as I tell you. This refers not only to the essential nature of the eternal Godhead, but also to the visible proofs of virtues, for hereby has He proved Himself the eternal God, in that He is the beginning of all things, and the Author of each several virtue, in that He is the Head of the Church, as it is written: Because He is the Head of the Body, of the Church; Colossians 1:18 Who is the beginning, first-begotten from the dead. Ephesians 4:15-16

50. It is clear, then, that the words beginning of His ways, which, as it seems, we must refer to the mystery of the putting on of His body, are a prophecy of the Incarnation. For Christ's purpose in the Incarnation was to pave for us the road to heaven. Mark how He says: I go up to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God. John 20:17 Then, to give you to know that the Almighty Father appointed His ways to the Son, after the Incarnation, you have in Zechariah the words of the angel speaking to Joshua clothed in filthy garments: Thus says the Lord Almighty: If you will walk in My ways and observe My precepts. Zechariah 3:7 What is the meaning of that filthy garb save the putting on of the flesh?

51. Now the ways of the Lord are, we may say, certain courses taken in a good life, guided by Christ, Who says, I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6 The way, then, is the surpassing power of God, for Christ, is our way, and a good way, too, is He, a way which has opened the kingdom of heaven to believers. Moreover, the ways of the Lord are straight, as it is written: Make Your ways known unto me, O Lord. Chastity is a way, faith is a way, abstinence is a way. There is, indeed, a way of virtue, and there is a way of wickedness; for it is written: And see if there be any way of wickedness in me.

52. Christ, then, is the beginning of our virtue. He is the beginning of purity, Who taught maidens not to look for the embraces of men, but to yield the purity of their bodies and minds to the service of the Holy Spirit rather than to a husband. Christ is the beginning of frugality, for He became poor, though He was rich. 1 Corinthians 8:9 Christ is the beginning of patience, for when He was reviled, He reviled not again, when He was struck, He did not strike back. Christ is the beginning of humility, for He took the form of a servant, though in the majesty of His power He was equal with God the Father. From Him each several virtue has taken its origin.

53. For this cause, then, that we might learn these various virtues, a Son was given us, Whose beginning was upon His shoulder. That beginning is the Lord's Cross— the beginning of strong courage, wherewith a way has been opened for the holy martyrs to enter the sufferings of the Holy War.

Chapter 8.

The prophecy of Christ's Godhead and Manhood, contained in the verse of Isaiah just now cited, is unfolded, and its force in refuting various heresies demonstrated.

54. This beginning did Isaiah see, and therefore he says: A Child is born, a Son is given to us, as also did the Magi, and therefore worshipped they, when they saw the little One in the stable, and said: A Child is born, and, when they saw the star, declared, A Son is given to us. On the one hand, a gift from earth— on the other, a gift from heaven— and both are One Person, perfect in respect of each, without any changeableness in the Godhead, as without any taking away from the fullness of the Manhood. One Person did the Magi adore, to one and the same they offered their gifts, to show that He Who was seen in the stall was the very Lord of heaven.

55. Mark how the two verbs differ in their import: A Child is born, a Son is given. Though born of the Father, yet is He not born, but given to us, forasmuch as the Son is not for our sakes, but we for the Son's. For indeed He was not born to us, being born before us, and the maker of all things created: nor is He now brought to life for the first time, Who was always, and was in the beginning; John 1:1 on the other hand, that which before-time was not is born to us. Again we find it thus recorded, how that the angel, when he spoke to the shepherds, said that He had been born: Who is this day born to us a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. Luke 2:11 To us, then, was born that which was not before— that is, a child of the Virgin, a body from Mary— for this was made after man had been created, whereas [the Godhead] was before us.

56. Some manuscripts read as follows: A Child is born to us a Son is given to us; that is to say, He, Who is Son of God, is born as Mary's child for us, and given to us. As for the fact that He is given, listen to the prophet's words: And grant us Your salvation. But that which is above us is given: what is from heaven is given: even as indeed we read concerning the Spirit, that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Who is given unto us. Romans 5:5

57. But note how this passage is as water upon fire to a crowd of heresies. A Child is born to us, not to the Jews; to us, not to the Manichæans; to us, not to the Marcionites. The prophet says to us, that is, to those who believe, not to unbelievers. And He indeed, in His pitifulness, was born for all, but it is the disloyalty of heretics that has brought it to pass that the birth of Him Who was born for all should not profit all. For the sun is bidden to rise upon the good and the bad, but to them that see not there is no appearance of sunrise.

58. Even as the Child, then, is born not unto all, but unto the faithful: so the Son is given to the faithful and not to the unbelieving. He is given to us, not to the Photinians; for they affirm that the Son of God was not given unto us, but was born and first began to exist among us. To us is He given, not to the Sabellians, who will not hear of a Son being given, maintaining that Father and Son are one and the same. Unto us is He given, not unto the Arians, in whose judgment the Son was not given for salvation, but sent over subject and inferior, to whom, moreover, He is no Counsellor, inasmuch as they hold that He knows nought of the future, no Son, since they believe not in His eternity, though of the Word of God it is written: That which was in the beginning; and again: In the beginning was the Word. John 1:1-2 To return to the passage we set before us to discuss. In the beginning, says the Scripture, before He made the earth, before He made the deeps, before He brought forth the springs of water, before all the hills He begot Me.

Chapter 9.

