Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.33 Christian Faith Book II Pt 3

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.33 Christian Faith Book II Pt 3

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 30.01.33 Christian Faith Book II Pt 3

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Chapter XII.

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 Ps. cx. 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 hath the Judgment. To the Father, then? Nay, but "the Father judgeth no man, for He hath given all judgment to the Son."hyperlink He hath given, that is to say, not as of largess, but in the act of generation. See, then, how unwilling He was that thou shouldst dishonour His Son-even so that He gave Him to be thy Judge.

101. Let us see, then, before the judgment which hath 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. Thou dost honour man,-dost thou 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 thee not, at least let the plain aspect of the judgment move thee! Raise thine eyes to the Judge, see Who it is that is seated, with Whom He is seated, and where. Christ sitteth at the right hand of the Father. If with thine eyes thou canst not perceive this, hear the words of the prophet: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand."hyperlink The Son, therefore, sitteth 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 thou thinkest 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 thou makest it to be insult! The Father would have this invitation to be a sign of love and esteem, and thou wouldst make it an overlord's command! Christ hath risen from the dead, and sitteth at the right hand of God.

103. "But," you object, "the Father said." Good, hear now a passage where the Father doth not speak, and the Son prophesies: "Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power."hyperlink This He said with regard to taking back to Himself His body-to Himhyperlink the Father said: "Sit Thou 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 Jews-"For this I was born."hyperlink And so indeed the Apostle shows that it is good for us to believe that Christ sitteth 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."hyperlink 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 saith: "Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool."

104. If, again, you seek to pervert the sense of these words, "I will make Thine enemies Thy footstool," I answer that the Father also bringeth to the Son such as the Son raiseth up and quickeneth. For "No man," saith Christ, "can come to Me, except the Father, Which hath sent Me, draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day."hyperlink And you say that the Son of God is subject by reason of weakness-the Son, to Whom the Father bringeth men that He may raise them up in the last day. Seemeth this in your eyes to be subjection, I pray you, where the kingdom is prepared for the Father, and the Father bringeth to the Son and there is no place for perversion of words, since the Son giveth the kingdom to the Father, and none is preferred before Him?hyperlink For inasmuch as the Father rendereth 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 receiveth obtaineth as it were what was another's, nor He That rendereth loseth.

105. Moreover, the sitting at the right hand is no preferment, nor doth 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 divideth the Unity.

106. But wherefore roam so far afield? Thou hast looked upon all around thee, thou hast seen the Judge, thou hast remarked the angels proclaiming Him. They praise, and thou revilest Him! Dominations and powers fall down before Him-thou speakest 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!"hyperlink

107. What meaneth 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 spake 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 XIII.

The wicked and dishonourable opinions held by Arians, Sabellians, and Manichaeans 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 Thee, O Christ, to be unlike Thy Father;" and He will answer: "Mark, if thou canst, mark, I say, and tell Me wherein thou holdest Me to differ."

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

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

111. "That Thou art Almighty, I hold not;" and He will answer, in turn: "Then can I not forgive thee thy sins."

112. "Thou art a subject being." Whereto He will reply: "Why, then, dost thou seek freedom and pardon of Him Whom thou thinkest 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, whilst 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 thou hast denied?"

115. "Make me incorruptible." Surely His reply will be: "How can I make thee incorruptible, I, Whom thou callest a created being, and so wouldst make out to be corruptible? The dead shall rise purified from corruption-dost thou call Him corruptible Whom thou seest to be God?"

116. "Be good to me." "Why dost thou ask what thou hast denied [to Me]? I would have had thee to be good, and I said `Be ye holy, for I Myself am holy,'hyperlink and thou settest thyself to deny that I am good? Dost thou then look for forgiveness of sins? Nay, none can forgive sins, but God alone.hyperlink Seeing, then, that to thee I am not the true and only God, I cannot by any means forgive thee thy sins."

117. Thus let the followers of Arius and Photinus speak. "I deny Thy Godhead." To whom the Lord will make answer: "`The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God'hyperlink 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;hyperlink thou, nevertheless, hast dared to lift up thy voice to utter it, that thou mightest be proved more foolish than the fool. Thou deniest My Godhead, whereas I said, `Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most Highest?'hyperlink And thou deniest Him to be God, Whose godlike works thou seest around thee."

