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Chapter XIII.

Discussion of the Divine Generation is continued. St. Ambrose illustrates its method by the same example as that employed by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The duty of believing what is revealed is shown by the example of Nebuchadnezzar and St. Peter. By the vision granted to St. Peter was shown the Son’s Eternity and Godhead—the Apostle, then, must be believed in preference to the teachers of philosophy, whose authority was everywhere falling into discredit. The Arians, on the other hand, are shown to be like unto the heathen.

79. It will be asked: “In what sort was the Son begotten?” As one who is for ever, as the Word, as the brightness of eternal light,18191819    Heb. i. 3. for brightness takes effect in the instant of its coming into existence. Which example is the Apostle’s, not mine. Think not, then, that there was ever a moment of time when God was without wisdom, any more than that there was ever a time when light was without radiance. Judge not, Arian, divine things by human, but believe the divine where thou findest not the human.

80. The heathen king saw in the fire, together with the three Hebrew children, the form of a fourth, like as of an angel,18201820    Dan. iii. 25. and because he thought that this angel excelled all angels, he judged Him to be the Son of God, Whom he had not read of, but in Whom 215he believed. Abraham, also, saw Three, and adored One.18211821    Gen. xviii. 1–3.

81. Peter, when he saw Moses and Elias on the mountain, with the Son of God, was not deceived as to their nature and glory. For he enquired, not of them, but of Christ, what he ought to do, inasmuch as though he prepared to do homage to all three, yet he waited for the command of one. But since he ignorantly thought that for three persons three tabernacles should be set up, he was corrected by the sovereign voice of God the Father, saying, “This is My dearly beloved Son: hear ye Him.”18221822    S. Matt. xvii. 5. That is to say: “Why dost thou join thy fellow-servants in equality with thy Lord?” “This is My Son.” Not “Moses is My Son,” nor “Elias is My Son,” but “This is My Son.” The Apostle was not dull to understand the rebuke; he fell on his face, brought low by the Father’s voice and the glorious beauty of the Son, but he was raised up by the Son, Whose wont it is to raise up them that are fallen.18231823    S. Matt. xvii. 6–8. Then he saw one only,18241824    S. Matt. xvii. 8. the Son of God alone, for the servants had withdrawn, that He might be seen to be Lord alone, Who alone was entitled Son.

82. What, then, was the purpose of that vision, which signified not that Christ and His servants were equal, but betokened a mystery, save that it should be made plain to us that the Law and the Prophets, in agreement with the Gospel, revealed as eternal the Son of God, Whom they had heralded. When we, therefore, hear of the Son coming forth of the womb, the Word from the heart, let us believe that the Son was not fashioned with hands but begotten of the Father, not the work of a craftsman but the offspring of a parent.

83. He, therefore, Who said, “This is My Son,” said not, “This is a creature of time,” nor “This being is of My creation, My making, My servant,” but “This is My Son, Whom ye see glorified.” This is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, Who appeared to Moses in the bush,18251825    Ex. iii. 14. concerning Whom Moses saith, “He Who is hath sent me.” It was not the Father Who spake to Moses in the bush or in the desert, but the Son. It was of this Moses that Stephen said, “This is He Who was in the church, in the wilderness, with the Angel.”18261826    Acts vii. 38. This, then, is He Who gave the Law, Who spake with Moses, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” This, then, is the God of the patriarchs, this is the God of the prophets.

84. It is of the Son, therefore, that we read, thy mind understandeth the reading, let thy tongue make confession. Away with arguments, where faith is required; now let dialectic hold her peace, even in the midst of her schools. I ask not what it is that philosophers say, but I would know what they do. They sit desolate in their schools. See the victory of faith over argument. They who dispute subtly are forsaken daily by their fellows; they who with simplicity believe are daily increased. Not philosophers but fishermen, not masters of dialectic but tax-gatherers, now find credence. The one sort, through pleasures and luxuries, have bound the world’s burden upon themselves; the other, by fasting and mortification, have cast it off, and so doth sorrow now begin to win over more followers than pleasure.

85. Let us now see how far Arians and pagans do differ. The latter call upon gods, who are different in sex and unequal in power; the former affirm a Trinity where there is likewise inequality of power and diversity of Godhead. The pagans assert that their Gods began to exist once upon a time; the Arians lyingly declare that Christ began to exist in the course of time. Have they not all dyed their impiety in the vats of philosophy? But indeed the pagans do extol that which they worship,18271827    i.e., the pagans worship false gods, but they at least have the decency to regard them as a higher order than human creatures, and not to wilfully depreciate them. the Arians maintain that the Son of God, Who is God, is a creature.


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