The preceding quotation from Solomon's Proverbs receives further explanation.

59. Perchance you will ask how I came to cite, as referring to the Incarnation of Christ, the place, The Lord created Me, seeing that the creation of the universe took place before the Incarnation of Christ? But consider that the use of holy Scripture is to speak of things to come as though already past, and to make intimation of the union of two natures, Godhead and Manhood, in Christ, lest any should deny either His Godhead or His Manhood.

60. In Isaiah, for example, you may read: A Child is born unto us, and a Son is given unto us; so here also [in the Proverbs] the prophet sets forth first the creation of the flesh, and joined thereto the declaration of the Godhead, that you might know that Christ is not two, but One, being both begotten of the Father before the worlds, and in the last times created of the Virgin. And thus the meaning is: I, Who am begotten before the worlds, am He Who was created of mortal woman, created for a set purpose.

61. Again, immediately before the declaration, The Lord created Me, He says, I will tell of the things which are from eternity, and before saying, He begot, He premised, In the beginning, before He made the earth, before all hills. In its extent, the preposition before reaches back into the past without end or limit, and so Before Abraham was, I am, John 8:58 clearly need not mean after Adam, just as before the Morning Star need not mean after the angels. But when He said before, He intended, not that He was included in any one's existence, but that all things are included in His, for thus it is the custom of Holy Writ to show the eternity of God. Finally, in another passage you may read: Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made, You are from everlasting to everlasting.

62. Before all created things, then, is the Son begotten; within all and for the good of all is He made; begotten of the Father, above the Law, Mark 2:28 brought forth of Mary, under the Law. Galatians 4:4

Chapter 10.

Observations on the words of John the Baptist (John 1:30), which may be referred to divine fore-ordinance, but at any rate, as explained by the foregoing considerations, must be understood of the Incarnation. The precedence of Christ is mystically expounded, with reference to the history of Ruth.

63. But [say they] it is written: After me comes a Man, Who is made before me, because He was before me; John 1:30 and so they argue: See, He Who was aforetime is 'made.' Let us take the words by themselves. After me comes a Man. He, then, Who came is a Man, and this is the Man Who was made. But the word man connotes sex, and sex is attributed to human nature, but never to the Godhead.

64. I might argue: The Man [Christ Jesus] was in pre-existence so far as His body was foreknown, though His power is from everlasting— for both the Church and the Saints were foreordained before the worlds began. But here I lay aside this argument, and urge that the being made concerns not the Godhead, but the nature of the Incarnation, even as John himself said: This is He of Whom I said: After me comes a Man, Who was made before me.

65. The Scripture, then, having, as I showed above, discovered the twofold nature in Christ, that you might understand the presence of both Godhead and Manhood, here begins with the flesh; for it is the custom of Holy Writ to begin without fixed rule sometimes with the Godhead of Christ, and descend to the visible tokens of Incarnation; sometimes, on the other hand, to start from its humility, and rise to the glory of the Godhead, as oftentimes in the Prophets and Evangelists, and in St. Paul. Here, then, after this use, the writer begins with the Incarnation of our Lord, and then proclaims His Divinity, not to confound, but to distinguish, the human and the divine. But Arians, like Jew vintners, mix water with the wine, confounding the divine generation with the human, and ascribing to the majesty of God what is properly said only of the lowliness of the flesh.

66. I have no fears of a certain objection they are likely to put forward, namely, that in the words cited we have a man— for some have, Who comes after me. But here, too, let them observe what precedes. The Word, it is said, was made flesh. John 1:14 Having said that the Word was made flesh, the Evangelist added no mention of man. We understand man there in the mention of flesh, and flesh by the mention of man. After the statement made, then, that the Word was made flesh, there was no need here to particularly mention man, whom he already intended by using the name flesh.

67. Later on, St. John uses the lamb, that takes away the sins of the world, as an example; and to teach you plainly the Incarnation of Him, of Whom he had spoken before, he says: This is He of Whom I said before: After me comes a Man, Who is made before me, to wit, of Whom I said that He was made as being man, not as being God. However, to show that it was He Who was before the worlds, and none other, that became flesh, lest we should suppose two Sons of God, he adds: because He was before me. If the words was made had referred to the divine generation, what need was there that the writer should add this, and repeat himself? But, having first said, with regard to the Incarnation only, After me comes a Man, Who is made before me, he added: because He was before me, because it was needful to teach the eternity of [Christ's] Godhead; and this is the reason why St. John acknowledged Christ's priority, that He, Who is His own Father's eternal Power, may be presented as on that account duly preferred.

68. But the abounding activity of the spiritual understanding makes it a pleasing exercise to sally forth and drive into a corner the Arians, who will understand the term made in this passage, not of the manhood, but of the Godhead [of Christ]. What ground, indeed, is left for them to take their stand upon, when the Baptist has declared that after me comes One Who is made before me, that is, Who, though in the course of earthly life He comes after me, yet is placed above the degree of my worth and grace, and Who has title to be worshipped as God. For the words comes after me belong to an event in time, but was before me signify Christ's eternity; and is made before me refer to His pre-eminence, forasmuch as, indeed, the mystery of the Incarnation is above human deserving.