118. Let the Sabellian speak in his turn. "I consider Thee, by Thyself, to be at once Father and Son and Holy Spirit." To whom the Lord: "Thou hearest neither the Father nor the Son. Is there any doubt on this matter? The Scripture itself teaches thee that it is the Father Who giveth over the judgment, and the Son Who judges.hyperlink Thou hast not given ear to My words: `I am not alone, but I and the Father, Who sent Me.'"hyperlink

119. Now let the Manichaean have his word. "I hold that the devil is the creator of our flesh." The Lord will answer him: "What, then, doest thou in the heavenly places? Depart, go thy way to thy creator. `My will is that they be with Me, whom my Father hath given Me.' Thou, Manichaean, holdest thyself 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 thee, wherein have I vexed thee? Did I not bring thee up out of Egypt, and lead thee out of the house of bondage into liberty?"hyperlink

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, Thou hast given Thyself for us. Thou wilt say then: "Have I not borne all your sufferings?hyperlink 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 hath gained, even as I spake in times past by the mouth of the prophet: `What profit is there in My Blood, for that I have gone down to corruption?'hyperlink 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 Thee; Thou mayest pardon the infirmity of my flesh. My transgression I confess; my sin I deny not.hyperlink If Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean.hyperlink For this saying, the leper obtained his request. Enter not, I pray, into judgment with Thy servant.hyperlink I ask, not that Thou mayest judge, but that Thou mayest forgive."

Chapter XIV.

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 hath already pronounced sentence. We have it in our hands. "Let all," saith He, "honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father, Who hath sent Him."hyperlink

124. If the sentence please you not, appeal to the Father, cancel the judgment that the Father hath given. Say that He hath 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.'"hyperlink

125. Tell the Father that He hath created the Son, and He will answer: "Why, then, hast thou worshipped One Whom thou thoughtest to be a created being?"

126. Tell Him that He hath 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 thee, `This is My well-beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him'?"hyperlink What mean these words "hear ye Him," if not "Hear Him when He saith: `All things that the Father hath are Mine'"?hyperlink This did the apostles hear, even as it is written: "And they fell upon their faces, and were greatly afraid."hyperlink 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 ye may see not the glory ye have denied.

128. Let us look to it, then, forasmuch as whom the Son condemneth, the Father condemneth 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 XV.

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 well-nigh 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: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;"hyperlink for it is enough to know His Divine Generation, without division or diminution, being neither derivation nor creation.hyperlink

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 is 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."hyperlink 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 Thy Name," and from heaven was heard the voice of the Father, saying: "I have both glorified it, and again will glorify."hyperlink These words the unbelievers heard, but believed not. The Son spake, the Father answered, and the Jews said: "A peal of thunder answered Him;" others said: "An angel spake to Him."hyperlink

132. Paul, moreover, as it is written in the Acts of the Apostles,hyperlink 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, whilst 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."hyperlink In another place also the same Apostle saith: "But foolish and ignorant questionings do thou avoid."hyperlink

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."hyperlink

135. John, likewise, saith that heretics are Antichrists,hyperlink plainly marking out the Arians. For this [Arian] heresy began to be after all other heresies, and hath gathered the poisons of all. As it is written of theAntichrist, that "he opened his mouth to blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His Name, and to make war with His saints,"hyperlink 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 saith 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 denieth the Son, denieth the Father likewise."hyperlink

Chapter XVI.

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.hyperlink The book doses 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 saith the Lord-Shalt thou not, in that day when My people Israel shall be established to dwell in peace, rise up and come forth from thy place, from the far north, and many nations with thee, 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."hyperlink

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, saith the Lord. And it shall be in that day, that I will give to Gog"-that is, to the Goths-"a 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."hyperlink

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.hyperlink

140. No desire have I to recount the deaths, tortures, and banishments of confessors, the offices of the faithful made into presents for traitors.hyperlink Have we not heard, from all along the border,-from Thrace, and through Dacia by the river, Moesia, 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?hyperlink

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 Thy faith.

142. No military eagles, no flight of birds,hyperlink here lead the van of our army, but Thy Name, Lord Jesus, and Thy worship. This is no land of unbelievers, but the land whose custom it is to send forth confessors-Italy; Italy, ofttimes tempted, but never drawn away; Italy, which your Majesty hath 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 Thy Majesty, that he who believes Thee to be the true Lord of Hosts, and Captain of the armies of heaven; he who believes that Thou art 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,hyperlink may, upheld by the aid of thy Might Supreme, win the prize of victory for his Faith.


157 Ps. cx. 1.

158 S. Matt. xxvi. 64.

159 i.e. to the risen Christ. Eph. i. 20.

160 St. Ambrose's words are: "In hoc sum natus." It is possible that St. Ambrose understands "in hoc" as meaning "wde," "here;" sc. "at God's right hand."

161 Col. iii. 2.

162 S. John vi. 44.

163 This prerogative-viz. of sitting at the right hand of the Father-in itself is sufficient to exclude any dishonourable suspicion that the Son is a subject and servant. (Hurter.)