69. Again, St. John Baptist also taught in less weighty language what ideas they were he had combined, saying: After me comes a Man, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, setting forth at least the more excellent dignity [of Christ], though not the eternity of His Divine Generation. Now these words are so fully intended of the Incarnation, that Scripture has given us, in an earlier book, a human counterpart of the mystic sandal. For, by the Law, when a man died, the marriage bond with his wife was passed on to his brother, or other man next of kin, in order that the seed of the brother or next of kin might renew the life of the house, and thus it was that Ruth, though she was foreign-born, but yet had possessed a husband of the Jewish people, who had left a kinsman of near relation, being seen and loved of Boaz while gleaning and maintaining herself and her mother-in-law with that she gleaned, was yet not taken of Boaz to wife, until she had first loosed the shoe from [the foot of] him whose wife she ought, by the Law, to have become.

70. The story is a simple one, but deep are its hidden meanings, for that which was done was the outward betokening of somewhat further. If indeed we should rack the sense so as to fit the letter exactly, we should almost find the words an occasion of a certain shame and horror, that we should regard them as intending and conveying the thought of common bodily intercourse; but it was the foreshadowing of One Who was to arise from Jewry— whence Christ was, after the flesh— Who should, with the seed of heavenly teaching, revive the seed of his dead kinsman, that is to say, the people, and to Whom the precepts of the Law, in their spiritual significance, assigned the sandal of marriage, for the espousals of the Church.

71. Moses was not the Bridegroom, for to him comes the word, Loose your shoe from off your foot, Exodus 3:5 that he might give place to his Lord. Nor was Joshua, the son of Nun, the Bridegroom, for to him also it was told, saying, Loose your shoe from off your foot, Joshua 5:16 lest, by reason of the likeness of his name, he should be thought the spouse of the Church. None other is the Bridegroom but Christ alone, of Whom St. John said: He Who has the bride is the Bridegroom. John 3:29 They, therefore, loose their shoes, but His shoe cannot be loosed, even as St. John said: I am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe. John 1:27

72. Christ alone, then, is the Bridegroom to Whom the Church, His bride, comes from the nations, and gives herself in wedlock; aforetime poor and starving, but now rich with Christ's harvest; gathering in the hidden bosom of her mind handfuls of the rich crop and gleanings of the Word, that so she may nourish with fresh food her who is worn out, bereaved by the death of her son, and starving, even the mother of the dead people—leaving not the widow and destitute, while she seeks new children.

73. Christ, then, alone is the Bridegroom, grudging not even to the synagogue the sheaves of His harvest. Would that the synagogue had not of her own will shut herself out! She had sheaves that she might herself have gathered, but, her people being dead, she, like one bereaved by the death of her son, began to gather sheaves, whereby she might live, by the hand of the Church— the which sheaves they who come in joyfulness shall carry, even as it is written: Yet surely shall they come with joy, bringing their sheaves with them.

74. Who, indeed, but Christ could dare to claim the Church as His bride, whom He alone, and none other, has called from Libanus, saying: Come hither from Libanus, my bride; come hither from Libanus? Song of Songs 4:8 Or of Whom else could the Church have said: His throat is sweetness, and He is altogether desirable? Song of Songs 5:26 And seeing that we entered upon this discussion from speaking of the shoes of His feet—to Whom else but the Word of God incarnate can those words apply? His legs are pillars of marble, set upon bases of gold. Song of Songs 5:15 For Christ alone walks in the souls and makes His path in the minds of His saints, in which, as upon bases of gold and foundations of precious stone the heavenly Word has left His footprints ineffaceably impressed.

75. Clearly we see, then, that both the man and the type point to the mystery of the Incarnation.

Chapter 11.

St. Ambrose returns to the main question, and shows that whenever Christ is said to have been made (or become), this must be understood with reference to His Incarnation, or to certain limitations. In this sense several passages of Scripture— especially of St. Paul— are expounded. The eternal Priesthood of Christ, prefigured in Melchizedek. Christ possesses not only likeness, but oneness with the Father.

76. When, therefore, Christ is said to have been made, to have become, the phrase relates, not to the substance of the Godhead, but often to the Incarnation— sometimes indeed to a particular office; for if you understand it of His Godhead, then God was made into an object of insult and derision inasmuch as it is written: But you have rejected your Christ, and brought Him to nought; you have driven Him to wander; and again: And He was made the derision of His neighbours. Of His neighbours, mark you— not of them of His household, not of them who clave to Him, for he who cleaves to the Lord is one Spirit; 1 Corinthians 6:17 he who is neighbour does not cleave to Him. Again, He was made a derision, because the Lord's Cross is to Jews a stumbling-block, and to Greeks is foolishness: 1 Corinthians 1:23 for to them that are wise He is, by that same Cross, made higher than the heavens, higher than angels, and is made the Mediator of the better covenant, even as He was Mediator of the former.

77. Mark how I repeat the phrase; so far am I from seeking to avoid it. Yet take notice in what sense He is made.

78. In the first place, having made purification, He sits on the right hand of Majesty on high, being made so much better than the angels. Hebrews 1:3-4 Now where purification is, there is a victim; where there is a victim, there is also a body; where a body is, there is oblation; where there is the office of oblation, there also is sacrifice made with suffering.

79. In the next place, He is the Mediator of a better covenant. But where there is testamentary disposition, the death of the testator must first come to pass, as it is written a little further on. Howbeit, the death is not the death of His eternal Godhead, but of His weak human frame.

80. Furthermore, we are taught how He is made higher than the heavens. Unspotted, says the Scripture, Hebrews 7:26-27 separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; not having daily need, as the priests have need, to offer a victim first for his own sins, and then for those of the people. For this He did by sacrificing Himself once and for all. None is said to be made higher, save he who has in some respect been lower; Christ, then, is, by His sitting at the right hand of the Father, made higher in regard of that wherein, being made lower than the angels, He offered Himself to suffer.

81. Finally, the Apostle himself says to the Philippians, that being made in the likeness of man, and found in outward appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, being made obedient even unto death. Philippians 2:7-8 Mark that, in regard whereof He is made, He is made, the Apostle says, in the likeness of man, not in respect of Divine Sovereignty, and He was made obedient unto death, so that He displayed the obedience proper to man, and obtained the kingdom appertaining of right to Godhead.

82. How many passages need we cite further in evidence that His being made must be understood with reference to His Incarnation, or to some particular dispensation? Now whatsoever is made, the same is also created, for He spoke and they were made; He gave also the word, and they were created. The Lord created me. These words are spoken with regard to His Manhood; and we have also shown, in our First Book, that the word created appears to have reference to the Incarnation.

83. Again, the Apostle himself, by declaring that no worship is to be rendered to a created existence, has shown that the Son has not been created, but begotten, of God. Romans 1:25 At the same time he shows in other places what there was in Christ that was created, in order to make plain in what sense he has read in Solomon's book: The Lord created Me.

84. Let us now review a whole passage in order. Seeing, then, that the sons have parts of flesh and blood, He too likewise was made to have part in the same, to the end that by death He might overthrow him who had the power of death. Hebrews 2:14 Who, then, is He Who would have us to be partakers in His own flesh and blood? Surely the Son of God. How, save by means of the flesh, was He made partaker with us, or by what, save by bodily death, broke He the chains of death? For Christ's endurance of death was made the death of Death. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 This text, then, speaks of the Incarnation.

85. Let us see what follows: For He did not indeed [straightway] put on Him the nature of angels, but that of Abraham's seed. And thus was He able to be made like to His brethren in all things throughout, that He might become a compassionate and faithful Prince, a Priest unto God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people; for in that He Himself suffered He is able also to help them that are tempted. Wherefore, brethren most holy, you who have each his share in a heavenly calling, look upon the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus, regard His faithfulness to His Creator, even as Moses was in his house. These, then, are the Apostle's words.

86. You see what it is in respect whereof the writer calls Him created: In so far as He took upon Him the seed of Abraham; plainly asserting the begetting of a body. How, indeed, but in His body did He expiate the sins of the people? In what did He suffer, save in His body— even as we said above: Christ having suffered in the flesh? In what is He a priest, save in that which He took to Himself from the priestly nation?

87. It is a priest's duty to offer something, and, according to the Law, to enter into the holy places by means of blood; seeing, then, that God had rejected the blood of bulls and goats, this High Priest was indeed bound to make passage and entry into the holy of holies in heaven through His own blood, in order that He might be the everlasting propitiation for our sins. Priest and victim, then, are one; the priesthood and sacrifice are, however, exercised under the conditions of humanity, for He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

88. Let no man, therefore, when he beholds an order of human establishment, contend that in it resides the claim of Divinity; for even that Melchizedek, by whose office Abraham offered sacrifice, the Church does certainly not hold to be an angel (as some Jewish triflers do), but a holy man and priest of God, who, prefiguring our Lord, is described as without father or mother, without history of his descent, without beginning and without end, in order to show beforehand the coming into this world of the eternal Son of God, Who likewise was incarnate and then brought forth without any father, begotten as God without mother, and was without history of descent, for it is written: His generation who shall declare? Isaiah 53:8

89. This Melchizedek, then, have we received as a priest of God made upon the model of Christ, but the one we regard as the type, the other as the original. Now a type is a shadow of the truth, and we have accepted the royalty of the one in the name of a single city, but that of the other as shown in the reconciliation of the whole world; for it is written: God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself; 2 Corinthians 5:19 that is to say, [in Christ was] eternal Godhead: or, if the Father is in the Son, even as the Son is in the Father, then Their unity in both nature and operation is plainly not denied.

90. But how, indeed, could our adversaries justly deny this, even if they would, when the Scripture says: But the Father, Who abides in Me, even He does the works; and The works that I do, He Himself works? John 14:10 Not He also does the works, but one should regard it as similarity rather than unity of work; in saying, The things that I do, He Himself does, the Apostle has left it clear that we ought to believe that the work of the Father and the work of the Son is one.

91. On the other hand, when He would have similarity, not unity, of works, to be understood, He said: He that believes in Me, the works which I do, shall he do also. John 14:12 Skilfully inserting here the word also, He has allowed us similarity, and yet has not ascribed natural unity. One, therefore, is the work of the Father and the work of the Son, whether the Arians please so to think or not.

Chapter 12.

The kingdom of the Father and of the Son is one and undivided, so likewise is the Godhead of each.