164 Isa. vi. 3.

165 Lev. xix. 2.

166 S. Mark. ii. 7.

167 Ps. xiv. 1; Ps. liii. 1. These words mean, not so much that a man says "There is no God" because he is a fool, because he is want ing in intelligence, but rather that when a man has left off to be have himself wisely and to do good-i.e. does foolishly, that is to say, wickedly-it is because he has said in his heart, "There is no God."

168 The "fool" (i.e. wicked man) has only said in his heart, secretly, "No God"-he has not ventilated his atheism.

169 Ps. lxxxii. 6; S. John x. 34 ff.

170 S. John v. 22.

171 S. John viii. 16; John xvi. 32.

172 Micah vi. 3; Ex. xx. 2.

173 Isa. liii. 4.

174 Ps. xxx. 9.

175 Ps. xxxii. 5: Ps. li. 3.

176 S. Matt. viii. 2.

177 Ps. cxliii. 2.

178 S. John v. 23.

179 Gen. i. 26.

180 S. Matt. xvii. 5.

181 S. John xvi. 15; John xvii. 10.

182 S. Matt. xvii. 6.

183 S. Matt. xvi. 16: Mark viii. 30. Cf. Peter's other confession, S. John vi. 69, and Martha's confession in S. John xi. 27.

184 "Without division or diminution," i.e. the generation of the Son entails no division or partition of the Godhead, still less any diminution of it. The Father is none the less God. His Godhead loses nothing by His begetting His Eternal Son. Some manuscripts have "demutatam" instead of "deminutam" here-i.e. "changed" for "diminished." Certainly the begetting of the Son can make no change whatever in the Being of the Father, for the Divine Generation is "from everlasting to everlasting," and is necessarily implied in the very Fatherhood, the personal essence of the Father. Hurter quotes St. Hilary, De Trin. 6, 10. "The Church knows of no apportionment made to the Son, but knows Him as perfect God of perfect God, as One begotten of One, not shorn off from Him, but born: she knows the Nativity to entail no diminution of Him Who begets, nor weakness in Him Who is born." The fact is a spiritual relation, metaphysical in the highest sense, transcending our intelligence, and only to be apprehended by faith, simply as a fact-as the arxh, or principle, which is sufficient for us. The "how" we must wait to have revealed to us hereafter, if we shall ever be able to receive it.

185 Isa. vi. 10.

186 S. John xii. 28.

187 S. John xii. 29.

188 Acts xxii. 9.

189 1 Tim. i. 4 ff.

190 2 Tim. ii. 23.

191 1 Tim. iv. 1.

192 1 John ii. 18 ff.

193 Rev. xiii. 6.

194 1 John ii. 23.

195 The disasters here alluded to are the rout of the Roman army, in 378 a.d., at Hadrianople, and the miserable death of the Emperor Valens, who took refuge in a hut, which was surrounded and fired by the Goths, the emperor perishing in the flames. This reverse was regarded by the orthodox as a judgment upon the Arianism of Valens and others in high places.

196 Ezek. xxxviii. 14 ff.

197 Ezek. xxxix. 10 ff.

198 The success of the Goths at Hadrianople encouraged the northern barbarians to fresh invasions of the empire, within which they from now began to form permanent lodgments, and it correspond ingly discouraged the subjects of the empire, and sapped the old belief-a legacy from paganism-in the fortune of Rome.

199 Orthodox bishops and priests were expelled from their sees and offices to make room for "betrayers of the faith," i.e. men who had apostatized to Arianism. The mingled tumult of blasphemy and foreign onslaughts is a description of the condition of the eastern provinces of the empire, where Arianism was rampant, and all was overrun by the Goths. The latter was regarded by some as the result of the former. Thus St. Jerome: "Our sins are the strength of the barbarians, our vices bring defeat upon the arms of Rome."-H. The provinces here mentioned lay along the right bank of the Danube, and took in what is now Lower Hungary, Servia, and Bulgaria. The result of the disaster of Hadrianople was to put all these countries in the power of the Goths.

200 The Goths had been driven in upon the Roman frontiers by the inroads of the Huns, who expelled them from their former habitations in S. & S. W. Russia. A treaty had been made between them and the Emperor Valens, who agreed to take them under his protection, but the bad faith with which the Goths soon found themselves treated led to hostilities, and so to the great overthrow at Hadrianople in 378.

201 No auguries-which were taken by observing the flight of birds, as omens were by noting their voices. These observances of course disappeared from the Roman army as soon as the empire became Christian. In saying that the Name of the Saviour leads the troops to war, St. Ambrose probably alludes to the Labarum or banner emblazoned with the monogram which is composed of the two first letters of the Name Xriostoj.

202 1 Cor. i. 24.