92. I would now ask how they suppose the kingdom of the Father and the Son to be divided, when the Lord has said, as we showed above: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be speedily overthrown. Matthew 12:25

93. Indeed, it was to debar the impious teaching of Arian enmity that Saint Peter himself asserted the dominion of the Father and the Son to be one, saying: Wherefore, my brethren, labour to make your calling and election sure, for so doing you shall not go astray, for thus your entrance into the eternal realm of God and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ shall be granted with the greater abundance of grace. 1 Peter 2:10-11

94. Now, if it be thought that Christ's dominion alone is spoken of, and the place be therefore understood in such sense that the Father and the Son are regarded as divided in authority— yet it will be still acknowledged that it is the dominion of the Son, and that an eternal one, and thus not only will two kingdoms, separate, and so liable to fail, be brought in, but, furthermore, inasmuch as no kingdom is to be compared with God's kingdom, which they cannot, however greatly they may desire to, deny to be the kingdom of the Son, they must either turn back upon their opinion, and acknowledge the kingdom of the Father and the Son to be one and the same; or they must ascribe to the Father the government of a lesser kingdom— which is blasphemy; or they must acknowledge Him, Whom they wickedly declare to be inferior in respect of Godhead, to possess an equal kingdom, which is inconsistent.

95. But this [their teaching] squares not, agrees not, holds not [with its premisses]. Let them confess, then, that the kingdom is one, even as we confess and prove, not indeed on our own evidence, but upon testimony vouchsafed from heaven.

96. To begin with, learn, from further testimonies [of Scripture], how that the kingdom of heaven is also the kingdom of the Son: Verily, verily, I say unto you, that there are some among those which stand here with us, who shall not taste death, until they see the Son of Man coming into His kingdom. Matthew 16:28 There is therefore no room for doubt that the kingdom appertains to the Son of God.

97. Now learn that the kingdom of the Son is the very same as the kingdom of the Father: Verily, I say unto you that there be some of those which stand around us, who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God coming in power. Mark 8:39 So far, indeed, is it one kingdom, that the reward is one, the inheritor is one and the same, and so also the merit, and He Who promises [the reward].

98. How can it but be one kingdom, above all when the Son Himself has said of Himself: Then shall the righteous shine like the sun in the kingdom of My Father? Matthew 13:43 For that which is the Father's, by fitness to His majesty, is also the Son's, by unity in the same glory. John 17:5 The Scripture, therefore, has declared the kingdom to be the kingdom both of the Father and of the Son.

99. Now learn that where the kingdom of God is named, there is no putting aside of the authority either of the Father or of the Son, because both the kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of the Son is included under the single name of God, saying: When you shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:28 Do we deny that the prophets are in the kingdom of the Son, when even to a dying robber who said, Remember me, when You come into Your kingdom, the Lord made answer: Verily, I say unto you, today shall you be with Me in paradise. Luke 23:42-43 What, indeed, do we understand by being in the kingdom of God, if not the having escaped eternal death? But they who have escaped eternal death see the Son of Man coming into His kingdom.

100. How, then, can He not have in His power that which He gives, saying: To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven? Matthew 16:19 See the gulf between [the one and the other]. The servant opens, the Lord bestows; the One through Himself, the other through Christ; the minister receives the keys, the Lord appoints powers: the one is the right of a giver, the other the duty of a steward.

101. See now yet another proof that the kingdom, the government, of the Father and the Son is one. It is written in the Epistle to Timothy: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the government of God, our Saviour, and Christ Jesus, our Hope. 1 Timothy 1:1 One, therefore, the kingdom of the Father and the Son is plainly declared to be, even as Paul the Apostle also asserted, saying: For know this, that no shameless person, none that is impure, or covetous (which means idolatry), has inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:5 It is, therefore, one kingdom, one Godhead.

102. Oneness in Godhead the Law has proved, which speaks of one God, Deuteronomy 6:4 as also the Apostle, by saying of Christ; In Whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. For if, as the Apostle says, all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily, is in Christ, then must the Father and the Son be confessed to be of one Godhead; or if it is desired to sunder the Godhead of the Son from the Godhead of the Father, while the Son possesses all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, what is supposed to be further reserved, seeing that nothing remains over and above the fullness of perfection? Therefore the Godhead is one.

Chapter 13.

The majesty of the Son is His own, and equal to that of the Father, and the angels are not partakers, but beholders thereof.

103. Now, we having already laid down that the Father and the Son are of one image and likeness, it remains for us to show that They are also of one majesty. And we need not go far afield for proof, inasmuch as the Son Himself has said of Himself: When the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His majesty. Matthew 25:31 Behold, then, the majesty of the Son declared! What lacks He yet, Whose uncreated majesty cannot be denied? Majesty, then, belongs to the Son.

104. Let our adversaries now hold it proved beyond doubt that the majesty of the Father and of the Son is one, forasmuch as the Lord Himself has said: For he who shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of Him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in His majesty and His Father's, and the majesty of the holy angels. Luke 9:26 What is the force of the words and the majesty of the holy angels, but that the servants derive honour from the worship of their Lord?

105. The Son, therefore, ascribed His majesty to His Father as well as to Himself, not, indeed, in such sort that the angels should share in that majesty on equal terms with the Father and the Son, but that they should behold the surpassing glory of God; for truly not even angels possess a majesty of their own, after the manner in which Scripture speaks of the Son: When He shall sit upon the throne of His majesty, but they stand in the presence, that they may see the glory of the Father and the Son, in such degrees of vision as they are either worthy of or able to bear.

106. Furthermore, the God-given words themselves declare their own meaning, that you may understand that glory of the Father and the Son not to be held in common with them by angels, for thus they run: But when the Son of Man shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him. Again, to show that His Father's majesty and glory and His own majesty and glory are one and the same, our Lord Himself says in another book: And the Son of Man shall confound him, when He shall come in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels. Mark 8:38 The angels come in obedience, He comes in glory: they are His retainers, He sits upon His throne: they stand, He is seated— to borrow terms of the daily dealings of human life, He is the Judge: they are the officers of the court. Note that He did not place first His Father's divine majesty, and then, in the second place, His own and the angels', lest He should seem to have made out a sort of descending order, from the highest to lower natures. He placed His own majesty first, and then spoke of His Father's, and the majesty of the angels (because the Father could not appear lower than they), in order that He might not, by placing mention of Himself between that of His Father and that of the angels, seem to have made out some ascending scale, leading from angels to the Father through increase of His own dignity; nor, again, be believed to have, contrariwise, shown a descent from the Father to angels, entailing diminution of that dignity. Now we who confess one Godhead of the Father and the Son suppose no such order of distinction as the Arians do.

Chapter 14.

The Son is of one substance with the Father.

108. And now, your Majesty, with regard to the question of the substance, why need I tell you that the Son is of one substance with the Father, when we have read that the Son is the image of the Father's substance, that you may understand that there is nothing wherein, so far as Godhead is regarded, the Son differs from the Father.

109. In virtue of this likeness Christ said: All things that the Father has are Mine. John 16:15 We cannot, then, deny substance to God, for indeed He is not unsubstantial, Who has given to others the ground of their being, though this be different in God from what it is in the creature. The Son of God, by Whose agency all things endure, could not be unsubstantial.

110. And therefore, the Psalmist says: My bones are not hidden, which You made in secret, and my substance in the underworld. For to His power and Godhead, the things that before the foundation of the world were done, though their magnificence was [as yet] invisible, could not be hidden. Here, then, we find mention of substance.

111. But it may be objected that the mention of His substance is the consequence of His Incarnation. I have shown that the word substance is used more than once, and that not in the sense of inherited possessions, as you would construe it. Now, if it please you, let us grant that, in accordance with the mystic prophecy, the substance of Christ was present in the underworld— for truly He did exert His power in the lower world to set free, in the soul which animated His own body, the souls of the dead, to loose the bands of death, to remit sins. 1 Peter 3:19

112. And, indeed, what hinders you from understanding, by that substance, His divine substance, seeing that God is everywhere, so that it has been said to Him: If I go up into heaven, You are there; if I go down into hell, You are present.

113. Furthermore, the Psalmist has in the words following made it plain that we must understand the divine substance to be mentioned when he says: Your eyes did see My being, [as] not the effect of working; inasmuch as the Son is not made, nor one of God's works, but the begotten Word of eternal power. He called Him ἀχατέργαστον, meaning that the Word neither made nor created, is begotten of the Father without the witnessing presence of any created being. Howbeit, we have abundance of testimony besides this. Let us grant that the substance here spoken of is the bodily substance, provided you also yourself say not that the Son of God is something effected by working, but confess His uncreated Godhead.

114. Now I know that some assert that the mystic incarnate form was uncreated, forasmuch as nothing was done therein through intercourse with a man, because our Lord was the offspring of a virgin. If, then, many have, on the strength of this passage, asserted that neither that which was brought forth of Mary was produced by creative operation, dare you, disciple of Arius, think that the Word of God is something so produced?

115. But is this the only place where we read of substance? Hath it not also been said in another passage: The gates of the cities are broken down, the mountains are fallen, and His substance is revealed? What, does the word mean something created here also? Some, I know, are accustomed to say that the substance is substance in money. Then, if you give this meaning to the word, the mountains fell, in order that some one's possessions of money might be seen.

116. But let us remember what mountains fell, those, namely, of which it has been said: If you shall have faith as a grain of mustard seed you shall say to this mountain: Be removed, and be cast into the sea! Matthew 17:19 By mountains, then, are meant high things that exalt themselves. 2 Corinthians 10:5

117. Moreover, in the Greek, the rendering is this: The palaces are fallen. What palaces, save the palace of Satan, of whom the Lord said: How shall His kingdom stand? We are reading, therefore, of the things which are the devil's palaces as being very mountains, and therefore in the fall of those palaces from the hearts of the faithful, the truth stands revealed, that Christ, the Son of God, is of the Father's eternal substance. What, again, are those mountains of bronze, from the midst of which four chariots come forth? Zechariah 6:1

118. We behold that height, lifting up itself against the knowledge of God, cast down by the word of the Lord, when the Son of God said: Hold your peace, and come forth, you foul spirit. Mark 1:25 Concerning whom the prophet also said: Behold, I have come to you, you mount of corruption!

119. Those mountains, then, are fallen, and it is revealed that in Christ was the substance of God, in the words of those who had seen Him: Truly You are the Son of God, Luke 4:41 for it was in virtue of divine, not human power, that He commanded devils. Jeremiah also says: Make mourning upon the mountains, and beat your breasts upon the desert tracks, for they have failed; forasmuch as there are no men, they have not heard the word of substance: from flying fowl to beasts of burden, they trembled, they have failed.

120. Nor has it escaped us, that in another place also, setting forth the frailties of man's estate, in order to show that He had taken upon Himself the infirmity of the flesh, and the affections of our minds, the Lord said, by the mouth of His prophet: Remember, O Lord, what My substance is, because it was the Son of God speaking in the nature of human frailty.

121. Of Him the Scripture says, in the passage cited, in order to discover the mysteries of the Incarnation: But You have rejected, O Lord, and counted for nought— You have cast out Your Christ. You have overthrown the covenant made with Your Servant, and trampled His holiness in the earth. What was it, in regard whereof the Scripture called Him Servant, but His flesh?— seeing that He did not hold equality with God as a prey, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made into the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man. Philippians 2:6-7 So, then, in that He took upon Himself My nature, He was a servant, but by virtue of His own power He is the Lord.

122. Furthermore, what means it that you read, Who has stood in the truth (substantia) of the Lord? and again: Now if they had stood in My truth, and had given ear to My words, and had taught My people, I would have turned them from their follies and transgressions?

Chapter 15.

The Arians, inasmuch as they assert the Son to be of another substance, plainly acknowledge substance in God. The only reason why they avoid the use of this term is that they will not, as Eusebius of Nicomedia has made it evident, confess Christ to be the true Son of God.

123. How can the Arians deny the substance of God? How can they suppose that the word substance which is found in many places of Scripture ought to be debarred from use, when they themselves do yet, by saying that the Son is ἑτεροούσιος, that is, of another substance, admit substance in God?

124. It is not the term itself, then, but its force and consequences, that they shun, because they will not confess the Son of God to be true [God]. For though the process of the divine generation cannot be comprehended in human language, still the Fathers judged that their faith might be fitly distinguished by the use of such a term, as against that of ἑτεροούσιος, following the authority of the prophet, who says: Who has stood in the truth (substantia) of the Lord, and seen His Word? Jeremiah 23:18 Arians, therefore, admit the term substance when it is used so as to square with their blasphemy; contrariwise, when it is adopted in accordance with the pious devotion of the faithful, they reject and dispute against it.

125. What other reason can there be for their unwillingness to have the Son spoken of as μοούσιος, of the same substance, with the Father, but that they are unwilling to confess Him the true Son of God? This is betrayed in the letter of Eusebius of Nicomedia. If, writes he, we say that the Son is true God and uncreate, then we are in the way to confess Him to be of one substance (ὁμοούσιος) with the Father. When this letter had been read before the Council assembled at Nicæa, the Fathers put this word in their exposition of the Faith, because they saw that it daunted their adversaries; in order that they might take the sword, which their opponents had drawn, to smite off the head of those opponents' own blasphemous heresy. 1 Samuel 17:51

126. Vain, however, is their plea, that they avoid the use of the term, because of the Sabellians; whereby they betray their own ignorance, for a being is of the same substance ( μοούσιον) with another, not with itself. Rightly, then, do we call the Son μοούσιος (of the same substance), with the Father, forasmuch as that term expresses both the distinction of Persons and the unity of nature.

127. Can they deny that the term οὐσία is met with in Scripture, when the Lord has spoken of bread, that is, πιούσιος, and Moses has written ὑμεῖς ἔσεσθέ μοι λαὸς περιούσιος ? Exodus 19:6 What does οὐσία mean, whence comes the name, but from οὖσα ἀεί, that which endures for ever? For He Who is, and is for ever, is God; and therefore the Divine Substance, abiding everlastingly, is called οὐσία . Bread is ἐπιούσιος, because, taking the substance of abiding power from the substance of the Word, it supplies this to heart and soul, for it is written: And bread strengthens man's heart.

128. Let us, then, keep the precepts of our forefathers, nor with rude and reckless daring profane the symbols bequeathed to us. That sealed book of prophecy, whereof we have heard, neither elders, nor powers, nor angels, nor archangels, ventured to open; for Christ alone is reserved the peculiar right of opening it. Revelation 5:5 Who among us dare unseal the book of the priesthood, sealed by confessors, and long hallowed by the testimony of many? They who have been constrained to unseal, nevertheless have since, respecting the deceit put upon them, sealed again; they who dared not lay sacrilegious hands upon it, have stood forth as martyrs and confessors. How can we deny the Faith held by those whose victory we proclaim?

Chapter 16.

In order to forearm the orthodox against the stratagems of the Arians, St. Ambrose discloses some of the deceitful confessions used by the latter, and shows by various arguments, that though they sometimes call the Son God, it is not enough, unless they also admit His equality with the Father.

129. Let none fear, let none tremble; he who threatens gives the advantage to the faithful. The soothing balms of deceitful men are poisoned— then must we be on our guard against them, when they pretend to preach that they do deny. Thus were those aforetime, who lightly trusted to them, deceived, so that they fell into the snares of treachery, when they thought all was good faith.

130. Let him be accursed, say they, who says that Christ is a creature, after the manner of the rest of created beings. Plain folks have heard this, and put faith in it, for, as it is written, the simple man believes every word. Proverbs 14:15 Thus have they heard and believed, being taken in by the first sound thereof, and, like birds, eager for the bait of faith, have not noted the net spread for them, and so, pursuing after faith, have caught the hook of ungodly deceit. Wherefore be wise as serpents, says the Lord, and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16 Wisdom is put foremost, in order that harmlessness may be unharmed.

131. For those are serpents, such as the Gospel intends, who put off old habits, in order to put on new manners: Putting off the old man, together with his acts, and putting on the new man, made in the image of Him Who created him. Colossians 3:9-10 Let us learn then, the ways of those whom the Gospel calls the serpents, throwing off the slough of the old man, that so, like serpents, we may know how to preserve our life and beware of fraud.

132. It would have been sufficient to say, Accursed be he who says that Christ is a created being. Why, then, Arian, do you mingle poison with the good that is in your confession, and so defile the whole body of it? For by addition of after the manner of the rest of created beings, you deny not that Christ is a being created, but that He is a created being like [all] others— for created being you do entitle Him, albeit you assign to Him dignity transcending the rest of creation. Furthermore, Arius, the first teacher of this ungodly doctrine, said that the Son of God was a perfect created being, and not as the rest of created beings. See you, then, how that you have adopted language bequeathed you from your father. To deny that Christ is a being created is enough: why add but not as the rest of beings created? Cut away the gangrened part, lest the contagion spread— it is poisonous, deadly.

133. Again, you say sometimes that Christ is God. Nay, but so call Him true God, as meaning, that you acknowledge Him to possess the fullness of the Father's Godhead— for there are gods, so called, alike in heaven or upon earth. The name God, then, is not to be used as a mere manner of address and mention, but with the understanding that you affirm, of the Son, that same Godhead which the Father has, as it is written: For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son also to have life in Himself; John 5:26 that is to say, He has given it to Him, as to His Son, through begetting Him— not by grace, as to one indigent.

134. And He has given Him power to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. John 5:27 Note well this addition, that you may not take occasion, upon a word, to preach falsehood. You read that He is the Son of Man; do you therefore deny that He accepts [the power given]? Deny God, then, if all things proper to God are not given to the Son, for whereas He has said, All things that the Father has are Mine, John 16:15 why not acknowledge that all the properties and attributes of Divinity are in the Son [as they are in the Father]? For He who says, All things that the Father has are Mine, what does He except as having not?

135. Why is it that you recount with insistence and in such sincere language, Christ's raising the dead to life, walking upon the waters, healing the sicknesses of men? These powers, indeed, He has given to His bondmen to display as well as Himself. They do the more arouse my wonder when seen present in men, forasmuch as God has given them power so great. I would hear somewhat concerning Christ that is His distinctly and peculiarly, and cannot be held in common with Him by created beings, now that He is begotten, the only Son of God, very God of very God, sitting at the Father's right hand.

136. Wheresoever I read of the Father and Son sitting side by side, I find the Son always upon the right hand. Is that because the Son is above the Father? Nay, we say not so; but He Whom God's love honours is dishonoured by man's ungodliness. The Father knew that doubts as concerning the Son must needs be sown, and He has given us an example of reverence for us to follow after, lest we dishonour the Son.

Chapter 17.

An objection based on St. Stephen's vision of the Lord standing is disposed of, and from the prayers of the same saint, addressed to the Son of God, the equality of the Son with the Father is shown.

137. There is just one place, in which Stephen has said that he saw the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 Learn now the import of these words, that you may not use them to raise a question upon. Why (you would ask) do we read every where else of the Son as sitting at the right hand of God, but in one place of His standing? He sits as Judge of quick and dead; He stands as His people's Advocate. He stood, then, as a Priest, while He was offering to His Father the sacrifice of a good martyr; He stood, as the Umpire, to bestow, as it were, upon a good wrestler the prize of so mighty a contest.

138. Receive also the Spirit of God, that you may discern those things, even as Stephen received the Spirit; and you may say, as the martyr said: Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. Acts 7:55 He who has the heavens opened to him, sees Jesus at the right hand of God: he whose soul's eye is closed, sees not Jesus at the right hand of God. Let us, then, confess Jesus at God's right hand, that to us also the heavens may be opened. They who confess otherwise close the gates of heaven against themselves.

139. But if any urge in objection that the Son was standing, let them show upon this passage that the Father was seated, for though Stephen said that the Son of Man was standing, still he did not further say here that the Father was sitting.

140. Howbeit, to make it more abundantly clear and known that the standing implied no dishonour, but rather sovereignty, Stephen prayed to the Son, being desirous to commend himself the more to the Father, saying: Lord Jesu, receive my spirit. Acts 7:58 Again, to show that the sovereignty of the Father and of the Son is one and the same, he prayed again, saying, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. Acts 7:51 These are the words that the Lord, in His own Passion, speaks to the Father, as the Son of Man— these the words of Stephen's prayer, in his own martyrdom to the Son of God. When the same grace is sought of both the Father and the Son, the same power is affirmed of each.

141. Otherwise, if our opponents will have it that Stephen addressed himself to the Father, let them consider what, on their own showing, they affirm. We indeed are unmoved by their arguments; howbeit, let them, to whom the letter and sequence is all important, take notice that the first petition is addressed to the Son. Now we, even on their understanding of the passage, prove from it the unity of the Father's and the Son's majesty; for when the Son is addressed in prayer as well as the Father, the equality which the prayer assigns points to unity in action. But if they will not allow that the Son was addressed with the title Lord, we see that they do indeed seek to deny that He is Lord.

142. Seeing, however, that so great a martyr's crown has been brought forth, let us abate the eagerness of disputation, and bring today's discourse to a close. Let us sing the praises of the holy martyr, as is fitting always after a mighty conflict— the martyr bleeding indeed from the enemy's blows, but rewarded with the crown bestowed by Christ.

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/34043.htm>.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

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